Nine Low-Hype Prospects Who Are Getting Close to the Majors

Like many of you, I spent a good portion of Memorial Day watching baseball. I started with the Rays and Yankees, and was watching the YES Network feed when rookie shortstop Taylor Walls stepped to the plate. Immediately, the broadcast went to a graphic of who the Rays elected not to call up after they traded Willy Adames to the Brewers: Wander Franco, universally seen as the best prospect in the game, and the red-hot Vidal Bruján. It was a nice little troll, but while so much attention is deservedly paid to the Franco and Jarred Kelenic types before and after they debut, not every rookie has the same kind of prospect pedigree. With that in mind, here are nine prospects who aren’t getting the same kind of hype but are performing at a level that might earn them a big-league look this year.

Greg Deichmann, OF, Oakland A’s

A second-round pick in 2017 out of LSU, Deichmann is a prototypical Oakland selection — a big kid with big numbers out of a big school. Ankle and shoulder issues limited his playing time and development during his first two seasons, but the 2019 Arizona Fall League campaign felt like a coming out party for the left-handed hitting corner outfielder, as he hit nine home runs over 23 games while slugging .634. Deichmann has yet to build on that power explosion in 2021, but everything else is trending up. Yes, there’s some BABIP luck in there, but his walk rate has exploded to its exceptional college levels and his always high whiff rate has fallen into a more manageable realm. The A’s don’t have much in the way of financial flexibility, so it might be an internal option like the 26-year-old Deichmann who gets some at-bats in right field and designated hitter in order to see if he can be an upgrade over the struggling Stephen Piscotty and Mitch Moreland.

Chris Gittens, 1B/DH, New York Yankees

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the moribund Yankees offense of late, and it might finally be time to give the 27-year-old Gittens a look. It might work and it might not, but you can’t say it won’t be fun. A six-year minor league free agent this offseason, the Yankees quickly re-signed Gittens during the quiet period, knowing that his incredible strength would generate significant interest on the open market. To say Gittens has raw power doesn’t do it justice, as he generates the kind of exit velocities only achieved by potential future teammates Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. It’s 80 raw, and it’s not a debate. It also comes with a truckload of strikeouts and fringy defense from a bat-first older player, but he’s in the midst of a career-best season so far at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and it’s not like the Yankees couldn’t use some help at first base. In the best of worlds, he’s probably the good version of Chris Carter, capable of hitting .220-.230 with 40 bombs and some walks while adding to the silly argument over how three true outcomes baseball is ruining the game.

Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

Greene is still well-known to prospect hounds, but between Tommy John surgery and a global pandemic, he hadn’t taken the mound in an official game since July of 2018 and fell just outside of this year’s Top 100 prospects, checking in at 101. He’s back, and frankly better than ever. Pushed to Double-A due to a combination of talent and lost time, Greene has registered 41 strikeouts over 28.1 innings in his first five starts for Chattanooga while showing improved command and flashing a promising-but-inconsistent 88-92 mph slider. He’s not touching 100 mph so much as he’s just flat out sitting there at times, and while developing him as a starter makes sense in the long-term, a shorter-term exposure to big league life out of the bullpen has a chance to impact the Reds’ chances to change their outside-looking-in status in the NL Central.

Jackson Kowar, RHP, Kansas City Royals

Yet another impressive college arm from Kansas City’s 2018 draft class, Kowar ranked eighth on our Royals list entering the year, and while he’s only made five starts so far in 2021, he would surely move up if we re-ranked today. He’s yet to allow more than a run in any of his quintet of outings for Triple-A Omaha, and while the mid-90s fastball and one of the better changeups in the minors have been as advertised, what has changed is his breaking ball, which has gone from fringy-at-best to perfectly average in terms of spin and shape. It’s a much-needed wrinkle for Kowar to succeed as a starter, and he is beginning to line himself up for a big league look after the All-Star break, if not sooner.

Josh Lowe, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

Lowe ranked 56th on our top 100 list entering the season, but it’s easy to forget about him, as he can get buried in an exceptionally deep Rays system. He’s also taking a one-step-at-a-time development path, with his tools turning into production more slowly than expected for the 2016 first round pick. His raw power finally began to show up in games in 2019 and that blossoming has continued into 2021, while he has shown an improved hit tool overall as well. His approach remains on the aggressive side, and some adjustments will have to be made in that regard to replicate this kind of success in the big leagues, but the 23-year-old is close to being big-league ready. While Kevin Kiermaier is a fantastic defender, his sub-.600 OPS makes him a suboptimal everyday player, and while Lowe’s defense pales in comparison to the veteran’s, his bat should more than make up for the difference.

Gabriel Moreno, C, Toronto Blue Jays

This one is a long shot (though at 93rd on the Top 100, not too long), but I just really like the player, and catcher has been an offensive black hole in Toronto for years. Moreno is a bit on the small side, but he’s an athletic backstop with a plus arm, a feel for contact, and sneaky power. After finishing the 2019 season with a strong showing for Low-A Lansing, Double-A has yet to challenge him, as he’s flirted with .400 average for much of the early campaign. With just over 700 plate appearances in his professional career, it’s fair to say Moreno needs more time to bake in the development oven, but desperation can quicken teams’ decisions in that department and when it comes to the Blue Jays and the catcher position, desperate doesn’t even begin to describe their long-term problems there.

Jake Meyers, OF, Houston Astros

Sleeper alert! A 13th-round pick in 2017 out of Nebraska, Meyers failed to make this year’s Astros prospects list, but he’s made a steady climb through the Houston system and could be on the precipice of a major league debut as Myles Straw continues to struggle in an everyday role. While Meyers lacks Straw’s cannon for an arm, he’s nonetheless a plus or better up-the-middle defender with impressive range and instincts who has made slow but steady progress at the plate. What was once gap power is now average or better in terms of raw, and he’s getting to it in games more often, including one bomb this year that measured over 110 mph off the bat. Meyers has approach issues that will likely limit the pure hit tool, but with speed, a bit of power and the plus defense, he deserves a chance to see if he can be a second-division starter at the position, something Straw is slowly proving he can’t be.

Cal Raleigh, C, Seattle Mariners

Teams were almost universally enamored with Raleigh’s bat in the 2018 draft, but the Florida State product fell to the third round because most had big concerns about his ability to stay at catcher, projecting a quick move to first base, where the pressure on the player to hit increases exponentially. The Mariners decided to at least try to keep him behind the plate, and to the player’s credit, Raleigh has put an incredible amount of work into his defense, and suddenly looks like an average defensive catcher. The bat has been quite good, as scouts projected, and while currently in the midst of a breakout campaign at Triple-A Tacoma, Raleigh is looking like he could provide well above-average offensive output for the position. Tom Murphy is not the answer. Luis Torrens is not the answer. José Godoy is not the answer. If the Mariners keep scrapping their way to postseason contention, the preseason Pick to Click deserves a chance to see if he is the answer the team has been looking for behind the plate.

Jesús Sánchez, OF, Miami Marlins

Sánchez went 1-for-25 for the big league club during an emergency stint in 2020, but his overwhelming physicality and tools still had him ranking 10th on this year’s Marlins list. He’s a physical specimen with top-of-the-line bat speed, and he’s also been among the hottest hitters in all of the minor leagues this year. The approach is still a problem, as Sánchez rarely sees a pitch he doesn’t like to swing at, but he’s also making more contact than ever, including more of the home run variety. His next chance in Miami likely won’t occur until some June and/or July deals create an opening, but Sánchez is suddenly looking like a part of a brighter Marlins future.





Kevin Goldstein is a National Writer at FanGraphs.

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rossredcay
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rossredcay

Any thoughts on Jhoan Duran? He would seem to fit into this bucket as well and his stuff looks insane so far in his couple starts post injury.

RonnieDobbs
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RonnieDobbs

I would say that he has massive hype. His ownership has soared in 2021.