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I'll admit Jonathan Loaisiga wasn't on my radar prior to the Yankees' announcement this week that he'll make his major-league debut Friday.
I keep up with the minor-league headlines, review the leaderboards periodically and try to read every scouting report I can get my hands on. But rarely does a prospect who ranks outside of his organization's top 25, which is where Baseball America positioned Loaisiga at the start of the year, become one of significance in Fantasy.
So imagine my shock when, forced to look into the guy, I discovered he has a 58-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio between two stops this year. Per nine innings, we're taking 11.6 vs. 0.8. Unbelievable.
Since 1900, you know the number of major-league pitchers to have a ratio that good? Precisely one: Clayton Kershaw in 2016.
So then, Loaisiga was obviously too advanced for his competition, but the stuff must be lacking for him to have ranked so low, right? Well, here's an excerpt from the 2018 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, in which, again, Loaisiga ranked only 25th among Yankees prospects:
"He consistently sat in the mid-90s and touched as high as 98 mph with his fastball. He paired the pitch with an 11-to-5 curveball in the low-80s that showed plenty of depth."
Something doesn't add up here. As best I can tell, Loaisiga is a victim of his own backstory, having signed initially with the Giants only to be released after missing all of 2014 and 2015 with injuries. He needed to do something dramatic to get in the prospects hounds' good graces, and his start to this season may have been just that. Manager Aaron Boone certainly sounds like a believer.
"He's really talented," Boone recently told the New York Post. "We think he has a very bright future. His stuff is really good."
And with Masahiro Tanaka expected to miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury, Loaisiga has a chance to make a lasting impression. I'm not saying he's must-add or anything. Domingo German isn't even that, and he has demonstrated big bat-missing ability during his time in the majors. But for a complete no-name coming into the season, Loaisiga genuinely bears watching and may actually be available in some deeper dynasty leagues.
Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Vladimir Guerrero, 3B, Blue Jays
2017 minors: .323 BA (437 AB), 13 HR, 28 2B, .910 OPS, 76 BB, 62 K
2018 minors: .407 BA (202 AB), 11 HR, 18 2B, 1.124 OPS, 20 BB, 21 K
So the bad news, in case you missed it, is that Guerrero has a strained patellar tendon in his left knee and will miss at least a month. Needless to say, his promotion is no longer imminent, and his ownership, which was once over 80 percent in CBS Sports leagues, has deservedly taken a hit. But he's still the most-owned minor-leaguer by a whopping 22 percent, and I think that's just as deserved. The next-best prospect to stash, Eloy Jimenez, probably isn't coming up in the next month either, and even if he does ultimately beat Guerrero the majors, the impact likely won't be as great. That's no knock on him. It's just that Guerrero is going all Ted Williams on Double-A, and the only things that seem capable of slowing him are his own body and the Blue Jays' submission to the almighty dollar.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox
2017 minors: .312 BA (333 AB), 19 HR, 22 2B, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
2018 minors: .321 BA (193 AB), 10 HR, 14 2B, .941 OPS, 16 BB, 35 K
Again, I'm not trying to take anything away from Jimenez, who in a normal, Guerrero-less year would be the sort of prospect we'd salivate over all summer, darn near fainting anytime he'd get removed from the Birmingham Barons lineup. He has light-tower power and is surprisingly contact-oriented for the modern middle-of-the-order hitter. Most preseason publications had him as a top-five prospect coming into the season, ranking right there behind Shohei Ohtani, Ronald Acuna and Guerrero, so you shouldn't be surprised if he makes a Juan Soto-like impact when he eventually does get the call.
Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
2017 minors: .274 BA (464 AB), 25 HR, 21 SB, .874 OPS, 46 BB, 109 K
2018 minors: .275 BA (236 AB), 9 HR, 8 SB, .826 OPS, 29 BB, 53 K
Tucker's numbers this year don't scream promotion, so his call-up doesn't feel as inevitable as for Guerrero or Jimenez. But the Astros are having to survive with Tony Kemp in left field right now, their previous forays into Marwin Gonzalez and Derek Fisher having ended in disappointment. Tucker is their top hitting prospect and their future in left field. He hit .409 (18 for 44) with five homers in spring training and has a .983 OPS over his past 14 games at Triple-A. The Astros have played this one close to the vest, but if they're looking for a spark with the Mariners challenging them for the division lead, installing Tucker as their left fielder would make sense.
Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees
Career majors: .239 BA (142 AB), 4 HR, 4 3B, 10 2B, .738 OPS, 10 BB, 45 K
2018 minors: .315 BA (146 AB), 7 HR, 3 3B, 12 2B, .977 OPS, 18 BB, 39 K
Who knows? If not for the concussion he suffered at the start of spring training and the harrowing two months that followed, Frazier might have already carved out a spot in the Yankees outfield, taking the job and running with it when Aaron Hicks was sidelined by a strained intercostal back in April. Certainly, the 23-year-old has appeared no worse for wear since returning to the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre lineup, and even in a couple major-league cameos this year, he's 3 for 8 with three walks. It's that improved plate discipline that tells me he's ready for a new challenge, and the former fifth overall pick renowned for his lightning-quick bat would fit right in with this latest rendition of the Bronx Bombers. He's simply awaiting the next injury.
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
2017 minors: .321 BA (455 AB), 14 HR, 40 2B, .905 OPS, 49 BB, 97 K
2018 minors: .289 BA (135 AB), 3 HR, 9 2B, .820 OPS, 17 BB, 30 K
Yup, he's back. A regular in this space at the start of the year, Senzel is past his recent bout with vertigo and swinging the bat as well as he has all year, batting .372 (16 for 43) with six doubles in his past 11 games. Unfortunately, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett most certainly solidified their starting roles in the majors while Senzel was sidelined, and so far the Reds haven't cared to try Senzel at shortstop — not since spring training, anyway. The path here isn't so clear, but a summer arrival still seems likely. Perhaps the Reds are waiting to see more of the power that the former second overall pick flashed in the second half last year.
Five on the periphery
(These are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Forrest Whitley, SP, Astros
2017 minors: 5-4, 2.83 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 92 1/3 IP, 34 BB, 143 K
2018 minors: 8 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K
Back from a 50-game drug suspension (though not the performance-enhancing kind), Whitley is set to pick up where he left off this offseason, gaining momentum as possibly the best pitching prospect in baseball. His first two starts have only bolstered that claim. The silver lining to his suspension is he now has plenty of innings to work with and won't be facing a shutdown in the second half. And though you'd think the Astros would turn to either Collin McHugh or Brad Peacock should a rotation opening the develop, the allure of Whitley may prove too great to pass up, depending how the 20-year-old's season unfolds.
Triston McKenzie, SP, Indians
2017 minors: 12-6, 3.46 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 143 IP, 45 BB, 186 K
2018 minors: 1-1, 2.89 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 9 1/3 IP, 3 BB, 9 K
McKenzie is also only two starts into his 2018 season, but his absence was health-related, a product of a strained forearm. One of the minors' leading strikeout pitchers the past two years, he's still filling out physically and has a chance to pick up more velocity as he ascends to the majors. There isn't too much to make of his first two starts, but just the fact that he's healthy and throwing again should renew his dynasty appeal.
Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays
2016 minors: .362 BA (448 AB), 14 HR, 41 2B, 22 SB, .988 OPS, 42 BB, 81 K
2018 minors: .285 BA (246 AB), 5 HR, 15 2B, 20 SB, .803 OPS, 27 BB, 47 K
Though they entered this season as 1A and 1B in the Blue Jays system, Guerrero has clearly outshined Bichette to the point, the latter getting off to a miserable start in his move up to Double-A. But Guerrero's outrageous performance shouldn't reflect poorly on Bichette, who is still way ahead of schedule, having just turned 20 before the start of the season.
"I think early on in this season [Bichette] got away from what worked a little bit because of how he was being pitched — he probably was being pitched a little differently than he was last year," New Hampshire hitting coach Hunter Mense told MLB.com in May. "I think it got to him and he started making adjustments off that."
It certainly seems that way. Bichette is batting .378 (28 for 74) with four homers and 11 steals (an underrated part of his skill set) over his past 20 games.
Kevin Smith, SS, Blue Jays
2017 minors: .271 BA (262 AB), 8 HR, 25 2B, 9 SB, .778 OPS, 16 BB, 70 K
2018 minors: .356 BA (236 AB), 9 HR, 24 2B, 12 SB, 1.015 OPS, 21 BB, 48 K
Honestly, how many infield bats can one organization have? Smith showed pretty good power after the Blue Jays picked him in the fourth round last year but has certainly taken it to another level this year, notably cutting down on his strikeouts as well. Believe it or not, he was regarded more for his defense in college, so he may ultimately be the one who seizes the shortstop job in the majors, forcing Bichette to another position. And seeing as he's approaching his 22nd birthday, it could potentially happen as soon as next year.
Justin Dunn, SP, Mets
2017 minors: 5-6, 5.00 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 95 1/3 IP, 48 BB, 75 K
2018 minors: 3-3, 2.05 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 52 2/3 IP, 19 BB, 60 K
The Mets' first-round pick in 2016 was more sizzle than steak in his first full season last year, struggling with both control and command. This year, though, his electric fastball-slider combo has shined. After allowing two hits over seven innings with 10 strikeouts June 4, the Mets promoted him to Double-A Binghamton, where he also allowed two hits over seven innings with nine strikeouts in his first start Sunday. Clearly, he's still a work in progress, but the progress is happening before our eyes and he's back to being a dynasty asset.