It's been a couple weeks since I've released my usual Prospects Report, instead turning my attention to higher concepts like the midseason top 30 and my 10 prospect risers. During that time, players like Max Meyer, Nick Pratto, Esteury Ruiz and Ezequiel Duran have all moved up to the big leagues, making for several openings in my Five on the Verge.
One player who I intended to fill one such opening is Braves left-hander Kyle Muller, who we've seen pitch in the majors before. It's gone poorly, but since his latest opportunity on May 1, he's made big strides in terms of control in the minors, issuing five walks over his past six starts. He has a 2.77 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 during that stretch, and frankly, his overall stat line at Triple-A Gwinnett is looking strong:
His fastball is a genuine swing-and-miss pitch, boasting a high spin rate and sneaking up on hitters thanks to his 6-foot-7 reach. He has a full secondary arsenal. Control was the last hurdle for him to clear, and now that he appears to have cleared it, Muller seems like a viable candidate to replace a struggling Ian Anderson.
There's only one problem: He fractured his non-pitching hand last week.
It doesn't totally rule him out, if you can believe it. The Braves are having him fitted for a splint that will hopefully allow him to keep pitching. But even if they follow through on that intent, he'll have to prove it actually works before they turn over a big-league rotation spot to him. That's reason enough to leave him out of my ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Miguel Vargas, 3B, Dodgers
2021 minors: .319 BA (483 AB), 23 HR, 11 SB, .906 OPS, 45 BB, 89 K
2022 minors: .295 BA (353 AB), 13 HR, 10 SB, .881 OPS, 53 BB, 61 K
When Justin Turner came down with abdominal tightness over the weekend, I wondered aloud if it might finally signal Vargas' arrival. The answer, apparently, is no. It's always no. Turner has been going through pre-game workouts and is expected to avoid the IL. One day, though, it's going to be yes, and I still think Vargas is the prospect best suited to make an immediate impact in Fantasy when he does arrive. He just makes hitting look so easy, with a strikeout-to-walk rate that's beyond what you'd expect for a 22-year-old. Though primarily a third baseman, he's started eight of his past 12 games in left field, which is where the Dodgers have a more long standing need, so maybe this delay is more about getting him comfortable there than anything else.
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Jarred Kelenic, OF, Mariners
2022 minors: .296 BA (213 AB), 11 HR, 3 SB, .924 OPS, 18 BB, 59 K
2022 majors: .140 BA (86 AB), 3 HR, 4 SB, .509 OPS, 9 BB, 36 K
I'm keeping Kelenic as my No. 2 prospect to stash (to the extent he even still qualifies as a prospect), but that's mostly because the minors have been largely depleted of major league-ready talent. In a way, he feels further from a promotion than ever. Yes, the production has improved -- he's batting .321 (34 for 106) with five home runs in his past 24 games, striking out at a respectable 20.3 percent clip -- but the Mariners just got Kyle Lewis back. They've sent Mitch Haniger out on a rehab assignment. They're about to have a real dilemma about how to get both Jesse Winker and Carlos Santana in the lineup, and adding Kelenic to the mix would only complicate things further.
I still like his chances to factor if and when he does get the call, but I get the feeling the Mariners regret promoting him when they did last year and would rather him just take his time and develop. Either that or they're keeping him on ice to preserve his trade value for a potential deadline blockbuster.
DL Hall, SP, Orioles
2021 minors: 2-0, 3.13 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 31 2/3 IP, 16 BB, 56 K
2022 minors: 2-6, 4.21 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 68 1/3 IP, 37 BB, 114 K
Everything was pointing to a DL Hall promotion. The 23-year-old, who seems poised to follow in Shane McClanahan's footsteps as a left-handed starter who cracks triple digits, had found another gear since the start of July, putting together a 0.83 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 17.4 K/9 across five starts. His walks were down. He was no longer tipping his pitches, which he blamed for his struggles early this year. It just seemed like every start he made at Triple-A Norfolk could be his last.
And then he allowed six earned runs in two-thirds of an inning Tuesday. So ... we'll see, but he may have delayed his arrival by a couple turns with that one, presuming he's still in good health.
Alec Burleson, OF, Cardinals
2021 minors: .270 BA (456 AB), 22 HR, .783 OPS, 42 BB, 101 K
2022 minors: .338 BA (328 AB), 17 HR, .932 OPS, 22 BB, 55 K
Maybe it says something that Burleson didn't get the call back when both Tyler O'Neill and Harrison Bader were sidelined by injury, but the latter still is. The Cardinals continue to suffer through players like Lars Nootbaar in their outfield, and all the while, Burleson continues to rake, currently riding an 11-game hitting streak in which he's batting .356 (16 for 45). That's just another day at the office for him. His batting average hasn't dipped below .320 since June 7. He's even batting over .300 against left-handers now, which is unusual for a left-handed hitter just starting out. Obstacles remain such as a shaky defensive profile and the fact he isn't on the 40-man roster yet, but at some point, the Cardinals have to try for more production.
Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks
2021 minors: .435 BA (23 AB), 2 HR, 3 SB, 1.465 OPS, 6 BB, 7 K
2022 minors: .308 BA (260 AB), 19 HR, 25 SB, 1.078 OPS, 54 BB, 76 K
I've been tempted to put Carroll in my Five on the Verge previously but resisted when the Diamondbacks confirmed in late June that he wouldn't pull a Michael Harris and skip over Triple-A. Well, now he's at Triple-A -- been there for a couple weeks, actually -- and it's gone about like it has at every other stop.
The guy is a baseball prodigy. He's played all of 118 minor-league games in four years, interrupted by the pandemic and shoulder surgery, and has nonetheless breezed through the entire minor-league system. He was 18 when it started. He's emerged as a legitimate power source despite his small stature while continuing to stand out for his plate discipline and speed. I don't know what incentive the Diamondbacks have to call him up, really, but I'm confident he'll push the issue. And the upside might make him worth a stash just in case.
Five on the periphery
(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Noelvi Marte, SS, Mariners
2021 minors: .273 BA (444 AB), 17 HR, 24 SB, .825 OPS, 60 BB, 117 K
2022 minors: .264 BA (329 AB), 15 HR, 12 SB, .811 OPS, 42 BB, 80 K
After surging up the prospect ranks last year, Marte took a tumble early this year when he showed up out of shape and struggled in all facets of the game. He's done a lot to relieve those concerns in July, though, batting .356 (26 for 73) with nearly half of his home runs for the season (seven). He still seems destined to outgrow shortstop, so to speak, but as long as upsizing doesn't interfere with his hitting, there will be a spot for him in the lineup.
Oscar Colas, OF, White Sox
2022 minors: .320 BA (272 AB), 10 HR, .885 OPS, 24 BB, 59 K
Colas found himself in prospect no-man's land at the start of the season. He was a fairly high-dollar international signing (out of Cuba, by way of Japan), but those don't always pan out. And at 23, he would need to make a near immediate impact to avoid winding up on the fourth-outfielder track. After needing a couple months to find his footing, he has indeed caught fire, and his recent move up to Double-A, where he's batting .393 (11 for 28) with three homers in seven games, hasn't been enough to slow him down. What's most impressive is that power is supposed to be his carrying tool, so seeing him hit for this kind of batting average -- and with the strikeout and line-drive rates to back it up -- raises the bar for the type of player he could be.
Jared Shuster, SP, Braves
2021 minors: 2-0, 4.44 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 73 IP, 20 BB, 90 K
2022 minors: 6-7, 2.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 90 2/3 IP, 22 BB, 106 K
Shuster was an unconventional choice when the Braves picked him in the first round of the 2020 draft, but the left-hander has always stood out for a bonkers changeup that's carrying him even in the upper levels of the minors. He's struck out 20 over 13 innings in his last two starts at Double-A, and he has a 19 percent swinging-strike rate in his past five. That's close to what Spencer Strider was doing during his rapid rise through the system last year. Now, Shuster doesn't throw anywhere near as hard as Strider, but all those missed bats are a testament to how effective his changeup is. Because he's left-handed and generally commands the strike zone, that one pitch may be enough to see him through.
Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 3B, Twins
2021 minors: .391 BA (87 AB), 4 HR, 1.022 OPS, 5 BB, 26 K
2022 minors: .308 BA (328 AB), 23 HR, .998 OPS, 32 BB, 92 K
Encarnacion-Strand is the second third base prospect in as many years to spring up out of nowhere for the Twins, and the power comes a little more naturally for him than for Jose Miranda. He's homered 15 times just since the start of June, a span of 38 games, and is batting .412 (14 for 34) with three home runs in eight games since moving up to Double-A. He has the usual strikeout issues of a young slugger, and like Miranda, he may not be long for third base. Because of his pop-up status, though, he has the advantage of availability even in deeper Dynasty leagues.
Evan Carter, OF, Rangers
2021 minors: .236 BA (106 AB), 2 HR, 12 SB, .825 OPS, 34 BB, 28 K
2022 minors: .274 BA (285 AB), 9 HR, 16 SB, .848 OPS, 43 BB, 53 K
Carter was a favorite of prospect hounds coming into the season, and he's begun to show why recently, batting .319 (29 for 91) with five home runs and six steals in his past 26 games at High-A. Most impressive is how he's cut his strikeout rate to 13.8 percent during that stretch while walking at nearly the same rate. He actually had more walks than strikeouts in his pro debut last year, and it's that advanced plate discipline that has him quickly rising the prospect ranks, particularly as a player who flashes both power and speed. And by the way, he's only 19.