I opened up the floor on the Twitter over the past week or so to solicit some requests from readers on dynasty prospects who’ve caught some eyes in the early going, and apparently outfielders and right-handed pitchers are all y’all care about. So I checked in with other members of our prospect team to fill in the blanks as to whether the early-season performance has been supported by the process, and I’m happy to present a few names who’ve impressed scouts along with the statline-watchers.
David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies (Double-A Hartford):
Despite battling persistent injury issues, including a ruptured spleen last summer that sounds like nails on a chalkboard feels, Dahl still cracked the top 20 of our Dynasty 101 in the off-season. And he’s responded with arguably the best start of any top prospect still in the minors. He’s crushing Eastern League arms to the tune of .278/.371/.609, with nine doubles, nine homers, and 11 stolen bases in just 133 plate appearances. And the numbers, while obviously extreme, have at least something to them. Per Adam Hayes, Dahl’s showing plus-plus bat speed, though he’s struggled to consistently sync his hips and hands because of it. The approach and some swing-and-miss makes it unlikely the hit tool plays where it appears, though plus power (that’s regardless of Coors, mind you) is very much a possibility. Even at the lower end of his healthy projection, wherein he strikes out a bunch and only ever hits .250-.260, Dahl has confirmed with his early power-and-speed showing that if he can stay on the field he’s now one of the elite fantasy prospects in the game.
Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros (Low-A Quad Cities):
The Astros worked with Tucker to quiet his Williams-esque low load, to where his hands are triggering more consistently to help him get to balls better in his inner-third trouble zone. He has a solid foundation to develop into a good hitter, and the frame and fluidity both continue to suggest plenty of room to grow into power, though evaluators now see it as likely more of an average future tool than some of the plus projections that were thrown around during draft season. He struggled in short-season ball after signing last year, but has produced solid numbers (.299/.379/.430 with 14 steals) in the Midwest League. It’s a long burn, which eats into his present dynasty value, but for those in deeper formats looking for a secondary piece in a larger deal, he makes for an excellent target.
Ryan Castellani, RHP, Colorado Rockies (High-A Modesto):
The Rockies’ second-rounder out of high school in 2014, Castellani had been brought along slowly by the club in the subsequent year and a half before they took the glove off a bit in April. He’s responded to date with the second-most whiffs in his league, thanks to a low three-quarter slot and some funk that helps his low-90s fastball stay off barrels. Jen Mac Ramos caught his last start and confirmed solid command and above-average depth on his curveball to supplement, and there are a couple more developing pitches in the bag as well. The thought of recommending a Rockies’ pitching prospect as a follow made me twitch involuntarily just now, but he’s thriving in the Cal League so far, and that’s really not all that different than Coors, when you think about it.
Phil Ervin, OF, Cincinnati Reds (Double-A Pensacola):
Heavy is the head that wears a first-round crown. The Reds tabbed Ervin 23rd overall in 2013, and after a stellar debut after signing he ran into a wall in a full season of Midwest League play in 2014. It’s been incremental progress, since, and in the era of Trout, Harper, Machado, et al that’s enough to get a guy lost in the pile. It’s been a series of fits and starts again at Double-A to start the year, though his line through 115 plate appearances (.229/.357/.479 with five homers and 13 steals in 13 tries) speaks to his fantasy appeal. Our Southern League guy, Kourage Kundahl, just happens to be a former Reds beat reporter, and had plenty to say about Ervin’s development: “He's been streaky so far this year, so streaky that he'd knock four hits one day and strike out three times the next. Whiffed about a third of the time to start the year but looked more disciplined the last time I saw him. He's still pull-happy and I'd like to see him go to the opposite field more, but Ervin knows what he's looking for at the plate and he'll work the count until he gets something he likes.” He noted Ervin was very much a “best shape of [his] life” guy this spring as well, checking in ten pounds lighter and with an extra spring in his step. Ervin’s a guy that’s likely available in your mid-size league, and he’s the kind of guy that can make for an interesting mid-season add. There’s a shot he breaks in later this summer with the rebuilding Reds, and while the AVG isn’t likely to be pretty there’s a streak of Good B.J. Upton in here if the speed utility gains hold.
Junior Fernandez, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals (Low-A Peoria):
Fernandez snuck onto the coat tails of our Cardinals Top 10 list last winter on the strength of his fastball, a potential 70-grade pitch with life and mid-90s sitting velocity. It takes a lot of effort to generate his arm speed, however, and the violent delivery coupled with a frame that isn’t particularly projectable beyond his average 6-foot-1, 180 listed pounds, has led evaluators to expect an ultimate bullpen transition. He’s doing his best to forestall that migration, however, with five strong starts to his full-season career, including eight shutout innings with 10 punchouts in his third outing. The effort in his delivery has kept the fine command quite limited to date, though at least one member of our prospect team sees a path to 45/50 command that’ll be good enough to keep him fighting for a rotation spot. Even if that happens, however, it’ll be more of a long-term project than most, and outside of the very deepest of dynasty leagues he retains “keep an eye on this guy” status for now.
Steven Duggar, OF, San Francisco Giants (High-A San Jose):
I’ll get my first look at San Jose next weekend, and the Giants’ most recent sixth-rounder figures to be one of the main attractions. He was a solid-if-unspectacular hitter at Clemson, showing a strong approach in his draft season but lacking pop and leaving evaluators questioning whether the bat would play. Speed and defense? He checked those boxes alright, but the stuff fantasy managers care about, not so much. Fast-forward a year, and he’s starting to actualize the raw tools enough to warrant some attention. He’s off to a .277/.385/.505 start with a few homers and a few steals, and has collected nearly as many walks (19) as whiffs (22). The athletic frame allegedly has above-average raw power, while the raw foot speed checks in somewhere north of true plus. If he finds a way to bring both into games with utility, there’s some very nice under-the-radar potential. For now he’s more of a follow than an acquire, but that could change sooner than later for ahead-of-the-curve managers in deeper formats.
Andrew Toles, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Double-A Tulsa).
Toles is probably the most interesting player I’ve seen in the early going, as much for his biography as his production. You can read my full report (with video) here, and the punchline is that he’s a former third-rounder who slipped from first-round consideration due to multiple significant disciplinary issues in college, and he hadn’t played competitively in a year and a half following additional off-field issues before Andrew Friedman’s crew scooped him up for another dance this past winter. The tools were still shockingly intact throughout his April massacre of Cal League pitching: He’s a smart hitter with an ability to barrel and drive good velocity, with sneaky power augmenting what is potentially a plus hit tool. He runs well too, and there’s a very nice deep-league package of fantasy talent here. The risk factor remains extreme given the red ink on his Permanent Record, but he’s still just two weeks shy of his 24th birthday and hasn’t missed a beat since his promotion to Double-A.