Written by: Ray Butler
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Opening Day is one week from today!
What better way to celebrate than publishing 50 more prospects from my 2021 top-200 list? There are certainly some intriguing/flag-planting placements in this portion of the list. If you missed the first release, be sure to check out my #151-200 prospects by clicking here.
Let’s get into it!
150. Alek Manoah, RHP, TOR. Age: 23
Manoah had a productive summer, focusing on his changeup and command while facing notable prospects and fringe big leaguers at the alternate site. The Blue Jays seem content with the right-hander’s development so far, and an average-or-better changeup would all but cement Manoah’s status as a long-term big league pitcher moving forward. He will be 23-years-old playing his first, full professional season, but I suspect he’ll move fairly quickly through Toronto’s minor league system as long as the changeup and command gains stick.
149. Bryce Jarvis, RHP, ARI. Age: 23
Jarvis strikes me as a pitching prospect we underrate from the fantasy side of things. The velocity ticked up throughout the 23-year-old’s career at Duke, but it’s still not a premium pitch that will be blown by hitters at the big league level. The changeup, on the other hand, is as good as any changeup on this prospect list. Perhaps even better, Jarvis’ plus command allows each facet of the arsenal to play-up past what the data suggests. You likely know he was old for his draft class demographic, but now the hope has become his advanced arsenal and command creates an expedited path through Arizona’s minor league system. If Jarvis eventually outperforms his current rankings, it’s likely he’s developed a breaking ball that exceeds the fringe-average marks it currently receives.
148. Greg Jones, SS, TB. Age: 23
Re-publishing a snippet from my Jones write-up from last preseason: “A lesson (he’s) taught me since then: a high strikeout rate shouldn’t be a disqualifier when a player is capable of posting elite BABIPs. The 22-year-old is a 70-runner who sprays the ball to all fields with authority. He also takes walks (10.1 BB% in 48 games and 218 plate appearances in the NYPL post-draft) with confidence, so despite a strikeout rate that should hover between 25% and 35% throughout his career at various levels, the rest of the ingredients should allow the switch hitter to thrive offensively without the slash numbers suffering.” Jones is unsuspectingly one of the more unique prospects on this list, though it remains to be seen whether he can separate himself from the rest of the Rays position playing prospects enough to garner everyday playing time at the big league level once he’s ready to debut. Best practice is probably assuming he—and Vidal Brujan, Xavier Edwards and others—are on the outside looking in until they prove otherwise.
147. Ethan Hankins, RHP, CLE. Age: 20
To this point, Hankins’ breaking balls simply haven’t developed the way they needed to for the right-hander to be considered a future, top-of-the-rotation starter. Presently, the 20-year-old’s changeup has become his clear-cut second pitch. He doesn’t command any portion of his repertoire particularly well, but perhaps further refining that aspect of his skillset could be what unlocks the next level. We obviously have faith in the Indians process of developing their pitchers, but at this point, it appears Hankins may peak as a low-end SP3 instead of the rotation ace he was once thought to be. There’s still plenty of time to change that though.
146. Brett Baty, IF, NYM. Age: 21
The canceled 2020 minor league season was a little extra painful for Baty, who was drafted as a prep player but nearly 21.5 years old before debuting in full season ball. Reports from the alternate site were positive, with contacts praising Baty’s power and plate approach. However, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to stick at the hot corner defensively. In my eyes, an eventual shift to first base is the likely outcome here. Don’t be surprised if the Mets push Baty a bit in 2021, which would give him a grand opportunity to showcase his power and on base skills versus advanced competition from other organizations.
Read about our Adam Ehrenreich’s post-hype, breakout and bounce back candidates on the mound for the 2021 big league season.
145. Braden Shewmake, IF, ATL. Age: 23
To fully buy-in to Shewmake’s outlook on a fantasy-focused list like this one, you first have to wrap your head around the notion of the 23-year-old becoming a utility player at the next level. He’s not taking Dansby Swanson’s spot at shortstop. He’s not taking Ozzie Albies’ spot at the cornerstone. The Braves shouldn’t want him to be their everyday first baseman or third baseman. If he remains in Atlanta, that practically leaves Shewmake moving around the infield, which he could do on a mostly-normal basis once he’s deemed ready to make an impact at the big league level. The skillset is more well-rounded than explosive, but the feel to hit and adequate power/speed give this profile some value if he can solidify a role with the Braves in the semi-near future.
144. Ryan Jeffers, C, MIN. Age: 23
Jeffers was fantastic during a small sample in his debut season, posting a 119 wRC+ with spectacular framing data to accrue 0.5 fWAR in just 26 games. The .364 BABIP will surely shrink, but the 23-year-old hit the ball plenty hard (41.7% Hard Hit) with a moderate pull rate (30.6%), so it’s possible his BABIP moving forward remains near the top of the spectrum for catchers. There’s some swing and miss in this profile, but there’s also just enough patience to continue posting adequate on base percentages moving forward. Jeffers is likely to continue to split time with Mitch Garver, but it’s the former who could see the majority of the work in 2021 of the latter continues to scuffle offensively. His current NFBC ADP (335.88) speaks to his current value in the redraft world. Make sure he’s also being valued justly in your dynasty leagues.
143. Quinn Priester, RHP, PIT. Age: 20
I remain steadfast on the notion of Priester epitomizing an evolving philosophy within the Pirates’ organization, and the right-hander is off to a good start professionally. Priester sat in the mid-90s (T99) during instructs while also showcasing a plus curveball and advanced strike-throwing ability for someone so young who possesses such an explosive arsenal. The body is great, the bottom half is sturdy and the arm is whippy and clean. It was undoubtedly a productive year for the right-hander despite not logging any ‘official’ innings on the mound. 2021 could very well be the season he cements himself as a top-100 prospect.
142. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY. Age: 21
On the surface, it’s hard to make sense of Garcia’s first MLB sample during the sprint season. The movement profile here hints of an elite pitcher, with the right-hander’s fastball, curveball and slider all possessing above average carry or tumble. Despite that, none of the 21-year-old’s four pitches finished the season with an xBA lower than .264. Actually, none of Garcia’s actual or predictive data (other than BB%) finished anywhere close to above average during the 2020 season despite the righty posting a paltry 1.19 WHIP with three pitches boasting a double-digit SwStr%. Put together, this wreaks of a ‘control over command’ sample, which certainly doesn’t pair well with an average fastball velocity of 91.9 MPH. The raw stuff is good enough to miss bats despite this shortcoming, but big league hitters will continue to take advantage of location mistakes in 2021 and beyond. With a current NFBC under 300, I assume I won’t have any shares in redraft leagues this season.
141. Gilberto Jimenez, OF, BOS. Age: 20
This is a weird write-up. I over-ranked Jimenez both on my 2020 preseason and midseason lists, and I was all but committed to moving him down a bit on this version. However, reports regarding the 20-year-old from instructs were borderline erotic, with added muscle and a stance tweak leading to much improved batted ball data without taking too much away from Jimenez’s elite speed. The Red Sox truly believe they have a special player on their hands, so there’s at least a decent chance he sneaks up on a lot of dynasty players in 2021. Don’t let that be you.
140. Slade Cecconi, RHP, ARI. Age: 21
Cecconi’s athleticism on the mound was some of my favorite from the 2020 college draft class, but it appears the profile itself ascended to a new level at the alternate site and during instructs last summer and fall. The Diamondbacks trade for Starling Marte appears to be…. sub-optimal… in retrospect, but Cecconi is already in the process of filling the void left by athletic right-hander Brennan Malone–and then some. Armed with a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a power slider that headline the profile, don’t be surprised if the 21-year-old jumps all the way into the top-100 a year from now.
139. Aaron Sabato, 1B, MIN. Age: 21
Everything else off the table, I think there’s an argument to be made that Sabato is the second best pure hitter amongst college hitters from the 2020 class behind Spencer Torkelson. The batted ball data from his time at North Carolina is elite, and he was certainly drafted by an organization who boasts its ability to get the most from this archetype of prospect. Unfortunately, concerns regarding the 21-year-old’s defensive skills suppress his real-life and fantasy value a bit. Even if he hits enough to project as an everyday first baseman at the big league level, his ETA will likely remain a bit later than we’d like (or we’d expect when looking at his numbers), and he’ll need to mash consistently to retain real-life value with such an unsavory floor. I’m expecting gaudy minor league numbers beginning this season.
138. Ed Howard, SS, CHC. Age: 19
Almost always, evaluating a 19-year-old shortstop prospect means including the words “projectable” and “high ceiling” somewhere in the write-up. Howard might not possess the superstar ceiling that some players in his demographic do, but he makes up for it with defensive prowess and a polished approach that is uncommon for someone with no professional experience. As always, there will almost certainly be some growing pains along the way, but we could end-up being pleasantly surprised with our expectations for Howard once he’s ready to debut at the big league level.
137. Blake Walston, LHP, ARI. Age: 19
Projection is the name of the game here, though I was a bit on the disappointed in the fastball data from instructs this fall. The profile is a bit flipped upside down right now, because it’s the southpaw’s curveball that sets the stage for the holistic arsenal. There’s a strong likelihood the curve finalizes as a 70, making it one of the best hammers amongst pitching prospects on this list. Walston still has plenty of time to continue filling out and increase his fastball velocity, and the frame and arsenal depth both suggest the 19-year-old should remain in the starting rotation as long as the velocity actually ticks-up as he develops. But for now, we’re all ranking the southpaw solely on what his body and pedigree say his fastball should become instead of what it already is. The ceiling remains quite high.
136. Hudson Head, OF, PIT. Age: 19
I admit there’s some guesswork involved regarding Head’s level of development since last spring. There has been very little information available on the outfielder for a while now, but we also have no reason to believe the projection here has taken a nosedive since we last saw him. The ceiling of this profile remains highly disputed, with the teenager’s biggest proponents slapping future 55s or 60s across the board on his tools. Others are a bit more conservative, with a lean towards caution and a skillset chalked full of 5s and 55s. I lean more towards the second group, if for no other reason than the fact I’d like to see the outfielder over the course of a full season before placing such gaudy grades on a highly-projectable prospect. The sky remains the limit here, though I advise proceeding with caution until we have more concrete information. Lastly, no, there’s not a reason to penalize Head’s standing on a prospect list after he was traded from San Diego to Pittsburgh in the Joe Musgrove deal.
135. Jared Oliva, OF, PIT. Age: 25
If your league mates want to discount Oliva’s current dynasty value thanks to a poor, 16 plate appearance sample in the final week of the weirdest MLB season in recent memory, let them. Instead of that tomfoolery, we’ll put more weight on the solid hit tool and plus speed that landed the 25-year-old on this list in the first place. Perhaps the final step amongst the fantasy-relevant tools will be tapping in to more power in game. Oliva has never hit double digit home runs in a single professional season, but it’s a feat he’ll need to accomplish as a big leaguer to warrant this ranking as a top-150 prospect. Let’s hope he can recapture the same magic he displayed during the 2019 Arizona Fall League once baseball (hopefully) returns to normalcy in 2021.
134. Jackson Kowar, RHP, KC. Age: 24
Kowar’s changeup is regarded as the single best pitch in the Royals farm system. He’s throttled back his effort level on the mound to better control his arsenal, which is rounded out by a mid-90s fastball and a breaking ball that’s developed to average once the 24-year-old became a professional. Some were disappointed that Brady Singer and Kris Bubic made their debuts in 2020 while Kowar remained at the alternate site, but one could make the argument a mixture of further refinement and a hesitance to begin the service clock will pay larger dividends down the road. We should see the right-hander at Kauffman Stadium fairly early in 2021.
133. Michael Toglia, 1B, COL. Age: 22
I’m a bit more worried about Toglia missing an entire minor league season than I am other position players who were drafted in 2019 (think Michael Busch and Kody Hoese). More specifically, I feel the 22-year-old’s long-levered swing would have benefitted more in an uncontrolled environment (read: a regular season worth of at-bats) than in simulated games and scrimmages at the alternate site. That’s a bit of a tin foil take, and I’d love to be proven wrong in short order. Unlike many other first base prospects on this list, Toglia has a reliable real-life floor thanks to a strong defensive skillset. The power here is also evident, and the track record of switch hitting first basemen with plus defense is stellar. Moving forward, we simply need a better gauge of the 22-year-old’s hit tool before contemplating a potential move into the top-100.
132. Francisco Alvarez, C, NYM. Age: 19
I’m breaking out in a cold sweat ranking a teenage catching prospect this high. Or maybe it’s the three pots of coffee I’ve consumed in the last 24 hours. Who’s to say? Alvarez has all the makings of the future, top catcher on this fantasy-focused prospect list. Other than his speed on the base-paths, everything the 19-year-old does on a baseball field is above average. As is true with all catching prospects, this development will be a slow burn; in all likelihood, it’ll probably be a bit more of a slow burn than we’d like. But don’t fret, it currently appears Alvarez is headed somewhere special throughout his professional career.
131. Josiah Gray, RHP, LAD. Age: 23
If you’ve been noticing a recent trend of Gray sliding down team and overall prospect lists, it’s because we finally got our hands on his pitch data. The fastball was everything we hoped it would be, with explosive characteristics when elevated in the zone and tremendous arm side run when located elsewhere. Of course, that’s despite the pitch possessing less-than-spectacular velocity. The rest of the arsenal is where concern abounds. The right-hander also features a curveball, slider and changeup, all of which show promise but are presently unrefined and a bit unoptimized. The slider might be the worst of the secondary offerings, but Gray throws it with more confidence than any of his non-fastball pitches. There are times in which each of the right-hander’s four pitches flash above average or better, but connecting the dots and showing that ability on a consistent basis will be what boosts Gray to a middle-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.
130. Tanner Burns, RHP, CLE. Age: 22
Evaluating Tanner Burns is like opening a present and thinking someone got you Apple AirPods only to realize they’re actually Apple AirPods Pro. Even the generic AirPods are a reliable, top-of-the-line vessel used to enjoy listening to your favorite music or other entertainment (in my experience, this was watching Burns pitch at Auburn without his pitch data at my disposal). But the AirPods Pro, which feature an easy transition from Transparency mode to immersive sound, are something different (and better) entirely (watching Burns pitch with the context of his pitch data). I perceived the right-hander as a floor-over-ceiling pitcher leading up to the 2020 MLB Draft. I was wrong, but in the best way possible. The analytics behind Burns’ arsenal–specifically the viability of the fastball–hint at top-of-the-rotation potential here, and he’ll be developed by the Great Pitching Prospect Death Machine in Cleveland. With advanced command, don’t be surprised if–assuming health–Burns is one of the first pitchers from the 2020 class to debut at the big league level.
129. Cade Cavalli, RHP, WAS. Age: 22
I found it funny that Cavalli’s changeup received some love in his brief Spring Training sample, seeing as it’s his fourth best pitch and the worst of his three secondary offerings. I’ve mentioned it before publicly, but I see a lot of Matt Manning in the way Cavalli appears and conducts himself on the mound. The right-hander is a chiseled athlete who has a huge ceiling, and there’s untapped potential here is he continues to learn how to use his immense physical gifts. Strictly from a performance standpoint, consistent strike-throwing and command will likely determine just how high Cavalli can ascend before debuting at the big league level. There was also an arm and back injury during his career at Oklahoma, so durability is something to keep an eye on as he progresses through the Nationals’ minor league system.
128. Tyler Soderstrom, 3B/OF/C, OAK. Age: 19
Soderstrom flies a bit under the radar in the FYPD world compared to the likes of a handful of other prep position players, but he’s an advanced bat who has a non-zero chance to eventually be known as the best of the bunch in retrospect. If the 19-year-old remains behind the plate long-term, it will likely be aided by the impending electronic strike zone and a patient approach to his development. If Oakland opts to simply lean on his offensive skillset, the bat profiles well from the hot corner or right field. It almost feels like a consolation prize to walk away with Soderstrom in an FYPD this offseason, but I’d be a bit surprised if he doesn’t become a staple of the top-200 throughout his minor league career. Patience.
127. Brayan Buelvas, OF, OAK. Age: 18
HYPEEEEEEEEEE. After a brief stint the Dominican Summer League last year, Buelvas was brought stateside for the final 50 days of the summer. In the Arizona League, the outfielder took his game to the next level, posting a 140 wRC+ with 3 home runs and 12 stolen bases despite being more than two years younger than the league’s competition. It was one of the more impressive feats throughout the entirety of the minor leagues last season. Buelvas continued his impressive play this summer at the alternate site this summer, catching the attention of his instructors and evaluators within the Athletics’ organization. The 18-year-old may never hit for plus power in-game, but the tool also won’t weigh down the profile or outlook. The feel to hit is advanced, pairing with Buelvas’ straight-line speed to form the two best limbs of this skillset. There’s also enough athleticism and instincts to remain a centerfielder long term, which raises the real-life floor significantly. If Buelvas continues to perform in full season ball in 2021, he’ll be a shoe-in top-100 prospect in no time.
126. Carlos Colmenarez, SS, TB. Age: 17
Amongst the ‘Big 3’ J2 signees from the most recent signing class, I believe Colmenarez is the most advanced presently. We often go to FanGraphs to have our expectations on certain prospects tempered, but Eric Longenhagen refused to douse the Colmenarez flame on his recent, Rays prospect list. No future tool worse than a 55? Inject it into my veins. The expectations here are quite lofty, especially since he’ll be developed within the same organization that’s recently had a bit of success developing another, unnamed J2 prospect. As always, patience will be a virtue throughout the early stages of the teenager’s professional career.
125. Kameron Misner, OF, MIA. Age: 23
Your evaluation of Misner likely hinges on how your project the hit tool. The athleticism relative to the frame is uncommon; for now, the outfielder carries both elite power and plus speed in a 6-foot-4 frame, the latter of which could take a step back as he ages. Misner has reportedly taken to the instruction of offensive coordinator James Rowson well, which is a common theme throughout the Marlins system throughout the past calendar year. Projecting the hit tool to reach league average feels a bit too optimistic presently, though fringe average (45) appears within the realm of possibility. It should be enough for the 23-year-old to become quite a terror both in real life and in the fantasy world, especially if he can stick in centerfield through at the least the first portion of his professional career.
Read my thorough puff piece on Marlins breakout candidate Trevor Rogers.
124. Wilman Diaz, SS, LAD. Age: 17
If Carlos Colmenarez (write-up above) is presently the most advanced and Cristian Hernandez (write-up below) is the most athletic with the best chance to stick at shortstop long-term, Diaz boasts the highest ceiling amongst the ‘Big 3’ J2 signees from the most recent signing class. If you turn your head a certain way, it’s not too hard to imagine the teenager becoming a premium power threat who also possesses an adequate hit tool. Amongst the Big 3, I think Diaz is currently the most likely to eventually shift to a different defensive position. As is the theme with any recent J2 signee on this list, it’s impossible to speak in definitives with such little new video or reports on the 17-year-old. That should change one Diaz takes part in complex competition or instructs this summer or fall.
123. Nick Lodolo, LHP, CIN. Age: 23
In-person evaluators have really soured on Lodolo’s fastball since last preseason, which really lowers the floor of this profile. It took the 23-year-old a while to get fully revved up at the alternate site this summer, and his fastball struggled to miss bats while possessing more horizontal run than movement that typically misses bats. The curveball remains his best pitch and the changeup continues to evolve, but this looks more like SP4 territory than the top-of-the-rotation bulldog we projected a year ago. There’s still some projection remaining in Lodolo’s 6-foot-6 frame, so maybe we see a tangible step forward in 2021.
122. Cristian Hernandez, SS, CHC. Age: 17
Teamed with Wilman Diaz and Carlos Colmenarez, I believe Hernandez has the best chance to stick at shortstop long-term. That may seem like splitting hairs in the big picture, but it’s an important data point for now when we have such little (non-regurgitated) information on the trio published elsewhere. The 17-year-old is lean, athletic and loose. He’s a ‘this is what they look like’ prospect we’ll likely have to do a bit of guesswork on until we see him ourselves when he debuts stateside. With minor league realignment launching this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Hernandez at the Cubs’ complex at some point this summer or fall.
121. Bryson Stott, SS, PHI. Age: 23
Stott and Braden Shewmake (listed about 20 spots above) are a fun duo in this section of the list, seeing as I’ve forever intertwined the duo in my mind from their amateur days. Stott has gained some strength since he was drafted, which has allowed him to tap-in to more of his power at the plate. Instructors at the alternate site were also impressed with Stott’s ability to handle left-handed pitching, which can often be a plague amongst left-handed hitting, position playing prospects. Mix everything together, and you form a well-rounded player whose most likely destination is everyday playing time at the big league level in the not-too-distant future. With a fairly clear organizational path to Philadelphia, we can only hope Dave Dombrowski doesn’t pull the trigger on a trade before Stott is ready to debut.
120. Nick Bitsko, RHP, TB. Age: 18
Unequivocally heralded as one of the top pitching prospects from the 2020 MLB Draft class, surgery to repair a labrum injury in Bitsko’s right shoulder has the teenager in free fall throughout the prospect world before he ever throws a competitive pitch as a professional. While it’s troubling anytime a pitcher goes under the knife with any sort of arm injury, I’m not ready to hit the panic button yet. Bitsko reclassified from the class of 2021 last winter, which made him one of the youngest prep players in this summer’s draft class. Assuming he returns to full health, he’ll have the advantage of refining his mechanics and arsenal within one of the league’s best developmental organizations. And oh yeah, the raw stuff is pretty good too. I’m buying the dip we’re currently receiving in FYPD and dynasty launch drafts.
119. Miguel Amaya, C, CHC. Age: 22
Opportunity, opportunity, opportunity. A catching prospect must have it to be worth his weight on a fantasy-focused prospect list. Fortunately for Amaya, it appears Willson Contreras may soon find himself exiting the Windy City as the Cubs hit an organizational reset button. With backup catcher Victor Caratini already traded to the Padres, the 22-year-old could find himself with a golden opportunity in short order. In my eyes, concerns regarding Amaya failing to access his power in-game have been a bit exaggerated, especially since he played the entirety of the 2019 season in the pitcher-friendly and spacious Florida State League. The Cubs are extremely high on Amaya internally; if Contreras is officially moved, the 22-year-old’s big league ETA will solely depend on when the organization wants to start his service clock.
118. Jeremiah Jackson, SS, LAA. Age: 21
By all accounts, Jackson remains a high-variance prospect with an appetizing power/speed combination who will continue to endure some growing pains thanks to crude contact skills. Despite a high strikeout rate in non-full season ball, there’s still plenty of floor here thanks to a premium defensive position, thunder in the bat and impact on the base-paths. With a high pulled fly ball rate and brow-raising counting stats, I could see Jackson eventually becoming a Lite version of fellow middle infield prospect Jeter Downs.
117. Kody Hoese, 3B, LAD. Age: 23
Like several others on this list, Hoese fits into the ‘recently drafted college bat who missed what should have been his first full professional season’ demographic. It’s very interesting that the 23-year-old saw reps at shortstop at the Dodgers’ alternate site, though I’m fairly confident he’ll see the majority of his professional playing time at the hot corner (second base is an option, too). There’s nothing overly spectacular about the skillset, though Hoese’s natural ability to elevate the ball makes it easy to believe he’ll eventually reach his power potential (20-25 home runs seems like the most likely outcome). Armed with a skillset full of 5s, let’s hope Los Angeles is able to work his magic with a prospect who should rise quickly through the minors.
116. Brendan McKay, LHP, TB. Age: 25
Following up a lousy first stint in the big leagues in 2019 with a completely washed 2020 campaign (COVID then shoulder surgery) has allowed this profile and outlook to trend in the wrong direction. I’m not all that worried about the stuff itself; upon a hypothetical return to the big league mound, I suspect the batted ball outcomes would bounce back relative to the horrid outcomes from 2019. In my eyes, the issue has now become the role. Even without Blake Snell, the Rays have soooooo much talent at the big league level and in the upper levels of the minors. McKay will really have to set himself apart in order to unequivocally take the ball every fifth day with the expectation to maneuver his way through a batting order 2-3 times. The 25-year-old has the frame and track record to become that workhorse that would make him immune to being piggybacked or opened for in Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, I’ve arrived at the point I need to see it to believe it.
Read our Justin Choi’s work on how James McCann complements the Mets’ starting rotation.
115. Andy Pages, OF, LAD. Age: 20
At this point, the deeply elite batted ball data and ability to elevate the ball on command should come as little surprise to you. What is a bit surprising is the fact the Dodgers seem to believe Pages has a chance to stick in center field defensively. My money is still on the 20-year-old eventually settling in one of the corners, but who am I to question Los Angeles’ thought process here? Continuing to lift the ball with authority without sacrificing too much of the hit tool will perhaps be the top bullet point of Pages’ fantasy-relevant development moving forward.
114. Heriberto Hernandez, 1B/OF. TB. Age: 21
Hernandez was one of the best position playing prospects during instructs in Arizona, and he’s since been traded to one of the best developmental orgs in the sport. I’m endlessly intrigued to see how the Rays evaluate his defense, but the 21-year-old possesses some of the most elite batted ball data of any prospect currently in the minor leagues. That defensive question marks once hindered his outlook and ranking, but the bat has developed to the point you make sure he’s rostered in your dynasty league and worry about the rest later.
113. Alejandro Kirk, C, TOR. Age: 22
An extremely interesting prospect to evaluate and rank, Kirk should graduate from prospect status early in 2021 as he likely opens the season in Toronto. The 22-year-old is obviously a flawed defensive catcher, but the batted ball data places him amongst the most elite players at the position. Throw in the probability of the implementation of an electronic strike zone at the big league level beginning in 2022 or shortly thereafter, there’s a real possibility Kirk sticks behind the plate far longer than most expect. I also believe there’s at least a chance the offensive skillset is so good, he sees time at DH on days he doesn’t catch. It’s a unique culmination of skills with a body we can’t disregard, but the ceiling here is quite high nonetheless.
112. Jonathan India, 2B/3B, CIN. Age: 24
India continues to slide down prospect lists as concerns grow that the 24-year-old will never maximize the full extent of his power in-game. The approach itself is solid, and India’s calling card may end up being his ability to reach base at a high clip. Last preseason, I comped the infielder to Brian Anderson, which I believe holds up well a year later. Just know that—unless he unlocks more of his raw power in meaningful at-bats—you’re probably looking at a fantasy corner infielder instead of a player you gladly plug at third base.
111. Oswald Peraza, SS, NYY. Age: 20
The prospect and dynasty world continues to sleep; we continue to take advantage. If Peraza is somehow still available in your dynasty league, consider yourself fortunate the 2020 minor league season was canceled. I’ve been hyping-up the 20-year-old since last winter, and I recently included him in my ‘All Buy’ team of the 2020-2021 offseason. A simple reminder: there’s still premium defense, a feel to hit, plus speed and emerging power within this profile. Despite having only accrued 208 full season plate appearances (at the end of 2019), Peraza was recently added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster, which is a positive sign that our evaluation of this skillset is at least in the right neighborhood. Somehow, the shortstop is still on the outside looking in on most top-200 prospect lists. Not for much longer.
110. Dane Dunning, RHP, TEX. Age: 26
Dunning belongs in this range of this list thanks to a stellar MLB debut and a clear-cut rotation opportunity in 2021 alone. In the past, I would take a moment to lament about an MLB-ready pitcher having to pitch his home games at the Rangers’ ballpark. Instead, Globe Life Field was friendly to pitchers in 2020, which is another mark of positivity towards the 26-year-old’s short and long term outlook. Dunning won’t be immune to the ebbs and flows of a young pitcher who possesses a less-than-elite arsenal, but there’s enough bat missing and ground ball inducing stuff here to form a reliable starting pitcher who teeters between low-end SP3 and high-end SP4 moving forward. The stuff has ticked up nicely since the right-hander recovered from Tommy John surgery.
Our Adam Ehrenreich took a stab at predicting fantasy first rounders…. for next season. Read it here.
109. Erick Pena, OF, KC. Age: 18
I remain alone on my Robert Puason > Erick Pena island. What exactly has happened in the past twelve months to allow Pena’s stock to increase while Puason’s diminishes? Four bonafide facts: Puason is more athletic than Pena. Puason has more bat speed than Pena. Puason has more speed than Pena. Puason plays a more valuable defensive position than Pena. Is the disparity between the hit tools and contact skills wide enough to warrant the moves we seen between these two since last preseason? My hunch is no. Both are intriguing, high-ceiling prospects who need to prove themselves against competitive pitching before we completely fall head-over-heels in love with them. Pena continues to add good weight to a frame that appears ripe for muscle, and–based on the video I’ve seen this winter—it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he’s added an inch of height since we saw him at the complex last fall.
108. Robert Puason, SS, OAK. Age: 18
A common theme I’ve witnessed throughout the dynasty world during a pandemic plagued 2020: young, raw prospects with high ceilings and low floors have been disproportionately penalized compared to other demographics. I mean, recently-drafted 24-year-olds who have yet to play in full season ball get the benefit of the doubt, but 18-year-olds (who are admittedly more raw) in the same boat don’t? What a time to be alive. Puason was praised for his work ethic at the alternate site this summer, and what was once an extremely lean frame is beginning to bulk up. I haven’t read, heard or seen anything to make me walk back the notion that Puason possesses top overall prospect potential.
107. Shane Baz, RHP, TB. Age: 21
I jumped the gun a bit regarding Baz in last preseason’s version of this list, and I’m correcting that error here. The right-hander’s fastball is fantastic, with premium velocity and nearly 20 inches of vMOV making it a dynamic pitch when it’s properly located. Unfortunately, that’s often the issue for the 21-year-old. The last time we saw Baz on the mound, you really had to crane your neck to project the command to ever reach league average. Considering how finicky the Rays can be with the roles their pitchers undertake at the big league level, I have more pause here than I did a calendar year ago. The arsenal is deep and powerful, so if the command ever fully clicks, this write-up will be rendered useless and hilarious. Baz is fully bought in to development-by-analytics, so there’s certainly a chance this happens.
106. Jhoan Duran, RHP, MIN. Age: 23
Not going to make a habit of this, but take a second to re-read my report on Duran from last preseason: “I caught Duran in the Southern League late last summer, pitching against a Mississippi Braves lineup that had just lost Cristian Pache and Drew Waters to promotions. The right-hander still faced Braden Shewmake, Trey Harris, Greyson Jenista, William Contreras and Lane Adams, so I thought it was a good spot for a valid evaluation. The right-hander is a beast of a pitcher, listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds (it might be more) with a tree trunk lower half. This offseason, I told any contact who asked that you can ‘feel’ Duran’s mound presence because of his frame and the way he carries himself. The stuff is electric, but it still has work to do before the 22-year-old debuts in the big leagues. The fastball sits 95-97 and touches triple digits when he needs it. It’s a low spin pitch that best plays low in the zone with sinker qualities, so I worry about its future strikeout viability against big league hitters (as is typical with sinkers, it’ll be better at inducing ground outs than strikeouts). The curveball is the real deal, acting as Duran’s ‘out’ pitch that he can also throw for strikes. I also got the impression that the right-hander’s delivery (and the fact he finishes to the first base side of the rubber) allows the pitch to play even better than it already is. At 2500 RPM with solid command, it would play in the big leagues right now. He also throws a hard splitter that has sinking action, but it’s clearly Duran’s third pitch currently. If the feel improves, I expect it to pair nicely with the fastball at the bottom of the zone. Duran induced 12 swinging strikes in 85 pitches (14.1%) the night I saw him. The curveball will carry the profile, but Duran has the arsenal and body to take the ball every fifth day at the big league level. There’s mid-tier SP3 upside here, especially if Duran harnesses the splitter as he finalizes his development.” A year later with very little new info (thanks, tight-lipped Twins), I get some “taller Frankie Montas” vibes from this profile. That’s both a compliment and a hypothetical, upper-percentile outcome, by the way.
105. Forrest Whitley, RHP, HOU. Age: 23
Ugh. Whitley has now been shut down in two consecutive seasons thanks to shoulder fatigue. In 2020, it likely cost him a big league debut. The 23-year-old is such a frustrating prospect to evaluate because he has so many elite ingredients. The raw stuff is ridiculous both to the naked eye as well as under the analytic hood. The frame embodies the term ‘prototypical’. Yet, something’s missing. Whitley’s command deteriorated during the 2019 season, and—to my eye—he struggled with mechanical repeatability during Spring Training last season. He reportedly was solid in limited action at the Astros alternate site this summer, and he was added to the 40-man roster and declared healthy. The Astros hang their hat on getting the most from their players; with someone with Whitley’s talent and good health, it seems as though Houston should be able to accomplish that feat relatively easy here. Of course, that’s been far easier said than done to this point, and the 23-year-old’s value in dynasty league seems to become increasingly shaky the longer he remains in the minor leagues or on the injured list. It goes without saying that 2021 will be absolutely critical to the outlook here. NOTE: Yikes
104. Sherten Apostel, IF, TEX. Age: 22
Surprisingly thrust into a big league role in 2020 after not seeing pitching above High-A, Apostel was more useful in the fantasy team name category than he was in your starting lineup. The subsequent numbers post-promotion are about what you’d expect from someone with Apostel’s limited full season experience, though it shouldn’t lead to a permanent mark against the profile itself. At his best, the 22-year-old is a power first middle infielder who should be more valuable in OBP leagues than AVG leagues thanks to a solid walk rate. Normalcy (and minor league pitching) should do Apostel some good in 2021.
103. Austin Hendrick, OF, CIN. Age: 19
If you followed Hendrick as an amateur, you know there’s ginormous power within this profile. You’re also aware of the hit tool concerns stemming from some struggles versus advanced pitching throughout the summer leading up to his (canceled) senior season. His largest detractors have gone as far as slapping a future 40 on the tool, which is a full grade below average. Throw in some skepticism of the defensive skills and the fact Hendrick was old for his draft demographic, and you seemingly arrive at a player with more question marks than exclamation points. The reports from the alternate site and fall instructional league were very positive, and–in my eyes–there’s too much talent within this profile to write Hendrick off before we receive any sort of tangible sample versus minor league pitching. There’s certainly a decent chance the 19-year-old is a better fantasy player than real-life stalwart at peak, but I’m willing to let the Reds cook before worrying too much about the floor.
102. Michael Harris, OF, ATL. Age: 20
Michael Harris is a perfect example of how quickly things can evolve in the prospect world. Once drafted as a bit of an undersized outfielder with interesting tools, the 20-year-old has evolved into an advanced, athletic specimen who quickly made a name for himself at the Braves alternate site last summer and again this spring in Spring Training. There are people well connected to Atlanta’s organization who believe Harris is better than fellow outfield prospect Drew Waters. Let me say that again: There are people well connected to Atlanta’s organization who believe Harris is better than Drew Waters. A two-way player in high school who only began to focus solely on the skills of an outfielder after he was drafted, the 20-year-old now boasts an advanced plate approach, a solid hat tool, surprising all-fields power and above average speed. The power was recently put on display during Spring Training, when Harris hit an opposite field home run against Rays relief pitcher Pete Fairbanks. Despite only being 20 years old and having accrued just 212 minor league plate appearances, there’s an outside chance Harris debuts in Atlanta at some point this season. Yes, it appears the organization is that high on him. A 2022 debut is probably more likely, but don’t be surprised if Harris caps-off his impending breakout with a stint at Truist Park before the end of the summer. Buckle up.
101. Liover Peguero, SS, PIT. Age: 20
Never forget the Diamondbacks traded Peguero and Brennan Malone for 35 games of Starling Marte. Yikes. There are some ‘better real life player than fantasy player’ traits here, including middling present power and quite a bit of his overall value resting on strong defense up the middle. In an ideal world, fellow Pirates prospect Oneil Cruz eventually shifts to the hot corner or the outfield, which would pave the way for Peguero to become Pittsburgh’s everyday shortstop. From a fantasy standpoint, you’re leaning on solid on base skills and present speed while crossing your fingers the power eventually reaches league average.
Make sure you’ve read the #151-200 portion of my 2021 top-200 prospect list.
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of site graphic designer Dorian Redden. Follow him on Twitter (@dRedden26) and Instagram (@d26gfx)