This one’s simple. Let’s take an early look at six dynasty prospects who had their arrows pointed down when we unveiled our rankings earlier this offseason, and look at a pair who are well on their way to resurrection, two who look pretty cooked and a couple who still fall somewhere in between. Just a check-up, really.
Also, I’m only going to write this caveat once: The samples are small. You know they’re small, because you have a firm grasp on how the calendar works. If you are reading a piece about developing trends and May and are going to say, “but small-sample size,” stop reading pieces about trends in May.
BACK FROM THE DEAD
Alex Jackson (C)—Braves
Few people were as surprised as I was to see Jackson written up in a recent Monday Morning Ten Pack. I largely wrote off Jackson as a fantasy prospect before the 2016 season, and he was a total afterthought when I made rankings for 2017. But lo and behold, Jackson is mashing the ball as a Brave, hitting .295/.344/.590 through 131 PA. He’s still striking out too much (26%) and not walking enough (3.8%), but there’s no crazy BABIP magic happening here. And even though this is Jackson’s fourth professional season, he’s still just 21 years old.
We haven’t even gotten to the best part of this yet; Jackson is back behind the plate. For those of you who (understandably) forgot, Jackson was considered a potential catching prospect when drafted, but the Mariners elected to send him to the outfield so that defense wouldn’t slow his progress. In hindsight, that probably should’ve been our first hint that Jackson could catch, because: Mariners. Obviously, we have a long way to go before Jackson is a top-101 prospect again, but the arrow definitely is pointing up here, and if he’s still doing this in a month or so you might want to consider buying back in.
Trey Ball (LHP)—Red Sox
Yeah okay Trey Ball is a guy. I don't need to keep crosschecking my main man @jaseidler.
— Jeff Paternostro (@jeffpaternostro) May 2, 2017
Do you dare to dream? We don’t have an official scouting report from the BP Prospect Team on Ball yet, but it’s starting to look like there’s some life here. This Minor League Update from May 1 teases a “60 Fastball with plus sink, slider flashed plus and sat average,” from Ball in a recent start. The numbers back up his resurrection, too: a 3.58 ERA and 20.7 K% in Double A. For Trey Ball, that’s really, really good.
I’d be even more hesitant to buy in with Ball yet than I am with Jackson. The improved performance has been relatively modest, and being “a guy” doesn’t necessarily make Ball a fantasy guy: see his 10.3 BB%. Still, I thought Ball’s Double-A promotion was just a last-ditch effort by the Red Sox and was not expecting anything even remotely positive. It’s easy to lose patience, but he won’t turn 23 until June and he was very raw even for a prep draftee. Don’t pick him up yet—dear God, I’m not advocating that—but you can add him back to your watch lists.
Bradley Zimmer (OF)—Indians
Few big-name prospects disappointed more in 2016 than Zimmer. Once Michael Brantley was lost for the year, it looked like a pretty safe bet that Zimmer would see the majors at some point. Instead he struggled mightily, striking out more than a third of a time between Double A and Triple A. He stole a ton of bases and hit for some power, but it still represented a big step back from his 2015 campaign when he looked to be on the cusp of stardom.
So, how’s it going in 2017? Well … mostly the same. Zimmer has cut back on his strikeouts a bit, but he’s still whiffing nearly 30 percent of the time, and his walk rate has dropped too. He’s already got four homers and six steals, so the power/speed potential is still here, but his overall triple-slash sits at .257/.339/.485 through 116 PA. The Tribe are playing Lonnie Chisenhall and Abraham Almonte frequently, so the opportunity in Cleveland is still there. Zimmer needs to take another step forward in his approach before he’s ready to force the issue, however. Plus, he’s already 24…
Brett Phillips (OF)—Brewers
On the surface, it looks like Phillips should be considered more “on the upswing” than “holding serve.” The soon-to-be 23-year-old is .303/.380/.562 in Triple A with six homers in 100 PA, which puts him on pace to hit for substantially more power than he did a year ago. The problems? Phillips is striking out way too much still (32%) and has a .412 BABIP. He’s also yet to steal any bases despite his plus speed.
Oddly enough, I think you should view Philips similarly to Zimmer, just without quite as much base-running prowess. It’s almost like I paired them here together on purpose or something. Keep monitoring both to see if the strikeout rates drop, but feel free to look at both with a healthy dose of skepticism. They’re both good-enough defenders to make it to the majors no matter what, but their contact issues could end up relegating both to part-time status. It’s too early to give up hope on either, though.
NOT LOOKING GREAT
Jacob Nottingham (C)—Brewers
After popping onto the prospect scene in a big way in 2015, Nottingham fell off the radar just as suddenly in 2016. He hit just .234/.295/.347 in Double A with the Brewers, and while he did hit for some power, he struck out way too much and received negative reviews for his defense behind the plate. The Brew Crew sent him back to Double A to start 2017 as a result, and given that he just turned 22 in April, there was (and still is) some legitimate reason for optimism that he can turn it back around.
That being said—so far, so bad in 2017. Nottingham is hitting just .171/.284/.263 through 89 plate appearances. He’s not striking out as much, but he’s also not hitting for power or, well, really hitting at all. Couple that with some missed time due to a biceps injury, and it’s hard to imagine Nottingham’s would-be bounce-back season starting much worse. Keep an eye on him to see if he turns it around, or to at least see if his defensive reports improve, but at this point it’s safe to cut him if your league rosters fewer than 150 prospects. He’s even unowned in TDGX, where 400 players are rostered.
Javier Guerra (SS)—Padres
We often talk about the concept of “selling high” in dynasty leagues when it comes to pop-up prospects. It appears the Red Sox might have done so in real life with Guerra. After coming out of nowhere to hit .279/.329/.449 in Single-A with Boston in 2015, Guerra crashed and burned with the Padres in High A last year. He hit just .202/.264/.325, struck out a whopping 32.7 percent of the time, and earned some derogatory comments for bouts of lackadaisical play in the field, too.
No big deal, though. Guerra was 20 last season, so having him repeat High A at 21 was totally fine. At least it was supposed to be, but so far, no dice. Guerra is hitting .160/.244/.255 with one homer in 120 plate appearances. He got crushed in this brief update from Wilson Karaman a week ago, too. Guerra was always a bit of a long shot to be a great dynasty prospect because his only selling points were his power and his position; no one ever really thought he’d hit for average. I’m personally at the point with him where he's not even on my watch list.