While a pair of Milwaukee Brewers rookie outfielders have starred in the majors this week, believe it or not, the best is likely still yet to come!
Most fantasy managers in dynasty/keeper formats already know about Jackson Chourio — a precocious, tooled-up, 19-year-old who is already among the top prospects in the sport. He is expected to be a star within two seasons. Chourio starts the 2023 season at Double-A Biloxi, where he finished his 2022 season. However, there is so much more!
Garrett Mitchell, 24, hit .311 with eight stolen bases in his 26-game debut for the big club last season and currently handles center field for the Brewers. The left-handed hitting UCLA product hit for little power in the minor leagues, but he has three home runs just in the past few days, including the game-winner on Wednesday against the New York Mets.
Joey Wiemer, 24, failed to make the team for Opening Day, but then Luis Urias tore a hamstring, Brian Anderson moved from right field to third base and this intriguing prospect got the call. Wiemer, a right-handed hitting Cincinnati product, mashed 48 home runs over his two minor league seasons, and he stole 61 bases in 70 chances. He also homered on Wednesday, one day after and stealing his first base.
Young Brewers OF’s hot start is for real.
Young Brewers OF’s hot start is for real.
Joey Wiemer is at the forefront of a youth movement in Milwaukee’s outfield. Video by Pierre Becquey
Sal Frelick, 23, is back at Triple-A Nashville after hitting .365 there in 215 plate appearances last season. He hit .331 with 24 stolen bases across three minor league levels last season. His profile appears similar to that of Cleveland Guardians OF Steven Kwan with his smaller stature, plate discipline and defense. After Kwan finished his rookie season as the No. 6 outfielder in points leagues, that is indeed a good thing.
Chourio, of course, is the featured prospect, a high-profile international signing in 2021 who slugged .612 in the Low-A Carolina League, and he ended the season in Double-A. Scouts expect Chourio to hit for power, steal bases and defend. While it seems unlikely that he will do so in the major leagues this season, never say never. Juan Soto debuted at 19. Ronald Acuna Jr. started at 20. Fantasy managers in ESPN redraft leagues probably do not need to stash Chourio yet, but they should covet him in dynasty formats.
However, the possibility of an all-rookie Brewers outfield remains in play for this season and fantasy managers should pay attention. Wiemer was the one I targeted in a few leagues for this season, as there is little question about his power upside. Plus, if he wants to steal myriad bases, it appears that he can. Sure, he’s been batting ninth this week, but that might not last long. Anyone in a league with five active outfielders should think about rostering Wiemer soon.
We saw Frelick leading off for Italy in the World Baseball Classic and he sure did not appear to be overmatched against good pitching from either side. As with Kwan, Frelick rarely strikes out and there isn’t much power potential lurking, but he should steal many bases. He is a leadoff hitter. We shall see if Frelick forces the Brewers to promote him to the majors, or if the organization seeks to trade from this significant depth.
Obviously, when we discuss prospects in this blog space, a fantasy manager’s interest should be based on their type of league and format. In ESPN’s standard points re-draft format, with three active outfield spots, it is getting tougher to make a case for any Brewers outfielders for this season — and that includes Christian Yelich, who finished the 2022 season 19th at the position in points formats. He achieved this because he scored 99 runs, drew 88 walks and stole 19 bases, not with power. Perhaps this all occurs again, but the Brewers may have better options soon, long-term contract notwithstanding.
In addition, Jesse Winker is technically an outfielder, but really his best position is at DH, and he is not much of a factor versus left-handed pitching. There is opportunity here not only for Chourio, when he is deemed ready (probably in 2024), but for Mitchell, Wiemer and Frelick as well. Perhaps each of these three fellows will grace Milwaukee’s outfield for a 2023 playoff run! Never say never!
Other prospects to watch this month
The Baltimore Orioles did not wait long to promote RHP Grayson Rodriguez, as he debuted on Wednesday and, after a difficult first inning against the Texas Rangers, pitched well thereafter, matching Jacob deGrom. There is little question that Rodriguez, 23, is among the top starting pitchers for the Orioles right now, and he should face the Oakland Athletics next week. After that, we’ll see if he sticks around. This is arguably the top pitching prospect in the minors and worth our attention today in ESPN standard leagues.
The Tampa Bay Rays don’t seem to need much help so far but, at some point, corner infielders Kyle Manzardo and Curtis Mead will get the call. Manzardo, 22, is a left-handed hitting first baseman with big power and plate discipline. He starts the season at Triple-A Durham and is not on the team’s 40-man roster. Mead, 22, bats right-handed and may not have big power, but his is an impressive hit tool. He likely gets the call sooner. There is no regular DH on the Rays, perhaps by design. One of these fellows could be that DH soon.
The Mets certainly could have given a big league opportunity to Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez, especially considering the struggling hitters currently playing at their positions in the majors, but alas, they are both at Triple-A Syracuse. Do not expect them to be there for long. Baty, 23, mashed two home runs in a recent game, and should get the call to the Mets soon, no matter what 3B Eduardo Escobar does. Alvarez, 21, probably needs to work on defense, but everyone agrees he will hit. The team has brought him to New York and may activate him as soon as Friday if C Omar Narvaez, who left Wednesday’s game due to left calf discomfort, has to be placed on the IL. Even if this turns out to be a “false alarm” for Alvarez, both of these young hitters should impact fantasy leagues at some point this season.
The Guardians always seem to develop starting pitchers and we should monitor the statistics for Triple-A Columbus RHP Tanner Bibee and Double-A Akron RHPs Gavin Williams and Daniel Espino. Bibee, 24, has that “Shane Bieber vibe” about him because he boasts a four-pitch mix and rarely issues walks. RHP Hunter Gaddis is in Cleveland’s rotation for injured RHP Triston McKenzie, but Bibee has more upside, and many believe he would outperform RHPs Cal Quantrill, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac if given the chance. Invest in him if you play in deeper leagues.