After MLB took steps to try and entice (or, more cynically, coerce) teams into getting their best young players on Major League fields more quickly, the days of service-time manipulation seem long gone. Corbin Carroll, Jordan Walker and Anthony Volpe all broke camp with their teams’ Opening Day rosters, with top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez not far behind.
And this past weekend brought two more major promotions: The Los Angeles Angels brought up Zach Neto, their first-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, while the New York Mets promoted Brett Baty to take over for the struggling Eduardo Escobar at third base. All of which is to say that fantasy owners have more to keep track of in the Minor Leagues than ever before — and we’ll be here to help you stay up to speed on everything you need to know down on the farm.
Prospect report for Monday, April 17th
Brett Baty, 3B, New York Mets
Baty probably should’ve broken camp with the Mets, but putting that off to one side, he’s here now after mashing Triple-A for two weeks — and should be a priority add in just about every league. MLB Pipeline’s No. 19 prospect entering the year, Baty has done pretty much nothing but rake since being taken No. 12 overall out of Austin’s Lake Travis High School in 2019. He struggled in a brief Major League audition last summer — and his penchant for hitting the ball on the ground could limit his power for fantasy purposes — but he’s still one of the best overall bats in the Minors, with the potential for 20-25 bombs and a .270-.280 average in a very strong Mets lineup.
Zach Neto, SS, Los Angeles Angels
Well, that was fast. Neto immediately shot to the top of a weak L.A. system upon being drafted last summer, then landed in Double-A and kept right on hitting. With Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher struggling at short — and the team feeling plenty of urgency this year with Shohei Ohtani’s free agency looming — the Angels decided to make a move this weekend.
Neto’s carrying tool is his ability to put the barrel on the baseball consistently — he hit .400 each of his last two years in college — and if everything goes well, he could be a five-category fantasy contributor. None of those contributions will be massive, but something like .280 with 15-20 homers and 15-20 steals will play just fine hitting in front of Ohtani and Mike Trout. If the recent run of shortstop injuries left you with a hole in the middle infield, look no further
Matt Mervis, 1B/DH, Chicago Cubs
Cubs fans have been clamoring for Mervis ever since last year, when he slugged his way from High-A all the way to Triple-A with a .309/.379/.606 slash line. Chicago hasn’t made the call just yet, but with the team looking surprisingly competitive — and Eric Hosmer and Eric Mancini providing putrid production at first base — it should be coming soon. Mervis has three homers and a 1.042 OPS in his first three games at Triple-A this year, so you know he’ll be ready when it does.
Matthew Liberatore, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals had big hopes for Liberatore when they acquired the lefty for Randy Arozarena back in 2020, but as he moved through the St. Louis system his star faded a bit. He struggled badly in his first taste of MLB action last year, with a 5.97 ERA in seven starts, and he entered this year with real questions about his ability to develop a Major League out pitch. Yeah, about that:
Liberatore is now sitting at 95-96 mph with his four-seam fastball, a major boost from past years, and his always-plus curveball is still just as nasty as ever. That added velocity has made his whole arsenal play up, and he now finds himself again knocking on the door of a rotation spot in St. Louis. Given Jake Woodford’s struggles as the No. 5 starter — and Adam Wainwright’s health questions — Liberatore should be getting the call soon and will be a priority add when he does.
Sal Frelick, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Jackson Chourio gets all the headlines among Brewers outfield prospects, but Frelick is set to have a fantasy impact even sooner. The speedster popped 11 homers to go with 24 steals and a .331 average across three levels of the Minors last year, and with athleticism like this it’s not hard to see why:
It’s possible that Major League pitching overwhelms Frelick, as he doesn’t bring a ton of power to the plate, but he’s done nothing but hit since being drafted 15th overall in 2021 out of Boston College, and he certainly looked the part during a scorching spring. If Joey Wiemer’s struggles (and Jesse Winker’s inability to stay healthy) continue, a Brewers team looking to contend right now could call Frelick up — a rare source of elite speed on the waiver wire midseason.
David Hamilton, SS, Boston Red Sox
Speaking of elite speed on the waiver wire: Hamilton is currently hitting .370 with three homers and seven steals (!) already for Triple-A Portland. Don’t expect that kind of pop at the Major League level, but the speed is absolutely real — Hamilton swiped 70 bases in Double-A last year and could run wild if given the green light. With how sorry Boston’s middle infielders have been with Trevor Story on the shelf, Hamilton should be arriving in Fenway Park at some point in May.
Mason Miller, SP, Oakland Athletics
There’s not much to grab on to at the Major League level in Oakland right now, but take heart A’s fans: One of the Minors’ best arms could be headed to the Coliseum shortly.
23 heaters that hit triple-digits. Five (essentially) perfect innings.— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) April 15, 2023
No. 3 @Athletics prospect Mason Miller's fastball remains on a different planet for @AviatorsLV: https://t.co/YFszJw7TyS pic.twitter.com/VM7STYUcR0
Miller, a third-round pick back in 2021, fired five no-hit innings with a whopping 11 Ks in a Triple-A start this weekend. No one in the Minors has been able to keep up with his four-seam fastball that can touch triple-digits, and the only reason Miller isn’t on everyone’s watch list — or even in Oakland already — has been health: Prior to 2023, the righty had completed just 12 innings or pro ball outside of the complex league due to a variety of injuries.
When he’s healthy, he’s dominant, and the Athletics have no reason not to let him cut his teeth against Major League hitters soon.
Top 25 prospects to stash for fantasy baseball
Top prospects to stash for fantasy baseball
|Elly de la Cruz