Prospect News Roundup: Jarred Kelenic, Alex Kirilloff, Andrew Vaughn, MacKenzie Gore (2021 Fantasy Baseball)
Welcome everyone to the first “Prospect News Roundup” of the season! I’ll be doing these intermittently throughout the year, highlighting anything I find particular noteworthy related to prospects. These notes will be for fantasy managers in both redraft and dynasty league formats. As always you can reach out on Twitter anytime @toomuchtuma with questions.
Lastly, if you missed the initial run of my Top 100 prospects you can find them here.
We’ll start with the biggest prospect story since pitchers and catchers officially reported, and that’s the developing Jarred Kelenic saga in Seattle. We don’t need to rehash Kevin Mather’s troubling comments, but one thing he said that I can’t stop thinking about is that Kelenic would be up with the Mariners by late-April. Yes, this is blatant service time manipulation. In fact, it might be the most obvious example ever.
That’s because Mather also noted that Kelenic turned down a long-term offer from Seattle and will instead be “betting on himself.” Obviously the Mariners think he’s ready for the bright lights and it appears as if he’s much closer to the majors than I originally anticipated.
*Side note – without having a minor league season last year and without scouts/player personnel interacting, the ETAs for several top prospects are a bit all over the place. We’re simply operating with less information than we’re used to, which makes it all the more important to pay close attention this spring*
In summary, there’s a strong chance Kelenic is with the Mariners by late-April. This makes him worth drafting and stashing in redraft leagues. As long as your league bench size isn’t overly shallow, Kelenic has become a priority.
Sticking with top prospects who should be debuting sometime in April, I want to highlight both Kirilloff and Vaughn as well. I’ve identified these three hitters as the biggest names who should be on our redraft radar as of late-February. Drafting a minor league player in a redraft league is an exercise in opportunity cost. We want the late-round upside that comes with their skill sets, but we need to balance that against having them soak up a valuable bench spot until they arrive. Of course, there’s also no guarantee that they produce right away either.
Hopefully anyone reading this knows my stance on this by now – that even in redraft leagues top prospects are always worth the gamble. However, we want to be taking the most +EV gambles. From what I can tell there’s no chance Julio Rodriguez is with the Mariners anytime soon, so he wouldn’t be a smart gamble to take.
On the other hand, Kirilloff already debuted with Minnesota in the playoffs and Vaughn is being talked up by the White Sox as a possibility to make the club out of spring training. Chicago has signed Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez to long-term extensions before their debuts the past couple of years, and it’s possible Vaughn could follow suit, which would make him a lock for Opening Day.
Heightening my enthusiasm for these two is that their clubs have spots ready for them. The Twins chose to non-tender Eddie Rosario this offseason, so left field is open for Kirilloff. Meanwhile, the White Sox didn’t re-sign Edwin Encarnacion, so Vaughn could immediately share first base/DH duties with Jose Abreu. We’ll learn more about these situations throughout March, but I wanted to identify them as two early targets alongside the Kelenic situation.
Couple of prospects I’m getting the sense we see pretty early this season:
⚾️ Alex Kirilloff (OF – MIN)
⚾️ Andrew Vaughn (1B – CWS)
Both are firmly on the late-round redraft radar ✅
— Brendan Tuma (@toomuchtuma) February 19, 2021
It shouldn’t really be a news story that the best pitching prospect in baseball is impressing his team in camp, but last year’s unusual circumstances make this noteworthy. The Padres were competing in 2020 and many of us considered Gore close to the majors, so it was bordering on curious-yet-alarming that the team never called him up.
Eventually, reports from last summer’s alternate training site told us that Gore was struggling to find a rhythm with his mechanics. The lanky southpaw has a funky delivery with a high leg kick that he’s usually athletic enough to repeat on a consistent basis. Padres pitching coach Larry Rothschild notes that the strange “stop-and-start” nature of the 2020 season might’ve led to Gore’s issues. Regardless, by all reports the 22-year-old figured things out by the end of the summer. Armed with four plus pitches form the left side, Gore is scheduled to debut at some point this year. He’ll be a must-add in redraft leagues whenever that occurs.
It takes a special bat for a first baseman to be selected No. 1 overall, and that’s exactly what we have with Torkelson. Sure, the Tigers announced him as a third baseman, but I fully expect him to move back to first – especially since his bat will likely be ready for the majors before his glove.
Fantasy managers eager to get their first glimpse of “Tork” will have to wait a few extra days, though, as the slugger who broke Barry Bonds’ freshman home run record at Arizona State recently required stitches for a small cut on his finger. Torkelson was reportedly using a “make-shift” can opener. It isn’t expected to be a serious issue at all. Already a top-10 prospect for yours truly, I’m looking more at a 2022 debut for Torkelson.
If there’s a prospect who isn’t ranked on any top-100 lists that needs to be added in your dynasty league right now, it’s Jarren Duran of the Red Sox. A seventh-round pick from 2018, Duran is already 24 years old, but he possesses game-changing speed along with a developing skill set as a hitter.
Duran caught my attention after hitting .357/.394/.516 in his pro debut the year he was drafted. He followed that up with a .303 average and 46 steals in 132 games in 2019, finishing the season in Double-A. Recently, manager Alex Cora said that Duran would get a lot of time with the big league club during spring training. This comes on the heels of Duran remaking his swing with hitting guru Doug Lata entering 2020, which led to some power development at the alternate training site.
Duran's final game of last season and this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/Ki4sK5CVtV
— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) September 2, 2020
For his entire life, Duran’s swing was designed to take advantage of his speed by creating a flat bat path to induce grounders and line drives. However, by lowering his hands he’s now able to turn on inside pitches with authority while still giving himself a clear swing path with two strikes. There will likely be an increase in his strikeout rate this year, but it’ll hopefully be coupled with more hard-hit balls.
As my colleague Mike Maher noted in his “Players To Target In Dynasty Leagues” piece from this offseason, the lack of a minor league season in 2020 means the development of many prospects is relatively unknown. Durran’s stock is seemingly on the rise and I don’t think the public has fully caught on just yet. I’m anticipating a debut in the middle of the summer.
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