July 14, 2014
Top 50 Dynasty League Prospects
With the All-Star break upon us, the time has come for some reflection. It’s the time of year when we can stop checking our fantasy teams on a daily basis—trust me, those standings won’t change until the second half starts back up—and use that time in a more productive manner. Like mowing the lawn or giving your sister a call. Maybe you’ve been meaning to pick up a new book. Or, then again, maybe you’re the kind of person who wants to spend the beginning of his/her All-Star break reading way too many words about re-ranking the top 50 prospects in baseball from a fantasy angle. Sound good? Good.
In the first three-and-a-half months of the 2014 season, we’ve lost 14 of the top 50 fantasy prospects to the majors, including six of the first 16. So with talent lost comes talent found. There are 16 fresh faces in this hallowed space, and the charge is led by Rangers’ slugger Joey Gallo, who climbed 72 spots to nearly find a place in the top 10 overall. There are plenty of other big jumpers alongside the otherworldly power source, but why give the milk away for free when you could just read the list below.
Overall, the upper minors are nearing low tide and it’s rather apparently by the wealth of Low-A and High-A names on this list. The 2011 draft, which was one of the best we’d seen in a while, has now produced a number of major league regulars and stars, but the lack of depth in the classes behind it has lagged the minor league talent pool behind what we’re used to. Fortunately, the 2014 draft class (who were not eligible for this list) is very strong and deep, so the talent infusion has already started.
Speaking of eligibility, time to get to the standard housekeeping with these lists. This list is for fantasy purposes only, and only takes eligibility into account, not the quality with which they play their given position (though that may indirectly have an effect on their fantasy value). Since values are a sliding scale between the shallowest and deepest formats out there, this list (and all of my dynasty lists) are constructed with a medium depth mixed league in mind (think 14-16 teams) with a separate farm system. In shallower leagues, high risk/reward players get a bump and in deeper leagues, safer players tick up. Finally, since fantasy leagues are all about eligibility, there are players currently in the major leagues on this list, but only ones who have not surpassed their rookie eligibility. The last of these graduates to move on to bigger and better things was Jonathan Singleton, who just got his 131st at-bat on Sunday.
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. And finally, you’ll see a quick summary of what’s changed since the pre-season top 100 list was put out during the pre-season.
And yes, that concludes our introduction. Without any further ado, here are your Top 50 Dynasty Prospects as of this exact moment in time:
What Has Changed: Very little, as Buxton has been sidelined for the majority of the season with a wrist injury. Despite the missed time, no one could supplant him at the top spot because of his sheer upside. It’s special.
What Has Changed: All of the dingers. Yes, the strikeout numbers will always be high and are likely to keep him from maintaining the high batting average he’s posted in the minors at the major league level, but the bat is very real and could pace the field in homers at the highest level.
3) Oscar Taveras, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Pre-season Rank: 3)
What Has Changed: Don’t let the fact that he’s seen major league time and hasn’t immediately started hitting for average and power distract you from the fact that Taveras is an elite prospect with an extremely bright future ahead of him at the plate.
4) Javier Baez, SS, Chicago Cubs (Pre-season Rank: 4)
What Has Changed: With expectations sky high for the 21-year-old out of spring training, it’s been a disappointing season. However, he still has the upside to be one of the top fantasy players in all of baseball—and he’s still got plenty of time to get there.
What Has Changed: Correa was on his way to making a case to be the top prospect in baseball by season’s end, but unfortunately, due to a fractured fibula in June, he’ll miss the remainder of the season. However, he’s so advanced that he could still see time in the majors during the 2015 season.
6) Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins (Pre-season Rank: 7)
What Has Changed: Nothing—he’s sidelined for the 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, he’s not a pitcher.
7) Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs (Pre-season Rank: 9)
What Has Changed: His uniform, mostly. Russell is likely not going to be someone who hits 25 homers or steals 25 bases, but he should hit for average and contribute all over the box score. The move to Chicago helps his value slightly, as the league and ballpark switch are both positive.
What Has Changed: The shoulder injury was a bit of a scare, but he appears to have put that behind him. There’s still no pitching prospect in baseball I’d rather have, and very little of that has to do with his future home.
What Has Changed: Because every fun pitcher in 2014 had to go and get hurt, Bradley missed nearly two months of the first half with a flexor strain in his elbow. He’s still ramping back up now, so the second half will be a big test of how close he is to actualizing his immense talent.
What Has Changed: The theme is pretty strong in this tier of pitchers: Syndergaard had an elbow scare and has seen up-and-down performance while he’s been on the field (5.31 ERA in nearly 80 innings in Triple-A). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, don’t give up on him.
11) Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers (Pre-season Rank: 83)
What Has Changed: Gallo has long had the reputation of being a hard worker (along with the incredible raw power), but going from a 37 percent strikeout rate in Low-A to a 26 percent rate in High-A will do wonders for your dynasty value. With 31 homers so far in 2014 (and a 1.014 OPS in his first 27 games at Double-A), he is now comfortably one of the top power prospects for fantasy.
What Has Changed: We all know that Albuquerque is a pretty extreme hitters’ park in a pretty extreme hitters’ league, but Pederson is showing that he’s ready for a major league job now in some organization by hitting .324 with 17 homers and 20 steals. He’s a potential 20-20 threat who ticks up in OBP leagues, not unlike Shin-Soo Choo.
13) Arismendy Alcantara, 2B/OF, Chicago Cubs (Pre-season Rank: 43)
What Has Changed: Aside from spending the better part of the last week in the majors (where he willed his way onto the roster even after Darwin Barney’s paternity leave ended), Alcantara had been an extra-base machine in Triple-A, with 25 doubles, 11 triples, and 10 homers in just 89 games.
What Has Changed: From a scouting perspective, Giolito has been the most impressive pitcher in the minors this year. However, while his upside may literally be that of the best pitcher in baseball, there is both risk and an extended ETA here, as mid-2016 is probably a realistic arrival for him.
15) Corey Seager, SS/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers (Pre-season Rank: 36)
What Has Changed: More than anything else, Seager is a hitter. Despite operating in the California League, his .352 average with 18 homers is extremely impressive, and what’s even better is that he’s looked passable at shortstop. There’s still a very good chance he’s a third baseman, but maybe he can lock down that SS eligibility for a couple of seasons.
What Has Changed: Like seemingly most of the names on this list, Bundy is also working his way back into shape from injury. With Tommy John already on his résumé, the risk factor here is elevated, but with continued progress, he’ll remind everyone why he was so highly thought of before getting hurt. It’s just likely to be in 2015.
What Has Changed: There were very few players who got as much attention and hype as Betts in the first part of the 2014 season. In fact, he went from being a second baseman with no upper minors experience to a starting outfielder for the Red Sox. The hype is mostly warranted, but while Betts should be a good player and hitter, he may not be the fantasy savior some think he is.
What Has Changed: His first turn in the Marlins’ rotation didn’t quite go as planned, seeing as he’s back in Triple-A, but Heaney still projects as a no. 2 fantasy starter, and he should be back up in short order. He’ll be more help in ratios than strikeouts, but that doesn’t mean the whiffs won’t be there.
19) Alex Meyer, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Pre-season Rank: 42)
What Has Changed: While the control has continued to be an issue at the Triple-A level, Meyer is further cementing himself into a rotation role—although he would be potentially elite as a reliever. A good candidate to see the majors after the break, he is likely to be helpful in strikeouts right off the bat, with the ratios lagging behind.
What Has Changed: With more than a walk every other inning in Double-A this year, Stephenson is still a work in progress, though he does have the upside to be a strong no. 2 fantasy starter in the long run. He’s also going to have to bring up his 34 percent ground-ball rate if he wants to prevent the long ball in Great American Ball Park.
What Has Changed: Lindor remains one of the highest-probability prospects on this list, despite the fact that he’s overrated from a fantasy perspective if you just go off national prospect lists (including our own here, where Jason Parks ranked him fourth in baseball). The aggressiveness on the base paths is a change though, as he’s on pace to shatter his MiLB high of 27 bags (he’s at 24 now).
What Has Changed: A strong first half combined with many injuries to the Rockies’ pitching staff has left some wondering if we’ll see Gray at the major league level soon. While that’s not highly likely, he’s shown why he was picked third overall in the 2012 draft—the slight drop comes more from a lack of faith in the organization’s development plan than his physical stuff/projection.
What Has Changed: Zip. Taillon is out for the season with Tommy John surgery, but with an early April surgery date, he could still see time with the Pirates in the second half of 2015, as he was getting rather close to major league ready before the injury.
24) Tim Anderson, SS/2B/OF (Pre-season Rank: 61)
What Has Changed: The aggressive ranking in the preseason has not only shown to be warranted but begets an even more aggressive ranking here. The raw 2013 draftee (at least for a 20-year-old) hit the ground running in High-A, hitting .298 despite pretty horrendous plate discipline (68 strikeouts to seven walks). He’s unlikely to ever play short at the MLB level, but the bat will certainly play with 2B or OF eligibility.
25) David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies (Pre-season Rank: 37)
What Has Changed: For one, he’s on the field, which helps. There is a little bit of home-field advantage in Dahl’s numbers, but away from Asheville, he’s still hitting .294/.333/.447 in a neutral league setting. The combination of average, speed, and some pop could be special in Coors. Just don’t make me choose between him and Tapia again.
26) Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies (Pre-season Rank: 54)
What Has Changed: If you’re a frequent visitor of these pages, you know all about Tapia and how good of a hitter he could be. He’s showing off the strong bat-to-ball skills in his full-season debut by hitting .333 with 29 extra-base hits in 324 at-bats and even throwing in 23 steals for fun.
27) Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians (Pre-season Rank: 19)
What Has Changed: A slow start out of the gate soured some on the potential dynamic outfielder, but he’s finally starting to heat up in July, as he’s hitting over .400 with five homers. There’s risk that the strikeouts will limit his overall value, but the upside is still extreme.
28) Jorge Alfaro, C, Texas Rangers (Pre-season Rank: 27)
What Has Changed: The tools are mostly still there, but Alfaro has yet to take that next step forward. Additionally, the specter of 15-20 stolen bases is starting to look less likely as Alfaro continues to put on additional weight (though not in a bad way).
29) Matthew Wisler, RHP, San Diego Padres (Pre-season Rank: 38)
What Has Changed: Wisler continues to hold his own and chug along in his own underrated way. Of course, the fact that he’ll still be calling Petco home doesn’t hurt his ranking here, but he belongs from a talent perspective even if he doesn’t have a standout fantasy skill.
30) Kohl Stewart, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Pre-season Rank: 48)
What Has Changed: The athletic 2013 first-round pick has been impressive in his full-season debut, with a 2.58 ERA in 76 2/3 innings. He’s also been tough to elevate so far, putting up a 52 percent ground-ball rate—which will certainly help him if he can continue that as he moves up.
31) Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Pre-season Rank: 52)
What Has Changed: It’s been a rough 2014 season for the potential third baseman of the future, and while it looked like there was a chance he’d get some major league time this year, the odds of that are low now. There’s still talent here, and it’s close, but don’t write him off just because the performance hasn’t been sexy.
What Has Changed: See Cecchini, Garin.
33) Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox (Pre-season Rank: 99)
What Has Changed: The future Boston backstop has shown advancement both behind the plate and at the dish, hitting .293/.350/.473 with nine homers in 75 games. Catching prospects are always risky propositions, but Swihart is proving he’s close to deserving an opportunity.
34) Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers (Pre-season Rank: 94)
What Has Changed: Williams spent the first half swinging at just about everything and putting good wood on most of it, as he had 90 hits and just 15 walks in his first 70 games at High-A. The projections are huge, but he’ll have to show that he won’t just be beaten by soft and spinning stuff off the plate as he advances.
35) Stephen Piscotty, OF, St Louis Cardinals (Pre-season Rank: 86)
What Has Changed: Piscotty may be a more attractive name in points leagues due to his high-contact approach and more gap-to-gap power than the over-the-fence variety, but he’s major league ready and is the type of player who fantasy owners (and even experts) tend to undersell.
36) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Pre-season Rank: 47)
What Has Changed: Still a lot of big-time stuff that will always be held back a little by his command. There will always be a big “if he puts it all together” contingent with Glasnow—and while that’s certainly true, don’t let it cloud your judgment.
37) Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Pre-season Rank: 65)
What Has Changed: It can be lazy to just point to a link and say “read this,” but C.J. Wittman and Ryan Parker went back and forth debating the talent and upside of Harvey back in May, and it’s very much worth reading. His full-season debut has gone swimmingly so far, and only ETA and the Orioles’ inability to develop pitching prospects are holding him back from being a high-end fantasy prospect.
38) Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Pre-season Rank: 45)
What Has Changed: It’s still hard to get a great read on Urias, as he’s rarely had to turn a lineup over for a third time, even in his second go-round of full-season ball. It’s understandable for a 17-year-old, but it does affect his near-term fantasy value, because even if he makes the majors in 2015 or 2016, he’ll face innings limits for a few years.
39) Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Pre-season Rank: 82)
What Has Changed: It’s always nice to see a power hitting prospect with a 12 percent strikeout rate. While the power isn’t quite showing up yet in games, the projection for Bell is that of a middle-of-the-order hitter who can help in the average and power categories.
40) Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (Pre-season Rank: 46)
What Has Changed: Soler is certainly making up for lost time, as he’s been absolutely killing the ball since he returned from his hamstring injury. He’s hitting .426 with five homers and 17 RBI in just 47 at-bats in Double-A. If he continues to rake in the second half, he could be an easy top-20 fantasy prospect this offseason.
What Has Changed: Control problems have continued to dog Sanchez as he’s moved up in the minors, and his stats have suffered as a result. He has the raw stuff of a no. 2 fantasy starter, but if it doesn’t work better in game, he’ll be tough to swallow a lot of the time in shallower mixed formats.
42) Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Pre-season Rank: 68)
What Has Changed: Shipley’s performance was stronger to start the season in the Midwest League than what he’s done recently in the Cal League, but the profile remains that of a third fantasy starter with the ability to move relatively quickly—though the upside will hinge on the effectiveness of his breaker.
43) Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Pre-season Rank: NR)
What Has Changed: Norris was one of the top left-handed prep pitchers available in the stacked 2011 draft class, but after a horrendous 2012 season, he’s built himself back up into a top prospect. He dominated in High-A but will stand a tougher test in the upper minors.
What Has Changed: Shoulder injuries are always a scary thing, and Zimmer’s is no exception. He should be back on the mound in the second half, and with his upside, he can reestablish himself as a high-end fantasy prospect. We’ll have to see it first though.
45) Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros (Pre-season Rank: 26)
What Has Changed: Of all the dreadful performances of players on this list so far in 2014, Appel’s has been the worst, and it was almost enough to knock him out of the top 50. He’s had his stuff and his makeup questioned, but the pedigree is still there, and it’ll take well more than a half-season for me to jump ship entirely.
46) Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs (Pre-season Rank: 39)
What Has Changed: After a very rough first 18 games of the season, Vogelbach turned back into the hitter we thought we would see, hitting .306/.395/.482 with seven homers in the 68 games since. It’s still tough to see a home for him in Chicago, but if he keeps hitting, he’ll have a home somewhere.
What Has Changed: One of the best pitchers in the minors so far this season, Nelson has not only performed admirably but has showed improved stuff to go along with it (positing a potentially higher ceiling). What was a back-end profile is now a solid mid-rotation one—and he’s here now.
48) Rymer Liriano, OF, San Diego Padres (Pre-season Rank: 80)
What Has Changed: After missing the whole 2013 season with Tommy John surgery (again, thankfully not a pitcher), Liriano is back doing what he does best in 2014: hitting homers, stealing bases, and not hitting for much average.
49) Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox (Pre-season Rank: 55)
What Has Changed: It used to be Matt Barnes and Allen Webster holding down the fort at the top of the Red Sox pitching prospects, but now the big lefty stands alone after a very successful first half in Double-A. With a rotation spot in view for 2015, Owens may get a cup of coffee at season’s end to prepare him.
50) Max Fried, LHP, San Diego Padres (Pre-season Rank: 40)
What Has Changed: So far, Fried appears to have avoided the UCL bogeyman in San Diego, as he’s returned to game action over the last two weeks in the Arizona League. It will likely go down as a lost season for the left-hander, but if he avoids surgery, his 2015 prospects look much brighter.
Honorable Mention (in lieu of a standard HM section, here are some of your favorite BP fantasy writers lobbying for a player who didn’t make the list but should have):
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadephia Phillies (Pre-season Rank: 81)
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Pre-season Rank: NR)
Hunter Renfroe, OF, San Diego Padres (Pre-season Rank: 74)
Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs (Pre-season Rank: 57)
Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros (Pre-season Rank: NR)
Hunter Dozier, 3B, Kansas City Royals (Pre-season Rank: NR)
Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds (Pre-season Rank: NR)
Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Pre-season Rank: NR)