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 big news of last week was the call-up of electric left-hander Shane McClanahan by the Rays. McClanahan looked outstanding in his first regular season game (he debuted in the playoffs last year) and could conceivably stick around in the rotation, or at least on Tampa’s roster, going forward. I’m absolutely on board with adding him in most formats, although quality starts will certainly be a tougher sell because of Tampa’s tendency to pull starters early.
It also looks like Tampa is keeping Luis Patino on the active roster for the time being, potentially piggy-backing with McClanahan, which pushed Brent Honeywell back to the minor leagues. Honeywell will take Patino’s spot on the list, with the expectation that he will pitch plenty more innings with Tampa this year – although perhaps not in a role that is conducive to fantasy relevance.
Moving on to non-Tampa related news, Deivi Garcia made his season debut last week, throwing four innings and looking good, but not great, before getting sent back to the alternate site after the game. Expect more of that from Garcia in the short-term, although he could eventually earn a permanent spot in the rotation if Domingo German continues to struggle, or if an injury befalls someone else in New York’s rotation.
Lastly, I’d been refraining from adding Nate Pearson to this list because, like Sixto Sanchez, I assumed he would be with the big club as soon as he was no longer injured. That proved incorrect, as Pearson was recently removed from the IL but added to the team’s alternate training site, with the expectation he will report to Triple-A when the season begins. That allows him to find his way onto the list for this week.
The rest of the list remains mostly the same as we await what should be a fun summer of MLB debuts across the league.
Without further ado, here is the first look at the top 10 pitching prospects to stash in 2021 redraft formats.
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.
Additionally, it now looks like both players will begin the 2021 season in Triple-A, not a surprise considering both were in Double-A to end the 2019 season. Manning is expected not only to start opening day for Toledo, but he will get an outing at the team’s alternate site first, a good sign the Tigers are invested in getting him ramped up for a potentially early summer call-up to the show.
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 in the big leagues 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
Like Manning, Gilbert is going to start the season at Triple-A with the Tacoma Rainiers, getting himself ramped up for what should be a June call-up to the major leagues, where he will likely work for the rest of the season.
Gilbert 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 full starter’s workload, but for now it still looks like he is a few weeks away – although he should pitch lengthy outings once the Triple-A season begins.
Picking between Gilbert and Manning is basically a coin flip at this point, as both prospects appear on a similar path to the big leagues and should have solid success throughout the summer months, playing for not-so-good teams in cavernous parks.
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. Nate Pearson, RHP, TOR – ETA June
Electric right-hander Nate Pearson is finally healthy after suffering a groin strain at the beginning of spring training, an injury he reaggravated which caused him to miss the rest of spring and the start of the big league season. I expected him to make the team as soon as he was healthy, but it looks like Toronto will send him down to the team’s alternate site for the time being, allowing him to start the year at Triple-A.
That makes him a stash candidate, and I’ll slot him in at No. 3 here thanks to his proximity to the big leagues and ability to contribute right away – although there is plenty of risk involved in the 24-year-old hurler. Not only are injuries a nagging issue for Pearson, his performance at the big league level last year was nothing to write home about.
Pearson made five appearances for Toronto last year across 18 innings, surrendering five home runs and walking 13, finishing with a 6.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and just a 19.8% strikeout rate. He’s a two pitch pitcher with a great fastball and a wipeout slider, but his command is shaky and his changeup and curveball look like below average offerings at best.
Two pitch starters have succeeded before, but Pearson’s profile suggest a lot of volatility, at best, and perhaps an eventual relocation to the bullpen if he doesn’t hone in the command or strongly improve one of his other secondary offerings.
The good news is Toronto’s starting rotation has not been good, or particularly healthy, this year – which means Pearson could easily work his way into a rotation spot within the next few weeks, and if he pitches well he could be up to stay.
Pearson is a risky stash candidate, but one that could pay off quite handsomely in 2021.
4. Deivi Garcia, RHP, NYY – ETA May
The Yankees finally gave Garcia a chance to start a game this season, and he threw four innings while giving up two runs on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts across 65 pitches. He was quickly sent back down, however, in favor of reliever Michael King. It looks like that final rotation spot remains Domingo German‘s to lose, although he’s doing his darndest with a 6.23 ERA through his first three starts.
So while Garcia’s time as a full-time starter could quite literally be 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 and production 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 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.
5. Tanner Houck, RHP, BOS – ETA May
As of this writing, Red Sox right-hander Tanner Houck remains at the team’s alternate site. However, he has 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 is 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. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD – ETA July
After Adrian Morejon joined Mike Clevinger on the Tommy John list a few weeks ago, and with Dinelson Lamet nursing a shoulder injury, the Padres turned to a young star pitching prospect to face the mighty Dodgers. It wasn’t who many expected, however, with left-hander MacKenzie Gore remaining at the team’s alternate training site while rookie Ryan Weathers took the opportunity and ran with it, cementing a spot in San Diego’s rotation for the foreseeable future.
What that means for Gore in the short term isn’t exactly clear, but with reports of command issues, mechanical adjustments, and a case of the yips all floating around, it is clear that Gore needs to prove his worth at Triple-A for probably at least a few starts before he is given a shot at the major league level.
Of course, Gore’s absolute dominance in the Cal League in 2019 indicates he is more than capable of being the true ace pitcher many believe he can be – it just may not show up in the big leagues in the year 2021.
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 some combination of command/mechanical issues and/or the yips.
Of course, he’s just 22 years old, so he still 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.
7. Brent Honeywell, RHP, TB – ETA May
Trying to keep track of all of Tampa Bay’s pitching prospects is going to be the trickiest part of these articles going forward, and could be a headache for fantasy owners looking for stash candidates as well – although the payoff could be pretty sweet as Shane McClanahan owners can attest to.
Honeywell made his big league debut a few weeks ago – 1,300 days after his last minor league appearance – but after a sparkling debut his last two outings have not gone nearly as well, and after an appearance as an opener which resulted in a three run home run, Honeywell was sent back to the team’s alternate site this week.
Still, after getting a look before both McClanahan and Luis Patino this year, it is clear Honeywell is someone the Rays want to get plenty of big league innings out of, and while his role is hard to fully pin down (much like Patino) the results could be extremely solid for fantasy players who roster him, if they are willing to be patient.
The same caveat applies, those in quality start leagues may want to be weary, but Honeywell could be a nice option down the stretch if he does end up in a starting role – and even in a multi-inning relief role or opener, he could return some value in deeper fantasy leagues as well.
If you dropped him after he got sent down, that’s totally defensible, but those in deeper leagues may want to hold here and see what comes next, as the results could be beneficial as a long term play in 2021.
8. 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 and their fans can 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 all set to begin the season in Triple-A after making his debut last year.
Bubic will be joined in that Triple-A rotation by both Kowar and Lynch, and 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.
Lynch has not shown that strikeout potential in-game action just yet, but recent reports from the team’s alternate site indicate he has found his strikeout stuff and has been flat dominant against the competition.
Still, 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.
Lynch will 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.
9. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, OAK – ETA July
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.
Jefferies is going to begin the season on the minor league IL with a shoulder injury, which is certainly never a good sign, although he is only expected to miss a few weeks. That does push back his potential debut timeline, obviously, and drops him down a bit on this list – although I still think he’s a solid stash candidate in deeper leagues.
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 later this summer. He may not be as polished as a Manning or a Gilbert, however, even if his season debut could be coming soon.
10. Alek Manoah, RHP, TOR – ETA August
I’ve had Manoah at the tail end of this list most weeks, but my confidence level in him pitching in the big leagues this year has never been higher now that he is reportedly going to begin the year with a very aggressive assignment at Triple-A – even with just 17 minor league innings to his name, all coming at Low-A in 2019.
Manoah gets that assignment in part because of an excellent spring training, including a performance where he fanned 11 Yankees in a game – facing New York’s real lineup – as well as his advanced age (23) and pedigree as the 11th overall pick back in 2019.
Manoah is a well-regarded prospect with a 60-grade fastball and a potentially 70-grade wipeout slider, and while his command is suspect at this point, it is well within the scope of possibilities that he is throwing meaningful innings for this Toronto squad by the end of the year – especially now that he’s starting the year in Buffalo and with Toronto’s significant struggles in the rotation to begin the campaign.
He’s only worth rostering right now in dynasty leagues or deep/AL-only redraft leagues, but he is 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: Edward Cabrera
Graduated: Luis Patino
Others given consideration: Nick Lodolo, Brailyn Marquez, Josiah Gray, Edward Cabrera, Jackson Kowar, DL Hall, Shane Baz, Bryse Wilson, Brendan McKay, Jackson Rutledge, Miguel Yajure, George Kirby, Simeon Woods-Richardson
Photo from Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)