Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Walker Buehler here to stay, not just a dynasty asset anymore
Walker Buehler is technically in the minors right now, but with the Hyun-Jin Ryu injury, it's obvious he's in the Dodgers rotation, according to Scott White, who shares his top five prospects to stash.
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Technically speaking, Walker Buehler is a minor-leaguer.
But he's not actually a minor-leaguer, right? He has taken a turn the past two times through the Dodgers rotation, is coming back to start Friday, and with Hyun-Jin Ryu expected to miss at least the next two months with a groin injury, he'll be taking a regular turn for the foreseeable future.
So while being in the minor leagues at the precise moment I sat down to write this article makes him technically eligible for inclusion here, it's kind of too obvious.
"I don't wanna" is what I'm trying to say. The top five prospects to stash will not be polluted by the Dodgers' roster-manipulation shenanigans -- not if I can help it. And so Buehler is not among them even though he would obviously be if I counted him as a genuine minor-leaguer.
It's not like he needs to be under some stupid subheading for me to talk about him. He deserves to be rostered more than any of the players below because, duh, he actually has a job. And he has all the upside you could want, too, his occasionally triple-digit fastball and not one, but two plus breaking balls making him a potential ace.
I don't know that he flashed that kind of potential in his first two starts, considering his low swinging strike rate, but ... it was two starts. Let's give him a break and trust in the stuff.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
2017 minors: 14-4, 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 148 2/3 IP, 35 BB, 147 K
2018 minors: 3-0, 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 20 IP, 3 BB, 22 K
Still waiting for some horror to befall a member of the Cardinals' starting five -- and by horror, I mean worse than Adam Wainwright's elbow inflammation, which is apparently no big deal. The horror may be Wainwright's very presence in the starting rotation, but the Cardinals haven't figured it out yet. One thing I noticed after Flaherty's most recent spot start Saturday, though, is that his velocity in his two big-league starts is lower than in any of his big-league appearances last year, which is notable given that an increase in velocity was largely credited for breakthrough. But the first of the spot starts this year was awesome. His spring was awesome. His minor-league performance has been awesome. I still think he's the top guy to stash.
Ryan McMahon, 1B, Rockies
2017 minors: .355 BA (470 AB), 20 HR, 39 2B, .986 OPS, 41 BB, 92 K
2018 majors: .180 BA (50 AB), 1 2B, .517 OPS, 10 BB, 22 K
Here's a sobering reminder of what stashing prospects typically looks like in Fantasy: Ryan McMahon, who struggled to find at-bats for a month, scuffling to a .180 batting average after a strong spring showing, is still the second most desirable minor-league in redraft leagues right now. With an injury to any of five members of the Rockies starting lineup, he's back, presumably with the inside track on a starting job and the aid of Coors Field (not that he needs it judging from last year's numbers). Shoot, a quick turnaround at Triple-A could put him in the mix to fill in for DJ LeMahieu, given his exposure to second base the last couple years. Or maybe not, but you get the idea.
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
2017 minors: .321 BA (455 AB), 14 HR, 40 2B, .905 OPS, 49 BB, 97 K
2018 minors: .271 BA (85 AB), 3 HR, 3 2B, .809 OPS, 10 BB, 21 K
Senzel created a bit of a stir Thursday when he left a minor-league game after one at-bat, but C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic quickly ruled out a promotion. Provided he's of sound body, though, Senzel is putting on the pressure, rebounding from a slow start to hit .400 (8 for 20) with two homers in his past six games. Scooter Gennett has a balky shoulder, but it's thought to be a day-to-day injury and he has hit well enough to retain the second base job if he's healthy. Eugenio Suarez's quick return from a fractured thumb rules out third base as a possibility as well. Still, all three players offer enough versatility that it's possible Senzel debuts without a position to call his own, a la Scott Kingery.
Willy Adames, SS, Rays
2017 minors: .277 BA (506 AB), 10 HR, 30 2B, .776 OPS, 65 BB, 132 K
2018 minors: .298 BA (84 AB), 3 HR, 4 2B, .904 OPS, 16 BB, 21 K
No rumblings on the Willy Adames front, but absent a more obvious promotion candidate (a potentially impactful one, that is), I'm happy to speculate for a prospect whose time seems past due. He hit .302 with an .845 OPS over his final 82 games last year and probably deserved the call then, but he has upped his production again this year, finally delivering numbers befitting the pedigree. The Rays are known for delaying the arrival of their top prospects, but honestly, what's Adeiny Hechavarria going to do for them?
Dustin Fowler, OF, Athletics
2017 minors: .293 BA (297 AB), 13 HR, 13 SB, .871 OPS, 15 BB, 63 K
2018 minors: .318 BA (110 AB), 2 HR, 8 SB, .808 OPS, 5 BB, 13 K
With Mark Canha playing a capable center field and burning down the house at the plate, the Athletics may not have a hankering to promote Fowler, but he's making it tough on them, offering clear indications he has recovered from the devastating knee injury suffered in his major-league debut for the Yankees last June, going 12 for 23 (.522) with a homer, three doubles, two triples and three stolen bases in his past five games.
"I'm getting my timing back and rhythm back, feeling comfortable at the plate, more aggressive at the plate," he told MLB.com Sunday. "Rather than tracking pitches, I'm staying through the ball like last year and my power is starting to come back."
Fowler struggled in his opportunity to earn the starting center field job this spring, but again ... devastating knee injury. Just seeing live pitching again was hurdle enough. Forget for a minute what he can do at the plate and his proclivity for extra-base hits. The fact he's 8 for 10 in stolen bases so far makes him stashable in five-outfielder Rotisserie leagues, where that particular contribution is of the highest demand.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
2017 minors: .351 BA (111 AB), 3 HR, 6 2B, 1 3B, .919 OPS, 12 BB, 9 K
2018 minors: .375 BA (96 AB), 9 HR, 7 2B, 4 3B, 1.300 OPS, 22 BB, 15 K
Juan Soto is 19 and missed almost all of last year with a fractured ankle, a broken hamate bone and a strained hamstring, which all but rules him out for a promotion this year. But if his performance so far this season is any indication, he's on the fast track and may in fact be the best hitter in all the minors. The power itself is awe-inspiring, but the plate discipline ... I mean, you could have dismissed last year's walk-to-strikeout ratio as a fluke of sample size, but he's doing it again.
"The other kids, they look at him and realize he knows what he's doing," high Class A hitting coach Luis Ordaz told MLB.com. "His swing, the strike zone. He can get some walks, get the line moving. When you have a guy like that who can bring you good at-bats, everyone can follow that. That's a good example, and there are a lot of eyes on him. You can tell."
You can tell, even this far out: This one's a good one.
2017 minors: 12-3, 1.39 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 136 IP, 42 BB, 165 K
2018 minors: 2-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10 IP, 2 BB, 14 K
For most any other pitcher, I'd say a 1.80 ERA this time of year is the product of a small sample and bound for correction, but it's actually a step back for Duplantier, whose 1.39 mark last year was the lowest for any qualifying minor-league pitcher since Justin Verlander in 2005. And he did that despite spending half the season in the California League, the hitter-friendliest of the minor-league subdivisions. At 23, it's not implausible he reaches the majors this year, especially with the Diamondbacks already down two rotation members, but he'll need to bank more than two starts above A-ball first.
Justus Sheffield, SP, Yankees
2017 minors: 7-7, 3.12 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 98 IP, 34 BB, 88 K
2018 minors: 1-2, 2.25 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 28 IP, 14 BB, 39 K
Already moving up to Triple-A after an electric five starts at Double-A Trenton, Sheffield may be on the verge of overtaking Chance Adams as the next man up for the Yankees. There's no need to rush him seeing as he's only 21, so maybe it doesn't happen, but after earning high marks throughout his minor-league career for his fastball, he's finally getting the results to back it up, namely in terms of strikeouts. He needs to work on his efficiency, and at 5-feet-10, it's possible he doesn't hold up in a starting role. But comparing his upside to a Blake Snell doesn't seem terribly far-fetched right now.
Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets
2017 minors: .289 BA (353 AB), 18 HR, 27 2B, .883 OPS, 27 BB, 71 K
2018 minors: .395 BA (86 AB), 8 HR, 7 2B, 1.260 OPS, 16 BB, 18 K
I saw a stat for Peter Alonso this spring that made me wonder why he wasn't more highly regarded. His average exit velocity last year wasn't just the best in the Mets organization but was bettered by only three major-leaguers: Aaron Judge, Nelson Cruz and Joey Gallo. So of course, he's hitting everything out of the park now, having recently homered five times in a six-game stretch -- and with superior plate discipline to boot. Dominic Smith is regarded as the Mets' first baseman of the future, but Alonso is actually a year older and certainly within striking distance at Double-A.
Austin Allen, C, Padres
2017 minors: .283 BA (463 AB), 22 HR, 31 2B, .849 OPS, 44 BB, 109 K
2018 minors: .333 BA (102 AB), 8 HR, 14 2B, 1.104 OPS, 9 BB, 17 K
The Padres recently graduated a top catching prospect to the majors, so you wouldn't think they'd be looking to make a change there anytime soon. But for all that Austin Hedges brings defensively, his bat just isn't measuring up, making the 24-year-old Allen potentially the yin to his yang. He's limited defensively -- perhaps so limited that catching isn't even in his long-term future -- but he's an extra-base hit machine who deserves some love in leagues that go deep into the prospect pool.
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