The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a tour around the minor leagues reviewing rising prospects. These are prospects that likely won’t be on Top 100 lists or on your fantasy rosters just yet but they will likely become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve reviewed the National League. This week, we begin the American League with the east division.
Dean Kremer, RHP (AA): Baltimore is slowly but surely building up a little pitching depth at the upper levels of the minors with lower ceiling guys like Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther. The club also has higher ceiling prospects like DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez in A-ball. Currently at Double-A, Kremer falls somewhere in the middle. Obtained in the disappointing Manny Machado deal where Baltimore focused more on quantity than quality, this right-hander could easily come away as the best player received in the deal from the Orioles’ perspective (I’m not a big Yusniel Diaz fan). Kremer has enough fastball velocity (up to 95 mph) to be interesting when you toss it together with a couple of above-average breaking balls. His control is ahead of his command but there is potential here for some strikeouts from a player with the ceiling of a No. 3 starter who might settle in as more of a solid No. 4. ETA: 2020
Michael Baumann, RHP (AA): Baumann recently made news by throwing a no-hitter in his fifth appearance at the Double-A level. He’s pitched well at every stop he’s made in the minors since being drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft but his game has reached a new level in 2019 with an increase in strikeout rate. He’s also inducing ground balls at a higher rate as he moves up the organizational ladder, which is the opposite of what usually happens with pitchers. According to prospect guru Eric Longenhagen, Baumann is utilizing a cutter this year so it could help explain the improvements. The issue with this young hurler has always been the depth of his repertoire as he’s never shown more than two better-than-average offerings at any one time which suggests his big league future may lie in the bullpen. Either way, he’s interesting and should get more than a fair shot at sticking in the rotation for the rebuilding Orioles especially if the increased K and GB rates continue. ETA: 2020
Boston Red Sox
Thad Ward, RHP (A+): Ward is a player to keep an eye on after jumping in value late in his college career and then carving up A-ball hitters. The right-hander may very well end up in the bullpen due to the lack of depth in his repertoire but he’ll be given an extended opportunity to find a third reliable pitch to go with his fastball and slider. Along with posting a strikeout rate of more than 11 Ks per nine innings in 2019, Ward has also produced ground balls at a higher-than-average rate. He’s allowed just three home runs in 95.2 combined innings. ETA: 2021
Jarren Duran, OF (AA): Duran’s solid performance in 2019 is welcomed with open arms by one of the weaker systems in baseball. But with that said, he’s struggled since being bumped up to Double-A as a 22-year-old. His strikeout rate is up and his line-drive rate is down. And for the first time in his career, he’s not averaging a BABIP of .430 – which was never sustainable. Still, if he can get back to putting the ball into play more consistently and with more authority, he has the speed to be a very interesting player for the Red Sox. He’s turned into great value as a college pick in the seventh round of the 2018 draft but it remains to be seen if his ceiling is more of a fourth outfielder or if he has the ability to be an impact player at the MLB level. For now, he should remain on your radar given his potential to provide future steals. ETA: 2021
New York Yankees
Luis Gil, RHP (A): It seems like the Yankees produce at least one breakout, upper-90s-throwing pitcher every year. With Deivi Garcia being “the guy” this year, keep on eye on Gil, who could be “the guy” next year. Drafted by the Twins back in 2015, he’s been slow to develop – in part due to shoulder surgery – but he’s finding the plate on a more consistent basis in ’19 although he’s still walked 37 batters in 79.1 Low-A innings. The right-hander can fire his heater up into the triple digits and also has a curveball that has plus potential. Along with producing lots of strikeouts (12.03 K/9), Gil has done a nice job keeping batted balls on the ground and has given up just one home run this season. ETA: 2021
Nick Nelson, RHP (AA): Drafted back in 2016 out of a junior college, Nelson has had a steady climb through the system and the Yankees may have to find a 40-man roster spot for him this fall – if he’s not traded before then. He missed a month and a half early in the season but has pitched very well since returning. His numbers would look even better if not for allowing six runs on seven hits and five walks in 3.2 innings in late June. That’s the only time he’s allowed more than three runs in nine Double-A appearances. He has always struggled with his command and control but he also throws in the upper 90s with an above-average curveball. There is time for Nelson to get his delivery under control and find the strike zone more consistently but he could also make a very interesting reliever who might be able to hit triple digits in shorter stints. ETA: 2020
Toronto Blue Jays
Alejandro Kirk, C (A+): OK, let’s deal with the elephant in the room first. Yes, Kirk is a large dude. Listed as having 220 pounds on a 5-9 frame, his weight is trending higher than that. But he can always hit. The native of Mexico was actually an amateur pitcher and then missed the 2017 season due to injury. He then jumped to advanced rookie ball in 2018 and hit .354 with 10 home runs in 58 games. The 20-year-old prospect started 2019 in Low-A ball but was quickly moved up to High-A ball after just 21 games when he hit .299 and posted a BB-K of 18-8. Kirk hasn’t hit a home run at his new level but he’s hitting .320 with 18 of his 47 hits going for extra bases and his BB-K is 24-21. And while you might think his large frame might cause him to struggle behind the plate, he’s been solid and has thrown out 36% of base runners. If the Jays can get him to stick to a regimented nutrition and exercise plan this off-season, watch out. ETA: 2021
Gabriel Moreno, C (A): Good offensive catchers are always a good thing to keep an eye out for given how hard they are to find so let’s talk about a second one in the Jays system. Moreno was not a big-name signing out of the international market but he’s done nothing but hit since turning pro. His bat-to-ball skills are exceptional and his strikeout rate in A-ball this year sits at just 9.6%. But he also doesn’t walk a ton because he makes such good contact. A strong hitter for average, Moreno has been increasing his fly-ball rate with each promotion and has seen his home-run power surge in 2019 with seven long balls in just 43 games since being promoted from extended spring training in mid-May. Defensively, he has work to do like any young catcher but he should have no issues sticking behind the plate. He’s done a nice job controlling the running game and has a 34% caught-stealing rate so far this year. ETA: 2022
Tampa Bay Rays
Shane McClanahan, LHP (A+): McClanahan gets lost in a very deep Rays system but you’d do well to not forget about this 2018 first-round draft pick. The athletic hurler works in the mid-90s from the left side and can reach the upper 90s. He also has a good slider and a decent changeup. His nemesis has always been his control, which is why he opened 2019 in Low-A ball despite coming from a good college program. McClanahan walked 31 batters in 53 innings at that level but also struck out 74 batters. Now in High-A ball, his control has been excellent. He’s allowed two walks in a game just once, one walk in a game twice and no walks in a game four times for a total of four free passes in 36 innings. In his career, minor league batters are hitting just .179. If he can continue to throw strikes, McClanahan could jump on the fast track to Tampa Bay. ETA: 2021
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.