2017 Compete Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36

You won’t find a bigger proponent of drafting college players, in particular, college bats, at the top of the MLB Draft/First-Year Player Fantasy Baseball Draft, but this year’s college class is so uninspiring, I’m shooting for the moon in 2017. The college players are still the much safer play, but the combination of their lack of upside and the extreme upside of the top high schoolers, has me thinking this is the year to roll the dice. Here is the 2017 Compete Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36

1) Hunter Greene (6’3’’, 205) HS, RHP/SS – Greene is the type of generational talent you just don’t pass up. He is both a power hitting shortstop and a flame throwing starting pitcher. The first “comp” to pop in my mind when watching him pitch was Satchel Paige from those old black and white documentaries where the film was sped up so everything looked so fast, except with Greene’s videos, that’s just his normal speed. His secondary pitches are still raw, but the easy mid-90’s heat, extremely athletic delivery, and top notch work ethic/mindset makes him the best bet to emerge as a superstar from this class, regardless of where he plays on the field.

2) Royce Lewis (6’1’’, 190) HS, SS/OF – The best combination of tools, athleticism, speed, and feel to hit in the entire draft. The 17-year-old Lewis can also take some vicious hacks at the plate that foreshadows his future power potential. The best case scenario in his early professional career would be a Victor Robles type, but it’s doubtful the hit tool will be quite that good.

3) Austin Beck (6’1’’, 200) HS, OF – Controlled aggression is the best description of his swing, as it looks like Beck has channeled all of his pent up anger into crushing baseballs. The plus bat speed is almost guaranteed to play at any level, and he mixes that with plus raw power and plus speed. He can still struggle against breaking pitches, and hasn’t gotten many reps against elite competition, which is partially due to tearing his ACL and meniscus last May, but his power/speed combo is truly elite.

4) Jordon Adell (6’3’’, 200) HS, OF – When Major League Baseball talks about losing the best athletes in the country to football, Adell is usually the type of player they are talking about. His dad was actually a star football player at North Carolina State, and was selected in the 12th round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. But Jordon smartly wanted nothing to do with football, and the only choice he had to make was between pitching or hitting. It looks like hitting is winning out, as Adell has put on a massive power display this Spring (video of him hitting 3 homers in a game on May 3rd) while rarely striking out. He is still far more projection than current refinement, but this is a recently turned 18-year-old kid, not a college junior. I’m betting on plenty of refinement down the line, and count me among the Adell believers.

5) MacKenzie Gore (6’2’’, 180) HS, LHP – I am a sucker for a big lefty with a funky delivery, and Gore not only checks those boxes, but he also has elite control of a low 90’s fastball, along with three different secondary pitches (slider, curveball, changeup) that flash plus and project as above average or better. Nothing about him screams ace, and maybe we are all being pulled in by that leg kick (something I am seriously considering, ha), but all together, there doesn’t seem to be many weakness, either.

6) Adam Haseley (6’1’’, 195) Virginia, OF – Haseley possesses the best combination of contact, power, and speed in the college class, slashing .390/.491/.659 with 14 homers, 10 steals, and a 21/44 K/BB in 58 games. He currently looks more like a solid across the board type, rather than a true impact 5-category fantasy contributor, but if any college bat is going to creep up the rankings as draft day approaches, it will likely be Haseley … unless Brendan McKay gets drafted as a hitter (more on that next week).

7) Kyle Wright (6’4’’, 220) Vandy, RHP – Solid as a rock, both in build and performance. Wright has a very clean, non-deceptive delivery with an advanced four pitch mix (fastball, curve, slider, changeup). His stuff is clearly MLB quality across the board, but none of his pitches standout as truly dominant. He looks the part, though, and has also pitched very well in the toughest conference in college baseball (SEC). If he lands in a good environment for pitching, I can see a relatively quick moving #2-3 fantasy starter, but I don’t think he is the type of guy who will win you a league or carry your pitching staff.

8) Brendan McKay (6’2’’, 212) LOU, 1B/LHP – McKay is a total wildcard for First-Year Player Drafts because we may not find out his ultimate position until next season. On the hitting side, he has a very loose, quick left handed swing with natural loft and the ability to hit for both average and power. On the pitching side, he profiles as a safe mid-rotation starter. I’m rooting for the bat to win out, especially for fantasy.

9) Keston Hiura (6’0’’, 185) UC Irvine, 2B/OF  – Hiura is possibly the best college bat in the class, and he has the numbers to prove it, slashing .442/.567/.693 with 8 homers, 9 steals, and a 38/50 K/BB in 56 games. His plus bat speed creates loads of hard contact, and he combines that with a plus hit tool and an advanced plate approach. This is a potential stat stuffing “glue guy” on your fantasy squad who will contribute in a different way every night. If he wasn’t likely headed for Tommy John surgery right after the draft, he might have snuck into my top 5.

10) Bubba Thompson (6’2’’, 180) HS, OF – An elite athlete, Thompson turned down multiple major D1 football scholarships in order to finally focus on baseball full time. He is a plus-plus runner with a very projectable frame and plus bat speed. He is still raw, but he looks damn smooth taking swings in batting practice, unleashing some savage hacks. With continued refinement, Thompsom has a legitimate chance to end up the best player in this draft.

11) J.B. Bukauskas (6’0’’, 195) NC, RHP – The “small righty” seems to be one of the last vestiges that traditional scouts have to hang their hats on, much to the dismay (or maybe delight) of Billy Beane, who looks to be collecting them by the dozens. Bukauskas is in the plus fastball/slider mold, leaning heavily on the slider, leading many scouts to pigeonhole him as a typical power righty out of the pen. His college numbers are undeniable, though, putting up a pitching line of 2.53/1.07/116/37 in 92.2 IP, and the team that ends up drafting him is very likely to believe in him as a starter.

12) Pavin Smith (6’2’’, 210) Virginia, 1B – It’s all about that absurd contact rate, as Smith has a 12/38 K/BB in 228 at-bats, along with 13 homers and a .342/.427/.570 triple-slash. Only problem is, you need your first baseman to provide more than “solid” power, especially in today’s homer happy landscape. In 16+ team leagues, I can see giving Smith a bump, but in 10-14 teamers, I’m probably shooting for more upside if I’m drafting in the top half of the first round.

13) Nick Pratto (6’1’’, 193) HS, 1B – The first thing that jumps out at you when watching Pratto hit is how effortlessly he creates plus bat speed and how hard the ball comes off his bat. He combines that with an advanced, patient approach at the plate, along with plus athleticism for a first baseman. If you are looking for a potential .300/.400/.500 slashing first baseman, Pratto is your best bet.

14) DL Hall (6’0’’, 190) HS, LHP – Hall might have the best curveball in the entire draft (or at least my favorite one), reminiscent of Kolby Allard’s, but he doesn’t command it quite as well and his delivery is not as clean, either. I’ve been flipping a coin between him and the next guy on my list for the last two weeks …

15) Shane Baz (6’3’’, 190) HS, RHP – Baz is a big, physical righty with plus spin rates and several secondary pitches. The ingredients are definitely there for him to be a true ace, but there are still some command issues, and the results haven’t played up quite as high as the pure stuff.

16) Evan White (6’3’’, 177) Kent, 1B – During the Razzball Prospect Podcast: MLB Draft Edition, I challenged my co-host, Ralph Lifshitz, to talk me into White, and he did a damn fine job (Ralph and I did a 2-man mock draft on the podcast last Saturday). White is a plus athlete (and not just for a first baseman), with a great feel to hit and very projectable power considering his skinny, broad frame. He reminds me a little bit of the recently broken out Ryan Mountcastle, although Mountcastle is actually one year younger.

17) Jake Burger (6’2’’, 210) MissouriSt./3B – I’m not extremely excited about Burger, but this is fantasy baseball, and there aren’t many big-bopping college hitters out there this year, especially at the top of the draft. Burger is slashing .333/.448/.663 with 22 homers and a 36/42 K/BB in 61 games. He has solid bat speed, plus raw power, and is surprisingly nimble for his physique, although he may still end up at 1B long term. His body type, swing, and approach reminds me of Kevin Youkilis, except without the extreme walk rate, which was kinda what made Kevin Youkilis, Kevin Youkilis.

18) Jeren Kendall (5’10’’, 180) Vandy, OF – I’m not extremely excited about Kendall, either, but he has the best overall tools and power/speed combination in a depleted college hitting class, albeit with an awful hit tool (71/24 K/BB in 60 games). If I’m going to take someone who is raw, I would rather take a shot on one of the teenagers ranked ahead of him, although his plus CF defense has a chance to keep him on the field and force a team into being patient with him well into his mid-20’s.

19) Logan Warmoth (6’0’’, 190) NC, SS – Solid power/speed combo with a chance to stick at SS. Warmoth is a Keith Law favorite (link behind paywall).

20) Trevor Rogers (6’6”, 185) HS, LHP – A big, slingin’ lefty with a nasty delivery and plus fastball/slider combo. Rogers is old for his class, but all of the ingredients are there for him to be a strikeout machine on the next level.

21) Nate Pearson (6’6”, 240) JC, RHP – An absolute beast on the mound, Pearson lights up the radar gun with an upper 90’s fastball, which he pairs with a plus slider and developing changeup. There is some bullpen risk, but the upside is elite.

22) David Peterson (6’6”, 240) ORE, LHP – The Eric Lauer of this year’s draft, except all of the draftnik’s seem to like Peterson better. He destroyed the Pac12 by pounding the strike zone with a plus fastball/slider combo, while occasionally mixing in a curveball and changeup too. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff and it seemed like he dominated the competition more on guile and experience, but Peterson is one of the safer starters in the draft.

23) Alex Faedo (6’5’’, 225) FLA, RHP – The two arthroscopic knee surgeries gives me some pause, but Faedo has been excellent all 3 years in the SEC, and has one of the best sliders in the draft.

24) Heliot Ramos (6’1’’, 188) HS, OF – I don’t love his swing, but Ramos has elite power/speed potential, and being one of the youngest players in the draft, there is plenty of time for refinement.

25) Drew Waters (6’2’’ 185) HS, OF – A switch-hitter who looks smooth from both sides of the plate, although his left-handed swing looks like it is geared to do much more damage than the right. He is a good athlete with plus speed too.

26) Blayne Enlow (6’4’’, 180) HS, RHP – One of the prettiest curveballs in the draft with a low 90’s fastball and an athletic delivery. He is still a bit raw, but Enlow has top of the rotation potential.

27) Sam Carlson (6’4’’, 195) HS, RHP – Carlson has prototypical size with a fastball that just explodes out his hand. His changeup and slider both project to be plus, as well, and has solid control of all of his pitches. Like Enlow, there is still some work to do, but these are the qualities you look for in a high school pitcher.

28) Brent Rooker (6’4’’, 215) MissSt., 1B – Already 22 years old, but Rooker put up some of the best offensive numbers in all of college baseball, slashing .392/.498/.820, with 23 homers, 18 steals, and a 56/47 K/BB in 66 games. He made legitimate improvements to his underlying hitting profile this season, and if you want to ignore his advanced age, I can see ranking him much higher than this.

29) Seth Romero (6’3’’, 205) HOU, LHP – Major off-the-field issues and has problems with his weight too, but Romero is a hard throwing lefty with electric stuff. Before Houston kicked him off the team, he was striking out 15.7 batters per nine.

30) Griffin Canning (6’1’’, 170) UCLA, RHP – Safe, fast moving college starter without dominating stuff, but has a great feel to pitch. Unless his stuff mysteriously ticks up like James Kaprielian’s did after the draft, mid-rotation starter is likely his upside.

31) Brian Miller (6’0’’, 187) NC, OF – A plus-plus runner with a sweet lefty swing and excellent numbers in the ACC (.343/.422/.502 with 7 homers, 24 steals and a 35/38 K/BB). Doesn’t have much power right now, but has plenty of room to pack on mass. Miller is an excellent late round target in dynasty drafts if you are looking for quick moving speed.

32) Stuart Fairchild (5’11’’, 180) Wake, OF – Already built like a rock, Fairchild put up some of the best fantasy numbers in college baseball, slashing .360/.437/.640, with 17 homers, 21 steals, and a 51/29 K/BB. His hit tool is questionable and the swing isn’t all that pretty, but everything else is there.

33) Nick Allen (5’8’’, 158) HS, SS – Everyone loves an underdog, and Allen fits the role at 5’8’’, 158 pounds. He has a plus hit tool, plus speed, and is a sure bet to stick at SS.

34) Mark Vientos (6’4’’, 190) HS, SS – Inconsistent, but looks like one of the very top prospects in the draft during batting practice. At his best, Vientos has a beautiful swing with plus bat speed and natural loft. He is likely to move off SS, but has the plus power potential to profile at any position.

35) Luis Campusano (6’0’’, 200) HS, C – The best catcher prospect in the draft, Campusano has big raw power with plus bat speed, but there are some strikeout concerns on the next level.

36) Tristen Lutz (6’3’’, 220) HS, OF – Lutz is more physically developed than some of the college juniors I was watching, and unsurprisingly, makes harder contact than many of them too. He still hasn’t fully tapped into his raw power, but it isn’t hard to see Lutz turning into one of the best power hitters in this draft.

Just missed: Gavin Sheets, Hans Crouse, Tristan Beck, Clark Schmidt, Garret Mitchell, Tanner Houck, Matt Sauer, Quentin Holmes

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

2017 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 7-18

After a short hiatus, the 2017 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings continues today with numbers seven through eighteen. Let’s get right to it:

Click here for the Complete 2017 Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36

7) Kyle Wright (6’4’’, 220) Vandy, RHP – Solid as a rock, both in build and performance. Wright has a very clean, non-deceptive delivery with an advanced four pitch mix (fastball, curve, slider, changeup). His stuff is clearly MLB quality across the board, but none of his pitches standout as truly dominant. He looks the part, though, and has also pitched very well in the toughest conference in college baseball (SEC). If he lands in a good environment for pitching, I can see a relatively quick moving #2-3 fantasy starter, but I don’t think he is the type of guy who will win you a league or carry your pitching staff.

8) Brendan McKay (6’2’’, 212) LOU, 1B/LHP – McKay is a total wildcard for First-Year Player Drafts because we may not find out his ultimate position until next season. On the hitting side, he has a very loose, quick left handed swing with natural loft and the ability to hit for both average and power. On the pitching side, he profiles as a safe mid-rotation starter. I’m rooting for the bat to win out, especially for fantasy.

9) J.B. Bukauskas (6’0’’, 195) NC, RHP – The “small righty” seems to be one of the last vestiges that traditional scouts have to hang their hats on, much to the dismay (or maybe delight) of Billy Beane, who looks to be collecting them by the dozens. Bukauskas is in the plus fastball/slider mold, leaning heavily on the slider, leading many scouts to pigeonhole him as a typical power righty out of the pen. His college numbers are undeniable, though, putting up a pitching line of 2.53/1.07/116/37 in 92.2 IP, and the team that ends up drafting him is very likely to believe in him as a starter.

10) Keston Hiura (6’0’’, 185) UC Irvine, 2B/OF  – Hiura is possibly the best college bat in the class, and he has the numbers to prove it, slashing .442/.567/.693 with 8 homers, 9 steals, and a 38/50 K/BB in 56 games. His plus bat speed creates loads of hard contact, and he combines that with a plus hit tool and an advanced plate approach. This is a potential stat stuffing “glue guy” on your fantasy squad who will contribute in a different way every night. If he wasn’t likely headed for Tommy John surgery right after the draft, he might have snuck into my top 5.

11) Pavin Smith (6’2’’, 210) Virginia, 1B – It’s all about that absurd contact rate, as Smith has a 12/38 K/BB in 228 at-bats, along with 13 homers and a .342/.427/.570 triple-slash. Only problem is, you need your first baseman to provide more than “solid” power, especially in today’s homer happy landscape. In 16+ team leagues, I can see giving Smith a bump, but in 10-14 teamers, I’m probably shooting for more upside if I’m drafting in the top half of the first round.

12) Bubba Thompson (6’2’’, 180) HS, OF – An elite athlete, Thompson turned down multiple major D1 football scholarships in order to finally focus on baseball full time. He is a plus-plus runner with a very projectable frame and plus bat speed. He is still raw, but he looks damn smooth taking swings in batting practice, unleashing some savage hacks. With continued refinement, Thompsom has a legitimate chance to end up the best player in this draft.

13) Nick Pratto (6’1’’, 193) HS, 1B – The first thing that jumps out at you when watching Pratto hit is how effortlessly he creates plus bat speed and how hard the ball comes off his bat. He combines that with an advanced, patient approach at the plate, along with plus athleticism for a first baseman. If you are looking for a potential .300/.400/.500 slashing first baseman, Pratto is your best bet.

14) DL Hall (6’0’’, 190) HS, LHP – Hall might have the best curveball in the entire draft (or at least my favorite one), reminiscent of Kolby Allard’s, but he doesn’t command it quite as well and his delivery is not as clean, either. I’ve been flipping a coin between him and the next guy on my list for the last two weeks …

15) Shane Baz (6’3’’, 190) HS, RHP – Baz is a big, physical righty with plus spin rates and several secondary pitches. The ingredients are definitely there for him to be a true ace, but there are still some command issues, and the results haven’t played up quite as high as the pure stuff.

16) Evan White (6’3’’, 177) Kent, 1B – During the Razzball Prospect Podcast: MLB Draft Edition, I challenged my co-host, Ralph Lifshitz, to talk me into White, and he did a damn fine job. White is a plus athlete (and not just for a first baseman), with a great feel to hit and very projectable power considering his skinny, broad frame. He reminds me a little bit of the recently broken out Ryan Mountcastle, although Mountcastle is actually one year younger.

17) Jake Burger (6’2’’, 210) MissouriSt./3B – I’m not extremely excited about Burger, but this is fantasy baseball, and there aren’t many big-bopping college hitters out there this year, especially at the top of the draft. Burger is slashing .333/.448/.663 with 22 homers and a 36/42 K/BB in 61 games. He has solid bat speed, plus raw power, and is surprisingly nimble for his physique, although he may still end up at 1B long term. His body type, swing, and approach reminds me of Kevin Youkilis, except without the extreme walk rate, which was kinda what made Kevin Youkilis, Kevin Youkilis.

18) Jeren Kendall (5’10’’, 180) Vandy, OF – I’m not extremely excited about Kendall, either, but he has the best overall tools and power/speed combination in a depleted college hitting class, albeit with an awful hit tool (71/24 K/BB in 60 games). If I’m going to take someone who is raw, I would rather take a shot on one of the teenagers ranked ahead of him, although his plus CF defense has a chance to keep him on the field and force a team into being patient with him well into his mid-20’s.

Click here for the Complete 2017 Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36

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

2017 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-6

You won’t find a bigger proponent of drafting college players, in particular, college bats, at the top of the MLB Draft/First-Year Player Fantasy Baseball Draft, but this year’s college class is so uninspiring, I’m shooting for the moon in 2017. The college players are still the much safer play, but the combination of their lack of upside and the extreme upside of the top high schoolers, has me thinking this is the year to roll the dice. Here is the 2017 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-6:

Click here for the Complete 2017 Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36

1) Hunter Greene (6’3’’, 205) HS, RHP/SS – Greene is the type of generational talent you just don’t pass up. He is both a power hitting shortstop and a flame throwing starting pitcher. The first “comp” to pop in my mind when watching him pitch was Satchel Paige from those old black and white documentaries where the film was sped up so everything looked so fast, except with Greene’s videos, that’s just his normal speed. His secondary pitches are still raw, but the easy mid-90’s heat, extremely athletic delivery, and top notch work ethic/mindset makes him the best bet to emerge as a superstar from this class, regardless of where he plays on the field.

2) Royce Lewis (6’1’’, 190) HS, SS/OF – The best combination of tools, athleticism, speed, and feel to hit in the entire draft. The 17-year-old Lewis can also take some vicious hacks at the plate that foreshadows his future power potential. The best case scenario in his early professional career would be a Victor Robles type, but it’s doubtful the hit tool will be quite that good.

3) Austin Beck (6’1’’, 200) HS, OF – Controlled aggression is the best description of his swing, as it looks like Beck has channeled all of his pent up anger into crushing baseballs. The plus bat speed is almost guaranteed to play at any level, and he mixes that with plus raw power and plus speed. He can still struggle against breaking pitches, and hasn’t gotten many reps against elite competition, which is partially due to tearing his ACL and meniscus last May, but his power/speed combo is truly elite.

4) Jordon Adell (6’3’’, 200) HS, OF – When Major League Baseball talks about losing the best athletes in the country to football, Adell is usually the type of player they are talking about. His dad was actually a star football player at North Carolina State, and was selected in the 30th round of the 1992 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. But Jordon smartly wanted nothing to do with football, and the only choice he had to make was between pitching or hitting. It looks like hitting is winning out, as Adell has put on a massive power display this Spring (video of him hitting 3 homers in a game on May 3rd) while rarely striking out. He is still far more projection than current refinement, but this is a recently turned 18-year-old kid, not a college junior. I’m betting on plenty of refinement down the line, and count me among the Adell believers.

5) MacKenzie Gore (6’2’’, 180) HS, LHP – I am a sucker for a big lefty with a funky delivery, and Gore not only checks those boxes, but he also has elite control of a low 90’s fastball, along with three different secondary pitches (slider, curveball, changeup) that flash plus and project as above average or better. Nothing about him screams ace, and maybe we are all being pulled in by that leg kick (something I am seriously considering, ha), but all together, there doesn’t seem to be many weakness, either.

6) Adam Haseley (6’1’’, 195) Virginia, OF – Haseley possesses the best combination of contact, power, and speed in the college class, slashing .402/.492/.693 with 14 homers, 9 steals, and a 19/35 K/BB in 51 games. He currently looks more like a solid across the board type, rather than a true impact 5-category fantasy contributor, but if any college bat is going to creep up the rankings as draft day approaches, it will likely be Haseley … unless Brendan McKay gets drafted as a hitter (more on that next week).

Click here for the Complete 2017 Top 36 MLB Draft Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Prospect Rankings: 1-36

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

2017 Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Minor League Prospects Rundown: Week 5-ish

It’s been a little while since I banged one of these out, so let’s forego the small talk and get right to it. Here is the 2017 Fantasy/Dynasty Baseball Minor League Prospects Rundown: Week 5-ish:

Yoan Moncada CHW, 2B – Apparently, a triple-slash of .342/.414/.538 with 6 homers and 9 steals at Triple-A isn’t enough for the Chicago White Sox to call up one of the best 21-year-old baseball players in the world. Sorry baseball fans, you’ll have pay $50 for MiLB.TV if you want to catch a glimpse of Moncada on video equipment that looks like it was purchased from the Salvation Army.

Derek Fisher HOU, OF – One of my favorite sleepers for two years running, Fisher is going ham at Triple-A, slashing .325/.390/.563 with 7 homers and a 35/13 K/BB in 31 games. Unfortunately, due to Houston’s outfield surplus, the only other place Fisher can go ham is at Boston Market, because that is all he can afford with a Minor League per diem of $25.

Brendan Rodgers COL, SS – Don’t forget about Rodgers, who is slashing .365/.388/.566 with 2 homers and a 12/3 K/BB in 15 games at High-A since returning from a hand injury. With Trevor Story struggling, the odds are increasing Rodgers sticks at SS.

Raimel Tapia COL, OF – Hitting over .400 in 24 games at Triple-A, and isn’t hitting the ball on the ground an exorbitant amount of the time either (44.5%). Without Coors Field, his fantasy value would take a major hit, and with Colorado in the playoff hunt this year, I’m a little worried.

Aaron Judge NYY, OF – Just a friendly reminder that I was the only person on Earth (can’t account for the advanced civilization that is living inside of Earth) to have Judge as the #1 ranked prospect in the Yankees system, as evidenced by my off-season New York Yankees Top 10 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings. Would you trade Judge for Gleybor Torres right now?

Cody Bellinger LAD, 1B/OF – Just an unfriendly reminder that I was close to the low man on Bellinger this off-season, but I stand by my analysis of his insane swing when nobody else was really mentioning it. Turns out I should have just been insanely high on it, instead of worrying it was too extreme. Viva la Swing Path Revolucion!

Hunter Renfroe SD, OF – .202/.226/.349 with 5 homers and a 38/4 K/BB in 34 games in the Majors. I know it is the era of the K and everything, but turns out you still have to take a walk every now and then too.

Kyle Tucker HOU, OF – I ranked Tucker in the top 10 in my off-season Top 200 due to his late season power surge, and that has continued into this year with 8 homers in 31 games at High-A. Houston’s High-A affiliate isn’t in Lancaster anymore either, so nobody can just mindlessly dismiss the power numbers.

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – On pace for 103/24/108/.328/14 in his rookie season, but I’m sure Texas and Minnesota are just as happy with Dillon Tate (er, 2 months of Carlos Beltran) and Tyler Jay (already being converted back to a reliever), respectively. Please MLB, get better at drafting.

Nick Senzel CIN, 3B – Coming on after a slow start, slashing .339/.397/.516 with 2 homers and 3 steals in his last 16 games. The 20+ homerun power is still a question mark, but the floor is a solid 5-category contributor.

Zack Collins CHW, C – Another top college bat from the 2016 class who is coming on after a slow start, Collins is slashing .324/.415/.500 with 1 homer and a 6/5 K/BB in his last 10 games. More importantly, all reports on his defense have been positive.

Mitch Keller PIT, RHP – Pulled early from his latest start when a bee stung his forearm. I was watching MLB Network last week when host Lauren Shehadi mentioned an ex-boyfriend of hers would sting himself with frozen bees, because bee venom supposedly has some amazing healing qualities. I’m giving it a 50/50 chance that Keller now has a superhuman forearm.

Luke Weaver STL, RHP – Looked strong in his return from lower-back stiffness, going 13 IP, 7 Hits, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K in two starts. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, odds are good that he sees plenty of time in the Majors this year.

Josh Naylor SD, 1B – After focusing on contact earlier in his career, Naylor is unleashing the beast this season, slashing .306/.358/.531 with 5 homers and a 22/7 K/BB in 23 games as a 19-year-old at High-A. He hit the ball on the ground almost 50% of the time last season, and he has that number down to 38% this year. Considering his raw power, it is safe to say this is the power breakout we were waiting for.

Jorge Mateo NYY, SS/OF – It might be time to officially jump off the Mateo bandwagon, if you haven’t already. He is slashing .220/.270/.315 with 0 homers and a 38/8 K/BB in 32 games at High-A. The elite speed probably makes him a Major Leaguer, but the lack of hard contact could preclude him from a starting job.

Eric Lauer SD, LHP – Don’t sleep on my boy Eric Lauer, who is putting up a 2.22 ERA with a 10.8 K/9 in 28.1 IP in the Cal League. There isn’t one thing that stands out with him, but he couldn’t have found himself in a better situation than with San Diego and the NL West.

Patrick Weigel ATL, RHP – Everyone’s favorite pitching prospect sleeper was promoted to Triple-A this week. The early numbers on SunTrust Park put it firmly as a hitter’s park, so while it is still the NL East, it’s something to keep in mind with Atlanta prospects in general from here on out.

Scott Kingery PHI, 2B – A recent comment I got from Paste says it best, “Halp! I’m kinda diggin’ on Scott Kingery. Looks like he has joined the launch angle revolution this year and is hitting a TON of fly balls (54.5%) and very few ground balls (24.7%), which is a far departure from his previous seasons in the Minors. Also, he’s showing a much better approach at the dish with an 11.8% walk rate while striking out 22.8%. He’s a smallish dude listed at 5’10” 180, but also has speed to burn. I’d love to hear you and Ralph go in on him and perhaps his teammate at AA Reading Andrew Pullin. Let’s find some sleepers! Shhhhhh” … Sorry, Paste. Couldn’t keep it a secret for very long 😉

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:

Risers

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.

Fallers

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)

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)

2017 Rookie/Prospect Sleepers for Fantasy Baseball Re-Draft Leagues

These players might not be the hot shot names who everyone is reaching for in fantasy baseball drafts, but they are the guys you pick-up mid-season and hope they get hot for a month while your starter is out with a sprained something (ankle, wrist, elbow ligament, etc …). Here are the 2017 Rookie/Prospect Sleepers for Fantasy Baseball Re-Draft Leagues:

Hunter Dozier KC, CI/OF – There is a pretty decent chance that Dozier is already better than Jorge Soler. Dozier certainly outhit Soler in Spring Training, with a 1.300 OPS in 22 at-bats vs. Soler’s .540 OPS in 49 at-bats. But if you want to ignore Spring stats, which is probably smart, Soler also failed to win an everyday job with his first club in Chicago, and that was with Kyle Schwarber out for the year with a knee injury and Jason Heyward out for the year with Fuck You money. I’m saying this to highlight that even beyond the obvious path to playing time, like injuries (Lorenzo Cain is already out with a “tight side,” whatever that means) and trades (Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Moose are all on expiring contracts), there is path to playing time just on performance alone. And if Dozier does get that playing time, don’t be surprised if he goes on a Ryon Healy-like run, although you should expect solid power with an average that won’t kill you.

Jacob Faria TB, RHP – The poor man’s Jose De Leon, Faria might be leading the charge for underappreciated change-up masters. Traditional scouts seem to devalue the change-up while pumping up the curveball, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about guys with nasty curveballs in the minors which suddenly disappear in the Majors (cough, Phil Hughes, cough). The sneaky pitchers who can change speeds and keep you guessing are always my favorites, and you don’t even have to compromise on size with Faria, as he stands a sturdy 6’4’’, 200 pounds. Strikeouts and homers will likely be his calling card early in his career, and that career could start after the first couple Rays starters go down.

Sam Travis BOS, 1B – Everybody is talking about the limited power upside with Travis, but he was already on his way to turning that around last season at Triple-A before tearing his ACL, hitting 6 homers in 47 games. This after hitting only 9 homers in 131 games in 2015. Along with the homer uptick, there was an uptick in strikeouts as well, so you can tell this was a conscious effort to hit the ball over the fence more, which he was relatively successful at in the early going. He has also maintained that power surge in Spring Training, jacking 3 homers in 44 at-bats. Travis is looking like that prototypical plus hit tool prospect who might be on the verge of taking off using an altered swing path and power hitting mentality. The only thing Red Sox fans need to worry about is that he boosts his value enough for Dombrowski to ship him off for a reliever rental.

Jesse Winker CIN, OF – Winker should be working on what Travis seems to be in the process of doing, which to be blunt, is hitting more homeruns. And Winker comes with an even more impressive plate approach and hit tool than Travis had. If any of Cincinnati’s shaky outfielders go down with an injury or fail to perform, Winker will be the next man up, and I expect for him to start hitting for more power in Cincinnati’s homer happy ballpark, and with MLB’s homer happy baseballs.

Tyler Jay MIN, Closer – I’m actually pumped about Jay’s permanent move to the bullpen for fantasy, because solid mid-rotation starters (which is what Jay’s upside was starting to look like) just don’t make much of an impact on winning fantasy leagues. But electric fastball/slider closer’s do. Have you seen what Minnesota’s so called back of the bullpen looks like? It looks exactly like Jay being the closer in T minus 3 months.

 Jesus Aguilar MIL, 1B – Milwaukee is not paying Eric Thames the type of money that says he can’t be benched. In fact, they are already trying him in the OF to increase his versatility. The last thing you want to hear about your fantasy player is that the team is trying to increase his versatility. They don’t bench guys anymore or demote guys to the minors, they “increase their versatility” now. Aguilar impressed the team enough that he made the opening day roster, and while he might not steal all of Thames at-bats right out of the gate, he is the leading candidate to be that waiver claim, Yangervis Solarte-like Spring Training breakout guy. Or maybe he gets cut by May. Either way, he will cost you nothing to acquire, while Thames is a favorite sleeper who many people are targeting.

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