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.
The mid-April service time deadline has passed, and MLB teams can now call up top prospects without fear of losing an additional year of team control down the line.
This is great news for some of the game’s most notable pitching prospects, including Logan Gilbert, MacKenzie Gore, and Matt Manning, although I don’t feel like any of them are necessarily going to get the ball right away – and in fact it may be another month or so before we see any of this “big three” in the major leagues.
Additionally, Tampa Bay’s decision to give Josh Fleming a rotation spot as well as a spot-start to Brent Honeywell has altered the list, with Honeywell jumping up to No. 5 (now that he was sent back down), and Luis Patino dropping now that it is clear he is further down in the pecking order.
The rest of the list for this week won’t undergo any major changes – although the timelines have been updated for a few players now that some time has passed early in the 2021 campaign.
Without further ado, here is the first look at the top 10 pitching prospects to stash in the first week of the 2021 MLB season.
1. Matt Manning, RHP, DET – ETA June
There are a lot of similarities between Matt Manning and Seattle’s Logan Gilbert. Both are on bad teams, both dominated in Double-A back in 2019, both had positive reports at the alternate site in 2020, and both are big right-handers with electric secondaries who should be high-quality fantasy contributors throughout their major league careers.
While Manning was already ahead of Gilbert in my dynasty rankings, I now have him above Gilbert for 2021 as well – although his timeline for a call-up is not necessarily any more concrete than Gilbert’s at the moment.
My initial thought was that Manning would quickly take a rotation spot away from less than inspiring veterans Jose Urena and/or Julio Teheran, but a resurgence from Michael Fulmer and the expected return of Spencer Turnbull makes earning a spot in this rotation a surprisingly difficult task, particularly if fellow prospects Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal continue to pitch well enough to stick around.
If both Manning and Gilbert are going to arrive around the same time, I’d rather roster Manning down the stretch – but it really all depends on when they finally get the call.
Manning, a first-round pick back in 2016, flat-out dominated Double-A hitters in 2019, posting a 2.56 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP with a 28.1% strikeout rate for Erie. He looked more polished than both Mize and Skubal at that level, despite his age, and will head into 2021 in his age-23 season.
Manning’s fastball gets up into the high-90’s and earned a 60 grade from Fangraphs, while his curveball (60) and changeup (55) look like plus offerings as well. Command is a bit of a concern, although it has gotten better as he’s risen through the system and still gets a 55-grade future value.
I think Manning has the tools to be a true ace, although a more realistic outcome is a very high-end No. 2 starter. Those ceilings probably don’t show up until 2022, at the earliest, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on more fantasy rosters at the end of the 2021 campaign than any other pitcher Detroit has currently on their team – and if you can stash him now you could be rewarded quite handsomely come September.
2. Logan Gilbert, RHP, SEA – ETA June
The Seattle Mariners are sticking with a six-man rotation for the 2021 season, even after an unfortunate early injury to veteran left-hander James Paxton, who will miss the rest of the 2021 campaign to undergo Tommy John surgery. For now, Seattle is using right-hander Ljay Newsome and left-hander Nick Margevicius to fill that role, although top prospect Logan Gilbert is certainly a candidate to take a rotation spot this summer.
Gilbert is almost certainly going to debut in 2021, the team has basically confirmed that, but recent reports indicate the team is planning to be careful with their prized young arms, including Gilbert, and he is more likely to log innings with Seattle in the second half of the year, rather than the first few months, especially so his innings limit doesn’t run out during the campaign.
That means I’m pushing Gilbert’s overall timeline to join the team until early June, which knocks him down a spot on this list – even though my confidence in his talent has not waned.
Gilbert made it up to Double-A in 2019 where he threw 50 innings and posted a 2.88 ERA with a 0.98 WHIP and a 28.7% strikeout rate. Reports from the team’s alternate training site in 2020 were extremely promising, and Gilbert benefited from Seattle’s pitching-focused training regimen that has helped add velocity and movement for a ton of their pitching prospects.
Gilbert was up to 97 with wicked movement over the offseason, and that velo bump paired with his 60-grade command and three average-to-plus secondaries make him a potential No. 2/3 big league starter. Whether he reaches that potential in 2021 remains to be seen, obviously, but if you are looking for a pitching prospect to stash in deeper redraft leagues, or just have an extra roster spot and want to find someone to wait on for later in the year, Gilbert is as good a candidate as any on the pitching side of things.
3. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY – ETA April/May
Garcia battled in spring training for that fifth and final rotation spot in New York, eventually losing out to Domingo German and getting sent down to Triple-A to begin the season. German has now been sent to the team’s alternate site – but instead of calling on Garcia the Bronx Bombers piggyback’d Nick Nelson and Michael King on Friday against the Rays, passing up an opportunity to get the flame-throwing right-hander back to the big leagues.
That setback notwithstanding, I still think Garcia has a chance to be one of, if not the first, pitcher on this list called up to the big leagues this season. The reason he is not higher is that, while his stuff is legit, I’m not sure he will hold up as a full-time starter.
Garcia is just 5’9″ and 165 pounds, and while he had plenty of success in his six starts with New York last year, it’s fair to wonder if his “power pitcher” approach will hold up for a full season.
Last year in those six starts, Garcia posted an excellent 33/6 K/BB ratio, but a 4.98 ERA thanks largely to a 1.57 HR/9. His command was never all that great in the minor leagues, and while he has a current 50 grade from Fangraphs, fantasy players shouldn’t expect a sub-5% walk rate from Garcia going forward.
Ultimately, Garcia’s fantasy value this year will be tied to the health of New York’s current rotation (as well as Luis Severino) but while I’m inclined to believe he could see upwards of 100 innings in the Bronx in 2021, I’m not sure the performance will be worth the wait.
I think he’s a fine stash candidate in deeper leagues or AL-only formats, but otherwise, I’d keep him on the watch list and be ready to pounce when he does get called up, which could happen early in the year. Smaller power pitchers are inherently riskier than other pitching prospect archetypes, but Marcus Stroman is a prime example of why it’s not worth completely disregarding them altogether.
4. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD – ETA May
With Adrian Morejon joining Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet on the injured list this week, the Padres had an opening for a starter to face Walker Buehler epic Friday night showdown against the Dodgers.
Many thought, or at least hoped, that uber prospect MacKenzie Gore would get that opportunity, but instead the team opted to give Ryan Weathers his first career start. Weathers apparently remains ahead of Gore in the pecking order, and with Lamet expected to return to the rotation very soon, that pushes Gore down to No. 7, with Morejon’s health potentially pushing him as far as eighth in line for starts. Blegh.
Gore spent 2020 at the team’s alternate site, making data on his performance virtually impossible to come by, with the team refusing to release any video from the field.
That really means all we have to go on is how the Padres reacted to him, and getting glossed over by a handful of other prospects, and not making the team out of camp in 2021 when Morejon did, gives me some cause for concern.
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.
Of course, he’s just 22 years old and his 2019 season was absolutely electric in the Cal League, so he finds himself in a favorable spot on this list regardless of the mystery surrounding his last 12 months.
Gore is a must-add in all formats when he does eventually get the call, and 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’s a tougher sell to roster him in 12-teamers right now, but if you have a spot and are hoping for a boost later this year, Gore could easily provide that and more.
I’m confident Gore will be worth the wait when he does get the call – and he easily has the potential to be an ace from day one – but I’m more cautious than I was at this time one year ago.
5. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB – ETA April
It was a long, long time coming for right-hander Brent Honeywell, who made his major league debut earlier this week – 1,300 days after his last minor league appearance back in 2017. Four surgeries and a lot of heartache came in between, but the electric right-hander with an excellent screwball looked excellent in two innings against the Yankees, even getting a GIF breakdown from our very own Nick Pollack.
So it seems that, as long as he stays healthy, Honeywell is next in line for the Rays now that Josh Fleming has a rotation spot. With a group of starting pitchers that have a lot of age and injury history among them, this could mean many more opportunities for Honeywell to appear in the big leagues – although he’ll face competition from Shane McClanahan, Trevor Richards, Luis Patino, Joe Ryan, Brendan McKay and Shane Baz.
Still, if you are in a deep league and you picked up Honeywell for his outing earlier this week, it couldn’t hurt to hold onto him for a little longer to see how he does when he gets his next shot – which frankly could be anytime in Tampa.
6. Spencer Howard, RHP, PHI – ETA April
After a largely unsuccessful (albeit rather unlucky) big league cameo in 2020, right-hander Spencer Howard began the season at the team’s alternate training site while the Phillies roll out a pair of veterans in Chase Anderson and Matt Moore to round out the rotation. Howard did get a call during a double-header this week, throwing one inning in relief and giving up a run on two hits.
Howard is a near-lock to get another look in the big leagues sooner rather than later, but recent reports indicate he will be used primarily as a reliever to start the year, as he was on Tuesday, in order to keep his inning count down and to keep him fresh for a potential playoff run in September.
If Howard does make starts, according to Phillies GM Dave Dombrowski, they will be two to three-inning appearances – and more likely than not he will be used in middle relief.
This is probably a good thing for Howard’s long term development, and I still think he’s a top 60 prospect in all of baseball, but it makes his status as a fantasy asset in 2021 a bit murky. I still believe in the talent but for now, he is more of a 2022 asset than a 2021 option, and unless you are in a very deep league he’s probably not worth rostering unless plans change and he does find himself in a regular rotation spot.
Still, deep-league players will want to keep a close eye on him.
7. Luis Patiño, RHP, TB – ETA June
Patino was the most difficult player for me to rank on this list. For starters, he is on a team that is loaded with big-league ready or near big league ready prospects. In addition to a full rotation of veterans, Tampa Bay is sitting on Josh Fleming, Shane McClanahan, Trevor Richards, Brent Honeywell, Joe Ryan, Brendan McKay and Shane Baz.
Chris Archer‘s injury cleared a spot for Fleming, who is evidently first in the pecking order, while Honeywell got a chance to make his major league debut in a spot start before quickly being sent down.
That tells me that Patino is, at best, the team’s No. 7 starter at the moment, and it is entirely possible any of the other pitchers will get a look before him as well – making him an extremely risky but enticing stash option in deeper leagues.
In my mind, the 21-year-old right-hander is the most promising pitching prospect of the bunch, but his age and the fact that Tampa Bay hasn’t had him for very long makes me wonder how much they want to see from him in the minor leagues before they give him a chance to really compete for a rotation spot.
There’s also the very real risk he ends up in the bullpen, either as a follower for a one-inning opener or in a dynamic multi-inning relief role. And, even if he does find his way into a regular rotation role, his value is capped significantly in leagues that count quality starts because of Tampa Bay’s reliance on going to the bullpen early.
All that makes me a little wary of how much he will contribute in 2021, but his overall talent level remains elite – which makes him a high-risk, high-reward stash candidate for this year.
Patino boasts a 65-grade fastball that gets up into the high-90’s, and his command is impeccable, although inconsistent mechanics have been an issue for him in the past – likely thanks to his overall lack of experience as a pitcher, stemming from his prior background as an infielder.
Still, while concern about his size remains prevalent, I see a guy who can be a high-end starter at the big league level, thanks to that rising fastball velocity and a pair of strong secondaries in his slider and changeup. He may not reach that peak in 2021, but in deeper leagues he is not a bad stash while we wait and see what Tampa Bay ultimately ends up doing with him.
8. Miguel Yajure, RHP, PIT – ETA June
Acquired in the Jameson Taillon trade this offseason, Yajure is a 22-year-old right-hander who made three appearances out of the bullpen for the Yankees in 2020, striking out eight and walking five in seven innings of work.
Yajure profiled as a backend starter early in his career, thanks to his advanced pitchability but relatively underwhelming stuff, but a velocity spike in 2019 had him hitting 97 and rising up to Double-A after absolutely dominating hitters in High-A. He now boasts five pitches, a fastball, cutter, changeup, curveball, and slider, and many of them have looked like above-average offerings.
That, coupled with his 50-grade command, has him on the radar as a potential mid-rotation starter and a guy who should be on a lot of top 100 prospects by midseason – if he isn’t already carving up big league hitters with Pittsburgh.
Yajure could benefit from more seasoning in the minor leagues, but if he looks good in the upper levels the Pirates won’t have much choice but to give him a look at the big league level, especially considering the lack of depth in their system and on their current club. He’s more of an NL-only flyer for right now, but he’s worth keeping on the watchlist in deeper redraft leagues, as he’ll likely put together some solid outings later this summer.
9. Edward Cabrera, RHP, MIA – ETA July
I thought the Marlins were going to give right-hander Edward 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 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.
The Marlins are down both Elieser Hernandez and Sixto Sanchez at the moment, but Cabrera is still slowly recovering from an injury of his own, only recently progressing to throwing from about 75 feet. That slows his timeline down even further, despite Miami’s injury woes, and at this point I wouldn’t expect to see him before the middle of the season – at best.
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, especially if they get healthy, it would not be surprising to see Cabrera fill in at some point down the stretch.
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.
10. Daniel Lynch, LHP, KC – ETA July
The Royals are quietly a team on the rise, armed with a bevy of young pitching and a superstar in the making in Bobby Witt Jr. While many of their young pitchers are already in the big leagues, including Brady Singer, the team can also look forward to the eventual promotions of Asa Lacy, Jackson Kowar, and Daniel Lynch – as well as a return to the show from Kris Bubic, who is beginning the season in the minors after making his debut last year.
Lacy is probably a 2022 guy, at best, while both Lynch and Kowar should get a chance to strut their stuff in the big leagues at some point this summer.
Despite all the talented arms in this system, Lynch is arguably the most appealing, or he’s at least second behind Lacy. Lynch is a huge left-hander who is armed with an elite fastball/slider combo and an additional pair of solid secondaries in his curveball and changeup.
When you toss in his developing cutter and potential 55-grade command, you have all the makings of a mid-rotation starter with plus strikeout potential, and the polish to potentially contribute right away as a 23-year-old, despite only making 15 appearances at High-A in 2019.
Lynch also hasn’t shown that strikeout potential in-game action just yet, and while I fully believe he can develop into an average or even above-average strikeout guy, it may not happen this season if and when he gets the call. All told, he is more of an arm to monitor than one to stash at this point, although I’d happily store him in deeper formats or AL-only leagues, even if KC currently has a full rotation and has gotten surprisingly strong performances from Jakob Junis.
He’ll get a look at some point this year, and there is a good chance he’ll be a priority pick up if/when that happens.
Added: Brent Honeywell
Removed: Alek Manoah
Others given consideration: Jackson Kowar, DL Hall, Shane Baz, Bryse Wilson, Brendan McKay, Josiah Gray, Jackson Rutledge, Shane McClanahan, Alek Manoah, Nick Lodolo, Brailyn Marquez, Daulton Jefferies
Photo from Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)