With the minor league season all but over, it’s time to close the 2014 door on Gambling on Prospects. Before I go and focus on
less important other baseball topics, it’s time to look back and see how I did this past season. I’ve had a lot of fun researching and writing these 18 feature articles this season. Hopefully in that time I’ve given you a name or two that you have added to your fantasy team. Like any writer (or perhaps more so), I’ve had some misses to go along with the multitude of hits; I’ll outline them now and hope you didn’t go out and acquire the wrong ones. Thanks for reading along this year and this series shall return in 2015.
Here’s a recap of how I rated each player:
- Hold ’em : If you own this prospect, hang tight. While times may seem rough, the talent is worth holding onto and/or monitoring.
- Fold ’em : If you own this prospect, now is the time to sell while they may still have some name value.
- Walk Away: This prospect is not worth paying attention to in your league.
- Run: Get to the waiver wire immediately and put a claim in for this prospect.
HOLD ‘EM. “While Olt may not break camp as the Cubs starting third baseman, nor put up a great batting average right away, this is a once highly touted prospect…he has the potential to live up to some of the power promise he had just one year ago…. it will serve them [Cubs] well to know exactly what it is they have in Olt.
Olt did break camp with the Cubs and hit 12 home runs in just 180 at bats before the all-star game, showing some of that power promise. If hitting .140 qualifies as not a great batting average, I’d say I nailed this one. I think along with the Cubs, we have a pretty good idea what it is we have in Olt now. New Recommendation : Fold ‘Em.
RUN. “17-year-old LHP Urias pitched one inning against San Diego on Saturday, retiring all three batters he faced. He struck out Will Venable and Yonder Alonso. As a 16-year-old in 2013, Urias struck out 67 batters in 54 innings in A ball.”
It wouldn’t be the only time I mentioned Urias, but it was the earliest. I ranked him higher than anyone preseason at #34, and moved him up to #19 at mid-season. 2015 Prospect List Teaser: he won’t be moving down. New Recommendation : Run (faster).
RUN (faster) “With his insane spring numbers; 15.1IP 15K with just 3 earned runs allowed, Ventura has secured a spot in the Royals rotation. He throws 100+ MPH to go with a change and curve. He gets a ton of ground balls and could very well be the next big thing…”
With a 48% ground ball rate and a 20% K rate, Ventura has had a tremendous rookie season and I’ll be targeting him everywhere in 2015. Same Recommendation : Run.
Jackie Bradley Jr:
Fold ‘Em. “Bradley lost the center field position battle to Grady Sizemore, after batting .158 in 57 spring at bats. He also struck out 17 times and walked just 3 times. With Victorino and Sizemore in the outfield, Bradley should still see plenty of big league at bats this year. What he does with them is the question.”
I suggested cashing in on Bradley in April; there just isn’t enough here offensively to suggest that Bradley can provide any fantasy contribution in the future. The opportunity to sell is long gone and now it’s simply time to … New Recommendation: Walk Away.
Run. “Owens pitched a 6 inning no-hitter for AA Portland last week striking out nine batters along the way. The 21-year-old pitcher had 6 starts in AA last year with a 1.78 ERA and 13.65K/9 IP. Owens is throwing his hat into the ring among the best left-handed pitching prospects in the game.”
I couldn’t knock one Red Sox prospect without praising another! I had ranked Owens #54 preseason, but by April I was wanting to move him up. At #15 mid-season, Owens, Urias, and Norris are the three best left-handed pitchers in the minor leagues. New Recommendation : Run (faster).
Run. “Small sample notwithstanding, Tapia is hitting .375 in his first 4 games in A ball. In 2013 in rookie ball Tapia hit .357 showing gap power, very good speed and excellent contact skills. He’s an exciting young prospect whose stock is going to sky-rocket in 2014.”
Another player I was the most aggressive ranking, putting him at #79 preseason. By mid-season I moved him to #49 while BP jumped him all the way to 34 and BA still had left off. Tapia ended the season with a .326/.382/.453 line in A ball at 20 years old. He’ll need to produce in 2015 for me to move up much more, but his stock sure did sky-rocket this year. Same Recommendation : Run.
Walk Away. “Any time I can feature a Detroit prospect, I’m going to take advantage. With Alex Gonzalez released, Suarez find himself one step closer to the starting shortstop position in Detroit. While Jose Iglesias is expected to fully recover by next year, Suarez is showing signs of being able to help Detroit right now. In AA he’s hitting .260/.327/.540 after impressing the Detroit brass in spring training. I’d love to pimp him some more but [can’t]”
Boy, how I wish I was wrong on this one; it’s almost too painful to talk about. Actually, it is too painful. Same Recommendation : Walk Away.
Run. “Betts is absolutely destroying AA, hitting .440/.483/.704 with 4 SB and a 5:7 BB/K ratio. With Dustin Pedroia apparently over his wrist injury, Betts appears to have lost his opportunity for promotion in 2014. Or has he? With Sizemore, Victorino, and Bradley Jr the primary outfielders in Boston, how likely is it that the Red Sox decide they need to get Betts in their immediate plans? Either way, this is an awesome talent and could very well be a top offensive 2B in the majors.”
One month after suggesting Betts could move to the outfield, the Red Sox moved him. Even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut, but I’ll take credit for being prescient here. Since his recall, Betts is just hitting .310/.389/.500; that’s all. New Recommendation : Run (faster).
Walk Away. “I really like Ramirez and own him in a very deep keeper league, but would not hold him in any other circumstance. His relatively low ceiling combined with the smallest opportunity to achieve it make him someone to watch, but not roster…”
I still like Ramirez and I still would not hold him anywhere at all. With Lindor the heir apparent for the Indians, Ramirez could fill in nicely as a utility guy for the club. His fantasy value remains near none. Same Recommendation : Walk Away.
Run. “Soler is one of my favorite prospects with his plus power and his solid approach at the plate…. I ranked Soler aggressively going in to 2014, but I’d bet I’m not the only one ranking him inside the top 25 this offseason. Target him everywhere you can as his stock is rising with every game he plays.”
I’ll be honest; I get a lot of satisfaction out of this one. I had Soler #25 both in preseason and mid-season rankings, while Keith Law was the only other who ranked him at all mid-season (28). This guy has awesome power and is going to be very expensive come draft day next year, even in redraft leagues. If you missed out, you’ll just have to admire from afar. New Recommendation : Run (faster).
Hold ‘Em. “Centerfielder Margot has shown plenty of speed in the past, but he’s upped his ISO to .145 this year in A ball as a 19-year-old. A good BB and K rate and it looks like the young toolsy prospect with excellent bat speed is developing nicely.”
Margot deserves even more recognition; at 19 years of age he excelled against older competition. He has excellent speed, developing power and a great approach at the plate. There is no doubt in my mind that he’ll be on some Top 100 lists heading into 2015 (including mine). New Recommendation : Run.
Run. “Just 18 years old, Rosario was promoted to full season ball yesterday. Rosario had been in extended spring training where he had an OPS of 1.150. He was signed as an international player for $1.75 M last year by the Mets. If you have patience, he could be very special.”
Rosario was not ranked higher than here at Fantasy Assembly on any list in the industry preseason, coming in at 74. A little aggressive? Perhaps. I also gave him an honorable mention in my mid-season top 50. I was probably over-zealous here, but this 18 year-old needs to be on your watch-list. Rosario hit .289/.337/.380 in low A before a late promotion to Savannah. He has a long way to go and likely shouldn’t be ranked this high, this soon. New Recommendation : Hold ‘Em.
Run. “I did not rank Pederson high enough heading into 2014; the difficulties he had vs LHP seems to have been isolated to 2013 and he’s improved his stock even more with his performance this year… Pederson would immediately be worth rostering in redraft leagues if he was promoted, as he can produce numbers across the board.”
Pederson never did get that early promotion, having to wait until September before the Dodgers called him up. If a 33/30 season in Alberquerque wasn’t enough to capture your imagination, add in an 18.9% walk rate and he looks like he can be a solid contributor in all formats. The strikeouts are a concern; his ability to make consistent contact will likely decide just how great he can be. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “Crawford returned from a finger injury on Monday and promptly got back to his hot hitting ways. Through 35 games in Low A, Crawford is hitting .333/.427/.481 with 8 stolen bases and as many walks as strike outs. Just 19 years old, this top SS from the 2013 draft is looking every bit the heir apparent to Rollins in Philadelphia.”
Shortly after this, Crawford was promoted to High A Clearwater (still at 19 years old) and improved his ISO to .131 while maintaining his K rate at 13.7%. He did what you want all elite prospects to do when promoted and facing even older competition as he more than held his own. In mid-season rankings, again I was highest listing him at #14. Keith Law had him at 15, BA at 24 and BP at 35. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “Pick #4 from June’s draft, Schwarber signed quick and has hit 4 home runs in his first 4 games in low A, knocking in 10 runs. The Cubs have announced that he’ll be promoted to A ball today. Schwarber is a safe bet to make the big leagues and was considered one of the best college bats in the draft.”
He sure started off well, didn’t he. Schwarber finished the year, through three levels, hitting .344/.428/.634. For a college bat, he really did what he should have done as a 21 year-old against less advanced competition, but it’s pretty hard not to get excited about this kind of bat, especially the power at the catcher position. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “Norris may have been a 2nd round pick (#74) in 2011, but he was widely considered the best high school LHP in the draft. Just 21, Norris has put it all together this season as he’s pitched 66 innings, struck out 76, while just allowing 50 hits and 18 walks. Ranked nowhere heading into 2013 or 2014, Norris is making headlines this year with his mid 90s fastball and excellent curve. He could be the key trade piece if the Blue Jays make a move for someone like Price or Samardzija.”
If Norris looked good in June, he looked frigging outstanding in July and August. He pitched 22.2 IP in AAA while striking out 38 batters. Toronto was probably wise to hold on to Norris, though who knows what could have been had they acquired a player like Price in early July. I suspect they still would have fallen short. irregardless, Norris is going to be special. New Recommendation : Run (faster).
Run. “It’s easy to forget that Bundy is just a 21-year-old pitcher; younger than Noah Syndergaard, Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker. …Bundy has the arsenal to be a top of the rotation arm, but by all accounts his makeup and work ethic is also off the charts. With the Orioles in a playoff race, Bundy could be a key contributor late in the second half…. if I was betting on one pitcher from the minor leagues to become a #1 or #2 in the majors, Bundy would be my guy.”
I’m not sure I’d make that same wager; not because Bundy isn’t a unique talent with the ceiling of an ace, but because some other arms have joined the field. Obviously Bundy isn’t going to be a factor in the Orioles playoff run, nor did he contribute to the big league club at all in 2014. The Orioles are being cautious, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a (small) window of opportunity to buy now in dynasty leagues. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “What is most impressive about Devers is his bat speed and his ability to make hard contact to all fields. He’s extremely advanced for his age, and could follow a similar path as Xander Bogaerts, debuting in A ball at the age of 18 years old. … There is a ton of projection with Rafael Devers, but he is one of favorite watches now and I’m gambling that my early grabs will pay off greatly in the future”
A lot of hype for Devers has happened over the past 6 weeks since he moved stateside to the Gulf Coast League. All of it deservedly so! Back in June he got his own feature piece here, and hopefully some of you grabbed him while you could. An honorable mention on my mid-season list, I won’t be the only one to mention him again next time. Same Recommendation : Run.
Hold ‘Em. “A rough start from Appel to the 2014 season, Appel pitched reasonably well on Sunday, going 5 innings allowing 6 hits, 3 earned runs, no walks and striking out 2 batters. His 6 first starts to the season netted an 11.93 ERA with 33 hits and 23 earned runs in 17 innings. The first pick overall from the 2013 draft may not have an ace ceiling but he’s a good bet to be a fantasy contributor as soon as next year.”
What a polarizing prospect amongst fantasy sites and owners! I think holding was and still is the right call. Appel did pretty well once promoted to AA, allowing 35 hits, walking 13 while striking out 38 in 39 innings. He may not have an ace ceiling, but he could produce mid-rotation numbers as early as next season. Same Recommendation : Hold ‘Em.
Walk Away. “Biddle allowed 10 runs in 3 innings on Monday, just 5 days after it looked like maybe he was going to turn the corner. His ERA sits at 5.03 for the season, but even more worrisome is his 40 walks allowed in 78.2 innings pitched. Biddle has maintained nearly a strikeout per inning, but he’s not looking like anything more than a back-end starter at this point.”
Things didn’t get a whole lot better for Biddle in 2014. Say that 10 times quickly then if you haven’t already Same Recommendation : Walk Away.
Run. “The 20-year-old nephew of Vladimar Guerrero has been selected to play for the World team in this year’s Futures Game after hitting .291/.341/.436 in High A ball. Gabby, like his uncle, expands the zone but has very good bat speed and plus power potential. Guerrero is already becoming one of my favorite players to root for.”
20-year-old Guerrero hit .307/.347/.467 in High A ball with 18 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 2014. Great power and hitting ability make him a must own in dynasty leagues on the chance he realizes his awesome potential. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “The 22-year-old left-handed starter has a 2-7 record with a 4.75 ERA in High A Wilmington this year. What these numbers hide is a power lefty who can throw in the mid 90’s with a plus slider. He has struck out 79 batters in just 60 innings of work, although with 30 walks issued. At 6’5″ and 215 lbs, Manaea is am imposing pitcher with the stuff to back it up.”
Manaea sure made good on improving those numbers. Following this recommendation he went 5-1, 1.45 ERA and 68 strikeouts with just 38 hits allowed in 62 IP. Any opportunity to acquire at a good price (let alone the discount that could have been at this time) are long gone. New Recommendation : Run (faster).
Run. “This 19-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic can scoff at the Eloy Jimenez signing bonus after receiving $4.95 million in 2011. Three years later, the power is showing up and Mazara is climbing the prospect rankings. Signed along side Ronald Guzman, Mazara has clearly progressed much quicker, hitting .263/.350/.464 with 17 home runs for the Hickory Crawdads.”
The Rangers promoted Mazara in early August to AA Frisco. At just 19, Mazara put up a .306/.381/.518 line over his 4 weeks in Double A, ensuring we won’t see another top prospect list (at least from me) without him on it. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “Just 19 years of age, Reyes boasts a mid-90’s fastball to go along with a plus curve ball and an average change. He’s striking out batters at a 27% clip, but the command has been missing (14.6% BB rate). There’s always a lot of risk with pitching prospects, but this is an arm that is worth the risk of holding.”
Reyes would get his own feature post later on, and while I hate to beat a dead horse, it really is time Reyes got more attention. He finishes the year with a 29.5% K rate to go along with a .205 BAA. He throws in the high 90’s, has an excellent curve, and has improved his command this year. St. Louis does a heck of a job developing arms and Reyes already came with a very high ceiling. Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “The Diamondbacks signed this first round 17-year-old for $2.7 million in June. While your league mates are clamoring for Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon, check out this arm from South Florida. Toussaint is an athletic pitcher that boasts a mid-to-upper 90s fastball and an outstanding curveball. At 6’3″ and 185 lbs, there is projection for even more velocity as he fills in.”
Toussaint had a rough 2014 in rookie ball for the Diamondbacks, posting an 8.48 ERA in 28.2 innings with 18 walks allowed. Hidden in there were 32 strikeouts and a 4.21 SIERA. While the promise is there for this right hander with a plus curve and a high 90s fastball, there is no reason to run, yet. Pitching prospects are risky as is; you can afford to be patient with this 18-year-old. New Recommendation : Hold ‘Em.
Run. “I’m cheating a little by including McMahon as he was an HM in my mid-season top 50, but I don’t think he’s talked about enough. While he plays in an extreme hitters park, at 19 years old, he’s also one of the youngest players in his league. He has very good power and the ability to hit for a high average. McMahon is a few years away, but he could be a top 10 third baseman playing in Coors Field.”
McMahon took 2014 by the horns, hitting 9 home runs in the first month of the season before settling down and finishing with 18 home runs and a .282/.358/.502 line in A ball. The strike out rate was high at 25.9%, but this 19-year-old shows some excellent power at the hot corner. While you may not need to run, I’m expecting a big year for McMahon in Tulsa in 2015. Same Recommendation : Run.
Hold ‘Em. “With Oscar Taveras struggling and the Cardinals fighting for a wild card spot, Piscotty may be the offensive injection the team needs in September. Hitting .282/.347/.397 for AAA Memphis, Piscotty has good speed, a good hit tool with a modest amount of power. He may not overwhelm for fantasy purposes, but he should provide enough bat to ball skills to help in most formats. With another shut out last night, the Cardinals need to find a spark for the offense and Piscotty may just be it.”
Well, the Cardinals are in first place, Oscar Taveras is heating up and Piscotty, after Memphis lost to Omaha, is nowhere to be found. I did a lousy job projecting who would be called up in September. I’ll work harder at it for future years. New Recommendation : Fold ‘Em.
Hold ‘Em. “The Atlanta Braves are in trouble, currently 2.5 games out of a wild card spot. This 20-year-old second baseman was the player of the month in July hitting .359 with 16 stolen bases. Peraza is up to 59 steals for the season so far after swiping 64 in 2013. He makes excellent contact (8.1% K rate in AA) and could be a real difference maker for the Braves in September as a pinch-runner even.”
I never expected Peraza to be called up; I just wanted him to be. Peraza finishes the season with a line of .339/.364/.441 with 61 stolen bases. He makes excellent contact, but really needs to boost that 3.9% walk rate. Peraza is built for speed, and at the second base position could prove to have good fantasy value. Same Recommendation : Hold ‘Em.
Run. “When Rodon pitched in Charlotte on Tuesday night, the place sold out as fans likely knew he wouldn’t be in AAA long; even if it was his first start there. Rodon has a plus fastball, an outstanding slider and a change-up that can be really, really good. It all adds up to a front line pitcher and one that can succeed at the highest level now.”
Ouch as another one of my September sure-thing call-ups wasn’t brought up. Rodon pitched 24.2 pro innings this year and struck out 38 batters while walking 13 and allowing 20 hits. I’m not making any bold claims about him starting 2015 with the big league club, but he should! Same Recommendation : Run.
Run. “With Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Andrew McCutchen entrenched in the Pirates’ outfield for at least the next four years, the Pirates announced that Bell will play exclusively at first base in the Arizona Fall League. Bell enjoyed a breakout season in 2014 with a .325/.375/.459 line between A and AA ball. … move to first will definitely accelerate his timetable to get to the major leagues.”
Bell should start 2015 with AA Altoona, but depending on his progress at first, he could move quickly through the system. I ranked Bell aggressively at #44 in my mid-season list. I’m not running any longer (.021 ISO in AA), but I’m in a holding pattern. New Recommendation : Hold ‘Em.
Run. “At 6’5″ and 240 lbs, Newcomb is a huge left-handed pitcher who can tough high 90’s with his fastball. Arms like this are special, and Newcomb also features a change, slider and curve; all with potential to be average to plus offerings. Easily the top prospect of the Angels finished his season with a 4 inning 10 strikeout performance to put on exclamation point on his high ceiling.”
Not a lot to add since I just wrote that last week, but I figured he was worth one more mention. This first-round pick from 2014 should move quickly in 2015 and you don’t want to miss out on the bandwagon when it passes through. Same Recommendation : Run.
If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right.
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