Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top 100 Update and an Announcement

Leading off this week’s Razzball Prospect Podcast, Ralph Lifshitz and I both make a big announcement about moving up in the Razzball world. I’m also writing the blurbs for these podcasts over on Razzball now too, which I will reproduce on Imaginary Brick Wall:

“For the times they are a-changin”

– Bob Dylan

You will soon notice that things are going to be a little different around Razzball, starting with this post. This podcast is one thing that isn’t going to change, though, and Halph is back at it again this week, starting off by talking up Hunter Greene, along with two other prospective two-way talents in Shohei Otani and Brendan McKay. We then shift focus to some of the fast risers on Top 100 lists, including Cody Bellinger, Lewis Brinson, Anthony Alford, and Kyle Tucker. And oh yeah, we also may or may not mention a few of those changes I was talking about before.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Top 100 Update and an Announcement

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2017 Early Season Dynasty/Fantasy Baseball Prospect Sleepers: Hitters Edition (and Jacob Barnes)

It is never too early to dig for underrated prospects. Here are the 2017 Early Season Dynasty/Fantasy Baseball Prospect Sleepers: Hitters Edition (and Jacob Barnes):

Phillip Ervin CIN, OF – I probably would have ranked Ervin very high had I been writing back in 2013, but let’s see if I can make up for it in 2017. He’s a former 1st round pick (#27 overall) who has displayed a plus power/speed combo at every level in the minors, and is now slashing .286/.352/.531, with 3 homers, 2 steals and a 10/5 K/BB in 14 games at Triple-A. Almost all of the damage was done in 2 games, so this may very well be a blip on the radar rather than legitimate improvement on making consistent hard contact, which he has struggled with in the past. Nevertheless, Ervin’s raw talent is too good to dismiss the hot start.

Colton Welker COL, 3B – Welker’s skills have completely carried over from his impressive rookie ball pro debut into full season ball this year. He is slashing .386/.440/.568, with 2 homers, 4 steals, and a 6/4 K/BB in 12 games at Single-A. This is a big, strong 19-year-old with a powerful uppercut swing that is made for today’s game, along with an obvious feel for contact. Tack on Coors Field to that profile, and Welker has a chance to blow up soon.

Jacob Barnes MIL, RHP – I mentioned Barnes on the podcast this the off-season and in my MLB Rookie write-up a few weeks ago, and he has continued to dominate since then. He notched his first save of the season last night, which came off back to back appearances where he struck out the side. I have no idea when/if Milwaukee will use him in the closer’s role, but he has the kind of elite stuff that can provide value in any league, regardless of his role.

Daniel Johnson WASH, OF – 5 homers in 13 games is going to get anyone noticed, and that is exactly how Johnson started his season at Single-A, along with a .354/.415/.708 triple-slash and 2 steals in 13 games. Taken in the 5th round of the 2016 draft, he was known as a toolsy, but very raw prospect, and if the early going is any indication, he might be starting to put some things together. Johnson has the talent to make an impact in any size league, but the 21-year-old is going to have to produce at higher levels before the hype can truly start rolling.

Daniel Brito PHI, INF – The power is showing up quicker than anticipated, as Brito knocked 3 homers with a 25% K rate in his full season debut. Known as a toolsy prospect with a good feel to hit coming into this year, it is quite possible Brito is already going about making the swing changes that is sweeping across all levels of baseball, although he is still hitting the ball on the ground about half the time.

Ryne Birk HOU, 2B – Birk put himself on my radar last year with his impressive pro debut, and he is off to another hot start at High-A this year, slashing .319/.365/.574, with 1 homer, 2 steals, and a 12/4 K/BB in 13 games. He hit well in all three years he played in the SEC, and A-Ball pitching has yet to slow him down, either. We are still talking about a very deep sleeper, being a 13th round pick without a standout skill, but don’t be surprised if you start to hear his name pop up more and more in the next few years.

Tyler Stephenson CIN, C – Stephenson is proving he is healthy after season ending wrist surgery last year, slashing .267/.365/.467 with 2 homers and a 14/6 K/BB in 12 games at Single-A. He was drafted as a power-hitting catcher in the 1st round of the 2015 Draft, and it is nice to see those skills showing up as he enters his 20’s. His ability to stick at catcher is still a question, but other than Chris Okey (who is struggling at High-A), there aren’t many other long term internal options for the position.

Khalil Lee KC, OF – Another prospect whose skills have carried over into full season ball, Lee is slashing .294/.368/.510, with 2 homers, 3 steals and a 16/5 K/BB in 13 games. He has a patient approach, lying in wait for a pitch he can smack with his powerful uppercut swing, so strikeouts will likely always be a part of his game. While there is still a lot of volatility here, the power/speed upside is worth taking a shot on in deep leagues.

Austin Hays BAL, OF/Ryan Mountcastle BAL, SS – Two Baltimore hitting prospects who I liked coming into the year and are off to good starts at High-A. Mountcastle stands at a broad 6’3’’, 195 pounds with a great feel to hit that got him drafted 36th overall in 2015. Hays was a 3rd round pick in 2016 who can do a little bit of everything, but doesn’t have one standout tool/skill. I would add Cedric Mullins in this group, but he has been getting talked up so much I’m not sure he is still underrated.

Edwin Rios LAD, 1B – I would be remiss not to mention that Rios is destroying Double-A pitching to start the year, slashing .352/.375/.593 with 3 homers and a 12/2 K/BB in 13 games. I don’t love his consistent lack of plate approach, but I have no doubt that the ball will jump off his bat with authority no matter what level of baseball he is playing. Rios would be better off if traded to an AL team with a DH, because it seems inevitable he will serve as a pinch hitter if he stays with Los Angeles.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Early Season Risers and Fallers from My 2017 Top 100 Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings

The 2017 season is still young, but Dynasty owners do not have the luxury of large sample sizes when trade offers start rolling in at all times of the year. Here are the Early Season Risers and Fallers from My 2017 Top 100 Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings:


Aaron Judge (#23) NYY, OF – The boom in strikeouts across Major League Baseball over the past decade is one of the reasons I am not as scared off by high strikeout prospects as I would have been 20 years ago. Back in December, I wrote about MLB breaking its own strikeout record for an amazing 9th straight season, and they are at it again this year, currently sitting at an all-time high mark of 8.3 K/9 and a 21.7% K rate. That is why I remained high on Judge even when many others were jumping ship, because although he would strike out (like everyone else), I knew when he did make contact, he would do damage. And that is exactly what is happening in the early going, as he is slashing .250/.341/.583 with 3 homers and a 11/5 K/BB in 11 games.

Cody Bellinger (#26) LAD, 1B – Fuck it. There isn’t a single at-bat in the minors I find myself gravitating towards more than Bellinger’s. I’m down to ignore that Looney Tunes, Tasmanian Devil swing just like everyone else. Let’s see where this crazy train takes us. Also, maybe my podcast co-host, Ralph Lifshitz, will stop taunting me on twitter every time he gets a hit 😉

Dominic Smith (#29) NYM, 1B – Picked up right where he left off from his dominant second half in 2016, slashing .372/.413/.535 in 11 games at Triple-A. The beginning of his MLB career could look a lot like Stephen Piscotty’s.

Ian Happ (#35) CHC, 2B/OF – Happ is just destroying Triple-A with 6 homers in his first 11 games at the level. I’m starting to think it isn’t so much that the Cubs are especially good at drafting and developing, as much as it is that the other teams are particularly bad. Mark Appel was drafted ahead of Kris Bryant. Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, and Carlos Rodon were taken ahead of Kyle Schwarber. Dillon Tate, Tyler Jay, and Carson Fulmer were selected ahead of Ian Happ. It doesn’t take a staff of Ivy League geniuses and a room full of super computers to understand you don’t let the very best college bats slip through your fingers when drafting in the top half of the 1st round.

Francisco Mejia (#49) CLE, C – I have always been a little skeptical of the plus hit tool Minor League guys, and my rankings the last two years can attest to that. Jeff Zimmerman over at Fangraphs has been doing some great research this off-season on Minor League hit tool grades, and the early findings have backed up my apprehension about ranking guys very high based on their plus minor league hit tool. Having said that, what Mejia is doing is just above and beyond silly. After a 50-game hit streak last year, which grabbed the attention of prospect hounds everywhere, he started this season at Double-A hitting safely in all 8 games. There is only so much skepticism a guy can have in the face of such an undeniable skill. My boy Ralph has loved Mejia from get go, and he is also a favorite of Season 1 Top Chef winner, Harold Dieterle, as heard on the star-studded Razzball Baseball Podcast three weeks ago.

Anthony Alford (#52) TOR, OF – The breakout already happened in the second half of last season when everyone was still hemming and hawing over his poor, injury riddled 1st half, but his hot start to this season has put any doubt to rest, as he is slashing .464/.571/.607 with 1 homer and 4 steals in 8 games at Double-A.

Brent Honeywell (#59) TB, RHP – Tampa Bay management must be listening to the Razzball Prospect Podcast, because right after I mentioned how ridiculous it was getting for Honeywell to still be pitching against the clearly inferior Double-A competition, they bumped him up to Triple-A. I know he still has many pitchers ahead of him, but it is not unheard of for truly superior prospects to jump the line. He will get a chance to prove he is worthy of that treatment at Triple-A.

Vlad Guerrero Jr. (#64) TOR, 3B/Juan Soto (#70) WASH, OF – Possibly the two most talented 18-year-old hitters in the world have been carving through full season ball pitching as easily as they did Rookie ball pitching. Other than proximity to the bigs, there isn’t much left to doubt with either of these phenoms.

Rhys Hoskins (#110) PHI, 1B/Trey Mancini (#168) BAL, 1B/Chris Shaw (#183) SFG, 1B – Three hulking first baseman who are proving they are the real deal at higher levels. Shaw is doing it at Double-A (.382/.475/.765), Hoskins is excelling in a non-Reading aided environment at Triple-A (.324/.452/.676), and Mancini is going insane in the Majors with 4 homers in 24 PA. “Nonathletic” first baseman need to rake and force their way into the lineup, and these guys are doing it so far.


Tyler Glasnow (#12) PIT, RHP /Lucas Giolito (#14) CHW, RHP – Man is it frustrating to own pitchers in Dynasty Leagues, no matter how hyped they have been throughout their minor league career. Glasnow has shown little improvement on his command, and Giolito’s elite fastball disappeared somewhere along the way. You can throw Alex Reyes in this mix too, who went down with Tommy John surgery.

J.P. Crawford (#13) PHI, SS – I like sitting up in my Ivory Tower and acting all unaffected by minor league numbers as much as the next guy, but Crawford’s continued struggles is making it hard to keep the ruse up. After struggling at Triple-A last year, he is slashing .086/.200/.143 with a 30% K rate in 40 PA this year. His potential is obvious when you watch him play, but you have to start producing at some point.

James Kaprielian (#101) NYY, RHP – The velocity bump followed by arm troubles is what kept Kaprielian out of my top 100, and also the reason I was one of the few (along with Ralph) to place him behind Justus Sheffield on my Top 10 New York Yankees Fantasy Prospects Rankings. As I’m sure you have heard, he will undergo Tommy John surgery this week, and while it’s always sad to see someone get injured, that is the risk associated with adding velocity. Although, in today’s game where everyone is throwing harder and striking everyone out, maybe he felt like he had no choice.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Prospects and Politics

Forget about fantasy baseball, Ralph and Halp are helping to spearhead a prospect political movement with Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo. Just check out the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, giving a shout out to Manuel Margot in the middle of a press conference on Jimmy’s prompting! Please send all of your donations to our new super PAC, Prospecting For a Better Tomorrow Today.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Prospects and Politics

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Minor League Opening Day

On this week’s Razzball Prospect Podcast, Ralph Lifshitz and I bullshit about some of the notable performances from MiLB Opening Day, highlight the most prospect packed minor league teams, and that’s it. We sign off after that.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Minor League Opening Day

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

MiLB.TV Prospect Scouting from the Couch: Opening Day

MiLB.TV is like the first two days of March Madness, except it’s on every day, and every game looks like your dad’s home videos from the 80’s. I was flipping around like crazy trying to catch as many high profile at-bats as I could, along with extended stretches from pitchers of interest. Whenever I have something of value to pass along, or something to add to the conversation, I will do a quick write-up the morning after. Here is the first MiLB.TV Prospect Scouting from the Couch: Opening Day:

Max Fried ATL, LHP –  The hype was in overdrive this off-season for Fried, with talk of three 70 grade pitches and ace upside. That might all be well and true, but he certainly didn’t show it in this start before leaving with back tightness in the 2nd inning. He was sitting around 89-92 MPH with his fastball all night, and had very little control or command over it. To be fair, the ump was squeezing him a bit. The curveball is MLB ready right now, breaking off one nasty curve after another that hitters had no shot on. He used his changeup often as well, which is more solid than spectacular right now. If he can stay healthy and have the fastball tick up a few MPH as the year goes on, the hype will surely continue to roll, but there is legitimate control/command and injury risk.

Harrison Bader STL, OF – There was no way I was missing Bader lead off the season for Triple-A Memphis, and he didn’t disappoint by crushing a homer on the 2nd pitch. I don’t know what the pitch was or where he hit it out, because the camera man decided a tight shot of mostly Bader’s ass was the right move to start the game. It reminded me of the brilliant work of Howie Halpern from my childhood, when he forgot he was supposed to be video taping his children, and focused just on his feet. Either way, it was obvious he crushed the pitch with his wrecking ball of a swing, and I found out it was a homer when he started jogging half way to first base.

Josh Hader MIL, LHP – Back to pitching on the dark side of the moon in Colorado Springs, Hader battled through 5 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit, 5 walks, and striking out 6. His stuff is so unhittable it looked like the very best opposing hitters could do was foul off as many pitches as possible and hope for a walk eventually. He was mostly fastball/slider all night, and is going to need to work on a third pitch if he wants to reach his ace potential. He could probably be a dominant reliever in the Big Leagues right now.

Jacob Faria TB, RHP – Faria will throw that nasty change-up for strikes in any count, but try not to laugh when he flings up some dinky curveball. Even he shook his head after a few particularly lame ducks. Until he figures that out, it will be more of the same of what we saw last night, which was 9 K’s and 2 homers allowed in 4.1 IP.

Cody Bellinger LAD, 1B – There is not a more exciting at-bat in the minors than Bellinger. Every single swing is an epic hack. Combine that with athleticism and blinding bat speed, and it is a thing of beauty when he makes contact. He crushed two doubles last night. I’m still worried that better pitching with a specific game plan could give him trouble, but I’m really rooting against that. Baseball will just be more fun if Bellinger has success and kids start emulating him.

If at any point in the season you are interested in my thoughts on a player, please let me know in the comments section or on Twitter, and I will try to make it a point to catch a few of their games.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

2017 MLB Rookie Watch: Week 1

I just can’t let these guys go quite yet. This season, I’m planning on keeping track of how the 2017 rookies’ skills are translating against MLB pitching. It will also give me an opportunity to gloat a little bit on my hits, and beat myself up on my misses. Here is the 2017 MLB Rookie Watch: Week 1:

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – Many of the mainstream prospect writers have been doubting Benintendi’s power all off-season, calling it moderate and topping him out at 20. It is the same reason he fell to #7 in the MLB Draft, and the same reason he wasn’t in anybody’s 2016 top 10 overall prospects except mine. But Benintendi is out to prove the doubters wrong early, absolutely crushing a Gerrit Cole 97 MPH fastball over the right field fence. Just watch how fast the ball jumps off his bat, and you quickly realize judging his power based on his size is silly.

Ronald Torreyes NYY, SS – Benintendi is a barrel-chested beast compared to Torreyes, who stands 5’8’’, 151 pounds, but it didn’t stop him from running into a homer of his own. This picture of Aaron Judge congratulating him at home plate is an absolute classic, and truly a reminder to not let anybody tell you that you can’t do something. Of course, in reality, Judge is probably at more of a disadvantage in baseball than Torreyes, as I’m pretty sure baseball is the only sport to adjust the rules based on how tall you are.

Aaron Judge NYY, OF – Speaking of Judge, he has looked very comfortable at the plate in the early going, and has been making good hard contact. There were a few pitches he missed by just a hair that had Paul O’Neill cooing in the booth. I’m expecting good things in the near future.

Dansby Swanson ATL, SS – Calmly laced an opposite field single vs. Noah Syndergaard. It was Jeter-like. There is nothing that truly stands out about Swanson’s offensive profile, but it sure seems like he is going to be very productive. Or maybe he will hit .250 and just look good doing it.

Joey Gallo TEX, 3B – Not technically a rookie, but still kinda rookie-ish, Gallo showed off his no joke 80 grade power by placing a Carlos Carrasco offering into the last rows of the upper deck. If you want to see bat speed, launch angle, and exit velocity, just watch that swing over and over again.

Manuel Margot SD, OF – Showing off his skills early as well, collecting 3 hits in 8 at-bats and swiping his first bag. I question how high the batting average is going to be in his first MLB season, but I have no questions about the plus speed.

Jesus Aguilar MIL, 1B – Took his first start away from Eric Thames and capitalized with a 1 for 2 day and an RBI. He got only two at-bats, and it looks like it could be awhile before getting starts vs. righties, but he is worth a stream every time Milwaukee faces a lefty.

JaCoby Jones DET, OF – Doesn’t get much better than a homer and steal to drive the nail home on that starting centerfield job. I’m still concerned there isn’t enough power or speed to overcome a low average, but he has plenty of upside to prove me wrong.

Mitch Haniger SEA, OF – 4 strikeouts in his first 9 plate attempts. It goes without saying that everything is a miniscule sample size, but thought it was worth mentioning considering his Spring Training stats were a driving force in his increasing draft price as Opening Day approached. I took a shot on Haniger very late in a couple leagues, and surely plan on holding for now.

Jacob Barnes MIL, RHP – One of my favorite relief pitcher sleepers this year, Barnes got off to a good start by pitching one clean inning with a strikeout. He was among the league leaders in whiff rate in his 26.2 IP last year, while also putting up a pitching of 2.70/1.13/26. He has prototypical closer’s stuff with mid 90’s heat and a slider that is pushing 90 MPH. Watch for Barnes to rise in Milwaukee’s pen as the year goes on.

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)

Razzball Prospect Podcast: Grey Albright and MLB Draft Prospects

Grey Albright joined us on the Razzball Prospect Podcast this week, and we had an awesome time running down some of the hot names making news. It was like the old days when Howard Stern actually had comedians sit in on Robin’s news (only, probably nothing like that). We then shifted focus to hit some of the names atop this year’s MLB draft class. I’m not going to ramp up coverage of draft prospects for around another month, but here is a quick write-up of a few of my favorites who we discussed on the podcast:

Hunter Greene HS, RHP – I’ve said it on the podcast on two different occasions, and this comparison is definitely a little insane, but whenever I watch Hunter Greene pitch, Satchel Paige comes to mind. The talent jumps off the screen that much. I’m not one for taking high school pitchers high in fantasy drafts, but Greene might be the exception.

Jeren Kendall Vandy, OF – The Corey Ray of the 2017 Draft, Kendall has almost matched his homer total from last season in less than half the games, all while maintaining his strikeout rate and double plus speed. If there is anybody I would take over Greene, it would be Kendall.

Pavin Smith Virginia, 1B – This draft class is heavy with college and high school pitching, but I always advocate the very best college bats should jump to the top of your Dynasty draft ranking, and this year is no different. Smith has struck out a ridiculously low 3 times in 27 games this year, all while doubling his homerun pace from last season. He raked the second he stepped on campus, and Virginia is a pitcher’s park too.

Jake Burger Missouri St., CI – One of the top pure power hitters in the class, Burger is slashing .379/.456/.737 with 9 homers and a 12/14 K/BB in 24 games. It is more raw power than bat speed, and the Missouri Valley Conference isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but the outsized production can’t be ignored.

Adam Haseley Virginia, OF – Haseley is the breakout of the group, slashing .406/.504/.723, with 8 homers, 7 steals, and a 10/19 K/BB in 27 games. If he can even come close to maintaining this production as conference play heats up, he will continue to rise on mainstream draft lists.

Click here for the Razzball Prospect Podcast: Grey Albright and MLB Draft Prospects

By Michael Halpern (@MichaelCHalpern)
Email: michaelhalpern@imaginarybrickwall.com
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)