With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four minor league 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…
This Week’s Player to Watch: 1B Kyle Manzardo, TBR, AAA
Stats: (4 games) 6-13, 2 HR, 1 double, 4 RBI, 2 runs
Well speak of the (Tampa Bay) Devil (Ray) himself! Manzardo continues his rise in prospect rankings and looks about as rock solid as can be as a prospect. Similar to 2022 1B prospect du jour, Vinnie Pasquantino, Manzardo is seemingly counting down the days until he gets that call, giving him the opportunity to show his stuff at the MLB level.
FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FIVE FEET
Kyle Manzardo with the Bulls' fourth homer of the day pic.twitter.com/f9dj1XsL6s
— Durham Bulls (@DurhamBulls) April 22, 2023
Honorable Mention: 3B Justyn-Henry Malloy, DET, AAA
Stats: (5 games) 7-18, 2 HR, 1 double, 5 RBI, 5 runs
I mention JHM’s on this week’s episode of Pitcher List’s On The Farm podcast but I’ll reiterate: WHY ISN’T DETROIT PLAYING HIM?! It’s not that he’s going to save this Tigers franchise (not sure much would anyways) and we’ve seen how even higher-rated Detroit hitting prospects have struggled to get their footing in the majors (looking at you, Riley and Spencer.) But with that said, there’s nothing more for Malloy to prove at AAA as he continues to show very positive plate discipline (9.9% SwStr, 23% BB rate, 19.5% K rate.) He’ll likely never be a power hitter which, given his natural positions of 3B and LF, could be somewhat disqualifying but again, it’s not like Detroit has thumpers at those positions anyway.
This Week’s Pitcher to Watch: SP Coleman Crow, LAA, AA
Stats: (1 start) 6 IP, 3 ER, 4 hits, 0 BB, 12Ks
The line is a little less pristine than I normally have for the Pitcher to Watch, BUT 12 Ks gets your attention. Especially given a couple of external factors:
1) The Angels have shown a recent history of promoting performing talent quickly from the AA level to feel immediate needs (see: Detmers, Reid; Silseth, Chase; Neto, Zach)
2) This season is Crow’s second go-round with Rocket City and in a small sample size, he’s showing the exact type of improvement you want to see: a jump in K rate while maintaining a sub-10% walk rate and more precisely, generating an almost 2% increase in SwStr (12.7% to 14.5%).
12 K Day for @colemancrow! pic.twitter.com/F389Cq26EY
— Rocket City Trash Pandas (@trashpandas) April 21, 2023
As you can see in Crow’s last start, the curveball is tremendously effective. Being able to throw it for a strike in any count means hitters can’t dismiss it out of hand. In turn, Crow’s able to funnel this pitch with his low 90s fastball causing that to play up more. Lastly, you see a couple of Ks off of his changeup. Being able to fade a change like that to left-handed hitters will just make Crow that much more dangerous as he develops. While none of the pitches are elite, he’s shown a good command of all three and an understanding of how to mix them to optimal results.
Honorable Mention: SP Josh Stephan, TEX, High A
Stats: (1 start) 7 IP, 0 ER, 2 hits, 2 BB, 10 Ks
Stephan makes his first appearance on the Watchlist after an eye-opening start vs. Tampa Bay affiliate Bowling Green. Stephan signed with Texas as an undrafted free agent out of high school after the pandemic-shortened draft of 2020. Stephan flashes two distinct fastballs in the 90s; a 2-seamer that moves down in the zone, and a 4-seamer that sits closer to mid 90s. The slider makes up the rest of his repertoire, more vertical than horizontal but effective.
Stephan currently has back-end starter upside but in only his third season at age 20 (he won’t turn 21 until November), Stephan has been moving quickly through the Rangers’ system. We’ll keep an eye on Stephan and see if he returns to the Watchlist as the season progresses.