The Tampa Bay Rays will promote LHP Shane McClanahan to start Thursday’s game against Oakland. If you watch spring training baseball, you might’ve glimpsed McClanahan hitting 101 on the radar gun while striking out seven batters and allowing one baserunner over three innings. 

If you missed those brief Grapefruit League innings, perhaps you watch the playoffs, where you could’ve seen McClanahan hitting 100 on the radar gun in his big league debut last fall. He got knocked around a bit by the Yankees and Astros but did throw an empty frame against the Dodgers in the World Series. Wild ride for a guy who’d only pitched 18.1 innings above A ball before that postseason stress test. 

The 31st overall selection from the 2018 amateur draft, McClanahan brings unicorn heat from the left side. I think it’s between him and Cleveland LHP Sam Hentges for gassiest lefty in the game. While Hentges is 6’8” and 245 lbs, McClanahan stands 6’1” and weighs 200 lbs. Today is his 24th birthday. Pretty good gift, I’d say, getting that call from the front office. He pairs that high-nineties heat with a plus curveball that tunnels well when he’s working atop the zone. We haven’t seen much of the changeup, but I’m guessing it’s gotten a little better than the grades on most public facing scouting information that grade it below average. It won’t have to be a great pitch on its own to work incredibly well in the pitch mix. As long as it accesses a third velocity band between the gas and the bender and has just a little late dip or fade, it’ll be a nice weapon against right handed batters as long as he’s commanding it.

The smart money on McClanahan likely sees him in relief long term, but these things change, and we’re always too quick to label young pitchers as two-pitch guys when they simply haven’t needed a third one yet. Necessity is the mother of invention, and young pitchers meet an awful lot of successful inventors in a major league clubhouse. That’s the workshop you want them toiling in when seeking those extra weapons on the mound. I’m simply not convinced throwing your middle school change up a million times in single A matters as much as learning and tinkering along with the best in the world at the top level. 

I wouldn’t get too McClanahandsy with Shane in redraft leagues. Could be an up and down thing. Could be just an opener for a while. But on the other hand, if he’s moved to relief full time, he’ll have the best arm in that injury-riddled bullpen and could earn a high-leverage role.

Should add before moving on that Sam Hentges got some job security when the team designated LHP Oliver Perez for assignment to activate Nick Wittgren from the parental leave list. I doubt they make that move unless they’re happy enough with Hentges after two outings that they want to keep him on the staff. 

The St. Louis Cardinals are reportedly moving to a six-man rotation and promoting RHP Johan Oviedo to take that first extra start Wednesday. Nice to see him rewarded for 4.2 innings of shutout relief against Milwaukee on April 11. Oviedo pitched well enough his first two starts of 2020 before struggling over his final three, but I’m more likely to throw that out entirely than read much into it. Oviedo is under construction: a 6’5” 245 lb edge rusher with a plus fastball that was up 1.6 mph from 2020’s 94.8 to 96.4. His changeup is also coming in hotter (+3.4 mph), as is his slider (+1.1). I like it, and I suspect there’s another little fastball bump in there somewhere. Oviedo’s a priority add for me in deep leagues. 

Guys like Nationals 1B/OF Yadiel Hernandez tend to pile up at AAA and then get labeled 4A talents, especially in NL organizations due to the number of position-player at bats that go instead to pitchers. Shouldn’t say “guys like” so casually like these MLB-ready bats are just growing on trees, but I do think the minor leagues have more players capable of sustained hot stretches than we ever really give them credit for, or at least that’s been the case for much of my life. Might be different now that so many guys come up and hit right away.

Back to Hernandez, who’s traveled an atypical path to his current opportunity. A 33-year-old rookie who signed out of Mexico at 29, Hernandez checks in at 5’9” 185 lb but gets the barrel to way more pitches than normal and pairs that plus hit tool with a discerning eye to create painful at bats for opposing pitchers. He might wind up back on the bench when Juan Soto comes off the IL, but between interleague play, Josh Bell’s ongoing struggles and Washington’s offensive deficiencies, Hernandez has several paths to sustained playing time, and I’m betting he’ll earn it. 

Speaking of earned at bats, Diamondbacks 1B/OF Pavin Smith has been a longtime favorite in this space and appears to have locked up a spot in that Arizona lineup. He might even be the leadoff man, having settled in at that spot the past six games. Another fascinating development: he’s played centerfield in six of the team’s last eight games, an opportunity he earned by making play after play in right. If you circled “Pavin Smith becomes an everyday centerfielder-slash-leadoff-hitter” on your fantasy-ball bingo card for 2021, well hot damn you’re probably the only one. Wing! Go! (In a Dale Gribble voice).

Brewers OF Tyrone Taylor has had to wait his turn behind a parade of pricier options in Milwaukee, but he’s in position now to claim his place. The extent of Christian Yelich’s back injury is unknown at this point, but we know he’s not on the field, and we know Avisail Garcia has been bad as a Brewer. As has Jackie Bradley Jr. Even listing the names makes me a little less optimistic, but Avi’s a free agent in 2022 unless Milwaukee picks up his option. Lorenzo Cain could be back from the IL soon, and he’s under contract until 2023, so it’s messy, just all the way around, but if he’s their best healthy outfielder, and I think he is right now, life will find a way. 

Marlins RHP Edward Cabrera has resumed throwing at the alt site. Seems unthinkable that he’d appear in the majors before Sixto Sanchez this year, but we’re headed in that direction. I dropped Cabrera down my prospect rankings because of a creaky elbow that seems destined for some kind of operation, but the Marlins have taken the rest and rehab route, so we’ll just have to monitor him. Even in shallow redraft leagues, Cabrera could be a difference maker if healthy. 

Blue Jays RHP Nate Pearson should be up to five fake innings at the alt side by next week. I’m taking a wait-and-see approach to Pearson in general, but the price is probably right in a lot of mixed leagues. He’s not an RCL-level option just yet, but he’ll be streaming in shallow leagues by late May.  

Astros RHP Luis Garcia figures to inherit the rotation spot vacated by Jake Odorizzi. Not great for Jake, pretty fun for us. Watch party at my house. I’ve been high on Garcia for a long time. 

If not Garcia, then perhaps the first chance will go to LHP Kent Emanuel, a 28-year-old lefty who twirled 8.2 shutout innings in relief of Odorizzi. He’s a far cry from Garcia in the stuff department, but he’s earned his next outing. 

The Kansas City Royals are winning, which should accelerate the timelines of SS Bobby Witt Jr., 1B Nick Pratto, and pitchers Daniel Lynch, Jackson Kowar, Jonathan Bowlan and perhaps Asa Lacy, Alec Marsh and Austin Cox. Exciting times for the young Royals

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

30 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Regan
Regan
1 year ago

Dear Mr Itch,

I play in a deep 15 team keeper where most of the top talent is already on the minors. 300 minor league roster. 1st base is killing me since Christian Walker bit the dust early. Looking for some 1st base options that might be overlooked and have a chance to contribute this year early. Any options come to mind? Thanks!

Slimcompoop
Slimcompoop
1 year ago

Appreciate the write-up Itch!

12-team keeper league, and I’m competitive for a top-4 finish in 2021, but need to get younger in the pitching department. Looking for 1-to-2 SP’s that have a significant chance to contribute this year and perhaps be keepable for 2022.

Picked up Patino and Garcia this past Sunday, but do you think Hentges, McClanahan, L. Garcia, or Gore are better “adds” than the aforementioned?

Jeremy
Jeremy
1 year ago

One pick for this season – Turnbull, Cobb, Luis Garcia, Houck, Honeywell, Manoa, or Oviedo?

Would you take any over Duran?

TualatinTwoStep
TualatinTwoStep
1 year ago

Hey Itch!

Great stuff as always! I am in a 12 team dynasty league with MiLB rosters, and I am in a rebuild. I just traded Cesar Valdez for Matt Tabor and a 2nd round rookie pick this year (pick 2.5), and I wanted to get your thoughts on Tabor. Thanks!

Joe P
Joe P
1 year ago

Hey quick question- who would you pick up for this season- Honeywell, Houck, Oviedo, Luis Garcia, Flexen, or Turnbull? Would you take any of them over Duran?

Not a dynasty. It’s for this season only. Thanks for the input!

Joe P
Joe P
1 year ago

Hey quick question- who would you pick up for this season- Honeywell, Houck, Oviedo, Luis Garcia, Flexen, or Turnbull? Would you take any of them over Duran?

Not a dynasty. It’s for this season only. Thanks for the input!

Greg T
Greg T
1 year ago

Do you think Oviedo is here to stay? I could pick up Cobb, Houck, Flexen, Luis Garcia, Turnbull, or Oviedo.

Thoughts???

Michael
Michael
1 year ago

hey man what’s up? Gun to your head when does Wander Franco come up? Can he be a Trout/Acuna or a top 10 bat or no way. Thanks for the time

toolshed
toolshed
1 year ago

Hey itch, would your prefer baddoo or duran in dynasty. Baddoo has been struggling which was expected until he adjusts / if he adjust. Duran may get called up soon unless Danny santana returns first. Not sure where baddoo is in your current ranking system. I need at bats now but could wait a bit Iif it wasn’t too long of a wait . Thanks

Scoboticus
Scoboticus
1 year ago

Hi Itch!
How do you like McClanahan compared to Alzolay and Weathers in keep forever leagues?

Mike Honcho
Mike Honcho
1 year ago

Do you favor Luis Garcia over Fulmer, Smyly, or Montgomery?

Thundershoe
Thundershoe
1 year ago

Hey Itch,

Thanks for the great content! You’ve piqued my interest on several of these players – they’re now on my watch list!

Also want to say thanks for getting back around to my comment on your previous post – I had assumed I showed up after closing time but you came back for me *stands in the rain with tears streaming down happy face*. BTW, I went ahead and dropped Vaughn and am definitely on step 1 (feeling good), awaiting step 2 (hurting when he’s picked up). Hoping for the day that I can own him if/when he’s beasting.

Getting back to some of the players you highlighted:

A. Do you think that Yadiel, Tyrone, or Nico should be rostered over D. Peralta or Luis Urias? 14-team H2H points league where Ks are -1

B. Do you think that Oviedo could end up better than German, Brubaker, Cobb, or Kikuchi this season?

primetime
primetime
1 year ago

Itch, wow you really think Witt will be up to the majors this season?

What postion if Modesi is going to return a some point.?

I like to grab him ASAP just to hold until next year. We are 10 team OBP keeper league. I do own Story and Mondesi, but maybe keep him and use the others as trade bait.

Dan
Dan
1 year ago

Excited to see you mention hentges. Been targeting him in a 30 team dynasty with deep minors. Team wants a similar contract (mlb based) with multi position elig. Would Seth brown be an overpay? Like brown a lot if he keeps getting at bats but when bellinger comes back from dl that’ll cover me for 1b/of

Dan
Dan
Reply to  Dan
1 year ago

He also asked about mckinstry for hentges. Feel like that’s an overpay.

Mckinstry for a guy like Justin Dunn sounds more fair?

Dan
Dan
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

Thank you, as always appreciate your thoughtful reply!

NUX
NUX
1 year ago

Dear Itch,
Extremely here for the Dale Gribble- Wing! Go’s!

Hope all is well on your end brother, thx as always for all the content

Sincerely,
The 2021 LuBobby Hill Quarantine Experience

NUX
NUX
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

Its my fantasy team name since last year!! And I am Bobby Hill in group chat, which is fun. Prob more fun for me than anyone else who are likely all very tired of goofy Bobby screenshots.

Its a Keep 5 league. And to compound the ridiculousness this year, at the turn of Rd 1, I selected Liam Hendriks and Kyle Hendricks, for s and g’s. Bobby is so very experienced (at forcing a joke). But real talk, I’m dominating that league right meow. But thats prob cause one of my keepers was Acuna :)

NUX
NUX
Reply to  The Itch
1 year ago

Also, I’m calling out all my leaguemates that are reading this in any of my Bobby Hill related leagues. Come say Hi you friggin shadow lurkers!

Jolt In Flow
Jolt In Flow
Reply to  NUX
1 year ago

Thanks for the write-up as always, Itch!

Hahaha! I second the Itch’s comment. Great team name, “The 2021 LuBobby Hill Quarantine Experience”.

Btw Nux, how do I go from 1st in our Baseball10s league to 147 points back and 5th place in a span of 4 days?! I was in 1st for a good 10-12 days. You took 1st place back from me.

Hope the little one’s doing well.

Jolt

Jolt In Flow
Jolt In Flow
Reply to  Jolt In Flow
1 year ago

And Coolwhip’s top 3 in both our baseball10s leagues,

I’m beginning to think Coolwhip’s a professional baseball pool hustler. He came in 1st in a commentor league I was with him last year.

Jolt

NUX
NUX
Reply to  Jolt In Flow
1 year ago

Jolt!!

Lol I am in so friggen many of those that I have no clue which one you are looking at, I think B-World #5 right? And also, thank you for the well wishes and great memory brother! All good here, House NUX is 100% vaxed tomorrow and ready to hit the brewery circuit.

Hamporter
Hamporter
1 year ago

Hey itch,

Would you grab Nico Hoerner over Wendle or Lowrie?

Thanks!

Jimmy
Jimmy
1 year ago

Hey itch….I traded Sixto and Luplow for Mullens and Reid Detmer in my 5×5 18 team roto league… I needed speed and a CF… been rolling with Happ and Senzel and they were killing me… did I over pay? I still have Happ and Senzel..