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.
We are getting to that point folks. The point in the season where stashing prospects has far, far more to do with the specific needs of the team – rather than the excitement about the player. Grayson Rodriguez, Matthew Liberatore and Nick Lodolo may be super fun, top-tier pitching prospects, but I don’t feel they merit a spot on this list anymore – the risk of them not coming up at all is not worth taking outside of extremely deep leagues. I’d rather hitch my wagon to the prospects who have already pitched in the big leagues, a la Daulton Jefferies and Aaron Ashby, even if the overall upside isn’t as appealing as it may be for some of baseball’s highest ranking arms.
In addition to the other names removed, I had to slide Hunter Greene off the list after he was scratched from a recent start. While the report states he is expected to make his next outing, he’s already at 85 innings on the year and there is virtually no way he is called up as anything more than a reliever, if he even gets called up at all.
That leaves us with a very new-look list for this week, and likely for the next few weeks as we round out the 2021 season.
Without further ado, here is the first look at the top 10 pitching prospects to stash in 2021 redraft formats.
1. Luis Gil, RHP, NYY – ETA Late August
Predicting pitching prospects has always been a tricky endeavor, not just in terms of when they will debut but how they will fare. Luis Gil is a great example of this. Sure, he was a decently high-ranking prospect in New York’s system heading into the season, and yes his strikeout numbers were outstanding at both Double-A and Triple-A, but shaky command and what didn’t look like a clear need at the big league level pushed him off my radar in redraft formats. I figured if anything the team would turn back to Deivi Garcia, who is still struggling, or would wait it out for Clarke Schmidt’s return (more on him later).
Instead, Gil was not only promoted for a pair of starts in early August, he absolutely dominated. Across 11 combined innings, Gil gave up zero runs on just six hits and three walks, while fanning 14. So much for those concerns about the command.
Gil is back in Triple-A now, but after two excellent big league appearances and with New York trying everything they can to stay in the hunt, it’s an easy call to have the 23-year-old in the top spot this week. I can’t imagine he’ll be down for too long, even with Schmidt and Luis Severino on the way back, especially with the struggles of Andrew Heaney as of late.
My long-term outlook on Gil isn’t changed too dramatically by a pair of nice starts (against the Orioles and Mariners) but for this season he’s absolutely worth stashing in deeper redraft formats. He’ll likely be back soon, and his strikeout stuff alone could be a huge boost for fantasy teams down the stretch.
2. Tanner Houck, RHP, BOS – ETA Mid-August
The Red Sox have continued to shuffle right-hander Tanner Houck between Worcester and Boston, with the expectation that he will be back up with the big club early next week. Those who have been rostering him in redraft leagues have likely learned to keep holding onto him – but if he is available in your league he’s probably worth snagging.
Houck has now made four starts since July 22, throwing 17.1 innings and posting a ridiculous 29:5 K:BB ratio along with a 2.60 ERA (1.45 FIP) and a 1.04 WHIP. He’s not doing anyone any favors in quality start leagues (his longest outing is five innings) but it’s hard not to like what he’s given Boston, and fantasy owners, so far this season.
The return of Chris Sale may hinder Houck’s outlook this year, but the demotion of both Garrett Richards and Martin Pérez to the bullpen should allow him to make more starts down the stretch. In fact, Red Sox manager Alex Cora more or less confirmed Houck would be back soon, implying his demotion was more about roster flexibility than anything else.
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. Now his command has looked impeccable, and while that may not last his ridiculous breaking ball and high strikeout totals make him worth rostering in most formats, even while he is still getting toyed with by Boston’s front office.
Houck is worth rostering in deeper redraft leagues without a doubt, and could easily make himself a must-own in 12-teamers if he actually gets a chance to take the ball every fifth (or sixth) day for the Sox down the stretch.
3. Aaron Ashby, LHP, MIL – ETA Late August
Much ado was made about the, shall we say, poor performance of Brewers left-hander Aaron Ashby in his big league debut. After surrendering seven runs (four earned) in just 0.2 innings on June 30, Ashby went back down to Triple-A and gave up seven earned runs in his next two outings – which really started to worry fans and prospect analysts alike.
Ashby responded by knocking out five great starts in a row (2.08 ERA, 38:6 K:BB over 21.2 innings) before getting another shot at a big league start on August 10. He only went two innings, but didn’t give up any runs on just two hits with one strikeout and no walks. He’s back in Triple-A for now, but as Paul Sporer noted he could be used to help spell Milwaukee’s three aces down the stretch.
Milwaukee may not have any obvious openings in their rotation, but it’s hard not to imagine Ashby getting another look if indeed something opens up – as he has the tools (namely his wicked slider) to make an impact for one of the best teams in baseball down the stretch.
Those in deeper redraft leagues should keep an eye on him, even if he got scorched his first time out it doesn’t seem likely to happen again. Look at fellow left-hander Daniel Lynch from the Royals as an example.
4. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, OAK – ETA Late August
It took longer than most expected, but A’s right-hander Daulton Jefferies finally made his season debut on August 1, replacing James Kaprielian who was dealing with a shoulder injury. Jefferies looked solid, tossing five innings and giving up three earned runs on three hits along with three walks and three strikeouts. He was denied a second shot at the rotation once Kaprielian was cleared to return, and ended up back in Triple-A – where he will await the next opportunity to fill-in the big league rotation.
Jefferies’ overall season line at Triple-A may not look great (4.98 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) but he’s really turned things around since the start of July, posting a 3.60 ERA with a 29:3 K:BB ratio – although he remains home run prone.
Still, Jefferies possesses plus command of a solid three-pitch mix, and could help fantasy teams plenty down the stretch if he get called back 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 if Oakland ends up needing his services because of injury or ineffectiveness to any of their current starters.
He may not be the sexiest, most overpowering guy, but he has the potential to be very helpful in the dog days and toward the end of the year. Those deciding between Ashby and Jefferies will have to weigh the high-ceiling of Ashby vs. his low floor, whereas Jefferies offers a higher baseline but a limited ceiling.
5. Shane Baz, RHP, TB – ETA Late August
Perhaps the pitcher I’ve had the hardest time ranking on this list is Baz, the electric right-hander for Tampa Bay. Baz’s numbers this year are outstanding, but an assignment with Team USA in the Olympics and a crowded group of young pitchers in Tampa make him a tough one to pin down for this season – not to mention his potential to serve as a relief ace, which is good for Tampa Bay but bad for his fantasy value.
The 22-year-old is just now getting back from the Olympics and has yet to pitch in affiliated ball since his return. It’s unclear how much more work the Rays will want him to get this season, if any, and his profile suggests a player who, if called up, could be used in a relief situation as opposed to starting games.
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 similarly to Shane McClanahan if he ends up in the rotation – but as stated already, he could find himself 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.
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 jumped quickly up to Triple-A and through his first five starts there the 22-year-old flame-thrower posted a 33:8 K:BB ratio with a 1.96 ERA.
Quality start leagues can probably afford to wait on Baz, but in deeper leagues that count wins or have an extra reward for strikeouts, Baz is definitely worth stashing. His performance this season should merit a call to the big club before the year is up.
6. Joe Ryan, RHP, MIN – ETA September
Joe Ryan and Shane Baz left for the Olympics together as teammates but came back on different squads after the Rays sent Ryan to Minnesota as part of the Nelson Cruz deal. This is good news for fantasy players who roster him, as Ryan’s path to a big-league rotation spot in 2021 is more clear in Minnesota than it was in Tampa Bay.
After cruising to a 3.63 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP, 34.9% strikeout rate, and 4.7% walk rate across 12 appearances in Triple-A, as well as striking out 10 with just one walk in 4 2/3 innings with Team USA, it’s pretty clear the 25-year-old is ready for the show.
Armed with a deceptive fastball that he locates up in the zone, Ryan has the tools to be a mid-rotation starter right now. Minnesota is not playing for anything other than pride at this point, and giving fans a glimpse of the future by showcasing Ryan (and potentially Jordan Balazovic or Simeon Woods-Richardson) would be a nice way to end what has been a disappointing season up north.
Fans in deeper redraft leagues might want to use a small amount of FAAB or an extra roster spot on Ryan before he gets the call, as he could be a hot add in the final month of the season.
7. Clarke Schmidt, RHP, NYY – ETA September
Yankees right-hander Clarke Schmidt makes his first official appearance on the stash list after finally getting activated from the IL, where he spent the entire season with an elbow strain. He was sent to Triple-A Scranton for the time being, but as he continues to ramp up his workload it would not be a surprise at all to see the 25-year-old right-hander back in the big league rotation after making three appearances (one start) for the Yankees in 2020.
Schmidt’s stuff has never been questioned, he possesses a hard fastball and a devastating breaking ball, along with an average changeup and solid command. The injury history is no doubt worrisome long term, but as long as he successfully ramps back up this year he is worth considering. New York is in need of reinforcements, and while Luis Gil will be the first call after his successful debut, Schmidt may not be far behind.
His most recent outing was 3.2 innings at Double-A, so there is still some arm strength to build up, but those in deeper redraft leagues should look to stash him for what could be a few fun starts in September.
8. Connor Seabold, RHP, BOS – ETA September
The other pitcher acquired in Philadelphia’s ill-fated Nick Pivetta for Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman trade, Connor Seabold didn’t make it to Triple-A Worcester until late July thanks to an elbow issue. He’s looked pretty solid since then, however, with a stellar 34:9 K:BB ratio this season. He takes a tumble on this list this week mostly to make room for guys with big league experience like Gil, Houck, and Jefferies, but the impending return of Chris Sale doesn’t help his case either. Seabold is on the 40-man, however, and seems like a decent bet to get a look over struggling veterans Garrett Richards and Martin Pérez, who were both sent to the bullpen ostensibly for the remainder of the year.
Seabold has never been a super highly rated prospect, but he has plus command of a very nice fastball/changeup mix with two decent breaking balls in there as well. If one of those two offerings can step into the plus category, he easily has the makings of a back end of the rotation starter.
In Boston, where pitching is a huge need, Seabold should get a look at the big league level sooner rather than later – and while I don’t think he’ll change anybody’s season in the last month, he could provide a handful of quality starts down the stretch, which is worth rostering in many deeper redraft leagues.
9. Edward Cabrera, RHP, MIA – ETA September
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 threw 26 innings and posted a ridiculous 33:6 K:BB ratio, along with a 2.77 ERA and a 0.96 FIP.
That earned him a call to join the Triple-A squad, and he has looked pretty darn good at that level as well, posting a 12 strikeout outing on July 30 across just 4.2 innings.
I thought the Marlins were going to give the right-hander 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 Sanchez, with 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.
While Cabrera has excellent stuff, solid command, and a developing out pitch with his changeup – the path to a rotation spot in Miami looks exceptionally murky at the moment, especially after the team acquired Jesús Luzardo at the deadline, and is now close to getting both Elieser Hernandez and Pablo López back off the injured list.
Still, it would not be too surprising to see Cabrera fill in at some point as the season goes on, especially now that he is up in Triple-A. The Marlins have had plenty of success developing pitching over the last few years, and Cabrera (along with stud lefty Jake Eder) could be next in line.
Those in deeper redraft leagues might want to find a spot for him if he is still available, even if his timeline is less clear, as the end-of-season results could be well worth it.
10. Jordan Balazovic, RHP, MIN – ETA September
The Twins did a great job of revamping their pitching depth on the farm at the trade deadline, acquiring Joe Ryan and Simeon Woods-Richardson in trades involving Nelson Cruz and José Berríos, respectively. While Ryan is probably first in line for a promotion, I have the incumbent Jordan Balazovic ahead of Woods-Richardson, at least for this year.
Balazovic, a 2016 fifth-rounder out of Canada, has shown flashes of excellence at Double-A this season, posting a 26.2% strikeout rate and a palatable 3.84 ERA, which came up quite a bit thanks to back-to-back starts of six earned runs, although he rebounded with six shutout innings earlier this past week. Prior to his two blowups, Balazovic had a streak of four straight scoreless outings from June 30 through July 20, a great sign of what could be to come for the hard-throwing right-hander.
Balazovic is 22, two years older than Woods-Richardson, and didn’t put extra innings on his arm at the Olympics like SWR did. While I think Woods-Richardson is the better long-term pitcher, if I was trying to find a dart throw for the final month of the 2021 season, Balazovic would be my guy.
Removed: Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Matthew Liberatore, Sean Hjelle
Others given consideration: Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Matthew Liberatore, Jackson Kowar, Sean Hjelle, Grayson Rodriguez, Deivi García, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Jake Eder, Roansy Contreras, MacKenzie Gore, Spencer Strider
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