I never know what to do with legitimate major-leaguers who get sent down for nonsensical reasons. They're obviously not prospects, which makes them out of place in a prospects report, and yet they're often more stashable than whatever prospects I could bring up.

So wouldn't you know that before I have a chance to release my first Prospects Report of 2024, the Athletics would make such a move? As you've probably heard, they sent down base-stealer extraordinaire Esteury Ruiz for reasons that ... well, let's just say aren't going to quiet the conspiracy theories.

How stashable is he? It sort of depends on how valuable he was to you in the first place. Ruiz has his flaws, after all. He doesn't hit the ball hard and doesn't reach base at a particularly high clip. But boy, can he run, trailing only Ronald Acuna with 67 stolen bases last year. On a team as bad as the Athletics, Ruiz was one of the few sources of entertainment, which is what made his demotion so surprising.

But given his limitations, he's not for every league setup and not for every roster build. In points leagues, where stolen bases aren't an essential part of the equation, you shouldn't have been rostering him in the first place. In categories leagues, where stolen bases are an essential part of the equation, you would need to have more than three outfield spots, probably, given how much Ruiz sets you back in the other categories. But in five-outfielder category leagues, like traditional Rotisserie, yeah, you should stash him. You drafted him depending on his stolen base contributions, in all likelihood, and aren't going to find anyone else who can make the impact he can in that category.

And likely still will, I should point out. Even GM David Forst, the man responsible for the move, doesn't expect Ruiz's stay at Triple-A to be a lengthy one.

"He did make some good adjustments this spring. We saw an improvement in his exit velocity and some better at-bats. But the reality is, to use his skills, he needs to get on base," Forst said. "I'm hoping with him leading off every day in Triple-A, it's not a long stay for him down there."

That's especially true if the Athletics' reasons for sending Ruiz down aren't entirely on the up and up, as some have speculated, and in fairness to those people, he was 3 for 7 with a triple, a double and a stolen base at the time of his demotion. It seemed undeserved and will likely be rectified sooner than not.

In those Rotisserie formats where Ruiz is most valuable, there's only one prospect I'd be stashing over him, and it's the first of my ...


(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)

Jackson Holliday, SS, Orioles

2023 minors: .323 BA (477 AB), 12 HR, 24 SB, .941 OPS, 101 BB, 118 K
2024 minors: .400 BA (25 AB), 2 HR, 1 SB, 1.248 OPS, 3 BB, 5 K

Holliday appeared to have the starting second base job all locked up when the Orioles announced late in spring training that he wouldn't be making the team, so already, there's a sense that he's biding his time at Triple-A Norfolk. And by early indications, he's made it his mission to reduce that time to nothing. He homered in his first at-bat of the season Friday and added another long ball Tuesday. He was central in Norfolk's 26-run outburst Wednesday, going 4 for 6 with a double and a stolen base. 

GM Mike Elias acknowledged at the time of Holliday's demotion that the consensus top prospect in baseball was "very, very close," but you could sort of understand the decision given that he's 20 years old and had played only 18 games at Triple-A at that point. But Holliday is quickly mastering that level, like he did every other, and at this rate, I'm expecting him up end of April.

Junior Caminero, 3B, Rays

2023 minors: .324 BA (460 AB), 31 HR, .976 OPS, 42 BB, 100 K
2024 minors: 4 for 12, 1 HR, 1 SB, 2 BB, 3 K

Caminero is an awkward fit here given that he suffered a quadriceps injury at the start of the minor-league season and likely won't take the field again for a couple weeks, but it doesn't change that he's the second-best prospect to stash. He generates some of the highest exit velocities among all minor-league hitters, projecting power that should easily translate to the big leagues, and has reasonably good contact skills considering. I'm expecting him to be an immediate, if not smashing, success whenever he does get the call, and judging by the Rays' attrition rate so far, an opening could develop before he's even fully recovered.

Ricky Tiedemann, SP, Blue Jays

2023 minors: 0-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 44 IP, 23 BB, 82 K
2024 minors: 2 2/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Tiedemann was shaky in his 2024 debut for Triple-A Buffalo, but he had no trouble missing bats, which has been a recurring theme with him. Injuries got the better of him last year, limiting him to 44 innings and costing him critical development time, but the Blue Jays may have no choice but to fast-track him. Their intended fifth starter, Bowden Francis, got crushed his first time through, and Alek Manoah remains a total wild card. There's also Yariel Rodriguez, a 27-year-old Cuban defector who the Blue Jays signed out of Japan this offseason, but even if he gets the call over Tiedemann, it's not like they can get away with using just six starting pitchers all year. Tiedemann's time is coming sooner than later, and he could prove to be an elite bat-misser right away.

Paul Skenes, SP, Pirates

2023 minors: 6 2/3 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 10 K
2024 minors: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

If you've heard reports of Skenes' triple-digit fastball and wondered what the big deal is (after all, reaching 100 mph isn't exactly a novelty in today's game) what you may have overlooked is how regularly he does it. In just three innings of work for Triple-A Indianapolis Saturday, the 21-year-old hit triple digits 12 times, according to MiLB.com. In the entire history of Statcast, only Jacob deGrom and Hunter Greene have had a start with that many triple-digit fastballs -- and again, Skenes did it in only three innings.

More than half of the fastballs he threw reached that mark, and it's not even considered his best pitch. The slider is what generates most of his whiffs. Of course, just because he's good doesn't mean he's close, and it's possible the Pirates slow-play him this year to preserve his rookie eligibility for next year. But I get the sense that once Skenes is fully stretched out, the pressure to bring up last year's No. 1 overall pick will be too great for the Pirates to dismiss. Granted, that's only the case if he's performing well, but Triple-A hitters were helpless against him in that first start.

Kyle Manzardo, 1B, Guardians

2023 minors: .237 BA (351 AB), 17 HR, 27 2B, .802 OPS, 55 BB, 80 K
2024 minors: 1 for 7, 1 HR, 0 BB, 3 K

True, Manzardo hasn't come storming out of the gate in 2024, but he did go 8 for 21 (.381) with two doubles in spring training. He's also actually made it to Triple-A, which is why I give him the edge over Chase DeLauter, who will open at Double-A despite making an even bigger impression this spring. The bottom line, though, is that the Guardians lineup needs help. Their DH spot has been a revolving door of nobodies like David Fry, Will Brennan and Estevan Florial, and DH would be the most logical spot for Manzardo to fill since the Guardians already have a natural first baseman in Josh Naylor. After a breakthrough 2022, Manzardo's production slipped last year, but the underlying data was still strong. He'll bring Vinnie Pasquantino-like potential when he gets the call.


(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)

Kyle Stowers, OF, Orioles

2023 minors: .275 BA (258 AB), 21 HR, .954 OPS, 43 BB, 80 K
2024 minors: .400 BA (25 AB), 5 HR, 1.503 OPS, 0 BB, 4 K

Two players hit seven home runs this spring. One was Oneil Cruz. The other was Stowers, who might have beaten out Colton Cowser for a spot on the Orioles bench if they regarded him as a center field-capable defender. Turns out his hot hitting wasn't only limited to spring training because he's already up to five home runs at Triple-A Norfolk, sending three balls out of the park on Wednesday alone. Here he is hitting one of them off a fellow lefty, which also continues a trend from spring training and reverses one of his biggest shortcomings from last year:

So why not put Stowers in my Five on the Verge if he's so close? Because in a system loaded with young talent, he's mid-tier. If a long-term opening developed in the Orioles outfield, they'd more likely fill it with Cowser or this next guy ...

Heston Kjerstad, OF, Orioles

2023 minors: .303 BA (479 AB), 21 HR, .904 OPS, 42 BB, 100 K
2024 minors: .583 BA (24 AB), 4 HR, 1.785 OPS, 0 BB, 3 K

With Cowser and Stowers grabbing all the headlines this spring, Kjerstad was sort of a forgotten man even though his Triple-A performance last year probably did the most to raise his prospect stock. And he's off to a great start there again, having collected multiple hits in four of five games and multiple home runs in two straight. In fact, he has more multi-hit games and home runs than strikeouts so far, doubling down on his improved contact rate from a year ago. Like Stowers, Kjerstad is pretty far down the Orioles' pecking order even though he'd be starting for most big-league clubs already. I think we're all expecting Ryan O'Hearn to fold at some point, but who else would need to go down for Kjerstad to get an honest chance? Austin Hays? Anthony Santander? Both?

Luis Matos, OF, Giants

2023 minors: .331 BA (254 AB), 12 HR, 15 SB, .945 OPS, 28 BB, 23 K
2023 majors: .250 BA (228 AB), 2 HR, 3 SB, .661 OPS, 20 BB, 33 K
2024 minors: 3 for 6, 2 HR, 1 SB, 0 BB, 1 K

Matos' high batting average at Triple-A last year earned him a shot with the big club in June, but it's clear now that he wasn't ready for that opportunity at age 21. The exit velocities should have been a dead giveaway. His average at Triple-A last year was 88.7 mph, and his max was 107.5 mph, the latter of which would have been in the bottom 10 percent of major-league qualifiers. 

So far this year, though, the power has played up. He hit four home runs in 58 plate appearances this spring, and while we don't have exit velocity readings for those, his two home runs for Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday both clocked in at 103 mph and traveled at least 400 feet. More data is needed to determine if these are isolated events or a genuine trend of him hitting the ball harder, but if it's the latter to go with his natural contact skills, then the final product could be impressive.

Quinn Priester, SP, Pirates

2023 minors: 9-4, 4.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 108 IP, 47 BB, 116 K
2023 majors: 3-3, 7.74 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 50 IP, 27 BB, 36 K
2024 minors: 5 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K

Priester's 50 innings in the big leagues last year were nothing short of disastrous, and his prospect standing always seemed tenuous to me given his limited ability to miss bats. But he sure missed a bunch in his season debut for Triple-A Indianapolis Sunday, not only striking out nine but also piling up 20 swinging strikes, which equaled his season high from all of 2023. His pitch selection was fairly similar. He still leaned on his sinker, which is what makes him so good at generating ground balls, but his slider and four-seamer were up more than 2 mph from what we saw in the majors last year. It's one start, but it's noteworthy for a pitcher who many prospect evaluators once believed in.

Carson Whisenhunt, SP, Giants

2023 minors: 1-1, 2.45 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 58 2/3 IP, 23 BB, 83 K
2024 minors: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

If pitchers who miss bats is your thing, then Whisenhunt is a prospect you need to know. The left-hander had an 18 percent swinging-strike rate across three levels last year, and the only starting pitcher to reach that mark in the majors last year was of course Spencer Strider (though, notably, it's a bit more common in the minor-league ranks). Whisenhunt's first start for Triple-A Sacramento this year brought more of the same. He lasted only three innings but registered six strikeouts and 12 swinging strikes on 44 pitches for a 27.3 percent rate -- obviously unsustainable but also obviously crazy good. He's still working to develop a breaking ball, which is why some may doubt his starting credentials, but his changeup has enough different looks that it's sort of like three pitches in one.