August 20, 2014
More Top 50 Talk
Last week, Craig and I each gave a breakdown of our top 50 dynasty prospects, doing our best Bret Sayre impressions as we looked for a cause to discuss where 2014 draftees should rank, how some recent injuries have impacted the dynasty landscape and more.
We have some of the reasoning behind our rankings in last week’s post, and we further discussed our feelings in last week’s episode of TINO, too. But there’s always more to talk about when it comes to rankings, and so Craig and I have decided to milk this subject for all it’s worth this week as well.
Last week, Craig wrote about how Kohl Stewart just missed this list for him, and I wrote about how Jake Marisnick just missed for me. But there are plenty of other players who tempted us, and we’ll discuss them here, as well as throw out one dark-horse top 50 candidate each and one player you may be surprised we didn’t consider.
Ben: Jose Peraza, 2B/SS, Braves
Marisnick came in at no. 51 when I finalized my rankings last year, and it was Peraza who came in at no. 52. I’ve been really high on the 20-year-old infielder for a few seasons now and thought I’d be ahead of the crowd by ranking him on my preseason top 100. Unfortunately, someone with slightly more national sway than I hold ranked Peraza at no. 99, sinking much of the “sleeper prospect” status Peraza had entering the year. Now, Peraza is pretty well known in dynasty circles, and for good reason. He hit .342/.365/.454 with 35 stolen bases in High-A this year, then moved up to Double-A, where he’s hit .341/.366/.430 with 25 more steals. His averages are partially BABIP-driven, to be sure, but Peraza profiles as a high-average hitter, and his speed is going to help him turn some ground balls into base hits at the MLB level, too. We’re not looking at a star here, but we are looking at someone who can do a pretty decent 2012-2013 Jose Altuve impression at second base, and Peraza should be up by mid-2015.
Craig: Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees
No, you’re tired of talking about Aaron Judge. I know I’ve been pushing Judge hard this season but there’s good reason for it. At 22 years old, he was merely living up to expectation by tearing apart the Low-A South Atlantic League, but he hasn’t stopped, even upon promotion to the pitcher’s paradise that is the Florida State League. While his average has dipped to .265, Judge is walking an astonishing 18 percent of the time, pushing his OBP to just shy of .400. His slugging has taken a hit as well, expected given the rise in talent and the pitcher-friendly parks, but he’s still producing a 143 wRC+ for the level. He’s angling to start 2015 at Double-A (if not receive a late 2014 promotion), and at his age, the Yankees shouldn’t hesitate to push him. He’s got huge raw power that plays down in games, but is still going to be present in his year-end production, and at 6-foot-7, he’s going to hit for a better average than you might think.
Ben: Hunter Harvey, SP, Orioles
Harvey was probably one of the more notable omissions from both of our top 50 lists, and I’ll admit that it was tempting to throw him at the very end of my ranking. Harvey has legitimate upside as a no. 2 fantasy starter even in the AL East, and while he’s several years away, he’s on the short list of pitchers with the highest fantasy ceilings in the minor leagues. But at the end of the day, there are just too many factors conspiring against Harvey to move up this far up the list his early. For one, Harvey needs to develop a consistent third pitch and prove he can withstand the rigors of a full season to quell fears about a potential move to the bullpen. Secondly, Harvey was shut down with an elbow injury, and while he won’t need Tommy John, missing time due to arm troubles isn’t doing his fantasy value any favors. And lastly, this is still a player with a 2017 ETA, and it’s tough to justify ranking pitchers with that timeline this high. If Harvey comes back healthy next year and shoves I’d expect him to rank somewhere around where I had Tyler Glasnow in this iteration, but that’s a big if.
Craig: Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers
The Rangers skipped Mazara over High-A in part because they had a crowded outfield there (Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams, Chris Garia, among others, at the time), but it was also a testament to the makeup of Mazara. At 19 years old, Double-A was an aggressive assignment, especially after opting to have him repeat Low-A to begin the year. It’s only been 12 games, but he’s rewarding their gambit by hitting .277/.314/.553. Every and all small sample size warning apply, of course, but it’s nice to see him start with some success. While his six percent walk rate at the level leaves much to be desired, Mazara was walking over 12 percent of the time in Low-A, and one would expect that once he gets his bearings, that figure should level out. Listed at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Mazara is a bit taller and perhaps a bit heavier (in a good way) at this point, and profiles as a prototypical right fielder. Between the two levels he has 21 home runs, and should succeed on the basis on his power and hit tools, both of which could play out as above average at fruition.
Ben: Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
On top of an 80-grade prep school name, Pompey has emerged as an attractive dynasty league prospect thanks to his proximity to the majors, his on-base skills and his speed. Pompey had done his best Carlos Gonzalez imitation when it comes to injuries in recent years, but he’s stayed healthy in 2014 and the results have been explosive. The 21-year-old hit .319/.397/.471 in 317 High-A PA this season and hasn’t slowed down much since a promotion to Double-A, hitting .296/.382/.454. He’s got a total of eight homers and 37 steals on the year, and he’s displayed a really nice approach at the plate, walking in just over 11 percent of his PA while striking out only about 16 percent of the time. There’s no fantasy superstar potential here, but Pompey profiles as a leadoff hitter who can score a ton of runs thanks to OBP skills, and who could steal 25-plus bases in the majors with regularity. I’d expect Pompey to be up by midseason next year, and he’ll be a must-add in all leagues when he arrives.
Craig: Michael Taylor, OF, Nationals
I’ve written about Taylor before, in a progress report, where I highlighted his extreme BABIP as a means to say that his long-term fantasy value hasn’t changed appreciably over the course of the season. That remains mostly true, though his ascension to the major leagues has drastically changed his short-term value, even if he isn’t playing every day. Because of his presence on a major league roster—and the suggestion that the Nationals think he’s close to being major league ready—Taylor finds himself on the periphery of the top 50. The tools are there in spades, and all he’s missing is playing time to be something close to what Rymer Liriano is. There’s more volatility in Taylor’s hit/power production, compared to Liriano, but his speed would keep him firmly on the fantasy radar if he’s affording the requisite at-bats. There’s a low floor when it comes to Taylor, but his defense should keep him in a major league lineup despite a potentially poor batting average, and his power/speed combination at-or-close to the major league level is something that should intrigue fantasy owners.
Ben: Manuel Margot, OF, Red Sox
Calling Margot a dark horse or a top 50 spot might be a bit of a stretch right now, but seeing as I’m contractually obligated to speak about at least one Red Sox per column, I thought I’d bring him up here nonetheless. Margot gets lost in a Sox system that’s featured some prominent dynasty names over the past season, as well as the litany of no. 4/5 SP options the Sox have in the upper minors. Yet from a dynasty point of view, there’s a good argument to be made that Margot is their fifth or sixth best prospect. The 19-year-old hit .286/.355/.449 in 413 PA at Low-A this year before a recent promotion to Salem, and he’s showcased an intriguing power-speed combo, hitting 12 homers and stealing 39 bases so far this year. There might not be legit fantasy star potential here, but Margot could hit for a decent average with the OBP skills to sit atop a lineup, and his tools are loud enough that we could be looking at 10-15 homers and 15-20 steals on an annual basis in his prime. That’s a pretty nice No. 3 OF in most leagues today, and Margot’s ETA is now late 2016. He’s a top-100 guy and could be top-50 type by this time next season.
Craig: Jake Thompson, SP, Rangers
Deservedly, Thompson wasn’t in anyone’s conception of a top-100 fantasy prospect list entering 2014. Much has changed since then, however, including the organization he plies his trade for. While going from Detroit to Texas isn’t generally a favorable exchange for a pitcher’s fantasy value, Thompson left a stacked a Tigers team that was stacked in starting pitching for a Rangers org that has started 13 different pitchers in 2014 including Phil Irwin, Jerome Williams, Joe Saunders, and Miles Mikolas—who is best known not as an MLB pitcher, but as a lizard-eater—and these affronts to our sensibilities don’t even address the 16 starts given to Nick Martinez. While the Rangers should be healthier next year (Perez/Holland, if not Harrison), and may look to add a starter in free agency, Thompson has more of a chance to break into the Rangers rotation than he did the Tigers, which is of course a good thing.
Thompson has been missing more often since his promotion to Double-A—both bats and the zone -- but currently sports a sub-3.00 ERA in 30.2 innings. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds., Thompson has the frame to log a ton of innings, and his wipeout slider gives him a major league out pitch. At only 20 years old, there’s no reason to rush him, but as precocious as he is, Thompson may leave the Rangers little choice.
Ben: Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
Nimmo fell off the prospect radar for most fantasy players after fairly lackluster 2012 and 2013 campaigns that erased much of the enthusiasm that surrounded him when the Mets made him a first-round pick in 2011. He truly took off as a 21-year-old in High-A this year, however, posting a .322/.448/.458 line in 279 PA before a midseason promotion to Double-A. Binghamton hasn’t been quite as kind to Nimmo, but the outfielder is still holding his own at the level, showing a modest power-speed combo and walking in nearly 15 percent of his PA. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, that last skill is really Nimmo’s strongest. He gets on base, but it’s more through a good approach and high walk totals than it is a high average. If you don’t play in OBP leagues, that’s going to leave you out of luck, as Nimmo doesn’t profile as a player who’s likely to hit many more than 10 homers or steal many more than 10 bases with regularity. Perhaps the power will blossom further as he ages, but as of right now, Nimmo is a back-end top 100 guy for me, and not someone I seriously considered for this list despite his name value and breakout campaign. He’s a better MLB prospect than a fantasy one.
Craig: Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies
The guy I touted highly all offseason has negotiated Low-A well, producing a .282/.354/.502 slash line. That comes with the caveat of playing in hitter-friendly Asheville, though it should be noted that McMahon has hit for more power on the road than at home. Still, among all the positives, there are some concerns; as the lefty has cobbled together a weak .206/.279/.324 slash line against southpaws. It’s a great debut season, no doubt, but considering his distance from the majors, even my preaseason praise couldn’t get him close enough to warrant thinking about for the top-50. He’s a quality prospect and a worthwhile investment. With a solid start to 2015, I’d expect an appearance towards the back end of the midseason top 50, but placing him there now is putting the cart before the horse.
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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