Bryan Woo has been a useful prospect call-up who never got a chance to appear in my Five on the Verge. Perhaps his replacement, Emerson Hancock, can follow in his footsteps.
Hancock will indeed make his major-league debut Wednesday, taking the place of the injured Woo, who recently hit the IL with forearm inflammation. He's a better-known prospect than Woo was, being the sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft, but whether he's a better pitcher remains to be seen.
It's fair to say he hasn't lived up to the expectations established by his draft slot. His minor-league numbers have been solid, but they got a little worse with each passing season. The strikeout and walk rates were never quite up to snuff either.
His 4.32 ERA at Double-A Arkansas this year doesn't tell the whole story, though. He got off to a crummy start but has enjoyed one of the best stretches of his minor-league career since then, putting together a 2.97 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 8.9 K/9 in 10 starts, one of which was a nine-run disaster. Take it out, and his ERA during that stretch drops to 1.61.
Some other interesting details from that 10-start stretch are the 68 percent strike rate, demonstrating improved control, and the 14 percent swinging-strike rate, demonstrating better bat-missing ability than the strikeouts themselves would suggest.
So maybe there is more upside here than meets the eye. My expectation for Hancock, though, is that he'll be more of a stabilizer than a standout, working deep into games and giving his team a chance to win most nights. How many nights will he actually get? The Mariners aren't anticipating a long absence for Woo, so it may amount to just a couple turns. If Hancock delivers, though, he might convince them to go six-man for a while.
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Five on the verge
(These are the prospects most worth stashing in redraft leagues.)
Jonathan Aranda, 2B, Rays
2022 minors: .318 BA (403 AB), 18 HR, .915 OPS, 45 BB, 100 K
2023 minors: .332 BA (337 AB), 20 HR, 1.019 OPS, 60 BB, 84 K
After Aranda's batting average peaked at .349 in late July, it's (gasp!) all the way down to .332 now, which is to say still nothing short of spectacular. The Rays ended up moving Kyle Manzardo at the deadline instead of Aranda, which means the 25-year-old remains in limbo, unable to break into a lineup that already has too many hitters like him.
It was discouraging to see Curtis Mead get the call instead over the weekend, though his right-handedness surely played a factor on a team that loves its platoons. He's not expected to stick around for long anyway. The fact remains that an injury to any of Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe, Luke Raley or Joshua Lowe opens a crack for Aranda, and once he breaks through it, he may never look back.
Michael Busch, 2B, Dodgers
2022 minors: .274 BA (552 AB), 32 HR, .881 OPS, 74 BB, 167 K
2023 minors: .321 BA (315 AB), 20 HR, 1.029 OPS, 53 BB, 77 K
As with Aranda, I had hoped the Dodgers would dangle the 25-year-old Busch at the deadline, but alas, he's left to brutalize Triple-A pitching, which he has done to the tune of a .400 (26 for 65) batting average and seven home runs over his past 14 games. He has 13 home runs in 32 games since his last big-league stint, which probably means he's due for another, but rather than moving him at the deadline, the Dodgers saw fit to block him several times over, acquiring infielders Amed Rosario and Enrique Hernandez. So why do I still have Busch as one of the top prospects to stash? Because for all of the Dodgers' excess infielders, none (excluding Freddie Freeman, of course) can do what he can do with the bat. If they pull away in the NL West, surely they'll want to try him out for the playoff run. Or maybe J.D. Martinez's hamstring injury will be the ticket.
Ronny Mauricio, SS, Mets
2022 minors: .259 BA (509 AB), 26 HR, 20 SB, .768 OPS, 24 BB, 125 K
2023 minors: .287 BA (414 AB), 17 HR, 19 SB, .819 OPS, 25 BB, 83 K
The jettisoning of Mark Canha and Tommy Pham at the trade deadline seemed to clear the way for Mauricio in left field, a position he had been playing more regularly at Triple-A, but a report came out soon afterward suggesting that the Mets don't view him as big league-ready yet. First of all, they can't say he's ready and then refuse to call him up, so like, what else are they going to say? Secondly, no sooner did a struggling Brett Baty get sent down than a report came out saying Mauricio would get more reps at third base.
It seems like the Mets are preparing to play him wherever makes the most sense once late August rolls around. Why wait until then? Because if they preserve his rookie status for next year and he turns out to be one of the best rookies, they have a chance to score an extra draft pick. This late in the year, with a playoff spot out of reach, there's no harm in waiting a little longer. Of course, it's worth noting that for all of the hand-wringing over his promotion, he's batting just .226 (45 for 199) since June 1, but the underlying data remains strong.
Masyn Winn, SS, Cardinals
2022 minors: .283 BA (474 AB), 12 HR, 43 SB, .832 OPS, 63 BB, 115 K
2023 minors: .284 BA (426 AB), 17 HR, 17 SB, .822 OPS, 41 BB, 78 K
I'm not the only one pointing out that teams are better off waiting until late August to promote their top prospects if they've already waited this long. Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently did the same. True, Winn is currently nursing a strained glute that renders the point moot, but it's more of a day-to-day issue than something that threatens to shut him down for the year.
The 21-year-old has an even better chance of placing high in Rookie of the Year voting next year than Mauricio does, given the highlight-reel plays he's capable of making with his 80-grade arm. He's turned out to be a pretty good hitter, too, cutting down on his strikeouts this year while continuing to build on his power breakthrough of a year ago. Over his past 24 games, he's batting .364 (36 for 99) with nine homers, three steals and an 1.191 OPS. There was a time when he looked like he might be a defensive-minded shortstop, but I now have some hope of him being a Randy Arozarena-caliber hitter.
Matt Mervis, 1B, Cubs
2023 majors: .167 BA (90 AB), 3 HR, .531 OPS, 8 BB, 32 K
2023 minors: .294 BA (218 AB), 12 HR, .951 OPS, 46 BB, 53 K
The Cubs ended up being buyers rather than sellers at the trade deadline, which means a couple different things as far as Mervis is concerned. One is that Jeimer Candelario has joined Cody Bellinger as a potential obstacle at first base. The other is that the Cubs are in no position to let Mervis take his lumps, not as they move ever closer to chasing down the Brewers in the NL Central. Of course, there may come a point when they see his bat as a potential boon rather than a hindrance, but that point doesn't appear to be on the horizon even as he continues to produce at Triple-A Iowa. So why call him a stash here? The fifth spot came down to him and Heston Kjerstad, who himself is pretty well blocked in Baltimore.
Five on the periphery
(Here are some other prospects doing something of note.)
Xavier Edwards, 2B, Marlins
2023 majors: 8 for 21, 1 2B, 1 SB, 0 BB, 4 K
2023 minors: .374 BA (310 AB), 6 HR, 30 SB, .926 OPS, 40 BB, 19 K
Throughout his journey from the Padres system to the Rays to the Marlins, Edwards has profiled as a slap-hitting speedster who would have to deliver a high batting average to play a substantial major-league role. Is, uh, .374 high enough? He's gone into overdrive with a .667 (20 for 30) batting average here in August, his 6-for-6 performance Sunday being a highlight, and given his five percent strikeout rate and 60-grade speed, it's not unthinkable he could have a stretch like that.
Seeing as Edwards is a second baseman in the Marlins organization with a batting average in the .370s, the easiest comp would be Luis Arraez, but when you factor in the speed, he also invites comparisons to a former Marlins second baseman, Luis Castillo. Of course, Nick Madrigal is another possible outcome -- perhaps the more likely one -- but the whole point of prospects is to dream bg, right?
Ceddanne Rafaela, OF, Red Sox
2022 minors: .299 BA (481 AB), 21 HR, 28 SB, .880 OPS, 26 BB, 113 K
2023 minors: .303 BA (379 AB), 17 HR, 33 SB, .867 OPS, 21 BB, 87 K
It's pretty amazing that Rafaela had just one home run as late as May 24. It took 36 games for him to hit his second, and by that point, some prospect hounds had begun to write him off as a one-year wonder. Now, he's up to 17, having homered in five consecutive games to begin August, and just like that, his overall numbers are almost identical to those from his breakout 2022, having only gotten better since his move up to Triple-A in late June. He's not a particularly disciplined hitter, but he brings a varied enough skill set to overcome a low on-base percentage. His best tool remains his defense, which gives him a chance of being the player so many hoped Cristian Pache would be back when he was a consensus top-15 prospect.
Ricky Tiedemann, SP, Blue Jays
2022 minors: 5-4, 2.17 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 78 2/3 IP, 29 BB, 117 K
2023 minors: 0-1, 3.05 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 20 2/3 IP, 8 BB, 41 K
The forgotten of the three 19-year-old hurlers who rocketed all the way to Double-A last year (Eury Perez and Andrew Painter being the others), Tiedemann has been sidelined most of this year with biceps inflammation. Suffice it to say the Blue Jays have taken a better-safe-than-sorry approach with him, but he's finally back, having made two rehab starts at Low-A, and ... wow, does he look good. He's thrown six innings in all, allowing one hit and striking out 15. I've noticed that some prospect rankers are quick to bail on a pitcher at the first hint of injury, but I still had Tiedemann 14th overall in my , including third among all pitchers. I'm feeling even better about that now.
Jasson Dominguez, OF, Yankees
2022 minors: .273 BA (451 AB), 16 HR, 37 SB, .836 OPS, 72 BB, 128 K
2023 minors: .243 BA (375 AB), 13 HR, 33 SB, .756 OPS, 72 BB, 118 K
Dominguez has been the Ben Affleck of prospects, fluctuating wildly between American treasure and general laughingstock. First, he was the next Mike Trout. Then, he was the world's biggest bust. Then, he was pretty good after all, and then a bust again earlier this year. Now -- surprise, surprise -- he's back on the upswing, batting .355 (38 for 107) with three homers and 11 steals over his past 25 games. Perhaps the most encouraging stat of all is that he's striking out 19.2 percent of the time during that stretch, down from 28.7 percent previously. Could it simply be that he's a 20-year-old who was pushed aggressively to Double-A at the earliest sign of promise and needed some time to adjust? Could it simply be that Ben Affleck is a very good director but a so-so actor? These are fair questions.
Justice Bigbie, OF, Tigers
2022 minors: .269 BA (361 AB), 3 HR, 21 2B, .727 OPS, 30 BB, 95 K
2023 minors: .355 BA (287 AB), 14 HR, 20 2B, .994 OPS, 26 BB, 49 K
Bigbie's .333 batting average and .944 OPS at High-A earlier this year was easy to dismiss as a 24-year-old teeing off on inexperienced pitchers, but he has now officially spent the majority of his season at Double-A and has done even better there. With four more hits Tuesday, he's batting .376 (56 for 149) at a level where it's hard to fake that sort of production. He may be a little too ground ball-oriented and opposite field-minded to put up big power numbers, especially at Comerica Park, but it's clear he has something to offer offensively.