With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida), identifying the next prospect breakout can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a prospect may get too much coverage and 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 and post. We may have renamed this column but fear not intrepid dynasty league manager, this is still THE place to find your potential prospect diamonds in the rough.
For those unfamiliar, this is a weekly column where I’ll select four prospects (typically 2 hitters and 2 pitchers) 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.
“But,” you may think to yourself, “what makes this column so different than any of the countless other blurbs, rundowns, and general prospect lists that are published?” Glad you asked!
First and foremost, this column is dedicated to the deep dynasty manager. If you’re in an 18-team league, or rostering 30+ minor leaguers, then this is your spot.
Secondly, and I don’t want to honk my horn (toot toot) but in year 1, we had a pretty solid track record of recognizing some names that have risen in value entering this season including: Kyle Manzardo, Yainer Diaz, Evan Carter, Justin Dirden, and Will Benson.
With that said, let’s get to this week’s prospects…
Player of the Week: OF Wilyer Abreu, BOS, AAA
Stats: (7 games) 10-24, 5 HR, 1 double, 12 RBI, 10 runs, 2 SBs
Abreu’s a perfect Watchlist candidate. He’s still young at 24 years old but has several years of minor league experience, originally with Houston before coming to Boston with Enmanuel Valdez as the return for Christian Vázquez. His last 3 seasons all post-Covid have been well above league average, with wRC+ numbers in the 120s.
Did Wilyer Abreu homer?
Of course he did.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 16, 2023
Abreu has hit for decent power (averaging 19 HRs over the past 3 years) and superb plate discipline (he’s come close to putting up .400 OBPs the last two seasons in the upper minors). He’s even shown some speed although the 23 stolen bases he grabbed while still in Houston’s AA seem to be an extreme outlier.
So why hasn’t Abreu made a bigger splash among prospectors? I imagine some are put off by his mature body type, which lacks projectability. He has played CF throughout the minors but I don’t think the Red Sox foresee him patrolling the tricky centerfield at Fenway.
Additionally, while the AAA numbers are pretty balanced between batted ball type, Abreu’s swing is optimized for pull-side power. But what excites me about Abreu is his plate skills.
Just to dump some stats: Abreu has a 12% barrel rate, 25% chase rate, 85% in-zone contact rate, and 11.2% SwStr rate. Even if he stays in the mid-teens for HRs, Abreu appears to be a mature hitter with knowledge of the strike zone and where he can do damage.
Honorable Mention: 3B Deyvison De Los Santos, ARI, AA
Stats: (6 games) 9-26, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 8 runs, 0 SBs
DDLS, as he’s popularly known, jumped on radars during his debut season in the complex league, causing writers who’d seen him in action to walk away with stories of a teenager with immense raw and in-game power. By ’22, De Los Santos traveled through 3 levels, compiling 29 doubles, 22 HRs, and an .847 OPS.
However, as is always the case with very young power-first hitters, he swings a lot and misses often. The end of his ’22 season at AA Amarillo began to signal some of the issues he would have with more advanced pitching. Now this year, having also battled injury, DDLS has seen his stock fall mightily. That said, he’s probably the cheapest 20+ HR prospect you might ever find and he comes with real 35 – 40 HR upside, as long as your roster is constructed to take the major hit in average and OBP.
Pitcher of the Week: SP Nick Nastrini, CHW, AA
Stats: (1 start) 6 IP, 1 ER, 6 hits, 1 BB, 10 Ks
Nastrini was never the best pitching prospect during his time in LA (hard to do that with Bobby Miller and others in the system) but he was well-regarded, especially entering this year. After a 2022 season split between High A and AA, with elite level K rates and WHIP, many looked for him to take a next step that didn’t come to fruition this year. But in the 16.1 innings logged after being sent to Chicago, Nastrini has begun to show the strikeout form expected.
Nastrini is NASTY 😤
6.0 IP // 6 H // 1 ER // 1 BB // 10 SO pic.twitter.com/QkWQ6uoIJG
— Birmingham Barons (@BhamBarons) August 17, 2023
It’s a small sample to be sure but it’s fascinating to see the uptick in SwStr (21.6%) especially. Given the shaky ground of Chicago’s farm system and overall team outlook, there’s a great buy-low opportunity with a pedigreed arm that could be rounding into form at just the right time. Keep an eye on how Nastrini finishes the season and prepare to make an offer in the offseason before new evaluations and rankings publish.
Honorable Mention: SP Dylan Ray, ARI, High A
Stats: (2 starts) 9 IP, 2 ER, 8 hits, 2 BB, 14 Ks
Unfortunately for Ray, the lack of success from Arizona’s young pitching core will likely have a knock-on effect that causes many managers to back off rostering Ray or at least wait much longer to see more production. But early numbers do suggest that he should be on radars.
Armed with a modern-day fastball/slider combo that’s effective and tough and a curveball that gives him some depth as a starter, Ray has begun showing command that counters the reliever risk in his profile. The 22% K-BB is good but the 50.3% strike rate while generating a 50% GB rate is what really sticks out.
Maybe Ray can earn some goodwill back for D’backs as he closes out the 2023 season.