Here Come the Prospects: Braves and Orioles

When it comes to fantasy baseball, not all prospects are created equally. In keeper leagues and dynasty leagues it’s important to have strategies around your prospects; you don’t want to just randomly grab a Top 10 or 20 prospect and hope for the best.

Along with skill, knowing a player’s ETA is key. Is the player advanced enough to help in 2016… or is he headed for a 2019 debut? Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a talented dude but he’s not likely to visit the Great White North until 2020. Chicago (AL) drafted Carson Fulmer in 2015 with the eighth overall pick but he’s considered advanced enough to perhaps help the club in ’17. And then there’s Colorado’s Trevor Story, who has turned the Jose Reyes soap opera and strong spring into a ’16 starting gig.

As a result, your strategy around acquiring prospects should vary. If you’re grabbing a guy earmarked to help in 2017 or later, you should look at them like a stock — an investment that you hope to see increase in value before you cash out (either by adding to your active roster or by trading for an opportunity to win sooner). You also have to consider if you’re truly committed to a long-range prospect and willing to commit a roster spot to someone who may not help for three or four years — if at all. Prospects with a ’16 or ’17 should be viewed as players that can be valuable (albeit potentially inconsistent) contributors to the current makeup of your roster at a reasonable cost.

Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll have a look at the expect time frames for key prospects in each organization. So far we’ve looked at:

Pirates/White Sox
Indians and Tigers

Atlanta Braves

2016 Sleeper: Dansby Swanson, SS: It’s still hard to believe that the Braves were able to get Swanson — the first overall pick in the 2015 draft — in a package from the Diamondbacks for Shelby Miller. He’s had an outstanding offensive season so far in 2016 and has already been promoted for high-A ball to double-A. Swanson is hitting .326 with a .965 OPS. He’s also stolen nine bases and is walking more than he strikes out. The only thing he doesn’t really do well is hit for power but 15 of his 35 hits have done for extra bases and he has the potential to hit double-digit homers down the road.

2017 Stud: Ozzie Albies, SS: Yet another talented shortstop in the Braves system, Albies is only 19 years old but he’s actually ahead of the 22-year-old Dansby Swanson on the depth chart. When Swanson moved up to double-A recently, Albies moved up to triple-A. The teenager is hitting more than .300 on the year and has the speed necessary to nab 20+ bases in a year, although he’s swiped just three so far this year. It will be interesting to see where the two shortstops end up playing at the big league level and they’ll likely both be there by the middle of 2017.

Long-term Investment: Austin Riley, 3B: I’m a pretty big Riley fan and feel the Braves got a massive steal by nabbing him 41st overall in the 2015 draft. The 19-year-old third baseman was a two-way player in high school and many teams preferred him on the mound. The split focus means Riley is a little more raw at the plate than some top players his age but his raw talent still allows him to compete at a high level despite the need to tighten up his approach and pitch recognition — witnessed by his 7-39 BB-K rate so far in 2016.

Baltimore Orioles

2016 Sleeper: Trey Mancini, 1B: Poor Christian Walker… The 25-year-old first base prospect had a solid season in triple-A and looked poised to take over the O’s first base gig in 2016 but a late minute change of heart kept incumbent Chris Davis in town. And now Mancini is zooming up — and may have actually passed — Walker on the depth chart. The former opened 2016 in double-A despite putting up amazing numbers there in 2015. However, it took just 17 games to convince the O’s that he should play along side Walker in triple-A. Mancini has always shown the ability to hit for average but he’s now tapping into the raw power more consistently in games.

2017 Stud: Chance Sisco, C: Incumbent big league catcher Matt Wieters re-upped with the Orioles on a one-year contract for 2016 but things have not exactly gone as planned and he may very well depart the only organization he’s ever known at the end of the year. Sisco is on pace to take over the role in 2017, which will save the club a lot of money and they may not see much of an offensive drop off. He’s currently hitting .347 with 17 walks and just nine strikeouts through the first 22 games of the year. Defensively, he has a strong arm but needs a fair bit of defensive work. Caleb Joseph will probably job share and mentor the catching prospect.

Long-term Investment: Jomar Reyes, 3B: I jumped on the Reyes bandwagon early — after his outstanding 2014 debut in rookie ball. He followed that up with a solid year in full-season ball despite being just 18 years old. Now in 2016 he’s showing more patience; after walking just 20 times in 89 games last year he already has 11 through 29 in ’16. And after hitting just five home runs in 2015, Reyes is up to three already this year. He still needs a fair bit of polish — especially in the field — but he may be well worth the wait.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Colby Olson
Colby Olson

Mashin Trey!