The middle of the season is a wonderful time to turn the reflection you’ve likely been doing over the last month into action. It’s the time to decide whether you really want to push in to go for it this year, or sell off some pieces for 2016 and beyond. It’s the time to look at the standings and see where you can gain the most points over the last three months.
For both contending and rebuilding teams in keeper and dynasty formats, the two places you can get the most bang for your buck at the trade deadline is knowing whose stock is on the rise and whose is falling in the minds of others. If you’re like me, you’ve made many of these deals in your leagues—and this list attempts to be a high-level guide as to how seriously to take the risers and fallers right now. We all know these rankings are just merely snapshots in time, but as we get closer and closer to the deadline, the snapshots get a little more important.
Before we start ranking players, here’s the fine print from the Dynasty 101 back in February about the ranking process and what this is/isn’t:
First, there are a few disclaimers specific to the prospect list to go over before we jump in. Again, these rankings are for fantasy purposes only and do not directly take into account things like an outfielder’s ability to stick in center or a catcher’s pop time. Of course, these things do matter indirectly, as they affect a player’s ability to either stay in the lineup or maintain eligibility. So, while Austin Hedges may be a top-25 prospect on BP’s Top 101, this is due in large part to his defensive value; and you’ll see that he’s not on this list because his upside isn’t nearly as great for fantasy. Additionally, home parks need to be factored in, just as when we are when talking about a major-league player. If Nelson Cruz’s fantasy potential shrinks on going from Baltimore to Seattle, we can’t pretend that these prospects operate in a vacuum, unaffected by park factors. Of course, there’s no guarantee that they will reach the majors with their current organization, so while it is not a heavy consideration, it is reflected. But most importantly, the intention of this list is to balance the upside, probability, and proximity of these players to an active fantasy lineup.
On top of that (and my regretful choice of using Nelson Cruz as that example), unlike that “other” top-50 prospect list (you know, the non-fantasy one), we’re not going to be limiting this list to those who are only in the minor leagues. That’s no fun. If a player has rookie eligibility as of this writing, he’s in. So apologies to Blake Swihart, who netted at-bat no. 131 last week and would have clocked in no. 32, just ahead of Raimel Tapia. And for those who would ask, this list does not include the most recent draftees—and even if it did, there would only have been on that made the list. I’ll give you a hint, his name rhymes with Flendan Hodgers. In addition, I’m going to be keeping my comments pretty brief on these players, since there’s a ton of print dedicated to them already today.
Now let’s jump into the list (with a few extras at the end):
The 20-year-old rookie has been the top fantasy shortstop since the beginning of June. He debuted on June 8th. Correa is easily a top-20 player in dynasty formats right now, and is a borderline top-10 option. This is not a drill. This is a superstar on our hands.
4) Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
There is absolutely nothing about what we’ve seen from Buxton this year that dims his future as a fantasy stud. He’s just doing what all non-superhuman prospects do. Seager simply awaits his opportunity, and is the clear-cut top prospect remaining in the minor leagues. Unlike his fellow elite power prospect Joey Gallo, Sano has not yet homered in his first four major-league games. Though if he keeps hitting .400, I’m not sure many Twins fans would mind.
5) Joey Gallo, 3B/OF, Texas Rangers
This group has an awful lot of power between them. Gallo has shown it in the majors already, and profiles as a 40-homer hitter as soon as next year. The batting average remains a major concern though, as he was one check swing away from striking out in over half of his at-bats for the Rangers. On the other hand, it’s really tough for any pitching prospect to rank this high on a fantasy list, let alone someone who hasn’t even made it to Double-A. It’s both a reflection on the state of high-end talent in the minors as a whole and the sheer ridiculousness of Giolito’s stuff. Though you already knew that by reading any of the 20 eyewitness reports we have on the guy.
8) Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers
9) Julio Urias, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
And here are some of my personal favorites. Schwarber is a monster with the bat, and this ranking does not take his catcher eligibility for granted. If I knew he was never going to play a game at the position in the majors, he’d still be a top-10 fantasy prospect—the bat is just that good. And for as good as Schwarber’s bat is, Mazara’s can match it. He’s started turning on the power at Double-A since the start of June and it wouldn’t be hugely surprising to see him in Texas before the year is out. Urias won’t turn 20 until next summer, and he was arguably the best pitcher in Double-A before having eye surgery.
The big-ticket signing from Boston gets his own blurb here because it’s extremely important to reinforce how little we should be taking from his performance right now. Yes, he has a .652 OPS through 34 games in Low-A, but the layoff and transition make this more than simply a prospect with disappointing numbers. If he hasn’t turned it around by the end of the season, then we can start to muster up even a modicum of concern, but not now.
13) J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
The floor is very high in this tier, even with its riskiest prospect, as Anderson’s ability to steal bases and improving contact rate should keep him valuable if the power never quite comes (though I think it gets to average in time). Franco and Crawford should make for a fun left side of the infield for the Phillies during the remainder of the decade, but likely not starting until next year—despite the fact that Crawford is the best shortstop in their whole organization right now. Franco was built for roto leagues and for that park. The excitement around Matz in New York is extremely high right now, and it’s well warranted. The velocity is wonderful, and the strikeout potential is high, but the secondary pitches need improvement and his command isn’t there yet.
17) Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox
Both Dahl and Castillo have seen their 2015 seasons sink into disappointment due to injuries, but both remain high on the list for different reasons. Dahl has the upside that you dream about, with his 15-homer, 40-steal potential at Coors Field. Meanwhile, Castillo has the floor to be a double-digit contributor in those same categories right now. He’s just biding his time until the Red Sox have a spot for him (which does have an effect on his fantasy value).
19) Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
21) Hector Olivera, 2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
There’s a wide range of opinions about who that next arm after Giolito and Urias is (I’m excluding Matz because he’ll be ineligible later this year). For me, though, it’s Hoffman—and the decision isn’t all that hard. The stuff is on the way back after Tommy John surgery last year, and next year, he could move from excellent to near untouchable for dynasty owners. Devers has considerable upside, and is more than holding his own as an 18-year-old in full-season ball. At a minimum, Judge should be a major leaguer who can hit 25 homers a year. In this day and age, that’s a sizable floor to have, and he’s a pretty big guy. Olivera may have been in the majors by now if not for an injury while playing at Triple-A. He’s the eldest statesman of this list, at 30 years old, but he’s ready to be a fantasy factor right now, who can hit for lots of average and enough power to profile at second or third.
22) Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Boston Red Sox
23) Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
24) Nick Williams, OF, Texas Rangers
25) Trea Turner, SS, Washington Nationals
26) Alex Reyes, RHP, St Louis Cardinals
27) Jose Berrios, RHP, Minnesota Twins
30) Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Some of the arms above couldn’t be much different from each other. Alex Reyes has as much upside as any pitcher in baseball not named Lucas Giolito, but we’re still not sure how much he can harness it. Glasnow and Stephenson fall in similar boats, but they don’t quite have the raw stuff that Reyes does. On the other hand, Nola and Rodriguez are about as safe as anyone on this list to be a positive fantasy contributor in mixed leagues in five years. Heaney and Berrios aren’t too far behind those two. Which of these pitchers you prefer really just comes down to how much tolerance you have for risk (and likely the depth of your league). In the hitter department, Williams has made all of the improvements you could possibly want to see from him this year—as he’s walking more and striking out less by a significant margin. If the improved plate discipline continues and merges with his innate bat-to-ball ability, watch out.
32) Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado Rockies
34) Daniel Norris, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
35) Josh Bell, OF/1B, Pittsburgh Pirates
36) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
37) Manuel Margot, OF, Boston Red Sox
38) Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Chicago Cubs
39) Chi Chi Gonzalez, RHP, Texas Rangers
It’s never easy to put a number on pitchers who aren’t quite at full health (but aren’t broken enough to fall off the list entirely). Bradley doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, but he remains sidelined. Taillon is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and is now sidelined due to hernia surgery. It’s unlikely we’ll see him again this year. Meanwhile, both Norris and Gonzalez got tastes of the majors and both ended up back in Triple-A. However, they both remain highly talented pitchers and should be back up at some point later this season. Gonzalez was done in by his inability to miss bats, but he has more there than he’s shown.
40) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians
41) Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros
42) Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
There’s a lot that these three outfielders have in common, besides the fact that they are all in High-A. None of them is ever likely to be OF1 material in his fantasy career, but they all have the potential to be strong all-around contributors who can add value in all five categories. Zimmer and Meadows are the better bets to hit for average, while Fisher could offer a little more on the base paths.
43) Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros
44) Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies
46) Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
47) Wilmer Difo, SS, Washington Nationals
48) Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds
50) Matthew Wisler, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Tucked away in the back grouping are three pitchers who are often overlooked when discussing minor-league arms—Appel and Wisler due to a perceived lack of ceiling, and Manaea because he’s missed almost all of the season to date. Difo is still trying to outrun his tag of being too old for the level last year when he dominated in Low-A, and though he hasn’t hit for much power in Double-A, he’s almost there. Frazier and Winker still have strong fantasy profiles despite struggling in 2015. Give up on them at your own risk.
Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Jake Thompson, RHP, Texas Rangers
Braden Shipley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Luis Severino, RHP, New York Yankees
Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals
Gleyber Torres, SS, Chicago Cubs
There are plenty of fun names here, and these are all players who would likely have made a top-50 comprised solely of players in the minors (except for Smith, who is in the majors himself). We saw how impressive Ross can be in his short stint with the Nationals, and both Thompson and Severino are close to getting the chance to show what they can do with the strikeout material they have. Barreto and Torres may be the next wave of high-end middle infielders.
The Injured Birds
Hunter Harvey, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
This part just bums me out. Bundy would have been in the top 15 had he been healthy, as his stuff was finally back all the way this year. Harvey was the scouts’ darling last year, but has been shut down due to elbow soreness. He’s starting a throwing program this week, but forgive me if I’m not optimistic about him. He’d have been a top-30 arm if healthy.
Thank you for reading
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