Fantasy baseball prospect watch: Joey Loperfido, Colson Montgomery, and more

We heard the names in spring training. We’ve seen the buzz around the blue-chip prospects who have been called up. Sometimes they work well early — Toronto’s Yariel Rodriguez has struck out 13 in 7 2/3 IP and is still only on 21% of rosters in Yahoo leagues — and other times they don’t — Jack Leiter gave up seven runs over 3.2 IP in his debut and was sent back down to AAA the following day.

Even the most hyped prospects can join the big club and be an early fugazi for a fantasy baseball manager. Keith Law’s top prospect Jackson Holliday is 1-for-30 so far in Baltimore and his roster percentage is dropping (he’s down to 78% in Yahoo) as fantasy managers don’t feel like waiting around to see him make the necessary adjustments.

So what do we do? Sally forth. Here’s a quick update on five prospects who obviously have the talent — and may soon get the opportunity.

Note: I’m using Yahoo for roster percentages. There are going to be a few pretty significant differences if you play on CBS/ESPN (for instance, Rodriguez is on 42% of CBS rosters), but Yahoo, I’ve found, is a solid middle ground for a general look at rosterships. 

Marcelo Mayer, SS, Boston Red Sox

Trevor Story is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery and the fill-ins up the middle in Beantown have left a lot to be desired. Alex Cora is using a mix of David Hamilton, the newly locked-up Ceddanne Rafaela, and Enmanuel Valdez, all of whom are hitting below the Mendoza line.

Mayer (4% rostered), who was the No. 4 pick in 2021 and our No. 8 rated prospect overall, has gotten off to a good start, hitting .314 in AA with the Portland Sea Dogs. He also has speed and has yet to make an error this season in the minors. Mayer has missed significant time due to injury the last two years, but he’s healthy now and making the most of it. The fact that Vaughn Grissom is playing 2B during his rehab assignment further suggests that the Red Sox see Mayer as the SS of the future, and the future could come sooner than originally expected.

Joey Loperfido, 1B/OF, Houston Astros

The Astros have been one of the more disappointing teams this season and find themselves in the AL West basement, below even the Oakland A’s! José Abreu certainly hasn’t helped matters, hitting just .068 with 0 HRs and 1 RBI in 18 games — looking nothing like the 2020 AL MVP (but very much like his 2023 version).

Meanwhile, Joey Loperfido (12% rostered on Yahoo) may be the best power hitter in all of minor league baseball. He’s near the top of MiLB with 10 HRs, 24 RBIs, 53 Total Bases, and an 1.047 OPS in 19 games for the AAA Sugar Land Space Cowboys. He was also the Astros’ 2023 Minor League Player of the Year with 55 extra-base hits in 124 games. On top of all that, he’s versatile — Loperfido has played all three outfield positions, fist base, second base, and even five games at third. If the Astros’ slow start continues, I can see them making the call for some extra pop.

Colson Montgomery, SS,  Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are 3-18 through 21 games and somehow have already sunk to a -71 run differential; they are on a path to becoming one of the worst offenses in recent memory. Eloy Jiménez missed most of April with an injury, and with Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada on the shelf for an extended amount of time, why wait to look toward the future?

No. 42 overall prospect Colson Montgomery (5% rostered on Yahoo) represents one of the brightest lights for that future, and there’s no reason to keep him on the farm. He started slow for the AAA Charlotte Knights, but has two bombs in the last 10 days. Plus three steals and three doubles on the season, after putting up a .455 OBP last year.

Montgomery can help an offense that’s dead last in the majors — one that’s scoring only 2.14 runs/game, a full run worse than every team not looking to relocate. But will the White Sox bring him up any time soon? In the throes of a lost season, my hunch is yes.

Here’s a nice segue…

Christian Scott, SP, New York Mets

Kodai Senga has been out all season with a shoulder injury, and the New York Mets have been piecing it together with pitchers like Sean Manaea, Jose Quintana, and Adrian Houser. Those three have combined for only one quality start in 12 outings, while Christian Scott (6% rostered) is zooming up prospect lists while at AAA Syracuse. Scott has a ridiculous 26 strikeouts in 14.1 IP, allowing only 13 baserunners in that span for a 0.91 WHIP. His control has been good, too, walking only 3 batters so far this season.

James Wood, OF, Washington Nationals

James Wood (16% rostered) hit .364 with four homers in 44 at-bats this spring with the Washington Nationals, posting a 1.214 OPS before getting sent down to AAA Rochester. The No. 19  overall prospect — the centerpiece of the Juan Soto trade — has continued to mash with the Red Wings, hitting .306 while slugging over .470 and scoring 16 runs in 18 games. He only has two home runs (he had 26 last year) but has hit six doubles.

The advanced metrics show he’s getting good wood as well (see what I did there?) with an average exit velocity around 96 m.p.h. and a 59% Hard-Hit rate that’s near the top of MiLB. The downside? Wood has four multiple games in his last seven. Still, the Nationals are the fifth-youngest team in the majors with an average age just over 27, so you know they don’t mind the youth movement, with C.J/ Abrams (23) and Luis Garcia (23) playing significant roles. The Nats are below .500 with no real aspirations of contending so it may not be long before the 21 year-old joins the big show to help an offense currently sitting at 25th in runs scored.

Stats of Significance

There are currently six players at the AAA level with double-digit steals: Cade Marlowe (14), Ryan Bliss (12), Greg Jones (12), Brewer Hicklen (11), Brandon Lockridge (11) and Caleb Durbin (10).

Of those six players, Hicklen, a Brewers prospect, has the highest OPS at .976 — with three HRs, 14 walks, and seven doubles.

I’m not sure where to file Andrés Chaparro, but he has six home runs, a .355 OBP, and two seasons of 20-plus homers under his belt. He’s kind of blocked at first and third for Arizona, but… who knows. He might be interesting to keep an eye on in case something happens.

Matt Shaw shouldn’t be a secret to dynasty players or Cubs fans, but he’s living up to the standards he set last year (.357 avg., 8 HR, 15 SB in 38 games across three levels) with three homers and five steals this season, along with a .295 average.

Blue Jays minor leaguer Addison Barger had a breakout season in 2022 followed by an injury-marred step back in 2023 (elbow). He currently has 10 doubles, three homers, and a .435 OBP in AAA.

A lot of the attention on pitchers focuses on Paul Skenes and Christian Scott, but Orioles prospect Cade Povich has struck out 33 in 21 1/3, while allowing just two runs, for a 0.83 ERA and 0.74 WHIP.

Detroit’s Brant Hurter has struck out 23 batters in 16 innings while still carrying a 1.7 GO/AO rate.

Giants prospect Mason Black has a 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and 20 Ks over 18 2/3 IP.

If you want to keep an eye on Carson Palmquist, the Rockies prospect has 25 Ks in 16 IP and has yet to allow a run this season in AA… but his ultimate destination is Colorado, so… figure that one out. Keith Law (and I’m paraphrasing) has said he doesn’t take the final stop under too much consideration because trades happen all the time, but it doesn’t look like the Rockies are going to be giving up prospects in deals anytime soon.

(Top photo: Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images,  Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images, David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

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