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Future Fantasy Targets from 2015 MLB Draft

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.

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Ranking MLB Systems with Top Pitching Depth

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

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Hidden Gems from the 2018 Draft

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.

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Future Fantasy Studs from the 2019 Draft

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.

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Prospect Values Impacted by Trade Deadline Day

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.

The Good

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.

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AL West: Nine Rising Prospect Values

The Prospect Stock Watch has been taking a tour around the minor leagues while reviewing rising prospects. These are prospects that likely won’t be on Top 100 lists or on your fantasy rosters just yet but they could become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. We finish up the series today with a look at the American League West.

Previous Articles:
NL East
NL Central
NL West
AL East
AL Central

Seattle Mariners

Jake Fraley, OF (AAA): Fraley was an astute pick-up by the Marines in a trade last year with the Rays. Injuries kept the 2016 draft pick to 96 games combined between 2017 and 2018 so he didn’t get a full opportunity to show what was capable of with consistent playing time. Fraley’s breakout began in Double-A ball this year and he was recently promoted to Triple-A. Between the two levels, he has 16 home runs and 20 steals, making him a legit threat to become a 20-20 (HR-SB) player. He’s a left-handed pitcher who hangs in well against southpaws and can play all three outfield positions; he looks like a future regular at the big league level. ETA: 2020

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AL Central: Nine Rising Prospect Stocks

The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a tour around the minor leagues reviewing rising prospects. These are prospects that likely won’t be on Top 100 lists or on your fantasy rosters just yet but they will likely become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. We began with the National League but switched over to the American League late last week with the east division. Today, we have a look at the central division.

Minnesota Twins

Jhoan Duran, RHP (A+): The Twins traded Eduardo Escobar to the Diamondbacks during last year’s trade deadline and came away with a very interesting prize in Duran. The 21-year-old hurler has always shown good stuff but he’s spending more time in the upper reaches of his velocity range (93-98 mph) and is displaying improved secondaries. He has an impressive K-BB of 90-28 through 74 innings this year. Duran has also shown the ability to induce ground balls at a well-above-average rate. Jordan Balazovic has been a breakout pitcher for the Twins in 2019 and is earning much more press recently but Duran deserves a lot of attention, too. ETA: 2021

Griffin Jax, RHP (AA): Jax hasn’t been on many radars as a prospect despite being a third-round pick back in 2016 because of his previous commitment to the Air Force. That requirement kept him to just 40 innings over his first two pro seasons but he can now focus on baseball full time. Jax has moved swiftly through the minors despite his lack of innings and could soon find himself knocking on the big league door within a year. He might be best suited to relief with a solid fastball-changeup combo but lack of a reliable breaking ball. Jax is also said to have a bulldog mentality, which would suit him well in a shorter, high-leverage role. ETA: 2020

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AL East: Nine Rising Prospect Stocks

The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a tour around the minor leagues reviewing rising prospects. These are prospects that likely won’t be on Top 100 lists or on your fantasy rosters just yet but they will likely become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve reviewed the National League. This week, we begin the American League with the east division.

Baltimore Orioles

Dean Kremer, RHP (AA): Baltimore is slowly but surely building up a little pitching depth at the upper levels of the minors with lower ceiling guys like Keegan Akin and Zac Lowther. The club also has higher ceiling prospects like DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez in A-ball. Currently at Double-A, Kremer falls somewhere in the middle. Obtained in the disappointing Manny Machado deal where Baltimore focused more on quantity than quality, this right-hander could easily come away as the best player received in the deal from the Orioles’ perspective (I’m not a big Yusniel Diaz fan). Kremer has enough fastball velocity (up to 95 mph) to be interesting when you toss it together with a couple of above-average breaking balls. His control is ahead of his command but there is potential here for some strikeouts from a player with the ceiling of a No. 3 starter who might settle in as more of a solid No. 4. ETA: 2020

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NL West: Nine Rising Prospect Stocks

The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a tour around the minor leagues reviewing rising prospects. These are prospects that likely won’t be on Top 100 lists or on your fantasy rosters just yet but they will likely become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at the National League East and Central divisions. Today, we finish up our look at the NL with the West division.

Colorado Rockies

Grant Lavigne, 1B: Lavigne’s numbers don’t jump out as a first base prospect — especially for one that went 42nd overall in the 2018 draft – but he’s had a respectable season. The assignment to full-season ball was challenging despite his pedigree. Lavigne is from a cold-weather state (New Hampshire) so he didn’t get the same opportunities to play all season long like those from Florida or California. The 19-year-old prospect is finding ways to get on base this year (.368 OBP) despite a .246 average, which has been driven down by his 24% strikeout rate. The K-rate wouldn’t be such a big deal if he was producing power but his isolated slugging rate (ISO) is just .100 through 87 games. Lavigne is hitting line drives and has a 6-4 frame build for home runs but he’s hitting far too many balls on the ground. Once he buys into the launch angle revolution, watch out.

San Francisco Giants

Sean Hjelle, RHP: Tall pitchers usually take longer to develop because they have to learn to repeat their delivery with long levers but Hjelle is ahead of the curve. Standing 6-11, he’s walked just 21 batters in 95.2 innings this year. If all goes well, he’ll have four average-or-better offerings. The most impressive skill he’s showcased so far, though, is his ability to induce ground balls at a rate of almost three times the big league average – which is huge in this homer-happy era. Toss all this together and you could have an innings-eating, mid-rotation arm.

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NL Central: 13 Rising Prospect Stocks

The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a tour around the minor leagues while highlighting rising prospect values around baseball. These are prospects that likely won’t be on your fantasy rosters or radars just yet but they will likely become targets in dynasty leagues over the next year or two. Last week, we started off by looking at the National League East. Today, we tackle the prospects in the Central Division.

Chicago Cubs

Brennen Davis, OF (A): The second-round pick of the Cubs in 2018 is coming on even quicker than expected. When selected, there was thought that Davis’ hit tool was one of his least developed tools but he hit .298 in his debut and is hitting .302 this season through 36 A-ball games. He’s making an excellent amount of contact for his experience level (18.5 K%) and he’s also showing outstanding patience (11 BB%). Once he adds some more good weight/muscle to his 6-4 frame, he should have above-average power. Davis also has the speed to steal 20+ bases. ETA: 2022

Oscar De La Cruz, RHP (AA): Signed out of the Dominican way back in 2012, De La Cruz has shown flashes of potential but has struggled with injuries and inconsistencies. He also spent parts of four seasons in short-season ball but is finally holding his own in Double-A. De La Cruz has been a starter in the minors but looks like someone that might really take off if shifted to the bullpen. He has an average fastball but the curveball shows plus potential. Those two pitches — especially if he sees a little more fastball velo with the move — could make him a solid seventh- or eighth-inning reliever. ETA: 2020

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