The off-season is essentially over. Many of baseball’s best prospects have already been reassigned from their major league roster or are about to be. Unlike major league players, there is a bit of a dead period from now until mid-season prospect lists come out. Sure we will constantly hear about the Jose Berrios, Tyler Glasnow, Lucas Giolito types who we expect to make a mid-season debut, but those types are all owned in any and all keeper and dynasty leagues.
What we don’t hear about as often, unless they are having a crazy breakout, are the back-end top-100 players or guys who didn’t make the top-100 at all.
First I am going to name three guys in my top-100 that fell outside fantasy pros consensus top-100, but were easily within mine.
Derek Fisher – Astros
Fisher should be moving pretty quickly as a college bat from the 2014 draft. I think he gets a little overlooked in the Houston system because Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker were drafted in 2015 and became the newer and more exciting names to grab.
In his first full season Fisher hit 22 home runs and had 31 steals. The isolated power was a great .208 with a .390 secondary average.
Typically I take advanced hitters in the low levels stats with a grain of salt, but Fisher didn’t do anything out of line with what he was doing in college.
The speed isn’t nearly as good as the steals show; as he moves up the ladder those will fall. He has an intriguing power/speed combination with a pretty nice walk rate; in 745 plate appearances in the minors it sits at 11.1 percent.
When all is said and done, I see Fisher with up to 25 homer upside with a more realistic expectation of about 20-22. The steals have the upside of 25 as well; I don’t think he ever reaches that in the majors, but 15-20 is more valuable now than it has been in the past. Another full season like 2015 and Fisher could blow by Cameron and Tucker in the Astros system.
Whether by trade or by promotion, Fisher should be on a big league roster at some point in 2017.
Kolby Allard – Braves
I like getting my hands on pitching prospects who fall in the MLB draft because of injury as early as possible. With Allard you could view his back injury as a plus or minus. Sure a stress reaction in his back sounds serious, but at least it isn’t his arm. Coming into the draft he was viewed as the top pitcher by some, but fell to the 14th pick because of injury concerns.
Allard essentially didn’t play in 2015; he pitched 3 games in the rookie league with a combined 6 innings. So this one is based mostly on projection rather than performance.
Scouts say he has 3 pitches that should be able to be plus by the time he reaches the majors. It doesn’t hurt that he is a lefty.
Odds are he will be limited by a pitch count as only an 18-year-old for most of the 2016 season. The Braves are nowhere near being a competitive team and there is no reason to rush him. A good season (to show those concerned with his back injury) should jump Allard into the top-50 (if not higher) prospects for 2016.
Austin Riley – Braves
Another Atlanta draft pick from 2015, Riley debuted and immediately showed his power upside hitting 12 homers in only 127 at bats.
While Fisher’s isolated power was great, Riley’s is near elite. The .240 iso only came in the rookie leagues, but is still impressive. From a major league prospective, that would have been 16th in the majors above the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto.
There is no steal upside with Riley. If you are investing you are banking on his power. He did manage to hit .304 last season, but I would expect that to fall into more of a .260-.270 range in the majors. He has nice patience at the plate, but a concerning 25 percent strikeout rate in only the rookie leagues.
If Riley can put up numbers like last season in 500 plate appearances, that extends out to more about 25 home runs. Don’t wait until his power pops up on your league mates radar mid-season
For some those players are long gone. Those in 20-team or deeper leagues are looking at a far less intriguing player pool. The next three players didn’t even show up in the consensus fantasy pros top 135. There is a reason that these guys are outside the top-100 — a lot more risk here. If these players can fix their issues or back up a nice season, their names will start appearing on lists in 2017.
J.D. Davis – Astros
Another Houston bat with a ton of power upside. He hit 26 homers last season in 552 plate appearances. The reason he is off the radar for a lot of people is his strikeout rate (28% in 2015). That came after hitting 13 homers in 302 plate appearances in 2014. So while the home run rate did rise last season it wasn’t a huge spike from 2014.
The batting average won’t stay near the .289 he put up last season; the strikeouts will make that fall. The 26 homers he hit last season are probably his big league upside. If he sells out for more power that might jump to 30 homer potential, but that will come with an even lower average. He might provide the best potential being a .265 hitter while hitting 25 home runs rather than a .240 average with 30 homers.
A lot of people are talking about A.J. Reed and the first base situation in Houston. Don’t be shocked if Davis is making noise by mid-season to takeover the third base job.
K.J. Woods – Marlins
I have been looking at some intriguing isolated power numbers so far, and Woods is another player who falls into that list. Woods hit 18 homers in 2015 with a .219 isolated power and .332 secondary average in 104 games as a 19-year-old in A ball.
The power is not completely shocking. Woods is 6’3” 230 and bats from the left side of the plate. Like Davis, Woods has an alarming strikeout rate at 30% last season, but at least the walk rate was a solid 10%.
The .277 average should fall as well. If Woods can figure out the strikeout situation he can become a really interesting prospect before his 21st birthday.
Taylor Sparks – Reds
Sparks is probably a lot further off the radar than Davis and Woods. Sparks is a college bat and will probably spend most of his season in AA. He had 10 homers and 14 steals in 198 at bats in rookie ball in 2014.
The power numbers slipped a little bit last year in his first full season, but the steals stayed. The power is still there, but is being held back by the strikeout rate, 33% in 2015. The good news is that is actually a little lower than when he had his big 2014 season.
His ISO isn’t on the level of Woods or Davis because of how much the strikeouts hurt his average. The big time power never really showed up in college while he maintained a much more bearable 23 percent strikeout rate.
This is a make or break season for Sparks. He has shown the big time power in the minors with a big time strikeout rate, and he has shown solid power with a great average in college. If he can mold those together he could be a real 20/20 threat at third base.
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