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Brendan Tuma’s Prospect Report: Nate Pearson, Daniel Lynch, MacKenzie Gore (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
May 5, 2021

FINALLY. The 2021 Minor League season has arrived, which means there’s about to be a lot more to cover when it comes to prospects. It has now been over a full calendar year since we had anything resembling “normal” minor league coverage. In fact, we didn’t even have a season in 2020. We’ve been relying on reports from alternate training sites and a few weeks worth of spring training stats.

The next several months are going to be a bit all over the place when it comes to prospect coverage. Most of these players haven’t participated in actual games since March of last year. Hitters could be well behind, for example. Then there’s the fact that every organization will be handling their players differently. Some teams have been aggressive with their Opening Day assignments while others are taking a far more cautious approach to their player development.

But there will be plenty of time for all this analysis as the summer rolls along. There came a point last year where we didn’t know when the minor leagues would be coming back.

Reminder to reach out with questions on Twitter anytime – @toomuchtuma.

RANK (LW) NAME POS TEAM NOTES
1 (1) Wander Franco SS TB The consensus top prospect in our sport is beginning the season in Triple-A. Let the countdown to his arrival begin.
2 (2) Jarred Kelenic OF SEA I’m a little surprised Kelenic isn’t in the majors already. The Mariners appear committed to getting him some minor league at-bats. Stay patient in redraft leagues as he’ll be worth the wait.
3 (3) Julio Rodriguez OF SEA J-Rod is beginning the year in High-A and could be in line for a quick promotion if he hits the ground running.
4 (4) Spencer Torkelson 1B DET Excited to see how he fares in full-season ball, but I don’t expect him in the majors until 2022.
5 (5) Bobby Witt SS KC A hot start in Double-A could mean a promotion to the big leagues later this summer.
6 (6) Marco Luciano SS SF Beginning the year in Low-A, Luciano is a ways off. Development is the key for him this summer.
7 (7) Andrew Vaughn 1B/OF CWS Quietly hitting .385 with a 162 wRC+ since April 18th. Still seeking his first major league homer.
8 (8) CJ Abrams SS SD I’m a bit surprised he’s beginning the season in Double-A. Abrams’ future position remains entirely up in the air.
9 (9) Ke’Bryan Hayes 3B PIT Fantasy managers patiently await Hayes’ return from a wrist injury.
10 (10) Adley Rutschman C BAL The No. 1 pick from 2019 is the unquestioned top catcher in the minors. He’ll begin the year in Double-A.
11 (11) Michael Kopech SP/RP CWS He’s my No. 1 pitching prospect since he has shown flashes of dominance at the big league level.
12 (12) MacKenzie Gore SP SD More on Gore below. We need to see better command in Triple-A.
13 (14) Alex Kirilloff OF/1B MIN Has exploded with six extra-base hits and 10 RBI over his past four games entering Tuesday.
14 (15) Austin Martin 3B TOR Martin is one of “my guys.” I want to remain higher than consensus on him.
15 (13) Sixto Sanchez SP MIA The second half of 2021 is going to be hugely important for Sixto’s long-term value.
16 (16) Jasson Dominguez OF NYY Just turned 18 years old. We’re all dying to see him play in actual games but the Yankees are opting to keep him in extended spring training for now.
17 (17) Nate Pearson SP TOR More on Pearson below. He’s pitching on Opening Day for the Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A) on Tuesday night.
18 (18) Jo Adell OF LAA Fantasy managers are dying to see some good numbers in Triple-A. He clearly wasn’t ready for the majors last season.
19 (19) Logan Gilbert SP SEA Beginning the year in Triple-A. I fully expect to see Gilbert at some point this summer.
20 (NR) JJ Bleday OF MIA I continue to hear good reports on Bleday, who I fear I’ve been too low on for the past calendar year. He’ll begin ’21 in Double-A.

Honorable Mentions

SP Daniel Lynch, KC: Monday’s MLB debut was slightly disappointing  — three runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. Stay patient in dynasty leagues. It looks like the Royals are planning to keep him in the rotation for now.

SP/RP Luis Patiño, TB: Expect the usage to be all over the place for now. The most important thing for him is to pitch effectively and deliver results. We’ll worry about his role later.

SP Shane McClanahan, TB: Facing a big test against the Angels on the road on Tuesday night.

OF Riley Greene, DET: Similar to Bleday, this is another player I’ve been lower on than the consensus over the past calendar year. I’m more than willing to change my opinion depending on how he fares in Double-A.

1B Triston Casas, BOS: I’m higher than most on Triston “Joey Votto” Casas, He’ll begin ’21 in Double-A. While I don’t expect to see him in the bigs until 2022, I believe he could rise up prospect rankings in a hurry.

On the Rise

SP Nate Pearson, TOR: The 24-year-old pitched on Opening Night for the Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A) on Tuesday, and it was an impressive performance. Pearson logged 3 2/3 innings of one-run ball while registering an 8:1 K:BB to go along with four hits. His biggest issue (pitching deep into games) wasn’t solved in this one but then again that’s more of a long-term concern. For 2021 purposes we just want him to stay healthy and have success.

Finally recovered from a spring groin injury, it seems as if the plan is for Pearson to make a few Triple-A starts before joining Toronto’s big league rotation. He’ll be worth adding in redraft fantasy leagues as soon as he gets the call. For managers who currently have a bench spot to play with and need pitching help, I’d be willing to put in a waiver claim for him as early as this weekend.

On the Way Down

SP MacKenzie Gore, SD: I need to be very careful here — don’t go trading away your Gore shares in dynasty just yet. I didn’t move him down my rankings or anything like that, but I want to use this space to highlight some of the issues I’m hearing.

The high-upside lefty entered 2020 as arguably the best pitching prospect in the sport, but the Padres continuously passed on chances to promote him in favor of Patiño and Ryan Weathers. We later learned that Gore was struggling with maintaining his high-maintenance delivery, which was disappointing but it at least gave us a reason as to why he was never called up. Reports stated that Gore’s rhythm returned by the end of the summer.

However, he’s apparently still struggling with consistency . San Diego’s rotation has seen its fair share of injuries to begin the year but there has been no speculation that Gore’s arrival is imminent. He’s slated to begin May in Triple-A, and we’ll finally have more eyes on him to see what’s going on. Perhaps this whole situation will turn out to be nothing more than a minor blip in a fantastic career, but it’s something to monitor if the problem persists.

Stat of the Week

The 2021 Minor League season officially began on Tuesday, May 4th at 6 PM EST. This was the first official Minor League game since the Triple-A championship back on September 17, 2019 — a span of 588 days.

Notable Prospect Opening Day Assignments

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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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