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:
Albert Almora, OF Chicago Cubs (preseason ’14 Baseball Prospectus Fantasy Top 101 ranking – #57)
What happened in ’14: .283/.306/.406 (.712 OPS) 6 SB in 89 games (High A) & .234/.250/.355 (.605 OPS) 0 SB in 35 games (AA)
Almora has always been viewed as a better real life prospect than fantasy prospect and didn’t do much this season to change those thoughts. The former #6 overall pick still has a strong defensive profile, but he hasn’t been aggressive on the basepaths at all, stealing only 15 bases in 25 attempts for his career. What sticks out as a continued huge red flag is Almora’s inability to take a walk, only earning a free pass in 14 of his 529 plate appearances. His 35 games in AA are obviously not enough of a sample to judge anything, but Almora wasn’t doing much in High A before his promotion, as evidenced by his 100 wRC+. Almora will play the ’15 season as a 21 year old, so there is still time for him to develop power, but reaching double digits in homers and 15 to 20 SB per year at the big league level looks unlikely at this point, so the ability to get on base and score runs as part of a stacked Cubs lineup will be magnified. I’m not sure there’s enough besides the ability to hit for a decent average and score runs to make Almora mixed league relevant by the time he gets to Wrigley.
Almora is still a Top 5 prospect in a ridiculously loaded Cubs system and that has value, but if you can find somebody in your league that views him as a Top 50-75 overall fantasy prospect, I would look to deal him. He may end up being a fine major league player, but I just don’t see him producing enough with the bat to be anything more than waiver wire material in the majors.
Stephen Piscotty, OF St. Louis Cardinals (preseason ’14 BP Fantasy Top 101 ranking – #86)
What happened in ’14: .288/.355/.406 (.761 OPS) 11 SB in 136 games (AAA)
At first glance, Piscotty’s ’14 numbers don’t look that bad, but he played in the bandbox league known as the Pacific Coast League. His numbers put him exactly at league average (wRC+ of 100) and the lack of home run power (9 HR in 556 PA) is alarming. Drafted as a third baseman out of Stanford in ’12, Piscotty has played exclusively in a outfield corner the last two minor league seasons, and has seen his ISO drop each level as he’s moved up starting from a .185 in High A to a .118 last season. To give you an idea of just how weak a .118 ISO in the PCL is, noted slugger Christian Colon managed a .122 ISO last season, while Memphis teammate Pete Kozma even put up a .124 ISO. Piscotty’s ISO finished 60th (out of 77) among PCL qualifiers. Another issue plaguing Piscotty in St. Louis is the depth chart. With the death of Oscar Taveras, it looked like Piscotty may have a path to at bats in ’15, but that door was closed with the Cards dealing for Jason Heyward. With Matt Holliday contractually entrenched in left for two more seasons plus a team option, and Piscotty’s inability to play CF, he will likely start the year in AAA.
Piscotty ranked #1 in Baseball Prospectus’ rankings of Cardinals prospects for ’15 and if you have another owner who looks at his raw numbers and thinks this is the profile of a slugging Cardinals corner outfielder, I would sell. Piscotty will likely hit for enough average to be a major league regular, but his power upside is sorely lacking for a corner outfield prospect, and the shine of being a highly ranked Cardinals prospect might enable you to move him for a good return.
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox (preseason BP Fantasy Top 101 ranking – #52)
What happened in ’14: .263/.341/.371 (.712 OPS) 11 SB in 114 games (AAA) & .258/.361/.452 in 11 games (MLB)
Cecchini in many regards is a very similar prospect to Piscotty, except he has been able to stick at 3B in the minors. Since he was drafted out of a Louisiana HS in the 4th round in ’10, the older Cecchini brother has been touted as someone who may not be the smoothest fielder, but as somebody who would be carried by their hit tool. This season marked the first of Cecchini’s minor league career where he did not hit. When adjusted for league, Cecchini put up almost the exact same line as Piscotty, with a 99 wRC+. Cecchini was moved up to AAA after only 66 games in AA and struggled against AAA lefties in ’14, compiling a .242/.305/.358 line. In an effort to improve his versatility, Cecchini played quite a bit in left field during the second half of the year and also took fly balls in right field, but did not appear there in a game. With the Red Sox signing of seemingly every available third baseman on the planet this offseason, Cecchini’s best bet for playing time in the near future is a trade out of Boston.
Cecchini is absolutely buried deep on the Red Sox organizational depth chart, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I do think he will be traded soon, but if he is not traded this offseason, I think he will put up better numbers at AAA in ’15 and continue to increase his positional versatility for when he is eventually traded. The power developing is still in question with Cecchini, but his second half numbers (.829 OPS) from ’14 in AAA are more in line with his career numbers.
Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Kansas City Royals (preseason BP Fantasy Top 101 ranking – #95)
What happened in ’14: .230/.302/.309 (.611 OPS) 8 SB in 132 games (AA)
Without a doubt, Bonifacio posted one of the ugliest lines of a Top 101 prospect in ’14. He was plagued by a hamate bone injury in ’13 and his power completely disappeared this season. Zero home runs in 245 PA in the second half of the season illustrates the point. Bonifacio turned 21 in June and he while he isn’t the first 21 year old to struggle in AA, there are certainly questions about whether the raw power that scouts love and made him the #7 Royals prospect at the beginning of the year, will actually show up in games. Bonifacio’s 4 HR in 505 PA in ’14 are not signs of a future power hitting right fielder.
Verdict: Cut, depending on league size
If your league rosters more than 120-150 minor leaguers, I would hold Bonifacio and give him another look in ’15 because he is so young, but if your league is not that large there are better uses of a roster spot. If you do cut him, I doubt people will be beating down the door to pick him up, so you may be able to monitor him and pick him back up later if he shows improvement in the power department down the line.
Matt Davidson, 3B, Chicago White Sox (preseason BP Fantasy Top 101 ranking – #75)
What happened in ’14: .199/.283/.362 (.644 OPS) 20 HR in 130 games (AAA)
Davidson received a lot of buzz after being traded from the Diamondbacks to the White Sox last winter, but forecasts that had him taking over the Sox third base job after the super two deadline passed were erroneous. He struggled mightily with making contact at the AAA level, as reflected in his 30.4 K%. Davidson’s overall numbers were down compared to his ’13 season partially because of his .253 BABIP (and not playing in the PCL), but he did not make any strides making more contact in his second go around in AAA, albeit in a different league. The White Sox don’t seem to be interested in displacing current 3B Conor Gillaspie, which says a lot about Davidson’s standing within the organization. The acquisition of Adam LaRoche also closed a door that might have been open across the diamond for Davidson following the retirement of Paul Konerko.
Davidson’s calling card is power and his ISO dropped from .201 in ’13 hitting in the PCL to .163 in ’14 hitting in the IL. Even if he reaches US Cellular, there’s just not enough besides hitting the occasional home run to make Davidson worth owning if your league rosters under 150 minor league players.