Future Minor League Callups? Triple-A Hitter HR/FB Leaders — AL

Let’s continue our future minor league callup series, this time moving to the metric I probably care most about — HR/FB rate. Since home runs is a category and wOBA is not in the majority of fantasy leagues, we could directly understand the potential impact a high (or low) HR/FB rate could have for fantasy teams. So let’s now begin in the American League by reviewing and discussing the Triple-A HR/FB rate leaders. Once again, I have excluded any hitters who are already in the Majors and this list only includes qualified hitters.

AL HR/FB Leaders
Name Team Pos MLB Incumbent(s) Age 2021 Org Rk HR/FB
Jarren Duran BOS OF Enrique Hernandez 24 7 43.8%
Marcus Wilson BOS OF Enrique Hernandez/Hunter Renfroe 24 46 40.0%
Jo Adell LAA OF Taylor Ward/Juan Lagares 22 39.5%
Ryan Lavarnway CLE C Austin Hedges 33 38.9%
Brent Rooker MIN OF Alex Kirilloff/Trevor Larnach 26 12 35.0%
Emmanuel Rivera KCR 3B Kelvin Gutierrez 25 33.3%
Gabriel Cancel KCR 2B/3B Kelvin Gutierrez 24 32.1%
Matt Thaiss LAA C/1B/3B Too Many to List 26 31.6%

Note that the MLB Incumbent(s) listed represent the prospect’s best chance at significant playing time, rather than every MLB starter ahead of him at the position(s) he plays.

We find Jarren Duran on a leaderboard list once again after he appeared on the wOBA list I shared on Monday. Unfortunately, Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s comments would seem to indicate Duran will not be recalled soon. Of course, we’ve seen these lines before with the prospect getting recalled like the next day, so you should probably take them with a grain of salt.

The Red Sox have another Triple-A hitter in the 40% HR/FB rate club in Marcus Wilson. He also plays outfield, so suddenly the team finds itself with an embarrassment of outfield riches. With a Raw Power grade of 55 and a future Game Power grade of just 45 heading into the season, it’s pretty surprising to see him flash all this home run power. Of course, he may be selling out a bit, as his strikeout rate and SwStk% have both jumped to career worsts. The power is nice, obviously, but it’s going to be near impossible to succeed already striking out that often just at Triple-A. Imagine how MLB pitchers will treat him!

Jo Adell was also discussed in the wOBA leaders post. He doesn’t have as bad a strikeout problem as Wilson, but Adell rarely walks (whereas Wilson does so at a double digit clip), so that’s a real problem for his OBP. There are few comps for this overall skill set, so he’s a risky near-term bet.

Wow, talk about a trip down memory lane. Remember Ryan Lavarnway?! He’s been a minor leaguer since 2008 and made his MLB debut back in 2011! He’s striking out more than ever and barely walking to get to that power. I think it’s pretty obvious that he’s highly unlikely to make a fantasy impact.

Brent Rooker’s power outburst got him a 30 PA cup of coffee with the Twins this year, after debuting last year for 21 PAs. He’s been a real three true outcomes hitter so far, walking, striking out, and HR/FBalling at high rates. He looks like Joey Gallo, but with a lower FB%, which will hurt his power, but help his BABIP compared to Gallo. With just a .296 wOBA, replacing Alex Kiriloff seems like the only real path for Rooker to return to the Majors and earn significant playing time.

Talk about a surprise! Emmanuel Rivera has posted HR/FB rates between 5% and 6% over his last two minor league seasons before exploding for a 33.3% mark this year. He’s had to give up some contact to do so and he still rarely walks. He also hasn’t actually made the most of his HR/FB rate surge, as his FB% has declined to just 25%. The power surge certainly makes him a bit more appealing for future fantasy potential. And with only Kelvin Gutierrez in his way, perhaps the Royals give him a shot. But given that he’s not going to maintain the 30%+ HR/FB rate and he doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls, I’m not too bullish on his fantasy potential in the near term.

Gabriel Cancel is the second straight Royals infielder on this list and it’s been a strange year for him. He’s shown double digit HR/FB rate power before, but nowhere near this level. His ISO has also surged over .300 for the first time after only barely making it over the .200 hump once before. The problem here is that ugly .228 BABIP, as he has become a fly ball hitter and has hit pop-ups at way too high a frequency. Those two tendencies are going to yield a low BABIP, but his strikeout rate has been reasonable enough, and with all the homers, he’s still batting a not horrible .242. In addition to the homers, he’s also stolen four bases. Perhaps one of he or Rivera get a shot to replace Gutierrez.

Matt Thaiss earned a callup in both 2019 and 2020 and has shown good power each time, but strikeouts got the best of him. He’s still striking out, but everything else has been divine. The issue here is his path to playing time as first and third bases are clearly spoken for on the Angels. He has played catcher this year and has some experience at both second base and left field. So perhaps he gets recalled and acts as more of a utility player that gets enough playing time at multiple spots to be of some use in AL-Only leagues.

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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He didn’t qualify for this list because he only has 45 PA in AAA so far, but Jose Marmolejos is looking resurgent with Tacoma: 33% HR/FB, .351/.467/.676 slash….and a career-low 6.4 SWSTR. Wondering if he made a change at the plate, and if we might see him again this summer?