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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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NL East: 13 Rising Prospect Stocks

The Prospect Stock Watch is taking a trip around the Majors Leagues. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be diving into each organization to highlight two or three prospects from each club that are seeing their values spike as we move into the second half of the season. The review begins this week with 13 names to know from the National League East.

Atlanta Braves:

Kyle Muller, LHP (AA): A former second-round draft pick out of high school, Muller saw his value dip with a drop in velocity. He’s rediscovered his lost zip and now has an above-average fastball for a lefty – as well as a very good curveball. At 6-6, he’s still learning to control his long levers and has had issues with walks this season (52 in 85 innings). Muller, 21, has a chance to be a mid-rotation innings-eater but there could also be high-leverage reliever potential here if he can find the strike zone more consistently. ETA: 2020

Patrick Weigel, RHP (AAA): A strong 2016 season had Weigel strongly entrenched on my up-and-comers radar but then his career ascent was derailed by Tommy John surgery. He missed part of 2017 and most of 2018 but is back and looking like he never left. The hard-throwing right-hander opened the year in Double-A but has now made nine appearances (eight starts) in Triple-A. His command and control have both been inconsistent as he returns from the long layoff but it’s nothing to be overly concerned about. Because his secondary stuff is just average, he profiles as a fastball-heavy, high-leverage reliever in The Show. ETA: 2019

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Fantasy Value Abounds from Royals 2018 Draft

The Kansas City Royals may have had one of the best drafts in recent memory as we look back at their 2018 haul. Now, the club was set up well for success when it had four picks in the first 40 selections of the draft thanks to the compensation picks for losing Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and Mike Moustakas, but that doesn’t always guarantee success. We’ve seen a lot of teams in recent years whiff with multiple early picks when overthinking things and perhaps not having a great plan mapped out ahead of time.

The Royals were not one of those clubs. The organization had a very clear strategy entering the draft: They were going all-in on college pitching in an effort to rebuild a farm system that had struggled to draft and develop pitching for years – mostly through the high school ranks.

The list of failures is extremely long and features the likes of Foster Griffin, Scott Blewett, Ashe Russell, Nolan Watson, and Garrett Davila when counting only the 2014 and 2015 drafts. Those five prep arms cost the organization more than $10.5 million in signing bonuses. Those five pitchers have also accounted for zero MLB innings to date and two of them (Russell and Davila) are out of baseball. Watson is still in A-ball (and hurt). Griffin and Blewett are pitching in Triple-A but their ERAs are 5.58 and 7.23, respectively.

Fast-forward to the 2018 draft where the Royals waded waist-deep into the college pitching market and came away with 11 college pitchers (and one junior college pitcher) with their first 17 selections spanning the initial 14 rounds of the draft. And eight or nine of their 2018 picks could end up with fantasy baseball value.

FANTASY VALUE: Brady Singer, RHP, 18th overall: At one point, Singer was in the discussion to go No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft so for him to slip down to 18 was a huge win for the Royals. After not pitching any pro innings after signing, he was assigned to High-A ball to begin 2019 and posted a 1.87 ERA in 10 games. Promoted to Double-A at the beginning of June, he’s had a couple of rough games and has a 6.35 ERA in five starts. The balls have been jumping out of the yard more for Singer, who allowed just one homer in 57.1 A-ball innings but has now given up four in 22.2 Double-A innings. Even so, he’s still inducing ground balls at a very high rate and doing a solid job of throwing strikes. His strikeouts are down in Double-A after averaging almost one per inning at the lower level but he’s shown the ability to make adjustments. There is mid-rotation potential here with a chance at being a top-of-rotation guy if he can keep missing bats and inducing ground-balls at an elite rate.

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Prospect Stock Watch: Third Base Prospects

Major League Baseball is filled with impressive star third basemen. The hot corner is a hotbed for youth MLB stars under the age of 30 from Nolan Arenado to Alex Bregman to Matt Chapman to Kris Bryant… and on and on to include the likes of up-and-coming players such as Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Today’s Prospect Stock Watch takes a look at the top prospects at the hot corner, including some that could have an MLB impact as soon as 2020 and represent the next wave of stud fantasy third basemen.

The Stud:

Alec Bohm: Bohm definitely appears to be the top third base prospect in baseball right now. Selected third overall in the 2018 draft after an excellent college career, Bohm has continued to dominate in pro ball. He showed a great approach at the plate throughout his collegiate career and has a BB-K of 30-36 in 63 games this season covering three levels now that he’s been promoted to Double-A. He doesn’t have the raw power of a Jonathan India or Nolan Gorman but he’s a much better hitter who is going to hit for average and produce outstanding on-base numbers. His line-drive rates are a little worrisome right now as he was at a well-below-average 13% at High-A ball prior to his promotion. Bohm needs to continue to get stronger while working to hit balls in the air with more consistency. Owned in just 31% of Ottoneu Leagues (less than underperforming India for some reason), he’s a player you should consider adding before other fantasy managers catch on and his value starts to trend upward.

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The Prospect Stock Watch: Five Key Sleeper Prospects

The short-season leagues are slowing getting underway with the more advanced of those groups already playing ball. The remainder of the leagues will get going within a week. So who are some of the interesting names to know for dynasty league managers?

I’m glad you asked. Today’s piece will look at five players you should mentally file away and consider adding to your minor league rosters once they hit the full-season league (assuming you play in leagues with managers who didn’t also read this piece).

I don’t necessarily advocate taking players really early in their careers and needlessly using a roster spot on someone playing in a short-season league unless they’re extreme talents. There have only been a few players that I’ve added to my Ottoneu teams prior to their arrival in full-season ball: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Fernando Tatis Jr., and Wander Franco.

The truth is, if you follow prospects closely, you can almost always find a good player worth adding to your roster. And adding a player too early often means you’re committing a roster spot to a player for three or four years if you grab them right out of the draft or rookie ball; more often than not in those scenarios you’ll end up ditching them before they actually help out. You’re better off leaving them unclaimed, monitoring their progress and jumping on them when the hype train starts warming up.

D’Shawn Knowles, OF, Angels

Knowles is another talented outfield prospect in an Angles’ system that also includes Jo Adell, Brandon Marsh, and Jordyn Adams. The club signed two top prospects out of the Bahamas back in July 2017 and Knowles has been the better performer to date, although he’s been returned to the advanced rookie league after spending half of 2018 at that level.

Although he hit .321 in 28 games there, it was with a .463 BABIP and 31% strikeout rate. The young outfielder doesn’t project to be much of a power hitter (although pretty much anyone can hit 20 homers these days in the MLB) and his game is really built around hitting line drives, getting on base and stealing bases. The good news is that he has a quick bat and short path to the ball so it’s really about pitch recognition and learning through repetition.

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2019 MLB Mock Draft

Teams spend months and months – if not years – scouting players to prepare for the annual amateur draft. And I don’t believe for even a second that I’m smarter than those scouts, scouting directors, and other front office personnel. The below piece is meant as a fun exercise and to help introduce fantasy managers to some names they’re going to need to know within the next two to three years, if not sooner.

I’ve set eyes on all these players (via video), combed over various scouting reports and reviewed statistical results, so I’m going to take a stab at drafting the first round for each of the clubs. I’m not selecting players based on where I think they’ll be taken (There are a lot of great publications already doing that – FanGraphs, Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, etc); I’m selecting based on where I’d taken them based on the various factors listed above.

I’ve actually been doing this exercise for more than 10 years and have gotten a little bit better each year. Here’s hoping this is the best (mock) draft yet.

1. Orioles —> Andrew Vaughn, 1B

Yes, Vaughn is a first baseman but I like his swing and his track record of success in college. As well, he’s had success in the Cape Cod League, albeit just 52 at-bats. He’s also been a pitcher at the college ranks and he’s athletic enough to hold down a position in left field since he doesn’t have the ideal size or handedness for first base. He’s the impact type of prospect the Orioles can rebuild around; even better, they can probably get him for cheaper than Rutschman or Witt and spread the remaining money around to acquire some better prospects and help rebuild a very barren farm system.

2. Royals —> Adley Rutschman, C

This was a late switch for me, bumping Rutschman down to the second slot. Yes, he’s been the best college hitter but catcher’s offensive abilities almost always take a hit when the rigors of catching every day wear them down. There’s also some injury history for the young catcher, which again becomes magnified by his position. He’d help take some of the strain off of Sal Perez, too.

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