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Do These Prospects Matter for Fantasy Baseball? Denzel Clarke, Austin Wells, Bobby Miller, Christian Encarnacion-Strand and more

Bobby Miller - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Prospects, Draft Sleepers

The 2023 minor league baseball season has had multiple highly-regarded prospects open the season on the shelf. With a month of the season now passed, players have begun to filter back in to minor league lineups.

The question is how have those players looked upon their return to the field? Are they back to previous prospect pedigree or have there been lingering issues? Let's take a look at some of the notable players who have returned recently!

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

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B/1B, Cincinnati Reds

The Minnesota Twins selected the slugging Encarnacion-Strand from Oklahoma State in the fourth round of the 2021 draft. He had a reputation for big power, but the Twins were pleasantly surprised with his overall hitting ability as he was among the minor league leaders in home runs in 2021 (32) while slashing .304/.368/.587.

The Twins traded CES to Cincinnati as part of the deal to acquire Tyler Mahle last season at the trade deadline. Christian made a big impression during spring training, hitting .577 with four home runs over 26 at-bats. However, as he was making a final push for the Reds' roster, he was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back.

The injury kept CES out until April 24, but he's making the most of being back on the field, slashing .404/.433/.807 with impressive raw power in Triple-A, hitting three home runs in a single game this past week. He has just a single walk over 56 plate appearances, but he's not striking out a ton, with a 21% strikeout rate.

VERDICT: While Encarnacion-Strand is crushing the ball right now and could get a call to a depleted 1B/DH situation in Cincinnati soon, he should be viewed as a power-only play, though he could provide plenty of that. Don't expect a strong batting average or OBP and be pleasantly surprised if he takes a step forward in his plate discipline.

Denzel Clarke, OF, Oakland Athletics

Clarke comes from a very athletic gene pool, as he is cousins with Josh and Bo Naylor in the Cleveland organization and is the son of an Olympian mother. The A's drafted him in the fourth round in 2021 from Cal State-Northridge.

After an impressive stat line in 2022 across Oakland's A-ball levels, hitting 15 home runs and stealing 30 bases before finishing with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Primed for a breakout, Clarke suffered a shoulder strain in spring training and was out until April 24.

Clarke has opened the season with an impressive display of power, slugging over 1.000 in his first eight games. He's also notably improved his walk and strikeout numbers in the early season, with his strikeout rate dropping from 33% in 2022 to 29% while his walk rate has climbed from 14% to 16%.

VERDICT: It's early, but Clarke is an impressive raw athlete and if he can add plate discipline to that skill set, he will become a must-own in all dynasty formats. For now, he should be picked up in deep dynasties with a watch and wait in shallow leagues.

Adael Amador, SS, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies signed Amador out of the Dominican Republic in 2019, and he was delayed in his pro debut due to the pandemic in 2020. He made up for lost time with an impressive showing in Arizona in 2021 and then filled the stat line with Fresno in 2022, hitting .292/.415/.445 with 15 home runs and 26 stolen bases while walking more than he struck out.

Amador had an unspecified "nagging" injury that delayed the start of his 2023 season with High-A Spokane, but since he was activated on April 18, he's shown plenty with the stick to continue his preseason consensus top-100 prospect hype.

Amador has posted five extra-base hits and seven stolen bases over his first three weeks. Defensively, Amador is still playing shortstop, but his lack of arm strength will likely lead to an eventual move to second base.

VERDICT: Adael's switch-hitting ability and natural contact skills will play, though he's likely more of a below-average power guy with roughly average speed. His upside is likely an Orlando Hudson type, but that will likely not come until mid-2024 at the soonest. He should be owned in all deep dynasty leagues, but watch how he progresses before jumping in with shallow dynasties.

Austin Wells, C, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees selected University of Arizona catcher Austin Wells with the 28th overall selection in the 2020 draft. Wells was known as a premium hitter for a catcher, but many thought he would end up moving out from behind the plate.

Instead, Wells has worked hard to shore up his defense, becoming at least a passable defender behind the plate. The Yankees have not played Wells anywhere but catcher defensively (he's spent notable time at DH to keep his bat in the lineup).

One of the Yankees' top prospects entering the 2023 season, Wells suffered a fractured rib early in spring training, and he returned to the field on April 25, getting promoted quickly back to Double-A Somerset last week.

Wells has not hit tremendously well yet, slashing .222/.300/.583, but as the slugging percentage shows, he's been stinging baseballs and simply suffered from a very poor (sub-.200) BABIP thus far. In just 10 games, he's already powered out four home runs.

VERDICT: Wells has a premium bat for the catcher position. He very likely will not see the majors before 2024, but once he gets to MLB, he should be an immediate impact bat at the catcher position. Any two-catcher dynasty league should have Wells rostered right now.

Endy Rodriguez, C, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Mets originally signed Rodriguez out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. Before the 2021 season, Endy was part of a trade that could be referenced for some time in the emergence of the Pirates, as Pittsburgh shipped Joe Musgrove to San Diego in a three-team deal that also included the Mets, bringing current Pirates closer David Bednar, along with four prospects to Pittsburgh.

After skyrocketing into prospect consciousness with an unbelievable 2022 season, jumping up three levels, hitting .323/.407/.590 with 68 extra-base hits, including 25 home runs, Rodriguez was primed to compete for the starting catcher job with the Pirates this spring. He opened the year in Triple-A but ended up on the injured list due to a forearm strain.

Rodriguez returned to the field on April 29 and caught his first game since the injury on Friday. He went into the injury slashing .263/.333/.456 with three home runs in 14 games. Although his power hasn't shown yet since he returned, he's been on base in every game he's played, slashing .267/.421/.267 over four games.

VERDICT: Rodriguez is one of the premier hitting prospects in all of baseball. He may end up moving from catcher, but the bat will have an impact regardless of position. He's a must-own in all dynasty formats.

Vaun Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants

Most of baseball was blown away last season when the 2021 10th-round draft pick from small school Florida Southern College put up incredible numbers across three levels in the Giants' organization. Brown finished the year with a .346/.437/.623 slash line with 23 home runs and 44 stolen bases.

Though he's an absolute physical specimen with a dedication to powerlifting and body improvement, there were questions about whether he could repeat his success moving into the upper minors. Instead, Brown opened the season on the injured list as he recovered from minor knee surgery.

Brown has been working his way up rehab assignments across the Giants' two A-ball affiliates, and the results thus far have been impressive, with a .310/.412/.379 slash line through seven games.

VERDICT: Brown is a great story for a small school guy that's pushed himself into top prospect status. He should be owned in all deep dynasties, but he should be on a wait-and-see for shallow dynasties until fully healthy.


Top Pitcher Prospects

Statistical highlights:


Pitcher Prospect Outlooks: Fantasy Six-Pack

Bobby Miller, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

While Miller had some of the best raw stuff in the 2020 draft, concerns about his future role allowed the Dodgers to snag Miller with the 29th overall pick out of Louisville. Miller began the 2023 season on the IL due to persistent shoulder soreness, and he was just activated on April 28.

Miller has thrown just five innings across two starts, but he's showing some immediate rust with his control, walking three and striking out four. Miller has been pumping out impressive velocity readings with an average velocity on his four-seam fastball of over 99 MPH. His sinker has been averaging 98 MPH.

Where Miller is struggling so far is to control his two plus-level offspeed pitches, as he's not getting consistent results from his 70-grade slider nor his plus change yet.

VERDICT: Miller has received comparisons to Brandon Woodruff in his raw stuff. Like Woodruff initially, he's likely going to be eased into a rotation spot. That can be good for Miller but rough on your fantasy club waiting for an eventual starter role. Hold if you already own him, but until he's stretched out and throwing 5+ innings consistently, he's not a guy to seek out in trade.

Marco Raya, SP, Minnesota Twins

When the Twins called Raya's name in the fourth round of the 2020 draft, there wasn't a lot known of the Texas prep pitcher. Due to the pandemic, many had not seen the significant growth that Raya experienced in his senior year of high school.

Raya spent the 2021 season at the complex level and had his first full season in 2022 with Single-A Fort Myers, posting 76 strikeouts over 65 innings, with a 3.05 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. Raya uses a wicked fastball that sits 93-95 MPH with an incredible ride. He also has a pair of breaking balls that can be graded as plus with an emerging split change.

Raya had shoulder issues that kept him out to open the season, and since he was activated on April 17, he's made three starts, totaling 8 2/3 innings. Raya has been hit harder than one would expect with his raw stuff, but he's also generating plenty of swing-and-miss.

VERDICT: Raya is still young and developing, but has one of the most impressive raw toolset in A-ball right now. As a pitching prospect, he can be on a watch list for shallow dynasty leagues, but he should be owned in most styles of deep dynasties.

Landen Roupp, SP, San Francisco Giants

The Giants plucked Roupp in the 12th round out of UNC-Wilmington in 2021, and he's absolutely blown past his original draft position with his pro performance. In 2022, he tossed 107 1/3 innings, with a 2.60 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 152 strikeouts, climbing up three levels.

Roupp opened the season in extended spring as he built up arm strength after an undisclosed injury slowed his season prep during spring training. Roupp has now made one start since returning from injury, striking out six over three scoreless innings for Double-A Richmond.

The righty's curveball is his bread-and-butter, and it's one of the best curves in the minors, especially from a right-hander. He packages that with a sinker that works around 93-94. The development of his slider and change will determine his future role, but the sinker/curve combination could allow Roupp to have success generating groundballs.

VERDICT: While his future role is not defined yet, Roupp should be able to be an inning-eating darling in any role, akin to Derek Lowe. With the volatility of pitchers and his lack of fantasy number upside, Roupp is a guy to keep on a watch list even in the deepest leagues, but he is already at Double-A, so he could be pitching in the big leagues in 2024.

Ricky Tiedemann, SP, Toronto Blue Jays

After an incredible pro debut in 2022 that saw Tiedemann have one of the most dominant pitching seasons in the minor leagues, the Jays lefty was competing this spring for a spot in the Opening Day Toronto rotation until a shoulder injury ended that potential jump for the 20-year-old.

Tiedemann did not debut until April 13, and he's been striking out guys at a high pace, with 23 over 12 2/3 innings, but he also walked seven in those innings, a notably high rate. Then Tiedemann left his last start with biceps discomfort, so his health for his next start is in question.

When healthy, Tiedemann has an elite changeup that can be rated as a 70 on the scouting scale, and he works with a mid-90s fastball with plenty of movement, a sweeper slider, and fringe-plus control. He has as much upside as any left-handed starter in the game.

VERDICT: Tiedemann should be owned in every dynasty league and likely quite a few redraft leagues. He's got legit ace upside, but the injury bug is slowing down his 2023 progression. Be wary of making a Godfather offer on him right now as you could end up burned if the injuries become a long-term issue.

Jared Kelley, SP, Chicago White Sox

Considered to have the biggest velocity of any prep arm in the 2020 draft, the White Sox were able to get Kelley to sign as a second-round pick with an above-slot $3 million bonus. Not surprisingly, he's struggled with a high walk rate, offering free passes to more than 16% of hitters in his first two seasons.

Hoping to make a better impression with High-A Winston-Salem in 2023, Kelley suffered a fractured foot in spring and missed the first month of the season. Walks have plagued Kelley in his first two starts of the 2023 season, with five walks in 4 1/3 innings.

Kelley's fastball certainly has velocity, touching 98 MPH, but it's very straight. He has an impressive changeup to work with the fastball, but his slider has been a notably absent pitch as far as effectiveness is concerned to open the year.

VERDICT: Kelley has the look of a future relief prospect, and he's still a distance away from having the raw stuff to be effective even in that role. Stay away right now.

Nic Enright, RP, Miami Marlins

The Cleveland Guardians selected Enright out of Virginia Tech with a 20th-round selection in the 2019 draft. The Marlins selected Enright in the Rule V draft and then the righty reliever was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, putting a very different spin on his season.

Enright was activated on April 29 and has made three appearances thus far, striking out nine over 6 2/3 innings. When fully healthy, Enright uses a low-90s fastball with plenty of movement and a plus slider to generate plenty of swing-and-miss out of the bullpen. His ability to control his offerings is a significant selling point for a future relief role.

VERDICT: While Enright is likely not a future closer or even a late-inning reliever, he should provide strong ratios as a middleman, though you don't need to pick him up until he's shown himself capable in the majors. More than anything, he's a guy to cheer for as he battles cancer, regardless of his future big-league role or success, and sometimes we need those in fantasy!

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

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