It is graduation day here at Imaginary Brick Wall, and not a moment too soon, as 2017 Top 100 season is right around the corner. I thought about getting a celebrity to give the inaugural commencement speech, but then I remembered I didn’t know any. Sorry guys, and six girl readers (yes, I have one more girl reader than Razzball). 30 prospects graduated from my off-season 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings, and before I let go of them for good, let’s celebrate by ranking the Class of 2016 one last time for Dynasty Leagues:
*Off-Season top 100 rank in parenthesis
1) Corey Seager (#1) LAD, SS – Nailed it.
2) Trea Turner (#23) WASH, SS/OF – Or maybe not. Turner has a legitimate case to be #1 on this list as his unexpected power surge in the majors puts his upside firmly ahead of Seager’s. Seager proved it over the course of the entire season, though, and his upside is nothing to sneeze at. Because I don’t know about you, but when I’m unimpressed by something, I sneeze at it, and I wouldn’t dare sneeze at Seager’s upside.
3) Trevor Story (#30) COL, SS – Story wasn’t even on almost any other Top 100 list, but ranking him 30th still ended up being too low. Everyone remembers his blazing start to the season, but he might have actually been better in his final two months before a thumb injury ended his year, slashing .286/.368/.571 with 13 homers, 5 steals, and a 54/18 K/BB in 48 games.
4) Gary Sanchez (#31) NYY, C – Wrote about Sanchez last week in my 2017 Top 10 New York Yankees Fantasy Baseball Prospect Rankings.
5) Alex Bregman (#26) HOU, 3B/SS – Packed on 20 pounds of muscle last off-season and immediately put it to good use by smashing through his supposed “power ceiling.” He lost some speed along the way, and his elite minor league contact numbers took a dive in the majors, but I don’t think anyone is complaining. He also happens to be a fan of one of my favorite television shows, Impractical Jokers, and here is the twitter photo with “Murr” to prove it.
6) David Dahl (#47) COL, OF – An injury riddled 2015 led me to underrate Dahl coming into the season. He not only stayed healthy this year, but he fully tapped into his raw power too. He still has some contact issues, so I would expect some regression to the .315 batting average he put up in the majors (.404 BABIP), but Coors Field mixed with his power/speed combo puts his upside in the elite category.
7) Byron Buxton (#2) MIN, OF – I actually still like Buxton a lot, but it is hard to justify ranking him ahead of the very talented prospects who have done nothing but destroy Major League pitching. Buxton did manage to give everyone a taste of what could be in store for next year, slashing .287/.357/.653 with 9 homers in 29 games during his September call-up.
8) Julio Urias (#7) LAD, LHP – I just don’t think I could part with any of those elite young bats in fantasy for a still unproven pitcher, even one as good as Urias. It isn’t an easy decision, because he is about as good as they come, flashing his upside as a 19/20-year-old in the majors by putting up a pitching line of 3.39/1.45/84 in 77 IP.
9) Nomar Mazara (#19) TEX, OF – After generating a lot of buzz with his awesome first two months of the season, Mazara dropped off considerably in the final four, OPS’ing .681, .701, .701, .706, respectively. It’s a solid debut for a 21-year-old no matter how you slice it, but I’m just not sure I’m ready to bet on his superstar ceiling. I’d be more comfortable banking on very good and consistent, which is not too shabby.
10) Jameson Taillon (#86) PIT, RHP – Two full years on the sidelines following Tommy John surgery had Taillon ranked with a group of other high upside, injury risk pitchers like Hunter Harvey, Dylan Bundy, and Erick Fedde. Three of the four took major steps forward this year (Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery), with Taillon being the best of the bunch. His strikeout numbers were modest at 7.4 K/9 in the majors, but he showed an advanced feel for the art of pitching, developing his two-seam fastball into a legitimate weapon mid-season, and displayed excellent control with a 1.5 BB/9. His mid-90’s 4-seamer also leaves plenty of strikeout upside.
11) Willson Contreras (#52) CHC, C – I would rank Contreras higher than Mazara and Taillon depending on my team needs. The constant improvements he has made over the past two seasons have been astounding, and it culminated with him rolling through MLB pitching in August and September, slashing .306/.370/.545 with 7 homers in his final 38 regular season games. I wouldn’t even be all that surprised if he outproduced Sanchez next year.
12) Tim Anderson (#22) CHW, SS – Anderson is spearheading Chicago’s rebuilding effort as he impressed in his MLB debut by slashing .283/.306/.432, with 9 homers, 10 steals, and a 117/13 K/BB in 99 games. The plate discipline numbers are an obvious red flag, but there is more than one way to skin a cat, and Anderson skins his cats by just hacking away. It has worked for him so far, and if he can even moderately improve on those numbers, this ranking will look too low by next season.
13) Steven Matz (#10) NYM, LHP – Matz underwent arthroscopic surgery this off-season to remove a large bone spur from his pitching elbow, which should also clear up the shoulder impingement that was bothering him all year and required a platelet plasma injection of its own. He should be fine now guys. All better.
14) Blake Snell (#13) TB, LHP – Snell did about exactly what was expected of him in the majors this year, racking up strikeouts (9.9 K/9), walks (5.2 BB/9), and possessing the raw ability to get major leaguers out while still learning on the job (3.54 ERA, 1.62 WHIP). We’ve seen big, talented lefties with similar profiles blow up into top of the rotation starters enough of the time for me to stay the course with Snell.
15) Joey Gallo (#17) TEX, 1B/3B/OF – It feels like Gallo belongs more on upcoming top 100 lists than a list of graduates, but he passed the unofficial prospect limit by 3 at-bats. We all know about the bat speed, raw power, and strikeouts by now, so the only questions that remain are centered on opportunity and position.
16) Orlando Arcia (#27) MIL, SS – Arcia was always a better real life than fantasy prospect, but 10+ homers, 20+ steals, and a good average is still a very realistic outcome for him. His plus defense probably pushed him to the majors before his bat was ready, as he slashed .219/.273/.358, with 4 homers, 8 steals, and a 47/15 K/BB in 55 games, but you could see the underlying skills start to bud.
17) Max Kepler (#29) MIN, OF – Like Mazara, it was a tale of two halves for Kepler. He drilled 13 homers in his first two months in the majors, and then tanked hard in the last 48 games of the season, slashing .203/.266/.273 with 2 homers and a 45/15 K/BB. His elite minor league contact numbers also escaped him, striking out 20.8% of the time. There isn’t one fantasy category you can really count on with Kepler, but his strong combination of skills makes him an enticing long term piece.
18) Jose Peraza (#44) CIN, SS/2B/OF – Proved last year that his high minor league averages will translate to the majors by hitting .324 in 72 games, but he also found stealing bases a bit more difficult since his days of stealing 60+ in A-Ball, getting caught 10 times in 31 attempts. Doesn’t have a starting spot, but is basically the top backup for every position on the field, so he should still see regular at-bats in 2017.
19) Sean Manaea (#45) OAK, LHP – Can I buy a vowel, amirite? And while you’re at it, you should probably buy some shares of Manaea for your fantasy teams too. The man they call “Baby Giraffe” had a solid MLB debut with a pitching line of 3.86/1.19/124 in 144.2 IP, and more importantly, put some injury concerns behind him by reaching a career high of 166.1 innings pitched.
20) Michael Fulmer (#82) DET, RHP – His 3.76 FIP and 3.95 xFIP are likely more representative of his true talent level than his 3.06 ERA. That’s the kind of hard hitting sabermetric analysis you can’t find anywhere else.
21) Raul Mondesi Jr. (#56) KC, SS/2B – Sneakily put together the strongest offensive season in his career in the minor leagues, slashing .268/.322/.469, with 7 homers, 24 steals, and a 60/17 K/BB in 52 games, but his eye sore of an MLB triple-slash (.185/.231/.281) has seriously overshadowed that. KC has thrown him into the deep end from day one of his professional career, so considering the raw talent and bloodlines, I’m more inclined to be encouraged by the step forward in the minors than discouraged by his MLB debut.
22) Dylan Bundy (#88) BAL, RHP – The first thing I did when I got into this 30 team Dynasty League that my Prospector in Crime, Ralph Lifshitz, roped me into was trade 4 cheap years of Bundy for Derek Fisher, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Pedro Payano. The AL East and Camden Yards is enough of a challenge to overcome without worrying about Bundy’s injury risk on top of it. Plus, in the 14 games he started last season he put up a pitching line of 4.52/1.30/72 in 71.2 IP, which certainly flashed his considerable upside, but also didn’t exactly make him untouchable on my roster. I should add that only 4 of the 12 categories are impacted by starting pitchers in this league, giving me even more incentive to move him.
23) Jon Gray (#100) COL, RHP – Coors Field: Where Aces Go To Be 4th Starters
24) Jose Berrios (#12) MIN, RHP – Disastrous MLB debut had everyone scratching their heads. There is struggling, and then there is 8.02 ERA in 14 starts struggling. Even his trademark control vanished as he walked 5.4 batters per nine innings, although, I don’t blame him for not wanting to throw the ball over the plate after giving up 11.4 hits and 1.9 homers per nine innings too. Probably nothing else you can really do but hold him at this point.
25) Archie Bradley (#83) ARI, RHP – 9.1 K/9 in 141.2 IP is his only saving grace, because the other numbers aren’t pretty. I’m a sucker for strikeout upside in fantasy, so he isn’t the worst guy to have hanging around the bottom of your roster in Dynasty Leagues.
26) Mallex Smith (#91) ATL, OF – MLB debut didn’t really move the needle much in either direction. Maintaining his solid plate approach in the majors was good to see, but as expected, his batting average plummeted without the aid of weak minor league defenders. If he can gain some strength and hit the ball with a little more authority, there is a long career as a speedy leadoff man ahead of him.
27) Jake Thompson (#80) PHI, RHP – These next three pitchers just don’t do it for me. I was relatively low on them coming into the year, and probably even lower on them now. They all have plenty of talent, so as long as they stay healthy and maintain their stuff a breakout will always be possible.
28) Aaron Blair (#81) ATL, RHP – Look up one inch.
29) Braden Shipley (#84) ARI, RHP – Look up two inches.
30) John Lamb (#40) TB, LHP – Woof. I blame the secret back surgery he had last off-season that wasn’t disclosed until spring training, but with his littered injury history to begin with, I can only blame myself.