Update: Matt Mervis will be called up for Friday's game, according to reports. He was the No. 3 prospect to stash at time of publish, and generally speaking, Jordan Walker and Taj Bradley are still of higher priority in Fantasy. For complete analysis of Mervis' impending promotion,.
Another week, another slew of prospect call-ups, including Brandon Pfaadt, Gavin Stone and Bryce Miller. Problem is only one of them made a positive impact ... and it wasn't either of the two I told you to stash ahead of time.
So what happened to Pfaadt and Stone? The majors happened, and what this early prospect rush continues to teach us is that the learning curve for graduating minor-leaguers is especially high right now. Gone are the days when the promotion itself was the biggest obstacle to success. Growing pains are the expectation, and even when someone like Miller has some immediate success, you can't assume he's home free.
Prospect stashes have long been described as lottery tickets, and that's truer than ever. What we all need to recognize is that a promotion isn't the same as having your number called.
From here, you may have a few questions. Two come to mind for me. The first is the more obvious: What happens next for Pfaadt and Stone?
Stone was almost certain to be sent back down in any case. He was called up mostly to build in some extra rest for Dustin May. But now that we've seen him at the major-league level, I have to say I'm not as excited for his return. The ineffectiveness of his changeup, which is supposed to be just an absolute world-beater, stood out in particular. It's unfair to judge any pitcher on just one start, of course, and I'm not suggesting Stone's Dynasty value should change much. But I don't think he'll be among my top five prospects to stash even if he's sent down.
Pfaadt, on the other hand, was stepping into an actual opening in the Diamondbacks rotation, so I suspect he'll get at least another turn or two. And though he got hit hard Wednesday, serving up four home runs, things were going pretty smoothly until the fifth inning. Both his slider and fastball had a nice whiff rate, which suggests he may want to throw his fastball less, but in any case, I'd hold.
Which brings me to my second question: If we can't presume a big payoff for a stashed prospect, then what's the point of stashing at all? Indeed, we may be doing too much of it. I would simply say to consider the league you're in. In most, maybe only the top two or three of my Five on the Verge would be worth stashing. Sometimes even less.
Still, it's good to know what's coming.
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Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Jordan Walker, OF, Cardinals
2023 majors: .274 BA (73 AB), 2 HR, 2 SB, .718 OPS, 3 BB, 20 K
2023 minors: .158 BA (19 AB), 1 HR, .589 OPS, 3 BB, 8 K
So far, not so good for Walker back at Triple-A Memphis. Is that because of the mechanical changes the Cardinals are having him implement, with the goal being to lift the ball more, or is it just small-sample weirdness? We're talking only five games, after all. The strikeouts are the most concerning aspect, probably, but with so few at-bats, his fortunes could turn quickly. It's hard to imagine the Cardinals would bring him back unless he's rolling, which clearly isn't happening yet. Still, let's hold out for now and see if his struggles persist.
Taj Bradley, SP, Rays
2023 majors: 3-0, 3.52 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 15 1/3 IP, 2 BB, 23 K
2023 minors: 8 IP, 11 H, 12 ER, 5 BB, 10 K
The story behind the Rays' decision to demote Bradley is that they wanted to get him accustomed to starting every fifth day (as opposed to every sixth day) in a lower pressure environment. This is how pitching coach Kyle Snyder put it:
"We can just go down there and script this and we can check the box, and I think everybody can feel better about his preparedness at that point to be able to come back here and just resume what he was doing."
Easy as that, huh? Well, what if I told you Bradley's first start back at Triple-A Durham Sunday saw him allow eight earned runs in one inning of work? Oh, it's all part of the process, is it? Or could it be that removing him from the big stage after he had seemingly earned his place might have impacted his focus a bit? A player who knows he's going through the motions will sometimes do exactly that. If Bradley doesn't bounce back within a start or two, it might be cause for concern, but with what he's already proven at the big-league level, he remains must-stash for now.
Matt Mervis, 1B, Cubs
2022 minors: .309 BA (512 AB), 36 HR, 40 2B, .984 OPS, 50 BB, 107 K
2023 minors: .286 BA (91 AB), 6 HR, 7 2B, .962 OPS, 18 BB, 19 K
Another week without a Mervis sighting is an eternity by 2023 standards. The prospects have been pouring in so far, which has kept turnover rate in this article high. So what else can I say about Mervis? Well, he recently turned 25, which makes him super old by prospect standards. He continues to trend on Twitter every day. He's raised his batting average 10 points in the last week, but then, Eric Hosmer has raised his 20 (his had more room to improve). Here's some insight from GM Carter Hawkins on Mervis' timeline:
"In my experience, players kind of hit you over the head with it over time. You start having the conversations. They get into the picture, and then you find yourself having that conversation every day. At some point, it becomes obvious."
Has Mervis made it obvious yet? Well, he's continued to do the same things he did last year, and it wasn't enough for him to earn the opening day job. More than anything, I think it's a matter of the Cubs turning the page on Hosmer, which could happen any day -- his numbers are still terrible -- but prepare to settle in just in case.
2022 minors: .304 BA (484 AB), 32 HR, 114 RBI, .955 OPS, 40 BB, 137 K
2023 minors: .410 BA (39 AB), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 1.221 OPS, 1 BB, 9 K
Remember when Encarnacion-Strand was the talk of spring training with home runs like this one and appeared to be making a case for the starting first base job with Joey Votto coming off surgery? Votto's abrupt return put an end to that, but then that return turned out to be as short-lived as it was abrupt. In fact, Votto still hasn't played in a regular season game, with no updates to his status in the past two weeks.
So what happened to Encarnacion-Strand? A back injury held him out for the start of the regular season, but in nine games since joining the Triple-A lineup, he's been doing the same sort of things he did in spring training. The Reds have been playing Spencer Steer at first base lately, but they could easily rearrange their lineup for Encarnacion-Strand if they're looking for an infusion of power.
Colton Cowser, OF, Orioles
2022 minors: .278 BA (510 AB), 19 HR, 18 SB, .875 OPS, 94 BB, 174 K
2023 minors: .324 BA (102 AB), 5 HR, 4 SB, 1.006 OPS, 23 BB, 28 K
For this fifth spot, you could instead make the case for Jordan Westburg. who's been just as productive at Triple-A Norfolk, but ultimately I think Cowser is the more impactful of the two. The Orioles, who currently boast the AL's second-best record, could stand to upgrade in both their outfield and infield, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Westburg and Cowser arrive in close succession. What sets Cowser apart most of all is his plate discipline, as evidenced by his .457 on-base percentage, but he's also thought to have a superior hit tool. Really, there are few weaknesses to his game offensively, and with him batting .417 (30 for 72) over his past 20 games, he's near the point of forcing the issue.
Five on the periphery
(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Christopher Morel, OF, Cubs
2022 majors: .235 BA (379 AB), 16 HR, 10 SB, .741 OPS, 38 BB, 137 K
2023 minors: .358 BA (95 AB), 11 HR, 4 SB, 1.281 OPS, 16 BB, 32 K
Morel isn't actually a prospect anymore after getting 379 at-bats in the majors last year, but it seems wrong not to shine a light on the kind of numbers he's putting up at Triple-A Iowa. With four home runs in his past five games, his OPS is now up near 1.300, which makes it pretty clear the Cubs are using their Triple-A affiliate more for overflow than development. It also makes it plausible, if not probable, that Morel gets the call before Matt Mervis. He's already on the 40-man roster. He plays a wide variety of positions (everywhere but catcher, basically). He's gotten plenty of reps in the majors already, which should make for a smoother transition.
So why isn't Morel among my Five on the Verge? Well, he's still striking out 28 percent of the time at Triple-A, and it's those poor contact skills that caused him to fall out of favor with the Cubs last year. Despite his Triple-A production, I'm less than confident in the impact he'll have when he does arrive, and I also suspect that his prior failure will make him less than a surefire pickup off the waiver wire, which makes stashing him ahead of time unnecessary.
Junior Caminero, 3B, Rays
2022 minors: .314 BA (239 AB), 11 HR, 12 SB, .882 OPS, 23 BB, 43 K
2023 minors: .385 BA (78 AB), 8 HR, 1 SB, 1.185 OPS, 4 BB, 19 K
One of my top prospect risers Tobias Myers.Dynasty Stockwatch, Caminero has only gotten hotter since then, batting .450 (9 for 20) with four homers in his past five games. It's that power that has sent his stock soaring. The hope for it was always there, but seeing him making good on it while still only 19 years old points to a high ceiling indeed. It's not just reflected in the results either. His exit velocities are major league-caliber. And to think the Rays acquired him for somebody named
Jonatan Clase, OF, Mariners
2022 minors: .267 BA (423 AB), 13 HR, 55 SB, .836 OPS, 65 BB, 133 K
2023 minors: .333 BA (87 AB), 7 HR, 17 SB, 1.154 OPS, 18 BB, 28 K
Another riser from my Dynasty Stockwatch, Clase has also impressed with the power so far. His 55 steals last year showed how athletic he is -- and certainly, he's continued to swipe bags this year as well -- but the home run surge is a welcome, if surprising, development for the 5-foot-9 player. He's always shown a patient approach, and the walk rate seems to be improving as he becomes more of a threat at the plate. The big concern is that his strikeout rate is over 25 percent while still being fed a fastball-rich diet at High-A, so while he's trending the right direction, a move up the ladder would help to cement his prospect status.
Ben Brown, SP, Cubs
2022 minors: 6-5, 3.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 104 IP, 36 BB, 149 K
2023 minors: 2-0, 0.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 20 IP, 6 BB, 30 K
Brown has only seen his stock rise since coming over from the Phillies in the David Robertson deal last year and is set to make his Triple-A debut next time out. He was near untouchable in his four starts at Double-A, allowing just a .146 batting average. He struck out 17 and walked none in the final two starts. Standing 6-feet-6, he has a starter's build and a loaded arsenal featuring a curveball and slider with distinctive shapes. Command would normally be a concern for a pitcher of his size and repertoire, but he's so far thrown 66 percent of his pitches for strikes. That'll play.
Sterlin Thompson, OF, Rockies
2022 minors: .307 BA (101 AB), 2 HR, 3 SB, .787 OPS, 5 BB, 28 K
2023 minors: .463 BA (67 AB), 3 HR, 5 SB, 1.259 OPS, 7 BB, 6 K
A supplemental first-round pick last year, Thompson is proving to be too good for High-A, showing excellent command of the strike zone and piling up hits with his up-the-middle approach. His bat-to-ball skills were well known coming out of college and could someday make him a batting title contender at Coors Field. At 6-foot-4, though, he has the potential to grow into more power.