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:

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).

To be continued with 7-15 early next week

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)

2017 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Spring Training, Take Two

Spring Training stats should always be taken with a grain of salt, but if a player transformed his body, or improved his swing, or impressed coaches with a renewed mindset and work ethic, it could be a sign of legitimate improvement. Here is the 2017 Fantasy Baseball Minor League Prospect Rundown: Spring Training, Take Two:

Andrew Benintendi BOS, OF – If you are concerned about Benintendi’s .179 batting average and 36% K% in his 33 MLB at-bats against lefties, maybe this rocket shot he crushed last night that cleared the fence in .2 seconds will help ease those fears. This guy is going to absolutely wear out Pesky Pole. Actually, the Red Sox are already preparing for the assault, reinforcing Pesky Pole with 40 feet of new steel, among other repairs.

Steven Matz NYM, LHP – Well, that was quick. Shortly after listing Matz 1st on my Post-Tommy John Surgery Death Zone Watch List, he was scratched from his next scheduled start due to “irritation” in his left elbow. He won’t have an MRI, but don’t worry, the trusty Mets PR department and front office assures that there is nothing structurally wrong. “There is nothing structurally wrong” sounds like the new “dreaded vote of confidence” mangers get right before being fired.

A.J. Reed HOU, 1B – The work Reed put in this off-season on conditioning and bat speed has clearly paid off, as not only has he raked in Spring, but Houston coaches have been raving about him. This is how you like to see young players respond to adversity, because it won’t be the last time they have to overcome obstacles, whether it be due to injury or the constant game of adjustments that is MLB hitting.

Kyle Lewis SEA, OF – I’m no doctor, but this video certainly looks like an encouraging sign that Lewis’ knee rehab is going well. Feel free to draft him with increasing confidence in prospect and Dynasty drafts.

Corey Ray MIL, OF – Ray also returned to game action this week after tearing his meniscus in October. While we are on the topic of injured 2016 college bats …

Nick Senzel CIN, 3B – Doubled in his first game back after taking a pitch to his wrist in live batting practice a couple weeks ago. There is nothing worse than a wrist injury for a hitter, so hopefully this will be the last we hear of it.

Jesus Aguilar MIL, 1B – Spring Training stats don’t matter, unless you are a 26-year-old bad bodied first baseman who basically has to hit like Babe Ruth in order for somebody to give you a shot. And that is exactly what Aguilar is doing this Spring, hitting .462 with 5 homers in 52 at-bats. He has been completely outplaying the Korean sensation, Eric Thames, and is making Milwaukee rethink their opening day roster. If you are looking for an Adam Duvall like breakout in the next couple years, keep your eye on Aguilar.

Jose Berrios MIN, RHP – Minnesota claims Berrios won’t make the MLB team because the WBC prevented him from being properly stretched out, but I have a sneaking suspicion it might also have something to do with his 8.02 ERA in 14 starts last year. I’ve jumped so far off the Berrios bandwagon that I actually had a Coors pitcher (Gray) and an AL East pitcher (Bundy) ranked ahead of him when I Re-Ranked the Graduates from My 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings back in early January (I would probably put Turner #1 now).

Raul Mondesi Jr. KC, SS/2B – It’s odd that people seem to completely ignore the obvious step forward Mondesi took last year in the upper levels of the minors, OPS’ing .779 at Double-A and .863 at Triple-A in 172 combined at-bats, while they overly focus on the inevitable struggles he had in the Majors. He hit well in Winter Ball, has been raking in Spring, and even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, I wouldn’t expect him to be held down for long. This is a potential elite speed/power combo who is not being valued like that in Dynasty drafts.

Franklin Barreto OAK, SS/2B – Billy Beane can’t wait until he can finally show something from that awful Josh Donaldson trade, and with Jed Lowrie and Chad Pinder the only thing in the way of that, you can bet Barreto will be called up sooner rather than later.

Cody Reed CIN, LHP/Amir Garrett CIN, LHP – I think I could have made a run at a rotation spot in Cincinnati’s dumpster fire of a starting rotation. Their ballpark is a launching pad and while I think both of these guys can be solid mid-rotation starters long term, they look like nothing but landmines for this season.

Alen Hanson PIT, UTIL – MLB’s cockamamie team control rules will finally help the player and not the team, as Hanson is out of options, and if he doesn’t make the big league club, there would be no shortage of teams who would jump at the chance to claim him. Plus, the United States doesn’t look all too keen about letting Jung-ho Kang back into the country, so there could be more playing time available than originally thought.

Jose Quintana HOU, LHP – Seriously Houston, just pull the trigger already. You have a million talented outfielders who deserve a shot and a highly volatile starting rotation.

Derek Fisher HOU, OF – Speaking of Houston outfielders, Fisher hit well this Spring, but has really impressed on the base paths, jacking 10 bases in 34 at-bats. It can be hard to know how much to trust minor league steal numbers, but it sure does seem like this man loves to run.

Austin Meadows PIT, OF – Meadows crushed a ball out of the ballpark against a lefty on Saturday, which continued his torrid Spring. I don’t care that he doesn’t have a spot yet (Polanco did just get scratched with shoulder soreness), I would be going out of my way to grab him in any Dynasty drafts where he is still available.

Koda Glover WASH, RHP – Dusty Baker knows who the closer is, but nanny nanny poo poo, he’s not telling.

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

Updated 2017 Top 50 Dynasty Baseball First-Year Player Draft Rankings

Things have changed since I wrote my 2017 Top 40 Dynasty Baseball First-Year Player Draft Rankings back in mid-October … I’m about five pounds heavier. The first-year player draft rankings changed too though. This update is a tiered ranking with just a few thoughts on each tier. For a more detailed look at most of these players, you can check out my 2017 Top 200 Dynasty/Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings and my above linked Top 40. Here is the Updated 2017 Top 50 Dynasty Baseball First-Year Player Draft Rankings:

Top College Bats

1) Nick Senzel CIN, 3B
2) Zack Collins CHW, C
3) Kyle Lewis SEA, OF
4) Corey Ray MIL, OF

The very top college bats usually have the best combination of safety, proximity, and upside, and this year’s class is no different. I wouldn’t argue too hard against ranking these guys in any order.

The #1 Overall Draft Pick and the #1 International Signing

5) Mickey Moniak PHI, OF
6) Kevin Maitan ATL, SS

The risk is inherently higher with teenagers, mostly because they have a long way to go, but I’ll take the top “high school” bats after the best college players are off the board. Maitan has that mysterious, limitless upside, so if you like to live on the edge, I wouldn’t blame you if you took him #1 overall.

Top 100 Worthy

7) Will Craig PIT, 3B
8) A.J. Puk OAK, LHP
9) Ian Anderson ATL, RHP
10) Jason Groome BOS, LHP
11) Matt Thaiss LAA, 1B/C
12) Cal Quantrill SD, RHP
13) Heath Quinn SF, OF
14) Bobby Dalbec BOS, 3B
15) Bryan Reynolds SF, OF
16) Taylor Trammell CIN, OF
17) Blake Rutherford NYY, OF
18) Alex Kirilloff MIN, OF
19) Braxton Garrett MIA, LHP
20) Adrian Morejon SD, LHP
21) Lucas Erceg MIL, 3B

Alex Reyes’ injury is just another reminder of how risky pitching prospects can be. I do like to keep a relatively balanced farm system, though, so I would start to consider the top pitchers in this group of lower upside college bats and far off high school hitters.

Boom or Bust

22) Jorge Ona SD, OF
23) Matt Manning DET, RHP
24) Delvin Perez STL, SS

Tons of unrefined raw talent. Perez actually didn’t look all that raw at the plate in his pro debut, so this ranking admittedly might be too reliant on pre-draft reports.

Close Proximity and Sneaky Upside

25) Eric Lauer SD, LHP
26) Dakota Hudson STL, RHP
27) Lourdes Gourriel Jr. TOR, 2B
28) Peter Alonso NYM, 1B
29) Justin Dunn NYM, RHP
30) Norge Ruiz OAK, RHP
31) Randy Arozarena STL, INF

Gourriel and Dunn’s upside might be less sneaky than the others, but you get the point.

Pu Pu Platter

32) Anfernee Grier ARI, OF
33) Will Benson CLE, OF
34) Joey Wentz ATL, LHP
35) Forrest Whitley HOU, RHP
36) Vladimir Gutierrez CIN, RHP
37) Jordan Sheffield LAD, RHP
38) Luis Almanzar SD, SS
39) Lazaro Armenteros OAK, OF
40) Freudis Nova HOU, SS
41) Chris Okey CIN, C
42) Josh Lowe TB, 3B
43) Nolan Jones CLE, 3B
44) Cionel Perez HOU, LHP
45) Victor Garcia STL, OF
46) Bo Bichette TOR, SS
47) Yasel Antuna WASH, SS
48) Ronnie Dawson HOU, OF
49) D.J. Peters LAD, OF
50) Dane Dunning CHW, RHP
* Riley Pint COL, RHP

At this point in the player pool, it should be more about picking your favorites and/or team needs (position, speed/power, upside/proximity, etc …), rather than a rigid ranking. There is still a ton of talent in this group, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the best player from this entire class ended up being one of these players. Pint gets singled out because he was my top pitcher before Colorado drafted him, but I avoid Coors pitchers like Major League Baseball avoids free market principles.

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