From Gavin Lux and the Death Star-like Dodgers to Marco Luciano and the slowly-but-surely revamping Giants, the NL West has a lot of intriguing prospects.
Mike Yastrzemski - It’s not always easy for legacy prospects. The grandson of Red Sox hall of famer Carl Yastrzemski was drafted by the Orioles in the 14th round of the 2013 draft out of Vanderbilt and has played over 700 career minor league games before finally getting the call this year. Yaz has put together some strong minor league seasons while in the Baltimore system, but has battled injuries and was passed over in two Rule Five drafts before signing with the Giants as a minor league free agent prior to the 2019 season. His first taste of the Pacific Coast League has been an enjoyable one as he’s hit .316/.414/.676 with Triple-A Sacramento. The fantasy value here is limited for the 28-year old, but he’s in a situation in San Francisco that should give him a handful of starts a week as the Giants struggle to find a corner outfielder that’s a long term fit. He might be worth a look in NL-only leagues as he has started both games since getting promoted.
Seby Zavala - The power hitting backstop gets the call after the White Sox placed the disappointing Welington Castillo on the Injured List. Zavala was added to the 40-man roster after reaching Triple-A in 2018 and is hitting for more power as he repeats that level this year. This is an encouraging sign after a left wrist injury slowed him down last season. Zavala is hitting .218/.253/.506 at Charlotte with six homers in only 21 games. His power is mostly to the pull-side but he does hit the ball in air enough to hit 15-20 homers if given a full-time job. He’s an average defender with an accurate arm but profiles as a back-up catcher mostly due to the lack of a hit tool. Lance Brozdowski ranked him 17th on the Chicago White Sox top 30 list.
Garrett Stubbs - Stubbs is one of the more athletic catchers in professional baseball and has the tools to be a starting catcher one day. His offensive game is built on his average hit tool and strong walk rates as he has never posted a strike out rate above 18% or a walk rate below 10% in his professional career. He’s even an average runner and could chip in 6-8 steals a season from behind the plate. Defensively, Stubbs handles pitchers well, blocks well, and controls the running game as he nabbed 45% of base stealers in 2018. The biggest flaw here is his lack of power, but he’s a catcher with the ability to hit for a strong average and post strong walk rates so he should still be an above average offensive contributor. Still, he lacks the strength necessary to contribute in home runs and in slugging percentage. One area to keep an eye on: He has posted consistently high line drive rates in the past, but his ground ball rate has spiked this year early on. Ralph Lifshitz ranked Stubbs 21st on the Houston Astros top 30 list.
Will Smith - Smith has a lot of similarities with Garrett Stubbs and gives him a run for his money for the most athletic catcher in the minors. The 2016 first rounder out of the University of Louisville is an above average runner and has spent significant time at third base to get Keibert Ruiz some catcher reps as well. This move allowed him to put his plus throwing arm to good use while also giving him additional minor league at-bats. In fact, in addition to being a plus defender behind the plate he is even regarded as an above average defender at third base. His offensive game is much different than those Louisville days though as the Dodgers have him hitting the ball in the air and ultimately for more power. He does make significantly less contact now, but he has cut the strikeout rate down to a manageable 21% so far in 2019 in Triple-A. The pull-side power should make him a 20-homer threat, but will also likely come with batting averages in the .240-.250 range. Fortunately his elite walk rate will raise his on-base percentage significantly and he is currently hitting .290/.404/.551 in the minors and should be owned in all dynasty formats. He will likely go back to Triple-A once Austin Barnes returns from the Injured List, but it’s only a 29-mile trip back to Bel-Air from Dodger Stadium. Eddy Almaguer ranked Smith as the seventh prospect on the Los Angeles Dodgers Top 30 list.
Jared Walsh - Walsh may not be one of the most exciting players to debut this year, but he sure is an interesting one. The former 39th round pick had a breakout year offensively in 2018 as he hit .277/.359/.536 and jumped from High-A to Triple-A. He’s continued that offensive success so far in 2019 hitting .302/.398/.604 with 10 homers in 37 games with the Salt Lake Bees prior to the call up. He has made some improvements with his strikeout rate but is still going down on strikes over 25% of the time.
Walsh is interesting because he represents a new wave of player that will surely be more common as today’s benches keep shrinking. Walsh was being used as a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) in Triple-A. In 2018 the Angels dabbled a bit with him in the bullpen as he amassed eight appearances throughout the year and he’s already received five this year. The Angels liked enough of what they saw to actually bring Walsh to instructs over the winter to work as a pitcher. Even with Bour being sent down the presence of Ohtani and Pujols will cut unto Walsh’s playing time and I don’t think he works his way into regular playing time for the Angels this season. He can safely be let on the wire in 15 or less team formats. Walsh ranked 22nd on my Los Angeles Angels prospect list.
Shaun Anderson - The long-haired righty was a third round pick by the Boston Red Sox in the 2016 draft. Anderson couldn’t crack the loaded rotation in Gainesville but found his niche as the closer as was behind guys like A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning, Logan Shore and Alex Faedo on the loaded Florida Gators staff. He’s always had the stuff to start and after the Red Sox drafted him they began building stamina and getting Anderson back into the rotation. He was traded to the Giants along with RHP Gregory Santos in a deadline deal for Eduardo Nunez in 2017, and was our eighth ranked prospect in our Giants prospect list. He relies on ground balls and weak contact more than missing bats, and his deep arsenal lacks a truly plus pitch. He’s primarily fastball/slider, but also throws a sinker, change and curveball. With average command, Anderson’s best trait is his ability to keep the ball in the yard and a favorable home park plays into that. Anderson is a useful streamer at home and should be up with the rebuilding Giants for the remainder of the season.
Luis Arraez - A career .331 hitter in the minors, Arraez has a plus hit tool due to his elite hands. He makes contact at a high rate as has only struck out more than 10% of the time once his career and that was in 2018 when he posted a 10.9% strikeout rate while playing in the Florida State League. Arraez’s offensive approach is simple as he is a left-handed hitter with a knack for slapping the ball over the shortstops head or through the 5.5 hole. Despite his plus hit tool, Arraez’s overall skill set isn’t interesting to me because he completely lacks power and is a slightly below average runner. His range is limited at second base, but as we’ve seen in today’s game that’s becoming less and less of an issue. He does have good hands and the Twins have begun moving him around the diamond a bit to add some versatility to the package. Arraez was our 21st ranked prospect on our Minnesota Twins top 30 list, and projects as an offensive-minded utility option going forward. I don’t think he is up for the long haul and he can remain safely on the wire.