Every fantasy baseball manager who plays with a few minors slots, or who is in a deep league, knows about the top prospect names. Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson are all the rave in nearly any format for 2015. However, what about the prospects who will likely help next season but don’t have as much name recognition? Or how about the guys who may not have as high a ceiling but should be solid choices for your roster, like Joe Panik in 2014? Granted that it’s hard to project playing time and 25-man roster space in December, but if you’re like me any prefer prospects who are close to the majors instead of high-ceiling guys who still need five years of development, then look no further. I’ll pick some random prospects who seem likely to get a good chunk of playing time in 2015, and I’ll look at any red flags they have. Then I’ll give you my opinion on whether they’re legit or should be avoided. I’ll be happy to take requests for more names in the comments, and I can do a second piece if there are enough requests.
Micah Johnson is a speedy 2B on a team with no clear choice at the position. Marcus Semien was traded to Oakland, and Carlos Sanchez may lack the plate discipline to stick as a full-time option. When comparing their major league equivalence, Johnson has slightly better contact and walk ratios, but Sanchez has more pop and some MLB AB under his belt. Even so, this could be a close race in spring training. The one red flag aside from no job guarantee is his leg injury from last season, a hamstring issue. Speedsters need healthy legs. However, the Sox shut him down early to force him to rest and heal so that he’s ready for 2015. If you play in roto formats, you would benefit from the potentially decent BA and good SB that Johnson can provide.
Kyle Parker‘s Triple-A stats look decent on the surface: .289, 15 HR. However, he was better in 2013 at Double-A, and when you convert his 2014 stats to major league equivalence, it’s less impressive: .239 and 10 HR. That being said, he does have good power and the chance for decent BA, and playing in Colorado will help. The red flag I see is his dropping walk rate through the minors, so his plate discipline may leave something to be desired. However, I’m going to buy on Parker because he can play the corner OF slots and 1B. If the Rockies get his bat in the lineup, he’ll provide power to help you in these pitching-dominated times. With Cuddyer gone and Morneau’s injury history, Parker should get the chance to produce.
Corey Spangenberg had some time in the majors last season. He can play multiple positions, and he has a high BA floor. He may steal some bases, although 9 CS in 25 attempts isn’t that impressive. He has no power to speak of, so you’re buying BA and SB. He seems more likely to get playing time than the first two names I cover. So why am I not buying him for 2015? The red flags are his lack of projected production in anything but average, as well as the fact that even with Kemp, the Padres offense is one of the worst in baseball. Playing time for a bottom team may result in more season-long value for 2015 compared to other prospects, but in this case I’d rather gamble on someone with higher upside. Really deep leagues, such as 18 teams with MI slots, may find use for him, but anything shallower than that, and I’d pass.
Robert Refsnyder is an intriguing option. He had a solid BA in the minors, he hit 14 HR between AA and AAA, and he stole 9 bases. The red flags are pretty strong, however. First, he also had 9 CS, so a 50% success rate means he won’t be running much in the majors. Second, he’s relatively new to the position and doesn’t defend well yet. Third and most important, the Yankees love veterans, and they have Martin Prado as the guy most likely to collect 2B playing time. The Yanks re-signed Chase Headley, who covers 3B and OF, so it seems they’re definitely pushing for Prado at 2B. My thoughts on buying Refsnyder for 2015 are pessimistic right now, but then again, the veterans standing in his way don’t average 150 games per season. If there are injuries or awful slumps to the veterans, especially A-Rod and Beltran, then it may open up time for prospects to get a chance. Consider him more an in-season pickup, unless you have a deep minors system.
Rymer Liriano is probably the best-known prospect on this list, mostly because his ceiling is arguably the highest and he’s closest to having a full-time role in 2015 after 100 AB in the majors in 2014. He has a nice power/speed profile, though I worry about his BA in the long-term. In fact, his contact rate and potential BA woes are his biggest red flag. What works in his favor is that after Matt Kemp, there are no San Diego OF that should block Liriano from taking a full-time role. There were a lot of mediocre and injured options in 2014, so the Padres would be better served by giving development time to their younger, higher ceiling players like Liriano. I like Liriano for 2015, and he could be a nice bench option for leagues as shallow as 12 teams.