Happy Jarred Kelenic day to all you prospect hounds and talent seekers. And while I'm at it, happy Logan Gilbert day, too. Yes, the Mariners decided to double their pleasure Thursday, announcing the arrival of their top pitching prospect along with their top hitting prospect. You might have assumed we'd be watching every move Kelenic makes in his debut, but it won't be possible with Gilbert on the mound.
Of the two, Kelenic is still the big-ticket item. He was the most buzzed-about prospect prior to the season, the one rostered in 80 percent of CBS Sports leagues even before word of his debut, and is my pick to be the most impactful prospect in Fantasy Baseball this year. For more of what he brings to the table, you can read my breakdown from a couple days ago.
I don't want to sell Gilbert short, though. He's not as highly ranked as others we might see this year like MacKenzie Gore, Sixto Sanchez and Matt Manning, but particularly given Gore's ongoing command issues, there's a real chance Gilbert is the most impactful pitcher call-up this year. Chris Towers recently gave his breakdown of the 24-year-old right hander, but here's mine:
Gilbert's 6-foot-6 frame gives him good extension on his fastball, making it appear faster than the 93-94 mph it actually is. He throws two distinct breaking balls and a changeup that has reportedly come a long way since we saw him put together a 2.13 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.0 K/9 between three stops in 2019. (As if he needed more, right?) He hasn't had an issue throwing strikes as a professional either, so from an evaluation standpoint, he checks all the boxes. It's just a matter of executing now.
Of course, for the purposes of this column, it's time to move on from Kelenic and Gilbert. They're off to better things now, and provided hey meet their end of the bargain, they won't be needing another call-up.
So let's direct our focus, then, to some of the next in line.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Wander Franco, SS, Rays
2019 minors: .327 BA (425 AB), 9 HR, 18 SB, .885 OPS, 56 BB, 35 K
2021 minors: .269 BA (26 AB), 2 HR, 1 SB, .949 OPS, 2 BB, 5 K
Granted, it's only six games -- and with a timetable that small, one game in either direction could radically change the complexion of his performance -- but Franco may not be stating his case loudly enough yet. He's only 20 years old, after all, and skipped Double-A to arrive at this point, which isn't to say I have sincere concerns of him being overmatched at Triple-A. My point is just that the Rays have legitimate reason for caution and are probably waiting for him to blow the doors down. All it would take, probably, is a couple big games back-to-back, and I would still wager on it happening within the next couple. But now, there's also reason to wonder if a certain 23-year-old teammate will beat Franco to the majors.
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
2021 minors: .231 BA (26 AB), 3 HR, 1 SB, .964 OPS, 3 BB, 10 K
Just as I suggested they might a week ago, the Angels have indeed shifted Jared Walsh back to first base at the expense Albert Pujols, which frees up right field for ... whomever steps up to claim it. Taylor Ward is owed a chance at age 27, so I'm guessing the Angels will continue to evaluate what they have in him before inevitably turning the job over to the multi-talented Adell. He will have to do his part, though, and while he did come through with a two-homer game Monday, the strikeouts that were his downfall in the majors last year have been in ample supply so far.
Sounds like manager Joe Maddon is sold on him, though. "I'm hearing that everything we talked about, everything we're trying to get him to focus on, he has," Maddon said Tuesday.
MacKenzie Gore, SP, Padres
2019 minors: 9-2, 1.69 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 101 IP, 28 BB, 135 K
2021 minors: 4 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Gore's Triple-A debut last week didn't do anything to quell concerns about his delivery, which first came undone at the alternate training site last year and has led to some uncharacteristic control issues. That they've carried over into spring training and now the minor-league season is raising concerns that there's no quick fix, in which case his place in my "five on the verge" is tenuous. So far, the Padres' rash of injuries hasn't demanded they force the issue with Gore, but if Dinelson Lamet keeps getting pulled after two innings, it could change. For now, though, the walk total is something to monitor closely every time Gore takes the mound.
Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox
2019 minors: .303 BA (519 AB), 5 HR, 46 SB, .775 OPS, 46 BB, 128 K
2021 minors: .281 BA (32 AB), 3 HR, 1 2B, .955 OPS, 4 BB, 11 K
If you thought Jarren Duran's three home runs and six doubles in March were just a spring training oddity, he's determined to convince you otherwise, connecting for his second and third home runs on Tuesday. To put it in perspective, he hit just five home runs two years ago, setting a career high in the process. His strengths were thought to be stealing bases (he had 46 of those in 2019) and hitting for average (he batted .357 as a first-year professional in 2018). It was a profile that wasn't suited well for today's game, but if this power breakthrough is legitimate, he's suddenly looking like a pretty special talent.
And there's reason to think it is. Duran worked with renowed hitting coach Doug Latta prior to last season and wound up hitting eight homers at the alternate training site. He's added strength this year and certainly has the look of a power hitter. At 24, it's just a matter of how quickly he takes to Triple-A. So far, so good.
Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays
2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .407 BA (27 AB), 4 HR, 1 SB, 1.367 OPS, 6 BB, 5 K
Yup, it turns out there's another Rays infielder worth stashing. Brujan has been regarded as a top prospect for a couple years now, but his standout tool has always been speed, which made him an odd fit for today's game. Still, he showed enough bat control and on-base skill to succeed in spite of it. Now, though, some power may beginning to manifest, as he's already up to four homers through seven games at Triple-A. It's not totally out of the blue. Scouts have suggested he has sneaky power, particularly from the left side. But what makes it all the more notable is that two of the home runs have come from the right side.
I'll almost never rule out future power development for a prospect given that it's one of the easiest skills to cultivate in today's game, and if Brujan is emerging as someone who can flirt with 15-20 homers most years, he's a stud in waiting. Right now, the profile to me is looking a lot like Rafael Furcal, and given how much action he's already seen in the outfield this year, the Rays appear to be making a way for him.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note)
Alek Manoah, SP, Blue Jays
2019 minors: 0-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 17 IP, 5 BB, 27 K
2021 minors: 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.42 WHIP, 12 IP, 2 BB, 17 K
Manoah looked like he was going through the motions in his latest outing Wednesday. Sure, he allowed just one hit in six innings, but with only five strikeouts. Compared to everything else we've seen from him this year, a performance like that one is positively humdrum. No, really. In his first start, he struck out 12 over six two-hit innings. Back in spring training -- and not against B lineups but legitimate major-leaguers -- he struck out 15 over seven innings, allowing one hit and no walks. I don't know how much the hulking right-hander can contribute to the big-league club this year after throwing just 17 professional innings in 2019, but you have to buy the talent at this point.
2019 minors: .299 BA (154 AB), 2 HR, 18 SB, .896 OPS, 29 BB, 41 K
2021 minors: .435 BA (23 AB), 2 HR, 3 SB, 1.465 OPS, 6 BB, 7 K
Carroll homered just twice as an 18-year-old in the lower minors two years ago but has already matched that total with a fully loaded stat line this year. One of the home runs was to the opposite field, but this one wasn't cheap either:
He appears to be living up to his projection as a multi-faceted player who can fill up the box score, and the part that might be the most overlooked is his ability to get on base. Hitting for average and stealing bases are how he'll make bank, with everything else being gravy, but it's looking like the gravy will flow freely.
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: .571 BA (28 AB), 4 HR, 2 3B, 1.779 OPS, 2 BB, 3 K
He already got some love last week, but he's worthy of a follow-up given that he hasn't slowed down at all, hitting safely in all seven games so far and adding two more homers in the past week. It could be the start of a long-overdue breakout for a 23-year-old whose scouting reports always exceeded his production. The power is finally coming through, and he's making contact at a high enough rate that you don't so much care about the lack of walks. You could have gotten him for next to nothing in dynasty leagues this offseason, but now he's positioning himself for another shot with the big club.
Roansy Contreras, SP, Pirates
2019 minors: 12-5, 3.33 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 132 1/3 IP, 36 BB, 113 K
2021 minors: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 11 IP, 2 BB, 22 K
A key piece in the Jameson Taillon deal, Contreras has so far shown much better strikeout potential with the Pirates than he ever did with the Yankees, most recently punching out 11 over six no-hit innings Tuesday. It suggests he's made strides with his breaking ball, giving him another weapon to go with his high-spin fastball and plus changeup. He already had the look of a high-floor prospect thanks to his feel for pitching, but there may be a considerable ceiling now, too.
Trevor Hauver, 2B, Yankees
2021 minors: .407 BA (27 AB), 6 HR, 1 2B, 1.625 OPS, 7 BB, 9 K
The minor-league leader in home runs entering play Wednesday is someone you almost certainly haven't heard of, but it's not some 29-year-old in his second tour of Norfolk either. Hauver was the Yankees' third-round pick just last year, but he's doing what he can so far to prove it was too low. His scouting report at MLB.com says he "exudes confidence at the plate, working deep counts while waiting for a pitch he can drive," and that's about what we're seeing so far, albeit in A-ball. Because he can play both the infield and outfield, there will be a path for him as long as he keeps hitting.