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 a 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: SS Thomas Saggese, STL, AA
Stats: (6 games) 7-23 , 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 runs, 0 SBs
You should remember Saggese from the Prospect Watchlist Week 10 as well as making the Watchlist’s First Half All Stars. But few could’ve expected the type of outburst Saggese has produced since being traded from Texas to the St. Louis Cardinals organization at the end of the trade deadline.
THOMAS SAGGESE 3-RUN HOME RUN‼️
HIS SECOND HR OF THE NIGHT‼️ pic.twitter.com/SocJIkA1so
— Springfield Cardinals (@Sgf_Cardinals) August 26, 2023
Saggese suddenly gives the Cards another potent young bat to help reconfigure their lineup and their franchise as they look to 2024 as a bounce-back season from this year’s nightmare run.
A SS by trade, Saggese had logged more time this year with Texas at third, before becoming the main second baseman on the Springfield Cardinals (AA affiliates of the major league Cardinals team) and it’s little wonder, with the recent promotion of defensive whiz Masyn Winn. If the Cardinals believe in Saggese as a hitter, it also allows them to finally move Nolan Gorman from 2B to primary DH, keeping his bat in the lineup but removing his less-than-stellar defense.
Saggese isn’t a perfect prospect (I’ve yet to see the data on him vs. elite velo) but he punishes mistakes and has the ability to spray the ball around the field. He could be a viable redraft name by the middle of 2024 and a very valuable dynasty asset.
Honorable Mention: C Drake Baldwin, ATL, High A
Stats: (4 games) 9-17, 3 HR, 2 doubles, 7 RBI, 4 runs, 0 SBs
At first glance, Baldwin does little to initially stick out in a sea of phenomenal catching prospects. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2022 draft from Missouri St., he had an unremarkable debut season in 21 games at Low A, his 18% walk rate notwithstanding. But 0 HRs and a .037 ISO are not going to draw any attention from the fantasy community.
Fast-forward to the present day, where the lefty batting backstop has produced 14 HRs and 25 doubles at High A, good for a .206 ISO. He looks to be fine but not plus defensively, with the major knock being average at best arm strength. And with the new rules causing base-stealers to return out of the woodwork, that could prevent him from ever grabbing a starting job.
But the thump during this season echoes numbers he posted in his draft-eligible season, and a 12-15 HR hitting catcher with plus plate discipline is catnip for 2C leagues and a great profile to add if your primary backstop hits the IL for a significant time. Expect Baldwin to be in top 200 lists this offseason, with the potential to move into top 150 status if the power increases in 2024.
Pitcher of the Week: SP Trey Dombroski, HOU, Low A
Stats: (1 start) 5 IP, 0 ER, 0 hits, 0 BB, 11 Ks
It’s almost laughable how you can see a none-too-distant world in which Dombroski steadily rises through the Astros’ farm with little notoriety only to arrive at the major league level as a fully matured starter, capable of grinding out quality starts while flashing some 6-7 strikeout games here and there.
From Framber Valdez to Luis Garcia to J.P. France (even those couple of decent seasons from Enoli Paredes!), Houston seems to craft pitchers that are never eye-popping in terms of scouting models or performance but are savvy enough to become effective pitchers at the major league level. Dombroski with his low 90s fastball and variety of off-speed and breaking balls, already looks like he could fit the mold.
It’s no surprise that the name of Dombroski’s game is command, command, command. It’s not sexy compared to the wicked pitch shapes, movements, and velocities on the prospect market but Dombroski’s strike-throwing ability forces you to pay attention. A 7% walk rate coupled with a 17% SwStr along with a 49% Strike rate, all add up to an arm that seems like it could be MLB caliber regardless of its less-pedigreed origins.
But of course, MLB caliber and fantasy relevant are not one and the same, and there are a couple of flags that are at least bright orange. One is the number of HRs allowed: 14, less than ideal for a soft tosser. Add to that a .284 BABIP which seems highly likely to right itself to the other side of .300 at the next level. Dombroski is pulling a high-wire act; you may not need to invest but it’s certainly a fun one to watch.
Honorable Mention: SP Josh Stephan, TEX, High A
Stats: (1 start) 5 IP, 0 ER, 0 hits, 0 BB, 10 Ks
Last week, the Arizona Diamondbacks were flagged as a system of pitchers with high expectations and huge disappointments. The same might be said for the Rangers. With the injury battles of Kumar Rocker, the inconsistent starts of Jack Leiter, and the anti-climatic thud that was Owen White’s debut in the MLB, Texas has yet to develop an impact arm.
Enter former UDFA Josh Stephan. Signed after the shortened 2020 draft, what stands out about Stephan is how well the 21-year-old has performed at every level of his early career.
After a 2021 that saw 60 Ks in 50 combined IP between complex and A ball but 23 ER allowed, he came back the next year and compiled 100+ IP between both A leagues with a 3.14 ERA. While his 2023 was off to an even more improved start, it’s been upended by an undisclosed injury that caused him to miss much of July and most of August.
On a good note, he was immediately promoted to AA Frisco upon return from IL and he should get 2-3 more starts at the level to finish the year. Stephan’s a great candidate for the Arizona Fall League to make up some ground developmentally. If he’s assigned, it’s a perfect environment to see some Statcast measurements and get a better idea of his upside going into 2024.