I figure now that it’s the end of the season and weekly ups and downs won’t do teams any good, I’d step on Paul’s toes a little regarding prospects. I’m going to take quick looks at minor leaguers who had great seasons in 2014 and increased their stock — even if some of them were already highly valued. When it comes to prospect trading this offseason, I’d start with these guys, especially because some of them — Blair, Norris, and DJ Peterson — will likely come cheaper than the most touted names out there.
Minor Leaguers on a Season Rise
Kris Bryant, 3B – He’s an obvious choice to get this list started, even if you ignore the fact that I’m a Cubs fan. How about this tidbit: since starting his minor league career, he has 50 HR in less than 600 AB, and 41 HR came in 2014. I hope he can stick at 3B for us, because I can’t bear to go through another 3B spell like the Cubs had after Santo and until they found A-Ram. He finished at Triple-A, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be starting in Chicago come 2015.
Daniel Norris, P – First, a note about minor league pitchers in general. I look for one thing above all else: a good BB/9 that is maintained or improved as they get promoted. Too many young pitchers can post a 10+ K/9 in A-ball, but the strikeouts almost always drop with promotion, and if they have a 4.0 BB/9 because they’re just hurling the ball in there, it’s going to catch up with them quickly. Norris obviously has the strikeout ability, so let’s look at his walk rate. In 2013 he played all but one start at A-ball and had a BB/9 of 4.6. That was high to begin with, but he’s made progress. In 2014 he played at three levels, ending at Triple-A, and though Double-A was a bit rocky, the fact is that he ended Triple-A with a 3.1 BB/9, which is greatly improved from his previous year despite the tougher competition. For the entire season he has a 2.8 BB/9, which is quite solid when combined with his 11.8 K/9.
Joc Pederson, OF – If a 30/30 season at Triple-A doesn’t do it for you, then I don’t know what will. Okay, what if we add a .300 BA and 100 BB? He’s ready for a full-time gig in the majors, and his all-around offensive game will have fantasy players drooling next season. This season in a new dynasty league, I passed on the super-elite prospects like Buxton but still managed to nab Pederson later on, and I’m just as happy with him, if not more happy than Buxton owners because (A) he’s not injured, (B) he had an amazing season, and (C) he’s MLB-ready. If anyone’s going to pull a Trout next season, my money is on Pederson if he gets full-time AB.
Henry Owens, P – He was already on his way up the prospect rankings from 2013 to 2014, and it seems he’ll go even higher to start 2015. In two seasons he’s gone through four levels of minor league, from High-A to Triple-A. In 2013 his High-A pitching ratios were 10.6 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9, and in Triple-A in 2014 his ratios were 10.4 and 2.8. As I said, my favorite thing for a prospect pitcher to do is continually improve his walks as he progresses, and Owens has shown he can pitch and not just throw. Boston has to be happy with his progress, and I plan to acquire him this offseason in at least one keeper league.
DJ Peterson, 3B – Okay, I’ll admit, part of this is selfish. In the league where I passed on the biggest name prospects, I nabbed both Pederson and Peterson, and they’ve both bloomed this season. To be fair, Peterson wasn’t quite as impressive at Double-A as he was in High-A, at least in terms of BA and SLG, but he still hit 13 HR at the higher level, for a season total of 31, and his walk rate and strikeout rate were a bit better as well. It seems that Seattle is going to move him to 1B, which drops his value a little bit, but in the long-term he should be an offensive force that provides power and a solid average.
Aaron Blair, P – I’m very happy with his improving BB/9, but it’s worth noting that his dropping K/9 as he gets promoted is a perfect example of why I look at walk rates just as much as (if not more than) the strikeouts. From A-ball to High-A to Double-A, his K/9 was 11.1, 10.1, 8.9. If he can maintain a strikeout rate above 8.0 in the majors, he’ll still be a great asset. His walk rates were 3.5, 2.6, and 3.1, so overall that’s an improvement for the season, and it matches his 2013 rate. Although ERA is tricky in the minors due to varying stadiums and some very pitcher or hitter friendly leagues, I like the fact that although his HR/FB rose during each step up this year, he had his best ERA at the end of the season.