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 doubleheader.
Of course, this means there will be some variance in 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 break down.
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 took a look at AJ Smith-Shawver, who was called up for a a spot start last week. In that start against the Brewers, Smith-Shawver tossed five frames and allowed three runs on four hits and four walks while striking out three. He then made a start at Triple-A on Tuesday, throwing six frames while allowing three runs and striking out seven. The 20-year-old righty might be up again at some point this season to make another spot start or two, but he’s not someone that is likely to be fantasy relevant this season outside of a potential stream option.
Now, onto this week’s promotions.
Emerson Hancock, P, SEA – The Mariners took Hancock with the sixth overall pick in 2020. His stock has fallen somewhat since then, though Hancock’s performance hasn’t been bad. Obviously there was no minor league season in 2020, so Hancock’s career kicked off at High-A in 2021. He tossed 31 frames there to the tune of a 2.32 ERA and 24.2% strikeout rate. That earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he tossed 13.2 innings.
The righty remained in Double-A for 2022 where he posted a 3.75 ERA in 98.1 innings. His strikeout rate dropped slightly to 22.3% while his his walk rate checked in at 9.2%. Hancock has put up similar numbers in 2023 – the ERA is a bit worse at 4.32 though his FIP is more than a full run better, and his strikeout rate is up to 26% while the walk rate stayed the same. It can be a red flag when a prospect repeats a level but we routinely see Seattle treat Double-A as the top level for their arms.
Hancock debuted on Wednesday, spinning five frames of one-run ball against the Padres. He allowed two hits and three walks while striking out three. All in all, that is a very acceptable MLB debut performance.
From a fantasy perspective, Hancock’s pedigree and minor league history is intriguing enough for dynasty leagues but he’s not someone I’m trusting for 2023 outside of an opponent-dependent stream.
Curtis Mead, 3B, TBR – Mead is a bat-first prospect who missed some time this year due to a wrist injury. He’s performed well at Triple-A in 46 games, slashing .291/.379/.453 with three home runs and three steals. The power is down a little bit from last year, but there is a chance that that can be attributed to the injury.
Mead had an absolute breakout campaign in 2022, putting up a 146 wRC+ in 56 games at Double-A as a 21-year-old. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A and the infielder logged 21 games there, triple slashing .278/.376/.486. Mead’s performance in 2022 was so strong that the Rays initiated contact negotiations with him this offseason, despite the fact that he had never played in an MLB game.
Long-term, Mead profiles as a power-hitting third baseman and he should be considered one of the more desirable dynasty prospects. For 2023 fantasy purposes, he’s not someone I’m looking to add. Tampa Bay will likely slide him into a part time role and he won’t play enough to make a significant fantasy impact. He is 1 for 11 to start his MLB career.
Lawrence Butler, 1B/OF, OAK – Oakland selected Butler with the 173rd overall pick back in 2018. He started to come into his own in the 2021 season, spending most of the campaign at Single-A as a 20-year-old and putting up a 123 wRC+ with 17 home runs and 26 steals in just 88 games. He was forced to miss a sizable portion of the 2022 season due to injury, but still logged 81 games at High-A and triple slashed .270/.357/.468 with 11 home runs and 13 steals. The red flag being that he struck out 31% of the time.
Well, Butler has cut down on the strikeouts significantly in 2023 and it hasn’t impacted his results. The 22-year-old spent 67 games at Double-A, triple slashing .285/.352/.465 with 10 home runs and 13 steals. More importantly, the strikeout rate dipped all the way down to 18.9%. He only logged 22 games at Triple-A, but the numbers are similar there – a .280/.340/512 triple slash and a 19.1% strikeout rate. On the surface, it appears Butler is being more aggressive to combat the strikeout issues. This season marks the first campaign in which he didn’t walk at least 10% of the time.
It’ll be interesting to see if that change sticks against major league pitching. Butler has one of the more intriguing power/speed blends of any prospect, but it will all depend on how much he strikes out.
Minor League Promotions
We were blessed with a high volume of prospect promotions in the first few months of the season but, somewhat in part to that, we have hit a bit of a slow period with call-ups in recent weeks. As a result, this series will continue to highlight some promotions within the minor leagues in addition to the normal MLB call-ups. Most of these players aren’t likely to debut in 2023, outside of maybe a cup of coffee in September, but they could be important names to keep an eye on for dynasty leagues.
Ethan Salas, C, SDP (Single-A to High-A) – What is there to say here? Salas turned 17 in June. The teenage phenom handled Single-A with ease, triple slashing .267/.350/.487 with nine home runs and five steals in 48 games. If you want to nitpick, the 25.9% strikeout rate is a bit high, but Salas did also walk nearly 11% of the time. And again, he’s barely 17. To put this into perspective, Dylan Crews, who was the top hitter taken in this year’s draft, is 21-years-old and currently in Low-A (though I’m sure that will change if he has a hot stretch there to open his career). There isn’t much precedent for prospects, especially catching prospects, this young being pushed this aggressively. Given this aggressive assignment it’s tough to guess when Salas could theoretically make it to the bigs, but a 2025 ETA doesn’t seem crazy, even though he will still be a teenager.
Drew Thorpe, P, NYY (High-A to Double-A) – The graphic designer for this ongoing series, Aaron Polcare, is a massive Drew Thorpe fan. He has been pounding the the table for weeks for the 22-year-old to get the bump to Double-A and the time has finally come. Thorpe put up stellar numbers in 18 starts at High-A, finishing with a 2.81 ERA and a 24.6% K-BB rate. Unlike a lot of pitching prospects, Thorpe also pitched deep into games – six of those outings went at least seven innings. The Yankees have had a few breakout arms in their system this year, and Thorpe might be the best of them.
Hurston Waldrep, P, ATL (Single-A to High-A) – The Braves used their first round selection in this year’s draft on Waldrep, a 21-year-old righty out of Florida. Waldrep made one start at Single-A, tossing three innings and allowing one run while striking out eight. The righty had a rather high 4.16 ERA in his 19 starts with the Gators this season, but he struck out 156 in 101.2 innings. He could quickly become the Braves next big pitching prospect, and now he heads to High-A.
Agustin Ramirez, C, NYY (High-A to Double-A) – Ramirez feels somewhat under the radar, even though he’s been one of the hottest bats in the minor leagues for the past few months. Ramirez kicked off the year in Single-A and triple slashed .245/.384/.397 while walking more than he struck out. That earned him a promotion to High-A, where he put up a ridiculous .384/.430/.714 slash line with nine home runs in 27 games. Clearly, he has nothing left to prove there, so the 21-year-old is now in Double-A. His hot streak coming in the middle of the season instead of the beginning has lead to him going relatively unnoticed, so there’s a decent chance he’s still available in your dynasty leagues.
Kyle Teel, C, BOS (CPX to High-A) – The Red Sox first rounder is going to skip Single-A completely here, jumping from Rookie ball to the High-A. How these draftees move up the ladder in their first few weeks of professional ball differs from team to team. Teel only got three games there, going 3 for 7 with a home run. He looked like he belonged in his High-A debut, too, collecting three singles. Teel’s bat-to-ball ability make him a prime candidate to move quickly.
Tyler Black, INF, MIL (Double-A to Triple-A) – Black is one of 2023’s breakout prospects after having his way at Double-A. The lefty-hitting Black put up a .273/.411/.513 triple slash at Double-A with 14 home runs and 47 steals in 84 contests. Don’t forget, he also played in the league that used the tacky ball for the first two months of the year, so these numbers are even more impressive. Now he will be tested at Triple-A, and if he succeeds there, a late 2023 promotion to the big leagues is not out of the question with the Brewers in a playoff race.
Photo courtesy of Seattle Mariners | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on Twitter)