Prospects are in the spotlight this week more than normal weeks with baseball due to the draft taking place. In fact I will not be adding the 2019 draftees to this list, this is to keep consistency between all other articles in the past. This week I will take a look at ten outfielders that I haven’t covered yet, but can potentially help your fantasy teams in the years to come. The prospects that will NOT be on this list because I have already covered them are: Kyle Tucker, Estevan Florial, Drew Waters, George Valera, Jo Adell and Yordan Alvarez.
Kristian Robinson (18 ROK ARI)
Scouting Grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 50 | Power: 60 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Robinson was signed with the Diamondbacks in 2017. The 6’3″ outfielder has a big frame and one that can fill out to a big power bat. Already ranked in the top 5 of the organization’s rankings, he should continue to move up as this isn’t the strongest prospect system. Last year in rookie ball, Robinson hit 7 HR 12 SB 48 Runs and 41 RBI while hitting .279 AVG. His power/speed is intriguing and if he can keep it going as he develops, then he can become a real asset. The bigger problem with him is strike outs. The 26.2% rate is a little high for rookie ball. If he can bring that down closer to 20%, I will be buying into Robinson more.
As for fantasy owners, Robinson may be an asset to grab. There is potential in this outfielder to be a keeper level player, but at the same time there is as much of a chance for him to strike out too much and not make adjustments. Robinson is not my favorite prospect on this list right now, but it is too early to write him off completely. He has not played yet in 2019. I assume he will be back in rookie ball and we will see how he does this season. Personally I like to see players play in full season ball before starting to make evaluations, but if Robinson can kill it in rookie ball and get promoted to full season ball then it will show what the Diamondbacks think of him. If you play in a league where you keep five or fewer prospects on a roster, I think you can wait on owning Robinson. If you play in a league where you keep closer to 10 or more, that is where I would start owning him.
Alek Thomas (19 A ARI)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 60 | Arm: 40 | Field: 60 | Overall: 50
Alek was Arizona’s second round draft pick out of high school. He is already ahead of Robinson in the system in full season A ball. Thomas does not have the size of Robinson and his grades are not overall better than his. But there is still potential for Thomas to be useful. His 5’11 frame is not optimal for a power bat, but he already has 5 home runs this season. I don’t expect Thomas to reach the 20 home run threshold; for now, expecting around 10 home runs would be ideal. We may be seeing Thomas try to hit more power this season due to a slight drop in average (.333 in 2018 to .310 in 2019) and the increase in strike out rate (13.6% in 2018 to 20% in 2019). This can be concerning depending on how the numbers look towards the end of the season. I would not call this a red flag, but possibly more of a yellow flag. Thomas’s speed is not a major asset, he stole 12 bases last season and has 5 so far, but he should be able to contribute consistently.
When I started making the list of players for this post, Alek was not on my radar. After looking into him a little, I think he can be an interesting player for fantasy owners. He will most likely never be a top player, but rather one of those guys that will be under valued and owned in most leagues. If he can keep his average around .300 his lack of power will help drive his value. At this point Thomas doesn’t need to be owned in many leagues beyond NL only with deeper prospect rosters. If you are looking for a comp, I have heard a mix of Brett Gardner and Kevin Pillar. Both are around his size, I like the comp of Pillar a little better and hopefully he will have a higher average.
Yusniel Diaz (22 A+ BAL)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 50 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Diaz was signed by the Dodgers in 2015 and was traded to the Orioles as the center piece in the Manny Machado trade last season. Once traded to Baltimore, he became the top prospect in a shallow talented system, but he struggled. His counting stats stayed solid, but his average dropped drastically from .314 to .239. We also saw his BABIP drop an entire 100 points from .360 to .267. The struggles continued this season to where he was demoted from AA to A+. In AA he was hitting .225 with only 1 home run. Since he was recently demoted, his average raised back to .273. He has no home runs or stolen bases, but it has only been 6 games at this level. Diaz’s tools show he should be solid in all areas of the game. He does not have one tool that stands out and in fantasy purposes he would contribute in all categories. So far he has not had a year where he hit more than 11 home runs or stole more than 12 bases, both of which happened last year. If he can get back on track we can expect to see someone similar to Alek Thomas, but with a lower average. Which means we can see a profile closer to Kevin Kiermaier than Kevin Pillar. I would look for something around .250 AVG 10 HR and 10 SB. Hopefully these numbers and his value can raise back to the status of a top prospect sooner than later.
This is definitely reason for concern about Diaz. Going into this season, there was a chance we could’ve seen him in an Orioles uniform in 2019. Now I do not think there is any chance of that happening. Diaz is now going backwards and needs to get back on track. As for fantasy owners that have been following him, it’s clear that he has been having a rough calendar year. His value is decreasing as time goes and we now may not see him in the majors until maybe 2020. For now, if you are going into a new league, I would leave Diaz off your radar and let his name value get him drafted by another owner while you take a prospect with a better upside.
Brennen Davis (19 A CHC)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 45 | Power: 55 | Run: 65 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Davis was the Cubs second round pick. He is gaining ground and value in the dynasty world. Last year he did not show much power, but he did show speed and patience as he stole 6 bases and walked 13.9% of the time in 18 games while also hitting with a .298 average. The Cubs challenged him and promoted Davis to start this season in A ball. So far, Davis has not only lived up to expectations, he has exceeded them and improved his stats. Through just ten games, Davis is hitting an incredible .348 with 1 HR 1 SB 2 Runs and 6 RBI. Along with that his walk rate has dropped slightly from 13.9%, but still above average at 12.5%. His strike out rate was also great last season at 16.7% and dropped this season to 12.5%. Obviously so far, Davis is outproducing his 45 grade hit tool, but not quite living up to the 55 power. This could be due to the wirey frame of 6’4″ and only 175lbs. As he fills out, we should continue to see more power come into his game. He has a long way to go, but we may be seeing the beginning of a breakout for the Cubs that can help solidify that outfield.
Davis may be a good buy low option for fantasy owners. Some owners may not be aware of Davis due to him being drafted in the second round, or that his tools are not outstanding according to some sources. Though after his first full year of pro ball in 2019 we could see Davis not only find his name on top 100 lists, but also shooting up those ranks and being called a sleeper for dynasty leagues. So I would suggest getting him and looking like one of the smartest guys in your league. There are obviously some outfielders that will reach the majors before Davis, but if you are in for the long term then Davis could be part of the next wave of top prospects with how he is producing so far.
Taylor Trammell (21 AA CIN)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 65 | Arm: 45 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60
Trammell will probably be the prospect with the highest name recognition on this list. He was drafted 35th overall in 2016. The number 2 prospect in the organization and 18th overall prospect in baseball has had an interesting journey so far. In 2017 Trammell broke out and hit .281 AVG with 13 HR 41 SB 80 Runs and 77 RBI. Ever since that year in A ball he has slowly gone down hill. The worst statistical drop may be his average. We saw a drop of 50 points over 3 years to where right now he is only hitting .238. The power, speed and average has dropped while his K rate increased 3% over the last three seasons. Now 3% may not be a lot, but going from 21.5% to 24.5% does not look good and it is clearly going in the wrong direction. Of course with the decrease of power there is a decrease of slugging, but Trammell’s on base percentage has stayed relatively consistent over the years.
Trammell needs to prove that he still has that 60 grade hit tool and get his average back over the .250 mark and obviously the higher the better. Speed is Trammell’s biggest tool for fantasy owners. Though if he cannot figure it how to get on first base he cannot steal. Trammell will be owned in your league, but if you want to trade for him you may be able drive the price down due to the points above. If you are the one who owns Trammell, I would not hit the panic button just yet. There is still a chance for him to turn it around, but if the downward trend continues then it may be hard to get equal value for him. It’s a tough spot to be in about Trammell, but hopefully can right the ship and become the fantasy outfielder we need.
Jordyn Adams (19 A LAA)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 80 | Arm: 45 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Jordyn was the Angels first round draft pick in last years draft. He has the potential to be a special player and play next to two other amazing outfielders of Adell and Trout. Adams will not be on the same track as Adell, but he will get there. In the past, many athletes coming out of high school can take longer to reach their potential than those who solely focus on baseball. This is not a bad thing, it just may take longer than we want. It did not help that Adams’ season was cut short due to a collision that broke his jaw. In his second stop of rookie ball, Adams was hitting with an average over .300. This season the Angels decided to challenge him and send him to A ball. So far there has been a mixed result. Currently Adams is striking out at a 24.8% rate. This is too high and needs to come down to allow his average to raise higher than .238 where it currently is now. The counting stats are looking good in his first taste of full season ball, 4 HR 6 SB 25 Runs and 18 RBI through 49 games.
It can be exciting to think of Adams, Trout and Adell roaming the Angels outfield. Dynasty owners that have Adams need to show some patience and understand we have someone that can have a really high ceiling, but currently also has a low floor. Where his current development is, it could be hard to imagine Adams hitting over .250 at the major league level. The counting stats I think could be there regardless. In fact I think a decent comp could be Wil Myers. Of course this could change depending on how he continues to progress through the major leagues. The potential is there and some fantasy owners are already on board including myself, but we also have to be realistic with the floor that comes along with the ceiling of a talent of Jordyn Adams.
Trevor Larnach (22 A+ MIN)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 55 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Trevor was also drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft and has been put on the fast track to Minnesota. Last year he played in rookie ball and A ball where he combined for 5 home runs and hitting over .300 through 175 plate appearances. This season Larnach has started the season in A+ ball and has hit 5 HR with an average over .300 again. The power is not as high as people could hope, but the average staying constant. He is 22, so there is obviously room for him to grow and hit more homers. Standing at 6’4″ and weighing in at 220lbs means he has the frame for more power, it may just be he needs time to adjust and find his power stroke against professional pitching.
As a fantasy owner, it can be hard to see exactly what Larnach’s peak power numbers would look like. As he continues to develop and play we may be able to see just how much power is currently in that bat. On the positive, the hit tool has played well enough to raise his overall floor. Larnach should be able to hit with a good average at the major league level. If I were looking to acquire Larnach, I would not be selling the farm to do so. He may be able to reach the majors next season, but most likely by 2021. Even when he reaches the majors it may be a few years before the power completely comes into play and hopefully the average will not be drastically sacrificed to do so.
Travis Swaggerty (21 A+ PIT)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
To continue the streak of last year’s first round draft picks, we will now look to Travis Swaggerty. Travis was a college bat drafted 10th overall by the Pirates. Assigned to A- ball coming out of the draft, Travis impressed to show power and speed with an average over .280. Then in a very small sample of A ball, his average dropped way below .200 and he struck out 25.4% of his at bats. This season he brought his average back to .241 which still isn’t impressive, but better than below .200. The counting stats have continued with 5 HR 10 SB 33 Runs and 19 RBI. The major problem with Travis’s game is the swing and miss. He has struck out at least 22.3% of the time at each level so far.
The problem for fantasy owners is that Swaggerty’s glove will be ready before the bat. He stole 9 bases last year and already has 10 this season. The speed also helps him in the outfield. Swaggerty has a decent enough arm to stay in center. For fantasy owners we could probably see Swaggerty as early as 2021. I could see a time when the Pirates call him up more for his defense than offense and hope he adjusts to major league pitching. Personally I am not sure how much I trust Travis right now enough to trade for him. If you drafted him especially in FYPD (first year player drafts) I would at least hold on for now and see how he does by the end of the season before making any moves. He has one of the more recognizable names from last year’s draft, if you can use that to your advantage to trade him away then I would do it.
Jarred Kelenic (19 A+ SEA)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Kelenic finishes the streak of 2018 first round draft picks as he was the 6th overall pick by the New York Mets. He was then traded this past winter as the centerpiece of the Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano deal. Mets fans were happy getting those two players, but did not love giving up Kelenic to do so. The five tool outfielder may be my favorite on this list. Coming into this season he was already ranked within top 50 overall prospects at number 41 and within the top 10 of the position at number 9. This season he had a hot start at A ball, hitting .309 with 11 HR 7 SB 33 Runs and 29 RBI. That type of production earned him a promotion to A+ ball. If he can continue to produce and earn a promotion to AA, that would move up his timeline of reaching the majors tremendously. As of right now I would expect Kelenic to reach the majors in 2021.
If I own Kelenic I would be excited and not looking to trade him unless someone is willing to overpay by a lot. Kelenic could be the big piece here and is looking like Kyle Tucker in AAA from last year. He could be leading the next wave of outfielders. With that, if you do not own Kelenic and want to, you will definitely have to pay for him. Looking forward none of the Seattle outfielders (Mallex Smith, Mitch Haniger and Domingo Santana) are close to getting off the books, but we know the Mariners never shy away from a trade. By the time Kelenic is ready, there will be a spot open for him.
Leody Taveras (20 A+ TEX)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 55 | Power: 40 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 65 | Overall: 50
Taveras is the guy on the list that is the buy low option. The switch hitting outfielder was drafted by Texas in 2015. In 2017 Leody showed the skills to possibly become a big time outfielder prospect. The plus speed would lead the way along with 8 HR in A ball. The average was not the best, but he was only striking out 15.9% of the time and there was potential to improve the .249 average. Then last season in A+ Taveras put up very similar numbers to 2017 and scouts started to worry if he could potentially hit at the major league level with a respectable average. This season his average is at .309 and already at 18 stolen bases where his previous high was 20 over a season. The power has been minimal (2HR), but being only 20 there is time for him to develop at least 10 HR potential at the major league level. The peak I could realistically see for Taveras would be 10 HR with 30 SB and a decent average. That can most certainly be useful for fantasy owners in the future.
Taveras dropped out of MLB.com’s top 100 prospects and would most likely be towards the bottom if he is on other websites lists. This drop off is exactly where you can buy low. This buy would be more for dynasty owners than keeper leagues. Worst case I think Taveras can become Delino DeShields. Someone with minimal power, good speed but struggles getting on base.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show: Join host Brian Roach, Jr, and Cole Freel live on Sunday June 2nd, 2019 from 8pm-9:30pm EST for episode #164 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. We will discuss spot starters for the coming week, plus a weekend update, and look ahead to next week.
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show Episode #167, 6/23/2019 Host Brian Roach, Jr., Co-Host Cole Freel, Guest Kevin Bzdek
Major League Fantasy Baseball Show Episode #169, 8/4/2019 Host Cole Freel, Guest Joe Iannone
@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.