(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
New to Pitcher List, we are going to be doing a weekly prospect roundup that is designed to keep you informed on what is happening down in the minor leagues that is relevant for your dynasty leagues. I’ll be talking about who is hot, which top prospects are struggling, underrated guys that are producing to keep an eye on, or anything that may have caught my eye in general.
Randy Cesar (3B, Houston Astros) Age: 23, Level: AA
Perhaps the biggest story in the minors right now, Cesar has recently etched his name into the Texas League record books by setting the league record for consecutive games hitting safely with 38 on Thursday. It was a record that had stood for nearly 50 years, and he broke the record in terrific fashion too by going 3 for 4 with a run scored. Cesar’s season line now sits at .355/.393/.533 with 8 HRs and is supporting that with a 5.4% walk rate and 22.6% strikeout rate at AA. Note that his contact skills aren’t as great as his new record would indicate as he’s posting a below-average 13.3% swinging-strike rate (for reference, MLB average right now is 10.7%) and due to this along with middling power and little to no SB upside, I would say that his potential future fantasy impact is limited and he’s not worth an add in all but the deepest of dynasty leagues.
Mitch Keller (SP, Pittsburgh Pirates) Age: 22, Level: AA
Keller, pictured above, has been a consistently strong performer throughout his minor league career and is considered one of the top pitching prospect in the minors right now. 2018 has been another strong season for the former 2nd round pick as he is currently sporting a 3.00 ERA with 70 strikeouts against 30 walks in 78 innings pitched. He notably had a strong start this week, throwing 6 shutout innings while striking out 4 and allowing just 1 walk. On the season, Keller is notably struggling with his command this year compared to previous years as his 30 walks this year are getting close to exceeding his total from all of last year (32) in 38 fewer innings pitched to date. On the plus side, he has maintained a solid 10.7% swinging-strike rate and his ability to induce groundballs (55.3%) and limit hard contact remains a strong point as both his BAPIP and batting average against rank top 10 in the Eastern League. The combination of solid swing and miss stuff along with the ability to manage contact makes Keller one of the higher floor pitchers in the minors for fantasy baseball.
Kevin Maitan (SS/3B, Los Angeles Angels) Age: 18, Level: ROK
Maitan was one of the most hyped international amateur signings of recent memory when he signed back in 2016, earning comps at the time to all-star players like Chipper Jones and Miguel Cabrera. A disappointing debut professional season last year and a new organization later after being a part of the Braves international amateur signing scandal, and the stock on Maitan has been way down in recent months. There may finally be some light at the end of the tunnel though after a strong start to his season which began this week. Maitan put together an impressive week that was highlighted by a 3 for 5 performance on Friday that included a HR and 2 RBIs. His season line now sits at .433/.500/.533 with a HR in 39 PAs which yes is a small sample, but it certainly is encouraging for those that bought into his hype previously. It will be interesting to follow his development going forward!
Alex Lange (SP, Chicago Cubs) Age: 22, Level: A+
A former first-round pick from 2017 (30th overall) out of LSU, Lange has quietly been putting together a strong 2018 season, and that continued this week with a 6 inning performance on Thursday that included 7 strikeouts and included just 1 earned run. That performance pushed Lange’s season ERA down to 3.11 in 63.2 innings pitched, and he’s added 56 strikeouts against just 12 walks along the way. The modest strikeout total doesn’t reflect his true swing and miss skills as he’s currently posting a well above-average 12.8% swinging-strike rate which ranks 11th best in the Carolina League. His 2.91 FIP and 3.28 xFIP also rank highly at 5th and 4th respectively in the league. He could be a nice sleeper in deeper dynasty leagues!
Kyle Isbel (OF, Kansas City Royals) Age: 21, Level: ROK
A recent 3rd round pick after a standout college career at UNLV, Isbel has been one of the hottest hitters in the minors this week in what is his first few games as a professional. Isbel did not receive an aggressive level assignment upon signing, but a .500/.600/.950 batting line with 2 HRs and 2 SBs in 25 PAs is a great way to start your career. He’s supported that with a super impressive 5 walks against 2 strikeouts, and overall he’s been worth a crazy 263 wRC+ so far. Obvious small sample size factors in here, but he’s clearly showing that he can handle professional pitching and may be due for a promotion in short order. In the NCAA this year, he hit .357/.441/.643 with 14 HRs and 6 SBs in 238 ABs while striking out just 15.25% of the time so this performance as a professional isn’t out of the blue. He could be a good sleeper option for those doing their prospect drafts in dynasty leagues and he’s one to watch going forward.
Jordan Yamamoto (SP, Miami Marlins) Age: 22, Level: A+
Acquired by the Marlins as part of the Christian Yelich deal, Yamamoto has been lights out this year and had his best start of the season this past Wednesday. In that start, he went 7 innings, striking out 13 batters and allowing just 2 hits and no walks. That performance pushed Yamamoto’s season ERA down to a super impressive 1.63, and he has added 33 strikeouts against just 6 walks along the way in 27.2 innings pitched. His 10.7% swinging-strike rate is about average, but his 1.78 FIP and 2.54 xFIP are excellent and would rank among the league leaders in the Florida State League if he had enough innings pitched to qualify. I don’t think the ceiling is crazy high as his stuff isn’t elite, but he’s got a nice 3 pitch mix and above-average control and he could move fairly quickly in a shallow Marlins organization.
Nick Senzel (3B, Cincinnati Reds) Age: 22, Level: AAA
Senzel is currently doing all that he can at the AAA level to force the Reds hand and earn a promotion to the big leagues after another impressive week. His week was highlighted by a 2 HR performance on Thursday to push his season total to 6 on the season. He now has a .310/.378/.509 batting line for the year at AAA in 193 PAs, and he’s supporting that with a 9.8% walk rate and 20.2% strikeout rate. His 150 wRC+ ranks 2nd best in the Eastern League only behind Danny Jansen of the Toronto Blue Jays who I wrote a Going Deep article on this week. Senzel’s 10.2% swinging-strike rate is roughly average, but he’s consistently been able to post high batting averages due to his ability to make the most of his contact by posting consistently high BAPIP’s thanks to an all-fields approach. He looks ready for the majors at this point, he just needs a full-time role to open up. Unfortunately, it looks like he may be out a while after tearing a tendon in his right index finger last night. He should still be owned in all dynasty and keeper leagues, but he’s probably droppable in re-draft leagues now after the injury.
Lewis Thorpe (SP, Minnesota Twins) Age: 22, Level: AA
An Australian born pitcher who throws from the left side, Thorpe has quietly been one of the more interesting pitchers in the minors this year when looking under the hood. He threw a gem of a ballgame on Thursday, going 7 innings while striking out 12 hitters against just one walk, and allowing no runs on only one hit. This impressive performance lowered his ERA down to 4.26 for the season, and he has 86 strikeouts against 22 walks in 69.2 innings pitched along with that ERA. The ERA may look kinda rough, but it’s being propped up by a very rough 9 ER performance from earlier this month. What makes him so interesting is his 15.6% swinging-strike rate which ranks 1st in the Southern League by a significant margin, and also ranks 13th in the entire minors among those with at least 60 innings pitched. His 4.01 FIP and 3.19 xFIP suggest that he’s been unlucky to date, and he could be a nice sleeper for those in deep dynasty leagues.
Buddy Reed (OF, San Diego Padres) Age: 23, Level: A+
A former 2nd round pick from 2016 with power/speed upside, Reed has been putting together a big breakout season in the California League this year. He had another strong week that was highlighted by a 3 for 5 performance with a HR on Thursday. His season line now sits at .333/.380/.549 with 10 HRs and 32 SBs which really stands out for us fantasy players. He’s supporting that line with a 6.9% walk rate and a 24.7% strikeout rate which aren’t ideal but not horrible. Unfortunately, his swinging-strike rate of 14.8% has not been good at all, but the power/speed upside is undeniable and that’s what you would be buying if you’re investing in Reed in dynasty leagues. I think he’s worth a lottery ticket grab in deeper leagues at this point and feel that he should be on radars in medium-sized ones as well given the upside potential.
Kyle Wright (SP, Atlanta Braves) Age: 23, Level: AA
The 5th overall pick in 2017, Wright began the year at AA and has had an up and down season to date. He is currently coming off of two strong outings recently, with his latest coming on Thursday in which he threw 7 innings of 1 run ball, striking out 8 batters against 0 walks and allowing 7 hits. He now sits at a 4.11 ERA for the season and has 71 strikeouts against 33 walks in 76.2 innings pitched. The walks have been a little bit of a concern to date, but his ability to miss bats has been above-average with an 11.3% swinging-strike rate and he’s coupled that with a strong 54.9% groundball rate. His FIP and xFIP are notably better than his actual ERA at 3.26 and 3.81 respectively which suggests that he has been a little unlucky. Those uninformed may look at the ERA and good but not great K numbers and be down on him, but I think his underlying metrics are strong and that he could be a decent buy-low option in some dynasty leagues. He should be on radars in all dynasty leagues.
Ronny Mauricio (SS, New York Mets) Age: 17, Level: ROK
Mauricio is thought to be one of the top international amateur signings from the 2017 international amateur class, and he made his professional debut in America this week on Monday. He has posted at least 1 hit in every game so far, and his season line in 4 games sits at .333/.294/.533 without a HR or SB, but 3 of his 5 hits have been doubles. The OBP is not a type, it’s a small sample size oddity caused by a sac fly which counts against OBP but not batting average. He’s a switch hitter with a smooth stroke from both sides and plus raw power who could be a big breakout candidate going forward with so much projection left in his 6 foot 3, 166 lbs frame. He also receives strong grades for his defensive skills at SS and he should be able to stay there for the foreseeable future. Keep an eye on him in deeper leagues as a breakout lottery ticket type.