There’s only about a month left of the minor league season, so it’s a great time to check in on some prospects that have really helped (or perhaps hurt) their profile in 2022. The MLB trade deadline has come and gone for the “real” baseball league, but you may still have some time in your leagues (especially dynasty leagues) where you can get working on some prospects maneuvering before the hype/news has caught up to some of your other leaguemates.
As a reminder, I’m bringing you this through the prism of our game, fantasy baseball, rather than the prism of “real” baseball. Case in point is a guy like Cristian Pache. He could never figure it out at the plate but he continued to hold real baseball value to the A’s due to his stellar CF profile and defensive capabilities. They finally had to send him down to Triple-A to try to figure something out with the bat, but the glove was definitely MLB-ready and if he could even get to .230ish AVG/.300ish OBP, he’d hold some real value to the major league team. Startable for your fantasy league? Heck no. Playable on a non-contending team? Yes; they’ve gotta see what they have in him and he’s a positive in the field.
I stayed away from pitching prospects, because some may argue There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect (TINSTAPP) and I tend to value hitting prospects far greater than pitching ones. I also didn’t want to just talk about the top guys because I assume if you’re reading this, you know the best guys are the best guys. I wanted to focus on guys that the early-season rankings may not have caught up to yet, or guys that you may be able to procure from fantasy owners peeking at football rankings. Likewise, I gave you a couple of “name” prospects whose stars have dimmed a bit in 2022 and perhaps you’re looking to move them before they drop in off-season rankings. These prospects are in no particular order:
Gabriel Moreno (C, TOR): Moreno is still a highly-ranked prospect, but I believe he’s got more real-life value to the Jays than fantasy value. First, the good: Moreno hits for good average for a catcher, as he hit .276 in his brief 58 ABs for the Blue Jays earlier this year. He had a terrific K% of only 11% against MLB pitching, so the hit tool is there and he’s got a good enough eye at the plate. However, when he made contact, it was usually poor, as he only had one barrel. His average exit velocity was reasonable at 89 mph, but his launch angle was lower than 6 degrees, which isn’t going to do his power any favors. Even in Triple-A this year, he’s only got two home runs through 177 ABs. He flashed some power at Double-A in 2021, hitting eight HRs in 126 ABs, but that’s looking more like a league anomaly than something to project and wish on. Right now, he’s got a MLB-ready hit tool, but it’s looking empty. Catchers aren’t usually hot prospects, but if you can sell somebody on Moreno being the 2nd best C prospect in baseball (behind Francisco Alvarez), this may be the time to upgrade to a prospect with a stronger hitting projection. Good real-life catcher, but the arrow may be pointing down as a fantasy asset.
Jackson Chourio (OF, MIL): There isn’t a prospect in baseball with more helium to his name than Chourio, the 18-year old J2 signee from Venezuela. It may be too late to grab this guy or to sneak him at a discount, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the quickest-moving prospect in MiLB. In 2021 in the Dominican Summer League, Chourio had a quality debut, batting .296 through 158 ABs with five HRs and 8 SBs. One of the great indicators to look at when evaluating prospects is the BB% and K%, and this was a hint that there may be something more here with Chourio–he walked nearly as much as he struck out (12.2 BB%/14.8 K%). Aggressively promoting him to low-A to start 2022, Chourio quickly showed that he needed more challenge, as he crushed a dozen dingers and stole 10 bags in 250 ABs before being promoted to Double-A. As an 18-year old. Now, if I want to throw a little cold water on Chourio, he had a 7% BB%/28 K% in those 250 High-A ABs, but so far in his Double-A career, he’s back to showing great plate discipline, going 9.4% BB%/12.5% K%. He’s got one HR and one bag so far in his small 28-AB sample size, but what he’s doing at 18 years old is remarkable, as he’s still hitting .286/.344 all while being younger than my kid who just graduated high school. He’s already proving to be supremely talented against a bunch of pro ballplayers much older than him and Chourio would’ve even been young for the 2022 draft. It may be too late to pick him up for nothing or to get him without giving up a haul, but truthfully, this guy may be worth the haul. Outside of Corbin Carroll, I’m not sure there’s a MiLB OF I’d want more than Chourio, and I may not even want Carroll more. All arrows pointing as up as an arrow can point.
Nick Yorke (2B, BOS): Yorke was a rocket emoji in 2021, as he tore through Single-A to the tune of a .323 AVG over almost 300 ABs, including 10 HRs and 11 SBs. Just as impressively, he walked almost as much as he struck out, with an 11.8% BB%/13.6% K%. Because of the production, Boston gave him a late-season promotion to High-A, where he continued to decimate those poor minor league pitchers with a .333 AVG and four HRs through 84 ABs. Prospect growth isn’t linear, however, and Yorke has not had anywhere near the success in 2022 as he had at the same level in 2021. Yorke is only batting .233 through 224 Double-A ABs this year, with only six HRs (only two more than he had in 84 ABs in 2021). Even more worrisome, he’s dropped his BB% to 8%, and he’s jumped his GB% by 10% to 50%. He’s shown an impact bat before, but if 2021 had the Sons of Sam Horn all abuzz with the rise of Yorke, 2022 has thrown some chilly water on those hopes. He’s not old for the level by any means at just over 20 years old, but this is definitely not the development path that Sox were hoping for after a hype 2021. Arrows pointing down currently for Yorke, but this may also be the perfect time to see if a disappointed owner is willing to cut bait, as it’s not time to give up on Yorke yet.
Colson Montgomery (SS, CHW): MLB.com had Montgomery as their 25th-ranked prospect in the 2021 draft, but he’s quickly outplaying that expectation. Chicago was conservative with Montgomery after drafting him, giving him time at the complex where he had a solid .287 AVG/.394 OBP over 94 ABs, but without any sort of impact, with no home runs and a weak .074 ISO. Montgomery’s plate discipline was solid as well, walking 11.7% of the time while striking out 19.8% of his ABs. The 2022 season has got to be a jump that even the most optimistic White Sox executive wasn’t ready for, as Montgomery roared out of the gate hitting .324 AVG/.424 OBP through 170 ABs. There’s power in his 6’4 frame, but the homes were modest at only four in those ABs. His BB%/K% each jumped up by a percentage point, so no real difference there. After seeing enough at Single-A, the promotion to High-A has gone excellently for Montgomery, as he’s already matched the four HRs in only 96 ABs. The .271 AVG hasn’t caught up to his history yet, but the .400+ OBP is outstanding, and get this–he’s dropped his K% by 6% and is walking more than he’s striking out. The 20-year old is finding his power and continues to show terrific on-base skills. If he doesn’t outgrow SS/shows the athleticism to stick there, this is a draft-day steal for the Pale Hose. This is an arrows-up prospect
Let’s end this with one last riser, though an injured one so he’s either available for pick-up or his owner may have forgotten about him–but I haven’t.
Colt Keith (3B, DET): Let’s get his name right, since many of his 1st Bowman Draft baseball cards had his name reversed and called him Keith Colt. Detroit tried to rebuild through pitching, watched that not go as planned, and took a decidedly hitting-focused bent in the last couple of years (though in 2021 Al Avila thought enough of Jackson Jobe to pass over Marcelo Mayer for him. Jobe may turn out to be a nice pitcher, but Mayer is looking like a far surer bet in the early stages). One hitting prospect that really jumped forward in the organization in 2022 is Keith, who injured his shoulder diving back to first base on a pick-off attempt and has been out since early June. Reports are that he may be able to return this year, but if not, Detroit may try to get him in the Arizona Fall League for some much-needed reps. Keith had shown some hitting chops in Single-A in 2021, hitting .320 with a .436 OBP over 147 ABs, but it was empty of force with only one HR. His swing decisions were good, going 16.6% BB%/21.5% K%. The Tigers rewarded Keith for a good Single-A season with a promotion to High-A at the end of 2021, which didn’t go well at all for him. Let’s just say 2022 has gone a lot better at West Michigan for Keith, as he blistered the league to a .301/.370 rate with nine HRs over 193 ABs pre-injury. That’s not a huge power number, but it was a tremendous jump for Keith and showed that there’s thump to dream on in his 6’3, 215 lb, 20-year old frame. Keith even showed a little speed, chipping in four bags to balance out the profile. Without injury, Keith was tracking as a guy pushing for top-100 conversation heading into 2023, but with the injury, you’ve got yourself a buying opportunity. Watch closely if he returns in 2022, and if Detroit sends him to the AFL, a good month there would do wonders for his prospect hype heading into 2023. Bonus Tiger, just for fun–Cristian Santana.