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.
Side note, has this ever happened before? The previous two champions swinging a deal to swap elite players from one team for the prospects of another? I have to think not, but the arc of baseball is long, and most things are forgotten in the wash of time. Please let me know in the comments if you can think of any trade between the two most recent World Series winners.
Until reminded otherwise, Keibert Ruiz is the primary return of a truly unique trade in baseball history. Well, “primary” unless you count the 100+ million dollars the Dodgers now owe Scherzer, which was probably the real primary piece, but that makes me feel just a wee bit gross, so yeahhhhh, back to Ruiz.
I’ve been too low on him, generally speaking.
Here’s what I wrote in the Top 10 Los Angeles Dodgers Prospects for 2021 Fantasy Baseball:
“Will Smith did not get those memos about Ruiz being the catcher of the future in Los Angeles. Either that or he got them and they pissed him off, so he ignored them. Nobody likes filling out TPS reports.
With the fresh prince in Bel Air, Ruiz could find himself on the slow road to fantasy relevance. Or maybe on the trade block. The universal DH would be a boon for the hit-first backstop with plus plate skills.”
That’s me quoting November me a few days before Thanksgiving during a pandemic. I guess everything anyone says now is them during a pandemic, but I only mention it because that’s pithy stuff, that Ruiz blurb. Didn’t know about the DH yet. How did we not know yet!? How did we still not know four months later on the eve of Opening Day!? At least it was a rare scenario and we’ll never again see MLB dangling huge rules changes in the lead up to the season. Right? Right?
Ruiz as a primary catcher in Washington is a potential top five option as soon as next year. Heck he might put up a top five catcher run over the next three weeks. For much of his MiLB career, he was a plate discipline and hit tool guy with a little punch. His numbers were obscured to some extent by always playing in leagues with much older guys. He’d lean out over the plate, shrink the zone and kind of slap decent pitches the other way. Over the past year, he’s begun to access his base and connect to the pull side more often, leading to the kind of home run binge Dodgers coaching tends to coax. Add him where you can.
“I have high hopes for Joe Ryan, another dynasty trade target if you can get a decent price. His 30+ K-BB percentage across three levels in 2019 was pretty loud, but some of the clamor might’ve died down since Ryan was kept under training site wraps for all of 2020. His best trait is a true-spin four-seamer he can command across the zone, and that’s a great base from which to build an arsenal in today’s game. Tampa coaches have praised Ryan for his aptitude for new pitches and approaches, particularly his feel for spin. I get giddy just thinking about it.”
Ryan on the Twins is thrilling like the heartbeat of a CIA agent moving from behind the desk to out in the field. Minnesota won’t hang him out to dry like some teams, and they won’t kiddie glove slow-play him the way Tampa might’ve. His competitors in the AL Central are not worldbeaters. He’s 25 years old with a 0.79 WHIP on the season and lands comfortably among my favorite sleepers for next season. If he’s good down the stretch, the spring sleeper articles will drop and scatter like smart bombs. If he struggles a little like most rookie pitchers, that’ll just make him cheaper for us.
I scooped up Minnesota RHP Bailey Ober in a 20-team dynasty league back on August 15, mostly on the strength and growth of his swinging strike rate. Was likely a fluke of the settings that he was available in the first place: a hard cap of 50 innings on prospect pitchers and 130 at bats for hitters creates a class of recent graduates that don’t necessarily merit universal ownership. I’m not complaining. While I prefer a wider error bar for MiLB eligibility, I appreciate how these settings mirror reality and create little windows for pouncing in the post-prospect haze.
In his three starts for the Mud Puppies, Ober has a 0.88 WHIP and 2.12 ERA across 17 innings, and he even picked up a win on Monday. He’s struck out 15 guys and walked just one, and most importantly, he’s found a rhythm spotting his fastball atop the zone and burying his off-speed down under most swing paths. We’ve talked Ober over quite a bit in this space. He’s got enough name value that I’m thinking he’ll be a popular sleeper target next Spring. Not sure if you could still buy in anywhere given the reality of trade deadlines, but he’s probably here to stay as a functional piece even in 12-team leagues.
Pittsburgh C/OF Endy Rodriguez has been playing some outfield lately after focusing on catcher all year. This seems connected to the arrival of first overall pick Henry Davis and on base machine Abrahan Gutierrez (.429 OBP in 68 games), who came over from Philadelphia at the trade deadline in exchange for LHP Braeden Ogle. I think Endy’s a solid catcher with plus athleticism, but it’s that last part that has him moving around the field. He’s slashing .289/.383/.492 with 11 HR and 2 SB in 83 games. He is ready for High A as soon as the club feels comfortable with his outfield defense, partly because Gutierrez too is ready for his next challenge. The Pirates brass made catching depth a priority last year and has acquired three potential big leaguers over since 2020. Impressive.
Last but not least, Toronto RHP Nate Pearson returns to the majors today, this time as a reliever hoping to help his team reach the postseason. He’s 25 years old now, and his last five appearances at AAA were in relief, where he’s been pretty good: 25% K-BB with a 1.00 WHIP. Once the top pitching prospect in the minors, if Pearson is dominant down the stretch and useful in the playoffs, he may find himself in a bullpen role for the foreseeable future.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.