Here Come the Prospects: Rays and Yankees

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

Tampa Bay Rays

2016 Sleeper: Casey Gillaspie, 1B: Brother to Conor Gillaspie, Casey was the 20th overall selection in the 2014 draft although there were some concerns over his ability to hit at the higher levels of pro ball. So far hitting has not been an issue for the younger Gillaspie and he’s hitting .300 in Double-A. The real value in the switch-hitter, though, is his power from both sides of the plate — not to mention his ability to get on base (28 walks in 31 games). With the Rays’ first base position being a massive sinkhole of suck early on in ’16, Gillaspie could earn a shot in The Show before the year is out.

2017 Stud: Brent Honeywell, RHP: The Rays have a strong reputation for producing excellent pitchers and you’ve probably read or heard a lot about Blake Snell and Taylor Guerrieri but Honeywell could be just as successful when all is said and done. The right-hander has a solid fastball that he backs up with a plus screwball that flummoxes hitters. The Rays aren’t known for rushing pitchers but Honeywell has been overwhelming players in high-A ball so a promotion to double-A for the second half of the year just might happen.

Long-term Investment: Willy Adames, SS: Part of the haul from the Tigers in the David Price deal, Adames has recently made strong strides in his development. Just 20, he’s playing in double-A and is holding his own with a .369 on-base percentage. He’s showing just gap power right now (10 doubles, four homes in 33 games) but Adames could eventually produce 15-20 home runs. For now, the shortstop (who could move to third base) will look to improve his approach at the plate and tighten his pitch recognition to cut down on the strikeouts.

New York Yankees

2016 Sleeper: Aaron Judge, OF: The 32nd overall selection in the 2013 draft, Judge just might be ready to help jumpstart the Yankees in the second half of the year. He’s showing good power at the triple-A level — no surprise given his 6-7, 275 lbs frame — with seven home runs in 32 games. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old outfielder is also striking out a lot and has 35 Ks next to 11 walks. With massive raw power, Judge could probably tighten up his approach a bit (trim the swing and misses) and still hit balls to the moon with little effort.

2017 Stud: Jorge Mateo, SS: Mateo ran his way into the spotlight in 2015 when he stole 82 bases in 117 A-ball games at the age of 19. Playing in high-A ball in 2016, the young infielder has had some troubles on the base paths (just 10 steals in 18 tries) but he’s made strides with his hitting (.347 average). Mateo will need to tighten up his approach at the plate (31 Ks in 31 games) since power will likely never be a big part of his game and he’ll need to focus more on getting on base and putting the ball in play. If he keeps hitting like this, the shortstop prospect could be in The Show by mid-2017 — especially if the aging Yankees continue to struggle and decide to commit to some of their talented, young prospects.

Long-term Investment: Miguel Andujar, 3B: The problem with writing about the Yankees system is that it has so much good, young talent to pick from that it makes it hard to settle on someone to write about. Andujar doesn’t get as much ink as some of the players but he’s holding his own in high-A ball despite rough edges both in the field and at the plate. The 21-year-old prospect has plus power potential (five homers so far in 31 games) and is actually making surprisingly-good contact (only 14 Ks in 125 at-bats) but he swings at almost everything, as witnessed by his five walks. In the field, he has a missile launcher for an arm but needs work on his consistency.

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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