The Unsung Building Block for Every MLB Team’s Future

Martin FennFeatured Columnist IApril 26, 2021

The Unsung Building Block for Every MLB Team’s Future

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    It is usually pretty easy to spot franchise players on MLB rosters.

    The San Diego Padres made shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. their centerpiece by signing him to a 14-year extension. The New York Mets did the same by extending their own shortstop, Francisco Lindor. There are the Mike Trouts and Mookie Bettses of the world, as well as young sensations such as Ronald Acuna Jr. and Juan Soto.

    But who are some of the more unheralded building blocks for all 30 clubs? Let's take a closer look, shall we?

    Some of the selections might be youngsters who could eventually play a big role at a position of need. Many will be major leaguers who are overshadowed by other stars on the roster or appear primed to be contributors. All of them will boast numerous years of club control. 

    Keep an eye on the following names.

Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Corbin Martin

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Corbin Martin was one of the players included in the trade that sent Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros ahead of the 2019 trade deadline. His presence looms large for an Arizona Diamondbacks club that needs young arms.

    Martin underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2019 after posting a 5.59 ERA with the Astros that summer. He missed the entirety of the 2020 campaign but was ready to go for the start of camp.

    The 25-year-old struggled this spring, giving up seven hits and six runs in 6.1 innings. But he has a career 2.58 ERA in the minors, including a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 innings at Triple-A in 2019. 

    Martin should benefit from some more seasoning as he returns from major surgery. His upside includes a fastball that can reach the upper 90s in addition to the possible development of a wipeout slider.

Atlanta Braves: RHP Huascar Ynoa

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    The Atlanta Braves' starting rotation has been prone to injury and some ineffectiveness in the early going. But right-hander Huascar Ynoa has been a definite positive.

    The 22-year-old has struck out 25 in his first 22.0 innings this season to go along with a 0.86 WHIP. Homers have been a bit of an issue. Ynoa has already served up five long balls, though three of those came in an April 17 start against the Chicago Cubs. 

    Teams can never have enough pitching. Ynoa has given up hard contact, but he also has swing-and-miss stuff and has gotten hitters to chase early. He should continue to grow with more innings.

    Young outfielder Michael Harris is another to monitor after his excellent showing this spring, particularly if the Braves choose to move Drew Waters.

Baltimore Orioles: OF Cedric Mullins

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    Ray Carlin/Associated Press

    Most of the Baltimore Orioles' true building blocks are in the minors. However, Cedric Mullins has made big strides in the past couple of seasons. 

    Mullins slashed .271/.315/.407 with 10 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases in 48 games in 2020. He has been that much more productive to start the 2021 campaign, slashing .329/.393/.474 with a 148 OPS+. The early success seems to stem from a big increase in Mullins' line drive rate. He is lifting the ball a bit more than in past seasons.

    Defense is also a plus here. Mullins ranked in the 95th percentile in outs above average (OAA) in 2020 and ranks in the 65th percentile this year.

    Mullins has a good hit tool with great speed and terrific defense. He is a legitimate building block in center field.

Boston Red Sox: RHP Tanner Houck

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    The Boston Red Sox will likely be relying on Tanner Houck quite a bit, both now and in the future.

    Houck made his debut in 2020, giving up just six hits and one earned run in 17.0 innings and striking out 21. If his early outings are any indication, the strikeout stuff is very, very real.

    The 24-year-old has given up 13 hits in 10.1 innings, but he also has 12 strikeouts. Houck's slider is an incredible weapon, as opponents had a 53.6 percent whiff rate and merely a .111 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) against the pitch through Houck's first few appearances. 

    Boston already has rotation needs at present. The Red Sox also need future arm talent with Eduardo Rodriguez slated to become a free agent at season's end and Nathan Eovaldi hitting the open market the following year. Houck can be a key arm in their rotation.

Chicago Cubs: SS Ed Howard

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    Shortstop is suddenly a major position of interest on the North Side of Chicago.

    Javier Baez may have been the most likely member of the Cubs core to get an extension before the start of the 2020 season. However, ESPN's Buster Olney reported Baez turned down an offer in the neighborhood of $180 million. The 28-year-old went on to have the worst on-base percentage in baseball in 2020 and has been a steady strikeout victim this season.

    Baez will be a free agent this winter, and it's possible the Cubs will let him walk if he refuses to adjust at the dish. Luckily, Chicago has some interesting talent at short, and Ed Howard has considerable upside.

    The Windy City native was the team's first-round pick in the 2020 draft last summer. Howard, the No. 5 prospect in Chicago's system, boasts a terrific glove with the potential to be a 20-homer, 20-steal type of player if he can add some muscle and unlock more of his power.

Chicago White Sox: OF Yoelqui Cespedes

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    The Chicago White Sox are a team built to win now and in the future thanks to the wealth of young talent at the MLB level and in the farm system. Yoelqui Cespedes could be a player of immense interest. 

    Chicago signed Cespedes—the half-brother of MLB All-Star Yoenis Cespedes—this past winter. He is already the No. 5 prospect in the team’s system, per, and could give the South Siders an eventual power-hitting corner outfielder. 

    The 23-year-old also has strong defensive qualities, with terrific arm strength and good range. His athleticism could eventually make him a strong complement to Luis Robert in center field. 

    Cespedes will need to show his power can translate. He batted .253/.343/.316 in 27 games for Cuba in the Canadian-American Association. But he has a fairly high ceiling as a guy with a 55 power tool grade and 70 arm grade. 

Cincinnati Reds: RHP Tyler Mahle

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    There was reason for the Cincinnati Reds to be high on Tyler Mahle heading into 2021. He posted a 3.59 ERA in 47.2 innings last summer, striking out 11.3 per nine innings.

    Mahle's first few starts of 2021 suggest he is ready to ascend to the next level. The 26-year-old has a 1.74 ERA and 0.87 WHIP, striking out 31 in 20.2 innings. He ranks in the 91st percentile in expected slugging (xSLG) and 76th percentile in whiff rate.

    Moreover, Mahle has added fastball velocity in each of the last three seasons. That's terrific news, considering the splitter is a bona fide out pitch and he can also get whiffs with the slider.

    Mahle is slated to be a free agent in 2024, but the Reds could be thinking extension fairly soon if he continues to look like a frontline arm.

Cleveland: RHP Emmanuel Clase

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    A reliever? As a building block?

    I know, this one might seem like a bit of a stretch. But the likes of Liam Hendriks and Josh Hader have shown just how valuable an elite back-end reliever can be. Right-hander Emmanuel Clase has that kind of upside.

    Clase was acquired from the Texas Rangers in the Corey Kluber trade ahead of the 2020 season. He received a season-long suspension last year after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing drug.

    However, Clase could be launching a redemption tour. He has yet to give up an earned run and has 11 strikeouts in 8.1 innings. The 23-year-old ranks in the 94th percentile in average exit velocity and 97th percentile in chase rate. He follows a 100 mph cutter with a wipeout slider. That's…tough to hit.

    Cleveland's strength is in its pitching staff. That staff is even more deadly should Clase realize his potential as one of the best relievers in baseball.

Colorado Rockies: LHP Austin Gomber

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Austin Gomber is a building block by necessity. After all, he was essentially the centerpiece of the Nolan Arenado trade.

    Yet, it was the ensuing focus on Colorado paying down Arenado's salary that makes Gomber "unsung" in this case. The truth is, the left-hander's Rockies tenure is off to a decent start!

    Gomber has a 3.38 ERA in his first four starts. He is giving up just 4.2 hits per nine innings, though he has allowed 15 free passes in 21.1 innings.

    The 27-year-old showed good stuff in St. Louis last season. He has done so again thus far. The whiff rate isn't great, but Gomber has induced soft contact.

    Colorado has a real shortage of arm talent in its pipeline. But Gomber can give the Rockies a reason to be more encouraged with a strong showing in 2021.

Detroit Tigers: OF Akil Baddoo

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    Akil Baddoo practically became a cult hero in Detroit after a storybook start to the season. But the Rule 5 pick could very well be a key piece of the Tigers' future.

    Baddoo went through a 1-for-15 stretch from April 14 to April 18. However, it's important to remember this is a guy who had yet to play above High-A. He's going to take some lumps here and there.

    What's more encouraging is the slugging. Baddoo has 10 extra-base hits in 53 plate appearances, including four homers. The average exit velocity (88.3 mph) isn’t terribly encouraging, but the max exit velo (109.3 mph) and hard-hit rate (50 percent) are both more than respectable. The 22-year-old also ranks in the 95th percentile in sprint speed.

    Baddoo could be an emerging piece in Detroit's outfield picture, a group that eventually figures to include Riley Greene.

Houston Astros: RHP Cristian Javier

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    The Houston Astros have younger arms at the major league level. But there aren't a whole lot of premium pitchers in the pipeline. Forrest Whitley underwent Tommy John surgery after dealing with oblique issues earlier in his career.

    That means the aforementioned MLB arms need to get results. Framber Valdez was terrific last year, and this year might be Cristian Javier's turn to really break out. 

    We should clarify the second statement. Javier actually had a 3.48 ERA last season. He also ranked in the 90th percentile in hard-hit rate and 86th percentile in xwOBA. That said, Javier could be even better this year after seemingly unlocking his strikeout stuff.

    Javier has struck out 20 and given up just nine hits (two runs) in his first 13.2 innings. He has yet to allow a homer, an issue that plagued him a bit last season.

    The 24-year-old could play a major role in the future of the 'Stros rotation.

Kansas City Royals: RHP Jackson Kowar

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    Left-handers Daniel Lynch and Asa Lacy are the more high-profile pitching prospects in the Kansas City Royals system. That doesn't mean right-hander Jackson Kowar isn't an important part of the club's future.

    Kowar has a 3.50 ERA in 174.2 innings in the minors, including a 3.51 ERA in 13 starts at Double-A in 2019. The numbers are strong, and the stuff might be even better in terms of upside.

    The 24-year-old has a terrific changeup he can throw to right- and left-handed hitters. He complements that with a fastball that can get into the upper 90s.

    We've seen a number of pitchers have tremendous success with a good fastball-changeup combination, including future Hall of Famers like Max Scherzer as well as youngsters Ian Anderson and Sixto Sanchez. Kowar has a chance to be quite successful, particularly if his breaking ball develops into a plus offering.

Los Angeles Angels: RHP Chris Rodriguez

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    Ashley Landis/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian added some external pieces as part of this offseason's bullpen reclamation. The most notable find, though, has come from L.A.'s system.

    Right-hander Chris Rodriguez has been terrific for the Halos. The 22-year-old has 14 strikeouts in 10.1 innings, also getting plenty of weak contact and boasting a 64 percent ground-ball rate. His fastball gets unbelievable ride with good velocity. The curveball has the same release before falling off the planet.

    Rodriguez has wonderful stuff. Will he eventually be a starter? He began his professional career as a starter, though the Angels might want to see if he can stay fully healthy first. A stress fracture in his back limited him in 2018-19, but he was healthy at the alternate site last summer and is off to an excellent start thus far.

    The Coral Springs, Florida, native has the potential to be a real impact guy for the Angels, especially if he gets stretched out as a starter.

Los Angeles Dodgers: UT Zach McKinstry

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    The Los Angeles Dodgers almost always seem to hit with their young talent. Zach McKinstry's defensive versatility makes him that much more important to L.A. 

    McKinstry can play in the infield and has played in right during Cody Bellinger's extended absence. Sound familiar? Maybe like a guy already on this Dodgers roster?

    Indeed, McKinstry is akin to Chris Taylor as a utility man. Taylor's speed, slugging and ability to play multiple positions are all skills that have made him invaluable to the Dodgers through the years. McKinstry could be very similar.

    The soon-to-be 26-year-old is slashing .296/.328/.556 with three homers and 14 RBI. Opposing pitchers will undoubtedly start throwing him more off-speed and breaking balls. But McKinstry can make a lot of contact and has been terrific with runners in scoring position (.429 BA).

    Not all of L.A.'s utility guys pan out. Matt Beaty is one example. Still, McKinstry offers more upside because he can play up the middle or at the hot corner, in addition to the outfield.

Miami Marlins: LHP Trevor Rogers

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    Marta Lavandier/Associated Press

    The Miami Marlins' future is currently anchored to the rotation. Sixto Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez all made waves last season.

    Trevor Rogers struggled to make a name for himself as part of that rotation in 2020. That could not be further from the case so far this year.

    Rogers has been electric through his first four starts. He has a 1.64 ERA in 22.0 innings, striking out 31 and allowing just 4.9 hits per nine innings.

    The left-hander has given up some hard contact, ranking in the 19th percentile in average exit velocity and 23rd percentile in hard-hit rate. That said, the hard contact has practically been negated by the fact that Rogers ranks in the 94th percentile in whiff rate.

    The 23-year-old might not have generated the same preseason buzz as someone like Sanchez. But his stuff is every bit as exciting.

Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Freddy Peralta

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    Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are bona fide studs at the top of the Milwaukee Brewers rotation. Fans shouldn't sleep on Freddy Peralta, either. 

    The 24-year-old was mostly deployed out of the bullpen in 2020, posting a 3.99 ERA in 29.1 innings. But the peripherals suggested Peralta was better than the surface numbers. He struck out 47 and had a 2.41 fielding independent pitching mark (FIP).

    Well, it appears as though the peripherals are winning out early in 2021. Peralta has been terrific thus far, giving up just 13 hits and six runs in 22.0 innings. He ranks in the 73rd percentile or higher in both average exit velocity and hard-hit rate. The soft contact is made even better by the fact that Peralta ranks in the 98th percentile in whiff rate.

    Peralta's strikeout stuff is as good as any other starter's in the game. He should be a staple of the Brewers rotation for years to come.

Minnesota Twins: 1B Aaron Sabato

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    Aaron Sabato was the Minnesota Twins' first-round draft choice last summer. It would not be a big surprise to see him rise swiftly if he hits in the minors.

    For starters, the Twins are eventually going to demand more pop in the lineup. Nelson Cruz's future in Minnesota is somewhat uncertain after he agreed to another one-year deal this past offseason. The Twins have a club option on Miguel Sano in 2023, but injuries have plagued his career, and he is off to a horrific start this season after a somewhat lackluster showing in 2020.

    Sabato might play a role as the team's next slugger. He mashed 25 homers and had a 1.158 OPS in 368 career plate appearances at North Carolina.

New York Mets: 3B Brett Baty

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    The New York Mets seemed like candidates to possibly go after a third baseman this offseason. J.D. Davis has a good hit tool, but leaves a lot to be desired defensively. Instead, the Mets made the blockbuster deal for Francisco Lindor. 

    That's perfectly fine, considering the Mets have now locked up one of the best shortstops in the game and have a talented third baseman in the pipeline in Brett Baty.

    The 2019 first-round pick rose through three levels in his first professional season, hitting seven homers with an .821 OPS. He can hit with power to all fields and has an athletic build with a strong arm at the hot corner.

    Baty is just 21 years old and will certainly need some more experience in the minors. Still, he could be yet another impact left-handed bat in New York’s order in due time.

New York Yankees: RHP Luis Gil

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    Arm talent is becoming increasingly important for the New York Yankees as they figure out the best candidates to line up behind Gerrit Cole in the rotation. Right-hander Luis Gil has the power stuff to be an asset.

    Gil posted a 2.72 ERA in 20 starts across two levels of Class-A ball in 2019, striking out a whopping 123 batters in 96.0 innings with a .205 opponents' batting average. He has exceptional life with the fastball and a slider that could become a strikeout pitch. 

    As with most young pitchers, the question will be whether Gil can sort through command issues and hone his secondary pitches. If he can do those two things, his ceiling will be every bit as high as guys like Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia.

Oakland Athletics: UT Seth Brown

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    Seth Brown has a small MLB sample size, but it's a fairly impressive one.

    The Oakland Athletics utility man is slashing .272/.341/.465 with a 123 OPS+ in his first 126 plate appearances. He has been an imperative part of Oakland's turnaround, hitting .265 with three homers and a .901 OPS this season after putting up excellent slugging numbers in camp.

    Brown's advanced metrics suggest he is a legitimate bat. He has a max exit velo of 112.4 mph to go along with a hard-hit rate of 44 percent.

    Oakland could use Brown similarly to Mark Canha as a guy who can play the corner outfield spots or spell Matt Olson at first base, if need be. 

    Sure, Brown will be 29 in July. But he projects well as a potential bopper in the middle of Oakland's lineup.

Philadelphia Phillies: RHP Zach Eflin

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    Zach Eflin is sort of the third fiddle to Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. Yet he has been every bit as sharp in what is increasingly looking like a three-headed monster atop the Philadelphia Phillies rotation.

    Eflin has a 2.77 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in four starts. He has displayed excellent command, walking just two batters in 26.0 innings and recording 9.5 strikeouts per free pass.

    Now, the advanced numbers aren't terrific. Eflin has a 4.26 expected ERA (xERA) and has given up some hard contact. But he traditionally has been a guy to limit hard contact in his career. Additionally, Eflin could get more swing-and-miss action if his velocity starts to creep up once the weather gets warmer.

    Eflin only just turned 27 years old. He is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2022 but could be someone the Phils look to extend to maintain continuity in the rotation.

Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Bryan Reynolds

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    Bryan Reynolds made serious noise as an NL Rookie of the Year candidate in 2019, hitting .314 with 16 homers and an .880 OPS. He took a step back in 2020 (.632 OPS) but has gotten right back to work in 2021. 

    Reynolds is slashing .293/.391/.427 with a pair of homers and a 128 OPS+. He once again looks like the kind of young talent the Pittsburgh Pirates need early in their rebuild.

    The 26-year-old has benefited from some luck in terms of batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Still, Reynolds ranks in the 83rd percentile in xwOBA. He also ranks in the 91st percentile in max exit velocity, a clear suggestion his batted ball numbers could even out. Plus, his line-drive rate is up 6 percent from last season.

    Reynolds hits from both sides of the dish and ranks in the 84th percentile in sprint speed. He can offer the Pirates quite a bit in the coming years.

San Diego Padres: LHP Ryan Weathers

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    Joe Musgrove would probably be the easy answer here after his tremendous start to 2021. The San Diego Padres could very well pursue an extension with him in the near future. However, left-hander Ryan Weathers is doing his best to lay claim to a future rotation spot.

    Weathers has given up four hits and struck out 16 in 15.1 innings of work. He has immediately given the Friars a lift with Adrian Morejon undergoing Tommy John surgery and Dinelson Lamet suffering a setback in his first start.

    The 21-year-old Weathers was once regarded as the third man up in San Diego's system behind MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino. But Patino is now in Tampa Bay, and we have yet to see Gore. Weathers, meanwhile, has more than made the most of his early opportunity.

    San Diego has every reason to be elated about Weathers' performance and his future with the organization.

San Francisco Giants: LHP Seth Corry

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    The San Francisco Giants starting rotation has surprisingly been one of the best in baseball in the first few weeks of play.

    Still, it must be said that at least one of the team's starting arms could be on the move come July. All of Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood will be free agents at the end of the season. Johnny Cueto has a club option. Multiple arms could be dealt, depending on where the Giants stand at the deadline.

    That makes left-handed prospect Seth Corry a tremendously important figure.

    Corry is the top arm in San Francisco's system. The 22-year-old had a 1.76 ERA in 122.2 innings at Class-A ball in 2019, with 172 strikeouts and a .171 opponents' batting average. He already has three solid pitches with a curveball that dives below the knees.

    Corry has a solid baseline. He could continue to make strides with additional professional innings and a commitment to sharpening all the pitches in his arsenal.

Seattle Mariners: IF Ty France

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    Taylor Trammell might have been the headliner of the Austin Nola trade last summer, but it's Ty France who has the look of a real centerpiece for the Seattle Mariners.

    France hit .302 with an .815 OPS after coming to Seattle last season. He looks every bit as tremendous in 2021, slashing .320/.416/.533 with three homers and a 179 OPS+.

    The 26-year-old makes opposing pitchers work and challenge him in the zone. He gets the barrel through even when he does not make hard contact, ranking in the 80th percentile in barrel rate.

    Seattle has tons of young talent, notably reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis and Jarred Kelenic. But don't forget about France, who has the looks of an impact bat in that lineup.

St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Johan Oviedo

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    The St. Louis Cardinals might be calling on Johan Oviedo sooner rather than later.

    St. Louis' starting rotation ranks 23rd in ERA and 27th in xFIP. Additionally, Miles Mikolas is still out for the foreseeable future. The Redbirds could use some arm talent, and Oviedo could be the guy. 

    The right-hander got some work earlier this season, throwing 4.2 scoreless innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 11. He previously made his debut in 2020, making five starts. Those outings were less successful, as Oviedo had a 5.47 ERA in 24.2 innings. 

    Oviedo could certainly use some more work in the minors. He had a 5.65 ERA in 23 starts at Double-A in 2019. But St. Louis' willingness to incorporate young arms and give them work bodes well for his growth.

    Matthew Liberatore and Zack Thompson define the arms in the Cardinals pipeline. But keep an eye on Oviedo, both this season and in the years to come.

Tampa Bay Rays: LHP Josh Fleming

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Rays are another team with a need for starting pitching. Josh Fleming has helped fill the void. 

    Fleming appeared in seven games (five starts) in 2020, posting a 2.78 ERA in 32.1 innings. He is having more success in 2021, giving up six hits and just one earned run in 10.1 innings. This comes after a tremendous spring in which Fleming threw 8.2 scoreless innings and allowed just three hits.

    The 24-year-old is more of a finesse arm. But he has excelled at getting soft contact thus far. Fleming ranks in the 89th percentile in average exit velocity and 91st percentile in hard-hit rate. He deploys the sinker and changeup to get ground balls, also running cutters in on right-handers.

    Fleming might not be the projectable power arm of a Luis Patino or Shane McClanahan. Still, he is every bit as important to the future of this pitching staff and might in fact offer some necessary variety with his finesse style.

Texas Rangers: 1B Nate Lowe

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    The Texas Rangers acquired Nate Lowe from the Tampa Bay Rays this past offseason in hopes he could finally be the sort of power-hitting first baseman they have been longing for.

    Lowe has shown very encouraging signs in that regard.

    The 25-year-old was red-hot to start the season, with three homers and 14 RBI through just five games. He promptly went through an 0-for-17 spell, with eight strikeouts in that stretch. But Lowe has not only rebounded; he has also seemed to make adjustments at the dish.

    Lowe has drawn five walks in his last four games. He is striking out less in the past week-plus, which bodes quite well for his growth. In fact, Lowe now ranks in the 86th percentile in chase rate, though he is still in the 35th percentile in whiff rate.

    The batted-ball numbers are pretty strong. Lowe ranks in the 84th percentile in barrel rate. He is also in the 94th percentile in max exit velocity.

    It was hardly the most high-profile move of the offseason, but the Lowe acquisition could be an important one for the Rangers.

Toronto Blue Jays: RHP Alek Manoah

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    Nate Pearson is the most heralded pitching prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays system. Simeon Woods Richardson is building a reputation after coming over in the Marcus Stroman deal.

    But Alek Manoah, the team's first-round pick in 2019, is another arm of major consequence when it comes to the future of Toronto's rotation.

    The 23-year-old has good life with his fastball and is making gains with his secondary pitches. He can repeat his delivery and has fairly strong command. Manoah had a 2.65 ERA in six starts at Low-A ball in 2019 and struck out 15 (with just one hit allowed) in 7.0 innings during spring training.

    Toronto is "encouraged by some physical strides" the big righty has made since 2020, per He figures to garner even more buzz should he excel with more minor league innings under his belt.

    Who knows, maybe the Blue Jays would even fast-track Manoah to the bigs if they like what they see and need rotation help.

Washington Nationals: OF Jeremy De La Rosa

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    The Washington Nationals have one of the game's premier young stars in Juan Soto. Shortstop Trea Turner is one of the best at his position. Outside of those two, however, there aren't many "building block" types.

    Washington was likely hoping Victor Robles could be that guy. But he has failed to make strides at the plate. Carter Kieboom has not made the most of his opportunities. Cade Cavalli and Jackson Rutledge are obvious choices as the team's top two prospects and vital arm talents.

    With that in mind, 19-year-old Jeremy De La Rosa is a toolsy outfielder to watch in the Nats system. He already has 26 Gulf Coast League games on his resume—slashing .232/.343/.366 in that stint—and spent time at the alternate site last season. 

    De La Rosa is on the slender side, but he can generate good bat speed and could develop more power if he puts on some muscle. He also can run and field much like someone who will be a future center fielder.

    Cultivating strong position talent is going to be imperative for the Nats in the coming years. They appear to have no reservations about pushing De La Rosa's timetable.


    All stats obtained via Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, FanGraphs or unless otherwise noted. Stats are accurate prior to the start of play on April 25.