Scouring Midseason Prospect Rankings
We’ve reached the middle of July, which is when most prospect purveyors update their respective lists to reflect the multitude of changes that have occurred since the beginning of the season. As we’ve touched on before, it is extremely important to stay abreast of the constant changes in the valuation of prospects in order to run a profitable dynasty league franchise. Perceived value in the prospect world is very important, especially in trade talks where it can sometimes be the final piece of information that closes a deal, particularly if your trading partner lacks the knowledge of prospects (and life in general) that you, The Dynasty Guru reader has in spades.
We’ll be diving into the midseason rankings of:
– John Sickels, the proprietor of the outstanding SB Nation site Minor League Ball (who ranks 75 prospects)
– Baseball America (who ranks 50 prospects)
– Keith Law of ESPN.com Insider (who ranks 50 prospects)
Above are the three newest prospect rankings to come out, which is why I’ve picked them to review, but I’ve included the links for the first two to come out as well, as obviously it is important to review as many sources as possible:
– Baseball Prospectus (whose unrivaled prospect team ranks 50 prospects)
and finally ……..
The only list that matters (and which should be viewed as gospel), the one done by The Dynasty Guru himself, Mr. Bret Sayre — who ranks everything from defunct Pepsi products to Brett Lawrie’s tattoos — and provided a top-50 Dynasty League Midseason update for Baseball Prospectus.
John Sickels/Minor League Ball Top-75 Midseason Update
What I’ve always loved about John’s prospect rankings is that he does a great job of providing a “blend of sabermetrics and traditional scouting,” which obviously incorporates a lot of things that are important in the fantasy world. John has been around the prospect game for so long and is one of the most highly respected prospect evaluators in the industry. I have found his annual Prospect Book to be one of the most valuable prospect resources — and extremely useful in deeper leagues.
No. 11 Orlando Arcia, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (Preseason rank: 118)
Even the most ardent supporters of the Brewers top prospect over the winter, including those who admitted having an Arcia fetish, wouldn’t have guessed that Oswaldo’s brother would be ranked ahead of Yoan Moncada (No. 13) at the midway point, but here we are. It’s amazing how much things can change in dynasty leagues over the course of a half-season — at this point Arcia may actually represent an ability to sell high. I am completely in the tank for Arcia, but if you find an owner that confuses his bat for that of other shortstop prospects that were close to top of the rankings at the beginning of the season like Carlos Correa, Addison Russell or Corey Seager, then it might be worth dealing him, as much of his prospect value is derived by his ability to play a quality shortstop defensively.
No. 14 Brad Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians (Preseason rank: 59)
Zimmer has been extremely impressive this season and has all the makings of a solid all-around fantasy contributor at the major league level. There were questions about how Zimmer’s power would manifest itself as a professional, but he’s answered them by improving from the .161 isolated power number he put up in the New-York Penn League last season to a .185 mark this season with Lynchburg of the Carolina League, earning a promotion last week to Double-A Akron. Zimmer’s ten home runs and 32 steals (in 37 attempts) in 78 games (along with a 162 wRC+ mark) have certainly piqued the interest of dynasty league owners, and his production the rest of the season in the Eastern League should give a strong indication on Zimmer’s readiness to help in the Indians outfield, which could come as soon as next season if he passes the test.
No. 20 Jose De Leon, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Preseason rank: In The Picture/Outside of Top 150)
De Leon was profiled in mid-March around these parts as somebody who could quickly rise up the various prospect rankings, but it’s been crazy to watch how rapidly he has seen his stock rise this season. De Leon has gone from a virtual unknown at the beginning of the season to possible top piece in a deal for a frontline starting pitching — should the Dodgers decide to cash in their $35,000 investment. De Leon, who turns 23 next month, struck out an absurd 39.2 percent of the hitters he faced in the California League before earning a promotion to Double-A Tulsa, which has seen his strikeout rate dip all the way down to 32.2 percent in ten starts, almost a full ten percent better (min. 50 IP) than the second best starter (Josh Hader, 23.3%).
No. 69 Gavin Cecchini, SS, New York Mets (Preseason rank: Not Ranked)
Finding the younger brother of a struggling prospect is clearly the key for dynasty success. Unlike his older brother Garin, this Cecchini has actually displayed an ability to not only hit the baseball this season — but hit for some power. Finally healthy, the Mets shortstop prospect (who’s seen his name floated in trade rumors this month), has hit seven home runs in 81 games at Double-A Binghamton, already surpassing his career-best mark of five in 68 games last season. Cecchini’s wRC+ of 136 puts him inside the top-10 for shortstops at the Double-A level, and the former 12th overall pick is the youngest not named Carlos Correa in the top-10.
No. 71 Jacob Nottingham, C, Houston Astros (Preseason rank: Not Ranked)
I saw Nottingham in early May during his stint with Quad Cities of the Midwest League and was struck by his size (6’3”, 227 lbs) and athleticism behind the plate. Our own Greg Wellemeyer touched on The Sheriff in early June and he hasn’t stopped crushing the baseball since. The former sixth round pick showed some power last season, hitting five home runs in 48 games in the Appalachian League, but nobody saw the power display that he’s put on display this season coming. Nottingham’s fourteen home runs between Low-A Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster rank second in the minors for catchers behind Kyle Schwarber. As Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs pointed out, Nottingham is throwing out 37 percent of baserunners this season, so getting this type of power from a prospect that might be able to stick at catcher is obviously very enticing. Don’t look for Nottingham’s numbers to suffer in the Cal League and he could very well have the best offensive season by any catcher in the minors this season.
Baseball America Top-50 Midseason Update
The Baseball America list is usually heavily influenced by scouting and featured more movement in this update than is typical, due mainly to prospect graduations.
No. 21 Brett Phillips, OF, Houston Astros (Preseason rank: Not Ranked)
Maverick clubbed his way through the Cal League to the tune of 15 home runs (adding eight steals) in 66 games and a 160 wRC+ before getting promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi. The power hasn’t been put on display yet at the new level (0 HR in 21 games) as the 21-year old Phillips adjusts to better pitching (and bigger ballparks), but he’s still been productive, getting on base at a .365 clip and swiping six bags in eight attempts.
No. 30 Billy McKinney, OF, Chicago Cubs (Preseason rank: 83)
There was some thought that McKinney could stick in center field before the season, but after playing 67 games there with the A’s last season, the Cubs have played McKinney exclusively in a corner outfield position this season, putting further pressure on his bat. After putting up a .976 OPS over the first 29 games of the season in the Carolina League, McKinney was moved up to Double-A Tennessee, where the 20-year old is one of the youngest regulars in the league. He has struggled to hit for power during his first 56 games at the new level (2 home runs) and will have to turn some of his doubles pop (22 this season in 85 games across the two levels) into over the fence production to be fantasy relevant, as he doesn’t add anything on the basepaths. The Cubs have graduated plenty of fantasy monsters from their system over the last couple of seasons, and have a few more on the way, but McKinney is unlikely to be one of them.
No. 50 Ketel Marte, SS, Seattle Mariners (Preseason rank: Not Ranked)
Marte, who may or may not be a shortstop, has shown good plate discipline at Triple-A this season, walking 18 times and only striking out 24 times in 216 plate appearances in his age-21 season. Marte has a lifetime .331 on-base percentage and .369 slugging percentage in the minors, and despite being young for the levels that he’s played in, hasn’t shown much ability to drive the ball. Although the 17 steals he’s added this season are nice, this isn’t the profile of an impact fantasy performer and Marte will likely end up at second base, which obviously won’t happen in Seattle.
Keith Law’s Top-50 Midseason Update
Law catches the ire of many on the internet for –get this– actually having an opinion, but there aren’t many more well-connected prospect sources available. His update features aggressive placements of several recently drafted prospects that likely aren’t available yet in your league and obviously gives more weight to players playing up-the-middle.
No 8. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Preseason Rank: 55)
As the aforementioned Mr. Wellemeyer wrote about here last week, Devers has shot his way up the prospect rankings since being a part of the July 2 class from only two years ago. As Law pointed out in his piece, Devers is younger than seven of the players taken in the first round of June’s draft – which tells you all that you need to know about just how special Devers’ bat is.
No. 9 Brendan Rogers, SS, Colorado Rockies (Preseason Rank: Not Eligible)
Rogers’ placement inside the top-10 has already made rebuilding owners take notice of the prize that will be available with the first overall pick among eligible draftees. Everybody mashes while calling Grand Junction of the Pioneer League home, so don’t put too much stock in Rogers’ initial stats as a professional, but make no mistake — he has the whole package required to be a fantasy superstar powered by Coors.
No. 34 Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Preseason Rank: Not Ranked)
Guerrieri is a forgotten prospect in many circles (and didn’t rank among the TDG 500 update in June) as the Rays have understandably been cautious in bringing him along from his Tommy John rehab. Guerrieri ramped it up to five innings during his last rehab start on Monday and makes for a fine trade target over the course of the rest of the season.
No. 39 Anthony Alford, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Preseason Rank: Not Ranked)
We covered Alford’s backstory in late May here, and he has earned a promotion to High-A Dunedin in meantime. He’s continued his strong performance – and kept his on-base percentage above .400 on the season. Alford has had a remarkable 2015 season considering that he’s playing his first full season of professional baseball. It could be scary once Alford gets more experience.
No. 48 Javier Guerra, SS, Boston Red Sox (Preseason Rank: Not Ranked)
Guerra was seen primarily as a glove-first shortstop before the season, but has gotten plenty of exposure while hitting 12 home runs in 75 games on the same minor league team as Devers and Yoan Moncada. Guerra’s 146 wRC+ mark has no doubt been helped by a .382 BABIP, but the left-handed hitter is making more hard contact this season than he has previously in his minor league career which certainly bodes well for this future development. However, the 19-year old will need to improve his line against lefties (.250/.297/.405) as he moves up in the Red Sox system.
J.J. Jansons is a contributor to The Dynasty Guru. Be one of the first to follow him (literally) on Twitter, where you can request future topics to be covered here at TDG. Follow @jansons_jj