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2021 Prospect Projections: NL West rookies

How D-backs, Rox, Dodgers, Padres, Giants prospects stack up
MacKenzie Gore has fanned 243 batters in 183 innings during his Minor League career. (Gregory Bull/AP)
@SamDykstraMiLB
February 17, 2021

This is the sixth and final entry in a six-part Toolshed series that uses FanGraphs' Steamer 600 projections to look at how prospects would fare over a full Major League season in 2021. The system bases its forecast on 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers,

This is the sixth and final entry in a six-part Toolshed series that uses FanGraphs' Steamer 600 projections to look at how prospects would fare over a full Major League season in 2021. The system bases its forecast on 600 plate appearances for position players, 450 plate appearances for catchers, 200 innings for starting pitchers and 65 innings for relievers -- taking into account age, past performance and previous Minor League levels, among other factors. Because of the canceled Minor League season in 2020, all players included in the team tables below are ranked prospects who either played at Class A Advanced or above in 2019, sit on their organization's 40-man roster or are among MLB.com's Top 100. The AL East, NL East, AL Central, NL Central and AL West editions can be found at those corresponding links.

Padres pitchers and catchers are scheduled to participate in their first workouts Wednesday. There will be more than a few familiar faces, particularly on the mound. If the season started immediately, the San Diego rotation would likely consist of Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Dinelson Lamet, Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack. Those five arms have combined to make only 24 starts for San Diego, and all two dozen were by Lamet and Paddack. The other three came over in trades this offseason. It's a new-look starting group for a club with hopes of tracking down the World Series-champion Dodgers and capturing its first National League West title since 2006.

Sitting on the periphery of that starting five is MLB.com's No. 6 overall prospect MacKenzie Gore, and the projections indicate he's nearly ready to be more than just an organizational depth option.

Gore has been well-thought-of since his high-school days in North Carolina. The Padres selected the left-hander third overall in the 2017 Draft on the strength of his four-pitch mix and good control, and even when he was struggling with blisters that limited him to 60 2/3 innings at Class A Fort Wayne in 2018, he still looked the part of a future ace. Then came 2019, and Gore's place among the game's top pitching prospects was secure. The 6-foot-2 hurler was named the MiLBY Starting Pitcher of the Year after leading Minor League pitchers (minimum: 100 innings) with a 1.69 ERA and an 0.83 WHIP over 101 frames between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A Amarillo. His 35.7 percent strikeout rate ranked fifth among the same group of 436 while his .161 batting average-against stood second.

Those were the last numbers Steamer incorporated into its projection system for the 2021 season.

Gore participated in San Diego's alternate site during the pandemic-shortened 2020 Major League campaign, but never received a promotion. Instead, fellow top prospects Luis Patiño and Ryan Weathers were called up and utilized in separate bullpen roles for the big club while Gore fine-tuned his delivery and repertoire in hopes of cracking the rotation someday.

Even with that momentary pause baked in, Steamer doesn't believe that day is very far off. This is how Gore's projections stand up to other rotation candidates for the Padres:

Padres IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Blake Snell2003.613.701.232510.83.54.3
Yu Darvish2003.703.591.152710.92.84.2
Dinelson Lamet2003.753.711.192811.53.34.1
Mike Clevinger2003.813.881.232710.33.23.6
Chris Paddack2004.204.231.23329.02.43.1
Joe Musgrove2004.244.311.28308.52.62.7
MacKenzie Gore 2004.634.841.40338.63.91.6
Pedro Avila 2004.935.061.47327.94.21.6

If the names didn't stand out enough, the numbers certainly will. Only 13 starting pitchers received WAR projections of 4.0 or higher. The Padres claim three of them in Snell, Darvish and Lamet. That's not an easy rotation to crack, even taking into account the fact that Mike Clevinger is likely to miss all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery.

What it does illustrate, however, is that the Padres built a rotation not in need of a top-10 prospect to contribute right away, no matter how dominant his numbers were two years ago. Gore can head to Triple-A El Paso for the first time to show last year's layoff from game competition did not affect his considerable ceiling. That said, every team's starting depth is put into question at some point over the course of a 162-game season, and that will no doubt be the case for the Padres. Paddack had an injury history dating back to his Minor League days, and Lamet faces questions about how his elbow will hold up going into spring. The graduated Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez are candidates to head back to the Minors in order to potentially become starters again.

But all signs point to Gore being an option at some point in 2021. The scouting report remains too good, and a projection of a mid-4.00 ERA, almost one strikeout per inning and a decent WHIP for a rookie pitcher solidify the case. If he does better than that -- which he very well could given his skill set -- Padres fans won't be talking about who the team acquired in 2021, they'll be talking about who the club kept.

Arizona Diamondbacks

D-backs POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Pavin Smith (27)1B/OF600165.267.337.428.765980.20.7
Seth Beer (14)1B/OF600244.259.324.447.7729700.4
Andy Young (17)INF600214.239.307.410.71785-3.20.2
Stuart Fairchild (13)OF6001310.236.300.367.6677300.0
Alek Thomas (2)OF6001211.220.275.337.611570-1.2
Geraldo Perdomo (3)SS600614.216.282.294.576510-1.2
Kristian Robinson (1)OF6001610.188.239.307.546390-2.6
D-backs IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Corbin Martin (6)2004.704.721.42318.63.92.2
Josh Green (18)2004.674.671.44266.23.02.0
Jon Duplantier (15)2005.125.161.54317.94.61.0
J.B. Bukauskas (10)2005.145.241.57308.05.10.9
Humberto Mejia (30)655.285.351.46127.63.8-0.5
Luis Frias (8)2006.366.351.76386.55.8-1.3

Most ready: This is one of those examples in which the numbers say one thing and real life says another. Technically, we know Corbin Martin is ready for the Majors. He made five starts for the Astros in 2019. However, we also know he underwent Tommy John surgery just prior to his trade to the D-backs that year and then missed time in 2020 with a strained oblique. By the numbers, Martin should be an easy plug-in for the Arizona rotation. Only Zac Gallen (2.8) has a higher WAR projection than the right-hander among potential D-backs starters. But Martin will have an uphill battle to prove he's recovered and healthy enough to take the ball every fifth day on the big stage.

Give it time: Maybe just a smidgen more of time. There is a good amount to like about Seth Beer's projection. His 24 homers are tied with Kole Calhoun and Christian Walker for most among Arizona sluggers. His 97 wRC+ would make him an OK, if not quite average, bat in the Majors. Prospects have been called up with much lower projections. The rub for the 2018 first-rounder is his defense. Beer has struggled in the outfield in the past, forcing a move to first base, where the offensive bar needed to provide value is much higher. Interestingly, the D-backs listed him as an outfielder in their non-roster invitations list this week. Beer will have to hit a lot more in his first trip to Triple-A (or show marked improvement on the grass) for the D-backs to feel comfortable living with his glove in the Majors. Still, don't bet against the bat given what he's shown in college and his brief time in the Minors.

Wild card: You would be forgiven if you pulled a double take upon seeing Josh Green's name so high in the above table. The 25-year-old right-hander was an 14th-round pick in 2018 and doesn't appear on many lists of big D-backs prospects because he lacks truly plus stuff. What he does possess, however, is impressive control and an ability to keep the ball in the yard. Green walked only 21 and gave up only three homers in 126 1/3 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A. His other numbers (2.71 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 101 strikeouts) were solid. That results in a strong projection for a player yet to reach Triple-A. That said, the rubber starts to hit the road at that level, and it's possible Green could be punished for keeping the ball in the zone too much against top-level bats. If he continues on this path, Steamer likes his chances at cracking the Arizona rotation at some point this summer, and if that happens, a lot more fans will be learning his name.

Top-100 talent: This entire group could have been placed under "Give it time." No. 55 Kristian Robinson, No. 79 Geraldo Perdomo and No. 81 Alek Thomas have yet to play at Double-A, and in Robinson's case, he hasn't even reached High-A yet. Corbin Carroll -- the top prospect of the group at No. 47 overall -- didn't receive a Steamer projection because his 42 Minor League games are too small a sample. It is possible a few could make the Majors in 2021, but even with a few graduations, this should be a strong group again at this time next year.

Colorado Rockies

Rockies POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Colton Welker (8)3B600185.278.332.441.7738600.8
Elehuris Montero (7)3B600195.255.305.425.7317400.1
Yonathan Daza (12)OF6001013.293.330.420.75382-0.70.0
Ryan Vilade (4)3B/OF600813.244.296.342.637530-1.0
Jameson Hannah (16)OF60098.210.261.302.563440-3.1
Rockies IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Ben Bowden (11)654.814.971.46119.64.70.1
Tommy Doyle (20)655.025.061.51108.04.30.0
Ryan Rolison (2)2006.176.231.68416.14.7-0.2
Antonio Santos (29)655.545.491.47136.83.1-0.3

Most ready: Steamer doesn't provide much solace to Rockies fans in this tough offseason, at least not in this space. It's difficult to call anyone in the above group truly Major League ready, but since we're being pressed by the category, Ben Bowden has a palatable projection for a pitching prospect already working in relief. Bowden's 9.6 K/9 projection ranks fourth among potential Colorado hurlers behind much more established arms in Robert Stephenson (10.0), Mychal Givens (9.9) and Daniel Bard (9.9). Control limits the projection, however, and that should come as no surprise since the southpaw, who relies on an above-average fastball and changeup, walked 17 batters in 26 innings for Triple-A Albuquerque in 2019. The K's, however, meant he could have debuted last year in a longer season, and he should get that chance in the Colorado bullpen at some point this summer.

Give it time: Elehuris Montero was the big name in the trade return for Nolan Arenado, so there might be a natural push in Colorado to see whether he is an option for early 2021. It helps that Montero plays Arenado's position at the hot corner. The Steamer projection comes with plenty of caution. Montero last played in the Minors at Double-A Springfield, where he was assigned aggressively at age 20 and struggled as a result. His .188/.235/.317 line and 31.7 percent K rate over 59 games at the level obviously left a rough taste in Steamer's mouth as the system projects Montero to be roughly replacement-level in the Majors over a full season. The good news: he is further removed from hand and wrist injuries that limited him in 2019, and he still will only be 22 for over half of the upcoming season. Time is very much on the third baseman's side, and he should use it to show off the power that made him a standout at the lower levels in 2018.

Wild card: With three above-average pitches and solid control, Ryan Rolison is far and away the best pitching prospect in the Rockies system. That always will be notable in an organization needing to develop arms for a sustainable rotation at altitude. Because of his age (23, turning 24 in July), the left-hander is a candidate to break through to Denver at some point in 2021. According to Steamer, don't expect that "some point" to come early in the season. Rolison peaked at Class A Advanced Lancaster in 2019, and even if one assumes he'll jump to Triple-A Albuquerque this year, the projection system still believes he's too far away from forcing the issue. Rolison's -0.2 WAR projection is rough enough, and that's not including the fact it ranks ninth among potential Rockies starters. He should get ample time at Albuquerque or even Double-A Hartford to find his footing after the lost 2020 campaign.

Top-100 talent: No. 54 Zac Veen is the only Top-100 prospect in the Rockies system, but he has yet to play in the Minors.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Keibert Ruiz (2)C450123.253.308.392.70186-0.41.4
DJ Peters (11)OF600214.212.289.374.6637700.3
Omar Estevez (22)INF600104.234.288.346.6346900.0
Sheldon Neuse (13)INF600164.235.288.370.65774-0.1-0.6
Zach McKinstry (19)UTIL600139.237.297.366.66377-0.5-0.7
Miguel Vargas (14)3B600118.223.274.325.599600-1.0
Jacob Amaya (10)SS/2B60087.204.268.286.554500-1.3
Devin Mann (20)INF600127.210.267.315.582560-1.3
Dodgers IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Josiah Gray (1)2005.085.271.39397.63.30.8
Mitch White (9)654.704.841.38117.93.3-0.1
Michael Grove (18)2005.715.861.57407.04.4-0.4
Edwin Uceta (23)655.295.491.48127.54.0-0.6
Andre Jackson (28)2005.906.101.73356.75.9-0.8
Gerardo Carillo (17)655.906.141.71115.85.4-1.0

Most ready: The only thing in Keibert Ruiz's way for a Major League job at this point is, well, arguably the best catching tandem in the entire sport. Austin Barnes (2.5 WAR) and Will Smith (1.9) handle duties in Los Angeles, and barring an injury to either one of those two, the No. 57 overall prospect should open in Triple-A Oklahoma City, where he can get more consistent playing time. That's what Ruiz needs as he rounds his defensive profile into shape. Steamer thinks Ruiz could handle the Majors offensively at an adequate level for a catcher, as he has shown with an MLB homer already on his resume, and the defending champs shouldn't hesitate to give Ruiz the callup should a need arise at any point in 2021.

Give it time: To lay eyes on DJ Peters is to see a 6-foot-6 slugger with plus-plus raw power. That comes through in his home-run projection from Steamer. The outfielder is one of eight Dodgers hitters projected to crush 20 or more long balls over a full 2021 season, and the other seven are all accomplished Major Leaguers. However, Peters also strikes out often, and Steamer pegs for him for 200 K's in 2021 or one strikeout every three plate appearances. That drags down the offensive production across the board, leading to a 77 wRC+ that is too low for someone with Peters' pop. The 25-year-old should expect to head back to Triple-A, where he played 57 games in 2019, to try to work on that contact rate. That progress could take time, but with this being Peters' second season on the 40-man, a promotion is possible at any point should L.A. need outfield help.

Wild card: Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin played effective roles as starters and relievers during the Dodgers' run to the World Series last fall. Could Mitchell White be next? Steamer isn't sold just yet. The Dodgers' No. 9 prospect is pegged to be right around replacement-level, even after making two scoreless appearances in the Majors during last year's shortened season. There was a time when White looked like he could be a solid contributor in Chavez Ravine, considering he showed three above-average pitches in his fastball, curveball and slider. But injuries have kept him from throwing more than 105 innings in a season since he went in the second round in 2016. If he can be healthy and refind that form, White should be a good bet to beat those projections and help out in potentially multiple roles this summer.

Top-100 talent: Besides Ruiz, No. 58 Josiah Gray is the only other Top-100 prospect in a system hurt by 2020 graduations. The right-hander likely would have seen the Majors in a normal season last year and even was included on the postseason taxi squad in case his debut needed to come on the big stage. Gray climbed to Double-A in his only season in Dodger blue in 2019, making nine appearances there, and it's likely that lack of upper-level experience that causes Steamer to peg him for a one-win pitcher this season. In reality, Gray has the four-pitch mix to help a Major League team right now, and a few solid starts at Oklahoma City should establish his readiness in the months to come.

San Diego Padres

Padres POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Luis Campusano (3)C450133.258.317.407.7249101.4
Jorge Ona (12)OF600186.229.294.377.671770-0.9
Eguy Rosario (21)INF600712.215.265.302.566500-1.8
Esteury Ruiz (11)2B6001023.201.247.294.541430-2.3
Tucupita Marcano (6)INF600411.209.250.269.519380-2.7
Tirso Ornelas (9)OF60096.196.258.285.543450-3.1
Padres IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
MacKenzie Gore (1)2004.634.841.40338.63.91.6
Pedro Avila (19)2004.935.061.47327.94.21.6
Jacob Nix (29)2005.175.191.43366.83.00.9
Reggie Lawson (7)2005.155.271.51347.64.40.7
Steven Wilson (18)654.454.591.4299.34.40.0
Lake Bachar (16)655.685.801.58126.84.5-0.8
Reiss Knehr (24)655.675.771.64116.95.1-0.8
Ryan Weathers (5)655.785.981.67115.64.8-0.9
Osvaldo Hernandez (30)655.956.131.67125.64.7-1.0
Mason Thompson (14)656.366.461.77136.15.8-1.3

Most ready: Gore, as seen above.

Give it time: Luis Campusano has one Major League hit on his player page. That one knock was a home run in his debut on Sept. 4. A wrist injury limited him to that one game, but it could have been enough to get Padres fans excited about how close the catcher was to taking over full-time in San Diego. This Steamer projection is a good reminder that Campusano's one Major League appearance is his only game above High-A so far. The 22-year-old backstop still has the potential to thrive at the plate with above-average potential in his hit and power tools. He just needs to show them off in the upper Minors first. (Note: Campusano was arrested on marijuana possession charges in Georgia this offseason, and he could miss time in 2021 depending on what stems from that.)

Wild card: This is one final reminder that Steamer doesn't count postseason appearances in its projections. While Ryan Weathers shocked many by jumping to the Majors in last year's playoffs, he doesn't get credit here for his 1 1/3 scoreless inning against the Dodgers in the NLDS. That's a shame for our purposes, but it would be unlikely to shake things too much. Prior to that, Weathers' most recent stats were a 3.84 ERA, 90 strikeouts and 18 walks in 96 innings at Class A Fort Wayne. Solid to be sure, but at a distance from the Majors that won't get anyone much of a projection to write home about. (There's a reason why Class A Advanced has been the cutoff for this series.) It will be interesting to see how the Padres utilize the 21-year-old. Following Weathers' velocity spike, they likely will want to keep him lengthened out as a starter for much of the campaign, no matter where he opens the Minor League season. Even if that's the case, his newfound experience and roster status would make him a depth option for the second half.

Top-100 talent: No. 8 CJ Abrams and No. 62 Robert Hassell III give the San Diego system plenty of ceiling, even after all the recent trades. They, however, lack the Minor League experience to appear in this big league projections discussion.

San Francisco Giants

Giants POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Joey Bart (1)C450134.251.298.409.70785-1.61.4
Heliot Ramos (3)OF6001510.243.303.382.6858100.6
Jaylin Davis (13)OF600238.246.311.424.73593-1.80.4
Luis Alexander Basabe (18)OF6001315.226.303.354.656760-0.8
Sandro Fabian (30)OF600126.206.251.310.561480-2.8
Giants IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Sean Hjelle (10)2004.574.591.44246.73.31.7
Tristan Beck (19)2005.495.521.62316.44.7-0.2
Jake Wong (25)2005.695.731.62345.94.5-0.6
Camilo Doval (24)655.355.611.7498.16.8-0.8
Gregory Santos (17)2005.855.901.72315.15.0-1.0

Most ready: Joey Bart climbed to the Majors last year after Buster Posey opted out of the 2020 season, and the 24-year-old catcher remains 27 at-bats shy of prospect graduation. Posey's return as well as the free-agent signing of veteran Curt Casali likely mean Bart will head back to Triple-A for more development time, and that's likely for the best. The Georgia Tech product batted just .233/.288/.320 without a homer and a 36.9 percent K rate in his 33 games with the big club. Steamer's projection is an improvement on those numbers, and for that reason, the Giants shouldn't hesitate to bring Bart back up when the situation requires. But a move to Sacramento to find his confidence first should only help all involved.

Give it time: Heliot Ramos may only be 21, but the 2017 first-rounder seems to be on track for a debut at some point in 2021. Expect that to come in a few months at the earliest, if this projection is any indication. Steamer actually doesn't think Ramos, who topped out with 25 games at Double-A, would be that much worse of a Major League hitter than Bart right now; in fact, he would post a higher OBP over a full season. But the Puerto Rico native plays in the outfield, where the hitting threshold to provide value is higher. That will be especially true if he has to move to a corner due to average speed. Ramos has another year to develop and tap more into his plus power potential, and that should be to his benefit at such a young age.

Wild card: Anyone who has seen Sean Hjelle pitch will come away talking about his height at 6-foot-11. His above-average fastball and above-average curve -- coming from an incredibly high angle -- provide solid takeaways. Sticking just to the numbers, Steamer thinks Hjelle is worthy of some looks in the San Francisco rotation and fast. His 1.7 WAR projection is second-highest among potential Giants starters behind only Kevin Gausman (3.3). As a sucker for good control, the system seems to be a good fan of Hjelle's 139/37 K/BB ratio over 143 2/3 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A two years ago. The right-hander didn't participate at the alt site in 2020, but is a non-roster invite to Major League camp this spring. That's where he can start to make his push to crash the Giants rotation quickly out of the gate, if possible.

Top-100 talent: Listen, we knew No. 16 overall prospect Marco Luciano lacked the Minor League experience to get a meaningful Steamer projection. We would just like to see it, even if it was really bad. The same for No. 83 Hunter Bishop.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB.