The Prospect Watchlist: Week 3 (April 23 – April 29)

4 Potential Hidden Gems to Know Before the Rest of Your League

With 120 teams and 5,000+ players spread through four levels (not to mention the Dominican Summer League and the Rookie Complex leagues in Arizona and Florida), identifying the next prospect breakout can be difficult. If you wait until end-of-season wrap-ups, a prospect may get too much coverage and no longer be available. You can scout stat lines all year, but that can be tedious, and it’s difficult to keep an eye on every tweet and post. We may have renamed this column but fear not, intrepid dynasty league manager, this is still THE place to find your potential prospect diamonds in the rough.

For those unfamiliar, this is a weekly column where I’ll select four prospects (typically 2 hitters and 2 pitchers) who performed outstandingly in the prior week. Not only will you get a name, but also we’ll dive into what powered their results and where their future value stands. “But,” you may think to yourself, “what makes this column so different than any of the countless other blurbs, rundowns, and general prospect lists that are published?” Glad you asked!

First and foremost, this column is dedicated to the deep dynasty manager. If you’re in a 18 team league, or rostering 30+ minor leaguers, then this is your spot.

Secondly, and I don’t want to honk my horn (toot toot) but in year 1, we had a pretty solid track record of recognizing some names that have risen in value entering this season including: Kyle Manzardo, Yainer Diaz, Evan Carter, Justin Dirden, and Will Benson.

With that said, let’s get to this week’s prospects…

This Week’s Player to Watch: OF Jonatan Clase, SEA, High A

Stats: (5 games) 12-29, 5 HR, 4 doubles, 10 RBI, 8 runs, 4 SBs

So sometimes a good process still produces bad results. In my case, I saw the speedy Clase at Low A Modesto last year and while I was impressed by his speed (55 stolen bases!), we’ve seen too many speed first young hitters come & go, once it becomes obvious that they can’t make hard contact consistently. However, his 22 doubles and 13 HRs, should’ve clued me in that there was more than first met the eye.

The 5’9 switch-hitter has a pop on both sides, although his left-handed swing appears to be more advanced, showing off more barrel manipulation and ability to adjust mid-swing. The first thing detractors may point to is Clase’s K rate which remains above the 25% mark BUT he’s decreased his whiff rate from 13.4% to 8.7! Just for context, among qualified minor leaguers age-25 or younger, that’s better than Kyle Manzardo, Benny Montgomery, Colt Keith, and Matt Mervis to name a few. The contact rate still can be improved, as he’s yet to reach the 70% mark, but the arrow is pointing up for Clase. He won’t be flying undetected for much longer with this type of production.

Honorable Mention: 3B/OF Sterlin Thompson, COL, High A

Stats: (5 games) 11-23, 2 HR, 3 doubles, 9 RBI, 5 runs, 1 SB

Regardless of your feelings about Rockies prospects, you have to pay attention to what Thompson’s doing at High A Spokane. Thompson is a 2022 1st round draft pick from the University of Florida, where he showed an exceptional extra-base power (47 total XBH in his two year collegiate career) along with decent speed (10 SBs in 2022). He’s still a bit of a defensive tweener so the bat will do most of the work but thus far he’s looking on target for a collegiate hitter from the best conference in the NCAA. See if you can convince the manager in your league to part with him for cheap, there’s a good chance Thompson will be in AA Hartford within the next couple of months, driving his price up.


This Week’s Pitcher to Watch: SP Cristian Mena, CHW, AA

Stats: (1 start) 6 IP, 6 hits, 1 ER, 2 ER, 2 BB, 10 Ks

Mena was an international signee in 2021 but it feels like he’s been listed on White Sox prospect rankings for years. He’s logged a good number of innings at each level coming into this season, finishing ’22 at AA with 10 IP. The arrow continues to point up for Mena as he’s increased his K rate (28.9% to 38.3) and maintaining a 19.3% whiff rate.

The fastball isn’t huge but he’s continuing to learn how to locate it well and his secondaries (his curveball especially) all have potential to be above average. Mena has the pieces to be an MLB pitcher, with the caveat being whether he’s better served in the rotation or possibly as a high leverage reliever.

Honorable Mention: SP AJ Smith-Shawver, ATL, High A

Stats: (1 start) 5 IP, 0 ER, 1 hit, 1 BB, 6 Ks

Atlanta continues to be pitching-rich, not only graduating Bryce Elder to the back part of their MLB rotation but also having Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd as homegrown prospects that have dabbled in the majors. AJ Smith-Shawver with his huge fastball and wipeout slider could be next in the very near future. It’s small sample theater but in his 14 innings of 2023, Smith-Shawver has struck out 23 of the 52 batters he’s faced and has yet to allow a run. We know that Atlanta has no problem moving their best performers quickly through the zone. If you’re looking for an extraordinary arm with little fanfare (only 15% rostered on FanTrax), you’d be pressed to do better than Smith-Shawver.

LaMar Gibson

A lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan that still hasn't forgiven Jeffrey Maier, Tony Fernandez, the 2014 Royals, or Edwin Encarnacion...and has no interest in doing so in the foreseeable future. You can read more of LaMar's thoughts by subscribing to his free monthly newsletter, Inside Fastball, for all things prospects.

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