Now that we’ve exhausted the players in the infield in this series, it’s time to move further back on the grass. And in the National League, there is no shortage of outfielders that are putting up stats that don’t quite line up with their potential for fantasy. This is a diverse group, ranging from guys who might have power to guys who definitely have speed—and it’s about to be kicked off by a player who I get asked about an awful lot (and not just because he plays for a New York team).
But before we get into that, I just want to mention how awesome the BP prospect team has been throughout this whole process. And I really mean the ENTIRE team. We’ve gotten input from just about everyone on these players, and it’s been fantastic first-hand information. In fact, I may just lie to them and say that the project is continuing on in perpetuity so I can infuse as much knowledge as I can into my being. So in conclusion: they’re great, you know it, and let’s move on.
First up is the big fish in this pond:
Cesar Puello, New York Mets
I know what you’re thinking. But this isn’t because I don’t think Puello is a legitimate prospect—he certainly is. The issue is the level of prospect he is for fantasy. It’s easy to look at the stat line and get lightheaded, as he finished the year hitting .326 with 16 homers, 73 RBI, and 24 steals in just 91 games. Of course, he also finished the season early because of he was suspended for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic. That’s the elephant in the room, so let’s just get it out of the way early.
Performance enhancers aside, Puello has legitimate tools—starting with his raw power, which grades out as plus. This may have been his breakout season, but hitting double-digit homers in the power-depressing Florida State League as a 20-year-old is nothing to shake your head at. On top of that, the bat speed is legitimate and could allow the power to play at the highest level. However, the rest of the package is not quite as it seems.
Despite his paces during this season, Puello is very unlikely to be a guy who approaches 40 steals or hits over .300. He is an above-average runner, but expecting a lot of his value to come from his legs isn’t a great idea. First of all, with his approach at the plate (he’s a swinger), he’s incredibly unlikely to have another season with a .400 on-base percentage. In fact, he’d be lucky to get within 50 points of that number. Secondly, even if he makes it into a starting role in relatively short order, he’ll start off playing under Terry Collins—who is cautious when it comes to the stolen base. And that .391 BABIP? Don’t plan on seeing that again.
In the end, Puello is definitely someone worth being on your dynasty league radar—and a very likely top-100 dynasty league prospect come this off-season (teaser alert!) But, if your expectations are that he’ll be a stud outfielder and centerpiece of your team, you’re likely barking up the wrong tree.
Mac Williamson, San Francisco Giants
As you may be able to tell, we’re going to go in order from most valuable in fantasy leagues to least—and Williamson is another guy who does hold some value. Just not as much as it seems. The story is one as old as time. Boy meets girl. Boy shrugs off girl. Boy realizes girl is more than he originally thought. Boy gets girl with an over the top gesture. Boy loses girl because of something that he said/did before he realized she was great. Boy gets girl back with an even more over-the-top gesture. Boy then goes to a Cal League game and sees Mac Williamson’s raw. Boy gets excited. Boy sees Williamson’s speed. Boy gets more excited. Boy realizes he has serious questions about Mac Williamson’s hit tool. Boy gets sad. Girl confirms boy’s fear that the hit tool just may not work. Boy and girl drive off into the sunset.
The Cal League can be a fun house mirror with hitters’ stat lines, but usually that’s reserved for undeserving power outbursts. With Williamson, it’s not so much that he doesn’t deserve the 25 homers that he put up during the 2013 season—like with Puello, Williamson has plus raw power to back it up—it’s that there are questions about how much that power shows up as he moves up. And in the end, he’ll be fighting both the potential limitations of his hit tool and the dimensions of what will likely be his future home park.
On the flip side, Williamson did make the jump straight from short-season ball to the California League this year, and improved as the year went on. In fact, in the second half of the season, his slash line of .331/.408/.578 was a sizable improvement over his first-half line of .253/.340/.428. Double-A will be a healthy test for the Big Mac, and he can go a long way toward proving himself as an outfield bat to be reckoned with during that assignment. But for now, there are enough question marks to give pause before jumping in head first.
Billy Burns, Washington Nationals
It’s incredibly fitting that Billy Burns would have 80 speed—like the universe is giving us all a gift by matching his talent to his moniker. Of course, there are plenty of lines of work that he could have chosen that would have made his name unfortunate at best. It’s not the greatest name for a fire fighter, and it may be among the world’s worst porn star names. But he doesn’t have to worry about either of those things (as far as I/we know).
At first glance, you would think that a hitter who stole more bases per game than the revered Billy Hamilton would be more well known and loved, but there are legitimate reasons why this is unlikely to work at the major-league level. The fact that he only accumulated 17 extra-base hits in 121 games, while having that impact-level speed, should tell you a lot about how much pop he has in his bat. For a reference point, when Dee Gordon played a full-season in Double-A, he had 29 extra-base hits in 133 games. He’s a slap hitter who can get off-balance and exploited by soft and spinning stuff. And while the approach is good, he is unlikely to more than a spare outfielder.
With that said, even fourth outfielders who have the type of speed that Burns has are certainly worth owning in deeper rotisserie formats. Just look at a guy like Tony Campana to see the value that having that singular tool can provide. But outside of these deep rotisserie leagues, Burns is best left on the waiver wire.
Scott Schebler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Since he came into pro ball in 2010, Schebler has seen his performance swing wildly based on his surroundings. In 2011, he hit .285 with 13 homers in 295 at-bats in the Pioneer League, which is known for its offense. Then he followed that up by hitting only six homers in 515 at-bats in the Midwest League. Not surprisingly, he’s taken full advantage of the offensive buffet that is the Southern Division of the California League, hitting .296 with 27 homers in 477 at-bats. And on top of that, he’s even added 16 steals for good measure.
For better or worse, Schebler has been one of the most talked about bats in the Cal League this season. He’s not only putting up good numbers, but he’s putting together quality at-bats while doing it. Despite this, serious questions remain about whether his all-or-nothing approach at the plate will fare against better off-speed pitches and in less generous ballparks. At the very least, he’s worked his way up from non-prospect to someone who may actually have a shot at the majors one day. Unfortunately, from a fantasy perspective, that’s just not going to be enough at this point to warrant using a roster spot on him. He’s going to need to keep proving himself all the way up the ladder, so there will be plenty of room available on the bandwagon down the road if he ends up surprising us all.
Travis Jankowski, San Diego Padres
One of the stars of the SUNY-Stony Brook team that made the College World Series back in 2012, Jankowski was drafted in the supplemental first round by the Padres last summer. In his time in the California League this year, Jankowski’s power has surprisingly remained constant—he hit one last season and had one this season—but he has made his presence felt on the base paths, stealing 71 bases in 85 attempts. And this was after stealing just 17 out of 24 bags in half the playing time last season.
Unfortunately for his future fantasy value, Jankowski just doesn’t have the hit or power tools to be more than a reserve. And unlike Burns before him, Jankowski isn’t a burner. In fact, when the best comp floating around for you is Jason Tyner, that just about says it all.