Welcome back, Baseball Fans!!!
What an exciting season so far! Three No-hitters through six weeks. Yankees erase a 7 1/2 game deficit in the AL East to take sole possession of 1st place. Atlanta and Philadelphia are both STILL ahead of the Nationals in the standings. Next, I’m expecting the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse to be riding in with some jacked up plagues. Prospects are being promoted left and right. Many of them are kicking ass and taking names. Times are very different than when I was growing up. Fans and fantasy owners are screaming for top specs to be promoted right out of AA because they have a hot start. Despite players moving faster through the farm systems, there is still a strategy and logistics that need to be considered. MLB clubs don’t give a damn about your fantasy teams and they are still in the business of protecting their assets. That being said, it is even more important than ever that we familiarize ourselves with prospects, especially deeper prospects before they are on everyone’s radar and stashed on fantasy teams.
This week we continue our journey around the upper divisions of the minor leagues with a stop in the Texas League. Like the last two AA level (Eastern, Southern) leagues we discussed, the Texas League is split into two divisions (North & South) but it is a smaller league with only four teams in each division. We are going to look at a former high draft pick that hadn’t lived up to expectations and a fast-rising Cuban import.
Josh Naylor, 1B (SD)
Age: 20 DOB: 06/22/1997; Height: 5′ 11″ Weight: 250 lb.
Bats: L Throws: L
Drafted: 2015, 1st (12) – MIA
Acquired: 2016, Trade – MIA (Andrew Cashner, Tayron Guerrero)
I was one of the biggest critics of the Marlins when they selected Josh Naylor #12 overall in the 2015 MLB draft. I wrote on this site how it was the biggest reach of any NL East teams that season. Well, the Marlins agreed soon after as they shipped his ass out to SD the next year after an underwhelming start to his pro ball career and a stupid prank he pulled that got a teammate hurt. San Diego had just switched gears to start acquiring as much developmental talent as possible for a rebuild. Plus side … raw power. Downside … an overweight, defensive liability that never finds his game power. He was drafted out of high school (Canada) despite being immature and raw, but the Marlins saw potential. He jumped on to Top 100 lists the following off-season but quickly began to see his stock drop after this prank and uneven performance in A Ball wasn’t worth the headache. He wasn’t getting on base and a .161 ISO was not cutting it for the one tool, plus power hitter. San Deigo was willing to take the risk and has begun to reap the benefits for their patience. First off, he is more athletic than his 250 lbs. 5’11” frame suggests. He’s not fast but sneaky as he flirted with double-digit SB last year and actually managed to snag 11 bases in 2016. He also began to flash a hit tool in his first full season in the Padres organization. He has a patient approach at the plate (perhaps too patient) with good bat speed and control. He will take a walk (8.81% walk rate in 2017). Although he will swing and miss, he is definitely in an acceptable range for a power hitter (17.21% K rate in 2017). Despite these improvements, the team had to be frustrated with the lack of power. He managed only 12 HRs in 2016 and 10 in 2017. The power numbers were too low for a power hitter and his prospect stock continued to drop despite the improved hit tool.
He was sent back to AA, San Antonio to start the 2018 season after 42 games there to end the 2017 season. Immediately, things have begun to click. He is crushing the pitching in the Texas League so far this season to the tune of .370/.456/.630 slash line with a .260 ISO and 1.086 OPS. Finally, we see what the Marlins saw during his 2015 Canadian National Team display of incredible power. Last season, he had 10 HRs in 488 PA and so far in 2018, he has hit 8 HRs in just 149 PA. He has shown power to all fields and walked more than he struck out ([19:15]). It is still early, but perhaps he can be more than a platoon power bat. I expect him to get moved up to AAA at some point this season and if he continues to display in-game power, hit tool and plate discipline, he will shoot back up the prospect lists this off-season. What can still derail him is his defense. He is limited to 1B or DH and is blocked at the Major League level by Eric Hosmer for the next century. Their best play could be to flip him for a much better haul than they gave for him. He has the potential to be a Top 15 1B if he can reach his potential of 30 HRs and .275 avg on a constant basis. He could see the Majors in 2019 if traded or to cover injuries, but may not have a clear path to playing time until 2020 or beyond unless traded. I am keeping him on my radar for sure this year as his price likely goes up next year.
Yordan Alvarez, 1B-OF (HOU)
Age: 20 DOB: 06/27/1997; Height: 6′ 5″ Weight: 225 lb.
Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: June 15, 2016 – LAD
Acquired: 2016, Trade – LAD (Josh Fields)
Alvarez came over from Cuba and has immediately hit at every level. He leveled out a little at High A last year bit showed enough to earn a promotion to AA out of camp. Alvarez is similar to Naylor and totally different at the same time. His body frame is completely opposite at an intimidating 6’5″ but roughly 25 lbs less than Naylor. His scouting report shows above-average hit and power tools with plus power potential. The Dodgers gave him away for some mediocre bullpen help because they felt they were stacked at OF in there system. I love Verdugo, but Pederson looks like he will be a career platoon guy and Puig is inconsistent. They probably should have hung on to this potential star. 2017 was his first full season of pro ball and he did not disappoint. He showed off his hit tool, ability to get on base and make contact. He just scratched the surface with HR power (12) but added 20 more extra-base hits for a respectable .859 OPS. Everything else is there, the power will come with reps and preparation. On defense, he should be the everyday LF for the Astros as soon as they are ready for him. His glove is average but his arm will likely limit him to LF. With Springer entrenched in CF and Kyle Tucker soon ready for RF, the Astros will have one of the most exciting young outfields in the game. They are well equipped to turn this recent success into a dynasty. He can also play 1B if they decide to move on from the 34-year-old Yuli Gurriel in the near future.
So how has he fared so far in 2018? His numbers are not as gaudy as Naylor, but he is turning heads. Assigned to AA, Corpus Christi, out of camp, he is hovering around .300 and getting on base at a 37% clip. 14 extra-base hits including six HRs in 123 PA is good for a .243 ISO. He is continuing to walk (11.4%) with an acceptable K rate (19.5%) for a power hitter. The question really becomes whether or not true power develops over this year. I would speculate that Houston keeps him in AA for the season to continue to develop in-game power and get the exposure to talented pitchers. He has plus bat speed and strength and with his frame, the HRs will come. I can easily see him hitting 30 HRs per season in his prime years. His stats could mirror that of Naylor but long term I think Alvarez has a high ceiling. He also has a clearer path to playing time in the Majors once Houston feels he is ready. With Reddick in tow, there is no rush. Target him in keeper and dynasty leagues with an ETA of mid-to-late 2019, but 2020 is likely when he begins to make an impact on fantasy teams.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday May 6th, 2018 from 8-9:30pm EST for episode #119 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will discuss the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Kyle Klinker. Kyle has been an owner in MLFS baseball, and basketball leagues for over 5 years. He also has a couple of championships under his belt over that span in some tough leagues. We loving refer to him as “The Red Rocket.”