Three Prospects to watch in the Cal League
While taking a trip to a minor league baseball game may not sound like the most riveting experience ever, it’s an experience I highly recommend. Not only are you able see get far closer to players than at most major league games, but, oftentimes, you’ll also have the ability to personally interact with them. Over the years, in-person viewings have given me another tool to evaluate young players. I’m lucky enough to live within driving distance of several California League stadiums–a level in the minor leagues where players continually make names for themselves. Several immensely valuable players will be making Cal League stops this year, including potential studs like Brendan Rodgers, Yadier Alvarez, and Anderson Espinosa. But I won’t be discussing them today. Instead, let’s take a look at some more under-the-radar prospects who have an excellent chance to jump into or close to top 100s everywhere.
OF Heath Quinn, San Francisco Giants
This young outfielder tops my viewing wish list this season, as I think a value explosion could be in the cards for the young Giant. Rewinding to the conclusion of his amateur career, Quinn was rated as the 48th player on the Baseball America’s best available collegiate prospects. After getting popped by the Giants in round three, he was assigned to Rookie Ball. There, he lasted all of nine plate appearances before being shipped out to Low-A. As a college player in A-Ball, success was expected, but Quinn absolutely demolished the level, slashing a loud .337/.423/.571 line. That was flanked by a very solid 11% walk rate and led to a stout 175 wRC+. He wrapped it up with a 19 PA cup of coffee at High-A, leaving him poised for a return to Lake Elsinore in April. If he continues his raking ways in Elsinore this year, expect his value to soar as he earns national prominence. If he hits like I feel he can, he’ll be in Double-A in no time. I predict a value leap in the same vein as Tyler O’Neill. I will be watching his strikeouts closely this season, and if his K% improves, Quinn may become an asset worth holding long term.
SP Jacob Nix, San Diego Padres
After being on the wrong end of the Houston Astros’ draft shenanigans, Jacob Nix landed in an organization tailor-made for pitching success. Following a brief 19 2/3 inning pro debut in 2015, Nix had a solid, yet unspectacular 2016. A 7.69 K/9 will turn off many a fantasy owner, but when combined with an ability to keep the ball in the yard (0.43 HR/9), dreams of Petco dance in my head. He also boasted a 4.5% walk rate last year, which is an elite mark by any standards. But as the fantasy gods gave him good fortune with walks and homers, they punished him with a .340 BABIP, showing that his 3.93 ERA may have been a product of bad luck. What’s that, you don’t believe in luck? Well you don’t need to believe in it for it to exist. Nix employs a low effort delivery with a high leg kick that helps him pump fastballs reaching the mid-90s. It is his easy delivery that have led some to project him to have future plus command of his 3 pitch mix. Along with the heat, he also has a curve that will flash shades of being a hammer and an improving changeup. Nix strikes me as a level-per-year prospect, and that is perfectly fine with me. If 2017 is the year his numbers catch up with his scouting reports, you will be glad to have purchased at pennies on the dollar.
OF Michael Gettys, San Diego Padres
This last one may be cheating a little, but I am hoping that the Pads send Gettys back to High-A, which could certainly happen after a scant 272 plate appearances there in 2016. A proverbial toolshed, Gettys was expected to be a project when the Padres drafted him. One of the toolsiest (yes, that’s a word, spellcheck) players in recent drafts, Gettys is ready to take Lake Elsinore by Storm. See what I did there? Gettys put together a great .305/.363/.442 line at two stops last year, while also chipping in 33 steals (though they came at the expense of 16 caught stealings). If he can translate his power and speed combo in the majors, he has the absolute upside of a 20/20 player at the highest level. While this is incredibly unlikely to happen, he’s one of just a handful of prospects who have that kind of talent, making him a name to watch, at the very least. I can’t wait to get a look at him in person.
If your league is deep enough, these guys may all be gone since they all came with a good degree of draft hype and pedigree. But if the owners are impatient like in many of my leagues, you may be able to snag one or two at a discount before equity builds. Not all of these players will continue ascending to stardom, but that is not the point. These guys are poised to take a leap in value in dynasty leagues, then they can be flipped to fill needs.