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Minor League Prospect Report, Week 15: What to make of Brandon Pfaadt’s rough start

We’ve got everything you need to know about the week that was in the Minor Leagues, featuring Brandon Pfaadt, Oscar Colas and Ceddanne Rafaela.

Brandon Pfaadt of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays at Chase Field on June 29, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The month of June was one shaped by tons of prospect promotions around MLB. In the span of just a couple of weeks, Elly De La Cruz exploded onto the scene with the Cincinnati Reds, catchers Bo Naylor and Henry Davis finally got the call in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, respectively, and Dodgers right Emmet Sheehan tossed six no-hit innings in his debut against a red-hot Giants team who just themselves promoted top outfield prospect Luis Matos. Then, things went out with a bang, as Orioles infielder Jordan Westburg, Red Sox speedster David Hamilton and Guardians top pitching prospect Gavin Williams have all flashed in their Major League debuts.

Of course, you wouldn’t have been shocked by any of this if you’d been keeping up with our weekly prospect reports, in which every single one of those guys was highlighted before reaching the Majors. (All those graduations have opened up a few new spots on our list of prospects to stash for fantasy baseball, too.) Want to know who’s next? Here’s everything that’s happened on the farm last week.

Prospect report for week of Monday, July 3

Brandon Pfaadt, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Alas, not every top prospect’s debut can be smooth sailing, and Pfaadt is exhibit A. The fifth-round pick back in 2020 nearly broke camp in Arizona’s rotation after a sensational spring, solidifying himself as one of the brightest young arms in the Minors. It didn’t take long for the D-backs to give him his chance, but he got shelled across five starts in May before getting sent back down to Triple-A. Merrill Kelly’s leg injury gave Pfaadt a second crack at it, but again, the results were disastrous: six runs on seven hits and two walks over just two innings of work.

The Tampa Bay Rays weren’t the easiest of matchups to draw, but still, those are exceptionally ugly numbers — his Major League ERA on the season now stands at a whopping 9.82. Much as I’d love to say that these were mere growing pains, the fact is that Pfaadt just hasn’t looked as-advertised at the highest level, and it’s unclear if he ever will. There was always relief risk here; the righty’s changeup would often come and go, leaving him with only a fastball and slider to rely on. The change has gone way more than it’s come in the Majors, getting lit up to the tune of a .636 average and 1.455 SLG. That’s left Pfaadt exposed, and it raises real questions about whether his future ultimately rests in the bullpen. He’s simply not worth stashing in any fantasy league right now.

Oscar Colas, OF, Chicago White Sox

Colas graduated from our stash list on Monday afternoon, as the White Sox called the outfielder back up to the Majors after two months down at Triple-A. Colas had been on a tear since the beginning of June, slashing .286/.340/.571 with eight homers in 24 games.

I still question whether Colas’ extremely aggressive approach will work at the highest level — he swings a ton, which led not only to strikeouts but also to lots of weak contact and a near-60% ground-ball rate in his first taste of the Majors back in April. But the physical tools are obvious, and Chicago is desperate for an offensive spark with Gavin Sheets scuffling in right field. It’s possible that Colas ends up a Quad-A player, but if it ever clicks, his potential is through the roof.

Matt Wallner, OF, Minnesota Twins

Color me puzzled as to why Wallner hasn’t gotten more of a look for a Twins team that’s struggled to score runs all year long. Trevor Larnach cooled off after a hot start, while we’re seemingly on year 10 of waiting for the Max Kepler resurgence. There wouldn’t seem to be much blocking Wallner’s path to playing time in a corner outfield spot in Minnesota, and yet he’s only gotten 25 plate appearances in the Majors this year — in which he slashed .368/.520/.579 with a homer, a double, three walks and a steal. The rest of the time, Wallner has been languishing in Triple-A, crushing Minor League pitching to the tune of a 1.099 OPS.

Wallner is admittedly a somewhat limited player. He’s never going to be more than passable as a defender, and swings and misses a ton. The 6’4, 220-pound behemoth is the definition of a three-true-outcomes player. Minnesota may look at a roster featuring guys like Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo — a roster that’s already striking out at a record pace this season — and decide it needs something else. But the status quo isn’t working, and Wallner has his Minor League K rate down below 30 percent for the first time in his career. At the very least, he deserves a more honest shot to show whether he can make enough contact to stick as a 25-30 homer player in the Majors.

Parker Meadows, OF, Detroit Tigers

All the attention — ours included — among Tigers prospects has been on third baseman Colt Keith, but the long-awaited Meadows breakout may be upon us. Austin’s younger brother (and a second-round pick back in 2018), Parker has always had a ton of raw speed and power, but he had trouble translating them into games. He got off to a slow start in his first taste of Triple-A this year, but something appears to have clicked of late — Meadows is slashing .310/.358/.560 with four homers and four steals over his last 23 games.

The Tigers are short on outfielders given the health questions around Riley Greene, Matt Vierling and Kerry Carpenter (and the talent questions around Jake Marisnick). If Meadows keeps this up, he could be making his debut in Detroit before the year is up, with the potential to hit enough to put up double-digit homers and steals.

Masyn Winn, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

A second-round pick back in 2020, Winn’s physical tools have long been obvious — a two-way player in high school, he has maybe the best arm of any non-pitcher in the Minors, an absolute howitzer that lets him throw just about anybody out from shortstop.

The defensive ability is not in question. What has been is his ability to square up the ball consistently enough to be an everyday Major Leaguer, and he’s shown encouraging signs recently. Winn is slashing .289/.368/.422 over his last 21 games, now sitting on eight homers and 14 steals in his first taste of Triple-A. This is a man who stole 43 bases in 119 games across two levels of the Minors last year, so we know he can fly when he gets on base, and if he keeps spraying line drives like this he can become a very impactful player. St. Louis’ infield remains awfully crowded with Tommy Edman and Brendan Donovan in tow, but Paul DeJong is on his last legs, and given the Cardinals’ outfield injuries it’s not inconceivable to think that Winn could get a shot in August or September.

Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, Boston Red Sox

With David Hamilton now in the Majors, the title of fastest man in the Red Sox system likely now belongs to Rafaela, who’s already stolen 30 bases in 64 games this season. His hot start at Double-A earned the 22-year-old a promotion last week, and he made a great first impression:

Granted, power is not normally Rafaela’s game, as he’s hit just 47 homers across five seasons in the Minors. But the bat has more pop than you’d expect from his wiry frame, and if he can make enough contact to get on base with regularity, he could wreak havoc as a runner. Granted, that’s a big “if”, but he’s reined in his aggressiveness a bit as he’s aged, and making better swing decisions will help him unlocked his Major League tools.

Top 25 prospects to stash for fantasy baseball

Week of 7/3

Rank Name Position Team ETA
Rank Name Position Team ETA
1 Colton Cowser OF Orioles June
2 Christian Encarnacion-Strand 1B Reds May
3 Grayson Rodriguez SP Orioles July
4 Ronny Mauricio SS Mets June
5 Sal Frelick OF Brewers July
6 Oswald Peraza SS Yankees June
7 Kyle Manzardo 1B Rays June
8 Colt Keith 3B Tigers July
9 Ben Brown SP Cubs June
10 Kyle Harrison SP Giants June
11 Dominic Canzone OF Diamondbacks June
12 Matt Mervis 1B Cubs July
13 Tyler Soderstrom C/1B Athletics July/August
14 Connor Norby 2B Orioles June
15 Heston Kjerstad OF Orioles July
16 Ceddanne Rafaela OF Red Sox August
17 Matt Wallner OF Twins August
18 Endy Rodriguez C/OF Pirates July
19 Justin Dirden OF Astros July
20 Justyn Henry-Malloy 3B Tigers July
21 Robert Gasser SP Brewers July
22 Andrew Painter SP Phillies August
23 Parker Meadows OF Tigers August
24 Justin Foscue 2B/3B Rangers August
25 Masyn Winn SS Cardinals August