Future Minor League Callups? Triple-A Hitter wOBA Leaders — AL

Now that we’re more than a third into the season and we’re approaching the date in which teams no longer have to worry about Super 2 status, let’s turn to the minor league leaderboards to try identifying who may get promoted over the next couple of weeks. I’ll start in the American League and review the wOBA leaders. I only care about prospects who are earning a call-up. If the hitter in question is not performing well in the minors, regardless of his prospect pedigree, why would we expect the hitter to suddenly perform well in the Majors? For each prospect, I’ll list his age, rank on our prospect lists and current MLB incumbent ahead of him. I’ll exclude any hitters already in the Majors, as some were just recalled this weekend.

AL wOBA Leaders
Name Team Pos MLB Incumbent(s) Age 2021 Org Rk 2021 Ovr Rk wOBA
Dillon Thomas SEA OF Taylor Trammell/Jake Fraley 28 0.460
Cal Raleigh SEA C Tom Murphy 24 7 0.447
Curtis Terry TEX 1B Nate Lowe/Jason Martin? 24 64 0.442
Christian Colon TOR Everywhere Joe Panik 32 0.441
Michael Papierski HOU C/1B Martin Maldonado/Yuli Gurriel 25 0.429
Riley Adams TOR C Danny Jansen/Reese McGuire 25 20 0.429
Scott Schebler LAA OF Taylor Ward/Juan Lagares 30 0.427
Jarren Duran BOS OF Enrique Hernandez 24 7 0.420
Jo Adell LAA OF Taylor Ward/Juan Lagares 22 0.419
Josh Lowe TBR OF Kevin Kiermaier/Brett Phillips 23 5 55 0.418

We begin with Dillon Thomas, who currently ranks ninth in wOBA among all Triple-A hitters, which include National League systems. The 28-year-old has never been ranked among any organizations top prospects, and the Mariners are now his third team. Though his professional career began in 2011, this is actually his first real opportunity at Triple-A (he recorded three PAs back in 2017 at the level). This breakout has been driven by a jump in walk rate into double digits, but primarily a massive power spike. His ISO has jumped from a previous high set in 2019 of .169 to .288 so far this year, while his HR/FB rate, typically in the high single to low double digits, has skyrocketed to 40%. With Kyle Lewis now out a while, there are two outfield opportunities that could be available over the next month. The Mariners might as well find out if this breakout is real and give Thomas a chance at some point if either Trammell fails again or Fraley doesn’t perform.

Another Mariners hitter on the leaderboard is Cal Raleigh, who makes it on here thanks to an elite combination of strikeout rate and BABIP. Neither of those rates look at all sustainable though. I have no idea how he has struck out just 11.8% of the time with a double digit SwStk%, first of all. Second, as an extreme fly ball hitter with a sky-high IFFB%, a .358 BABIP is downright shocking. I’m not sure why the team chose to promote Jose Godoy when Luis Torrens was demoted instead of Raleigh. It could have been due to defense or they had the same feeling of unsustainability in his performance. Whatever the reason, if they do decide to call him up, I think he’ll disappoint, at least relative to his surface results so far.

Curtis Terry barely squeeked into the Rangers prospect report, ranking just 64th in the organization. It’s not because of his offense though, as he has hit pretty well every season of his professional career. This year, his HR/FB rate has spiked above 30%, while a .381 BABIP has raised his batting average. There’s no way that BABIP is real, certainly not with his weak LD%, but he’s always shown pretty good power. That said, he’s not going to take Nate Lowe’s job, so his best bet is the hope he gets a chance at some DH at-bats. Willie Calhoun has been playing left field, so there’s an easier path to playing time at DH. However, without much of an ability to walk and his BABIP no doubt declining, I wouldn’t expect him to be any better than their current options.

Woah, Christian Colon is still playing?! A one-time prospect who never hit, he owns a career .279 wOBA over 418 career MLB plate appearances. Now in his ninth stint at Triple-A, he has enjoyed a power spike and has even walked more than he has struck out. With Cavan Biggio on the IL, Joe Panik has taken over third base duties. But he has posted just a .290 wOBA and hasn’t posted a mark above .296 since 2017. In other words, he’s no road block. The Blue Jays know what little offense they are and will continue to get from Panik, so you would think they might be willing to give Colon a chance to see if this age 32 small sample breakout means anything.

With little power that has resulted in sub-.100 ISO marks in both 2018 and 2019, it’s no surprise that Michael Papierski hasn’t been on the prospect radar. This year hasn’t been any different in terms of home run power, but his ISO has almost reached .200 thanks to a burst of doubles and triples. In addition, his strikeout rate has improved and he has now walked more than he has struck out. He has also posted a crazy .386 BABIP which is seemingly backed up by an elite batted ball profile. This seems like a profile that isn’t thrilling for fantasy leaguers but could have some value for the Astros.

The Blue Jays have gotten nothing offensively from their catchers this year, so it’s nice to see someone who plays the position actually hit in the minors. Riley Adams has continued his elevated strikeout rate, but now it’s coming with massive power that has led to a 33.3% HR/FB rate and .368 ISO. He has also walked at a double digit clip. His profile seems very Joey Galloian, though his SwStk% hasn’t gotten out of control, suggesting some of those strikeouts are simply due to passivity, rather than an inability to make contact. If Adams does get an opportunity, he’ll be far more interesting in OBP leagues.

With all the Angels injuries, I’m surprised Scott Schebler received just 27 PAs with the team. His .293 ISO and 31.8% HR/FB rate at Triple-A this year are a reminder that he does have the power to earn some fantasy value if given every day at-bats.

It seems everyone is eagerly anticipating a Jarren Duran recall any day now. Duran’s ranking as the seventh best Red Sox prospect came in mid-January, before he enjoyed his massive power surge, with a .347 ISO and 43.8% HR/FB rate. The increased power has cost him some swings and misses and strikeouts, but so far the tradeoff has worked. I don’t know how real this increased power is, but since he also steals bases, it won’t matter a whole lot. When he gets recalled, he’ll be an exciting fantasy asset and you’ll want to own him. With a sub .300 wOBA since the beginning of last season and just a .301 mark in 2019, Enrique Hernandez’s grip on the center field job shouldn’t be very strong.

Remember Jo Adell? He was the ultra hyped top prospect who flopped during his debut last year thanks to a boat load of strikeouts and not enough walks to compensate. Unfortunately, he hasn’t really fixed his issues, as he’s still rarely walking and yet also striking out just over 30% of the time. However, he’s hitting a ton of fly balls and 40.5% of those are leaving the yard. So he’s been a power monster, but not much else. I really don’t think this version of him is going to succeed at the MLB level as high strikeout guys who never walk have a tough time sticking around. That said, that kind of power can’t be ignored, so perhaps he could pull a Javier Baez.

Who else is excited for the potential of two Lowes in the Rays lineup? Despite 60 grade Raw Power, Lowe’s ISO has never reached .200 heading into the season. That has now changed. While his walk rate has plummeted and strikeout rate jumped, his HR/FB rate has nearly doubled into the mid-20% range, while his ISO has hit an elite .348. The combination of Kevin Kiermaier and Brett Phillips can’t really hit, but play elite defense, so the Rays have probably been content enough not to rush out and make a chance. Lowe might soon give them a reason to do so, though they have other top prospects also crushing the balls at Triple-A they may prefer to give an opportunity to first.





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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edwinblume
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edwinblume

Panik “…hasn’t posted a mark above .296 since .297.” Huh? I guess the math works, but I don’t think that is what you meant.