Here is a prospect question that applies to those of us who play in redraft, keeper, and dynasty leagues: Which rookie pitcher will be the most valuable fantasy player in 2021?
The triumvirate of Ian Anderson, Trevor Rogers, and Casey Mize continue to hold onto the top three rungs of the ladder. Injuries to Sixto Sanchez, Michael Kopech, and Adbert Alzolay have opened the door to some new guys starting to climb. All that and more in this week’s update!
|Josh Fleming||TBR||Bulk guy|
|Sammy Long||SFG||Bulk guy|
|Brent Honeywell Jr.||TBR||Triple-A|
News and Notes
Ian Anderson has labored through two starts since our last update, only pitching a combined 8.1 innings between the two starts. He had trouble locating his stuff each time, leading to a poor strike% and requiring him to throw a lot of pitches to get outs (87 and 98 pitches thrown over the last two appearances). Still, I don’t think there’s a reason to push him off the top spot on the ladder. We might just need to recalibrate expectations to that of a 3.50 ERA pitcher from that of a 3.25 ERA pitcher moving forward.
If you’re a Trevor Rogers owner you’re dancing so far this season. He put up two quality starts since our last update. Just monitor his fastball velocity chart as the season wears on, as he’s had two lower velocity blips over his last three outings:
Casey Mize has posted quality starts in each of his last two outings and eight consecutive above average game scores. His strikeout stuff hasn’t been all that we’ve hoped for (yet), but I think that could improve as he works on harnessing his arsenal.
Casey Mize, 93mph Sinker and 84mph Knuckle Curve, Overlay. pic.twitter.com/az09wK63vq
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 4, 2021
Since the last update Sixto Sanchez was shut down from throwing, and then started throwing off flat ground again. The team is probably going to continue to be cautious with him moving forward, meaning he’s holding little to no value as a redraft stash at this point. He’s sliding way down the list this week.
Michael Kopech is on the IL with a hamstring injury, but it sounds like he’s making good progress toward returning in the next week or two. No need to press the panic button with him.
Dane Dunning bounced back from a rough outing on May 26 to post two consecutive game scores above 50. He should continue eating innings in a back-end rotation role for your fantasy squad.
Adbert Alzolay was lifted from his last start and placed on the IL with a blister.
Tarik Skubal looked pretty strong in his last outing against a White Sox offense that usually chews up left-handers. He punched out eleven hitters during five innings of work. His four-seam fastball was touching 97 and working up in the zone. His slider and knuckle curve presented hitters with two distinct breaking ball shapes to change eye levels. And his changeup came in at 83 mph to keep hitters off-balance. He’s sliding above the injured Alzolay this week. If he keeps it up, he will be above Dunning in the next update.
Tarik Skubal sets a career-high with 11 strikeouts.👏
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 5, 2021
Cody Poteet is off to the IL with a knee injury. The team is calling it a sprain, so hopefully he won’t miss too much time.
Nate Pearson has been way better than his 7.24 Triple-A ERA would suggest. He’s been BABIPd to death (.440), but his K-BB% is an elite 32.8%. I think he’s the next SP up for Toronto in case of emergency.
Garrett Crochet has a career 0.37 ERA in 24.1 innings. The White Sox will still probably try to move him to the rotation, but he’s already an effective bullpen weapon.
Luis Patino is back from the IL, but has been sent to Triple-A Durham to stretch out into a more traditional starter’s role.
Sam Hentges had a rough start on May 30 and then an even rougher (1.2 innings, 5 ER) relief appearance on June 6. The Cleveland rotation is kind of taking on water at this point, so Hentges could still be in the mix for starts in the short run. Long term, I still think he’s probably best as a relief option.
Spencer Howard is being used in short bursts as the Phillies remain committed to keeping his innings down this year. Don’t expect much fantasy production from him until 2022.
Logan Gilbert shook off some of the rookie dust since the last update. He posted game scores of 62 and 55 in his last two outings. I moved him irrationally low in the last update, he’s swinging back up into the Top-10 of the ladder for this update.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 7, 2021
Alek Manoah has basically given us the rookie rollercoaster. The first outing was good and gave us a glimpse of a future front line starter, the second outing was a total dud, and the third outing was a middling performance that we should expect from him for the remainder of the season. Pearson has better stuff, but Manoah is probably the steadier option for the Blue Jays rotation at the moment.
Dean Kremer got optioned back down to Triple-A Norfolk.
Chris Rodriguez avoided a long IL stint and is back in the Angels bullpen.
Eli Morgan – RHP – Cleveland Indians
As I noted earlier, the Cleveland rotation is kind of taking on water at this point. The team called up Eli Morgan on May 28 to help plug a hole before optioning him back down to Triple-A. However, a quick look at the club’s Roster Resource page shows upcoming rotation holes against the Mariners on Saturday and the Orioles on Tuesday. Morgan made a Triple-A start (3.2 innings) on Tuesday June 8.
Morgan played his college ball at Gonzaga. He’s never been a high-pedigree prospect, and relies on command, control, and pitchability to get things done. He’s effective in that role, however, posting a 3.16 ERA over 336.1 innings at the minor league level. He’s fantasy irrelevant for all but very deep dynasty players right now, but if he can lock down a rotation role then he could become a possibly streaming option depending on the matchup.
#Indians 25yr old RHP prospect Eli Morgan was dealing last night for the Triple-A Columbus Clippers. Video of 5 of his 6 strikeouts vs the Mud Hens.
— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) May 22, 2021
Jackson Kowar – RHP – Kansas City Royals
The Royals are seemingly hell-bent on breaking in all their promising young pitchers at the MLB level this season. The latest call-up was RHP Jackson Kowar. Kowar was part of the Royals’ pitching-focused 2018 draft, where the team took him alongside Brady Singer, Daniel Lynch, and Kris Bubic. He blew up like a bargain-basement M-80 in his debut (current ERA 54.00). However, he is scheduled to get another start this Saturday against Oakland.
I’ve prefered Kowar to fellow Royals’ draft-mates Lynch and Bubic since their professional debuts. His fastball-changeup combo should work at the professional level, as I believe the changeup can be used as a true out pitch against MLB hitters. His weakness has always been the breaking ball, which he will need to make himself into something more than a back-end rotation piece going forward. He seems to have the feel for spinning a breaker. The problem is his command and feel for the pitch wanes. The team seems to be confident enough in his abilities to let him try and figure that part out at the highest level. If he can, then there’s still big upside potential here.
One of my favorite things about Jackson Kowar is that he’s not going to have too many issues against LHH. His changeup is a great equalizer.
He doesn’t even throw it here against one of Cleveland’s best prospects, Nolan Jones. Curveball looks fantastic. Using his fastball well. pic.twitter.com/encnih65S2
— Royals Farm Report (@RoyalsFarm) May 15, 2021
Sammy Long – LHP – San Francisco Giants
And then there’s THIS guy. He made his MLB debut in a bulk relief role for the Giants on June 8 and looked just fantastic. The fact that he made it to the Show is a testament to his mental fortitude. Long was released by both the Rays and White Sox before joining the Giants organization. He’s been supremely good at both Double-A and Triple-A in 2021, earning the call up to San Francisco this week.
Long looked electric in his MLB debut. He went 4.0 innings in a bulk relief role, striking out seven batters and inducing 10 swinging strikes. His fastball touched 98 mph and he dotted it around the zone. His curveball generated some particularly uncomfortable swings, leading to a 37.5% whiff rate for the pitch in the outing. He also sprinkled in a changeup, sinker, and slider, giving him the potential for a starter’s repertoire. I think he’s probably going to stick at the MLB level given his stuff, and there’s even a decent chance he gets the opportunity to start the next time the rotation swings around to the ‘bullpen game’ spot.