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2021 Prospect Projections: AL West rookies

How Astros, Halos, M's, A's, Rangers prospects could fare in 2021
Logan Gilbert is headed to his third Spring Training with the Mariners. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
@SamDykstraMiLB
February 10, 2021

This is the fifth 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

This is the fifth 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 and NL Central editions can be found at those corresponding links.

The sun soon could set on a rebuild in the West. The Pacific Northwest, to be specific.

Seattle hasn't been to the playoffs since 2001, and since falling eight games short of that goal in 2018, the Mariners have taken a direct turn toward prospect hoarding in an effort to build a farm system strong enough to sustain contention well into the upcoming decade. The arrival of Kyle Lewis -- Seattle's first American League Rookie of the Year since Ichiro Suzuki in 2001 -- was a sign the rebuild could be about to turn a corner.

According to Steamer projections, there could be another successful rookie campaign in 2021 that brings that bright future all the closer to the present. No, not from that Top-100 prospect. No, not the other one either. Yes, that one. It's right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert.

The 23-year-old right-hander is entering what should have been his third full season in pro ball. Seattle selected the 6-foot-6 hurler out of Stetson with the 14th overall pick back in 2018, and after being kept from the Minor Leagues that Draft summer, he burst on the scene in 2019. Gilbert climbed three levels from Class A to Double-A and finished with a 2.13 ERA, 165 strikeouts and 33 walks in 135 innings. His 31.7 percent K rate and 0.95 WHIP ranked in the top 10 among qualified Minor League pitchers.

This was also not a case of a college player inflating his stats against lower competition. Gilbert made nine starts for Double-A Arkansas and was one of only 11 pitchers to post an ERA below 3.00, a FIP below 3.00, a WHIP below 1.00 and a strikeout rate above 25 percent. Among the other 10 hurlers to fit that description were fellow Top-100 prospects Nate Pearson and Matt Manning as well as 2020 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Cristian Javier. He achieved all of that by showcasing a mid-90s fastball, an above-average slider and changeup and an average curveball, all of which he throws with good control (as evidenced by his walk numbers).

Even with the lost Minor League season in 2020 -- which Gilbert spent at the Mariners' alternate site in Tacoma -- Steamer600 still likes Gilbert's chance to make an impact in the season ahead, based strictly on his statistical performance in 2019. The projection system pegs the No. 33 overall prospect to post a 4.65 ERA, 4.88 FIP and 1.34 WHIP if he works 200 innings in the Majors. That would help him build a 1.9 WAR in that span, fourth-highest among potential Seattle starts and just ahead of Justus Sheffield (1.8), who is coming off a solid rookie campaign. Gilbert's projected 187 strikeouts would be tied with Yusei Kikuchi for second-highest on the club behind only Chris Flexen's projection of 205. That WAR projection trails only those given to Twins right-hander Jhoan Duran (2.1) and Manning (2.0) among prospect pitchers who have yet to see the Majors.

Beyond the projections, playing into Gilbert's favor will be Seattle's plans to utilize a six-man rotation in 2021. This offseason, the club has said the rookie right-hander has a legitimate shot at winning a Major League spot out of Spring Training, considering he would have been a candidate to debut in 2020 had the MLB season not been cut to 60 games. The fact that his stuff plays so well and that he has the projections to back him only bolster his case before M's pitchers and catchers even get in their first workout on Feb. 18.

Before moving on to the rest of the division, a few quick words on the two major prospects Steamer isn't quite as keen on in the Seattle system -- namely Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Both play with massive tools and have put themselves on the fast tracks to Emerald City. Kelenic has a chance to be a true five-tool talent as a center fielder, while Rodriguez possesses the raw power, plus hit tool and strong arm to be a star in a corner spot for a long time to come. All that said, Steamer expects them to be replacement-level, in Kelenic's case (0.4 WAR projection) or well below that mark in Rodriguez's (-1.4). There are a few differences between them and Gilbert. One is Double-A experience. Kelenic only got in 83 at-bats with Arkansas in 2019, while Rodriguez technically has never played at the level, unlike Gilbert. Second is age. Kelenic will only be 21 for much of 2021, while Rodriguez will be 20. Since 2000, only 33 20- or 21-year-olds have received enough Major League at-bats to qualify for a batting title. Success at those ages at the top level of the sport is difficult, something Steamer bakes into the numbers. By comparison, Gilbert will turn 24 in May, an age at which many pitchers get their careers off the ground. It's easier to project a 24-year-old hurler holding his own over two younger position players, even ones with considerable ceilings.

That isn't to say Gilbert and Rodriguez can't do big things in the Majors in 2021. Without a Minor League season, Steamer can't factor in the work they put in at the alt site in Tacoma, or in Rodriguez's case, in Dominican Winter League play. The reports on both are considerable enough that they could conceivably reach Seattle by the second half and make a formidable outfield alongside Lewis. If that happens, Mariners fans can truly focus on building a contender in the Majors. Until then, Steamer suggests waiting just a little bit longer for the sun to come over that northwestern horizon.

Houston Astros

Astros POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Chas McCormick (21)OF6001312.234.308.356.6648100.6
Taylor Jones (19)UTIL600192.224.302.380.682840.3-0.4
J.J. Matijevic (29)1B/OF6002010.222.280.388.668780-0.8
Jeremy Pena (4)SS/2B600810.207.257.290.546480-1.2
Ronnie Dawson (28)OF6001516.199.268.331.559610-1.6
Freudis Nova (2)INF600810.183.217.257.474250-2.8
Astros IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Forrest Whitley (1)2004.885.011.47339.04.61.4
Luis Garcia (13)2005.015.121.50338.94.71.2
Peter Solomon (26)2005.505.611.60357.04.70.2
Tyler Ivey (12)654.544.641.37108.73.50.1
Brett Conine (22)654.574.651.4097.93.40.1
Bryan Abreu (3)654.364.561.44910.25.00.0
Nivaldo Rodriguez (24)654.794.951.44118.13.9-0.2
Shawn Dubin (15)655.305.431.58117.64.8-0.5
Austin Hansen (27)655.655.841.66127.95.7-0.8
Jojanse Torres (14)655.956.121.66137.05.2-1.0
Jairo Solis (8)656.556.651.85125.86.4-1.4

Most ready: We'll get to the big name later. Let's focus on Luis Garcia first. The 24-year-old right-hander debuted in the Majors in September -- jumping from his previous highest level of Class A Advanced -- and didn't miss a beat, giving up four earned runs and fanning nine over 12 1/3 innings. That came after a 2019 campaign in which he fanned 38.1 percent of the batters he faced across Class A and Class A Advanced. Steamer picked up on all of those numbers and gave the Venezuela native a solid 1.2 WAR projection over 200 innings, placing him seventh among potential Astros starters, but behind much bigger names like Verlander, Valdez, McCullers, Greinke and Urquidy. That makes Garcia a depth option right now, but he could be a lot more if he is used out of the bullpen to open 2021. (Four of his five big league appearances last year were in relief.) In any role, expect Garcia to get early looks should injuries or ineffectiveness create nopenings in Houston.

Give it time: There has been a lot of hype around Jeremy Pena this offseason and for good reason. The middle infielder hit .306/.349/.430 with three homers and seven stolen bases over 30 games in the Dominican Winter League, showing off a little more offensive skills than he had in the early days of his career or at the University of Maine. What's more, his defense can be a plus at shortstop and that certainly carries over to second, where he has some Minor League experience as well. Steamer hasn't seen his defense yet, and that LIDOM performance unfortunately doesn't factor into the numbers either. Instead, the system projects Pena to be a well-below-average hitter right now. He is probably more than that based on the work he put in last year and over the winter months, but let the projection serve as a coolant. With Carlos Correa and José Altuve taking up the middle-infield spots, Pena was going to spend most of 2021 where there is playing time anyway, likely Triple-A or Double-A -- neither of which he has reached yet.

Wild card: When we say wild card here, we mean it in the most literal sense. Bryan Abreu pitched in the Majors in 2019 and 2020. He has done well by some measures in that time, like his two earned runs and 16 strikeouts in 12 innings. He also walked 10 batters in that span, including seven over four appearances last season. The 23-year-old right-hander is best known for his plus to plus-plus curveball and slider, and his fastball is an above-average pitch. But he struggles to find the zone with regularity and can be punished for it. Steamer sees both sides, projecting him for a 10.0 K/9, but also a 5.0 BB/9. The Astros might want to give Abreu one final look as a starter before locking him in as a reliever, making a move back to the Minors highly likely to begin 2021. Even if he does need to pitch in shorter stints, Abreu will need to find the zone on a steady basis to make the most of an arsenal that could get plenty of whiffs otherwise.

Top-100 talent: As promised, this is where Forrest Whitley fits in as Houston's only Top-100 representative at No. 41. The 2019 season looked like it would be Whitley's year of ascension, but shoulder issues and general ineffectiveness kept him from The Show. He didn't crack it in 2020 either, in part due to problems with his right elbow. The right-hander is still only 23, and after incorporating some of the earlier dominance in his career, Steamer still believes Whitley could be a serviceable starter even after the time off and drop in results. The 1.4 WAR projection places him sixth among potential Houston starters, meaning he should be the first man up when need arises. The five-pitch mix remains solid. Whitley just awaits an opportunity to show it can play on the highest stage. That could (and should) finally come in 2021.

Los Angeles Angels

Angels POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Brandon Marsh (1)OF6001512.243.314.381.6968401.1
Orlando Martinez (21)OF600168.218.266.343.609590-0.8
Jordyn Adams (3)OF600139.194.252.298.550450-1.8
Angels IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Packy Naughton (12)2005.665.821.50436.53.40.2
Oliver Ortega (16)655.575.691.60128.05.1-0.6
Denny Brady (29)655.765.891.61126.64.5-0.7
Jose Alberto Rivera (11)655.906.121.76117.46.4-0.8
Hector Yan (10)656.126.371.77127.16.3-1.0
Aaron Hernandez (20)656.306.421.75136.65.8-1.0

Most ready: Based on the projections alone, there is no clear answer here. The player above with the clearest path to Major League playing time is Jose Alberto Rivera, and that is only because he is a Rule 5 pick who has to stick at the top level or be offered back to the Astros. The 23-year-old right-hander has the plus-plus velocity to make it work, but these Steamer projections -- backed by the fact that Rivera hasn't played above Class A -- don't point to a likelihood of staying in the Majors for a full season. Barring some breakouts, don't expect major contributions from this group.

Give it time: Brandon Marsh, the club's top prospect, has the best projection by WAR or pretty much any other metric, but he would have to jump past former top prospect Jo Adell and the recently acquired Dexter Fowler to find a clear spot in the Angels' outfield. Instead, the No. 53 overall prospect is likely to head to Triple-A for the first time, when he can show off plus hit, speed, glove and arm tools. Marsh's still only 23, and Fowler is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the season. The opportunities will come in time.

Wild card: Even with the offseason acquisitions of José Quintana and Alex Cobb, starting pitching still could be an issue for the Halos in 2021. That may enable the club's No. 12 prospect, Packy Naughton, to enter the conversation at some point. The 24-year-old left-hander was acquired from the Reds last year, but was left unprotected and unpicked in the Rule 5 Draft. He provides average stuff across the board with a changeup that could play above that and solid control. His projections here won't move the needle either, but the 25-year-old southpaw could be a fill-in option if he can make his arsenal jump even slightly in his first full season in the Angels system.

Top-100 talent: Outside Marsh, No. 74 Reid Detmers is the organization's only other Top-100 prospect. It would be fun to debate the 2020 10th overall pick's Major League readiness coming out of Louisville in this space since many evaluators considered him a quick climb candidate, given the polish on his four-pitch mix. That will have to wait from a Steamer perspective until he builds up experience on his Minor League resume. For now, Detmers doesn't have a Steamer projection.

Oakland Athletics

Athletics POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Sheldon Neuse (5)INF600134.237.292.364.65676-1.00.4
Luis Barrera (8)OF600916.243.291.360.651750-0.4
Buddy Reed (23)OF6001222.209.266.325.591580-0.8
Skye Bolt (16)OF6001310.207.276.334.60965-5.4-0.9
Nick Allen (4)INF600512.212.258.285.542470-1.2
Austin Beck (17)OF600106.203.246.298.545450-1.8
Greg Deichmann (13)OF6001614.201.266.339.605630-2.3
Jeremy Eierman (20)SS60098.182.225.270.494320-2.4
Lazaro Armenteros (18)OF6001311.180.250.286.535450-2.7
Athletics IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Parker Dunshee (27)2005.135.191.42367.53.41.0
A.J. Puk (1)653.954.061.30910.23.80.6
Daulton Jefferies (7)654.524.521.31108.12.70.1
James Kaprielian (11)654.544.571.34109.03.40.1
Grant Holmes (15)654.524.571.4098.03.60.1
Brian Howard (24)654.374.511.34108.13.20.1
Miguel Romero (26)654.514.641.4498.34.10.0
Wandisson Charles (25)654.915.131.5999.56.1-0.3
Brady Feigl (29)655.465.471.59105.64.0-0.6
Gus Varland (28)655.675.691.58416.74.4-0.7
Hogan Harris (21)655.665.811.64116.65.0-0.8

Most ready: One of the benefits of using Steamer600 is its placement of everyone on a full season's worth of production. We don't have to worry about allotment of playing time, and everyone can be judged on similar levels. It can also be a downside in certain circumstances. A.J. Puk is one such case. To look at his projection is to see a player clearly ready for a role in the Majors. Indeed, the 6-foot-7 left-hander debuted in The Show in 2019 and held his own just fine, striking out 13 while allowing four earned runs in 11 1/3 innings as a reliever. What Steamer doesn't know is that Puk missed all of 2020 with left shoulder issues that led to surgery in September. That procedure was said to be minor enough that Puk should be good to go to start this spring, but the piling up of the shoulder questions caused the southpaw to fall out of the Top 100 this offseason. If healthy, Puk -- with his high-90s heater and plus-plus slider -- has the stuff to contribute in Oakland right away, as Steamer indicates. But since the system lacks the knowledge of those injury concerns, it's possible he misses the projection by a wide margin. That's something A's fans will be following closely in Arizona in the coming weeks.

Give it time: The A's gave Daulton Jefferies one start in the shortened 2020 season, and it didn't go great. The right-hander allowed five earned runs on five hits, including two homers, in only two innings on the road against the Rangers on Sept. 12. It's worth remembering Jefferies had thrown 88 innings over his three previous Minor League seasons due to Tommy John surgery. That's not to say the California product was rusty; rather, he could have used 2020 as another opportunity to establish himself every fifth day. The alternate site work only gets a player so far for the purposes of this column and doesn't help with Steamer projections. Even speaking anecdotally, expect Jefferies to open 2021 in the upper Minors, where he can show off an above-average fastball and plus changeup. Once he's set there, a second Major League appearance shouldn't be far behind.

Wild card: Within the last week, A's general manager David Forst addressed Oakland's options at second base and said Sheldon Neuse would "get a long look" during his time in Spring Training. It's a similar discussion to what happened prior to 2020, when Neuse didn't win a Major League job (one year after playing 25 games at the top level) and spent the entire 60-game campaign at the alternate site. Neuse's gifts are clear; he can produce strong batting averages and showcases a plus arm on the dirt. The same goes for his disadvantages, namely his strikeout rate. Though not noted above, Steamer pegs Neuse for roughly a 29.8 percent K rate in the Majors, and that drags his offensive projection down to a 76 wRC+. Chad Pinder (97), Tony Kemp (87) and Vimael Machin (87) all project to be better hitters, at least as of now. But if Forst sticks to his word and Neuse gets plenty of looks in the Cactus League, the 26-year-old needs to cut down on the K's and make the most of his hit tool if he's going to beat the others to the punch at the keystone.

Top-100 talent: There are no A's players ranked among the Top 100 prospects.

Seattle Mariners

Mariners POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Cal Raleigh (8)C450184.224.284.403.6878201.4
Donovan Walton (22)2B600910.238.310.339.64978-20.8
Jarred Kelenic (1)OF600203.238.297.404.7018700.4
Jake Fraley (9)OF6001718.233.292.390.68281-1.6-0.2
Braden Bishop (18)OF600108.222.291.328.619690.3-0.5
Taylor Trammell (5)OF6001215.218.301.334.635740-0.6
Joe Rizzo (21)3B600104.213.266.303.567530-1.2
Julio Rodriguez (2)OF600166.218.266.349.615630-1.4
Mariners IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Logan Gilbert (4)2004.654.881.34358.43.31.9
Ljay Newsome (24)2005.115.391.31446.92.20.8
Sam Delaplane (20)654.004.261.33910.34.30.4
Wyatt Mills (23)654.174.431.37308.73.80.3
Aaron Fletcher (19)654.154.551.4098.74.20.2
Juan Then (14)656.346.561.73145.65.3-1.2

Most ready: Gilbert, as explained above.

Give it time: Tom Murphy should be recovered from the broken left foot that forced him to miss the entire 2020 season, and his return should give the M's a clear starting catcher to open the year. That said, it might not be long until Cal Raleigh is pushing for playing time behind the dish in Seattle. Steamer actually believes the 24-year-old switch-hitter would be the best catching option for the Mariners right now. His 1.4 WAR projection is third-best on the team (and tied with Kyle Lewis) and ahead of Murphy (1.0) and projected backup Luis Torrens (0.9). Raleigh's primary value driver is his plus power, but he also earns plaudits for his defensive work, which Steamer hasn't baked in yet. He'll need time to show all that off, however, after missing true game action in 2020. It's also worth remembering that Raleigh has played only 39 games above Class A Advanced. If his power and game-calling abilities carry over to the upper Minors to start the summer, it could be a quick hook to the Emerald City. Just don't expect it to happen straight out of spring.

Wild card: Taylor Trammell feels like the lost Mariners outfield prospect, and he hasn't even been in the system for a full year yet. The 23-year-old was acquired by Seattle from San Diego at last year's deadline and could get lost in the shuffle of an outfield group that has a Rookie of the Year (Lewis) and two top-five overall prospects (Kelenic, Rodriguez). That will be fighting an uphill battle in the years to come, but the No. 100 overall prospect should at least get a Major League look at some point in 2021, considering he played a full year of Double-A ball in 2019 and was added to the 40-man in November. After he hit just .234 with a .689 OPS two seasons ago, Trammell received a below-replacement-level projection from Steamer. He is still a wild card, though, because his believers think there's a chance for him to show off an above-average hit tool. The reports always have been rosier than the stats, and the 2016 35th overall pick will need those to match in a positive way if he's going to make the outfield cut in Seattle. Otherwise, fourth-outfielder duty might be the best he can hope for.

Top-100 talent: No. 4 Kelenic, No. 5 Rodriguez, Gilbert and Trammell have already been covered. No. 31 Emerson Hancock and No. 92 George Kirby -- the club's two most recent first-round picks -- don't have enough Minor League data to warrant a Steamer projection.

Texas Rangers

Rangers POS PA HR SB AVG OBP SLG OPS wRC+ Fld WAR
Jonah Heim (26)C450103.250.308.381.689731.51.1
Anderson Tejeda (8)SS6001916.239.292.403.695721.40.6
Sam Huff (2)C450195.239.289.429.71876-1.40.2
Leody Taveras (4)OF6001422.247.311.383.69474-1.50.2
Steele Walker (13)OF6001310.218.273.335.608510-1.4
Sherten Apostel (11)3B/1B600204.222.286.380.66666-0.7-1.8
David Garcia (15)C45074.166.210.240.44960-2.8
Josh Jung (1)3B600117.195.243.288.531290-3.0
Bubba Thompson (16)OF6001316.189.242.299.541310-3.7
Rangers IP ERA FIP WHIP HR K/9 BB/9 WAR
Dane Dunning (3)2004.604.631.39308.23.42.9
Joe Palumbo (10)2004.514.661.38329.64.12.7
Tyler Phillips (23)2004.874.911.42316.42.92.3
Kyle Cody (24)2004.924.931.43338.13.72.3
Yerry Rodriguez (20)2005.845.911.65366.34.80.4
Demarcus Evans (22)654.564.741.49910.55.60.2
A.J. Alexy (21)2006.226.351.74397.26.0-0.4

Most ready: There was a case to be made that Dane Dunning was the No. 3 starter for the White Sox going into last year's playoffs. He got the start in Game 3 of the Wild Card Series with the A's. That outing lasted only 15 pitches with Rick Renteria getting super-aggressive in the final game of the set (one the Sox lost, 6-4), but it still happened. Dunning earned the brief look after posting a 3.97 ERA with 35 strikeouts over seven starts (34 innings) during the regular season. However, Chicago looked for a major rotation boost this offseason and got one in Lance Lynn from the Rangers. The cost: Dunning and fellow pitching prospect Avery Weems. Dunning should have no trouble finding a spot in the Texas rotation from the start. In fact, Steamer pegs him to be the Rangers' best starter in 2021 with his 2.9 WAR projection slightly better than Kyle Gibson's 2.8. Even with four above-average pitches, Dunning's ceiling might not be as a No. 1 starter, but on a rebuilding Rangers club, it's a role he might have to assume pretty quickly.

Give it time: Sam Huff made a noisy and powerful move to the Majors last season. After jumping from his previous highest level at Class A Advanced, the 6-foot-5 catcher slugged three homers and went 11-for-31 (.355) in a 10-game spell with the big club. That played into his strengths a big-time hitter with lots of raw power. (He remains the reigning Futures Game MVP after hitting the only long ball in Cleveland in 2019.) Steamer isn't quite as convinced just yet that Huff should move right back to The Show based on such a small sample. The system believes Huff would be roughly replacement-level over a full season, putting him squarely behind new acquisition Jonah Heim (1.1) and Jose Trevino (0.3) in the WAR department. A move to Triple-A Round Rock and more subsequent long balls in the Minors certainly would solidify Huff's case. It's just worth remembering that would be his debut at the Minors' top level.

Wild card: The Rangers got aggressive with Leody Taveras by including the then-21-year-old outfielder on their Opening Day roster. However, that never quite worked out. The switch-hitter produced just a .227/.308/.395 line over 33 games and was optioned for about a month at the end of July. There were some positives in Taveras' game -- namely the plus-plus speed ranked in the 96th percentile in the Majors and he got plenty of good defensive jumps on the grass. The bat has a long way to go, however, and that was the case even before last year, considering Taveras sports just a career .681 OPS in the Minors. If he can get his offense to be even average, his value would skyrocket from the above projection. If it stays at the projected level of a 74 wRC+, it could be hard to justify Taveras' long-term place as the center fielder of the future in Arlington. Given the current state of the Rangers, he should get plenty of time to build his case in 2021.

Top-100 talent: Besides Huff and Dunning, No. 63 Josh Jung is the other Rangers representative in the Top 100. Don't fret too much about his projection. The Texas Tech product has played only 44 games and topped out at Class A after he was selected eighth overall in 2019. He likely would have built on those numbers in a normal 2020 and would enter his second "full" season with a much more optimistic projection. The Rangers basically confirmed this week that Jung will open 2021 at Triple-A -- an indication they believe the third baseman with a plus hit tool and solid power is close based on his production at last year's alternate site. Jung is a good example of a player who is a lock to beat Steamer's numbers if he does get that big league debut in the season ahead.

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