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Heading into the summer months, certain prospects are following suit and heating up, yet they remain firmly under the radar.

Fortunately, we’re back to the Command + Control list to analyze prospects who may not be featured on any Top 100 lists but are well worth your consideration in dynasty leagues. If you missed the debut edition of this list, our directive is to point readers towards players of the undervalued or underknown ilk who could hit the fantasy scene in a meaningful way. By highlighting them in a chart and keeping track of how strongly I would pursue them, we can build a database of the players I feel are worth targeting over this season and beyond. Of course, elements of my own whimsy and logic (substandard or not) will inevitably work their way into the process. You’re welcome?

However, before we dive into the meat of the list for this month, we need to handle some matters of housekeeping.

First and foremost, I have decided each group of players (IE AA batter, AAA pitcher) is allowed four players on the leaderboard at any point. Prospect promotions to a higher level would indicate a player should be removed from the list apart from particularly extenuating circumstances. The new and improved restrictions on the C+C Leaderboard will take effect this month.

Of course, players will still be subject to removal and replacement from the list based upon poor performances – and speaking of which, there are a few to discuss and wave goodbye (for now?) to.

REMOVED FROM THE LIST:

To fill out the list in our premier edition, I added players we did not talk about in the article proper. San Diego’s Joshua Mears and Baltimore’s Yusniel Diaz are two examples of this practice.

Finally, Detroit’s Alex Faedo and Baltimore’s Kyle Bradish are both being removed from our discussions as they’re playing in the major leagues currently. If they were to return to the minors, I would probably be interested in tracking/rostering Faedo, while Bradish has appeared outmatched in some starts, with K upside at other times. As they are, I’ll probably (reluctantly) roll out Bradish with the right matchup in leagues I could use strikeouts, while being marginally more liberal deploying Faedo.

A Hitter – Jeremy De La Rosa, WAS

It feels moot to say, but Jordan Lawlar is not only exceptional but a bit too on-the-radar for our purposes here. Similarly, Pete Crow-Armstrong was deemed as being ‘right on the line’ by not only myself but podcasting partner Peyton Skinner, so I shall abstain from selecting him, too.

Our choice for A-ball hitter is none other than 20-year-old outfielder Jeremy De La Rosa of the Washington Nationals.

Thus far, the second time around the league with the FredNats appears to be doing a world of good for the toolsy JDLR: in roughly half the games, he’s raised his batting average over .120 points, swiped more than double the bags he did a year ago, and is striking out over 10% less, as well.

De La Rosa’s walk rate is lower than the league average, and his BABIP indicates he may be “running hot,” but the ISO metric indicates his power is at a career-best level. This is a perfect example of a player with plenty of tools, none particularly more impressive than the rest, but with lots of avenues towards being a major league-level contributor.

As he is currently, I can definitely project De La Rosa as a stolen base threat in the major leagues but finding a way to use more of his plus-ish raw power would develop him into a more balanced contributor across the categories of our game.

With De La Rosa on our board, I should note our complete crop of A-hitters include last month’s selection, Adael Amador (still impressive, just not as much so), honorable mention Emmanuel Rodriguez (possibly the hitting prospect of the year thus far, walking a ton, getting on base and contributing in nearly every category), and newcomer Edwin Arroyo (eight homers and steals, 67 combined R+RBI, barely walking).

A Pitcher – Andrew Painter, PHI

Hello, my name is Drew, and it’s been one month since I last spoke about Andrew Painter in a written article. In the time since we last spoke, Painter, the player currently atop the C+C Leaderboard, has seen his K-rate decrease by 20%, his WHIP increase by 0.36, and his swinging-strike-rate fall by four percent. Aghast! What misfortune hath mine affirmative words wrought?!

So, what happened?

For starters, Painter’s start on May 14 against the Dayton Tortugas marked the first three runs the right-hander has allowed in his professional career; as the fourth inning began, Painter allowed a single, then punched out his sixth batter of the day (Austin Hendrick). After walking the bases loaded, Painter hit Michel Triana to bring a run home via HPB. Steven Leyton singled to score another pair, ending Painter’s day earlier than expected. On the positive side, Painter tallied 13 swings-and-misses over his 3.2 innings and registered a 30% CSW for the day, including a downright nasty 28% mark for his four-seam fastball, which averaged 96.9 MPH through the day.

The story was much different outwardly on May 28 against the Jupiter Hammerheads, as Painter hurled six innings of three-run (one earned) ball. Jose Salas led off with a triple, then Ian Lewis’ sacrifice fly brought in Painter’s singular earned run of the day. After escaping the first inning, Painter retired six straight, including five of his seven on the day via punch-out. Despite giving up four hits and limiting the damage to his name, Painter’s inward numbers were more like those from the May 14 start: 12 swing-and-misses, 32% CSW, and a 35% mark for the 4SFB, which averaged 96.6 MPH.

Still, though, there were a few too many pitches high out of the strike zone. After noticing it a second time, I find it hard not to repeat my initial concern: are these pitches falsely boosting his CSW% by being thrown to untested batters hacking at exaggerated velo? While last month I was alright accepting the positive results and ignoring the red flags, minute as they may have been, after giving up some runs and revealing himself to be – gulp – human…I’m only marginally more concerned for the future. This is far from the ‘catastrophic May’ I said would cost his continued ascent and as such, I’m still buying.

Painter’s contemporaries from A-ball pitching on our list include Tink Hence (a pair of three-inning starts leaves so very much to be excited about, including ridiculous strikeout potential), Mason Black (extremely consistent and keeping runs off the board through eight starts), and a favorite of mine from the 2021 draft class, Shane Panzini (only one start of four innings, four strikeouts, no walks, 66.7% groundballs, and a 62.1% strike rate).

High-A Hitter – Ceddanne Rafaela, BOS

There’s been much ado about Ceddanne Rafaela this season – and for good reason, as well. Chances are, you’ve read about Rafaela in some short bursts on Twitter in the spring, and I won’t spend our time telling you anything those much smarter than me have already told you.

The 21-year-old Red Sox prospect has burst onto the scene and into the collective attention of the prospecting world at large with a 145.21 wRC+ campaign two months into the season.

Rafaela’s amassed 24 extra-base hits, nine of which were home runs on a .316 batting average. His .381 BABIP would lead you to believe he’s been a bit lucky thus far, but the results are there to back up the sudden jump in production. Thus far, Rafaela has 35 runs, 30 RBI, 11 stolen bases, and a .573 slugging percentage, all of which are either career marks or on-pace to be.

The contact skills have been credited throughout his career, but Rafaela’s power has seemingly manifested to the tune of high career-highest ISO, while keeping his walk (4.9%) and strikeout (24.2%) rates within reasonable ranges, as well.

Rafaela is slight of build, so I don’t know how much more power can be added to his frame as he continues to age, but as he is, I see a great lottery ticket to monitor against higher-level pitching.

Last month’s selection from High-A, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, has played admirably through May but was notably less impressive than not only Rafaela but the other two members of the group of hitters from the level. Elly De La Cruz (9.2 speed rating, 11 SB, considerable power potential) garnered a heap of attention this preseason, but I would still label him as being ‘underknown’ enough to qualify for our list. The final member of the group is Orioles prospect Coby Mayo (10 HR, .237 AVG) has potential and is putting up counting stats but could stand to improve his plate discipline to truly break out.

High-A Pitcher – Gordon Graceffo, STL

The high-A pitching class remains a challenge to narrow down, as the crop of arms was just as tricky to choose a representative for as it was in April. Rising from our honorable mentions mix and into the spotlight for the month, Gordon Graceffo is a player who admittedly deserved more than the blip of content he received in our debut edition of C+C.

In his first season since being drafted out of Villanova, the 22-year-old Graceffo has made eight starts of tremendous value. The prototypically framed right-hander (6’4, 210 lbs) has a sub-one ERA (0.99), a 0.68 WHIP, 1.78 FIP, and 56 strikeouts to accompany his 43.1% groundball rate.

After topping out at 98 in college and his first few games under the Cardinals banner, Graceffo emerged as a ‘darling’ of the St. Louis Spring Training circuit with a fastball he could command at 100 MPH to go with his curveball, a slider with strong break, and a still-developing changeup.

Graceffo is being encouraged to press through the Cardinals system and, as of this writing, has moved to AA – which will be a much-needed test for the right-hander. I am curious to see how higher-level hitters will handle the significant velocity and need to take the time to watch some footage to see how it plays in the zone, as well. Regardless, this is an advanced, college arm in an organization that has shown a talent for developing pitching prospects, so I feel Graceffo is a comfortable “buy” in deep prospect leagues, and a watch-list staple (with a shot for more) for all teams with minor leaguers in the mix.

Rounding off the High-A pitching corps are Kyle Harrison (admittedly toeing the line of ‘too well known,’ but his results are mind-bogglingly sexy with an 18.31 K/9 – that’s 59 punch-outs in 29 innings!), Ricky Tiedemann (19 years old, striking out batters and still working on his command against players nearly three years his senior on average), and Royber Salinas (Ludicrous, downright ignorant strikeout numbers – 74 in 34.2?! – and an acceptable LOB% are palatable as-is, but his BABIP indicates his walk and run numbers may be a little exaggerated).

AA Hitter – Esteury Ruiz, SDP

Esteury Ruiz is still running.

Since we last spoke, Ruiz has upped his stolen base total by 55% in 92 more at-bats to a grand total of 31. In case you’re unaware, this kind of speed is legitimately game-changing and certainly represents the ‘stolen base threat’ likelihood I discussed in April.

Ruiz’s plate discipline has slacked slightly, though his 14.6 BB% and 17.1 K% are still quite palatable in the grand scheme of things. The batting average has dipped, as predicted, and his BABIP is now at .397, as well – all signs of the regression we expected to occur in April.

Still, though, 23 XBH, 46 R, and 31 RBI are hardly numbers to sneeze at, and his 9.28 speed score is a further indication this is an exceptional player well worth monitoring. I am more impressed the longer I investigate Esteury Ruiz, and somehow see very little of his name among prospect circles. This is a prime buying opportunity.

Moises Gomez made a very strong case for consideration in this place, as he’s made his age 23 season his strongest yet: his 17 home runs, .336 average, 1.176 OPS, .440 ISO, and 180.08 wRC+ are all marks within the 90th percentile in AA. Still, AA hitters will likely have a makeover in the coming June edition of C+C, but for the moment and barring any unseen outbursts of talent or production, the rest of the quartet of AA batters are Jacob Amaya (23-years-old, LAD, 12.3% K-rate, 1.046 OPS) and Trey Cabbage (25-years-old, LAA, .327 average, 181.79 wRC+).

AA Pitcher – Andrew Abbott, CIN

A relatively new addition to the AA pitching ranks, Andrew Abbott earns our spotlight for the month by virtue of the successes I expect from him moving forwards.

Abbott, a crafty, gamer lefty from the University of Virginia was Cincinnati’s second-round selection in 2021 after emerging from the collegiate bullpen ranks and cementing himself as a viable starting pitcher through the 2021 ACC slate and beyond. After being drafted, Abbott was unfairly labeled as not having the stamina to withstand a full season of starting and seemingly faced a pair of options for his major-league career: develop more velocity on his low-90s fastball and become a more traditional high-leverage relief weapon or encourage the development of his secondary pitches to protect himself and have more options against batters as a starting pitcher.

Thus far, the 23-year-old’s response to his new level has been mostly positive; making three starts for the Chattanooga Lookouts (represent the great state of Tennessee), Abbott blanked the Mississippi Braves for 5.2 with 12 strikeouts, then had a stumble against the Smokies (4 IP, 1 K, 3 ER) before rebounding against Birmingham (5 IP, 3 ER, 6 K, but a season-high 3 BB.)

His curveball is his most regularly used secondary, but the most improved pitch in his arsenal is the changeup, which is biting more consistently and makes both the fastball and the 12-6 curve more effective by association. As I believe he will rise to the challenge of the AA level through the rest of the season, Abbott is a player I definitely want to monitor going forwards, and advise you to do the same. Should his control improve, and the secondary pitches continue to develop, the Reds may have another pitcher in the mold of Nick Lodolo before long. Any additional velocity would simply be buttercream.

Okay, fine, I know I said the High-A pitching crop was the toughest of the lot, but the AA arms may just have them beat – Wilmer Flores (advancing from High-A this month and still looking just as effective as a starter as last month; 15.21 K% and 52.6 GB% on the season), Brandon Walter (silly 68 K in 50 IP, already advancing to the AAA level next month and leaving the rest of Boston’s prospect arms in his dust), and Michael McGreevy (stumbling slightly since advancing to the level, but still walking so few batters and allowing hardly any home runs this season) make up the talented bunch.

AAA Hitter – David MacKinnon, LAA

Allow me first to say, David MacKinnon is 27 years old.

I’m far from ageist, especially in fantasy baseball terms, but in AAA, a 27-year-old should probably be raking, right? Thankfully, MacKinnon took this to heart over the season and has notched a 15.8% walk rate versus a 15.2% strikeout rate, in addition to a bevy of excellent helpings for the stat sheet.

MacKinnon’s season through 128 AB features 10 HR, 19 XBH, 29 R, 29 RBI, a .313 average, 1.051 OPS, and .320 ISO for a 155.56 wRC+. His hitting has been consistent through his minor league career, never holding a full-season strikeout rate over 20.4% while keeping a walk rate above 12.2%, as well. BABIP indicates there’s really no dramatic drop-off in store for MacKinnon, either – this seems like a late-career breakout to me. Drafted as a 22-year-old from Hartford College in the 32nd round to the Angels, MacKinnon has been working his way through the system and has finally amassed a star-studded season worthy of big-league consideration.

Moving forward, I expect the Angels to run into injuries here and there, but what exactly would stop them from pulling a more highly regarded prospect instead of MacKinnon? After all – the exact thing happened with Jo Adell. Maybe there’s something under the hood I’m missing, or maybe this is just what it seems – a 27-year-old bullying AAA, a Quad-A player if ever there were one, not being given the chance to break out and into the show. Time will tell.

The 25-year-old David Villar takes Yusniel’s Diaz’ spot in the AAA hitter group with a 14-homer, 162.79 wRC+ campaign. Nolan Gorman’s promotion to St. Louis leaves him on our list, but ineligible for placement and point allocation, but I am pleased to see him adjusting to the best collection of pitchers in all the world while still getting to his trademark power at the plate. Stone Garrett (26 years old, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 1.019 OPS, 145.28 wRC+) is probably at risk moving forwards, but his hot April gave me pause to cutting him from the list in favor of either Spencer Steer or Vinnie Pasquantino (just missed and too well-known, respectively).

AAA Pitcher – Ken Waldichuk, NYY

Sometimes, a player just makes sense to you. Ken Waldichuk is one such player for me.

After following the 24-year-old last season in his ascent through High-A and AA, I can say with no hesitation that “the Chukker” was absolutely dominant.

To kick off his 2022 campaign, Waldichuk was assigned to a second stint in AA-Somerset and quickly grew bored with his prey, starting six games and going an average of 5 IP while striking out 41.1% of the batters he faced and boasting a 51% groundball rate.

As has become his custom, the left-hander practically demanded a promotion with his ascendency and has made a pair of AAA starts – predictably, the Chukker has struck out 16 while allowing a pair of runs.

In contrast to another prospect pitching favorite, Hunter Greene, Waldichuk has a fastball that has previously been described as “perfect.” The four-seam offering is flat, heavy, and seems to race across the zone with horizontal movement. The 6’4, 220-pound left-hander’s delivery is whippy, with an exaggerated left-leg follow-through, and it also contributes to how well the fastball plays.

Many (frankly, too many) will argue that a player with Waldichuk’s delivery and mechanics are indicative of a future in the bullpen, but I’ll say it a hundred million times, or until it stops happening – why argue with success? Why is ‘different’ automatically ‘bad?’ This is a starting pitcher – and for my money, a really good one. The four-pitch mix is strong, with a low-80s changeup accenting the four-seamer and another pair of breaking balls. I’m not saying Waldichuk will make the major league club before the end of the season, but I’m also not saying I’m not planning for it, either.

Our old friend Nick Vespi earned a call-up! Did you know? I’m assuming you did not. Nick Vespi is very good. The other members of our AAA pitching quartet are Bailey Falter and JP Sears, one of whom has been very impressive in his major league time (Sears) and the other, who has been…disappointing. Unfortunately for Grayson Rodriguez, who is not only too well-known for this exercise but has added ‘injured’ to his list of issues with the Command + Control leaderboard. Get well soon, G-Rod, everybody misses you.

The Leaderboard

Player Team LVL Age Entry YTD PTS MAY PTS MAY RNK Total PTS OVR RNK
Andrew Painter PHI A 19 APR 5 4 3 9 1
Esteury Ruiz SDP AA 23 APR 3 5 2 8 2
(MLB) Nolan Gorman STL AAA 22 APR 5 0 10 5 3
Adael Amador COL A 19 APR 4 1 9 5 3
Christian Encarnacion-Strand MIN A+ 22 APR 4 1 9 5 3
Gordon Graceffo STL A+ 22 APR 1 4 4 5 3
Ken Waldichuk NYY AAA 24 MAY 0 5 1 5 3
Brandon Walter BOS AA 25 APR 3 1 9 4 8
Ceddanne Rafaela BOS A+ 21 APR 1 3 6 4 8
Wilmer Flores DET A+ (AA) 21 APR 2 1 9 3 10
Andrew Abbott CIN AA 23 MAY 0 3 5 3 10
(MLB) Nick Vespi BAL AAA 26 APR 2 0 10 2 13
David MacKinnon LAA AAA 27 MAY 0 2 7 2 13
Stone Garrett ARI AAA 26 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Jacob Amaya LAD AA 23 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Moises Gomez STL AA 23 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Trey Cabbage LAA AA 25 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Michael McGreevy STL A+ (AA) 21 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Royber Salinas ATL A (A+) 21 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Emmanuel Rodriguez MIN A 19 APR 1 1 9 2 13
Jeremy De La Rosa WAS A 20 MAY 0 2 8 2 13
Bailey Falter PHI AAA 25 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
David Villar SFG AAA 25 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
JP Sears NYY AAA 26 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Coby Mayo BAL A+ 20 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Elly De La Cruz CIN A+ 20 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Kyle Harrison SFG A+ 20 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Ricky Tiedemann TOR A+ 19 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Edwin Arroyo SEA A 18 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Mason Black SFG A 22 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Shane Panzini KCR A 20 MAY 0 1 9 1 22
Tink Hence STL A 19 MAY 0 1 9 1 22

(Writer’s Note: The data and figures compiled here are reflective of the Minor League Baseball season to May 27, 2022.)

 

Hey buuuuu-ddy! Thanks so much for reading. If you liked this or got some food for thought, please consider dropping me some props on Twitter @drewisokay or follow me there for some more cool prospect tips and thoughts. If you wanna talk dynasty or prospects with me and the entire awesome crew of writers here at SP Streamer, you should consider a membership with SP Streamer Elite – but I’ll let the website tell you all about that!

Drew Wheeler

Drew Wheeler

Drew is many things, the most pertinent of which is 'okay.' Additionally, he is a husband, friend, Dachshund-dad, and fantasy baseball champion peddling his carefully-crafted opinions to the masses with a chaser of bad jokes. Follow him on Twitter @drewisokay for baseball, professional wrestling, and Survivor opinions galore.

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