Here Come the Prospects: Indians and Tigers

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 is likely to turn the Jose Reyes soap opera and a 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

Cleveland Indians

2016 Sleeper: Yandy Diaz, 3B: Juan Uribe is a pretty amazing dude, especially given his age and body type, but it looks like Father Time might be catching up with him. And Jose Ramirez is better suited to a utility role. Diaz, an under-the-radar Cuban import, could be the help the Cleveland needs — especially if Giovanny Urshela (currently at triple-A) cannot get his bat re-started. Diaz doesn’t have the home run power that you look for in a third baseman but he makes a lot of contact (.300 career hitter) and gets on base at a crazy clip (.405 OBP and 145-117 BB-K rate in his career).

2017 Stud: Clint Frazier, OF: Frazier, 21, has all the ingredients necessary to develop into a stud outfielder. He’s shown the ability to hit for a solid average while flashing power that could eventually lead to 20+ home runs. He’ll be even more valuable if he sticks in center field but he’s more likely to shift to a corner to accommodate a player with more speed and range. Frazier could take over right field from the disappointing Lonnie Chisenhall and aging Marlon Byrd in ’17.

Long-term Investment: Justus Sheffield, LHP: The Indians have invested in some talented prep arms in recent years and Sheffield is the most advanced of the new wave. The undersized lefty can fire his heater up into the 95-96 mph range but he also has depth to his repertoire with a solid curveball and changeup. Despite his lack of size, Sheffield generates a surprising number of ground-ball outs — similar to Toronto’s Marcus Stroman. The young hurler is currently pitching in high-A ball but might get a taste of double-A before the year is out.

Detroit Tigers

2016 Sleeper: Steven Moya, OF: Moya has some holes to his game and he’ll likely never develop even an average hit tool but his left-handed power could make an impact for the right-hand-heavy Tigers in a part-time role. Standing 6-7, he has long limbs and there’s a lot going on with his swing. He also doesn’t have a great approach at the plate and needs to be more selective. If he can make some adjustments he could help the club in the second half of the year.

2017 Stud: Joe Jimenez, RHP: The talent pool in Detroit’s system is pretty shallow so to call Jimenez a “stud” might be a little generous. With that said he has some potential with two power pitches (fastball, slider) and the potential to eventually develop into a high-leverage reliever. He’s been virtually unhittable in the early going in high-A ball but his command and control both remain works in progress. Expect him in double-A at some point in the summer.

Long-term Investment: Beau Burrows, RHP: The 22nd overall pick of the 2015 draft, Burrows has an impressive fastball-curveball combination. Some polish on his changeup could help the right-hander become an impact starter for the Tigers. Burrows, 19, opened 2016 in full-season ball and has looked good with just eight hits and three walks allowed in 13.2 innings. He’ll likely need another three full seasons in the minors but could be worth the wait (and assuming the Tigers can resist trading him away for more established talent).

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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What about Bradley Zimmer! Surely he’s the best prospect in their system and close to the show?