Digging for Diamonds: Round 3
Welcome back to another edition of Digging for Diamonds! A series where we look for players outside our top 100 prospects in order to identify hidden gems for your dynasty rosters. We present a case to you the reader as to why our picks are valuable and you the reader to vote and ultimately decide which player you believe in the most.
The minor league season has begun, but our authors wrote these pieces prior to the start of the season. Someone (cough me) delayed the article a bit. However, in the future, we’ll be digging through this year’s stats and providing you with up-to-date analysis. Give it a read, and may the best diamond win.
Round#1: Adam Kloffenstein with 45.64% of the vote
Round#2: Peyton Burdick with 51% of the vote
Bo Naylor, Catcher, Cleveland Indians
Age:21, Highest Level: A-ball
Analysis by Ken Balderston
Let me preface this piece by saying I primarily play in two catcher dynasty leagues. If you’re in a one-catcher league, the right strategy will probably be to invest in only the elite catching prospects like Adley Rutschman, and not invest in guys like Bo Naylor. That said, in two catcher leagues, the position is so thin offensively that you really don’t need to get a ton of production from a player for him to help your team. Now factor in Bo Naylor does have some very intriguing offensive, and defensive skills, and there are plenty of reasons he should be ranked higher than #168 overall.
The younger brother of Cleveland outfielder Josh Naylor, Bo was the 29th overall selection of the 2018 MLB draft. He’s been quite young for the level he’s played at in his minor league career, getting as high as A ball as a 19-year-old in 2019. He had a 104:43 K:BB rate in 399 at-bats that year, and also powered 39 extra-base hits netting a .178 ISO. Another feature in Naylor’s game is his speed, which has allowed him to steal 12 bases in 140 career minor league games and shows us a 6.2 runner on Fangraphs. While he is not a burner, getting seven or eight steals a year from your catcher would be incredible.
Defensively, Bo is a great fit at catcher. He moves well behind the plate and does a great job blocking balls in the dirt. Something that stood out to me this spring, while watching a Cleveland broadcast, was some of the things the announcers were saying about him. That the major league staff has loved throwing to Bo, how he sets up a target and receives the ball, that he’s on the same page calling pitches. Not the typical kind of hype-talk you hear in spring games, but genuinely excited about what the locker room is saying about him.
If you’re in a two-catcher league, there will always be a lack of quality catchers available, so stashing a player in your minors can make a lot of sense. Especially if the player can hit for some power, has above average plate discipline at a young age, and can even swipe some bags. Cleveland is a team that has always put a premium on a catcher’s receiving and defensive skills, meaning I think they are prepared to give Bo a shot to take and run with the everyday job. I’d look for him to be called up as early as midseason 2022.
Brenton Doyle, Outfielder, Colorado Rockies
Age: 22, Highest Level: Rookie
Analysis by Ben Sanders
The Rockies like him
“Maybe the most unheralded and underrated prospect in our organization, and maybe in all of baseball, is a kid by the name of Brenton Doyle. If you watched him here [at instructs], and you just look at him and you go, ‘Oh, that’s a big league player that’s just rehabbing at instruction.’ And no, no, no, no. You know, that’s a second-year player, and he just looks every bit like a dude.”
That’s a quote from Zach Wilson, Colorado Rockies assistant general manger of player development. He may not be the most unbiased source for Brenton Doyle information, but his comments are intriguing nonetheless.
The Rockies took Doyle in the fourth round of the 2019 draft out of Shepherd University, an NCAA Division II school at West Virginia. As a junior there, he slashed .392/.502/.758 as a junior, with 13 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 52 games.
He started his professional career at Grand Junction in the Pioneer League, where he hit .383/.477/.611 with 8 homers and 17 steals in 51 games. Like most minor leaguers, Doyle didn’t accumulate any statistics in 2020, but reports of his performance at 2020 fall instructs have been very positive.
The math likes him
Doyle’s numbers at Shepherd may be impressive, but they won’t be useful in evaluating his MLB potential. Even his small sample of Rookie ball numbers can’t tell us that much.
But what little it can tell us is good. TDG’s Jordan Rosenblum recently mentioned Doyle among the top 12 stats-only dynasty prospects with under 600 plate appearances, alongside much more familiar names like Marco Luciano and CJ Abrams.
Doyle’s peak projection included a 128 wRC+, a .276/.373/.452 slash line, and 22 home runs and 23 steals per 600 plate appearances. Those numbers shouldn’t be taken too seriously as future projections, but they offer at least some idea of what Doyle’s upside might be.
The scouts like him
Doyle is ranked No. 6 in the Rockies system by both Fangraphs and MLB Pipeline. Both sites mention his impressive 6’3, 220-pound physique, and put a 60 grade on his speed. Fangraphs gave him 60 raw power, while MLB graded his power at 55. Both put his hit tool potential at 50. That’s an offensive skillset that could play very well in fantasy leagues, especially at Coors Field.
You should like him, too
This is a weird time for dynasty managers. We’ve been deprived of minor league baseball for almost 20 months, and it’s finally about to resume. There are going to be some big movers in prospect rankings this summer.
Doyle has as good a chance as anyone to be one of them. A Rockies outfielder with his physical tools won’t stay under the radar for long if he starts producing at higher minor-league levels. Taking a chance on him now while he’s still relatively unknown could really pay off.
Tucupita Marcano, 2B/3B, San Diego Padres
Age: 21, Highest Level: AAA
Analysis by Taylor Case
Tucupita Marcano is my dude, and not just because of his 80-grade name. I don’t know what it is about high-floor, bat-for-average players who never strike out, but for some reason, I’m naturally drawn to their talents. Maybe it’s my points league background, me subconsciously shying away from those nasty, negative strikeouts? Who knows. What I do know is that Marcano has the potential to be a helpful player on dynasty teams, as early as this season.
Now, I say that knowing full well that he’s blocked (long-term) by the incomparable left side of the Padres infield. I get it, they’re good. But the San Diego management has already shown a willingness to employ Marcano at the big-league level, as he did in fact crack the 2021 Opening Day Roster. Alas, the experiment did not last, as he was sent down to El Paso after a mere 13 plate appearances. But I digress! And let’s give him a break – he’s only 21 years old and it was his first taste of The Show.
Why, then, do I still have high hopes that Marcano can help fantasy managers this season and beyond? For one, MLB saw more injuries in the first 30 days than in 2018 and 2019, and with COVID-19 still affecting the nation daily, who can say when the rampant Injured List designations will stop?
My point is, opportunities open up all the time, and I tend to believe (perhaps too optimistically) that talent eventually wins out. Especially with players like him (to this point, it only took about 200 words for him to be recalled due to some unfortunate positive COVID tests on the Padres). And that leads me to the second reason I’m all in on Marcano. He’s not the biggest player on the team (6’0”, 170 lbs.), nor does he have the promise of 30-homer seasons in the near future, but he makes up for his lack of raw power with above-average hit and run tools (55-grade each). And while I know it’s not impossible, I do tend to believe that it’s easier to build muscle than grow a more solid hit tool. There’s still no substitute for being able to put the bat on the ball.
I’d like to think that if and when he fills out a bit, he can fall into some 10 homer, 15 steal seasons with his contact-driven approach leading to a very fantasy-friendly average as well. Too bullish? Maybe. But these are the risks you take when you really believe in a player. Luckily, Marcano is only rostered in 9% of Fantrax leagues, so he is very likely still available in your league. He’s very much worth keeping an eye on over the next few months.