Digging for Diamonds: Hitting Prospects to Target
As we looked at in our last post, riding the constantly revolving next wave of prospects in deep dynasty leagues is essential to maintaining a profitable dynasty league roster. Finding value cheaply is key to keeping a well stocked minor league system. In deeper leagues especially, you should always be looking to find prospects that can rise up the various prospect rankings quickly and turn into valuable assets.
Let’s take a look at 5 hitting prospects who could see their value increase in the near future:
Magneuris Sierra, OF St. Louis Cardinals
How many people in your league know which hitter was recently named the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year?
Sierra played the ’14 season at age 18 in the Cards GCL affiliate, posting a .386/.434/.505 line in 52 games, and also swiped 13 bags in 16 attempts. In addition to winning the league’s batting title, the Dominican center fielder’s .434 OBP also led the GCL, his .939 OPS ranked second and accounted for a stout 170 wRC+. His .505 SLG% was good for fourth in the GCL. Sierra does not have the profile of a slugging OF, but could develop enough power where the low double digits might be in play while adding 20-30 SBs per year to go with his plus hit tool. If the power develops, you have a solid six category contributor on your hands. Obviously a 18 year old in the GCL is at least three (or more likely four or five) years away, but this is a player who could rise up the rankings quickly with another good season in a prominent system like the Cardinals. The price may be quite a bit more expensive the next time you try and acquire him, and you might be able to turn him into something closer to the big leagues down the line if you need to.
Ryan Cordell, OF Texas Rangers
Cordell is a physical dreamboat (6’4″, 205 lbs) whom the Rangers drafted in the 11th round of the ’13 draft out of Liberty University. Cordell slipped to the 11th round after hitting a pedestrian .261/.307/.391 as a junior, but showed flashes of the plus raw power that helped him lead the California prep ranks with 14 HR as a senior. Cordell got his feet wet playing at Rookie Level Spokane in his draft year, posting a .680 OPS, while adding 19 steals in 23 attempts, playing in 64 games. This season Cordell played 89 games, putting together a .321/.388./.504 (.891 OPS) line with 8 HR and 18 SB in 73 games at Low A Hickory, and 5 HR and a 1.017 OPS in 16 games at High A Myrtle Beach. As with any Rangers prospect that travels through Hickory, you have to make sure he’s not a home park mirage and a .313/.370/.476 road line with half of his HR coming away from LP Frans Stadium indicates he’s not, his power plays in any ballpark. Unlike seemingly every higher profile Rangers hitting prospect, Cordell posted a K% under 20% in ’14. He has played all three outfield positions in pro ball as well as a bit of first base, but is probably best suited for a corner OF spot. Cordell will turn 23 in March and should be aggressively pushed next season, putting himself in position to be a top 5 hitting prospect in a Rangers system that’s loaded with athleticism. In deep leagues, Cordell is the type of high upside prospect worth taking a gamble on.
Amed Rosario, SS New York Mets
The Mets gave Rosario $1.75 million (largest international signing bonus in team history) as a 16 year old out of the Dominican in ’12 and he has impressed scouts with his defense and instincts in his short pro career. Rosario is a high ceiling prospect, who just turned 19 in November. Rosario’s .289/.337/.380 line this season was good for a wRC+ of 111, where he was three years younger than the league average age for the New York Penn League, and Baseball America ranked him the third best prospect in the NYPL. Scouts believe there is much more room for power to develop in the bat and that he should be able to stick at SS. Baseball Prospectus ranked Rosario fourth overall in the Mets system and this is the profile of a prospect you usually have to get in a year early on, or miss out completely. Fangraphs ranked Rosario third among Mets prospects, and believes that he should rise to the top of the system once Noah Syndergaard reaches Queens. Rosario’s ETA is ’18 or ’19, so if you can’t afford to wait there are probably better uses of a roster spot, but if you can use one of your last roster spots to stash a SS who has the talent to blossom into a .270-.280 hitter with 15-20 HRs, and the potential for a bit more, it may turn into a pretty solid investment a few years down the road.
Chance Sisco, C Baltimore Orioles
Lower level minor league catchers are unquestionably risky and hard to evaluate because so many of them end up moving off of the position. Clint Coulter is just the latest in a long line of catching prospects making the transition to another position before even reaching AA. Coulter may be moving because he’s blocked at the major league level by Jonathan Lucroy, or because of the numerous questions about his defensive skills, but the risk factor with catchers often scare away many dynasty league owners, enabling a patient owner to step in and capitalize. Sisco was drafted in the 2nd round (61st overall) from a CA HS in ’13, and has flat out raked since joining the O’s system. He compiled a .363/.468/.451 line in 33 games after being drafted in ’13 and moved up to the Sally League (Low A) this season and put up a .340/.406/.448 (.854 OPS) line in 114 games. The power is not there yet for Sisco, hitting only 5 in 478 PA this season, but scouts feel that it will develop. Baseball Prospectus ranked Sisco the #3 prospect in the Orioles system and John Sickels of Minor League Ball also named him third overall. Despite being in the lower levels, Sisco should be considered in the discussion as a top five catching prospect right now and his athleticism should enable him to add more power, which makes him a quality asset even if he does end up moving off of the position down the line. Hopefully for everybody, he uses this as his walk up song when he does reach Camden Yards.
Mallex Smith, OF Atlanta Braves
Smith, who turns 22 in May, found his way into the news this month after being included from the Padres as part of the Braves haul in the Justin Upton trade. The Padres took Smith in the 5th round in ’12 out of a Florida CC. What stands out about Smith is his 80 grade speed. Smith stole 64 bags in 80 attempts his first full season in pro ball in ’13 and swiped 88 bases in 114 attempts this year, leading all of minor league baseball. Smith uses his speed and eye to get on base, putting together a .310/.403/.432 line in ’14, splitting 120 games between Low A Fort Wayne and High A Lake Elsinore. Some scouts feel Smith is ultimately better suited for a 4th/5th OF role in the big leagues, but with a solid year in AA, he could get an opportunity as a starter as soon as ’16. When the big league club’s current options in CF include a guy with a .593 OPS the last two seasons (B.J. Upton) and a ‘plan B’ that includes platooning Zoilo Almonte and Todd Cunningham, Smith can’t be further down than option C or D. If the Braves pull the plug with Upton and have to eat the remainder of his salary, they will likely want to go young and cheap with a replacement and Smith may end up being the benefactor. With power being down across the board in the majors, Billy Hamilton used his speed to rank as the 24th overall hitter as a rookie on ESPN’s Fantasy Player Rater, putting emphasis on finding players such as Smith who fit the Hamilton profile. Smith is a guy to monitor closely as he will probably start the year off in AA Mississippi and see if the hit tool will translate to higher levels.