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Mining the Minors for Hot Prospect Hitters and Call-Ups - Francisco Alvarez, Vinnie Pasquantino, Mark Vientos, and more

nolan gorman fantasy baseball rankings prospects rookies draft sleepers waiver wire pickups

When we ran the first installment of this piece back in April, we were hoping to identify some hot-hitting minor leagues who may not be on our radars. Yes, we had some big names like Nolan Gorman and former trendy prospects like Luis Garcia, but the first installment also pointed us to Jack Suwinski and Tyler Nevin. In total, five of the 11 prospects we named the first time have found consistent MLB production. So why not try it again?

As a reminder, for this series, I comb through the minor league offensive leaderboards to see who is having a particularly impressive start to the season. I then try to break down whether the performance is for real and whether or not this player should be somebody that we should have on our radars in redraft leagues. Since many prospects of all levels are rostered in dynasty formats, we're going to stick to redraft formats when looking at the value here.

In order to also find players who have been heating up of late and may be pushing for an MLB call-up, I've limited the search parameters to just the last 30 days and have included both those stats and season-long ones below.

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Luke Raley, OF - Tampa Bay Rays

.338/.388/.649, 7 HRs, 24 RBI, 13 Runs, and 2 SBs over his last 20 games

OK, this one is slightly cheating because Tampa called Raley up the day before I'm writing this, but I still think he's worth digging into because the injuries in that outfield may give him a chance to stick. Since Raley has only played in 24 games in the minors, his season-long stats aren't too different from what you see above.

Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 2016, Raley was traded to Minnesota for Brian Dozier in 2018 and then traded back to Los Angeles with Brusdar Graterol in 2020's Kenta Maeda trade. He was then traded to Tampa Bay this March for minor league pitcher Tanner Dodson.

Raley may be a bit of a Quad-A player, but the lefty has hit well at Triple-A multiple times in his career. He's a big, physical player with plus power and solid speed, and an aggressive mentality in the outfield, which allows him to be a pretty good fielder despite average overall athleticism. While nothing stands out, this is the exact type of prospect Tampa gets the most out of, allowing him to only hit against right-handed pitching and putting him in situations where his plus power and solid batting average can be useful.

With Brett Phillips, Josh Lowe, and Harold Ramirez getting regular playing time in Tampa now due to all the injuries, it's possible that Raley could break through for some short-term value as a corner outfielder and DH while Manuel Margot and Kevin Kiermaier are out with injuries.


Sean Bouchard - OF, Colorado Rockies

.385/.468/.846, 7 HRs, 19 RBI, 17 Runs, 6 SBs in his last 17 games
.338/.430/.683, 11 HRs, 34 RBI, 34 Runs, 9 SBs in 37 games

Bouchard was also just called up as I was making this list. He has always been a steady hitter and has moved up one rung in the organization every single year; however, his stats from this year obviously stand out. He's been able to produce tremendous power numbers, but the chip-in speed added to it is also really intriguing for fantasy purposes, especially since he would play his home games in Coors. However, he is 26 years old and going to an organization that notoriously loves to give their prospects the shaft and move players in and out of lineups with no sense of logic or reasoning. As a result, Bouchard might not be valuable this year in anything outside of the deepest NL-only leagues.


Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B - Kansas City Royals

.281/.350/.584, 7 HRs, 23 RBI, 16 Runs over his last 24 games
.277/.369/.584, 17 HRs, 63 RBI, 46 Runs, and 3 SBs in 64 games this year

I'm sorry, what? 63 RBI in 64 games? Vinnie has been on fire this year and has been a darling in the fantasy community since before the minor league season even started. His bat is ready, but the Royals may have some moves to make before they can call him up.

With Salvador Perez back on the IL, MJ Melendez has slotted back into the catcher spot, which is good news for Pasquantino. Melendez hasn't set the world on fire, but he's one of the Royals' top prospects so he's up for good and was playing DH and RF while Salvy Perez was still active. However, the team did promote Edward Olivares to play RF, and while they haven't shown a lot of faith in him in the past, he has produced enough to warrant an opportunity to show his value.

That doesn't account for Hunter Dozier who is also playing 1B and RF, and while many people will want to see him moved so the Royals can open up a spot for Vinnie, Dozier is hitting .259/.325/.424 with seven home runs, 22 runs, and 30 RBI, so the Royals aren't just going to bench him. They're going to want to see what they could get for him in a trade. Same with Michael A. Taylor, who is starting every day in center and hitting .269/.348/.391 with four home runs, 20 runs, and 18 RBI.

So, as it stands, the quickest path to Vinnie Pasquantino being up is if the Royals simply give up on Kyle Isbel or Edward Olivares in right field (certainly possible) or trade one of Taylor or Dozier to make room in the lineup.


Mark Vientos, 3B - New York Mets

.323/.408/.629, 6 HRs, 16 RBI, 15 Runs over his last 15 games
.253/.344/.500, 11 HRs, 31 RBI, 28 Runs in 47 games this year

Vientos is striking out 30.5% of the time at Triple-A right now after striking out 29.4% of the time between Double-A and Triple-A last year, so that remains the major hurdle he'll need to climb to get a promotion. Given that the Mets are in first place in the NL right now, they're not in a position to let a rookie figure things out at the major league level.

However, they might need to be soon if they don't get more production from Eduardo Escobar. The veteran was part of the Mets' big free agent frenzy this year, but he's hitting just .231/.291/.393 with six home runs, 30 runs, and 29 RBI. We know the Mets don't trust J.D. Davis at third, so if Escobar doesn't pick it up, the only option on their current roster is to play Luis Guillorme at third. That's not going to do it for a team with World Series aspirations.

The most likely outcome, if Escobar doesn't pick it up, is that the Mets make a trade to bring in a hitter, but if Vientos can show some growth in his strikeout rate, there's a chance that he can convince the Mets to give him a shot.


Narciso Crook, OF - Chicago Cubs

.380/.457/.775, 7 HRs, 19 RBI, 20 Runs, 5 SBs over his last 18 games
.272/.369/.551, 9 HRs, 25 RBI, 28 Runs, 8 SBs in 41 games this year

Perhaps I'm introducing you to Narciso Crook because this endeavor introduced me to him. The 26-year-old is a former Cincinnati Reds prospect who has flashed some power and speed but always had a bit too much swing-and-miss in his game. That doesn't appear to have resolved itself since he's still striking out 31.1% of the time in Triple-A this year. However, he is also second in all of Triple-A with a 1.194 OPS over the last 30 days, which is not something to ignore.

Considering the Cubs are not competing this year, we should become familiar with any high-level minor league prospects in their organization. Last year we had meaningful second-half contributions from Rafael Ortega, Patrick Wisdom, and Frank Schwindel, so we can't rule out the possibility that some older prospects will push for playing time in the summer and give us some fantasy goodness, even if it is fleeting.


Ben DeLuzio, OF - St. Louis Cardinals

.356/.448/.600, 3 HRs, 16 RBI, 23 Runs, 12 SBs over his last 23 games
.284/.373/.493, 8 HRs, 30 RBI, 38 Runs, 20 SBs in 54 games this year

Well, there's a power-speed combination that you really want to see in a minor league prospect. Eight home runs and 20 stolen bases are quite an enticing combination for fantasy purposes. DeLuzio is a former 3rd-round pick of the Marlins who has hit .293/.365/.419 over his minor league career, so the hit tool is very likely real. He's also stolen at least 14 bases in every minor league season, including 37 in 2018.

The biggest issue for DeLuzio is his organization. He can play all three outfield positions, but there currently isn't a spot even with Tyler O'Neill on the IL. Harrison Bader has center field locked down, and the team is not giving up on Dylan Carlson in one of the corner outfield spots. Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, and Lars Nootbar have also been playing the outfield with O'Neill out, so there simply doesn't seem to be an avenue for DeLuzio to break in unless he were part of a trade deadline deal to another team.


Spencer Steer, 2B/3B - Minnesota Twins

.245/.324/.612, 10 HRs, 26 RBI, 22 Runs, 1 SB over his last 23 games
.283/.366/.590, 18 HRs, 56 RBI, 51 Runs, 2 SBs in 58 games this year

Steer leads Triple-A in RBI over the last 30 days with 26 runs knocked in across his last 22 games. He's also struck out 24 times in those 22 games, but that's never been much of an issue for him with just a 21.7% career minor league strikeout rate and just a 20.3% mark on the year as a whole. He was a strong hitter in college and has tapped into a bit more power with a new swing last year. It makes him an interesting prospect, albeit one with no real speed, who doesn't have a place to play. He's not going to bump Jorge Polanco or Luis Arraez from 2B and seems unlikely to get reps at 3B over Gio Urshela or Jose Miranda. As a result, his best bet, unless he changes teams, is to be a right-handed backup infielder like a Wilmer Flores type.


Stone Garrett - OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

.294/.348/.647, 8 HRs, 19 RBI, 17 Runs, 6 SBs in his last 23 games
.302/.367/.636, 18 HRs, 56 RBI, 44 Runs, 13 SBs in 62 games

And we have our first repeat name on the list. Garrett has absolutely been tearing up Triple-A this year after hitting .280 last year with 25 home runs and 17 stolen bases. However, a few things standing in his way are that he's right-handed and not on the 40-man roster. He's certainly not going to push Alek Thomas for at-bats and David Peralta is not coming out of the lineup while he remains in Arizona. With Pavin Smith only hitting .192/.277/.351, there is an argument to be made that Arizona should try somebody else in the DH/RF role that he shares with Daulton Varsho, but that might be Jake McCarthy, Cooper Hummel, or newly signed Cole Tucker before it would be Garrett.

If the Diamondbacks are also going to promote an outfielder who is not on their 40-man roster, they might choose to elevate top prospect Corbin Carroll, who has been demolishing Double-A pitching.

With that being said, keep an eye on Garrett getting a brief cup of coffee if the Diamondbacks decide to hold off on Carroll until next year, as I think the former Marlins/Padres prospect could have some fantasy intrigue in deeper leagues.


Francisco Alvarez - C, New York Mets

.348/.443/.831, 12 HRs, 25 RBI, 24 runs in his last 24 games
.283/.372/.570, 16 HRs, 44 RBI, 38 runs in 59 games this season

We'll add another repeat player on here because we have to shout out what Álvarez is doing. Here is what I said in the first installment, which still pretty much applies:

"There is only one Double-A player on this list because it's not that common for hitters to jump over Triple-A, especially now when the level of play across the minor leagues appears to be down, but I felt like I had to add Álvarez. The stout catching prospect has tremendous power potential for any hitter let alone at the catcher position. He hit 24 HRs across two levels last year and is already slugging .711 this year. He's added a bit more swing-and-miss to his game as the power evolves, which could be a problem, but he's also 20 years old and playing in Double-A. That age and level is exactly the reason I don't think we see Álvarez this season, but James McCann has been a dud as a free agent signing for the Mets, so if it's still the summer and Álvarez is crushing the baseball, you really never know."


Corey Julks - OF, Houston Astros

.316/.380/.663, 8 HRs, 18 RBI, 22 Runs, and 3 SBs in his last 23 games
.268/.327/.531, 15 HRs, 28 RBI, 40 Runs, 7 SBs in 60 games

We'll end with another player I learned about when doing this search. I'm including Julks on here not only because of his recent performance but because the two players on the Astros who are currently blocking him are simply not getting it done. Jose Siri is hitting .185/.248/.315 with three home runs, 18 runs, nine RBI, and six steals, while Chas McCormick is only doing slightly better at .219/.291/.394 with six home runs, 17 runs, and 16 RBI. Jake Meyers is also nearing a return from shoulder surgery, but the Astros may decide to give one or both of those outfielders more seasoning at Triple-A and see what Julks can do.

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