Every Sunday during the 2021 season, I will be posting a list of 10 hitting prospects to stash in redraft leagues. This is important because, despite this being a dynasty article, I am solely evaluating players for their ability to impact fantasy teams in 2021—and not beyond.
Tampa Bay has officially recalled Vidal Bruján, allowing him to join Taylor Walls and Wander Franco at the big league level. Brujan doesn’t have a clear starting spot just yet, having started at second base and right field, but it looks like he will get a chance to play pretty regularly, making the switch-hitter a strong add in all but the shallowest redraft formats.
The Giants also replaced Buster Posey on the active roster with Joey Bart. Bart’s promotion looks exceptionally temporary, however, with Posey’s absence primarily coming over the All-Star break, and the presence of both Curt Casali and Chadwick Tromp on the roster. Those in daily leagues might take a look at Bart if he’s starting, but otherwise he’s probably not a must-add in redraft leagues at the moment.
In more catcher updates, it sounds like the Mariners are recalling Cal Raleigh to take a spot on the active roster, right before the All-Star break. Raleigh could split time with Tom Murphy and/or Luis Torrens, and until we know exactly what his playing time will look like it is hard to know how to value him in redraft leagues. Deeper formats should snap him up right away, and he’s a solid watchlist candidate in 10 and even eight teamers for now.
(Note: Raleigh’s promotion is not official at the time of this article, but is expected to be very soon)
Without further ado, here is a look at the top 10 hitting prospects worth stashing in your redraft leagues.
1. Jarred Kelenic, OF, SEA — ETA Post ASB
Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic is a reminder that despite all the hoopla top-tier prospects get, sometimes they don’t light the league on fire right away. Kelenic’s debut came with significant fanfare, but after 23 games he was rocking a .096/.185/.193 slash line with a 28.3% strikeout rate and poor contact rates, which led to him getting sent back to Triple-A to try to get back into the groove.
Now, it sounds like his return to the big leagues could be imminent, with the team planning to call him up after the All-Star break and the Future’s Game, according to Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times.
It is a little odd calling up Raleigh for one game before the All-Star break, but it may be out of necessity.
Also it sounds like Jarred Kelenic will rejoin the Mariners after the All-Star break. He’s currently in Denver for the Futures Game
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 11, 2021
Kelenic responded to his demotion well, picking up where he left off and slashing .306/.386/.622 with seven home runs and four steals in 24 games played, giving the Mariners little choice but to bring him back into action as soon as possible.
Of course, there is no guarantee he will come back and immediately hit well – he could still struggle – but the talent level is clearly still there, and there is little reason to panic about the top prospect.
If Kelenic got dropped in your 12-team redraft league, and he is somehow still available, he is absolutely worth picking up and stashing while we wait for his inevitable return. And now, even in 10 and 8 team leagues, he is worth grabbing and stashing on the bench with his return likely coming right after the break. Patience is key here, but the results will almost certainly be worth it by the end of the season.
2. Jarren Duran, OF, BOS — ETA Late July
Red Sox outfielder Jarren Duran has continued his scorching hot hitting for Triple-A Worcester this season, and as of this writing he is slashing .279/.369/.581 with 15 home runs and 10 steals in 43 games played.
The biggest news for Duran, however, is the announcement that he was left off the US Olympic Team, a decision made by the Olympic Committee in part because the Red Sox wanted a provision in place that would allow them to call him up while he was gone. The committee felt that trying to replace a player during the games would be difficult, so they ultimately decided to let him go.
Per a major league source, the decision not to include Duran on US Olympic Team was from the USOC. Red Sox would have been OK with him going – with the proviso that if they wanted to call him up, they could. With visa requirements and logistical challenges of replacing …
— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 2, 2021
This is, obviously, a great sign the Red Sox have him in their short-term plans.
Duran is a speedster with good bat-to-ball skills who underwent a swing change last year that began to unlock his power—the ultimate combination of circumstances, and one that often makes prospects hounds a little weak in the knees. And my goodness has that power stroke come to play this season. Duran has posted multiple 430+ home runs this year, blasting towering home runs that are nearly inconceivable coming from a player who was not considered a power-hitting prospect as recently as 2020.
Considering Duran slashed .303/.367/.408 with 46 steals across two minor league levels in 2019 (with just five total dingers), it is not hard to see why the potential of added power would make him pretty appealing.
Duran is still pretty raw, and I have concerns that plate discipline will remain an issue (although he has dramatically improved his strikeout rate over the 2021 season), but when the 24-year-old does get the call in 2021 he will be a popular waiver wire add in 12-teamers —and one that I wouldn’t mind stashing in most redraft formats ahead of time to take a gamble on.
3. Josh Lowe, OF, TB — ETA Late July
It’s not surprising that Rays’ outfielder Josh Lowe gets lost in the shuffle. On a team with prospects like Franco, Bruján, Walls, and a litany of dynamite young pitchers, Lowe sort of fades into the background. Hell, for a while he was the third highest-rated prospect with the last name Lowe in the system, behind both Nate and Brandon.
However, the 2016 first-round pick is starting to really make a name for himself now. The converted third baseman is now a full-time center fielder down in Triple-A Durham, and the power most in the industry were hoping to see finally peeked out in 2019 and is here in full force in 2021. Lowe is slashing .298/.371/.532 with nine home runs and 12 stolen bases for the Bulls, rocking a .234 ISO and a 138 wRC+.
He does have strikeout issues that likely aren’t going away anytime soon, but his combination of power and speed and solid walk rates should make him a quality fantasy piece as soon as he is playing regularly. That is of course the tough question, with Lowe and any Rays prospects, because of their love of platooning and pretty full outfield.
Kevin Kiermaier isn’t the answer long-term, and now that Manny Margot is out with an injury there does seem to be more of an opening, although the team is now in the process of finding regular at-bats for Bruján, who can play around the outfield.
Still, Lowe is not a bad option to stash in deeper redraft leagues, as he has plenty of tools to contribute right away if/when he gets the call.
4. Bobby Witt Jr., SS, KC — ETA September
One of the stars of spring training was Kansas City shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., a first-round pick in 2019 who was already highly regarded in prospect circles before he set the baseball world ablaze with his light-tower power on full display in Surprise, Arizona in March.
Witt’s raw power is already well-known, along with his 60-grade speed, giving him true 30/30 potential at his absolute peak. He’s still just 20 years old, however, and while his timeline may have been accelerated by his power display this March, it is still not even remotely a guarantee that he will be up at all in 2021.
We know that Kansas City is not afraid to aggressively promote prospects, as seen by the Daniel Lynch move earlier this season, and if they remain competitive into the late summer, Witt’s promotion may be closer than we initially projected.
It helps that Witt has shaken off the slow start to the season. At Double-A, Witt is now slashing a smooth .295/.375/.553 with 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases, good for a 144 wRC+ – not bad for a 21-year-old.
Very few prospects have the potential that Witt does, and the few who do are either already in the big leagues or are less likely to be big leaguers in 2021 (Julio Rodríguez, Marco Luciano, CJ Abrams, Spencer Torkelson) which leaves Witt, who registers as an extremely high-risk, high-reward prospect stash in redraft leagues this season.
As talented as he is, I still would not recommend stashing him except in the deepest (16+) of formats, and even then it is only really worth it if you have deep benches and are willing to gamble a roster spot on someone who probably won’t be up until the final month of the season. That final month, if we get it, could be absolutely electric though.
5. Seth Beer, 1B, AZ – ETA August
It feels like Seth Beer’s best baseball season came way back when he was a freshman at Clemson, but in reality, he’s been an extremely productive power hitter throughout his minor league career. Joining the Diamondbacks in the Zack Greinke trade back in 2019, Beer is currently slashing .284/.393/.505 with seven home runs and excellent walk (9.2%) and strikeout (16.6%) rates for Triple-A Reno. You’d like to see more over the fence pop, no doubt, but Beer has shown great plate discipline and contact skills throughout his minor league career, and there is plenty of optimism the power will resurface in time.
The main issue is Beer’s positional flexibility or lack thereof. Beer played 10 games in right field back in 2018 but has otherwise only played first base and some left field. He’s a better fit for an AL team with a DH, although rule changes in 2022 could give him a significant boost in regards to playing time.
For this year he’s behind Christian Walker, Pavin Smith, and bench bats like Josh Reddick and Nick Heath for playing time, but injuries or trades could easily open up a spot for him to play somewhat regularly down the stretch – and those in deeper redraft leagues should consider holding onto him until that happens, as his dramatic improvement in strikeout rate and strong slash line and power potential could make him a must-own fantasy player in the final few months of the season.
6. Brandon Marsh, OF, LAA — ETA August
Angels outfielder Brandon Marsh is the kind of prospect scouts drool about – a 6’4 speedster with a good hit tool and burgeoning power, which if he finds a way to fully harness could make him a legitimate All-Star caliber player.
However, the Angels have not shown much of a willingness to give Marsh or fellow outfielder Jo Adell much of a look so far this season, even with Mike Trout on the IL and injuries/ineffectiveness hampering guys like Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler, and Juan Lagares.
Currently, Los Angeles is rocking an outfield of Lagares, Phil Gosselin and Taylor Ward, leaving Adell and Marsh in Salt Lake. It’s tough right now to gauge Marsh’s MLB timeline, as he is still behind Adell in the pecking order – and Adell is clearly behind guys like Lagares and Ward
Note: Adell would be No. 3 on this list if he were still prospect eligible, and I would rather roster him as a stash than Marsh for the time being.
The bad news is that Marsh’s season has not gone anywhere near as planned, as he was hitting just .183 before a shoulder injury sidelined him a few weeks ago. While the injury was not considered serious, Marsh ended up out of action for a while, allowing Los Angeles to give looks to Ward and Gosselin.
The good news, however, is that Marsh has returned from the injury and seems to be back to his old self. He is hitting .474 with a pair of home runs and 10 RBI in just five games, putting him back on the radar as a potential late season call-up.
Marsh already had 412 plate appearances at Double-A under his belt before the season started, and he played some of the best baseball of his career in the Arizona Fall League in 2019 thanks to a swing alteration. The primary change was with his hands, where he loaded the bat a little differently to get more loft in his swing in an effort to change his five-degree launch angle from the previous year.
If you feel like taking a risk and trying to get ahead of this, Marsh is not a bad name to stash at the end of your bench. But LA’s unwillingness to promote either him or Adell make this playing time situation among the more tenuous ones on this list.
7. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY — ETA Late July
Following the placement of Miguel Andújar on the IL, the Yankees are heading into the All-Star break with Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Tim Locastro and I guess Tyler Wade as outfielders on the active roster (and Giancarlo Stanton if they wanna get frisky).
Enter Florial, a Yankees farmhand since 2015 and former top 100 prospect who has appeared in one big league game in each of the past two seasons, going 2-for-6 with a double and three strikeouts. It’s pretty clear the Yankees are going to need some help, and while I don’t think they will be sellers at the deadline I do think we could see a fair amount of Florial’s power, speed, and strikeout ability on display in the dog days.
Florial is hitting .224/.341/.392 at Triple-A Scranton this year, boasting a 14.6% walk rate and a 28.1% strikeout rate along with five home runs and eight steals in 36 games played. The 23-year-old has 70 grade speed and 60 grade raw power, but like many toolsy outfield prospects he struggles to put the bat on the ball, making it a guessing game whether he will be a 2021 Byron Buxton type or a Keon Broxton or Lastings Milledge.
I’ll hedge my bet and say somewhere in the middle, although it wouldn’t be a shock to see him struggle out of the gate.
Still, the Yankees need healthy bodies and Florial could be the beneficiary down the stretch this year, which makes him someone to watch in redraft leagues and someone to roster in those deeper formats if he is available.
8. Jeter Downs, 2B/SS, BOS — ETA September
Credit to Boston’s front office for developing a strong farm system, as this is the second Red Sox prospect on this list, with Bobby Dalbec already entrenched in the big leagues and Triston Casas potentially not too far behind.
Named after Derek Jeter, Jeter Downs has a similar skill-set as a power-speed threat who plays up the middle, although he’s more likely to stick at second base than at shortstop, and will begin his big league career in Boston and not New York.
Before he gets to Boston to play second base, however, Downs is cutting his teeth with the new Triple-A Worcester Sox – and he is their starting shortstop. Unfortunately, while Downs rebounded briefly from a really slow start to the season, he is still hitting just .234 with a .309 OBP, along with seven home runs, 12 stolen bases, and a rather disappointing 83 wRC+. His 9% walk rate is solid, but his 29.3% strikeout rate is still alarming – especially considering his previous strikeout totals were nowhere near as problematic.
The 23-year-old has been an advanced hitter throughout his minor league career, and his gap power could translate into some over-the-fence pop as he physically matures – and gets the benefit of calling Fenway Park home. He’s an average runner that has shown smarts on the base paths, and there’s absolutely potential for him to be a 20/20 guy at his peak, or at the very least a 15/15 regular who can contribute in BA/OBP formats as well.
Downs only had 12 games of experience above High-A before this season began, which could help explain his strikeout issues at Triple-A this season. He still has plenty to prove before he gets the big call, and while no one is unseating Bogaerts at shortstop, Downs’ competition at second base is some combination of Enrique Hernández, Marwin Gonzalez, Christian Arroyo, and Michael Chavis – so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him getting reps by the end of the summer if he can turn things around at the plate with the WooSox.
He is more of a watchlist candidate than anything in most redraft leagues, but in deeper formats, I think he’s worth stashing for those who have the room.
9. Adley Rutschman, C, BAL — ETA September
Rutschman is a tough player to rank on this list. A switch-hitter with premium power and a solid hit tool, Rutschman could easily be among the top 10 catchers in all of fantasy baseball by season’s end – but it will heavily depend on if (or when) he gets called up to the big league club.
Most media outlets don’t expect Rutschman up at all this season, especially with Baltimore way out of the playoff picture, but even a few weeks at the end of the year could be huge for those in deeper fantasy leagues.
Rutschman began the season at Double-A and is displaying his rare combination of power and patience at the plate, boasting 12 home runs and a .224 ISO along with a ridiculous 16.9% walk rate and a slash line of .283/.413/.507.
The Orioles are still in tank mode, and they are rocking with Pedro Severino and Austin Wynns behind the dish. Rutschman is likely already an upgrade over one, or both of those guys, despite only having 12 games of experience above Low-A heading into this season.
Still, the reports from the team’s alternate training site were extremely positive for the young catcher, and his makeup, poise, advanced skill set, leadership, and potentially elite defense behind the dish make him a prime candidate to rise quickly up the ranks and onto the big league club at least in early 2022, and potentially this season provided Baltimore is willing to give up an additional year of service time for the former Oregon State star.
Getting a good, quality catcher often costs an arm and a leg on draft day, and if you are someone who doesn’t like the look of that spot on your current roster, Rutschman may not be a terrible gamble in formats with deeper benches, as he has the ability to instantly upgrade that position in a major way if he gets a look this season.
10. Brennen Davis, OF, CHC – ETA September
The Cubs finally bit the bullet and made it clear they plan to be sellers this year. While that mostly impacts Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, it likely means the team will put Joc Pederson and potentially Jake Marisnick on the market as well – which will clear room for some internal promotions amongst their farm system.
The team does have some unappealing Triple-A options, like Trayce Thompson, Michael Hermosillo and Nick Martini, but my guess/hope is that they turn to their top-tier prospects to see what they can do as they begin phase one of tearing it down.
If that’s the case, the name to keep an eye on here is Brennen Davis. Davis was a second rounder in 2018 who tore through the lower levels of the minors and his now hitting .278/381/.481 in 30 games at Double-A, with four home runs, three steals and a 141 wRC+. Not bad for a guy who has not even turned 22 yet.
Davis was considered a toolsy but risky outfield prospect in the draft, but he has successfully showed he has a higher floor than many projected. Of course, after posting sub-20% strikeout rates in the low minors, Davis is up over 30% at Double-A, something he will almost certainly struggle with in the big leagues, and perhaps more so if given the call this year.
That shouldn’t preclude you from adding him to your watchlist in deeper leagues, however, as his combination of power, speed, and high walk totals would make him an appealing fantasy option if he were playing everyday – something that could happen in Wrigleyville if the team starts to tear it down.
Photo from Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)