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Do These Prospects Matter For Dynasty Baseball (Week 22)? Grant McCray, Aaron Zavala, Blake Walston, Jay Groome, more

fantasy baseball prospects MLB prospects rookies call-ups

Not every minor leaguer is obviously having a great season. We took a look earlier in the season at some players that were struggling in this space, and we're going to work through another group today.

Particularly, we're taking a look at hitters who have had trouble controlling the strike zone and pitchers who have had trouble finding the zone. Even with a season of struggle, there can still be some value to be found!

Look here for insight on potential fantasy baseball dynasty league pickups before they hit and to get to know players as they ascend to the major leagues!

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Top Hitter Prospects

Statistical highlights:

 

Hitter Prospect Outlooks: Fantasy Six-Pack

Ambioris Tavarez, SS, Atlanta Braves

After being completely excluded from the international market for three seasons, Ambioris Tavarez was the Braves' first big IFA signing when they got back into the market in 2021. Atlanta gave Tavarez $1.5 million but he didn't make his pro debut until 2022.

He made his pro debut with the Braves' Florida complex league, showing off his raw athleticism. He hit .277 but also struck out at a 40.6% rate while drawing just three walks in 69 plate appearances. The Braves had him work on his discipline in winter ball, and he did post a .400 OBP in 12 winter games.

This year has been more of the same regarding his strike zone control. He's posted a .192/.295/.319 slash, walking at a better rate (9.1%) but still striking out at a 42.5% rate. Unfortunately, while he's struggled with strikeouts, his glovework at short has also left plenty to be desired. He shows a strong arm but has shaky hands at the position.

VERDICT: Tavarez has a long way to go to turn his tools into baseball skills. He is still just 19, so there's time to get better. However, don't waste a spot on him right now in your dynasty league.

Austin Hendrick, OF, Cincinnati Reds

Considered one of the top prep hitting prospects in the 2020 draft, Austin Hendrick landed with the Reds as the 12th overall pick. Without having played a professional game, he was ranked among the top 100 prospects in baseball by Baseball America and MLB Pipeline heading into the 2021 season.

His debut in Single-A flashed some power but also showed he has plenty of work to do with contact. He hit .211 and struck out 37.6% of the time. Last season, he split his time across the Reds' A-ball affiliates, slashing .217/.306/.433 with 21 home runs and 16 stolen bases over 110 games with a 37.2% strikeout rate.

A solid athlete, Hendrick has the defensive chops to potentially stick in center. However, his fringe-plus arm plays up more in right field. He's also struggled again this year with contact, and the power isn't coming the same way. He's still whiffing at a 34.4% rate.

VERDICT: The raw tools are intriguing, but Hendrick struggles with hurrying his swing too much right now to let them play. Stay away.

Grant McCray, OF, San Francisco Giants

An athletic outfielder out of Florida, Grant McCray was selected in the third round of the 2019 draft. He showed excellent raw speed and excellent plate discipline in his debut, slashing .270/.379/.335 with 17 steals and a 30/54 BB/K rate over 220 plate appearances.

After the pandemic season, McCray worked through a year of injuries in 2021, only tallying 153 plate appearances. In 2022, he had a huge year, spending most of the season in Single-A before playing a pair of weeks in High-A to finish the year. He hit .289/.383/.514 with 23 home runs and 43 steals, but while he still posted an 11.8% walk rate, he saw his strikeout rate spike to 30%.

This year, McCray has continued to show impressive power and speed with 12 home runs and 41 steals. However, he's also posted a 30.4% strikeout rate while playing the entire year in High-A.

VERDICT: McCray is tremendously athletic and has enough power to potentially be a fantasy asset, but the strikeout rate is a significant issue. Wait and watch how he handles his Double-A promotion in 2024.

Wes Kath, 3B, Chicago White Sox

Selected in the second round by the White Sox out of high school in Arizona in 2021, Wes Kath has always shown impressive raw power along with a lot of strikeouts. His pro debut led to five extra-base hits in just 28 games, but also a 36.5% strikeout rate.

Last season, Kath put up reasonable numbers with Single-A Kannapolis before being promoted to Double-A as part of Chicago's "Project Birmingham" late in the season. He slashed .230/.333/.374 on the year with 35 extra-base hits, a 12.8% walk rate, and a 34% strikeout rate.

This year, the lefty-swinging Kath has slashed .191/.278/.301 in High-A with six home runs in 85 games and a 41.8% strikeout rate. He's shown struggles with his hands at third as well, which could lead to a move to a corner outfield spot or first base, only putting more pressure on the bat.

VERDICT: Kath has really hit a developmental wall. Until he can drop the swing-and-miss, his raw power won't be able to play. Leave him be.

Aaron Zavala, OF, Texas Rangers

The Rangers selected Aaron Zavala in the second round of the 2021 draft out of the University of Oregon. He immediately hit the ground running, posting a .293/.419/.400 line and getting to full-season ball. He split last season between High-A and Double-A, posting a .277/.420/.453 line over 514 plate appearances with 16 home runs and 14 steals.

Then Zavala went to the Arizona Fall League and blew out his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery. He didn't begin this season until mid-May, and his swing has been "off" all season, leading to a 36.9% strikeout rate, while posting rates around 20% previously.

When healthy, Zavala has an above-average arm that can play up due to accuracy from either outfield corner. He also has a blend of double-digit power and speed that reminded many in Texas of former Ranger Frank Catalanotto. However, this year's strikeout rate is far from that model.

VERDICT: Zavala's arrow is definitely still pointing up, as he's potentially going to return to the AFL this year and work with coaches to get his swing back in line. While not an elite offensive upside guy, Zavala is someone that should be considered in deep dynasty and watched closely in mid-level leagues.

Jose Gerardo, OF, Miami Marlins

With plenty of impressive on-field displays, Jose Gerardo was considered a high-ceiling signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2022 for $180,000. He showed off a huge arm that had some teams even considering moving him to the mound.

He crushed the ball in his introduction to pro ball, hitting 11 home runs in 52 games in the Dominican Summer League last season. He walked at a 15% rate and struck out at a 30% rate, raising questions about potentially being too passive at the plate.

Coming stateside this year, the 18-year-old saw his power fall off significantly. While his raw athleticism has led to 15 steals, he's slashing .188/.339/.313 with a 16.5% walk rate and an exorbitant 42% strikeout rate while totaling just 11 extra-base hits.

VERDICT: The raw tools are still loud with Gerardo, and he can athletically handle right or left with one of the best arms in all of minor league baseball. However, his approach has leaned way too heavily into the passive realm, and he's being exploited already before he ever gets to full-season ball. Stay away, for now.

 

Top Pitcher Prospects

Statistical highlights:

 

Pitcher Prospect Outlooks: Fantasy Six-Pack

Jay Groome, SP, San Diego Padres

Coming into the 2016 draft, multiple rankings had Jay Groome as the top overall player, but certainly the top prep lefty in the draft. Instead, he fell to the Red Sox at 12th overall, signing for an over-slot of $3.65 million. He shined in his pro debut and was a consensus top-50 prospect coming into the 2017 season.

Groome struggled mightily in full-season ball in 2017 before he ended up having surgery and missing all of 2018 and most of 2019. He returned with a strong showing in just four innings in 2019, but then the pandemic season took away another year of development.

The years away from the game and surgeries have seen his fastball drop notably to a below-average pitch. His slider took a big step back and he's now working primarily off an above-average curve, struggling to get effective control with any of his five pitches. He put up an 8.20 ERA and 2.05 WHIP in 112 Triple-A innings this season.

VERDICT: Groome is headed to minor league free agency after this season, and beyond the previous name value, which is going on eight years old now, it's hard to imagine a team buying into Groome as a starter. Neither should you.

Blake Walston, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

In the 2019 MLB draft, the Diamondbacks owned seven of the top 75 selections, allowing them to heavily pursue high school players at the top of the draft. Blake Walston was considered the top lefty prep arm available, and the Diamondbacks paid him $2.45 million to sign.

His pro debut was strong in 2019, with a 17/2 K/BB over 11 pro innings, but then the pandemic year happened, and Walston's stuff seemed to take a step backward. He was able to post strong numbers in A-ball, but he posted a 5.16 ERA in Double-A in 2022 and has tallied a 4.49 ERA in 2023 with a 77/74 BB/K ratio.

Walston needs pinpoint control to succeed, as he works with a below-average fastball that sits in the upper-80s and can touch 93. He's hit higher, but only in short bursts. He does offer a slow curve and a sweeping slider. Both can rank above average but are inconsistent in shape.

VERDICT: Issues figuring out the control of his secondaries was a concern last season, but now Walston is even struggling to locate his fastball. That said, he's survived at two of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of minor league baseball, so he's still a wait-and-see guy if he can get something going and potentially end up in Arizona.

Evan Fitterer, SP, Miami Marlins

The Marlins drafted Evan Fitterer in the fifth round in 2019 out of high school in California. He showed plenty of promise in a brief complex league debut before missing the pandemic year.

Fitterer struggled through an injury-riddled 2021 before posting a solid, albeit not great, 2022 in High-A. He had a 4.28 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over 107 1/3 innings, with an 80/46 K/BB ratio. He's worked up to Double-A this season, but walk rate issues continue, with a 4.57 ERA and 1.54 WHIP over 106 1/3 innings with a 102/62 K/BB rate.

Fitterer works with an average fastball that has cut action to it and blends that with three average-ish secondary offerings that should give him the profile of a No. 4 starter. However, he's struggled to maintain a consistent release point, leading to a 14.2% walk rate this season.

VERDICT: In Fitterer's case, the depth in the Marlins organization in pitching may work against him as the team can quickly move aside those who don't show progress year-over-year. Right now, he's in a spot that isn't worth rostering in the deepest of dynasty leagues.

Drew Parrish, SP, Kansas City Royals

The prototype small, effective college lefty, Drew Parrish took a notable step back in his draft season for Florida State, leading to him dropping to the eighth round in the 2019 draft to the Royals. He did excel in his pro debut, posting an impressive 39/4 K/BB over 25 innings.

He came back from the pandemic year and jumped up to Double-A in 2021. However, his strikeout rate plummeted and his walk rate jumped in 2022 between Double-A and Triple-A as he posted a 99/58 K/BB over 128 2/3 innings. This season, he's posted a ghastly 6.70 ERA and 1.76 WHIP over 91 1/3 innings, with a 78/58 K/BB, allowing an astounding 27 home runs.

Parrish works with a fastball that sits upper-80s and touches 91-92. He has a plus change and a slow curve that he had been able to spot well previously. However, he's left way too many of them hanging this year, as hitters have hit multiple home runs off his curve.

VERDICT: With a below-average fastball, Parrish needs elite command to succeed. He's at Triple-A, but the stuff doesn't translate to the majors right now, so leave him be.

Aaron Davenport, SP, Cleveland Guardians

Selected from the University of Hawaii in the sixth round of the 2021 draft, Aaron Davenport impressed in his pro debut. He made it up to Single-A, combining to toss 16 2/3 innings, with a 3.24 ERA and 1.08 WHIP, posting a 26/10 K/BB rate.

Davenport added a pitch to his mix coming into the 2022 season, typical of a guy in the Cleveland system, and the expectation was that with improved command, Davenport could move quickly in 2023. Instead, he struggled to sequence his stuff, seeing his strikeout rate drop significantly to a still-usable 26%, but his walk rate was still in double-digits at 11.5%.

This season, Davenport's command and control have taken significant steps back, as he's walked 13.7% and his strikeout has dropped to 17.3%. He does limit contact (.230 BAA), but the contact he does give up tends to be in the air (50.2% fly ball rate). With a 90 MPH fastball and three secondary options, Davenport doesn't have overpowering stuff to get away with fly balls.

VERDICT: The raw stuff points to a backend starter or multi-inning reliever, and Cleveland has taken this profile and churned out MLB starter after MLB starter with it. However, his command and control are simply too far away right now to even consider.

Branden Noriega, RP, Chicago Cubs

The Cubs selected lefty Branden Noriega out of Miami Dade Community College in the 11th round of the 2022 draft. He didn't pitch last season, but he showed some impressive stuff in fall instructs, leading to hope that he would be a quick-moving reliever.

Noriega was on Great Britain's roster for this spring's World Baseball Classic, but he did not pitch in pool play. He ended up delayed in game action coming out of spring and his control was badly affected, as he posted 24 walks in 14 1/3 innings at Single-A before being sent back to complex.

With the Cubs' Arizona complex team, things have gotten slightly better. Noriega has walked 30 in 28 1/3 innings, but he's also struck out 45.

VERDICT: Noriega has excellent relief stuff with a fastball that sits mid-90s and can touch 98 with excellent action. He also has a breaking pitch that he can vary the shape on. However, until he can better control his stuff and has success in the upper minors, stay away.

Check back again next week for more evaluations and look behind the numbers!



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