Welcome back to this annual series that first began in 2008. While taking a look back at the 2019 minor league season, it will also help you prepare for the 2020 fantasy season and beyond. We began the series recently with the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed by the Colorado Rockies. Today, we continue on with the San Diego Padres, an organization brimming with good, young talent.
Best Move of the Season:
It wasn’t anywhere near the steal of Fernando Tatis Jr. from the White Sox but the addition of center-fielder Taylor Trammell in a three-way trade with Cleveland and Cincinnati was a very underrated move. Yes, the Padres gave up three players but southpaw Logan Allen is overrated, outfielder Franmil Reyes is a very one-dimensional player, and the third player, Victor Nova, is a raw lottery ticket. Trammell, meanwhile, was already considered a Top 100 prospect despite his struggles with the bat in 2019. He’s ultra-athletic with plus speed and the raw power to hit 20 or more home runs. Despite his struggles in 2019 and issues making consistent contact, Trammell walked 65 times in 123 games (13% walk rate). Acquiring him was a worthwhile gamble considering what was given up in exchange.
The Org Depth:
The Padres graduated Luis Urias in 2019 but there is still an incredible amount of middle-infield depth on the way.
C.J. Abrams: Abrams was one of the most talented and most athletic players in the 2019 draft but no one expected his bat to be quite as advanced as it was. He laid waste to the Arizona rookie league with a 1.104 OPS and .401 batting average in 32 games. Abrams also showed more pop in the bat with 23 of his 57 hits in Rookie ball going for extra bases. The speedy infielder also added 14 steals on his way to an early August promotion to Low-A ball — a nearly unprecedented move for an 18-year-old.
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Welcome back to this annual series that first began in 2008. While taking a look back at the 2019 minor league season, it will also help you prepare for the 2020 fantasy season and beyond. We began the series last week with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Today, we continue on with the Colorado Rockies, an organization that has some intriguing offensive players but continues to struggle to produce impact arms.
The Rockies’ system continues to see good infield depth even after the graduations of Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson in recent seasons.
Colton Welker, 3B: Welker dominated the lower levels of the minors with a career batting average of more than .330 after three pro seasons. He then hit a wall in Double-A. Welker missed over a month with an injury and never really looked healthy after his return. He’ll spend time in the Arizona Fall League and look to make up for lost time with an eye on jumping to Triple-A in 2020. To be an impact Major Leaguer, Welker needs to get stronger and continue to put more balls in the air. He also needs to be more selective with the pitches he’s swinging at.
Ryan Vilade, SS/3B: A more well-rounded player than Welker above, I’d put my money on Vilade eventually being the more valuable big leaguer. He’s not a speed-burner but the young infielder can run well and is becoming a smarter base runner. He’s also more selective at the plate and took 56 walks in 126 High-A ball games (just shy of a 10% walk rate) which bodes well for his future. He’s also getting stronger and hitting more balls in the air so a 20-homer season is a realistic goal.
Welcome back to this annual series that first began in 2008. While taking a look back at the 2019 minor league season, it will also help you prepare for the 2020 fantasy season and beyond. Today, we kick off the 2019 series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a club that is quietly building an impressive minor league system.
The Best Move of the Season:
The development of Geraldo Perdomo allowed the Diamondbacks to flip the more highly-rated shortstop (and overrated), Jazz Chisholm, to Miami for rookie hurler Zac Gallen — which was a steal of a move no matter how you look at it. Perdomo is a much more polished hitter overall despite his inexperience. The switch-hitter doesn’t have nearly the raw power that Chisholm does but he’s exceptionally athletic and pretty much guaranteed to stick at shortstop while providing a good average, gap pop, an excellent BB-K (with above-average on-base skills) and double-digit steals. Gallen has always been underrated on the mound and I’ve been driving the bandwagon for a few years now and even undersold him a bit early on.
The Diamondbacks have skillfully built up a glut of athletic outfielders with high ceilings.
Alek Thomas: Thomas is at the head of the pack and should open 2020 in High-A ball with an eye on reaching Double-A in the second half and impacting the Majors in 2021. He’s a strong hitter who could flirt with a .300 average in the Majors and overall strong on-base skills after taking 52 walks in 112 minor leagues in 2019. On the downside, he’s not currently much of a power threat and, despite good speed, he doesn’t run much. Still, a .290 average with 15 home runs and 15 steals as a big-league center-fielder is a solid player. And he’s just 19 so there could more to come. A strong 2020 could help him reach the Majors in 2021.
It’s never too early to think about next year, right? Or, for that matter, three years from now.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at six players in short-season leagues that should be poised to jump to full-season ball in 2020. If that happens, it should put them squarely on your watch list in dynasty formats.
I don’t advocate adding too many low-level prospects to a fantasy team’s roster, even in a format like Ottoneu that has a 40-man roster, but one, maybe two, won’t hurt, especially if they project to be impact players like the players listed below.
Aaron Bracho, 2B, Indians: Cleveland continues to churn out excellent results from its international scouting department and 2017 was an especially good year. That market produced three players with impact potential in Brayan Rocchio, George Valera, and Bracho. That third player listed has shown an advanced approach with the bat after an injury kept him off the field in 2018. Bracho has an encouraging BB-K of 22-21 in 29 rookie ball games while showing above-average pop with six home runs and 10 doubles — accounting for more than 50% of his 31 hits. It’s extremely rare for 18-year-old prospects to show that kind of balance between power and plate discipline.
The 2016 draft was an interesting one and it has a chance to be a gold mine for 2020 fantasy baseball managers.
On first blush, it appears to be a rather weak offering with Mickey Moniak leading off the draft. But there’s some real depth here in the first round with very few hard misses. Those that might eventually find their ways into the miss column include Riley Pint, Corey Ray, Delvin Perez, Will Benson, Cole Ragans, Will Craig, and Blake Rutherford. But even then, some of those players could still punch their union card and carve out part-time roles in the Major Leagues.
A number of first-round picks have already made it to the Majors, including Dakota Hudson, Eric Lauer, Nick Senzel, Cal Quantrill, Will Smith, and A.J. Puk. And look at the list of players selected in later rounds that have already played in the Majors: Zac Gallen, Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Joey Lucchesi, Pete Alonso, Bryan Reynolds, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Tommy Edman.
There is a strong second wave coming. You’ve already seen some of the 2016 draftees make brief appearances in the Majors including Carter Kieboom, Nate Lowe, Jon Duplantier, Bryse Wilson, Nick Solak, Jake Fraley, and Dustin May. But let’s take a closer look at some of the other 2016 picks that could see significant playing time in 2020 that have yet to reach The Show:
Sean Murphy, Athletics, AAA: Murphy would likely be in the Majors right now if most of his season had not been wiped out by trips to the disabled list. Just back in Triple-A after a brief rehab assignment in Rookie Ball, the young catcher went deep twice in his first game back in Triple-A — giving him an eye-popping eight home runs in his last five games (19 at-bats) at that level reaching back to July.
The 2015 draft started off with a run on college players who have gone on the become solid big league contributors. Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman were then followed by high school infielder Brendan Rodgers, who was selected third overall but has yet to establish himself in the Major Leagues. However, Rodgers has had a taste of big-league action as a member of the Rockies’ 40-man roster.
There many former high school picks from the 2015 draft that have yet to even make it onto a 40-man roster, let alone reach the Majors. And this fall will represent the deadline to add those prep players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December. Let’s take a look at a few names that could be added to teams’ 40-man rosters and also potentially help fantasy owners in 2020 and beyond.
Tyler Stephenson, C, Reds (AA): The Reds organization lacks a true starting catcher (apologies to Tucker Barnhart) but that could change when Stephenson reaches The Show. He was selected 11th overall in 2015 but, as is often the case, the high school catcher’s development has been a slow one. Stephenson has yet to tap into his raw power potential but he’s posted three straight seasons of offensive results surpassing the league average. Even without the home-run results to show for it, he’s getting stronger and has hit a lot more line drives over the past two seasons. The young catcher also has posted three straight seasons with walk rates above 10%. Along with the patient approach, he shows a good eye and has struck out just 55 times (17% K-rate) in 79 games this year. Stephenson is a tall catcher so it’s taken time for him to show improvements on defense but he has a very strong arm and has used it to throw out 28% of base runners so far this year. There are few concerns about his ability to stick at catcher and be able to play every day.
Today at the Prospect Stock Watch, we’re going to look at pitching because… well, who isn’t looking for quality pitching? The ability to identify good pitching has become even more important around Major League Baseball these days where the balls have more juice than the Kool-Aid Man.
As a fantasy baseball owner, you’re tasked with finding a significant number of arms to help your team navigate through a long season filled with injuries and disappointments. And in this new era of baseball, it can be even more difficult to find a good, reliable starter as many pitchers hit a wall in Triple-A and/or the Majors where the balls are different than the lower minors (Say hello to Justus Sheffield and Deivi Garcia, among others).
Below, we’re going to rank the Top 6 MLB organizations in terms of minor pitching depth and list the best arms within each organization. If we look at the next wave of arms heading towards the MLB, it’s interesting to see these six organizations possess the majority of the top arms in baseball.
The below ranking will help fantasy managers in redraft leagues prepare for 2020, and it will help fantasy managers in dynasty leagues prepare for the multiple seasons ahead. Some of the teams below with the best pitching depth might surprise you. And if the rankings below are any indication, the American League Central could soon become a powerhouse league to rival the AL East.
1. The Detroit Tigers
The Tigers rank first for two reasons. Firstly, they have three pitchers at the top that project to develop into No. 1/2 starters. Secondly, the organization could graduate five strong starting pitchers by the end of the 2020 season. The club also projects to completely makeover the starting rotation by 2021 which could push Spencer Turnbull to the bullpen and allow the Tigers to deal Matthew Boyd for help on the hitting side (Recent draft pick Riley Greene looks special but there’s not much else after that).
Casey Mize, RHP, AA, ETA: 2020
Matt Manning, RHP, AA, ETA: 2020
Tarik Skubal, LHP, AA, ETA: 2020
Joey Wentz, LHP, AA, ETA: 2020
Alex Faedo, RHP, AA, ETA: 2020
Projected 2021 Rotation: Matthew Boyd, Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal, Spencer Turnbull
Today, we’re heading back to the 2018 draft to unearth some hidden gems. You’ve all likely heard about Casey Mize, and Alec Bohm, and Nolan Gorman… but who are some of the other prospects who will soon become dynasty darlings?
Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays
Baseball America (org ranking): 11
MLB Pipeline: 10
Marc Hulet: 4
McClanahan deserves more love. As you can see above, most publications have him around the fringe of the Rays’ Top 10 prospects list. And I get it. He was a top college player — selected 31st overall — but opened his first full season in Low-A ball, which is not the most challenging level given his past pedigree. However, there were big concerns over his ability to throw consistent strikes and, well, this is the Rays — an organization that is always on the conservative side of developing prospects not named Wander Franco.
And the concern was warranted, as seen by McClanahan’s walk rate of 5.26 BB/9 in 11 appearances. After showing improvements, he was promoted to High-A ball where he was outstanding at working the strike zone. He walked just eight batters in 49.1 innings, which works out to a sparkling 1.46 BB/9 rate. The hard-throwing lefty didn’t miss quite as many bats with his new approach but it was still far better than average (from 12.57 to 10.76 K/9). McClanahan was so impressive in those nine games that he earned another promotion — this time to Double-A. In his one start to date, he posted a K-BB of 8-1 with just two hits allows in five innings. With a blazing fastball, excellent curveball, strong frame, and a tendency to induce ground-ball outs, McClanahan has all but shaken off the concerns that he may eventually end up in the bullpen.
Today, we’re dropping in unannounced on some of the 2019 draft picks to see how they’re acclimatizing to pro baseball. In the process, we’ll have some thoughts on when they should be targeted in your dynasty or keeper fantasy leagues based on their MLB ETA. Keep in mind that a strong start to pro ball is encouraging but does not always guarantee future success (the opposite is also true). So this is just the first step in a long journey.
*Prior to the 2019 amateur draft, I published a mock draft based on where I thought the prospects should go based on a review of video, statistical information, and other scouting reports (as opposed to most mock drafts that attempt to accurately predict where players are going). I’m including a link to that piece as it’s referenced below on a number of occasions).
Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles:
2020 LEVEL: High-A
MLB ETA: 2022
The first overall pick of the draft took some time before making his pro debut so he’s only played in 11 games so far, split between Rookie ball and Short-Season A-ball. It’s been a slow start for the switch-hitting catcher as he’s hitting just .158 through 38 at-bats. The good news is that he’s had some bad luck on balls in play at the higher level. He also has a decent strikeout rate (13.5% K-rate) while also showing patience (12% BB-rate). Rutschman is looking good defensively and has thrown out 57% of base runners in seven attempts.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox:
2020 LEVEL: Double-A
MLB ETA: 2021
I personally advocated for Vaughn first overall but he instead went third overall to Chicago. And the White Sox have done what the White Sox tend to do far too often. They’ve pushed a prospect extremely aggressively – for reasons that remain unclear. Now, Vaughn has done OK. He has an .898 OPS overall and a BB-K rate of 16-24 in 30 games over three levels. But his .798 OPS in 23 Low-A games was OK-not-great but he was recently pushed up to High-A ball nonetheless. My guess is that the front office wants to get the young core together as quickly as possible since the AL Central is hardly the AL East so you can conceivably rebuild and win the division at the same time.
The dust has settled after the trade deadline storm. Or was it more of a tropical depression?
As we survey the altered landscape, we can see that a number of prospects have benefited from change? At the same time, a few prospects that changed hands saw their values hurt by their respective deals.
Let’s take a moment to review in more depth.
Joey Wentz, LHP (From Braves to Tigers): I’m a Wentz fan and this move gets him out of the logjam of pitchers in Atlanta and puts him into an organization that is trending upwards — especially in the pitching category. Detroit has amassed an impressive group of upper-level arms in its own right now and we could see a rotation in a year or two of Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Tarik Skubal and Wentz. If Matthew Boyd sticks around, who’s still only 28, it’s even better.
Joshua Rojas, UTIL (From Astros to Diamondbacks): Rojas is a name you may not be overly familiar with but he was a great late-round draft selection by the Astros, an organization that has a history of finding value in strange places. The 25-year-old can play all over the diamond so his versatility is a huge plus. And the bat is not so bad, either. He has 20 home runs in 97 Triple-A games. If you’re in a league that rewards walks, like Ottoneu, well, he has a BB-K of 55-64. And how about some steals? He’s not fast but he’s a smart baserunner and has 32 steals in 42 attempts this year. Arizona is also a pretty nice place to hit so this guy should be on your radar.