Dynasty Dynamics: Team USA Futures Game Breakdown
By Ben Carsley
Right after the Futures Game rosters were announced, the BP Prospect Staff released previews of the U.S. and World rosters. These reports included actual scouting information from people qualified to give it, and served as handy guides to those of you just learning the newest prospect names of 2016.
What follows is an attempt to benefit from their work by using the knowledge gleaned from said preview and apply a fantasy twist to it, because internet. I’m tackling the U.S. roster, while my good GChat pal J.P. Breen has the not-U.S. roster. Enjoy!
We Thought We’d See You Here
No real surprises here. All three of these arms were top-100 fantasy prospects to start the season, and with the possible exception of Garrett, it would’ve been disappointing to see any of these arms *not* make the roster. It’s perhaps a bit surprising that Fulmer is here, given his rough season in Double-A (4.25 FIP, 13.0 percent walk rate in 82 innings), but his upside as a high-strikeout mid-rotation fantasy asset remains intact. You have good reason to be wary when it comes to Hoffman’s long-term fantasy value in Colorado, but you have to like what he’s done in Triple-A so far this year. He could be a back-end asset by the end of the season, if not sooner, and were he in a different organization he’d probably be a top-20 fantasy prospect. Garrett has a ton of prospect helium and while his command profile needs to take a step forward, he struck out a quarter of batters in Double-A before a recent promotion to Louisville. Also he throws, like, super hard, so that’s fun.
Not much to see here, just three 2015 draftees who have destroyed minor league pitching since the moment they joined professional ball. Bregman is at best a star and at worst a reasonable CI/MI starter. Given his recent throttling of Double-A, promotion to Triple-A and shift to third base, he could be with the Astros in a matter of weeks, not months. Swanson and Benintendi are both handling relatively aggressive Double-A assignments well. Swanson is at .267/.347/.414 with excellent walk and strikeout ratios, while Benintendi has recovered from a slow start in Portland to raise his line to .286/.346/.461 with some power and speed. It’s fair to say Benintendi’s power projection has taken a step up since he’s been drafted. All three of these guys are easy top-15 fantasy prospects.
We’ve been writing about these three for so long that they seem boring compared to the triplets above, but these outfielders are all on the precipice of making a substantial MLB impact. Meadows has battled injuries this year (including a wrist ouchie that will keep him out of the Futures Game) but he destroyed the ball in Double-A before his promotion to Indy. Triple-A has proven to be more of a challenge, but when he’s on the field he displays five-category impact potential that had noted LootCrate enthusiast Craig Goldstein naming him the most talented player on the US roster in the latest TINO. Frazier is quietly having a phenomenal year in his own right, hitting .286/.370/.479 with 10 homers and steals apiece in 325 PA in Double-A with improved K and BB rates. A promotion should be coming soon. Dahl got the nod once Meadows’ bowed out and crushed Double-A in his own right before getting promoted a few days ago, finally hitting for the type of power we’ve long waited for (.500 SLG, .222 ISO). I say “finally,” but Dahl is just 22. Once the Rockies trade a few of their 23,430 outfielders, he should be up and could function as an OF2 in time.
What a Lovely Surprise
Now we move on to some players who didn’t figure to profile as Futures Game material before the season, but have certainly earned their spots.
Hader is a guy I’ll kick myself over forever. I liked him a bit when he was with the Orioles, but lacked the conviction to go all-in on him at such an early stage. While there are plenty of reasons to shy away from Hader, from his delivery to his command profile, lefties who miss bats like he does (32.9 percent strikeout rate) are worth gambling on. He’s definitely a top-50 guy in my eyes, even if he might kill your WHIP early in his career. Musgrove is struggling in Triple-A after dominating Double-A hitters. His command is great and could portend low WHIPs, but as Brendan Gawlowski pointed out in the real Team USA primer, Musgrove might be around the plate a little *too* often. Still, the foundation for a solid back-of-the-rotation fantasy arm is here, and Musgrove could get the call later this year. Chargois is a reliever, so … yeah … but he’s already made the majors once and misses a ton of bats. Considering the Twins’ bullpen contains only wistful memories of Glen Perkins, the chalk outline of Kevin Jepsen and a pitcher who’s name literally translates to “Not good,” Chargois could collect saves before long. I hope not, though, because I can’t say his name.
First and foremost, let’s acknowledge that this tier includes two excellent baseball names in Calhoun and Sisco. With that out of the way, we can talk about the bats that each of these three players possess; they’re good! Calhoun might have the defensive aptitude of a House Frey siege, but man can he hit. Double-A has slowed him down a tiny bit, but it’s impressive that he’s there given his status as a fourth-round draft pick just a year ago. Sisco’s power is absent, but he’s hitting .309/.404/.403 in Double-A and looks primed to take over for Matt Wieters next year, should the need arise. Fantasy owners should monitor his defensive progress since he’s not a lock to stay at catcher, but if he can retain backstop eligibility he’s a potential top-10 option. Cozens is tough to evaluate. There’s way too much swing-and-miss in his game and he has some platoon issues, but he’s also got above average power and speed and is willing to take a walk. He could end up an OF3 in OBP leagues and as an OF4/5 in standard formats, though his floor is fairly low as a platoon bat.
Welcome Back to Fantasy Relevance
Disappointing 2013 draftees, come on down! Bickford has been really, really good as a pro, earning a bump to High-A after posting a 2.46 FIP and 28.3 percent strikeout rate in the Sally. Reports like this one from David Lee make it clear that Bickford’s most likely role is still as a reliever, but you can’t argue with the results he’s gotten to this point. Whether you read his scouting report and think of “Joe Kelly with a slower fastball” or “the okay version of Kyle Gibson” says a lot about your personality, I think. Stanek was finally converted to the bullpen last month and has done what we’ve long assumed he’d do if moved to the bullpen. In seven relief outings across 18 innings, he’s allowed two earned runs while striking out 18 and walking six. He could move fast.
And yes, I know Bickford signed in 2015. But he was drafted in 2013. Do not @ me.
Centuries from now when Yadier Molina has physically decomposed to the point where even Cardinals fans will stop granting him All-Star votes, St. Louis will need its next catcher. If they cryo-freeze Carson Kelly, he could fit the bill. The former infielder is hitting .284/.330/.403 at Double-A, and while his strikeout rate has jumped this year the uptick in power is a welcome sign. He’s not a top-150 name for me, but he’s probably top-200 at this point just by virtue of being a catcher who at least holds the bat the right way.
The brothers (not really) Hunter are more interesting. Dozier has pulled a full Lazarus, crushing Double-A before a promotion to Triple-A that’s barely slowed him down. He’s at .307 with 15 homers and five steals between the two levels, and while he’s swinging and missing plenty that’s always going to be a part of his game. I don’t truly believe he’ll hit for average, but I do think he could get to 20 homers with a handful of steals, which certainly makes him interesting for our purposes. Renfroe was comparatively less dead but has still done wonders for his fantasy stock by hitting .333/.362/.601 with a lowered strikeout rate and 19 bombs in Triple-A. I think there’s an OF3 in his best years, and he has enough natural pop to drive balls out even in San Diego.
Now’s a Good Time to Sell High
I covered Banda and Demeritte and Stewart and Healy in recent Dynasty Dynamics posts, advising dynasty league owners to flip all four. Oddly enough nothing has changed, though Stewart has lost a little luster since then. Bret Sayre finally admitted that Dom Smith isn’t a top-500 fantasy prospect asset in his latest rankings update. Try to use Smith’s status as a Futures Gamer to include him in a package now, because I don’t foresee his value increasing from here on out. Nate Smith is a soft-tossing lefty with poor command, which makes him the best Angels prospect in 10 years.