Pittsburgh 3B Juan Jerez is all over my Twitter feed these days, which probably says as much about my Twitter feed as it does Juan Jerez, but that’s beside the point. Juan Jerez can hit, is the point. He’s slashing .307/.400/.521 with 6 HR and 10 SB as a 19-year-old in the Complex League. Would love to see him get a crack at Low A, even for a week or so, but Pittsburgh is getting stacked up on the lower levels, so he’ll probably have to wait it out. In his last ten games, Jerez is hitting .425 with 4 HR and 4 SB. Swing mechanics work bottom to top, maximizing the thunder in his 6-foot frame. This next bit comes from the department of redundancy department if you’re here every week: Pittsburgh knows what it’s doing on the development front. A lot of their hitters look like poetry in the batter’s box. They settle like still water then strike from their core through to their hands. 

Here’s a Jerez bomb with a nice effort and assist from the left fielder. 

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I’m working through my final Top 100 update of the regular season, aiming to post it next Sunday, and it’s been a lot of fun so far. After grinding through a much quieter and quicker 2020 season, it’s amazing to me how much an actual season of baseball can change our perspective on prospect world. Earlier this year, we didn’t know if we’d have the Dominican Summer Leagues at all, and the lower level complex leagues were little more than a fuzzy possibility in the eyes of prospect diehards. With the development ladder of baseball reshaped but functional again from the ground up, the full picture of our game is coming into focus. Let’s start with a couple DSL standouts on the cusp of ascending the bottom rung. 

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Anyone getting called up for some September playing time is part of the Opening Day picture for 2022. The only real incentive to promote a player now is that it’ll be the same difference, service-time-wise, as breaking camp with that player on the roster. So although some call-ups this week seem on the surface like they’re too little too late for our fantasy purposes, they’re right on time to get us fired up about drafting these prospects as rookies in 2022 redraft leagues. 

Enter Keibert Ruiz, the primary return for Washington in the trade that sent Trea Turner and Max Scherzer to the World Champion Dodgers. 

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I have added and dropped Texas 2B Andy Ibanez more times than I can count. Or remember, rather. I guess I could count to nine or so if pressed. The time I remember best was in the Razz 30 dynasty where I’d added him over Danny Santana back in 2019, when Santana decided he’d hit 28 bombs and swipe 21 bags. Now his watch has ended, but man was I kicking myself for thinking Ibanez had earned the first look. The Razz 30 was broken into six divisions like the real league at that time, and the rival Twins landed Santana if I remember right. Think they got him in a trade for approximately nothing, which looks about right today but really impacted the standings at the time. All the while I was left staring at Andy Ibanez on my roster, waiting to execute the old rage drop. 

Well now, we’re in a world where I was right and wrong several times over: right that Ibanez could hit enough to hold down a gig, wrong to pick him up when I did, right to drop him when I did, then wrong to hesitate on picking him up. Probably wrong a few more times in the middle there, too. I struggle to just stay sunny enough about these things to convince myself I was right all along. That it just took time to materialize. This seems to be the preferred path of many in this chamber, and I can certainly see the appeal. For what it’s Weurtz, I do have Ibanez on a 15-teamer, and I’ll place a bid on him this Sunday in TGFBI, but it’s always a little painful when a guy you’ve always liked breaks through for another team. Unavoidable side effect of the churn and burn style I play, and I’m totally fine with that at the end of the day. What was I gonna do? Hold Ibanez for two years while the Rangers waited to give him a chance. Hard pass. We can do a lot with a single roster spot across time, and the benefit of getting some return on holding that spot several years down the road is far outstripped by the value in playing the game, trying to win now, cutting who you have to cut to keep the lineup legal and keep talent coming through the doors. 

So who’s knocking today? 

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Miami RHP Edward Cabrera makes his debut today against fellow rookie Josiah Gray and the World Series Champion Washington Nationals. Remember them?

Here’s what I said about Cabrera in the latest Redraft Stash List: Top Ten Fantasy Prospects for the Final Lap.

“Cabrera is striking out a lot of guys in AAA, and while his command hasn’t been sharp, a 22.5 K-BB rate ain’t bad. He’s here in part because the Marlins seem like wildcards to me, looking in from the outside, and I wouldn’t put anything past them. Not wildcards in the playoff-making sense, but you know, marching to their own drummer and whatnot.”

Pa rum pa pum pum. 

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Graduated from our last list: Jarren Duran, Vidal Bruján, Jarred Kelenic, Jo Adell, Cal Raleigh, Curtis Terry, Jake Meyers, Jose Barrera, Reid Detmers, Kevin Smith, Daulton Jefferies, Hoy Jun Park, Drew Ellis, Bryan De La Cruz, Rodolfo Castro

We’re reaching the now-or-never point for prospects to become rookies that help us (and their organizations) in the standings. We might see a rush of promotions in the final week of August and first few days of September. We also might not. We saw a lot of late promotions last year, but we had an expanded playoff pool and a lot more contenders at the time. With a small set of teams trying to win and a blank CBA for 2022 and beyond, we might see precious few prospect promotions of these waning summer days. I’ve been avoiding the last stash list for exactly that reason, but I recently realized I was being foolish. The future is unknowable, and the value of the stash list stretches beyond the short term. It’s always good future work to be lining up the prospects for right-now impact, even if that “right-now” doesn’t happen until 2022. 

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Cincinnati SS Jose Barrero returned to the majors this week after an impressive 40 games at each AA and AAA. He’s the club’s best defense shortstop, but I’d be a little surprised if he gets the gig right away. Kyle Farmer has played well enough to make Barrero a utility player for the stretch run, and that might be the perfect spot for him considering the struggles Barrero encountered when forced into an everyday role in 2020. Even so, he’ll likely be the first man off the bench most nights, and Farmer is a capable utility player in his own right, so Barrero could carve out a significant role if starts out hot. His season line in those 80 MiLB games across two levels: .303/.378/.532 with 17 HR and 15 SB. That’ll do, Jose. 

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I’m a big fan of how the White Sox have been operating for a while now. The system rarely hears  plaudits from the pundits but continues to get results. Perhaps Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger won’t be stars, but they’ve provided crucial depth during a contention window in a time of dire need. Codi Heuer struggled in 2021 after a sleek rookie season in 2020, but GM Rick Hahn was still able ship across town in the Craig Kimbrel deal and extract functional value within the window. Along that same road, I cannot express how impressed I am that they moved Nick Madrigal to push for a title. Here was a guy they’d picked 4th overall who hadn’t experienced so much as a hiccup in his career, but the present moment is our only guarantee in life, and especially in baseball, where the 2022 season is far from certain thanks to the expiring competitive balance agreement. Madrigal’s service clock is already well underway, so selling him is far different from moving a teenager whose six-year, 40-man roster clock has just begun. The White Sox didn’t have many of those guys to sell anyway, perhaps, but I think they might right now.  

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Baltimore SS Jorge Mateo has lived multiple lives on fantasy planet, first as a beloved but complicated Yankees farmhand, then as the primary rerun for Sonny Gray in Oakland, then as a utility piece scrambling for ar bats in San Diego, and now as a human being with a pulse in Baltimore. I’m eager to see how this plays out. None of his previous organizations is particularly adept at actualizing their own prospects at the big league level. Baltimore isn’t the cat’s pajamas either in this regard, but unlike his previous clubs, the Orioles are in position to really invest in Mateo, both in terms of playing time and big league coaching. For his part, Mateo might well understand this could be it for him as a big leaguer. I wouldn’t say he’s had any singular career near-death experience, but he’s certainly been passed around enough to understand his clock is ticking. I’m not comparing him to Anthony Santander or Cedric Mullins, necessarily, but he’s in that mold as a player with talent that nobody expects to become a major league mainstay, and I think his natural gifts measure up well against either. He’s a buy for me in just about every league until proven otherwise.

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I can’t quite put my finger on the reason, but I’ve been feeling like the baseball season is all but over these last few weeks. I could guess at some reasons, I’m sure. Contenders are few and far between. Even teams that technically still “in it” don’t have much chance of actually making the playoffs. And even if they do, they’ll face the one-game wild card death match. 

If I’m honest with myself, real baseball has nothing to do with this late-season malaise. More likely, the feeling comes from trade deadlines in dynasty leagues. In all my leagues, I’ll have to dance with what brung me from this point onward, and that’s a powerless, uncomfortable sensation that runs a bit counter to what I think makes dynasty leagues great. I don’t even make that many trades and might even prefer to play in leagues without them, if I could ever find one, but that transition from the Willy Loman sales hustle to a life of slow-burn faab fliers hits me like a briefcase of bricks. 

The prospect pipeline that flows from May to August is out of season. Any call ups now are likely to be bench pieces or last-life 4A types trying to carve their path. I actually love this last bit, and that’s where we’ll begin today, hyping ourselves up to make some minor moves with high-end upside. 

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In 2021, most rookies are playing like Joe Strummer on a Ramshackle Day Parade, taking the freight elevator straight to the incinerator. 

This makes fantasy players reluctant to buy for the first time in a long time, a corrective measure many years in the making as we’ve been titillated by Tatis, Acuña, Soto, Alonso, Bichette and many, many more. 

Wander Franco is a disappointment, is all I’m saying, depending who you ask. 

Only if you’re watching his games, you probably think he’s incredible–a 20-year-old in the middle of the lineup for a World Series team. A 20-year-old who never gives an inch, always looks like a tough out, never gives away a pitch.

Perhaps your trade deadlines are all behind you. Half of mine are. But I mention the idea of floating a trade for Franco because I myself just sent Wander away this week. 

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A lot of the MLB trade deadline coverage I’ve seen has been comprehensive, or given the old college try at such, but I will do neither. 

Instead, I will zero in on the things I’ve taken away for fantasy function. Even so, I will miss things and obscure the reality of a player’s potential at times for the sake of finishing a sentence. Baseball is so limitless it’s really all we prospect few ever really do: obscure reality’s unknowable potential so we can take our snapshots and hit our deadlines. In accepting and embracing this chaos, I hope to stay a step ahead of the competition, and I hope you’ll join me like two wild runners in Pamplona gambling with their blood. 

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