I’d like to begin with a quick retrospective to count our blessings despite the stark reality that hitting pause on minor league baseball made 2020 anything but a prospector’s dream. 

The decision brought some hidden benefits, though I feel kinda funny saying the temporary demolition of a couple thousand young men’s dreams was not without upside for the fantasy baseball player. Wasn’t even without upside for the real-life player if he found positive ways to invest his time like Luisangel Acuña reportedly has, packing pounds of muscle onto his developing frame. When MLB increased the playoffs from 8 to 16 teams, the entire prospect landscape changed. Suddenly, Baltimore, San Francisco, Toronto and more had incentive to push for wins on the margins. One could argue they had even more incentive to rush their prospects up to the majors just to keep them playing games. We saw more players jump AA and AAA in 2020 than any season I can remember. The expanded playoff format is not solely responsible for that, but it has been a crucial element in breathing some aggressiveness and unpredictability back into our game. I’ll be mildly shocked if MLB doesn’t retain both the 16-team playoffs and the universal DH. 

The stage is set in the American League. Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, New York, Houston, Chicago, and Toronto are all officially playoff teams. 

Tampa Bay OF Randy Arozarena was kind of the inciting incident for this article focused on at least one guy from each team who should be flat-out fun to watch this October.

Just today I saw a top 100 list without a spot reserved for Randy Arozarena. Plenty of room for teenagers who haven’t played this year, but none for a guy hitting in the middle of the lineup just about every day on a team that’s locked up the #1 seed in the circuit. If Randy Rose keeps hitting against the game’s elites, he’ll infuse winter conversations around him with the kind of hope we all need these days. Could find himself inside the top 100 picks for 2021 redraft leagues and maybe even crack a few echo chamber prospect hundreds. 

Oakland’s best starting pitcher is rookie LHP Jesus Luzardo. I’m curious about how commonly this occurs. He was their best last year, too, but that was just a wild card, play-in game they lost to the Rays despite Luzardo throwing three scoreless innings. October turns promising young arms into aces in the court of public opinion, and that’s definitely on the table here. He’s been more solid than good this year with a 1.27 WHIP and 4.12 ERA, but solid is good for a rookie in the time of COVID, and Luzardo has flashed truly dominant stuff, painting with 99 on the black. I won’t be shocked if he hits triple digits this autumn.

Minnesota handed the primary catching gig to rookie Ryan Jeffers after Ryan Doumit turned them down. Kidding, but they would’ve been scrambling in a sign-Doumit way if they didn’t have a solid prospect like Jeffers waiting behind the backstop. Starter Mitch Garver and sexpot Willians Astudillo spent most of the season hurt or not hitting. No matter: Jeffers hit .288 with three home runs in 59 plate appearances across 25 games. Garver is back and catching full games, so we should get a look at the club’s 2021 plans for the position if the Twins sustain a deep run. 

Cleveland built on its well-earned pitching mystique with the dominant debut of Tristan McKenzie, the brilliance of James Karinchak, and the continued success of rookie Aaron Civale and sophomore breakout Zach Plesac. If they’re going to make a push for the World Series, it won’t be their offense carrying them, but they might not need it if the youngsters shove. 

The Yankees always find value in the depth of their system, and 2021 was no different. RHP Deivi Garcia has been good for the bombers down the stretch, but I’d be negligent if I didn’t mention my joy that RHP Miguel Yajure made the playoff player pool, a 40-man unit for each squad. The four-pitch control artist got a little lucky in his five regular season innings (6.58 FIP, 1.80 ERA), but I think contact management will prove to be a strength of his in the long term. I’m excited at the possibility of seeing him throw meaningful innings against good hitters. I think his cutter looks really good but was his least thrown pitch (11.9 percent) in his brief debut. 

Houston RHP Luis Garcia has gotten a lot of ink in these pages since I started last September, and I’m excited to see him but not certain he’ll get many chances. It’s Jose Urquidy who’s nearing his big glow up. The rookie righthander brings a 1.01 WHIP and 2.73 ERA into the playoffs despite striking out just 14.7 percent of the batters he’s seen. I think it’s more likely the strikeouts catch up with the ratios than the other way around, and I think Jose makes a great pick in a postseason fantasy league. 

Chicago has the best collection of young talent the Midwest has seen since John Wayne was Marion Robert Morrison. Or maybe Field of Dreams if we’re counting ghosts. And like ghosts, they’re mostly impossible to watch (hunt) without an overpriced cable package unless you’re happy to wait until 90 minutes after the game ends. At least for anyone anywhere near the Midwest, which really stinks considering Benetti and Stone might be the best announcing team in the business. All eyes will be on La Pantera to see if dynamic outfielder Luis Robert can refine his plate approach under the brightest lights. He’s mired in the worst slump of his stateside career but has taken four walks across his past five games and could correct course in the nick of time for his big moment. 

Captain Alejandro T. Kirk is the talk of the galaxy around Toronto, but the return of rookie fire tank Nate Pearson should have more impact on the team’s ultimate fate. Can’t wait to see him amped for October. Here he is hitting 101.5 on the gun in his first game back from elbow trouble. 

I think the Blue Jays will play it pretty safe, but you never know—the risk/reward math gets very interesting if they survive the first round. In my opinion, these guys all get hurt, so if he’s throwing well, I say deploy him aggressively in the playoffs. Might not make it back anytime soon. Live in the moment.

Thanks for reading! 

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

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2 years ago

I really appreciate your work. Thanks for keeping us informed on the up and comers.
A couple of questions on a few guys for you. I would like to know what you think about Arozarena and T. Grisham moving forward. I’m concerned with carriages turning into pumpkins and playing time concerns. Also, your thoughts on Julio Rodriguez SEA OF. I’m hoping he’s the hybrid baby I’ve been waiting for: the right mix of Junior, Edgar, Ichiro, and Felix.

2 years ago

I just adopted an orphan dynasty team and just for fun started perusing the waiver wire. Lo and behold Randy’s sitting there on the waiver wire. Thanks to you I snatched him up faster than you can say ESPN’s Get Him in the Lineup Department!

2 years ago

Who do you consider as prospects I shouldnt trade from this list? 30-team salary dynasty. Prospects dont get paid until they’re called up.

C Kahle, Nick
C Driscoll, Logan
C Florentino, Randy

1B Martinez, Ernerto Wilson
1B Jones, Taylor

2B Montero, Alvaro
2B Escotto, Maikol
2B Hernandez, Yonny

SS Javier, Wander
SS Grissom, Vaugh
SS Bonaci, Brainer
SS Basabe, Osleivis
SS Grenier, Cadyn

OF Miller, Brian
OF Diaz, Eduardo
OF Anderson, Ryan
OF Young, Chavez
OF Peters, D.J.
OF Barber, Colin
OF Dixon, Jasiah
OF Romeri, Patrick
OF Walker, Deion
OF Perez, Junior
OF Clase, Jonatan
OF Ovalles, Alexander

RHP Phillips, Tyler
RHP Alexy, A.J.
RHP Fisher, Braydon
RHP Brennan, Tim
RHP King, Mike
RHP Santos, Junior
RHP Peter Solomon
RHP Church, Marc
RHP Hoopii-Tuionetoa, Anthony
RHP Hunter, Leon
RHP Lange, Alex

LHP Latz, Jake
LHP Allen, Logan
LHP Rascon, Bodi
LHP Polley, Triston
LHP Cantillo, Joey
LHP Gore, Mckenzie

Joe Shmoe
Joe Shmoe
2 years ago

Hi Sir,
I am looking at MI prospects for a keeper league with no HR’s. Two names keep/ kept popping up during my baseball research: Keithron Moss (Tex) and Ji Huan Bae (Pit). I think you have mentioned them before. Are either worthy of keeping on my 16 team Dynasty league team over the winter?

Thank you!

Joe Shmoe
Joe Shmoe
Reply to  The Itch
2 years ago

Do you like one more than another? Arrival time? Multiple counting stats?
Thanks again.

Fenway Faithful
Fenway Faithful
2 years ago

Hey Itch,

Thanks for the post. I’ve really enjoyed reading your content this year and have used a lot of the insight you’ve provided. Got a keeper question for you. Franmil Reyes will be my 10th and final keeper in a 24 team league, but I’ll lose his roster eligibility with him only playing DH this year. We only roster 1 DH and I already have Yordan… Do you think there’s any way that the cost effective Indians don’t pick up the huge option on Carlos Santana and try Franmil at 1st? I know Cleveland has Jake Bauer’s, Bobby Bradley and could use Josh Nailor at 1st, but would they try Franmil to keep that bat in the lineup or am I dreaming?

On that note, with Yuli’s contract expiring, would the Astros try Yordan at 1st?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much!

Fenway Faithful
Fenway Faithful
Reply to  The Itch
2 years ago

Thanks, man. That’s kind of what I was thinking and I appreciate the confirmation. It’s too bad GM’s aren’t as interested in positional eligibility as fantasy owners. I’m also dealing with some injured aces… I’m pretty sure I’m going to cut bait with JV, but I’m curious of what you think Sale’s long term outcome may be in a dynasty league. Any faith in Sale returning to his once dominant self?