Sometimes a prospect's performance dictates his timetable. There comes a point where he's just too good to keep down. Other times, he arrives to fill a need, his timetable dictated by circumstances beyond his control.
For Brett Baty, it's the latter. The Mets recently lost Luis Guillorme to a groin injury and have no one else they can trust to play third base. Eduardo Escobar has a bad oblique and has struggled against right-handers all year. J.D. Davis has already moved on. They could have called up Mark Vientos, who has spent the entire year at Triple-A (and perhaps it's telling that they didn't). Instead, it's Baty, the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft, who has emerged as a consensus top-25 prospect this year with a stellar stat line across two levels.
I say it's across two levels, but only his past six games have come at Triple-A. Practically speaking, the 22-year-old is making a direct jump from Double-A, which has worked out nicely for Braves call-ups Michael Harris and Vaughn Grissom this year but has become a taller task with the reduction in minor-league levels changing the way talent is distributed throughout the entire system.
For what it's worth, Baty was off to a nice start at Triple-A, going 8 for 22 (.364). Combined with his finish at Triple-A, he's hit.424 (42 for 99) with eight home runs and a 1.240 OPS in his past 25 games, doing a better job of elevating the ball and shoring up his already strong plate discipline.
As a hitter, he checks all the boxes, but it's an aggressive promotion at a time when prospects in general seem to be having more trouble adjusting to the big leagues. With third base being one of the positions of greatest need, there's probably someone in your league who should be taking a flier on Baty just to see. Should it be you? Hey, if you have a roster spot to play with, it couldn't hurt.
Baty isn't alone in big promotion news. Catcher Shea Langeliers debuted at DH for the Athletics on Tuesday, and infielder Oswaldo Cabrera is reportedly getting the call for the Yankees on Wednesday. Both have put up numbers of some note in the minors, but neither is of quite Baty's stature. Langeliers figures to get the majority of the starts at DH while splitting time with Sean Murphy at catcher. The threshold for Fantasy relevance is so low at that position that it's possible he emerges as a quality option even if he's unlikely to develop into an out-and-out stud. He offers some power but has a questionable hitting profile otherwise.
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As for Cabrera, he surprised with a 29-homer, 21-steal campaign between Double- and Triple-A last year and has performed at a similar pace this year. He's been particularly productive since returning from a shoulder ailment in early July, batting .333 (37 for 111) with eight homers, 11 steals and a 1.046 OPS in 30 games. Nevertheless, the scouting reports are lukewarm. He isn't particularly speedy or disciplined, and the power may also be something of a mirage. He profiles more as utility player than a true regular, and that may be the role he's tasked with filling with the Yankees.
Rather than adding him, you may be better served stashing one of my ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
2021 minors: .435 BA (23 AB), 2 HR, 3 SB, 1.465 OPS, 6 BB, 7 K
2022 minors: .314 BA (328 AB), 21 HR, 30 SB, 1.044 OPS, 60 BB, 94 K
Kiley McDaniel of ESPN is the latest prospect ranker to place Carroll No. 1. A strong showing in the big leagues would surely cement his spot there heading into next year, and at least one Diamondbacks beat writer, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, says it's "likely" he'll get the chance. Of course, that last part isn't a new development from the past week, and it's easy to interpret silence as a lack of momentum.
Let's review the facts, though. Jake McCarthy is clearly just a placeholder in left field. Meanwhile, Carroll has now spent about a month at Triple-A and has taken to it just as quickly as every other level, even cutting down on his strikeouts. There's legitimate five-category potential here from the moment he sets foot in the big leagues, so even if it isn't a foregone conclusion he'll be up this year, he deserves to be stashed in five-outfielder leagues.
2021 minors: .326 BA (304 AB), 19 HR, .990, 31 BB, 76 K
2022 minors: .320 BA (50 AB), 7 HR, 1.204 OPS, 5 BB, 10 K
With each passing day, the case for keeping Jung in the minors becomes harder to make. He hit two home runs Tuesday, including this 435-foot tank hit slightly the opposite way against rehabbing major-leaguer Drew Pomeranz.
The first home run, by the way, traveled 421 feet -- also to the opposite field.
Tuesday's performance brings Jung to four homers in six games since rejoining Triple-A Round Rock after spending a few games rehabbing his surgically repaired shoulder in the lower minors. Of course, he already showed last year he has nothing more to prove at Triple-A and was expected to compete for the opening day job before tearing the labrum in late February. The Rangers aren't really competing for anything right now, but getting Jung's feet wet for 2023 wouldn't be such a bad idea. He keeps this up much longer, and he might leave them no choice.
Miguel Vargas, 3B, Dodgers
2021 minors: .319 BA (483 AB), 23 HR, 11 SB, .906 OPS, 45 BB, 89 K
2022 minors: .288 BA (403 AB), 15 HR, 12 SB, .865 OPS, 60 BB, 71 K
2022 majors: 2 for 8, 2B, SB, K
Seems like every year, there's a prospect whose lack of movement frustrates me to no end, and this year, that prospect is shaping up to be Vargas. As recently as two weeks ago, I never would have imagined Brett Baty passing him in redraft rosterability, but here we are. Worse yet, the clearest justification for Vargas' promotion -- i.e., season-long slumps for both Max Muncy and Justin Turner -- is seemingly no more. Muncy is ridiculously hot right now, and Turner was before his recent IL stint for a strained abdominal. Hard to imagine the Dodgers would replace them now, given how long they've already held out.
What makes Vargas so stashable still is that any injury likely earns him the call now that he's on the 40-man roster. It helps that he's mostly played the outfield since getting sent back down.
Gunnar Henderson, SS, Orioles
2021 minors: .258 BA (399 AB), 17 HR, 16 SB, .826 OPS, 56 BB, 143 K
2022 minors: .301 BA (359 AB), 18 HR, 18 SB, .969 OPS, 73 BB, 100 K
It still seems a bit far-fetched that the Orioles, of all teams, would call up their 21-year-old top prospect so late in the season. It would be an aggressive move, given where he began the year, and holding out just a little longer would buy them considerably more control. But they are on the fringes of the playoff race, and GM Mike Elias at least paid lip service to the ideawith MLB Network Radio.
"We're going to -- within reason -- do everything we can to enhance our playoff odds. I think this year is definitely on the table (for a Henderson call up). Right now we have a bunch of infielders that are playing pretty well ... As things evolve here the next month and a half, I think Gunnar is on the radar screen."
Henderson was recently re-ranked No. 1 overall -- like, across the entire sport -- by Baseball America, having come into his own as a hitter this year thanks to vastly improved plate discipline. He's hot right now, too, batting .343 (24 for 70) with four homers and three steals in his past 17 games.
Alec Burleson, OF, Cardinals
2021 minors: .270 BA (456 AB), 22 HR, .783 OPS, 42 BB, 101 K
2022 minors: .326 BA (383 AB), 20 HR, .907 OPS, 26 BB, 63 K
I was prepared to insert Brett Baty here in place of Burleson, whose odds of a promotion only go down with Juan Yepez's impending return from the IL, but it turns out Baty got the call before I had the opportunity. Also impeding Burleson's chances is the recent revival of Lars Nootbaar, who himself may struggle to get consistent at-bats following Yepez's return.
So why not find someone else to replace Burleson in my Five on the Verge? Well, I still like his chances of making a worthwhile Fantasy contribution if he does get the call, which is half the calculation. He's such a fun hitter to watch, reminiscent of an early Brian McCann but in a way that won't fall victim to infield shifts given how he sprays the ball all over the field. It's still more likely than not the Cardinals will need to inject more offense at some point as they fight to keep their NL Central lead.
Five on the periphery
(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Cade Cavalli, SP, Nationals
2021 minors: 7-9, 3.36 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 123 1/3 IP, 60 BB 175 K
2022 minors: 5-4, 3.82 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 92 IP, 36 BB, 96 K
Cavalli went from being a surprise contender for a rotation spot in spring training to nearly dropping off the prospect map with a 7.62 ERA in his first seven starts at Triple-A. He's rebounded nicely over his past 11 starts, though, compiling a 2.15 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 10.0 K/9. His latest start was arguably his best yet. He struck out 11 over seven innings, allowing one run on three hits. The overall stat line might give you cause for pause if targeting him in a dynasty league, but note that he's trending up. His knack for keeping the ball in the ballpark is particularly notable.
Bobby Miller, SP, Dodgers
2021 minors: 2-2, 2.40 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 56 1/3 IP, 13 BB, 70 K
2022 minors: 6-6, 4.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 91 IP, 31 BB, 117 K
For all the favorable scouting reports, the Dodgers have been exceedingly cautious with Miller, allowing him only one start of even five innings last year and only two of six innings in his first 16 turns this year. But suddenly, they're turning him loose, letting him go six-plus in three of his past four starts and a career-best 7 1/3 last time out. He's passed the test with flying colors, registering a combined 31 strikeouts in those three starts, and is set to move up to Triple-A as a result. It may all be adding up to him playing an integral role in the rotation next year, so as with Cavalli, you shouldn't let the inflated ERA scare you away.
Andrew Painter, SP, Phillies
2021 minors: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K
2022 minors: 4-1, 1.19 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 75 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 118 K
No inflated ERA here. All Painter has done this year is make people reconsider their evaluation of high school pitchers. The third such player drafted last year, at 13th overall, Painter has defied the high school hurler reputation for volatility and slow development, putting himself on the fast track with an overpowering fastball that's bolstered by his 6-foot-7 reach. His slider is already a wipeout pitch, and he has two other offspeed offerings in development. He's allowed just one earned run in his past seven appearances combined, striking out 45 in 33 2/3 innings, and judging by his 70% strike rate during that stretch, you can trust that control isn't going to take him down.
Edouard Julien, 2B, Twins
2021 minors: .266 BA (394 AB), 18 HR, 34 SB, .914 OPS, 110 BB, 144 K
2022 minors: .302 BA (308 AB), 15 HR, 13 SB, .947 OPS, 72 BB, 95 K
If Kevin Youkilis is the Greek God of Walks, then Julien is like the French emperor of them. The man simply doesn't swing if it's not a strike. He had 110 walks in 112 games last year. Only two major-leaguers, Juan Soto and Joey Gallo, had more, and they played 151 and 153 games, respectively. Julien's .434 on-base percentage so far this year is identical to the mark he had then, but more of it has come on hits this time, which is overall a positive development. Major-league pitchers figure to be in the strike zone more, after all. Julien has enough power that it's reasonable to think he could carve out an everyday role in the big leagues, but having manned four different positions in the minors this year, his future may be in a utility role.
Darius Vines, SP, Braves
2021 minors: 6-4, 2.92 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 111 IP, 29 BB, 129 K
2022 minors: 7-4, 3.98 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 113 IP, 32 BB, 131 K
The supposedly depleted Braves farm system keeps hiding talent in its crevices, and Vines may be the next to make an unexpected contribution. The 24-year-old's Triple-A debut Sunday was merely so-so -- he allowed three earned runs in six innings, striking out four -- but he ended his time at Double-A on a good run with a 1.47 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 11.2 K/9 in five starts. His swinging-strike rate during that stint was an incredible 20 percent. A former high school quarterback, Vines' athleticism helps him to maintain his delivery, allowing his middling stuff to play up. If he's figured out how to miss bats while continuing to command the strike zone like usual, he may be onto something.