Among baseball enthusiasts, most of the prospects discussed in Down on the Farm are already well-known. Wil Myers is pretty much a household name. Jurickson Profar didn't catch anyone by surprise. And when aren't the Mets talking about Zack Wheeler?
Typically, I use this space to tell you how those players are performing, what obstacles stand in their way, when they might arrive and what you can expect from them when they do. But if you play in a league of any real size, I'm not introducing them to you.
And if I am, it's a problem.
I can't do what the scouts do. What I can do is interpret their findings for Fantasy owners, which is pretty much what I just described.
In the interest of full disclosure, though, I must admit I'm sometimes forced to play scout. In my dynasty leagues, as I'm sure is true in some of yours, the number of rostered minor-leaguers extends beyond the first or second tier of prospects that appear on all the preseason rank lists and into the third tier, where not even the scouts can agree on which players stand out. And I'd be lying if I said I hadn't developed a few favorites among that group, often going the extra mile to acquire them in those leagues.
With that in mind, I give you the first edition of the prospects I like more than you do. It's not the most academic list, but it's fun, honest and hopefully somewhat credible. Case in point: If I had made it last year, Tony Cingrani would have been at the top.
Really. He would have. I swear.
Of course, you'll never believe me without documented evidence. Let's see if I can do it again.
Rafael Montero, SP, MetsMatt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have gotten all the headlines, but Montero was the Mets' pick for minor league pitcher of the year last year, and so far this year, he's been even better. He doesn't boast the high-90s fastball of so many of the game's top pitching prospects, but he's no soft-tosser and has an impressive enough secondary arsenal to average more than a strikeout per inning. And best of all, he commands it, issuing a Cliff Lee-like 1.5 walks per nine innings over three minor-league seasons. You may not be able to afford Wheeler, but Montero could surprise if the Mets clear rotation space for him in the second half.
Brad Miller, SS, MarinersMiller has played second fiddle to Nick Franklin throughout his time in the Mariners organization, but of the two middle infielders, he was the one who stuck around longer in spring training. So why did the Mariners pass him over for Franklin? Well, their opening was at second base, not shortstop, and they see Franklin as a better fit for that position long-term. But with Brendan Ryan hitting only .215 in the majors, you could argue they'll have a need at shortstop soon enough. Miller doesn't have big power or speed potential, but he's a gritty player (did I really just say that?) who does a little of everything. I'm hoping for Matt Carpenter-type production whenever he arrives.
|1.||Wil Myers, OF, Rays||81|
|2.||Zack Wheeler, SP, Mets||73|
|3.||Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals||44|
|4.||Josh Rutledge, 2B, Rockies||37|
|5.||Tyler Skaggs, SP, Diamondbacks||36|
|6.||Billy Hamilton, SS, Reds||35|
|7.||Ike Davis, 1B, Mets||34|
|8.||Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets||30|
|9.||Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins||29|
|10.||Dylan Bundy, SP, Orioles||29|
Rafael De Paula, SP, YankeesSo far in his first season of legitimate minor-league ball, De Paula has been nothing short of untouchable. He's surrendering 5.5 hits while recording 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings -- ratios you might expect from a top closer prospect, but not a starter. Granted, with the start of his career having been delayed by identity issues, he's a 22-year-old beating up on significantly younger competition, but even if his performance is somewhat misleading, he's at least proven he has great stuff, which is something you can't teach. The Yankees will take their time with him, but if you want to get in on the ground floor on a high-upside player, De Paula is the perfect find.
Alex Wood, RP, BravesI'm cheating a little on this one. Wood is already in the majors, but not in a role that would cause Fantasy owners to take notice. The Braves needed him in middle relief with fellow lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty recovering from Tommy John surgery. CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Danny Knobler has described Wood as being on the Chris Sale plan, meaning he's expected to start next year with Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson likely out of the picture. The knock on Wood (get it?) entering the year was his lack of a breaking ball, but with the help of Venters and Craig Kimbrel, he developed a curveball this spring that allowed him to post a 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and a strikeout per inning in 10 starts at Double-A before his promotion.
Arismendy Alcantara, SS, CubsWith Starlin Castro locked in at the major-league level and Javier Baez working his way up the minor-league ladder, the Cubs are seemingly overloaded at shortstop. But with neither player considered a defensive standout, the Cubs could still make room in their future lineup for Alcantara, who has begun to put up impressive numbers after an underwhelming start to his minor-league career. His power and patience have improved as he's worked his way up the ladder, to the point he's on a near 20-homer pace at Double-A, with an on-base percentage about 80 points higher than his batting average and an .842 OPS. And speed just so happens to be his best tool.
James Nelson, SP, BrewersNot wanting to mess around with their 40-man roster too much, the Brewers have resorted to one uninspiring option after another in their starting rotation. But at age 24, if Nelson continues to do what he's been doing, he'll eventually force the issue. At least now he's at Triple-A after overpowering Double-A with a 2.74 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. A hard-thrower with a good sinking fastball, Nelson has significantly improved his control this year, which is important since he gives up a fair number of hits for a high-strikeout guy. He won't be an ace for the Brewers, but at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, he'll be a horse.
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