I made a big stink last week about Luis Gil being one of the top five minor-leaguers to stash based on what he did during a brief two-start trial in the big leagues, and I meant every word. But since then, he's already been called back up and sent back down, putting him on the promotion/demotion merry-go-round that's all too familiar to players who are just breaking in.
If that's the position that he's filling for the Yankees -- spare pitcher to bring in whenever the schedule dictates -- then he's less a minor-leaguer then a major-leaguer caught up in roster overflow. Calling Gil one of the top minor-leaguers to stash, then, would require me to do the same for Tanner Houck, which seems ridiculous.
So moving forward, I plan to exclude Gil from my Five on the Verge, but I want you to understand that it's more because I question whether he still qualifies than whether he's still useful.
Meanwhile, I'd like to take a moment here to say a few words about Kevin Smith, who the Blue Jays just called up Wednesday to play ... well, it's not clear exactly where. Here's what manager Charlie Montoyo had to say about it:
"He's gonna get a chance to play" is what I take away from that clip. And why not? The Blue Jays have been without their regular third baseman for most of this month, and it's not like Cavan Biggio was producing even when healthy. Smith was primarily a shortstop in the minors but has gotten some exposure to third base as well as second base and even the outfield.
And it's worth reiterating he's earned it. Here are his numbers for both this season and the two seasons prior:
You see there? A sparkling stat line in 2021, much like he had in 2018. So ... why is it you haven't heard much about Kevin Smith until now? Look, he wouldn't be the first non-prospect to put up big minor-league numbers. Sometimes those guys pan out, sometimes not. But the reason I think he in particular is overlooked is because of what happened in 2019.
Few bought into him in 2018, so his miserable follow-up campaign offered an excuse to write him off completely. Him bouncing back so completely two years later was such a departure from expectations that it's going to take a while for evaluators to warm up to the 25-year-old again.
And maybe he'll be exposed at the big-league level and prove to be nothing more than a footnote. I'd even say that's the most likely outcome for Smith. But when you see an up-the-middle player like him contributing both power and speed with no major strikeout issues, a strong throwing arm and the versatility to play multiple positions ... I don't know. That sounds like a legitimate contributor to me. If Montoyo is sincere about giving Smith a chance to play, we'll find out soon enough.
Now for some prospects who are actually still in the minors ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Bobby Witt, SS, Royals
2019 minors: .262 BA (164 AB), 1 HR, 9 SB, .670 OPS, 13 BB, 35 K
2021 minors: .291 BA (350 AB), 25 HR, 20 SB, .944 OPS, 36 BB, 93 K
There's been no movement in the Bobby Witt situation, but there have been some fascinating insights from assistant GM J.J. Picollo, who pointed out to The Kansas City Star that the unique circumstances of this season will make it harder for the Royals to give certain players a trial run in September. Major-league rosters will only expand by two in the season's final month, and the minor-league season will run later than usual, into October, because of a late start.
"So do we truly have the ability to give somebody an opportunity in September? And if not, we know they're getting another close to 100 at-bats over the course of September," Picollo said. "So I think it's totally different, and I think the dynamic has completely changed."
He's obviously not referring directly to Witt, but you can read between the lines. The 21-year-old continues to crush it at Triple-A, but it may not be in the Royals' interests to call him up this year. Still, if impact is the primary motivation for a minor-league stash, then you may want to wait it out just in case.
Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins
2019 minors: .252 BA (445 AB), 8 HR, 26 2B, .671 OPS, 24 BB, 54 K
2021 minors: .342 BA (377 AB), 24 HR, 23 2B, .999 OPS, 34 BB, 56 K
You'd think the Twins would have called up Miranda by now if they were going to, but it's still possible, particularly with those two roster spots opening up in September, that they'll want to audition the 23-year-old for next year. He's only upped his production at Triple-A over the past week-plus, batting .371 (13 for 35) with two home runs. It's his contact rate that stands out so much for a player with his kind of power. He's always had a special talent for putting the bat on the ball, to the point he wasn't discerning enough with his swings in the past. Improved swing discipline is what's credited most for his breakthrough this year.
Seth Beer, 1B, Diamondbacks
2019 minors: .289 BA (450 AB), 26 HR, 24 2B, .904 OPS, 46 BB, 113 K
2021 minors: .295 BA (305 AB), 15 HR, 27 2B, .936 OPS, 34 BB, 63 K
I wrote about Beer in my Five on the Periphery last week, saying I wasn't sure if his impact potential was enough for you to stash him away ahead of a call-up, but after another big week that included a two-homer game, I've reconsidered. The bottom line is that every minor-leaguer's chances of coming in and making an impact are pretty slim this time of year, but unlike some, Beer should at least get a shot (yes, I just typed that). He's closing in on his 25th birthday, the Diamondbacks have no one else worthy of manning first base, and he's suddenly surging, batting .385 (25 for 65) with seven home runs and a 1.260 OPS over his past 19 games.
Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays
2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .287 BA (268 AB), 9 HR, 27 SB, .846 OPS, 36 BB, 41 K
After hitting out of his mind for three weeks following his return to the minors (which was made necessary by a 2-for-26 stint in the majors), Brujan has suddenly gone cold again, batting .150 (3 for 20) over his past five games. So I don't know. Regardless of how he's performing from one week to the next, it seems unlikely the Rays will be able to find a regular role for him, barring a rash of injuries. He could impact the stolen base category even without such a role -- 80-grade speed and all -- but as with basically every player featured in this space at this stage of the season, it would take a special set of circumstances for you to continue stashing Brujan.
Edward Cabrera, SP, Marlins
2019 minors: 9-4, 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 96 2/3 IP, 31 BB, 116 K
2021 minors: 3-3, 2.67 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 57 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 86 K
I'm keeping Cabrera here because he still seems like the most likely pitcher with immediate impact potential to get the call at some point, but he hasn't helped his chances since moving up to Triple-A. Granted, he has recorded double-digit strikeouts in three consecutive starts, but missing bats isn't his problem. Control is. He has issued three walks or more in all five of his Triple-A starts for a rate of 6.0 per nine innings. He's had to rely on his offspeed pitches more because he's had such a difficult time locating his fastball, and since his fastball is supposed to be his pitch, that's reason enough to let him marinate some more.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note)
Luis Campusano, C, Padres
2019 minors: .325 BA (422 AB), 15 HR, 31 2B, .906 OPS, 52 BB, 57 K
2021 minors: .288 BA (271 AB), 13 HR, 19 2B, .884 OPS, 26 BB, 61 K
So many catcher prospects have emerged this year that it's easy to lose sight of the two-time top-100 guy who has twice appeared in the majors already. It doesn't help that he's gone 4 for 37 between those two appearances, but seeing as he's still only 22, he was obviously rushed. He has really settled in at Triple-A after skipping Double-A completely ,batting .367 (18 for 49) with five homers in his past 14 games. He's incredibly strong, capable of producing elite exit velocities even while swinging a 40-ounce bat, and he controls the strike zone well. The ceiling remains high.
Oswald Peraza, SS, Yankees
2019 minors: .263 BA (262 AB), 4 HR, 23 SB, .672 OPS, 21 BB, 37 K
2021 minors: .297 BA (337 AB), 13 HR, 29 SB, .855 OPS, 26 BB, 81 K
Peraza went 4 for 6 with a home run and two doubles in his first game back with Double-A Somerset after joining the taxi squad for the big club's recent trip to Iowa. Simply by entrusting him with such a role, the Yankees revealed that they don't consider the 21-year-old to be too far away. Peraza added another two stolen bases Wednesday, and that's been an underrated part of his breakthrough this season. His hit tool still stands out the most, but he has learned to convert his hard contact into in-game power this year. Mostly, it's a question of whether he or Anthony Volpe is the better shortstop prospect for the Yankees now.
Quinn Priester, SP, Pirates
2019 minors: 1-1, 3.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 36 2/3 IP, 14 BB, 41 K
2021 minors: 5-3, 2.80 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 74 IP, 30 BB, 68 K
Priester is one of those prospects who's universally lauded even though the numbers don't really back it up, but the second half of that equation is beginning to change. He turned in his best outing of the season last time out, striking out 10 over seven shutout innings, and his 18 swinging strikes continued a longer trend of him missing more bats. He has an 18.0 percent swinging-strike rate over his past five starts -- an excellent number by any standard -- compared to 11.0 percent in his first 10 starts. Pitching at high Class A, he still has plenty of time to maximize his bat-missing ability while piling up ground balls in the meantime.
Luis Matos, OF, Giants
2019 minors: .367 BA (251 AB), 7 HR, 21 SB, 1.004 OPS, 20 BB, 31 K
2021 minors: .326 BA (347 AB), 12 HR, 18 SB, .875 OPS, 18 BB, 49 K
Matos' overall numbers are impressive in their own right, but he's found another gear since the start of July, batting .358 (59 for 165) with eight home runs and an OPS near 1.000. His bat control in particular stands out for a 19-year-old, making it possible for him to strike out just 13.1 percent of the time, and the way his power has come along this year points to a high ceiling for a player who also earns high marks for his defense. The buzz is building.
Hedbert Perez, OF, Brewers
2021 minors: .311 BA (90 AB), 6 HR, 2 SB, .950 OPS, 5 BB, 26 K
The buzz is also building for Hedbert Perez, whose father Robert Perez played major-league ball in the '90s and then starred in the Venezuelan League for many years thereafter. The younger Perez is a more natural talent who held his own as a 17-year-old at the alternate training site last year. The aggressive assignment seems to have paid off because he's making a mockery of Rookie ball now, generating easy power with a smooth left-handed swing. We'll come to view him as the Brewers' top prospect soon enough.