One of the most popular pickups in fantasy leagues this past week was Atlanta middle infielder Vaughn Grissom. The 21-year old Grissom started off his Braves career with nine hits in his first 21 ABs, including a pair of homers and a pair of doubles while scoring eight runs. Grissom wasn’t of the Blake-Snell-Hates-You mold (the slapdick variety), but he wasn’t somebody that was filled with a ton of helium and hype, either. A solid back-end top-100 type, Grissom hit over .300 across all minor league levels, but smacked 11 HRs and collected 20 bags while walking nearly as much as he struck out in just under 300 High-A ABs before getting a promotion to Double-A, where it took only 90 ABs for Atlanta to decide he needed a chance to fill in some infield positions while Ozzie Albies and Orlando Arcia come back from injury. The MiLB stats were nice; good, even. But they aren’t ones that make you sit up and go “Wow!” The point here is that he was a back-end top-100 type middle infielder who had pretty decent plate discipline, enough pop to be effective, and wheels to make an impact. Using these kinds of indicators, who are some players for your dynasty team who may not have the helium of Gunnar Henderson or Elly de la Cruz but who may be showing signs of being next year’s Grissom–a Double-A or High-A guy with some pop, some wheels, and plate discipline that doesn’t make you think Mark Reynolds was patient by comparison?
Let’s start by taking famous American author and newspaper editor Horace Greeley’s advice to “go West, young man,” specifically to Colorado where the Rockies are hoarding middle infield prospects to drool over. The one you will likely find highest on most prospect lists is Double-A shortstop Ezequiel Tovar. However, his lofty ranking may get lost due to his absence from the diamond, as Tovar has been shelved since June 29 with a groin injury. The same age as Grissom, Tovar hit .318, popped 13 homers and stole 17 bags in 264 ABs. His eye hasn’t been as good as Grissom’s, but it hasn’t been concerning, either–21.7% K rate, and 8.5% BB rate. Tovar’s LD/GB/FB% were nearly identical to Grissom’s in the minors, and though he’s smaller than Grissom by a few inches and some poundage, his ISO has been higher than anything Grissom approached in the minors. I’d recommend aggressively acquiring, but are the Rockies gonna Rockie this one?
We hope not, because we are just as excited for Tovar’s organization-mate, Warming Bernabel. It’s appropriate that the 20-year old Warming calls the hot corner his home. Bernabel started the 2022 season in Low-A, hitting .317 with 10 HRs and 21 SBs through just over 260 ABs. Just as impressive was Bernabel’s plate discipline, as he 13% K% to 9.7% BB%. Low-A disclaimer and all, but that’s impressive at any level, and it gives a certain confidence of floor when looking at these prospects and trying to project out for the future. Through 93 High-A ABs, Bernabel has kept his quality average at .312, while chipping in four homers and two bags. While the total seems modest, the HR pace is actually an improvement. Bernabel is still adjusting with his plate vision, as his K% has just barely ticked up to 14.4% (still good!), but his BB% has cratered to 2%. I think it’s completely unconcerning so far, especially since his K% hasn’t really worsened–I’ll chalk it up to a 20-year old getting challenged, and still not really failing more (by his lack of real K% change and his consistent average). The Rockies also have a guy named Adael Amador, a 19-year old SS in Low-A who needs your attention as well, but he’s just a touch further away than Tovar and probably Bernabel, so let’s just bookmark him and save him for later. I only mention him so you can understand the embarrassment of riches the Rockies roster in the infield through the organization. *please don’t Rockie these guys, Rockies*
Cleveland is deep in pitching and middle infield prospects, but I’m going to stick in the dirt here for Brayan Rocchio, the Guardians’ 21-year old Double-A SS. Rocchio hasn’t had the year he hoped to have after a bit of a breakout 2021, but he hasn’t been poor either, and he’s really started to round into form as the season has progressed. Across High-A and Double-A in 2021, Rocchio hit 15 HRs and stole 21 bags while hitting .293 in Double-A. Rocchio unfortunately hasn’t built on his 2021, but he’s not far from it, either, and there are signs of hope and progress even if the raw numbers don’t show it. Rocchio has 13 HRs and 11 bags this season, all at Double-A, but he’s seen his average dip to .261. Ready for the good news? His plate discipline indicators have taken jumps, as he’s dropped his K% from 20.2% to 18.4%, and raised his BB% from 6.4% to 10.2%. A 6% drop in his LD% (moved directly to his FB%, as his GB% has remained virtually unchanged) could lead a person to assume that he’s just getting under the ball a touch more than he should, and that he may be trying to lift the ball for HRs more than just smoking it into the gaps. We don’t have the batted-ball data for them, so this is just your author speculating, but that seems like a reasonable explanation for the drop in average when he’s made great gains elsewhere.
Lastly, I’m going to break from my 20/21 year old prospect guys and go with one that’s just a touch older, but who I think has a real chance to be a productive MLB player–Dustin Harris. The 23-year old Harris is a Double-A corner infielder in the Texas organization but is also moonlighting at a corner outfield position as well, so he may break us of our “in the dirt” guys this article. Across two levels in 2021, Harris hit a robust .327 with 20 HRs and 25 SBs. His K% stayed static across Low- and High-A, settling at just over 15%, while his BB% ranged from a reasonable 8% to a solid 11%. Starting 2022 at Double-A, Harris has kept his power/speed combo, currently with 17 HRs and 20 SBs; his average, however, has fallen to .257, the lowest of his MiLB career. His K% soared to a career-high 19.4%, which in part explains the drop in average, but he’s kept his 11+% BB%, so the patience and discernment are still there. It won’t be long before the Rangers want to see what they have in Harris, and I’d expect him to get that opportunity in 2023. Josh Jung is probably the 3B of the future in the organization, but Nathaniel Lowe hasn’t vice-gripped the 1B job, and the corner outfield experience may be prepping Harris for a shot there early next season.