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Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Don’t give up on Jordan Walker

We’ve got everything fantasy baseball owners need to know about the week that was in the Minor Leagues.

Jordan Walker of the St. Louis Cardinals rounds the bases after hitting his first MLB career home run in a game against the Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium on April 5, 2023 in St Louis, Missouri. Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Another week, another flurry of activity across the Minor Leagues, as more young guns got the call to the Majors — while others (Jordan Walker, Taj Bradley) were shockingly demoted. This year more than any other, playing the prospect game is going to make or break your fantasy baseball teams, so let’s go through the week that was down on the farm and rank the top 25 prospects to stash right now.

Prospect report for Monday, May 1st

Jordan Walker, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis was in desperate need of a change during their miserable West Coast road trip last week, and the change they landed on was a surprising one: Walker, one of the top prospects in baseball who broke camp with the Opening Day roster after a torrid spring, was sent down to Triple-A Memphis.

It’s a tough break both for Walker and for fantasy owners who spent a premium on him as his ADP skyrocketed prior to the season. But don’t lose heart: Nothing about Walker’s long-term trajectory has changed, and he’s still an elite stash in every league. Yes, Walker was striking out too much and hitting too many ground balls, and yes, he’d struggled mightily after a strong first week in the Majors. But he was also a 20-year-old facing the world’s best pitching for the first time after skipping Triple-A entirely; bumps in the road were to be expected.

The Cardinals, very much in win-now mode, couldn’t afford to let him play himself out of it — especially not with so many other mouths to feed in that outfield — but wanted to make sure he got regular at-bats, so a (temporary) demotion made some sense. But Walker won’t be gone for long, and you’ll regret it if you let him go now.

Taj Bradley, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

Bradley was the other surprise demotion of the week, but his was hardly due to his performance — the righty had logged a 3.52 ERA with 23 strikeouts in just 15.1 innings over his first three starts. The team sent him down to Triple-A Durham anyway, ostensibly to get him used to pitching every fifth day (rather than every sixth day, as he had been) but also quite possibly to manipulate his service time.

Whichever explanation you buy, neither of them will keep Bradley down in the Minors for long. Zach Eflin is back for Tampa Bay, and Tyler Glasnow looks to be right behind him, but there will be a spot in the Rays’ rotation whenever they decide Bradley’s ready — which should be a matter of weeks, not months.

Gavin Stone, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Get ready for the next big pitcher debut of the 2023 season: Stone will reportedly get the call up to the Majors to make his first MLB start on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Phillies. We’ve got everything you need to know about the righty right here, but here’s the Sparknotes version: a consensus top-50 prospect with arguably the best changeup in the Minors who’s turned it on of late after a slow start to his season in Triple-A. Stone may not be the best pitching prospect in L.A.’s system — see you soon, Bobby Miller — but he offers strikeout upside on a team that should have him in position to pick up wins (assuming the command issues from early April don’t rear their head again).

Gavin Williams, SP, Cleveland Guardians

This list’s other Gavin is a bit behind fellow young Guardians Tanner Bibee and Logan Allen, but make no mistake: He’s the best of the bunch. The former first-round pick out of East Carolina tore through Double-A last year — 2.31 ERA, 82 strikeouts, 70 innings — and after doing it again to start 2023, he finally got bumped up to Triple-A. Cleveland will likely keep him there for a bit to let him adjust to a new level, but a fastball like this won’t be held down for long:

Andrew Abbott, SP, Cincinnati Reds

Abbott wasn’t on nearly anyone’s radar at this time last year. But he’s apparently figured out the command problems that had previously held him back, and the results so far this year have been jaw-dropping: Abbott fanned 36 batters over less than 16 innings in Double-A, practically forcing Cincy to bump him up a level. The Reds won’t offer much opportunity for wins, and Great American Ballpark is no easy place to pitch. But bad teams also offer easier paths to playing time, and if Abbott’s command is here to stay it shouldn’t be long before we see him in the Majors.

Christian Encarnacion-Strand, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds

I’ve been a skeptic of Encarnacion-Strand’s in the past, unsure whether the corner infielder — acquired last year in the deal that sent Tyler Mahle to the Minnesota Twins — would ever be able to hit enough to get his gargantuan power into games. That question won’t fully be answered until we see him in the Majors, but he’s doing his best to dispel any doubts down at Triple-A: Over his first week, Encarnacion-Strand has hit a patently ridiculous .448/.500/.931 with two doubles and four homers. More importantly, though he’s cut his strikeout rate to just 15.6%, and if that number is for real, he could make a lot of noise in Cincy. I still think he’ll get exposed at the highest level, but he’s turned himself into one to watch.

Christopher Morel, IF/OF, Chicago Cubs

Okay, so Morel isn’t strictly a prospect — he hit 16 homers and 10 steals over 113 games with the Cubs last year — but he is mired in Triple-A right now, and he’s been absolutely killing the ball: .363/.463/.835 with 11 homers in just 23 games. That average will obviously come way down, and Morel’s contact issues will likely pop up again whenever he returns to Chicago, but his defensive versatility (and the Cubs’ gaping holes at DH and first base) could allow him to get back sooner rather than later.

Top 25 prospects to stash for fantasy baseball

Week of 5/1

Rank Name Position Team ETA
Rank Name Position Team ETA
1 Jordan Walker OF Cardinals April
2 Taj Bradley SP Rays April
3 Brandon Pfaadt SP Diamondbacks May
4 Matt Mervis 1B Cubs May
5 Gavin Stone SP Dodgers May
6 Eduoard Julien 2B Twins April
7 Colton Cowser OF Orioles June
8 Matthew Liberatore SP Cardinals May
9 Curtis Mead 2B/3B Rays June
10 Kyle Manzardo 1B Rays May
11 Gavin Williams SP Guardians July
12 Elly de la Cruz SS Reds July
13 Endy Rodriguez C/OF Pirates May
14 Christian Encarnacion-Strand 1B Reds June
15 David Hamilton SS Red Sox May
16 Jordan Westburg 2B/3B/SS Orioles June
17 Royce Lewis SS Twins June
18 Ronny Mauricio SS Mets June
19 Bobby Miller SP Dodgers June
20 Justin-Henry Malloy OF Tigers May
21 Andrew Abbott SP Reds July
22 Connor Norby 2B Orioles June
23 Bo Naylor C Guardians May
24 Casey Schmitt 3B Giants Late May
25 Ricky Tiedemann SP Blue Jays July