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Prospect News Roundup: Jarred Kelenic, Forrest Whitley, Jarren Duran, Nate Pearson (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Mar 8, 2021

Red Sox prospect Jarren Duran continues to play well following a 2020 swing change.

The Prospect News Roundup is back! Brendan Tuma is here to take you through the prospect headlines from the past week or so.

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Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA)

In the last Prospect News Roundup I highlighted Kelenic as some to monitor in redraft leagues. This was due to former Mariners president Kevin Mather’s comments regarding Kelenic’s timeline to the big leagues (among other troubling statements). Mather all but admitted the organization was going to manipulate Kelenic’s service time and bring him up by late-April. This meant that he was worth a late-round pick in ’21 fantasy drafts. Either Kelenic would be promoted by the end of the month, or the club would seek to “fix” the situation by adding him to the Opening Day roster.

That dream is likely dead, however, as over the weekend the 21-year-old phenom was diagnosed with a Grade 2 adductor strain in his left knee. Kelenic reportedly “tweaked” his knee in Friday night’s game against the White Sox. A tough ballplayer, he remained in the contest until a scheduled exit (which is common for spring games). It didn’t seem like a big deal until Saturday afternoon when we learned more.

Keeping things in perspective, this still might not be a big deal. Seattle didn’t provide a timeline for his recovery, but one would figure that this situation is more “week-to-week” than “day-to-day.” Barring a setback, Kelenic should still be fully expected to make an impact in 2021 redraft fantasy leagues. This news just deflates a bit of the helium that was surrounding Kelenic’s value in early-March drafts.

Forrest Whitley (SP – HOU)

It’s beginning to feel as if Whitley is never going to put it all together. Once the consensus top pitching prospect in all of baseball, the 23-year-old has seen his stock tumble in recent years. It has now been three full seasons since he last showed the incredible promise that convinced us of his bright future, and Sunday’s revelation that he could require Tommy John surgery isn’t a good start to 2021 at all.

“We’re analyzing him now and trying to figure out how to get him back out there or if he needs to rest,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said on Saturday, back when this was originally deemed arm soreness. Whitley is reportedly seeking a second opinion on the sprained UCL, so stay tuned, but going under the knife would render him droppable in dynasty leagues.

Jarren Duran (OF – BOS)

Just like with Kelenic, I wrote about Duran in the last edition of the Prospect News Roundup. I was admittedly bullish on the 24-year-old speedster for fantasy purposes following a 2020 swing change that allowed him to tap into more power. It’s safe to say the early returns of spring training have been promising.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora said at the start of spring training that Duran would get a lot of action with the big league club, and the 2018 seventh-round pick has been repaying that faith in him. Duran entered the weekend 5-for-11 with two homers and two doubles through the beginning of Grapefruit League play. We’ve discussed it a lot this offseason but the lack of a minor league season in 2020 means the development of many prospects is more “hidden” than it would normally be. Duran might be the best example of this, and he needs to be rostered in every dynasty league right now.

Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)

The biggest question for Pearson entering 2021 surrounded his durability, which is why it’s so discouraging that he has already suffered a groin strain in spring training. The good news is that this is only a Grade 1 strain and the highly talented 24-year-old has already played catch at 90 feet since the injury.

The bad news is this likely sidelines Pearson for the Opening Day rotation. He should be expected to begin the season at the team’s alternate training site. Digging into this a little deeper, Pearson’s dynasty league stock shouldn’t change at all as long as he can come back healthy and resume pitching in a timely manner.

Pearson’s recent history combines a lack of availability with some truly electrifying potential. He was limited to 1 2/3 innings back in 2018 due to a fractured forearm before suffering an elbow injury in 2020. Sandwiched between those seasons was a fantastic 2019 campaign that saw him post a 2.30 ERA in 25 minor league starts, 16 of which came in Double-A. It’s still too early to write him off as a starter long-term, but it’s no secret that 2021 is an important year for his development.

Spencer Howard (SP – PHI)

Howard entered 2020 as a pitching prospect who was considered “close to the majors.” However, shoulder inflammation derailed his velocity and eventually his season, en route to a 5.92 ERA in the first six starts of his major league career.

According to MLB.com, Howard threw 248 fastballs last season, but just 11 of them topped 96 mph. In his Grapefruit League debut last Friday, Howard hit that number six times in his lone inning of work. Spring velocities are typically overrated in terms of importance, but it’s a notable development following an injury-plagued 2020. A lot of the industry appears to be off of Howard right now, even in dynasty leagues. I’d consider this a good chance to buy low.

Garrett Crochet (SP – CWS)

I’ve been infatuated with the tall southpaw ever since he went straight from college to the majors last year, pumping out triple digit fastballs along the way. Crochet made five appearances out of the bullpen in 2020, throwing six shutout frames and totaling eight strikeouts. A major part of his big league success reportedly came from the work he did at the alternate training site upon being drafted. The White Sox encouraged Crochet to work through his pitches as opposed to around them, which put the finishing touches on his 80-grade fastball.

Now healthy after leaving his final appearance of the year with a flexor strain, Chicago has referred to Crochet as a reliever all offseason. Manager Tony La Russa once again confirmed this over the weekend, saying the 21-year-old will be utilized as a high-leverage, single-inning reliever. This hurts his value in dynasty leagues if Crochet is going to build a career out of the bullpen, but with more and more fantasy leagues adopting holds as a category, I’m still very interested in this profile.

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Brendan Tuma is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brendan, check out his archive and follow him @toomuchtuma.

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