Our review of the 2016 Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects is now available.
You can see the Reds 2015 Prospect List here.
2016 Emerging Prospect
Our review of the 2016 Cincinnati Reds Top 10 Prospects is now available.
You can see the Reds 2015 Prospect List here.
2016 Emerging Prospect
Our review of the 2016 Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects is now available.
You can see the Cubs 2015 Prospect List here.
2016 Emerging Prospect
As the minor leagues system winds to a close, it’s time to recognize some outstanding 2016 performances. While we could have gone three to four deep at each position, we looked at a combination of performance and upside in order to make our rankings of the top player at his position.
Jacob Nottingham was a big breakout in 2015, slugging .505 in 511 plate appearance while adding 17 home runs. Needing pitching, the Astros moved him in July to the A’s for Scott Kazmir and while Kazmir has been good, Nottingham could haunt them for years to come.
Runner Up – Willson Contreras (CHC, AA)
What didn’t A.J. Reed do? He slugged .602 across High-A and Double-A while hitting 37 home runs and driving in 127. Yeah, some of the damage was done in Lancaster, but he kept on mashing in Double-A. It’s not a great body, but he can really hit.
Runner Up – Bobby Bradley (Cle, A)
It took a couple of months for Yoan Moncada to get rolling but once he did, he showed the kind up talent that led the Red Sox to pay him a $31.5 million dollars signing bonus. He ended the year slashing .278/.380/.438 with eight home runs and 48 stolen bases.
Runner Up – Forrest Wall (Col, A)
Finally the Dodgers saw the light and promoted Corey Seager to the major leagues in September. In 550 plate appearance in the minor leagues in 2015, he slashed .293/.344/.487 with 18 home runs. Expect Seager to be starting in Los Angeles to begin the 2016 season.
Runner Up – Orlando Arcia (Mil, AA)
It was debatable who was more impressive in Greenville, Rafael Devers or Yoan Moncada. Playing the entire year as an 18-year-old, Devers showed good pop, slugging .443 with the ability to make very good contact. He’ll need to work on his approach, but everything is there for him become a star.
Runner Up – Richie Shaffer
It’s been about promise for the past three years with Max Kepler. This year, it was about production. In 112 games in Double-A, he posted a .942 OPS with nine home runs and 18 stolen bases while walking more than he struck out. While all the excitement in Minnesota has been about Sano and Buxton, don’t forget about Kepler.
Lewis Brinson struck out 191 time in 503 plate appearances as a 19-year-old in Low-A two seasons ago. This year, across three levels, he struck out 98 times in 456 plate appearances. What a transformation. While there is still a lot of work left to do, Brinson has star potential as a 20/20 performer playing a gold glove center field.
Drafted last year, Bradley Zimmer is making the minor leagues look pretty easy. In 127 games across High and Double-A, he posted an .814 OPS with 16 home runs and 44 stolen bases. While I don’t believe he’ll maintain the stolen base pace as he moves through the system, there is easy 20/20 potential.
Runner Up – Nomar Mazara (Tex, AA, AAA), Harold Ramirez (Pit, A+), Brett Phillips (Mil, A+,AA)
Blake Snell tore through three levels this year to post eye-popping numbers. In 23 starts, he won 15 games, posted a 1.41 ERA while striking out almost eleven per nine. While many wanted to see him in the majors to end the season, he still needs to work on his control and that combined with the Rays history of playing the Super-2 game, will peg his arrival to the major leagues to mid-June next year.
For my money, Alex Reyes has the highest upside of any pitcher in the minor leagues. The stuff is elite and he has the athleticism to eventually command it. Across High and Double-A, he struck out 151 batters in 22 starts while only giving up 6.2 hits per nine. While he needs more grooming, he’s not that far away.
Tyler Glasnow has the nastiest stuff in the minor leagues and at times, can be unhittable. In 22 starts across Double and Triple-A, batters only managed a .171 batting average and 6.3 hits per nine. He also struck out 11.2 batter per nine and improved his walk rate. He’ll be in the major leagues next year and while he will be inconsistent, is a guy that has a chance to pitch a no-hitter each and every time out.
Runner Up – Jose Berrios (Min, AA, AAA), Sean Newcomb (LAA, A, A+,AA), Steve Matz (NYM, AA,AAA)
Editors Note: As we start to organize our notes for our Team Top 10 lists (starting Oct. 2nd), we thought we would release some of the more impressive players that our scouts have seen live over the spring and summer. Next in line: Atlanta Braves shortstop, Ozzie Albies.
Ozzie Albies (SS)
With the much needed overhaul of the Braves farm system, one of the few holdouts from the Frank Wren regime is Ozzie Albies; who just happens to sit on the top of the Braves list.
Albies had his breakout in 2014, posting an impressive .429 on-base percentage with 15 stolen bases in 57 games in the GCL and Appy League. In fact, he was our 2016 emerging prospect where we wrote the following: If you’re looking for a kid that nobody has heard of for your Dynasty League, Ozhaino Albies fits the bill. After making it on our Top 50 mid-season prospect list, Albies is starting to become a household name in prospect circles.
He continued to play very well in his full season assignment to Rome slashing .312/.370/.406 in 98 games before breaking his hand in early August. He made excellent contact (86%) while showing a very good understanding of the strike zone that led to 36 walks in 439 plate appearances. He did all of this at the ripe age of 18-years-old, making him the youngest player in the Sally League.
Scouting Report: We quote the age of players relative to their level quite often in our capsules. Why? Two reasons: First, younger players not only have a longer runway for development but also are usually more open to coaching than older players. There are fewer habits to be broken as their mind-muscle repetition has not been established. Secondly and more importantly, they get to play against older and more experienced competition. Pitchers have better control of their arsenal and fielders get to more balls. In order to be successful, the player has to accelerate his learning curve and that only helps him long-term.
As the youngest player in the Appy League, Albies has done more than hold his own; he has excelled. He’s blessed with great hand-eye-coordination and barrel control with a chance for a plus hit tool at the highest level. Currently there is no power and based on his size and swing mechanics, it’s difficult to put anything higher than a future 20-grade power assessment on him.
Albies does have double-plus speed and that showed up on the base paths where he stole 29 of 37 bases. His instincts are good but will improve as he learns to read pitchers better.
Defensively, he has the athleticism and arm strength to stay at shortstop but assuming he stays in the Atlanta organization, is blocked at the major league level with arguably the best defensive shortstop in the game. Fortunately, it’s a decision that is three years away.
Fantasy Impact: Albies is a Top 50 prospect in the game but from a fantasy standpoint, there’s two red flags. One is the lack of power; and therefore his fantasy value will come strictly from his ability to hit and steal bases. While there is 40 stolen base upside with a .300 batting average, speed fades; and as fantasy owners have learned from Elvis Andurs, when it does, it’s not good. Secondly, if the Braves move him to center field or second base, his value will take a hit. While we love Albies, Dynasty League owners might want to consider selling high as many baseball publications will over value him, providing an interesting market for the 18-year-older in Dynasty Leagues.
Editors Note: As we start to organize our notes for our Team Top 10 lists (starting Oct. 2nd), we thought we would release some of the more impressive players that our scouts have seen live over the spring and summer. Next in line: Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder, Harold Ramirez.
Harold Ramirez (OF)
Harold Ramirez had a breakout year in 2015 posting an impressive .333/.401/.460 slash line in 75 games in the Florida State League. Ramirez didn’t play a full season because he was held back in extended spring training for reportedly arriving to Spring Training overweight. At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds, Ramirez is already a little stocky, so hopefully the Pirates have addressed the issue and it is behind him.
Scouting Report: Ramirez carrying tool is his hit-tool. He has a mature approach and can barrel the ball with authority to all fields. The swing is currently doubles-oriented but he has enough size, strength and bat speed to project 12 to 15 home runs at the highest level. His plus foot-speed did drop a grade, perhaps due to him being a little out of shape and the results were not good. While he stole 21 bases, he was also caught 14 times. As Ramirez naturally fills out, the speed will continue to regress with a ceiling of 8 to 12 stolen bases annually more likely than 20 plus.
Defensively, the Pirates have moved Ramirez to right field where he profiles as an average defender. As with Austin Meadows, Ramirez is blocked but will likely struggle to crawl over Meadows on the depth chart. Given his growing hit tool, he could be an intriguing trade chip in the future as the Pirates will likely always need pitching at the major league level.
Fantasy Impact: Ramirez is still flying under-the-radar in many Dynasty Leagues but with his breakout campaign, that is quickly changing. Now might be the last time to jump in and acquire him for a reasonable price. The ceiling is a .280 hitter with 12 to 15 home runs and 8 to 12 stolen bases. It’s slightly lesser version of Austin Meadows.
Editors Note: As we start to organize our notes for our Team Top 10 lists (starting Oct. 2nd), we thought we would release some of the more impressive players that our scouts have seen live over the spring and summer. We start the series off with St. Louis Cardinals right-hand pitcher, Alex Reyes.
A member of the Mount Rushmore of the best minor league pitchers in the game (Lucas Giolito, Tyler Glasnow, Julio Urias, and Alex Reyes), Alex Reyes is quickly moving up prospect lists as his performance is starting to support his scouting report.
To start the season, Reyes dominated the Florida State League by striking out almost 14 per nine while not giving up a home run in 63.2 innings. The dominating performance continued upon his promotion to the Texas League where he continued his impressive strikeout rate while posting a 3.70 ERA. His control is getting better but it’s still inconsistent, resulting in an inflated 4.3 walks per nine across his 20 starts in 2015.
The Cardinals know that they have something special in Reyes and will continue to move slowly with him. He’ll just turned 21 at the end of the week and while there is a chance he sees St. Louis in 2016 it could come in the bullpen (ala Carlos Martinez). All he needs is time to harness his plus arsenal. When it comes, it’s going to be special.
Scouting Report: When you see Reyes on the mound, three things jump out at you:
Reyes has the arsenal and athleticism to be an ace. He just needs time to develop more consistent control and fastball command. Once it’s there, watch out.
Fantasy Impact: Reyes was a buy-low candidate last year but no more. He’s a top 10 prospect and rising. You still have to believe that his command and control will improve, but his extreme athleticism and smooth delivery points to high probability that it will happen. I’m anxious to see who’s face on Mount Rushmore will shine the brightest on our Top 100 list next year. I could very easily be…
As we finish up the all-star break and look towards the second half, who are the players that might be called up that can make an impact to your fantasy team? While the list has thinned out, there are still some hidden gems left.
Here they are…
Corey Seager (SS, LAD)
Jimmy Rollins is slashing .212/.263/.331 in 85 games and after a long and successful career, looks done. On the other hand, Corey Seager is slashing .290/.344/.476 in 62 games in Triple-A and has little left to prove. It’s time for the Dodgers to make the move to allow Seager to adjust to the big leagues before the playoff drive starts. I think the move comes very soon.
Kyle Schwarber (OF/C, CHC)
Fresh off his MVP award in this year’s Futures Game, what else is left for the 22-year-old rookie to prove before he gets his chance for full-time at-bats in the big league? Not much… He’s hit everywhere he’s played including batting .381 in five games in the major leagues. The bat is ready but he has yet to play a game in left field this year. I expect that to happen over the next two weeks and the Cubs to promote him in early August…for good.
Michael Conforto (OF, NYM)
Let’s face it, the Mets are still in it and with their pitching, they are likely going to stay in the hunt for the wildcard all season long. What they can’t do is hit. Enter Michael Conforto who has a plus hit-tool to go along with average current in-game power. The problem is where will he play? Michael Cuddyer could be the odd-man out despite being owed a lot of money. In fact, the Mets could move him for an upgrade somewhere else. The bottom line is they need Conforto. I know that, you know that, and so do the Mets.
Aaron Nola (RHP, Phi)
Aaron Nola has been as good as advertised coming out of LSU. After dominating Double-A, he’s been just as good in Lehigh Valley posting a 2.43 ERA with a 9.10 K/9 and a 2.12 BB/9 in five starts. The Phillies are completely out of it and while there are a lot of financial reasons to keep him in the minors for the entire season, I expect him to be promoted shortly after the late-July bloodletting in Philadelphia. Fantasy owners should only expect 6 to 8 starts with a shutdown in the second week of September. Head-to-head owners need to take note.
Jonathan Gray (RHP, Col)
Jon Gray had a rough start to the season. At the end of April, his ERA stood at 10.70 and prospect evaluators started to quickly lose confidence. Since then, he’s posted a 2.77 ERA and has looked much, much better. What has been disappointing, is his lack of strikeouts. In 53.1 innings, he’s posted a 6.41 K/9. However, it’s the PCL and Albuquerque, so he has to be given somewhat of a pass. Yes, Coors Field is not any easier, but Gray’s stuff is still very, very good and the opportunity is definitely there.
Luis Severino (RHP, NYY)
Triple-A has not been much of a challenge for Luis Severino. In eight starts, he’s posted a 1.59 ERA with a 6.55 K/9 and a 2.38 BB/9. The strikeout rate is slightly down but it could be simply a matter of a small sample size. Severino looks ready and the Yankees are in the hunt. While there’s a chance he could come up as a reliever, I still think the Yankees promote him to the rotation over the next couple of weeks. While he’s only 6-foot tall and doesn’t always pitch in the bottom of the zone, the stuff is premium and he’ll get a ton of strikeouts and should pitch effectively.
Robert Stephenson (RHP, Cin)
The Reds will be sellers at the deadline and Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto will likely be suiting up for other teams on August 1st. Robert Stephenson has been marinated in Double-A for the past three years but finally got his ticket to Triple-A in July. The arsenal is premium but he can struggle with his release point, which will result in too many walks. If you are in need for a high-upside strikeout thrower, Stephenson might be a good gamble for the rest of the season.
Trea Turner (SS, Was)
If you want to think outside of the box, throw a buck down on Trea Turner this weekend. He’s done nothing but hit since being drafted by the Padres last summer and based on his performance at the Futures Game, he looks like he’s about ready. Ian Desmond is dead-man walking and will not be signed next year and oh yeah, is having a terrible season. The Nationals could move him at the deadline and even if they don’t, Turner might be better today. It’s a reach but the stolen base potential is very high and it’s time he gets on fantasy owner’s radar.
J.P. Crawford (SS, Phi)
As with Aaron Nola, there are a lot of financial reasons to keep J.P. Crawford in the minor leagues. However, when a team is in a rebuild-mode and said team charge a lot of money for their tickets, they need to give their fans hope and a plan for the future. Crawford is the type of dynamic athlete that will provide that bridge to the future and show the Phillies fans that there is indeed hope. The hit tool is very advanced and while the in-game power hasn’t shown yet, the swing says it’s in there.
Hector Olivera (3B, LAD)
If it weren’t for a hamstring pull, Hector Olivera would likely already be in the major leagues. He’s been back for the past week in the AZL and should return to Triple-A shortly. He’s big league ready but might only be a part-time player for the Dodgers once he’s promoted unless there is an injury or a trade. I still think a trade makes sense as there is a lot of infield depth in Los Angeles.