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:
Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
I’ll be the first to admit that I may have a fetish for all things Arcia, but there is reason to believe in the bat of the younger Arcia brother, Orlando. Playing the ’14 season as a 19 year old in the tough pitchers environment of the Florida State League (High A), Arcia posted a .275/.342/.382 line to go along with 31 SB in 42 attempts, albeit with only 4 HR. At first glance, the .738 OPS doesn’t knock your socks off, but the league OPS for the FSL was only .695 and Arcia’s 65:42 K:BB ratio shows that he was not overmatched, despite being 3.6 years younger than the league average. Scouts seem to agree that the glove is big league material, so moving off of SS does not look likely. Arcia, who was named the Brewers #1 prospect by Baseball Prospectus, posted an encouraging .309/.359/.422 line in the second half of ’14 and low double digit home run totals should be within reach as he develops physically.
Brandon Drury, 3B/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Drury was once thought of as a throw in as part of the D’Backs infamous Justin Upton trade, but all he has done is hit since putting on a D’Backs uniform. Splitting his age 21 season between High A and AA, Drury posted a .299/.362/.510 line to go with 23 HR and 95 RBI. 107 games of his 136 total were played in the hitters paradise known as the California League, but Drury did post a .821 OPS after the move up with AA, where he should start the ’15 season. That performance came on the heels of a .862 OPS output in the much tougher Midwest League in ’13. Drury was tried at 2B in the Arizona Fall League and if he is able to be passable there, that should only help accelerate his timeline to the big leagues, and his value in dynasty leagues. His power should play nicely in Chase Field for years to come. Drury is underowned and undervalued compared to other top 5 hitting prospects that play in parks that boost offense at the major league level, like the Rockies and Rangers.
Brett Phillips, CF, Houston Astros
How can you not like a guy with the middle name of Maverick? Phillips was a 6th round selection out of Seminole, FL HS in ’12 and is a classic leadoff CF in the Steve Finley mold. After struggling to find his power stroke his first two years of pro ball, Phillips put together a .302/.362/.521 line with 13 HR and 18 SB in 103 games in the Midwest League. He moved on to the California League and improved on those numbers, finishing at .310/.375/.529 (.905 OPS) and totaling 17 HR and 23 steals in 37 attempts. Baseball America ranked Phillips as the 6th best prospect in the Astros system headed into the ’15 season. The Astros minor league hitter of the year of a loaded system in ’14, Phillips bears watching as a potential 15-20 HR/15-20 SB player in the future.
Greg Bird, 1B, New York Yankees
Bird is a rare breed – a Yankees prospect who actually might be underhyped to this point. That might be changing though, after his recent Arizona Fall League MVP performance. Bird is a patient hitter who led the minors in walks in ’13, which should bump up his value a bit in OBP leagues, but his calling card is his power. Bird compiled a .848 OPS between high A and AA during his age 21 season in ’14 to go along with 14 HR in 102 games. Moved to 1B in pro ball after catching Kevin Gausman in high school, Bird has battled health problems in the minors, which accounted for him only playing 102 games in ’14. His numbers from this season don’t immediately jump off the page, which may be why he’s still available in your league. Bird had a solid ’13 season in Low A ball, tallying a 288/.428/.511 line, good for a .938 OPS, hitting 20 HR in 130 games. Bird is an imperfect prospect, he strikes out a lot, and he can’t play any other positions in the field besides 1B, but the allure of power from a left handed hitting 1B in Yankee Stadium has value, especially as he begins to rank as a top 5 prospect in the Yankees system.
Ozhaino Albies, SS, Atlanta Braves
After aggressively being tabbed to skip the Braves affiliate in the Dominican Summer League and playing the ’14 season at the age of 17, Albies posted a .381/.481/.429 line in the Gulf Coast League and was promoted to the Appalachian League, where he continued to hit. Across two rookie league levels, the Curacao product hit .364/.446/.444, added 22 stolen bases and tallied a solid 23:28 K:BB rate in 57 games. He clearly wasn’t overmatched, despite being the second youngest player in the Appy league.
Baseball America was the first to offer high praise for Albies this offseason, when they named him their top prospect of the Appalachian League, one spot ahead of fellow SS Nick Gordon, the 5th overall pick from this summer’s draft. Baseball Prospectus named him the 6th best prospect in the Braves system, and John Sickels of SB Nation’s Minor League Ball slotted Albies 4th among Braves prospects for ’15. Keith Law of ESPN recently compared him to fellow countryman Jurickson Profar and Indians SS Francisco Lindor.
Because of his size, Albies is a very unique prospect and is starting to garner attention as somebody who should now be on the radar of 16 team or larger leagues. He is so far away from the big leagues that there are probably better options in 12 team leagues, but if he starts of ’15 strong, his value should continue to climb and he might appear in some top 100 lists by midseason, or the start of the ’16 season.