Digging for Diamonds: Post-Hype Corner Infielders

Welcome! Hope you are enjoying your New Year. Here are the previous links to the series:

Jan. 9: Breakout Middle-Infield Prospects
Jan. 1: Sleeper Middle Infielder Prospects
Dec. 23: Post-Hype Middle Infielders
Dec. 12: Breakout Catcher Prospects
Dec. 5: Sleeper Catcher Prospects
Nov. 28: Post-Hype Catchers

If you are new to the series, be sure to check out the other posts first for a more proper introduction and explanation. Here are the first and third basemen who can still provide fantasy teams a lot of value even though they may not have the same publicity and excitement attached to their names as they did in years past. Continue reading

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Digging for Diamonds: Breakout Middle-Infield Prospects

Here are the previous parts to the series:

Jan. 1: Sleeper Middle Infield Prospects
Dec. 23: Post-Hype Middle Infielders
Dec. 12: Breakout Catcher Prospects
Dec. 5: Sleeper Catcher Prospects
Nov. 28: Post-Hype Catchers

If you are new here, be sure to check those out first for a more proper introduction. I am here to discuss some middle-infield prospects who I think have a chance to breakout next year and shoot up prospect lists, reach the Majors, and even help your fantasy teams, and soon. Continue reading

Digging for Diamonds: 2016-17 Sleepers Middle Infield Prospects

Here are the previous parts to the series:

Dec. 23: Post-Hype Middle Infielders
Dec. 12: Breakout Catcher Prospects
Dec. 5: Sleeper Catcher Prospects
Nov. 28: Post-Hype Catchers

I do not want to spend too much time on a long intro since there are several sleeper middle infield prospects to discuss, so let’s get to it!

Jorge Polanco, 23, Twins: I wrestled with where to place Polanco, as I am not sure he was ever really ‘hyped’ enough to be considered post-hype, but he is also much older than everyone else on my ‘breakout’ list. He has already been named the leading candidate to open Spring Training as the Twins’ starting shortstop, and if he can start hitting less fly balls, he could end up being the next surprise shortstop to help your fantasy team, similar to a “poor man’s Lindor” or “a version of Elvis Andrus who has traded off some steals for batting average points,” and the writer even goes on to suggest he could have a surprise 20-homer season some year similar to Didi Gregorius’s 2016. Polanco doesn’t have the name-value that other young shortstops around the league carry, but he may end up out-producing many shortstops drafted ahead of him. All he needs to do is to realize he isn’t Alex Rodriguez and will never be a 40-homer hitter. If he can level out his swing and start smacking line drives, look out. Continue reading

Digging for Diamonds: 2016-17 Post-Hype Middle Infielders

For those who do not know me, I have had the pleasure of writing for The Dynasty Guru for a little over a month now. I am doing a series on sleepers, breakouts, and post-hype candidates at each of the main prospect positions (catchers, middle infielders, corner infielders, center fielders, corner outfieldersstarting pitchers, and relief pitchers). Here are some quick links to the posts that have already been published:

Nov. 28: Post-Hype Catchers, Dec. 5: Sleeper Catching Prospects, and Dec. 12: Breakout Catching Prospects

Here are five middle-infielders who could rediscover their prospect shine from years past by taking advantage of the opportunities they should be given in the upcoming season to become cornerstones of your future dynasty. Continue reading

Digging for Diamonds: 2016-17 Breakout Catching Prospects

Two weeks ago, I began a series on sleepers, breakout, and post-hype prospects, starting with Post-Hype Catchers and continuing last week with Sleeper Catchers. This week, we will be discussing catching prospects who have the potential to become some of the top prospects in their respective organizations, and perhaps all of baseball if they can continue to build on their stellar 2016 campaigns. Here are four young catching prospects who I think can fully breakout next year in 2017: Continue reading

Digging For Diamonds: 2016-17 Sleeper Catching Prospects

Last week, I started a series on sleepers, breakout, and post-hype prospects, starting with Post-Hype Catchers. A sleeper is someone who is underrated, who other owners are ‘sleeping’ on. It is not someone who is ‘asleep’ and ready to ‘wake up,’ which are called breakouts and are next week’s topic. Unlike last week, all of these guys are considered rookie-eligible prospects, since they haven’t exceeded 130 MLB at-bats or 45 days of service time. To qualify as a ‘sleeper’ for my series, a prospect cannot appear on either CBS Sports’ or MLB Pipeline’s Positional Top 10 Rankings. Also, even though they have not all been released yet, I will not include anyone who has shown up on Baseball America’s Top 10 lists. So here they are, the guys you need to quit hitting the snooze button on, your 2016-17 sleeper catchers: Continue reading

Digging For Diamonds: 2016-17 Post-Hype Catchers

It’s everybody’s favorite time of year! No, not the holidays, I’m talking about prospects list season! This is the beginning of a series on sleepers, breakout, and post-hype prospects, starting today with post-hype catchers. These are guys who may or may not have exceeded rookie status (130 Major League at-bats) but who aren’t valued perhaps as highly as they were in years past. Next week, we will be discussing sleepers, following with everybody’s favorite, breakout candidates. After that will come post-hype middle-infielders, sleeper infielders, etc. So here they are, without further adieu, your 2016-17 post-hype catchers: Continue reading

Teens* Who Mow ‘Em Down: Five Young Pitching Prospects to Watch

Earlier this month, fellow TDG writer Matt Pullman highlighted five short-season hitters to watch who may still be flying under-the-radar in your dynasty league even after excellent 2016 campaigns. There are several equally exciting pitching prospects that are worth keeping track of as they perhaps make their full-season debuts next season, so it is important to stay on top of these guys and pick them up before your other league members do! Here are five pitching prospects who burst onto the scene in 2016 and could have exciting careers ahead of them.

*Not all of these guys are technical ‘teens,’ but I wanted to keep the theme going of young prospects who may be overlooked in your leagues right now.

Yadier Alvarez, rhp, Dodgers
Standing at 6-3, 175, this 21 year-old is the oldest prospect on this list is also the one with the most upside. Armed with a future 70-grade fastball that sits 96-99 early on and 94-97 later on in starts, Alvarez struck out almost 35% of Low-A hitters this season. Scouts note his “grace in the delivery and [his] overall athleticism” and project his current below-average command to improve enough to where it could even be slightly above-average in the future. In fact, he already showed signs of making the necessary adjustments in that area, as he cut his walk rate in half after being promoted from the Arizona League straight past the Pioneer and New York-Penn Leagues up to full-season ball in the Midwest League. His secondaries are currently a work-in-progress, but scouts project Alvarez to have an above-average slider and changeup and an average curveball to go with his nearly unhittable fastball that can touch 101. Sounds like all the ingredients of a frontline starter to me.

Thomas Szapucki, lhp, Mets
A 2015 5th-round draft pick, Szapucki looks to be next in a long line of exciting pitching prospects for the Mets. Unlike Alvarez, Szapucki has not yet reached full-season ball, but that can be more attributed to a back injury that ending his season prematurely. Scouts note some “red flags” in the delivery, so there is a greater chance that Szapucki could end up in the pen in the long run. Still, Szapucki can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and his curveball can show plus potential, so he definitely has the weapons needed to get batters out as he moves up the ladder. It will be interesting to see if his repertoire will remain as effective (86 Ks in 52 innings!) as it has been, and we also need to keep track of his health, but this is another arm worth getting excited about and one that your league-mates may not be too familiar with yet since he was not a big draft pick nor an international signing.

Sixto Sanchez, rhp, Phillies
Any time a pitcher throws for a 0.50 ERA in 11 starts, you have to start paying attention. The GCL Pitcher of the Year pounds the zone with a fastball that sits 92-96 and can touch 98 when needed. Standing at 6-1/200, Sanchez doesn’t have the same projection remaining that other 18 year-olds may possess, but not many 18 year-olds are already throwing 96 for strikes like Sanchez did consistently last year. Baseball America (subscription required) notes that his two secondaries both flash plus, and he is athletic and fields his position well. Sanchez sounds more advanced than fellow-Phil Franklyn Kilome was when he was 18, so he will be someone’s bandwagon you won’t want to miss.

Alvaro Seijas, rhp, Cardinals
A July 2-signee in 2015, Seijas does not have the same upside that the other pitchers on this list possess, but his feel for starting and three-pitch mix as a 17 year-old have fantasy owners excited nevertheless. His fastball already ranges anywhere from 91-95 mph and was not afraid to use both of his secondaries, best of which is a curveball with tight spin. He is very far away from the majors, but he also may have the best chance at remaining a starter out of anyone on this list.

Jose Albertos, rhp, Cubs
A total wild-card, Albertos threw all of 4 innings last year. However, he ranks in the Top Ten Cubs’ prospects on MLB Pipeline. It is hard to truly gauge the value of a player with so little experience, but he sounds like someone worth getting excited about. More of a wait-and-see type for 2017, but if your league rosters 300+ minor league players, he is not a bad lottery ticket to take a chance on.

Opportunity Seeker: Tommy Pham

As we begin another exciting offseason, every dynasty league owner has the same questions on their mind: Who will be next season’s big-time fantasy sleeper? If you want someone no one is talking about right now, in the same way there was silence surrounding surprise breakout players Jonathan Villar and Adam Duvall last season, look no further than Tommy Pham of their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals.

It’s hard to believe that Pham will only be 29 years old when the 2017 season starts, as he has yet to even surpass 200 at-bats in any season in his brief Major League career. Most 29 year-olds with only 358 career at bats may get written off as ‘Quad-A’ players who serve as organizational depth, but a closer look at Pham reveals some positive indicators that he may in fact be a major sleeper who could be poised for a breakout, and soon.

Pham started his professional career off slowly, but he was an age-appropriate, league-average A-ball hitter in 2008 and 2009. His 2010 season was when he really started to take off, that is until a broken wrist ended his season prematurely. He started to get some helium in dynasty leagues heading into the 2011 season, but as fate would have it, he tore a ligament in his thumb trying to rob a home run. In early 2012, Pham noticed a pop in his shoulder after diving head-first for a fly ball, but doctors told him to play through it. After further examination, it was revealed to be a torn labrum. Heading into 2013, Pham needed to make up for lost developmental time, but instead, he tore his other labrum, once again ending his season. Finally healthy going into 2014, Pham put up a 132 weighted runs created (wRC+) mark in 390 AAA at-bats with 10 homers and 20 steals. He earned a Major League call-up in September 2014 and found his way to semi-regular at-bats after tearing the cover off the ball in AAA to start off 2015. Pham did not disappoint, hitting .268 with a 125 wRC+ and .209 isolated power in 173 at bats.

Fast forward to today where we have over 350 Major League at-bats to evaluate, and despite his oblique injury to start off the 2016 season, there is a lot to like about Pham heading into 2017. Through 358 at-bats, Pham is hitting .245/.333/.455 with 14 homers, and 4 steals, making him good for a 113 wRC+. While his 32 percent K% is atrocious, he hasn’t had any trouble making contact at any level since 2008, so I’m expecting that to regress closer to the 23 K% he showed in AAA. His 11 percent BB% through the last two seasons would place him 52nd among all qualified hitters, and that number has improved since he graduated. Finally, Pham’s 93.4 mpg average exit velocity places him 26th among all qualified batters. For context, this places him in between Miguel Sano and Christian Yelich, and scouting reports have always noted his ability to hit the ball hard with lots of loud contact.

Sleepers like Villar and Duvall that have awoken in past seasons have mostly followed a pretty simple recipe: talent + opportunity + adjustments = breakout. With Brandon Moss (and Matt Holiday) probably out the door in St. Louis, Pham has the perfect opportunity to take advantage of his talented bat and strong arm in the Cardinals 2017 Opening Day outfield. His inflated strikeout rate is the result of adjustments to his plate approach, and if he can keep making improvements to his pitch selection while remaining elite with his hard-hit rate (12th among all batters with 180 PAs or less), he should be able to seize a starting outfield job this spring.  If he can do that, and stay healthy of course, he may end up being one of the steals on Draft Day for re-draft leagues, and if you are in a dynasty league (like you should be!), the window of opportunity to acquire Pham’s services may be closing fast, so time to move now before your league-mates realize the potential and upside he offers owners, both for 2017 and beyond.