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Breakout Prospects: Winker, Norris, Bell, Hader, Coulter and Lorenzen

Today we will look at some hot prospects who are tearing up the minor leagues. Now that guys like George Springer, Gregory Polanco, Andrew Heaney, Jonathon Singleton, Eddie Butler, Oscar Taveras and other top prospects have been promoted to the majors there are a lot of fantasy teams that have open slots on their minor league rosters. Here are some guys you should consider to fill those spots. These guys were not on many top 100 prospect lists prior to the season, but all of them are shooting up the rankings this Summer. If you are looking to get the jump on your foes in a deep league now would be a great time to snag these breakout youngsters. I imagine all the elite prospects are already taken in most dynasty leagues, so let’s get a head start on the next batch of future stars…

Jesse Winker: Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds

A supplemental 1st round pick in 2012, Winker has failed to get much love from the prospect industry and I think people have missed the boat on him. He gets dinged because of a perceived lack of athleticism that could limit his utility defensively. He may not be a great fielder, but I don’t see a future first baseman. He can play left field at least as well as a lot of major leaguers I have seen in recent years. But I don’t really care about his fielding because this guy can hit baseballs so well that he would be a nice fantasy commodity even if he were limited to playing as a DH. He is not a true power hitter, but he does have more pop than people have given him credit for. He hit 16 home runs last year and already has 13 this year. He is still only 20 years old, so even more power development is highly likely. He is an OBP machine and draws almost as many walks as strikeouts every year. He does one thing very well: barrel up the baseball with hard contact. The hitter-friendly Cal League has certainly helped boost his stellar 1.006 OPS this year, but he has hit at every level and there is no reason whatsoever to think that Winker is just a Cal League mirage. Winker just got promoted to AA Pensacola and is on track to make his major league debut next year. He is likely to be an above average contributor in all the fantasy baseball statistical categories, even stealing some bases. He will be one of those guys that doesn’t blow you away in any category but somehow ends up ranked in the top 50 hitters in your league every year. He is an easy top 40 fantasy prospect already and could go much higher.

Daniel Norris: Starting Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays

Norris was the Blue Jays’ 2nd round pick in 2011 and was actually a top 100 prospect on most lists prior to the 2012 season. He fell off those lists after putting up an 8.44 ERA in his debut campaign, although he did strike out more than a batter per inning. Last year he improved his ERA to 3.97 and kept that high K rate, but he struggled with his control and walked way too many batters. This Spring he was not included on the leading prospect lists again, but his performance thus far has him climbing the prospect ladder very quickly. He has thrown 72 innings with 85 strikeouts against only 19 walks and put up a fantastic 1.63 ERA. He was promoted to Double A this week and could reach the majors next season. He is a lefty with a nice fastball and three quality offspeed pitches including a plus slider and curve. He has to be considered a top 50 prospect right now.

Josh Bell: Outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates

Much like Norris, Bell is another 2011 2nd round pick who was initially highly regarded by prospect mavens but fell out of favor. He was a top 75 prospect on 2012 lists but has been unranked the last couple years. After putting up a disappointing .691 OPS in Low A ball in 2012, he repeated the level in 2013 and put up a much better .806 OPS. This year he was bumped up to High A and has upped his game to an .895 OPS while making much better contact and striking out less. He is finally living up to expectations and his prospect stock is soaring. His power is still a little less than one would predict from a player his size. I think he will be a good fantasy player but not a star. He will generate solid numbers in all the fantasy stat categories, even stealing a handful of bases. Likely to be well within the top 75 prospects moving into next season.

Josh Hader: Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

When you are a 19th round draft pick you really have to do something unexpected to make prospect watchers begin taking you seriously as a potential future star. What Hader did was add 10 mph to his fastball in the last couple years. He is a lefty and only has three pitches (fastball, curve, change) but he has always been able to rack up strikeouts by the bushel. At times he has struggled with walks, but not this year. He is putting up a 2.34 ERA with a 75/25 K/BB rate over 65 innings in the High A California League, which as you know is a league that punishes pitchers with small ballparks at high altitudes. Hader was drafted by the Orioles and traded to the Astros as part of the Bud Norris trade last year. He has put up excellent stats at every stop in the minor leagues. Now that he is conquering the Cal league he will start garnering some real helium in prospect circles and should get some love on the midseason lists. Snap him up while you can, but he needs a lot of development time so don’t expect him to hit the big leagues for at least a couple years yet. Probable top 100 prospect next Spring.

Clint Coulter: Catcher, Milwaukee Brewers

Coulter was a 1st round pick in 2012 and is finally starting to fulfill the promise the Brewers saw in him on draft day. He has broken out with the bat in the Low A Midwest League. He has a .282/.427/.534 slash line with 11 homers, 42 walks and 45 strikeouts so far. It remains to be seen if he will remain behind the plate, but even if he doesn’t we are looking at a major league bat here. He is a top 100 prospect for me right now.

Michael Lorenzen: Starting Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds

Few players have seen their prospect stock rise as much as Lorenzen has simply because he was so far off the radar to begin with. He is still not an elite prospect, nor is he particularly likely to be a top of the rotation pitcher (although that could happen). He was the Reds supplemental 1st round pick in 2013 out of Cal State Fullerton. Some teams considered him a better hitting prospect than pitching prospect because he was an excellent outfielder as well as a relief pitcher in college. The Reds surprisingly chose to convert him into a starter, much as they had previously done with Tony Cingrani. Lorenzen has a big frame and a strong arm. He sits around 95 mph and can reach 100 on occasion. He also is developing a changeup and a slider, and has only recently added a curveball. Despite being drafted just last year he has already thrown 77 innings in AA ball. That is a very aggressive progression for a guy who is still learning how to pitch and is a strong indication of just how enamored the Reds are with him. All reports are that his stuff is electric and his control has improved dramatically. His 2.41 ERA in AA is impressive, but the strikeout rate will need to improve before he is ready for a promotion. His strikeout rate in college and in his professional debut last year were excellent. Even if he doesn’t end up as a starting pitcher in the majors there is a strong chance he could be a closer eventually and that means he has a high floor as a prospect. Adding Lorenzen to your minor league roster is a speculative play based on his stuff and potential and is not fully backed up by the numbers just yet, but if you want to get him you better act now before word gets out. He has a good chance to be a top 100 prospect on the major lists this offseason.

If you missed this column be sure to check it out: Breakout Prospects: Betts, Gallo, Harvey, Lively, McMahon and More

If you have any questions about these or any other prospects 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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Nick Doran

Nick Doran


  1. […] Prospect News: highlights some breakout prospects including Josh Bell, Daniel Norris, and Jesse […]

  2. FantasyFrodo
    June 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I have a few prospects on my wire that I go back and forth on and I’m not sure who the best guy to roster is. It’s a 12 team Dynasty H2H where we own 7 prospects each. 6×6 with BB for hitters, K/BB for pitchers. I recently added Jesse Winker into an open slot after a trade, then dropped Michael Taylor for Jose Berrios since Jose has been killing it. Also had Polanco (called up), have Kris Bryant, Corey Seager, David Dahl, Robert Stephenson.

    Could you rank/comment on these guys for fantasy purposes? I know how much you guys love Tapia, but I’m not quite convinced yet 😀

    Michael Taylor (like him but a lot of Ks), Raimel Tapia (concerned he’s only hitting in Ashville), Josh Bell, Jesse Winker, Hunter Dozier, Dalton Pompey, Ryan McMahon.

    • June 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      I would rank those prospects like this:

      Kris Bryant
      Corey Seager
      Robert Stephenson
      Jesse Winker
      Michael Taylor

      David Dahl
      Jose Berrios
      Hunter Dozier
      Ryan McMahon
      Dalton Pompey

      Josh Bell
      Raimel Tapia

      Those are fantasy rankings, not necessarily real baseball rankings.

      I am with you on Tapia, I see the potential but I don’t think he will amount to much due to a lack of power and steals.

      Taylor’s breakout seems more and more legit every day. I doubt the batting average sticks but the power and speed are real.

      All of those guys are good prospects, with even Bell and Tapia being borderline top 100 prospects or not far from it.

      • June 21, 2014 at 2:09 am

        I’d have to agree with Nick on a majority of that list. But one thing to consider is that since you are in a 12 tm, 7 spec league, the top 84 prospects “should” be owned. We all know that isn’t always the case, but I personally wouldn’t look at any prospects in the 90-100 range for your roster, unless they are less than a 2 seasons away. You can always restock your prospect pool, so with such a shallow league, you don’t necessarily want to roster long term investments unless you are certain that they are high ceiling/low risk types. Again, that is my personal philosophy.

        • June 21, 2014 at 3:36 am

          I agree Andy. I would bet there are a handful of top 50 prospects available on the waiver wire in that league, even though there are 84 rostered minor leaguers. There are always teams that roster unworthy players, leaving better prospects on the table.

          I also agree that prospects who are close to the majors are worth more than equivalent prospects further from the majors. I prefer to trade top prospects who are still in the low minors rather than wait for them to develop and reach the majors. That takes too long, so you are better off cashing in their trade value now, then picking up another young prospect. You can repeat that cycle several times in a couple of years if you are savvy, whereas the owner who waits for the prospect to develop will cash in only once.

    • The Sports Brah
      June 21, 2014 at 3:46 am

      I’ve been wrestling with the dilemma in a 10-teamer and my strategy is not to mess with the mid-rotation guys unless they are going to be up this year or have a chance to break camp with the team in 2015. You’ll always have the fast-moving, “polished” guys like Wacha (Nola this year), to grab rather than wait for a guy like Berrios. Again, like Andy said, don’t mess with far-off ETA pitchers or hitters unless the upside is huge in a shallow league. I just tabbed Michael Taylor because he could surpass Goodwin if Washington doesn’t keep Span and personally would re-add Taylor if you can.

      Re: Winker. His path to the majors is clear should he continue to hit. The Reds LF situation is fleeting to say the least. I’d tab Winker now if you can and flip Berrios for a guy that could help you now or as soon as next year.

      • June 21, 2014 at 4:34 am

        Good advice Brah. I agree 100% with all your points.

  3. […] – highlights some breakout prospects including Josh Bell, Daniel Norris, and Jesse […]

  4. FantasyFrodo
    June 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Thanks for the advice!

  5. […] 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 […]

  6. […] 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, Gallo, Harvey, Lively, McMahon […]

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