Scouting the Statline: Early Season Prospect Struggles
Periodically over the course of the season I’ll take the opportunity of this space to check in on how some notable fantasy prospects are performing down on the farm, and what that performance may or may not mean for your dynasty league. I’d like to kick off this series with a disclaimer that you should NEVER SCOUT MINOR LEAGUE STAT LINES. Listen to scouts and their firsthand reports on player progress and development, then make your decisions about how you value prospects according to those reports and your interpretation of how a given prospect appears to be developing.
Disclaimer acknowledged, stats do matter to the degree that they influence how other managers in your league (and, it’s okay to admit it, you) view prospects. So it’s important to have a handle on how players are performing as tradin’ time comes around. I plan to highlight players that are both playing above or below their scouted talent levels over the course of the season. At this point in the season, however, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to find any suckers who’ll put enough stock in a couple weeks’ worth of performance that they’ll sell you a player on the cheap. Nor are you likely to be able to flip a fringe prospect who’s come out guns a-blazin’ for true talent. So I’m going to focus here on a few higher end fantasy prospects who’ve struggled out of the gate, and you should consider this first edition more of a recommendation to keep an eye on these players. If their struggles persist for another couple weeks it may just make for a tasty window to pounce…
Kevin Gausman, SP BAL
Through four starts and 16 2/3 innings he has a perfectly respectable 3.24 ERA, but under the hood he’s been a bit off his game. He’s given up 18 hits in those innings to go along with a decidedly pedestrian 15:10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That adds up to a 1.68 WHIP, and taken in tandem with his Major League struggles last year provides a potential opening for negotiations with his owner if it continues for another couple of starts. .
Rougned Odor, 2B TEX
After crushing Texas League pitching in a 144 plate appearance second half sample last summer, Odors found the going a bit tougher so far this year. He’s at .253/.288/.387 with an 11:4 K:BB in 81 PA’s as the season’s third week draws to a close. Odor’s issues to date (to the degree that he’s had any) not surprisingly appear largely BABIP-driven, as his .258 mark is well off the .340 pace he maintained across two levels last year. He’s hit three homers and stolen four bases, so it’s not like he’s struggling that much. But if the unlucky batted ball profile continues his slash line may just be enough to give a loose owner pause and knock his price tag down a notch or two.
Mark Appel, SP HOU
California League alert. Appel’s been knocked around to the tune of nine earned runs on 17 hits through four starts and 13 innings so far. That adds up to a 6.23 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. An early season small sample in a hostile environment to be sure, but when you pile it on top of an off-season of reality checks on his ceiling, it’s not at all inconceivable that you’ll be able to find an owner looking for an excuse to cut bait. If you look to buy him for what he is – a high floor #3 starter in medium depth mixed leagues – opportunity could present itself right quick if he fails to deliver a stellar outing over his next couple of turns.
Robert Stephenson, SP CIN
A notably fatigued Stephenson struggled with his control in four starts after a late-season promotion to the AA Southern League last summer, and he’s picked up right where he left off to start this season. His 13 walks in 16 1/3 innings thus far have been a primary driver for his mediocre dashboard numbers out of the gate (4.41 ERA, 1.59 WHIP). Given that control concerns have been the one glaring red mark on his otherwise top-line scouting reports, it may just be worth your while to inquire within if his walk rate continues to wobble over the next couple starts.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B CHC
It’s no secret that there’s some unabashed love for this jolly giant on this site, but his bat has played uglier than his range at first base so far. He’s managed a wretched .154/.247/.215 line over his first 73 plate appearances this season, and when you’re a bat-only prospect the leash can get tight around the ol’ neck pretty quickly. But there are deep breath-worthy signs within those numbers, as he’s been done in by a bizarrely low 5% LD rate in his small sample of work, and that has in turn fueled a laughable .164 BABIP to date. His stellar 9:8 K:BB is in line with his previous career performance, and indicates the big man is not yet panicking. His owners shouldn’t be either, but the day may come soon if he can’t pull himself out of this early-season tailspin in the next week or