Breakout Prospects: Binford, Thompson, Ramsey, Taylor, Severino and Vargas

Identifying breakout prospects early is an absolutely vital key to success in dynasty leagues. The best way to build up an elite minor league roster is to acquire the best prospects cheaply before any of your leaguemates realize the youngsters are future stars. You can’t wait for the famous Top 100 Prospects lists to be published in the Spring. Don’t wait until your next draft to grab these players. You need to snare these guys before someone else picks them up from the free agent pool. Today we will take a look at a group of unheralded minor leaguers who are still available in many leagues.

I have written a couple of columns about breakout prospects this season twice previously (Here and Here). Today’s edition will feature players who will be participating in the 2014 Futures Game. Many of the players in that game are bigtime prospects and are already taken in your league, but some of them are guys who were not really on the prospect radar prior to this season and are likely still available in your league. I will focus here on some players who have exploded onto the scene recently. Their exposure in the upcoming Futures Game will give their fantasy trade value a big boost, so get them now before the game is played…

Christian Binford — Starting Pitcher, Kansas City Royals

The 21 year old righty has never gotten much attention, largely because he had Tommy John surgery in high school and was a 30th round draft pick in 2011. He is a big guy at 6’6″ 217 pounds and has a stiff fastball that sits around 92 mph with room to grow. He also wields a slider and changeup and may need to develop a 4th pitch because none of his pitches rate as elite. When you are a 30th round draft pick you won’t get any love from the prospect gurus even if your stats are great, and Binford has always put up great stats. In 2012 in Rookie ball he yielded a 2.03 ERA with a 31:4 K:BB ratio in 40 innings. In 2013 at Low A he rolled to a 2.67 ERA with 130 whiffs and 25 walks in 135 innings.  This year the beat goes on at High A where Binford has dealt a 2.35 ERA with 85 Ks against only 11 BBs in 76 innings. He is forcing people to take notice and earned himself a coveted slot in the Futures Game. Not all good prospects have to throw 100 mph or have multiple plus offerings, sometimes command and pitchability do the trick. Verdict: Top 150 Prospect, ceiling of a #4 fantasy pitcher. High Risk.

Jake Thompson — Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

This right-hander was a 2nd round pick in 2012. He is another big guy at 6′ 4″ and 235 pounds. He throws a slider, curve and changeup in addition to the low-to-mid 90s fastball. After a strong season in Low A ball last year (3.13 ERA, 91:32 K:BB in 83 innings) he has been dominant in High A this year. His ERA is 2.75 with 68 strikeouts and 24 walks in 72 innings. Right now he doesn’t project as a top of rotation pitcher in the majors, but he has good stuff and a strong arm that with continued development could allow him to evolve into an elite prospect in the next couple years. Verdict: Top 100 Prospect, ceiling of a #3 fantasy pitcher. Medium Risk.

James Ramsey — Outfielder, St. Louis Cardinals

The 24 year old Ramsey got a late start in the minor leagues because he played 4 years of college ball. He was a 1st round pick in 2012. He dropped off the prospect map after signing in that 2012 season because he put up a disappointing .648 OPS with only one home run in 210 ABs in A ball even though he was old for the league. He bounced back a lot in 2013 with a more encouraging .814 OPS with 16 homers spread over High A and AA leagues. This year in AA he has busted out to the tune of .307/.389/.550 with 12 home runs in 189 at-bats. This guy doesn’t project as a star but he will hit in the major leagues. The good news is he is in the Cardinal organization, which means he will be developed well and will be primed for success in their strong lineup when he reaches the bigs. The bad news is he is in the Cardinal organization, which means he is blocked by way too many good hitting outfielders to get an opportunity any time soon. With rumors swirling that the Cardinals are shopping for a top starting pitcher, perhaps Ramsey will be moved to a team that could give him a chance to play in the majors soon. Verdict: Top 100 Prospect. Fantasy ceiling somewhere in the range of Adam Lind / Billy Butler / Josh Willingham / Ryan Ludwick / Allen Craig. Medium Risk but could lack an opportunity to play.

Michael Taylor — Outfielder, Washington Nationals

Taylor is having a huge breakout season statistically as a 23 year old in AA ball. He already has 17 home runs and 22 stolen bases and is slashing .332/.412/.572 for a .984 OPS. Those are almost George Springer-like stats. The power and speed are real but the batting average is a mirage due to a whopping .450 BABIP. He strikes out way too much to maintain a .300 batting average and in fact is more likely to be a sub .250 hitter in the major leagues. The Nationals have a crowded outfield already and they have another prospect named Steven Souza who is ahead of him on the depth chart. Taylor is a good candidate for a “Sign-and-Trade” on your part: pick him up off the waiver wire then shop him around to other team owners while touting his amazing stat line. Verdict: Prospect Mirage, sell high on him right away.

Luis Severino — Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

The 20 year old put up a nice campaign last year in his first season stateside. In 44 innings in Rookie ball and Low A he struck out 53 batters compared to only 10 walks and delivered a 2.45 ERA. He has played most of this season in Low A but made 2 starts after a recent promotion to High A, combining for a 2.76 ERA in 78 innings with 84 whiffs and 17 walks. Severino has a strong 93 mph fastball and a nice slider and is trying to improve a raw changeup. He misses a ton of bats and throws nothing but strikes. There is some elite potential here but he still needs a lot of development time, which makes him a high risk / high reward type of prospect. Verdict: Top 100 Prospect, ceiling of a #2 fantasy pitcher. High Risk.

Kennys Vargas — 1st Baseman, Minnesota Twins

Built like Frank Thomas (6’5″ 275 pounds), Vargas is a big, slow beast of a hitter. He will be 24 years old in a month and was signed by the Twins way back in 2009. Vargas has hit well throughout his minor league career but never really distinguished himself as a prospect, largely (pun intended) because he is a liability on defense. He has now climbed up to AA and is still raking with the bat and finally has to be taken seriously as a potential fantasy asset. As you might expect from his size Vargas has a ton of raw power but it wasn’t until last year that he finally turned that raw power into game power by hitting 19 home runs. This year he already has 14 homers, which has helped boost his slash line to .313/.389/.515 for a .904 OPS. He is prone to the strikeout but he alleviates some of that negativity by working a lot of walks. He has a nice 47:35 K:BB ratio in 304 plate appearances. Vargas is a switch-hitter who won’t be subject to drastic platoon splits. The Twins will likely have a place for him to play next year if Josh Willingham and Kendry Morales move on after (or during) this season. He won’t steal any bases for your team but will hit for power and RBI without hurting your AVG. I like his chances of being a stalwart Utility slot slugger for several years. Verdict: Top 100 Prospect. Medium Risk.

If you missed these previous breakout prospect articles be sure to check them out:
Breakout Prospects: Winker, Norris, Bell, Hader, Coulter and Lorenzen
Breakout Prospects: Betts, Gallo, Harvey, Lively, McMahon and More

If you have any questions about these prospects or any other players ask them in the comments below. I will reply promptly and some of the other TDG writers may join the discussion as well.

Nick Doran writes all kinds of cool stuff about the game’s ultimate flamethrowers at Blazing Fastball and will answer your baseball questions on Twitter @BlazingFastba11.

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12 comments on “Breakout Prospects: Binford, Thompson, Ramsey, Taylor, Severino and Vargas

  1. Brian says:

    Thanks for the article. What are your thoughts Dilson Herrera, Rosell Herrera, Chance Sisco, and Franklin Barreto. I feel like Dilson and Sisco fit into that breakout category, and Barreto has started very well in Vancouver. I was also surprised to see Rosell make the futures game roster. He was losing some of his preseason hype, but the Rockies must still believe. Do any of these guys crack the top 100 next year?

    • Nick Doran says:

      Hi Brian,

      I am not a believer in Dilson Herrera, although he does have potential but I don’t see a fantasy star in the making. I like Rosell Herrera better but he is having a poor season thus far after having a true breakout season last year.

      Sisco doesn’t interest me that much either. He has little power, no speed and his AVG is fueled by a high BABIP. It will be another year or two before we know how good he can be.

      Barreto is a guy to watch. He was an elite International free agent signing a couple years ago. His stats so far are solid. He can put the bat on the ball and has some speed but no power. He is only 5 foot 9 so he may never hit for much power. In my mind an elite fantasy prospect must hit for at least decent power, and I am not sure Barreto will ever do that. He is a LONG way from the majors and makes a very risky use of a fantasy roster slot. But there is no question he has a ton of potential.

      I would rank those 4 prospects like this:

      Rosell Herrera
      Franklin Barreto
      Dilson Herrera
      Chance Sisco

      I don’t see these guys as top 100 fantasy prospects right now and I don’t think they will be top 100 prospects in the Spring of 2015 either. Rosell Herrera has the best chance if he can regain his 2013 form soon. The Spring of 2016 would be the best chance for these players to max out their prospect rankings. They all have potential and you should keep abreast of their progress, but they have not broken out yet. (Except for Rosell who broke out last year but has badly regressed and will need to break out again.)

      Thanks for reading the site and feel free to ask more questions if you have them. Good luck with your team!

      • Brian says:

        Awesome. Thanks for the reply Nick. I own all of these guys except Sisco in a 20 team league where 15 prospects can be held. I was hoping you had a higher opinion of Dilson, but it is nice to see some people are still high on Rosell.

      • Nick Doran says:

        Brian, since your league is that deep (300 rostered prospects!) I would definitely say all those minor leaguers are worthy of being on your team. Does anybody have Seth Mejias-Brean, Dan Langfield or Keury Mella?

  2. […] identifies some breakout prospects: Christian Binford, Jake Thompson, James Ramsey, Michael Taylor, Luis Serevino, and Kennys […]

  3. Matthew says:

    Nick,

    How do you think Mookie Betts will perform now that he is called up? I am in a redraft league and am now just waiting until ESPN adds him to their system. These articles are great and are very helpful for my dynasty league!

    Thanks!

    • Nick Doran says:

      Hi Matthew,

      I think Betts will keep on rolling and will be a valuable player even in a redraft league. The Sox wouldn’t call him up unless they planned to play him everyday, although it is possible he will only be in the majors until Shane Victorino returns from the disabled list. I think he will take over for Jackie Bradley Jr. in centerfield and keep the job, but it remains to be seen officially. Betts has broken out as an elite prospect this year. He has proven to me that his bat is for real. I think he will be a fantasy stud for several years, although there could be an adjustment period as there is for most young players new to MLB.

  4. Wes Bowser says:

    Thoughts on Matt Olson’s 2014? Despite being in the Cal League it would seem hard to argue with leading the league in HR, a huge walk rate and improved K rate.

    • Nick Doran says:

      Yes I would consider Matt Olson a breakout prospect this year. He has great home run power. He strikes out a ton, which will keep his batting average low, but he also walks a ton so his OBP will be nice. The power is real and is not a Cal league mirage. He is another guy that doesn’t get much love on prospect lists because he is a 1st baseman. We don’t care about his defensive limitations in fantasy though. He can really hit, so he is a good fantasy prospect.

  5. Paul says:

    Who do you rate higher long term. Alfaro or gallo.
    I’m in a 10 team league in which I’m rebuilding from the ground up. It was a horrible roster. I can get gallo for one of zimmer sp, Alfaro or Heaney. Would you do the deal for any of them?

    • Nick Doran says:

      Hi Paul,

      I greatly prefer Gallo over Alfaro as a fantasy prospect, especially in a 10 team one-catcher league. Do the trade! Gallo is likely going to be a Pedro Alvarez or Carlos Pena type of player. Lots of home runs with a low batting average. Alfaro is a toolshed but catchers don’t make good fantasy prospects.

  6. […] you missed these previous breakout prospect articles be sure to check them out: Breakout Prospects: Binford, Thompson, Ramsey, Taylor, Severino and Vargas Breakout Prospects: Winker, Norris, Bell, Hader, Coulter and Lorenzen Breakout Prospects: Betts, […]

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