It's not that I was completely disinterested. "Upside is always a worthy investment," I believe is how I put it, and as top-100 prospects, these two obviously offer upside. But amid a season with so many prospect fakeouts, and particularly given their struggles at the minor-league level this year, they weren't among my top priorities off the waiver wire coming out of the long weekend.
And indeed, things didn't go so well for Stone in what was actually his second major-league start Monday. Miller on Tuesday, however, was a different story. But why tell you when I can show you, right?
Suffice it to say he has me singing a different tune today.
Bobby Miller SP
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #70 • Age: 24
Tuesday's stat line was indeed impressive for a pitcher making his big-league debut and even more impressive when you consider Miller was facing the mighty Braves. But it was more just encouraging than a surefire star-is-born moment. He had a modest 10 swinging strikes on his 95 pitches, and his average exit velocity was an unsatisfactory 93.4 mph (again, tough opponent). Still, the upside was evident. His fastball regularly brushed triple digits, and he did a fine job locating it up in the zone without being overly reliant on it, throwing it 31 percent of the time compared to 26 percent sliders and 24 percent changeups. That's a mature pitch mix for a player so young and an arsenal so electric. This start probably buys Miller time even after Julio Urias returns, and if things progress from here, you'll be glad you bought into him now.
SF San Francisco • #8 • Age: 30
Conforto spent all of last year recovering from shoulder surgery, so it stands to reason he may have needed some time to get back in the swing of things. Perhaps that's what we're seeing now, with him homering for the sixth time in 12 games Tuesday. Not only is he batting .333 (15 for 45) during that span but his strikeout rate is also just 18.0 percent, down from 30.8 percent previously. His average exit velocity is now among the highest of his career, which includes a three-year span with the Mets in which he averaged 29.3 home runs. I'm not fully convinced he's back to form -- his final season before the shoulder surgery (2021) was a massive letdown -- but he's showing strong signs. And outfield is a position of need.
Brayan Bello SP
BOS Boston • #66 • Age: 24
Brayan Bello's start Tuesday, in which he allowed two earned runs in seven innings, was his strongest of the season so far. But it continued a strong stretch of starts, five in all, in which he has a 2.57 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 9.3 K/9 -- impressive numbers for what was a highly regarded prospect at this time a year ago. And the deeper you dig, the better he looks. He entered Tuesday's start with a 12.2 percent swinging-strike rate, which would rank in the upper third of the league, but the real standout number is his 61.9 percent ground-ball rate. That's at Framber Valdez's level, and it's rare to find such an extreme ground-ball pitcher who also misses bats at a high rate. Bello isn't the priority Bobby Miller is, but he may be close to taking off.
Tanner Houck SP
BOS Boston • #89 • Age: 27
If you're deciding whether to add Brayan Bello or Tanner Houck off the waiver wire, take your cue from the old Old El Paso commercial: why not both? While Bello is a pretty good bat-misser with extreme ground-ball tendencies, Houck is a pretty good ground-ball generator (51.8 percent) with exceptional bat-missing skills (12.9 percent). Those bat-missing skills have only gotten sharper over his past couple starts as he's faded his fastball in favor of more sliders and splitters. He got 15 swinging strikes on just 75 pitches two turns ago and 17 on just 83 pitches in what was his best outing of the season Monday. Granted, his ERA is still an uninspiring 4.99, but his xERA is 3.98, his FIP is 3.84, and his xFIP is 3.75.
Paul DeJong SS
SF San Francisco • #18 • Age: 30
I remain highly, highly skeptical of a 29-year-old who hit .182 the previous two years and was nearly designated for assignment more than once. But we've reached a point with Paul DeJong where the roster rate has been so slow to adjust to the production at hand that I almost have to recommend him, at least as a hot-hand play. In formats that require a third middle infielder, such as standard Rotisserie, a good shortstop can be hard to find off the waiver wire, and yet here we have one who has homered five times in a 10-game span and eight times in 24 games overall. So what's changed from his previous failures? According to MLB, he's taking shorter strides at the plate, which has allowed him to time up pitches better. It's something, anyway, if you want a reason to believe.
LAA L.A. Angels • #16 • Age: 25
For the third straight game Tuesday, Mickey Moniak was in the Angels lineup, and Taylor Ward, one of last season's biggest breakouts, was not. Tuesday also represented the second straight game in which Moniak hit the ball out of the park, giving him four homers since his arrival May 13. The former No. 1 overall pick (by the Phillies in 2016) clearly hasn't lived up to expectations to this point, but since the start of last season, he has hit .310 with a .951 OPS in the minors, which suggests he may have turned the corner developmentally. His plate discipline leaves much to be desired, and because his entry into the lineup forces out Ward, it's hard to imagine him playing every single day. But Moniak is interesting enough if you want to speculate on upside in a five-outfielder league.