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The Stash Week 13: Top 10 Pitching Prospects to Stash in 2021

These guys can bring the heat down the stretch, if you can be patient.

Every Saturday during the 2021 season, I will be posting a list of 10 pitching prospects to stash in redraft leagues. This is important, as I am solely evaluating prospects for their ability to impact fantasy teams in 2021—and not beyond.

Well a lot has happened since the last stash article, including the promotion of Tigers right-hander Matt Manninginjuries to Baltimore left-hander DL Hall and Blue Jays right-hander Nate Pearsonas well as concerning news about Padres lefty MacKenzie Gorewho is being sent to Arizona to heal from his blister while working on command issues that have plagued him for over a year now.

All that gives us a considerably new look list as we continue to barrel toward the mid-point of the season, and eventually the final few months where prospect call-ups could be aplenty.

Without further ado, here is the first look at the top 10 pitching prospects to stash in 2021 redraft formats.

 

1. Shane Baz, RHP, TB – ETA July

 

The Rays are one of the more difficult teams to build your fantasy roster around, especially when it comes to pitchers, but the success of left-hander Shane McClanahan and the team’s willingness to give opportunities to both Luis Patino and Brent Honeywell this year has me closely investigating one of their other top pitching prospects, Shane Bazwho is off to a scorching start in the minor leagues this year.

Baz was successful in adding a changeup to his arsenal over the offseason, and he hit the ground running with his assignment at Double-A, posting a 2.48 ERA and a 49:2 K:BB ratio in seven absolutely dominating starts. He was recently promoted to Triple-A, and in his first two starts at that level the 22-year-old flame-thrower has posted a 10:3 K:BB ratio with a 2.00 ERA.

It’s only a matter of time before he is given a look with the big league club, although it is anyone’s guess as to how he will get utilized. Baz has yet to throw more than five innings in a single start this season, so the expectation is that, when he does get called up, he’ll likely be used like McClanahan if he ends up in the rotation – or in a multi-inning relief role. Neither of those are great for fantasy purposes, unfortunately, but his bat missing ability, extraordinary command, and the team around him should give him plenty of chances to help your fantasy team out, depending on your format.

Quality start leagues can probably afford to wait on Baz, but in deeper leagues that count wins or that have an extra reward for strikeouts, Baz is definitely worth stashing as his performance this season should merit a call to the big club before the summer is up.

 

2. Edward Cabrera, RHP, MIA – ETA August

 

After missing the first few months of the season with an injury, Edward Cabrera is back and better than ever for Miami. He made two appearances in Single-A before earning a promotion to Double-A, where he has thrown 10.1 innings and posted  ridiculous 16:1 K:BB ratio, while surrendering just one earned run in total.

I thought the Marlins were going to give right-hander Cabrera a look last year, but he ended up getting shut down with a mysterious infection while at the team’s alternate site. Nevertheless, the data before his shut down indicated his changeup was taking big strides forward, which paired with his 97 mph fastball and 55-grade slider make him a potentially very solid No. 2/3 starter type.

In fact, many scouts liked Cabrera’s overall arsenal even more than fellow Marlin Sixto Sanchezwith Cabrera’s slider showing more sweep. Both pitchers are afflicted with fastballs that, while very impressive from a velocity standpoint, struggle to miss bats and could impact their overall strikeout ability at the next level – something we’ve already seen with Sanchez.

Still, Cabrera has excellent stuff, solid command, and a developing out pitch with his changeup – and while Miami doesn’t have a clear opening in their rotation it would not be surprising to see Cabrera fill in at some point as the season goes on. The Marlins have had plenty of success developing pitching over the last few years, and Cabrera looks to be next in line. Those in deeper redraft leagues might want to find a spot for him early in the year, as the end of season results could be well worth it.

 

3. Tanner Houck, RHP, BOS – ETA July

 

Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck made three appearances with Boston earlier this season, throwing 10.1 innings with an excellent 12/1 K/BB ratio and five earned runs – giving him a 4.35 ERA but a far more palatable 2.32 FIP. All those appearances came in early April, and after taking six weeks off for injury Houck has finally returned to make two strong appearances at Triple-A, although neither were long outings.

Houck was never a super highly regarded prospect, despite being a first round pick back in 2017, but he rose through the minor leagues fairly quickly with very good strikeout numbers and less than stellar command. His three-game cameo in 2020 yielded an outstanding 33.3% strikeout rate and a 0.53(!) ERA, along with a 14.3% walk rate and a 3.25 FIP.

I don’t think his command is magically this good (a 2.2% walk rate is insane) but he does look much improved in this small sample, and at the very least he has absolutely filthy stuff – which makes the strikeout numbers look sustainable. Boston’s rotation could use some reinforcements, and while Houck isn’t going to come in and start posting quality starts until he is fully stretched out, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back in the big leagues very shortly.

Houck may continue to get shuttled between Boston and Triple-A Worcester, but he is worth rostering in deeper redraft leagues if you have a spot, and could easily make himself a must-own in 12-teamers if he gets a chance to take the ball every fifth (or sixth) day for the Sox.

 

4. Nick Lodolo, LHP, CIN – ETA August

 

This season, so far at least, has seen a ton of pitching prospects who were on the fringe of most top 100 lists have a lot of success (like Shane McClanahan, Alek Manoah, DL Hall and Ethan Small) while many of the more highly ranked pitching prospects (like Matt Manning, Logan Gilbert, MacKenzie Gore, Triston McKenzie, and Nate Pearson) have struggled.

File Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo into that first category. Ranked outside the top-75 on most media outlets, including No. 77 on my top 100 rankings, Lodolo has exploded onto the scene at Double-A Chattanooga so far this season. Across six starts, spanning 30 innings, Lodolo has posted a staggering 0.90 ERA with a 1.53 FIP, 0.83 WHIP and ridiculous 45:6 K:BB ratio.

In fact, outside of a 3.1 inning, four walk outing in his second start, Lodolo has posted six or more strikeouts with one or less walk in every appearance this year, while only surrendering three total runs. This level of dominance likely won’t hold all year long, but Lodolo is making quick work of the hitters at Double-A, and could be in line for a promotion to Triple-A, and the big leagues, in short order.

The 23-year-old was the seventh overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, and was thought at the time to be a quick to the bigs type arm. The lost 2020 season obviously tempered those expectations, but had he participated in a full minor league season in 2020 it would not seem weird at all the have him debut this summer – much like we are seeing from fellow 2019 first rounder Alek Manoah.

Lodolo is a sinker/slider pitcher with elite command and a burgeoning changeup, which should allow him to stick comfortably in the middle of Cincinnati’s rotation for years to come – although there are some questions about how much his strikeout ability will translate against big league hitters.

Still, Lodolo is a pitcher I could see coming up in the middle of the season – particularly if he stays super hot at Double-A – and in deeper redraft leagues I’d be considering tossing him into a N/A slot or a deep bench role if you can.

 

5. Daniel Lynch, LHP, KC – ETA July

 

After a disastrous three game cameo with the Royals to begin the season, which resulted in a 15.75 ERA across just eight innings – thanks to a horrific start on May 8 where he gave up eight earned runs without getting through the first frame – Daniel Lynch was sent back down to Triple-A Omaha to iron out the kinks. Some believe Lynch may have been tipping his pitches in that start, although the White Sox are known to crush left-handed pitching – so it may have just been a recipe for disaster.

Regardless, Lynch strung together a few nice starts at Triple-A Omaha before things started to unravel, leading him to an uninspiring 4.84 ERA through six starts – although a 35:12 K:BB ratio is at least some cause for celebration.

The terrible big league start pushed Lynch off the radar in redraft leagues, but Kansas City will almost certainly turn to Lynch again at some point this season, and now that he has gotten the debut jitters out of the way, and hopefully fixed any issues potentially related to tipping, Lynch could be a sneaky add in deeper redraft formats as a stash candidate.

The strong performance from fellow left-hander Kris Bubic in a hybrid role with the big club, as well as the impressive start to the minor league season by Jackson Kowar (although his big league starts didn’t go so well either) could be a hindrance for Lynch, but don’t be surprised to see the hard throwing left-hander back in Kansas City’s rotation by the middle of the summer – where he could easily be up for good.

 

6. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, OAK – ETA July

 

After a very promising showing in spring training, where he posted a 1.50 ERA in six outings, A’s right-hander Daulton Jefferies saw his chances of winning an Opening Day rotation spot dashed by biceps tendinitis, which delayed him for the first month of the season.

He finally made his season debut on May 24 with Triple-A Las Vegas, and since then he has been quietly excellent in the hitter-dominant Pacific Coast League. In six starts, Jefferies has posted a 3.77 ERA with 20 strikeouts and just three walks. In fact, outside of a four inning blowup on June 14, Jefferies has not given up more than two earned runs in a single appearance this season, and his only three walks all came in his one bad outing against Arizona.

Unfortunately, even with a handful of injury issues throughout the year, the A’s don’t need Jefferies to come up and help them right away, thanks to strong performances from back end of the rotation guys like Cole Irvin and James KaprielianThat makes Jefferies’ overall timeline less predictable, and could merit a longer stay in Las Vegas if Oakland doesn’t ultimately need him.

Jefferies possesses plus command of a solid three pitch mix, and could help fantasy teams plenty down the stretch if and when he does get called up. In deeper redraft leagues and/or AL-only formats, he’s not the worst candidate to stash on your bench while we wait and see how he progresses with bigger pitch counts in Vegas over the next few weeks. He may not be the sexiest, most overpowering guy, but he has the potential to be very helpful down the stretch.

 

7. Jackson Kowar, RHP, KC – ETA July

 

Like Daniel Lynch earlier in the year, the Royals aggressively promoted top prospect Jackson Kowar after he absolutely dominated at Triple-A, posting a 0.85 ERA with 41 strikeouts in just six starts. However, also like Lynch, Kowar did not translate that success to the big league level. Making three appearances, two starts, Kowar couldn’t find the strike zone whatsoever – throwing just five innings and striking out two with five walks and 10 earned runs, leading to a 18.00 ERA and a quick demotion back to the minors.

Kowar has a mid-90’s fastball and a devastating changeup, and his breaking pitches have steadily improved during his time as a pro. The bullpen is still a distinct possibility for Kowar long-term, or even short-term, but for now he’s worth keeping a close eye on in case the Royals turn to him again this season.

 

8. Roansy Contreras, RHP, PIT – ETA July 

 

Roansy Contreras joined the Pirates in the Jameson Taillon trade this offseason, potentially paving the way for Pittsburgh to get some pitching capital back after losing so much in the Chris Archer trade a few years ago. Contreras was a promising pitcher coming up through the Yankees system, topping out at High-A in 2019 where he made 24 starts and posted a 3.33 ERA with a rather pedestrian 21.1% strikeout rate.

Now, through his first eight starts at Double-A Altoona, Contreras looks like a much different pitcher. He’s posting an improved walk rate (5.1% compared to 6.7% in 2019) along with nearly double the strikeouts (36.2%) and a ridiculous 2.00 ERA (2.33 FIP) along with a 0.84 WHIP.

His first two starts were simply outstanding. He threw 11 total innings with zero earned runs, just two walks, and 11 strikeouts in each game. It’s still early, obviously, but considering Pittsburgh’s woeful big league roster, Contreras is a guy who could get a look later this season, even though he is still just 21 years old.

The big question for Contreras is the development of his changeup. He has a fastball/slider combo that should play well in the big leagues, and command that should be good enough to stick as a starter, but he’ll need that changeup to continue to develop if he wants to be more of a mid-rotation arm, rather than a back end guy or even long reliever.

His age, the lack of innings thrown in 2020, and Pittsburgh’s potential to keep him down for service time reasons makes him among the riskiest potential stash arms out there right now – but in deeper leagues he’s worth keeping a very close eye on.

 

9. Ethan Small, LHP, MIL – ETA September

 

While his first start after getting promoted to Triple-A did not go so well, Small absolutely crushed Double-A hitters through his first eight starts – posting a 1.96 ERA with a 2.17 FIP, a 1.14 WHIP and a stellar 67:21 K:BB ratio. The promotion to Triple-A is of course a good sign for him making his big league debut at some point this season, although Milwaukee’s rotation is rather full at the moment, and the existence of fellow prospect Aaron Ashby could slow him down even more.

Still, Small has been absolutely on fire this season, and his command has improved as the year has gone on – a great sign that he could immediately contribute at the big league level.

Small does have a deception-over-stuff profile, which can turn analysts and fantasy players away, but there is little reason to believe he won’t continue to succeed as he continues to rise up the ranks – which could include some big league action before the year is up.

 

10. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD – ETA September

 

MacKenzie Gore’s saga over the past year and a half has been well-documented, as the Padres were unwilling to give him a call during the abbreviated 2020 slate and, so far in 2021, despite injuries to Adrian Morejón, Dinelson Lamet, and the missed season for Mike ClevingerGore has remained in the minors, paving the way for fellow prospect Ryan Weathers to earn a rotation spot in his place.

The latest news for Gore is even more troubling, as he is being sent to Arizona away from game competition to work on his mechanics, while also recovering from a persistent blister issue on his throwing hand.

Gore hasn’t done anything to help assuage any of the concerns plaguing him this season, posting a 5.85 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP through his first six starts at Triple-A, along with 18 strikeouts and 12(!) walks. Simply put, the overall body of work is indicative of someone who just isn’t ready to be in the big leagues quite yet.

Of course, we don’t just want to ignore Gore’s absolute dominance in the Cal League in 2019, which to me indicates he is still capable of being the true ace pitcher many believe he can be – it just is not going to show up in the big leagues in the year 2021.

Gore’s never been a huge power pitcher, relying more on deception, location, and his mechanics to get hitters out. But it strikes me as notable that San Diego hasn’t given him a look just yet, especially if he is suffering from some combination of command/mechanical issues and/or the yips.

He is just 22 years old and a former top-10 prospect in all of baseball, so he still finds himself on this list – regardless of the mystery surrounding his last 18 months.

Gore is no longer a must-add in all formats when he does eventually get the call, but he is a player I can see rostering in 16+ team leagues to stash on the bench while we wait for his arrival to the show. It is just not reasonable to roster him in 12-teamers right now, but if you have a watchlist and are hoping for a boost later this year, Gore should remain on your radar.

I’m not nearly as confident that Gore will be worth the wait when he does get the call – but he still has the potential to be a high-quality fantasy pitcher in due time, even if it’s not in 2021.

 

Others given consideration: George Kirby, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matthew Liberatore, Grayson Rodriguez, Reid Detmers, DL Hall, Nate Pearson, Deivi Garcia, Aaron Ashby

 

Photo from David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)

Andy Patton

Andy is the Dynasty Content Manager here at PitcherList. He manages all of the prospect content on the site, while also contributing a weekly article on dynasty deep sleepers, and the weekly hitter and pitcher stash lists. Andy also co-hosts the Never Sunny in Seattle podcast on the PitcherList Podcast Network, and separately hosts the Score Zags Score Podcast.

10 responses to “The Stash Week 13: Top 10 Pitching Prospects to Stash in 2021”

  1. Rics says:

    Leaving our hunter greene seems like a mistake for 2021

    • Pretender says:

      Especially given that he posted better stats than Lodolo pitching for the same team in AA AND was the one promoted to AAA. Obviously the Reds believe he is a superior pitcher to Lodolo at this time and there is no question that his strikeouts will play in the majors. To not even be considered for this list casts serious questions on the credibility of the article’s writer.

      • Andy Patton says:

        This list isn’t designed to be a “who will be in the big leagues first” but rather a look at who will be more fantasy relevant, and I think that will be Lodolo. I admit Greene should have been in the given consideration category, but I think Lodolo is more ready, although Greene has higher potential upside long term.

    • Andy Patton says:

      Probably should have included him in the given consideration category, but the walk issues make me unsure how big of an impact he’ll make at the big league level right away. I’d rather gamble on Lodolo for 2021.

  2. Dan B. says:

    Andy – Good to see you back. Hope all is well. Appreciate the work you put into these stash lists and enjoy reading them every week.

  3. Thomas says:

    Thanks for getting the article out, i always look forward to these.!! Any thoughts on Joe Ryan, i know he doesnt have Baz pedigree but any chance he gets the first shot?

    • Andy Patton says:

      Definitely possible – I have Baz up high because the upside is higher, like you said, but Ryan could get a look. With Patino and Honeywell in the mix too though it’s a tough situation to predict.

  4. J.C. Mosier says:

    Welcome back! I know that Jesus Luzardo is post-prospect, but in a 12-teamer with an “NA” roster spot, would he make this list? Where?

    • Andy Patton says:

      Thanks JC! I’m not a Luzardo fan, never really have been, but I’d probably have him atop this list if we are looking 2021, at least for now. If he struggles in AAA he’ll be a drop.

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