Fantasy prospect lists are great. We publish them, we debate them, we answer questions about them, and we refer to them in our work.
And four or five months after they go live, no one gives a damn about them anymore.
Yes, Bret Sayre’s 2015 Dynasty 101 list is out, as is my own, and that’s where all of the attention has gone this preseason. Prospect lovers are inherently attracted to the shiny and new, and so we expect this phenomenon.
But what about old lists? What about the players from 2014? They may be forgotten, but they’re certainly not gone, and such “post-hype prospects” often put savvy owners in the position to reap significant rewards.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at all of the graduated top 25 prospects from Bret’s 2014 list, examine how they performed last year and what we can expect moving forward. For each player, I’ll simply render an “overvalued,” “properly valued” or “undervalued” verdict at the end of each writeup, based on current ADP (from FantasyPros.com) and to be used for the 2015 season only.
If you guys like this idea, I’ll round out the top 101 in the next few weeks. If not, you’re all jerks and I don’t need validation from you anyway. Please like it.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, BOS (1)
Prospects, man. Bogaerts looked like the safest bet among top fantasy hitters to produce right away in recent years, what with his dominant 2014 season in the high minors and impressive 2014 playoff run. Instead, the 22-year-old hit .240/.297/.362 with 12 homers and two steals for the Sox, finishing 22nd among fantasy shortstops. Bogaerts performed well at the beginning and end of the year, and his 25-homer, 90-RBI upside from shortstop remains intact. His troubles with sliders from right-handed are real, though, and he’ll need to make an adjustment to that pitch before he really takes off. Last year, I projected Bogaerts would hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .270/.330/.420 with 18 homers. I’m comfortable projecting something similar in 2015, though the power could push a touch higher. I think I showed remarkable restraint in this write-up.
ADP: 12 among SS, 176 overall – moderately undervalued
Javier Baez, 2B/SS, CHC (4)
Bogaerts vs. Baez was one of the hottest debates of the dynasty world among this time last year. Both young players showed flashes of dominance, but also proved they have more adjustments to make if they want to dominate at the next level. Baez put his game power on display last year, hitting nine homers in just 52 games (229 PA). Unfortunately, the 22-year-old struck out in a whopping 41.5 percent of his PA, leading to a .127/.227/.324 line. We’ve known Baez was going to have plenty of swing-and-miss for a while now, but he’s unlikely to be functional in fantasy unless he can cut his K% by a third. He might not make that great a leap in 2015, but for this season he’s a 25-homer bat eligible at 2B and SS. That’s still a unicorn.
ADP: 11 among SS, 16 among 2B, 172 overall – properly valued
Billy Hamilton, OF, CIN (6)
Heading into last season, there were two prevailing schools of thought when it come to Hamilton: He was so weak he was going to hit .100 and end up back in Triple-A, or he’d swipe 120 bags just from getting in the lineup every day. Neither of those extremes came to fruition, and instead Hamilton hit an okay-ish .250/.292/.355, scoring 76 runs and swiping 56 bases. The hope here is that Hamilton shows more of the patient approach he displayed in the minors, getting on base at something closer to a .310-.320 clip and swiping another 20-plus bases. Even if he just repeats his 2014 season, that was good enough to profile as fantasy’s 12th-best outfielder in standard 5×5 leagues. He’s unconventional, but he’s very valuable and there’s upside remaining.
ADP: 17 among OF, 52 overall – moderately undervalued
George Springer, OF, HOU (8)
As if Springer wasn’t hyped enough before last season, his line of .231/.336/.468 in 345 PA last year has solidified his status as a budding star in the mind of most. I’ll fully admit I didn’t think Springer would retain such an impressive walk rate (11.3 percent) early in his MLB career, and while he may never be a high-average hitter, he’s on his way to stardom if that approach is real. Don’t worry about the thigh strain that kept him out 70-plus games: the Astros were justifiably being cautious with his return, and Springer could challenge for OF1 status if he plays in 140 games in 2015. There’s risk here, but my lord is there the potential for massive reward, too.
ADP: 13 among SP, 40 overall – properly valued
Taijuan Walker, SP, SEA (11)
Walker is still basically a pitching prospect, even if he’s surpassed official limits. He missed 63 games last year with shoulder inflammation. Pitching prospect. Shoulder. Inflammation. Mariner. Scared yet? There’s still hope for Walker, who I liked as a future fantasy no. 2 SP a few years ago, but he’s taken a step back with his curveball and the injury concerns are very real. Reports out of camp have been largely positive, but they’re reports out of camp. I like the notion of taking a flier on Walker late in drafts this year, but wouldn’t trust him as one of my starting five in a 12-team league.
ADP: 76 among SP, 259 overall – properly valued
Gregory Polanco, OF, SEA (14)
Bogaerts, Baez, Byron Buxton, and Oscar Taveras comprised the “big four” fantasy prospects last year, but I didn’t have Polanco very far behind them. The 23-year-old held his own with the big league club in 2014, hitting .231/.307/.343 with seven homers, 50 runs, and 14 steals in 312 PA. I think you can reasonably extrapolate those numbers to 12-plus homers, 80-plus runs, and 25-plus steals over a full season, and I’d bank on Polanco upping his average by 15-plus points, too. He’s being taken behind Ben Revere right now, which is a tough pill to swallow, but his overall ADP is surprisingly reasonable. Maybe it’s the high butt.
ADP: 42 among OF, 148 overall – moderately undervalued
Kevin Gausman, SP, BAL (15)
I covered Gausman in depth in my Five to Watch piece from earlier this week, so you can read my breakdown there. Basically, he’s risky, but he could really take off if the slider progresses, and there’s legit reason to think it will.
ADP: 75 among SP, 254 overall – undervalued
Yordano Ventura, SP, KC (16)
It’s hard not to love Ventura, what with his size, spunkiness and the heat he throws on the mound. An impressive rookie year saw him finish as fantasy’s 48th-best starter, posting a 3.20 ERA with a 20.3 K% and 8.8 BB% in 183 innings. It’s reasonable to harbor some fears about Ventura holding up after throwing well over 200 innings between the majors, minors and the postseason last year, especially given his frame. That being said, we have no specific reasons to think he’ll break, other than the brief time he missed with Valgus Extension Overload last year, which is both the name of your dad’s high school punk band and a term of elbow inflammation. If he’s healthy, there’s little reason to think he can’t sustain or perhaps improve upon last year’s success. Don’t be dicks, baseball/UCL gods.
ADP: 39 among SP, 152 overall – properly valued
Nick Castellanos, 3B, DET (22)
Welp. After crushing Triple-A in 2013, Castellanos got a rude awakening in the next level in 2014, hitting just .259/.306/.394 with 11 homers and 66 RBI in 579 PA. The Tigers gave him every chance to succeed, but the 23-year-old really showed no improvement as the season progressed, apparently leaving many owners uninspired this offseason. Yes, Castellanos had a horrible debut, but the potential for a plus hit tool and 15-homer pop is still here and he plays in one hell of a lineup. Third base is deeper than you think, so going 29 at his position isn’t quite as bad as it may seem, but he shouldn’t be taken behind Alex Rodriguez or Juan Uribe and in the same round as Justin Turner and David Freese. Have a little faith.
ADP: 29 among 3B, 317 overall – undervalued
Travis d’Arnaud, C, NYM (24)
d’Arnaud’s overall line of .242/.302/.416 with 13 homers doesn’t look very impressive, even for a catcher. But the backstop was much, much better in the second half, hitting .265/.313/.474 after mustering just a .217/.292/.354 line in the first. Injuries will always be a concern with d’Arnaud, and the 26-year-old did indeed miss time with a concussion and elbow soreness in 2014. He wasn’t plagued by the leg injuries that defined his minor-league career though, and we’ve see that d’Arnaud has the potential to hit for a tolerable average and challenge for 15-plus homers. If he stays on the field and in an improved Mets lineup, he should be fine as a low-end starter in 12-team leagues. Just be prepared to reach for a backup if he gets hurt.
ADP: 13 among C, 205 overall – properly valued