Each week I will look back at my prospect rankings from last year and examine the top performers, as well as those who did not live up to my lofty expectations. In every case, it’s not my rankings that were wrong, but the player who did better or worse than they should have. I’m kidding of course; I’ve got my share of hits and misses, but this series is really about looking forward and what players to target and who to cash in on if you can.
There is disappointment to be found up and down last year’s top 25 second base prospect list. Even the success story of Devon Travis was clouded by injury for the better part of the second half. Fortunately there are some brand new players that will take over many of the top spots in this year’s list, including a couple that are moving over from last year’s Top 25 Shortstop Prospects. There is a lot of youth at second base in the major leagues already, but there is definitely more help on the way.
The Graduates (2015 rank in parenthesis)
(4) Dilson Herrera, Mets: Herrera is still just 21 years old after seeing time in the majors the last two seasons. While the numbers are anything but eye-popping, there is little doubt that he has shown the Mets what he is capable of in the future.
“He’s going to be a good player, we all know that,” Collins said about Herrera. “The games he’s played up here, he’s played very well.”
Herrera hit .327 over 81 games in AAA to start 2015 with 11 home runs and 13 stolen bases. He followed that up with the Mets, hitting 3 home runs and stealing 2 bases in just 90 at bats. His power/speed combo will be especially nice for fantasy owners. With Daniel Murphy likely finding a bigger deal elsewhere this winter, Herrera could be a solid contributor right away. I really like Herrera and I ranked him as the 14th best 2B to own right now in keeper/dynasty leagues. Here’s a look at his last home run of this season, courtesy of mlb.com.
(8) Devon Travis, Blue Jays: Travis had a great 62-game debut with the Blue Jays this year, but shoulder trouble sidelined him for the majority of the season. With a successful surgery and the possibility of being ready for next season, Travis could be among baseball’s top offensive second basemen. Ranked against qualified second basemen, Travis would have had the 4th best AVG, 3rd best OBP and best slugging, giving him the highest wOBA. Of course he didn’t qualify, but in a potent Blue Jays lineup he should put up nice counting stats even if his ratios fall over a long season.
(13) Alex Guerrero, Dodgers: Guerrero didn’t play a single game at second base in 2015, splitting time between third base and outfield. He never saw action at third after May 24th, and was not good defensively in the outfield either. It was a trying season at the plate for Guerrero too, never getting regular at bats and hitting just one home run after June 2nd. When you take out his April, his season line becomes .207/.238/.347 with a 3% BB percentage and 27% K rate. There is obviously power in his bat, but with nearly zero chance of him qualifying as in infielder after 2016, his fantasy value has gone down the tank.
Other Graduates: (20) Cory Spangenberg, Padres; (23) Carlos Sanchez, White Sox.
Unfortunately none of the rookie-eligible players ranked in last year’s Top 25 Second Base Prospects took significant steps forward. Incredibly, I could have listed nearly a dozen fallers, meaning it was either a bad year for 2B prospects or I did a lousy job identifying the top 25 last year.
Wendell Rijo saw his numbers fall slightly across the board as he moved up to High A, but at just 20 years old he’s still someone to watch. The problem is that I had already ranked him quite aggressively at #11.
Ryan Brett hurt his shoulder early in the year and never returned to form. I never ranked him very highly, so it’s possible that he could see a small step up from #17.
(16) Taylor Lindsey, Padres: It doesn’t seem that long ago that Lindsey was the top prospect in the Angels system heading into 2014. He was traded to the Padres as a part of the Huston Street package and has continued to plummet down the prospect ranks. He is nothing more than organization depth at this point.
(7) Domingo Leyba, Diamondbacks: I messed up this ranking, being very aggressive with the former Tigers prospect. Leyba followed up his .397 AVG in A ball from 2014 with a .237 mark in the California league this year. He was the second-youngest player in the league, so all is definitely not doom and gloom for the young second baseman from the Dominican Republic. He’s probably closer to a top 15-20 second base prospect at this point, but the drop is as much my fault as his.
(12) Avery Romero, Marlins: Romero hit .320 in High A ball as a 21-year-old in 2014, but did not fare as well while repeating the level this past year. The doubles power went away as well, and with little speed all that is left is an empty batting average, and even that fell to .259. There just isn’t the fantasy upside here to have him ranked this high.
(6) Travis Demeritte, Rangers: Demeritte led all minor league A ball players with 25 home runs in 2014, and had 5 homers early this year before being suspended for 80 games for a banned performance-enhancing substance. He returned for the seasons final five games and went 3-20 with 11 strikeouts. I don’t know how this will end for the 21-year-old, but it puts a cloud around his prospect status. For someone who has struck out 300 times in 732 pro at bats, it may have gotten just too murky at this point.
The New Faces
Yoan Moncada, Red Sox: Moncada was signed by the Red Sox in February as a 19-year-old out of Cuba. He hadn’t played competitively for 18 months, so it was no wonder that he started off slow in low A Greenville. From the end of June on, he turned things up hitting .310/.404/.500 with 45 stolen bases in 56 games. Moncada is a superstar in the making who can do everything, with plus power and hit tools to go with plus-plus speed. Whether he stays at second base or eventually moves to the outfield, his bat will play. The speed is obvious to see, but the power is real too, as shown in this video from minorleaguebaseball.
Scott Kingery, Phillies: Kingery was the top second baseman chosen in the 2015 draft, going to Philadelphia with the 48th pick overall. He has a compact swing with plus speed who profiles as a top of the order bat. At 21 years old, Kingery has the type of advanced bat that could move quickly through the Phillies system.
Alen Hanson, Pirates: If it seems like Hanson has been around forever, it’s because he has. Hanson was signed as a 17-year-old by the Pirates and just finished his 5th pro season. He has excellent speed and surprising pop to go with his ability to make solid contact to all fields. With Neil Walker signed for another season, Hanson will likely return to AAA to start 2016, but don’t be surprised if he isn’t contributing at some point next season. I ranked him as the 17th best shortstop in last year’s stacked group of prospects, but he’ll be right near the top this year among the second basemen. Here are some Hanson highlights courtesy of the Indianapolis Indians.
Wilmer Difo, Nationals: Difo saw some time with the Nationals this year, accumulating 11 AB over 15 games. He has plus plus speed to go with a pretty decent hit tool. He struggled this year in AA, hitting just .279 with a 20.7% K rate which is too high for a speedy infield type. He will turn 24 heading into next season having little success above A ball. His place on the Nationals 40 man roster, ability to play solid defense, and his blazing speed still make him someone to watch. He could provide value as soon as next year as a back up/utility type for the big league club. I ranked him as the 21st best shortstop prospect last year, but he’ll be much higher among the weaker second base pool.
Next week I will take a look at third base prospects, where we saw some big stars graduate in 2015.
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