It’s not often that a first round pick can be labeled a sleeper, or fail to receive a ton of attention. Even rarer when that prospect has put up good numbers throughout his career. Yet that’s exactly where we stand with Tampa Bay Rays prospect Jeff Ames. Selected with the 42nd overall pick in 2011, Ames was a supplemental first rounder and has been somewhat lost in the slew of early picks Tampa Bay has made in the last few years. Despite striking out over 26% of batters at each of his first two stops, and posting an ERA under 3.00 in his most recent two stops, Ames has flown under the radar.
I’ve done this Deep Diving column a few times, generally angling to give you a brief look at four or five names that you might not be aware of, to either snap up or at least keep an eye on as they wind their way through the catacombs of the minor leagues. Instead of the multiple names and relatively shallow analysis, I’m going to hark back to my days Fake Teams and do a bit of what I then called a Prospect Preview; trying to give you a full picture of a prospect that had yet to make a big name for himself. Today’s subject: Christian Binford.
As more and more outlets publish regular and fantasy prospect rankings, the timeline for said rankings keeps getting pushed up. Used to be, a feller couldn’t get a Top 100 list until the new calendar year. Used to be you’d have to get by on Baseball America’s Top 10 lists until Keith Law or Kevin Goldstein finally reveled their master lists in January or February.
My, how times have changed.
You can bet that as soon as the World Series is over, you’ll start seeing Top Prospect rankings from all the usual sources. That’s going to provide savvy dynasty league owners to take advantage of post-ranking prospect hype, especially when it comes to players with more MLB value than potential fantasy worth.
With that in mind, let’s review how you should handle two good prospects who are about to see their stocks inflated by rankings.
Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Hedges is the best defensive catching prospect in baseball. Depending on who you ask or which reports you read, he’s the best defensive backstop in the minors we’ve seen over the past several years. That defense, coupled with what may project to be average offensive production from a catcher, could make Hedges a cornerstone player for the Padres. His upside is reflected in standard prospect rankings, where Hedges has been on the rise all season and where I expect him to crack the Top 50 on several mainstream rankings. Continue reading
In every league, no matter the size, some players just fall by the wayside. Sometimes these are post-hype sleepers, although nowadays it seems even the main stream fantasy writers are talking about those players, other times we forget about bounce back candidates who may be coming off an unlucky or unproductive year and lastly is always a group of players who missed a considerable amount of time do to injury.
Today I want to talk about some of the MiLB prospects who’ve seen their star fade because of injuries and may be forgotten or undervalued in your league.
Let’s start by saying this is going to be less about the statistics that either of the titular players offer, and more about the concept of them as prospects, and how we perceive them. While statistics are necessary in most cases, I wanted to talk about the value of these players as it pertains to their positions, and the risk involved in investing in them. Both players ranked in the top 300 on the July update of the top 500, but then again both were playing second base at the time.
Continuing the Arizona Fall League series at TDG, today I look at the Salt River Rafters, my personal favorite team name of the bunch — it just rolls off the tongue. The Rafters are made up of players from the minor league affiliates of the Blue Jays, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rays and Rockies, so we almost have the entire continental United States covered, as well as our friends to the north.
There are no Cubs on this team, as I just told you, so I don’t have a clever intro. And I’m still eating sour grapes over Joe Girardi, so let’s get to the players already.
Let’s skip the formalities/well constructed introductions.
In my last post, I covered four of my preseason predictions that stunk. In this post, I will cover the other seven that didn’t stink. In this way, I’m able to abide by two Internet Baseball Writing rules at once: I’ve revisited a preseason column, and I get to stretch this into a two-part series.
And to sweeten the deal, while I won’t copy
renowned colleague Craig Goldstein’s ploy and bring you GIFs, I will bring you each prediction headlined as though Scott Miller or someone of that ilk touched on the subject. Enjoy!
You can catch my original 11 Bold Predictions piece from March here.
Prediction No. 1: It’s Miller Time In Busch Stadium
What I wrote then: Shelby Miller will win 15 games for the Cardinals this season, to go along with an ERA in the mid-3.00s and 190 strikeouts in 180 innings … He’s really good, even if he’s overshadowed by the likes of Oscar Taveras. In related news, I have Miller in all but one of my redraft leagues this season. Happyface.
What happened: 15 wins, an ERA of 3.06 and 169 strikeouts in 173.1 innings. Let’s call a spade a spade, folks. I nailed this one. Continue reading
One of the more important positions to fill in your fantasy lineup is, of course, first base. We all know this. It’s an offense-first (and specifically a power-first) position, with 7 of the top 25 hitters in 2013 per ESPN’s player rater holding eligibility. In an era of declining offensive production across the board the ability to compete effectively in the power categories makes for that much more of an advantage in just about all leagues, regardless of format. And it is awfully tough to compete without a staple power hitter holding down the first base spot on your roster. In dynasty leagues, scouring the minor leagues for quality first base prospects is not only an opportunity to secure this most valuable of commodities on the cheap, but it’s also an opportunity to do so by exploiting something of a market inefficiency. See, most prospect evaluators care about things like “defensive potential” and “physical tools,” and they go so far as to include these things in their analysis of a player’s projection. This bizarre obsession leads to a situation where perfectly good yet defensively limited, lumberingly untoolsy first base prospects rarely make their way onto the hallowed grounds of annual Top 100 lists. This, in turn, tends to keep bat-only slugging prospects somewhat inherently under the radar when your league’s minor league draft day comes along and your leaguemates begin pouring over said lists.
The wise dynasty leaguer is undeterred by such discrimination against the unathletic, however. Here now are three first base prospects who are still far enough away from the majors that they have virtually no chance at cracking any of the big prospect lists this offseason, and as such provide outstanding “get in on the ground floor” opportunities for dynasty league owners.
Mike Olt has had a really crappy 2013 season.
After crushing Double-A pitching in 2012 and shooting through the minors to earn a cup of MLB coffee, Olt began this year as a victim of the Rangers’ offensive depth. Blocked at his natural position by Adrian Beltre and also behind the likes of Mitch Moreland and Lance Berkman, Olt started the season in Triple-A, where many assumed he was an injury away from seeing regular MLB time.
You likely know the story from here. Olt hit just .213/.317/.422 in 268 PA at Round Rock for the Rangers before being dealt to the Cubs in the Matt Garza deal in July. Since then, Olt hit just .168/.276/.275 in Iowa, finishing with an incredibly ugly final slash line of .197/.302/.368 on the year. He’s performed so poorly that Donnie Murphy and Luis Valbuena continue to see regular playing time at third base for the Cubs, while Olt regroups and tries to recover in 2014.
For dynasty league owners, there’s really just one question that remains: does Olt’s down year provide a good buy-low opportunity for those in pursuit of prospect power, or are Olt’s flaws going to prevent him from seeing MLB success? Continue reading
It was the Tweet Heard Round The
World Greater New England Region.
On December 4, 2012, noted ESPN analyst and prospect guru Keith Law unleashed the following quip when asked about Shane Victorino’s deal:
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) December 4, 2012
Most Red Sox fans took the criticism of said deal by Law at face value: It was clearly an exaggerated take, but one that was reasonably founded based on Victorino’s regression and the numbers involved.
Law was crucified for the statement by Sox fans and others around the baseball world as soon as he made it. He’s been loudly reminded of it ever since, as Victorino has had the second-best season of his career and an even better year than most of his biggest fans anticipated. Whether his detractors like it or not, he’s very likely to be worth the contract he was given.
So, 150 words and cries of “burying the lead” from every journalism teacher in North America later, why should fantasy owners care?
Because there’s little reason to believe Victorino can’t repeat most of his performance in 2014. Continue reading