Few aspects of fantasy baseball deviate more from the reality of major league baseball more than the speculation of prospects. Like most aspects of market-based economics, you often have to buy early on limited information if you want to get the best return on investment before the rest of the industry influences supply and demand. Perception is reality until prospects actually get the chance to contribute (or fail) on a major league field, and the outcome of those small but important samples can swing values wildly in short cycles.
The goal today is to identify up and coming talent well before the masses of most leagues, so here are five prospects primed to see a big increase in value in 2019. You won’t find these prospects sitting on many Top 100 lists (yet), but you’ll want to at least keep them on your radar as they rise in the future.
Zack Brown (RHP, MIL)
Selected 141st overall by the Brewers in 2016, the 24 year old Brown logged 127 innings last year, almost all of which came at AA. His under-the-radar season checks a lot of boxes: solid stuff (8.31 K/9), good command (3.22 K/BB), and ground balls galore (56%). Those ground balls originate from a plus fastball (93-95 mph) that functions as a two-seamer and give Brown a profile not that different from another young Brewer with high expectations, Corbin Burnes. Unlike Burnes, Brown has a less diverse arsenal, though it does include a plus curve and a developing changeup that should still solidify his profile as a starting pitcher. Named the Brewers’ minor league pitcher of the year, Brown finished 2018 with a 2.44 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. These are the makings of a very underrated 3/4 SP who could make an MLB impact in late 2019.
Daniel Lynch (LHP, KC)
Lynch stands 6’6″ and throws 95-97 mph from the left side. That information alone separates Lynch from 95% of all other pitching prospects, but he possesses another two quality pitches that show plus (slider, change), and a fourth (curve) that looks promising, too. Mix in what could be plus control (just 8 walks in 51 IP) and you have yourself a very intriguing arm that could leap up prospect ranks this year if he can continue to combine a 30% strikeout rate (it ticked up to almost 40% in his last few starts) with heavy ground balls around the 50% level. Lynch will likely pitch all season in Class A alongside the more recognizable Brady Singer, but don’t be surprised if Lynch turns out as the better arm in the long run.
Brock Burke (LHP, TEX)
David Laurila did all the hard work scouting Burke here, so I won’t elaborate much further, but the big lefty has been turning heads in spring training (6 K’s in 3 IP). Now on the 40 man roster, the 6’4″ 22 year old was acquired by TEX in the trade that sent Jurickson Profar to OAK. Burke has four solid pitches, with his slider grading among the best, and he used that mix to carve up 158 batters last year over 137 innings, almost half of which came at the AA level. ZiPS projects Burke for a 4.77 ERA in 128 IP this year if TEX-bound, but I think we’ll see something much more impressive from the hurler long term, enough to suggest a solid #3 SP if things continue to break right. ETA could be 2020.
Grant Lavigne (1B, COL)
Who was the last high school prospect drafted as a first baseman to become a top 10 fantasy player at his position? The fact that I can’t recall this immediately suggests there haven’t been many, at least not in recent memory. With the exception of the catcher position, fantasy owners have grown wise to the idea that no other position fails to deliver on promise like first base, but the 6’4″ Lavigne could become the exception. The only season on Lavigne’s baseball resume in which he’s failed to hit. 400 or better was 2018 (.350 in 59 rookie ball games for .350/.477/.519 line), so there’s at least some (high school) data to support what looks to be a plus hit tool with plus power, if not more. Match those tools with the benefit of hitting in some of the Rockies’ minor league launching pads (and the ultimate landing spot of Coors Field), and Lavigne is a good bet to put up some monstrous numbers in 2019 that will catapult him onto the MiLB watch lists of many fantasy leagues. Even better, scouting reports suggest Lavigne can pick it well at 1B too, and because his makeup also gets strong marks, this young supplemental 1st round draftee is a prospect you may want to jump on early while you can.
Everson Pereira (OF, NYY)
Signed out of Venezuela in 2017, the stocky Pereria currently ranks 7th (45 FV) on the Yankees’ top prospect list. Just 17 years old, there’s extreme risk here, but if things break right, some scouting reports suggest there could be several 60 grade tools here that really matter in fantasy: hit, power, field (playing time), and run. Pereria is years away from the big leagues (2023 ETA), but he has enough raw tools to monitor in deeper dynasty leagues that you’ll want to keep an eye on him just in case he develops more quickly and sets himself up to be among the next wave of OF depth the Yankees have to replace their current superstars.
Bonus Prospect: Malcom Nunez (3B, STL)
Watch Nunez closely, as his name will rise up rankings this year if he does anything remotely resembling his .415/.497/.774 in 44 rookie ball games last year.
Trey is a 20+ year fantasy veteran and an early adopter of Ottoneu fantasy sports. He currently administers the Ottoneu community, a network of ~1,200 fantasy baseball and football fans talking sports daily. More resources here: http://community.ottoneu.com