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.
After making a significant amount of changes to last week’s list, adding four new names, this week’s list is exactly the same. The only change is moving Clarke Schmidt up a few spots, after he successfully ramped up to 62 pitches at Triple-A Scranton.
While the top three names, Luis Gil, Tanner Houck, and Aaron Ashby all threw in the big leagues last week, each of them were sent back down which keeps them eligible for this list. It also makes them very likely to be back in the big leagues before too long, so if they were dropped in your league keep an eye on their potential matchups next week, as they could provide great value as a streamer or even a consistent option for the rest of the 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 ended up getting a look and through three starts this month, he absolutely dominated. Across 15.2 combined innings, Gil has given up zero runs on nine hits and seven walks, while fanning 18. The command concerns are still there (he has a 10.9% walk rate) but it hasn’t hurt him so far, and his emergence has been a huge part of New York’s run down the stretch.
Gil is back in Triple-A now, but after three 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.
The impending returns of Schmidt, Corey Kluber, and Luis Severino could muddy the waters up a bit, especially with Andrew Heaney putting together a solid start recently, but it is clear Gil is the top option for a rotation spot for the final six weeks of the regular season – and his performance thus far merits serious consideration in redraft leagues.
My long-term outlook on Gil isn’t changed too dramatically, 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.
Update: It looks like Gil will start for the Yankees on Sunday, according to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com
Aaron Boone said Luis Gil will likely start Sunday's finale against the Twins, while Jordan Montgomery will get the nod in the series-opener against the Braves in Atlanta.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) August 20, 2021
2. Tanner Houck, RHP, BOS – ETA 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 five starts since July 22, throwing 21.1 innings and posting a ridiculous 31:5 K:BB ratio along with a 2.95 ERA (1.73 FIP) and a 1.08 WHIP. He’s not doing anyone any favors in quality start leagues (his longest outing is five innings) but it is 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 continued demotions are 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 in the big leagues. He’s made two starts, on August 10 and again four days later on August 14, throwing six combined innings with five strikeouts, zero walks, five hits allowed and zero earned runs. Obviously six innings in two starts is not helping those looking for wins or quality starts, but if he does get a chance to go deeper into games come September he could be a great pickup for the stretch run.
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 remains despite an opening in the rotation following Chris Bassitt’s frightening injury.
The A’s opted to go with Paul Blackburn instead of Jefferies, although that may only have been because Jefferies had thrown only four days before Bassitt’s next scheduled start. It is possible, likely even, that Jefferies will take over that spot in the rotation after Blackburn’s start on August 23.
Jefferies’ overall season line at Triple-A may not look great (4.56 ERA, 1.24 WHIP) but he’s really turned things around since the start of July, posting a 4.02 ERA with a 42:5 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 giving him a look after Blackburn’s turn this week.
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. Clarke Schmidt, RHP, NYY – ETA September
Yankees right-hander Clarke Schmidt is on the rise now that he has finally returned 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 tossed 3.2 innings at Double-A on August 11 and then got the call to Triple-A Scranton, where he threw 62 pitches on August 18, giving up just one earned run (a solo shot) while walking one and striking out four.
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’s need for help in the rotation has been well documented this season, and while Luis Gil will be the first call after his successful debut, Schmidt may not be far behind.
There still may be 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, or potentially some nice outings out of the bullpen should he be called upon to serve in that role.
6. Shane Baz, RHP, TB – ETA September
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 Baz’s overall fantasy value.
The 22-year-old finally returned to the mound after getting back from the Olympics, tossing three innings at Triple-A and allowing just one hit (a solo home run) while walking zero and striking out three. It’s unclear how much more work the Rays will want him to get this season, and his profile suggests a player who, if called up, could be used in a relief situation – especially since he only went three innings despite strong numbers earlier this week.
In fact, 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 36:8 K:BB ratio with a 2.08 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.
7. 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. He has yet to return to the mound though, which does make it worth wondering how many more innings he will get this year.
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.
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 has looked pretty solid since then, however, with a stellar 39:10 K:BB ratio this season.
He’s behind Tanner Houck in the Boston pecking order, and the return of Chris Sale makes his services less urgently needed, but he is on the 40-man 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 solid 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 – with a 3.68 ERA and a whopping 37.2% strikeout rate, although his 14.7% walk rate leaves some to be desired.
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, returned Elieser Hernandez from the IL, and is nearing the return of Pablo López as well.
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 24.8% strikeout rate and a palatable 3.74 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. Minnesota’s current rotation is filled with uninspiring options (apologies to Griffin Jax, Bailey Ober, and Charlie Barnes) so it would be nice to see Ryan, Balazovic, and potentially SWR in September.
Others given consideration: Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Matthew Liberatore, Jackson Kowar, Sean Hjelle, Grayson Rodriguez, Deivi García, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Jake Eder, MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Pepiot
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