We are back! Over the course of the last few seasons, this series has aimed to detail every prospect promotion across each week of the entire regular season. After reviewing feedback from our readers, we have decided to mix things up a little bit for 2023. Instead of outlining every prospect that gets the call, the series will highlight some of the bigger names that receive a promotion. These players will be discussed in more detail. Some other notable prospects who head to the bigs will also be discussed, but this time around there will be more focus on detailing these top prospects and less focus on players who are being brought up as a depth piece for a double header.
Of course, this means there will be some variance on what this article looks like week to week. Some weeks there will be several notable young players who are joining their major league club while other weeks there will be hardly any. Either way, there should be more than enough players to breakdown.
Additionally, each week, I’ll do a quick note on the featured players from the week prior. This will mostly focus on recent performance and whether or not it appears that the player will stay with the big league club moving forward.
Last week, we looked at Tanner Bibee, Logan Allen, Michael Busch and Joey Ortiz. Bibee’s second start came on Tuesday in Yankee Stadium and he cruised through five shutout frames before running into trouble in the sixth, finishing with a line of 5.1 innings, five punch-outs and two runs allowed. Allen’s second career start came on Sunday against the Red Sox and he had another standout outing, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks in five frames while striking out eight. He’s scheduled to face the Twins on Saturday. The short-term MLB future of both pitchers is still a question mark with the returns of Triston McKenzie and Aaron Civale looming, though both arms seem like better starting pitcher options for the Guardians than Cal Quantrill or Zach Plesac. I initially thought Busch would get sent down upon the return of Max Muncy but he has survived the MLB roster despite the latter being activated off the paternity list. It appears Ortiz was only up as Baltimore faced a few lefties in a row. He went 2-for-8 with 4 RBIs. The Baltimore infield is just too crowded right now for him to be a regular.
Brandon Pfaadt, P, ARI (preseason Pitcher List/team ranking: 29/4): On most other teams Pfaadt would probably slot in as the team’s first or second-best prospect, but he ranked fourth in our preseason team preview, given the top-end talent Arizona has.
In my bold preseason bold predictions article, I tabbed Pfaadt as a potential NL Rookie of the Year winner. That may be a bit tougher now that he’s not making his MLB debut until May, but the reasons for liking Pfaadt are the same today as they were back in March. Pfaadt had a monster 2022, notching a 26.9% K-BB rate and 3.83 ERA in 167 innings across Double-A and Triple-A. Those 167 frames led the minors by quite a margin, as did his 218 strikeouts. Most arms that come into the majors come with some sort of innings cap or restrictions, but it’s difficult to imagine Pfaadt being on any type of limit given that type of usage in 2022.
The knock on Pfaadt it is that he does have a tendency to let up the long ball. His HR/FB rates at Double-A and Triple-A were 17.9% and 13.8%, respectively. It’s possible to succeed while giving up home runs – Gerrit Cole and Shane McClanahan had two of the highest five HR/FB rates in 2022 – but it’s also the reason for Pfaadt’s ERA numbers, while not bad, are higher than desired for a top pitching prospect.
His 2023 minor league campaign has been more or less the same so far. The big righty has a 22.9% K-BB with a 3.91 ERA through 25.1 innings. and he’s allowed five home runs. We saw both the good and the bad on full display for Pfaadt in his MLB debut against the Rangers. The final line is ugly as the righty allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings while striking out three and walking one. The four longballs killed his outing. For a more detailed breakdown of his debut, be sure to check out Ben Palmer’s excellent GIF analysis.
Long term, it appears Pfaadt will be in the rotation going forward, especially with the departure of Madison Bumgarner. It’s realistic to expect an ERA in the upper 3s or lower 4s with a bunch of innings and strikeouts. It goes without saying that his success will be dependent on how well he can keep the ball from leaving the yard.
Gavin Stone, P, LAD (preseason Pitcher List/team ranking: 54/2): Stone had a bit of breakout campaign in 2022, tossing 121.1 frames across three levels in the minors. In those innings, the righty was stellar, posting a 1.48 ERA to go with 168 strikeouts. His 25% K-BB rate ranked ninth among minor leaguers last season and that metric actually improved with each level jump that Stone made, though the bulk of his starts came at Double-A.
In 2023, Stone’s numbers aren’t what we saw in 2022, but that’s somewhat to be expected seeing that the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate is part of the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Still, Stone has struck out 27 in 24.2 innings.
Like Pfaadt, Stone’s MLB debut wasn’t exactly smooth. The right-hander allowed four earned runs on eight hits and two walks in four innings of work. He struck out one. The Phillies are a good offense, so it’s nothing to worry too much about, but it’s unclear just how long-term of a promotion the Dodgers had in mind here, and this outing certainly didn’t help Stone’s case that he’s MLB-ready.
The good and bad news for Stone is that this call-up isn’t as a result to an injury. That’s good news because typically if a prospect receives a promotion and it’s not the result of someone else hitting the IL, it’s indicative of the team wanting the prospect up with the big league club for a longer period of time, perhaps for good. It’s bad news, though, because it’s unclear, at least of now, what this means for the rotation going forward. Noah Syndergaard hasn’t been very good, so maybe he’s the odd man out, or perhaps the Dodgers are toying with the idea of a six-man rotation to help cap innings on some of these arms. Ultimately, he will probably be sent back down in the coming days.
Bryce Miller, P, SEA (preseason Pitcher List/team ranking: 91/2): Miller is a former fourth-round selection for the Mariners who, like Stone, burst onto the scene in 2022. The righty split time between High-A and Double-A in 2022, logging 133.2 innings while striking out 163 and posting a 3.16 ERA. Miller recorded a 21.5% K-BB rate, though that number saw a slight dip in Double-A.
Prior to his promotion, Miller made four starts at Double-A. His ERA was an ugly 6.41, but he held a 21.2% strikeout rate and a walk rate under 4%. He was also coming off his best start to date, allowing one run in five frames while striking out five.
By now, you probably know what happened after the promotion. Miller retired the first 16 (!) batters that he faced before allowing a single to Tony Kemp in the sixth inning. You couldn’t ask for much more from a big league debut – Miller closed out the game after allowing one run on two hits across six innings while striking out 10. Yes, it was against Oakland, but it’s as encouraging as a start as you could have hoped for.
A leg up that Miller has on many of the other top pitching prospects who have received the call this year is that the indication before his start was that he was receiving the promotion to get an extended look. It makes sense following the season-ending injury to Robbie Ray, and you have to imagine his leash got a bit longer following Tuesday’s strong showing.
Other Notable Promotions
Louie Varland, P, MIN – Varland may end up being a more valuable fantasy add than all of the names listed above. The Twins starting pitching rotation is very banged up at the moment, so Varland should have multiple turns through the rotation in the short term to prove his worth. Varland was impressive in the minors in 2022, posting a 3.06 ERA and recording 146 strikeouts in 126.1 innings, and has held his own in a handful of MLB starts. He didn’t have the best go of things following this promotion, though, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings against the White Sox.
Maikel Garcia, INF, KCR – With Nicky Lopez hitting the shelf, Garcia gets a chance at some MLB action. He’s probably a bit better of a real-life prospect than fantasy asset, but he does have a knack for stealing bases and plays all over the dirt. The Royals are playing themselves out of playoff contention already so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Garcia get an extended look if he hits well enough.
Xavier Edwards, INF, MIA – Edwards is burner and former fringe top-100 prospect. He’s performed pretty much in line with what was expected of him since he was drafted (high average, no power, a bunch of stolen bases) but for some reason his stock has taken a hit over the last few seasons. The Marlins are dealing with some injuries but they have decent depth across the board, so it’s unclear how much Edwards would play. In a full-time role his speed would be a valuable for fantasy purposes. He might get more of a look if Jean Segura continues to struggle but my guess is he’s back in Triple-A in a few weeks.
Photo courtesy of Seattle Mariners | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)