I’ve got things to cover in this post, but first things first (instead of second where I usually put first things), Toronto RHP Dahian Santos (A, 19 yo) has earned an immediate pickup (click-up?) in most dynasty formats. I can imagine some scenarios where he’s more of a mouse-hover than a quick click, such as the 20-team Highlander with 900-max total players rostered at any time and no minor league requirements, by which I mean I’m only rostering three minor leaguers right now, and one of them is Oneil Cruz. Santos wasn’t high enough to jump Nelson Velazquez on my claim list there, but the teenager is striking out 49.2 percent of the batters he sees in a league where he’s three years younger than the average age. 

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I’m not often surprised by the machinations of major league baseball teams because the road map is pretty well defined in stages by contracts and developmental norms, and it’s part of my job to know the lay of the land. 

Atlanta OF Michael Harris II being promoted from AA on Saturday surprised me. 

Can be underrated fun, surprises, especially in a baseball sense. And then I realize I should have seen it coming, so the surprise loses some sheen in the fog of negative self-talk, but it’s exciting nonetheless! 

Harris earned this jump by playing well every step of the way, but also because Atlanta has run out of center fielders. Adam Duvall is slugging .274. Ronald Acuña Jr. isn’t quite healed enough to be an everyday defender. Guillermo Heredia is striking out 48.8 percent of the time. Travis Demeritte wasn’t playing center anyway but was demoted to make space for Harris after Demeritte fell into a 1-for-34 slump. 

I mention all of this not to diminish Harris’ achievement but to highlight his opportunity. A plus contact hitter with dynamic hand-eye coordination, the 21-year-old, 6’0” 195 lb left-hander has always passed the eye test with flying colors on offense and was slashing .305/.372/.506 with five home runs and 11 stolen bases in 43 games at AA, striking out 19.9 percent of the time and drawing an 8.7 percent walk rate. 

I think we can track way back to the Cristian Pache (Matt Olson) trade to see the footprints leading to this transaction. The club must think Harris’ defense has progressed enough to hand him the keys to their big league outfield. He’s a must-add where you can fit him. I’m about 60/40 that his swing-happy approach combined with the big-league heavy balls will prove too big a challenge for his first few hundred plate appearances, but stranger things have happened. 

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Today we continue highlighting prospects making the biggest jumps on the upcoming updated Top 100, soft-scheduled to hit newsstands on Sunday June 5. 

Cubs 2B SS 3B OF Christopher Morel has looked great so far, like a mushroom blooming in the damp baseball darkness of North Chicago, reaching base in all seven games he’s played, playing all the positions listed here and batting leadoff on Tuesday night. He’s got two home runs and a stolen base along with his .304/.407/.565 slash line. What initially seemed like some injury cover as Morel came up from AA has become a long-term appointment, as far as I can tell. He’s not quite the dynamo Royce Lewis can be, but it’s not totally insane to mention them in the same sentence, or at least I hope it’s not because I just did. I offered Tanner Houck for Morel in the Razz30, and Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes, a razor-sharp baseball mind and a Red Sox fan, rejected it, which offers some idea of how people might be feeling about Morel today.

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Feels like we get big prospect headlines every weekend. Makes sense on the baseball calendar. Adley Rutschman, Nolan Gorman and Matthew Liberatore all got that call this week, and I got an invitation to reshuffle the stash list.

Graduated from Volume 2: Royce Lewis Rolls Into TownGeorge Kirby, Adley Rutschman, Alek Thomas, Vidal Brujan, Nolan Gorman, Ryan Pepiot 

If you cared to look back that far, you’d see two graduates in this list from the class of Volume 1, Oneil Cruz Control featured again here in Volume 3, but that’s just the nature of the nomenclature these days. Confusing times when the top guy on the stash list just got demoted after dominating for a couple weeks, but here we are, and away we go. 

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This week began with big news adjacent to the prospect realm: Kansas City fired its major league hitting coach, Terry Bradshaw, and replaced him with Senior director for player development and hitting performance, Alec Zumwalt, whose role will be bigger than that of a typical major league hitting coach. The Royals have seen big gains in the minor league hitters that haven’t carried over to the big league side, so this move makes a lot of sense from the outside looking in. 

Reading between the lines, the goal here includes creating synthesis throughout the system from the bottom up. One way the Giants and Dodgers have gotten ahead the past few seasons is having multiple voices saying similar things all the way up the development chain, so that when a young Dodger makes the majors, he’s not suddenly learning a new way to talk about the game at the same time as he’s adapting to the extreme leap in skill from AAA to MLB pitching. 

In short, this feels like good news for all Kansas City prospects but especially those with solid plate skills. In his press conference, team President Dayton Moore said, “We need to see nine players in our lineup that are committed to get on base any way possible. That means we cannot chase pitches out of the strike zone. When we do have pitches to hit in the strike zone, we can’t miss them.” Pretty good summation of baseball 101 there, but manager Mike Matheny seems due for a refresher every now and then, as he continues to run Ryan O’Hearn out there in the cleanup role for reasons that no human on the planet except Matheny can comprehend.

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Prospect News: Rankings Redux: Eury and the Henderson

In a recent post, I found myself saying Milwaukee OF Jackson Chourio was on track to be a top 50 prospect by mid-season, which got me thinking, as I should be this time of year, about updating the top 100 list. 

I made a trade offer for Baltimore SS Gunnar Henderson this week in the 20-team Highlander Dynasty League. Was just Arizona DH Seth Beer straight up, but that league is weird, with a double utility spot. Deepest hitting set-up I’ve ever played, unless I ran that math wrong way back when I half-sprinted through it just to create some context. It’s a half-step or so deeper than the Razz30, and the full-week freeze of lineups adds another wrinkle I haven’t played with a whole lot in a superdeep dynasty format.  

Also went a little overboard in trying to secure Colorado SS Ezequiel Tovar this week. 

Anyway the natural first question for most readers at this point is who’s rising the fastest, like Chourio and Tovar. Or maybe that’s just the most enjoyable question because its opposite might be equally immediate to most fantasy players: who’s feeling that baseball gravity? 

I tend to avoid the second question, if I’m honest. Players lose mind-share of course but it happens kind of quietly in the back of my mind as I build a list. Herbert Perez, is a recent player I can recall who I never really soured on in any real way. The evidence at present just didn’t support some trust-based ranking. But I’ll try to be proactive on that front and chronicle it here as I work through the list. If it’s a little dry or boring in the end, I’m hoping you just fast-forward a bit because that’s way easier with reading than it is on, say, HBOMAX. 

So who’s rising as I start building a rankings reshuffle? 

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Cubs RHP Cam Sanders listens to Parliament between innings to maintain his mothership connection. He shakes out a little aqua boogie before and after every pitch, and it’s working for him. If you want your funk funked up, grab a flashlight and take a look. Sanders is doin’ it in 3D. He’ll put a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip. Might even tear the roof off the sucker when he makes the show. His stuff has always been good, but like a lot of young Cubbies, he’s added velocity over the past few seasons and harnessed that stuff at AA this season better than he has before, posting a 25% K-BB rate and a 1.00 WHIP in six starts. He’s yet to debut at AAA, but I’m hoping he pitches Friday when I get down to Des Moines to watch the I-Cubs. Feet don’t fail me now! 

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As the fantasy community mourned the destruction of Minnesota SS Carlos Correa’s middle finger this week, we also wondered if such an injury would be the spark that lights a major league candle for Royce Lewis. The Twins wasted no time in promoting him, making the announcement before we learned that Correa’s finger was not broken as first reported. Even so, it’s the middle finger of his throwing hand, and it was damaged badly enough that initial examinations suggested it was broken. I don’t know when you last made the throw from shortstop over to first base, but you used your middle finger to do it. I suspect Correa will DH for a while before he goes back to short, giving Lewis some runway to establish himself as a viable big league option. If he does, the team might try to find room for him in the outfield. Don’t drop him yet.

Graduated from Volume 1, Oneil Cruz ControlSS Royce Lewis, 3B/1B Jose Miranda, 3B Elehuris Montero, C MJ Melendez, 1B/3B Juan Yepez, 2B/OF Vinny Capra. 

Now like Jock Jams we move on to Volume 2.

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In my house, we watch a lot of Sesame Street, even the animated shorts like Elmo Gets a Puppy and The Monster at the End. I’m not sure you’ve lived until you’ve heard Cookie Monster sing the following:

“Me talk to me self. 

Me talk to me seeelllfff. 

Me talk to me self and then me knew that me could have courage.” 

All Sesame Street songs are earworms but perhaps none more so than the Number of the Day, which features the Martians popping up from their Martian-holes and saying “Yep” for each digit each day: One. Yep. Two. Yep. Three. Yep. And so on. 

St. Louis 1B OF Juan Yepez celebrates his home runs the same way, blasting the song and then shouting out “Yep” in the clubhouse for each home run he’s hit on the season. He was up to nine in just 22 games when the club decided they needed that song in the major league clubhouse and called him up Tuesday night. He’s in the lineup today, playing right field, which suggests he’ll probably bounce around between the outfield and infield, providing some days off here and there for lineup regulars. Might be the DH against right-handed pitchers if he’s not on the field somewhere. He got hot early last season and never stopped mashing. A lot of rookies are struggling to make the leap from AAA to MLB pitching, but few have been in their groove for as long as Juan has, so I’m optimistic he’ll find his rhythm if given the chance to do so. 

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In researching for this week’s article, I kept seeing flies in the ointment, so to speak. I’ve lost track of the ground. MLB’s new pre-tacked balls fresh from a humidor seem to have created more fade on change-ups, more run on 2-seamers, more cut on wake-shifters, more dive on sliders and less distance off the bat. The general hysteria has finally trickled into my thinking about how to evaluate minor league baseball players. My local Cedar Rapids Kernals are not using a humidor. I couldn’t verify the same for every team, but I’m willing to guess that less than one percent of minor league parks are using a humidor. Which baseball they’re using . . . you’d probably have to be a veteran big league pitcher to tell the difference on a given night. 

So how does this affect my eyes when watching MiLB.tv? I’ve been protected from it a little because the video feeds are rarely so crystal clear I can see the ball off the bat with my outfielder eyes and predict with some degree of accuracy where it will land in an instant. 

This invitational, predictive aspect of a long fly ball is a big part of what makes watching baseball fun.  “Is that a home run!?” asks the excited fan’s mind. “Oh farts, it landed on the track,” the game responds, over and over and over again to the extent that you start to get a little frustrated. Years of built in baseball-watching from this camera angle have trained us all to play along in this regard, so we’re all experts in our minds to the extent that our self-confidence allows.

My eyes haven’t been deceived on the warning track much in the minors this year. I don’t know how to react to the idea that a prospect might need significantly more power and better plate skills than he shows in the minors to thrive in the majors. For now, I’m planning to slow-play it rather than overreact. 

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I wake up every day ready to be surprised by the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

I go to sleep every night surprised enough to be disappointed.

They find new ways to steal my sleep and shiver me timbers every seventeen hours or so.

No offense to Tucupita Marcano or Jack Suwinski or Jack Sparrow, who’s down bad but seems to be bouncing back if you’re tracking the Youtube trial. Anyway, talented players, all, but even from a team-control perspective, I can’t understand why anyone would promote these guys and bench Diego Castillo. 

Before we even consider the Oneil Cruz angle, taken from the most extreme tank-forever lens, how does it make sense? Maybe Castillo is hurt but not injured and just needs a day and this is just me spinning my wheels, which is really what being a baseball fan is all about, sometimes. It’s all an intricate but elaborate board game, and we like to play along with the teams, and it’s just impossible to play along with Pittsburgh. No functional POV perspective for this game. Can’t even select the Pirates in Franchise Mode of your favorite video games, probably–so alien is their approach to applying eye liner and operating a baseball team.

But let’s not dwell here where three rivers meet. There’s a whole ocean of baseball islands to explore.

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Over the past few seasons, I’ve grown confident in my ability to play the timeline game along with major league front offices. This year feels different. We’re beyond what’s typically the first Super Two threshold, and I’m ready to spin the wheel, but I’m uncertain about the rules. 

Will teams slam the brakes if they didn’t promote a guy on opening day, knowing they’ll be “punished” if that player earns rookie of the year votes? 

Survey says . . . probably, if past behavior is the best predictor of future choices. 

By the way, before we go further, I should say I hope and pray some of the baseball writers know the rules enough to push good rookies up their ballots. I don’t really care about who finishes in the top five in these awards, and I think the same goes for most fans, but I want to see the players get a W at the negotiating table for the long-term health of the game, particularly where young players are concerned.

So who’s potentially stuck in this no-win position created by the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement? Let’s check the list.

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