Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the players union, teams are no longer hiding their top prospects in the minors to delay their service time and ability to hit arbitration and free agency earlier in their careers.

The Mariners (Julio Rodriguez) and Astros (Jeremy Pena) have had top rookies in their starting lineup since the start of the season. Meanwhile, a host of other teams have featured rookies in their lineup from day one or already promoted them from the minors.

A TRIO OF ROOKIES

One team that has been aggressive in calling up top players from the minors is the St. Louis Cardinals. I talked about one of those rookies, Juan Yepez, last week. You can read about him here. The Cardinals also have two more rookies in their lineup, and both are readily available in Yahoo and ESPN leagues.

Rookie Brendan Donovan is rostered on 22% of Yahoo leagues and only 5.4% of ESPN leagues. Nolan Gorman, the other rookie, has the attention of a few more Yahoo and ESPN fantasy players as he is rostered on 63% of Yahoo rosters and 30% of ESPN rosters.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals realized that Salvador Perez can’t play in every game like he nearly did last season by appearing in 161 contests. The Royals thus turned to top catching prospect MJ Melendez and called him up from Triple A. Melendez is currently on only 37% of Yahoo rosters and 10.2% of ESPN rosters.

It’s time to take a look at these three players and discuss if they are Top Dynasty Keepers or not.

NOLAN GORMAN

Level AB H HR RBI SB BB/SO AVG OBP SLG
Majors 25 9 1 5 0 3/8 .360 .429 .560
Minors 1,306 357 72 204 13 129/393 .273 .343 .502

St. Louis drafted Gorman in 2018 out of high school with the 19th pick in the first round. Since then, he has been climbing the prospect charts. He entered this season ranked as the #2 prospect in the Cardinals’ system and 34th overall by Baseball America, 33rd by MLB Pipeline and 28th by Baseball Prospectus. He has also competed in two Futures Games (1019, 2021).

Aiding Gorman in his rise to the majors is his move to second base in 2021. With Nolan Arenado at third, there was no room for Gorman at the hot corner. He has improved his footwork and ability to go to his right and is adequate enough at the position for the Cardinals to add his bat to the lineup.

LOVE THAT POWER

The Cardinals selected Gorman because of his 60-grade power, and he hasn’t disappointed in the department. Between Rookie and Class A ball, he slashed .291/.380/.570 with 17 homers and 41 RBI in 63 games. In 2019, playing as a 19-year-old in A and High-A, he struggled at the plate a bit by slashing .248/.326/.439 with 15 homers and 62 RBI in 125 games.

The Cardinals weren’t phased by those numbers. After missing the 2020 season due to COVID, he was bumped up to Double A and then Triple A in 2021 and slashed .279/.333/.481 with 25 homers and 75 RBI. Gorman then forced his way into the Cardinals lineup by hitting .308/.367/.677 with 156 homers and 23 RBI in 34 games at Triple A.

Gorman busted out Saturday with his first career home run while going 4-for-4 with four RBI, and his swing generates a lot of bat speed that should lead to a lot of doubles and more home runs for St. Louis.

WITH POWER COMES STRIKEOUTS

If there is a hole in Gorman’s game, it is the fact that he has a lot of swing and miss at the plate. During his career in the minors, he had a 27% strikeout rate while having only a 9% walk rate. While it is a very small sample size so far with the Cardinals, the strikeouts are still there as he has a 33% strikeout rate. The good news is that he has a 12.5% walk rate.

He also hits the ball hard, coming in with an EV of 91.1 mph and a line drive percentage of 46.2%, which is way above the MLB average of 23.4%. But right now, he is a fly ball, pull hitter that pitchers can use against him. He has a ground ball percentage of only 7.7% and he has gone to the opposite field only 7.7% of the time.

BRENDAN DONOVAN

Level AB H HR RBI SB BB/SO AVG OBP SLG
Majors 58 18 1 9 1 12/12 .310 .444 .466
Minors 867 247 21 127 23 123/183 .285 .386 .429
College 604 188 15 128 19 120/88 .311 .437 .477

Donovan, who is now 25, has battled his way through the Cardinals system since being drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 draft out of the University of South Alabama. You won’t find him ranked as a top 100 prospect in any rankings. But that hasn’t prevented him from earning his way to St. Louis.

Playing at three different levels, Donovan led the system in batting average (.304), on-base percentage (.399) and OPS (.854). His outstanding season continued in the Arizona Fall League as he hit .308 and had 10 walks compared to eight strikeouts in 64 plate appearances.

HOMERS AREN’T HIS GAME

Making contact is the name of the game for Donovan. A left-handed hitter, Donovan’s strikeout rate in the minors was only 17.8% while his walk rate was 12%. His ability to make contact helped him have a breakout 2021 season.

But if you expect Donovan to hit the longball, you will be disappointed. His career homer rate in the minors is one every 41 at-bats. That nearly matches his rate of 1 every 40 at-bats at South Alabama.

Instead, he takes advantage of his quick hands to make a lot of contact that should produce plenty of doubles.

PLAYING THE FIELD

One of the best players you can have on a keeper team is a multi-positional player. Donovan certainly checks off that box as he has played all four infield positions in the minors as well as left and right field. And he has played all of those positions for the Cardinals with the exception of right field.

Donovan also has some speed as he racked up 19 steals in college and 23 in the minors. The bad news, however, is he was caught stealing 11 times at South Alabama and 10 times in the minors.

ML MELENDEZ

Level AB H HR RBI SB BB/SO AVG OBP SLG
Majors 65 16 4 8 0 7/16 .246 .319 .492
Minors 1,476 350 75 266 21 201/505 .237 .331 .469

Melendez joined the Royals organization in 2017 after being drafted in the second round and signing for above slot at $2.1 million. The Royals were more than happy to overpay for Melendez because they wanted his power bat. And power is what Melendez has shown in the minors.

THUNDER IN HIS BAT

In 47 games at Rookie ball in 2017, Melendez slugged .417 with four homers and 30 RBI. He then fully displayed his power in Class A ball in 2018 by hitting 19 homers and driving in 73 runs in 111 games while slashing .251/.322/.492. The 2019 season was a bust for Melendez as he hit only nine homers in 110 games in High-A ball while slashing .163/.260/.311.

While he didn’t play in 2020 due to COVID, Melendez reworked his swing and hitting approach at the team’s alternate site and the hard work paid off last year. Melendez was a terror at the plate against opponents as he slugged 41 homers and drove in 103 runs in 124 games while slashing .288/.386/.625. Since joining the Royals, Melendez has hit four home runs, including this majestic homer.

NOT GOING TO HIT FOR AVERAGE

At the plate, Melendez is in the majors for one reason – to hit home runs. Don’t expect him to hit for a high batting average. His career average in the minors is .237 and he has hit higher than .262 only once.

Keeping his average down has been an excessive strikeout rate. His first three professional seasons saw strikeout rates of 30.3%, 30.3% and 39.4%. But the good news is that he reworked his swing and approach during his time at the alternate site in 2020 which has led to a better contact rate.

Last season Melendez lowered his strikeout rate to 21.7% while producing a 14.1% walk rate. This year at Triple A he had a 24.2% strikeout rate and 14.3% walk rate. With the Royals, those rates are 22.2% and 9.7%.

THE VERDICTS

Two of these players are without question Top Dynasty Keepers. Those players would be Gorman, who is only 22, and Melendez, who is 23-years-old. Both of them have enormous power potential and would be key members of your lineup for years. With Gorman playing second base, he brings a powerful bat to a position that has power hitters who aren’t going to be available on the waiver wire.

Then there is Melendez. Who cares if he hits .250 or lower? A left-handed hitting catcher with that much power needs to be added to your lineup ASAP. The fact he is still as available as he is in Yahoo and ESPN leagues is amazing. An added bonus when it comes to Melendez is the fact he wears the number 1 on his uniform. What catcher has ever done that?

Donovan, meanwhile, is a nice player and good to have in your lineup for this season, but unless you play in a league with unlimited keepers, there are a lot of players of Donovan’s caliber that you can use. His biggest advantage is the fact he can play so many positions. But he isn’t going to hit a lot of homers or drive in a lot of runs nor is he likely to give you a lot of steals.

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Shawn
Shawn
2 months ago

Semi unrelated but I just found your other Yepez post and didn’t want to ask on an old post. Trade thoughts? 20 team dynasty league, regular scoring.

I give Yepez, Jorge Lopez (BAL) 4 Pavin Smith, S. Ohtani (SP)

I feel like I should feel this is a no brainer but this would leave me with M. Sano, C. Joe, J. Votto, and Smith at 1B so a pretty mediocre stable at first.

Jimmy
Jimmy
2 months ago

I have Ruiz, Montero and MJ….5×5 13 team dynasty keep them all! Who do you like best going forward?

putitontheboard
putitontheboard
2 months ago

My league has 5 year contracts. Someone offered me India, Oneil Cruz and Roansy for Albies. Albies is in the last year of his contract (can’t keep). I could keep the other guys for 5 years. Thoughts?

putitontheboard
putitontheboard
Reply to  Jakkers
2 months ago

I appreciate it man. Love the dynasty articles.

Harry Beanebag
Harry Beanebag
2 months ago

Melendez or Varsho ROS?

Harry Beanebag
Harry Beanebag
Reply to  Jakkers
2 months ago

Thanks!