June 25, 2014
Futures Team Meet and Greet: USA
With the MLB Futures Game rosters being announced yesterday, Ben and I thought it would be informative to take a look at the rosters and provide some base-level information on some of the prospects you might not necessarily know. Given that this column is geared toward deep and dynasty leagues, many of these names will be familiar, but there are always noobs getting into dynasty leagues that are out of their depth and tired of being pwned or whatever. This one’s for them.
This week I’ll tackle the Team USA roster, with Ben following up next week with a look at the World roster. We’re happy for two straight weeks off from our bickering, too.
Guys You Know: Lucas Giolito (SP - WAS), Hunter Harvey (SP - BAL), Robert Stephenson (SP - CIN), Noah Syndergaard (SP - NYM), Henry Owens (SP - BOS), Mookie Betts (2B/CF - BOS), Kris Bryant (3B - CHC), Joey Gallo (3B - TEX), Corey Seager (SS - LAD), Josh Bell (RF - PIT), J.P. Crawford (SS - PHI)
Guys You Might Not:
Marco Gonzales - SP (STL)
Okay, this is cheating a bit because he’ll be starting tonight and you’ll know who he is soon enough. The upside is that with Shelby Miller’s injury, he might get multiple starts adding to his immediate value. For everything else Marco, J.P. Breen and Jeff Moore have you covered.
Daniel Norris - SP (TOR)
Norris gets plenty of play around BP, but with his recent domination of High-A (1.22 ERA, 76 K, 18 BB in 66. 1/3 IP) and subsequent promotion to Double-A, perhaps it’s not nearly enough. He did get touched up in his first upper minors start, but still managed to whiff nine in 5 2/3 innings, highlighting the quality of his stuff. Norris missed the cut on Jason Parks’ top 101, but he was in the next 10 guys. He’s got some command issues, but has clearly put some work in on those. He’s athletic and repeats his delivery well, and could have three average or better pitches with the slider and fastball grading as plus. This is a guy who’s likely role is as a fantasy three with the ability to eat innings and miss bats, giving him the upside of a number two if it all comes together. Add in that Double-A is basically one level from the big leagues now, and Norris needs to figure prominently on your radar.
Christian Binford - SP (KC)
Binford just isn’t the same type of arm as these other guys, profiling as a fourth starter at best, without the type of stuff to miss bats at more than a league average rate. He’s overpowering High-A hitters with his ability to pound the zone and offer three solid pitches. His downside is that those pitches aren’t projected to improve enough going forward that he’ll be able to dominate upper minors batters in the same way. He has a chance for three average pitches, and his height (6-foot-6) helps him get good extension and plane on the ball, but he’s not going to have a major-league out pitch unless something changes. He’s deep-20 team or further material.
Braden Shipley - SP (ARI)
A 2013 draftee, Shipley is making quite a name for himself. A college product who was a recent convert to pitching, Shipley features the upside of a prep arm with the fast-tracked nature of a college arm. He’s got a plus (maybe more) changeup to pair with a fastball that touches the mid-90s. The key to Shipley reaching his ceiling will be the development of the breaking ball. Keep an eye on him, because if that comes around, his ceiling jumps another notch. As is, we’re looking at another mid-rotation type with good strikeout numbers.
Jake Thompson - SP (DET)
I hope you’re not tired of mid-rotation types who will miss plenty of bats! Thompson attacks hitters with a low-90s fastball that he can ramp up to 94 and spot to both sides, with decent movement. He’ll show a curveball that can be major league average in time, but is mostly used as a chase pitch for now. The changeup needs work because lefties are hitting him hard. He shuts down righties with a slider that bites more than Luis Suarez, and it will be a true out-pitch at the major-league level, bordering on plus-plus. The thing to watch for Thompson will be the development of the changeup more than the curve, because that will be his key to unlocking success against lefties.
Kevin Plawecki - C (NYM)
Plawecki’s tools don’t pop nearly as much as his numbers. He’s slashing .326/.378/.487 at Double-A in 58 games. Those numbers are deserving of a look from any position, but from behind the plate, that’s something else. The question of course is whether he can replicate that success with the same approach at the next level. He should be able to stick at catcher for the time being, but any move off the position would make him borderline waiver fodder even in deep leagues. As long as he’s behind the plate though, he’ll be a very nice option in OBP/OPS leagues and should be able to hit for a decent average with his contact heavy approach. I wouldn’t expect much power—perhaps not even double digits at the big league level.
Micah Johnson - 2B/CF (CHW)
While he garners plenty of interest from the stat-scouting community, Johnson hasn’t generated much buzz from those who see him. He can swing the stick a bit but his value lies in his legs. He’s swiped 84 bases across three levels in 2013, and while that type of speed can be of value even with weak slash lines, Johnson’s .279/.306/.365 would be tough to stomach even if he could reproduce it at the major league level.
Peter O'Brien - 1B (NYY)
Reasons to like O’Brien: Dingers.
Reasons not to like O’Brien: His batting average, his on-base percentage, his approach at the plate, his inability to make contact, his inability to move quickly around basepaths, his lack of a position, his age relative to his level, his chances of making an impact.
D.J. Peterson - 3B (SEA)
Peterson was just promoted to Double-A, which means he’s only two levels away from the Mariners screwing him up somehow. Peterson has hit his entire professional career—as expected—and while he’s in Double-A in short order, he’s already 22 years old. His stint in the California League didn’t tell us much given his age and the extreme hitting environment, but the bump to Double-A should be more revealing. Look for whether his power holds steady at in the upper minors, as if it’s more average than plus, he’ll be more of a corner infielder than standard third baseman, especially in Safeco.
Hunter Renfroe - OF (SD)
A four-tool player whose functionality will be determined by that elusive fifth tool, Renfroe can be a tricky value for fantasy owners. He’s got plus-plus raw power that plays down in-game thanks to a questionable hit tool and a penchant for selling out to get to the power. He’s at his best when he can wait on the ball and tap into his power free-and-easy, but can get caught ahead of the ball, making him susceptible to soft, spinning stuff. His power gets the headlines, but Renfroe is a better-than-average runner, and should be able to find some value on the basepaths. He’s not an elite fantasy prospect in any sense, but for those that like to gamble on power/speed types, Renfroe is a solid 20 HR/12 SB gamble.
Jesse Winker - OF (CIN)
Winker’s best trait is the one that Renfroe can’t seem to nail down. The kid can flat out hit, and while the power is likely average at best, it could play up a small amount thanks to his projected home park. He won’t add much on the bases and is more of a OF3 at his peak thanks to the pedestrian power numbers. If your league values hits or batting average though, he’ll be worth a look there. Should be owned in 12-team and deeper leagues.
Michael Taylor - OF (WAS)
Taylor has blown up in Double-A this season, after moderate success while repeating High-A last year. His .333/.413/.584 slash belies his luck a bit more than his skills though. His BABIP is .447 and is the driving factor behind the high batting average, considering he’s never before cracked .270. He’s striking out in 29.3 percent of plate appearances, a seven-percentage-point increase over a mostly mediocre 2013 season. The walks are relatively real, as he was over nine percent in 2013 and 2012, so he’s more valuable in a league that values OBP, but would be a very poor bet in any sort of points league. He’s tough to gauge right now, as his speed makes him appealing almost without anything else, but his biggest question coming into the season was on the hit tool, and while he’s doing better in batting average, it will be interesting to see what happens when half his balls put in play aren’t falling for hits, and how he reacts to that change in production. Add in that he’s 23, and that takes a little more luster off. It’s not that he’s not interesting, but there’s a lot that needs to go right for the payoff to be worthwhile.
Guys You Can Forget (for now): Justin O’Conner (TB), James Ramsey (STL)
Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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