As the season continues to trudge along, astute dynasty managers have now turned their attention to short-season leagues to see who pops and shoots up the rankings in a few weeks. That’s where I’d focus most of my attention in the coming weeks. However don’t turn a blind eye to other minor leaguers that have been putting up great numbers over the last month.
While 30 days is an arbitrary number, it still encompasses a little over a 1/4th of the minor league season and the assumption is these players have made some adjustments from earlier in the season. So here are some guys that have stuck out.
Trent Grisham, OF (MIL)
Last 30: .346/.481/.852 with 10 HR in AA/AAA
If you follow my work (hey, thanks!), then you might be aware of my recent obsession with Grisham. A 22-year-old outfielder who’s reclaimed the former prospect status he lost when he was known as Trent Clark, I’m intrigued by the relative dynasty silence surrounding him. Outside of the gaudy slash line, the two things that impress me the most in that timespan are his 22/9 BB/K ratio and his .281 BABIP, which indicates this isn’t some extreme unsustainable run. He earned a call up to Triple-A and already hit two home runs in his first two games. He unlocked the power this year by letting the ball travel deeper, according to a Biloxi official.
He’s played left field and centerfield this year, two positions that are getting mediocre production from Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain. Excluding Brennen Davis below who should be owned, if you add only one guy from this list to your farm, make it Grisham, who’ll debut some time later this year.
Brewer Hicklen, OF (KC)
Last 30: .350/.495/.463 with 14 steals in A+
Coming in 11th in our Royals Top 30, Hicklen’s numbers have been hard to ignore. While he’s age appropriate for the level, he didn’t focus on baseball full time until he entered college. He was originally recruited to play football but the program shuttered when he arrived. I’m always drawn to athletes who are raw but possess strong fantasy tools and all they need is reps. He’s been adept at using his plus speed and is tied for the most steals in the minors in the last month. The power has dipped a bit, but he’s a contact first guy to begin with. Hicklen could develop into a 10 home run, 30 steal player before long so long as he continues making incremental improvements on his swing and miss.
Brennen Davis, OF (CHC)
Last 30: .321/.430/.513 with 3 HR, 2 SB in 24 MWL games
Davis’ inclusion here might seem unnecessary. To the deep league dynasty players, he’s long gone. But he’s in here because I think he should be owned in leagues with even just 100 prospects rostered. I chatted about him with Chris Welsh of Prospect One on his podcast (head to 36:40). Our colleague Jason Pennini has had a chance to see Davis up close and witness the physical transformation from last fall to this spring where he’s added a lot of muscle. The Cubs have helped him stay back on his swing, unlocking the power. His 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame is ripe for even more growth. I’ll give you guys a hint and tell you he’s inside my top 50 for midseason lists. Yeah, we’re that high on him.
Terrin Vavra, MI (COL)
Last 30: .363/.447/.571 with 3 HR, 4 SB in A-ball
I have to assume a Cal League promotion is imminent for the 22-year-old Vavra, who’s showing he’s done with the Sally league. Vavra’s ceiling isn’t high, but he’s tracking as an everyday player that can push for double-digit steals and homers at the highest level with an above-average slash line. He holds a sterling 14 BB% and 10 K%. Earlier in the season he had a small hitch that looked like it was affecting his ability to hit high fastballs. I haven’t seen any updated video since, but the improvements are showing up.
Brainer Bonaci, SS (BOS)
Last 30: .386/.443/.586 with 1 HR, 11 SB in 17 DSL games
Here’s the deepest name of the list, one I’m sure will be available unless you’re in a league that rosters more than 750 or so prospects. A switch-hitter out of Venezuela who’s about to turn 17, Bonaci is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound shortstop with a good defensive skillset and plus speed. His swing is geared for the gaps but he’s gotten some praise for how well he can barrel a ball. Information is naturally limited with someone like this, but consider this blurb a “Hey, this guy exists, check back in a couple weeks” notice.
Mason Martin, 1B (PIT)
Last 30: .270/.352/.618 with 7 HR in A-ball
I included the jacked Martin in here because he’s made incremental gains in his strikeout rate in the last month. He ran a 34 K% in the first month of the season and he’s lowered it to 25 K% in the last month, which is crucial for someone who just turned 20 but is already tabbed as a first baseman. The lefty bat has some serious power (tied for sixth-most home runs in minors with 18) and has always shown a good eye at the plate. His hands are pretty noisy before getting to slot so I do worry how he’ll look once he hits the FSL and pitchers start exploiting him upstairs. But the gains are encouraging thus far and the power is enticing.
Jose Urquidy, RHP (HOU)
Last 30: 26.2 IP, 35 K/7 BB, 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in AAA
Formerly known as Jose Luis Hernandez, similar to Grisham, I wonder why there’s been very little chatter about Urquidy’s season. He began in Double-A and dominated for 35 innings before getting the bump to the PCL where the domination hasn’t stopped. He has just shy of a 34 K% on the season and has been singled out by Astros GM as a candidate for a promotion to the big league club before long. His strikeouts have nearly doubled this year compared to years past and because of a gain of about three ticks on his fastball this year. He’s been bitten by the home runs in Triple-A and that’s a little worrisome because he tends to be more of a flyball pitcher. But the 24-year-old is unowned in just about every league and I’m willing to bet he’s the next call up when a rotation spot needs to be filled.
Joey Cantillo, LHP (SD)
Last 30: 27 IP, 35 K/5 BB, 0.67 ERA, 0.67 WHIP in A-ball
I’ve seen Cantillo pop up more and more in the last couple of weeks and for good reason. Not only has his season’s work been great but he’s entered a particularly dominant stretch. Cantillo is not a “stuff” guy. Hell, he’s not even a pedigree guy. The Padres took him in the 16th round of the 2017 draft out of Hawaii. I’m attracted to the frame, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound body that’s built to eat innings. I don’t see much projection left, which will bum you out when you realize he sits 89-91 on his fastball. But it has movement and it plays well off his changeup, an above-average pitch. His third offering is an average curveball but the coaching staff has pushed him to get vertical with the changeup more and lower the curve usage. It’s an interesting wrinkle that I’m not quite sure how to approach. A two-and-half-pitch pitcher who throws in the low 90s is a little unexciting, but the Padres are a superb organization with their pitching.
Shane McClanahan, LHP (TB)
Last 30: 27.1 IP, 36 K/10BB, 2.28 ERA, 1.01 WHIP in A/A+
I had the chance to see McClanahan’s senior season at USF and watch him dominate opposing batters with a FB/SL combo and rely on little else. It’s for that reason that I was unsure of how he’d acclimate as a starter when facing more advanced batters. While at USF, his primary issue was an over reliance on the fastball even when the command was not there. I don’t blame him, he sat 94-96 with it and touched 97-98 when he needed it. But he’s become one-dimensional when he couldn’t locate. Early on it seems those issues have somewhat continued, but the batters still aren’t a match for his ridiculous heat from the left side. I always keep close tabs on pitchers who have the elite stuff but are missing the command and control aspect, because when they figure that out, the whole profile jumps another level.
Josiah Gray, RHP (LAD)
Last 30: 34 IP, 42 K/6 BB, 2.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in A+
One of the pieces that came to Los Angeles in the Yasiel Puig trade, Gray’s getting better and better as the season progresses. The Dodgers have worked to simplify his delivery a little bit, quieting his leg lift which would exacerbate the delivery and hinder its repeatability. The effort is still there at finish but it’s an improvement. He’s continuing to get by with his fastball and slider combo and develop his changeup. The context to consider is that he’s considered a good athlete (good for repeatability, mechanics and potential) and that he was converted from a shortstop in college, so he’s still relatively new to the whole pitching thing. This is akin to what I said about Hicklen above. Raw, but with potential.