With Jo Adell and Reid Detmers both making it to the majors this week, two new spots have opened up in my Five on the Verge -- a group that's getting stretched pretty thin at this stage of the season.
One player I can't bring myself to feature there is MJ Melendez, mostly because I don't see a realistic path for the 22-year-old Royals catcher to make it to the majors this year. But that's what the Five on the Periphery is for, right? To highlight prospects who aren't nearing a promotion but are deserving of distinction nonetheless? Sure, but I've already featured Melendez there two weeks in a row. He can't be the only player I talk about.
And yet he's refusing to take a back seat to anyone, hitting another three home runs Wednesday. He's up to 12 in his past 20 games and 28 overall, tops in the minor leagues. That kind of production from a catcher, particularly against premium Double-A talent, is rare, and it shows how completely Melendez overhauled his swing and approach at the alternate training site last year after hitting .163 at high Class A two years ago.
He's part of an impressive crop of emerging catcher prospects that includes the Blue Jays' Gabriel Moreno, the Mets' Francisco Alvarez, the Athletics' Tyler Soderstrom, the Dodgers' Diego Cartaya, the Braves' Shea Langeliers and the Astros' Korey Lee, to name several. Of course, the Giants' Joey Bart and the Nationals' Keibert Ruiz, formerly of Dodgers, retain top-prospect standing as well, and in fact one of them is now featured in my ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Bobby Witt, SS, Royals
2019 minors: .262 BA (164 AB), 1 HR, 9 SB, .670 OPS, 13 BB, 35 K
2021 minors: .298 BA (309 AB), 21 HR, 16 SB, .941 OPS, 29 BB, 81 K
GM Dayton Moore did acknowledge in a recent radio interview that Witt has an opportunity to force the Royals' hand with his recent move up to Triple-A, and so far, he's doing everything he can in that regard, batting .308 (20 for 65) with five homers, two steals and a .948 OPS in 14 games. It doesn't mean the Royals have to act on it. There's little incentive for them to, in fact, with them being out of contention already. But they've generally been aggressive about promoting their prospects under Moore, and his comments would suggest it's at least a possibility. Of the remaining prospects with a realistic chance of being called up, Witt might be the only one that would inspire an all-out sprint to the waiver wire.
Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins
2019 minors: .252 BA (445 AB), 8 HR, 26 2B, .671 OPS, 24 BB, 54 K
2021 minors: .350 BA (326 AB), 22 HR, 19 2B, 1.021 OPS, 30 BB, 49 K
One of these days, I'll write about Miranda without mentioning he's cousin of Lin-Manuel Miranda, but today is that not day. The 23-year-old is looking to carve out his own legacy, though, with the way he's performed in the minors this year, looking like the St. Paul version of Albert Pujols, basically. He always had good bat-to-ball skills, but improved selectivity has unlocked significant power as well. He's also proven nimble enough to play up the middle, which is part of the reason I think he still has a pretty good chance of being called up even though Josh Donaldson is still in the picture.
Edward Cabrera, SP, Marlins
2019 minors: 9-4, 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 96 2/3 IP, 31 BB, 116 K
2021 minors: 2-2, 2.58 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 45 1/3 IP, 16 BB, 63 K
The momentum for a Cabrera call-up has slowed since his move up to Triple-A, where he has struggled with command over three starts, walking 10 in 13 1/3 innings. The stuff certainly hasn't suffered, though. In his most recent start, he struck out 12 while registering a ridiculous 25 swinging strikes over 4 2/3 innings. The reason it lasted only 4 2/3 innings, though, is because of the four walks. The Marlins will probably need some innings down the stretch, and Cabrera should have plenty left in reserve after missing all of May with a biceps injury. But he'll need to shore up his command before getting the call.
Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays
2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .278 BA (223 AB), 9 HR, 21 SB, .844 OPS, 31 BB, 37 K
How motivated should anyone be to stash Brujan, really, after his 2-for-26 debut earlier this year? It's a fair question and one that underscores just how much I'm stretching for potential stashes at this stage of the season. Nonetheless, he's been great since returning to the minors, batting .382 (13 for 34) with six stolen bases and six walks compared to three strikeouts. No home runs yet, and the truth is he's hit only two of those since the first month. We may have been premature in boosting his stock, then, but he's still an 80-grade speedster who controls the strike zone. Most likely, it'll take an injury for him to make a significant impact in 2021.
Keibert Ruiz, C, Nationals
2019 minors: .261 BA (314 AB), 6 HR, 9 2B, .679 OPS, 30 BB, 22 K
2021 minors: .310 BA (210 AB), 17 HR, 18 2B, 1.017 OPS, 23 BB, 27 K
The Nationals sent Ruiz down to Triple-A Rochester after acquiring him from the Dodgers in the Max Scherzer deal last week, but they could have just as easily made him their starting catcher, particularly after shipping out Yan Gomes in a separate trade. Granted, Ruiz is only 22, but the enormous step he has taken offensively this year -- particularly in the power department -- leaves him with little more to improve upon. His contact skills were already exceptional, his strikeout rate currently sitting at 11.7 percent. At this point, it's just a question of whether the experience is worth the accumulated service time for a team with its sights set on next year.
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Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note)
Mark Vientos, 3B, Mets
2019 minors: .255 BA (416 AB), 12 HR, 27 2B, .711 OPS, 22 BB, 110 K
2021 minors: .279 BA (233 AB), 20 HR, 15 2B, .951 OPS, 24 BB, 73 K
Vientos has been on the verge of breaking through as a full-fledged prospect for a couple years now, and it may finally be happening at Double-A Binghamton, where he's hit 17 home runs since June 10 -- a span of only 37 games. A marked improvement against right-hand pitchers has helped him make good on his elite exit velocities finally. He's batting .302 with a 1.039 OPS against them. The big spike in power is a little reminiscent of Pete Alonso, another big-bodied corner infielder who initially stood out for his exit velocities before breaking out with 36 homers in 2018.
Ryan Pepiot, SP, Dodgers
2019 minors: 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 23 1/3 IP, 13 BB, 31 K
2021 minors: 4-4, 2.92 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 64 2/3 IP, 29 BB, 88 K
Pepiot's name got tossed around at the trade deadline, with him rumored to be a target of this team and that, but he ultimately stayed with the Dodgers, which can't be a bad thing for his development. The Dodgers have worked with him this year to develop a breaking ball that tunnels well with his fastball, and between that and his plus-plus changeup, he has scored whiffs aplenty at Double-A, recently getting moved up to Triple-A. He's still ironing out some delivery issues to improve his control, but he's in the right hands to take what could be that final step.
Matt Fraizer, OF, Pirates
2019 minors: .221 BA (154 AB), 0 HR, 5 SB, .553 OPS, 14 BB, 38 K
2021 minors: .314 BA (303 AB), 20 HR, 14 SB, .979 OPS, 43 BB, 74 K
Even amid a breakout season, Fraizer isn't getting much love in the rank lists, checking in as only the Pirates' 26th-best prospect in Baseball America's recent midseason update. The Pirates, though, saw fit to take him in the third round two years ago, and after working to improve his balance and timing at the alternate training site last year, he has stood out for his on-base skills and power, homering 18 times just since the start of June. At 23, he's a little old for high Class A, so we'll see how he fares at higher levels. There may be something here, though.
Ryan Murphy, SP, Giants
2021 minors: 5-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 81 1/3 IP, 20 BB, 124 K
The Giants' fifth-round pick last year has performed more like a first-rounder for an organization that's beginning to stand out for its player development. The 21-year-old recorded double-digit strikeouts in five straight starts to end his time at low Class A and still struck out eight in his first start for high Class A Tuesday, allowing six base runners and no earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. During that six-start stretch between the two levels, he has a 68 percent strike rate and 18 percent swinging-strike rate, which are both about as good as it gets.
Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals
2019 minors: .294 BA (211 AB), 14 HR, 17 2B, .963 OPS, 27 BB, 40 K
2021 minors: .293 BA (300 AB), 17 HR, 23 2B, .942 OPS, 38 BB, 49 K
It's easy to overlook Pasquantino given that the Royals have seemingly found their first baseman of the future in Nick Pratto, who has broken out with huge power numbers between Double- and Triple-A and has more standing as a former first-round pick. But Pasquantino, who's one year older and one level behind, has had nearly as strong a season offensively, putting up even better numbers -- as in a .302 (19 for 63) batting average and .911 OPS -- since moving up to Double-A. His strikeout rate has held steady at less than 15 percent, which would suggest a high floor. It's just that his only path, at least with this organization, may be as a DH.