It’s been a bit since we brought you a prospect progress report, but with postseason play entering its final week and the Arizona Fall League earning more of the spotlight going forward, we thought we’d take a look at some players who got off to interesting starts. This isn’t necessarily just a check in on box-score stars, but rather players who have dynasty value and have seen that value shift one way or the other over the course of the season, and who will be worth keeping tabs on throughout the AFL.
If you’ve checked in on the AFL at all so far this season, you’ve heard about Sanchez. The oh-my-God-how-is-he-still-just-22-years-old Yankee is hitting .425/.429/.900 with five homers through 40 AB. Is that meaningful? Not at all, but it does serve as a reminder for dynasty leaguers to consider Sanchez something of a buy-low top-150 fantasy prospect this offseason. While his prospect star has faded pretty much every season his outstanding 2012 campaign, Sanchez was actually competent in Double-A and downright good in Triple-A last year. He’s not terribly likely to stick behind the plate long term, but he’s not a total lock to move yet (his arm might be his best tool) and he only has to catch 20 games to be eligible at catcher in most formats. That chance, plus his power and proximity to the majors, still makes him interesting for our purposes. I swear to God I’ve been writing about Gary Sanchez for eight years now, but somehow he’s still just heading into his age-23 season. If you can get him as a throw-in or tertiary piece in a deal in deep dynasty leagues this offseason, go for it. —Ben
Frazier followed up an uninspiring 2014 campaign with a very strong showing in High-A in 2015, and that success has followed the 21-year-old to Scottsdale. Frazier is hitting .368/.429/.579 through 38 PA, and while that doesn’t really matter (are you getting the theme with these stats yet?) the reports coming out of Arizona indicate that Frazier very much looks like the real deal. As we’ve talked about ad nauseum in this column and as a fantasy team in general, the upper minors lost a ton of high-end fantasy talent this past season. While some explosive options remain, there’s a real void that players in the mid-minors are poised to fill when this offseason rankings come out. Given Frazier’s potential as a five-category contributor, his likely season-opening assignment in Double-A and his first-round pedigree, it wouldn’t at all surprise me to see him billed as a top-20 dynasty league prospect. That may seem high, and it is indeed partially a reflection of talent attrition, but it’s mostly a reflection of Frazier’s bat speed, improving approach and talent. —Ben
Everyone knew that Reed had massive power coming out of college; the question was how much of that power was usable in games. Reed answered by hitting 33 homers across High-A and Double-A last year, and while some of that power production came in the Cal League, it still can’t be entirely dismissed, especially when paired with his outstanding walk rate. The 22-year-old isn’t mashing in the AFL, hitting just .241/.361/.414 with one bomb, but as you can tell from that slash line, he’s still reaching base. So why highlight Reed here if his AFL performance has been unremarkable so far? I guess I’ve just been anxious to spotlight him for dynasty purposes, as the playable power potential here is enormous (especially if he remains an Astro) and I’m not yet sure that upside is being properly factored into his value. I’m also happy that Reed’s AFL appearance gives more people a chance to lay eyes on him, as conflicting reports about his bat speed have left me mighty curious. —Ben
A potential back-end starter with unfavorable contextual factors who was just (Travie)so-so in High-A last year? Feel the off-season dynasty league coverage excitement! Snark aside, Travieso took several small steps forward in 2015, lowering his homer rate and ERA while maintaining his strikeout rate as a 21-year-old at Daytona. The burly right-hander has allowed just one earned run (a homer) in seven innings as a starter in Arizona, striking out seven while walking just one. The ultimate upside here is very limited, but Travieso does have the three-pitch mix required to stay in a rotation and the build to log innings. He figures to start 2016 in Double-A, putting him a relative stone’s throw away form the majors, so if you play in NL-only or TDGX-depth dynasty leagues, he may be worth a speculative add. You have time, though: Nothing Travieso does in the AFL could possibly elevate him to near-top-100 prospect status. —Ben
First listed as part of the On The Rise section of the Dodgers Top 10 in 2014, it’s been something of a slow burn for Scavuzzo. Consider him a souffle in this regard. After falling in on himself after the exposure boost, Scavuzzo gathered himself, dusted himself off, and made up for lost time, splitting the season between Low-A and High-A. Don’t get too enraptured with the second-half explosion, as it was California League-aided, but scouts still felt that he had the talent to back up the praise, if not the pure power totals. The bad news is he’s limited to left field and he’s going to get eaten up by more advanced pitching if he can’t shorten his swing, perhaps by quieting down his significant leg kick. The good news is that he’s a highly athletic outfielder with the chance to have a bat to carry his limited defensive position. Still, given the depths our readers tend to plumb for fresh talent, he’s a name to monitor or gamble on. —Craig
Video courtesy of Wilson Karaman.
I know, I know. More Cal League production, much less from a first baseman/outfielder who is too old for the level. But write off strong performances at High-A from Diamondbacks first basemen at your own risk. A lot of people (myself included) did the same thing to Paul Goldschmidt in 2010, and well… he’s Paul Goldschmidt. Daniel Palka is not Paul Goldschmidt. I mean it. Don’t pretend I said anything otherwise. Daniel Palka is not Paul Goldschmidt.
Okay, now that that’s settled,
Goldsch I mean Palka tore through the Cal League this year, slashing .280/.352/.532, belting 68 extra-base hits and flashing some speed (24 stolen bases) despite a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame. There’s some length to his swing that is exacerbated by only average bat speed, so he’ll always rack up some whiffs, but there is a semblance of an approach here as well. He’s off to a hot start in the AFL, where he’s cut down on the strikeouts in an exceedingly small sample. Again, for deep leaguers who are trawling for moderate talent, Palka is an interesting find. —Craig
No, Bret didn’t wrest the keyboard away from me. Yes, you all know about Jurickson Profar. We’ve talked about Jurickson Profar since we all walked to school uphill both ways without feet much less shoes. Here’s the skinny: he’s healthy and producing in the AFL, to the tune of a .412/.500/.882 slash line in a measly 20 plate appearances. Still, at this point any news is good news, and any plate appearances are better than the likely specious wonderings we’d otherwise be subject to.
The bigger question is: where does Profar fit into Texas’ long-term plans? That remains unclear and subject to the same specious thoughts mentioned above, and will likely hinge on the Rangers’ current plants with Elvis Andrus. It’s true that Rougned Odor isn’t a lock to repeat his stellar post-recall production but it’s also true that Profar’s offensive ability is more likely to outweigh Andrus’ than Odor’s. It’s probably best for Profar to be worked back into the major leagues as a depth option who can rest often given the amount of time he’s missed over the last couple years. Fortunately the Rangers have the option and can opt to give him as much time as he earns playing as something of an infield super-sub. —Craig
Jharel Cotton, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Blowing through three minor-league levels to end up at Triple-A shouldn’t be overlooked, even if Cotton was old for his initial level. He’ll enter 2016 at 24 years old, an injury or three away from the majors, and coming off his best season yet. He averaged right around a 30 percent strikeout rate across the three levels, which is no small feat considering the bulk of his innings came in the upper minors.
The downside to Cotton is that he’s on the short side for a starter, at a listed 5-foot-11. He’s got an uphill motion that indicates he might be better off in the bullpen, and his repertoire (fastball/changeup) doesn’t dissuade anyone. Still, if his breaking ball can get to fringe-average, he might be able to cut it at the back end of the bullpen, as scouts have put plus-plus grades on the cambio. In the event that he can hack it in the rotation, Cotton is a viable back-end fantasy starter thanks to the swing-and-miss secondary offering, and a fastball that he’ll run into the mid-90s thanks to a quick arm. The reality is that this offseason might be a good sell-high opportunity on Cotton, as he’s more likely a depth starter or a relief arm than an impact guy in fantasy (and in real life), but anyone scouting the stat line might think otherwise. —Craig
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