Digging for DiamondsDynasty BaseballProspect Talk

Digging For Diamonds: Deep AFL Prospects Edition Part 1

In order to get ahead in our leagues, we’ve got to scour the depths of minor league systems for prospects. Some of us are such baseball masochists that we actually put ourselves in leagues where the below players may provide teams with value. Lucky for you I’ve taken the time to dig through the Arizona Fall League rosters, and I have analyzed players you’re unlikely to know much about.

Most of these players are for the deepest of leagues, but I finish each paragraph with advice as to the depth of the league in which these guys require your attention. Please feel free to leave comments and feedback, and I hope you find your prospect Cinderella somewhere in the mix.

Look for the follow up to this article, Digging for Diamonds: AFL Edition Part 2, soon!

The Glendale Desert Dogs

Yu Chang, 22, AAA, SS CLE

Batting Practice Footage from Baseball America
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2017 | Double-A50810.2%26.4%.2412411
2018| Triple-A5188.5%27.8%.155134

Honestly, I’m a bit of a sucker for Yu Chang. While living in China, I’ve visited Taiwan and fallen in love with the baseball scene. The number of Taiwanese position players to have made it to the majors is under ten, and so Chang’s prospect status comes with extra eyes on him. The twenty-two-year-old shortstop has flashed admirable power throughout the minors, but it was less prevalent this year as he adjusted to Triple-A pitching.

Still, if Chang is going to be an impact fantasy bat it will come with the power he brings. He has the ability to play everyday shortstop at the major league level, but whiffs a lot (he’s posted a K% below twenty only once in his career). He’s shown a knack for plate discipline, posting above average walk-rates for most levels. In 2018 his transition to Triple-A caused his home run total to drop almost in half.

While there wasn’t an improvement in his strikeout rate he was able to maintain the same rate as at Double-A. I suspect he was making adjustments and that the power will return. Fangraphs has him ranked with 55 Game and Raw power, but I believe he’s closer to 60 and deserves to be added in 14+ leagues due to his proximity and power potential.

Advice: Add in 14+ Dynasty Leagues 

Jared Walker, 22, A+, 3B LAD

Source MiLB
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2018 | Single-A23611.9%25.0%.23584
2018 | High-A24510.2%29.8%.343172

Walker is a power bat from the left-hand side with the potential to stick at third. While we know that growth is not linear, Walker has spent a concerning amount of his development repeating levels due to his tremendous swing and miss tendencies. However, in 2018, Walker showed much stronger plate discipline at both A-Ball and High-A.

If Walker can carry a stronger approach at Double-A his stock will rise quickly. He’s a pull hitter who lifts the ball, recording a 50%+ flyball-rate six times in the minors. He’ll likely see his strikeout-rate climb again when he starts seeing more breaking balls at Double-A. However, I’ll be looking for a mid-season improvement rather than waiting for him to repeat the level. There’s a tremendous amount of risk with Walker, but few players in this article carry as much upside.  

Advice: Watchlist for 14+ leagues, and Add in 18+ Leagues

Cody Thomas, 23, A+, RF LAD

Video From Baseball Census
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2017 | Single-A5128.4%29.3%.187206
2018 | High-A5588.6%29.2%.212195

Thomas is yet another power-hitting lefty in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Unlike Walker, he has not had to repeat any level, but he’s also a year older. Beyond the positive intangibles Thomas shares with Walker, he also possesses similar  contact issues. At both A-Ball and High-A, the right fielder has posted a strikeout rate of 29%, which is not good.

The likelihood of him reaching the majors and being an everyday player takes a significant hit with that particular wart. I’d need to see an improvement in his patience if that k-rate is going to be sustainable. Despite the the similarities to Walker, Thomas’ skill set is less valuable in the outfield. Outfielders are the easiest assets to secure for a minor league team, which makes an asset as risky as Thomas less intriguing.

Advice: Watchlist in 18+

Laz Rivera, 23, A+, 2B CHW

Source Baseball Census
Year | Level PABB%K%ISOHRSB
2018 | Single-A2652.3%18.1%.15667
2018 | High-A2502.8%17.6%.176710

I’d advise watching the above video from Baseball Census, as Rivera’s stats are a bit underwhelming considering his age and level. However, it’s Rivera’s ability to make contact that makes him so interesting: 16.7% of his at-bats in 2018 ended with a swinging strike, but he only managed a 2.8% walk rate. That’s fine as long as he continues to make such elite contact in higher levels.

While not carrying elite speed or power, Rivera does bring a pinch of both to his game. He finished the year with seven homers and ten steals, and IF all of that translates to future levels then we have ourselves a very solid middle-infield prospect. Rivera has great barrel control, and if he can learn to exercise some patience at the plate then he can provide excellent value as a pop-up prospect.

Advice: Add in 18+ Leagues

The Peoria Javelinas

Austin Allen C, 24, AA SD

Source Baseball Census
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2017| High-A5168.5%21.1%.214220
2018 | Double-A4987.4%19.5%.215220

Austin Allen had his breakout last year in High-A, where he smacked 22 home runs. His 2018 campaign in Double-A looks remarkably similar, hitting another 22 homers and posting nearly identical walk rates, strikeout rates, and ISOs near 215. Considering that he’s doing this all while playing catcher already makes Allen a must-add in 14+ leagues.

Allen’s potential value is tied heavily to his position. If he can stick at catcher he will fly up rankings next year with the amount of power he can generate from behind the plate. Fangraphs has his raw power ranked as a 60, and thus it’s surprising that there hasn’t been more hype around the young catcher. Keep an eye on him through the AFL, and look for any scouting notes on his defense behind the plate. Allen would make for a very sneaky add or later pick in first-year player drafts.

Advice: Add in 16+ leagues

Chris Mariscal 25,2B, AA SEA

Source Baseball Census
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2017| High-A38211.5%19.6%.06510
2018 | Double-A50910.0%25.7%.09970

Potentially the most boring player in this article, Chris Mariscal does little to peak our interest. He doesn’t carry speed or power (perhaps a “pinch”  of power) and to top it off he’s a Mariners prospect (sorry Seattle, but your farm is real bad). Instead what he does is play excellent defense and demonstrates a strong eye at the plate. The strikeout rate is a bit high for someone that brings the equivalent of stale-bread tools to the game.

While initially I was intrigued with the swing and plate skills, the overall package just isn’t worth it. You’ll need to be in a ridiculously deep league in order to justify adding Mariscal to your watchlist. If you happen to be in a league that deep leave a note in the comments with your format. He could be a player that at the very least doesn’t hurt you in OBP leagues. I suppose there is value in that. 

Advice: Eat a piece of stale bread, wash it down with some flat soda, and ponder the nature of existence.

Trent Grisham 21, OF, AA MIL

Source 2080 Baseball
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2017 | High-A56917.2%24.8%.125837
2018 | Double-A40515.6%21.5%.104711

Another prospect with little to offer in terms of either speed or power, but a whole-lot-of “meh”. For example, Fangraphs has Grisham with a future value of 50, meaning a league-average player. Nothing really stands out with Grisham. His lowest grades are his game power and throw, both which are 45s. Meanwhile, the future values for the rest of his tools grade out at 50.  

Unfortunately for our efforts, Grisham’s stats appear to mirror the “mehness” of his future value aside from elite plate skills (walking between 14-18% the previous three seasons). The strikeout rate has also improved as Grisham has advanced to higher levels. The major difference from Mariscal is that I believe that Grisham has a much better shot at being an everyday major leaguer. He has excellent plate skills and hits a ton of fly balls. He’s twenty-one in a pitcher-friendly league at Double-A and doing well. If he grows into any power then we’re in for a treat. Keep an eye on him.

Advice: Add in 18+ Leagues, Add to Watchlist in 16+

Joe McCarthy 24, LF, AAA TB

Source MiLB
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2018 | Double-A55416.2%17.0%.150720
2018 | Triple-A19113.1%22.5%.24483

This Joe may be better than average, or he could just be incredibly average. The first baseman/Left fielder hasn’t shown the necessary pop to be a viable fantasy option at either position.  Until this year, sort of:  over the course of only 191 plate appearances in Triple-A the left-hander has smacked eight home runs and swiped three bags. McCarthy’s ISO climbed from .150 in 2017 to .244 in 2018, and managed to surpass his home run total from the previous year.

Are the power gains real though? Unfortunately, McCarthy injured his back earlier this summer, and thus missed a chunk of time, leaving us with less of an ideal sample to determine if the gains the 24-year-old made are legitimate. Now he’ll get a chance to collect more plate appearances, and depending on his performance he could warrant a pickup. The prospect becomes a must add if the new-found power sticks, as he has demonstrated phenomenal plate skills throughout the rest of the minors.

Advice: Watchlist in 16+ Leagues

The Mesa Solar Sox

Skye Bolt 24, OF, AA OAK

Source MiLB
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2018 | High-A20914.8%22.5%.25499
2018 | Double-A3158.6%23.8%.1891010

We have arrived at the best name in the AFL, and he also happens to be one of the most intriguing names in this article. Skyle Bolt climbed through two levels in 2018, spending 209 plate appearances in High-A and 315 in Double-A. The 24-year-old outfielder posted strong numbers at both levels. His walk-rate did tumble a bit after advancing levels, but not enough to think it wasn’t just adjusting to better competition.

Another indicator that Bolt is merely making some adjustments would be a significant dip in his fly-ball rate, but an improvement in his line-drive rate. In Double-A the quality of breaking pitches improves, and a hitter’s Major League approach starts to become more visible. What’s encouraging for Bolt is that he still managed to hit for power after his promotion. A combined 19 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 524 plate appearances at least makes Bolt worth monitoring.

Advice: Watchlist 16+ leagues

Nico Hoerner 21, SS, A CHIC

Source Fangraphs
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2018 | Rookie1513.3%0.0%.25002
2018 | Low-A2817.9%10.7%.22714
2018 | A-Ball1711.8%5.9%.26710

Nico Hoerner may be the most intriguing prospect on this list. He was the 24th overall pick by the Cubs in 2018, and it feels quite aggressive to send a first-year player to the AFL. I suppose the Cubs are interested in seeing a larger sample of what they’ve invested in since his professional debut was limited due to strained ligaments in his left elbow.

Hoerner is a relatively safe asset who has some upside potential. Touted as a prospect who has a more line drive approach with a keen eye for the strike zone, the biggest question remains what his power output will look like. He has excellent hands that are able to connect with pitches throughout the zone, and he has shown more pop than expected with a wooden bat. Given the previous success of the Cubs with recent college bats (such as Bryant and Happ) I’ll be keeping a close eye on him. Right now I’d have him as a late second round pick in a supplemental draft, but a strong performance might boost him to the end of the first round.

Advice: Add in 14+ Leagues  

Josh Ockimey 22,1B, AAA BOS

Source MiLB
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2018 | Double-A37615.7%29.8%.219150
2018 | Triple-A10510.5%35.2%.18351

Josh Ockimey 1B

Goodness gracious, did you see that bomb in the gif? Josh Ockimey is a powerhouse; the dude can straight-up rake. The problem, of course, is the swing and miss in his game. The strikeout rates throughout the minors have routinely approached the 30% mark. In both Double-A and Triple-A, Ockimey struggled to keep the whiffs in check. The whiffs come with strong walk-rates, but he’s struggled against more advanced pitching in Triple-A. Seemingly switching 5% of his walk rate for his strikeout rate.

Still, the three outcome player is thriving in the majors, and so there is plenty of room for a player like Ockimey in the majors, especially in Boston where the dynamic duo of Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce is merely a platoon plug at the position. It’s unlikely that we see Sam Travis as an everyday player for Boston, and thus the door is open for Ockimey to seize the job. He’s absolutely worth monitoring in every league.

Advice: Watchlist everywhere

Daniel Woodrow 23, RF, AA DET

Source MiLB
Year | LevelPABB%K%ISOHRSB
2017 | Low-A5419.4%17.2%.053031
2018 | Double-A3878.0%18.3%.082319

Daniel Woodrow, 23 RF, AA DET

Let’s be honest, there’s not a ton of good news coming out of the Tigers organization these days. The team is in the midst of a rebuild that has the potential to last quite some time. There’s a glimmer of interesting down in the murky farm of Detroit. I’m not underselling when I say “glimmer of interesting,” I’m entirely sure Daniel Woodrow can offer much more than that. As with many of the prospects in this article, Woodrow offers us some hope in his approach at the plate.

Woodrow is a contact-driven player, posting strikeout rates near 20% and walking at nearly a league-average rate. There appears to be little to no power in his game as he’s posted an ISO above .100 only once. However he did manage to steal 31 bags in 2017, and that’s interesting, but between High-A and Double-A, Woodrow only stole twenty-three bases total. Still, with the ghost-like disappearance of speed at the major league level, he’s worth monitoring. Scouting reports indicate that the speed is not a result from just robbing poor inexperienced minor league pitchers, as he’s been marked as a player with plus speed. Keep an eye on him!

Advice: Watchlist 16+ Leagues

AUTHORS’ PLUGS!

Patrick Magnus: @TheGreenMagnus


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The Author

Patrick Magnus

Patrick Magnus

Baseball Dad, husband, TDG podcast talking head, educator, Vermonter, Shenzhener, and completely baseball obsessed.
Living, working, and writing in Shenzhen, China. Hear my thoughts on the TDG Podcast, and follow me on Twitter @TheGreenMagnus

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