Don’t Forget About These Former Top Prospects!

Not every top prospect immediately plays at an all-star level during their rookie campaign. Not every former top prospect improves each and every year in lockstep until their big breakout. Sometimes prospects take at least a season or two before it all clicks. Sometimes it clicks, but then pitchers or hitters adjust, and they regress before rebounding. Sometimes prospects simply need some additional time in the minor leagues to iron out their kinks before returning with a bang. Every player is different, so it would be silly to write off former top prospects just because they didn’t meet expectations immediately.

So let’s discuss five names that at one time littered top prospect lists, but all currently find themselves at Triple-A due to poor performance.

Reid Detmers | LAA SP

Just like many of you, I was shocked that Detmers, the Angels top prospect and ranked 47th overall in 2022, was demoted to Triple-A. Granted, he had posted a 6.14 ERA at that point, but ERAs are often wacky over just 63 innings pitched. Besides, if Adam Wainwright was allowed to go 101 innings last year with a 7.40 ERA, and four other starters finished with ERA marks over 6.00 in over 100 innings, I’m not sure why the Angels made that decision. It’s not like like they had some top flight starting pitcher prospect itching to make his debut.

So after the surprise was over, we find that Detmers was truly done in by the “luck” trifecta as I call it. Despite a fly ball tilt, a lower than average LD% and a good rate of pop-ups induced, he posted a .333 BABIP, which along with his worse than average HR/FB, helped drive down his LOB%, that still ranks fifth lowest among pitchers with at least 60 innings. As a result, he massively underperformed both his SIERA and xERA.

What’s notable here is that his xERA actually sits below his SIERA, suggesting that it wasn’t a qualify of contact thing inflating his ERA. It therefore doesn’t appear that he was deserving of a .333 BABIP due to loud contact or something. We could therefore assume that if given a larger sample size, his ERA would ultimately improve dramatically and come closer to matching those ERA estimators. But the Angels decided not to give him that opportunity.

So far at Triple-A, it has actually been mostly more of the same. He has posted a scintillating 31.5% strikeout rate, backed by a 17.9% SwStk%, and just a 6.9% walk rate. However, his LD% has jumped and he’s posted the same .333 BABIP. But along with that has come a crazy 29.6% HR/FB rate, which offsets the fact that his LOB% has rebounded back to league average range. All in all, the high BABIP and ridiculous HR/FB rate has led to a 5.70 ERA, not much lower than his MLB mark. Is it just more bad luck or is something more going on here that the ERA estimators are missing?

His pitch mix has changed marginally, as he has thrown his slider more at the expense of his changeup, and that’s about it. His changeup has enjoyed a breakout season in SwStk%, actually posting the highest mark among all his pitches, barely ahead of his slider. So from a whiff perspective, the change in mix at Triple-A wouldn’t seem to matter. However, the slider has always been his best whiff pitch in the past so I would be more confident it remaining strong and seeing him throw it more often is probably a good thing. He should probably just dump the curveball as its SwSkt% sat at half his four-seamer, his second lowest SwStk% pitch this year. It also allowed the highest wOBA among his pitches. Seriously, this looks very easy to me — stop throwing the curveball!

Anyhow, I would still be open to rostering and starting Detmers and would even consider picking him up in deeper mixed leagues if he was dropped or making an offer for him in an AL-Only league if you need to take some pitching gambles.

Brett Baty | NYM 3B

Baty opened the season at the Mets’ starting third baseman after being ranked as the team’s second best prospect and 19th best overall. With 70/70 Raw Power, he was obviously squarely in the fantasy radar. But instead, he disappointed offensively, posting a .284 wOBA over 171 PAs. Even more surprising is that it came with just a .098 ISO. Where’d that power go?!

This isn’t just a tiny sample thing either. So far he’s recorded about a full season’s worth of PAs, and he has posted just a .270 wOBA and microscopic .110 ISO. His maxEV is strong, but he’s simply not barreling the ball regularly or even hitting it hard. He also hits too many ground balls and not enough fly balls for a supposed power hitter.

But perhaps his return to Triple-A has lit a fire under him. He is currently posting the lowest strikeout rate of his professional career over 90 PAs, while his HR/FB rate sits at 28.6%. That’s not really anything new for him though as he actually posted an absurd 41.7% HR/FB rate at the level last year. In fact, he’s almost always been over 20% in the minors over a reasonable sample size. So we know he’s capable of hitting for power, but for some reason, it hasn’t shown up in the Majors.

What’s exciting about his time at Triple-A now is that he’s suddenly become a fly ball hitter. His 42.4% FB% is by far the highest of his pro career, dramatically higher than his previous high of a 33.3% mark posted during his pro debut all the way back in 2019. That kind of transformation could alter his outlook and perhaps the power will finally manifest when he gets another shot in the Majors.

Of course, with Mark Vientos taking advantage of his opportunity and crushing it offensively, there’s no clear path to playing time for Baty. If a path does open up, I would be interested in speculating that the third time’s the charm here.

Kyle Manzardo | CLE 1B

While Manzardo failed to win a share of the starting DH/1B rotation to open the season, we figured he would get his chance at some point early in the season. Indeed, that happened, as he debuted in early May. Most recently ranked as the Guardians’ fifth best prospect, he was actually slapped with underwhelming power grades, especially given his defensive profile. That said, his results suggested better power potential than his scouting grades, and a 55/60 Hit grade suggested he might help in other areas.

It took just 87 PAs for the Guardians to send him back down to Triple-A, after his strikeout and walk rates jumped in the wrong directions, and he posted just a .249 wOBA with nary a home run. Since being demoted, he’s recorded 47 PAs and performed pretty darn well. He has actually walked more than he has struck out while posting a crazy 21.3% walk rate, has hit four homers to drive a .361 ISO, and sits with a .463 wOBA, despite just a .261 BABIP.

The power is great to see, but unfortunately, BABIP has been a problem since last year, most likely thanks to his extreme fly ball ways. That would be okay if he had greater power potential so he could send a high rate of those flies over the wall, but he doesn’t exactly own the level of power skills necessary to make good use of his batted ball profile.

I’m guessing he’ll be recalled again at some point in the near future and it shouldn’t be to sit on the bench. However, I believe he was on the strong side of a platoon previously, so not facing lefties will take a bite out of his ultimate upside. I do think that he could carve out decent value in deeper leagues that use OBP instead of batting average given his low BABIP and consistently high walk rates. But I’m not very excited in shallower mixed leagues.

Spencer Torkelson | DET 1B

Our Graduation TLDR note on Torkelson begins with “Arguably the best college hitter in the last decade…”, and yet he finds himself back in Triple-A on a team that ranks 27th in baseball in wOBA. Torkelson disappointed during his rookie season back in 2022, as he posted just a .255 BABIP and his power was M.I.A., en route to a weak .272 wOBA. A big second half last year saved his sophomore effort and looked closer to what we expected from him. But still, a .326 wOBA was a disappointment no matter how much excitement that second half generated.

So the big, full season breakout was coming this year, right? Nope! Instead, he followed up by hitting just four homers in 230 PAs and posting a .266 wOBA, even worse than his 2022 mark. His HR/FB rate fell to just 4.8%, as his maxEV slid under 110 MPH and his Barrel% was a weak 4.5%. What on Earth happened here?!

Perhaps he was pressing during his struggles which just led to more struggles, as his batted ball profile looks bizarre. His LD% fell to just 9.1%, which represents the lowest among all hitters with at least 200 PAs, while his FB%, already high in past years, jumped even higher to 54.5%, which ranked third in baseball. So the majority of his batted balls were fly balls and pop-ups, which should lead to a low batting average, but a lot of home runs. The latter never came because few of those fly balls landed over the fence.

So far he’s recorded 107 PAs at Triple-A this year. You might think or hope, at this point, that the best college hitter in a while, who has recorded more than 1,000 MLB PAs, would make a mockery of Triple-A pitching. You would be wrong. His strikeout rate has actually jumped to the highest of his pro career, while he continues to pop-up often. Somehow, he has managed to post a .345 BABIP, but that can’t be sustainable. What’s worrying is a HR/FB rate of just 14.3%, which is certainly better than the mark he posted with the Tigers this year, but not high enough to get excited about, and just a 32.2% HardHit%. His ISO is merely an above average .174. Seriously, who stole Torkelson’s power?

I’ve never owned Torkelson and at this point, I really don’t know what is going on here. I want to speculate with the blind assumption that the college record and scouting reports would ultimately win out here and the big breakout suddenly begins when he joins my roster. But there’s just nothing to suggest such a light bulb moment is imminent. Torkelson officially receives the shrug emoji.

Parker Meadows | DET OF

Meadows opened the season as the Tigers centerfielder, but just 85 PAs of a .212 wOBA was enough for the team to demote him to Triple-A. The sample size was small, but his strikeout rate surged to 37.6%, his balls in play just refused to fall for hits (.128 BABIP), and he wasn’t hitting for much power. His batted ball profile looks like an extreme version of Torkelson’s, as his LD% was a hilariously low 2.5%, while his FB% sat at a not-a-typo 75%. Talk about a swing all out of whack!

It’s now been 206 PAs at Triple-A since his demotion and it looks like he’s back on track. His strikeout rate is back to normal, actually sitting at the second lowest mark of his pro career, with a SwStk% just below 10%. He has cut down on the fly balls and the line drives have rebounded. His batted ball profile now looks like it always has, which means an above average BABIP might be tough, but he’ll hit a couple more dingers. His HR/FB rate is now almost identical to his Triple-A mark in 2023. So the weak MLB showing hasn’t shaken him, which is a positive. He has also stolen 16 bases already, which is a good sign for his willingness to run when he returns to the Majors.

Like a number of this list, I don’t see much batting average potential here, but he’s shown pretty good plate patience for most of his career. As a result, his value really spikes in OBP leagues, whereas in batting average leagues, he’s going to hurt you in the category, offsetting some of his other contributions.

He won’t be a big home run contributor, but not a zero there either. I’m most excited about his running though, as perhaps he’s looking more like a 15/25 candidate, which could result in excellent value in OBP leagues and a bit less so in batting average formats. As a lefty though, it’s possible he platoons, which would definitely cut into his value.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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17 days ago

The path for Baty is 2B. McNeil is brutal and Baty has been playing 2B in the minors.

17 days ago
Reply to  Rip2632

I just can’t see Baty being a good 2B. He won’t have the athletic ability to man that spot. Better off bringing up Acuna and seeing what he can do.

David Klein
17 days ago
Reply to  Rip2632

Can you really afford to go with a Baty and Alonso right side of the infield? Alonso has zero range and Baty has all of two starts at second base.

16 days ago
Reply to  David Klein

McNeil is not a very good defensive 2B either, and is particularly lacking in range.