I’ve struggled getting this list out due in part to the number of recent promotions to the big league – Carlos Correa (1), Joey Gallo (9) and Vince Valesquez (46) just in the last week. Before that, Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, Noah Syndergaard, Archie Bradley, and others have all been promoted. With all of this activity, the list has been a moving target and getting my arms around it has been a challenge.
In putting together the list, I focused on the fantasy aspect of each player. While defense is still part of the equation, I primarily used it to evaluate the players opportunity to get consistent playing time instead of the players overall value. For instance, Francisco Lindor will be an above-average fantasy contributor but will likely be a better baseball player given his plus defensive chops. The list reflects that perspective.
While I agonized over the placement of each player, please do not do the same. If you think D.J. Peterson has more upside than Hunter Renfroe, even though Renfroe is ranked seven slots higher, then so be it. There’s no formula or “super scout” list that has the answer. It’s just my opinion. Enjoy and I look forward to your feedback.
Editors Note: We had already gone to press when Byron Buxton and Francisco Lindor were called up. We did not change our list to reflect those promotions.
After an injury riddled 2014 season, Byron Buxton has knocked off the rust and has started to flash the tools that made him the best prospect coming into the 2014 season. He’s a true five-tool player with double-plus speed, natural bat-to-ball ability, and the bat speed and strength that should eventually translate into average, if not more power. While there’s a chance he could see a September callup, I expect him to promoted in mid-April of 2016.
After the promotion of a number of top prospects to the Major Leagues, Corey Seager must be thinking…”What do I have to do to get to the show?” The answer is…not a lot. He’s just a victim of a very strong major league team and the likelihood that the Dodgers will want to use a similar development path that was used for Joc Pederson. Dynasty League owners just need show some patience and understand that once he’s promoted, it’s going to be very, very good.
The Nationals held Lucas Giolitto back in extended spring training to start the 2015 season as they continue to handle him with kid-gloves after his 2012 Tommy John Surgery. The gloves should come off in the second half and with Giolito’s advanced arsenal and pitchability, he should move quickly. He has the pitching profile of an ace – three plus pitches with a feel for pitching and a great pitchers body. While he’s only in High-A, I expect Giolito to make his major league pitching debut sometime in 2016.
The Red Sox decided to take it slow with their prized Cuban émigré and started Yoan Moncada in extended spring training for the first six weeks of the season. The immensely talented second baseman is already showing off his tools in Greenville and will likely be promoted to High-A in the second half. With an advanced hit-tool, he should move quickly with a chance to see Boston in the second half of 2016. Where will he play? I actually don’t know, but the upside of 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases with a high batting average will force his way into the lineup at some point.
While we all wait for Ruben Amaro to transform the Phillies, J.P. Crawford quietly continues to be one of the best prospects in the game. He started the year off in extended spring training after suffering a ribcage strain in spring training but made quick work of the Florida State League posting a .921 OPS in 21 games. There is 20 home run and 15 stolen base potential with a future above-average hit tool to go along with the ability to stay up-the-middle. After Corey Seager, he’s the next best fantasy shortstop in the minor leagues.
With the top payroll in the major leagues and two players in the Top 10 of our list, the Dodgers are setup to remain competitive for a long time. Julio Urias has top-of-the-rotation potential with a fastball that sits 92 to 95 MPH and two plus secondary pitches in his change-up and curveball. The only concern is his 5-foot-11 stature and whether he’ll be able to maintain the load of a starter on a division contending team. I think he will, and together with Lucas Giolito, they are clearly the top two pitchers in the minor leagues.
Miguel Sano is just about ready for the show. In fact, the Twins recently promoted Kennys Vargas to replace the struggling Danny Santana and if that move were to be made in July, Sano might have been the player promoted. He’s got a big swing and will strikeout a ton, but he’s also going to hit 30 plus home runs and be a force in the middle of the lineup. Trevor Plouffe is blocking him and first base is also not an option, but the Twins will find a place for his bat…and soon.
Things were coming to together for Tyler Glasnow in 2015 when he sprained his ankle during an early May start. He’s currently sitting on the minor league disabled list but should be back in July. Few pitchers if any can match the swing and miss stuff of Glasnow in the minors. His mid-nineties fastball, wipe-out slider, and deceptive delivery makes it very difficult on opposing hitters. He just lacks the ability to throw consistent strikes, but when that comes together, he has the upside of an ace. Assuming he gets back on the mound in July, I expect him to arrive in Pittsburgh in June of 2016.
Drafted with the number four overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft, Kyle Schwarber has done nothing but hit since making his professional debut. In 530 professional plate appearances, he has a slash line of .336/.435/.612. Double-A has also not been much of a challenge for the 6-foot, 235 pound catcher as he’s posted a 1.025 OPS with 12 home runs in 55 games. The only thing left for Schwarber to prove is that he can stay behind the plate. Most in the industry do not believe he can and feel the Cubs should simply move him to the outfield and let him move to Chicago sometime later this year. The Cubs disagree and continue to put him behind the plate.
If only Dylan Bundy could stay healthy. Having seen him already this year, his stuff looks to have returned to pre-Tommy-John surgery form with enough command and control to get big league batters out today. Unfortunately, he’s back on the minor league disabled list with a shoulder issue and his timing to return to the majors appears to be pushed towards the end of the season. Dynasty League owners need to have patience as Bundy still has top-of-the-rotation potential, he just need to stay healthy.
Most mid-season list will have Francisco Lindor higher, however, if we are looking strictly from a fantasy standpoint, he falls into the 10 to 20 range. First, Lindor is a plus defender and should have a long career at the premium position. Offensively, he will be very good with an above-average hit tool, above-average speed that should produce 25 plus stolen bases and enough strength to pop five to eight home runs. Given the lack of offensive shortstop, that should make Lindor a Top 10 shortstop who should be a major leaguer for a long, long time.
Yes I said it…”Daniel Norris has the potential to be the best left-hander in baseball”. So far, that prediction is not looking too good. He had his chance this year and performed ok, but the Blue Jays felt he needed to work on his command and moved him back to Triple-A. The stuff is still premium, the delivery is still very athletic, and the make-up is still off-the-chart. Patience!
After the unfortunate injury to David Dahl that likely ended his season, I debated moving him down in the rankings. However, I was reminded of the upside and the fact that he should be roaming center field in Coors Field next year, and decided to keep him in the Top 25. He’s a plus defender with speed and the ability to barrel the ball. The ceiling remains: 15 home run, 25 stolen base, .280 batting average, and a .340 on-base percentage.
Austin Meadows has quietly become one of the best prospects in the game. Drafted number nine in the 2013 first year player draft, Meadows has started to show his immense talent by posting a .290/.370/.376 slash line in High-A. Sure, I wish the slugging percentage was higher, but the Florida State League suppresses power and I still see him posting a mid 400s slugging percentage long-term. His advanced hit-tool should push the Pirates to promote him to Double-A over the second-half. Where does he play once he’s ready for the Big Leagues….that’s a really good question.
After Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto has been the most impressive hitter in last year’s draft class. Granted, as one of the best bats in college last year, he should have manhandled the lower minors and with an .812 OPS in 46 games, he did. So far, Double-A has been even easier as he’s posted a 1.293 OPS in his first eight games. There’s a chance the Mets could promote him for a September cup-of-coffee, but if not, he should see time in Queens in 2016. The ceiling is a 20 home run hitting machine with a chance to post a .300 average with regularity.
As a prospect evaluator, I’ve learned one thing…do not give up on athletic pitchers. While they might start off with raw mechanics, the superior athleticism usually enables them to repeat their delivery which generally leads to success. Enter Alex Reyes. Blessed with tremendous athleticism and two plus pitches, he just needs to learn to throw strikes. I think he will and the Cardinals have a long history to help prove my point. As with many high ceiling, high risk prospects, Dynasty League owners need to have patience and ride the ups-and-downs of the development process.
It’s easy to get fixated on the enormous size of Aaron Judge. The dude is…well…big. He’s 6-foot-7, muscular with arms that are bigger than most people’s thighs. You know what else…the guy can really play. Despite his size, his swing is direct to the ball and he keeps both hands on the bat through the point of impact to extenuate the point. In general, this approach will reduce power, but he’s got so much natural strength, that it works. He’s also has average foot speed with a chance to steal double-digit bases. There’s monster fantasy potential with Judge with a ceiling of 25 home runs, 15 stolen bases and a .270 plus batting average.
Manny Margot went 68 plate appearances before striking out to start the 2015 season – truly a remarkable feat. He then hurt his shoulder and struggled for a while before the Red Sox put him on the disabled list. Fully healthy, Margot is back to raking, posting a 720 .OPS in 33 games in High-A. Assuming he stays healthy, he’ll likely be promoted to Double-A in the second half with a target of late 2016 to make his major league debut. With his advanced approach and natural ability to barrel the ball, his ceiling is a .300 hitter with 30 plus stolen bases and 8 to 10 home runs.
Orlando Arcia has emerged onto the National prospect scene by posting an .865 OPS as one of the youngest players in the Southern League. He’s an above-average defender with enough chops to stay at shortstop in the major leagues. He continues to show an impressive hit-tool with the ability to make elite contact (91%) while hitting with authority to all fields. The swing is a line-drive, doubles swing but he has enough bat speed to profile with eight to 10 home runs. While he stole 31 bases last year, I don’t see this level of production following him to the big leagues. Instead, 20 stolen bases annually seems more realistic.
Despite being the third youngest player in the South Atlantic League, Rafael Devers has been one of it’s best performers. In 47 games, he’s posted an OPS of .808 with three home runs and 26 RBI’s. The three home runs is just a start as Devers has plus raw power that will begin to unfold over the next year or two. The swing is aggressive and likely always will be, but he has enough bat control to profile as an average hitter with a ceiling of a .270 batting average at the highest level.
We’ve been saying for the past two years that you just need to ignore the stat line when evaluating Raul Mondesi Jr. I know it’s getting hard when you’re posting a .240/.256/.656 slash line in 20 games at Double-A. However, as the youngest player in the Texas League, the Kansas City Royals continue to be very aggressive with their prized teenager. Could it backfire? Sure, and unless he starts to show a better approach at the plate, he’ll likely sit in Double-A for a year or two. But the tools are still something to dream-on. He has plus bat speed with 70-grade foot speed and the ability to stay at shortstop. The future ceiling is still that of an All-Star shortstop.
Many fantasy owners have added Steve Matz to their team expecting the 6-foot-2 lefty to be promoted mid-year to New York. While it has happened yet, you can argue that Matz has put up the best pitching performance in the minor league this year. In 11 starts, he’s posted a 1.94 ERA while striking out over a batter an inning and walking just over three per-nine; and he’s done it pitching in some of the most difficult pitching environments in all of professional baseball. When will he be promoted? I think it will be very, very soon.
Nomar Mazara has now emerged as the Top prospect in Texas Rangers organization. The 20-year outfielder was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 for a record-setting $4.95 million dollars and has been aggressively moved through the system. He’s shown a mature approach at the plate in his 53 games in Double-A in 2015, but the plus raw power has not yet started to translate. It will and once it does, there is 30 home run potential to go along with a solid-average batting average.
Jameson Taillon has yet to make his 2015 professional appearance as he makes his way back from Tommy John Surgery. However, early reports out of his extended spring training games have been encouraging, so he’s not far away from posting an official box score. The Pirates will take it easy with Taillon this year but if the arsenal and command return, he still has a number two starter profile.
Jose Peraza has been playing a lot of center field recently in Triple-A as the Braves look to expand his flexibility as he nears his call-up to the major leagues. Peraza can really hit with a great approach to go along with top-shelf speed. All of that should come together nicely for fantasy owners in 2016.