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2015 May Pop Up Guys

“Pop-up guys” is a scouting phrase that is used this time of year to refer to players in which the general public has little to no knowledge, but are now considered legitimate prospects for the first-year-player-draft.   Since I primarily scout players already in professional ball, I’m going to profile 13 players that are my professional “Pop-up guys”.

This list is a combination of players that are already on the prospect landscape but have jump substantially in status or are not yet household names and should be.  It should be noted that we are not necessarily high on all these players but each has made substantial noise in the early going of the season.


Ozhaino Albies (SS, Atl, Low-A)

Ozhaino Albies got a ton of helium over the off-season and despite being a young 18-years-old (he turned 18 in January), the Braves challenged him to a full season assignment in Rome.  He hasn’t disappointed slashing .307/.366/.393 in 34 games.

Albies calling card is his ability to make contact with an approach that is beyond his years.  He has plus speed that combined with his ability to get on base, makes him an ideal top-of-the-order hitter.  Currently there is very little power in the diminutive shortstop, but he has plenty of bat speed that should eventually allow him to hit 5 to 10 home runs as he matures.

If you’re worried about Albies being blocked at shortstop, don’t.  First, he’s at least two to three away from the Braves having to make a decision and his defensive ability will easily transition to second.  In fact, the profile reminds me of another diminutive second baseman playing in South Texas.

Alex Reyes (RHP, STL, High-A)

I aggressively ranked Alex Reyes number one on the St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 in hopes that his control would improve to justify the ranking.  While there is still work to be done, he’s shown at time the ability to throw strikes over the course of an entire game.   While the 5.09 BB/9 rate would make you question that statement, it’s more about his mechanics breaking down than something fundamentally wrong with his delivery.

The athleticism is clearly there and once his control catches up, Reyes has the stuff to make him a top-of-the-rotation mainstay.  He has a powerful fastball/curve ball combination that has dominated Florida State League hitters throughout the early going.  While his fastball sits 94 to 96 MPH, he can ramp it up to the upper nineties when needed.  The results have been impressive.  In 35.1 innings, he’s given up 19 hits while striking out 58.

In addition to the Cardinals working on Reyes control, they have also been working with him on his change-up. The early results have been encouraging with one source telling me that the arm speed between his fastball and change-up is hard to distinguish.  The scout threw a future 60 plus on the offering.

It’s going to come down to Reyes ability to control his arsenal.  If he can’t, he could wind up in the pen with an arsenal to be a dominate closer.  However, the Cardinals will continue to work with him and given his athleticism, I think he’ll remain a starter, and if it comes together, it could be very special.

Orlando Arcia (SS, Mil, Double-A)

Everyone is talking about three minor league shortstops that could make significant impact to their teams this year or next.  Of course, those players are: Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and Corey Seager.  However, I contend that 20-year-old Orlando Arcia is not that far behind the “Big Three” and deserves more attention.

As one of the youngest players in the Southern League, Arcia has been impressive; posting a .901 OPS in 36 games.  His 10K/11BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 133 at-bats is quite impressive and demonstrates Arcia’s ability to make contact.  While he’ll have below average power, he should be able to hit five to eight home runs at the highest level with plenty of doubles.  Arcia is not a burner but has excellent base running skills with the ceiling of 25 to 30 stolen bases.

Arcia is not the far away from making his big league debut.  Of course, the Brewers already have a young shortstop under team control in Jean Segura.  However, Arcia is a better defender and I could easily see the Brewers moving Segura to second base in 2016 once Arica is ready to make his big league debut.

Brett Phillips (OF, Hou, High-A)

Brett Phillips is a baseball player.  He’s going to be the guy on the front of the media guide (oh wait that’s Jose Altuve), ok…back of the guide, because he’ll quickly become a fan favorite.  He plays the game with tons of energy and is literally all over the field.  That said, Phillips also has plenty of tools.  In fact, you can argue that Phillips is a five-tool player with the only tool that might not be above-average is his power.

Phillips has a short compact swing that is built for contact.  He’s been more aggressive this year with only eight walks in 147 at-bats.   However, his 82% contact rate and .885 OPS shows the kind of hard contact he’s been making.  While he has plus speed, it’s not shown up on the bases as he’s only four out of nine in stolen base attempts.  What he has shown is five home runs in 35 games.  While some of that is likely Lancaster-induced, it does show the potential that Phillips has long-term.

The Astros are aggressively promoting players and this will have a trickle down affect throughout the organization.  That should be good news for Phillips as he should see Double-A in the second half with a chance to see Houston in 2016.  He could also be an interesting trade chip if the Astros remain competitive through the summer.

Edwin Diaz (RHP, Sea, High-A/Double-A)

Taken in the third round of the 2012 first year player draft, Edwin Diaz convinced the Seattle brass that he deserved a promotion to Double-A after completely dominating the California League.  In seven starts, he struck out 42 while walking nine and posting a 1.70 ERA.  He did avoid the brutal southern circuit on the Cali League that includes the difficult pitching environments of Lancaster and High Desert.  That said, he was arguably the top pitcher in the league and deserved the promotion.

While it was only one outing, Diaz pitched poorly.  His control that had been so good in High-A vanished and when you put players on base, they have a tendency to score.  It was one outing, so I’m not worried and neither are the Mariners.

Diaz has good stuff as his fastball hits the mid-90’s regularly but generally sits 92 to 94 MPH.  His slider is his primary out-pitch, although he’s throwing a lot more change-ups and consequently the pitch has taken a major step-up.  While the arsenal is good, what makes Diaz effective is his low three-quarters delivery.  Batters, particularly, right-handed batters do not pick up the delivery well.  While there is deception, many times pitchers with a lower delivery wind up in the pen.  I doubt the Mariners will make that decision this year or next as they will continue to develop him as a starter.


Jose De Leon (RHP, LAD, High-A/Double-A)

As of this writing, Jose De Leon has just been promoted to Double-A.  It was clearly well deserved as the 6-foot-2 right-hander from Southern College was nearly unhittable in his 37.2 innings in the California League posting a 1.67 ERA with a ridiculous 58K/8BB strikeout-to-walk ratio.  While you do expect a college pitcher to be effective against High-A batters, it does come as a surprised given De Leon’s 24th round selection in the 2013 first year player draft.

De Leon was an effective college pitcher, posting a 3.50 ERA and over a strikeout an inning.  However, he struggled with his control at times and walked over 3.50 per nine.  The stuff was ok with his fastball tapping out at 93 to 94 MPH with fringy secondary pitches.  Two years latter, he’s developed better mechanics which has allowed his fastball to tick up a grade with much improved secondary pitches.  The fastball now routinely sits 92 to 94 MPH with a lot of natural sinking movement.

For more information, read my first hand scouting report.

Chih-Wei Hu (RHP, Min, High-A)

Chih-Wei Hu is one of those players I love to write about, primarily because nobody has heard about him.  Signed out of Taiwan by the Twins in 2012, Hu has made impressive strides this year to completely dominate the Florida State League.  In 35.0 innings, he’s given up 23 hits while striking out 36 and walking only six.

Hu is a sturdy 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds with a three, perhaps a four pitch mix if you separate his change-up from his splitter.  His fastball sits 91 to 93 MPH but when he needs something extra, can dial it up to 95 MPH.  Despite being only 6-foot-1, he does get decent plane on the pitch and is able to locate it in the bottom half of the zone.  He throws an 11 to 5 curve ball that grades out as above-average because he’s able to effectively throw it for strikes.  His money pitch is a plus, perhaps double-plus change-up/splitter.  It’s the pitch that had Florida State League batters swinging and missing with regularity.

The potential warning sign for Hu is that the prospect landscape is littered with young pitchers who dominated the lower minors with a plus change-up, only to fail once they are promoted.  However, the splitting action that he gets on the change-up is really hard to pick-up and after seeing him live, I think it will play once promoted to Double-A.  When will that be?  You have to think very soon.

I’ve added Hu to all of my Dynasty Leagues and suggest you do the same.  People are always looking for sleepers…well, here you go.

Blake Snell (LHP, TB, High-A/Double-A)

What’s been the more impressive stat this year, Manny Margot going 68 plate appearances before striking out, or Blake Snell pitching 46 innings without giving up a run?  It’s a tough call, but as of this writing Snell has still yet to give up a run and has been one of the more talked about prospects over the past two weeks.

I was on Snell when he was drafted in the Supplemental first round in 2011 and added him to all of my Dynasty Leagues.  Of course, I grew weary of the slow roasting process the Rays employ with their prospects and dropped him last year.  Clearly a bad move but the performance really wasn’t there as well.  Snell always had a good arm with a sinking fastball that creates a ton of ground ball and a plus slider that can get plenty of swings and misses.  What’s improved in 2014 is Snell’s feel for pitching, including his pitch sequencing.  He has a game plan on the mound, studies batters tendency and is making the necessary pitches.

Snell will eventually give up runs and the control is still not plus, or even above average.  However, with his improved pitchability and plus work ethic, he has a chance to be a solid mid-rotation starter.  When will he make his way to the majors?  It’s the Rays, so it will be at least 2016, if not 2017.


Dustin Peterson (OF, Atl, High-A)

Better known as the younger brother of Seattle prospect D.J. Peterson, Dustin is showing signs of growing into a legitimate major league prospect.  Traded as part of the deal that brought Justin Upton to the Padres, the Braves quickly moved Peterson off the dirt and into the outfield after committing 38 errors in 301 chances in 2014.

He’s likely a left fielder and therefore he’s going to have to hit to make it to the majors.  He has the swing path, size and bat control to profile as an above-average hitter with above-average future power.  He’s also shown a more patient approach so far this year, walking 14 times in 120 plate appearances while striking out 21 times.

He did start off hot last year as well before posting a pedestrian .635 OPS in the Midwest league.  It’s for that reason that I would put Peterson on my radar with a potential pickup in late June for deep Dynasty League only.

Jake Bauers (1B, TB, High-A)

Jake Bauers made my “Kids that can really hit” article last year and guess what…he can really hit.  Now part of the Rays organization, Bauers has a 21K/19BB strikeout-to-walk ratio in 143 plate appearances.  He’s also doing it as the second youngest player in the Florida State League.

I compared Bauers to a James Loney type of player with the big question around how much power he will develop.  It’s still an open question, but so far he’s slugging .459, which is good for tenth in the league with four home runs.

Brent Honeywell (RHP, TB, Low-A)

While most prospect watchers have noticed what Tampa Ray farm hand Blake Snell has been doing this year, they might be overlooking how effective Brent Honeywell has been in Low-A.

Selected in the Supplemental Second Round of the 2014 first year player draft, Honeywell has been very effective in his 38 innings in Bowling Green.  He’s struck out 46, walked a mere seven batters while giving up 20 hits.  While he’s a college pitcher, albeit junior college, his stuff is too advanced for Low-A hitters and he needs to be promoted to High-A to see how his stuff will play to more advanced hitters.

I do have some concerns about his arsenal.  While he has a quality 91 to 94 MPH fastball with an above-average, if not plus slider, he pitches up in the zone as is evidence by his 0.93 ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio.  This might work in the lower minors, but it could eventually catch up to him, particularly as his velocity settles as he matures.


Trevor Story (SS, Col, Double-A)

I had a chance to see Trevor Story play multiple times across 2013 and 2014 and it wasn’t good.  He really struggled picking up spin and the pop that I had heard about, just wasn’t there.  I did like the athleticism and his ability to pick-it at short, so I did not write him off, but he fell off my Top 100 list.

Promoted to Double-A, Story has had a resurgence this year.  The power that scouts thought would develop is in fact starting to emerge.  In the early going, he’s slugging .615 with five home runs in 35 games in the Eastern League.  He’s also added six stolen bases.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that he’s still striking out a lot.  In 129 at-bats, he’s struck out 41 times for a 69% contact rate.  Through the magic of Batting Average of Balls in Play, his batting average is .349, but it comes with an unsustainable .465 BABIP.

I’m still torn on Story.  I think the upside is a 20 home run, 15 stolen base, shortstop but it could come with a .240 batting average and a sub .300 on base percentage.  If that happens, he will struggle with playing time with a Danny Espinosa type of career on the horizon.  That’s a good player, but not an impact player.

Mason Williams (OF, NYY, Double-A)

I’ll admit that I gave up on Mason Williams in my Dynasty League.  I’d seen him so many times that I grew weary of the lack of energy and tools that just seem to be wasting.  After seeing him twice this year, I’ve started to come around and think that he still has a chance to be a regular contributor at the major league level.

Williams still has the tools that I fell in love with several years ago.  He has plus speed, can really go get it in center field, with a decent approach that’s always allowed him to make good contact.  He showed improved bat control and improved energy in all aspects of the game.  What is still missing is the ability to make hard contact.  In fact, in 32 games, he has five extra base hits.  He has strength, it’s just that his swing lacks incorporating his lower half.

That said, he makes this list because he was once an elite prospect and I think he’s showing signs of life.


April Scouting Notes

The minor league season is in full swing, although I’m tired of wearing my knit hat to games.  Maybe I should pull a Maddon and wear my ski cap over my baseball hat.

Enjoy this week’s scouting reports…

Manuel Margot (Bos, OF)

In my Top 10 write-up of Manuel Margot, I suggested Margot could “get on the Mookie Betts train” and move quickly through the minors.  After seeing him first hand in the second week of the season, I stand by that statement whole heartedly.

The natural bat-to-ball skills are clearly evident when Margot steps into the box.  He covers middle-in exceptional well with the only hole that I saw being sliders down and away.  While better pitching could eventually expose this, for now, it’s all systems go as is evidence by him going 16 games before striking out.

Margot has gotten noticeably stronger since I saw him last year.  At 5-foot-11 and a listed 170 pounds, he’s developing enough strength to project to average future power.  That said, the swing is more line drive oriented, but with his premium bat speed, the power should come.

I was unable to get Margot on a good time to first, but reports still have him with well above, if not plus speed.  That speed is clearly evident in the field as he’s able to use that in addition to excellent routes to track down most anything hit near him.

While only 20-years-old, Margot has an excellent chance to finish the season in Double-A which will likely lead to an invite to the Arizona Fall League.  The larger question might be will those promotions come in a Red Sox uniform?  Margot has the talent to be a first division regular in center field, but center as well as left and right are blocked for the foreseeable future in Boston.   Couple that with Boston’s clear need for starting pitcher and Margot seems to be the perfect piece to build a trade around that would land a premier pitcher such as Cole Hamels.  While the Phillies might have asked for Betts over the winter, I think they will quickly turn their attention to Margot, who could be as good if not better than the Sox current center fielder.

Dylan Bundy (Bal, RHP)

It seems like another lifetime that Dylan Bundy was the best pitching prospect in the game.  In fact, it’s been two years since Bundy hit the minor league DL with arm trouble that eventually led to Tommy John Surgery.

I’ve now seen Bundy twice since he has returned from surgery and he is nearly back to the form he was pre-surgery.  The arm strength has almost fully returned as his fastball is sitting 93-94 MPH and topping out at 96.  His secondary pitches also look sharp with his cutter in particularly showing a lot of swing and miss.

The Orioles still have Bundy on a very strict pitch count and innings limit but I expect as the weather improves, the Orioles will start to stretch him out during the month of May.  Assuming he’s healthy, he could join the Orioles rotation in June.

Jose De Leon (LAD, RHP)

I had a chance to catch Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Jose De Leon in his second outing of the season, a cold affair against the Inland Empire 66er’s in San Bernardino California.

It was my first time seeing the 6-foot-2 righty and I came away incredibly impressed.  While he’s not an imposing presence on the mound, he pitches very aggressively and is not afraid to pound batters inside with a fastball that he can run up to 96 MPH.  Through his four innings, his fastball sat 92-94 MPH with hard sinking downward movement.  He seemed to lose his mechanics in the fourth inning and his pitches starting catching too much of the plate which led to a couple of runs.

His out pitch is a hard slurve that sat 81-82 MPH, showing more slider than curve.  While in general, I’m not a fan of the hybrid slurvy pitch, it’s a good offering for De Leon and got plenty of swings and misses.  He also threw several changeups that I would grade out as average at best.  While the arm speed was good, there wasn’t a lot of movement on any of the pitches.  Since the changeup is a feel pitch, De Leon just needs more time with it.

All in all, it was an impressive performance and illustrates that the Dodgers clearly have something in the 22-year-old right-hander.  He throws really hard with impressive arm speed and is able to control his arsenal.  Given what I saw, I expect he will make short work of the California League.  Double-A should be a greater challenge as it will highlight the deficiency in his changeup.  That said, all the elements are there for De Leon to be a solid mid-rotation starter if not more.

Roman Quinn (Phil, OF)

I’ve been bullish on Roman Quinn since the Phillies selected him in the second round of the 2011 first year player draft.  In fact, if you read back through older articles, while I waivered through Quinn’s struggles and injuries, I never lost confidence that he could become an effective big league player.   With his blistering start to 2015, it looks like it’s finally coming together for the 22-year-old switch hitter.

Quinn is a premium athlete that can best seen as he patrols center field.  While his routes aren’t great, his speed and reaction times allow him to catch almost everything hit near him.  The speed is still 70 plus and this is after rupturing his Achilles tendon last year.  Quinn’s speed is his carrying tool and what will ultimately be his meal ticket to the big leagues.

While many will compare Quinn to Ben Revere, I think Quinn is a more complete player.  Despite his lack of superb route-running ability, Quinn has the athleticism to be a plus defender with a far better arm than Revere.  While it would be fun to see a foot-race between the two, it’s safe to say that Quinn has the speed to steal 30 plus stolen bases at the highest level.  The real difference in the two is their approach at the plate.  Quinn has a lot more natural strength than Revere and ultimately should be a better hitter.   Yes, I know that Revere batted .306, but it came with an .055 ISO.   Quinn will have more natural doubles power and should be able to tag a handful of home runs annually.

For now though, Quinn and Revere are linked as Revere is blocking Quinn’s ascension to the big leagues.  I believe that will change in the second half of year as Ruben J. Amaro should trade Revere along with Hamels and start the rebuilding process.  Once that happens, the door will be open for Quinn.

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Scouting Notes – April Games

The minor league season is in full swing and I’ve already made several scouting trips to see prospects and take in the wonderful world of minor league baseball.  Where else can you see an overweight dad, maybe he was a granddad, running around with a sign that said, “We scored” when his home team was loosing 11-2.  Yep, minor league baseball is where the true fans hangout.

Franklin Barreto (Oak, SS)

Traded by the Blue Jays as part of the Josh Donaldson deal over the winter, it was my second time seeing the 19-year-old Venezuelan.   At only 5-foot-9, Barreto is not a big guy by any stretch, but is well built with an aggressive swing that is more geared to doubles power than over-the-fence power.   That said, he has excellent bat speed and enough leverage to eventually hit double-digit home runs.

While he has a 7% lifetime walk rate, I did not see any plate discipline in the games in which I scouted.   He swung early and often on most at-bats but was able to catch a 87 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate for a home run to left-center field.  I did clock him at 4.12 to first base on an infield hit and while he has yet to steal a base in the early going, there is the potential for 20 plus stolen bases annually.

Defensively, Barreto showed enough in the field to convince me he can stay at shortstop for the foreseeable future.  He showed very good lateral movements with a quick step to the hole and an average arm to complete the package.

Brett Phillips (Hou, OF)

It’s easy to see why the Astros are so high on 21-year-old outfielder Brett Phillips.  He’s the definition of a gamer who plays all out with infectious energy to spare.  The JetHawks had him batting leadoff in all three games that I scouted, and while he has the tools to hit at the top of the order, he also has the bat control and contact skills to hit anywhere from one to three.

Phillips has plus speed that was on display in the outfield as he and his two running mates were chasing balls down all night in Game 1.   He cut off two balls to hold batters to a single and showed off his plus arm several times.   I was able to clock him at 4.08 and 4.10 to first in two of his at-bats.

The open question on Phillips has been how much power he will eventually develop.  He has good bat speed with a quick and short compact swing, but I don’t see the kind of strength or loft in his swing for him to profile for more than low double-digit home runs.  That could change as he continues to fill out, but a slash line of .275/.350/.440 with 8 to 12 home runs feels like what he could do once he makes his way to the major leagues.

A.J. Reed (Hou, 1B)

This was my first time seeing the Astros 2014 second round draft pick and I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew that Reed was a decorated college player who won the College Player of the Year in 2014, so I guess my expectations were high…I guess.  After seeing him for three games, I left a little empty.

First, batting practice was impressive as Reed showed above-average, if not plus raw power.  It’s hard to get a great read on power in Lancaster as the wind blows out, the field is elevated and the air is very dry with little humidity.  It’s truly a hitters paradise.  What did strike me the most was Reed’s body.  To put it kindly, he’s a big boy.  He’s every bit the 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds that his baseball-reference profile shows.  I had heard that he lost weight and his body was in better shape, but I wasn’t impressed.

Reed will likely be relegated to first base and therefore, he’s going to have to hit and hit with power.  While I can see 20 home run power, he really struggled with spin in the games I scouted.  As an elite college player, I expected a better hit tool and while he’s very early in his professional career, there appears to be a long way to go.

J.D. Davis (Hou, 3B)

Drafted in the third round of the 2014 first year player draft, J.D. Davis really impressed me in both games.

In Game 1, he went 3-for-3 with two singles and a double.  Davis was able to square up a low 90’s fastball and take a pretty decent slider the other way.  He showed excellent strike zone awareness as well as good bat control.

Batting practice was also impressive as Davis showed plus raw power to all fields.  As was mentioned with Reed, it’s hard to get a great read on power in Lancaster, but the swing was easy and the ball really jumped off his bat.  In the field, Davis struggled with his footwork at third base but showed a cannon for arm that should allow him to cover-up some of those mistakes.


2015 National League Impact Rookies

Last week I wrote about the American League Impact Rookies and called that squad “flush with rookie talent”.  Well if the AL is flush, then the NL is “REALLY flush with talent”.  Yeah, I’m a writer…look at how I highlighted really…and even capitalized it.  A Pulitzer prize is clearly in my future.

Kidding aside, the talent is immense led by a pair of Cubbies in Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant.  While Bryant is the best prospect in the land, I actually think Jorge Soler will have a more impactful season.  Provided he can stay healthy, 25 home runs should be in the bank.  Bryant has got to hit his way onto the opening day starting lineup.  If he’s just ok in Spring Training, the Cubs will find a way to delay his clock to start him in the minors for at least two week.

It doesn’t stop there, Joc Pederson and Yasmany Tomas should both come West with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks respectfully.  Pederson is the more intriguing fantasy player but Tomas could also poke 25 home runs.  Don’t forget about Maikel Franco as well.  He has tremendous raw power and while he plays for the fickle Philadelphia Phillies, he’s ready and deserves a chance.

While there’s a slight drop off in pitching, it’s more about the potential impact in 2015 instead of a talent drop off.  Noah Syndergaard has a chance to be the best pitcher on a stacked Mets rotation by the end of the year.  While I’ll admit that chance is small, he’s got that much talent and upside.  Archie Bradley still has a chance to be a beast and as he refines his command, the talent will start to translate into production at the big league level.

Jorge Soler (OF, CHC) – 550 AB, 27 HR, 3 SB, .275 BA, .345 OBP

Starts the season in Chicago

Provided he stays healthy, don’t be surprised if Jorge Soler nudges out Kris Bryant for Rookie of the Year honors.  Soler has a chance to be a force in the middle of the lineup with a better than average hit tool.  The only thing he won’t do is steal bases.  Buckle up, it’s going to be fun.

Kris Byrant (3B, CHC) – 475 AB, 22 HR, 12 SB, .265 BA, .340 OBP

Promoted in late April

What, Kris Bryant is only predicted to hit 22 home runs…he has to be good for 40, right???  Well, one day, but the major leagues is a huge step and Bryant will have his struggles like nearly every rookie before him.  That said, the power is plus and he’ll even chip in double-digit stolen bases.   The strikeouts will be there but expect a higher than league average BABIP that will prop his batting average.  When does he arrive?  April 20th.

Joc Pederson (OF, LAD) – 500 AB, 17 HR, 21 SB, .240 BA, .290 OBP

Starts the season in Los Angeles

Andrew Friedman actually values defense and the moves that he made in the off-season reflect that position.  The trade of Matt Kemp to free up Joc Pederson was the riskiest of all his moves, but it shows the confidence that the Dodgers have in the uber-talented Pederson.   He bring plus power potential, and plus speed to his gold glove quality defense with the only question being how much he’ll hit.  His penchant to strikeout will hurt his position in the lineup and thus his counting stats.  While the sky is the limit for Pederson, Dodgers fans and fantasy owners need to check their expectations just a tad for the 2015 season.

Yasmany Tomas (OF, Ari) – 475 AB, 21 HR, 4 SB, .230 AB, .280 OBP

Starts the season in Arizona

At some point the string of successes that prominent Cuban baseball players have had in the major leagues will end.  While I don’t think Yasmany Tomas will be a flop, in fact far from it, he is not in the same discussion as Jose Abreu, Yasiel Puig, or even Rusney Castillo.  There will be plus power that could produce 30 home runs once he is fully acclimated to the game, but it will take some time with plenty of strikeouts along the way.

Maikel Franco (3B, Phi) –  350 AB, 15 HR, 2 SB, .250 BA, .310 OBP

Promoted in June

Maikel Franco should battle Cody Ashe in Spring Training for the starting role at third base for the Philliies.  While his ceiling is higher, Franco has struggled in the past to make adjustments upon his promotion to a new level.  Therefore, there’s no guarantee he will break camp to go North to Philadelphia.

Noah Syndergaard (RHP, NYM) – 100 IP, 95K, 3.60 ERA, 1.21 WHIP

Promoted in June

Noah Syndergaard is nearly big league ready but with a starting rotation that is six to seven deep, he needs something to happen before he’s promoted.  It will and should occur sometime in June, just in-time to avoid him being a Super-2 player.

Archie Bradley (RHP, Ari) – 90 IP, 95K, 3.90 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Promoted in June

I’m not in the same place as Dave Duncan’s evaluation of Archie Bradley.  While his fastball command is inconsistent, he has the athleticism to repeat his delivery and that ultimately will lead to him throwing consistent strikes.  Does he need more tuning?  Of course, but you can say that about every pitcher.  Don’t lose faith, Bradley’s ceiling is still that of a number one starter or a very high number two.

Other Players that could impact their clubs

Mike Foltynewicz (RHP, Atl)

The Astros shipped right-hander Mike Foltynewicz to Atlanta over the winter and the rebuilding Braves should give him a chance to begin the 2015 season in the major league rotation.  Folty can run his fastball up to triple digits with a quality curve and change-up.  The problem is he doesn’t always throw strikes which puts him into poor matchup counts.  Long-term I think he’s a closer, but if the Braves can tweak his mechanics to allow him to throw more strikes, he could make an impact in 2015.

Eddie Butler (RHP, Col)

It’s easy to be skeptical of Eddie Butler as he performed poorly in his brief 16 innings in Colorado in 2014.  However, he keeps the ball down and has the mentality to be an effective pitcher in Coors Field.  While he doesn’t have an all-star ceiling, he should be a better than league average pitcher but with below average strikeouts.

Aaron Nola (RHP, Phi)

Aaron Nola has the stuff and pitchability to start in the major leagues in 2015.  If that’s true, then why did the Phillies assign him to minor league camp and not the major league camp for Spring Training?  I really don’t know that answer, but then again, I’m struggling to understand what the overall game plan is for the Phillies.  He’ll be up by mid-season with a chance to be a better than league-average pitcher.

J.T. Realmuto (C, Mia)

J.T. Realmuto made his major league debut in 2014 and held his own.  He’s extremely athletic with above average power potential and good foot speed.  He’s blocked by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who still has two years left on his three year contract.  However, if Salty gets hurt, Realmuto is the kid to own.

Dilson Herrera (2B/SS, NYM)

Dilson Herrera also made his major league debut last year and despite hitting a paltry .220 in 59 at-bats, he showed the Mets that he could be the answer long-term at second base.  With Daniel Murphy in his walk-year, don’t be surprised in the Mets move Murphy at or before the trading deadline and give Herrera two or more months of run at second base.

Nick Kingham (RHP, Pit)

In Pittsburgh, Nick Kingham has been flying under the radar as their cadre of high-end prospects has been getting all the press.  However, Kingham is a solid pitcher with good stuff and control.  The Pirates will likely play the Super-2 game, meaning, you’ll see Kingham in the second half.

Steven Matz (LHP, NYM)

The Mets love Steven Matz; so much so that he could be the next guy up, ahead of even Noah Syndergaard.    While I’ve never been a huge fan of Matz’s delivery, the command has definitely taken a step up and the stuff has returned nicely after a long battle to return from Tommy John reconstructive surgery.   If you’re in a fantasy league, throw a buck down in the last round; you can thank me later…

Jameson Taillon (RHP, Pit)

After Tommy John Surgery cost Jameson Taillon the entire 2014 season, the Pirates will take it slow and easy with their prized righty.  That said, he should be back on the bump and pitching competitively in May with a chance to see Pittsburgh later in the summer.  It might be in the bullpen, but if he starts, he’s a talent that you’ll want to roster on your team.

Michael Taylor (OF, Was)

I comp’d George Springer to Chris B. Young and while I stand by that, the next player that gets that same comparison is Michael Taylor – maybe, even more so.  He’s a great outfielder with tools to spare.  However, the strikeouts will mount and that will always hurt his value.  That said, he should start the season in the outfield in Washington while Jayson Werth recovers from his injury and will be a high BABIP away from helping the Nats and your fantasy team

Hunter Renfroe (OF, SD)

Prospect watchers know about the raw power of Bryant, Gallo, and Sano but right behind that trio is the Padres Hunter Renfroe.  In fact, if he were in most any other organization, there would be a lot more love for the Mississippi native.  The ball explodes off his bat and his raw power is significant.  While he’s the logical successor to Justin Upton for 2016, he could be an injury or a Padres disappointing season away from contributing in the big leagues.


2015 American League Impact Rookies

The American League is  flush with rookie talent this year, led by two older prospects in 26-year-old Steven Souza and 27-year-old Cuban émigré, Rusney Castillo.  Both are locked into starting roles and are being taken early in fantasy drafts.  Assuming Dalton Pompey wins the centerfield role out of Spring Training, he has the speed, bat control, and the defensive chops to give both Souza and Castillo a run for their money for Rookie of the Year.

There are also a number of pitchers that could provide impact to their teams this year.  My two favorite rookie pitchers are the Angles newly acquired lefty Andrew Heaney and the Twins 6-foot-9 power right-hander Alex Meyer.  However, if Daniel Norris gets to Toronto by June 1st, watch out…he could easily move to the top of the list, much like Jacob DeGrom did in 2014.

Potential Impact Players

Steven Souza (OF, TB):  550 AB, 18 HR, 22 SB, .275, .340 OBP

Starts the season in Tampa.

I’ve been leading the Steven Souza bandwagon for two-years after seeing him school, yes, you heard me, school Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler before an Arizona Fall League game in batting practice.  While it was clearly all in fun, the ball exploded off his bat and I was sold.  He’s got speed, power and a nice short, quick stroke that should allow him to provide contribution in multiple categories on your fantasy team.

Rusney Castillo (OF, Bos): 500 AB, 11 HR, 28 SB, .260 BA, .330 OBP

Starts the season in Boston.

The $72 million dollar investment that the Red Sox made in Rusney Castillo should start to payoff in 2015.  He’s got plenty of tools with the chance to hit double-digit home runs and steal 30 plus stolen bases.  Provided he stays healthy, he has to be considered a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.

Dalton Pompey (OF, Tor):  475 AB, 6 HR, 30 SB, .275 BA, .350 OBP

Starts the season in Toronto.

Dalton Pompey tore through four levels last year and wound up in the major leagues to end the season.  The glove is ready and the bat is not that far behind.  Don’t be surprised if he starts the season off slowly; as that has been his pattern in most new challenges.  However, if the Blue Jays can weather this adjustment period, the talent should begin to shine through by mid-season.

Francisco Lindor (SS, Cle):  350 AB, 7 HR, 18 SB, .270 BA, .345 OBP

Called up on June 15th.

Francisco Lindor is the highest ranked prospect on this list at number five and is nearly big league ready.  However, that might not be enough as the Indians will at a minimum keep him down to gain an extra year of team control, or even delay his promotion until mid-June to avoid making him a Super-2 player.  The fly-in-the ointment could be Jose Ramirez.  He’s a grinder and a nice little ball player in his own right.  However, Lindor is the superior talent and will ultimately be Indians shortstop of the future.

Andrew Heaney (LHP, LAA):  170 IP, 155 K, 3.80 ERA, 1.22 WHIP

Starts the season in Los Angeles.

Heaney was traded twice in the off-season and wound up in a great situation in Los Angeles.  He should enter the season as the fifth starter and while the stuff is that of a mid-rotation starter, it’s plenty good to impact your fantasy team and for him to challenge for Rookie of the Year.

Alex Meyer (RHP, Min): 150 IP, 145 K, 3.90 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Starts the season in Minnesota.

Alex Meyer doesn’t need to post a Spring Training line of 14 IP, 18 K, and a sub 1.00 ERA to break camp with the Twins, he just needs to be solid.  While Meyer’s long levers will continue to be a problem for him and that will show in his results, there is just a ton to like with the 6-foot-9 right-hander.

Daniel Norris (LHP, Tor):  90 IP, 100 K, 3.60 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

Potential call-up in June.

As we wrote in our pre-season Top 10’s, Daniel Norris has the talent to be the best left-handed pitcher in the game.  The stuff is just flat-out nasty and his command and control took a huge step forward in 2014.  He does need more seasoning but if Toronto believes he’s ready, he immediately jumps to top of the pitchers on the list.

Carlos Rodon (RHP, CHW):  30 IP, 35 K, 3.10 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

Potential call-up in July.

The talent of Carlos Rodon should easily put him in the Rookie of Year debate.  When he demonstrates fastball command, he has three plus pitches.  Unfortunately, the command is too inconsistent and he needs more seasoning.  However, he makes the list because of the talent; just don’t be surprised if he pitches in the bullpen and not in the starting rotation once he’s eventually promoted.

Micah Johnson (2B, Cle):  350 AB, 1 HR, 25 SB, .260 BA, .330 OBP

Potential call-up in late May or early June.

Injuries limited Micah Johnson’s production in 2014 but assuming he’s fully healthy, he could be a significant fantasy contributor this year.  While he will be given a shot to make the team out of Spring Training, I’m assuming the job will be split between Emilo Bonifacio and Carlos Sanchez.  However, Johnson has the superior hit tool and should get the call sometime in May or June.

Dylan Bundy (RHP, Bal):  70 IP, 75 K, 3.40 ERA, 1.10 WHIP

Potential call-up in June.

I’m still a believer in Dylan Bundy and his call-up to the majors will be completely dependent on how he pitches early in the season.  While you could say that about any pitcher, the Orioles need power arms and can’t allow Bundy to waste innings in the minors as his innings will be limited.

Other Players that could impact their clubs

Ryan Rua (OF, Tex)

Ryan Rua could easily start the year in left field for the Texas Rangers and with playing time, comes the chance to impact a fantasy team.  He makes very good contact with a mature approach at the plate and enough pop to hit 15 plus home runs.  He’s a 30-grade runner, so don’t expect any stolen base contribution.

Aaron Sanchez (RHP, Tor)

I’ve maintained for the past two years that Aaron Sanchez is a reliever with a chance to be a special closer.  If the Blue Jays do not solve their closer situation by the end of Spring Training and Sanchez becomes the guy, he could easily move in the discussion for Rookie of the Year.

Nate Karns (RHP, TB)

If Karns can develop a feel for a change-up, he could be a real break-out candidate for 2015.  I doubt he starts the season in the majors but could be an interesting injury call-up.

Brandon Finnegan (LHP, KC)

The Royals want Brandon Finnegan to be a starter and his college career clearly shows he has the pitchability and stuff to do that.  However, don’t be surprised if the Royals use him again in the bullpen for 2015.  However, if he starts the season in the rotation, he could make noise.

Eduardo Rodriguez (LHP, Bos)

If the arsenal improvement that Eduardo Rodriguez showed after he was traded to the Red Sox was real, then the lefty could be a real asset to the Red Sox in 2015.  They’ll need it as their current rotation is made up of a bunch of number four and five starters.

Blake Swihart (C, Bos)

Blake Swihart has the kind of offensive tools that you don’t see very often.  He’s athletic with great bat speed with 20 home run power potential.  While he’s not quite in Christian Vazquez defensive class, he’s no slouch either.  In fact, he could easily be a Top 10 defensive catcher once he gets acclimated to the big leagues.

Giovanny Urshela (3B, Cle) 

Giovanny Urshela is my deep sleeper in the American League.  He had a very productive season in 2014, smacking 18 home runs with an 86% contact rate across Double and Triple-A.  He also kept hitting in the Venezuelan Winter League, posting a .929 OPS in 108 at-bats.  To complete the profile, he’s a plus defender at third with good footwork and a plus arm.  Unless you believe Lonnie Chisenhall has turned the corner and is the full-time answer at third for the Indians, Urshela could see significant playing time.


2015 Dynasty League Re-draft Board

Having played in Dynasty Leagues for the past five years, I have found that the annual redraft process is the most important task of the year.  If you don’t spend time thinking about what you want to do and evaluating the talent available, it can truly set you back for several years.  In fact, I have found it so important that in all of our Prospect361 sponsored leagues, we follow a 12-hour slow draft process.   I have found that you really need to think about each selection and making a quick decision in 60 seconds leads to poor decisions and ultimately too many noncompetitive teams.

As with everything in life, you’ve got to have a plan and a player “pref list” that matches what you are trying to accomplish.  For instance, if you’re competing for a title with one pick in the first three rounds, you probably want to stay conservative and select a college player who is close to contributing.  If you’re rebuilding with multiple picks in the early rounds, you can be more aggressive by selecting high school players who are further away.  That said, if you have five picks in the first 30 picks and every player you draft is a high ceiling/high risk teenager, you’ve made a horrible mistake.

To help you prepare for your draft, we have created our Top 30 “pref list”.  The list is comprised of players drafted in the 2014 first year player draft as well as Latin Players who have signed since your fantasy draft in 2014.  Since each leagues rules are different and more importantly, each leagues waiver wire is unique, do not use this list as a bible.  Instead, use it as a guide.  If a top prospect is on the board who was drafted in 2013 and you believe they are better than anyone else on our list, then take them.  If there is a closer on the board and he can put you over the top, draft him.  Remember, flags fly forever and nobody has yet won a title by having the best collection of minor league players.

The key is finding the balance…good luck and let us know how things go.

  1. Yoan Moncada (2B, Unsigned) – If you are playing for the long haul and can draft Moncada, do it…if you have a chance to win next year, Castillo might be the better pick.
  2. Rusney Castillo (OF, Bos) – Castillo is a complete player and big league ready. The upside is a 15 HR/30 SB player.  He did bulked up while waiting to be cleared by OFAC and while that clearly helped him get paid, don’t be surprised if he spends some time on the disabled list.
  3. Carlos Rodon (LHP, CHW) – 3rd pick in 2014 draft. Many owners with the first pick will snag Rodon.  While he’s a worthy and safe pick at 1-1, if I had the number one pick, I’d take a bat.  That said, I think Rodon will see Chicago this year and working with Don Cooper will only help Rodon gain consistency with his secondary pitches.
  4. Yasmani Tomas (OF/3B, Ari) – At some point the string of impact Cuban born players will have to end. It could very well end with Tomas.  However, with power at a premium, he’s the right pick if you have the number four pick.
  5. Alex Jackson (OF, Sea) – 6th pick.  Everybody I spoke with in researching the Seattle Top 10 list said that Jackson was the best bat in the draft class and it wasn’t close. Great bat speed with good hand-eye coordination.  It looks like the Mariners have permanently moved him to the outfield and while he would have held more fantasy value at catcher, on the positive side, he should move quickly.
  6. Kyle Schwarber (OF, CHC) – 4th pick.  Schwarber was the surprise number four overall pick by the Cubs.  After destroying the lower level minor leagues last year, the Cubs look like they have hit gold once again.  The bat is advanced and while it’s unlikely he sees Chicago in 2015, it’s not completely out of the question.
  7. Nick Gordon (SS, Min) – 5th pick.  Gordon is a huge make-up kid that should move quickly. Not a burner, so if you’re looking for speed up the middle, he’s not your guy.  However, he’s got bat speed and the body that could produce 20 home runs at the highest level.
  8. Tyler Kolek (RHP, Mia) – 2nd pick.  While Kolek was the second overall pick in the 2014 draft, he drops to eight on my draft board. The biggest concern is that there has never been a kid like him drafted.  He’s stands 6-foot-5, weighs 260 pounds and can hit triple digit; oh yeah, he’s 18-years-old.  It should be noted that he did not get close to triple digits during his brief professional debut.
  9. Jeff Hoffman (RHP, Tor) – 9th pick.  I had a chance to see Hoffman early in the 2014 college season and he was impressive, like in 1-1 impressive. He has three above average pitches and can throw each for strikes. While there is clearly risk given that he is recovering from Tommy John reconstructive surgery, I think the upside is worth taking him in the first round of your fantasy draft.
  10. Michael Conforto (OF, NYM) – 10th pick.  Conforto can really hit but doesn’t have great bat speed, so his power output will always be questioned.  If he can stay in the outfield, his fantasy value should play.  However, if he moves to first, I don’t think he’ll have enough power to be a first division starter.  I’m betting he stays in the outfield and becomes an Allen Craig type of player.
  11. Bradley Zimmer (Cle, OF) – 21st pick. Bradley Zimmer fell in the draft and I’m not sure why.  He can really play with a nice power/speed combination.  The upside is 20 HR/20 SB player.
  12. Trea Turner (SS, SD/Was) – 13th pick.  Turner’s carrying tool is elite speed that should play very well at the highest level if he plays a contact-oriented game. However, he can get pull happy and swing for the fences which will hurt his game and his overall fantasy output.
  13. Max Pentecost (Tor, C) – 11th pick.  Pentecost has the tools to be a solid fantasy catcher with a ceiling of a top 12-18 catcher. The power upside is an open question with a wide range of 10 to 20 currently on my board.
  14. Sean Newcomb (LHP, LAA) – 15th pick.  Newcomb has a nice combination of size and stuff with the polish to move quickly. After a few down years, Newcomb provides a nice anchor for an Angels minor league system that could start to finally improve.
  15. Michael Chavis (SS/3B, Bos) – 26th pick.  Chavis was one of my favorite players in the entire draft. While I loved the attitude and makeup, more importantly, the bat speed is elite with an innate ability to make contact.  He’s a bit bow-legged though, so I’m not sure how much speed he’ll have.
  16. Grant Holmes (RHP, LAD) – While not tall, Holmes has a sturdy body and more importantly, a big arm. He’s young, but there is a ton of upside.
  17. Brandon Finnegan (LHP, KC) – 17th pick.  Finnegan is one of the better known players from the 2014 class as he pitched meaningful innings in the playoffs.  The biggest concern is his 5-foot-11 height which will inevitably flatten out his arsenal and make him homer prone.  That said, he’s a safe pick who could spend most of the 2015 season in Kansas City, but possibly in the bullpen.
  18. Aaron Nola (RHP, Phi) – 7th pick.  Another safe bet is Aaron Nola.  He could see Philadelphia in 2015 with similar upside to Finnegan.  He’s 6-foot-1 with a 91-93 MPH fastball and average secondary pitches.
  19. Touki Toussaint (RHP, Ari) – 16th pick.  Toussaint has as much talent as anybody on this list.  The upside is at least a number two starter, maybe more.  However, he’s raw with a ton of risk.  If you have three or four picks in the first two rounds, consider popping Toussaint earlier than number 19 as the upside could be extremely high.
  20. Kyle Freeland (Col, LHP) – 8th pick. Yeah, I don’t like to draft Colorado pitchers either, but Freeland has the control and downward plane on his pitches that should play well in Coors.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but there is talent there and a smart owner will not allow him to drop into the third round.
  21. Tyler Beede (SF, RHP) – 14th pick.  Three words describe Tyler Beede – Fun, right park and really good stuff.  Add it all up and he should move fast with a chance to see San Francisco in 2016.
  22. Derek Fisher (OF, Hou) – 37th pick. Fisher has the power and speed to be a significant fantasy player.  However, statistically, it’s never come together for the N.C. State graduate.  That said, I’d bet on the player and wait for the excellent Astros development organization to work their magic.  If you want to pop him earlier than number 22, I’d be fine with that.
  23. Forrest Wall (2B, Col) – 35th pick.  Forrest Wall is another one of my favorite prospects from the 2014 draft.  He’ll get “push down” in a lot of publications because of the shoulder injury that is currently limiting him to second base.  However, as a fantasy owner, we care about offensive production and that’s where Wall could pay huge dividends.
  24. Monte Harrison (OF, Mil) – 50th pick.  I’ve seen Monte Harrison play and he is indeed an impressive athletic with off-the-chart tools.  The big worry was whether he would hit enough…well, in his first taste of professional ball, he did just fine.  He’s another guy that I would be comfortable taking higher if I had multiple picks in the first two rounds.
  25. Alex Verdugo (LAD, OF) – 62nd pick.  Verdugo was drafted 62 overall, but I like him a lot more than that.  He’s only 19-years-old, but I’d rather have him before many of the 16-year-old Latin kids that other owners will crave and take ahead of him in your draft.
  26. Spencer Adams (RHP, CHW) – 44th pick.  I thought I would have Spencer Adams all to myself in my drafts, but the cat is clearly out of the bag as everyone seems to be high on the kid.  He has everything teams want in a young pitcher – athleticism, very good raw stuff, and a projectable body.   If you want him, you’ll likely have to go a little earlier than 26.  Will I do that?  I’m not sure…I’ll probably take a bat, but I will clearly be tempted.
  27. Michael Gettys (SD, OF) – 51st pick.  On the MLB draft broadcast, John Hart (now, GM of the Atlanta Braves) was asked which player in the draft reminded him most of Mike Trout?  His response…Michael Gettys.   While it’s a fun question and will now be a staple on draft broadcast, I’m skeptical on how much the hit tool will develop.  However, if you want to swing for the fences, then Gettys is your guy.
  28. Derek Hill (Det, OF) – 23rd pick.  Derek Hill’s reputation coming into the draft was his advanced hit tool.  While it was only rookie ball, he only hit .208 in 173 at-bats and reports were that he was overmatched.  That said, the tools are there including elite foot speed.
  29. Luis Ortiz (Tex, OF) – 30th pick.  Luis Ortiz is young but has a nice arm and the upside that teams are always looking to obtain.  Plus, he will play the entire 2015 season as a 19-year-old.  It’ll take a while, but the reward could be nice.
  30. Alex Blandino (3B, Cin) – 29th pick.  While I got mixed reviews on Blandino, the Reds are very high on the kid and believe he could move quickly.

Top 100 Prospects – 1 through 25

Our top 100 prospects list, 1 through 25 has just been posted.


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