30 Late-Round Prospects Who Can Contribute in 2021: Part 2 (NL)

Since Part 1 of this list came out, we’ve seen injuries to Clarke Schmidt and Sam Huff that will inevitably delay their fantasy contributions and should knock their ADP down fairly significantly. As this article takes you through the NL side of prospects who you can expect fantasy contributions from in 2021, it is important to remember that these guys should help your team, but at the right price. Again, we are going to take a little bit of a deeper dive into prospects who could capitalize on a great spring and have a chance to be everyday players with their organization in 2021, along with their draft position (Average/Min./Max.) in NFBC drafts. While they might all be owned in your dynasty league, keep an eye on their redraft stock as the spring rumbles on.

Bryse Wilson SP

Braves #6 Prospect (NR MLB)

NFBC ADP: 603/277/706

Okay so Wilson could be considered cheating a little bit here as he has appeared across 3 MLB seasons from 2018-2020, but he only compiled 42.2 innings. Wilson’s fastball can run up to the high 90’s and has shown the ability to control walks in the minor leagues. Some scouts were beginning to think the lights may have been too bright for the young right-hander, as his BB/9 increased significantly when he reached the MLB. When it mattered, Wilson threw his best game since coming up to the big leagues, holding the Dodgers to just one hit over 6 IP, including 5Ks in last year's NLCS. For Wilson, he is in competition for a rotation spot with Drew Smyly and fellow prospects Kyle Wright and Kyle Muller.

Spencer Howard SP

Phillies #1 Prospect (#42 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 410/242/482

Howard is, by all measures, an extremely promising pitching prospect, headlined by his upper 90’s fastball and two excellent secondary pitches; a slider and absolutely filthy changeup. What I love most about Howard is his ability to use the changeup in just about any count, showcased in his 2019 Arizona Fall League stint., where he showed increased velocity (a shoulder injury caused a velocity drop earlier in the 2019 season). He has some question marks in his command, stemming back to his days in college where he started out as a reliever. The Phillies rotation lacks depth behind Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, and Zach Eflin, so there is certainly a chance he can overtake Matt Moore or Vince Velazquez with a dominant Spring Training. If he does not make the rotation out of the gate, he could see some time in the AAA rotation or the MLB bullpen, depending on the club’s needs.

Edward Cabrera SP

Marlins #6 Prospect (#68 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 571/359/656

Cabrera has built a solid repertoire since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2014, developing a 65-grade fastball that can reach triple digits, a 60-grade wipeout slider, and a 55-grade changeup that is newly becoming dominant. He takes full advantage of his 6’5” frame, creating heavy life on all his pitches, inducing K’s and ground balls (1.48 GB/FB in 2019). He can sometimes still get caught overthrowing and leaving the ball up in the zone, where he does give up some home runs, but that will improve with time. Cabrera will be sidelined early this spring with an inflamed nerve in his biceps. The team has sat him down “indefinitely” but manager Don Mattingly still expects him to compete for a rotation spot sometime this year, and his stock has been on the rise since his electric 2019 season. That year, between High-A and AA, he compiled a 10.8 K/9 and lowered his BB/9 by .9, from 3.8 in 2018 to 2.9 in 2019. Cabrera was once thought of as a surefire reliever, but the consensus has shifted to a top-of-the-rotation starter, alongside 2020 star Sixto Sanchez.

Khalil Lee OF

Mets #7 Prospect (NR MLB)

NFBC ADP: 724/534/750

The main piece going to the Mets from the 3 team deal where the Royals acquired Andrew Benintendi, what Lee has going for him to start the year is the fact that he is on the 40-man roster already. Lee has a solid 60-grade raw power, coupled with average speed and an above-average throwing arm, though the power really hasn’t translated to games yet, only hitting 37 longballs in 4 minor league seasons since being drafted. His main issue is his long swing, where he tends to try crushing the ball, rather than letting his skills and power translate naturally. If he were to lessen his swing, we could be looking at a possible 20/20 player, but that seems to be a little further off than a 2021 prediction. The recent signing of Kevin Pillar will eat into his early playing time, as he needs to work on the swing issues mentioned above, but given an injury, he can easily make his way into the lineup.

Luis Garcia 2B/SS

Exhausted Rookie Eligibility

NFBC ADP: 574/358/684

Had the Nationals not made any impactful bullpen signings, I could see this being Jackson Rutledge, although he should be a starter long-term, he has immense bullpen risk. A team with some solid depth overall, there isn’t much room for their top prospects to see playing time, but Luis Garcia, despite being only 20 on Opening Day, saw himself in the lineup 40 times in 2020. Garcia has a solid 60-grade hit tool and decent power, I expect this power to be more gap-to-gap, slapping doubles much more often than Home Runs. He has an incredibly short swing with great bat speed and bat control, meaning he could be a great guy to step in when Trea Turner or Starlin Castro almost inevitably are injured, or Carter Kieboom disappoints at the hot corner.

Brailyn Marquez SP

Cubs #1 Prospect (#60 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 700/485/749

Behind Kyle Hendricks, there are plenty of question marks in the Cubs rotation, and Marquez has his own question marks that may ultimately lead to him heading to the bullpen. His 80-grade fastball is electric, and if the Cubs do decide to deploy him this season, we could see him in either role. He doesn’t really have a secondary pitch he can use to get outs, and only has two other pitches, a 50-grade slider, and a 55-grade changeup. His arm slot is similar to Chris Sale, but lacks the deception in his body, and lacks a “follow through” on his motion, perhaps limiting his ability to locate his pitches as well as he could (40-grade command).

Nick Lodolo SP

Reds #1 Prospect (MLB #59)

NFBC ADP: 707/466/745

Lodolo is the perfect definition of a High Floor fantasy prospect. He won’t overpower hitters, and sinker/slider pitchers are becoming less common as the days go on, but Lodolo features elite command. The Reds will presumably limit innings for the rotation in one way or another, and Lodolo could figure to benefit the most from this. He will be going into a top hitters park, but allowing virtually no home runs (21 in 258.2 NCAA innings) will boost his ratios significantly. He also increased his K/9 throughout his time at TCU, from an 8.2K/9 in 2017 to 11.4 in 2019. He probably won’t win you any leagues on his own, but for a prospect getting drafted in the 700’s, I would be keeping my eyes on him this spring.

Jared Oliva OF

Pirates #12 Prospect (NR MLB)

NFBC ADP: 567/305/600

The pirates have so many holes in their lineup that Oliva will be battling for a starting spot the second Spring Training begins. His competition is Anthony Alford, a former Blue Jay prospect, but after an injury ended his 2020 season, Alford doesn’t appear to have a leg up in the competition. Oliva features some of the best speed in the minors, leading the Arizona Fall League in steals in 2019, with a solid 55-grade hit tool. There have been some concerns about his ability to lift the ball, but he has registered exit velocities over 100mph regularly and his power could continue to develop if he were to get the ball into the air more. He has an extremely compact swing with fast hands to turn on inside pitches, with the ability to hit around .280 with 30+ SB, similar to his production at AAA in 2019.

Nolan Gorman 2B/3B

Cardinals #2 Prospect (#38 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 739/448/747

If there was only one player you could watch to see what happens this Spring, I think Gorman could be the guy. His team just acquired an all-world 3B and instead of just blocking him, he impressed so much at the Alternate Site in 2020 to let go of a fan favorite at 2B and let him try to play a position he has never played at an advanced level. Yes, I am probably a little ahead of myself, and yes, Tommy Edman is probably starting at 2B to start the year, with Matt Carpenter as his backup. Gorman has massive power and a barrel path made for hitting home runs. There is, however, plenty of swing and miss in his game; he struggles with high fastballs and adjusting to good secondary pitches. Only 20 years old on Opening Day, Gorman could see himself as a mid-season call-up, batting in the middle of the order, right behind Nolan Arenado.

Ethan Small SP

Brewers #3 Prospect (NR MLB)

NFBC ADP: 750/627/748

Small doesn’t have the standout repertoire that we often see from top pitching prospects but does have 4 pitches that project to be average or better and commands them well. A former 1st round pick in 2019, Small’s delivery allows for massive deception, and when put with his great command, he can still be effective with a low 90’s fastball. When he was drafted in 2019, he was said to have the best fastball shape of anyone in the draft, and even though his fastball tops out at 92mph, he led the SEC in strikeouts in 2019. Small doesn’t have the stuff to be a top-end starter but could become a solid back of the rotation arm for the Brewers by season’s end.

J.B. Bukauskas SP/RP

Diamondbacks #10 Prospect (NR MLB)

NFBC ADP: 749/549/746

It’s truly a shame the D-backs play in the NL West. Despite a slow offseason, the team will still field a competitive lineup with a solid rotation to back them up. The prospect everyone is watching early this Spring is Daulton Varsho, but with an ADP of 162, he doesn’t fit this list. Enter J.B. Bukauskas, a pitcher with legitimate ace potential, if he can get his command under control. When he was drafted in the first round of 2017, he had the best two-pitch combination in the draft, featuring an electric high 90’s fastball and sharp biting, mid 80’s slider. At UNC and in the minors, he struck batters out at 10.9K/9 and 10.5K/9 respectively but walks started to become an issue, where he finished 2019 with a 5.7BB/9. Most scouts see Bukauskas becoming an elite reliever and the Diamondbacks have already said he will begin the year there, but GM Mike Hazen dismissed the possibility that they had given up on him as a starter. Look for him in Spring Training to be in early competition for the closer role with Joakim Soria and Stefan Crichton, where even if he doesn’t win, he could be a cheap source of holds.

Colton Welker 3B/1B

Rockies #8 Prospect (NR MLB)

NFBC ADP: 745/531/746

Ryan Rolison was another consideration for this spot, but I cannot, in good conscience, put a pitcher for the Rockies over someone else who could very well return value. The void at 3B for the Rockies is large after trading away Arenado and is currently projected to be a platoon between Ryan McMahon and Josh Fuentes. Welker has done well for himself since being taken in the 4th round of the 2016 Draft, compiling a .313/.364/.469 slash line in 4 minor league seasons. He possesses natural gap-to-gap power, with the assumption that more homerun power could come soon. There is some swing-and-miss in his game, and he will sometimes sell out for power. Welker has drawn comparisons to Travis Shaw, meaning he may not stick at the hot corner due to his terrible lateral movement and well below average 30-grade speed, but does not have the raw power most teams like out of their 1B. For a Rockies team going nowhere fast, they added Welker to their 40-man Roster, leaving people to believe he can have a significant impact this year.

Keibert Ruiz C

Dodgers #2 Prospect (#57 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 680/465/748

The Dodgers have an incredible amount of depth, so much so that the only real chance for Ruiz to play in 2021 is for an injury to happen to Will Smith or Austin Barnes. If that wasn’t enough, Ruiz is having trouble with his visa to re-enter the US after returning to his native Venezuela during the offseason. Even with his chances to play seeming to be minimal, he probably has the best chance among Dodgers farmhands. He is a switch-hitting catcher and boasts excellent contact and a great eye for hitting from both sides of the plate, more power from the left side, and a ceiling of a solid defender. Ruiz had a great season in 2018, splitting time with Smith, but then failed to repeat it in 2019 where he only put up a line of .254/.329/.330 and an abysmal 10 games in the Venezuelan Winter League, putting up a line of only .129/.250/.161. I probably wouldn’t waste my time waiting for Ruiz to play this year, where he would at best split time behind the plate.

MacKenzie Gore SP

Padres #1 Prospect (#6 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 326/166/553

Speaking of a team with depth, there is truly nowhere for prospects to play at the moment, to expect Gore to pitch in 2021 would be to have expectations that Dinelson Lamet’s elbow injury to worse than led on by the Padres staff. Gore is certainly a player to watch this Spring after reports from last year’s alternate site were that his mechanics were off and he experienced a drop in velocity. His biggest issue mechanically is his hips leaking open as he lands, where he can lose some of the power he has stored up to get his pitches to that next level. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild has said Gore is back on track and will compete this Spring.

Gore is one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory, stemming from his otherworldly 1.69 ERA in 2019, with 135 K in 101 innings. I’ll be watching Gore’s electric mid 90’s fastball to make sure he maintains velocity, but also his slider, which has now surpassed his also MLB ready curveball.

Heliot Ramos OF

Giants #3 Prospect (#82 MLB)

NFBC ADP: 746/486/749

Ramos was invited to the Giants alternate site in 2020, but as was expected, he did not see any MLB game competition. Ramos is an athletic, toolsy OF, who as he has begun to fill out, has lost a step with his running ability. He has a solid amount of raw power, which could lead him to be a 25+ HR hitter as he continues to fill out. Ramos does not have much natural loft in his swing but has the strength to carry the ball over the wall. Even though he has seemingly lost a step, he can still be effective as a base stealer, swiping 26 bases over the last 3 years. Ramos looks to be competing with sleeper favorite Austin Slater and Alex Dickerson to begin the 2021 season.