Four Under-Rostered Prospects

For a variety of reasons, since the start of June I have been reloading my Ottoneu rosters with prospects and have been surprised to see some interesting names almost universally available. While I am not a prospect expert by trade, I love scouting stat lines, reading scouting reports, and finding prospects who others may not have noticed yet. These four players are all rostered in less than 10% of Ottoneu leagues and should be on your radar.

Joey Cantillo – SP, CLE, AA – 0.57% Rostered – The Cleveland system is loaded with SP who I could have called out here. Gavin Williams, Tanner Bibee, Xzavion Curry, and Logan Allen, among others, would be deserving names. But Cantillo stands out to me for a few reasons.

First, he has been really good. In 42.1 IP at Double-A, he has a 2.34 ERA, 2.53 FIP, and 2.92 xFIP while striking out 36.9% of batters. Second, there is reason to believe he can improve on where he is. He has a 10.7% BB-rate, which is higher than you would like, but also higher than he has posted in any other stop of more than 15 innings in his career. Over his last six starts, that walk rate is down to 6.0%. And lest you worry that he brought down the walks and lost whiffs in the process, his K-rate is up to 39% over that stretch.

Third, there is a good explanation for why he is outperforming his pre-season prospect rankings. In ranking Cantillo 40th in the Cleveland org, with a 35+ future value, Eric Longenhagen wrote:

Cantillo has always been the type of prospect who had the potential to truly break out if he started throwing harder, which he has not. His fastball velocity was where it was pre-injury, still just 87-91 mph and living off of its carry and angle.

Courtesy of a report from Justin from Guardians Baseball Insider (Justin is a must-follow on Twitter for Guardians prospect news), Cantillo has been consistently throwing 92-95. That sounds like the “throwing harder” Cantillo needed to “truly break out.”

Lastly, Cantillo has been slowed by injuries plus the lost 2020 season and at 22 years old, could be ready to move quickly if the Guardians need help. Cleveland has been hit hard by rainouts, has a flurry of double-headers the rest of the way, and currently sits in the middle of the wild card hunt.

Taj Bradley – SP, TBA, 6.02% Rostered – One of the best places to find under-valued prospects is by looking at the “just missed” or “who’s next” type articles that often accompany rankings each spring. Given how subjective rankings are, there is often little difference between a guy who just missed the top-100 and a guy who ranked near the bottom of the list – or even the middle in some cases. Plus those articles often give you a good sense of what to look for to see if the player is making a leap.

Bradley appeared among the players Longenhagen, Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin expect to make the 2023 top-100. The note on him there was that he had found new velocity which helped him break out in A-ball in 2021. As a reader, I am looking for three things after reading that: 1) reports that his velocity is still mid-90s and 2) continued performance when he is challenged with the high-minors.

Sure enough, I see both. On May 11, Geoff Pontes noted at Baseball America (subscription required) that Bradley was sitting 95-97 and touching 98. And in his first look at Double-A, Bradley has increased his K-rate (33.3%, higher than he has posted at any other level) and decreased his walk-rate (6.9%, lower than he has posted at any other level).

Bradley is just 21 and the Rays don’t tend to rush their pitchers, so I don’t expect we will see him this year, but he’ll have a ton of helium as lists get updated, possibly as soon as the mid-season updates and certainly in the 2023 lists. Now is the time to buy.

Pete Crow-Armstrong – OF, CHC, 6.88% Rostered – What do you know? Another name from that “picks to click” article that Bradley appeared in. Crow-Armstrong showed up because of a swing change and the early results suggest that swing change has served him well. In 183 PA at A-ball, PCA had a 177 wRC+, with 7 HR. For a guy who put up a .083 ISO in his first taste of pro-ball in 2021, jumping to a .203 ISO certainly sounds like an effective swing change.

That run earned Crow-Armstrong a shot at High-A where the results are not as good – 113 wRC+, but the ISO has stuck around, at least through his first 30 PA. Prior to the season, Crow-Armstrong was compared to Jackie Bradley, Jr., by Longenhagen and Taruskin, so the new-found power is very intriguing as it would add an element he didn’t really have before.

Given his strong defense, there is a path for him to move quickly. That is why I am calling out a bat in High-A. I usually pretty strongly against rostering prospects that far off, but if I am rebuilding, I could see holding him this year to see if he gets up to Double-A by the end of the season, accelerating his timeline. If not, he’s a cut in December, but there is more upside here than his les-than-7% roster percentage suggests.

Curtis Mead – 3B, TBA, 8.02% Rostered – The Rays just seem to find the right dudes in trades and Mead, though the trade was years ago, is another example, as they nabbed him for next to nothing from Philadelphia in 2019. Mead has a funky-looking swing (in the Rays top prospect article, Longenhagen described it as “starting with very high hands and a considerable amount of pre-swing noise”). But a little funk never hurt anyone, and Mead can flat hit. That same article gave him a 60 future grade on his hit tool and a 50 on his game power.

The results so far cast a little doubt on that power – in 2021 he had 15 HR in 458 PA; this year he is behind that pace with five HR in 184 PA. But he has run high walk-rates, maintained low K-rates, and done the things you like to see prospects do. Part of his low power output is that he isn’t elevating the ball enough – his fly ball rates have ranged from 28% to 35% the last couple years. That isn’t bad, but it also isn’t conducive to maximizing power output.

Mead is already in Double-A and the Rays gave him a cup of coffee in Triple-A in 2021, so expect him to move up for a good chunk of 2022. That could put him in line for some late-season MLB PA and open a path for him to produce in 2023.

One risk with Mead is that he may end up stuck as a 1B/DH and his bat may not carry there for fantasy. But in 2022 he has played 23 games at 3B, 3 at DH, 3 at 1B…and 13 at 2B. That’s enough to give him 2023 3B eligibility, which is enough to give him real value. It also puts him on pace to have 2B eligibility, and I would highly recommend you buy inĀ before that happens, because he becomes an even more intriguing fantasy prospect if you can slot him in at MI.

A long-time fantasy baseball veteran and one of the creators of ottoneu, Chad Young's writes for RotoGraphs and PitcherList, and can be heard on the ottobot podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @chadyoung.

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5 months ago

A lot of people looked at Cantillo (and INF Gabriel Arias) as the big wins in the Mike Clevinger trade. Seeing him really do well just makes all the other facets of the Clevinger trade that have worked out look even better.

In more fantasy-related content, Cantillo has a fabulous high-spin fastball and a plus changeup, but his breaking stuff really hasn’t played up as much you might like. He’s worth a shot, but don’t expect him to immediately dominate until he figures out how to be more than a two-pitch guy.

5 months ago
Reply to  EonADS

Color me very skeptical of quantrill/miller/naylor keeping this up

5 months ago
Reply to  matt

Not at this level, probably, but both Miller and Naylor have a lot of underlying good signs pointing towards continued above-average production. Quantrill, yeah. He’s not great.