We have seen several prospects promoted in the past week, with names such as Juan Yepez, MJ Melendez and Jose Miranda suddenly popping onto the fantasy radar.
But none of those three players have the prospect cache of two youngsters who arrived over the weekend: Alek Thomas and George Kirby. Both Thomas and Kirby are top-30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline, making them instant adds in many leagues.
Let’s take a deeper look.
Alek Thomas, Arizona Diamondbacks
Thomas has the diverse skill set that fantasy managers covet, having hit .313 with 18 homers and 13 steals in 106 games across the two highest Minor League levels last season. And he was off to a solid start this year, with four long balls and three swipes in 24 Triple-A games. His strikeout rates in the Minors are solid, as he stayed under 20 percent at every level, and he showed some plate patience with a lifetime walk rate in the range of 10 percent.
Having recently turned 22, Thomas is fairly young for an MLB rookie. And he doesn’t have a wealth of experience in the upper minors, having played 72 games in Double-A and 58 contests at the Triple-A level. For these reasons, some growing pains would not be shocking.
The D-backs are hitting .194 with a .632 OPS, which opens many paths to playing time. The team is moving Daulton Varsho to their No. 1 catcher spot while Carson Kelly is on the IL with an oblique strain, meaning that Thomas will have a few weeks as the starting center fielder to show his stuff. He will likely be placed near the bottom of the lineup for his initial games.
Thomas should be added in 12-team roto leagues. Those in 10-team formats can monitor his initial games and consider pouncing quickly, as steady veteran options are plentiful in those leagues, making it easy to pivot away from Thomas if he lets them down. The youngster can stay on waivers in all three-outfielder formats.
George Kirby, Seattle Mariners
Kirby has elite heat, and early in his career he may live and die with his high-90’s fastball. He also has some of the best control skills of any prospect to arrive to the Majors in recent years, and his ability to limit walks will remind some fans of fellow Seattle starter Logan Gilbert. Kirby did not struggle with the long ball in the Minors (5 HR, 115.1 IP) and should benefit from the version of the baseball that is currently being used in the Majors.
Kirby is 24 years old and logged a college career before joining the Mariners MiLB system in 2019. But he hasn’t pitched much in the high Minors, making just 11 starts in Double-A and skipping the Triple-A level entirely. It’s safe to say that Kirby is making a big jump with this promotion.
Kirby is replacing fellow prospect Matt Brash in the rotation, and his spot should be a permanent one as long as he holds up his end of the bargain. He certainly made a statement by tossing six shutout innings in his debut yesterday. Assuming that he starts every fifth game, Kirby’s next two starts will be challenging ones (vs. Mets, Red Sox) before he finds a soft landing with outings against the A’s and Orioles.
Kirby should be rostered in every league. While there are many starters who are producing solid ratios, this prospect has a high ceiling that is tough to match. In fact, the plethora of useful starters means that it will be easy for managers to pivot elsewhere in a few weeks if Kirby scuffles.