Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: How stashable are Luis Robert and Bo Bichette?
Some season-long prospect stashes have taken themselves out of the running since last check. Scott White considers who should replace them in his Five on the Verge.
Due to the unveiling oftwo weeks ago and the All-Star break last week, it's been a while since we've appraised the up-and-coming prospect crop through this more familiar format. And several of the mainstays have removed themselves from consideration since then.
Keston Hiura is back in the majors and entrenched at second base for the Brewers. Jesus Luzardo suffered a strained lat while working his way back from a strained rotator cuff and may not have time to build himself back up again. Brendan McKay is technically in the minors right now but has clearly carved out a spot in the Rays rotation and isn't worth comparing to minor leaguers anymore.
The question of who takes their place in my Five on the Verge, then, is of immediate importance, and the direction to go with it depends on what you think makes for a stashable prospect. Is it somebody close to a call-up who at least has a chance of making an impact in Fantasy, like an Isan Diaz or Ryan Mountcastle? I wouldn't say it's not, but at the same time, Nate Lowe, Mike Brosseau and Robel Garcia -- three recent call-ups who are proving to be useful now -- were never in my Five on the Verge. And do you feel like you didn't have a fair shot at them?
Maybe in a deeper league where you're likely to have some trouble filling every lineup spot with a competent player, it makes sense to stash something potentially useful. But most of us don't play in that sort of league. Most of us are up to our eyeballs in "useful," and so to dedicate a roster spot to someone who may be useful just doesn't add up.
No, it's impact you're looking for. Whenever the time comes for him to get the call, you want to have already secured that player who could legitimately reshape the standings, and Diaz ain't it. It doesn't mean there won't ever come a point when he belongs in my Five on the Verge, but it shouldn't come at the expense of either Bo Bichette or Luis Robert.
Don't get me wrong: I have serious doubts either actually reaches the majors this year. We rode this ride with Vladimir Guerrero and Eloy Jimenez last year, and it didn't end at a happy place. The Blue Jays and White Sox are once again pulling the strings, and they're not any closer to contending this time around. A prospect couldn't have shown clearer signs of readiness than Guerrero and Jimenez did then, so why would things be any different for Bichette and Robert now?
I don't know. But I can say that missing out on the next big thing because of an incorrect presumption is one of those decisions that could haunt you for the rest of your Fantasy-playing days. Better to sacrifice a roster spot to a worthy pursuit than forgo a star for a frivolous one.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
2018 minors: .332 BA (407 AB), 24 HR, 20 SB, .989 OPS, 48 BB, 84 K
2019 minors: .269 BA (324 AB), 24 HR, 21 SB, .923 OPS, 39 BB, 89 K
Frustrated that Tucker hasn't found his way into the Astros lineup yet? Maybe they are, too, which would explain why he has begun getting looks at first base -- an idea that would have made more sense either when Carlos Correa first went down or before Yuli Gurriel caught fire. Now, when Correa returns from a rib injury in 10 days, the Astros are obviously going to shift Alex Bregman back to third base and Gurriel back to first, which will once again leave Tucker with no opening. Still, he's giving himself another avenue that maybe the next injury can lead down.
Luis Urias, 2B, Padres
2018 minors: .296 BA (450 AB), 8 HR, 30 2B, .845 OPS, 67 BB, 109 K
2019 minors: .316 BA (291 AB), 18 HR, 19 2B, .995 OPS, 36 BB, 60 K
Ian Kinsler has three hits for all of July. Three ... hits. It's gotten so bad that Greg Garcia has begun stealing starts from him. Greg ... Garcia. What more Urias has to do is a question that has baffled scholars for many a week now, especially with the Padres on the fringes of the playoff race. The 22-year-old has missed the past few games with a shoulder injury, but it's not of a severity that would alter his timetable -- a timetable that would still seem to be of the any-day-now variety. There's still a question of how much power he would actually provide in the majors, considering his spotty minor-league track record, but seeing as he has just four strikeouts in his past 47 plate appearances, the hit tool speaks for itself.
Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
2018 minors: .286 BA (539 AB), 11 HR, 43 2B, 32 SB, .796 OPS, 48 BB, 101 K
2019 minors: .319 BA (188 AB), 5 HR, 17 2B, 15 SB, .889 OPS, 21 BB, 39 K
Again, after the way they handled Vladimir Guerrero last year, there's no guarantee the Blue Jays call up Bo Bichette this year, even with him taking to Triple-A as quickly as any other level. He's not totally at ease with it, though.
He didn't just express his frustrations passive aggressively through Twitter, though. He followed up through conventional media.
"I've done everything they asked me to do," Bichette told Sportsnet. "I've performed, I've put up numbers. I've gotten better offensively, defensively, base-running, as an athlete, as a teammate. Everything they've asked me to do, I've done for the past three years. So if I'm not ready in their mind, there's something new that they need to tell me I need to get better at."
Bichette is batting .344 (45 for 131) with four homers, 12 steals and a .957 OPS in 33 games since returning from a broken hand.
Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
2018 minors: .269 BA (186 AB), 0 HR, 11 2B, 15 SB, .694 OPS, 12 BB, 52 K
2019 minors: .356 BA (326 AB), 19 HR, 32 SB, 1.053 OPS, 18 BB, 78 K
It's hard to envision a hitting prospect giving a stronger impression of being major league-ready than Eloy Jimenez did year ago, and if the White Sox didn't call him up, you'd think Robert would have no chance. But the momentum may be impossible to slow here. Coming off a lost season, the 21-year-old has been the most buzzed-about prospect in all the minors this year, his supreme athleticism translating to monster production. It doesn't look like Triple-A is going to slow him down either -- he's batting .440 (11 for 25) with three homers and three steals in six games there.
So what are the White Sox hoping to see with his move up to the highest level?
"More seasoned pitchers, more advanced players overall, different hitting environment. He's shown that it hasn't been much of an issue so far," director of player development Chris Getz told 670 The Score. "Now, they're going to pitch him a little bit differently now that he's shown he can hit balls hard in different portions of the zone. Are they going to expand him off the zone? How is he going to react?"
My prediction is "well," and if it's well enough for the White Sox to throw caution to the wind, I want to make sure I'm at the front of the line.
Mitch Keller, SP, Pirates
2018 minors: 12-4, 3.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 142 1/3 IP, 55 BB, 135 K
2019 minors: 7-4, 3.21 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 87 IP, 33 BB, 101 K
Keller may have a 10.50 ERA in his three major-league starts this year, but he entered play Tuesday leading the International League with a 3.07 mark -- one he owes in part to his big-league struggles, at least according to his Triple-A manager.
"He was able to recognize, 'OK, I need to get back in the saddle and execution needs to be on the forefront of what I do," Brian Esposito told MLB.com. "I can no longer just throw a 95 to a 97 mph fastball by somebody at the top of the zone in that gap of mid-thigh-and-up -- that's not going to cut it at any level.'"
Not only is Keller developing a better plan for attacking hitters, but he has a more complete arsenal for it, too, having introduced a slider this year. He has a 2.57 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 10.3 K/9 in six minor-league starts following his major-league debut, and that's in a juiced-ball environment. The numbers are living up to the pedigree in a way they hadn't always in the past, and Keller should still have plenty of innings left in the tank.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
2018 minors: .324 BA (463 AB), 15 HR, 13 SB, .913 OPS, 57 BB, 88 K
2019 minors: .345 BA (313 AB), 17 HR, 7 SB, .996 OPS, 34 BB, 70 K
Even with the loss of Chris Taylor (fractured forearm), the Dodgers appear to be well covered around both the infield and outfield, but if they ever needed another bat up the middle, Lux is fit for the task. He only moved up to Triple-A a couple weeks ago but has hit safely in every game since, batting .500 (27 for 54) with four home runs. And Triple-A hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh has already seen all he needs to see.
"You never know when things might change ... when that first adversity might hit like it does with all players," Coolbaugh told MLB.com. "With Gavin, I don't sense any real issues dealing with that. He makes continuous adjustments along the way."
The power first came about for Lux last year but has only continued this year, positioning him firmly among the top hitting prospects in baseball.
Spencer Howard, SP, Phillies
2018 minors: 9-8, 3.78 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 112 IP, 40 BB, 147 K
2019 minors: 1-1, 2.10 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 34.1 IP, 7 BB, 52 K
Howard has hardly pitched this year, getting shut down for all of May and most of June with shoulder soreness. But he has so thoroughly dominated in the starts he has made, it's clear he's beginning to tap into his ace potential. Between a fastball that pushes triple digits and a wipeout slider, big strikeout totals are in his future. In two starts since returning to high Class A, he has allowed one hit with one walk over nine innings, striking out 14.
Trent Grisham, OF, Brewers
2018 minors: .233 BA (335 AB), 7 HR, 11 SB, .693 OPS, 63 BB, 87 K
2019 minors: .270 BA (322 AB), 22 HR, 11 SB, .920 OPS, 55 BB, 65 K
Grisham (formerly known as Trent Clark) was a first-round pick once upon a time, but his stock had fallen so much in the three years since then that he wasn't even really a prospect anymore, ranked 27th in the Brewers organization by Baseball America at the start of the year. He was always comfortable working the count but seems to have a better idea when to attack now, and the power gains combined with those on-base skills have yielded an impressive OPS. In just 22 games at Triple-A, he's already up to nine home runs, so even if it doesn't happen this year, he's positioning himself to be part of the Brewers' plans in the near future.
Cal Raleigh, C, Mariners
2018 minors: .288 BA (146 AB), 8 HR, 10 2B, .902 OPS, 18 BB, 29 K
2019 minors: .262 BA (313 AB), 22 HR, 19 2B, .872 OPS, 34 BB, 70 K
Raleigh finally got the call up to Double-A after capturing California League player of the week honors three weeks in a row. Hitting 15 homers in 24 games probably had a little something to do with it. Regarded as one of those high baseball IQ guys who have a tendency to outperform their skills, Raleigh also earns high marks for his blocking and pitch framing, so this power surge has only added to his prospect appeal. Low strikeout rate, too. The Mariners may be onto something here.
Josiah Gray, SP, Dodgers
2018 minors: 2-2, 2.58 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 52 1/3 IP, 17 BB, 59 K
2019 minors: 8-0, 2.08 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 90 2/3 IP, 20 BB, 106 K
Though not the most highly regarded prospect when he came over from the Reds in the Yasiel Puig deal this offseason, Gray had a lively fastball and some raw ability to work with. And the Dodgers' data-oriented approach seems to have helped him flesh out his secondary arsenal.
"I'm blessed to come to an organization like the Dodgers that are open-minded to everything -- they just have so many resources at their hand," Gray told MLB.com. "I'm able to benefit from those resources and learn more about myself as a pitcher. That gives me much more confidence on the mound, knowing the way that my stuff is going to play and the way I can set up hitters."
It certainly shows. Gray threw seven one-hit innings last time out, striking out seven, and has rounded into form in the hitter-friendly California League, compiling a 1.29 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 10.7 K/9 over his past nine starts.
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