What if I told you there was a prospects column that actually succeeded in being all things to all people?
What if I told you that its information pipeline had gone so dry during the pandemic-afflicted 2020 that it simply couldn't exist in any useful form?
What if I told you that the return of minor-league play Tuesday also signals its return, with all the pomp and circumstance that goes along with it?
Like the sweet aroma of fresh-baked cookies, like the warm embrace of hug, like a beacon piercing through the night sky, the Prospects Report is here to welcome you home.
The last one of these to come out? Aug. 29, 2019. Yeah. Different scene now. Different world, for that matter. It might be worth our time, then, to refresh you on what's supposed to happen here.
Every week, I'll suggest to you the five prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues. Some weeks, it'll be the exact same names as the week before. Other weeks, the names will have changed for one reason or another. All weeks, I'll give you the latest on what's happening with them and what it means for you.
In addition to those "five on the verge," I'll give you "five on the periphery" -- i.e., prospects who are demanding to be noticed but aren't necessarily of immediate value. You'll find some known prospects and some not-so-known prospects in that section. It's where, if you play in a deep dynasty league, you might occasionally catch a name you've never seen before. I remember I had never heard of Corbin Burnes until he was one of my "five on the periphery" four years ago. And just look at him now.
So if prospects matter to you, you'll want to tune in as often as you can. I keep it timely. I keep it varied. It's the rare prospects column that's all things to all people.
And it's back.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners
2019 minors: .291 BA (443 AB), 23 HR, 20 SB, .904 OPS, 50 BB, 111 K
2021 spring: .300 BA (20 AB), 2 HR, 2 2B, 1.140 OPS, 4 BB, 1 K
Coming off a more typical season, we probably would have seen the Mariners promote Kelenic in mid-April after they had secured an extra year of control. But seeing as the 21-year-old didn't play any competitive ball last year, it's clear the Mariners want him to see some minor-league action first. In particular, GM Jerry Dipoto pointed out a couple of weeks ago that they want to see him improve against left-handed pitchers, while adding "he's acing that test right now" at the alternate training site.
Dipoto added that Kelenic would arrive "soon," albeit "not in a matter of days," but again, that was two weeks ago. Given the way Kelenic looked in the Cactus League, striking out just one time while collecting four extra-base hits, I imagine a week of minor-league games could be enough for the Mariners to end this charade.
Wander Franco, SS, Rays
2019 minors: .327 BA (425 AB), 9 HR, 18 SB, .885 OPS, 56 BB, 35 K
2021 minors: 5 for 9, 1 HR, 1 3B, 1 2B, 1 SB
The consensus No. 1 prospect is already making his pitch with a double, a triple, a home run and a stolen base through just two games at Triple-A Durham. To me, the Rays tipped their hand by having him travel with the team during the World Series, just in case his services were needed, and then put their cards on the table by having him stick with the club so late into spring training. All those starts at third base, too, which seemed to present his clearest path? Granted, Joey Wendle's hot start may have changed that, but look at what shortstop Willy Adames is doing (or not doing, as it were).
I think we're at the "matter of days" point for Franco, who may not be as certain to find immediate success as Kelenic, but I'd still bet on it.
Nate Pearson, SP, Blue Jays
2019 minors: 5-4, 2.30 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 101 2/3 IP, 27 BB, 119 K
2020 majors: 1-0, 6.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 18 IP, 13 BB, 16 K
2021 minors: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
You could argue Pearson isn't actually seeking a promotion but is just on a rehab assignment for an adductor strain suffered early in spring training. He, after all, seemed like a near certainty to break camp with the team at the time of the injury. It's not like the Blue Jays have five competent starting pitchers filling out their rotation right now either. So then, seeing him overpower a Triple-A lineup Tuesday seems like an encouraging sign, but then again, he made it only 3 2/3 innings on 78 pitches. He has also tweaked his mechanics slightly with a goal of staying relaxed through his delivery rather than tensing up to force velocity, so there may be more work to be done.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays have an opening Sunday, which lines up with Pearson's next turn, so ... we'll see. The upside remains high even though he underwhelmed in his first big-league stint last year.
MacKenzie Gore, SP, Padres
2019 minors: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K
2021 spring: 0-0, 4.91 ERA, 1.82 WHIP, 11 IP, 8 BB, 10 K
The left-hander remains the consensus top pitching prospect, and he made it all the way to Double-A in 2019. The Padres are very much contenders and have had trouble filling the fifth spot in their starting rotation. Gore's arrival sooner than later makes sense for too many reasons, and yet there seems to be a general feeling that he's not ready. He got passed over last year, remember, amid reports his delivery was out of sync and his command compromised, and he did issue eight walks in 11 innings this spring. If the Padres keep getting hit hard by injuries, they may have no choice to turn to Gore, but I think they'll want to see him get back to dominating first.
2019 minors: .289 BA (305 AB), 10 HR, 27 2B, .834 OPS, 30 BB, 94 K
2020 majors: .161 BA (124 AB), 3 HR, 4 2B, .478 OPS, 7 BB, 55 K
The Angels have already lost their intended right fielder, Dexter Fowler, to a season-ending injury, but Jared Walsh has proven capable enough there. Albert Pujols at first base is the real issue, and in due time, I suspect the Angels will want to shift Walsh back there. The timeline hinges on Jo Adell's development. He was clearly rushed last year, exposing his long swing and lack of pitch recognition, but he earns high marks for work ethic and already showed some improvement this spring, striking out a respectable six times in 26 plate appearances. He looks to be a dynamic five-category talent when he does arrive, which makes him particularly worth stashing in five-outfielder Rotisserie leagues.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Jackson Kowar, SP, Royals
2019 minors: 7-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 148 1/3 IP, 43 BB, 144 K
2021 minors: 5.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K
Of the four pitchers the Royals selected in the first round of the 2018 draft, Brady Singer, Kris Bubic and most recently Daniel Lynch have already arrived. Kowar will be the last to do so, but it's clear the Royals aren't going to hold back once they think he's ready. Tuesday's debut for Triple-A Omaha offered a pretty strong indication that he's close. Though it's hard to rank any of them ahead of Lynch right now, Kowar might be the best pure bat-misser of the bunch thanks to a wipeout 70-grade changeup.
Lewin Diaz, 1B, Marlins
2019 minors: .270 BA (455 AB), 27 HR, 33 2B, .851 OPS, 33 BB, 91 K
2020 majors: .154 BA (39 AB), 0 HR, 2 2B, 2 BB, 12 K
2021 minors: 4 for 9, 2 HR, 2 2B, 0 BB, 0 K
At 24, Diaz is closer to being the Marlins first baseman of the present than the future, and the kind of start he's off to at Triple-A Jacksonville makes a compelling case as well. He has homered and doubled in each of the team's first two games. Given how Jesus Aguilar is performing at the big-league level, the chances of Diaz overtaking him are slim to none, but maybe Aguilar gets hurt or the Marlins unload him at the trade deadline. Diaz makes contact at a surprisingly good rate for a power hitter, so it's a solid profile.
Jesus Sanchez, OF, Marlins
2019 minors: .260 BA (415 AB), 13 HR, 14 2B, .723 OPS, 39 BB, 100 K
2020 majors: .040 BA (25 AB), 0 HR, 1 2B, 4 BB, 11 K
2021 minors: 7 for 10, 2 HR, 1 3B, 0 BB, 1 K
Sanchez's hot start is possibly even more meaningful than Diaz's given how he has fallen out of favor the past couple of years, at one point rating as a top 50 prospect before dropping off virtually every top 100 list this year. His lack of plate discipline would be easier to overlook if he would live up to his power projection, but it to this point hasn't materialized the way scouts thought it would. Homering in back-to-back games to begin the season, though, is one way to send a reminder.
Shane Baz, SP, Rays
2019 minors: 3-2, 2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 81 1/3 IP, 37 BB, 87 K
2021 minors: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Baz began his season with four no-hit innings on Tuesday despite making the jump to Double-A after never having played at high Class A. Most pitching prospects have seen their workload severely limited the first time through, possibly as a consequence of last year's lost season, so don't read too much into the early hook. The point is the effectiveness was there despite Baz having skipped a level, and given the Rays' penchant for developing pitchers, his high-spin, upper-90s fastball and sharp-breaking slider could see him take a big leap forward this year.
Austin Wells, C, Yankees
2021 minors: 4 for 9, 1 HR, 2 2B, 1 SB, 3 BB, 2 K
Drafted 28th overall just last year, Wells homered and doubled in his first game as a professional Tuesday, offering an early indication that the 21-year-old may be too advanced for low Class A. He tends to be undervalued in Fantasy Baseball circles because he's a catcher, which sounds weird, but the demands of the position often prevent hitters from meeting their full potential. Most likely, though, he's not a good enough defender to stick at the position, and the bat should play anywhere.