With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the renamed Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida), keeping up with minor league performances can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a breakout prospect may no longer be available. You can scout stat lines all year, but that can be tedious, and it’s difficult to keep an eye on every tweet of a new highlight. But fear not, intrepid dynasty league manager: Welcome to Pitcher List’s MiLB Player and Pitcher of the Week!
This is a weekly column where I’ll select one hitter and one pitcher who performed outstandingly in the prior week. Not only will you get a name, but also we’ll dive into what powered their results and where their future value stands.
Player of the Week: OF Justin Dirden, HOU, AA
Stats: (5 games) 6-18, 2 HR, 2 doubles, 5 RBI, 5 runs
Perfect time for Dirden as he was just promoted to AAA Sugar Land on Monday based on the strength of his season.
The numbers are eye-popping but let’s get all of the preamble out of the way first. Yes, he’s 25 and was abusing Double A pitching (average pitcher’s age in the Texas League this year is 24.5). Yes, he was an older college bat with an inconsistent track record between two schools including a 2019 wiped out by injury. Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…
Dirden has displayed power to all fields throughout 2022, hitting 20 HRs and 32 doubles in over 400 PAs. A 10% walk rate vs. 23% K rate is encouraging along with a 25% LD percentage.
Obviously, a perennial contender like the Astros make deep playoff runs thanks to their major-league caliber talent, not by leaning on unproven rookies unless absolutely necessary. Currently there’s not much place for Dirden to fit in on the 26 man with the corner OF positions covered by Alvarez and Tucker. In fact, centerfield holds the last two examples of Astros prospects that were a bit older when they finally got their call-up. While Dirden certainly seems like an upgrade over Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers offensively, both of those players have had real playoff ABs and that’s what matters to Houston currently. Dirden isn’t Rule 5 eligible until next season but he may be someone that gets moved in the off-season just to capitalize on his production before he starts to crunch Houston’s 40 man roster. Lastly, while I’m eager to see Dirden against Triple A arms, I do wonder about his swing mechanics. There’s no real torque created to drive balls, just a simple step forward which is sort of Jim Edmonds-like. Unlike Edmonds however, Dirden lacks the bat path that creates loft especially for pitches at the top of the zone. Can it work at the next level? We will see.
Dynasty managers, Justin Dirden is a great name to add to your offseason watchlist or even stash now if you have a couple spots available at the end of your minors, just to see what happens.
Honorable Mention: SS Axel Sanchez, SEA, A
Stats: (5 games) 9-23, 3 HR, 2 doubles, 13 RBI, 5 runs, 1 SB
I’ve been trying to stay away from Low A players in this column simply due to their high variance but Sanchez’s week lept off the page. After Seattle dealt away their top 2 SS prospects, Sanchez finds himself in a position to take over with little blocking his ascendancy other than his own play. Sanchez had a brief stint at High A earlier this season more for depth reasons but at Low A is where he’s shined, with a 201 wRC+ and a .521 wOBA! Now there’s also a .419 BABIP paired with a 25% K rate, so regression will come knocking BUT for a teenager who was pegged as glove-first, this type of offense is a gift. I doubt that Sanchez even touches Edwin Arroyo’s ceiling offensively (to say nothing for Noelvi Marte) but for a mostly under the radar guy at his age, I think you have to at least investigate. I’m looking forward to seeing if Sanchez can make a few more appearances here before the season is over.
Pitcher of the Week: SP Ben Brown, CHC, AA
Stats: (1 start) 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 2 hits, 2 BB, 11 Ks
Brown came up in conversation this past weekend and I saw one comment that seemed to dismiss him as a “two pitch” pitcher which got me thinking: Why are we in the community so quick to limit a guy’s repertoire when we don’t immediately see him throwing a multitude of breaking balls every start?
Something to remember, whether it’s Spencer Strider (a very recent “2 pitch” prospect who seems to be doing quite nicely), Brown or any other pitcher: When your fastball is dominant in velo and/or movement, there’s really no reason to throw more than 1 other pitch to get outs against A ball hitters. Why allow lesser talent to get good swings against you?’
Honorable Mention: P Cade Povich, BAL, High A
Stats: (1 start) 8 IP, 1 ER, 1 hits, 0 BB, 8 Ks
You know a great way to ingratiate yourself to your team and the front office that just traded an All-Star closer for you? To pitch 6 innings of 1 hit shutout baseball with 8 strikeouts. As the main return for dealing away Jorge López, Povich immediately made Mike Elias and the Orioles brain trust rest a bit more comfortably by showing off how dominant he can be. Povich now has a combined total of 115 strikeouts and while the FIP or BAA aren’t incredible, but he has the type of repeatable mechanics and mix of pitches that lends itself to future success. Povich could be a sneaky good addition to your own minor leagues, depending on league size he could be free to have or at least very cheap for the time being. But if he continues this pace with High A Aberdeen, you’ll be paying a much higher price if you’ve hesitated.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)