Every Sunday during the 2021 season, I will be posting a list of 10 hitting prospects to stash in redraft leagues. This is important because, despite this being a dynasty article, I am solely evaluating players for their ability to impact fantasy teams in 2021—and not beyond.
It was a big week for the hitter list, as four outfielders from last week’s top 10 – Jarred Kelenic, Jarren Duran, Brandon Marsh and Estevan Florial – were all called up to the show. That leaves plenty of room for additions this week, although two of the names coming onto the list will look familiar. That would of course be Rays 2B/OF Vidal Bruján and Giants catcher Joey Bart, who are both back in Triple-A, at least for now.
Joining the list this week is Braves outfielder Drew Waters and Orioles second baseman Jahmai Jones, two players performing well in Triple-A who could pretty clearly help their respective MLB clubs at key positions of need in the second half of the season.
Without further ado, here is a look at the top 10 hitting prospects worth stashing in your redraft leagues.
1. Vidal Bruján, 2B/OF, TB — ETA August
The Vidal Bruján experience didn’t last particularly long in Tampa, as the switch-hitting 2B/OF only saw 26 plate appearances in 10 games, hitting .077 with zero extra base hits, zero walks and one steal. He was primarily coming off the bench, and the acquisition of Nelson Cruz and upcoming return of Manuel Margot made playing time even harder to come by for the 23-year-old.
Despite the setback, Bruján slides into the top of this list because the prospect pedigree and his performance at Triple-A, despite recent slumping, is good enough to wait on him in deeper redraft leagues – especially with that ever valuable 2B/OF positional flexibility.
Bruján got off to a hot start at the plate in Triple-A Durham, slashing .292/.390/.525 with seven home runs, 14 stolen bases, and nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (22) through June 11. He struggled pretty significantly after that, however, mustering just a .211 average with two homers and two steals, a concerning trend that, frankly, could have been the reason he struggled in the big leagues. While I believe Bruján is big league ready, calling him up in the midst of a career-worst slump and not playing him every day was not exactly a recipe for success.
Hopefully, a hot few weeks at Triple-A will lead to his return to the show and much better results for the rest of the year.
If that happens, he’ll be a quality add in most formats thanks to his speed and plate discipline – and if that power shows up he has the potential to be a fantasy star, a la peak Ketel Marte.
2. Josh Lowe, 3B/OF, TB — ETA August
It’s not surprising that Rays’ outfielder Josh Lowe gets lost in the shuffle. On a team with prospects like Franco, Bruján, Walls, and a litany of dynamite young pitchers, Lowe sort of fades into the background. Hell, for a while he was the third highest-rated prospect with the last name Lowe in the system, behind both Nate and Brandon.
However, the 2016 first-round pick is starting to really make a name for himself now. The converted third baseman is now a full-time center fielder down in Triple-A Durham, and the power most in the industry were hoping to see finally peeked out in 2019 and is here in full force in 2021. Lowe is currently slashing .279/.355/.549 with 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases for the Bulls, rocking a .270 ISO and a 134 wRC+.
He does have strikeout issues that likely aren’t going away anytime soon, but his combination of power, speed, and solid walk rates should make him a quality fantasy piece as soon as he is playing regularly. Regular playing time is of course the million dollar question with Lowe and any Rays player, because of their love of platooning and a pretty full outfield, especially with Nelson Cruz now entrenched at DH and Manny Margot on the mend, which pushed Bruján back into the minor leagues.
Still, Lowe is not a bad option to stash in deeper redraft leagues, as he has plenty of tools to contribute right away if/when he gets the call.
3. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, KC — ETA September
The Royals turned some heads by starting uber prospect Bobby Witt Jr. at Double-A this season after the 20-year-old set the baseball world ablaze with his light-tower power on full display at spring training in Surprise, Arizona in March.
Now, after slashing a smooth .295/.369/.570 with 16 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and a 148 wRC+, Witt has moved up to Triple-A Omaha where he already has a home run and a steal in his first four games.
Witt’s raw power is already well-known, along with his 60-grade speed, giving him true 30/30 potential at his absolute peak. We know Kansas City is not afraid to aggressively promote prospects, as seen by the Daniel Lynch promotion earlier this season, and now that they are considering moving Whit Merrifield, a reshaping of the roster could mean Witt’s promotion may be closer than initially projected.
Very few prospects have the potential that Witt does, and the few who do are either already in the big leagues or are less likely to be big leaguers in 2021 (Julio Rodríguez, Marco Luciano, CJ Abrams, Spencer Torkelson) which leaves Witt, who registers as an extremely high-risk, high-reward prospect stash in redraft leagues this season.
As talented as he is, I still would not recommend stashing him except in the deepest (16+) of formats, and even then it is only really worth it if you have deep benches and are willing to gamble a roster spot on someone who probably won’t be up until the final month of the season. That final month, if we get it, could be absolutely electric though.
4. Seth Beer, 1B/OF, AZ – ETA August
It feels like Seth Beer’s best baseball season came way back when he was a freshman at Clemson, and while that may be true, he has been an extremely productive power hitter throughout his minor league career. Joining the Diamondbacks in the Zack Greinke trade back in 2019, Beer is currently slashing .275/.381/.479 with eight home runs and excellent walk (8.9%) and strikeout (17.4%) rates for Triple-A Reno.
You’d like to see more over the fence pop, no doubt, but Beer has shown great plate discipline and contact skills throughout his minor league career, and there is plenty of optimism the power will resurface in time.
The main issue is Beer’s positional flexibility or lack thereof. Beer played 10 games in right field back in 2018 but has otherwise only played first base and some left field. He is a better fit for an AL team with a DH, although rule changes in 2022 could give him a significant boost in regards to playing time.
For this year he is behind Christian Walker, Pavin Smith, and bench bats like Josh Reddick and Nick Heath for playing time in Arizona, but injuries or trades could easily open up a spot for him to play somewhat regularly down the stretch – and those in deeper redraft leagues should consider holding onto him until that happens, as his dramatic improvement in strikeout rate and strong slash line and power potential could make him a must-own fantasy player in the final few months of the season.
5. Brennen Davis, OF, CHC – ETA September
The Cubs finally bit the bullet and made it clear they plan to be sellers this year, with Joc Pederson representing the first domino to fall when he was sent to the Braves last week. There are other moves that could be coming, with Kris Bryant the most notable potential trade chip, and all of these moves will clear room for some internal promotions amongst their farm system.
The team does have some unappealing Triple-A options to replace Pederson and potentially Bryant, like Trayce Thompson, Michael Hermosillo and Nick Martini, but my guess/hope is that they turn to their top-tier prospects to see what they can do as they begin phase one of rebuilding.
If that ends up being the case, the name to keep an eye on here is Brennen Davis. Davis was a second round pick in 2018 who tore through the lower levels of the minors and his now hitting .267/.371/.521 in 30 games at Double-A, with eight home runs, three steals and a 145 wRC+. Not bad for a guy who has not even turned 22 yet.
Davis was considered a toolsy but risky outfield prospect in the draft, but he has successfully showed he has a higher floor than many projected. Of course, after posting sub-20% strikeout rates in the low minors, Davis is up over 30% at Double-A, something he will almost certainly struggle with in the big leagues, and perhaps more so if given the call this year.
That shouldn’t preclude you from adding him to your watchlist in deeper leagues, however, as his combination of power, speed, and high walk totals would make him an appealing fantasy option if he were playing everyday – something that could happen in Wrigleyville if the team starts to tear it down.
6. Joey Bart, C, SFG — ETA August
I wrote in this space throughout the season that I thought Bart would be a guy who gets shuttled up-and-down between Triple-A and San Francisco, and so far he has had two call-ups this year that each spanned just one game. With Buster Posey healthy and playing excellent, the strong performance of Curt Casali in a backup role, and the presence of Chadwick Tromp, the Giants just have not had a need for Bart to stay up at the big league level.
That has nothing to do with his performance, however, as the 24-year-old backstop is mashing at Triple-A, hitting .321/.383/.553 with nine home runs in 41 games played, missing time after getting hit by a pitch on the foot earlier in the year.
Bart struggled in a small big league cameo last year, but the power potential is through the roof and at the catching position, that makes him well worth keeping a close eye on in redraft leagues – particularly with the news that San Francisco may consider moving Bart in the right trade this month.
A surprise contender, Bart would be a tough loss for San Francisco to swallow. However, the aforementioned catching depth and recent selection of Patrick Bailey in the draft would make it easier to take if they could move him for a piece that helps them right away, and it would likely put Bart onto a team with less in the way regarding playing time.
Bart is probably never going to contribute in either the average or OBP categories, but the power is very real and could lead to 25-30 home runs annually when he reaches his peak. At a position that is a dearth of fantasy talent, the potential of Bart to come up and pile on home runs makes him an intriguing stash candidate in deeper redraft leagues – although his struggles last season certainly give some cause for concern.
I’d ultimately settle on putting Bart on the watchlist except in those deeper leagues, but if anything happens to Posey, or if he gets dealt, you’ll want to be on Bart as quick as you can.
7. Drew Waters, OF, ATL — ETA August
Even after acquiring Joc Pederson from the Cubs, the Braves have one of the worst outfields in all of baseball. Ronald Acuña is out for the year, Marcell Ozuna is out for hopefully a very long time, and the team recently DFA’d struggling veteran Ender Inciarte, leaving them with some combination of Abraham Almonte, Guillermo Heredia, Orlando Arcia and Ehire Adrianza to work in the grass.
The team could opt to recall defensive-minded center fielder Cristian Pache from Triple-A, but Pache is a career .119 hitter through his first 67 big league at-bats, so it’s not clear he’d be an immediate upgrade.
If the team is willing to go the prospect route, the best bet right now is Drew Waters, an uber-toolsy outfielder who has been on an absolute tear at Triple-A. Since July 2, Waters is slashing .338/.397/.662 with four home runs and four stolen bases. He’s like a middle child begging for attention – and the outfield-needy Braves have yet to give him that chance.
Waters is a four-tool player without a ton of over-the-fence pop, which does hurt his overall value. He also has strikeout issues which have been prevalent throughout his minor league career, but his overall skill-set is enough to merit a call-up for this Atlanta team, and if this hot streak continues he could be a must-add in all 12-team leagues for the second half of the year.
Those with N/A slots or in deeper leagues may want to stash him away ahead of time, as Atlanta could turn to him as soon as the deadline passes if they still need help in the outfield.
8. Jahmai Jones, 2B, BAL — ETA Late July
Unfortunately, the Orioles front office didn’t care for the piece, as they have been content to let their second basemen slash a combined .197/.258/.288 this season – the worst in the league.
Meanwhile, Jones has been on a nice little tear at Triple-A, slashing .273/.379/.472 with six home runs, seven stolen bases, a 14.6% walk rate and a 21.7% strikeout rate. An oblique injury limited him to just 43 games so far, putting his full season pace at over 20 home runs and steals on the year.
While I don’t necessarily expect Jones to be a 20/20 guy at the next level, he has the tools to be a five category contributor right away – and even moreso in leagues that count OBP. Baltimore should be playing their youngsters this season, they aren’t in contention by any stretch of the imagination, and Jones has proven without a doubt he is ready for the show.
I expect a call is coming very soon for the 23-year-old, and in deeper leagues I would be all over adding him as soon as that happens – if not sooner.
9. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS, BOS — ETA September
Named after Derek Jeter, Jeter Downs has a similar skill-set as a power-speed threat who plays up the middle, although he’s more likely to stick at second base than at shortstop, and is set to begin his big league career in Boston and not New York.
Before he gets to Boston to play second base, however, Downs is cutting his teeth with the new Triple-A Worcester Sox – and he is their starting shortstop. Unfortunately, while Downs rebounded briefly from a really slow start to the season, he is still hitting just .207 with a .281 OBP, along with seven home runs, 12 stolen bases, and an extremely disappointing 62 wRC+. His 8.1% walk rate is solid, but his 30.6% strikeout rate is alarming – especially considering his previous strikeout totals were nowhere near as problematic.
The 23-year-old has been an advanced hitter throughout his minor league career, and his gap power could translate into some over-the-fence pop as he physically matures – and gets the benefit of calling Fenway Park home. He’s an average runner that has shown smarts on the base paths, and there’s absolutely potential for him to be a 20/20 guy at his peak, or at the very least a 15/15 regular who can contribute in BA/OBP formats as well.
Downs only had 12 games of experience above High-A before this season began, which could help explain his strikeout issues at Triple-A this season. He still has plenty to prove before he gets the big call, and while no one is unseating Bogaerts at shortstop, Downs’ competition at second base is some combination of Enrique Hernández, Marwin Gonzalez, Christian Arroyo, and Michael Chavis, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him getting reps by the end of the summer if he can turn things around at the plate with the WooSox – which is unfortunately looking less and less likely by the day.
He is more of a watchlist candidate than anything in most redraft leagues, but in deeper formats, I think he’s worth stashing for those who have the room.
10. Adley Rutschman, C, BAL — ETA September
Rutschman is a tough player to rank on this list. A switch-hitter with premium power and a solid hit tool, Rutschman could easily be among the top 10 catchers in all of fantasy baseball by season’s end – but it will heavily depend on if (or when) he gets called up to the big league club.
Most media outlets don’t expect Rutschman up at all this season, especially with Baltimore way out of the playoff picture, but even a few weeks at the end of the year could be huge for those in deeper fantasy leagues.
Rutschman began the season at Double-A and is displaying his rare combination of power and patience at the plate, boasting 14 home runs and a .227 ISO along with a ridiculous 16.2% walk rate and a slash line of .277/.402/.504. Despite his pedigree and performance, Baltimore has been very slow to promote him to Triple-A, a concern for his debut timeline this season.
The Orioles are still in tank mode, and they are rocking with Pedro Severino and Austin Wynns behind the dish. Rutschman is likely already an upgrade over one, or both of those guys, despite only having 12 games of experience above Low-A heading into this season.
Still, the reports from the team’s alternate training site were extremely positive for the young catcher, and his makeup, poise, advanced skill set, leadership, and potentially elite defense behind the dish make him a prime candidate to rise quickly up the ranks and onto the big league club at least in early 2022, and potentially this season provided Baltimore is willing to give up an additional year of service time for the former Oregon State star.
Getting a good, quality catcher often costs an arm and a leg on draft day, and if you are someone who doesn’t like the look of that spot on your current roster, Rutschman may not be a terrible gamble in formats with deeper benches, as he has the ability to instantly upgrade that position in a major way if he gets a look this season.
Photo from Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)