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1. Bobby Witt Jr., INF, Kansas City Royals
2021 stats: 60 G, .292/.367/.564, 16 HR, 14 SB, 25 BB, 67 SO at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Welcome to the top spot, Bobby. Now the question is how long you stay here. One of the reasons why he gets the promotion to first is because five players in the last edition got promoted, but it was made easier when it was announced Sunday that he was getting promoted to Triple-A. The Royals aren’t going to rush Witt Jr. in a season where they’re not competing for a playoff spot, but he’s a five-category talent and he’s now just one step away from the big leagues. Upside matters. Witt Jr. has the most of any prospect not in the majors currently.
2. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
2021 stats: 13 G, 68.1 IP, 2.90 ERA, 28 BB, 94 SO at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.
Greene, 21, had a couple of poor starts in Triple-A, but has rebounded nicely in his last two. He’s given up two runs over his last 10 innings, and in his last start, he threw five scoreless frames with nine strikeouts. This is an aggressive ranking, but it’s justifiable -- at least in my opinion, anyway. This is a player with some of the very best stuff in the minors with an 80-grade fastball, a plus slider and two more pitches he can use to miss bats from his athletic delivery. Like Witt, there’s zero lock that Greene is going to play in the majors, but at this point in the season, there’s no pitching prospect with more upside.
3. Shane Baz, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
2021 stats: 12 G, 55.2 IP, 2.26 ERA, 10 BB, 82 SO at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
Baz had one of his worst starts of the season on Thursday. That start was one where he went four innings and allowed two runs. The fact that’s one of his worst of the year is a great example of just how good the right-hander has been in 2021. The risk here is that Baz is heading to the Olympics so there’s no chance you’re seeing him before August. That being said, because of his ability to locate swing-and-miss stuff, he’s deserving of being in this spot.
4. Nolan Gorman, INF, St. Louis Cardinals
2021 stats: 58 G, .271/.338/.492, 15 HR, 4 SB 24 BB, 66 SO at Triple-A Memphis.
Gorman has hit his homers in bunches in 2021, and one of those bunches appears to be, well, bunching right now. He homered twice on Sunday, and that came a day after he connected on a roundtripper. Simply put, Gorman has plus-plus power from the left side, and while there’s certainly swing-and-miss in his profile, he has a chance to hit for a decent average because he makes so much hard contact. The Cardinals are going to need a boost to catch the Brewers. Gorman could help provide just that.
5. Sam Huff, C, Texas Rangers
2021 stats: 13 G, .250/.345/.604, 5 HR, 0 SB 6 BB, 21 SO at short-season Rookie Rangers and Double-A Frisco.
There are a lot of good catching prospects -- one of them is directly below Huff -- but in terms of the potential to hit for power, there’s no one better than Huff. He missed the start of the season after undergoing surgery on his right knee, but he’s already showing off that prestigious pop in his rehab games; although he was recently taken off the 60-day injured list and optioned back to Double-A. There’s some risk because of his contact issues and the fact that Texas doesn’t “have” to use him in 2021, but fantasy managers who need help at catcher should take a long look at Huff. He could really help.
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6. Joey Bart, C, San Francisco Giants
2021 stats: 33 G, .333/.395/.558, 8 HR, 0 SB, 11 BB, 47 SO at Triple-A Sacramento; 2 G, .333/.333/.333 0 SB, 2 SO at San Francisco.
Bart continues to hit for average, but he’s struggled a bit as of late in terms of power production; his last homer was July 1. Still, the hits are still dropping for the former second-overall pick, and considering his previous production in that regard, it’s hard to imagine it won’t pick back up. The Giants are a contender, and while Buster Posey remains locked in as the starting catcher -- and for good reason -- it’s not hard to imagine that San Francisco finds a way to get his bat into the lineup. He can make a good team better, and in turn help fantasy rosters.
7. Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Rangers
2021 stats: 25 G, .290/.360/.490, 5 HR, 0 SB, 8 BB, 24 SO at Double-A Frisco.
We have four newcomers to the list -- six if you include Gorman and Huff, who are reentries -- and Jung leads them off. Drafted with the eighth pick of the 2019 draft, Jung doesn’t have elite power from the right side, but as you can (kinda) tell from the numbers above, he’s not a dink-and-dunk hitter. He sprays line drives from the right side, and hitting for a high average seems very likely for the 23-year-old. Jung is still in Double-A, but this was a player that was rumored to be on the verge of a promotion to Texas before a foot injury sidelined him for the beginning of the MiLB season. If/when Jung gets that call, fantasy managers should make their own.
8. Josiah Gray, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
2021 stats: 4 G, 15.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 2 BB, 22 SO at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Gray was actually included on this list earlier in the season, so that number you just read is wrong. It happens. Anyway, Gray has returned after missing almost two months due to a shoulder impingement, and he’s pitched well in his three outings since. Acquired in the deal that sent Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig to the Reds, Gray can locate four pitches in the strike zone, and two of those -- his fastball and slider -- get plus grades. He has a high floor because of his ability to locate, but a pretty high ceiling with swing-and-miss stuff in his arsenal. The Dodgers rotation is less settled than anticipated at the beginning of the year, and if Gray keeps pitching well, he could be up in La La Land in a few weeks -- if not sooner.
9. Edward Cabrera, RHP, Miami Marlins
2021 stats: 8 G, 35 IP, 3.09 ERA, 9 BB, 46 SO at Low-A Jupiter, Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Jacksonville.
The Marlins are absolutely loaded with quality pitching prospects, and Cabrera might have the highest upside of any of them. Yes, that includes Max Meyer and Sixto Sanchez. Cabrera got off to a late start because of shoulder soreness -- injuries are a common theme with both prospects and MLB players, isn’t it? -- but he’s worked his way to Triple-A, and missed plenty of bats in the process. Cabrera can get into the high 90s regularly with his fastball with late life, and he has a swing-and-miss slider along with a change that’s just a notch-below that level. He throws his pitches for strikes, and the command isn’t far behind. The Marlins should give Cabrera a chance to start this year, and while there’s some risk with Cabrera, it also comes with plenty of rewards.
10. Jose Barrero, SS, Cincinnati Reds
2021 stats: 56 G, .300/.382/.498, 10 HR, 10 SB, 27 BB, 58 SO at Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville.
And last but not least, the final newcomer. If the last name Barrero doesn’t sound familiar, you may remember seeing a Jose Garcia on prospect lists, but he changed his name to honor his deceased mother near the end of May. Barrero has the skill set to hit for average and steal bases, and he’s also beginning to tap into his power. Cincinnati has gotten decent defense from Kyle Farmer at shortstop, but Barrero is just as good -- if not better -- with the glove, and offers more offensive upside. He should finish the year in Cincinnati, and could be a nice fantasy addition in the process.
Next in line: Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves; Seth Beer, 1B/OF, Arizona Diamondbacks; Riley Greene, OF, Detroit Tigers; Matthew Liberatore, LHP, St. Louis Cardinals; Jackson Kowar, RHP, Kansas City Royals