Examining Two Prospect Fallers
Every dynasty owner loves rostering prospects. Prospects hold promise for future seasons, carry considerable trade value in the short-term, and can make a major impact when they finally get the call. Plus, the act of unearthing a stud before everyone else catches on to their value is an art wholly satisfying in and of itself. And while minor leaguers don’t contribute to the counting stats of your big league club, all a prospect needs to do to improve their stock–and the long-term outlook of your dynasty team–is perform. Unfortunately, this is the real world, playing professional baseball is incredibly difficult, and many prospects experience drastic fluctuations in value.
This happens for a variety of reasons: Some prospects see their careers stall at the upper levels, some have their development delayed by a major injury, and some, in spite of physical gifts and toolsy profiles, are never able to get it going in the first place. What are dynasty owners to do? Do we disregard all the perceived value these prospects very recently carried? Or do we pull the plug and move forward with another highly ranked youngster? We are talking, after all, about a group of players whose dynasty momentum was generated by scouts and top-100 prospect lists. And these lists don’t exactly have a staggering history of success. It seems that the best practice is to examine our options on a case-by-case basis.
Today I’m going to look at a couple of prospects who have seen their dynasty value falter over the past year. I’ll look at what caused the decline and what it means for their present value and future outlook.
OF Corey Ray, Milwaukee Brewers, Age: 23
Corey Ray is the classic ‘toolsy but flawed’ type that scouts are willing to dream on. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked Corey Ray the 20 prospect in all of baseball last year. This ranking was based on Longenhagen’s assumption that Ray would “adjust his approach to hit for more power than he did in college.“ This past season, Ray didn’t hit for more power. He actually hit for less power, struck out more, and generally failed to improve in any discernible way. Anytime a player gets worse across the board without being promoted, people are going to worry. Thus, he earned a mere ‘Other Prospects in Consideration’ distinction in Eric’s 2018 top-100.
Ray is surprisingly failing up and is headed to Double-A to start the season. Perhaps a change of scenery will be good for him. On the dynasty front, he looks to me like a player who could easily rebuild his value by putting together a few solid months… don’t forget, he’s still a physically gifted player.
Personally, I really hate to make long-term bets on young guys who struggle to make contact and rarely take walks, as these flaws leave them almost no room for error at the major league level. And that’s pretty much Ray in a nutshell. Our own Jim Melichar has heard whispers around the Brewers organization that the team is starting to doubt if he’ll ever make consistent contact. As it stands, unless Ray radically improves, his ceiling is looking suffocatingly low.
Verdict: The ceiling is caving in. Sell where you can, wait for a better window if you must, but don’t be the one left holding onto Corey Ray’s ‘upside.’
SP Anderson Espinoza, San Diego Padres, Age: 20
Espinoza is a young arm facing a big setback. The former top prospect is recovering from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in August of 2017. His recovery period is expected to extend all the way through the 2018 season. Overall, this injury will have cost Espinoza two years of development. While still a fresh 20 years old, this is a significant setback which improves his already sizeable risk. As a result, prospect evaluators like Longenhagen have dropped Espinoza from the 10th spot in 2017 to 62nd in 2018.
Before Espinoza went down, he was compared to Pedro Martinez and signed with Boston for $1.8 million. He was then flipped to San Diego in a one-for-one deal that sent Drew Pomeranz to the Fenway. Everyone was drooling over Espinoza’s high-90s fastball and advanced secondary pitches: a curveball and changeup. Aggressive dynasty owners took note and drafted him for his incredible upside. As I mentioned, what happened next was not unique. He tore his UCL. TINSTAAPP. These are the risks dynasty owners take with young arms. What is unfortunate for everyone is the timing of his injury, the age at which he suffered it, and the length required for his recovery.
Missing a full two years of development creates an awful lot of uncertainty about Espinoza’s future. Granted, he’s still very young and there is still plenty of time for him to become what everyone envisioned him becoming. But will the set back allow him to harness control of his incredible offerings? And what should dynasty owners do?
My first inclination is to do an indirect price check. See what people are asking for him by assessing whether or not he can be had as a ‘throw-in’ on a larger deal. I think as a secondary piece in a trade, he could be an amazing value for a team possessing the room to stash him. Conversely, if you’re the Espinoza owner, see what you could get in a one-for-one. Remind the world of his prospect upside. You might be surprised by what someone will offer.
This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, and I don’t want to insult your intelligence. I merely want to illustrate that a player of this nature creates a lot of opportunities for gamesmanship. When assessing his value, and expressing said value to other owners, you can easily play him way up or way down depending on which side you’re standing. Just don’t let another owner steal him away.
Verdict: Espinoza is Schrodinger’s Prospect. Without a doubt, he is one of the most volatile prospects in all of dynasty baseball right now. There is plenty of potential in this young arm, but he is a high-risk gamble all the way around. Follow the old adage and “Buy low, sell high.”