Fantasy Baseball Prospects Report: Vinnie Pasquantino bolsters case for call-up; Riley Greene back in the fold

Vinnie Pasquantino is not in the majors yet.

I said he was on the verge of a call-up last week, and he’s only gotten hotter since then, homering Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday to bring his season total to 15. Over his past 13 games, he’s batting .440 (22 for 50) with seven homers, striking out just seven times.

It’s to the point now where all the Royals beat writers are taking turns addressing why the 24-year-old isn’t in the majors yet, which means the pressure is mounting.

So, um, why isn’t he in the majors yet?

five on the yard

(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)

Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B, Royals

2021 minors: .300 BA (437 AB), 24 HR, 37 2B, .957 OPS, 64 BB, 64 K
2022 minors: .298 BA (171 AB), 15 HR, 14 2B, 1.059 OPS, 26 BB, 30 K

Here he is, just like that, at the top of my list of prospects to stash. The plate discipline — and particularly the contact skills — are so well established and so impressive for a player with his kind of power that I don’t anticipate many hiccups when he finally gets the call. Even launch angle isn’t a problem. He rarely puts the ball on the ground, actually, generating line drives and fly balls at a rate that should optimize batting average and slugging percentage. The main blemish is that he’s a slow-footed first baseman, which gives him a narrow path to the majors, but that’s a moot point with him at the precipice.

Or is it? One theory proposed by some of the beat writers is that the Royals want to give Carlos Santana every opportunity to turn his season around and become a trade chip for them. Between that and the two catchers (Salvador Perez and MJ Melendez) splitting time at DH, there genuinely isn’t an opening for a player as inflexible as Pasquantino. But Santana hasn’t been good since 2019. He’s beaten .202 with a .652 OPS in three seasons since. Surely, their hope for him is about gone, right? I’ll continue to bet yes.

2021 minors: 9-1, 2.36 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 103 IP, 27 BB, 161K
2022 minors: 5-1, 2.09 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 56 IP, 14 BB, 80K

Despite all my hopes for Pasquantino, Rodriguez would have ranked ahead of him on this list if he hadn’t exited Wednesday’s start with what the organization is calling “right lat discomfort.” His velocity suddenly disappeared, which prompted his removal. It sounds scary but also vague, and it’s worth noting that it was initially reported as a back cramp brought about by dehydration. Clearly, he’ll undergo some testing to get to the bottom of it, but until then, it’s impossible to say whether it’s the sort of injury that alters his trajectory or is just a momentary setback.

Rodriguez looked like he was nearing a promotion after going seven innings in his previous start, striking out 10. It was his first seven-inning start since 2019, but he needed only 88 pitches to get there. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles want to see him get to 100 before promoting him.

2021 minors: .301 BA (485 AB), 24 HR, 16 SB, .921 OPS, 63 BB, 153 K
2022 minors: 3 for 11, 1SB, 2BB, 1K

Greene’s rehab assignment has officially ended, and he’s back to being just a straight-up minor-leaguer, having played his second game for Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday. It’s understandable that the Tigers would want to give the 21-year-old a chance to find his stride before promoting him to the majors, but remember he was tracking toward an opening day job before fracturing his foot late in spring training, batting .429 (9 for 21) with two homers, two triples and three doubles during the exhibition season. He projects to be a five-category player in his prime, with the hit tool probably being the best of the bunch, and it’s clear the Tigers aren’t interested in slowing him down.

2021 minors: .319 BA (483 AB), 23 HR, 11 SB, .906 OPS, 45 BB, 89 K
2022 minors: .289 BA (187 AB), 7 HR, 5 SB, .868 OPS, 30 BB, 38 K

With Max Muncy’s elbow barking again, the calls for Vargas to move up to the majors may grow louder. Granted, the Dodgers are making Muncy’s bout with inflammation out to be just a short-term issue, but the guy’s been playing with a torn UCL. He hasn’t looked right dating back to spring training. I don’t know what a couple weeks off is supposed to accomplish. Seems like the Dodgers are happy to ride it out with Edwin Rios for now, and his power potential does justify a longer look. But his lack of plate discipline would suggest he isn’t a permanent solution.

2021 minors: .310 BA (271 AB), 17 HR, 19 SB, .969 OPS, 28 BB, 69 K
2022 minors: .220 BA (164 AB), 7 HR, 10 SB, .732 OPS, 24 BB, 48 K

Just a week ago, I made the case for why Cruz’s promotion probably isn’t on the horizon, and I still think that’s true. But on some level, you have to stash upside just for upside’s sake. It doesn’t hurt that he’s only gotten hotter in the meantime and is now batting .320 (16 for 50) with five homers, two steals and a 1.054 OPS over his past 12 games. The overall numbers are still terrible, but the turnaround has begun. Of course, right about the time things started going right, Cruz tweaked his ankle Sunday and hasn’t played since, but it’s thought to be just a day-to-day thing.

Five on the periphery

(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)

2021 minors: .281 BA (310 AB), 25 HR, .933 OPS, 33 BB, 100K
2022 minors: .252 BA (131 AB), 7 HR, .821 OPS, 16 BB, 47 K

What if the Mets had another Pete Alonso at the opposite infield corner? Vientos’ 2021, in which he homered 25 times in just 83 games, made the idea halfway plausible. It’s easy power, the kind that translates to all fields, but his flaws have shown up more this year with the move up to Triple-A. Unsurprisingly, he’s striking out too much. More surprisingly, he’s had trouble putting the ball in the air. Fortunately, he’s still ahead of the curve developmentally at age 22, and he’s begun to right the ship already, batting .328 (22 for 67) with six homers and a 1,050 OPS in May.

Hunter Brown, SP, Astros

2021 minors: 6-5, 4.04 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 100 1/3 IP, 50 BB, 131K
2022 minors: 3-3, 2.45 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 44 IP, 21 BB, 60 K

Sloppy mechanics and ensuing control issues have prevented Brown from gaining much traction in prospect circles, but the stuff is electric. He features a fastball that peaks at 99 mph with riding action and two distinct breaking balls. The strikeouts have been there all along. What’s notable now is that he’s doing a better job finding the strike zone. In fact, he had gone 11 innings without walking anyone before walking four Wednesday. He’s doing it at Triple-A, too, so if he keeps it going for any length of time, he could be a candidate for a promotion.

2021 minors: .287 BA (432 AB), 15 HR, 24 SB, .797 OPS, 17 BB, 57 K
2022 minors: .326 BA (172 AB), 10 HR, 16 SB, 1.001 OPS, 20 BB, 41 K

If you’re looking for this year’s Anthony Volpe — ie, a shortstop ranked outside the top 100 who vaults into the top 10 by season’s end — well, needless to say, those don’t come around too often. But Tovar is making a compelling case early on, putting up much better numbers at Double-A than Volpe himself. And unlike Volpe, Tovar has yet to turn 21. Already lauded for his defensive skills, he’s grown into power this year. The bases may be too good to be stolen, but he’s of course in line to call Coors Field home, which will amplify his offense in other ways.

2021 minors: .289 BA (388 AB), 21 HR, 12 SB, .882 OPS, 33 BB, 68 K
2022 minors: .330 BA (182 AB), 8 HR, 7 SB, .917 OPS, 17 BB, 39 K

Massey is a prospect I’ve liked for a while, and his recent performance at Double-A should have everyone taking notice. He has multiple hits in six of his past eight games, beating .457 (16 for 35) during that stretch. Meanwhile, he’s on what would be about a 25-homer, 20-steal pace going by the major-league calendar. At 24, he’s a level behind where he should be, his professional career delayed at the start by a back injury, but production is hard to fake at Double-A. As a player who elevates and pulls the ball well, he should be able to maximize what power potential he has.

Luisangel Acuna, SS, Rangers

2021 minors: .266 BA (413 AB), 12 HR, 44 SB, .749 OPS, 49 BB, 110 K
2022 minors: .291 BA (55 AB), 4 HR, 8 SB, 1.008 OPS, 13 BB, 18 K

Ronald Acuna’s little brother isn’t thought to have near the same upside, but seeing as he’s a 20-year-old playing at high Class A, that book is still being written. Just 15 games into his 2022 season — the start having been delayed by a strained hamstring — he appears to have taken a step forward developmentally, contributing power and speed (the former still being the more questionable attribute) while reaching base at a . 426 clips. He’s a natural defensively and shouldn’t need to move off shortstop except for the fact the Rangers have locked up both Corey Seager and Marcus Semien long-term.

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