I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this before, but prospects will break your heart. Most of them don’t pan out. Many of them fall off the face of the earth all together. And nearly all of them, even the ones who do turn out the way you dreamed, don’t do so right away.
That presents fantasy owners with an opportunity to capitalize on impatience. Sure, it’s great when guys like Mookie Betts, Kris Bryant, and Francisco Lindor dominate right away. But for every one of those dudes, there are a dozen prospects who go on to have fine fantasy careers, but who don’t come out hot right out of the gate.
So what about dudes who were top-101 prospects a year or two ago, but who’ve yet to really take off in the majors? Should you just forget them altogether as you settle for veteran retreads and The Next Big Thing? You should not, friends. You should not.
For the purposes of this exercise, I’ll invent “post-hype prospect” eligibility as pertaining only to players who lost their rookie eligibility in 2016 or 2015, and only guys who I think are being underdrafted right now. Sure, I could tell you to go draft Gary Sanchez or that Danny Duffy was underrated, but where’s the fun in that?
Nomar Mazara, OF, Rangers (ADP: 59 OF, 212 Overall)
Our No. 4 dynasty prospect heading into 2016, Mazara had a solid if unspectacular rookie season. The 21-year-old hit .266/.320/.419 with 20 homers en route to finishing as the 65th-best fantasy OF in the game, per ESPN’s player rater, and the third-best outfielder ever according to Craig Goldstein. Mazara hit the ball on the ground a bit more often than you’d care to see (49 GB%), but he didn’t strike out much, hit for decent power and largely held his own despite batting in the top-third of Texas’ order for much of the season.
Where does that leave us for 2017? Mazara will still be a young MLBer, but as he learns to be more selectively aggressive (pitch recognition isn’t an issue) it wouldn’t be surprising to see the power spike a bit. He might not be a .300 hitter on the reg, but I’d expect the average to tick up a little in his second season, too. The one cause for concern? Mazara hit .234/.277/.270 vs. LHP last season, and he might (and arguably should) bat down in the order against southpaws. Still, there’s real OF4 upside here in 12-team leagues. Mazara is going after guys like Keon Broxton, Randal Grichuk and Eric Thames right now. He shouldn’t be.
Blake Snell, SP, Rays (ADP: 69 SP*, 256 Overall)
Like Mazara, Snell was an elite dynasty prospect heading into 2016 (No. 18). Snell’s first MLB season featured its fair share of ups (24.4 K%) and downs (12.7 BB%). That’s basically what we saw from Snell throughout his minor league career, too; an ability to miss bats, but with way too many free passes. That’s all well and good from a then-23-year-old, and Snell’s ERA of 3.54, was, well, all well and good as well. But DRA tells a more damning story (4.56), and Snell did some WHIP damage last year, too (1.62).
We can’t reasonably expect all of Snell’s command issues to dissipate over the course of one offseason, but there’s reason for optimism. All throughout his minor league career, Snell showed an ability to adjust and improve his second time at a level, and his walk rates diminished in Triple-A in 2015. Snell is also working with a staff that’s had a lot of success developing young arms, and he saw last season that racking up the strikeouts won’t be an issue. Snell is also great at limiting homers, and Tropicana should help to further enhance that strength. Add it all up and you don’t get an SP4/5 quite yet, but you do get someone with that type of upside. Why people are drafting Michael Pineda and Jharel Cotton above him is beyond me.
Eduardo Rodriguez, SP, Red Sox (ADP: 97 SP, 344 Overall)
Look, Rodriguez’s first six starts of the 2016 season were super rough. Coming off a spring training knee injury, E-Rod was brutal upon returning from the DL/minor leagues, allowing a .315/.372/.621 line against and an 8.59 ERA in his first half-dozen outings. Rodriguez’s control was poor, he struggled with tipping pitches again and it’s clear his legs weren’t fully under him. The results were pretty disastrous. But those ugly initial outings are obscuring what was a pretty dominant run from Rodriguez once he returned from his Pawtucket purgatory.
In 14 starts after his temporary banishment, E-Rod posted a 3.24 ERA and held batters to a .210/.284/.329 line. He struck out 79 batters in 77.2 innings, walking just 28 and allowing just seven homers. That’s the type of upside we’ve been waiting to see from Rodriguez, and he showed it for a sustained half-season at the age of 23. Pitching in Fenway isn’t ideal, and we can’t expect the southpaw to sustain quite that level of success over a full season. But people are popping Zach Davies, Jeremy Hellickson and CC Sabathia ahead of E-Rod right now. That’s not just wrong; it’s insulting. I love #Ed as a late-round flier in 12-team leagues, and in 16-to-20-teamers I’d be comfortable with him as my SP5/6.
Jose Berrios, SP, Twins (ADP: 123 SP, 421 Overall)
I know, I know, three pitchers? It’s like you don’t even know me anymore. Berrios had the worst debut this side of the Galaxy Note 7 in 2016. He coughed up an 8.02 ERA in 14 starts, striking out just 17.4% of batters faced and allowing 12.5% to reach via the free pass. Between tipping his pitches and his lack of command, Berrios made it far too easy for opposing hitters to tee off on him. For a guy who excelled at limiting walks throughout his MiLB career, it was a bit jarring.
I could sit here and try to force some stats that would give you reason for optimism, but let’s be real; my Berrios optimism is based entirely on his scouting reports. Despite his size, Berrios profiles as a guy who can miss some bats and who limits walks, and he as rough as his MLB stint was last season, he still showed off those traits in Triple-A. I get those who are skeptical because of his size, but a 14-game sample in the majors isn’t enough to push me from “this guy is an SP3” to “this guy is garbage,” especially when those 14 games came at the age of 22. Berrios isn’t a lock to start the season in the Twins rotation, but given that his competition is Tyler Duffey, Adalberto Mejia and Justin Haley, I think he’ll find a way to carve out playing time. I prefer his upside to Luke Weaver(?), Tyler Anderson(!), and Seth Lugo(…), who are all being drafted before him.
Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays (ADP: NR OF, NR Overall)
Pompey isn’t even on FantasyPros’ list of top-500 drafted players, which says a lot about how far his value has fallen over the past two seasons. Way back in 2015, before most of you were even born, Pompey was our No. 20 dynasty league prospect. He was sort of a pop-up guy, but the dude crushed Double- and Triple-A, had glowing scouting reports and seemed destined to be a strong three-category fantasy contributor. Alas, injuries and underperformance have conspired to torpedo Pompey’s value, and the 24-year-old is fighting for a job once again this spring.
You might’ve overlooked it in that first graph, but the good news is Pompey is still just 24. He put up a respectable .270/.349/.353 line with 18 steals in 382 PA in Triple-A last season, and his on-base skills and defense should appeal to a Blue Jays team that lost some firepower and some depth over the offseason. The bad news is that Pompey was recently shelved with a concussion that should further limit his chances to make the Opening Day roster, but he’s more talented than Ezequiel Carrera, Steven Pearce or, at this point, arguably Melvin Upton Jr. Bank on that talent winning out, and gamble on Pompey as cheap source of speed in deep leagues.
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