Every weekend, Alex Fast is here to write about which minor league pitchers you should be stashing on your team. This list will range from the top prospects to the more esoteric that should potentially be on your radar. Players who I believe are likely to receive the call to The Show soonest will be at the top and players who may be more of a long term stash will be featured closer to the bottom. Picking up these prospects can be a great way to stay ahead of the curve in your league regardless of whether it’s a deep dynasty league or a shallow 10 teamer.
Let’s not beat around the bush guys, a lot of fantastic players who were on this list are now in the Majors. Jose Berrios, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, Jameson Taillon, etc, etc, etc. This is to say that the bottom of this list is the bottom of this list for a reason. We’re searching for potential upside that may be able to help us in these final weeks. Do I think that Drew Hutchison and Austin Pruitt are huge difference makers with top-of-the-rotation upside? Abso-fruitely not. Are they on this list because the cream of the crop is in the Bigs and they are worth note? Yes. Also, for this week, we’re going to go by order of likely appearance. Thompson and De Leon lead us off because they either debut or will likely debut on Saturday.
1. Jake Thompson (Philadelphia Phillies) – Thompson is going to make his debut this Saturday against the San Diego Padres mostly because of Aaron Nola finding himself on the DL. If you’re a frequenter of the list, you know I’ve had my eye on Jake Thompson ever since someone from Fangraphs told me to keep an eye out for him. So now comes the big moment: do we stream him or not? First thing’s first, that matchup is really good for him. The Padres, especially now that Kemp is gone, have a pretty anemic offense. They’re 26th in the league in batting average (.242) and second to last in OBP (.304) and they’re also 3rd in K’s. The last stat is the one that interests me the most. Thompson doesn’t have stuff that’s going to blow you away; his 6.04 K/9 doesn’t necessarily jump off the page. Alright, enough, get to the point. Is Thompson worth the stream? I say despite the low K numbers, that matchup makes it too good to say no. Don’t expect a lot of strikeouts but I think he can do a good job minimalizing damage and keeping the Padres from scoring.
2. Jose De Leon (Los Angeles Dodgers) – In a …sort of baffling move the Dodgers are mulling bringing up Jose De Leon for a start on Saturday (Editor’s Update: Looks like Ross Stripling is getting this start instead of Jose De Leon). Now once again, if you’ve read the list in the past, you know that I am pretty high on De Leon. You’ll also know that I get very concerned when clubs decided to take prospects that have struggled recently and decide to give them a promotion. De Leon definitely falls into the latter category. Here are the lines from his last two starts: 1.1 IP, 7 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, 1 K and 7 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, 2 BB, 1 K. It’s nice to see him bounce back in terms of earned runs, and I’m definitely willing to give a pitcher in the PCL a bye every couple starts but the K’s…that’s what really worries me. It’s one thing to disappear for one start, but for two? This guy was striking out 10 a game like it was nothing before. If he went Saturday, he’d be going up against the Red Sox who, though they haven’t been as explosive recently, have no problem waiting a pitcher out. For now, I say sit De Leon if he goes but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have tremendous upside, he does. These last few starts just freak me out.
3. Josh Hader (Milwaukee Brewers) – With this most recent start, I think we can officially say that Hader has righted the ship. 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BBS, 8 Ks. The lone run came in Hader’s last inning of work and was as a result of a two out single, and a double. He ended up finishing the outing strong with his eighth strikeout of the night, which is obviously the most encouraging takeaway from his performance. After a few starts with 3 K’s and 5 K’s, it’s really encouraging to see Hader return to the high K upside we know that he is possible of. If he keeps this up, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be a September call-up for the Brewers, which could be huge for your fantasy playoffs. His earlier inconsistency definitely means you should keep an eye on him but it’s certainly safe to say he’s trending in the right direction.
4. Reynaldo Lopez (Washington Nationals) – The return of Joe Ross has a lot of affects on this list. As a result of his return, the Reynaldo Lopez experiment is over for the time being as he was recently sent back down to AAA. Unfortunately for this particular article, he isn’t going to pitch until Saturday night so I won’t be able to see how he bounces back from a weak start against the Giants. I will say this about Reynaldo, I have some sympathy for him. I don’t think he got enough time in the Bigs to be able to make the adjustments he needed. As Nick wrote after his debut, he has the stuff to be electric and as we’ve seen from virtually every debut so far this year, these rookies take a few starts before they can really get into the groove. I don’t think Lopez was given enough of those chances. Hopefully, barring injury, he gets another chance soon.
5. Alex Reyes (St. Louis Cardinals) – We had a brief second there where it seemed like Reyes was going to be called up. He was pulled from his game after 3.1 IP and 55 pitches and it looked assured that he’d be in the Cardinals pen by the end of the week. Alas, that wasn’t the case as Reyes made another start and it doesn’t look as if he’ll be making a spot start tomorrow (he’s scheduled to pitch Saturday night and I don’t see Car-Mart getting bumped). His most recent start wasn’t too spectacular: 4.1 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 3 BBs, 6 Ks. Reyes struggled throughout the outing hitting 99 pitches before being pulled in the 5th. His command issues continue to persist and he’s giving up too many ER for my liking. At their midseason rankings, Baseball America had Reyes pegged as the #2 prospect in all of baseball. That’s almost certifiably insane as he hasn’t had a truly dominant outing at all this year. Not that is the barometer for future success but you’d think the best pitching prospect in baseball would be capable of a few shutdowns. As of now, I still say proceed with caution. He’ll be in the ‘pen before September but I need to see improvement before I can believe he’ll be effective.
6. Austin Pruitt (Tampa Bay Rays) – I’ve stuck with him this far and I’m sticking with him again. He’s in a little bit of an inconsistent streak now in terms of how many earned runs he’s giving up but to me the end all be all is still command and Pruitt has it. Pruitt hasn’t given up more than two walks since April 25th. Read that again. That’s a string of 18 consecutive starts in which he is yet to allow more than two walks. His 7.98 K/9 is very close to the 8.69 K/9 that Joe Musgrove had and look how his debut went. Once again, I’ll temper expectations: Pruitt is not a top of the rotation starter, his ceiling is mid to end of the rotation but if I’m going to make a big deal about command, I’m going to stick with it. Keep an eye on Pruitt, I think he can net you a solid start or two at the end of the season.
7. Brady Rodgers (Houston Astros) – Rodgers is back on the list and seems to have really turned things around since that rough patch we found him in last May. In his last 10 starts, Rodgers has a 2.15 ERA, a 0.97 WHIP, a 4.8 K/BB and a 7.11 K/9. Those numbers are definitely enough to get him a look as the season continues. When specifically? Tough to say as Joe Musgrove was recently called up and will likely take the place of Lance McCullers while he’s on the DL. However, by dealing Scott Feldman the Astros got rid of their long relief guy (a role that was going to be filled by Musgrove) so there’s a chance they may need some more bullpen help soon, especially if there’s another injury or an extra inning game. For now, I think Rodgers would be their best choice and is an interesting guy to keep an eye on moving forward.
8. Lucas Giolito (Washington Nationals) – I thought maybe Giolito was trending in the right direction after he went 6.2 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 2 BBs, 7 Ks but his most recent start proved the inconsistency is still there: 5 IP, 4 ER, 5 H, 4 BBs, 5 Ks. I just find it really hard to have confidence in Giolito moving forward until he can prove his consistency. Jose Berrios, Blake Snell, Jameson Taillon all of those guys proved that they could operate consistently before they got the call. Now they’ve had varying degrees of success in the Bigs so far but the point is they proved they were ready for that next step and so far Giolito hasn’t done that. The window in which he could’ve made the Nationals front office have a difficult choice on their hands regarding his spot in the rotation is officially closing too with Joe Ross (allegedly) slated to pitch on Wednesday. Listen, the Nationals aren’t going to leave Giolito in AAA all year, his ceiling is too high and I’m sure he can contribute. I just don’t see him being a dominant force this year.
9. Drew Hutchison (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Nick and I talked about this a little bit on the podcast last week but I am very curious to see how Hutchison does now that he’s studying under Dr. Ray Searage. Nick made very valuable points about how the good Dr. usually has more of an effective on those who use a Two-Seamer but I still think Searage can have a positive effect on the pitcher. Keep in mind there were people at the beginning of last year (I believe it was Jason Collette as a matter of fact) who pegged Hutch to be a Cy-Young candidate. He was uh….wrong, but that just shows there is upside there that is worthy of keeping track of. His most recent start in AAA doesn’t scream upside – 7 IP, 4 ER, 4 H, 4 BBs, 5 Ks – but those are the most walks that Hutch has given up since May 26th. Due to the trade though, I think Hutch is really worthy of being on your radar.
10. Jaime Schultz (Tampa Bay Rays) – Here’s another Tampa Bay Rays pitcher that is sort of flying under the radar right now. Schultz’s 3.16 ERA and 1.33 WHIP aren’t numbers that necessarily jump off the page but his 10.63 K/9 certainly does and his 128 K’s currently leads the International League in AAA. So why hasn’t the leader in K’s in the Int. League made his MLB debut? 4.49 BB/9. Unlike a lot of other organizations, the Tampa Bay Rays seem reticent to promote a guy who struggles with his command even if he does have solid stuff. The issue isn’t something that started early and has corrected either unfortunately as Schultz’s most recent line can attest to: 5.2 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 4 BBs, 7 Ks. I suppose if there is a silver lining, it’s that despite having such a high BB/9, that ERA isn’t that bad and neither is his 3.34 FIP. Schultz could very well be next in line for a spot start in Tampa Bay so I would definitely be keeping an eye on him.