Isan Diaz, 2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Sleeper/Breakout

If you keep your ear to the prospect ground, you might have heard the name Isan Diaz, Milwaukee Brewers, being bandied about recently. Where is this hollowed “prospect ground” I speak of? You can start with John Sickels’ awesome site Then, make sure not to miss Eric Longenhagen’s great prospect chats every Monday on Fangraphs. Last but certainly not least, Keith Law’s personal blog, The Dish, is a must read for prospect hounds, especially his weekly chats. All of these pillars of the prospect community have spoken this man’s name in recent weeks, and it is time for me to jump on the Isan Diaz bandwagon (I’ve actually been planning on writing this post for like a month now, but hearing the groundswell of hype he has gotten recently has inspired me to finally do it).

The 5’10’’, 20-year-old Diaz is a small second baseman, which means he needs to put up a herculean effort in the minors to even sniff top 100 prospect lists. Small second baseman are discriminated against so much in the prospect world that the U.S. Supreme Court should declare them a “protected class.” What Diaz has done in the last two months at Single-A is forcing people to take notice, though, putting up a slash line of .316/.393/.579 with 5 homers in June, and then following that up by slamming 7 homers in July with a .340/.429/.701 triple-slash. He has a very quick, compact swing that packs a wallop, and has a plan at the plate too, walking over 10% of the time. There is also a little speed here, swiping 10 bags, but he is far from a speed demon, so the stolen base totals should always be modest.

Like a lot of my favorite prospect sleepers, Diaz has some strikeout issues, striking out 24.7% of the time. And as good as he has been in the last two months, he was equally as bad in the first two, OPS’ing .654 in April, and .559 in May. Defensively, while he has played more SS in his career than 2B, he has played almost exclusively at 2B in the last month, and most scouts believe 2B will be his ultimate home.

Small second baseman can’t get no respect, but Diaz is doing his best to overcome that bias. If he finishes the season anywhere close to as strong as he has played in the last two months, there is no doubt he will crack the back end of top 100 lists in the off-season. In his prime, I will give him a projection of 80/18/74/.265/10, and if he can improve his K rate, there is room for much more.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 16

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 16:

Alex Bregman HOU, SS/3B/OF/David Dahl COL, OF/Braden Shipley ARI, RHP – One of these things is not like the other, but all are getting the call to the big leagues. I would pick up Bregman and Dahl in leagues of all sizes, they have been raking all season. Shipley I would touch only in deeper leagues. He has put up mediocre stats in the PCL (5.8 K/9), but there is more K upside in there than he has displayed this year.

Josh Hader MIL, LHP – 6 IP, 2 ER, 3 Hits, 2 BB, 6 K in his start this week as he tries to right the ship coming off rocky outings in his previous two starts. Fighting through some adversity can actually help him in the long run, especially since there is a clear and obvious reason for it, Colorado Springs and the PCL. Don’t go panic selling Hader for some mediocre return.

Nick Senzel CIN, 3B – Showed off his homerun power cracking 2 of them this week. He still has only 2 homers in 30 games, but any adjustment to unlock more game power was unlikely to come this year anyway. My co-host, Ralph Lifshitz from, and I will be bullshitting about Senzel and many more of the MLB Draft prospects in Episode 2 of our new podcast, Fantasy Gold Rush, which should drop sometime tomorrow. You can now find our Pilot and all future episodes on iTunes.

Willie Calhoun LAD, 2B – The year of Willie continues! Smashed 5 more homers, giving him 22 on the season. Just keep working on that 2B defense.

Tom Murphy COL, C – 1 homer and 3 walks in 5 games this week. 3 BB! Those 3 walks were over 50% of his BB total on the season up to that point.

Paul DeJong STL, 3B – I wrote about DeJong way back in week 5, and he has kept hitting for power since then. He hit 2 more dingers this week, giving him 18 on the season in Double-A. His 110/28 K/BB needs improvement, but his first full season of pro-ball has been a smashing success.

Jose De Leon LAD, RHP – 8 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BB, 10 K and now has 29 K’s in his last 3 starts in the PCL. His early season injury and lack of big fastball or nasty breaking pitch has kept the hype in check, but I think his fastball/changeup combo is going to play on the next level.

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS – After questioning KC’s developmental strategy with Mondesi last week, he has gone on an absolute tear, collecting 11 hits with a homer and 5 steals at Triple-A. KC is like the parents who throw their kid in the deep end of the pool in order to teach him how to swim.

Kyle Tucker HOU, OF – Is it too early to have mid-season top 100 prospect risers and fallers? Because Tucker has been underwhelming since generating tons of hype on mid-season lists everywhere. He has 9 K’s in his last 9 games and hasn’t had an extra base hit since July 7. He is still super talented, but there is a long way to go for the 19-year-old.

Phil Bickford SFG, RHP – Another player whose wheels came off after getting mid-season list helium. His velocity is down and he had a poor showing at the national showcase Futures Game. I mentioned the added risk with Bickford due to his high-effort delivery in my Top 10 Fantasy Breakouts post last month, and that risk looks like it is rearing its ugly head already. Rumor has it that San Francisco is also making him very available in trades, so leaving AT&T park can be another big blow to his fantasy value.

Chris Shaw SFG, 1B – Has seriously struggled since being promoted to Double-A, slashing .188/.220/.294 in 21 games. Considering he already had a few obstacles to overcome by being a 1B only guy in a huge ballpark, the poor start at Double-A is concerning.

Bobby Bradley CLE, 1B – Smoked 3 more homers this week and continues to play exactly as advertised this season.

Kolby Allard ATL, LHP – Returned to full season ball this week, and didn’t disappoint by going 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BB, 4 K.

Rafael Devers BOS, 3B – The hot streak continues, hitting 2 more bombs. After the slow start, he has now raised his triple-slash up to .271/.333/.432 with 7 homers and 10 steals in 91 games.

Christin Stewart DET, OF – Slashed .417/.500/.667 and clubbed his 21st homer of the season this week. Stewart is long overdue for a promotion to Double-A.

Yadier Alvarez LAD, RHP – 5 IP, 1 ER, 3 Hits, 1 BB, 10 K in his first start in full season ball. If this guy is somehow still available in your Dynasty League (of any size) I would probably pick him up right now.

Ryan McMahon COL, 3B – Showing signs of life, slashing .429/.500/.879 with a homer this week and has a .859 OPS in the last month. His stock has certainly taken a hit this year, but he hasn’t gone bankrupt quite yet.

Anthony Alford TOR, OF – Another player trying to rise from the dead, Alford slashed .333/.462/.667 with 2 homers and 1 steal this week. Unlike McMahon, there are legitimate reasons for Alford’s disaster season (concussion, knee injury).

Triston McKenzie CLE, RHP – 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BB, 8 K and now has a pitching line of 0.48/1.04/42 in 37.2 IP. He looks like a string bean right now, but he can become a true beast once he starts adding muscle.

Rhys Hoskins PHI, 1B/Daniel Palka MIN, OF/Dylan Cozens PHI, OF – I’ll dedicate this last section to my main man Ralph, who is higher on all of these guys than I am. They are the top 3 in homeruns in the entire minor leagues right now, with 28, 25, and 25, respectively, but I have some questions about each one’s ultimate fantasy impact. If you can grab these guys on the cheap, then I definitely get chasing the power upside, but they aren’t players I would be buying in trades or drafting high in upcoming/off-season prospect drafts.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Fantasy Football Introduction

Please allow me to re-introduce myself. I’ve been trying to unearth so many fantasy baseball sleeper prospects that I almost slept on America’s new pastime (or present time?), football. Or more accurately, fantasy football and gambling. I’ve already covered my Addiction to NFL Redzone last year. I hope my New York Jets can forgive me, but when I have so many friends I’m trying to beat down in various fantasy and pick ‘em leagues, I just can’t get enough of my Scott Hanson fix. And the Jets are about to thank me for my fandom with more Geno Smith, so I feel only so bad.

As you know from my fantasy baseball prospect stuff, I like to let my results speak for themselves. I started Imaginary Brick Wall in December of last year, just in time for the NFL Playoffs, and began with Complete Positional Rankings for fantasy football playoff leagues. I then shifted into gambling mode, going 6-4 (1 tie) with my playoff bets, and sounded like Nostradamus himself in my prophetic Championship Round Picks article and Super Bowl Pick article. I also looked to continue my supernatural steak of hitting on the “First Player to Score TD in the Super Bowl” bet, but unfortunately, my powers failed me this year, completely missing on my Prop Bet article.

As much time and research that I put into all of this, I’m still not immune to the inherent luck that comes with fantasy football. Or Un-Luck. I banged out this article when my frustration with Andrew Luck spilled over, and wrote another one on NFL Running Back Roulette when the late season RB clusterfucks in Seattle, New England, and Carolina just got too much to take.

So there you have it. The good, the bad, and the ugly of last year’s football coverage. I’ll definitely be coming out with complete positional rankings during the pre-season, and will have some kind of gambling column every week as well. The Minor League Baseball season ends right around the time the NFL season starts, so I’ll probably shift my Monday Prospect Rundown into a Monday Fantasy Football Rundown. We all know Dynasty Baseball Leagues never end, though, so my fantasy prospect coverage will be year round too. And it is really an addiction at this point, I couldn’t stop searching for under the radar prospects if I tried. (Update: I couldn’t pull myself away from prospects to put the proper time in to cover fantasy football)

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 15

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 15:

Anderson Espinoza SD, RHP – “He’s in a better place now. He was sent to a great family out west where the sun shines year round and they have a big yard for him to play in.” – I know your parents told you this lie after your favorite pet died, but I promise you, I’m telling the truth when it comes to your favorite prospect.

Tom Murphy COL, C – Murphy’s been molten hot since I dropped him from #32 to #69 in my mid-season top 100 rankings, slashing .750/.759/1.571 with 5 homers in 7 games. Coincidence? … Yes, most likely.

Anfernee Grier ARI, OF – Hit .333 with a homer and 3 steals this week. I checked in on Grier and the rest of the top 30 2016 MLB Draft fantasy baseball prospects in my aptly named post, Checking in on the Top 30 2016 MLB Draft Fantasy Baseball Prospects.

Lewis Brinson TEX, OF – 3 homers and 15 K’s in 11 games since returning to Double-A after a shoulder injury. I like this strikeout/power version of Brinson much better than the contact oriented slap hitter we saw earlier this year. Maybe the shoulder injury was preventing him from taking his usual big cuts, so he was just focusing on getting the bat on the ball.

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS – Promoted to Triple-A last week for reasons that are unclear. Maybe it was a reward for his 50 game PED suspension, or the .243/.282/.432 with an 11/2 K/BB he put up in High-A upon his return. Either way, the 20-year-old Mondesi has unsurprisingly struggled in the early going, slashing .214/.241/.321. His raw talent is still elite, and we just have to trust that KC has a plan here, other than to just rush him to the majors due to his plus glove.

Jose Berrios MIN, RHP – Continues to make his case to get another shot at the majors, going 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BB, 9 K. I found it odd Minnesota gave him such a short leash the first time around, so I have no idea what their thought process is here.

Brent Honeywell TB, RHP – Promoted to Double-A this week and crushed it in his first two starts at the level, going 11.1 IP, 3 ER, 14 Hits, 1 BB, 11 K.

Tyler Jay MIN, LHP – Promoted to Double-A this week and got crushed in his first two starts at the level, going 10 IP, 8 ER, 10 Hits, 5 BB, 8 K.

Jose De Leon LAD, RHP – 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BB, 10 K. He might not have the most dominating stuff, but his K upside in a pitcher’s park in the NL West is hard not to like.

Matt Thaiss LAA, 1B – Thaiss was one of the safer bats from the college class, hitting for elite contact with an advanced plate approach. Now he is flashing those exact same skills in his first 8 games at Single-A, slashing .313/.389/.469 with a 3/4 K/BB. It looks like he has been moved off the catcher position permanently, and he’s not going to hit 30 homers, but he could reach the bigs in a hurry and make a legitimate impact.

Zack Collins CHW, C – Collins has started to heat up after being promoted to High-A this week, jacking 2 homers with a 3/4 K/BB in 3 games. He has a real shot to stick at catcher, and after flip flopping on Collins and Will Craig during my multiple MLB Draft Fantasy Prospect Rankings iterations, I might be bumping Collins back ahead of Craig again.

Will Craig PIT, 3B – On the other hand, Craig knocked his first homer of the season last night, and his underlying numbers have been good all year, so maybe I should just hold tight.

Ronnie Dawson HOU, OF – Dawson is another college hitter who is starting to find his stroke in pro ball, cracking 3 homers this week, which gives him 4 homers and 7 steals in 26 games at Low-A.

Kolby Allard ATL, LHP – Continues to prove the back injury is behind him, dominating at Rookie ball in his 2 starts this week, spinning 12 IP, 0 ER, 6 Hits, 3 BB, 14 K. He has the potential to be one of the top pitching prospects in baseball by mid-season next year.

Yadier Alvarez LAD, RHP – 4 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 5 K. Notable for walking only 1, as he walked 9 in his previous 3 starts in 12.1 IP.

Ronald Guzman TEX, 1B – Even after his first half breakout this year, Guzman still hasn’t gotten much respect on mid-season lists. To prove the doubters wrong, he’s turned it up another notch this week by slamming 3 homers. It brings season line to .303/.365/.516 with 14 homers as a 21-year-old in Double-A.

Alex Verdugo LAD, OF – Added power to his already plus hit tool this year, tacking on 2 more homers this week, and is now slashing .299/.361/.464 with 11 homers and a 45/28 K/BB as a 20-year-old in Double-A.

Josh Ockimey BOS, 1B – 2 homers this week and 4 in his last 9 games. His average (.263) has dropped to a more appropriate level for his K rate (25.4%), but the power has been steady all season.

Travis Demeritte TEX, 2B – Homered in his last two games, to go along with 5 K’s. That gives him 22 homers and 116 K’s on the year.

Erick Fedde WASH, RHP – 6 IP, 0 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 5 K. He hasn’t given up more than a single earned run in his last 7 starts. He dropped off my top 100 list in my mid-season update, but if he keeps this up he will pop right back on in the off-season.

Edwin Rios LAD, 1B/3B – Rios has a sweet lefty swing that is a bit on the long side, but is also quick and results in hard contact. He reminds me of Ryan O’Hearn on a few levels. He is slashing .315/.353/.615 with 19 homers in 67 games, and has been even better since being promoted to High-A, slashing .369/.393/.723 with 13 homers in 33 games. He was a 6th round pick in last year’s draft, and considering Willie Calhoun was a 4th rounder, it certainly looks like Andrew Friedman brought The Extra 2% over with him to Los Angeles from Tampa Bay. Rios can definitely hit, and should be on your radar at the very least.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Checking in on the Top 30 2016 MLB Draft Fantasy Baseball Prospects

I went on road trip after road trip in the last month and checked out as many of my Top 30 2016 MLB Draft Fantasy Baseball Prospects as I could. The players I didn’t see, I got multiple reports on from team scouts, executives, and industry insiders … Just kidding, I did none of that stuff. I’m a blogger with none of the resources or connections to do that (I wish I could, though). But I have pored over the early numbers, looked at every available video of them online, and read every article I could find in Google news. That will have to do for now. Here are how the Top 30 2016 MLB Draft Fantasy Baseball Prospects are performing so far:

Kyle Lewis SEA, OF – My #1 ranked prospect on my MLB Draft Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings, but the #11 overall pick in the MLB Draft, Lewis is off to the best start of all the highly touted draft prospects. He’s slugged his way to a .897 OPS in Low-A to go along with a 15/14 K/BB in 24 games. The Mariners have simplified his swing a bit, and it is showing up in his excellent contact numbers without losing any power. Combined with Tyler O’Neill’s success, Seattle’s hitter development reputation is on the upswing, not that it could have gotten much worse.

Corey Ray MIL, OF – Milwaukee was aggressive with Ray’s assignment, sending him immediately to High-A. He has played in only 8 games on the year but has struggled, slashing .209/.217/.209 with 1 steal and a 7/1 K/BB. He’s recorded 7 hits in his last 4 games, so we are going to need a much larger sample to conclude anything.

Will Craig PIT, 3B – The samples are obviously very small for everyone, but I expected Craig to hit much better at this point. He is slashing .159/.337/.203 with no homers in 21 games at Low-A. He does have a 14/14 K/BB with a .337 OBP, so I do think it is just a matter of time before he starts making better contact and more hits start dropping in.

Zack Collins CHW, C – Played in only 3 games at Rookie Ball, but struck out 7 times with no walks and 1 hit in those games. Long way to go.

Nick Senzel CIN, 3B – As I wrote in this week’s Fantasy Prospect Rundown, “Playing exactly as advertised in his first 21 pro games, displaying an advanced plate approach (12/11 K/BB), speed (10 steals), and doubles power (7).”

Mickey Moniak PHI, OF – Hitting for a decent average (.277) at Rookie Ball, but is striking out (10 K) and not hitting for much power (2 extra base hits, albeit a triple and a homer). He is a raw high schooler who is not projected to hit for much power, which is why I originally ranked him 11th in my rankings, but bumped him to 6th after he was drafted 1st overall. Even I can’t resist that extra shine that being a #1 overall pick brings.

A.J. Puk OAK, LHP/Ian Anderson ATL, RHP – Puk made his pro debut at Low-A Tuesday night, pitching 2 innings of no hit ball, and recording all 6 outs on the ground (including an error and double play). I caught up with him after the game and asked him how he felt out there, “My command was really good,” Puk said. “I threw my fastball wherever I wanted to, moved it in and out. They were just reaching out for it and beating it into the ground. I had some good secondary offerings as well and got a lot of quick at-bats.” Here is the actual article I got that quote from if you want to read more about the start. Anderson made his pro debut in Rookie ball last night, going 3 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BB, 2 K. I ranked both of these guys in the 90’s on my mid-season top 100.

Anfernee Grier ARI, OF – My favorite sleeper from the draft, ranking him in my top 10. Grier hasn’t been great in the early going, but is showing flashes of why I love him so much. He hit his 2nd bomb of the season last night, and is now slashing .246/.297/.377 with 7 steals in 18 games. He has hit much better in the last week and remember that he is one of the younger college hitters in his draft class. I’m definitely still in on Grier.

Taylor Trammell CIN, OF – Another one of my favorite sleepers, Trammell is off to an excellent start in Rookie ball, slashing .307/.366/.360 with 6 steals and a 16/6 K/BB in 19 games. Considering he was supposed to be raw after spending a lot of time playing football in high school, this is a very encouraging start. (Note: Nolan Jones, who is ranked one spot ahead of Trammell in my rankings, is 2 for 9 in his 3 games in Rookie ball).

Eric Lauer SD, LHP/Justin Dunn NYM, RHP – Two college pitchers with not much to note. Lauer went 1.2 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 0 BB, 3 K in his debut and Dunn has made 2 appearances out of the pen, going 4 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 2 BB, 3 K. They both got drafted into great fantasy situations for pitchers, and both have the potential to be impact fantasy starters.

Matt Thaiss LAA, C/1B – Thaiss is living up to the billing of being one of the most advanced hitters in the class, slashing .341/.400/.561 with 2 homers and a 7/6 K/BB in 19 games. He has already collected 6 hits and 2 BB in his first 4 games at Single-A. He will likely end up at 1B (he has played only 1B so far this year), and doesn’t have monster power, but his arrow is pointing up right now.

Heath Quinn SF, OF – Ranked 14th on my rankings and drafted 95th overall, so I think that qualifies as a sleeper. Quinn is off to a very promising start, slashing .306/.403/.468 with 1 homer and a 12/6 K/BB in 17 games mostly at Low-A. Getting drafted into one of the worst hitter’s parks in the majors, AT&T Park, is a little discouraging, but I have to respect how good San Francisco is at drafting.

Bryan Reynolds SF, OF – Another San Francisco steal, Reynolds was considered one of the safer bats in the draft, and he hasn’t disappointed, slashing .364/.488/.455 with no homers or steals. There is some swing and miss in his game (11/6 K/BB in 10 games) and he doesn’t have the highest ceiling, so I wouldn’t be too excited for fantasy.

Chris Okey CIN, C – Cracked a couple homers and not much else (.179/.211/.313). He is likely to stick at catcher, and there is enough power here that he has a legitimate chance of being fantasy relevant in 12 team leagues.

Blake Rutherford NYY, OF/ Delvin Perez STL, SS/Alex Kirilloff MIN, OF – 3 high schoolers who have all been solid at Rookie Ball in the early going. Rutherford hit his first pro homer on Tuesday, Perez is hitting .358 with 7 steals, and Kirilloff is hitting .326 with a homer and 6 K’s in 12 games.

Matt Manning DET, RHP/Will Benson CLE, OF/Josh Lowe TB, 3B/OF – 3 high schoolers who I ranked 25th, 26th, and 30th in my draft rankings, respectively, but were drafted 9th, 14th, and 13th in the draft. Manning is getting hit around in Rookie ball, giving up 9 hits and 7 ER in 5.1 IP, but he is flashing his K upside with a 10/1 K/BB. Benson is hitting .167 with a 15/4 K/BB in 11 games, but is flashing his power upside with a .143 ISO. Lowe is hitting .083, and doesn’t have much of a silver lining to mention other than he is walking 20% of the time.

Ronnie Dawson HOU, OF – A sleeper who cracked the back end of my list, Dawson has struggled in his first 22 games at Low-A, slashing .145/.276/.181, but he is flashing his power/speed combo with a dinger and 7 steals.

Joey Wentz ATL, LHP – Already has 3 starts on the year, going 9 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 5 BB, 12 K. He is someone I liked early on in the draft process, but he kept dropping with reports of reduced velocity. He’s a great athlete with an effortless delivery and will be pitching in a great environment in Atlanta. Keep an eye on Wentz.

Stephen Wrenn HOU, OF – Not ranked in my top 30, and drafted by the Houston Astros in the 6th round, Wrenn has been the best hitter in the class so far. He is dominating Low-A, slashing .308/.397/.635 with 8 homers in 25 games. I wouldn’t be calling him the next Harrison Bader/Willie Calhoun quite yet, though, as those guys mashed in college, while Wrenn hit only 5 homers with a .799 OPS in the SEC this year.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 14

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 14:

Alex Bregman HOU, SS/3B – If you missed last night’s Futures All-Star Game, you might have missed one of the most exciting baseball games of the year. Bregman put on a show in the first half of the game, going 3 for 3 with a homer short of the cycle. He was mic’d up and giggling like a little school girl about hitting a homer in his next at-bat to anyone who would listen to him. He didn’t, making outs in his final 2 at-bats.

Yoan Moncada BOS, 2B – Moncada picked up where Bregman left off, crushing a 2nd deck bomb to give the World team the lead in the 8th inning, which secured him the MVP award. He also laced an opposite field single on a nice inside out swing vs. hard thrower Jeff Hoffman in his second at bat, and then swiped second easily. That power/speed combo is why I ranked him #1 in my mid-season top 100.

Alex Reyes STL, RHP – By far the most impressive pitcher of the night, striking out 4 batters in 1.2 IP. He was hitting 100 MPH easy and dropping good curveballs in for strikes. He also flashed some solid changeups that I originally mistook for two seam fastballs because they were almost hitting 90 MPH. There is still plenty of refinement to go, but his fantasy upside is unrivaled.

Eloy Jimenez CHC, OF – Had the entire Cubs organization holding their breath as he made a daredevil catch over the RF fence down the foul line, and then launched a homerun derby quality homer in the 9th inning. Not bad for a 19-year-old who has played in Single-A all year.

Yu-Cheng Chang CLE, SS – Did Imaginary Brick Wall just get the Asian market bump that I hear so much about in baseball? After writing a sleeper post for Taiwanese SS Yu-Cheng Chang last week, my website hits from Taiwan spiked by 20%! That gives me over 100 hits all-time from Taiwan! Ni hao, all my new Taiwanese friends. Chang had a 4-hit game just hours after I wrote that article too.

Josh Bell PIT, 1B – It didn’t take long for Bell to show off the power he added this year, crushing a grand slam in his 2nd Major League at-bat. Too bad it doesn’t look like Pittsburgh is going to make a point of getting his bat in the lineup.

Willie Calhoun LAD, 2B – Willie just keeps on hitting, smashing 3 more homers this week on his way to the Futures All-Star Game (where he went 0 for 2).

Harrison Bader STL, OF – Promoted to Triple-A and went 5 for 22 with 2 doubles and a homer in his first 5 games at the level. He was also caught stealing and put up a 6/0 K/BB.

Austin Byler ARI, 1B – The adopted step child, black sheep, the one we only speak about in whispers of my Finding the Next A.J. Reed article is starting to show a pulse, slashing .417/.481/.792 with 2 homers this week after getting a late start to his season due to suspension. He is 23 years old with a 52/14 K/BB in 36 games at Single-A, so I’m going to need to see a lot more and at a higher level to start really getting excited.

David Dahl COL, OF – Dahl made Bader’s Triple-A debut look like child’s play, slashing .500/.536/.846 with 2 homers and 0 K’s in 6 games. If you took Urias, Giolito, Glasnow, and Reed out of my mid-season top 100, Dahl would have been a top 5 fantasy prospect.

Brendan Rodgers COL, SS – 2 more dingers this week, and continues to impress with his power/contact skills, slashing .295/.362/.505 with 13 homers and a 55/24 K/BB in 68 games at Single-A. I gave Rodgers the slight edge over Bregman on my top 100 because of Coors and a better chance to stick at SS, but they are basically even in my book.

Tom Murphy COL, C – Smashed 4 homers this week, giving him 11 on the year in only 44 games. It also comes with a fun 55/5 K/BB. That huge power at Coors Field from a catcher is why I ranked him 69th in my mid-season top 100, but the lack of contact skills and plate approach is why he dropped from my 32nd ranking of him in the off-season. All in all, I’m still on board.

J.P. Crawford PHI, SS – Slashed .480/.515/.840 with 2 homers this week at Triple-A. He is definitely a better real life prospect, but I still think he is going to be an impact fantasy player too.

Tyler O’Neill SEA, OF – Ranked 45th on Baseball America’s mid-season top 100! And oh yea, Hader (#22), Bader (#89), Fisher (#94), and Calhoun (#98) also cracked their top 100. I mean, I have a sneaking suspicion that I may have a few fans over at BA. They obviously know what they are doing over there, and I love that my favorite sleepers are starting to get some national hype!

Jacob Faria TB, RHP – Continues to pitch well at Triple-A, going 6 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 9 K. He hasn’t shown up on any other mid-season top 100’s so far, so it looks like he is still being slept on.

Yohander Mendez TEX, LHP – Got a spot start at Triple-A this week, and impressed by going 5 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 3 BB, 7 K. This guy has the look of a big time lefty starter, and he is putting up the numbers to back it up too.

Kyle Lewis SEA, OF – The #1 ranked prospect from my MLB Draft Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings is starting to show why I liked him so much, slashing .435/.519/.913 with 3 homers and a 2/5 K/BB this week at Low-A. He has a 12/13 K/BB in 21 games on the season, and considering strikeouts were thought to be the main concern with Lewis, he is off to a very encouraging start.

Nick Senzel CIN, 3B –  Playing exactly as advertised in his first 19 pro games, displaying an advanced plate approach (11/11 K/BB), speed (10 steals), and doubles power (6).

Christin Stewart DET, OF – 3 more homers in his last 5 games, and his monster power season in the pitcher friendly Florida State League earned him a spot in the Futures All-Stars Game.

Luke Weaver STL, RHP – 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 Hits, 0 BB, 7K in his start this week, which continued his excellent season. Scouts love to drool over dominant curveballs, but it seems like devastating changeups have been slightly undervalued recently, and Weaver has one.

Alen Hanson PIT, 2B – I was seriously starting to think a hot streak was never going to come, but Hanson found his groove this week, slashing .423/.484/.462 with 4 steals. His overall numbers are still unimpressive, but he is stealing bases and the raw talent is still there.

Cody Ponce MIL, RHP – 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 Hits, 0 BB, 12 K in his best start of the season as he he is ramping up after having early season forearm fatigue. Ponce stands a physically imposing 6’6’’, 240 pounds and throws a mid 90’s fastball with a solid slider and inconsistent curveball and changeup. The risk is high here as with many other pitching prospects, but his talent is equal to any of the pitchers showing up on the back half of mid-season prospect lists.

Max Schrock WASH, 2B – I stumbled upon Schrock in early June during the same search that I found Ronald Acuna with (who I wrote about in that week’s rundown) when I went searching for sleeper prospects that Carson Cistulli has made famous, underrated low-k/contact guys. I didn’t mention him because he was 21 years old in Single-A, didn’t have much power, and I just have more fun writing about underrated bat speed/power guys. But Schrock was promoted to High-A recently, and hit 3 homers in his first 13 games (2 in the last week), along with continuing to display his excellent contact skills (27/24 K/BB in 68 games on the year) and speed (19 steals). I would be more excited about him as a real life prospect, but even in fantasy, it is looking more and more like he has the potential to make a legitimate impact.

Luis Urias SD, 2B/UTIL – I found the 19-year-old Urias during that same search, but was even less inclined to mention him because he gets caught stealing more than he is successful (26 for 58 in his MiLB career). He has just kept on hitting, though, and is now slashing .327/.401/.438 with 5 homers, 8 steals, and a 31/30 K/BB in 82 games. He hit a homer in Triple-A last night too. I think I’m gonna start mentioning these guys …

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Comparing the 2016 Mid-Season Fantasy Baseball Prospect Lists

Crude rankings may be an imperfect method to assess the value of something as complex as projecting prospects, but as fantasy baseball owners, we constantly have to make the choice between one prospect or another, so they are inevitably a useful tool. With us now in the midst of mid-season fantasy prospect ranking season, I thought it would be fun to compare the fantasy lists that have dropped so far: Imaginary Brick Wall’s Top 100 (June 30), Razzball’s Top 100 (July 3), and Baseball Prospectus’ Top 50 (July 8). Let’s dig into the tale of the tape:

Razzball – Led by their joke a second wunderkind, Grey, Razzball relishes the underdog role, constantly throwing rocks at the big boys over at ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS. Amid mysterious circumstances, their longtime prospect writer, “Prospect Mike,” was replaced overnight by “Prospector Ralph.” They dig deep for their nicknames over there 😉 Just kidding, if you don’t know about “The Cortisone Brothers” and “The Sciosciapath,” you are missing out. If you can’t tell, I am a fan of Grey and his blog.

List Maker – Ralph Lifshitz
Where we agree – This Ralph guy must be a pretty smart fella, because he is one of the few to see the light on most of my favorite prospect sleepers coming into this season: Josh Hader, Derek Fisher, Willie Calhoun, Harrison Bader, and Tyler O’Neill. In fact, although he didn’t have any ranked on his off-season top 100, he is higher on all of them than even I am now (except Fisher). So if these guys pan out, you can thank me for hyping them back in January/February, and if they fizzle out, blame Ralph for being the high man on them, ha! He is also with me on many of my top breakout prospects this season, like Eloy Jimenez, Phil Bickford, Christin Stewart, and Josh Ockimey. He has a good eye for fantasy prospects.

Where we differ – He has 20-year-old SS prospects Willy Adames and Amed Rosario in his top 30, while they are unranked on my list. Neither have true fantasy impact power or speed, but both have plus hit tools and are a good bet to stick at SS. They are excellent real life prospects. If I expanded my list out to 125, both would have made it, and if you are looking for shortstops who will do a little bit of everything, these are your guys. No issue with their high ranking here.

Two more near misses from my list, Dan Vogelbach and Rhys Hoskins, were both top 50 on his. The reasons for me leaving these guys off is because they are both “nonathletic” 1B only guys, and neither has a perfectly clear path to a starting role. I do understand chasing the power in fantasy leagues, though, and I can see both of these guys cracking my top 100 in the off-season. Their huge power upside might make me regret leaving them off my mid-season list. Sluggers that made my list that didn’t make his: Chase Vallot, Chris Shaw, and Tom Murphy.

Moving on to pitching. It is easier for opinions to vary here, and I wouldn’t read too much into the players he took shots on in the back half of his list (Jeff Hoffman, Domingo Acevedo, Amir Garrett, David Paulino, Frankie Montas, Reynaldo Lopez, Braxton Garrett, etc …) vs. the ones I took shots on (Yohander Mendez, Jack Flaherty, Ian Anderson, Jacob Faria, Luke Weaver, Hunter Harvey, etc …). Obviously I would prefer my group, but these pitchers aren’t all that far off in the grand scheme of things.

Final Thought – I like the statement Ralph made with his top 100, going heavy on power hitting and power pitching. That is what wins fantasy championships. Better to go overboard there than not have enough of it. Plus, he gets huge points with me for being high on all of my favorite sleeper prospects who I have been hyping to death for months and months.

Baseball Prospectus – One of the standard bearers in the prospect world, Baseball Prospectus released both a traditional top 50 mid-season list and a fantasy top 50. Most of their content is behind a pay wall, but both mid-season lists are free, which is awesome. The guys over at BP actually hit the pavement to get first hand looks at these players, and presumably have sources within the industry who tell them which players they should be higher/lower on. You can trust 100% of what team officials/scouts tell these national publication writers, because they most certainly don’t have any other agendas 🙂 In all seriousness, Baseball Prospectus is an invaluable member of the prospect community.

List Maker – Bret Sayre
Like my list (and unlike Razzball’s), all players who are still rookie eligible were included. For that reason, our top 50 really isn’t all that different. Well, other than the fact he excluded all of my favorite sleepers, and went with more traditional prospects like Rosario and Adames in their place. Vogelbach seems to be his one true “fantasy” ranking, and wrote for his blurb, “Might be the best hitter in the minors right now.” No other pop-up power prospects, such as Hoskins, made his list, so Vogelbach seems to be his one big fantasy bet. He also went bold with a prospect I like a ton, and who I mentioned in a weekly prospect rundown before he was getting any hype, Ronald Acuna. I love the #39 ranking of him.

Bret went only 50 deep, so there isn’t as much to dig into here. This is a very solid list, but unsurprisingly, it looks slightly more slanted towards real life than fantasy.

Imaginary Brick Wall – The real underdog of the group, Imaginary Brick Wall focuses on “under the radar” everything. Michael loves to write about prospects and TV shows that nobody Googles and very few people even know exist. Brilliant strategy. But he finds satisfaction in finding those hidden gems, and immediately passing the word along, killing any chance he has of getting these players in his own league. He also discovered just now that he strangely enjoys writing in the third person, which is starting to feel weird.

List Maker – Michael Halpern
I agree with everything on his list, except for the stuff he ends up being wrong about.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Yu-Cheng Chang, 2016 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Sleeper/Breakout

Yu-Cheng Chang did not crack my Top 100 Mid-Season Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings and I haven’t mentioned him in any of my Weekly Prospect Rundowns. That is how much of a sleeper he is. Even the guy writing this sleeper article (me) is sleeping on him. But 20-year-old shortstops with a .267/.336/.488 triple-slash, to go along with 10 homers and 9 steals in High-A, do not get slept on for long. So it’s time to dig deeper and see what Chang is all about.

Chang was one of the top Asian amateur free agents in 2013, signing with the Cleveland Indians for $500,000. He immediately proceeded to rip up Rookie-Ball in his professional debut in 2014, slashing .346/.420/.566 with 6 homers and 6 steals in 42 games. Last season was a different story, though, and it completely halted any and all hype that he built up from the year before. Chang slashed .232/.293/.361, with 9 homers, 5 steals, and a 103/27 K/BB in 105 games at Single-A. Combine the poor numbers with the fact that he didn’t really have a standout tool, and everyone was rightfully down on him coming into this season. But as you know from my opener, he has turned things around this year, and we are starting to see the player he is going to become.

Chang has quick bat speed and a level swing that allows him to hit the ball with authority to all fields.  He will never be a true power hitter, but I can see him perennially hitting in the mid-teens. Along with his power, he has improved his K rate by 2.3% (21% on the season) and his BB rate by 3.4% (9.5%). His speed grades out as above average, so he should steal his fair share of bases, as well. The biggest downside is that he is likely to be moved off SS, especially if he stays with Cleveland (hello, Francisco Lindor), with 2B, 3B, and CF all possibilities down the line.

I don’t think Chang will ever become a star, but he can end up being a very solid 5-category producer at a valuable position. I will give him a prime projection of 84/16/78/.271/12. You can likely pick him up now for nothing, even in deep leagues, but once he reaches Double-A and continues to hit well, it might not be that easy.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 13

Every Monday, I will be running down some of the notable performances from around the Minor Leagues, or anything that might have caught my eye in general. Here is the 2016 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Week 13: (public domain image)
Happy 4th of July!

Corey Seager LAD, SS/Byron Buxton MIN, OF – A tale of two top prospects, ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively, in my off-season top 100. Seager has lit the majors on fire, slashing .303/.362/.536 with 17 homers in 83 games. Buxton has lit himself on fire, slashing .201/.235/.347 with 1 homer and a 61/6 K/BB in 45 games. I’m glad I made the decision to rank Seager ahead of Buxton, and I am far from giving up on Buxton, but this is the perfect illustration of the risk of holding onto prospects. You should constantly be looking to flip these guys whether you are in win now mode or in a rebuild. Don’t make bad deals for average major leaguers, but be a hawk and constantly on the lookout to snag already made MLB studs.

Forrest Wall COL, 2B – Imaginary Brick Wall’s first cousin, Forrest Wall, has been hot for about a month now, and stayed that way this week, hitting .391 with 1 homer and 2 steals. Way to rep the family name.

Alex Bregman HOU, SS/3B – Ranked him 4th on my 2016 Mid-Season Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings due to his power surge at Double-A, and his promotion to Triple-A hasn’t slowed him down at all. He is off to an absolutely scorching start at the level, slashing .471/.526/.941 with 2 homers. If he was sure to stick at SS, he might have climbed even higher than #4.

Tyler Glasnow PIT, RHP – 6 IP, 2 ER, 4 Hits, 1 BB, 8 K. It’s not like one start with a good BB rate is going to change anything, but better than another 4+ BB outing.

A.J. Reed HOU, 1B – Launched his first of many MLB homers on Saturday. Unfortunately, that was one of only two hits he has collected in 22 AB’s.

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – Smoking hot at Double-A, slashing .429/.520/1.000 with 2 homers and 2 steals. The power is starting to come around now, and it is not out of the question to see Benintendi in the majors later this year.

Jose De Leon LAD, RHP – 5 IP, 1 ER, 4 Hits, 2 BB, 6 K. He has quietly been dominating the PCL with a 13.5 K/9 in 23.1 IP. Los Angeles is taking it super slow with him due to his past injury history.

Michael Gettys SD, OF – Promoted to High-A a few weeks ago, and has recorded a hit in 10 of his first 11 games at the level (7 multi-hit). Gettys did not crack my mid-season top 100, but he is a favorite of RotoRX’s prospect contributor, and my boy over at Reddit, Kevin O’Hara (aka fawkesmulder). If you want to hear more about him, check out Kevin’s analysis on Episode 9 of MLB Roto RX (54:26 min mark).

Lewis Brinson TEX, OF – Back in action in Rookie ball for some rehab outings after returning from a shoulder injury, going 2 for 9 with 1 K and no homers, which continues his low K, low power season from Double-A. I don’t know who told him to stop striking out and hitting bombs, but I don’t love this new slap hitting Brinson. I do think he will get back to being a beast again, though.

Max Kepler MIN, OF – In last week’s rundown I mentioned Kepler has been having a quietly good season, but he turned it up a notch this week, and it isn’t very quiet anymore. He jacked 2 dingers on Saturday with 7 RBI, and he is now slashing .256/.328/.479 with 5 homers and 2 steals in 39 MLB games.

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS – Is starting to heat up after returning from his 50 game suspension, jacking a homer this week and collecting 7 hits in his last five games. He is still working on putting it all together, but the talent is there to be one of the best fantasy players in baseball. Don’t sleep on Mondesi because of the PED suspension.

Raimel Tapia COL, OF – Tapia is a hit machine, racking up 106 hits in 78 games at Double-A, to go along with solid pop and above average speed. Only problem is that he is still very raw on the base paths, going 13 for 26 in stolen base attempts on the year, which continues his poor stolen base percentage in his minor league career. It does bring into question just how often he will get the green light in the majors if he doesn’t massively improve his efficiency.

Ozzie Albies ATL, 2B/SS – Moved down to Double-A to work with his future double play partner, Dansby Swanson. Atlanta’s developmental strategy with Albies has been head scratching, to say the least.

Rafael Devers BOS, 3B – Put together one of his best weeks of the season, slashing .400/.500/.800 with a homer and 1/4 K/BB. Hopefully this is the beginning of an extended hot streak.

Matt Chapman OAK, 3B – Homered in 3 straight games this week (20 on the year) and continues to prove the power is very real. The strikeouts are real too (104).

Dominic Smith NYM, 1B – Has been tapping into his power more and more this year in Double-A, and went on a 3 homer binge this week (2 in one game). His .280/.339/.446 triple-slash with 10 homers and a 51/25 K/BB in 79 games as a 21-year-old is starting to look pretty good.

Chris Shaw SFG, 1B – Promoted to Double-A this week and slashed .389/.389/.556. If he can repeat his High-A numbers in Double-A, my #93 ranking of him might look a bit light by the end of the year.

Justus Sheffield CLE, LHP – Sheffield responded to me dropping him in the rankings by going 6 IP, 1 ER, 5 Hits, 3 BB, 10 K. As I wrote in the mid-season top 100, although he dropped, his overall potential remains the same.

Dylan Cozens PHI, OF/Rhys Hoskins PHI, 1B – The homer barrage continues for these Philly sluggers, with Hoskins knocking 2 out and Cozens 4. I’m not really full believers in either of them (relative to their stratospheric numbers), but it looks like a good bet that both of them will at least be fantasy relevant in their careers.

Carson Fulmer CHW, RHP – Has thrown 2 straight shutouts, going a combined 14 IP, 0 ER, 5 Hits, 6 BB, 12 K. It brings his season ERA down to … 4.83.

Triston McKenzie CLE, RHP – The lanky 6’5’’, 165-pound McKenzie is a name to watch who did not crack my mid-season top 100. He is breezing through short-season A ball in the early going, dominating in his 4 starts (22.2 IP, 1 ER, 14 Hits, 3 BB, 25 K). He has a projectable body (room for more velo) and already has an advanced feel for pitching as an 18-year-old.

Dylan Cease CHC, RHP – Cease is another name to watch not on my top 100. Unlike McKenzie, Cease does throw the big fastball, with reports having him up to 100 MPH this season, but needs work on his command and secondary pitches. Baseball America had an excellent write-up on his Spring debut if you want to read more about him.

Sandy Alcantara STL, RHP – Let’s make it a hat trick with high end lottery ticket arms in the lower minors. Alcantara dominated in his start this week, going 6.1 IP, 1 ER, 1 Hit, 3 BB, 10. He’s got a huge fastball with K upside for days (12.3 K/9), but has major control issues (4.9 BB/9) and needs to refine his secondaries. And oh yea, he is another guy that fawkesmulder has been on me to like more for weeks now.

By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)