It's been a while since we've seen the Angels navigate the many variables surrounding the promotion of a top prospect. Their farm system went through a dark period earlier this decade when they got caught up pursuing the biggest free agent every offseason and has only recently begun to recover.
The most recent example we have, then, is Mike Trout, who of course debuted under a different GM and in a different economic landscape. But it's worth pointing out he made his first big-league appearance in July -- mid-summer, in other words, during what was only a semi-competitive season. The Angels didn't play games with him once they were confident he was ready.
Might that be their blueprint for Jo Adell? Impossible to say, but they've continued to move the former first-round pick aggressively, promoting him to Triple-A Thursday. It'll be his third stop during a season in which he missed several weeks with a sprained ankle. He's only 20 years old.
His skills are far-ranging -- hard contact, power, speed. He's the sort of prospect you could see making a Ronald Acuna-like impact out of the gate. No minor-league stop has proven to be much of a challenge for him, and the Angels have shown little inclination to hold him back. But by the time he has proven himself at Triple-A, it might be easiest just to hold him out until mid-April of next season, building in an extra year of team control -- especially since their outfield appears set already between Trout, Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun.
But maybe someone gets hurt before then. Maybe Adell puts up such ridiculous numbers in the juiced ball-fueled Pacific Coast League that the Angels are compelled to act. If it's a lost season, how beholden are they to Calhoun, really? He's a free agent at season's end.
As has also been true for Luis Robert and Gavin Lux, I'm not saying it'll happen for Adell this year, but I'm saying there's a chance. And with the upside he presents, that's probably enough to stash him away in a deeper league. He may not be in my Five on the Verge for this week, but he was the last cut for that list.
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: .258 BA (368 AB), 27 HR, 24 SB, .897 OPS, 45 BB, 99 K
The fatigue may be setting in for Tucker owners, and I can understand them being tuckered out by the idea of him arriving any day now. It's been true for the better part of two seasons, and it just so happens a July slump has brought his batting average down to a point where it's not so crazy to think he's not ready yet. Still, if you've held onto him this long, you can't risk him becoming someone else's prize. The Astros have been forced to discard Tyler White, Tony Kemp and Derek Fisher in recent days, which are some of the bodies they had used to block Tucker's path whenever an opening developed previously. Now more than ever, he appears to be next in line.
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: .345 BA (383 AB), 22 HR, 34 SB, 1.029 OPS, 23 BB, 90 K
Robert is another prospect who has made an aggressive climb up the minor-league ladder this year -- and in an even showier way than the aforementioned Jo Adell has. If Eloy Jimenez last year was indicative of how the White Sox front office will handle these cases, Robert isn't coming up this year, but it's a sample of only one. The 21-year-old has blended premier athleticism with advanced skill this year in a way that gives the baseball world something to marvel at most every day, most recently hitting this screamer to center field Tuesday for his sixth home run at the Triple-A level:
Maybe the White Sox decide they're close enough to contending that it's worth breaking him in this year and knowing with greater certainty what they actually have. The potential rewards in Fantasy are too great to dismiss the possibility out of hand.
Justus Sheffield, SP, Mariners
2018 minors: 7-6, 2.48 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 116 IP, 50 BB, 123 K
2019 minors: 6-8, 4.14 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 115 1/3 IP, 55 BB, 113 K
One of the sneakier beneficiaries of the deadline deals that went down Tuesday may indeed be Sheffield, who's now a leading candidate to claim the rotation spot vacated by Mike Leake. We won't know until next week, in all likelihood, but it's becoming increasingly clear there's little more for him to gain from his time in the minors. No really, he's been the best he's ever been in nine starts since getting sent down to Double-A Arkansas, putting together a 1.64 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.7 K/9 and, most notably for a pitcher known to have control issues, 2.1 BB/9.
But shouldn't he master Triple-A before ascending to the majors? Well, the PCL, with its small parks and high elevations, was a difficult place to pitch before the introduction of the juiced ball year. Now, it's next to impossible, and given the suddenness of Sheffield's turnaround, I suspect he's better off not going back there. Dude has one of the best fastballs in all the minors and is deserving of this chance.
2018 minors: .232 BA (431 AB), 13 HR, 14 SB, .739 OPS, 68 BB, 140 K
2019 minors: .300 BA (363 AB), 25 HR, 20 2B, .964 OPS, 47 BB, 93 K
Well, the trade deadline came and went without the Marlins moving Starlin Castro, which means his ready-made replacement isn't ready to replace him yet. You'd be hard-pressed to make the case that Castro is still redeemable in some way, though, and since the Marlins are all but certain to decline his option this offseason, their investment in him is effectively over. Manager Don Mattingly has already said he expects to see Diaz before September, and the 23-year-old continues to mash at Triple-A, combining big power with improved contact skills. Second base isn't a great area of need in mixed leagues anymore, but for those with a need, here's your hope.
Gavin Lux, SS, Dodgers
2018 minors: .324 BA (463 AB), 15 HR, 13 SB, .913 OPS, 57 BB, 88 K
2019 minors: .354 BA (364 AB), 21 HR, 7 SB, 1.046 OPS, 46 BB, 82 K
Barring an injury to Corey Seager or Max Muncy, the Dodgers don't really need Lux, and since their front office generally aims for maximum financial efficiency, I'd say the odds are against us seeing him in the majors this year. But with an enormous budget at his disposal, we've seen Andrew Friedman make bold moves from time to time, and particularly with the Dodgers having come so close to tasting a championship the past couple years, there may come a point where good help is too enticing to pass up. Lux is batting .457 with a 1.413 OPS through 25 games at Triple-A, so he may already be about at that point.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Forrest Whitley, SP, Astros
2018 minors: 0-2, 3.76 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 26 1/3 IP, 11 BB, 34 K
2019 minors: 1-5, 9.49 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, 37 IP, 25 BB, 50 K
One of the biggest mysteries in the prospecting world this year is what's gone wrong for Whitley, who entered 2019 widely considered to be the top pitching prospect. Yes, he had a bout with shoulder fatigue in the middle of his struggles, but through it all, his velocity hasn't suffered. We may have finally gotten some insight after his latest (and best) start Monday -- one in which he struck out nine while allowing just one hit over five innings.
"Basically, I'm reinventing my mechanics. They're a lot different from what they were a couple of years ago, even last year," the 21-year-old told MLB.com. "It's definitely a bit of an adjustment throwing all the pitches in the zone, but I feel like it all kinda came together tonight."
Granted, it's still pretty scary when someone so successful makes changes so extensive. Baseball is too difficult for anyone to assume such a reconfiguration would go down seamlessly. But it's encouraging to have an explanation, at least, and it may make him more durable in the end.
"First it was the shoulder stuff, last year it was the oblique stuff," Whitley said. "It was a combination of things that ended up ultimately being a recipe for disaster at the beginning of this year. Not only not staying healthy, but not being able to make the right pitches. With the mechanical changes, it's a lot easier to be more efficient -- it's easier on my body."
Hopefully this latest start is a sign of those changes finally coalescing.
2018 minors: .294 BA (204 AB), 13 HR, 15 2B, .952 OPS, 13 BB, 47 K
2019 minors: .270 BA (215 AB), 12 HR, 9 2B, .815 OPS, 12 BB, 44 K
Bart, the second overall pick in last year's draft, has been hyped as the best catcher prospect in baseball for a while now, but the production wasn't really there in his first five weeks back from a fractured hand -- an especially discouraging development given that he's playing in the heavy-hitting California League. Over his past 16 games, though, he's batting .343 (24 for 70) with six home runs, culminating in him being named the league's offensive player of the week last week.
"I think things are about to get going here soon," he told the San Francisco Chronicle about a week before kicking it into high gear. "I'm getting the strength back in my hand. I feel good."
Bart also has just eight strikeouts during that 16-game stretch, so his offensive potential is really beginning to reveal itself now.
Ian Anderson, SP, Braves
2018 minors: 4-7, 2.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 119 1/3 IP, 49 BB, 142 K
2019 minors: 7-5, 2.68 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 111 IP, 47 BB, 147 K
Mike Soroka certainly looks like a winner. Max Fried has been fine, and Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright still offer exciting potential. But when all's said and done, Anderson figures to be the best pitcher to come out of the Braves' rebuild, which is fitting given that he was their highest-drafted player during that time. The season numbers of course say plenty along those lines and reveal a seamless transition from high Class A last year to Double-A this year. But he has taken it to another level over his past 12 starts, compiling a 2.07 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 12.3 K/9. His control has been greatly improved during that time, and his high-octane fastball and downer curve are obviously missing bats aplenty.
Sean Murphy, C, Athletics
2018 minors: .285 BA (270 AB), 8 HR, 27 2B, .850 OPS, 26 BB, 50 K
2019 minors: .330 BA (109 AB), 8 HR, 7 2B, 1.062 OPS, 19 BB, 26 K
Having missed most of the season with a torn meniscus in his left knee, Murphy really had to hit the ground running upon his return to stand any chance of meeting up with the big club this season. He has done exactly that, homering six times in four games since joining back up with Triple-A Las Vegas. Offense isn't even what he's most known for, though he has always made contact at a high rate and began to develop power over the past two seasons. The 24-year-old may still get his chance if Josh Phegley continues to fade into oblivion.
Brailyn Marquez, SP, Cubs
2018 minors: 1-4, 3.13 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 54 2/3 IP, 16 BB, 59 K
2019 minors: 5-4, 3.61 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 77 1/3 IP, 43 BB, 102 K
The report on Marquez coming into the year was electric stuff, but no control over it, which makes what he's done in his past two starts all the more notable. First, he struck out 14 over six one-hit innings. Then, he struck out eight over six no-hit innings. His combined walks between the two starts: none. Primarily, he's known for a fastball that sits near triple digits, but the broadening of his arsenal may be contributing to this newfound success.
"The stuff that he has, you're definitely not surprised," pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea told MLB.com. "He's starting to get more confidence in his changeup and starting to keep guys off-balance with that. He gets a lot of movement, so he's getting swings and misses with it as well, so it's kind of been a big confidence booster and just makes his fastball play even better."
Marquez is still a long way off as a 20-year-old at low Class A, but his stock is rising.