Here Come the Prospects: Red Sox and Blue Jays

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
Rays and Yankees

Boston Red Sox

2016 Sleeper: Sam Travis, 1B: The majority of Boston’s top prospects are in A-ball but there are a few intriguing players in the upper minors. The club is pretty set at the first base and DH positions (Travis Shaw, Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz) so it will take a minor miracle (or a significant injury) for Travis to find playing time but he’s probably almost ready to be a contributor in The Show. He doesn’t have prototypical slugger pop but he has a swing that suggests he could be a .280-.300 hitter with 10-15 home run power for the Sox.

2017 Stud: Andrew Benintendi, OF: There were a wide range of opinions about where Benintendi would land in the 2015 draft but the Red Sox aggressively grabbed him with the seventh overall selection. And they look brilliant for having done it. The swift-of-foot outfielder has speed to spare and could nab 20-30 bases in a full year. Power will never be a big part of his game but he’s an advanced hitter that could threaten to hit .300 or more in the Majors. Brock Holt may not have a full-time gig in the Red Sox outfield for long; Benintendi is already looking too advanced for high-A ball (.976 OPS, 15-9 BB-K rate).

Long-term Investment: Anderson Espinoza, RHP: Espinoza was the apple in the eye of many international scouting directors but it was the Red Sox that ponied up the big cash for this teenaged phenom. And he’s been even better, well, more advanced really, than anyone likely expected. The right-hander is just 18 years old but he’s already competing in full-season ball and has 38 strikeouts in 28.2 innings pitched. He has wipeout stuff and once his command catches up to his control he could be a future ace for the Sox.

Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Sleeper: Roemon Fields, OF: The Jays plundered their upper minors during the 2015 trade deadline so there isn’t much help coming from the farm this year. Fields, though, might be a weapon later in the year thanks to his plus wheels. He could be a worthwhile defensive replacement and pinch runner if the Jays are in the playoff picture (a big if at this point). Already 25, Fields is an interesting player who was signed as a non-drafted free agent two years ago after being discovered in a tryout camp. He’s currently playing in double-A.

2017 Stud: Rowdy Tellez, 1B: The Jays took a very conservative approach with many of their young players in 2016 but Tellez received an aggressive assignment to double-A after just 35 games in high-A ball in ’15. He got off to a slow start — at least in terms of batting for average — but he has a .750 OPS and has almost as many walks as strikeouts (25-28 BB-K in 33 games). An all-bat player with limited defensive value at first base, Tellez has plus raw power and could eventually hit 25+ homers.

Long-term Investment: Richard Urena, SS: The Jays signed both Urena and Franklin Barreto on the international free agent market during the same year but the latter player was used to land third baseman Josh Donaldson. Urena, meanwhile, has developed into one of the Jays’ best prospects and has flashed unexpected power. The infielder slugged 16 home runs last year as a teenager. Now 20 and in high-A ball, he’s shown similar pop but he’s trimmed his strikeouts, is taking more pitches and has just becoming a better all-around player.

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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Benintendi was promoted to AA