With All-Star festivities in the minors now in the books, it’s the perfect time to catch up on some of the lesser known prospects making names for themselves. These are all players who jumped on my radar with their performances during the first half of this season. You may not know them now, but you will in the near future, and that is why you should keep an eye on them in dynasty leagues.
Corbin Burnes RHP (MIL)
Current stats: 7-0 in 14 GS (10 in A+, 4 in AA), 0.97 ERA, 82K/21BB, .167 avg. against, 0.81 WHIP
Burnes has been absolutely brilliant this season – stat-wise the best pitcher in the minors. No matter which level, it’s really difficult (and rare) for a pitcher to do what he’s been doing. Eight of 14 outings have been shutouts. Only once he gave up three earned runs, and only once he gave up two. And he hasn’t slowed down after earning a promotion to Double-A, having allowed only 10 hits total in 23.2 innings pitched, lowering his overall ERA under 1.00. So, how has been this good, you ask? Well, it’s fairly simple. He’s extremely confident in his abilities, has a bulldog mentality on the mound and doesn’t get intimidated by opponents. Like many other pitchers like him, it’s mental more than physical. Being able to control and locate one or two quality pitches (in Burnes’ case, a fastball and a hard slider) is better than being gifted with amazing stuff and being unable to hit the target (does Tyler Glasnow ring a bell?). Yes, in order to get hitters out at the highest level, you need more than that. But for now, Burnes is bulldozing his way to the majors with no regard for past or future.
Tyler Mahle RHP (CIN)
Current stats: 7-3 in 14 GS (all in AA, just promoted to AAA), 1.59 ERA, 87K/17BB, .190 avg. against, 0.87 WHIP
You need to own Mahle in your dynasty leagues. In my book, he’s as sure of a pitching prospect as they come. Looking back at his stats, he was very good in A-ball in 2015 (2.43 ERA in 26 starts) and as good in A advanced in 2016 (2.50 ERA in 13 starts). Then, he encountered some struggles in Double-A (4.92 ERA in 14 starts), but judging by what we’re seeing now, it was a necessary step back. He overestimated opposing batters, overthinking and trying to be too cute with pitches. He was basically overpitching. The former seventh round pick has been able to make the needed adjustments and is one now of the most advanced arms in MiLB (even though he’s not a top 100 prospect). He doesn’t have anything about him that pops. Average offerings with average control. That is MLB average, and that means a No. 3 starter in the majors. So in his case, I count that (average) as a positive. The man just goes about his business, allowing more than five hits only twice this season. Oh, and did I mention he threw a no-hitter in 2015 and a perfect game for Pensacola in April this year? Yeah, time to take notice. With a pitcher’s build and a baseball mind, an underrated baseball prospect in time becomes a wanted fantasy commodity. If all goes well in Triple-A, he might be poised for a major league debut in 2017.
Mike Soroka RHP (ATL)
Current stats: 9-3 in 14 GS, 2.18 ERA, 71K/12BB, .212 avg. against, 0.99 WHIP
Alec Hansen RHP (CWS)
Level: A advanced
Currents stats: 7-3 in 13 GS (all in A, just promoted to A+), 2.48 ERA, 92K/32BB, .207 avg. against, 1.10 WHIP
Hansen was one the best arms in the 2016 draft, but he saw his stock fall drastically because of control issues in college. The White Sox took a chance on him in the second round, and based on early returns, they got themselves a huge steal. Hansen showed his potential immediately, striking out 81 batter in 54.2 innings and holding opponents to a .133 average in his first taste of the minors last season. After a bit of a rough start to this season in A-ball, he managed to adapt nicely and was one of the hottest starting pitchers in the minors before the promotion with 50 strikeouts in his last five games (including two 10 K games and one with a career-high 15). Needless to say, the stuff is there. With a fastball that can reach 99 mph, a slider with late movement and a 6’7” frame, it’s easy to dream. I, for example, have no difficulty imagining him and Kopech eventually forming one the best 1-2 punches in the major leagues. One certainty is that, when he’s on, he’s a strikeout machine. Now, whether Chicago can prevent his arsenal from crumbling down like it did in college will determine his future. I’m willing to bet he becomes what Giolito was supposed to be, and I would advise you to do the same.
Zac Gallen RHP (STL)
Current stats: 6-4 in 13 GS (9 in A+, 4 in AA), 2.04 ERA, 71K/17BB, .233 avg. against, 1.08 WHIP
A former Tar Heel drafted in the third round in last season’s draft, Gallen is your typical polished college arm. With three solid offerings and above-average control, he’s more of a pitch manager than a pitch thrower. Being drafted by the Cardinals is a further benefit that could see him make the most out of his repertoire and overachieve. He held a 1.62 ERA in nine starts in A+ before the promotion, with 56 Ks, 10 walks and a .215 average against. It’s been more of a challenge in his first four starts in Double-A (3.04 ERA, .275 avg. against, 15 K/7 BB), but the overall feeling is that his best is yet to come. He doesn’t sound like a name that can become a frontline starter, but he does sound like a dependable No. 4, and that’s exactly who he’s supposed to be.
Jon Duplantier RHP (ARI)
Level: A advanced
Current stats: 6-1 in 13 GS (12 in A, 1 in A+), 1.31 ERA, 83K/20BB, .183 avg. against, 0.90 WHIP
Another third-round pick from last year’s draft, Duplantier has been one of the most pleasant surprises in the lower minors this season. The Diamondbacks’ Pitcher of the Month for April and May is athletic, has an easily repeatable delivery and is equally efficient against righties and lefties. He had an incredible May in which he didn’t allow a single run in five straight starts, didn’t give up more than four hits in any of his six outings and allowed only 17 hits total in 34 innings. The story about Rice pitchers is well known, and Duplantier has already dealt with shoulder and elbow pain, so that definitely increases the risk and reduces the appeal in drafting him in dynasty leagues. However, based on talent, projectability and early results, he’s worth the risk.
Jordan Humphreys RHP (NYM)
Level: A advanced
Current stats: 10-1 in 12 GS (11 in A, 1 in A+), 1.95 ERA, 81K/11BB, .195 avg. against, 0.86 WHIP
The first thing that flashes when you see Humphreys is his durable frame. When he starts pitching, you realize that frame can throw much better than you anticipate. For an 18th round pick, you can’t ask for more. He has provided more, though. He’s produced 10 wins and a 1.42 ERA in 11 starts for the Columbia Fireflies to go along with 80 strikeouts and a .168 avg. against. Simply superb numbers. Mixed in there are six games in which he recorded at least 8 Ks, and he also didn’t walk more than two batters in any outing. The 21-year-old has four different pitches, but mostly uses his fastball and curveball, adding a slider and a changeup for deceptiveness. All the characteristics he possesses and has shown fit the bill of a hidden gem. He had a rough first outing in A+, so it will be interesting to see how and whether he adjusts. Ranked #29 in the Mets’ farm system by MLB.com, it will be a success if he reaches the highest level. Personally, I expect more. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be on this list.
Logan Allen LHP (SD)
Current stats: 5-4 in 13 GS (68.1 IP), 2.11 ERA, 85K/26BB, .201 avg. against, 1.10 WHIP
The first southpaw on this list, Allen was an eighth round pick by the Red Sox in 2015 who was shipped to the Padres as part of the Craig Kimbrel deal. The first signs after turning pro were encouraging, as he racked up 26 Ks and only one walk in 24.1 IP in 2015. The progress was slowed down, though, after an injury required a prolonged trip to the disabled list. The overall numbers in 2016 were decent, but didn’t show his true colors. Now fully recuperated, the Florida native is starting to come along. Allen uses four pitches, the main one being a fastball. However, the other three don’t lag too much behind. He’s had at least five strikeouts in all of his starts, hasn’t given up more than six hits in any of them and has allowed more than two runs only once. Additionally, he knows how to keep the ball in the ballpark with only three home runs allowed in 155 innings pitched in his minor league career. The Padres have been careful with his workload because of that aforementioned injury. Elbow soreness is a scary and delicate issue, since many players who’ve had such concerns have required Tommy John surgery sooner or later. Everything he does needs refining, as he’s far from a finished product. But unlike many other pitchers, molding him shouldn’t be a tough task.
Alex Wells LHP (BAL)
Current stats: 5-4 in 14 GS, 3.04 ERA, 58K/10BB, .250 avg. against, 1.12 WHIP
A prospect coming from Australia can’t be uninteresting, and Wells isn’t. He’s a lefty who came in the United States together with twin brother Lachlan. Both of them were signed by major league teams, and although Lachlan found success at the beginning, it has been Alex who’s thriving now. After recording a 2.15 ERA with a .216 avg. against, 50 Ks and nine walks in 13 starts (62.2 IP) in his rookie 2016 season, the 20-year-old has had a similar first half of this season. The only difference (and the reason for the higher ERA and avg. against) is the home runs allowed. He leads the South Atlantic League with 12, so there’s obviously work to be done here. Taking everything into perspective, I think we are looking at a future MLB starter who should jump into the top 100 prospects by the beginning of next season. Time will tell.
Cody Reed LHP (ARI)
Level: A advanced
Current stats: 4-4 in 13 GS (8 in A, 5 in A+), 79K/17BB, .212 avg. against, 1.00 WHIP
Reed has been irritatingly up and down in his minor league career thus far. All was good for two and a half seasons until his first promotion to A advanced in 2016. Visalia has been his villain, having struggled in both promotions there (then and now). To his credit, it’s one of the most hitter-friendly places to pitch, but he’ll have to find a way to “defeat” it if he wants to keep moving up the ladder. Last season’s issues were attributed to a dead arm. In five starts there this time around, he holds a 3.49 ERA with a .271 avg. against. So, whether it’s the stadium or fatigue, he’ll need to figure it out. One aspect that requires serious attention is his conditioning and stamina. Another one is consistency. For example, after throwing two shutouts in a row (8 and 9 innings) in the middle of May, he gave up four earned runs in five innings. He followed that up with a nice bounce back performance, throwing six innings of one-run ball, and then another dud – five earned runs in 4.1 IP. The talent is definitely there. The first time I noticed him, I saw him as a future No. 2 for Arizona. Then, I hesitantly dropped him from my best prospects list, only to add him again after a fine start to this season. Now, the former second round pick has got me questioning again. I’ll hold on to him this time around, keeping a close eye on his development and hoping for the best, which is a fruition of my initial prediction.
Rogelio Armenteros RHP (HOU)
Current stats: 2-3 in 10/14 GS, 1.93 ERA, 74K/19BB, .207 avg. against, 1.04 WHIP
The Houston Astros signed Armenteros from Cuba in 2015 for only $40,000. It’s fair to say the return on that investment has far exceeded expectations. Even though he’s not even in the Astros’ top 30 prospects on MLB.com (similar to how many teams passed on him when he had his showcases), the performances deserve top 15 consideration. The 22-year-old has allowed more than four hits only once this season (7) and gave up more than two earned runs for the first time in his most recent outing. He doesn’t go deep in starts (5.2 IP is the most he’s reached in 2017), but neither did Francis Martes or David Paulino. Durability is a work in progress. What makes me believe Armenteros can be useful, if not successful at the big league level as a starter, is the range of various pitches he owns (a two-seamer, a four-seamer, slider, curveball and change-up) and the ability to mix and match them based on who he’s facing. He’s not on many people’s radars yet, so you can be patient in dynasty leagues. It’s wait and see for now, but don’t wait for too long if you see significant signs of continued improvement.
That is it for now. I do hope you find this article useful and interesting. If so, here’s a link to my previous one, where I take a look at prospect hitters on the rise. Thank you for reading.
Note: I was going to put Seattle’s Andrew Moore and Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo on this list, but I decided to exclude them since they made their MLB debuts.