Hangovers get the best of everyone from time to time. Age is not your friend when throwing back one too many. The same could likely be said of World Series hangovers, which can bite even young teams but are especially exhausting for pitching staffs built around aging aces. Stephen Strasburg threw all of five innings in 2020 after signing a contract for $245 million across seven years. I’m still a few Scrubs episodes from finishing my medical degree, but Carpal Tunnel Neuritis in the right wrist sounds like an awful diagnosis for a 32-year-old right handed pitcher. Stras underwent surgery in late August and could be ready to go in Spring, but it’s looking like the team should’ve chosen Anthony Rendon over Strasburg rather than offering each the same deal and rolling with whoever signed first, if that widespread reporting was accurate. 

Whatever the future holds–and it doesn’t look bright in these minors today–2019 was worth it. Perhaps characterizing their 2020 as a hangover is a bridge too far, especially in a year when most of us wake up wishing we could sleep it off, but it’s an easy leap to make given the strength of will and perseverance it took to vanquish the OP-cheat-code Astros. Thanks, Washington! And it’s not all bad by any means. If their last couple first-round picks pan out, we could see Soto and the boys back in the big games very soon. 

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA

1. RHP Cade Cavali | 22 | NCAA | 2022

The 22nd overall pick in the 2020 draft, Cavali looks like a linebacker and works with pace on the mound, an intimidating combo when paired with his high-fastball proficiency and nasty pair of breakers, one a high 80’s slider and the other a decent curveball. As a fun bonus, Cavali has always been a good hitter, posting a .319/.393/.611 line in 84 plate appearances as a sophomore. Natural athleticism and physicality give him more upside on the mound than teams can typically find that late in the first round. 

 

2. RHP Jackson Rutledge | 22 | A | Late 2021

Rutledge dominated the South Atlantic League after being drafted 17th overall in 2019 (0.91 WHIP across 27.1 innings), where he was 1.8 years younger than the average age of his competitors. At 6’8” with a short arm action, Rutledge will have to work to keep his upper and lower halves in sync, but if he can figure that out and find his command, his fastball, slider and curveball are all good enough to thrive. 

 

3. OF Leandro Emiliani | 21 | R | 2024

My favorite player in this system in terms of perceived value v. potential profit, Emiliani features present strength and plus patience that blossomed in his return trip to the Gulf Coast League in 2019. His 175 wRC+ has to be discounted a little because of the repeat, but he can pour some rocket fuel in his stock if he starts hot in full season ball this year. He’s a little old for his level at the moment due in part to the pandemic, but he could climb quickly in 2021 if the organization wants to challenge him. If you squint while he’s in the batter’s box, you can see shades of a young(er) Juan Soto, and I’ll certainly sign up to see how that plays out. 

 

4. OF Jeremy De La Rosa | 19 | R | 2025

The Nationals sent Jeremy De La Rosa straight to the Gulf Coast League in 2019, where he was 2.4 years younger than the average player but posted a 108 wRC+. A plus athlete with a quick swing from the left side, De La Rosa has enticing topside and an excellent chance to bounce up the prospect lists as his body continues to develop. He’s already picked up some name value in dynasty circles, so a fast start in 2021 could bounce him into some top 100s. 

 

5. SS Viandel Peña | 20 | R | 2025

In 2019, Peña aced the Gulf Coast League (.359/.455/.481) despite playing against guys who were 1.4 years older than him on average. He’s just 5’8”, but small is the new big in baseball. Pena brings the kind compact swing and strike zone discernment required to succeed at his size, and he’s also got enough quick-twitch athleticism to be a fun follow. 

 

6. LHP Seth Romero | 24 | MLB | 2020

His first few games in the big leagues did not go beautifully, as his 13.50 ERA and 3.00 WHIP can attest, but it was just 2.2 innings, and Romero hadn’t pitched since tossing 25.1 innings in A ball in 2018. I’m not super confident in his ability to find the strike zone, but his stuff is good, featuring a plus fastball and plus slider from a tough angle. The 25th overall pick in 2017 despite some character concerns that forced a college transfer, Romero is the club’s best chance to find a 2021 impact prospect in its system. 

 

7. LHP Matt Cronin | 23 | A | Early 2021

Matt Cronin is the all-time saves leader in Arkansas college baseball history and hit the ground running after being picked in the fourth round this summer. His 48.2% K-rate in 22 A-ball innings provides a good look at how tough the three-pitch lefty with a double plus fastball can be on professional hitters. The lefty closer stigma is all but behind us now with bullpen roles becoming more fluid in general, and Cronin has an inside lane toward becoming a final-out factor as soon as 2021.

 

8. 1B Drew Mendoza | 23 | A | 2022

Mendoza is all of the 6’5” 230 lbs he’s listed at and probably weighs a bit more than that today. Raw power is not a problem here, and so far, neither is patience, as evidenced by his 14.2 percent walk rate across 239 plate appearances in A ball. He was sent straight there after being selected in the third round in 2019 and posted a 128 wRC+. I’ve seen some prospectors already buying the big man, but I’d like to see how his patience holds up against elite spin. His 23.8 percent strikeout rate in that South Atlantic League sample is impressive, and if he can carry rates like these up the minor league ladder, he’ll make some noise on a club that’s currently barren at the corners and could move more quickly than the 2022 timeline I’ve speculated for him here. 

 

9. OF Roismar Quintana | 19 | NA | 2025

Roismar Quintana is not huge like Jasson Dominguez, but he is football-player-big for a teenager. Like Dominguez, Quintana carries the weight well so far and figures to hit for power even early in his career. He’s a long, long way away, but as they did with De La Rosa, Washington tends to slow roll their international signees and then drop them right into a stateside setting, bypassing the Dominican summer leagues that are so often the landing spot for these types of prospects. It’s an interesting strategy in that those players would likely get a pass if they struggle and a big bounce if they thrive. I’m betting Quintana doesn’t play until midsummer in 2021 but hits well enough to find some hype when he does finally make his pro debut. 

 

10. LHP Ben Braymer | 26 | MLB | 2020

20-year-old, switch-hitting 3B Yasel Antuna would fit here, as would high upside teenage RHPs Andry Lara and Eddy Yean, but I’ll use this space to send some shine to 2021 rotation hopeful Ben Braymer, a control and command lefty who dominated the minors for all of 2018 and half of 2019 until he ran into the AAA juiced ball wall that flummoxed so many of his finesse-focused compatriots. Braymer employs a classic fastball, curveball, changeup combination, and when he’s right, rarely misses a spot. I think he’ll tinker and learn and work his way into a role on the 2021 club and could wind up much, much better in the long term than anyone would project for him at this juncture. 

Thanks for reading!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

 
  1. Philip says:
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    Itch, thanks for the work! It is nice to have someone cranking out these lists so early in the off-season. I have a couple of questions for you concerning my 20-team dynasty franchise.

    I’m currently amidst a total rebuild. I hold the 1st and 6th picks in the upcoming FYPD. Tork will be my first pick.

    Much of this questioning revolves around Ha-seong Kim

    1. At pick #6 I’m likely looking at one of the top-3 pitchers, Kim, Mitchell, or maybe Gonzalez. Assuming Nicky G and Mitchell aren’t there, would you be leaning Hancock/Lacy/Meyers or Kim?

    I have Seager/J. Garcia/O. Cruz currently at SS. My rotation is Flaherty, Woodruff, Gray, Javier, Gilbert, Skubal, SWR.

    2. Can Kim be an all*star level talent, or is he an 80/20/80/20/.270 guy at best? I feel like during this rebuild I’m hunting for all*stars because the best teams in the league have multiple studs and make for tough competition.

    3. Would you take the above numbers over the upside of a potential ace pitcher?

    4. Would it be better to gamble with Gonzalez/Mitchell (if available) and wait 2+ years over the immediate production of Kim? I figure to be competitive by 2022/23. My OF is deep w/ significant promise.

    5. I also have the 19th pick, but would have to drop someone to use it. My worst players are Campusano, Dahl, O. Cruz (legal stuff), J. Garcia, Javier, and Simeon W.R.. Can’t say I’m excited to drop any of them. Would you drop any of them (and who) for someone like Cavalli, Hendrick, Detmers, Abel, Hassell, Kjerstad, Crow-Armstrong?

    Thanks, Itch! I always appreciate your POV.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Philip!

      3) I would take those numbers over a prospect pitcher.

      1) I would take Gonzalez or Lacy.

      2) I think that 20/20 line represents Kim’s topside.

      4) Gonzalez over Kim but not Mitchell.

      5) I might drop a dude for Vogel, but not those dudes.

      • Philip says:
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        Nice. Thanks, Itch!

        So Gonzalez>Lacy>Kim>Mitchell> Hancock?

        I am not aware of “Vogel”. I googled it and came up with Jake Vogel, the Dodger 3rd round pick. This guy?

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Yeah, I’m big fan of Jake Vogel!

          And that order works for me, tho I’m a little down on Hancock compared to apparent consensus.

  2. Another Dan says:
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    Thanks Itch,

    Good stuff, although in my main league I don’t have those guys except Braymer.

    In that league, 30 team, salary cap $125m I am trying to become competitive. I have quite a stock of prospects (10 of your most recent top 100) and recent graduates (they are cheap and have some value). Hence I have had some offers….. Which gives me some questions…..

    1) Will Nate Lowe hold down a regular spot in 2021? Is he better than Dalbec, Lewin Diaz or Jose Marmelejos?

    2) Is Matt Foster a closer of the future?

    3) Is Drew Waters a guy I should hold? (our league scores HR, SB, SLG, OBP, RC and TB)

    Any help, greatly appreciated,

    Dan

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, Another Dan!

      2) I think so, tho I think closer is a dying position. Colome is a free agent, and Foster will be first in line to replace him if he leaves, I think.

      1) Probably not, and maybe. I’ll take Marms in that group. Some say I’m crazy, but those at bats are his, and he looked good to me.

      3) I mean . . . maybe? I don’t love him, but somebody in your league probably does? What’s the trade world look like these days? Probably not sure active, I’m guessing, at the moment, but crazy shtuff happens on FYPD draft day/week. I think you could move him then for a nice price.

      • Another Dan says:
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        Cheers Itch.

        Plenty to mull over there. Thanks.

        Our league is deep. We can have 200 minor leaguers owned (fantrax limit).

        We have done our FYPD – takes place in August. We handle International signings separately. And we have a draft that let’s us pick up unowned prospects too. That said, we have a couple of new owners and new owners always like to make a team theirs.

        It’s a complicated league but I really enjoy it (and the people in it). My main problem is valuing prospects against MLB talent with all the nuances of salaries and how long players are retained for etc.

        Dan

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:
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          Totally feel that on the MLB v MILB valuation front.

          Salary leagues are particularly complicated.

  3. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Love these lists Itch. Awesome, keep em coming!
    I have Rutledge in my dynasty.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks, MP!!!

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