My favorite part of fantasy baseball is trying to uncover the next big thing before it’s the next big thing. Sometimes this is a strategy. Sometimes it’s a late-blooming major leaguer who is just putting it together. Sometimes it’s a guy who’s finally just getting things to break his way. Often times, it’s a prospect.
Prospects are an interesting thing to discuss. There are a thousand and one ways to look at an evaluate prospects. Well, maybe not a thousand and one, but at least two. You have two extremes: raw upside or immediate impact. Some guys are willing to add rookie leaguers having a big year (cough, Wander Franco, cough) and wait it out. Some guys don’t want to bake a cake for 3 years to have dessert. Instead, they want the pop tart that can be ready from the toaster in two minutes. Er, ok, bad analogy. But many a fantasy owner care more about who can impact the major league roster in the upcoming season and don’t care about the long term.
I tried to sprinkle a little of both here. The first two guys are ready to make more of an immediate impact, even if the position they’ll play may be a bit fuzzy. One of those two is a top 20 prospect nearly everywhere you look, he’s definitely a known quantity. In re-draft leagues, he definitely has a shot to contribute this year. The other 3 are prospects that could end up being nice dynasty league assets and should come at a pretty low price. One even has a realistic shot to contribute this year, also.
Alright, alright. This is cheating a bit. Dubon is more well known as a middle infielder, but there’s a future in centerfield at Miller Park for this kid. Dubon doesn’t get much love in fantasy/prospect circles. He’s not especially big, may never have a lot of power, and he doesn’t walk much. Right now he’s probably most well known as “the other guy that went to Milwaukee in the Tyler Thornburg trade.” Milwaukee has already won big money on that deal with how Shaw has performed, and Dubon looks poised to add to the value Milwaukee received.
One of the things I really like about Dubon is he’s pretty close to being major league ready. Honestly, we probably would have seen him up last fall had he not suffered a devastating knee injury before he was even 30 games deep in AAA. Dubon was slashing a very nice .343/.348/.574 in 27 games, with 6 steals and 15 extra base hits (4 for home runs). Hiura gets a lot of notice for being the future 2B in Milwaukee, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Dubon is the guy we see manning the keystone in 2020. Mauricio puts the ball in play and can run. How much he’s affected by his knee injury from last season could wreak havoc on his future but, given the potential for 40 stolen bases and double-digit homers, I’d keep tabs on him. Think Mallex Smith type numbers with the chance for measurably more pop.
This is my list. I want to keep listing infielders on my top outfielder to watch lists, so sue me.
Ok, really now. Calm down. Breathe. Yeah, Senzel may end up at 2B, SS, or 3B. Yeah, Cincinnati brought in two outfielders (or one outfielder and a DH who impersonates an outfielder, cough Kemp cough). Right now it’s hard to see where Senzel may fit given the team had a few decent OF options on its roster already before the trade with the Dodgers. We may very well see a lot
of Philip Ervin or Scott Schebler in Great American Ballpark this year. Winker and Puig are going to handle a lot of outfield duties. Kemp will get at-bats (whether he should, I question). So, yeah, he’s blocked, but it’s not by much.
A strong spring could catapult him into the opening day lineup. It’s possible but improbable. Various injuries have slowed his development (wrist injury, vertigo), but he’s been a real asset when on the field. His prospect ranking in lists across interwebs is very strong, so he won’t come cheap, but in re-draft leagues, he could be a late round pick that doesn’t sit for long on your bench before he gets a shot. Michael Brantley type numbers are within reach here.
Finally, an actual outfielder! Cameron has spent time on some of the more popular top 100 lists, but it’s been a couple of years since he has been featured on one. Suddenly, it feels a bit aggressive to be thinking about a guy like Daz for 2019. However, there are a couple of factors to consider here. One, his parent club (Detroit) is going to be bad. Really, really bad. That could persuade them to call him up so he can get some seasoning at the MLB level. This could persuade Detroit to hold Cameron 2.0 down to squeeze out all of the team control they can. Two, he’s young and could use more minor league seasoning. Three, he doesn’t have the strongest track record in terms of past minor league performance. Daz’s batting average is not the strongest (well, mid-.260’s-.270 isn’t the worst, either), and he walks enough to keep the OBP healthy. Cameron doesn’t really have a ton of pop, but he profiles as a guy that could stumble into 20 homer power. Daz is also a candidate to run, and 30 swipes on the year wouldn’t be a shock.
The one thing that’s going to really help Cameron is he’s a great defender (that’s how I understand it, I don’t really sit around and watch the Mud Hens duke it out every chance I get). The defensive strength will keep a spot for him on a major league roster. It’s not likely we see Cameron in 2019, but given he’s already in AAA, and no one is blocking him in the majors, the Tigers may very well surprise fantasy owners and give him a shot. This is more of a monitor-and-see-what-happens kinda guy, for now.
The curious case of Austin Hays. Hays was an extremely strong hitter in 2017 across multiple levels in the minor leagues. I tend to take minor league power numbers with a grain of salt (as well as batting averages) when they are super gaudy. These can be very league dependent. In 128 MiLB games in 2017, Hays threw down 32 homers, 37 additional extra-base hits, and a .329 AVG (to go with a .365 OBP and .593 SLG). Great numbers regardless of the league. Hays didn’t strike out a ton, but he swung a lot (only 25 free passes). In the end, Baltimore called him up. Hays was, in a word: bad.
Turn the page to 2018, back in AA (and eventually demoted to A-), Hays didn’t show much. I still believe Hays is a player that can have a solid major league career. He isn’t blocked in the bigs, he’ll be hitting in a good hitters park, and he doesn’t really struggle to put the ball in play. I always question how a player can be affected by too aggressive of a promotion to The Show. It feels like that’s what happened here given how his numbers dropped hard after two seasons of solid output. I don’t know if he’s pressing at the plate or what’s going on (or maybe he’s just bad, I guess there’s that). But for what Hays costs, and what he can give a team, he’s worth a stash in the deepest of leagues.
Eddy Osnay Diaz (known henceforth as El Rapido) might be really good. Ok, he is really good, but he might be really good in the majors one day. El Rapido is a guy you want to stash on a long term dynasty list. You won’t find El Rapido on any top prospect lists anywhere unless those lists include the top few hundred guys. Right now he’s a second base prospect for the Rockies. The dude can flat fly (hence the name) and would be a loved by pitchers if he were to roam centerfield one day. I hate drawing parallels from one player to another, but will as generalities for what kind of player I think someone can be (sometimes). This dude screams Billy Hamilton-but-can-actually-get-on-base to me. I want to see how El Rapido fairs in the actual MLB minor leagues. In the foreign rookie league (not that these stats mean much) he’s had a strong BA, walked far more than he’s K’d, and stole nearly a base per game (84 stolen bases in 87 games).
This is a dynasty league stash where your league rosters upwards of 200 prospects. I include him here because an unknown now, but with massive upside. He’ll only be 19 this season and has yet to play A ball. He’s shown very little pop. There’s a lot that can go wrong and he may be a guy we never see play an MLB game. He may never have a lot of home run power, but the few clips I’ve seen of him show me a guy who isn’t just a slap hitter.
Watch this clip and see what you think. He gets down 0-2, works the count full (ok, hard to call it working the count when the next pitches are thrown in another area code, but I digress) and drives a full count pitch the other way. This was not a cheap swing (fast forward to [1:50] for you impatient types).
Prospect hoarding is a gambler’s game. Keep pumping nickels into that machine; one day you hit the 7-7-7.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join Corey D Roberts, and Kyle Amore on Thursday February 14th, 2019 from 8pm – 9:45pm EST for the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. Call in number is 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. Our topic for tonight will be the A.L. Central.
Be sure to check out our Sunday night show February 17th from 8pm to 9:45pm EST. They will cover the N.L. Central.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday February 17th, 2019 from 8-9:45pm EST for episode #138 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. You can listen live on blogtalk, majorleaguefantasysports.com, or download the podcast on I-Tunes or any Android podcast app. This week we will break down the N.L. Central.