Prospects hounds can be a fickle bunch. On Opening Day they’re gushing over a player they think can take a huge leap forward, but by the end of the year they’re looking to sell the same guy after a season of less than 500 at bats. In all the commotion, sometimes players fall through the cracks. All it takes is a couple of less-than-positive reviews for prospects to be cast aside and forgotten. This week, I am looking at five possibly underrated or forgotten prospects that should be viewed owned in leagues where 150+ minor leaguers are rostered.
OF Derek Fisher, Astros
Derek Fisher has star potential, but with it comes with a perceived bust factor that keeps him low on many prospect lists. Armed with all 5 tools at his disposal, he is one of the most under-appreciated potential stars around. His defensive profile is also clouding his value, which isn’t a concern for fantasy purposes. Fish slashed .255/.367/.448 in 2016, a solid representation of his entire minor league career: solid approach, good slugging, and middling average. There are concerns such as his strikeout rate jumping nearly 5 percentage points to 28.6% in 448 AA plate appearances, though it could have been a result of him adjusting to a new level. Fisher isn’t too far away either, and could reach the big leagues at some point late next season. He could be blocked from major playing time due to Houston’s recent signing of Josh Reddick, but if Fisher continues to produce in Triple-A next season, he should force the Astros’ hand.
OF Jorge Bonifacio, Royals
After 7 years and over 3000 at bats in the minors, Jorge Bonifacio is finally on the cusp of the major leagues, and with this rise through the minor league ranks has come an increase in his stock. Over the last couple years, Bonifacio’s plus raw power has begun to manifest itself in games, and if he can make enough contact, there’s a starting right fielder in this profile. Should the Royals struggle out of the gate next season, they could find themselves retooling and allowing youth, such as Bonifacio, to play.
3B Jeimer Candelario, Cubs
Not overly flashy or tooled up, Jeimer Candelario can be a high 2nd division 3B in time. For now, he is buried on the Cubs depth chart and may need a trade to get a chance at playing time. Luckily for Candelario, there’s a good chance he’s traded, given his status as prime trade bait in a Cubs organization looking to win as much as they can right now. The calling card with Candelario is his eye at the pate, which has allowed for an impressive 12.5% walk rate and 16.3% strikeout rate since reaching AA. Even though he does not have prototypical power, he can still impact a teams offense by reaching base so frequently. Candelario will need some more minor league seasoning, though, with only 735 upper level plate appearances, but could be a full-time regular in due time.
OF Aristides Aquino, Reds
Recently added to the Reds 40-man roster, Aristides Aquino had a mini breakout in 2016 on the strength of 23 HRs and a .519 SLG in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. He had 61 XBH on the year and only struck out 19.8% of the time. He was also recently anointed the FSL player of the year, an honor bestowed upon him by the FSL powers that be. Plus raw power, plus running ability, and a plus throwing arm is enough to keep him on fantasy radars even if his probability of success is not entirely high at the moment. Aquino’s ceiling is so high that even a marginal improvement in contact rate would go a long way in him becoming an above average regular. While his average is never likely to top the .260 range, he could settle in as a 5 hole hitter in the majors with 20/20 upside while supplying solid right field defense to help keep his bat in the lineup. On a Reds team reluctantly rebuilding, he is exactly the type of exiting young talent the team should be looking to develop.
OF Mitch Haniger, Mariners
This next one is cheating a little bit because of the Thanksgiving trade, but Mitch Haniger has been on my radar for some time now and it’s good to see him with a clearer path to playing time now that he is in Seattle. The deal also gives me an excuse to talk about him. Haniger was praised by his new GM as “high-ceiling prospect who projects to join our outfield as soon as next season.” All GMs will speak highly of their own, especially ones acquired for the previous top player in their farm system, but in this case I agree wholeheartedly. Once a supplemental first round pick of the Brewers, Haniger’s value has yet to catch up with the tools he flashes. With the lack of production in Seattle’s OF, he could play a big role from the start on a team in need of outfield help. Haniger himself credits his production to a change in his swing mechanics which led to a .670 slugging percentage and 1.098 OPS in Triple A Reno. Just as intriguing for me is his career minor league slash of .290/.370/.490. His MLB debut was a mixed bag which included five homers and a .229 AVG. At age 25 he is in his physical prime and poised to see a significant number of at bats in 2017. I am buying in the hopes he can play CF when Leonys Martin sits versus tough lefties, and earn the lions share of a corner OF spot.