Around the Minor Leagues – Low-A Ball
A fantasy owner’s perception of a prospect can change on a dime, be it due to injury, or a trade, or even a hot or cold start to a season. I’m looking to go through the minors level by level, and highlight some players who have good dynasty league potential and have gotten off to hot starts. Some of these names might be familiar, but they might also be available on the waiver wire in your league, or at least available freely in trade. I’m going to start off with three hitters, and three pitchers in the low A level of the minors.
Jordan Westburg, 3B, Baltimore Orioles
Despite being a supplemental first-round pick of the Orioles last June, Westburg was a relative afterthought in prospect and FYPD rankings. With no real standout skill, but a lot of hustle and developing power, he managed to hit waivers in many dynasty leagues when roster cutdowns happened. Westburg has solid bat-to-ball skills and has gotten off to a blistering hot start at Delmarva in the Low A Eastern league, with a .341 average, ten extra-base hits including three homers, and .541 slugging percentage in 85 at-bats. He’s struck out 28 times but also walked 14, and kicked in 5 steals so far. He is a bit old for the level at 22 but it is his first taste of pro ball, the most important thing is he’s playing well. Despite already moving off shortstop to third base, he might not have a natural defensive home and could roam around the diamond on defense. This is something that used to scare fantasy owners away, fearing the player would not get significant plate appearances. In today’s MLB, many teams do manage to get their utility guy 500 PA a year or so, and if Jordan continues to hit I’m sure the Orioles will find him even more than that.
Jhonkensy Noel, 1B, Cleveland Indians
Noel was originally acquired by Cleveland as an international free agent in the summer of 2017 on his 16th birthday. He managed two full seasons in rookie ball, including the Dominican Summer League, and the Arizona League in 2019, before the 2020 season was canceled. He’s still listed at 6’1” and 190 lbs but looks significantly heavier and stronger, and projects to have plus power if he maximizes his potential. So far in 2021, he’s done that, hitting .347 with 5 homers and only 13 strikeouts in 72 at-bats. He also has 6 doubles powering up his ISO to .292 at only 19 years old. While he’s not walking this year, only two intentional walks so far, he has averaged more than a 10% BB rate in his two previous years in the organization. Cleveland has a very deep system, so Noel was buried in the late teens on many team lists this spring, sometimes lower. The power potential has always been there but as is often the case, there’s projection involved and contact concerns. That is why it is so impressive to see the start he’s had, and worth a flyer if you can add him.
Kyren Paris, SS, Los Angeles Angels
A second-round pick in the 2019 FYPD, Paris was hurt shortly after and managed only 10 at-bats that year, then of course didn’t see any official at-bats in the 2020 season. He did manage to make it to the Angels’ alternate site last year and apparently showed very well despite being the youngest player with the team. He’s also reportedly added some strength to his 6’0” 165lbs frame, maybe weighing in as much as 180 lbs now. While speed is currently the main fantasy baseball attraction to his real game, with 10 SB already in 16 games, that added weight and muscle is translating as well. Fellow TDG writer Ross Jensen projected Kyren to have one of the best peak wRC+ amongst teenagers, and Michael Richards pointed out Paris had (at the time) the 6th highest wRC+ of any teenager in the minors. Paris has no homers so far but does have 4 doubles and 5 triples, meaning almost half his hits have gone for extra bases, again in his first real taste of professional baseball. With developing power, and plenty of speed in a league devoid of it, Paris is a must-add in deeper dynasty leagues.
Sam Carlson, SP, Seattle Mariners
I’ll admit this name caught my eye when perusing minor league stats for this piece. I was a big Carlson fan when he was drafted in the second round of the 2017 draft, a surprising draft slot when MLB Pipeline had him ranked the 15th best prospect available. The Mariners agreed with the Pipeline, signing Sam to a well over-slot $2,000,000 bonus to convince him to forego college. His big fastball topping out at 97, power slider, and above-average change were tantalizing, and had a projectable 6’4” 195 lbs frame, meaning some felt he could add velocity if he added some weight. Shortly after signing, Carlson experienced elbow pain and missed almost the entire 2017 minor league season. He never threw a pitch in-game in 2018, having Tommy John Surgery in early July, and ended up missing 2019 as well. Reports from the alternate site were good in 2020, and now in his first official game action in almost three and a half seasons, Carlson has a 3.04 ERA, and 34 strikeouts in only 23 2/3 innings. He does have an elevated WHIP of 1.39, due to 15 walks so far, but his near 60% strike rate suggests he’s not wild, and more game reps could really help. Look to add him before he really hits his stride.
Kyle Harrison, SP, San Francisco Giants
A third-round selection in this past FYPD, many felt Harrison had decent stuff and was low risk, but maybe he didn’t have the stuff to be a top of the rotation arm. While that still may be the case, prospects can get better in the right system with the right coaching. He already has a low 90’s fastball from the left side and a late-breaking slider for lefties, and a solid changeup he throws to righties. In 22 2/3 innings, he’s struck out 39 batters, thanks to 64 swinging strikes, so hitters are clearly having a hard time with his stuff. The downside is he’s also walked 19 batters and hit 5 more. Kyle has a repeatable delivery and consistent release point, so hopefully as he spends more time with the Giants organization, he’ll be able to improve on those command issues, and work his way up prospect lists.
Mitchell Parker, SP, Washington Nationals
I had not heard of Mitchell Parker, but his stats stood out big time. A 2020 5th round draftee who is seeing his first taste of professional ball, Parker has thrown a 3.29 ERA in 27 1/3 innings, with 50 strikeouts. He’s walked 17, but has only one hit batter and just allowed his first home run last time out. In fact, he’s only allowed 18 hits on the season keeping his WHIP at 1.28. He’s also clearly getting more comfortable, quickly, as he only allowed one hit total, in two games, pitching six innings both times before having a rough outing over the weekend. The scouting report on Parker is he throws a low 90’s fastball from the left side with a deceptive delivery. He has a curveball that he has good control of and is improving. Players can only stay under the radar for so long, and it’s only a matter of time before more people start noticing what Parker is doing.