A Look At The Winter Leagues – NL East

The Arizona Fall League wrapped nearly a month ago.  As always, it featured a who’s who of highly touted prospects – Buxton, Lindor, Russell, Bradley, Appel, and on and on.  It is widely scouted and covered by sources familiar to dynasty league participants.  I recommend Wilson Karaman’s coverage here if you haven’t read it already.  Conversely, the Caribbean and Australian winter leagues are barely covered and the players are far less recognizable than the AFL for most fantasy leaguers.  Video is scarce and I don’t know enough about the quality of competition or the parks to weigh winter results very heavily in the overall context of player evaluation, but there is some useful information to be found if you look hard enough.

Echoing the sentiment Wilson expressed in his AFL recap, the sample sizes are minute and I’m not looking to make any grand conclusions based on winter league stat lines.  Small sample notwithstanding, players can gain momentum in these winter leagues and alter their perception in the prospect marketplace.  For example, Gregory Polanco built on his strong 2013 minor league campaign by slashing .331/.428/.494 in the Dominican and created even more buzz heading in to 2014.  Jesus Aguilar hit 18 bombs in Venezuela last winter and perhaps foreshadowed his strong AAA season.  The winter leagues are also a popular destination for veterans in their mid-20s looking to make adjustments to their games.  A virtually unknown 26 year old named Collin McHugh struck out 20 against 4 walks in 19.2 innings in Venezuela last winter.

I will cover players in each division in separate posts, beginning here with the NL East.  Sorry Braves fans, I couldn’t find anyone interesting to talk about.

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What To Do With: Stagnant Hitting Prospects

Patience, as it relates to dynasty leagues is often times a curse rather than a blessing. If you’re stuck holding onto a failed prospect when you had an opportunity to get value in a trade, or missed an opportunity to add a better option for free because you just couldn’t let go of your beloved, (now) failed prospect, patience is often the cause of missing out on more valuable options. One of the most difficult aspects of evaluating a minor league roster at the end of the season is deciding which prospects to cut bait with and which prospects are capable of fulfilling the promise that caused you to acquire them in the first place. Non-elite prospects who reach the upper levels of the minors and struggle are often times the most difficult to evaluate, because it can be dangerous to overreact to one ‘bad’ minor league season. Do you hold on and hope the prospect makes the adjustments necessary? Do you try and sell high if you feel the prospect has reached his peak value, or just plain cut bait if you can’t find a trading partner?

Let’s take a look at 5 prospects who were among the Top 101 fantasy prospects according to Baseball Prospectus at the beginning of the year who did not take a step forward and now are in danger of being leapfrogged by other options this season:  Continue reading

Under the Radar Prospect to Target: Matt Olson

Everybody who plays in a dynasty league loves prospects. Even if you didn’t care about minor leaguers before joining a dynasty league you quickly learned how critically important young players are. There is a good chance it opened up your mind to the wonderful world of prospecting. That’s what got me started. We all crave those elite prospects for our minor league rosters, so much so that their trade values soar into the stratosphere. The key to success is to spot those future superstars before your leaguemates do. If you wait for the annual top prospects lists from Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America to be published it will be too late. That might have worked 5 years ago but the volume of prospect information available to fantasy leaguers has exploded. So unless you grab them early you will be scrambling for the next Mike Trout and Matt Harvey at the same time as everyone else in your league. What you really need to do is identify those studs before they hit the big lists that everyone sees. You need to dig early and dig deep so you can snare these guys cheaply before their values skyrocket. That is the Holy Grail of dynasty league dominance. Here at The Dynasty Guru we will keep you up to date on the future stars you need to know about.

Many of the top 10 most elite prospects in baseball spent time in the low minors as relatively unheralded nobodies before shooting to the top of the lists. Many guys who become elite prospects were not 1st round draft picks nor celebrated amateur players. Some of the best players in the major leagues were never considered elite prospects. Guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve, Max Scherzer, Corey Kluber, and many more elite fantasy players never made it anywhere near the top of a prospect list. That means we could have obtained those guys for free if we had been smart enough to predict how good they would become. Let’s take a shot at doing that now. Continue reading

Digging For Diamonds: Hitting Prospects To Target

As dynasty leagues continue to rise in popularity, many leagues are now rostering more and more prospects that fall outside of the standard top 100 rankings from various publications. In deeper leagues, being proactive and finding prospects that will ascend to these rankings in the near future is essential to maintaining a profitable roster from top to bottom on a year to year basis. I use the term profitable, because not all of the prospects that will be discussed should be viewed as long term pieces, but players that can be acquired inexpensively now and see their value increase over the next few seasons. As experienced dynasty league players know, non-elite prospects can make for nice additions to a trade proposal to help close a deal. In deeper leagues this time last year, prospects like Nomar Mazara, Rafael Devers, and Luis Severino were available for a fraction of what they would cost now, and all should comfortably be in everybody’s top 100 lists this offseason.

Let’s take a look at 5 prospects who could see their value rise in the near future:

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Riding the Prospect Rankings: Three to Sell

Prospect Ranking season kicked off last week when Baseball America released their Top 10 Red Sox prospects and today when Baseball Prospectus released their Phillies Top 10.  With ranking season dynasty players everywhere now have an objective numbering system to use in their trades.  The key as always is to anticipate and navigate the rankings process to achieve that holy grail of fantasy, the perfect buy low and sell high.  To this point only a handful of team rankings have been released so it is the opportunity to sell stock of a player whose value is falling, but it is also time to stock up on some players who may see their stock soar in the next few months.

A year ago the top player to ride the rankings on was Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco.  He was coming off a year where he hit .320/.356/.569 across hi-A and AA, including 31 home runs.  He seemed like the perfect fantasy player with a high average, big time power, at a relatively weak position, and on a team with a gaping hole in the lineup.  Over the offseason his stock rose as fantasy players shook off the negatives because they related to his on base percentage and defense.  The hype reached an all-time high when Baseball America ranked him the #17 prospect in baseball.  With conventional wisdom saying that he was a better fantasy player than real life player some people believed he was one of the top fantasy prospects in the game and that he would arrive with impact in 2015.  It was the perfect time to move against the grain.  It turns out Franco wasn’t ready and he struggled in AAA as he worked through some of his approach and pitch recognition issues, before having an unspectacular major league debut in September.  The end result is that Franco is not a bad prospect set to fail, but rather the hype came too early and too strong based on ignoring the development still required.

The goal then is to find the next Franco, players whose hype is going to outpace reality.  Some keys we are looking for include red flags for adjustment periods both in the majors or at a new minor league level.  Here are three prospects who are very good prospects, but you may want to sell high this offseason if their hype reaches critical levels.

Michael Taylor – CF – Washington Nationals

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Prospect Perspective: Nolan Arenado and Nick Castellanos are Still Elite Prospects

When a young player has been in the major leagues for awhile it seems like they are older than they really are. It is uncommon for a player to break into the major leagues at the age of 20 or 21 but it does happen. There are usually a couple players who do it each year. Oftentimes those players struggle quite a bit their first year or two in the majors, Mike Trout being the exception that proves the rule. Guys like Nolan Arenado, Nick Castellanos, Manny Machado, and even Yasiel Puig and Freddie Freeman are much younger than people think they are. It is easy to forget that these guys are still younger than many or most top prospects. Many baseball fans and fantasy team owners fall into the trap of believing that a player who has been in the majors for awhile “is who he is” and fail to consider the context of the player’s situation. The reality is that all of the players on the list below are still kids who are a long way from reaching their peak performance. You can expect significant performance increases from every player on this list over the next several years, even the ones who are already stars.

The definition of a prospect as defined by the baseball scouting industry is a hitter who has not reached 130 ABs or a pitcher who has not yet thrown 50 innings in the major leagues, but that definition is misleading. That may be the cut-off for Rookie of the Year eligibility, but a 22 year old doesn’t cease being a prospect just because he has seen a modicum of major league time. Continue reading

2014 Has Been a Disastrous Year for Elite Prospects

We had a bumper crop of elite prospects to play with this Spring. We had visions of new players joining our rosters and playing like the next Mike Trout and Yasiel Puig. The consensus Top 12 prospects this year were as good as we have ever seen. The excitement was at a fever pitch for prospect hounds like us, but the season ended up being a tremendous letdown. Some of it was due to injuries, while most of it was due to flat out poor performance. It just goes to show that patience is key when it comes to prospects — even the elite “can’t miss” prospects often struggle when they reach the majors.

For this discussion let’s focus on what I consider to be the consensus top 12. These are the guys that were ranked at the top of nearly every major list that was published last offseason. We will go down the list and review each prospect. The theme of the day is disappointment. Every guy on this list except for one or two had a disappointing season for one reason or another…

1. Byron Buxton, OF Twins

Buxton has been touted as the next Mike Trout, an all around superstar 5 tool talent. His season has been absolutely destroyed by injuries. He sprained his wrist early in Spring Training and was forced to sit out until May, then he played 5 games and re-injured the wrist again. He had to sit out another two months. He played 30 games at High A Fort Myers but didn’t perform as well as he did last year. His .718 OPS wasn’t too impressive but you could still see the talent and tools in action and see a future superstar. On August 13th he got promoted to AA and what happens? He got hurt in his very first game. He suffered a bad concussion during a diving collision in the outfield. Buxton is still an elite talent and a future star but this season was a total bust. Continue reading