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.
Lots of changes to the list, as Phillies right-hander Spencer Howard and Rays right-hander Brent Honeywell were recalled this past week, although both are being used in relief for the time being. While they both graduate from this list, those in redraft leagues will want to keep an eye on their respective situations – if either of them step into a starting role at some point they could be worth picking up.
The Rays are apparently going to use Honeywell as a false starter as well, which makes him worth a look in deeper leagues – and of course he could always step into a lengthier starting role in the event of injury/ineffectiveness from Tampa’s other starting pitchers.
Another pair of prospects, Miguel Yajure and Tanner Houck, got called up and sent back down this past week, and while my list previously included Yajure and did not include Houck, I have decided to flip them in part because of the lack of velocity in Yajure’s outing – which runs counter to what a lot of reports had said about his velo – and the impressive showing from Houck, who settled in after giving up a leadoff home run and looked solid for Boston against a quality Chicago lineup.
It looks like we are inching closer to a season debut for Deivi Garcia as well, and the big league debuts of “the big three” are on the horizon, making them even more appealing as stash candidates for those who have the roster flexibility.
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 in Detroit away from less than inspiring veterans Jose Urena and/or Julio Teheran, but a resurgence from Michael Fulmer and the very productive return from the COVID-IL by Spencer Turnbull will make 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 appear set to stick 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, primarily so that his innings limit doesn’t expire during the campaign.
That means I’m pushing back my prediction on Gilbert’s overall timeline to join the team until early June – even though my confidence in his talent has not waned. He recently threw a 42-pitch outing at the team’s alternate site and reportedly looked absolutely dominant, so he is building his way toward a starter’s workload, but it still looks like he is a few weeks away at least.
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 velocity 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
Garcia looked on track to make the Yankees out of camp, but a strong spring from Domingo German curbed those plans and had Garcia traveling with the team on the taxi squad instead. However, it looks like Garcia may get the call as soon as Monday with the team in need of an additional starter over the next few weeks.
Whether he sticks around remains to be seen, but Garcia is clearly the next man up when the team needs a legit starter – and not a bullpen game scenario like they did last week with Michael King and Nick Nelson.
So while Garcia’s time is quite literally right around the corner, the reason he is not higher on this list is that – while his stuff is legit – I’m not sure he will hold up as a full-time starter, at least during the 2021 season.
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 campaign.
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 a guaranteed roster spot even in 12-teamers.
I think he’s a fine stash candidate in deeper leagues or AL-only formats, and with his impending call-up I’ll be keeping a close eye on him in shallower leagues as well. He’s not a must add if he does make a start this weekend, but if he pitches well and looks like he’s going to hold down a roster spot, I’d be happy to give him a speculative add.
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 June
With Adrian Morejon joining Mike Clevinger on the Tommy John list last week, the Padres had an opening in their rotation. 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 looked absolutely outstanding against the Dodgers, and he clearly remains ahead of Gore in the pecking order. With Dinelson Lamet expected to return to the rotation very soon, that pushes Gore down to No. 7 in line for starts for the time being.
Of course, Lamet’s health is far from a sure thing at this point, and the team’s decision to rush him back from an injury without even conducting an MRI is eyebrow-raising to say the very least. To me it signals even less confidence in Gore than I had originally thought, which makes it hard to know when (or if?) he will get a look this season.
There’s also this:
I heard from a reliable source that #Padres left-hander MacKenzie Gore is suffering from "the Y's" (yips). It would explain San Diego's silence about their top pitching prospect over the past year. Certainly not something he can't overcome, but worth monitoring @PitcherList
— Andy Patton (@andypattonPNW) April 24, 2021
Gore spent 2020 at the team’s alternate site, making data on his performance virtually impossible to come by because the team did not release any video from the field. That really means all we have to go on is how the Padres have treated him, and him not making the team out of camp in 2021 and not getting a look just yet has me concerned.
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 the yips.
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 will be 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. Tanner Houck, RHP, BOS – ETA May
As of this writing, Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck is back at the team’s alternate site. However, he’s already made three appearances for Boston this season, so his return to the big leagues could be imminent -and considering the struggles of Nick Pivetta and Garrett Richards, it’s entirely possible the next time he is up he will be up to stay.
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.
So far in 2021 he’s pitched 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. 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.
Houck may continue to get shuttled between Boston and the alternate site (and eventually Triple-A) but he’s 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 day for the Sox.
6. 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 was evidently first in the pecking order, while Honeywell got a chance to make his major league debut in a spot start, and is now operating out of Tampa’s bullpen for the time being.
That tells me that Patino is, at best, the team’s No. 7 starter at the moment, and it is entirely possible any of Tampa’s other elite pitching prospects 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 rostered 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 is 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.
7. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, OAK – ETA June
The two inning start from A’s right-hander Daulton Jefferies last year didn’t exactly go to plan, making my GIF Breakdown of the event a little sadder, but there’s still a lot of optimism that he will turn into a high quality starting pitcher for Oakland in the near future – potentially as soon as this year.
He’s currently at the team’s alternate site while Cole Irvin takes the rotation spot vacated by the Mike Fiers injury, but Oakland’s rotation as a whole has dealt with a handful of injuries, and it looks right now like Jefferies will be the first man up if/when they need a rotation filler.
After getting picked 37th overall in 2016, Jefferies only managed to make three appearances in 2017 and 2018 combined thanks to a trip under the knife to have Tommy John surgery. He returned to the bump in 2019 and reminded everyone why he was such a heralded selection, posting a ridiculous 93:9 K:BB ratio in 73 innings, with most of his work coming at Double-A.
He had an excellent spring, pitching to a 1.50 ERA with an excellent 24/6 K/BB ratio in 18 innings against Triple-A quality opponents, but he still has very little MiLB experience under his belt (only 99.1 innings) so there’s a chance the team wants to see more seasoning out of him before he earns a rotation spot for good.
If you are in a deeper league and have a spot to hold someone, Jefferies is a decent bet to pitch some big league innings in the near future. He may not be as polished as a Manning or a Gilbert, however, even if his season debut could be coming soon.
8. 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 Sanchez at the moment, but Cabrera is still slowly recovering from an injury of his own, only recently progressing to throwing from 105 feet. His timeline right now is very unclear, so despite Miami’s injury woes 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.
9. 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 began 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. The lanky left-hander 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.
Much like Cabrera, Lynch has not 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.
10. Alek Manoah, RHP, TOR – ETA September
Manoah is the player on this list that I am least confident makes the big leagues this season, but he’s hard to ignore after a truly dominating spring training performance that included an 11-strikeout performance against the Yankees (like, the real Yankees lineup) just a few weeks ago.
Manoah is a top pitching prospect who is 23 years old and is already having success against big league hitters, which is why he’s on this list, but the 11th overall pick in 2019 has only thrown 17 minor league innings, all coming at Low-A about two years ago.
With no experience in the upper levels of the minor leagues, and not a lot of build up on his arm to suggest he could handle a full season’s worth of starts, Manoah’s range of outcomes for this year is extremely wide.
Of course, he’s a high-ranking prospect with a 60-grade fastball and a potentially 70-grade wipeout slider, and while his command is suspect at this point, it’s well within the scope of possibilities that he’s throwing meaningful innings for this Toronto squad by the end of the year.
He’s only worth rostering right now in dynasty leagues or very, very deep/AL-only redraft leagues, but he’s a pitching prospect I will have a close eye on once the minor league season begins, and as a 23-year-old, polished college arm, he could be a quick riser to the big leagues.
Removed: Miguel Yajure
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