Whenever my Five on the Verge is stuck in neutral, as seems to be the case now with September roster expansion already in play, the temptation is to swap out names just for variety's sake. Not like it's a precise exercise anyway, predicting when a prospect will get the call and what kind of impact he'll make when he does. What separates No. 5 on the list from the hypothetical No. 8?

It's a reasonable question, and at most points during the season, little does separate them. But with just over three weeks to go in the 2021 season, the path for yet-to-be promoted prospects becoming Fantasy-relevant is incredibly narrow. Frankly, the chances of any one doing it are slim.

It's kind of uncharted territory, too. Normally by this point in the year, I would have discontinued the Prospects Report because ... there'd be nothing more to report on. The minor-league season would have ended. But because it started a month late this year for COVID-related reasons, it continues on. 

And so we're left to wonder ... could Jose Barrero still take over at shortstop for the Reds? Could Luis Campusano still step in at catcher for the Padres? They're still plugging away at Triple-A, after all.

CIN Cincinnati • #2 • Age: 25
2021 minors
SD San Diego • #12 • Age: 25
2021 minors

In fact, they've done some of their finest work recently, with Barrero batting .313 (5 for 16) with two home runs in five games since being sent back and Campusano batting .380 (19 for 50) with six homers in his past 14 games (though he may be dealing with some kind of injury given that his last appearance came on Aug. 30). 

The two are about as legitimate as prospects get, too. Barrero would be the Reds' long-term answer at shortstop on the strength of his defense alone, but he's made big strides as a hitter this year, his improved power production also serving to raise his expected batting average. Campusano, meanwhile, continues to defy expectations for both his age and position, being strong enough to swing a massive 40-ounce piece of lumber while maintaining a strikeout rate around 20 percent and hitting the ball out to all fields.

And it just so happens they play for the two teams locked in a battle for the second NL wild card. Couldn't either of these prospects provide the spark that puts his team over the top? Seriously, what do Kyle Farmer and Austin Nola have that they don't?

Well ... experience. It kind of matters. Hurting Barrero's and Campusano's chances is that they've been up already -- both this year and last, actually -- and the last thing the Reds and Padres can afford is to have them do what they did then, Barrero going 15 for 79 (.190) and Campusano going 4 for 37 (.108).

Taking pitcher off the table, there are no positions more critical than shortstop and catcher, and turning them over to a couple kids who have to this point looked overmatched would be throwing up a Hail Mary, not to mention turning up the pressure cooker to 11. Imagine entrusting the Padres pitching staff to a 22-year-old now. You'd be giving Campusano no chance to settle in. If he (or Barrero) didn't hit the ground running, it would be a failure on several levels.

It doesn't mean they'll never get another shot. It simply means now is not the time, not with the stakes what they are. It's why, despite there being a reasonable case to include Barrero and Campusano, I'm leaving them out of 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: .298 BA (430 AB), 29 HR, 23 SB, .953 OPS, 41 BB, 114 K

The Royals announced with Adalberto Mondesi's return from the IL last week that the 26-year-old would play third base for the rest of the season, which theoretically leaves the door open for Witt to play some shortstop down the stretch. But it probably says more about his role for 2022 than anything else -- i.e., he's not going to have to transition to second base as originally thought. For now, Nicky Lopez is capably handling shortstop, and the lack of buzz about a possible Witt promotion suggests it's probably a lost cause. Still, I'm keeping him as my No. 1 prospect to stash because his impact potential is that high if he does get the call.

Here's a look at him hitting an inside-the-park home run Wednesday, just for fun:

Jose Miranda, 3B, Twins

2019 minors: .252 BA (445 AB), 8 HR, 26 2B, .671 OPS, 24 BB, 54 K
2021 minors: .336 BA (458 AB), 26 HR, 26 2B, .960 OPS, 39 BB, 70 K

A week ago, manager Rocco Baldelli seemed hopeful about Miranda getting the call before the season is done while acknowledging it would depend on whether the Twins could find at-bats for him. A week later, the one possible opening remains the same: left field, where Brent Rooker continues to flounder. But Miranda himself has little experience there, and the Twins seem reluctant to try Luis Arraez there again. It didn't help that Miranda was slumping a bit for about a three-week stretch, but he snapped out of it Wednesday, going 3 for 6 with a double and a homer. The Twins still have little to lose by giving him a late-season look.

Seth Beer, 1B, Diamondbacks

2019 minors: .289 BA (450 AB), 26 HR, 24 2B, .904 OPS, 46 BB, 113 K
2021 minors: .287 BA (339 AB), 16 HR, 33 2B, .909 OPS, 39 BB, 76 K

There has been little to no chatter about Seth Beer in recent weeks, which may speak more to his lukewarm prospect standing than anything else. There's still absolutely no reason I can see why the Diamondbacks wouldn't give him a trial run. He's days away from turning 25, continues to swing a hot bat at Triple-A, batting .348 (8 for 23) so far in September, and would only be displacing Christian Walker, who looks like a lost cause with a .665 OPS this year. That we haven't seen Beer yet has me losing faith we will, but as I said in the intro, the odds are against any yet-to-be-promoted player having a Fantasy impact this year. He's not special in that regard.

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, 2.11 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 72 2/3 IP, 12 BB, 103 K

I still can't shake the thought that the Rays could begin priming Baz for a significant playoff role in the 11th hour. They've been so careful about preserving his innings, even shutting him down for a month from mid-August to mid-September. In the meantime, he has emerged as arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball, harnessing his electric stuff to brilliant effect. 

As good as the Rays are, their only bankable starting pitcher is Shane McClanahan, himself a rookie, which could prove to be their downfall in the playoffs. Even if they're not ready to introduce Baz as a full-fledged starter, he could have a Fantasy impact as a bulk guy who follows an opener.

Vidal Brujan, 2B, Rays

2019 minors: .277 BA (383 AB), 4 HR, 48 SB, .735 OPS, 37 BB, 61 K
2021 minors: .270 BA (322 AB), 10 HR, 37 SB, .809 OPS, 44 BB, 58 K

Brujan seemed ideally suited for a September call-up even after his 2-for-26 performance in the majors earlier this year. He can play just about everywhere and would always have value as a pinch runner, so his September snub is the most surprising of anyone on this list. Adding insult to injury is that the Rays called up Josh Lowe, another prospect, to fill in during Randy Arozarena's paternity leave, brief though it figures to be. Could it be because Brujan is 4 for 35 (.114) in his past 11 games? As the saying goes, speed never slumps, and that's all you'd be looking for him to give you in Fantasy: a little stolen base help.

Five on the periphery

(These are some other prospects doing something of note)

Triston Casas, 1B, Red Sox

2019 minors: .256 BA (429 AB), 20 HR, 26 2B, .830 OPS, 58 BB, 118 K
2021 minors: .283 BA (247 AB), 12 HR, 9 2B, .869 OPS, 40 BB, 55 K

Though one of my favorite prospects coming into the year, Casas had largely been a disappointment even while maintaining excellent plate discipline. The power numbers simply weren't up to snuff, and for a corner infielder especially, power is an absolute must. You didn't see any evaluators losing faith in him, though, and sure enough, he finally broke through with five homers in a span of three days last week. Add three more home runs from his time in the Olympics, and he's at 15 for the year -- a perfectly respectable total given his number of at-bats. Bottom line is there's simply no cause for alarm here.

Michael Busch, 2B, Dodgers

2019 minors: 3 for 24 (.125), 7 BB, 5 K
2021 minors: .260 BA (389 AB), 20 HR, 26 2B, .862 OPS, 67 BB, 122 K

It would be a stretch to classify Busch's first full professional season as an unmitigated success given its many ups and downs, but he's looking to finish it on a high note, batting .459 (17 for 37) with four homers and six doubles over his past nine games. It's worth pointing out that his worst stretch of the season, when he hit .173 with a .526 OPS in June, coincided with him getting plunked on the hand, so he may have been playing at less than 100 percent. Absent that month, he's batting .280. Busch stands out most for his on-base ability, which naturally earns him comparisons to Max Muncy. He should be up at some point next year.

Davis Daniel, SP, Angels

2021 minors: 4-5, 2.50 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 93 2/3 IP, 28 BB, 130 K

Could this be the next Joe Ryan? Daniel is similarly light on pedigree and lacking in the raw ability that causes scouts to salivate, his fastball sitting in the low-to-mid-90s. But as with Ryan, it's such a functional pitch for him, making the most out of deception and movement, that it racks up whiffs anyway. Daniel's curveball gives him a better secondary offering than anything Ryan has, but it's the control that has stood out lately. He has issued a combined three walks over his past six starts for Double-A, compiling a 1.82 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 13.2 K/9 during that stretch.

Steven Kwan, OF, Indians

2019 minors: .280 BA (479 AB), 3 HR, 26 2B, .735 OPS, 53 BB, 51 K
2021 minors: .354 BA (223 AB), 9 HR, 15 2B, .996 OPS, 26 BB, 26 K

Talk about prospects flying under the radar, Kwan takes the cake. Even in the midseason update, Baseball America didn't list him in the Indians top 30, which might lead you to dismiss him out of hand. But the 24-year-old has done most of this damage at Double-A, for goodness' sake. Actually, since moving up to Triple-A, he's batting .467 (14 for 30). The single-digit home run total might not sit right with you, but project it out over a full season's at-bats, and it's nothing to sneeze at. Meanwhile, his contact skills are some of the best in all of his baseball, and his all-fields approach gives him an even higher capacity for batting average. I dare say there's something to see here.

Everson Pereira, OF, Yankees

2019 minors: .171 BA (70 AB), 1 HR, 3 SB, .473 OPS, 4 BB, 26 K
2021 minors: .316 BA (155 AB), 16 HR, 9 SB, 1.109 OPS, 25 BB, 49 K

Pereira's development has been an exercise in patience. Signed for big money as a 17-year-old, the hype all but dissipated during a 2019 season that was wrecked by an ankle injury. In a short time this year, though, he has already jumped two levels, showing big power and a disciplined approach at every stop. Now at high Class A Hudson Valley, he followed a three-walk performance Saturday with a three-homer game, which makes for a perfect microcosm of his season as a whole. Still only 20, he has plenty of room to grow from here.