As the NFL regular season gets nearer, we’re bound to see some of our league mates in our fantasy baseball leagues lose focus. It happens around this time every year. It’s inevitable. However, that means there’s a windfall for us. Us being the fantasy baseball players who are still paying attention to our lineups and rosters. What is that windfall? In dynasty fantasy baseball leagues, or even keeper leagues with minor league rosters, we get to add up-and-coming prospects to our rosters without people paying attention. This is the time of the year to make hay with your prospect pickups. We’re not talking about guys who just came up to their team’s MLB lineup, we’re talking about getting players who are on the rise but aren’t fully known names yet. That’s what we’re talking about in this week’s Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report — prospects on the rise.
Prospects on the Rise
The Reds are flush with talent. From rookies like Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, and Elly De La Cruz to the prospects still coming up. Jorge is one of those still coming up. The 19-year-old Keystone has reached High-A Dayton after playing most of this year at Class-A Daytona Beach. His combined line in 2023, over 100 combined games, is .282/.378/.450 with 10 homers, 20 XBH (11 2B, 9 3B), 73 R, 39 RBI, and 31 SB. Overall, Jorge has an average Hit tool with a burgeoning Power tool and above-average Speed in his 5’10”, 160-pound frame. There is more projection left in his frame which will lead to more power and a tad less speed but overall the profile is there to make him a 15-20 HR, 20-25 SB, good-AVG second baseman. The only issue for Jorge might be all of the talent ahead of him in the MLB lineup but there’s still a couple of years to sort that out.
A guy who’s moved into my top 100 in the latest Top-400 Prospect Rankings, Black is my fourth-highest rated Brewers’ prospect. We’ve spent time talking about the guys ahead of him in Jackson Churio, Sal Frelick, and Jacob Misiorowski but Black is right there in terms of fantasy upside. His Hit and Speed tools are his calling cards with both being 60-grade, or plus, skills. The power isn’t quite there, and likely won’t get much better, as a 40-45-grade tool but that doesn’t take away from the value. He’s capable of being a .285-.295 hitter in the majors with the speed to swipe 30 or more bags a year. Just as an example, in 2023 in 84 games at Double-A, Black slashed .273/.411/.513 with 14 HR, 70 R, 48 RBI, and 47 SB. That’s right he had nearly as many steals are RBI. The key for Black is finding a defensive home as he’s been played at second, third, and in the outfield thus far. If he becomes a super sub with high-average and a lot of steals there is a bunch of fantasy value here.
The 18-year-old Colombian was signed in the 2022 International Signing period and since then has been showing well in the low minors. Over 99 total games between DSL Rookie level and Low-A, Arroyo is slashing .291/.429/.456 with seven home runs, 25 doubles, five triples, 89 runs, 45 RBI, and 11 steals. For a guy who’s 5’8” and weighs 160 pounds that’s pretty solid production. As he gets bigger physically the Power should reach an average grade while the Speed and Hit tools are hovering around an above-average grade. He is likely to move to the Keystone going forward but that should actually help his fantasy value as solid production at second is tougher to come by. When all is said and done, Arroyo should be a .280-.285 hitter with 15-18 homers and 22-27 steals a year. There’s a long wait for him given his age but he’s already a top-100 prospect with a shot to crack the top-50 by mid-season next year.
Felnin Celesten — SS Seattle Mariners
If you want the highest ceiling prospect on this list, it’s Celesten. There’s no question about it. His skillset is elite and has the ability to make him a top-five prospect in all of baseball once he gets going. That’s the trick right now…he’s not played yet. Celesten was signed in January of this year by Seattle but a hamstring strain has delayed his pro ball start. So what are his skills? He grades out with 55-grade Hit, 55-grade Power, 60-grade Speed, and 55-grade Field and Arm tools. That puts him squarely in the five tool category. To give you an idea, the last top-five prospect for the Mariners — Julio Rodriguez — graded out as a 60-h, 60-p, 50-r prospect. Celesten isn’t that far off. The time to get him is now before he hits the field and his skills make him shoot up prospect boards quite quickly.
Hyun-Suk Jang — RHP Los Angeles Dodgers
The newest addition to the prospect lists, Jang was signed by the Dodgers on August 8th out of South Korea. Expected to be the first pick in the upcoming KBO draft, he forewent that chance to sign with a major league team and landed with the Dodgers. The 19-year-old righty has electric stuff already with three plus pitches and a fourth average offering. The fastball sits at 95 and routinely reaches 97 with a lot of carry and tight spin. The second-best pitch is his power slider in the mid-to-upper 80s with run while the curveball is distinct and in the lower-80s with more of a 1-7 break. The changeup is the average pitch but it will improve to a 55-grade pitch as he throws it more often in the minors. Overall, the 6’4” right-hander has the upside of being a number two starter at his best and a floor of a high-strikeout number three starter. The last time I was this high on a Dodgers’ starter prospect was Walker Buehler.
It’s been a rough year, or two, for the White Sox but they do have some intriguing prospects coming up through the ranks. Schultz is one of them as their top pitching prospect. Taken in the first round of the 2022 MLB Draft out of the Illinois High School ranks, he’s been dominant in his short time in pro ball after forgoing his Vanderbilt commitment. Schultz is at Class-A Kannapolis and has posted a 1.33 ERA over 27 IP in 10 starts while compiling a 38:6 K:BB ratio. That’s not a ton go on clearly, but the plus fastball and double-plus slider are living up to their billing so far. He will need to work on his average changeup more in pro ball than he had to in high school, but if it gets to above-average and the burgeoning sinker comes in, he has the stuff to be a frontline starter. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s 6’9” and has a whip of a delivery that adds movement.
Drew Thorpe — RHP New York Yankees
A fellow 2022 MLB Draftee, Thorpe is a promising arm for a team who’s struggled to produce home grown pitching talent for a while. The righty was taken in the second round of the draft out of Cal Poly and has already pitched 130 innings in the Yankees’ farm system. Thorpe started at High-A Hudson Valley and has since been promoted to Double-A Somerset with a combined line of a 2.56 ERA over 21 starts and 130 innings with a 168:35 K:BB ratio. Wins are a flawed stat but he’s still compiled a 13-2 W-L record this year. He is more of a throwback type starter who’s more command and control rather than pure stuff. His best pitch is a double-plus changeup that sits in the low-80s with a lot of deceptive fade. The slider — in the mid-80s — has tight break to it and can be a swing-and-miss pitch at it’s best coming in with a 55 grade. The fastball, grade-wise his worst pitch, sits in the low-90s occasionally touching 95 with a bit of sink. It plays up thanks to his other pitches and his control. This makes Thorpe a solid candidate as an inning-eating mid-rotation arm who should get a touch more strikeouts than expected.
Ivan Melendez — 1B/3B Arizona Diamondbacks
We all need power on our fantasy rosters right? So far we haven’t really talked about pure power bats, that’s where Melendez comes in. That was his calling card in college and it’s been his calling card as he’s progressed through the minors as well. In 2023, over 92 games split between High-A Hillsboro and Double-A Amarillo, he’s hitting .275/.350/.595 with 30 homers, 76 RBI, 64 R, and four steals. See, pure power. Melendez does have an average Hit tool to go with the double-plus Power which helps too so it’s not like a Kyle Schwarber profile. Arizona doesn’t exactly have overwhelming power in the middle of their lineup right now and first base and DH aren’t really locked down going forward either. That’s where the hole for Melendez comes, which he should fill perhaps by the middle of next year.
Marco Raya — RHP Minnesota Twins
Raya is an interesting one. Some of his numbers don’t stand out like they should for a guy with this kind of stuff. His fastball is electric at 97 mph with life while the slider and curveball are also solid pitches. The fourth pitch, his changeup, is average at the moment. Raya, a 6’1” righty, does throw a little flat at times and has an injury history that makes some wonder if he has the durability to remain on the starter track. Over his 116.1 career MiLB innings, Raya has a 132:44 K:BB ratio which is nice but his 4.91 ERA in 51.1 innings this year isn’t. If Raya can sort stuff out and make his stuff less hittable at times, his development will take off and his above-average four-pitch mix will start making people pay attention.
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