March 4, 2014
The Top 101 Fantasy Prospects of 2014
Part Two: 51-101
The following is an excerpt from the upcoming Baseball Prospectus Futures Guide 2014, our second-annual prospect book, which will collect all of BP's offseason prospect content (plus exclusive prospect and fantasy offerings) in book and e-book form. Here's a look at last year's book; expect an even more meaty offering this time around.
To read part one of this list, published yesterday, click here.
In an age where there’s more statistical information available on players than ever before, you’ve come to the right place to differentiate yourself from your league-mates. Even if you don’t play in a keeper or dynasty league where you can own minor leaguers without wasting roster spots, the importance of reading scouting reports and knowing who these players are becomes obvious when a few years later you are faced with the dilemma of choosing them for your roster.
If you are in a dynasty league, you can take advantage of the box-score scouts by knowing more tangible details about a player. How can his power tool progress as he develops? How much of his speed at the minor-league level is sustainable for major-league stolen-base success? Does he lack high-end bat speed and can he potentially be exposed as the pitching he’s facing improves?
The more you know, the more you’ll win. And the more you win, the happier you’ll feel. So let’s start your journey toward nirvana.
Within this list, you’ll find some fantasy-specific information about each player—namely where his impact lies and how much you can expect to one day pay for his services if he reaches the heights he is capable of reaching. Also included this year are “Realistic Ceiling” and “Realistic Floor” designations, which are meant to give a more tangible idea of who these players can become from a statistical standpoint or compared to their peers. So when I say that Rougned Odor could be Martin Prado, I do not mean it in any scouting sense—but strictly in the type of value he can have for a fantasy team.
I also won’t go too in depth with the commentary here, as you’ve just combed through hundreds of pages of scouting reports, and I’m not going to add anything earth shattering. Plus, more detailed fantasy takes are already sprinkled throughout the top 10 lists.
Finally, like any list, there are some disclaimers to go over before we get started. 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 often matter indirectly, as they affect a player’s ability to either stay in the lineup or maintain eligibility. So, while Austin Hedges is a top-20 prospect on Jason Parks’ Top 101 list, this is largely because of his defensive value. Hedges doesn’t make the Fantasy 101 list because underneath that glossy defense is a bat that doesn’t profile so well in our world.
Additionally, home environments and league differences need to be factored in, just as they are when we are when talking about a major-league player. If Josh Johnson’s fantasy potential skyrockets from moving both from the American League to the National League and from a hitters’ park in Toronto to a pitchers’ paradise in San Diego, we can’t pretend that these prospects operate in a vacuum, unaffected by such factors. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will reach the majors with their current organizations, so while it is not a heavy consideration, it is reflected.
In the end, the intention of this list is to balance the upside, probability, and proximity of these players to an active fantasy lineup. These rankings should be viewed in the context of a medium-sized mixed dynasty league where you have a separate minor-league farm team. That means if you’re in a deep league, you can bump up some of the names that have higher probability and lower ceiling, like Matt Davidson and Rafael Montero. The opposite also applies with shallower leagues, where the focus should be upside, upside, and more upside—in those leagues, players like Tim Anderson and Joey Gallo will have increased value due to the elevated replacement level and likely shallowness of the minor-league systems.
If Sanchez could consistently figure out where the ball is going, he’d likely be a top-25 prospect—his raw stuff would certainly support it. Even if he “makes it” and misses bats at the major-league level, he still might be a drag on your WHIP.
Cecchini will be one of those guys who get underrated in fantasy because he doesn’t do the sexy things all that well. He has the curse of being a strong play in batting average and runs scored.
See: Sanchez, Aaron. As you can tell by my dropping of the M word above, Crick is also in serious need of stuff-harnessing. If he can put the whole package together, he’s a pitcher you build a fantasy staff around.
The first real high-payout lottery ticket here, Tapia has all of the requisite tools to be a future fantasy stud, including the most optimal home park known to man.
55. Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
It seems strange that a Red Sox prospect may actually be underrated, but I guess the shadow of Xander Bogaerts extends to somewhere south of Hartford. Which is amusing because that’s only a slightly smaller shadow than Owens has himself.
The changeup is awe-inspiring, and Kauffman Stadium will be a nice place to call home. But unless the breaking ball maxes out its projection, he’s probably never going to be a huge strikeout guy.
The big question with Almora is how much power he’ll have, but don’t assume that because he projects to be a very good defensive center fielder, he will be able to help you on the basepaths. He’s not that type of runner.
Smith is a much more interesting fantasy proposition than a real-life one. Most evaluators agree that he will hit for average wherever he is, but whether he has 15 or 25 homers with it will go a long way toward determining his future value.
Paxton was more or less a forgotten man before he put an exclamation point on his season in September with the big club. He’ll have an uphill battle to post a helpful WHIP but has upside everywhere else.
60. Mookie Betts, 2B, Boston Red Sox (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Despite the impressive numbers in 2013, the jury is still out on just how valuable Betts will be in the batting average and power categories. Plus, he’s blocked for the foreseeable future in Boston—which possibly pushes back his ETA.
61. Tim Anderson, SS, Chicago White Sox (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
The range of outcomes is very wide with Anderson, but the toolset is enticing and U.S. Cellular would be a great place to draw some extra power out of his bat. He becomes even more delectable in shallower leagues, where upside is king.
There’s plenty to like about Sims, from the athleticism to the development of the changeup. However, he’s got a ways to go to prove that he can pitch a lot of innings in a rotation.
It was difficult not to mention Hanson and Gregory Polanco in the same sentence last year after they both broke out in Low-A, but if you took Hanson first between the two in your 2013 draft, you’re probably regretting that right about now.
64. Sean Manaea, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
The hip injury clouds his potential value, but all signs point to him being strong and healthy heading into 2014. If that is the case, the owners who took a shot on him in their dynasty drafts will be well rewarded.
One of the big risers after the 2013 draft was in the books, Harvey has gained enough steam that he should be taken in the first round of most dynasty drafts.
While he may not be as revered as he was a year or two ago, forget about Marisnick at your own risk. He still carries enough talent to turn himself into an everyday outfielder in all leagues.
67. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Seattle Mariners (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
It may not be as tough to be a right-handed hitting prospect in Seattle as it used to be, but it’s still not the friendliest assignment. Peterson could have a long career of strong park-adjusted stats ahead of him (which doesn’t help for fantasy).
Even if he doesn’t live up to his lofty potential, the odds are still pretty good that Shipley will end his career with the highest WARP of any pitcher named Braden—this distinction currently belongs to Braden Looper at 5.3 WARP.
Hidden within the not overly impressive statistics is a near 20/20 player waiting to come out. Of course, if that were more certain to come out of Goodwin, he wouldn’t have taken a 35-spot tumble from last year’s list.
Choice was likely bumped from a starting spot to begin the 2014 season once Shin-Soo Choo and his glorious hair came to town. However, he can overtake Mitch Moreland for the DH spot during the season if he shows some of that power.
The fastball is great, but if the breaking ball doesn’t come around a little more, this is looking more and more like an eventual bullpen future. He could be great in that role, but that’s not what you want in fantasy.
The problem with Williams has never been his tools, it’s been his ability to develop them as he moves up the developmental ladder. If Williams had Joc Pederson’s #want, he’d be a top-25 prospect on this list.
73. Delino DeShields Jr., OF, Houston Astros (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 27)
It’s either coincidence or fate that Williams and DeShields are back-to-back here. The bigger issues with the embattled Astro are that he is moving down the defensive spectrum and that he plays like he reads too many of his own press clippings.
It’s not as tough to be a power hitter in Petco as it used to be, but it’s still not an ideal venue for the skill set. Fortunately, Renfroe can also contribute on the basepaths, leaving him with a second way to add value.
75. Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 66)
It’s tough to pull off an upgrade in home park when you’re already staring Chase Field in the face, but Davidson did it. And if U.S. Cellular can’t draw out his power, no park can.
76. Jackie Bradley Jr., OF, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 80)
Bradley is as safe a prospect as there is on this list, but that doesn’t make him all that interesting long term. He’ll get on base and score a lot of runs if he is at the top of the Boston lineup, but don’t expect much firepower in the glory stats.
77. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Rodriguez is kind of like the pitching equivalent of Jackie Bradley—he doesn’t offer much upside anywhere, but he should be good enough to stick on your roster for a long time.
78. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Edwards is going to look slighted here, especially when compared with some of his other small-statured brethren, but I have a lot less confidence in his ability to stick in the rotation than in guys like Ventura, Martinez, and Stroman.
The suspension hurts in the short term, as he could have gotten to the major-league level in 2014 with another strong showing in the upper minors, but Rosario can hit. Someone has to stop him from (or teach him the art of) running, though, as he’s 21-for-42 over the last two years.
80. Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 56)
The lost season hurt Liriano more than it would have hurt a more polished prospect, as he really needed the reps. However, the power/speed combo is still there in spades, and his injury should not have any lingering effect on either tool.
Crawford may show up as high risk here, but he’s on the shallower end of that pool because of his advanced approach and good probability to stick at shortstop. He may end up even better in OBP leagues.
82. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 98)
Coming off a lost season, Bell looks to reclaim the trajectory that was taking him toward the middle of the Pirates’ lineup. The $5 million man makes for a nice trade target before the real games start.
83. Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
There’s so much swing-and-miss in Gallo’s game right now that it could provide enough wind power for the eastern half of the United States while he toils and hammers in Hickory and Myrtle Beach. Texas, you’re up next.
84. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
Everyone was happy and children were smiling until someone decided to drop a casual Mike Trout reference in regard to Meadows. Then a storm circled the village as the elders shouted, “There are no casual Mike Trout references!”
85. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
The advanced right-hander should be on the fast track to making an impact in Texas, where his ability to keep the ball on the ground will help limit the damage of his surroundings.
Piscotty is exactly what you expect out of a Cardinals prospect these days. Somewhere deep in St. Louis, there is a tree that grows .300 hitters, but it’s too close to the shade for defensive value to sprout.
87. Jonathan Schoop, 2B/3B, Baltimore Orioles (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 73)
The Orioles have a Schoop-sized hole in their lineup at second base, which is awfully convenient for the honkbal enthusiast. Average pop should be there at the major-league level, but how much average and speed flank it will determine his value.
88. Raul A. Mondesi, SS, Kansas City Royals (Age: 18, Previous Rank: 76)
We’re still a while away from finding out what the #SORBOR (Son of Raul, Brother of Raul) is from a fantasy perspective, but there are multiple roads to very good value embedded in his skill set.
89. A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington Nationals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Cole took a nice step forward in 2013, as he finally made it through High-A without self-immolating and even saw success in Double-A. But if the breaking ball doesn’t improve, he’s just another guy.
90. Rafael Montero, RHP, New York Mets (Age: 23, Previous Rank: NR)
The Mets continue to pump out pitcher after pitcher, and while Montero doesn’t have the upside of the better-known names in their system, he’ll likely be the first man up this season in case of injury.
91. Tyler Austin, OF, New York Yankees (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 58)
The sheen certainly wore off of Austin’s prospect star this year, but he was banged up all season. Although the Yankees may be allergic to promoting from within, Austin will do his best to force their hand.
92. Lance McCullers, RHP, Houston Astros (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 100)
Every year McCullers goes without imploding, he gets closer and closer to being a starter long term, but at some point he’s going to have to show an average changeup or he’ll just be another big-armed reliever.
93. Justin Nicolino, LHP, Miami Marlins (Age: 22, Previous Rank: 85)
The margin for error with Nicolino is smaller than for almost anyone else on this list because he gets by on command and guile. Even with that said, his innate ability to locate could get him there.
94. Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Usually when a hitter strikes out 110 times against only 15 walks, it’s a sign that things are going terribly wrong—and while Williams did that, he also flashed tools that could make those numbers not matter much in fantasy.
95. Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals (Age: 20, Previous Rank: 92)
The power hasn’t shown up in games yet, but this is still a player who could hit 25 homers at the major-league level. Injuries haven’t helped with that either, as his hamate bone injury in 2013 (combined with Wilmington’s power-suppressing ways) led to a depressed stat line.
96. Lewis Thorpe, LHP, Minnesota Twins (Age: 18, Previous Rank: NR)
There are few propositions in baseball riskier than a short-season teenage arm, but Thorpe’s combination of advanced pitchability and very strong raw stuff gives him as much upside as anyone in the group.
97. Adalberto Mejia, LHP, San Francisco Giants (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
It’s unwise to overlook a left-handed starter who will be pitching half of his games in San Francisco, where right-handed hitters go to cry. He lacks top-shelf stuff, but the pitch menu is adequate.
98. Colin Moran, 3B, Miami Marlins (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
History has given us reasons to be leery of projecting big batting averages out of excellent contact hitters from the college ranks, but Moran has enough pop to make it matter in the pros.
99. Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 96)
The “Blake Swihart Line” is named that for a reason. Swihart doesn’t have the highest upside in the world, but still boasts enough to warrant owning—and his defense/makeup will go a long way toward his reaching a relatively high floor.
100. Alexander Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Let’s be honest, what Reyes will be is still a mystery. But if he lives up to the quality of his raw stuff, he will return value—and that’s really all you can ask for.
101. Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals (Age: 21, Previous Rank: 51)
No, I am not trolling you. Starling still possesses intense fantasy upside and is not worth giving up on for that next new shiny thing at this point (unless said shiny thing ranks higher on this list).
Just Missed (in alphabetical order)
Matt Barnes, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Age: 23, Previous Rank: 40)
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
C.J. Cron, 1B, Los Angeles Angels (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Edwin Escobar, LHP, San Francisco Giants (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Wilmer Flores, 3B/2B, New York Mets (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Rosell Herrera, SS/3B, Colorado Rockies (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Age: 22, Previous Rank: NR)
Casey Kelly, RHP, San Diego Padres (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 36)
Jose Martinez, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Age: 19, Previous Rank: NR)
Kyle Parker, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies (Age: 24, Previous Rank: NR)
Joe Ross, RHP, San Diego Padres (Age: 20, Previous Rank: NR)
Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Houston Astros (Age: 21, Previous Rank: NR)
Allen Webster, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Age: 24, Previous Rank: 78)