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If Franklin Barreto and Francisco Mejia blossom, Scooter will score big-time.

This past week, I went through my fantasy investment portfolio for major leaguers across my seven leagues. This week, I’m going to walk through the minor-league side of my fantasy investment portfolio across my five leagues that allow minor leaguers.

Here’s a high-level rundown of the configuration of those five leagues:

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April 20, 2017 6:00 am

The Stash List: Third Edition


Greg Wellemeyer

Julio Urias might need just a little more stretching in the minors before the Dodgers promote him. Bradley Zimmer can't stay stuck in the minors forever. Get ready to ride the Reynaldo Lopez train!

It’s week three of the Stash List and things are moving. We’ve got some graduates, some dropouts, some new blood. Let’s get on with it.

The Graduates: Joe Ross (Previous rank: 5), Martin Prado (8), Joey Gallo (20)

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Let's dip into why bat speed is one of the most important components of hitting, why there's more than one kind of bat speed, and which prospects might be best to target based on the nature of their swing.

Last week I kicked off this series with a primer, to which I will refer you with questions on the nature of this beast. For our first foray into the weeds this week, I was piqued by a question in my chat queue last week about the difference between bat speed and power. The latter is a topic I’ll surely spend a bunch of time dissecting in this space over the weeks to come, because who plays in a dynasty league and isn’t willing to trip a sibling in order to read about power-hitting prospects? For today’s run, though, we’re going to talk about bat speed.

It’s a skill that can be on the more difficult side to identify for the untrained eye—most swings taken by professional baseball players are, after all, objectively quite fast. And it’s one of those terms that even mainstream prospect reports written by not scouts will utilize frequently without much context about why it’s important. Intuitively it makes sense: if you swing faster, you have a better chance of hitting a ball that has been pitched fast. But understanding how and why certain players have better bat speed than others is useful when trying to map out valuation and a long-term dynasty league strategy.

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April 13, 2017 6:00 am

The Stash List: 2017 Second Edition


Greg Wellemeyer

Little has changed so far, but we do have data from early season samples to examine.

With the minor-league season just a week old and the major-league version not much more seasoned than that, there isn’t a whole lot of upheaval since last week’s list. Injuries, promotions, poor performance, and wild speculation will stir it up soon, don’t you worry.

The Graduates: None.

The Dropouts: Collin McHugh (5), Pedro Alvarez (19), JaCoby Jones (23), Roman Quinn (25).

I was bullish on McHugh’s stashability last week, assuming he was a rehab turn or two away from rejoining Houston’s rotation and re-asserting his back-end fantasy value. He made it through just one inning in his first rehab start, and is now shut down for six weeks with an elbow injury. Few pitchers in baseball have thrown as many breakers as McHugh over the past three seasons, so this was probably bound to happen sooner or later. I’m not optimistic enough to leave him on the list as we wait a couple months for a return.

Jones has started six of the Tigers’ seven games, so doesn’t really fit the profile for this column seeing as how he has something close to a full-time opportunity. I like the power-speed potential, though his contact inability and down-the-order lineup position limit his fantasy ceiling.

1) Julio Urias (LHP)—Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous Rank: 1)

Urias made his 2017 debut for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Monday, allowing two runs in 3 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking four. More important than the results was his pitch count. Despite limited action this spring, Urias threw 79 pitches, and might be more stretched out than I originally anticipated. Physically ready or not, Dave Roberts suggested that “some time at the end of the month makes sense” for his arrival. I’ll take the over.

2) Yoan Moncada (2B)—Chicago White Sox (Previous Rank: 2)

I’m trying not to be swayed by the in-person looks I got at Moncada this week, but am having a hard time. He swatted a home run on Monday that sounded like he hit the ball with a telephone pole, and yesterday he thumped a pitch on the outer half off the top of the wall in the opposite-field gap. Oh, and those were from different sides of the plate. While I still have concerns about the strikeout rate that aren’t likely to be answered in the short term, Moncada is going to be very impactful very soon.

3) Jorge Soler (OF)—Kansas City Royals (Previous Rank: 3)

Soler swung a bat Sunday for the first time since injuring his oblique on Feb. 26 and could begin a rehab assignment next week. Paolo Orlando is off to a .125/.192/.125 start in his stead, which is to say that the job is still firmly Soler’s as soon as he can get back.

4) Michael Conforto (OF)—New York Mets (Previous Rank: 4)

This is what happens, Terry.

5) Joe Ross (RHP)—Washington Nationals (Previous Rank: Unranked)

An unintentional omission from last week’s list, Ross is at Triple-A Syracuse because the Nats don’t need a fifth starter until April 22. Ross was beaten up a bit in his first start for the Chiefs, but I don’t think his major-league rotation spot is in any jeopardy regardless of what happens while he’s on the farm.

6) Jose Berrios (RHP)—Minnesota Twins (Previous Rank: 6)

7) Reynaldo Lopez (RHP)—Chicago White Sox (Previous Rank: 7)

Berrios surely can use his time in Rochester for refinement, but he has absolutely nothing left to prove at that level from a performance standpoint. After six shutout innings in his first appearance, Berrios now owns a 2.48 ERA and 215-to-51 K-to-BB ratio in 193 Triple-A innings. Adalberto Mejia, who won the last spot in the Twins’ rotation with a solid spring, couldn’t get out of the second inning in an ugly major league debut. Lopez’s run prevention and ability to pitch deep into games in the early going at Triple-A Charlotte leave much to be desired. His 15 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings does not.

8) Martin Prado (3B)—Miami Marlins (Previous Rank: 9)

9) Devin Mesoraco (C)—Cincinnati Reds (Previous Rank: 12)

10) Wilson Ramos (C)—Tampa Bay Rays (Previous Rank: 10)

11) Tom Murphy (C)—Colorado Rockies (Previous Rank: 11)

Injury update time. Prado was cleared to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday and began in High-A. The plan is for Prado to play four games and, barring a setback, he could return to Miami for full action next week. Mesoraco’s through four games of his rehab assignment at Double-A Pensacola but has yet to catch back-to-back contests. Playing time upon his return is unclear, but especially if you’re a Gary Sanchez or Buster Posey owner, Mesoraco is worth a stash because of his imminent activation and upside. Nothing to report on Ramos or Murphy.

12) Austin Meadows (OF)—Pittsburgh Pirates (Previous Rank: 13)

13) Bradley Zimmer (OF)—Cleveland Indians (Previous Rank: 16)

14) Blake Swihart (C) Boston Red Sox (Previous Rank: 15)

Small sample fun: Meadows has a .374 OPS, Zimmer has just four strikeouts in 27 at-bats, and Swihart has caught all give games in which he’s played. I expect one of these things to continue.

15) Lucas Giolito (RHP)—Chicago White Sox (Previous Rank: 7)

16) Jose De Leon (RHP)—Tampa Bay Rays (Previous Rank: 14)

I’m officially worried about Giolito. Reports from both spring training and his first outing at Triple-A Charlotte have his fastball in the low-90s. Mixed-league value is going to be hard to come by unless that changes, and the Pale Hose have no reason to push him to the big leagues in the meantime. I said last week that De Leon would need to return to action soon to hold on to his spot on the list, and there is no update to his injury status. Tick, tick, tick.

17) Archie Bradley (RHP)—Arizona Diamondbacks (Previous Rank: 21)

Last week I said that “10 of the seven outs Bradley recorded were by way of strikeout,” which is mathematically impossible, no matter how impressive Bradley was in his first appearance. He didn’t quite have the same swing-and-miss stuff in his second outing, but he did allow just one baserunner in two innings of work. I’d give him one more shot in the rotation if I were the Diamondbacks, but he could be plenty relevant if he becomes one of the next Andrews Miller we’ve heard so much about this spring. Because, you know, everyone has one of those just lying around waiting to be deployed optimally.

18) Cody Bellinger (1B)—Los Angeles Dodgers (Previous Week: Honorable Mention)

19) A.J. Reed (1B)—Houston Astros (Previous Rank: 17)

20) Joey Gallo (3B)—Texas Rangers (Previous Rank: 18)

21) Trey Mancini (1B)—Baltimore Orioles (Previous Rank: Unranked)

22) Dan Vogelbach (1B)—Seattle Mariners (Previous Rank: 20)

Leaving Bellinger off the proper list last week was a mistake, considering I included four inferior players with similarly ambiguous paths to regular time. He’ll have to really rake in Triple-A to force the Dodgers into giving him the call, much less installing him as an everyday, fantasy relevant player. Bellinger has the tools to do it though, bringing significant power if he can keep the strikeouts in check, with a bit of speed to boot. Mancini replaces Alvarez by virtue of playing the same position(s) and already being in the majors.

23) Franklin Barreto (SS)—Oakland Athletics (Previous Rank: Unranked)

24) J.P. Crawford (SS)—Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 22)

I still believe that Crawford arrives first, and that Barreto is more valuable in our game because of his speed and the security of his hit tool. He’s off to a blistering start at Triple-A Nashville, but I don’t see the A’s rushing him in a non-competitive season. Chad Pinder likely gets the first shot at playing time when Jed Lowrie gets hurt. I’m willing to hedge against that assumption with a spot at the bottom of the list. Crawford is off to whatever is the opposite of a blistering start.

25) Aaron Altherr (OF)—Philadelphia Phillies (Previous Rank: 24)

Playing time has been in short supply, but you have to figure the Phillies will see what they have with some of their controllable assets before too long. I still believe in the power-speed combo here, even if I’m nervous about its utility because of suspect contact ability.

Honorable Mention: Ozzie Albies, Jorge Alfaro, Tyler Beede, Carter Capps, Matt Duffy, Delino DeShields, Dilson Herrera, Ketel Marte, Francis Martes, Jesse Winker

I’d like to include someone from Texas’, and maybe Washington’s bullpen, I just don’t have any conviction about who it should be. Matt Bush and Koda Glover are my hunches, but neither is making an especially strong case just yet.

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April 6, 2017 6:00 am

The Stash List: 2017 First Edition


Greg Wellemeyer

Fantasy prospects who were hiding in plain sight all along!

Half-a-week’s worth of major-league games are behind us. What better time to speculate wildly about the arrival of the game’s top prospects, to parse medical reports (and teams’ misdirection regarding those reports), and to hypothesize irresponsibly about who is on the brink of a closing gig. It’s the return of the Stash List!

In case you’re not familiar from years past, here are the four types of players eligible for inclusion:

  • Minor leaguers: anyone currently in the minors.
  • Major leaguers on the DL: anyone currently on the disabled list who is owned in fewer than 25 percent of ESPN leagues. The restriction is there to exclude obvious players like Steven Matz.
  • Closers-in-waiting: any reliever who is not actively getting saves and is owned in fewer than 25 percent of ESPN leagues. This excludes pitchers who are in committees, and setup men who are widely owned, such as Nate Jones for example.
  • Others-in-waiting: any other player who is not currently active in the role that would net him the most fantasy value. This includes pitchers who are in line for a rotation spot but are not currently there, and position players who are not receiving regular playing time. This excludes players like Javy Baez who would surely benefit from a full-time role, but who already receive enough playing time to be relevant in all leagues.

And with that out of the way, let’s get on with the list:

1. Julio Urias (LHP)—Los Angeles Dodgers

The prevailing line of thought a few weeks ago was that Urias would head to extended spring training when camp broke. Instead, the Dodgers optioned him to High-A. He isn’t expected to pitch there and will instead open his season at Triple-A Oklahoma City at a time to be determined. Urias missed a couple of weeks in mid-March with strep throat and hasn’t yet thrown three innings in an outing. Expect him to come down with strep throat another time or two in the coming weeks as he attempts to accomplish the dual goals of stretching out away from the majors and saving his arm for October 2021.

2. Yoan Moncada (2B)—Chicago White Sox

The top fantasy prospect in the game will start at Triple-A Charlotte, and Tyler Saladino isn’t going to stand in his way for long. I do have concerns about Moncada’s swing-and-miss denting his near-term value, especially given his lack of experience at the upper levels. His game-changing speed and power on contact balance that risk with a potentially substantial reward.

3. Jorge Soler (OF)—Kansas City Royals

Soler is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list on April 9, but will require more time than that since he hasn’t swung a bat since Feb. 26. Given his injury history and the fact that oblique injuries can linger and/or recur, it’s fair to be concerned. Soler will be the Royals’ everyday right fielder as soon as he’s ready to come back. At just 25 years old, he still has a tremendous amount of untapped potential and the Royals are hoping regular playing time will draw it out.

4. Michael Conforto (OF)—New York Mets

Thanks to a .300/.323/.500 triple-slash this spring and a Juan Lagares injury, Conforto made the Mets’ Opening Day roster, even if nobody told the Citi Field PA guy. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere for him to play, which is a bit of a problem in a game where scoring is based on accumulation of statistics.

5. Collin McHugh (RHP)—Houston Astros

Tools are fun and all, but responsible stashing includes taking value wherever your league mates give it to you. McHugh’s ERA and WHIP have worsened in both of the two years since his out-of-nowhere 2014 breakout, which I suppose is driving his way-too-low 16 percent ownership rate. He’ll strike out a shade less than one batter per inning and should win double digits. That’s back-end value even if the ratios don’t correct, and I think they will. McHugh is slated to pitch Opening Day in Triple-A as he works his way back from dead arm this spring. That his arm perished is no surprise considering his extraordinary breaking ball usage.

6. Jose Berrios (RHP)—Minnesota Twins

Berrios was atrocious in the big leagues last season, yes. You don’t hear much about the 2.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 10.1 strikeouts per nine he tallied in 111.1 Triple-A innings, though. Maybe Berrios’ 2016 season is evidence that demonstrates the gulf between Triple-A and the majors, or maybe we just shouldn’t weight a 58.1 inning sample so heavily. If he can correct the rumored pitch tipping and throw a first pitch strike more often than 55.2 percent of the time – 29th lowest among 328 pitchers that threw at least 50 innings – I like his chances at a useful fantasy season. Berrios didn’t pitch much this spring because he represented Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him in Minnesota as soon as he can get in the requisite reps in Rochester.

7. Reynaldo Lopez (RHP)—Chicago White Sox

8. Lucas Giolito (RHP)—Chicago White Sox

I still like Giolito more as a long-term option because of the upside. This ordering reflects my opinion that Reynaldo will be up first in 2017. At 23 years old, Lopez is hardly a finished product, but we have a better idea of what he can be since his stuff is in tact and his development is forward-moving. Giolito, on the other hand, enters a hugely important developmental year seeking to settle on some consistent mechanics and recover fastball velocity that went missing last season. The White Sox have no incentive whatsoever to rush Giolito through that process, or to make him attempt it against major-league hitters.

9. Martin Prado (3B)—Miami Marlins

Prado was the 18th-most valuable third baseman in 2016 according to ESPN’s player rater. If he hits in the top third of a top-heavy Marlins offense again, the counting stats should be there to complement his usually excellent batting average. Prado currently is on the 10-day disabled list but has been cleared to resume baseball activities.

10. Wilson Ramos (C)—Tampa Bay Rays

11. Tom Murphy (C)—Colorado Rockies

12. Devin Mesoraco (C)—Cincinnati Reds

Unless you own one of a small handful of options, you should be buying lottery tickets at the catcher position. Can I interest you in one that’s disabled? Ramos hit the 60-day version and won’t return until June at the earliest. It’s been three weeks since Murphy fractured his forearm on Anthony Rizzo’s bat. The recovery period was quoted as 4-6 weeks at the time, so it shouldn’t be too long before he’s back on the field. How often is an open question, given the Rockies’ apparent affinity for Tony Wolters. Mesoraco will begin 2017 in Double-A and Reds manager Bryan Price suggested he’d have to catch back-to-back nine-inning games before being activated. I acknowledge that these are all dubious investments for both injury and performance-related reasons, but catcher is such a wasteland that all three are worth an aggressive placement on this list.

13. Austin Meadows (OF)—Pittsburgh Pirates

Have you heard that the Pirates tried to trade Andrew McCutchen this offseason and might attempt to do so again depending on how he and the team play? If and when that happens, Meadows will be an immediate five-category contributor. He impressed this spring, hitting .333/.423/.556 in an extended look while all three of the Pirates’ starting outfielders played in the WBC.

14. Jose De Leon (RHP)—Tampa Bay Rays

De Leon will open on the minor-league disabled list with “forearm muscle discomfort,” whatever that is. Non-medically speaking, it is an issue for a pitcher who hasn’t yet thrown 120 innings in any of his three full professional seasons. The Rays, as usual, have incredible starting depth in the major leagues and upper levels of the minors. De Leon is at risk of moving down or off this list if he doesn’t return to action quickly, and in full form.

15. Blake Swihart (C)—Boston Red Sox

It wouldn’t be real Stash List without a Blake Swihart appearance.

16. Bradley Zimmer (OF)—Cleveland Indians

Man alive I’m ready for the minor league season to begin so I can begin quoting you small-sample minor-league stats instead of small-sample spring-training stats. Alas, it hasn’t, so allow me to tell you that Zimmer raked to the tune of a .358/.424/.660 line with three bombs and four steals this spring. More importantly, he only struck out 13 times in 58 plate appearances, a potential sign of progress after he struck out 171 times in 130 Double-A and Triple-A games a season ago. If Zimmer can carry the spring trend into the regular season, he’ll be up before long. Even with a healthy Michael Brantley, the Indians are giving outfield at-bats to the likes of Abraham Almonte and Austin Jackson.

17. A.J. Reed (1B)—Houston Astros

18. Joey Gallo (3B)—Texas Rangers

19. Pedro Alvarez (1B)—Baltimore Orioles

20. Dan Vogelbach (1B)—Seattle Mariners

Reed is the Berrios of hitters, a highly regarded prospect whose disastrous major league stint in 2016 overshadowed a dominant Triple-A performance. I like him the best of this group of mashers by a comfortable margin, but there’s nowhere for him to play in Houston presently. A five-year, $50-million contract says that Gurriel gets a long leash, though I’m not a believer in the 33-year-old Cuban as a first-division regular. Gallo is up with the big club while Adrian Beltre’s calf heals. He gave us the full Gallo in the season’s first two games, walking once, striking out four times, and hitting a baseball approximately 794 feet. That Pedro Alvarez had to take a minor-league deal on a team with, like, seven Pedro Alvarezes already on the roster seemed like a market overcorrection to me. The path to playing time is impossibly cloudy. His ability to destroy righties is not. I like players with strange dimensions as much as the next guy, and I like prospects who are proximate to the bigs. That’s about all I’ll say about Vogelbach, lest I anger the entire rest of the fantasy staff.

21. Archie Bradley (RHP)—Arizona Diamondbacks

Hooooo boy, I know we’re not supposed to overreact to one appearance, but did you see Bradley in relief on Tuesday night? That beard is glorious. Oh, and the stuff was too. Seven of the 10 outs Bradley recorded were by way of strikeout, and he had his heater up to 99. The bullpen is probably the right place for him, but don’t count him out as a starter just yet.

22. J.P. Crawford (SS)—Philadelphia Phillies

I’m not convinced that Crawford has an impactful fantasy profile. I am convinced that Freddy Galvis isn’t going to keep us from finding out before the summer heat settles in.

23. JaCoby Jones (OF)—Detroit Tigers

24. Aaron Altherr (OF)—Philadelphia Phillies

I like both of Jones and Altherr as power-speed options with potential for expanded roles in the near future. Jones’ path is clearer, as all he has to do is outperform Tyler Collins and Mikie Mahtook to earn the bulk of the center field reps going forward. Altherr, whose work with Matt Stairs led to a big spring, has a tougher road. He’ll have to displace one of Howie Kendrick or Michael Saunders, well-paid veterans brought in this winter. Ultimately, it makes far more sense for a rebuilding Philly club to see what they have in the younger, controllable Altherr. It just might take some patience while they arrive at that conclusion.

25. Roman Quinn (OF)—Philadelphia Phillies

If it’s difficult to find time for a guy already on the major-league roster, it’s even harder to figure how Quinn gets enough at-bats to matter. He has impact speed if a spot opens up. Until then, he’ll be in Triple-A trying not to get hurt.

Honorable Mention: Jorge Alfaro, Tyler Beede, Cody Bellinger, Carter Capps, Matt Duffy, Delino DeShields, Dilson Herrera, Ketel Marte, Francis Martes, Jesse Winker

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April 6, 2017 6:00 am

Cheese in the Kitchen: The First One


Wilson Karaman

Bridging the worlds of scouting and fantasy.

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April 5, 2017 6:00 am

Dynasty Dynamics: Six (Slightly) Delayed Gratification Prospects


Ben Carsley

Fantasy help might be on the way soon in the form of top prospects who didn't quite make the big leagues out of spring training.

So it’s the first week of the season, and that promising rookie you snagged thinking he’d win a job in spring training is back in the minors. It happens to all of us. Veterans beat out rookies for jobs. Teams want to manipulate service clocks. Prospects look terrible in meaningless spring games. Injuries pop up. The reasons go on and on.

The good news? Not every prospect who fails to make his big-league club on Opening Day will be subject to a half-season or more of MiLB action. Here are six recently demoted top-101 guys I’m fairly confident you’ll be able to use in advance of the Super Two deadline in mid-June or, at the very least, near that benchmark. They’re sort of in order of how likely I think it is they reach the Majors soonish. Sort of. Enjoy.

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