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Which Prospects Are Worth Stashing This Year? (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

Mar 27, 2021

 
To say this article is long overdue is an understatement.

Last year, before starting the Major League Baseball season, I began writing about the prospects to stash in a redraft league. The ones who would make an impact during the upcoming season.

The problem? There was no upcoming season. At least, not at the time.

It got pushed back, and so did the article.

And then the Minor League Baseball season got canceled, and so did the article.

One year later, we are left with the same decisions to make, only in a completely different setting. We have no actual Minor League game data to use, nor do we know if a team will feel “forced” to call up a prospect because of outstanding numbers. Still, we are asked to get ahead of the curve. To pick the players who could have an impact this season. And to stash them.

Stashing a prospect obviously carries inherent risk, as we are devoting a roster spot to someone who cannot physically give us fantasy points for the foreseeable future. Still, time-and-again, we see how aggressively fantasy managers will add a prospect on the rumors that a call-up is imminent. As long as we are prepared to wait — and the prospect isn’t occupying a position that can be used for someone we actually need — then we can add a future contributor now. After all, patience is often rewarded.

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Wander Franco (SS – TB)
I’m clearly cheating right off-the-bat. Wander Franco is the easiest player to name as a “prospect stash” for 2021.

That doesn’t mean it will bear fruit in 2021.

Franco is largely considered the “can’t miss” prospect of the last decade. He’s topped basically every list, and his grade — 80 as a hitter — is downright insane. He plays shortstop. He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s essentially perfect.

Except, the Tampa Bay Rays are not going to rush him into Major League Baseball.

This is the only negative Franco faces, but it’s a big one. Ask yourself if you can stomach a player sitting on your bench until mid-June at the earliest with a legitimate risk that he might return absolutely nothing in 2021. If so, that player is Franco.

Heliot Ramos (OF – SF)
While Franco is the player with an 80-grade hit tool, Heliot Ramos is the prototypical hitter to watch. He was recently re-assigned to the San Francisco Giants’ Minor League camp, but he made quite the impression in his Spring Training, batting .424 with a 1.199 OPS.

Ramos was never a real threat to make the roster for Opening Day — he’s only 21 years old — but he could slug his way to the Giants’ Big League club if he carries his hot spring into the upper-level affiliates.

Barring an injury, Ramos most likely won’t receive consideration for a Major League stint until mid-June, but keep him on your radar and add aggressively if he starts tearing the cover off the ball immediately.

Alex Kirilloff (OF – MIN)
I did not expect Alex Kirilloff to find his way onto this list. That’s because I expected Alex Kirilloff to find his way onto the Minnesota Twins for Opening Day. Perhaps it was aggressive of me, but the Twins have made it quite clear that they trust the young outfielder — so much that he made his actual Major League debut during last season’s playoffs.

Going 4-for-31 in Spring Training certainly didn’t help Kirilloff’s case, but all it really does is push his stock lower to the range where we can buy now and hold ideally until only the end of April. If he isn’t fully ready, he’s not far from it.

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Jarred Kelenic (OF – SEA)
Not only is Jarred Kelenic likely to rejoin the Seattle Mariners near the end of April, but he was in the mix for breaking camp with the team. Like we ask with so many others, the question is about the team’s desire to wait any longer.

Again, Kelenic won’t be with Seattle in the first few weeks of the season — unless a key player on the Major League roster suffers an injury. Still, we might see the Mariners keep Kelenic in the Minor League system for an extended period of time to both quell the suspicion of service time manipulation as well as ensure he has had every opportunity to develop before being thrust into the spotlight. When it happens, however, he should shine immediately.

MacKenzie Gore (SP – SD)
MacKenzie Gore is a staple in any article I write about prospects, and it’s because he has one of the most projectable futures. He’s an “ace” starting pitcher in the making, and all accounts suggest that nothing short of injury will derail this plan.

That includes how loaded the San Diego Padres’ pitching staff has become.

This presents a problem for us, as we are faced with the same issue that we see with the aforementioned Franco. That is, we know Gore has the ceiling of a superstar, but his organization isn’t at the point where it has to push him. If anything, the Padres are going to wait until Gore’s services are absolutely necessary. That could be at the end of the 2021 season, making him a long-term hold if you have the roster space.

Matt Manning (SP – DET)
While we can speculate on some other players being sent to the Minor Leagues to avoid a constant shuffling up-and-down the ranks, the Detroit Tigers directly stated that this was the plan for Matt Manning. That’s fine for us. It means that we can add Manning at the bare minimum price — in many leagues, a free agent pickup — and wait until the Tigers feel he is ready to be part of the rotation.

Currently, it looks like Manning won’t be with Detroit until the middle of the season, but this might also delay the start of his eventual innings cap. That would coincide perfectly with the timing of fantasy baseball playoffs. There’s no guarantee that it will actually unfold like this, but there’s a chance Manning hits his stride as many of the Opening Day options are reaching their respective innings limits.

Deivi Garcia (SP – NYY)
Deivi Garcia basically dominated Minor League hitters until the New York Yankees had no other option but to bring him up to the Big League club. Those results weren’t so promising. Simply put, Garcia pitched like a rookie, carrying a 4.98 ERA and striking out roughly one-batter-per-inning. This isn’t the end of the world, right? The Yankees know that Garcia is ready for the biggest stage, so he’ll be allowed to learn on the job.

Not so fast.

Garcia has not taken the necessary strides in Spring Training and, while the numbers don’t actually matter, the results are almost certainly going to push Garcia off the active roster. This is where we pounce. We know Garcia has had success in the Minor Leagues, so we should expect more of the same. As soon as the next door opens, he’ll walk through it. If you can, keep him on your roster until then.

Casey Mize (SP – DET)
I wrote about Matt Manning as a potential stash for when he joins the Detroit Tigers’ rotation, and Casey Mize is in the same metaphorical boat. The difference is that Mize is being cast aside currently because he already debuted with the Tigers. It wasn’t pretty.

Like many others on this list, the reason we can stash them is simply that others aren’t interested in devoting a roster spot for a player without a stable setup. More questions arise when we don’t have solid Major League Baseball numbers to use as support.

Mize is different. He isn’t just any prospect.

Mize is a former first overall Draft selection whose only appearances in Major League Baseball have produced an embarrassing 6.99 ERA. That is not sustainable.

It may take some time, but Detroit knows that Mize is a  Major League-caliber starting pitcher. He will get another chance in 2021, and the results are likely to improve dramatically. If you try to add at that point, it will be too late.

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Mario Mergola is a featured writer at FantasyPros and BettingPros and the creator and content-editor of Sporfolio. For more from Mario, check out his archive and follow him @MarioMergola.