Last January, I set out into the backwoods of the internet on a mission to find the next A.J. Reed, like random guys on the History Channel go into the real woods searching for Big Foot. Only difference is, I found him (actually, I found two of them). Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals, was the first to reveal himself to the world, dominating Double-A from the word go. He is currently triple-slashing .312/.363/.549, with 13 homers, and 7 steals in 54 games. And now, Willie Calhoun, Los Angeles Dodgers, is having a coming out party of his own, smashing two more homers last night, bringing his triple-slash up to .271/.338/.493, with 10 homers, and a 29/19 K/BB in 55 games at Double-A. It turns out that finding underrated prospects might be easier than finding a mythical beast. Nonetheless, Calhoun has been on fire of late, and he has officially graduated from a sleeper, to a breakout.
Willie got off to a slow start this season, hitting bottom in mid-May, which prompted me to label him a 2016 Top 100 Fantasy Prospect Faller (he “fell” to top 60-ish overall, which was still much higher than where anyone else had him). He must have taken that criticism to heart, because he has hit like a man possessed since then, slashing .329/.400/.696, with 8 homers, and a 12/10 K/BB in 22 games. Those numbers are exactly in line with what he did last year in the lower levels of the minors, and his combination of power and contact skills can rival any prospect right now. Check out this homer he hit earlier this year in late April. He was off balance and didn’t even get all of it, yet he still smoked a line drive which left the park. That is the perfect example of his bat to ball skills and easy power.
The biggest issue with Calhoun is his defense. Los Angeles is attempting to turn him into a second baseman, but the reports have been less than glowing so far. That isn’t exactly unexpected, though, as I assumed he was going to end up in the outfield when I ranked him #43 overall in my pre-season top 100. Scouts have also dinged him for what they like to call a lack of “physicality,” which is the politically correct way of saying they think the 5’8’’, 187-pound Calhoun is too small. I’ve ignored that criticism from the beginning, as bat speed is much more important in generating power than size, and Calhoun has top end bat speed.
With Calhoun and Bader both currently destroying Double-A, I can officially call my off-season hunting expedition a rousing success. I recently cashed in Bader as part of a deal for 4 cheap years of Yu Darvish, as hard as it was to part with him. Unfortunately for me, finding Big Foot would have come with a reward for up to $10 million, which after doing a few quick calculations, turns out to be slightly more valuable than owning Darvish in fantasy. Maybe I should strap on the real hiking boots next off-season.
By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)