The great prospect surge came later than usual this year, with Jarred Kelenic, Jarren Duran, Vidal Brujan and Cal Raleigh all getting the call right around the All-Star break.
It clears the deck for me to highlight other potential prospect call-ups like … well, um … hmm …
Normally, I’m having to limit my Five on the Verge to only five and am eager to introduce new prospects to stash, but after a lost year of development, it’s almost like the most notable prospects are being slow-played.
It doesn’t help that so many of the most exciting call-ups both this year and last — from Wander Franco to Kelenic to Brujan, who was actually just sent back to the minors — have landed with a thud, making organizations think twice about accelerating their best youngsters while also quashing my enthusiasm for second-tier and third-tier types who might soon have a path. No need to invest the roster spot if there isn’t real hope for a payoff.
There are a couple of exceptions — prospects who are close enough and promising enough to justify a stash — but at this stage of the season, it’s not the priority it once was.
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: .302 BA (255 AB), 17 HR, 14 SB, .949 OPS, 25 BB, 69 K
The overall numbers are one thing, but you may remember Witt didn’t take off until the end of May, going on to hit .340 (55 for 162) with 13 homers, eight steals and a 1.100 OPS over his final 41 games at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. His strikeout rate improved to 21.5 percent during that stretch. He only recently got moved up to Triple-A Omaha, playing just his second game there Wednesday, and while the promotion was long overdue, he may have only a short stay at that level.
A call-up would be an aggressive move for most organizations, but not for the one that nearly made him its starting second baseman in spring training. I’ll put the chances at 50/50, but among the prospects who could reasonably get the call still, Witt is probably the last who would inspire an all-out sprint to the waiver wire.
Jo Adell, OF, Angels
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: .281 BA (274 AB), 19 HR, 7 SB, .906 OPS, 20 BB, 88 K
Adell recently got passed over for Brandon Marsh even though he’s tied for third in the minor leagues with 19 home runs. The Angels moved pretty quickly with Marsh once they were convinced he was past the shoulder injury that afflicted him earlier this season, which would seem to suggest they’re stalling with Adell. And it’s easy to understand why. By falling flat on his face in the majors last year, striking out 41.7 percent of the time, he doesn’t get the same benefit of the doubt.
A 22.5 percent strikeout rate for the month of July does offer some hope, though, and the Angels could still use another outfielder. If they don’t move to promote Adell soon, though, he might be only a September call-up.
Edward Cabrera, SP, Marlins
2019 minors: 9-4, 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 96 2/3 IP, 31 BB, 116 K
2021 minors: 0-0, 3.09 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 35 IP, 9 BB, 46 K
You could argue there’s already an opening for Cabrera with Pablo Lopez recently being sidelined by a strained rotator cuff. The Marlins’ schedule has allowed them to go short-staffed for now, and if they really wanted to slow-play Cabrera, they could trot out retreads like Jordan Holloway and Braxton Garrett instead. But they quickly moved Cabrera up to Triple-A once he proved fully recovered from a nerve issue in his biceps, which would suggest they’re hopeful he can step in for some of their other young pitchers whose innings are beginning to pile up. Thanks to the injury, Cabrera still has plenty left in the tank.
His first start at Triple-A was a clunker, but a quick look at his stat line will tell you he’s torched the other levels with an electric fastball that both misses bats and induces weak contact.
Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays
2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .259 BA (189 AB), 9 HR, 15 SB, .815 OPS, 25 BB, 34 K
I guess we’ll do this again with Brujan even though his first stint in the majors turned out to be a dud, the Rays opting to bring it to an end Wednesday. He went only 2 for 26 with sporadic playing time. Combining those numbers with where he left off in the minors, he’s now batting .186 (26 for 140) in his past 41 games. In retrospect, it may have been unfair to promote him while he was slumping so badly.
The contact skills have remained intact, offering some hope of a quick turnaround, but there’s work to be done before we see him again. I’m less confident now he’ll get a look as a full-timer this year, but his impact in the stolen base category will be significant if he does.
Josh Lowe, OF, Rays
2019 minors: .252 BA (448 AB), 18 HR, 30 SB, .783 OPS, 59 BB, 132 K
2021 minors: .283 BA (219 AB), 13 HR, 14 SB, .906 OPS, 27 BB, 66 K
I’ve been slower to come around to Lowe than other Fantasy Baseball analysts who are naturally drawn to the power/speed combo. He’s struck me in the past as a toolsy but raw player with a wide range of possible outcomes, but the strides he’s made this year are undeniable. His stat line is the best he’s ever put together in the minors, with every one of the at-bats coming at Triple-A, and his 26.3 percent strikeout rate isn’t disqualifying.
Having already tried out Brujan, it’s possible the Rays would turn to Lowe the next time they have an outfield need, and while I’d bet against him making an immediate impact in that scenario, the skills exist for him to do just that.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note)
Jordan Balazovic, SP, Twins
2019 minors: 8-5, 2.69 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 93 2/3 IP, 25 BB, 129 K
2021 minors: 3-1, 2.44 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 44 1/3 IP, 10 BB, 57 K
Balazovic was sidelined early by a back injury and needed a few starts to recapture the form from his breakthrough 2019. But recapture it he has, allowing no runs on 10 hits over his past four starts, the last two being of the seven-inning variety. Most impressive is his 16.6 percent swinging-strike rate during that stretch, so his stuff is genuinely playing up despite garnering modest reviews in the past. The production is beginning to speak for itself, and if he gets bumped up to Triple-A soon, a late-season debut is possible.
Justin Foscue, 2B, Rangers
2021 minors: .289 BA (76 AB), 9 HR, 7 2B, 1.126 OPS, 8 BB, 24 K
Though considered a reach when the Rangers selected him 14th overall in last year’s draft, Foscue has come through with much bigger power than expected, homering seven times in his past six games, the last five coming at high Class A. The performance comes on the heels of a six-week absence for a rib contusion, and his numbers weren’t so great before then. If the power has indeed arrived, though, his dynasty stock is about to take off given that he was considered an advanced hitter otherwise. He could debut as early as next year.
Orelvis Martinez, SS, Blue Jays
2019 minors: .275 BA (142 AB), 7 HR, 5 3B, 8 2B, .901 OPS, 14 BB, 29 K
2021 minors: .294 BA (245 AB), 17 HR, 20 2B, .980 OPS, 27 BB, 73 K
Martinez looked like a keeper when he debuted as a 17-year-old two years ago, but only when such a player reaches full-season ball can we get a good read on what he may ultimately become. So it’s with great satisfaction that I report he’s now crushing the ball at low Class A, homering nine times in his past eight games. He’s delivering premium exit velocities as a 19-year-old and is positioning himself for a big rise up the prospect rankings, perhaps even threatening Austin Martin for the top spot in the Blue Jays system next year.
MJ Melendez, C, Royals
2019 minors: .163 BA (363 AB), 9 HR, 23 2B, .571 OPS, 44 BB, 165 K
2021 minors: .274 BA (237 AB), 20 HR, 13 2B, .942 OPS, 33 BB, 62 K
I’ve highlighted several breakout catchers in this space this year, but none have more home runs than Melendez, who has the second-most among all minor-league hitters. It’s a dramatic improvement over what we saw from him in 2019, when he was probably overmatched as a 20-year-old in high Class A. The read on him coming into the season was a bad hitter with a good arm, but the mechanical adjustments he made at the alternate training site last year have obviously paid off. He would be up in Triple-A now if the Royals thought they could find at-bats for him there, GM J.J. Picollo recently told The Athletic.
Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins
2019 minors: .252 BA (445 AB), 8 HR, 26 2B, .671 OPS, 24 BB, 54 K
2021 minors: .344 BA (276 AB), 19 HR, 16 2B, 1.019 OPS, 28 BB, 41 K
The Twins left Miranda unprotected in the Rule 5 draft this offseason, but he made it through, which goes to show you how much his stock has improved this year. The former second-round pick has always demonstrated the ability to put the bat on the ball, but a more selective approach this year has him capitalizing on pitches in his wheelhouse. Moving up to Triple-A wasn’t enough to slow him down. He actually homered three times in his first game there June 29. His stock is rising, but he still has a ways to go to measure up to his cousin, Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame.