Around the Minors – High A Ball
Fantasy owner’s perception can change about a prospect on a dime, be it an injury, or a trade, or even a hot or cold start to a season. I’m looking to go through the minors and highlight some players who have good dynasty league potential and have gotten off to hot starts, but might still be available on the waiver wire in your league, or at least available freely in trade. I took a look at Low A ball last time and will focus on some names at the High A level today.
Lolo Sanchez, OF Pittsburgh Pirates
I’ve had my eye on Lolo Sanchez for a few years now, but he’s always been too far away to be worth rostering. That might change quicker than expected. His frame is slender, standing 5‘11“ and 165 lbs, but he’s always been fast. In 1,252 career minor league at-bats, he’s stolen 90 bases, though has also been caught 46 times. 2021 the power stroke is emerging, as he’s already topped his previous career-high in home runs, with 7 in his first 36 games. He has always shown good plate discipline too, but that’s improved this year as well with 26 strikeouts and 23 walks in 126 at-bats. The Pirates system is improving quickly, but they also don’t have too many major league guys blocking their prospects. With continued improvement, Lolo could get his cup of coffee as soon as July 2022, and he has the speed, and now maybe the power, to make a difference in fantasy leagues when he does.
Ezequiel Duran, 2B, New York Yankees
While Red Sox fans pine for the promotion of their organization’s Duran (Jarren), Yankee fans can keep an eye on the New York prospect. As someone who’s been on prospect radars for a few years now but has never put up any meaningful stats in the lower minors to warrant adding except in the deepest of dynasty leagues. Early in 2021 he’s started to break out a bit, showing a .283/.366/.517 triple-slash to go along with 6 home runs and 10 steals in his first 164 plate appearances. His all-field approach has resulted in plenty of extra-base hits, 18 of them already, and also has a good plate discipline, with 36 strikeouts and 13 walks. Duran is still a few years away, but someone with a bit of power and a bit of speed is always in demand, and certainly worth an add if he’s still on your league waiver wire.
Alex McKenna, OF, Houston Astros
If you like to grab guys solely on their stat lines, McKenna will draw your interest. A decent athlete at 6’2” and 195 lbs, McKenna has shown moderate power with a pinch of speed through the lower levels of the minors. He’s off to a hot start to 2021, albeit as a 23-year-old, smashing 12 homers and stealing 6 bags in his first 36 games. McKenna will take a walk, he has 19 in his first 144 at-bats but has also struck out 55 times, a rate that’s consistent throughout his minor league career. While the Astros have a somewhat crowded outfield at the moment, things can change, and McKenna is probably showing enough power in High A Asheville to get promoted to Double-A later this summer. The overall ceiling may be limited here, but if you like to pick guys up who are producing, McKenna someone who fits that mold.
Carmen Mlodzinski, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
A competitive balance pick in last June’s draft (31st overall) Mlodzinski was labeled as a possible back of the rotation starter early in his college career. He throws a sinker and slider primarily, but also throws a cutter and a changeup, all of which are considered average, but may very well be improving. In his first two years of college baseball, Mlodzinski logged ERA’s approaching 6.00, with decent strikeout rates, but also very poor command. Then in the Cape Cod league in 2019, he stood out with a 2.15 ERA in 29.1 innings, with 40 strikeouts against only 4 walks. He followed that up in 2020 with a 2.84 ERA in 25.1 innings with 22 strikeouts, but also only 8 walks prompting the Pirates to take him where they did. Now another step forward in 2021, Mlodzinski’s stats are showing up his scouting reports, with another sub 3.00 ERA, 37:9 K:BB, better than a 4:1 ratio, in 25 innings. Baseball players improve, they learn the game better, improve on mistakes, and then outperform expectations. It’s about time to check if he’s available in your league.
Cole Henry, SP, Washington Nationals
A second-round pick in last year’s FYPD, Henry is a big righthanded thrower measuring 6’4” and 215 lbs. His best asset is his mid-nineties fastball that touches 97, and a two-seamer that he also throws in the mid-nineties. He also has a changeup and a curve that he’ll need to work on but show potential. A fly ball pitcher, he’s thrown 24 innings so far, striking out 35 and walking only 8, with a 3.00 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. He is currently out with an injury I wasn’t able to find any details on, but if he can come back quickly, there’s a good chance he sees a promotion to Double-A this year, and maybe even make his major league debut as soon as midseason 2022.
Cole Ragans, SP, Texas Rangers
A former 1st round pick, lefthander Ragans missed all of 2018 and 2019 recovering from two separate Tommy John surgeries. He’s now back on the map with a low 90’s fastball that was graded as plus, and a change, but was known to lack control before his surgeries. Early returns in 2021 are positive, as he’s walked 9 batters in 31.1 innings, but has also struck out 41, and produced a 3.16 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. At 23, Ragans is old for the level, but given he’s missed so much development due to injury it can also be seen as encouraging the Rangers started him at High A. There are not many who have returned after two Tommy John surgeries, but Ragans has the pedigree and early success to make him worth a gamble.