Stock Watch: Bounceback Prospect Candidates
One of the hardest things to do (at least for me) in a dynasty league is to be patient, especially with struggling prospects. When a shiny new breakout prospect comes along, it’s easier in many cases to cut bait with a prospect who’s having a ‘down’ year to make room for the new helium prospect. Many times this is the incorrect long term decision and can set your team back if you cut bait too quickly. It’s an extremely frustrating feeling to see somebody snatch up your discarded prospect and see them reap the rewards when the prospect regains the form that attracted you to them in the first place. Sometimes it ends up being a good value play if you can spin the new prospect into something beneficial and you’re able circle back and pick up the old prospect if he is still available, so it can be a delicate situation. Let’s take a look at a few prospects who once graced various top-100 lists that saw their collective shine fade away over the last season or two and see if their 2015 performances warrant reconsideration.
Phil Ervin – CF, Cincinnati Reds (Pre-2014 prospect ranking #63, Baseball Prospectus)
What went wrong in 2014: Ervin saw his OPS fall from .989 in his first taste of pro ball in 2013 to .680 in 2014, his first full season in the Midwest League. Ervin clubbed nine home runs and swiped 14 bags in his 200 plate appearances in his draft year of 2013, but was only able to see seven balls leave the yard in 561 Midwest League plate appearances to go with 30 steals over the course of the year.
2015 Performance: Moving to the more difficult hitting environment of the Florida State League didn’t figure to do any favors for Ervin this season, but after battling wrist injuries throughout 2014, a clean bill of health has enabled Ervin to display the power/speed combination that he showed after being drafted. Ervin has already matched his home run total from 2014, and has added six steals in his 140 plate appearances to start the year.
The power is back, Ervin’s ISO is almost a full hundred points better from 2014 (.231 to .139) and he’s still running. His walk rate is up and his strikeout rate is down compared to 2014 as well, signifying overall growth at the plate. If Ervin continues this, he should find himself firmly in dynasty top-100 prospect lists at midseason.
Matt Davidson – 3B, Chicago White Sox (Pre-2014 prospect ranking #93, Baseball Prospectus)
What went wrong in 2014: After many expected Davidson to secure the starting third base job on the South Side coming out of spring training, he struggled to make contact at the Triple-A level, as evidenced by his awful .199/.283/.362 line, and never did get called up to the big league squad.
2015 Performance: Davidson has seen his wRC+ jump from a horrific 77 in 2014 to 124 in his first 130 plate appearances, hitting six home runs and adding 50 points to his OBP from last year.
Power has never been the issue with Davidson, so while it is nice to see the bump in ISO (.198 this season, compared to .163 in 2014), he’s largely the same player he was last year. Davidson still might get a shot at the third base job at some point in 2015 because of the greatness that is Conor Gillaspie, but Davidson’s .324 BABIP won’t continue to mask his massive contact issues that have seen him strike out more often this year than in 2014.
Jorge Bonifacio – RF, Kansas City Royals (Pre-2014 prospect ranking #99, Baseball Prospectus)
What went wrong in 2014: After seeing his 2013 season end prematurely with a broken hamate bone, Bonifacio struggled mightily to hit the ball with authority in 2014, seeing his ISO almost cut in half from his 2013 output. A .230/.302/.309 line is certainly not what you want to see from anybody, let alone a corner outfielder. Bonifacio only tallied four home runs in 566 plate appearances, leading some to wonder whether he was fully recovered from his wrist injury in 2013.
2015 Performance: Bonifacio has already surpassed his home run output from 2014, hitting six in his first 141 plate appearances, good for a .190 ISO.
Bonifacio’s 2015 line of .206/.271/.397 doesn’t look much prettier than his awful 2014 version, but a .222 BABIP hasn’t done him any favors. Bonifacio doesn’t turn 22 until next month, and is hitting the ball with much more authority in his second go-around at the Double-A level. I think it’s too early to cut bait with him if you’re an owner. If he displays the power that he’s shown flashes of in the early going for the whole year, he could sneak back on some top-100 lists at the end of the year.
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