March 11, 2013
Top 100 Dynasty League Prospects
Part Two: 51-100
Before we begin, let’s make one thing clear right up front: This is not Jason Parks’ list.
At Baseball Prospectus, we are fortunate to have an amazing prospect team that truly keeps its collective nose to the grindstone both on the diamond and within major-league organizations. We used the research and knowledge of our prospect team judiciously while putting together this feature. However, from there, we used our collective fantasy experience to formulate a list that requires no interpretation for the fantasy player. There’s no work necessary in setting a player’s defense aside in order to figure out his true fantasy value, since we don’t care about the distinction between the defensive skills of Francisco Lindor and Xander Bogaerts. We just care about the “SS” next to their names.
First, there are a few disclaimers specific to the prospect list to go over before we jump in. Again, these rankings are for fantasy purposes only and do not directly take into account things like an outfielder’s ability to stick in center or a catcher’s pop time. Of course, these things do matter indirectly, as they affect a player’s ability to either stay in the lineup or maintain eligibility. So, while Austin Hedges may be a top-20 prospect on BP’s Top 101, this is due in large part to his defensive value, and you’ll see that he’s not on this list because his upside isn’t nearly as great for fantasy.
Additionally, home parks need to be factored in, just as they are when we discuss the fantasy merits of major-league players. Since A.J. Burnett’s fantasy potential increased greatly when he went from New York to Pittsburgh, we can’t pretend that these prospects operate in a vacuum, unaffected by park factors. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will reach the majors with their current organizations, so although present teams are reflected in the rankings, they are not a heavy consideration. Most importantly, the intention of this list is to balance the upside, probability, and proximity of these players to an active fantasy lineup.
Within the list below, in addition to the write-ups, you’ll find important information about each prospect, including his potential fantasy value (in dollars) at his peak and the risk factor associated with his reaching that peak. Also, you will find a fantasy overview, which summarizes how many categories each player will be useful in, along with any fantasy that carry impact potential. For this exercise, we defined “impact” as having the potential to be in the top 15 to 20 players in a given category. For instance, hitters with 30-homer potential are considered “impact” performers in that department, while pitchers can earn the strikeout distinction by flashing the stuff necessary to whiff 200 batters in a season.
Finally, you’ll also notice that we have provided a spreadsheet (titled BPTop100) detailing useful information on each prospect, including both everything mentioned in the list and specific ratings for every player in each of the five major fantasy categories. Those category ratings are broken down, from highest to lowest, into Elite, Impact, Above Average, Average, Below Average and No Impact. Most of the categories are self-explanatory, but obviously some are context-dependent. With pitcher wins, it’s more about the ability of the pitcher to log quality innings. For runs scored, it’s more about on-base ability and the potential to hit toward the top of a lineup. More specific interpretation of what each rating means from a quantitative perspective can be found within the “Definitions” tab in the spreadsheet. (Please note that in order to access the spreadsheet, which is made available through our subscriber-only server, you will need to reenter your username and password.)
And, to finish off what we started last week, here are the rest of Top 100 Fantasy Prospects—numbers 51 through 100:
Starling is both the only offensive player on this list with impact potential in four different fantasy categories and the highest-ranked player with an extreme risk grade. In some ways that tells you everything you need to know about him: He’s still the same player, capable of 30-30 seasons down the road, but the more time he spends without fixing his contact issues, the lower his chances of reaching that ceiling become.
Cowart took a nice step forward in 2012, hitting .276/.358/.452 with 16 homers and 14 steals between Low-A and High-A, along with improved strikeout and walk rates from his 2011 summer stint in the Pioneer League. It’s no coincidence that the Angels have left themselves with only one real position of weakness (third base) at the major-league level, and Cowart should be able to fill that void at some point during 2014.
Williams’ fantasy upside is unquestionable. He has the potential to hit for average, as shown by his career .317 mark in the minor leagues, and he has the potential to steal 30+ bases annually at the major-league level. However, the biggest question with Williams surrounds his power. If he can hit 20 homers in his prime, he’ll be a fantasy stud; if not, he’ll still be a valuable player, just more in the Angel Pagan mold.
The reason Rosario doesn’t get more love in non-fantasy prospect lists is that, even if he does stick at second base long-term, he’ll probably never be very good at it. Fortunately for fantasy owners, it’s only the eligibility that’s important, not the level of defense he’s able to provide. A .290 hitter with on-base ability who can reach double digits in both homers and steals is valuable at second base. In the outfield, though—not so much.
Rosenthal worked exclusively as a starter in Double-A and Triple-A last season, taking the mound in a total of 20 games. He finished the minor-league season with a 2.97 ERA, a passable 3.5 BB/9, and a solid 8.6 K/9. Even if he hadn't made an appearance in the bigs last year, his season would have been deemed a success. He did reach the majors, though, and he dazzled onlookers with premium cheddar that reached triple digits on the biggest stage. The allure of having him blow hitters away out of the bullpen was too attractive for the Cardinals to keep Rosenthal in the rotation mix to open the 2013 season, but even if he ends up a reliever long-term, his stuff is good enough to make him an elite closer when the opportunity comes.
Liriano was much higher on this list when it was started, but since that time, news broke that he would miss the entire 2013 season due to Tommy John surgery. This doesn’t affect his massive long-term ceiling, but missing a year really hurts a player like Liriano, who was making steady progress and needs the reps. With the ability to clear 20 homers and steals, Liriano will look to resume his rise to the majors in 2014.
When Teheran turned in an outstanding season for Triple-A Gwinnett as a 20-year-old, expectations were sky-high. He has failed to become an overnight sensation since, and his star has lost some luster. Then again, his ugly 4.89 ERA in six August starts for Gwinnett last September overshadowed an excellent strikeout-to-walk rate of 5.17, he pitched well in the Dominican Winter League, and he has the inside track on the fifth-starter gig in Atlanta. Don't write Teheran off yet. He still has a chance to be a very good fantasy pitcher, and possibly as soon as this year.
58) Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees (Age: 21, ETA: 2014)
Austin manhandled the Sally League to start 2012, hitting .320/.405/.598 with 14 homers and 17 steals in 266 at-bats. He continued by hitting .321/.385/.478 in the Florida State League and finishing the season off with a home run in the Double-A playoffs. If this offensive display continues, Austin could be an above-average contributor across the board, including steals (despite his average-at-best speed, he’s a career 41-for-43 in stolen base attempts).
59) Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians (Age: 19, ETA: 2015)
Lindor is an easy player to get carried away with from a fantasy perspective. His potentially outstanding defense causes him to rank very high on prospect lists (including 10th on BP’s Top 101), but offensively, he doesn’t stack up with the shortstops we’ve already covered on this list. On the other hand, he’s a lock to stick at the position and contribute at least modestly in all five categories.
Finding the right spot on a prospect list for a Cuban defector who’s only amassed 82 professional at-bats is not an easy task. And this isn’t like Cespedes or Chapman, since Puig never played for the top Cuban national team (to which more scouts have access). Puig’s game is strength first and everything else later. He could be a big-time, power-hitting outfielder, or he could struggle to make enough contact for it to matter.
The 2012 season was not Marisnick’s finest effort, but rumors of his demise are being greatly exaggerated. An 800 OPS for a 21-year-old in the offense-depressing Florida State League isn’t going to wow anyone, but it’s not a death sentence either. And neither is struggling in a first taste of Double-A. After the trade to Miami, he’s got a wide-open outfield in front of him, and still carries 25-25 upside.
A sprained UCL that ultimately required Tommy John surgery allowed Giolito to fall into the Nationals' lap last June. If not for the injury, he almost certainly would have been among the first players off the draf board. Before undergoing surgery, Giolito had electric stuff, and if it retains post-surgery, he'll skyrocket on prospect lists. The Nationals are no strangers to rehabbing pitchers from Tommy John surgery and they hope that Giolito will be their next success story. There may not be a greater risk-reward player on this list.
63) Michael Wacha, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Age 21, ETA: Late 2013)
The Cardinals selected Wacha 19th overall in last June's draft as a starting pitcher out of Texas A&M. They opted to get him acclimated to pro ball in a bullpen role, and he shined. He'll look to build on his debut, this time working as a starter in the upper minors, with a chance to earn a big-league look before the end of the year.
If forced to take one player from this list for 2013 purposes only, Eaton might be the top choice. When a player enters professional ball as a 19th-round senior sign, he needs to really dominate to change the minds of prospect evaluators—and I think a career .355/.456/.510 line with 98 steals in two-and-a-half seasons is enough to do just that. He could score 100 runs and steal 35 bases atop the Diamondbacks lineup this year.
65) Kolten Wong, 2B, St Louis Cardinals (Age: 22, ETA: Mid 2013)
The argument against Wong for fantasy purposes isn’t that he’s not talented, it’s that he doesn’t have enough upside. And while that may be true (he’ll likely never be the top second baseman in fantasy), there’s plenty of value in being a steady contributor across all categories. The outstanding question is whether he’ll have enough pop to reach double-digits in homers despite his diminutive stature.
66) Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 22, ETA: 2014)
Davidson continued doing what he does best in 2012: getting on base and hitting dingers. For fantasy, he’s likely always going to be more valuable in OBP leagues, as he doesn’t project to hit for much average, but his power should play up nicely at Chase Field. The contract extension for Martin Prado does slightly affect Davidson’s future, but if he continues to develop, the Diamondbacks will clear the hot corner for him.
Some men were just put on this earth to hit, and Vogelbach is one of those men. Complex league statistics can be misleading, so while his 1.077 OPS in the AZL was impressive, his .322/.423/.608 line with 10 homers in 143 at-bats in the Northwest League (a much more depressed offensive environment) as a 19-year old is even more tantalizing. He may never even be a mediocre defensive first baseman, but fantasy owners won’t care. He has huge upside as a power hitter who can also hit for average.
The Rays aren’t keen on rushing their young arms, and Guerrieri appears to be in the slow lane up the minor-league ladder. It's hard to argue with the organization’s track record of developing pitchers, and Guerreri is their next project. His distance from the majors adds risk to his fantasy profile, but the upside he possesses makes him a gamble worth taking.
The Pirates signed Heredia as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2010. He made his pro debut the following year and has held his own in two seasons in the minors. Considering U.S.-born pitchers would be throwing to fellow high schoolers at his age, Heredia's work to date is no small feat. Projection is the name of the game with Heredia, and when that's the case, there is risk. As with Guerrieri, the ceiling warrants the risk in dynasty leagues.
Strikeout pitchers are desirable assets in fantasy baseball, and Paxton has no trouble racking up punchouts. In 145 1/3 innings split across two seasons at the Double-A level, Paxton has amassed a 10.0 K/9. His biggest problems to date have been subpar control and command, which have inflated his walk rate to 4.1 per nine innings and left him with a below-average changeup. If he can clear those hurdles to remain a starter and pile up innings, the strikeouts will follow.
71) Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners (Age: 22, ETA: Mid 2013)
It’s tough to figure out where to place Franklin on this list, because he may have more outcomes than anyone in the upper minors, both in terms of his offensive profile and his defensive position. He hasn’t quite lived up to his 23-homer, 25-steal full-season debut in 2010, but he’s also had a lot of bad luck. After adding 35 pounds this spring, he’s looking to prove he can push 20 homers at the major-league level.
72) Dorssys Paulino, SS/2B, Cleveland Indians (Age: 18, ETA: 2015)
With preternatural hitting ability, Paulino took the Arizona League by storm, to the tune of a .355 average with six homers and nine steals in only 172 at-bats. This earned him a promotion to the New York-Penn League, where he was the youngest position player by nearly half a year. While he may not end up at shortstop due to his defensive shortcomings and the presence of Lindor, he has the bat to profile at either the keystone or the hot corner.
Because the Orioles have an organizational philosophy of pushing their best hitting prospects aggressively, Schoop (like future teammate Manny Machado) has been very young for each level to which he has been assigned. Thus, while the .245/.324/.386 line with 14 homers at Double-A isn’t impressive, the fact that he was 20 years old makes it understandable. He may not have huge fantasy impact (think .270 with 20 homers at peak), but the keystone is wide open and waiting for him in Baltimore.
Peralta had a forgettable first half for Triple-A Nashville, but he finished the season well, making six appearances, five of which were starts, for the Brewers. He's in a great position to break camp as part of a revamped Milwaukee rotation, with the build to eat innings, and that durability should put him in line to deliver wins to his fantasy owners.
75) Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Age 21, ETA: 2014)
Ventura's slight build leads to questions about his ability to hold up under a starter's workload long-term, but he pitched well as a starter last season and reached Double-A. He's unlikely to be a workhorse starter that eclipses 200 innings annually, but his size hasn't prevented him from holding his premium fastball velocity late into his starts. Ventura’s electric arm will allow him to strike batters out at a high rate regardless of the role he eventually earns for the Royals, and a fallback of possibly developing into a closer creates a safety net for his fantasy owners.
76) Adalberto Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals (Age: 17, ETA: 2016)
The youngest player on this list, Mondesi started the 2012 as a 16-year-old in the Pioneer League, and he still managed to hit .290/.346/.386 with three homers and 11 steals. He is light-years away from the big leagues, but don’t be shocked if the Royals continue to push him aggressively with a promotion to Low-A. He projects to stay at the position and could be an across-the-board contributor.
The Reds spent a late-first-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft on Stephenson and he made his pro debut in 2012. He split his first season between Rookie and Low-A, and he struck out better than a batter per inning (10.0 K/9). Stephenson has front-line starter upside, but he hasn't even thrown a pitch above Low-A, and he has years of development ahead of him.
If you're a sucker for ground balls, Webster will tickle your fancy. He induced grounders on more than 60 percent of the balls put in play against him last season. Webster also has the goods necessary to strike out batters at an above-average rate. If you combine his worm-burning ways with his strikeout ability, you have a pitcher that doesn't need pinpoint control to gobble up innings and help fantasy teams.
79) Matt Adams, 1B, St Louis Cardinals (Age: 24, ETA: Now)
Adams is simply in the wrong organization at the wrong time. He was given a very small window to perform when Lance Berkman got hurt in 2012, but hit only .244/.286/.384 in 86 at-bats—a far cry from his .329/.362/.624 line in Triple-A. With Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter ahead of him on the depth chart, Adams may need a trade to prove that he’s not a Quad-A player. And, if given that opportunity, he has the offensive talent to carve out a regular role in the majors.
80) Jackie Bradley Jr, OF, Boston Red Sox (Age: 22, ETA: 2014)
Bradley is the type of prospect you have to watch out for, since so much of his value is tied in with his potentially special defense in center field and his on-base ability. Strip that away for fantasy, and you get a potential .275 hitter with 10 homers, 20 steals, and a boatload of runs. That’s certainly valuable, but this is not a building block for your fantasy team. It’s more like a poor man’s Shin-Soo Choo.
81) Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs (Age: 18, ETA: 2015)
It’s fitting that Almora and Bradley are back-to-back on this list, because Almora has some similar characteristics. His high ranking on prospect lists might lead readers to overrate his offensive ceiling, but there is plenty to like here. Almora has solid offensive potential with great defensive chops and an advanced approach. He’s likely to contribute across the board, though he lacks elite fantasy skills.
82) Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Age 23, ETA: 2015)
Meyer is a tall pitcher that uses his big fastball to both miss bats and generate ground balls. Like many tall pitchers, he struggles at times with repeating his delivery and commanding his pitches. He did a solid job of finding the strike zone last year (3.1 BB/9), and if he can continue to do that while further developing his changeup, he'll have a chance to reach his ceiling. If he falls short of his ceiling, his power arm would fit nicely at the back end of a bullpen.
Crick didn't begin pitching full-time until his senior year in high school, and thus, he is still learning the nuances of the craft. Being wet behind the ears didn't prevent him from stifling Low-A hitters last year, though. A long development curve lies ahead, but the seeds are in place for the Giants organization to cultivate another frontline starter down on the farm. He'll hazard the treacherous High-A California League this season, and fantasy owners shouldn't be alarmed if Crick’s line in the box score isn't always sparkling in 2013.
84) Kyle Gibson, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Age 25, ETA: Now)
Gibson spent most of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but he was able to make it back on the mound and total 28 1/3 innings during the minor-league season and another 23 1/3 frames in the Arizona Fall League. If he's able to put his injury history behind him, Gibson will get substantial playing time for the Twins this season. He won't wow fantasy gamers, but he's ready to help now and will round out fantasy rotations quite well.
85) Justin Nicolino, LHP, Miami Marlins (Age 21, ETA: 2015)
Nicolino's stuff doesn't quite line up with his big strikeout totals, but he has some projectability that could allow him to close the gap. He's a polished pitcher with a feel for his craft. Nicolino’s changeup gives him an out pitch, and if his projection turns into actuality, the Blue Jay-turned-Marlin will become more intriguing. As it stands, his ranking is fueled in part by a high floor, which is uncommon for pitchers with no upper-minors experience.
86) Robert Erlin, LHP, San Diego Padres (Age 22, ETA: Mid 2013)
Erlin is a fly-ball pitcher that should benefit greatly from calling PETCO Park home. He's nearly ready to join the Padres rotation, and while his good-but-not-great stuff will prevent him from racking up lofty strikeout totals, he's a guy that will get every ounce out of what he has due to his pinpoint control and pitching acumen.
87) Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Age 23, ETA: Mid 2013)
Odorizzi was included in the large deal headlined by James Shields and Wil Myers, and the Rays became his professional organization. The righty made two starts for the Royals last season, and he's ready to log more innings in the majors. He made not get that opportunity out of the gate this year, due to the Rays' starting pitching depth, but he'll likely get another chance come summertime. Odorizzi lacks a put-away pitch, but his deep arsenal portends big-league success, even if the strikeout totals aren’t dazzling.
88) Corey Seager, 3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (Age: 18, ETA: 2015)
Let’s be honest, Seager is not a shortstop. Fortunately, he has the offensive potential to profile well offensively at third base. Full-season ball will be a big test for Seager, as he’s had limited experience against high-quality pitching. He’s not likely to be among the league leaders in home runs even when he fills out, but his ability to make hard contact should allow him to contribute everywhere outside of stolen bases.
For the first three months of the 2012 season, Choice was a power-hitting prospect without the power. When June ended, he had six homers in nearly 300 Double-A at-bats. Choice caught fire in July (.435/.493/.710), but fractured his hand before the month ended and missed the remainder of the season. If Choice picks up where he left off, Oakland’s outfield glut won’t stand in his way for long.
Vizcaino missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, after undergoing the procedure in March. The Cubs astutely acquired him last July, in exchange for sending Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson to the Braves. He has worked as a starter and reliever in his minor-league career, but his likeliest future home is in a big-league bullpen. If Vizcaino’s stuff returns to pre-injury levels, he'll have the goods necessary to miss bats at a high rate at the back of the Cubs' bullpen.
Perez was in the mix, if not leading the pack, to open the season as the Rangers' fifth starter. A broken forearm will prevent that from happening, and he’s expected to miss at least the first month of the 2013 campaign. Perez is a maddening prospect: He pitched to contact more often last year, but as long as he continues to show above-average offerings, the possibility of him missing big-league bats will remain. Dreams of him becoming a frontline starter are now a thing of the past, but a mid-rotation arm that can round-out fantasy staffs has value too.
92) Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals (Age: 19, ETA: 2015)
Bonifacio started out the 2012 very well, hitting .314/.369/.469 mostly as an 18-year old; however, as has been the case with many teenaged prospects getting their first taste of full-season ball, he tired down the stretch. Bonifacio is the type of prospect whose fantasy projection currently lies in projection, not performance; he has a chance to hit 25+ homers in the majors someday, but the power to reach those heights is still developing.
93) Gary Brown, OF, San Francisco Giants (Age: 24, ETA: Mid 2013
Things are much less rosy for Brown than they were a year ago, when Kevin Goldstein was shouting his praises from the rooftops. Brown struggled badly at the start of the year, but fought through mechanical adjustments to post a .315/.356/.452 line from June 13 through the end of the season. If he keeps up that type of performance in 2013, there’s a job waiting for him in San Francisco and 40+ steals waiting for your fantasy lineup.
94) Slade Heathcott, OF, New York Yankees (Age: 22, ETA: 2014)
In 2012, Heathcott impressed in the Florida State League, hitting .307/.378/.470 with five homers and 17 steals in 215 at-bats, but he took that to a new level by hitting .388/.494/.612 with 10 extra-base hits and five steals in 67 AFL at bats. Unfortunately, he’s still only accumulated 755 career at-bats since being taken 29th overall in the 2009 draft—and his fourth-gear style is a big reason why.
95) John Lamb, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Age 22, ETA: Late-2013)
Lamb underwent Tommy John surgery in June of 2011, and that sidetracked his rise to the bigs. He pitched in just six games last season, logging only 13 innings. Prior to surgery, Lamb was considered one of the best left-handed prospects in baseball, and if his pitches return to their pre-injury form, he'll have a chance to reclaim his spot on top prospect lists. He's still only 22 years old and has time on his side to shake off the rust.
96) Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox (Age: 20, ETA: 2016)
Coming off a season in which he hit .262/.307/.395 as a 20-year old in Low-A, Swihart doesn’t stand out on the stat page. However, he improved as the season went along, and reports on his defense were more positive than expected. With Swihart, you’re buying future potential—this is still the type of bat that could hit for a very solid average and 15-20 home run power, a la Miguel Montero.
If you were looking for a Billy Hamilton starter kit, Quinn would be it—all the way from the blazing speed to the lack of power to the potential for a position change away from shortstop. Full-season ball will provide a better glimpse into Quinn’s future, but if he’s going to be an impact fantasy player down the road, it will be solely for the stolen bases.
98) Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 20, ETA: 2015)
The 2012 campaign was a step back for Bell, who was only able to muster 62 at-bats before going down with a season-ending knee injury. He’ll need to be on the field and productive in order to rejoin the upper echelon of Pirates’ offensive prospects, like Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson. However, it’s too early to count out the $5 million man.
99) Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers (Age: 19, ETA: 2016)
Even after a full-season at Low-A, Alfaro’s fantasy upside is still off-the-charts—but with huge potential come huge risks. He’ll likely never have great plate discipline, but for his minor-league career he has 25 walks to 186 strikeouts in 604 at-bats. The odds of him putting it all together offensively are small, but a catcher who could hit 30 homers and steal 10+ bases is too valuable to ignore.
100) Lance McCullers Jr, RHP, Houston Astros (Age 19, ETA: 2016)
The Astros selected McCullers in the sandwich round of last June's draft. He has the type of power arm on which dynasty gamers can dream. He'll need to smooth out his rough edges and refine his changeup, but if it all comes together, he'll have a chance to pile up the strikeouts at the big-league level. If the changeup doesn't come along, his blazing heater and power curveball could enable him to thrive in the ninth inning.