Another early playoff exit has Minnesota fans melancholic, but few organizations are as well positioned for success over the next few seasons. Cleveland is in danger of taking a step back, Detroit and Kansas City are building, and Chicago is pushing to win now, but Minnesota remains atop this mountain heading into 2021. The system looks a little less stocked than it has the past few years but still contains plenty of prospects to anticipate.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. OF Alex Kirilloff | 23 | MLB | 2020
In 1966, Boris Karloff made his animated debut as Mr. Grinch and even sang that stink stank stunk song. Very cool. Weirdly underrated film somehow—background noise to the Holiday season. Every grinch since has been several orders of magnitude less interesting. In 2020, Alex Kirilloff made his big league debut in the MLB playoffs. Also cool. Totally insane, if you ask me, but nobody did. Because Minnesota lost early, and because few people follow early round playoff baseball, Kirilloff has been weirdly underrated early this draft season.
Perhaps I’m totally misreading the situation, but if the season started today, I think Kirilloff would be in the lineup. He’s battled injuries throughout his career, so his stats don’t tell much of the story here. If he’d been healthy, we might be looking at a top 150 redraft hype train. I think he’s every bit the fantasy prospect Gavin Lux was last draft season.
2. SS Royce Lewis | 21 | AA | 2022
The #1 overall selection in the 2017 draft, Royce Lewis has been a dynasty Sell for me since he entered the professional ranks. At first this occurred because of the incredible returns I saw him bring despite being several years from helping anyone win. A couple years into his career, he remains a sell for me because he hasn’t figured out how to hit, and I’m afraid it could get brutal when he makes the majors and has to face pitchers who can exploit his myriad weaknesses. I don’t know why he started kicking his leg up like a Rockette before every pitch, but I suspect that’s not helping. He won MVP of the 2019 Fall League as evidence that he can make it work in bursts and might be able to streak his way to decent season statlines, but the ride will be turbulent.
3. OF Trevor Larnach | 24 | AA | 2021
Might be the best dynasty Buy on this list for me, assuming the Price is Bob enough for the Larnach Monster. Maybe I’ve got the pulse of this wrong, but the price seems right according to my totally unscientific peak into the echo chamber. He’s like a lot of prospects in that he’s resigned to a corner spot, where his plus hit, plus power, plus patience profile is common, which gets punished on most public-facing prospect lists. We’re just doing fantasy here, and while it’s sometimes difficult to sift through the sound and fury, Larnach is an essential and fairly simple case study. His only red flag so far is 27.6 K rate in 43 games at AA. He produced a 148 wRC+ with a .295/.387/.455 triple slash despite the strikeout issue, which brought along a 12.2 percent walk rate.
Some hitters get worse as the game wears them down. Pitchers discover and exploit tendencies. It’s a lot of people’s career to stop you from doing yours. I think Larnach will thrive in this high-intensity setting. Kind of a gut feel thing, but his plate skills, swing mechanics and barrel control give me confidence.
4. C Ryan Jeffers | 23 | MLB | 2020
A successful debut season in 2020 (.273/.355/.436 across 26 games) sets Jeffers up nicely headed into the new year. The continued existence of Mitch Garver likely relegates Jeffers to a time-share, but that’s really all any young player can hope for at catcher these days, and he doesn’t need to play all that much to help our fantasy teams by bringing power to the second C spot.
5. 1B Aaron Sabato | 21 | NCAA | 2023
I’m gonna kick this to Prospect Hobbs, who built an outstanding write-up on Sabato for his Top 25 College Prospects to Target in Dynasty Leagues.
“Sabato cranked 18 home runs and 25 doubles as a freshman in 2019 while slashing .343/.453/.696 across 230 at bats. Clearly, that line jumps off the page and his 55-grade hit tool and 60-grade raw power only exacerbate the drooling. Sure, there’s not much speed here and he’ll probably never provide anything in that category in the fantasy realm, but the upside from a pure hitting standpoint here is enormous. Sabato sits at the bottom of this list solely because he has only played one full college season and may elect to return for another. He may also spend a little added time in the minor leagues as a result of his lack of experience beyond high school ball. Despite that, the swing isn’t as raw as one might expect, stays through the zone well and is really under control for a guy with as much raw power as he possesses.
Bottom line: I love this bat and think it has potential to play at the professional level much more consistently and with more upside than maybe every other hitter on this list. Still, he only has 285 at bats at the college level and scouts were banking on seeing another full season of him in 2020, so it’s tough to say where he might get drafted (if he begins his pro journey at all). If he becomes available in your league this summer, he has incredible value as a sleeper prospect.”
I intend to produce an updated FYPD after the January 15 international signing deadline. Sabato will be ranked aggressively.
6. RHP Jhoan Duran | 23 | AA | 2021
This dude is very tall. He’s listed at 6’5” 230 lbs, but I’ve seen him at field level standing shoulder to shoulder with 6’4” Trevor Larnach, and I can promise you the height difference was more than an inch. Might be a little wiggle each direction there, but it wasn’t just Larnach. Duran just makes humans look small.
On the mound, where he stands approximately 17 feet above the field, Duran features a double-plus fastball paired with two plus off-speed pitches (slider, changeup), generating plus extension and repeating his delivery well for someone so large. The pitch mix and profile here are better than his perceived value around the dynasty game, in my opinion. His 63.3 percent ground ball rate across 37 AA innings is enough to sound the alarms. He’s a definite buy for me. I never want to invest too heavily on pitching prospects in part because we can often find guys like Duran who can be tacked onto bigger deals or added via free agency.
7. RHP Jordan Balazovic | 22 | A+ | 2021
Numbers-scouting alone would lead you to believe Balazovic belongs among the game’s truly elite pitching prospects. I’m a little dubious his stuff merits the kind of helium hinted at in the numbers, especially the 39.8 percent strikeout rate in 20.2 innings at Cedar Rapids or even his 25.2 percent K-BB rate in 73 innings at High A. But it’s totally fine if he’s not that guy in the majors. Functional control and an almost true-spin fastball are the carrying tools at present, and if that control becomes plus command of a plus fastball along with two average off-speed offerings (slider, changeup), that will play against major league hitters. I think he’ll debut in the rotation late this summer.
8. OF Misael Urbina | 19 | R | 2024
If I had to identify which prospects are most overvalued in dynasty leagues, Urbina would make the opening paragraph simply because I’ve been surprised by the price people pay to acquire his services in my leagues. Perhaps it’s not a universal phenomenon. A contact over thump centerfielder, Urbina did a fantastic job minimizing strikeouts for a 50-game stretch in the Dominican Summer League, leaving a shiny 10.6/6.5 percent BB/K ratio and 19 steals in his wake. He was basically at age (-0.8) playing against inexperienced batteries, so I guess I just care a whole lot less than most about the production. The swing is extremely level, and he employs very little of his base athleticism to generate torque. This late-trigger, all-arms swing is partly why he can wait to identify pitches and avoid strikeouts. Can he do this against older arms in stateside leagues? Maybe. And maybe he’ll grow and change like any teenager. But I’d rather sell now than wait and hope it all works out. Feels like found money to me if you can flip him for someone closer.
9. 1B OF Brent Rooker | 26 | MLB | 2020
I’ve never been high on Rooker, the 35th overall selection in the 2017 draft out of Mississippi State. Nothing personal or necessarily unique to him: I just tend to avoid power-over-hit corner types, especially if they don’t offer functional defense or plus plate skills to counteract their comparative lack of hand-eye coordination in the batter’s box. Rooker is every inch and ounce of his listed 6’3” 215 lbs and can put a charge into anything unfortunate enough to find his barrel. Unfortunately, he struck out 34.7 percent of the time in 274 AAA plate appearances in 2019. His seven-game cup of coffee in 2020 went well (.316/.381/.579), so I think he’ll get a chance to carve out a role at the top level this year. It’s a crowded house, but there’s freedom within for anyone on a hot streak.
10. SS Keoni Cavaco | 19 | R-GCL | 2025
The 13th overall pick in 2019, Cavaco went first to the Gulf Coast League: a rough introduction to professional baseball and perhaps his first time using wooden bats in-game for a month straight. His slash line of .172/.217/.253 with 35 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances tells the story of a young man overwhelmed by several elements of his existence. We’ve all been there, whether or not we’ve moved from West to East coast at age 18 to take our lumps against professionals eager to embarrass us. Look past the stats when you consider Cavaco, is what I’m suggesting. His swing is clunky, but he’s a top-end athlete with plus tools across the board. I’m not sure I’m super bullish, but I’m certainly not bearish based on one teenage month. Eager to see how he looks in 2021 and ready to make a play for him if I like what I see.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.
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