Written by: Ray Butler
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Man, it feels so good to be back.
It honestly feels like a lifetime since I published my last preseason prospect list. 2020 collectively hit us where it hurt, then hit us again once we were already down.
Personally, the past year has certainly been the toughest stretch I’ve endured since launching Prospects 365. But it’s true what they say: you can’t fully appreciate the good times without first understanding and persevering through the bad. Life is slowly returning to normal. Regular season baseball is less than two weeks away. I’ve never been so happy to publish one of my prospect lists as I am this spring.
That starts today. Right now, to be exact. Here are nearly 7000 words on my #151-200 fantasy prospects for the 2021 season. I hope you enjoy!
200. Chris Rodriguez, RHP, LAA. Age: 22
Chris Rodriguez is only 22 years old. For more perspective, he’s younger than Forrest Whitley, Ian Anderson, Matt Manning, Nate Pearson and many other pitching prospects on this list. Health and durability is the name of the game for Rodriguez. Luckily, it appears the right-hander’s past, longstanding back ailments *might* be in the rearview mirror; he threw more than 50 innings at the Angels’ alternate site and has since been added to the 40-man roster. At his best, Rodriguez is a four-pitch terror who induces a lot of ground ball contact when he’s not missing bats. The command might be fringe average, but this is undoubtedly a big league starting pitcher if he can simply stay healthy and continue to log innings. The right-hander will likely begin the 2021 season in Double-A, but don’t be surprised if he threatens a big league debut at some point during the summer. Despite the imperfect results, it’s been awesome to see Rodriguez healthy and competing versus big league bats during Spring Training this month.
199. Carson Tucker, SS, CLE. Age: 19
As a prep draft prospect a calendar year ago, I viewed Tucker as a solid middle infielder who would need to make some fairly substantial swing adjustments to access his lower half and improve the way he impacts the ball offensively. We need to see it in game settings before we get too excited, but the video we’ve witnessed this offseason certainly speaks to an impressive evolution that’s enhanced the teenager’s bat speed and explosiveness at the plate. Cleveland was absolutely ecstatic that “Dookie” was available at 23rd overall last summer; he’ll need to continue his development and upward trend to set himself apart from the plethora of middle infielders within the Indians’ farm system, but the 19-year-old is certainly off to a good start.
198. Corbin Martin, RHP, ARI. Age: 25
Let’s get this out of the way now: Martin will be one of my favorite end-game targets in redraft leagues this preseason. He’s been largely off the fantasy radar since Summer 2019, when it was announced he’d need Tommy John surgery. Shortly after undergoing the surgery, the right-hander was included in a trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Astros. Now fully healthy again, Martin will assumedly play a role in the Diamondbacks rotation at some point in 2021. The stuff was great pre-injury; the command wasn’t. Both in dynasty leagues and in redrafts, the 25-year-old is an ideal dart throw who could pay huge dividends in short order. Despite recently being optioned to minor league camp, Martin should make his Diamondbacks debut at some point this summer.
197. Reginald Preciado, SS, CHC. Age: 17
You don’t have to squint too hard to see some Ronny Mauricio in Preciado. Namely, there’s uncommon athleticism and coordination for such a big frame (6-foot-4, 185 pounds) at such a young age. He’s never going to be a burner on the base-paths, but there’s still plenty of qualities to like here thanks to foundational contact skills and emerging power. It’s widely known the Cubs were looking to fortify their minor league system by adding power this offseason, and they’ve it a potential high-value defensive position with Preciado. With his frame, it’s also possible the teenager eventually moves to the hot corner as he thickens and adds muscle over time.
196. Angel Martinez, IF, CLE. Age: 19
Mentally, I will always tie Martinez’s development to that of fellow Cleveland prospect Gabriel Rodriguez. A Thunder and Lightning duo, if you will. And whattaya know, the pair were also close on this list (Rodriguez made the VIP portion of the list). I loved the I film I evaluated of Martinez from instructs. His hands and wrists have added strength since he played in the DSL in 2019, and he appears to be elevating the ball more frequently as well. The feel to hit has always been heralded as advanced for his age, and plus speed doesn’t hurt either. The teenager strikes me as a player who will possess the ability to shuffle around the field defensively, so I’m not worried about him being lost in the shuffle of the massive infield talent within the Indians system. There continues to be a lot to like here.
Ever attempted to predict the future? Here, our Adam Ehrenreich took his annual stab at projecting four players who will become fantasy first rounders during the 2021 season.
195. Gilberto Celestino, OF, MIN. 22
Celestino is a fantastic real-life player, with an advanced feel to hit, plus speed and strong defense in centerfield laying a sturdy foundation to become a solid player for a long, long time. But there’s intrigue in the fantasy world too, especially as the 22-year-old continues working to unlock the extent of his power in game environments. Even if this tool simply develops to league average, Celestino will be a notable riser throughout the 2021 season. Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, the centerfielder could be a step away from the big leagues this time next season. I really like this profile.
194. Tahnaj Thomas, RHP, PIT. Age: 21
If Quinn Priester (you’ll read about him in a later edition of this list) is the steadying force that epitomizes a changing of the guard in Pittsburgh’s player development, Thomas is the high-variance firecracker whose possible outcomes range from ‘erratic, explosive reliever’ to ‘top of the rotation All-Star’. By all accounts, there’s still plenty of rawness within the 21-year-old’s profile; he needs to throw his breaking ball (he refers to the pitch as a slurve) for strikes more consistently while further refining his changeup. But at minimum, a high-90s fastball and a bat-missing hook create a solid foundation worthy of our attention and patience. Like so many young arms on this list, 2021 should be a huge season for Thomas’ development and outlook.
193. Jordan Westburg, IF, BAL. Age: 22
Westburg is a modern day hitter. The swing is geared towards power, and there’s plenty of it–geared more so towards his pull-side–within a profile that also possesses some swing-and-miss concerns. Having watched the 22-year-old live throughout his career at Mississippi State, I think the infielder has a better chance of sticking at shortstop than most people believe. While he may not be a premium athlete, Westburg is extremely instinctive and anticipative at the 6. Even if he eventually moves to the cornerstone or hot corner, a moderate batting average with 20+ home runs should keep Westburg relevant throughout his professional career.
192. Kevin Alcantara, OF, NYY. Age: 18
Ever lay awake in bed at night and think to yourself “Man, I wish baseball had a more consistent, more durable version of Bradley Zimmer”? Or are you normal? I think that’s the dream here with Alcantara. With long levers and a ways to go to reach physical maturation, this will almost certainly be a slow-burning development that might take longer than we’d like to come to full fruition. However, the Yankees love the 18-year-old’s athleticism and emerging power. 2021 could be the year he officially emerges onto the prospect scene.
191. Reid Detmers, LHP, LAA. Age: 21
Detmers is a tough prospect to pinpoint at this stage of his development. We know the command is plus. We *think* the curveball will be an above average pitch versus professional hitters (it was certainly plus-or-better while the left-hander was at Louisville), but there are some concerns the path of the pitch will be more easily distinguishable to the professional eye than it was at the collegiate level. The fastball plays up because Detmers commands it well, but the velocity is less than premium, and pitch itself doesn’t possess the obvious bat-missing traits we like to see him pitchers selected high in the first round. I am intrigued by the southpaw throwing his slider more as a pro than he did as an amateur, as I think the pitch could become an x-factor within his arsenal–especially versus left-handed hitters–if he continues to cultivate it. Of course, we’re yet to see the 2020 draftee face professional hitters over an extended period of time, so a lot of the outlook is simply educated guesswork for now. As it stands, the 21-year-old is a floor-over-ceiling fantasy prospect who projects to slot as a 4 or 5 in a big league rotation someday.
190. Jay Groome, LHP, BOS. Age: 22
If you read my ‘All-Buy Team’ article, you’re well aware of Groome’s improvements–and good health–at Boston’s alternate site last summer; the majority of my thoughts regarding the left-hander from that article remain intact now. There may not be ‘Opening Day starter’, top-of-the-rotation here, but the 22-year-old could find himself towards the back of the Red Sox rotation at some point this summer. Once he debuts, Groome should have backend appeal in redraft leagues for the remainder of the regular season.
Do you enjoy analytical deep dives on catchers? Check out our Justin Choi’s recent work on new Mets catcher James McCann.
189. Gunnar Henderson, SS, BAL. Age: 19
Athleticism in a large frame and emerging power highlight Henderson’s debut on my prospect list. There’s also adequate contact skills already present, though the shortstop will need further refinement before he’s ready to approach the big league level. The teenager is more of an intelligent baserunner with adequate speed than a straightforward burner, and he should be able to maintain a bit of a stolen base impact throughout the majority of his career. With all-fields power beginning to emerge, Henderson has become the position playing equivalent of Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall as the Orioles continue to transform the player development within their organization.
188. Joey Cantillo, LHP, CLE. Age: 21
I maintain that Cantillo best projects a pitchability-leaning SP4, but I’m intrigued as to whether Cleveland’s R&D department can help the southpaw reach another level of his development. The fastball velocity was trending up at the end of the 2019 season, and he was reportedly excellent at instructs this fall. The 21-year-old will likely begin the 2021 season at the Double-A level, and I feel he could use at least one more full season of development before making the ascension to Progressive Field. I’ll be keeping an eye on the left-hander’s fastball velocity as well as further refinement of his secondary offerings once minor league camp begins this spring.
187. Luis Rodriguez, OF, LAD. Age: 18
The lost minor league season was unfortunate for Rodriguez, who also missed out on instruction at the alternate site this summer and instructs this fall. With slightly more information on the outfielder than we had a year ago, it appears the outfielder has a bit of a higher floor but lower ceiling than we projected last preseason. The teenager has the ability to stick in centerfield, and the feel to hit is advanced for his young age. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of concern regarding how much power we should project moving forward. The outlook here is still cloudy, so seeing Rodriguez stateside in 2021 should help us solidify this evaluation.
Did the Mets do enough to improve their defense this offseason? Here, our Andrea Arcadipane takes a look at whether the team is ready to legitimately compete in 2021.
186. Bryan Mata, RHP, BOS. Age: 21
Mata ranked much higher on this list before it was revealed he had suffered a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow in early March. It’s hard to put much weight on any other aspect of the profile/outlook until he can prove he’s healthy (Boston opted to treat the injury with rest and rehabilitation; there is no timetable for his return); however, if he can eventually prove this ailment is truly in the rearview mirror, Mata will resume his label as a high-end SP4 who should debut at the big league level sooner rather than later. Get well soon, Bryan!
185. Alex Canario, OF, SF. Age: 20
Canario underwent labrum surgery in November after dislocating his shoulder during the final week of instructs. The Giants added the outfielder to their 40-man roster anyways, but rehabilitation figures to delay the start of the 20-year-old’s season in 2021. Everyone knows about the massive raw power (it could legitimately finalize as a 70), but my worry is a hit tool that could peak a full grade below league average paired with minimal stolen base impact. The Giants were able to assist other prospects such as Hunter Bishop improve their approach at the alternate site this summer, so I’m cautiously optimistic they’re able to do the same for Canario in due time. Unfortunately, shoulder rehab means he may not take a competitive at-bat until late in the summer or in the fall.
184. Daniel Johnson, OF, CLE. Age: 25
Check to see if Johnson’s -71 wRC+ in 13 big league plate appearances (5 games) is scaring your league mate. This isn’t a skillset barreling towards stardom, but the 25-year-old should be a nearing a more consistent role in Cleveland as the organization appears headed towards a bit of a rebuild. Johnson will never fool you as the most polished player on the field, but he possesses surprising pull side power and enough speed to impact the stolen base category in deeper fantasy leagues. At worst, the outfielder has traits of a strong-side platooner who excels versus right-handed pitching at baseball’s top level. It may take a bit more patience, but a positive ROI is on its way here.
183. Mason Martin, 1B, PIT. Age: 21
Those who are previously aware of Martin are obviously aware of the huge power here, as the 21-year-old likely possesses some of the best in the minor leagues. But the first baseman earns a spot on this list thanks positive reports from the alternate site regarding the hit tool, plate approach and defensive skills at first base. It’s easy to examine the numbers from a prospect like Martin and chalk him up as a power-only player who could easily teeter between the upper minors and the big leagues. There’s more to the story here though. The Pirates love the work ethic and blossoming skillset, and a recent trade of Josh Bell opens an organizational hole that could easily be filled by Martin once he’s deemed ready.
182. Tyler Stephenson, C, CIN. Age: 24
Stephenson ranks here because he’s capable of being an everyday big league catcher in 2021. He’s ready to be a big league catcher in 2021. Unfortunately, Tucker Barnhart still exists and is signed with the organization thru at least the upcoming season (with a club option in 2022). Barnhart continues to be a roughly average offensive catcher, but his real value is his defensive value (6th amongst catchers in defensive fWAR in 2020) and on field leadership. So where does that leave Stephenson? Likely in line waiting his turn. The 24-year-old possesses adequate if not unspectacular blocking and framing skills behind the plate, but his cannon arm raises his overall defensive value a bit. Offensively, I’ve witnessed the backstop hit moonshot after moonshot during batting practice, only to settle for a more ‘get on base no matter what’ approach during games. Stephenson is going to be an everyday big league catcher, we might just have to wait a little while longer than we’d like.
Remember my puff piece on Corbin Burnes last preseason? There won’t be a second coming in 2021, but this pitcher is one of my favorite breakout candidates for the upcoming season.
181. Blake Hunt, C, TB. Age: 22
Hunt being included on this list is only a surprise if you’re unaware of just how good he was this summer at the Padres alternate site. The 22-year-old appears to have unlocked his power, engaging more with his lower half to really punish mistakes to the pull-side. It’s still a moderate power ceiling (20 home runs or so), but that’s certainly a more pleasant outlook than the projection a year ago. Despite his 6-foot-3 frame, Hunt is surprisingly nimble behind the plate, possessing the lateral agility and pop times to remain a backstop for the foreseeable future. Allow me to finish this write-up with a bold claim: Hunt is now the most well-rounded catcher in the Rays organization.
180. Matt Tabor, RHP, ARI. Age: 22
Tabor was one of my breakout picks for the 2020 campaign, and a canceled minor league season should have given you plenty of time to gobble-up shares in your dynasty leagues. I’m doubling down on my love of the right-hander here. The stuff is better than he’s being given credit for, there’s plenty of athleticism and quick-twitch capabilities in the frame and the pitchability continues to improve as the 22-year-old leans on analytics as he develops. Arizona could really push the envelope here if they wanted to, but I suspect Tabor will begin the 2021 minor league season in Double-A.
179. Khalil Lee, OF, NYM. Age: 23
Perhaps the single most enigmatic player on this list. Every once and awhile in games, we get a glimpse of the plus raw power the outfielder frequently displays during batting practice. When this occurs, the bat speed is jaw dropping and opposing outfielders never get out of their stance. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen enough of that power in-game to project Lee to someday be a 20-25 home run threat. Fortunately, on paper, the 23-year-old is one of the biggest stolen base threats in the minor leagues, swiping 53 bases (82% success rate) to pair with his .363 OBP at Double-A in 2019. Lee makes this impact despite not possessing top-of-the-line speed, so it remains to be seen how that facet of his game would translate versus big league batteries. There’s enough strikeouts to weigh down the batting average, perhaps to the extent Lee is a .220-.240 hitter at the big league level. In non-contending organizations, a winter ball stint ball in Puerto Rico could have the stage for a big league debut at some point in 2021. A new member in the Mets farm, Lee will likely spend 2021 teetering between helping symbolize a replenishing of a once-ravaged farm system and—ironically–becoming trade bait as the Mets look to secure a spot in the playoffs. For the record, this is something like .230 BA/.330 OBP/10 HR/20 SB over the course of a full regular season in my eyes, and I think that might be a bit too bullish.
178. Jeremy Pena, SS, HOU. Age: 23
Long considered a glove-first shortstop prospect with above average speed, we may finally be witnessing some of the dots being connected with Pena’s offensive skillset as well. Playing in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, the 23-year-old was recently named Rookie of the Year, slashing .306/.349/.430 with 3 home runs and 7 stolen bases in just 30 games despite being more than five years younger than his average competition. The Astros worked to unlock more of Pena’s power this summer at the alternate site, and it appears the early returns are quite pleasing. The shortstop continues to be a threat on the base-paths despite having added muscle throughout his professional career, and I’m excited to see what the offense looks like versus pitching in Double-A in 2021. Org officials applauded Pena’s improvement in working counts this summer, so I’m hoping it translates to at-bats and box scores this season.
177. A.J. Puk, LHP, OAK. Age: 25
The original write-up for Puk (sent to VIP members) primarily focused on the seemingly never-ending injuries and the diminishing chances the left-hander eventually slots into a big league rotation on a consistent basis. Here, I’ll instead mention the fact Puk slimmed up (noticeably) over the offseason. He’s also featuring a shorter arm action, which was almost certainly implemented in hopes of avoiding further injuries to his elbow or shoulder. His fastball velocity has been down a bit so far this spring, but the 25-year-old has been able to throw his vaunted curveball, which he wasn’t always able to do comfortably after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018. With Mike Fiers unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, Puk currently finds himself competing with Cole Irvin and Daulton Jefferies for the final spot in the Athletics rotation. Assuming you’ve held onto him throughout the ebbs and flows of his professional career, the primary hope should simply be Puk is able to remain healthy for a consistent amount of time in 2021 and beyond. The mid-rotation potential is still alive, though a full-time transition to the bullpen could be in the cards following any more durability hiccups.
176. Kyle Isbel, OF, KC. Age: 24
Isbel’s evolution throughout 2020 is largely a product of a player who’s finally enjoying good health. The outfielder has spent time on the minor league injured list multiple times since he was drafted in 2018, and his various ailments (face, hamstring, hamate) hindered him from building the momentum he needed to make waves throughout the Royals system. But those injuries are a thing of the past, and Isbel was the most impressive position player at Kansas City’s alternate site this summer outside of Bobby Witt Jr. The 24-year-old’s power might be the most notable improvement over the last calendar year, and the tool now projects as above average moving forward. Isbel is not yet on the Royals’ 40-man roster, but we could easily see him play a role at the big league level at some point in 2021.
175. Matt Canterino, RHP, MIN. Age: 23
If you’re not overly familiar with Canterino, allow me to start this write-up with a bang: the 23-year-old has one of the best fastballs amongst pitching prospects on this entire list. This is not debatable. There’s also two above average breaking balls and a fading changeup that took a huge step forward last summer at the alternate site. So why isn’t there more steam here throughout the prospecting world? Canterino’s mechanics are… unique. They’re not smooth nor prototypical, yet the right-hander doesn’t struggle to throw strikes and he’s seemingly remained healthy since pitching for Rice at the collegiate level. The delivery is so reliever-ish that it’s difficult to hype Canterino too much without knowing with 100% certainty the Twins plan on keeping him in the rotation long-term. The arsenal and strike throwing are certainly capable of sticking in the rotation at the big league level. Keep your eye on the right-hander in 2021.
Last October, I published my ‘All-Buy Team’ of the 2020-2021 offseason. Lots of good info here.
174. Sam Huff, C, TEX. Age: 23
Huff completes a mini catcher run in this strand of the list. Your evaluation of the 23-year-old largely hinges on whether you believe he’ll stick as a catcher behind the plate. I don’t. However, the Rangers had no qualms sticking him at catcher in ten games throughout the final few weeks of the 2020 sprint season. My opinion doesn’t matter if an organization disagrees with me. Now, does Huff’s small sample at the end of a lost season for Texas cement his status as the organization’s catcher moving forward? I tend to doubt it, but there’s a better chance of it happening than I projected a year ago. The offensive prowess is undeniable, and there’s probably value here even if Huff eventually shifts to first base or primarily slots as a designated hitter. Monitor the Rangers plan for him closely during the spring.
173. Tanner Houck, RHP, BOS. Age: 24
When I began my evaluation of Houck, I figured ‘opportunity’ would be the driving force that led to his inclusion on this list. And don’t get me wrong–opportunity is a notable part of this outlook—but there are also some skills here that hint at the notion of his strong performance during the sprint season not being a fluke. We need a larger sample before setting this take in stone, but the right-hander’s slider may be a bonafide 70-grade pitch. The four-seam is below average, but the 24-year-old also throws a good sinker that helps offset some of the damage inflicted to this fastball. In general, Houck is almost certainly closer to his 2020 xERA (3.81) than his actual ERA (0.53). Fortunately, that pitcher still possesses an abundance of value within an organization that’s currently starved for MLB-ready starting pitching. We should receive a larger sample in 2021.
172. Miguel Yajure, RHP, PIT. Age: 23
Yajure is living proof of what a trade to a different organization can do for a prospect’s outlook. As a pitching prospect in the Yankees’ system, it was difficult to visualize a rational path for Yajure to earn enough big league run to carve-out a non-bench role for fantasy teams. Now a member of the Pirates’ organization following the Jameson Taillon trade, not only has a role in a big league rotation become a rational thought, it’s now expected to occur at some point in the 2021 season. The right-hander’s arsenal isn’t overwhelming, but its well-roundedness—paired with solid command—could keep Yajure in Pittsburgh’s rotation for the long run once he receives an opportunity. An underrated name in the dynasty world, Yajure should also be considered an intriguing target in the end game of Draft and Holds this preseason.
171. Ryan Weathers, LHP, SD. Age: 21
Behind closed doors (aka without box scores and the MiLB TV app to help guide us), Weathers clearly broke out in 2020. The body improved, the delivery became a bit more athletic and the velocity skyrocketed as a result. The breakout culminated with Weathers making his MLB debut in the NLDS versus the eventual World Series champion Dodgers, becoming just the third-ever player to make his big league debut in the playoffs. The 21-year-old threw 1.1 scoreless IP in the appearance. While Adrian Morejon has all but claimed the final rotation spot in the Padres’ Opening Day rotation, it’s certainly possible Weathers breaks camp as the club’s long reliever before Dinelson Lamet is ready for action. It just feels as though the left-hander is in the process of putting all the pieces together, with an improved fastball, two solid secondary offerings (slider and changeup) and adequate command forming a pitcher capable of starting at the big league level. However, with San Diego’s star-filled rotation set to take center stage in 2021, don’t be surprised if Weathers’ name is a hot commodity for potential sellers leading up to this summer’s trade deadline.
170. Matt Allan, RHP, NYM. Age: 19
Allan crossed a lot of necessary, pitching prospect-focused bullet points off his list while spending his first professional season at the Mets alternate site. While in an ideal world he could have accomplished these feats throughout the course of a regular season, small things like ‘increasing pitchability and sequencing’ are important to conquer regardless of the environment. The teenager features an advanced three pitch arsenal for someone at Allan’s stage of development, with all three facets (fastball, curveball, changeup) all flashing above average or better. The right-hander was an over-slot from a scary draft demographic, so let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this won’t be a bit of burn as Allan progresses through the minor leagues. So far, so good though.
169. Johan Rojas, OF, PHI. Age: 20
I’ll stop far short of saying “the good news about the canceled minor league season in 2020”, but I love where prospects like Rojas currently stand in the dynasty world. Twitter search “Johan Rojas”. Find a trove of information and evaluations? Find much information at all? The answer to those questions is a resounding NO. In a normal year and in a normal world, Rojas would have officially broken onto the scene throughout the 2020 minor league season. Instead, his value is still suppressed on prospect and dynasty lists. Video from instructs featured swing mechanics that had quieted down a bit from the player we saw in the Gulf Coast League in 2019. If you’re buying the hit tool developing to at least fringe average (a 50th-60th percentile outcome in my eyes), you’re buying the 20-year-old becoming a damn good player. You were gifted a wider buy-low window than you deserved here. The crevice should finally close for good in 2021.
168. Yusniel Diaz, OF, BAL. Age: 24
I spoke on this in Diaz’s write-up on my prospect list last preseason, but I feel as though we’re trending towards the 24-year-old becoming a high Pull FB% hitter who sacrifices a bit of his on base skills to tap-in to more power. Recently added to the Orioles 40-man roster, the outfielder spent the summer focusing on his speed, agility and defensive skills at the alternate site. Organizationally, Baltimore’s crowded outfield should be considered a concern for a prospect with a well-rounded yet unspectacular skillset such as Diaz’s. An uptick in game power—paired with a batting average and on base percentage that sit near .260 and .340 respectively—is likely the fastest path for the 24-year-old to become a valuable big league player. We’ll see if this profile is capable of such gains in 2021.
167. Bobby Miller, RHP, LAD. Age: 21
Your opinion of Miller likely leans heavily on the role you see him eventually filling. If you’re bullish, you foresee the right-hander largely ditching the sinker he featured at Louisville in favor of a four-seam he threw sparingly in college (this is a foregone conclusion in my eyes). You also know how utterly filthy the slider can be, and you’re cautiously optimistic the mechanics and strike-throwing don’t eventually relegate him to a high-leverage role in the bullpen. Eventually securing a spot in the Dodgers’ starting rotation should be viewed as a bit of an uphill climb for Miller, especially in an ultra-deep organization as the value of multi-inning relievers continues to rise. There are far worse outcomes than becoming Brusdar Graterol 2.0, after all. For now, we’ll keep tabs on the right-hander’s command and walk numbers in the minor leagues with our fingers crossed he remains a starter long-term. Let the Dodgers cook.
In February, our Estee Rivera dove deep on the emergence of Blue Jays outfielder Teoscar Hernández.
166. Luis Garcia, RHP, HOU. Age: 24
If given the opportunity, Garcia could bloom into the 2021 (or near future) version of Cristian Javier. The 24-year-old struggle to strike hitters out in his first MLB stint (12.1 IP) during the sprint season, but that’s not necessarily indicative of the right-hander’s arsenal. Garcia’s fastball was a bit lucky from an outcome standpoint in his five big league appearances in 2020, but the swinging strike rate of the changeup and slider both point to an uptick in future strikeouts with proper sequencing and usage. There’s a very real possibility this ranking becomes null if the Astros choose to utilize the right-hander strictly from a 1-2 IP role in the bullpen, though I think it’s more likely he receives an opportunity to become a bulker of sorts at the big league level. Though the upside is far lower than his minor league numbers indicate, don’t be surprised if Garcia sneaks up on us in 2021.
165. Jackson Rutledge, RHP, WAS. Age: 21
This profile is all about proving and sustaining durability. One could argue Rutledge’s arsenal contains three plus pitches, though one 60 and two 55s is splendid as well. But with a 6-foot-8, 250 pound frame, the ability to remain healthy over the course of 162-game seasons will be a question that continues to follow the 21-year-old throughout his professional career. Call it the Nate Pearson Conundrum. Rutledge reportedly had a great summer at the alternate site, focusing on mechanical repeatability and further refining his secondary pitches. I’m skeptical the right-hander will ever be a consistent, 200 IP horse at the big league level, though the mid-rotation potential is evident.
164. Yerry Rodriguez, RHP, TEX. Age: 23
Prior to an injury to his UCL in 2019, Rodriguez missed plenty of bats while inducing a high GB% in the South Atlantic League (Low-A) as a 21-year-old. We didn’t hear much news for a while—other than the fact he avoided Tommy John surgery—until Rodriguez was added to the Rangers’ 40-man roster in December. Along with the announcement, Texas’ Player Development account on Twitter released a few snippets of the right-hander pitching in instructs. The video featured Rodriguez inducing a pair of swings and misses versus a pair of Royals hitters, one with a fastball and the other with a breaking ball. More importantly, the right-hander was undoubtedly healthy and showcasing low-effort mechanics, which is a bit of relief since there’s been very little information regarding his health for more than a year now. Now 23-years-old and a call away from the big leagues, Rodriguez’s stock could soar throughout the prospect world before the Summer solstice in June.
163. Justin Foscue, 2B, TEX. Age: 22
Within my 2021 FYPD rankings, I referred to Foscue as the Kody Hoese of the draft class. The singular skills will never blow you away, but he’s a high floor player capable of playing multiple positions in the dirt who should move relatively quickly throughout the minor leagues. The batted ball data is quite good, and placing a priority on pull-side power would help the 22-year-old ascend to a level we haven’t yet seen from him. The Rangers are banking on Foscue teaming with Josh Jung to form half of their infield sooner rather than later. Don’t be surprised if we’re ranking the second baseman in the top half of this list a year from now.
162. Brennan Malone, RHP, PIT. Age: 20
Malone is freakin’ exciting. Normally with this archetype, we see a raw arsenal that pairs with elite athleticism and a wide range of outcomes. Instead, Malone pairs his elite athleticism with an arsenal that’s surprisingly refined for someone at the right-hander’s stage of development. He likely falls behind Quinn Priester and projected top overall pick Kumar Rocker when Pirates fans dream of their future starting rotation, but that’s certainly not an insult. With full season ball slated for Malone in 2021, there’s no reason he can’t be a top-100 prospect twelve months from now.
Projection systems are surprisingly high on the Red Sox this season. If they legitimately compete for a Wild Card spot, Adam Ottavino will likely play a key role.
161. Ryan Pepiot, RHP, LAD. Age: 23
Based on data from the alternate site, there’s a chance Pepiot’s sudden transformation from forgettable to a top-200 prospect isn’t enough hype. The 23-year-old enjoyed a velocity spike this summer, displaying a mid-90s fastball that paired far better with an elite changeup than the former, low-90s fastball ever did. We need to see the Pepiot maintain his new velocity throughout a chunk of a full season, but doing so would mean the right-hander flirts with top-100 status prior to debuting in Los Angeles.
160. Dean Kremer, RHP, BAL. Age: 25
Other than his changeup (thrown 2.9% of the time), Kremer boasted four pitches that all posted expected batting averages of .240 or lower after debuting at the big league level during the sprint season. Unfortunately, that didn’t save the right-hander from being hit hard in his first taste versus big league hitters, finishing with an allowed Hard Hit % and Exit Velocity in the 10th and 7th percentile amongst big league pitchers, respectively. He missed plenty of bats along the way, but a BB% of 14.5% led to a 1.45 WHIP in the small sample of 18.2 IP. There’s a lot to digest here. If you believe the minor league track record, the walk rate should enjoy some positive regression in 2021 and beyond. Thanks to a fastball that induced a double-digit swinging strike rate (10.9%, the same as Trevor Bauer) and a cutter that also misses a plethora of bats, Kremer has the foundation to provide sneaky redraft value moving forward—especially in an organization currently starved for big league starting pitching.
159. Xavier Edwards, IF, TB. Age: 21
While Edwards doesn’t possess the same split concerns as fellow Rays prospect Vidal Brujan, the brutal exit velocities cast a shadow over how well this profile translates to the modern day big leagues. The contact skills are fantastic, and the speed is one of the most elite tools on the entirety of this list. An adequate but unspectacular throwing arm means the 21-year-old likely shifts to second base at some point. There, he’ll look to carve a role as a variant of Dee Gordon. Even if he pops and becomes an everyday, unplatooned big leaguer, Edwards won’t be everyone’s cup of tea from a fantasy standpoint.
158. Matthew Liberatore, LHP, STL. Age: 21
Remember all the ‘funny’ jokes about Liberatore needing to be a future All-Star as Randy Arozarena hit his 69 home run of the postseason? We’re not off to the best of starts on that front. The southpaw’s fastball (well, sinker) is—compared to most other heaters on this list—quite lousy. It’s a low-spin offering that lends itself more to horizontal movement than vertical, which means the goal of the pitch is to induce an abundance of soft contact rather than miss bats. The breaking balls will always be notable pitches in this profile, but some evaluators worry their respective shapes are overly-distinctive out of the hand compared to the sinker. The Cardinals have a strong recent track record of getting the most out of pitching prospects despite their insistence on using traditional methods of development rather than leaning on analytics, but Liberatore’s current ingredients point more towards an SP4 than the inevitable top-end arm he was once made out to be.
157. Garrett Crochet, LHP, CHW. Age: 21
I have an irrational fear Crochet is going to be lights-out in the White Sox bullpen throughout the 2021 season, and the organization will simply decide to keep him there long-term. That’s a valuable outcome in real life, but it would certainly diminish the left-hander’s value from a fantasy standpoint. A flexor strain in the playoffs made the prospect world fear the worst, but it was also an unfortunate reminder of the concerns surrounding the southpaw’s imperfect mechanics and long (and late) arm action. The arsenal (headlined by a fastball and slider that both grade as plus-or-better) is obviously explosive, but it’s currently better to proceed with caution when evaluating Crochet’s outlook on fantasy-focused lists like this one.
Ever heard of Wander Franco? He did something incredibly rare earlier this spring.
156. Mark Vientos, 3B, NYM. Age: 21
After scuffling a bit in the South Atlantic League in 2019, Vientos was a prime bounce back candidate in the Florida State in 2020. Of course, he never received that opportunity, though the reports from the alternate site pointed towards added patience in a plate approach that desperately needed it. There appear to be some growing concerns that the 21-year-old is trending away from being able to stick to the hot corner long term, so that’s a trend that will definitely be worth monitoring in 2021 and beyond. The hit tool still needs refinement, but the plus raw power would profile from anywhere.
155. Ezequiel Duran, 2B, NYY. Age: 21
Any Ezequiel Duran Truther (there are dozens of us!) who got their hands on data from Yankees instructs jumped for joy when they saw Duran’s numbers. A max exit velocity of 116.3 MPH? An average exit velocity of 97.9 MPH? In this economy? We’ve known the 21-year-old has intriguing offensive potential for a while not, but to see it quantified amongst other notable prospects is quite vindicating. The real life floor here is still a bit lower than I’d like thanks to the fact Duran is likely a second base-only player, but that might not matter if the performance from instructs translates to full season minor league ball in 2021. I assume there’s still some aggressiveness in the approach, so that will be the next checkpoint in Duran’s bid to become a top-100 prospect. It’s more likely than you think.
154. Isaac Paredes, 1B/3B, DET. Age: 22
The floor here scares me. Is Paredes going to develop into a .270/20-25 home run hitter? He’s a poor defender at third. He’s a poor baserunner. He lacks athleticism. If Spencer Torkelson is able to stick at the hot corner defensively as a professional, maybe Paredes eventually shifts to first base? The first stint as a big leaguer was than stellar in 34 games and 108 plate appearances, but that sample is simply the foreword for a big league career that should officially get its footing in 2021. With less real life cushion than most of the other position players on this list, don’t be surprised if Paredes isn’t rewarded with the patience most young hitters receive as they endure the ebbs and flows of big league pitching. For now, a golden opportunity for playing time keeps his prospect standing respectable.
153. Joe Ryan, RHP, TB. Age: 24
Ryan appears to currently be a step behind other Rays pitching prospects such as Brendan McKay and Shane McClanahan if for no other reason than he’s not currently on the organization’s 40-man roster. Tampa Bay covets those spots more so than most organizations, so they won’t promote the 24-year-old until they’re 100% positive he’s ready to make an impact in the AL East. The fastball/slider combination here is quite deadly, and Ryan’s ability to miss bats with his heater at the top of the zone continues to be quite impressive. Much like my projected outlook for McClanahan, don’t be surprised if the Rays eventually utilize Ryan as a bulker who works through a batting order twice in a 3-4 inning/appearance role.
152. Francisco Morales, RHP, PHI. Age: 21
I remain alone on Francisco Morales Island throughout the prospect industry, and that’s fine by me. In my eyes, the 21-year-old possesses one of the best fastball/slider combinations on this entire list. I understand the command can be spotty and the changeup is still unrefined. Yes, that means he could eventually be transitioned to the bullpen within an organization that could use dynamic bullpen help. I do, however, feel as though a move would partially waste the 21-year-old’s frame and athleticism. 2021 will be a huge year in determining what role he best fits moving forward.
Remember my puff piece on Corbin Burnes last preseason? There won’t be a second coming in 2021, but this pitcher is one of my favorite breakout candidates for the upcoming season.
151. Shane McClanahan, LHP, TB. Age: 23
How about a big league debut during the postseason? McClanahan pitched for the Rays out of the bullpen in the ALDS, ALCS and World Series, accruing an unsavory 8.31 ERA with four strikeouts in 4.1 IP (four appearances). Those numbers don’t matter. Heck, they might have even been expected. What does matter is trying to pinpoint the 23-year-old’s role moving forward. Before Blake Snell was traded away to the Padres, manager Kevin Cash mentioned McClanahan (along with Brent Honeywell and Josh Fleming) as pitches who will get a long look during Spring Training as potential starters or bulk pitchers. Of course, the organization then signed both Michael Wacha, Chris Archer and Rich Hill, all of whom are considered locks to begin the season in the starting rotation. Fortunately, the 23-year-old is being stretched out to start, and he’ll almost certainly be called upon to accrue innings in Tampa Bay at some point during the 2021 regular season. With a dynamic fastball/curveball combination, the southpaw appears–at minimum–to be an appetizing option to maneuver his way thru a big league batting once per outing.
On Deck: My #101-150 prospects will be published Thursday, March 25th.
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