December 13, 2013
Seven Hitting Prospects on the Rise
If you’ve been reading Baseball Prospectus’ outstanding Transaction Analysis series, you’ll know that the BP Fantasy team chimes in on every move as well. We think this is a great way to bring our fantasy readers information throughout the offseason, rather than flooding them with opinions come spring, and if we’re being honest, it’s just good fun, too.
Something we pride ourselves on is analyzing not only the players dealt or signed in a transaction, but on talking about every relevant player who might be impacted. You’d be surprised at just how often non-moving pieces are more deeply affected than their dynamic counterparts.
This is especially true of fantasy-relevant prospects, who’s entire perceived 2014 value can live and die with a single transaction. How many dynasty owners are thrilled to own Nick Franklin right now? How many more people now want to own Tyler Skaggs?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at seven hitting prospects who’ve seen a nice boost in value this offseason, even if they’ve remained stationary through all the Hot Stove madness.
Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers
There were plenty of rumors that Texas was going to trade Profar this offseason— to Tampa Bay for David Price, to Miami for Giancarlo Stanton, or elsewhere—but it was Kinsler who got the boot instead. That leaves Profar with nothing in front of him in 2014, and while he receives a slight drop in value from playing 2B instead of SS, he still has top-15 middle infielder upside. I wouldn’t expect him to reach that status quite yet, but if Profar hits close to .300 with 15 homers and 10 steals, no one would be surprised. If his poor performance last year takes some of the shine off Profar and makes him more affordable in drafts this season, all the better.
Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals
It’s fashionable to point out that Wong is not an elite prospect, and that’s just as true for fantasy as it is in real life. But there’s a pretty wide range between elite and irrelevant, and Wong is a good candidate to settle in to a long career as a top-15 2B option. It would be nice to see him walk more, but if Wong does bat near the top of St. Louis’ potent order, expect a bevy of runs to go along with a respectable average, 8-10 homers and 15-plus steals.
Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Red Sox
Bradley is a much, much better MLB prospect than he is a fantasy one. Double-digit homers are within his reach, but he’s not going to hit for a ton power, he’s not going to steal a ton of bases and he gets on base more via the walk than he does via a high average. That being said, Bradley is still fully capable of hitting in excess of .270, and he’s a candidate to score 80-plus runs if he gets 500 PA this season. Bradley gets a huge boost in OBP leagues, as he’s going to routinely reach base at a .350 clip or better.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Tigers
But now, Castellanos will likely be the starting third baseman for arguably the best offense in baseball. Unless he tanks in Spring Training, there’s no reason to think he won’t get at least 500 PA next year. While there’s an argument to be had over how much power he’ll hit for in the majors, no one really doubts that he will hit, and even a .270 average with 15 homers, and 70 or so runs and RBI would make Castellanos quite relevant in standard leagues. I wouldn’t draft him as my starting 3B just yet, but I certainly would draft him.
Josmil Pinto, C, Twins
On to Pinto himself: despite not being particularly well known even in dynasty circles last year, the 24-year-old put himself on the map with an outstanding campaign in Double-A and Triple-A, eventually earning 83 PA in the majors. While high BABIPs lead to some cause for concern, Pinto clearly has some pop in his bat and certainly has enough offensive upside to be relevant for fantasy purposes. He’s a sneaky-good second catcher option for those of you who play in god-forsaken leagues that start two catchers.
Adam Eaton, OF, White Sox
That was until earlier this week, of course, when Eaton was dealt to the White Sox as part of the Mark Trumbo deal. Suddenly, the 25-year-old speedster finds himself playing in a great hitters’ ballpark and probably at the top of a batting order, with little competition for playing time other than Alejandro De Aza. Eaton instantly becomes one of the better sleeper sources of steals for 2014, and seeing him put together a season somewhat similar to Leonys Martin’s 2013 wouldn’t be surprising at all. This was a great move for the White Sox and for fantasy owners alike.
Michael Choice, OF, Rangers
Choice is a valuable prospect for two reasons: He gets on base, and he can hit for power from the right side of the plate. The latter of those two skills should be amplified by Choice’s new home park, and the former should come in handy in what’s shaping up to be a good Rangers lineup. Texas may still opt to add another outfielder this offseason, but if they don’t, Choice is in line to be the starter. Even if he only sees limited time in 2014, his future is brighter in Texas than it was in Oakland.