gavin-sheets.jpg

September is here, so where are all the prospects?

It's become a cruel joke this time of year. Generally, if a top prospect is in the plans for the current season, he's up before rosters expand in September. And now that rosters are only expanded by two (instead of the possible 15 of Septembers past), there's even less opportunity for a wowie call-up. Mostly, teams are just looking for bullpen depth.

There were, however, three Sept. 1 arrivals who could have a Fantasy impact down the stretch, and it just so happened that they all delivered big results Wednesday.

MIN Minnesota • #41 • Age: 27
Wednesday vs. Cubs
INN
5
H
3
ER
3
BB
1
K
5
SEA Seattle • #37 • Age: 27
Wednesday vs. Indians
INN
6
H
4
ER
0
BB
3
K
6
CHW Chi. White Sox • #32 • Age: 27
Wednesday vs. Pirates
AB
3
H
2
HR
2
RBI
4
R
2

Of the three, only Joe Ryan was making his major-league debut. Jackson Kowar and Gavin Sheets had appeared earlier this year, to mixed results.

I wouldn't say any is must-add, but I've listed them in order of my interest level. Ryan should have a stable rotation spot unless he crumbles, and he has put together a 2.47 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and 13.0 K/9 over the past two minor-league seasons. Still, he brings an uncertain profile since his success is so dependent on his fastball, a deceptive low-90s offering that he throws about two-thirds of the time. If the trick works against big-leaguers, though, you're onto something.

  • How do we rank Logan Gilbert, Joe Ryan and Jackson Kowar after all three had solid starts on Wednesday? We analyze that and more on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kowar is a more conventional prospect and has a bonkers pitch of his own (a changeup), but he was unsteady at Triple-A this year, compiling a 3.46 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 12.8 K/9. Sheets is now up to a .239 batting average, eight home runs and .865 OPS in 92 at-bats between his various big-league stints. He also batted .295 with an .869 OPS at Triple-A, striking out at about a 20 percent clip at each of the two levels (not bad at all). It's just not clear that manager Tony La Russa has any intention to play him every day.

Of course, the book isn't closed on September call-ups. Teams can still bring players up and send them down just as they've been doing all season. With that in mind, here are my ...

Five on the verge

(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)

Bobby Witt, SS, Royals

2019 minors: .262 BA (164 AB), 1 HR, 9 SB, .670 OPS, 13 BB, 35 K
2021 minors: .299 BA (405 AB), 28 HR, 22 SB, .959 OPS, 39 BB, 108 K
   

Assistant GM J.J. Picollo already laid the groundwork for disappointment a couple weeks ago when he pointed out that rosters won't be expanded by as much this September and that the Triple-A season won't end as early, running through the end of the month.

"So do we truly have the ability to give somebody an opportunity in September? And if not, we know they're getting another close to 100 at-bats over the course of September," he told The Kansas City Star. "So I think it's totally different, and I think the dynamic has completely changed."

He wasn't addressing Witt specifically, but ... he kind of was addressing him, right? I'm keeping Witt as my No. 1 prospect to stash, but less because I'm optimistic he'll get the call than because his impact potential is that high if he does.

Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins

2019 minors: .252 BA (445 AB), 8 HR, 26 2B, .671 OPS, 24 BB, 54 K
2021 minors: .337 BA (430 AB), 25 HR, 25 2B, .967 OPS, 37 BB, 66 K

Rocco Baldelli put it as succinctly as anyone could, calling Miranda's performance between Double- and Triple-A this year "one of the best seasons in baseball at any level." Indeed, the numbers are truly Pujolsian, particularly the amount of power he's generated while demonstrating such impressive bat-to-ball skills. But it's also true he has yet to join Joe Ryan in the Twin Cities. So will he?  

"It could have to do with availability of at-bats and opportunities," Baldelli said. "In some different scenarios, I mean, he could probably find himself in the big leagues sooner than later. In some other scenarios, probably not."

That's about as insuccinctly as anyone could put it (if you'll excuse the made-up word). But it does at least acknowledge that the Twins are considering the possibility of adding the 23-year-old for the stretch run -- not because they're competing for anything, but because it'll allow them to assess his readiness for next year. Understandably, it wouldn't make sense to do it if they didn't have any at-bats for him, but Brent Rooker may be wearing out his welcome in left field. I remain hopeful. 

Seth Beer, 1B, Diamondbacks

2019 minors: .289 BA (450 AB), 26 HR, 24 2B, .904 OPS, 46 BB, 113 K
2021 minors: .283 BA (339 AB), 15 HR, 30 2B, .894 OPS, 36 BB, 72 K

It's frankly inexcusable that Beer isn't already up. I know the Diamondbacks aren't playing for anything, and why would a team with nothing on the line start the service time clock for one of its top prospects? But Beer isn't really a top prospect, not in a traditional baseball sense. He's interesting for Fantasy Baseball purposes because he can mash, but he isn't the sort of prospect who's deserving of service time manipulation. Plus, he's about to turn 25 and plays the same position that's currently being manned by the ghost of Christian Walker. It has to happen, doesn't it?

Shane Baz, SP, Rays

2019 minors: 3-2, 2.99 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 81 1/3 IP, 37 BB, 87 K
2021 minors: 4-4, 213 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 67 2/3 IP, 11 BB, 96 K

Baz is a newcomer to my Five on the Verge, and what a time to bring him into the fold, right? The way the Rays have handled him could be telling. They just brought him back from a month-long shutdown three turns ago and already got him back up to five innings in his latest outing Tuesday. If they weren't considering him for a September arrival, what would be the rush? Why bring him back at all? His 2021 has already been a developmental success. He's harnessed his stuff and emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect as a result. Why chance it?

The Rays are a virtual lock for the playoffs and have World Series ambitions, but they've been lacking in starting pitchers ever since losing Tyler Glasnow, with rookies Shane McClanahan and Luis Patino representing the best they have to offer. I don't know if they'd use Baz like a true starting pitcher or more like a bulk guy to follow an opener, but he could have a Fantasy impact in either role. For what it's worth, Rays TV analyst Brian Anderson recently told 95.3 WDAE he'd be shocked if Baz isn't up at some point in September.

Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays

2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .279 BA (308 AB), 10 HR, 36 SB, .832 OPS, 41 BB, 51 K

Brujan would be an easier choice for the Rays to bring up than Shane Baz given that he was up earlier this year and is already on the 40-man roster. Plus, contenders always have a need for a versatile defender and potential pinch runner. The issue for Brujan is that it'll be hard for him to make a Fantasy impact in such a role. A scenario exists in which he doesn't get many at-bats but still helps you make up ground in the stolen base category, as fast as he is. A scenario also exists in which the Rays clinch the No. 1 seed early and give Brujan a bunch of at-bats for development's sake. It's a long shot but realistic enough to keep him in my Five on the Verge.

Five on the periphery

(These are some other prospects doing something of note)

Oscar Gonzalez, OF, Indians

2019 minors: .293 BA (481 AB), 9 HR, 27 2B, .733 OPS, 15 BB, 83 K
2021 minors: .317 BA (375 AB), 23 HR, 21 2B, .918 OPS, 19 BB, 81 K

Gonzalez is one of those swing-at-everything types who sometimes have trouble breaking into the majors, and maybe that's why he's failed to gain much traction in the prospect rankings. But he's proven this year he can put a hurt on the ball when he gets ahold of it. The profile is beginning to resemble that of Jesus Sanchez, complete with all the risks. But given that Gonzalez has continued to get it done since moving up to Triple-A -- and in particular lately, homering five times in his past 10 games -- I'd say he's being undervalued in dynasty leagues.

Matt Brash, SP, Mariners

2019 minors: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K
2021 minors: 5-3, 2.24 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 80 1/3 IP, 40 BB, 120 K

As if the Mariners pipeline didn't already have enough pitching in it, turns out they stole this guy from the Padres in the Taylor Williams trade last season. Who is Taylor Williams, you ask? Exactly. Granted, it wasn't so clear what they had in Brash at the time, but we know now: arguably the best slider in all the minors. The pitch makes everyone look stupid. He pairs it with a 99 mph fastball and what looks to be the start of a good enough changeup to keep him in the starting role. He made it seven innings two turns ago, striking out 11 while allowing just one hit, and followed it up with 10 strikeouts over five innings last time out.

Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals

2019 minors: .294 BA (211 AB), 14 HR, 17 2B, .963 OPS, 27 BB, 40 K
2021 minors: .314 BA (379 AB), 20 HR, 35 2B, .982 OPS, 51 BB, 59 K

Nick Pratto has so clearly turned himself into the Royals' first baseman of the (very near) future that it's easy to overlook what Pasquantino is doing, but after another big week at Double-A Northwest Arkansas, the 23-year-old now has nearly the same number of extra-base hits (58) and walks (50) as strikeouts this year. He's a level behind Pratto but a year older, which means they're likely to arrive at about the same time. Maybe Pasquantino can be the Billy Butler to Pratto's Eric Hosmer and simply settle in at DH, but the Royals will also need to have at-bats for both Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez in the near future. 

Eddys Leonard, SS, Dodgers

2019 minors: .285 BA (209 AB), 4 HR, 7 2B, .804 OPS, 28 BB, 60 K
2021 minors: .311 BA (357 AB), 21 HR, 24 2B, .992 OPS, 49 BB, 96 K

A fairly obscure prospect coming into the year, Leonard has been a monster at two levels of A-ball, actually upping his production with an early-August promotion to high Class A Great Lakes. He has collected multiple hits in 10 of his past 18 games, including a three-homer game Sunday, all while bouncing between the four most premium positions (shortstop, center field, third base and second base). He's one of those hitters who stands out for the way he uses his hands, but he's still capable of taking a walk. There are more strengths than weaknesses here, so expect to see him climb the rankings soon.

Coby Mayo, 3B, Orioles

2021 minors: .301 BA (123 AB), 6 HR, 10 2B, .947 OPS, 21 BB, 28 K

Drafted in the fourth round last year out of the same high school program that produced Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Luzardo, Mayo seemed destined for the University of Florida before the Orioles paid him $1 million over slot to join their farm system instead. Just two months into his professional career, the move is already paying dividends. The 19-year-old is showing better plate discipline than expected, reaching base at a .419 clip while keeping his strikeouts under control, and is leveraging his 6-foot-5 frame as well as hoped. According to Baseball America, the Orioles view him as a 70-grade power bat, and while he's sure to face some growing pains as he climbs the ladder, he has emerged as a name to know.