Digging for Diamonds: Two Underrated Dynasty Targets
It’s hard to find an edge in your dynasty league and the deeper the player pool is the more difficult impact talent is to come by. Many of your league mates consult the usual areas for prospect information, top 100 lists from the major players in the industry including ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and Fangraphs. Both of these players below are either not on any of those lists or appear low on only one. These players should be readily available and could help your team in a big way soon.
Brian Johnson-LHP, BOS, 24-years-old
Baseball America-82nd, Baseball Prospectus-NR, ESPN-NR, Fangraphs-104th
Johnson led the AA-Eastern League last year among qualified starters in both ERA and WHIP. His 1.75 ERA and 0.93 WHIP where actually miles ahead of the second best marks of 2.25 and 1.03. In a recent article by Eno Sarris, which investigated the idea of punting categories, he found that both ERA and WHIP were the most correlated pitching stats out of the standard 5×5 stats making Johnson’s skill-set all the more valuable.
Johnson was drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft 31st overall out of the University of Florida where he has a two way player pitching and knocking in runs at first base. After being selected by the Red Sox the organization choose for him to specialize in pitching since his low 90’s fastball and change-up combo was already pretty advanced. Over his 234.1 minor league innings pitched Johnson has succeeded with flying colors with a career ERA of 2.23 and WHIP of 1.02 with 220 punch outs.
Beautiful curveball from Johnson.
While Johnson doesn’t strike batters out at the same rate as more highly ranked pitching prospects in the Red Sox system such as Henry Owens and Eduardo Rodriguez he is miles ahead of them in terms of his command. Some scouts have said that his command grades out as high as 60 and most people agree that his fastball and changeup are plus offerings with his curveball being an above average pitch as well.
At 6’3” 230lbs the left handed Johnson is well suited for starting in the big leagues with a frame meant to handle innings. Over his 118 IP in the Eastern League with the Portland Sea Dogs he was able to strike out 99 batters—not exactly a scrub in the K department. While his strikeout stuff limits him from entering the discussion of future number one and two starters Johnson’s polish and command should put his ceiling at Hisashi Iwakuma and his floor a Doug Fister.
Dan Vogelbach-1B, CHC, 22-years-old
Baseball America-NR, Baseball Prospectus-NR, ESPN-NR, Fangraphs-NR
At 5’11” and 260lbs it’s tough to look at Vogelbach and envision him fielding successfully at any position on the diamond. Most scouts have come to the conclusion that this is a future American League player with DH written all over him. While that may end up being the case it surely doesn’t mean that we dynasty owners need to forget about him since we all have the beautiful UTL position.
Not a good runner but the pop is real.
Vogelbach spent all of last year playing in the Florida State League which has been described by MiLB.com in 2013 as “a notorious pitchers league which boasted the fewest runs/game and the only full-season league with a five-year OPS below .700.” Things haven’t changed much in a year’s time and the league remains a nightmare for hitters. Over 132 games spent there last year Vogelbach was able to hold his own slashing .268/.357/.429 with 16 HR and 76 RBI. His home run and RBI marks ranked 5th and 4th best in the entire league.
In addition to being able to make hard contact and drive the ball in a notoriously stifling offensive environment Vogelbach remains one of the more patient hitters in the minors. He walked 11.8% of the time while striking out in only 16.3% of his at bats. In a league that held batters to an average OPS of .699 from 2008-2012 he managed to put up a very impressive mark of .787.
The Cubs are on the verge of competing for the division and have a notoriously stacked minor league system full of position players but devoid of impact pitching talent. It is very realistic that with Anthony Rizzo entrenched at first base Vogelbach finds himself in the AL sooner rather than later. When he does reach the big leagues as a DH I expect him to approach .280 with a high OBP and 20 plus HR per year. Get him now before he escapes the Florida State League and starts thumping the ball even more.