It’s been a while since we took a look at some lesser known prospects around the league, that should be pertinent to mid- and deep-leaguers. It’s likely that for those in deep leagues, some of these guys will be owned, but for others they’re names to keep track of as the season wears on. There’s even two names from the 2014 draft, for those of us who aren’t allowed to get to them until the offseason!
Jacoby Jones – SS – Pirates
Generally, when a prospect jumps to full-season ball and sees their strikeout rate rise by five percentage points and their walk rate right only two and a half points, you think… that’s good, but not great. Jacoby Jones has been great in his Low-A debut, though, slashing .285/.348/.466 and playing an inconsistent shortstop. The defense is less of a concern to us than to actual talent evaluators, but his ability to stick at the games toughest position is going to have an effect on his long term value, so it should be noted.
It should be noted of course, that the same I’m comparing Jones’ performance to in 2013 took place over 15 games, but sometimes you use a little writing device and ignore the flashing “small sample size” alarm going off in your head. Jones has launched 16 home runs and nabbed an equitable 16 stolen bases on the season. A solid power/speed threat at shortstop is nothing to sneeze at, though the big caveat comes in his age. At 22 years old, Jones is old for Low-A, though his football background gives him a little leeway when it comes to polish. He’s put his name on the map, and while his age-relative-to-level issues mean he’ll have to continue to mash like this, if he does, he’s a very legitimate prospect.
Erik Gonzalez – SS – Indians
This is one for extremely deep leaguers, as Gonzalez isn’t even owned in TDGX right now. The shortstop was recently promoted to Double-A, in concert with Francisco Lindor’s promotion to Triple-A. Gonzalez racked up a .289/.336/.409 slash line in High-A, and is decimating Double-A pitching in an 18 game sample, slashing .400/.422/.550. The slugging percentage is going to be key for Gonzalez as his swing doesn’t employ much leverage and he doesn’t get much loft on the ball. If he can start to do that, the Indians (and prescient fantasy owners) will really have something here.
The downside is that it’s going to take a trade for Gonzalez to remain at shortstop, though he fields the position rather well. He’s eliminated a large leg kick that has helped his timing, allowing him to hit at this type of level for the first time since 2010 in rookie ball. He’s likely just organizational depth at present, but is a good name to keep track of if he can keep this up. Already in the upper minors, the 22 year old could have some value if he can keep his bat hot.
Sam Travis – 1B – Red Sox
The second round pick out of Indiana hasn’t progressed as rapidly as his teammate Kyle Schwarber, but he’s taken to the professional level all the same. Travis slashed .333/.364/.448 in 40 games in short-season ball, a level he should handle as a college bat. He’s since been promoted to Low-A Greenville, but with only four games on the books, we’ve found a sample so small even I won’t draw from it.
Travis is a smooth hitter who should be able to hit for average. The downside to his profile is that he’s limited to first base, possibly corner outfield, and he might not have the in-game power to make it there (per the traditional profile). Scouts have noticed that he’s been eaten up by hard pitches on the inner half, and that they’re noticing this at the short-season level is a concern. Immature pitchers will leave enough pitches over the plate that Travis should continue to mash at the lower levels, so his true test will be High-A/Double-A, when pitchers with real stuff are able to refine and locate. He’s underrated at the moment in fantasy leagues due to a relatively low profile out of the draft, but it’s worth noting that there are real risks associated with Travis. If he can’t shorten his stroke and get to fastballs inside, he’s going to struggle at the upper levels.
Forrest Wall – 2B – Rockies
Another draft name, this one was popped in the supplemental first round and has the added bonus of spending his developmental time in the Colorado system. That’s not to praise their development staff (nor to mock it) but to say that he’ll be easily sold to those who scout stat lines alone. I’m talking of course, about Forrest Wall.
The athletic second baseman (limited due to a sub-par throwing arm following surgery) has the potential for both plus hit and power grades down the line, in addition to his plus speed. I’ve had a “Chase Utley if not for the injuries” comp thrown on him, which is perhaps a bit bold for my own taste, but does give you a flavor of the overall ceiling. Wall is an injury risk who already has separated his left shoulder, in addition to the labrum surgery, and it’s likely that his medicals played a role in dropping him to 35th overall. If he’s healthy though, he’s going to be a major value come draft day.