The Prospector

P.S.A.: Young Pitchers Can Lead to Scarring and Emotional Trauma PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 14 April 2015 00:00

Hopefully, some of you had a chance to cash in on Miguel Castro after I discussed him as a potential closer last week. I didn’t realize that that opportunity would come quite so soon though! Keep in mind that he is just 20 years of age and has had some control issues, so that situation remains volatile. As mentioned also last week, Roberto Osuna, also 20, is next in line for saves beyond him and also worth a a shot in deep AL-only leagues.

Getting to this week’s crop of young talent, we continue our relief theme with Seattle’s Carson Smith. A 6’6” right-hander, Smith does not actually throw quite as hard as one would think, averaging in the lower to mid-nineties on his fastball. Smith is a sinker/slider pitcher who mixes his two pitches fairly evenly, focusing on keeping the ball down and generating swings and misses as well as plenty of ground balls. In a brief cup of coffee last year, he posted a 10.8 K/9 and has followed up strongly thus far in the early goings too. He probably profiles as a setup man at best, but the Mariners do not exactly have a deep pen and are relying on 38-year- old Fernando Rodney to close.

Sticking with relievers, we come to Logan Verrett. Verrett was originally a Mets farmhand selected by Baltimore in the Rule-5 draft only to be put on waivers and claimed by the Texas Rangers. A former third-round pick, Verrett has worked exclusively as a starter throughout his minor league career and is now only in 2015 being used in the pen. The 24-year-old has precision control, four solid pitches and four average, but not standout pitches. He’ll work as a loogy or long reliever for now, but could work his way into a few spot starts if the odds are in his favor and find his way into a back end of the rotation spot, though he is probably a bit too hittable to be a viable option in fantasy play anytime soon.

Matt Andriese will be making his first career MLB start today for the Tampa Bay Rays. The 25-year-old came over from the Padres in 2013 and spent all of 2014 in Triple-A as a starter, posting a 7.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. Right now, he is simply filling in for Drew Smyly, but he is of course also auditioning for future opportunities. Like Verrett, Andriese is more of a back-end of the rotation/innings eater type who has good control of multiple pitches, but again none of them are true wipeout pitches. Andriese typically keeps the ball on the ground, but when his command is off, the ball tends to travel far. Both he and Verrett are worth monitoring if they can figure things out at the MLB level given decent skills, but given their underwhelming stuff, avoiding them is probably the safer option.

Andriese is not the only rookie currently in the Rays’ rotation. Nate Karns won a spot outright this spring. The former top Nationals prospect has managed to remain a starter and ended up posting a 9.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 27 Triple-A starts last year. Last year, I thought he was on the verge of finally making the leap to a relief role given an excellent fastball/curveball combination, mediocre command, and a lack of a changeup. Well, the latter pitch has come a long way to being an average MLB offering. The inconsistency in his command still remains, so AL-only leaguers taking a chance on the 27-year-old will need to have a steady supply of antacids as Karns is the type of pitcher who can dominate on one night and potentially implode on another, as has already been the case in this young season. Stick with him for the upside though in deeper leagues.

Andrew Heaney was selected in most AL-only and some mixed league auctions and drafts this spring. The lefty was acquired from the Dodgers this off season and had an up and down spring. It looked like he had won the 5th starter's job, but the Angels are now giving him more time in AAA before a call-up which could happen soon. His start in Triple-A made him look quite ready as he allowed just two baserunners in seven innings while striking out eight. The 22-year-old lefty was a 2012 first-round pick and has three plus pitches as well as plus command of said pitches to boot. Heaney is MLB ready and profiles long-term as a middle of the rotation pitcher.

Fellow 22-year-old and former first-round pick Archie Bradley won a spot with the Diamondbacks this spring and was dominant in his first MLB start, allowing one hit over six innings while striking out six. Bradley, however, did also walk four batters and though this is a small sample, it gives you a pretty clear picture of his issues. No one questions Bradley’s pure stuff, which is upper end of the rotation material. The question is his ability to command it. Bradley has yet to produce a sub-4.0 BB/9 at any level in which he has made at least 12 starts. In fact, in two of those stops, his BB/9 was closer to 6.0, including his 12 starts in Double-A last year in which he produced a 5.9 BB/9, though to be fair he was dealing with some elbow issues which likely exacerbated his typical control problems. See Nate Karns as a guideline for your level of frustrations and for the fact that you have to stick with him for now in NL-only formats given the potential upside.

And finally, in what seems to be a recurring theme of public service announcements, we bring you to the Twins’ Trevor May. May was called up to fill in for the injured Ricky Nolasco for the next few weeks. A 25-year-old former fourth-round pick of the Phillies, May came to the Twins in 2013 and has done a credible job of generating swings and misses at high rates in the Minors with K/9’s in the 9’s and 8’s in the upper Minors. His upside is better than that of a Verrett or Andriese, given two plus pitches, but he struggles to consistently command his slider and other secondary pitches and has been noted for his bouts of gopheritis. He is a better pitcher than he showed late last season with the Twins (.377 BABIP and 57% left on base rate) and does have fourth or maybe even third starter potential, but he also has a lot to prove in the consistency department. Pass for now.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 09:05
A Call to Arms PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 07 April 2015 00:00

Greetings and happy opening week of the baseball season everyone! As Spring Training drew to a close, many a rotation or bullpen spot was decided and some rookies rose to the top to claim those spots. This week, we take a gander at a few of those pitchers.

The Butler Did It
While Jon Gray may get more press, Eddie Butler was the one who won the opening day rotations spot. Like Gray, Butler profiles as a possible upper end of the rotation candidate. Given his subpar 2014, however, it is impressive he was able to put things back together and claim the job. Butler pitched through some shoulder issues and struggled at times with his secondary pitches, the combination resulting in his K/9 doing a dramatic three-point tumble to a 5.3. When on, Butler can keep the ball on the ground, throw strikes, and get plenty of swings and misses, but he has a lot to prove in terms of command, pitch refinement, and simply staying healthy. The upside makes him worth a small risk, but not a substantial one.

Blue Jays Embrace Inexperience
The Blue Jays have faith in their young arms and are carrying four rookie pitchers this spring, including Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez in their rotation along with Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna in their bullpen. The 21-year-old Norris pitched at four professional levels, dominating everywhere except for his brief 6.2 inning MLB exposure, striking out well over a batter per inning. The lefty has a deep repertoire with multiple plus pitches and none of his four primary offerings is anything less than average. Maintaining his mechanics and control will be the most significant issues. It should also be noted that he has less than 70 innings of experience above A+, so ups and downs can be expected, with a demotion being a possibility.

Sanchez, 22, has marginally more experience with 33 MLB relief innings under his belt and 100 innings at or above Double-A. Like Norris, Sanchez has #1 or #2 starter upside, but command and consistency are the key issues here. As a starter in the Minors, Sanchez often struggled to throw strikes, but once moved to relief in the Majors, he was able to concentrate on fewer pitches and post a solid 2.5 BB/9. It remains to be seen whether the 5.0 BB/9 Sanchez or the sub-3.0 BB/9 Sanchez shows up this season.

Miguel Castro’s sudden rise to the Majors comes as a bit of a shock given that he has just 8.2 innings of A+ ball experience and is just 20 years old. That said, the 6’5” righty throws regularly in the upper nineties and has a plus changeup too. A return to the rotation may occur at some point for him, but he’ll be relied upon mostly to throw his heater. Fantasy owners should note that he is already positioned as the top righty in the pen and has a solid chance to supplant Brett Cecil should he falter. Castro should be a relatively inexpensive FAAB target in the early goings given his role and inexperience and high-risk label.

Roberto Osuna is hitting the Majors with pretty much the same credentials as Castro. A Class-A starter with 22 innings of A+ experience, Osuna is a few weeks younger than Castro and will pitch in middle relief. Also like Castro, Osuna’s primary secondary weapon is a changeup with his breaking ball a work in progress. Osuna does not throw quite as hard as Castro, but he commands his pitches better.

A’s Arms
The A’s are also laying their hopes on multiple rookies with Kendall Graveman in the number four spot of their rotation and R.J. Alvarez in a middle relief or setup role. Graveman beat out the likes of Jesse Chavez and a long list of veterans including Barry Zito to win the fourth spot. However, Graveman owners should note that A.J. Griffin, Jarrod Parker and Sean Nolin are all working their way back from injuries and could provide further competition down the road. Graveman came over during the off-season in the trade with the Blue Jays for Josh Donaldson. Like his former teammate Daniel Norris, Graveman pitched at multiple levels. In fact, he pitched at even more levels than Norris for a grand total of 5. That said, Graveman simply does not have Norris’ upside, but he may have a set of skills that make him less likely to flame out. The former 8th round pick is noted for his above average control and for being a pitch to contact pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground. His longest stay anywhere in 2014 was in A+ ball where he posted a 6.0 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9. In other words, Graveman has the skill set to possibly have a long career as a fourth or fifth starter, innings eater type pitcher.

Alvarez was also a trade acquisition, but from the Padres rather than the Blue Jays. A former 3rd round pick by the Angels, Alvarez has done nothing but get strikeouts since being drafted in 2012. The righty has never posted a K/9 below 10.1, that coming in his eight innings with the Padres last year. His control has been variable from level to level and from organization to organization though. Alvarez works with a plus fastball/slider combination and at least looks to have a good future as a setup man. It remains to be seen whether or not he has an effective enough weapon to handle lefties and be a possible closer candidate down the road.

The Mets Deep Pen
Rafael Montero battled hard for the fifth starter’s spot but ultimately lost out to veteran Dillon Gee. Montero, however, pitched well enough to remain with the Mets to serve as their long reliever and is likely their first fallback option in case of injury. In an organization deep with starting pitching prospects, Montero was near the top of them heading into 2014, mostly on the virtue of being at the Triple-A level. He does not have the same upper end stuff as some his teammates, but he has shown elite command of his fastball and changeup. However, he faltered a bit in the very hitter-friendly confines of Las Vegas, where his BB/9 jumped over a full point from 2013. Still, he continued to get swings and misses in Triple-A and at the MLB level. His window of opportunity may be short should a rotation chance come, even with the season-ending injury to Zack Wheeler, depending upon the progress of Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz. Montero has a chance to be a solid #3 or more likely #4 starter long-term, but it may end up coming with a different organization depending on how things play out.

Next week – More pitching!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 April 2015 07:56
Top Outfield Prospects for 2015 and Beyond PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:22

As we get closer and closer to the start of the baseball season, we conclude our look at the various hitting prospects with a look around the outfield. Given the depth of the position, I will go beyond my normal “top ten” for both the near and long-term rankings.

Eligibility note: With the exception of those players coming from overseas straight to the Majors, all other players who retain their rookie status heading into 2015 will be considered for this series.

Top Outfield Prospects for 2015 Fantasy Impact

1. Joc Pederson (LAD) – Pederson is coming off a monster 30-30 campaign in which he slashed .303/.435/.582 in a hitter-friendly park and now finds himself in the role of opening day centerfielder for the Dodgers. The 22-year-old is quite selective, walking at high rates throughout his minor league playing days, but the strikeouts have indeed risen as he has tapped into his power, so the batting average line may not be sustainable going forward, particularly at Dodger Stadium. While his base running speed is above average, do not expect another 30+ steal campaign. Still, the overall combination offers a potent offensive threat with the skills and talents to be at least a mid-teens dollar bid in NL-only auction leagues.

2. Jorge Soler (CHC) - Despite having fewer than 10 major league plate appearances, the 22-year-old right fielder is projected as the Cubs’ opening day cleanup hitter, and with good reason. Soler’s calling card is his power, which projects in excess of 30-home run potential at his peak. Expectations for his first full season in the Majors, however, should be more subdued and a 20+ HR projection, if not high-teens, would be more realistic as a starting point. That said, Soler separates himself from many other right-handed sluggers with his patience and his ability to make contact, so far regularly making contact around 80% or better of the time during his extended minor league stops. Still, it remains to be seen how this translates to the Majors given his short stays in the upper minor league levels The .267 AVG/23 HR projection is a good baseline to set your expectations.

3. Rusney Castillo (BOS) - Castillo made a late-season audition for the Sox and was in line for a starting job this spring until he was sidelined by an oblique injury. Regardless, even if he begins 2015 in Triple-A, he will be pushing Shane Victorino and Mookie Betts for playing time and with good reason. The 27-year-old is MLB ready and blessed with a quick bat and both above average power and speed, making 20-20 a possibility, though mid to high teens in both categories is a more realistic/conservative expectation. A .280 AVG/15 HR/15 SB line is a possibility should he manage to crack the lineup for a prolonged period.

4. Steven Souza (TB) – Getting traded from Washington to Tampa Bay vaulted Souza’s value from being trapped in Triple-A to the Rays' starting lineup. The right fielder has a very solid all-around game, including low to mid-twenties HR power, 20+ stolen base skill and speed, and an improving plate approach that saw him make contact more consistently than previously in his career. Some regression should be expected in the latter department, especially in light of a big league promotion, so keep your expectations on batting average modest, but Souza could contribute as a 15/15 candidate this year, hitting in the .260s or better.

5. Dalton Pompey (TOR) – After playing at four professional levels in 2014, Pompey will be the Blue Jays' starting centerfielder but will bat in the bottom of the order as he adjusts to the Majors. The 22-year-old has 30, if not 40+ stolen base potential and a disciplined, contact-oriented approach that should in time qualify him for a leadoff or #2 hole hitter spot in the lineup. Power is not a significant part of Pompey’s game, but the switch-hitter does at least have gap power and should be able to generate 20 or more doubles a season and in the mid to high single- digits in the HR category. Pompey had just 127 Double-A plate appearances and 56 Triple-A plate appearances prior to his MLB promotion, so do not be too surprised if he struggles to adjust to the higher level of competition, necessitating a temporary demotion to the Minors.

6. Michael Taylor (WAS) – Taylor will begin 2015 in the Nationals’ starting outfield and should receive substantial playing time thanks in part to injuries to the club's veteran hitters. He produced a .313/.396/.539 line in Double-A in 2014 but did so while striking out 30% of the time and he barely has any Triple-A experience, so it's quite possible that this first try in the Majors could fall flat on its face. That said, the 23-year-old has tremendous tools and is a 20+ HR/30+ SB threat already, which cannot be ignored. If not for the rather high risk of failure factor, he might be atop this list as a possible 2015 impact player.

7. Randal Grichuk (STL) – A former Angels prospect, Grichuk will likely begin 2015 on the Cardinals bench given his plus glove at multiple positions and appeal as a right-handed batter off the bench, given his 25+ HR power. Grichuk is otherwise noted for being a fairly aggressive, undisciplined hitter who fails to consistently get on base or hit for average. Stephen Piscotty (below) is the better long-term option, but Grichuk ranks higher here given that he has a roster spot.

8. Kyle Parker (COL) – Parker is a MLB ready outfielder who could be pushing for a starting job later this season. The righty does not have a high ceiling and is old for a prospect at 25, but he does have upper teens to low-twenties HR power and has consistently showcased an approach that will allow him to hit for average as well. Parker is a player who just needs an opportunity in order to become relevant to fantasy players.

9. Stephen Piscotty (STL) – Piscotty is MLB ready and has nowhere to play, so he’ll begin 2015 in Triple-A. The righty has never quite developed as the power threat once expected and now only has a modest ceiling, but his bat speed and plate discipline skills make him an instant .280, if not .290 or better potential hitter with high single-digit to mid-teens power and speed. Given the opportunity, his skills would not take long to translate to the Majors.

10. Byron Buxton (MIN) – Despite an injury that cost him most of 2014, Buxton remains one of, if not the top prospect in the game. The 21-year-old is a plus player in just about every category, armed with 30+ stolen base potential and 20+ HR power. The righty has also displayed a patient approach in combination with plus bat speed that has allowed him to make solid contact. The overall combination makes him a potential $30+ player down the road. First, however, he must prove he can stay healthy, and secondly, he must keep the strikeout rates in check as he advances through the Twins’ system. He’ll begin the year in Double-A and has a chance of finishing it in Minneapolis.

11. Domingo Santana (HOU) – Santana is a patient right-handed slugger with mid-twenties or better home run power, but also one that strikes out close to a third of the time. He’s best suited to a platoon role and has little left to prove in the Minors. Given full-time play, he is most likely a .240s to .250s hitter in the Majors.

12. Scott Schebler (LAD) – Schebler is a former 26th round draft pick who has made himself into a prospect with back-to-back 27 and 28 HR seasons. The lefty has done a good job of cutting down on his strikeouts while continuing to hit for power. His other tools are fringe-average to average at best. He's probably destined for the Dodgers bench but will begin 2015 in Triple-A.

13. Steven Moya (DET) – A left-handed hitter with legitimate 30+ HR power, Moya's bat plays best in a platoon role given his high strikeout/extremely aggressive approach at the plate. He’ll begin 2015 in Triple-A.

Honorable Mention 2015 Impact Prospect: Yorman Rodriguez (CIN)

Top Long Term Fantasy Impact Outfielders

1. Byron Buxton (MIN) – See Above.

2. Joc Pederson (LAD) – See Above.

3. Rusney Castillo (BOS) – See Above.

4. Jorge Soler (CHC) See Above.

5. David Dahl (COL) – Dahl played at two levels in 2014 and will ascend to Double-A for this season. In his first full season of pro-ball, Dahl showed a quick bat, plus speed and developing power for a 14 HR/21 SB output. While the lefty will need to tighten up his control of the strike zone, the former first round pick has the tools to remain in centerfield and the bat speed to hit for average. He could develop into a consistent 20-20 or better threat at the MLB level.

6. Brandon Nimmo (NYM) – The Mets 2011 first round draft pick turned a corner in 2014, playing at A+ and Double-A as a 21-year-old. Nimmo is still a legitimate centerfield prospect with above average speed and mid-teens SB potential. Where he has really grown is at the plate. He was already a very selective hitter heading into 2014 but has eliminated some of the passivity that hurt him earlier in his career and has become a much more consistent contact hitter with emerging high-teens to low-twenties HR power. He’ll start off at Double-A once again with a chance to move up to Triple-A and perhaps receive a September call-up. He could compete for a starting job as soon as early to mid-2016.

7. Austin Meadows (PIT) – Meadows unfortunately missed most of 2014 due to a hamstring injury but remains one of the better outfield prospects in baseball. Meadows is an above average athlete with long-term 20-20 potential. Most impressively, at just 19 years of age and over a fairly small sample size, Meadows has shown an advanced grasp of the strike zone, a quick bat and emerging power. He’ll spend 2015 in A+ ball.

8. Michael Conforto (NYM) – Conforto was the consensus top college hitter in the 2014 draft and has thus far not disappointed, showing a highly disciplined, short-left-handed swing with natural loft and plus power potential. Defensively, he is limited to left field, but he profiles as a possible 25+ HR hitter who can hit for average as well. The Mets are likely to advance him quickly, though it's entirely possible he’ll begin 2015 in A+ ball.

9. Aaron Judge (NYY) – The Yankees 2013 first round draft pick acclimated quickly to the Minors, showing off plate discipline and excellent power at two levels of play. The righty will advance to Double-A with a chance to move as high as Triple-A with a possible late-season call-up. He may not be a .300 hitter in the Majors but could be a .270s to .280s hitter with a good OBP and 30+ HR power over the long run.

10. Bradley Zimmer (CLE) – The 21st overall pick in the 2014 draft, Zimmer is on the fast track to the Majors and likely to begin his first full season of pro-ball in A+ ball. The 22-year-old is already displaying a very advanced plate approach, plus speed, the defense to handle center and projectable growing power that could make him a high-teens to low-twenties HR hitter in time. He should at least be able to hit for average and steal 20 or more bases at his peak.

11. Michael Taylor (WAS) – See Above.

12. Clint Frazier (CLE) - I am not a fan of players who tend to strike out close to a third of the time, but at 20 years of age, Frazier has time to turn things around. The tools are worth watching as Frazier is a centerfielder with above average speed and tools and could yet develop into a 30/20 player in time. Frazier is at least not overly aggressive and is willing to wait for his pitch, so there is some hope. Place him under the high-risk/high-reward category.

13. Jesse Winker (CIN) - Winker does not necessarily have the high end tools that many other prospects on this list have, but he does have the skills to succeed at the MLB level. A former supplemental first round pick, Winker has always displayed an extremely disciplined approach, walking almost as often as he strikes out while making solid and consistent contact to produce line drives and hit for average and OBPs eclipsing .400. The biggest question mark will be how he develops in the power department. The raw strength is there for 20+ home runs per season, but his approach may be more tailored to line drives and hitting for average. He’ll be valuable for fantasy players regardless. Expect Winker to begin 2015 in Double-A with a chance to move up to Triple-A and push for a starting job at some point in 2016.

14. Alex Jackson (SEA) – Jackson was the 6th overall pick in last year’s amateur draft. A 19-year-old right fielder, Jackson’s game is mostly about his bat. The righty is blessed with plus to plus-plus power and if successful in the Minors, he could develop into a 25 HR or better hitter at the MLB level. Jackson has already shown some selectivity and should draw walks at high rates as he heads up the Minors, but given his handedness and focus on his power game, he should not necessarily be expected to hit for a high batting average long-term. A former catcher, he will not be a threat to run.

15. Raimel Tapia (COL) - Tapia is an interesting long-term target. The 21-year-old had a solid full season of A-ball, showing a very quick bat with an ability to put the bat on the ball on a consistent basis. The righty is still fairly raw, but he made contact roughly 84% of the time while hitting .326. His power started to emerge too, as he put nine balls out of the park while collecting 32 doubles. Tapia is also an above average runner, stealing 33 bases, but may be more of a 20 to 25 SB threat long-term. The lefty will advance to A+ ball for 2015.

16. Billy McKinney (CHC) – Acquired along with Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzija deal, McKinney is a left fielder with a modest ceiling but advanced skills. The lefty is a selective line drive hitter who focuses on making contact and hitting line drives. Some power began to emerge last season as he registered 11 homers, 24 doubles and six triples between two A+ ball stops. Long term, it's possible he could be a high teens to low-twenties HR hitter, but that may require him to sell out on some of his contact making. Expect McKinney to get a full season at Double-A.

17. Dalton Pompey (TOR) – See Above.

18. Hunter Renfroe (SD) – Renfroe is a right-handed right fielder with plenty of raw power, knocking 21 balls over the wall last year. He has done well to keep his strikeouts under control and wait for his pitch. The biggest issue for him right now is the Padres’ outfield depth, which will have him return to Double-A and make it difficult for him to receive playing time at the MLB level in 2015. Renfroe is a possible .270s 20+ HR hitter at the MLB level.

19. Manuel Margot (BOS) – Margot broke out in A-ball, showing more power and making better contact while stealing 39 bases. He is not necessarily a high ceiling player, his power maxing out in the low teens, but he is a possible top of the lineup hitter who can handle centerfield and so far has shown a consistent ability to get on base. He’ll move up to A+ ball this year.

20. Rafael Bautista (WAS) - Bautista’s 69 stolen bases in A-ball make him hard to ignore. An above average centerfielder, Bautista is a fairly good contact hitter but will need to work a lot on his selectivity to become a bottom of the order or fourth outfielder type player as he offers very little in the extra-base power department.

Honorable Mention Long-Term Outfield Prospects: Albert Almora (CHC),  Nick Williams (TEX), Josh Bell (PIT), Phil Ervin (CIN), Tyler Naquin (CLE), Alex Verdugo (LAD), Derek Hill (DET), Gabriel Guerrero (SEA)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 08:55
Top Ten Shortstop Prospects for 2015 and Beyond PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 00:00

This week, we continue our look at the top ten short-term and long-term prospects with a scan of the prospects manning the shortstop position. Some of the best power-hitting prospects can be found at this position, though many carry the “high-risk/high-reward” label.

Eligibility note: With the exception of those players coming from overseas straight to the Majors, all other players who retain their rookie status heading into 2015 will be considered for this series.

Top Ten Shortstop Prospects for 2015 Fantasy Impact

1. Addison Russell (CHC) – Russell will begin 2015 in Triple-A, where he will await an opening at either shortstop or second base. A lot depends on whether the Cubs opt to trade Starlin Castro or whether Javier Baez can adapt to the Major Leagues. While a solid average defender, Russell is mostly noted for his bat. The former first round pick has good bat speed and most notably, above average power for his position with 20 or more HR per season potential. Russell showed off a patient approach and made good contact in the lower minors, but his plate discipline numbers have varied a bit from level to level, but he should be at least a .270 hitter in the Majors, producing solid power numbers. Russell once stole over 20 bases in a minor league season but is more likely a mid-teens contributor long-term.

2. Francisco Lindor (CLE) – Last year it was speculated that the slick-fielding Lindor would make it all the way to the Majors. He played well in Double-A, earning a promotion to Triple-A, where his offensive game fell somewhat apart as he became more aggressive at the plate, walking less and striking out more frequently, showing his youth and that he was not quite ready for primetime. That said, Lindor still has Omar Vizquel potential. If moved to the Majors now, Lindor would rate as one of the best glove men in the Majors. When on his game, the switch-hitter has a very refined approach, making contact and drawing walks, as well as plus speed and the ability to steal 30 or more bases in a single season. Provided the 21-year-old can right his ship, there is a possible .280 to .300+ hitter with single-digit HR power to be found. Lindor’s arrival is tied to the effectiveness and health of either Joe Ramirez or Jason Kipnis.

3. Corey Seager (LAD) – Seager stormed through A+ and Double-A, batting around .350 at each level while displaying above average power to combine on 20 long balls. Seager will return to Double-A to begin 2015 but could advance quickly with more of the same. While the Dodgers want him to remain at shortstop for now and he could stay there a few more seasons, it’s fairly obvious that at 6’4” and with sub-par speed, a move to third is in the cards. The lefty has well above average bat speed and has shown a good batting eye in the lower levels, but he was selling out more for power last season, his walk rate dropping and strikeouts increasing as well. The potential for a .300+ hitter is here given the tools, but unless he translates some of those minor league skills to the upper levels, he’ll be more of a .280s hitter in the long run.

4. Carlos Correa (HOU) – Not even a broken fibula that cost Correa most of 2014 pushes him down off of the top shortstop pedestal. Correa is above average on both sides of the ball and will remain at shortstop for his career. At just 20 years of age, Correa is already an advanced hitter with plenty of patience and a quick bat that profiles to add more power as he matures. The 6’4” righty is a solid contact hitter with plus speed and looks like a possible .300+ mid-teens HR, 30+ steal candidate. Due to his advanced skills, he’ll begin 2015 in Double-A and has a chance to reach the Majors later this season. It depends mostly on how aggressive the Astros want to be with his arbitration time clock.

5. Daniel Robertson (TB) – The Rays acquired Robertson this offseason in the deal for Ben Zobrist. He instantly zoomed to the top of their long-term positional charts for shortstop, at least for the short-term as there are other players in the system who rate slightly better with the glove and could force his move to third or second base long-term. That aside, Robertson has the ability to stay at the position long-term, but what he brings that is a plus is on offense with mid-teens to low-twenties HR power potential and a very disciplined approach that lets him make consistent, hard contact. He batted .310/.402/.471 in 2014 in A+ ball and will move up to Double-A with a chance of reaching Triple-A and making a MLB impact in 2016.

6. Matt Duffy (SF) – Duffy is not a high ceiling player, but he is a high-skills one. He hit .332 in Double-A, showing patience and making good contact. He is not blessed with great speed but is a smart runner who stole 20 bases last year. He ended up in the Majors  in a utility role and will begin 2015 as the Giants Triple-A shortstop waiting for a chance in the Majors.

7. Nick Ahmed (ARI) – Ahmed could push Chris Owings and Cliff Pennington for playing time as soon as mid-season. Ahmed is a plus fielder with 25+ stolen base potential and a contact-oriented approach at the plate. It is unclear whether or not he will be able to hit for average at the MLB level, but he improved in Triple-A last season to hit .312 while showing plenty of doubles power. Worst case scenario will find him as the Diamondbacks utility player later this year and in 2016. His all-around defensive and hitting skills could be enough to push him to the forefront.

8. Deven Marrero (BOS) – Marrero is on the borderline of potential starter and utility guy. He will return to Double-A, where he’ll show off his well above average glove. Marrero also has enough speed to steal 20 bases and is a disciplined, contact hitter to boot with doubles power. He could fill the role of starter for a lot of teams given the opportunity.

9. Jorge Polanco (MIN) – Polanco jumped from Double-A to the Majors as a 21-year-old but would benefit from more time at Double-A and Triple-A. He has the tools to remain at short but may be better off at second. From a fantasy perspective, he brings high single-digits to mid-teens HR power potential and above average speed, and at the lower levels of the Minors showed excellent control of the strikezone. Polanco has a nice blend of tools and skills and could return to the Majors as soon as mid-season if all goes well, but most likely he will have a bigger impact in 2016.

10. Jace Peterson (ATL) – A former supplemental first round pick of the Padres, Peterson will begin 2015 as the Braves Triple-A shortstop, though he is better suited to second. Peterson’s best asset is his plate discipline, as he has showed tremendous patience and ability to make contact and hit for average. Otherwise, he has modest speed, though an excellent minor league record of being able to steal bases despite said speed, and average at best doubles power. Peterson, if given the opportunity, could be a solid, though unspectacular second baseman at the MLB level. However, his double play partner in Triple-A is Jose Peraza, who will be the Braves long-term second baseman, limiting Peterson to a utility role.

Honorable Mention: Dixon Machado (DET)

Long Term Fantasy Impact

1. Carlos Correa (HOU) – See Above.

2. Addison Russell (CHC) – See Above.

3. Corey Seager (LAD) – See Above.

4. J.P. Crawford (PHI) - Crawford is a potential impact player on both sides of the ball, similarly to Addison Russell. Crawford made it all the way to A+ ball as a 19-year-old,  hitting eight home runs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. At all stops, Crawford has shown a very advanced approach, walking and striking out at similar rates. The combination may make him an ideal #2 hole hitter long-term, where he could show off his on-base skills, ability to hit for average, and mid-teens or better HR potential. Crawford stole 24 bases last year but has only average speed at best and should not be considered much of a stolen base threat long-term.

5. Francisco Lindor (CLE) –See Above.

6. Daniel Robertson (TB) – See Above.

7. Orlando Arcia (MIL) – The younger brother of Oswaldo, Orlando has elite defensive talents and 30-plus stolen base potential. More impressively was how well he handled A+ ball as a 19-year-old, making contact 88% of the time while drawing walks a respectable 8% of the time. Arcia has doubles power now and projects to possibly hit double-digit home runs long-term. He’ll move up to Double-A to begin 2015 and could be in the Majors by mid to late 2016.

8. Trea Turner (WAS/SD) – The Padres’ 2014 first round pick is in an odd state of limbo wherein he was dealt as part of a three-way trade with the Nationals but can’t actually be included in the deal until a year after he was drafted. Regardless, Turner is an average defender at short with good upside with the bat, including average power that should translate into low to mid-teens HR power, above average bat speed, and most notably, plus-speed, as he stole 23 bases between two different minor league stops and seven more in the AFL. Turner will get his first full season of pro-ball in the California League. There’s a solid foundation of skills and tools here to make him well worth watching.

9. Franklin Barreto (OAK) – While it is unclear as to whether Barreto will remain a shortstop long-term, his bat certainly plays there quite well. A plus runner, Barreto stole 29 bases last year, but he is not just a one-dimensional speedster. He also combined for 33 extra-base hits, including six homers, while hitting .311/.384/.481 and projects to add more power as he matures. He needs to work on his defense and cut down on the strikeouts, but at 19, there is plenty of time for him to improve. He’ll move to full-season ball this year.

10. Nick Gordon (MIN) - The fifth overall pick in the 2014 draft, Nick is the younger brother of Dee and the son of Tom Gordon. Though a solid defensive shortstop, Nick is not a blazer like his older brother. However, he is 6’2” and profiles to hit for more power and still has above average speed and the potential to perhaps develop into a 15-15 or better threat at the plate.

11. Ozhaino Albies (ATL) – For those with the very long-term in mind, keep an eye on Albies. 2015 will be his first full season of pro-ball, but the 18-year-old is already a plus defender with advanced plate discipline skills and 20+ or better stolen base speed, and he should develop into a doubles hitter with high single-digit to low-teens HR power.

Honorable Mentions: Yoan Moncada (BOS), Tim Anderson (CHW), Amed Rosario (NYM), Wilmer Difo (WAS), Willy Adames (TB), Jorge Mateo (NYY), Trevor Story (COL), Sergio Alcantara (AZ), Gavin Cecchini (NYM), Gleyber Torres (CHC), Alex Blandino (CIN), Cole Tucker (PIT)


Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 March 2015 01:18
Top Ten Third Base Prospects for 2015 and Beyond PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 03 March 2015 00:00

This week, we continue our look at the top ten short-term and long-term prospects with a scan of the prospects manning the hot corner. Some of the best power hitting prospects can be found at this position, though many carry the “high-risk/high-reward” label.

Eligibility note: With the exception of those players coming from overseas straight to the Majors, all other players who retain their rookie status heading into 2015 will be considered for this series.

Top Ten Third Base Prospects for 2015 Fantasy Impact

1. Kris Bryant – CHC - The 2013 first round draft pick is not guaranteed a starting job out of spring training but is a non-roster invitee who will be challenging for playing time around the infield and may get a look in the outfield too, so the Cubs are already looking at creative ways to get his potential impact bat into the lineup as soon as possible. Bryant hit over 40 homers between two minor league levels in 2014 and projects as a 30+ HR hitter at the MLB level and is a patient hitter who waits for a pitch to drive out of the ball park. While this will work nicely in OBP leagues, Bryant is a righty who strikes out over a quarter of the time regularly and looks like a long-term .250s to .260s hitter. Defensively, he can handle third for now, but he probably profiles better in a corner outfield spot or at first base. He’ll be up by mid-season at the latest, but keep in mind his handedness/strikeout rate combination makes him a high-risk/high-reward selection. 

2. Ryan Rua – TEX – Rua is technically a third baseman, but he is enough of an athlete and his bat is of a high quality that the Rangers will consider a position change for him, particularly with Adrian Beltre still on the team and Joey Gallo one step behind him in Double-A. Rua of course does not have Gallo’s raw power but does project to be able to hit 20 to 25 home runs in a season and what’s more, he actually has improved his ability to make contact, doing so over 80% of the time at his Double-A and Triple-A stops in 2014, leaving some hope that he could hit for a modest batting average as well as some power. Keep an eye on the left field situation as Rua has the ability to take the job as soon as mid-season, if not this spring if he outperforms the competition.

3. Miguel Sano – MIN – Barring Sano’s injury last season, there was reason to believe the 21-year-old would reach the Majors and claim a starting job. Sano is another third baseman who might play the position for a few years but is expected to outgrow it and necessitate a move across the diamond. The righty’s game is quite similar to Kris Bryant’s as a patient hitter with easy legitimate 30-plus HR potential and a strikeout rate that ranges from 25% to 30% of the time. Again, this is another situation to expect a solid OBP but quite varied results in the batting average department. Sano should begin 2015 in Triple-A with a chance at a mid-season promotion once he proves his surgically-repaired elbow is fully healed.

4. Colin Moran – HOU – A former first round pick of the Marlins, Moran could push his way into the starting third base job for the Astros by mid-season, especially considering they have gone with a stop-gap option in the form of Luis Valbuena at third base. Moran is a solid, but unexciting defensive third baseman who has a line-drive/contact-oriented swing that should allow him to hit for average, but right now he looks like a high-single digits to low-teens home run hitter barring a change in plate approach. Those looking for a modest ceiling, low-risk option should consider Moran as a draft pick.

5. Maikel Franco – PHI - Franco combines excellent bat speed with good contact-making skills and plus raw power. The overall combination, however, has produced mid to upper teens results in home runs and sub-par OBPs given his aggressiveness at the plate. However, his contact/power skills give Franco the ability to hit for average, making him a possible .280+, 15+ home run hitter at the MLB level. He’ll begin 2015 in Triple-A. A lackluster start to the season by Cody Asche and solid results by Franco could have him in the Majors by mid-season.

6. Giovanny Urshela – CLE – Lonnie Chisenhall picked the right time to firm up his full-time job, but he will need to keep it up because the Indians have another near-ready option at Triple-A in Urshela. A slick fielder, the 23-year-old is not a high-ceiling offensive player but has similar, if not slightly beter power potential than the former and a quick, line-drive hitting bat that should allow him to hit for average too. It's possible Urshela could be an upgrade over Chisenhall right now, but the Indians will stick with the incumbent for now.

7. Kyle Kubitza – ATL – Defensively, Kubitza rates ahead of the recently acquired Rio Ruiz. On offense, once his greatest strength is his greatest weakness as the lefty posts high walk rates, but does so to such an extent that he is too passive, generating high strikeout rates too. Power wise, he is comparable to Ruiz as a mid-teens HR hitter, but he offers more to the fantasy player due to slightly above-average speed and mid to high-teens stolen base potential. He’ll begin the year in Triple-A, hoping to push aside Chris Johnson (who is coming off a sub-.300 OBP 2014 campaign) at the MLB level.

8. Jake Lamb – ARI – Heading into the 2014 off-season, the Diamondbacks were already pretty rich in terms of third base prospects. Then they signed Yasmany Tomas, blocking off the progress of both Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury, so a potential opportunity for their young players has effectively gone up in smoke unless Tomas fails miserably. There is nothing tremendously wrong with Lamb’s game. He’s a more than capable defender at 3B, has a good history of being patient, and has above average power, projecting to eclipse 20 homers a season given the opportunity. His one shortcoming, not surprising for a power-hitter, has been his strikeout rates, but they have been at or under a quarter of the time for most of his career and therefore far from potentially career ruining. His 133 plate appearance audition last season, however, did not go very well as his plate discipline fell apart after jumping straight from Double-A, managing just a .230 batting average. Lamb will return to Triple-A for more seasoning and could end up trade bait.

9. Hunter Dozier – KC – Dozier was the 8th overall pick in the 2013 draft. After a solid rookie-ball debut, the Royals advanced him to A+ ball where he played well, showing off his plate discipline and emerging power to the point that he was promoted at mid-season to Double-A. There, his strikeout rate rose and he began to struggle and play off his game. Normally, Dozier is a line-drive oriented hitter with a patient approach and not one prone to chase pitches. He’ll repeat Double-A, where the Royals hope he can regain his form. An early to mid-season promotion to Triple-A is a possibility with a late-season promotion to the Majors also fair to consider, especially if Mike Moustakas continues to struggle. A college shortstop, Dozier transitioned well to third base and should have no trouble remaining there. He profiles as a low to mid-teens HR hitter who can hit for average and get on base if he can get his game together.

10. Garin Cecchini – BOS - Cecchini had a chance to push aside Will Middlebrooks and become the Red Sox starting third baseman last year. He failed, translating few of his lower-level minor league skills to Triple-A. Now, Pablo Sandoval is in town for the next several seasons and there is no clear path to the Majors for Cecchini. When on his game, he profiles to hit for average and a very solid OBP. While not a fast runner, he’s a smart one capable of double-digits in steals. However, it now looks like a trade may be the only way he gets a chance, but first he’ll have to prove 2014 was a fluke after producing a weak .263/.341/.371 Triple-A line.

Honorable Mention/Names to Keep on the Radar as call-up candidates: Matt Davidson

Top Ten Third Base Prospects for Long Term Fantasy Impact

1. Kris Bryant – CHC – See Above.

2. Miguel Sano – MIN – See Above.

3. Ryan McMahon – COL – McMahon does not have quite the raw power of some players on this list, but he does have a plate approach that provides less risk when compared to his third base prospect compatriots. The recently turned 20-year-old could advance to A+ ball to start this year and given his age and the presence of Nolan Arenado, the Rockies will probably keep him on a one-level/season time-frame. Still, he’ll be quite young for his league. McMahon projects to generate low to mid-twenties home run or better power at his peak, plus given low to mid-twenties strikeout rates, he could be a .270s or better hitter. McMahon is also separated from other power hitters on this list by being a solid athlete with a good arm who should be able to remain at third base long-term.

4. Joey Gallo – TEX – The 21-year-old Gallo has ripped through the Rangers system, reaching Double-A last year while hitting 42 homers, 21 at each level of play. The lefty is a true all or nothing slugger who typically strikes out over 35% of the time, but he walked 21% and 12% at each level of play respectively in 2014. The former supplemental first round pick looked like he was making some progress in the contact making department during his time in A+ ball, cutting his strikeout rates down to just a quarter of the time, but promptly relapsed to 40% of the time upon promotion to Double-A. Gallo is an exciting prospect, especially playing in Texas, but it is hard to see him hitting much beyond .230 given his current state of development. Long-term, he’ll move off third base to first base or the outfield, should he make it as a starter. While Gallo has youth on his side, it is hard to see him making it as a starter long-term barring a substantial reduction in his strikeout rates at the upper levels of the Minors. Gallo could see time in the Majors, but he is more likely a September call-up.

5. Rafael Devers – BOS – For those of you in deeper dynasty leagues, Devers is worthy of consideration. The lefty hit seven home runs as a 17-year-old in rookie ball and should move up to full-season A-ball as an 18-year-old. Devers will stick at third for now, but time will tell his long term position. So far, he has shown a quick, powerful bat, and while raw in many aspects of his game, has shown an aptitude for making contact thus far. While there is stud potential here, it is hard to recommend him until we can see what he does over the course of a full minor league season.

6. Maikel Franco – PHI - See Above.

7. Brandon Drury – ARI – Drury is coming off a solid season split between A+ and Double-A, hitting for average and power, batting around .295 with 23 homers and a mid-.300 OBP. Like Lamb, he is a solid defender at third base but has had the benefit of receiving playing time at second base too, which could be his ultimate destination. It is unclear whether Drury will return to Double-A, where he had fewer than 200 plate appearances, or advance to Triple-A and play second base full-time. Like Lamb, Drury could end up either trade bait or Aaron Hill’s heir apparent.

8. Rio Ruiz – ATL – The Braves acquired Ruiz in the Evan Gattis deal and have him slated to begin his Braves career in Double-A. The former fourth round pick does not profile as a stud but has enough skill to stay at 3B defensively, and he has a very disciplined approach that should allow him to post solid OBP numbers and hit for average too. Because of that said approach, however, his power ceiling is not that high, projecting to the mid-teens. Still, the overall combination of skills could put him ahead of fellow third base prospect Kyle Kubitza in the Braves’ system in the long run, though Kubitza is likely to get an opportunity before Ruiz does.

9. Matt Chapman – OAK – Oakland’s 2014 first round pick had a mixed debut season. Over a small sample size, he showed off his well above average defense and flashed his plus power potential, but he also displayed an overly aggressive approach at the plate that may have been out of context with his previous performance at the college level. He’ll get his first full season of professional ball in A+ ball but could advance to Double-A before the end of the season if he performs well.

10. Renato Nunez – OAK – With Chapman in this organization, from a pure defensive spectrum, Nunez will not be staying at third base. However, Nunez does at least have the advantage of having established himself as a power-hitting prospect with 19 HR and 29 HR in back-to-back seasons as a 19-year-old and 20-year-old. The righty is still raw at the plate and can be overly aggressive, but he has a quick bat and still managed to make contact 80% of the time in A+ ball. Renato is a possible 25+ HR, .280 threat but not likely much of an OBP one. He will probably be limited to first base long-term.

Honorable Mention: Drew Dosch (BAL), Jomar Reyes (BAL), Zach Shepherd (DET), Steven Fuentes (DET), J.D. Davis (HOU), Trey Michalczewski (CWS), Jhoan Urena (NYM), Gavin LaValley (CIN), Gilbert Lara (MIL)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 10:10
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