You may have heard that Mike Trout, a god among Angels, is out for quite some time -- roughly a quarter of the season, which may extend right past the All-Star break.
You may have also heard that the Angels' top two prospects (well, one prospect and one barely graduated prospect) are both outfielders capable of filling the void left by Trout.
Two meets two, right?
It's a bit more complicated than that. See, Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh have to prove they're actually ready first, and their numbers to this point at Triple-A Salt Lake would suggest otherwise.
The Angels might be particularly reluctant to promote Adell after already doing so too early last year. I mean ... it may have not seemed too early at the time, but in retrospect, 55 strikeouts in 132 plate appearances say it all.
Fittingly, beat writer Daniel Guerrero of MLB.com has said there are no immediate plans to call up either Adell or Marsh, but I'll point out, with an assist from manager Joe Maddon, that the word "immediate" is doing the heavy lifting there.
"Anything could change," Maddon said. "Anybody's welcome to put themselves in a position to be considered. Absolutely. That's the whole purpose. That's it, It's just gonna be based on performance. If you do well enough and the need still exists, then you might do something like that, but don't discount what maybe Taylor Ward can do or Juan Lagares could do on a more consistent basis. We got to see that too."
Do we, though?
That's what it comes back to for me: What other choice do the Angels have? Maybe Ward hasn't gotten enough of a look yet as a 27-year-old who has bounced between the majors and the minors the past few years, but the way he's performed so far, he has to be down to his last life. And Lagares? Maddon already doesn't seem interested in starting him. Two games in a row, he's gone with Jose Rojas instead. I'm confident there's nothing to see with either.
The Angels can't settle for automatic outs in two of their outfield spots, can they? I mean, if they're honestly convinced that's all Adell or Marsh would be (and to be fair, it's all Adell was last year) then I guess promoting them would do more harm than good. But surely, sooner than later, they'll be tempted to try it, right?
It's why even though there appears to be no momentum for promoting Adell or Marsh to the major-league roster, this tailor-made opportunity makes them worth considering for my ...
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Wander Franco, SS, Rays
2019 minors: .327 BA (425 AB), 9 HR, 18 SB, .885 OPS, 56 BB, 35 K
2021 minors: .309 BA (55 AB), 3 HR, 1 SB, .942 OPS, 4 BB, 7 K
Certainly can't knock Franco's performance at Triple-A Durham so far, though as I said last week, it's not quite good enough to overturn every excuse the Rays might have. He's one of the youngest players at the level, after all, and didn't play any minor-league ball last year (because, ha, no one did). Beat writer Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times even wrote last week that he wouldn't expect to see Franco for weeks, possibly months. The article reads more like a column than a report, so I'd take it more as informed speculation than, you know, fact. But it's a sobering reminder that there are no guarantees with regard to timetable.
Still, I think Franco will be the Rays' best hitter from the day he arrives, and they wouldn't have had him tag along for the World Series if they didn't think he was close. I'll say he's up within the next week or two.
Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays
2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .339 BA (56 AB), 6 HR, 4 SB, 1.109 OPS, 9 BB, 10 K
Is it possible Brujan comes up before Franco? It's looking more and more that way. And while it obviously wouldn't be as momentous as the top prospect in baseball getting the call, which is why Franco remains the higher-priority stash, Brujan is showing that he's capable of doing some damage himself. The early-season power surge continued with his sixth home run Wednesday, and while what little power he demonstrated in the past was confined to the left side of the plate, three of this year's homers have come from the right side. His best tool remains his 80-grade speed, of course, but he's also beginning to stand out as an outfielder, which is where the Rays need the most help.
Jarren Duran, OF, Red Sox
2019 minors: .303 BA (519 AB), 5 HR, 46 SB, .775 OPS, 46 BB, 128 K
2021 minors: .259 BA (54 AB), 5 HR, 3 SB, .958 OPS, 9 BB, 16 K
With each additional home run, Jarren Duran's power stroke looks all the more legitimate, and it's not as out-of-nowhere as it might appear. As I mentioned last week, he worked with hitting guru Doug Latta prior to the 2020 season and wound up hitting eight homers at the alternate training site that year. With a side-by-side comparison, the changes to his swing are plain to see:
Still, when you give up slap hitting with the intent do more damage, it stands to reason your contact skills might take a hit. His strikeout rate has been creeping up at Triple-A, and the days of him hitting .357 like in 2018 or even .303 like in 2019 are probably gone. You'll settle for .275, though, if it means him impacting the home run and stolen base categories. At 24, he shouldn't need long, and the Red Sox already have an outfield spot waiting for him.
2019 minors: .289 BA (305 AB), 10 HR, 27 2B, .834 OPS, 30 BB, 94 K
2020 majors: .161 BA (124 AB), 3 HR, 4 2B, .478 OPS, 7 BB, 55 K
2021 minors: .231 BA (52 AB), 4 HR, 2 SB, .817 OPS, 5 BB, 21 K
It's possible the Angels give more benefit of the doubt to Marsh than Adell because of what happened last year with Adell, so I could totally see Marsh getting the first shot to meet their outfield need. But mostly, I think it comes down to whichever shows the earliest signs of improvement. We'll say Adell is a representative pick for both Angels outfielders, but if I can only pick one to stash, it would in fact be Adell. He's the transcendent talent with a possible superstar outcome. Marsh has a good hit tool and some on-base skills, but his power projection is questionable. I wouldn't guess he's an immediate add whenever he does get the call, at least not as his numbers presently stand.
Alek Manoah, SP, Blue Jays
2019 minors: 0-1, 2.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 17 IP, 5 BB, 27 K
2021 minors: 3-0, 0.50 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, 18 IP, 3 BB, 27 K
MacKenzie Gore's continued struggles have me swapping him out for another pitcher, one who just recorded double-digit strikeouts for the second time in three starts after turning in one of the most eye-opening spring training stat lines you'll ever see. I still can't get over it. In seven innings, Manoah struck out 15 while allowing one hit and no walks. And he wasn't facing a bunch of players with 70-something on the back of their jerseys either.
On the one hand, his entire minor-league career consists of just nine starts, but on the other hand, the Blue Jays saw fit to move him straight to Triple-A this year. And the buzz is building, particularly after another uncompetitive outing from Ross Stripling Wednesday. It shouldn't be lost on anyone that the two are now lined up to start on the same day.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note)
Julio Rodriguez, OF, Mariners
2019 minors: .326 BA (328 AB), 12 HR, 26 2B, .929 OPS, 25 BB, 76 K
2021 minors: .322 BA (59 AB), 5 HR, 5 2B, 1.098 OPS, 7 BB, 15 K
Wander Franco and Jarred Kelenic are sort of 1 and 1A in most prospect rankings, but if there's another who deserves consideration for the top spot, it's Rodriguez. From his very first game as a professional, he's been hyped as the sort of player who could make a beeline to the majors once he reached a certain stage in his development, sort of like Juan Soto did a few years ago. Could it be happening now, at age 20? Sure, he's only at high A, but the way he's going there, he won't be staying for long. He just homered in four straight games, a streak that ended Tuesday.
Noelvi Marte, SS, Mariners
2019 minors: .309 BA (262 AB), 9 HR, 17 SB, .883 OPS, 29 BB, 55 K
2021 minors: .375 BA (56 AB), 3 HR, 4 SB, 1.042 OPS, 8 BB, 16 K
Like Rodriguez, Marte was one of those prospects who began to generate buzz before he even played a game of full-season ball. Like Rodriguez, he already looks like he's too good for his level. By the time he moves up to high A, Rodriguez may already be gone, but already, Marte is looking like another success story for the Mariners pipeline. The 19-year-old is so far living up to those Hanley Ramirez comps with his across-the-board production. He had a streak of five straight multi-hit games snapped Wednesday.
Taylor Trammell, OF, Mariners
2019 minors: .234 BA (436 AB), 10 HR, 20 SB, .689 OPS, 67 BB, 122 K
2021 majors: .157 BA (83 AB), 4 HR, 2 SB, 10 BB, 41 K
2021 minors: .577 BA (26 AB), 4 HR, 1 SB, 1.740 OPS, 2 BB, 4 K
Let's just keep going with the Mariners farm system, this time up to the Triple-A level. Obviously, we're all familiar with Trammell at this point given that he spent the first five weeks of this season in the majors, keeping the seat warm for Jarred Kelenic. But after watching him flounder with a .157 batting average, it may come as a surprise just how well he's doing at Triple-A Tacoma.
He earned that opening day nod with a big spring training, and it's not like he was facing only minor-leaguers then. At 23, he's not old enough to dismiss as a Quadruple-A type yet, especially since we're seeing the power play up for the first time this year. You'll want to sit tight with him in dynasty leagues.
Hunter Greene, SP, Reds
2018 minors: 3-7, 4.48 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 68 1/3 IP, 23 BB, 89 K
2021 minors: 3-0, 1.69 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, 16 IP, 3 BB, 25 K
The second pick of the 2017 draft got teased as a two-way player at the time, then struggled to make it as just a pitcher, then missed two years due to Tommy John surgery. But four years later, we're finally seeing what all the fuss is about. He's still lighting up the radar gun at 103 mph, putting him in the conversation for the hardest-throwing pitcher ever, but he's able to control it now. He also has a killer breaking ball to go with it, having done away with a more traditional sweeping slider for a low-90s, Corbin Burnes-like offering. Watch the strikeouts come pouring in.
Brian Rey, 2B, Reds
2019 minors: .258 BA (283 AB), 9 HR, 18 2B, .723 OPS, 13 BB, 40 K
2021 minors: .447 BA (47 AB), 6 HR, 5 2B, 1.421 OPS, 2 BB, 2 K
Here's a fun one. Neither Baseball America nor MLB.com lists Rey among the Reds' top 30 prospects, but here he is terrorizing high Class A with a cartoonish contact rate and league-leading home run total. Making contact is one skill the 23-year-old has always demonstrated, but he's taken it to a new level. And to have three times as many home runs as strikeouts? Honestly, where did it come from? Odds are against Rey being more than a flash in the pan, but not every prospect takes a conventional route. Deeper dynasty leaguers might take a flier here just in case it sticks.