Short-Season Prospects Rising Up

It’s never too early to think about next year, right? Or, for that matter, three years from now.

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at six players in short-season leagues that should be poised to jump to full-season ball in 2020. If that happens, it should put them squarely on your watch list in dynasty formats.

I don’t advocate adding too many low-level prospects to a fantasy team’s roster, even in a format like Ottoneu that has a 40-man roster, but one, maybe two, won’t hurt, especially if they project to be impact players like the players listed below.

Aaron Bracho, 2B, Indians: Cleveland continues to churn out excellent results from its international scouting department and 2017 was an especially good year. That market produced three players with impact potential in Brayan Rocchio, George Valera, and Bracho. That third player listed has shown an advanced approach with the bat after an injury kept him off the field in 2018. Bracho has an encouraging BB-K of 22-21 in 29 rookie ball games while showing above-average pop with six home runs and 10 doubles — accounting for more than 50% of his 31 hits. It’s extremely rare for 18-year-old prospects to show that kind of balance between power and plate discipline.

Diego Cartaya, C, Dodgers: Cartaya is just 17 and opened the year in the Dominican Summer League but the Dodgers organization is also one of the most aggressive clubs when it comes to pushing prospects through the minors. As a result, it’s not that much of a stretch to see him in full-season ball in 2020. The young catcher is just scratching the surface on his power potential as he continues to add muscle and fill out his frame but he’s also showing some aptitude for controlling the strike zone and getting on base. Add in the fact there is little concern about his ability to stick behind the plate long term and you suddenly have an interesting prospect in an organization that is very good at developing players — and also excellent at grooming catchers.

Miguel Hiraldo, SS/2B, Blue Jays: Hiraldo sped up his learning curve more quickly than I expected in 2019. He’s one of the top hitters in the Appalachian League and has shown above-average power while controlling the strike zone surprisingly well. At 18, and often three years younger his opponents, the shortstop is fifth in the league in batting average at .308 (The only player under 21 years old). He’s 11th in the league in OPS and just one of two in the Top 11 that didn’t attend college. Despite the power he’s shown, Hiraldo has a strikeout rate of just 14% and he’s displayed some base-running ability with 11 steals in 14 tries. He has some work to do on the defensive side of the ball after making nine errors in 20 games at shortstop and a handful more at second base. He will likely move to third base down the road due to his mature frame.

Marco Luciano, SS, Giants: Luciano has a massive ceiling and showed his hitting ability early this season as a 17-year-old in Rookie ball. He hit .302 with 10 home runs in 47 games before earning a promotion to the more advanced Northwest League, which is populated mostly by recently-drafted college players. He appeared in just nine games at that level before hitting the disabled list, which will likely end his season prematurely. Luciano hit above .300 in Rookie ball but he was aided by a .378 BABIP and also had a strikeout rate of 22% so he’s not quite as advanced of a hitter as it seems. But the power is legit. An isolated slugging of almost .300 is almost unheard of from a 17-year-old. And his willingness to take a walk (15 BB%) will ensure he has a strong presence on the base paths.

Victor Mesa Jr., OF, Marlins: Brother Victor Victor Mesa gets most of the love but the younger Mesa Jr. has been more advanced than expected with the bat. He doesn’t have much power and isn’t a speed burner but he has a chance to steal 15-20 bases and hit for a strong average with his all-fields approach. He also has a good understanding of his strengths as a ballplayer and doesn’t try to hit the home run. Mesa Jr. keeps the strikeouts to a minimum while focusing on putting the ball in play and also taking the walk when it’s offered to him. The issue with Mesa Jr. is that he isn’t a pure centerfielder like his brother so he will likely end up as a fourth outfielder that can play center from time to time, or as a second-division corner outfielder with less-than-ideal power output.

Carlos Rodriguez, OF, Brewers: After two pro seasons, Rodriguez sports a .330 career batting average and has struck out just 36 times in 91 games. The young outfielder can legit hit. The remainder of his game, though, is raw. The 18-year-old prospect has just three extra-base hits this season out of the 40 hits that he’s recorded so far. And because he has such strong bat-to-ball skills, he has just four walks. And although he has well-above-average speed, he’s just 4-for-10 in steals due to raw base-running skills. The advanced, all-field approach with the bat should push him through the minors rather quickly but he’s got to get stronger, improve his base running, and show older, stronger pitchers won’t overpower him. He has a risky profile but there is also a high upside centerfielder here if he develops well.

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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