September call-ups are around the corner and our waiver wire list is still going strong. This week’s list can be found here.
We focus on two types of players in this week’s update. Several that were true breakout players last season but haven’t been heard from this year. Why? Where did they go? Read on and find out. The second group is young kids that are starting to make a name for themselves. Who are they? Read on and find out. And if you’re wondering, yes Vlad Jr. was very good this week.
Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.
Estevan Florial (OF, NYY, High-A) – Estevan Florial was on one of the significant pop-up prospects last season after showing an intriguing combination of power and speed. However, a .404 BABIP helped disguise a 28% strikeout rate and enabled the outfielder to hit an impressive .297 in Charleston and .303 in Tampa to end last season. The poor contact rate caught up to him this season as he hit .245 in April and May before requiring hamate surgery that caused him to miss six weeks of action.
Once he returned, he caught fire hitting .347 in July and .309 so far in August. The power has been slow to return, slugging only .372 with three home runs. But once fully healthy, there is definitely plus power in the bat with a chance to hit 25 to 30 home runs while adding 15 to 20 stolen bases. However, the contact is a problem and with his long swing, fantasy owners might have to settle for a low batting average in the .230 range to go along with the home runs and stolen bases. The good news is he demonstrates the ability to take a walk, so in OBP Leagues, that might be acceptable.
Austin Hays (OF, Bal, Double-A) – After having one of the best statistical performance in all of the minor leagues in 2017, Austin Hays seemed primed to make a major contribution in Baltimore this season. But, the baseball gods had other ideas as an ankle and shoulder injury zapped his power causing him to struggle mightily to start the season. Finally, the Orioles shut him down in late May and while he didn’t set the world on fire when he returned, he’s played much better in August. In fact, over the past week, he was 10 for 21 with two home runs.
We still like Hays long-term and believe he has 20 home run upside and assuming he can become more patient at the plate, he has the ability to hit .260 to .270 with upside.
Bubba Thompson (OF, Tex, Low-A) – The Rangers drafted toolsy Bubba Thompson in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft with the hope that he could assemble at least an average hit tool so that his plus speed and emerging power would play. He’s shown plenty of speed (28 stolen bases) and the great bat speed is starting to translate into power. However, a 27% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate illustrates that the hit tool is still lagging behind. If it all comes together, you’re looking at a 20/20 performer with upside on both the power and speed. If it doesn’t, then he might follow a Lewis Brinson type of development curve, which as a Brinson loyalist, is incredibly painful.
The potential, though, has been demonstrated this month. In 16 games, he’s hitting .323 with a .382 OBP with three home runs and five stolen bases. How’s the strikeout rate, you ask? Or at least you should…it’s the same…28%. I didn’t calculate the BABIP but I’m guessing it’s .400 plus.
Keibert Ruiz (C, LAD, Double-A) – It’s easy to see a .254 batting average and question whether the hype surrounding Keibert Ruiz is warranted. Then you realize that he just turned 20, is in Double-A and is a catcher. Remember, catchers have to spend considerable time working on their defensive skills and is one of the reasons they are slow to develop offensively. But Ruiz is doing just fine. He’s controlling the strike zone very well and showing good over-the-fence pop. The upside continues to be a Top five fantasy catcher with a chance to hit 15 to 20 home runs and bat .280.
After a down July, he’s back to hitting the ball to all fields with a .357 batting average in August with more walks than strikeouts. Again, if you are an owner, don’t panic, just be patient as goodness should arrive next season or in 2020.
Blaze Alexander (SS, Ari, Rookie) – You don’t generally see an 11th round pick make a top prospect list in his first year of professional ball, but Blaze Alexander is making the Diamondbacks look really smart. Granted, he got paid like he was a fourth-round pick ($500,000) but the early returns are showing that he could have been a first or second-round pick. He’s demonstrating power, speed and the ability to control the strike zone. In 42 games, he has a slash line of .353/.443/.582 with four home runs and nine stolen bases. He’ll likely start in Low-A to begin the 2019 campaign, and if he performs, he’ll start to climb prospect list very quickly. If I were you, I’d jump on the train before it’s too late.
Nick Solak (2B, TB, Double-A) – While many people have heard of the more famous players in the Rays organization, fantasy owners need to start familiarizing themselves with the “second tier” players. Perhaps leading that list is Nick Solak. He’s done nothing but hit since being drafted in the second round by the Yankees in the 2016 MLB Draft. This year, the power has developed and he’s stolen 21 bases. Throw in a 19% strikeout rate and a 12% walk rate and it’s easy to get excited. He spent the entire season in Double-A and should be ready for Triple-A next season. If it all goes well, don’t be surprised to see him in St. Petersburg in the second half.
Want more? In 19 games in August, he’s hitting .355 with as many walks as strikeouts while hitting four home runs and stealing two bags.
Freudis Nova (SS, Hou, Rookie) – Last year I added Freudis Nova to most of my Dynasty Leagues. I loved the power/speed combination and from talking with evaluators who laid eyes on him in the DSL last summer, they believed he would hit. This year, It all seems to be coming together for the teenager. In 38 games in rookie ball, he’s hitting .311 with six home runs and eight stolen bases. Sure, he’s only walked six times but assuming he can learn some patience, the Astros could be looking at a very intriguing talent.
Eric Pardinho (RHP, Tor, Short Season) – One of the more intriguing players signed last year during the International signing period was 5-foot-10 Brazilian right-hander Eric Pardinho. The Blue Jays paid him a $1.4 million dollar signing bonus and brought him to their complex to start the process. The work is starting to pay off as his fastball has taken a noticeable tick up and his secondary pitches can now consistently miss bats. While he’s only performed in rookie ball, the results have been outstanding. He’s pitched to a 2.93 ERA while striking out over 11 per nine and walking 2.5 per nine. He’s also given up five home runs and that points to the concern. He’s only 5-foot-10 and while he his delivery helps him stay “tall”, he’s going to be prone to giving up the long ball.
Ultimately, I think he becomes a bullpen arm but the Blue Jays will keep him starting for the foreseeable future.
Parker Dunshee (RHP, Oak, Double-A) – With the A’s ability to recycle presumed over-the-hill pitchers to relevant, if not dominating pitchers, maybe they don’t need young pitchers in their system. Just convert them all to bats! But in the meantime, they’ve got some very good arms. With no disrespect to Jesus Luzardo, Parker Dunshee is making the case to be their pitcher of the year. He’s pitched extremely well in Double-A, pitching to a 2.44 ERA while striking out over a batter an inning while walk 1.4 per nine. The problem is his stuff is just average. His fastball sits in the low 90’s with average to slightly above-average secondary pitchers. However, they all play up because of his ability to throw each pitch for strikes.
Kris Bubic (LHP, KC, Rookie) – Drafted in the supplemental first round last June, Kris Bubic has had an inconsistent start to his professional career. Pitching in the Pioneer League, he got off to a difficult start pitching to a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings in July. However, as he got more comfortable, the stuff got sharper and August has been much better. In 19 innings, he’s pitched to a 1.89 ERA with 32 strikeouts and only five walks. He’s currently a fastball/change-up pitcher with his fastball sitting in the low-90s. With his change-up ahead of his curveball, he’ll likely have early success as batters in the minor league will be fooled. However, as he moves through the system, the curveball will have to improve in order for him to his hit ceiling of a number four pitcher.
We have a really fun waiver wire list for you this week with 15 names to review and analyze. The list can be found here.
With just a few weeks left in the minor league season, I thought I would start to transition the player write-ups to what you will see in our Team profiles this fall. We have expanded the list from 10 plus an emerging prospect to a Top 15 for each team. The write-ups will be smaller but with less background information and instead, more focus on current and future potential. As I did with the write-up of Vlad Jr. and Peter Alonso, I will detail both fantasy strategies and scouting rationale to provide some deeper analysis. I will not do this on all of the write-ups, not even most, but will sprinkle those narratives where it makes sense (and, ok…I have the time).
Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.
Vlad Guerrero Jr. (3B, Tor, Triple-A) – As we’ve stated multiple times, we could have included Vlad Guerrero Jr. nearly every week on our Hot Prospect list. He has a chance to hit .400 with 20 plus home runs this season and is still only 19 years old. His combination of power, plate discipline, and incredible hand-to-eye coordination point to a ceiling of that provided by Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera in their prime. Both won MVPs and both went number one overall in fantasy drafts during their peak years. Just saying…
The fun question to think about is where will Vlad Jr. will go in fantasy drafts next year? If you use Ronald Acuna as a benchmark and assume that Guerrero’s hit tool is at least a grade higher and his power also a grade higher, it’s reasonable to think of his draft slot as a third or even second round pick in a mixed 15-team League. Crazy? Perhaps. But, Acuna ended the draft season as a high fifth-round pick in the NFBC and after an adjustment period, is proving that the fifth round was a bargain. Vlad Jr. could be better and in a better park. Plus, he has the hype machine churning, perhaps even higher than Acuna this time last year. What will I do? If he’s sitting in the third round, I’m likely going to jump on him. I think he’ll be that good.
Vidal Brujan (2B, TB, High-A) – I’ve already started working on my Top 15 team rankings for 2019. What I’ve quickly realized is that the Rays system is really good. It better be because the Red Sox and Yankees are really good and the Rays will need to pounce when both teams windows close around 2021 or 2022. Vidal Brujan is a name that fantasy owners need to know. He has double-plus speed and has already stolen 48 bases across Low and High-A this season. He also has walked as much as he’s struck out. He’s been red-hot in August, batting .458 with six stolen bases and two home runs.
Grant Lavigne (1B, Col, ROK) – The Rockies selected high schooler Grant Lavigne in the supplemental first round (pick 42) with the hope that he would hit enough to allow his double-plus power to play. After 44 games, it looks like a huge win for the Rockies. He’s walked nearly as much as he’s struck out and his strikeout rate has been 16.7%, which is very good for a power hitter. While he’s slugging .576, he’s only hit six home runs to-date but he’s also showed a little bit of speed by stealing nine bases. I don’t believe the speed sticks as he’s 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds but do believe the home run power will improve.
Before getting too excited, remember that the Northwest League is a hitters league and Asheville, which is likely where he starts next season is one of the best hitter’s parks in all of the minor leagues. Then again, so is Coors Field, so maybe that doesn’t matter too much.
Peter Alonso (1B, NYM, Triple-A) – The Mets drafted Peter Alonso in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft after a standout college career at the University of Florida. Scouts were mixed on him entering the draft as his power was more strength driven than bat-speed driven. You might be asking, why is that important? Well, with the level of velocity we are seeing in baseball, and every pitcher seemingly able to dial it up their fastball to 95 MPH, without excellent bat speed, it’s just hard to catch up to premium velocity. Pitchers will find the holes and exploit and without the necessary bat speed, the batter will become a mistake hitter.
The good news with Alonso is that he has developed great plate discipline and has shortened his swing. Both skills have helped him get his strikeouts under control, and both will help him compensate for not having elite bat speed. The results: It’s working. He tore through Double-A and after a brief struggle in Triple-A, he’s hitting .340 with six home runs in August. The upside is a 30 home run first baseman hitting .270. The downside, and yes there is a downside, is A.J. Reed. In other words, a player that gets exploited in the major leagues. Adding to the risk, the Mets have a long history of losing patience with young players, having them ride the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors for longer than fantasy owners would like to see.
D’Shawn Knowles (OF, LAA, Rok) – Under the leadership of Billy Eppler, the Angels have gotten serious about signing International talent. In 2017, they signed D’Shawn Knowles out of the Bahamas for $800,000. In his first taste of professional baseball, the 17-year-old has performed. The Angles started him off in the AZL and after 30 games and a .301 batting average, promoted him to the Pioneer League where he played even better. His carrying tool is his double-plus speed and to-date has stolen eight bases. While he’s only 17, he has demonstrated an advanced approach at the plate walking at a 12% rate. The strikeouts are a little high but as he gains experience and strength, he has the skillset to hit at the top of a lineup with 30 plus stolen bases and enough power to have double-digit power.
Colton Welker (3B, Col, High-A) – It’s always hard to get a feel for young Rockies players as their first three stops (Grand Junction, Asheville, and Lancaster) are hitters parks. In the case of Asheville and Lancaster, you can add the adjective extreme. Welker has hit and showed power at each stop. To-date, it’s mostly been doubles-power but as he gains strength and leverage in his swing, many of those doubles will start to clear the fences. On the downside, the swing can get long and therefore, strikeouts will develop, particularly as he moves up levels. In other words, I don’t see him as a .300 hitter long-term. What I do believe is that he can pop 25 home runs with a .260 batting average and a handful of stolen bases. He should move to Double-A next season and that will be the real test. For now, I think he has the California League figured out as he’s batting .500 so far in August with as many walks as strikeouts.
Shervyen Newton (SS, NYM, Rok) – When you’re 6-foot-4 and only 180 pounds, the word projection is frequently used. That’s what the Mets have been saying about Shervyen Newton when the signed him out of Curacao in 2015. They have been taking it very slowly with Newton and this year, he has started to show his potential. In Kingsport of the Appy League, he’s slashed .293/.406/.486 with five home runs four stolen bases. While the Mets have always loved his feel for hitting as well as his approach, they have to be thrilled by his developing power. Could he develop into a power-hitting infielder, like another Curacao native, Jonathan Schoop has? While I don’t think he has 30 home run power, I could see 20 but with a much better hit-tool. He’s been red-hot since the beginning of August and is a nice under-the-radar prospect that fantasy owners should be jumping on.
Joe Palumbo (RHP, Tex, High-A) – Joe Palumbo has taken quite a journey to make this list. He was drafted in the 30th round in 2013 as a reliever and pitched ok but things started to click when the Rangers moved him to the starting rotation in 2016 only for him to have Tommy John reconstructive surgery in 2017. After surgery and a lengthy rehab, he’s back pitching and doesn’t look like he’s lost a beat. In six starts for the Down East Wood Ducks (think East North Carolina, kind of in the middle of nowhere), he’s pitched to a 2.67 ERA while striking out 34 and walking six. In this two starts in August, he’s pitched 10.1 shutout innings while striking out 20 and walking three. He’s doing it with a mid-90’s fastball and a curveball that is already plus. He’s still working on his change-up. There’s number three starter upside here and perhaps a little more.
Michael Kopech (RHP, CHW, Triple-A) – I’ve been all over the map with Michael Kopech. I saw him in 2017 season and clocked his 80-grade fastball at 102.2 MPH and got really excited. I saw the athleticism and drooled. I also saw 30-grade control and knew he had some work to do. I even speculated that unless his secondary pitches improved and more importantly, his control improved, he might be bound for the bullpen. I reiterated that again this year as I’ve had a chance to see him pitch twice in Charlotte. Recently though, he’s changed. His fastball is sitting more 97 MPH (plenty fast) and in turn, he’s developed better control. The secondary pitches are better but still need work. But in seven starts since July 1st, he’s struck out 56 and walked eight. Uh, that’s pretty good. It could be time to move the ceiling back to a number two starter. If he doesn’t overthrow, the White Sox might have a kid that can pitch at the top-of-the-rotation…and soon.
Luis Patino (RHP, SD, Low-A) – In a stacked system like the Padres, even guys that are ranked outside the Top 10 have number three starter upside. In case you’re wondering…that is just unusual. Luis Patino has three quality pitches in a fastball that tops out at 95 MPH with a potential future-plus curveball and an emerging change-up. He’s only 6-feet tall but does pitch from a high three-quarter delivery. Home runs have not yet been a problem, but could as he moves through the system. You can argue that the 18-year-old is ready for High-A as he’s pitching to a 2.39 ERA in 15 starts. In August, he’s thrown10.1 innings, giving up two runs while striking out 17 and walking three.
The waiver wire is really full this week as injuries are taking their toll and poor performances, particularly with closers have reared their ugly head. This week’s waiver wire can be found here.
As we start to wind down the minor league season, I decided to go deep and present some players that have had very good starts to their professional career. All of them are still in rookie ball, so caution needs to be exhibited but the starts are indeed encouraging. Finally, Jesus Luzardo makes our list again and is quickly becoming one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues with the ceiling of a number two starter. In fact, his stay in Triple-A will likely be short-lived as he could help the Oakland A’s now in their playoff run.
Enjoy the list and please click on the baseball card to visit our partner amazon.com to explore additional information on each player.
Nolan Gorman (3B, STL, Rookie) – Drafted in the first round of June’s draft, Nolan Gorman’s calling card was his double-plus raw power. In 36 games in rookie ball, the raw power has translated to in-game power as he’s hit 11 with a .664 SLG. The power has come with too many strikeouts (22% strikeout rate) but he’s also walked 14.5% of the time. Given the state of the game today, that should make him a valuable contributor.
Alex McKenna (OF, Hou, Rookie) – With their fourth-round pick in last June’s draft, the Astros grabbed outfielder Alex McKenna. After signing, he was assigned to the New York Penn League where he’s done nothing but hit. He has a .968 OPS with five home runs and four stolen bases. Three of those home runs have come in the last week and given his college pedigree, he might see Low-A before the season ends.
Mark Vientos (3B, NYM, Rookie) – I’ve gotten a number of tweets about Mark Vientos. Basically, asking if he is for real? Well, if you like guys who can hit with plus raw power, then the answer is a resounding yes. He’s moved off shortstop to third base and should have enough chops to stay there long term. The only real downside from a fantasy standpoint is that he’s a below average runner. He’s only in rookie ball, but he’s posted a .888 OPS this year and has been red-hot over the past week, hitting .375 with a .667 SLG.
Gilberto Celestino (OF, Min, Rookie) – I drafted Gilberto Celestino last year in most of my Dynasty Leagues. While I always preach patience with young kids, of course, I had none and do not own him anywhere now. While he’s still in Rookie Ball, he doesn’t turn 20 until next year, so he’s right on schedule. He posted a .868 OPS for the Astros before being traded last week to the Twins and has kept it up. He’s a double-plus runner and should develop double-digit home run pop. Yeah…I know, I should have kept him.
Bobby Dalbec (3B, Bos, Double-A) – The Red Sox system is really barren. It’s a bottom five farm system easily. But with the best record in baseball and an excellent shot for a World Series appearance, do you think the fans care? Exactly. What’s interesting is that the core of their team is homegrown and the best part is most of them have become stars. A rare but impressive feat. While I don’t see any stars remaining (maybe Jason Groome), third baseman Bobby Dalbec has me wondering. He popped a league-leading 26 home runs in the Carolina League and has already hit two in his first four games in Double-A since his promotion.
Nate Lowe (1B, TB, Double-A) – The Lowe’s of Tampa Bay are having outstanding years. Brandon, just got promoted to the big leagues (who saw that coming?) and Nate Lowe, no relations, has been raking all year. He’s hitting .342 in Double-A with a .610 SLG. Plus, he’s gotten better as the year has progressed. In August, he’s hitting .342 walking more than he’s striking out. He’s gone from an extra bat ceiling to a legitimate regular at first base.
Cavan Biggio (2B, Tor, Double-A) – Cavan Biggio got off to a tremendous start this year and was one of the real pop-up players in the minor leagues. After all, he has the bloodlines. However, after a June and July where he hit below the Mendoza line, questions about his ultimate ceiling surfaced again. As August has rolled around, he’s back to his Spring form, batting .364 with a .773 SLG. So, who is Cavan Biggio? I’m not sure. The bat speed is not great and he’s only an average runner. But, he controls the strike zone, can steal bases even though he’s not a burner and has developed some power. I think he gets a chance to be the Blue Jays second baseman, perhaps as early as next season. If nothing else, it would fit the narrative of three kids of former MLB stars coming up together. If you don’t know the other two…well, it’s time to start digging into our site.
Jesus Luzardo (LHP, Oak, Triple-A) – Jesus Luzardo makes our list again and is bucking for our Minor League Pitcher of the Year award. He was promoted to Triple-A this week and pitched five shutouts innings with six strikeouts and no walks. If there is one criticism. He has only had one start where he has pitched more than five innings. It was a six-inning shutout in July. Are the A’s saving him for a stretch run? Have they determined his stuff doesn’t play the third time through the lineup? I don’t see that. He’s never been the model of health, so perhaps they are just limiting his work. Regardless, he’s quickly becoming one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues.
Dylan Cease (RHP, CHW, Double-A) – Dylan Cease is yet another big arm in the White Sox organization that is showing top-of-the-rotation potential. He’s always had great stuff with a fastball that can hit the upper nineties and a curveball that can bend knees, but his control has never been there. That is changing. In 13 starts in High-A, he posted a 3.52 BB/9 and in seven starts in Double-A, he’s been even better, only giving up 2.88 walks per nine. When you combine that with a strikeout rate of nearly 12, the ceiling is pretty easy to see.
Tony Santillan (RHP, Cin, Double-A) – I’ve always been a big fan of Reds right-hander Tony Santillan and of course because he spent a couple of years in Low-A, I dropped him for what I’m assuming is a guy I dropped as well. The breakout though has occurred in 2018. He tore through the Florida State League and in six starts in Double-A, is pitching to a 1.78 ERA. He’s also striking out a batter an inning while walking only two per nine. Want more…his fastball sits 96 to 97 MPH and the slider is finally working and getting a ton of swing and misses. That was best seen in his July 30th start where he struck out 11 in 5.2 shutout innings while walking two. He’s a strong candidate for making my 2019 Top 100 Prospect List.
We took a week off to drop our midseason Top 50 prospect list, but this week, we get back on the horse of providing you a list of 10 prospects who have stood out this week. In fact, this week, we gave you a bonus of two.
Several familiar names highlight the list including Tyler O’Neill and Corey Ray who have both made our list multiple times. However, there are new names including Rookie sensation Wander Franco and the lesser known Freudis Nova. While I didn’t including any of the 2018 draftees, Nick Madrigal had a nice week, hitting .458 in Kannapolis with no strikeouts in 25 plate appearance. Wait a minute…maybe I should expand the list to 13…
Tyler O’Neill (STL, OF, Triple-A) – I think Tyler O’Neill has this Triple-A thing figured out. In 58 games, he’s hit 25 home runs including five in two days this past week. He’s had a couple of chances in the majors this year, but after 19 games, he’s only hit .227. While it’s a tiny sample size, baseball teams, especially contenders are trying to catch lightning in a bottle and O’Neill has not done that. He’s still very much a prospect and I believe he’ll be given a shot to get full-time at-bats if not later this season, then next year.
Alex Kirilloff (Min, OF, High-A) – After missing all of 2017 with Tommy John surgery, Alex Kiriloff is making up for lost time. After hitting .333 in Low-A to begin the season, he’s done even better in High-A. In 29 games, he’s hitting .383 with a .592 SLG. Want more…over the past eight games, he’s hitting .656 with two home runs. Kiriloff is a great hitter with enough strength and bat speed to pop 15 to 20 home runs annually.
Brent Rooker (Min, OF, Double-A) – Brent Rooker has shown flashes this year of being an impact middle of the order bat and this week was no exception where he went 11 for 23 with two home runs. The approach is not great as there is a lot of swing and miss and he can get aggressive at the plate. However, the power is real and with a more patient approach, that ceiling could be reached.
Eloy Jimenez (CHW, OF, Triple-A) – I had a chance to see Eloy Jimenez this past week and as in every other scouting visit, I came away very impressed. Not only is he physically impressive, the power is very much real with tremendous loft in his swing. The swing, of course, gets long so strikeouts will be part of the equation, but so could 30 plus home runs. There’s no reason to promote him this year, but assuming health, he’ll see Chicago sometime in the first half of the 2019 season.
Wander Franco (TB, SS, Rookie) – Last year, Ronald Acuna tore through the minor leagues and his year it was Juan Soto’s turn, even eclipsing the speed of Acuna. Don’t be surprised if next season Wander Franco is that guy. Oh yeah, he plays for the Rays, so that probably won’t happen, but if you’re looking for your next stud player, it could very well be him. He can hit with power and some speed. He’ll make our Top 100 next season and then some.
Blake Rutherford (CHW, OF, High-A) – After a very inconsistent year in 2017, Blake Rutherford is starting to show signs of what the Yankees saw when they drafted him the first round of the 2016 draft. He’s red-hot in July, batting .369 with a .452 SLG. The power hasn’t developed yet, but he has good bat speed with solid athleticism so I think in the end, he will develop 15 to 20 home runs pop. Throw-in 15 or so stolen bases with a solid hit tool, and he could make a nice number three outfielder on your fantasy team.
Corey Ray (Mil, OF, Double-A) – Did you know that Corey Ray has 20 home runs and 32 stolen bases this season? I knew he had a great week and why I wanted to put him on the list, but WOW, that’s impressive production; and he’s doing it in Double-A. I’ve not seen Ray this year, but last season I saw him several times and was not a fan of his swing. There’s a ton of swing and miss (27% strikeout rate) but there’s also a ton of bat speed and he’s a plus runner. If I’m being honest though, he does remind me a little of…gulp…Lewis Brinson. That’s a great comp if you’re looking for a ceiling but let’s hope it doesn’t come with a .160 batting average in his rookie season.
Freudis Nova (Hou, SS, Rookie) – Dynasty League owners are always looking for under-the-radar Latin players. How about Houston Astros’ Freudis Nova. He has plus speed, great bat speed and an understanding of the strike zone. Plus, he’s likely to stay at shortstop. In fact, he’s the perfect guy to be included in a deadline trade this summer as he has the kind of upside that rebuilding teams are looking for. Just for the record, he’s hitting .325 with a .815 OPS with two home runs and five stolen bases in Rookie Ball this year.
Adonis Medina (Phi, RHP, High-A) – I saw the Phillies Low-A team several times last year and really liked Adonis Medina. While Sixto Sanchez has the 80-grade fastball, Medina is the better current pitcher and while the ceiling isn’t as high, could be a solid number three future pitcher, if not more. While his ERA is 1.50 worse this year, if you dig under the peripheral stats, his strikeout rate, walk rate, BABIP are all identical (almost to the fourth digit). The difference is that his LOB is off significantly and therefore, more guys are scoring. When it’s all clicking like it was earlier this week, he can be totally dominant. On July 21st vs. Florida, he pitched seven scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks.
Josh James (Hou, RHP, Triple-A) – Josh James was the flavor of the week about a month ago when everybody was adding him to their Dynasty League. I even got caught up and added him to one league. I get it, there’s a lot to like. He’s got size, throws hard and is sporting a 14 K/9 rate. He’s also walking four per nine, is 25-years-old with a lot of effort in his delivery. He’s likely a bullpen arm long-term but he could see some spot starts later this season.
Logan Allen (SD, LHP, Double-A) – While all the pitching love in San Diego is going to MacKenzie Gore, Adrian Morejon, Cal Quantrill, and Michael Baez, lefty Logan Allen is arguably having the best season of the bunch. In 18 games in Double-A, he’s posted a 2.59 ERA while striking out well over a batter an inning while walking less than three per nine. He has good stuff with a fastball that sits 92 to 93 and three quality secondary pitches. He throws strikes and has demonstrated solid command of all of his pitches. That command has been on display since June 1st where he’s pitched to a sub 2.00 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 6 walks. He didn’t do this in Rookie Ball, but instead, in Double-A. Yeah…that’s pretty good.
Trevor Rogers (Mia, RHP, Low-A) – Miami drafted Trevor Rogers as their first overall pick last season and decided to keep him out of action until this season. They even held him back until late May but since then, he’s pitched well. While the 5.98 ERA is not impressive, he’s striking out over 10 per nine with a reasonable 3.5 walk rate. Over his past four starts, he’s really turned it up, pitching to a 3.00 ERA and keeping the ball in the ballpark.
The first edition of the second half waiver wire brings a lot of gems that you should consider picking up. We have a couple of speculative picks, particularly one in Baltimore that should be addressed. There is also the closer carousel that is rearing its head again.
It’s time to break out the Hardware, or at least toss a little love in the direction of some of the first half gems that were found on the Waiver Wire. Adding any number of these players could prove to be the difference maker come years end!
John Hicks, 1B/C, DET (CBS: 3% owned Week 7) The injury to Miguel Cabrera opened up a window of opportunity and path to increased at-bats, and Hicks has taken full advantage of the situation. Nine homers, 32 RBI, and a .278 BA help greatly when one is looking at filling the role of a second catcher in two-catcher formats.
Honorable Mention: John Ryan Murphy, C, ARZ (CBS: 8% owned Week 11), Yan Gomes, C, CLE (CBS: 15% owned Week 6), Nick Hundley, C, SF (CBS: 3% owned Week 7), Elias Diaz, C, PIT (CBS: 1% owned Week 7)
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, MIL (CBS: 10% owned Week 6): And your NL home run leader at the All Star break, with 24, is Jesus Aguilar. In Week Six there was considerable doubt that Aguilar would have a job, with the crowded situation in Milwaukee. If you hit, and Aguilar has hit a ton, they will find room. We’ll toss our support behind either Aguilar, Max Muncy, or Ross Stripling as the choice for the first half Waiver Wire MVP.
Honorable Mention: C.J. Cron, 1B, TAM (CBS: 10% owned Week 1), Yuli Gurriel, 1B, HOU (CBS: 51% owned Week 3), Brandon Belt, 1B, SF (CBS: 50% owned Week 5), Mitch Moreland, 1B, BOS (CBS: 37% owned Week 8), Jake Bauers, 1B, TAM (CBS: 18% owned Week 12)
Jurickson Profar, 2B, TEX (CBS: 11% owned Week 4): It has been a long ride, but Jurickson Profar is finally healthy and getting the opportunity to demonstrate the skills that at one point had him considered to be one of the top prospects in the game. For those that took the chance early in the season, the nine homer, 46 RBI, 50 runs scored, and eight stolen base first half are the rewards.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Robertson, 2B, TAM (CBS: 2% owned Week 5), Daniel Descalso, 1B/2B/3B/OF, ARZ (CBS: 29% owned Week 13)
Max Muncy, 1B/3B/OF (CBS: 54% owned Week 12): By Week 12, Muncy was already well on his way to being one of the best of the first half best. When you smash 15 homers between the beginning of June and the All Star break, numbers that leave you in fourth place overall in the NL, you have to be one of both the biggest surprises and most coveted Waiver Wire adds of the season.
Honorable Mention: Miguel Andujar, 3B, NYY (CBS: 39% owned Week 5), Christian Villanueva, 3B, SD (CBS: 13% owned Week 3)
Johan Camargo, SS/3B, ATL (CBS: 7% owned Week 9): Very quietly, Camargo has enjoyed a very solid first half. Those nine homers, 39 RBI, and .756 OPS, the bulk of which were accumulated after the beginning of May, has helped teams playing in 15 and 20-team formats.
Honorable Mention: Jose Iglesias, SS, DET (CBS: 11% owned Week 9)
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, TEX (CBS: 45% owned Week 3): A tough and close call, but the 18 first half homers combined with the 54 runs scored and outstanding .405 OBP, makes Choo our choice as the best buy amongst outfielders in the first half.
Matt Adams, 1B/OF, WAS (CBS: 27% owned Week 7): Fifteen big flies to go along with 39 RBI is a solid first half. The fact that Adams stepped up, while Ryan Zimmerman stepped away, has been huge for Washington.
Honorable Mention: Dustin Fowler, OF, OAK (CBS: 16% owned Week 8), Mallex Smith, OF, TAM (CBS: 20% owned Week 4), Albert Almora, OF, CHC (CBS: 20% owned Week 6), Alen Hanson, 2B/OF, SF (CBS: 1% owned Week 6), Brandon Nimmo, OF, NYM (CBS: 6% owned Week 9), Juan Soto, OF, WAS (CBS: 43% owned Week 9), Gorkys Hernandez, OF, SF (CBS: 2% owned Week 10), Nick Williams, OF, PHI (CBS: 13% owned Week 11), Jon Jay, OF, ARZ (CBS: 38% owned Week 14), Teoscar Hernandez, OF, TOR (CBS: 13% owned Week 4)
Ross Stripling, SP/RP, LAD (CBS: 7% owned Week 9) How does one emerge as the top pitcher on the Waiver Wire in the first half. Try posting an 8-2 won/loss record with 108 strikeouts in 95 1/3 IP. The 2.08 ERA also helps a tad. No one, yes no one, saw this level of success in the cards, but those that gambled on his hot start will be more than likely sitting at or near the top of the pitching categories.
Andrew Heaney, SP, LAA (CBS: 43% owned Week 9): Finally healthy, Heaney is poised to top his all-time high in innings pitched with his first start of the second half. A solid 3.78 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 102 strikeouts in 102 1/3 IP have been a huge factor in keeping the Angels in the playoff hunt in the AL West.
Anibal Sanchez, SP, ATL (CBS: 17% owned Week 13) We haven’t seen numbers like this from Anibal Sanchez since 2013, when he plied his trade with the Tigers. In 11 starts with the Braves, the now 34-year-old has posted a 2.60 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. His 2018 renaissance has been a huge factor in the Braves rise into a playoff contender in the NL East.
Honorable Mention: Joey Lucchesi, SP, SD (CBS: 14% owned Week 3), Zach Eflin, SP, PHI (CBS: 42% owned Week 8), Taylor Mahle, SP, CIN (CBS: 55% owned Week 4), Jose Urena, SP, MIA (CBS: 32% owned Week 4), Jaime Barria, SP, LAA (CBS: 4% owned Week 5), Eric Lauer, SP, SD (CBS: 3% owned Week 5), Freddy Peralta, SP, MIL (CBS: 4% owned Week 8), Walker Buehler, SP, LAD (CBS: 39% owned Week 5), Carlos Rodon, SP, CWS (CBS: 31% owned Week 9), Shane Bieber, SP, CLE (CBS: 7% owned Week 10), Steven Matz, SP, NYM (CBS: 47% owned Week 10), Dereck Rodriguez, SP, SF (CBS: 5% owned Week 15)
bHector Rondon, RP, HOU (CBS: 4% owned Week 12): Yeah, we know that Shane Greene has eleven more saves than Rondon at the break, but it’s hard to ignore the far superior ERA and strikeout rates that Rondon posted in the first half. Ken Giles has been dispatched to the Minors for eternity, if not longer, leaving those early buyers on Rondon with not only a great first half in the bank, but also now owning the ninth inning man for one of the best teams in baseball down the stretch.
Honorable Mention: Shane Greene, RP, DET (CBS: 59% owned Week 3), Kyle Barraclough, RP, MIA (CBS: 23% owned Week 11), Seranthony Dominguez, RP, PHI (CBS: 4% owned Week 8), Joe Jimenez, RP, DET (CBS: 7% owned Week 5), Brad Brach, RP, BAL (CBS: 31% owned Week 8), Tyler Clippard, RP, TOR (CBS: 35% owned Week 15), Kyle Barraclough, RP, MIA (CBS: 29% owned Week 11), Joakim Soria, RP, CWS (CBS: 23% owned Week 12), Jordan Hicks, RP, STL (CBS: 24% owned Week 13), Jared Hughes, RP, CIN (CBS: 8% owned Week 10)
In doing prospect lists for now over five years, this is the first year that four out of the top five players are Latin-born. If Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto would have had slightly fewer at-bats in the major leagues, it would have been six of seven. Sure, there are a ton of Latin stars playing in the major leagues, but in the age of Fantasy Dynasty Leagues, owners MUST pay more attention to the J2 signing period every year and start to gamble on some of these players. I understand there is not a ton information out there and while we will try our best to profiles these players as they are signed, one easy way is to invest as the major league teams are doing. There is already a tremendous amount of risk acquiring a 16-year-old on your dynasty league, why not let the major league teams do the work for you. If a team is investing millions of dollars in a 16-year-old, shouldn’t you acquire him for your team?
As shared last week when we posted number 26 through 50, our goal will be to do a Top 100 list next season.
1. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (3B, Tor) – If it weren’t for an injury there is no telling what kind of numbers Vlad Jr. would have put up. Regardless, he’s the best prospect and the game and has that Miggy Cabrera combination of power and hit-tool.
2. Victor Robles (OF, Was) – Juan Soto has made everyone forget about Victor Robles. I still think the upside is still higher than Soto, particularly from a fantasy standpoint as he’ll add 20 plus stolen bases annually. He just needs to get back on the field.
3. Fernando Tatis Jr. (OF, SD) – After a slow start, Fernando Tatis has been hot since the first of June. There is both speed and power but the hit-tool still needs work as he strikes out too much and is very aggressive at the plate. But at 19 years old and already in Double-A, the Padres will take it.
4. Nick Senzel (3B, Cin) – Nick Senzel hasn’t played much this year and after tearing a tendon in his finger, will not play the remainder of the year. Hopefully, he’ll be in the Arizona Fall League so that the Fantasy hype machine can restart. He has all the tools and reminds me a lot of Anthony Rendon with a half grade better in speed. But, he needs to stay healthy…kind of like what we said about Rendon.
5. Eloy Jimenez (OF, CHW) – Eloy Jimenez started the year of the DL as we get to our midseason list, he’s back on the DL. In between, he’s hit over .300 with 14 home runs. There’s easy power in his bat with a chance to hit for a .280 plus average. There’s no speed but other than that, he’ll be an impact player for a long time.
6. Kyle Tucker (OF, Hou) – I’ve written about Kyle Tucker a lot and while I like the speed/power combination, I still worry about the hitch in his swing. However, not enough for me to rank him out of the Top 10 on any list. If there is one organization I trust, it’s the Astros and if they are good with him proceeding with his funky swing, well, I guess I am too…sort of…
7. Brendan Rodgers (SS, Col) – I continue to view Brendan Rodgers as an elite prospect. Yes, I wish he was more patient at the plate and yes I wish he had more speed. But, he has plus power that will play even bigger in Coors Field. Don’t be surprised if he develops in a gulp, Nolan Arenado level player and perhaps at third if the Rockies are not able to sign Arenado long-term.
8. Forrest Whitley (RHP, Hou) – After serving a 50 game suspension for violating the minor league substance abuse policy, Forrest Whitley returned in fine fashion posting a 3.71 ERA in 17 innings with 25 strikeouts. Unfortunately, he left his July 5th start with an oblique injury with no estimate given on how long he’ll be out. The stuff is premium and even at 6-foot-7, he’s able to repeat his delivery and throw strikes. While the injury and suspension are disappointing, he could still join the Astros at some point in the second half. If not, he’ll be a nice backfill when the Astros are not able to resign one of their aces.
9. Royce Lewis (OF, Min) – Royce Lewis can really play. He controls the strike zone very well and has double-plus speed and power that should develop once he fills out. Since he is only in Low-A, he has all the makings of eventually being the number prospect in the game.
10. Bo Bichette (SS, Tor) – While all the talk has been about Vlad Jr., Bo Bichette has hit .273 with eight home runs and has stolen an impressive 25 bags. The Blue Jays continue to play him at shortstop, but long-term, I see him at second or third. Regardless, he has a chance to be a top offensive performer with 20/20 not out of the question particularly early in his career.
11. Alex Reyes (RHP, Stl) – I’m not sure what to say about Alex Reyes. He returns from Tommy John Surgery to put up video game numbers in the minor leagues. He’s promoted on May 30th and pitches four innings against the Brewers leaving with a torn oblique that ends his season. Ugh…in fact, double Ugh! Look, the stuff is electric and if he can control it, he’s an ace. Let’s hope we see it next season.
12. Jo Adell (OF, LAA) – If you read our weekly “Hot Prospect” report, you know that Jo Adell has been a mainstay. It’s been for good reason as he’s absolutely shoved it. The tools are just crazy with a chance to develop 25 plus home run potential with 20 plus stolen bases. The question, of course, is the hit tool. He does strikeout a lot (25%) and is only walking 6% of the time. But, he’s also only 19-years-old, so I’m betting he figures things out and at worse is a .260 hitter.
13. Keston Hiura (2B, Mil) – The book on Keston Hiura entering the 2017 draft was he could hit. After 120 games and a .330 average, I think we can conclude…yeah, he can hit. He’s making things look easy and could start to push for playing time in Milwaukee early in the 2019 season.
14. Mackenzie Gore (LHP, SD) – Mackenzie Gore has battled multiple blisters this year but when he’s pitched, it’s been electric. He combines three plus pitches with a great delivery and assuming the blister problem can be solved, he should quickly move through the minor leagues. He has ace potential.
15. Willy Adames (SS, TB) – Willy Adames has been starting for the Rays since early June but still qualifies for our list based on the number of at-bats. While he hasn’t hit all that well, he controls the strike zone well and should be able to hit 20 plus home runs while adding double-digit stolen bases once he is fully acclimated to the big leagues.
16. Mike Soroka (RHP, Atl) – Mike Soroka exploded onto the big league stage with six innings, one earned run win against the Mets. Sure it was the Mets, but he was dealing. Since then, he’s been a little inconsistent, but with a sinking fastball that averages 93 MPH, he has the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation performer if not more.
17. Mitch Keller (RHP, Pit) – Mitch Keller is one of the best pitchers in the minor leagues and nobody is talking about him. While he has premium stuff, it hasn’t resulted in a ton of strikeouts. The reason is the Pirates are having him work on his change-up and fastball command which from just seeing him a couple of weeks ago, is going quite well. But he’s a Pirate, so unless he signs a team-friendly deal, don’t expect to see him on the big league roster until the second half of 2019.
18. Franklin Barreto (SS, Oak) – Could the third time have been the charm, or was it the fourth? Over the past two-years, Franklin Baretto has been bouncing between Oakland and Nashville and I thought he might just stick after batting .282 with three home runs in 12 games. But, he got sent back down. I continue to be a huge fan of Barreto and believe it’s just a matter of time before he’s manning either shortstop or second for many years to come.
19. Francisco Mejia (C, Cle) – On June 1st, Francisco Mejia was hitting below the Mendosa Line. For a lifetime .300 hitter in the minor leagues, it was a hard stat to wrap your head around. But June arrived and so did Mejia’s bat. In 22 games he hit .467 with a .739 SLG including four home runs. The best news for fantasy owners is that he is getting a lot of time in the outfield. Assuming he stays catcher eligible, which I think he does, the extra plate appearances should be a major benefit to fantasy owners.
20. Jesus Luzardo (LHP, Oak) – Yes, this is not a misprint. I like Jesus Luardo this much. Quite frankly, what’s not to like? He started the year in the California League and after striking out 25 in 14.2 innings, the A’s promoted him to the Texas League. He’s had equally as much success there, striking out 10 per nine while walking just over two. It’s not command and control stuff either. His fastball sits in the low 90’s and he can reach back for 95 when needed. Oh yeah, he’s good…he’s really good.
21. Brent Honeywell (RHP, TB) – Brent Honeywell has been out all season recovering from Tommy John surgery. Assuming he comes back healthy, he has the stuff to be a quality number two pitcher in the big leagues. The risk has clearly increased and while TJ Surgery is never perfect, the odds are that he will come back to the form that made him one of the best pitching prospects in the game.
22. Hunter Greene (RHP, Cin) – On draft day, I thought the Twins should have drafted Hunter Greene number one overall. After seeing Royce Lewis, I now get their selection, but after some early struggles, Hunter Greene is flashing the stuff that could put him at the top of the Reds rotation in a few years. He lights on the radar gun with a double-plus fastball and has the secondary pitches to miss bats. The ceiling is a one, but he’s still a teenager so a lot of innings are between now and when he finally gets the call.
23. Casey Mize (RHP, Det) – The Tigers made Casey Mize a very rich young man when they drafted the Auburn Tiger number one overall paying him a bonus of $7.5 million dollars. He has premium stuff with a fastball that will hit 95 to 96 MPH with a nasty splitter that will miss a ton of bats. There is concern over his elbow, but you can say that about most pitchers. I doubt he plays this year but assuming health, he should move quickly through the system.
24. Sixto Sanchez (RHP, Phi) – Sixto Sanchez hit the DL on June 3rd with inflammation in his pitching elbow. Uh oh! Reports say he is rehabbing, but we’ve seen this story way too many times. When healthy, he has some of the best stuff in the minor leagues with the chance to pitch at the top of the rotation in a couple of years for the Phillies.
25. Brendan McKay (LHP/1B, TB) – Brendan McKay continues to both pitch and hit as he works his way through the minor leagues. While it would be cool to see him do both one day in the major leagues, he’s a better pitcher than a hitter and I think at some point, the Rays will have him focus on hitting his upside of a number two pitcher. He started the year in Low-A and after posting video game numbers was promoted to High-A. While the ERA is floating near five, the stuff is playing quite nicely. He continues to strike out well over a batter an inning while demonstrating elite control.