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 them one last time for Dynasty Leagues:
*Off-Season top 100 rank in parenthesis
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 – 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. He 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.
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.