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Brendan Tuma’s Prospect Report: Robert Hassell, Vidal Brujan, Joe Ryan (2021 Fantasy Baseball)

by Brendan Tuma | @toomuchtuma | Featured Writer
Sep 2, 2021

It’s fitting that this is being published entering Labor Day Weekend. Where I live (Boston), we have seasons, and each season has their own distinct feel. Right now you can notice that “late summer” in the air. That might sound obvious, or non-descriptive, but it has always stood out to me in a way that hits differently from those early summer days. The weather is soon going to turn a bit cooler, football is staring up, and it’s time to go back to school.

Unfortunately, that also means it’s time for the last Prospect Report of the season.

I need to make this very clear right away – I’ve had the best time writing this article every week. Longtime readers know that I love prospects, and having a weekly outlet to dive deep into the topic has been transformative for me and my analysis (hopefully in a good way). It’s been a wild year for prospects, both in terms of rookies making their debuts as well as previously unheralded names rising in the rankings. I truly appreciate the support throughout it all.

So why, then, is this the last prospect report of the season? Well, for one — football. I’m lucky enough to have been given some more opportunities on the NFL side of things moving forward, and that includes some responsibilities I couldn’t pass up. Additionally, it’s just the right time. I really, really worked hard to keep this article fresh and not just regurgitate the same top 20 list over and over. I wrote articles on news + notes, risers, fallers, some draft content, updated top 100 lists, etc. But things are starting to die down.

Part of taking that small step back, from writing this article each week, is to gear myself up for a massive amount of offseason content. I’m talking dynasty rankings, risers/fallers, prospect updates, scouting reports, etc. I’ve already started that podcast that I’ve always wanted to. You can follow/subscribe on both Apple Pods and Spotify. (Any support truly goes a LONG way right now).

And if you want even more content from yours truly, you can subscribe to my Patreon page by clicking here, which is where I create more prospect content and where patrons have access to shared Google Docs, which include all my notes on both fantasy baseball and fantasy football.

So yeah, for now, I’m using “late summer” as a time to reflect on a fantastically fun year. Today’s report includes a plethora of updates and player notes. But I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. Hopefully, this is still just the beginning.

If you missed last week’s “Biggest Fallers” blog, be sure to check that out.

As always, reach out on Twitter @toomuchtuma, with any questions!

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Robert Hassell (OF – SD)
The 20-year-old was recently promoted to High-A Fort Wayne, and he enjoyed a three-homer game on Wednesday evening. This is significant because game power is the only box that Hassell doesn’t check at the moment. His tool is elite, as are his plate discipline skills. But he doesn’t look the part of a power hitter just yet. That’s okay, since it’s often the last tool young hitters develop, and since Hassell is in the midst of his first pro season. In 92 games at Low-A, prior to his recent promotion, Hassell hit .323/.415/.482 with seven homers and 30 stolen bases.

Jordan Lawlar (SS – ARI)
We already have two top-six picks from the 2021 draft who are sidelined for the season. Lawlar, the toolsy 19-year-old shortstop out of Texas, will miss the remainder of his professional debut due to a shoulder injury. Specifically, Lawlar is undergoing surgery to repair a posterior labrum tear. It’s a brutal development for an Arizona farm system who has been without both Corbin Carroll and Kristian Robinson for most of 2021 as well. Despite the injury, Lawlar remains a top-five pick in first year player drafts this offseason.

Henry Davis (C – PIT)
Here’s the other one. Davis, the No. 1 pick out of Louisville, is out 4-6 weeks due to an oblique injury. Of course, there just isn’t enough time left in the season for him to return. This injury is less problematic than Lawlar’s shoulder surgery, but it’s still a bummer. Davis played eight games between rookie ball and High-A before the injury, and he hit .308 with three homers during the small sample. His position (catcher) limits his fantasy ceiling, but Davis is part of a surprisingly interesting top-tier of minor league backstops at the moment.

Brady House (SS – WAS)
House is big for a shortstop (think Carlos Correa) and there were some pre-draft concerns over some bad tendencies he developed throughout 2020. The backstory on House is that he was the No. 1 prepster entering the ’21 draft process, but he fell in love with his power stroke and struggled mightily throughout that summer. I was interested in House before the draft due to reports that he made the adjustment, shortened his swing, and got back on track. Apparently, the Nationals were comfortable with him too, and they possibly wound up with a steal with the 11th overall selection.

This would make the second straight draft where Washington took advantage of a player surprisingly falling, since the same thing happened with Cade Cavalli in 2020. Through his first seven games in rookie ball, House is hitting .360 with four homers. He might move to third base eventually, but thus far he has played every game at shortstop.

Vidal Brujan (2B/OF – TB)
It’s a little surprising that the Rays haven’t called him back up yet, especially with rosters expanding here in September. However, I admit that Tampa Bay doesn’t necessarily need Brujan with how well they’re playing right now. Still, I feel compelled to point out how hot Brujan has been since being optioned back in late July. The speedster is hitting .311/.397/.462 with an eye-popping 21 homers in 31 games.

During this span Brujan has hit just one homer. The prospect world started losing their minds when the 23-year-old popped seven round-trippers in the opening month of the minor league campaign. In hindsight, that appears to be an obvious outlier. Brujan rebounding at Triple-A, while running absolutely wild, makes him a screaming buy low in dynasty leagues.

Nate Pearson (SP – TOR)
It has been an uneven couple of seasons for Pearson, who at this time last year was a top-three pitching prospect in baseball. Injuries and ineffectiveness have hurt his stock, but he’s finally healthy now. I’ve long thought that Pearson’s profile (multiple wipeout offerings with a checkered injury history) could make him a dominant reliever. For now, the Blue Jays are going to see how that goes. Pearson was recently recalled to pitch out of the bullpen during Toronto’s playoff push. He registered an 8:2 K:BB over six innings of two-run ball during his recent buildup at Triple-A.

Joe Ryan (SP – MIN)
The 25-year-old was acquired from the Rays as the centerpiece of the Nelson Cruz trade at this summer’s deadline. He has always produced strong results in the minor leagues, but for whatever reason scouts and prospect evaluators haven’t hyped him up all that much.

Perhaps that’s because Ryan is so reliant on his fastball, a pitch he threw 71% of the time in Wednesday’s big league debut. Ryan’s final line – 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 5:1 K:BB – appears to be fine, but nothing special. It’s worth pointing out that the only mistake was a three-run homer to the white hot Frank Schwindel.

Under the hood, Ryan generated 14 whiffs, and only nine of them came on his fastball! That’s pretty good for a pitcher who isn’t known for his secondary offerings. I think Ryan is worth rostering in both redraft and dynasty leagues right now.

Nick Yorke (2B – BOS)
The biggest surprise of the 2020 MLB draft was the Red Sox selecting Yorke with their first-round pick. High school second basemen, especially ones with minor defensive concerns, aren’t typically taken 17th overall. Boston apparently loved his bat, though, and entering September ’21 they’re looking pretty smart. Yorke hit .317/.416/.503 with 28 extra-base hits in 76 games at Low-A Salem. That includes a sluggish start. Through seven games at High-A Greenville, Yorke is batting .448 with two homers. He’ll be a top 100 prospect this offseason.

Marcelo Mayer (SS – BOS)
Speaking of stud first-rounders by the Red Sox, Mayer is acclimating himself well to professional baseball. The prep shortstop out of California was generally considered the top amateur entering the ’21 draft, but he surprisingly fell to Boston at No. 4 overall. His swing is reminiscent of Corey Seager and his glove carries the upside of Brandon Crawford, which makes for one hell of a ballplayer. Through 61 plate appearances at the Florida Complex League, Mayer is hitting .294/.410/.494 with 10 walks and 13 strikeouts. He’s my 1.01 in first year player drafts this offseason.

Hedbert Perez (OF – MIL)
Stop what you’re doing and go add Perez in your dynasty league right this second. Seriously. The 18-year-old was recently promoted to Low-A and scouts/evaluators deep within minor league circles are wondering if he’s the next big thing. The swing is just delightful to watch (video below).

Perez’s compact frame combined with controlled aggression reminds me of Jose Ramirez. Perez is a longs ways from contributing in the majors. Again, he’s just 18. The charismatic teenager hit .333 with a .969 OPS at the Arizona Complex League before this week’s promotion. Be patient, but add him.

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

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