Mason Miller is the prospect call-up everyone is talking about now, and one of my greatest laments is that I never got a chance to proselytize about him here. His rise to prominence was so abrupt, taking place over so few appearances, that the window just wasn't there -- or at least, I didn't see it..
But that's not going to happen with Andrew Abbott, a left-hander in the Reds system who now has 36 strikeouts to just three walks in 15 2/3 innings. Granted, he won't be getting the call next week -- he's only in Double-A -- but if you play in a Dynasty league and don't have to concern yourself as much with timetables, he's as close as you'll get to a Mason Miller mulligan.
I'll have more to say about Abbott in a bit, but first thing's first. Here are the top five prospects to stash.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Matt Mervis, 1B, Cubs
2022 minors: .309 BA (512 AB), 36 HR, 40 2B, .984 OPS, 50 BB, 107 K
2023 minors: .267 BA (45 AB), 3 HR, 3 2B, .960 OPS, 13 BB, 11 K
Matt Mervis has trended on Twitter almost every day this week. Sure, he's hot right now, with three multi-hit games in his past five, but streaking minor-leaguers rarely get that kind of attention. As I said for Brett Baty a week ago, the pressure is mounting. Like Baty, Mervis is blocked by a veteran retread struggling to keep his head above water. Even with a home run Thursday (his first), Eric Hosmer is batting .245 with a .649 OPS. He's been one of the few weak points in a Cubs lineup that has them looking like surprise contenders. At 25, Mervis doesn't have much left to prove, particularly after he led all the minors in extra-base hits and total bases last year.
2022 minors: 11-7, 3.83 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 167 IP, 33 BB, 218 K
2023 minors: 1-1, 5.40 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 13 1/3 IP, 3 BB, 17 K
Every Madison Bumgarner start now requires a tourniquet. It's been getting progressively worse over the life of his Diamondbacks contract, and now that he's in the second-to-last year, maybe there's justification to begin phasing him out. The 33-year-old has made vague references to an ailment of some kind, so an IL stint would be a good place to start. Here's what Theo Mackie of The Arizona Republic had to report on the matter:
Torey Lovullo did not commit to Bumgarner making his next start. “We gotta talk it over.”— Theo Mackie (@theo_mackie) April 19, 2023
And who would assume Bumgarner's spot in the rotation? Why, the Diamondbacks' top pitching prospect, of course, who has rebounded nicely from a rocky first outing and, if you haven't heard, had a banner 2022, striking out more hitters than any minor-leaguer since 2001.
Sal Frelick, OF, Brewers
2022 minors: .331 BA (492 AB), 11 HR, 24 SB, .883 OPS, 52 BB, 63 K
2023 minors: .232 BA (56 AB), 0 HR, 4 SB, .639 OPS, 6 BB, 6 K
Wouldn't you know that as soon as Garrett Mitchell goes down, being placed on the IL with a shoulder subluxation, Frelick is also unavailable? The Brewers' first-round pick in 2021, a year after Mitchell, is sidelined by a jammed thumb, and so Blake Perkins got the call instead. But for how long will that hold up? Mitchell's injury sounds more serious than Frelick's, and you couldn't ask for a wider opening than this, given that Frelick is also capable of playing center field. Of course, it's his bat that we're looking forward to in Fantasy. Friendly reminder that he hit .365 in 46 games after reaching Triple-A last year and has speed to spare. Ultimately, I think Mitchell's injury is what finally gets Frelick to the big leagues, even if it's delayed by a week or two.
Tanner Bibee, SP, Guardians
2022 minors: 8-2, 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 132 2/3 IP, 27 BB, 167 K
2023 minors: 2-0, 1.76 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 15 1/3 IP, 8 BB, 19 K
One of the breakthrough pitching prospects of a year ago is doing similar things so far in 2023, and at 24, it wouldn't at all be a stretch for it to propel Bibee straight to the majors. The Guardians are down a starting pitcher at present, having moved on from Hunter Gaddis, and Bibee's turn just so happens to line up with Monday's opening. Of course, the right-hander didn't help his cause with his latest outing Wednesday, showing uncharacteristic wildness in walking five over 4 2/3 innings, but you can see the overall numbers are still stellar. Control is actually one of his most impressive attributes, so provided Wednesday's struggles aren't a harbinger of injury, the Guardians will likely look past them.
Of course, Bibee isn't the only choice for the opening. Konnor Pilkington is already on the 40-man roster, and Logan Allen has been as impressive as Bibee at Triple-A, delivering a 1.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 12.6 K/9. Bibee has the superior stuff, though, and remains the preferred stash.
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Michael Busch, 2B, Dodgers
2022 minors: .274 BA (552 AB), 32 HR, 38 2B, .881 OPS, 74 BB, 167 K
2023 minors: .339 BA (62 AB), 2 HR, 5 2B, .977 OPS, 13 BB, 14 K
The Dodgers are bleeding infielders, with Miguel Rojas (hamstring) being the latest to go down. It's gotten so bad that Mookie Betts may be pressed into shortstop duties in the coming days. It seems, then, like the ground would be fertile for Busch, a 25-year-old who the Dodgers have moved ever so methodically up the minor-league ladder the past few years. In fact, if he could handle shortstop, it would probably already be a done deal. Still, if the Dodgers are removing Betts from the second base equation (by sliding him over to shortstop), then they could use someone else to back up Miguel Vargas there, whether it's Busch himself or Max Muncy, with Busch stepping in at third base.
The one hesitation is that Busch has contributed to his slow ascent, normally needing some time to find his footing at a new level before eventually going bonkers (like we're seeing now). In theory, though, he's an OPS hog with premium on-base skills and power.
Five on the periphery
(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)
2022 majors: 2-2, 5.97 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 34 2/3 IP, 18 BB, 28 K
2023 minors: 3-0, 2.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 22 2/3 IP, 8 BB, 30 K
Liberatore has a better chance of coming up than some of the Five on the Verge, but it's harder to recommend stashing him given the enormity of his failure last year. He looks like a different pitcher now, though. I pointed outthat his velocity was up this spring and that manager Oliver Marmol said it's the best he's ever seen him. Since then, Liberatore has had a seven-inning, 10-strikeout effort, which marked only the third time he's achieved double-digit strikeouts in 73 career minor-league appearances. His swinging-strike rate is also up to 16 percent this year compared to 10 percent between the majors and minors last year.
The Cardinals need all the pitching help they can get right now, and frankly, so do Fantasy players. If he does return, though, it would likely be to little fanfare, which affords you the opportunity to wait and see.
Andrew Abbott, SP, Reds
2022 minors: 10-7, 3.81 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 118 IP, 48 BB, 159 K
2023 minors: 1-0, 1.15 ERA, 0.57 WHIP, 15 2/3 IP, 3 BB, 36 K
Iin a recent Waiver Wire article what an outlier Mason Miller's 26 percent swinging-strike rate in two minor-league starts was, but Abbott isn't far behind. Through three starts, his swinging-strike rate is 22 percent, which still puts him in rarified air. Granted, it's come at Double-A, but that's high enough up the ladder to take it seriously. If swinging-strike rate isn't really your thing, I'll also point out that his season low for strikeouts is 11. In all, he's struck out 36 of the 56 batters he's faced.
When you watch him, you wonder how, but it largely comes down to vertical approach angle -- or, more plainly, the way his fastball appears to rise in the zone. It's the most valuable quality a pitcher can have in today's game, and it could have Abbott following in Hunter Greene's and Nick Lodolo's footsteps soon enough.
Matt McLain, SS, Reds
2022 minors: .232 BA (371 AB), 17 HR, 27 SB, .816 OPS, 70 BB, 127 K
2023 minors: .250 BA (56 AB), 4 HR, 6 SB, .918 OPS, 10 BB, 17 K
The Reds' first-round pick in 2021 disappointed last year, but he's off to a nice start in 2022, having four home runs and six steals already. Granted, one of those homers was of the inside-the-park variety, which is worth pointing out since McLain's biggest shortcoming is his lack of pure strength. A hitter can overcome that, though, with a good swing design, and it helps that he'll be playing his home games in the easiest park for home runs. The Reds have done well with infielders who outperform their toolset, with Jonathan India and Spencer Steer standing out in that regard, and McLain could be next if Jose Barrero doesn't lock down shortstop soon.
Kumar Rocker, SP, Rangers
2023 minors: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 12 K
Rocker's first two starts have been a lesson in delayed gratification. He was a well-known collegiate prospect entering the 2021 draft, but the Mets opted not to sign him after selecting him 10th overall, which forced him to spend a year in independent ball. The Rangers then surprised everyone by drafting Rocker third overall last year, but he didn't pitch until the Arizona Fall League ... where he, um, walked 12 in 14 innings. Suffice it to say his stock has been as up and down as Bitcoin, and expectations were tempered heading into his first minor-league season. So far, though, he's been a pleasant surprise (albeit at High-A), throwing 74 percent of his pitches for strikes with a 20 percent swinging-strike rate.
Andres Chaparro, 3B, Yankees
2022 minors: .296 BA (260 AB), 20 HR, .962 OPS, 25 BB, 58 K
2023 minors: .220 BA (59 AB), 6 HR, .829 OPS, 4 BB, 17 K
If you're unimpressed by Chaparro's stat line so far, consider that he began the year in an 0-for-29 skid. He's gone 13 for 30 (.433) with six home runs since then, and this is coming on the heels of a spring training in which he hit .324 (12 for 37) with five home runs. As a soon-to-be 24-year-old who bats right-handed and probably shouldn't play anywhere other than first base, he has an extremely narrow path to the big leagues. But his swing is optimized for home runs, lifting everything to his pull side, and that's a valuable thing. If the right door opens at the right time, sparks could fly.