The 2016 Top 50 Fantasy Prospects

March 1, 2016

 

 

Itís prospecting time again with yet another list of baseballís top young players. Unlike the ones produced by Baseball America, Keith Law and other esteemed evaluators, which are usually focused on a playerís ability to become a productive major leaguer, this one is focused on those who will have the most fantasy value. Thatís not to say that it ignores defense because it doesnít. A player can only accumulate fantasy stats if heís being used in games and good defense will often keep a hitter getting at bats when there may be better bats on the bench. Additionally, a pitcher with a great fastball might find use in the bullpen as a reliever whereas one with lesser stuff but better minor league numbers might find himself out of a job. This list is primarily about raw ability colored slightly by the aptitude to one day realize it. The degree of uncertainty with players in the lower levels of the minors was a factor in the rankings but I tried not to let it dissuade me too much. It should be noted that any legitimate prospect ranking is as much about evaluating mental tools and the preparedness of a player to handle the challenges presented by life in the major leagues as it is a gauge of physical tools. Thus there will be a great many discrepancies between concurrent lists, as well as from year to year.

 

That said, this year there was a greater disparity of opinion than there has been in previous years. Normally when I compile a list like this, I research about 170 names that have been thrown out by other evaluators; this year that number was 424. The reason is that with the exception of about a dozen or so top prospects, there arenít that many players with standout physical tools. So thereís a legitimate case to be made that the #20 prospect isnít significantly more promising than the #200 prospect on anyoneís list.

 

Without further adieu, I give you my top fantasy prospects for 2016 and beyond:

 

1)      Lucas Giolito, WAS

I prefer Giolito #1 overall because unlike Seager, there will be no position change; he will be a starting pitcher in the major leagues for his entire career and probably the ace of the staff for much of it, even with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer on the same team. There just havenít been many 6í6Ē, 250 lb pitchers with a 100 mph fastball, a grade-70+ curve, an above average change and excellent control of all three. The last comparable guy was probably Roger Clemens. While on the surface his performance last year doesnít look that impressive, dig into the numbers and youíll find that with an average defense behind him his ERA should have been closer to 2.65 rather than the overall 3.15 he recorded.Thatís almost a third of a run better FIP than the other most popular candidate for top pitching prospect, Julio Urias. The only comparable pitching talent not already in the major leagues is Japanís Shohei Otani, who might still be several years away from posting (which is why heís not in this list but would probably share the top spot if he were).

 

2)      Corey Seager, LAD

The Dodgers traded for Jimmy Rollins last year to buy another year of seasoning for Seager, just in case he needed it. He didnít. He was promoted before the season ended and by the time the playoffs rolled around he was playing shortstop full-time and batting third in the line-up. Thatís just not something many 20-year olds have ever done. No one questions his ability to hit, but his size and mobility make him a question mark to stay at short. Heíll still be an All-Star level player at third hitting for both power and average. Unlike his teammate Joc Pederson, who has a bad swing path and will have to make significant adjustments to hit above .250, Seagerís got a fairly simple swing and an advanced understanding at the plate for someone his age, meaning he not only has a high ceiling, but his floor is pretty high as well.

 

3) Yulieski Gurriel, FA

It probably seems odd to have a 31-year old as the 3rd best prospect but Gourriel is a ready-to-play star. Heís been a star in international competition for a decade and the only reason he hasnít been playing in the majors for a half dozen years already is because heís from the first family of baseball in Cuba and his family would have been severely punished had he defected sooner. Comparing his age 22-25 numbers to those of other successful Cuban defectors Jose Abreu and Yoennis Cespedes, he has a better eye for balls and strikes than either of them although not quite as much power. There have been a number of evaluators who compare him to a peak-level Evan Longoria, but I believe his plate discipline is better, making peak David Wright (but without the base-stealing ability) a more accurate comparable. Some scouts have noted that over the last couple of years he hasnít seemed to have been playing to his ability. This year, however, with relations between Cuba and the US thawing and his opportunity to move to the majors becoming a possibility, he has. Whatever the reason, a career .333/.415/.576 hitter hit .488/.569/.858 with 25 walks and only one strikeout in the 160 plate appearances before his defection. He will be signed sometime this year and thus qualifies for this list. An argument can be made that he probably should be the top prospect because he should be the safest bet to perform. But at his age we might only see two to four years of peak production followed by a decline, whereas with the other top names on this list we will probably get five to ten years of peak performance. In dynasty league terms, the latter is more valuable.

 

4) Byron Buxton, MIN

I am still going with the Cesar Cedeno comp for Buxton that I stated last year: a plus glove in center with a peak upwards of 20 homers and 40-50 steals with good average and on base skills. In his annual fantasy baseball guide Ė which I highly recommend - Gene McCaffery offered BJ Upton as a possible comp for his floor. A couple years ago that might have seemed absurd, but after his struggles last year and history of injuries those rumblings of doubt, even with his exceptional tools, might be the new expectation. The Twins traded away Aaron Hicks who was seen as his primary competition for playing time this year, but they have other outfield talents in the minors who could push him if he doesnít make significant headway this season.

 

5) Yoan Moncada, BOS

Last year was a tale of two halves for Moncada. Over the first half, the consensus was that he struggled with his new life in America and thatís why he hit .200/.287/.289 with only 4 steals. Whatever the reason, he was definitely a different player in the second half, hitting .310/.415/.500 with 45 steals in 48 attempts. He wasnít exceedingly young for the Carolina League but his age is still a plus for the level. The most frequently used comparison is Robinson Cano with speed, but thatís an awful lot to live up to. I would say that is potentially his peak but that its more likely something along the lines of Dustin Pedroia, who ironically the Red Sox already have under contract for the next five seasons. He is occasionally spectacular but inconsistent in the field, leading many to consider that his future might be in the outfield.

 

6) Joey Gallo, TEX

After his promotion from Double-A to the majors, Galloís enjoyed a spectacular couple of days before his approach fell apart. Once Adrian Beltre returned from injury Ė which was the reason Gallo was promoted in the first place - he was sent to Triple-A where he struggled much the way he had in Double-A in the second half of 2014: poor contact, lots of strikeouts. The point is that weíve seen this the last two seasons: late season exposure to a higher league where he struggles terribly, followed by mashing the stuffing out of the ball the following spring. In 2014, that mashing took the form of a .323/.463/.735 pummeling of high-A pitching after struggling the half season before. In 2015, he opened the Double-A season with a .314/.425/.636 line with a refined approach that included a shortened stroke. Gallo is smart and driven enough to make adjustments; it would not surprise at all to see him do the same in Triple-A this year and be called up for good by June. The two comps that are often thrown out most often are Russell Branyan and Ryan Howard, but Gallo debuted three to four years younger than either of them. Perhaps a more relevant comp is Adam Dunn.

 

7) Lazarito Armenteros, free agent

Just for the record, yes, I am saying that a 16-year old unsigned free-agent from Cuba is the 7th best baseball prospect in all of the world. Thatís because most 16-year olds arenít 6í2Ē, 205 lbs and look like a man among boys even playing against older competition. While itís clearly a case of hyperbole when some scouts compare him to Bryce Harper Ė I mean, how many Harpers could there be in a generation since he is viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime talent Ė itís pretty clear that Lazarito is a special player.The overwhelming consensus is that heíll be a frontline starter/potential superstar. And while comparisons to Willie Mays (!) and Bo Jackson have been floated, the player he most reminds me of is Yoennis Cespedes (which I believe to be his floor) due to impressive physical tools but with much more speed (heís already flashed the same home-to-first times as Mike Trout). Itíll be interesting to see if his mental development is more similar to Cespedes or Harper. Still, even after he signs heís at least two years away from contributing in the majors. But his ceiling is astronomical. To give a ballpark idea, he has been playing in international competition since he was 13, and in the August 2014 15 and under World Cup hit .462/.611/.962. There are other international prospects Ė including the player that follows Ė but only a few are pretty much guaranteed to get paid and sign this year, which is why they are on this list.

 

8) Kevin Maitan, free agent

Maitan is a 15-year old switch-hitting Venezuelan that to date has been closely associated with the Braves. There have been rumors that a deal is already in place for $4+ million but we wonít know for sure until the July 2 signing deadline passes. As for the player, heís gets compared to Chipper Jones (quite a coincidence, donít you think?) in part because, like Jones, he hits from both sides and can play a number of positions, including shortstop. Another comp that gets thrown around is Miguel Cabrera. Either way, this is an elite player in the making. Maitan is a better hitter than Lazarito, but Armenteros has a huge advantage in speed and this is a fantasy prospect list, thus the higher ranking.

 

9) Alex Reyes, StL

Reyes would be higher on this list as he checks many of the boxes to be a top prospect: upper echelon fastball, good size, young for the level he facedÖ but his suspension for a failed drug test (marijuana) raises some red flags a little higher than they might ordinarily be. For example, he has always had a fairly high walk rate. Will that be something he can get a handle on? Normally one would give him the benefit of the doubt but the failed drug test makes one wonder if he has the mental fortitude to handle such a significant adjustment in his game on top of the normal stresses of the game.Talent-wise thereís no question heís someone to keep an eye on. But what separates major leaguers from minor leaguers, and stars from average players is more often than not their mental strength rather than physical.

 

10) Blake Snell, TB

The Tampa pitching factory has churned out another top quality prospect in Snell. Good size, velocity and command, he is, as Bravesí executive and long time talent evaluator John Hart would say, what they look like. Heís a lefty which only increases his value to major league teams. What holds him back here is that is pitches for Tampa, an organization with a well-earned reputation for taking their time with pitching prospects who seem to be ready but always seem to find themselves spending another year in the minors. Since this list is an estimation of fantasy value, he takes a hit because itís likely heíll spend either a significant part of or another full season in the minors.

 

11) Rafael Devers, BOS

Devers put it all on display last year in the South Atlantic League as an 18-year old, hitting .288 with 11 homers and 38 doubles in a league that has not been overly friendly to hitters. On the downside, he really struggled in August, hitting .232/.315/.379, but that can probably be attributed to fatigue from his first full season. He has some room to grow in his understanding at the plate, but his strikeout rate isnít excessive and he displayed an improved walk rate as the year wore on. Heíll need a couple more years in the minors before he takes over at third in Fenway but his offensive production should be something akin to that of Adrian Beltre.

 

12) Victor Robles, WAS

If you missed out on getting Byron Buxton in your dynasty league, consider Robles as your Buxton 2.0. Both players have outstanding tools across the board, with Robles possessing more power and Buxton more speed. Buxton is also the better defensive player but Robles is a plus defender in his own right. While his .479 slugging percentage in the New York Penn League doesnít seem like much, his OPS was only bested by a player who was two years older and the average player in that league was more than three years older. The best part of his game is his ability to make solid contact while rarely swinging at bad pitches, as evidenced by his .334 batting average and .431 on base percentage over two seasons.As impressive as his physical tools are, he gets even higher marks for his energy level, ambition and baseball intelligence. Because of his energy, high baseball HQ and physical tools, the player I would compare his ceiling to is Andrew McCutchen. And in case you think Iím exaggerating:

 

Player†††††††††† LevelG††††† AB†††† R††††† H††††† 2B†††† 3B†††† HR†††† RBI††† SB†††† CS†††† BB†††† SO†† HBP††† IBB††† SH†††† SF†††† GDP††† AVG††† OBP††† SLG††† OPS†††

Byron Buxton†††† Rk†††† 48†††† 165††† 33†††† 41†††† 10†††† 4††††† 5††††† 20†††† 11†††† 3††††† 19†††† 41†† 5††††† 0††††† 0††††† 0††††† 0††††† 0.2480.3440.4480.792

Byron Buxton†††† A††††† 68†††† 270††† 68†††† 92†††† 15†††† 10†††† 8††††† 55†††† 32†††† 11†††† 44†††† 56†† 1††††† 1††††† 3††††† 3††††† 4††††† 0.3410.4310.5590.990

†† total††††††††††††††† 116††† 435††† 101††† 133††† 25†††† 14†††† 13†††† 75†††† 43†††† 14†††† 63†††† 97†† 6††††† 1††††† 3††††† 3††††† 4††††† 0.3060.4010.5170.918

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

McCutchen††††††† RK†††† 45†††† 158††† 36†††† 47†††† 9††††† 3††††† 2††††† 30†††† 13†††† 1††††† 29†††† 24†† 3††††† 0††††† 0††††† 2††††† 3††††† 0.2970.4110.4300.841

McCutchen††††††† A-†††† 13†††† 52†††† 12†††† 18†††† 3††††† 1††††† 0††††† 5††††† 4††††† 1††††† 8††††† 6†† 1††††† 0††††† 1††††† 0††††† 0††††† 0.3460.4430.4420.885

†††††† Total††††††††††††††† 58†††† 210††† 48†††† 65†††† 12†††† 4††††† 2††††† 35†††† 17†††† 2††††† 37†††† 30†††††† 4††††† 0††††† 1††††† 2††††† 3††††† 0.3100.4220.4330.856

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

Victor Robles††† Rk†††† 70†††† 255††† 65†††† 84†††† 20†††† 5††††† 5††††† 36†††† 34†††† 10†††† 26†††† 38†† 20†††† 1††††† 5††††† 1††††† 1††††† 0.3290.4300.5060.936

Victor Robles††† A-†††† 38†††† 140††† 29†††† 48†††† 5††††† 4††††† 2††††† 16†††† 12†††† 4††††† 8††††† 21†† 14†††† 0††††† 2††††† 3††††† 0††††† 0.3430.4240.4790.903

†† total††††††††††††††† 108††† 395††† 94†††† 132††† 25†††† 9††††† 7††††† 52†††† 46†††† 14†††† 34†††† 59†† 34†††† 1††††† 7††††† 4††††† 1††††† 0.3340.4320.4960.928

 

The difference is that Buxton appeared at this level when he was 19; both McCutchen and Robles did it a year younger. My one concern long-term is that a significant portion of his ability to get on base has been being hit by pitches. That usually doesnít portend to an injury-free career.

 

13) Anderson Espinoza, BOS

On talent alone, Espinoza and Robles belong in the top 10, maybe top 5. If they develop as expected, they are both impact players. But since they are so young and are just getting their feet wet in professional baseball, itís wiser to be conservative about their future. And while it may seem crazy to rank a 17-year old who just completed his first year in A-ball this highly over a less-talented but more advanced prospects, itís actually a better use of a roster spot. For one, thereís no question that Espinozaís talent will probably move him through the minors fairly quickly. Itís also true that teams often hedge their bets with players who donít have upper-end tools by acquiring veterans who can man their position, just in case they arenít ready for full-time work in the bigs. Far more often than not, those veterans end up with a lionís share of the playing time, thus delaying the prospect from achieving their full fantasy value. Talent like Espinozaís tends to force its way into playing time sooner than later. Espinoza, like many under-sized latin fireballers, gets compared to Pedro Martinez but this comparison might not be so far-fetched in his case.

 

14) Tyler Glasnow, PIT

Like Reyes, Glasnow has the fastball to be an ace but control is a concern. What stands in Glasnowís way is his tall stature. As Randy Johnson capably proved thatís not insurmountable, but long levers often make consistent mechanics a career-long struggle. Working in Glasnowís favor is that the Pirates have one of, if not the best pitching coach in the majors in Ray Searage. What he has managed to accomplish with reclamation projects is remarkable and if he can work the same magic with Glasnow, the Pirates will have one of the most formidable top threeís in baseball with Cole, Liriano and Glasnow.

 

15) Byung-Ho Park, MIN

Thereís not a lot to go on when it comes to players coming over from the Korean Leagues. In fact, our sample size is basically one: Jung Ho Kang. That said, in the season before he came to the majors, Kang posted a .356/.459/.739 season with 40 homers at age 27. In 2014, in his age 27 season Park posted marks of .303/.433/.686 with 52 homers. He followed that up with a .343/.436/.714 season with 53 homers. Park strikes out at a much higher rate than Kang did, but he also walks more. Whether the walk rate is due to a superior eye or inferior pitching remains to be seen. Based on these numbers, I expect Park to hit for less average but for more power than Kang did, with maybe as many as 25 homers in his first season. Heíll need to make some refinements to his timing in order to handle major league pitching but he should be a solid contributor to a solid Twins line-up.

 

16) Julio Urias, LAD

Most evaluators have Urias considerably higher, many as high as the top five in this yearís lists. I donít have a problem with that as his statistical performance warrants high praise. But heís a smallish lefty (under 6 feet tall) and smallish lefty starters donít have a good track record for lasting a long time. Most are either on the operating table and/or in the back of the rotation before they turn 28, like Scott Kazmir, Al Downing and Juan Pizarro. Kazmir is the feel-good story of those three for his return and success but he took two years off due to shoulder fatigue before he made it back and is more of a middle-of-the-rotation arm than a staff ace. Johan Santana managed to last until he was 29 until injuries started to catch up with him. The pitcher many compare Urias to because he is so young and a Dodger is Fernando Valenzuela, but Iím not sure that is as exciting as it might sound. Other than his first two extraordinary seasons and two very good seasons when he was 24 and 25, he wasnít a very effective pitcher for much of his career.In fact, from 1987 until 1997 he only had one season in which his FIP was under 4.00 but four in which it was above 5.00.Urias features excellent control and above average stuff but his long term prospects are probably less than how theyíre being portrayed.

 

17) Trea Turner, WAS

If you required any more proof that this list is about fantasy value, Trea Turnerís ranking is it. Tools and performance-wise, thereís not a lot to separate him from other shortstops on this list with the exception of one tool: speed. Turner has an abundance of it and the others donít. So while itís possible that the others will eventually give you 20-25 steals along with their 10-15 homers, Turner is about as guaranteed as it gets routinely steal 30-40 bases a year.Even the Redís new super utility player Jose Peraza, who stole 36 over three levels last year including the majors, doesnít have as much speed as Turner. He has an opportunity to take over the shortstop position in Washington this spring but his brief stint last September exposed a probable need to head back to the minors to work on his approach. He should have the position full-time no later than 2017.

18) Andrew Benintendi, BOS

Looking just at Benintendiís numbers one would not expect to see an average-built hitter under six feet tall. But like future team-mate Dustin Pedroia, he has an almost supernatural ability to put the fat part of the bat on the ball whenever he swings, which combined with an excellent knowledge of the strikezone makes him a formidable threat. Last year over three levels including his final college season, he hit 31 homers with an OPS north of 1.000. He also walked 85 times against 56 strikeouts. Heíll probably begin the year in High-A but it would not be surprising to see him in Boston by September, especially if the Red Sox have not found their centerfielder of the future in Jackie Bradley or Rusney Castillo. Defensively he does not possess extra-ordinary tools but his instincts are solid enough for league average glovework. The best comp Iíve seen is Mark Kotsay but I think his average will be higher.

 

19) JP Crawford, PHI

Tools-wise, Crawford grades out as above average across the board. While none of them are considered exceptional, he does possess an extraordinary eye, which is often classified as a skill rather than a tool. I disagree with that assessment but I will concede that as a tool, it is the one that can be most improved through skill, at least for a hitter. He wonít make Phillie fans forget Jimmy Rollins Ė after all, J Rol was a borderline Hall-of-Fame player during his peak Ė but he will be a solid but unspectacular contributor across the board in fantasy categories when he reaches his peak.

 

20) Nomar Mazara, TEX

Mazara is the better hitter of the two highly regarded Rangers outfield prospects. He uses all fields and has a solid knowledge of the strikezone. His below average speed limits his defensive position but his arm is strong and accurate enough to make him an average corner outfielder. There is power potential in his bat and he has the size to be a big-time bopper but to date heís not topped .455 slugging at any level. Heís still very young for the level so thereís time and room to grow into that role.I donít predict stardom for Mazara but he should become a very solid 20+ homer, good average contributor very quickly.

 

21) Steven Matz, NYM

Matz has been the forgotten man in the Mets rotation with #1 (Harvey), #1a (DeGrom) and #1b (Syndergaard) aces getting most of the notoriety, but he is no slouch. Heís older than many of the prospects on this list and he does not possess the same kind of overpowering stuff as his rotation counterparts. However, he has three quality offerings and solid control from the left side so at least this year he will probably go in auctions for less than his performance meritsÖ unless of course you are drafting in the New York metro area.

 

22) Lewis Brinson, TEX

Although his bat is not as advanced as that of Mazaraís, Brinson might have the clearer path to playing time in the Rangers outfield as he has excellent defensive tools and instincts. Heís made remarkable strides in his decision making at the plate over the last two years as well. In 2013 he struck out nearly 200 times in less than 450 at bats; last year that number was under 100 in just under 400 ABs while advancing three levels. His power and speed grade out as above average, but basically heís a fastball hitter who has to learn to lay off breaking pitches, which limits his upside. Thereís definitely 20/20 potential but heíll probably never hit for high average or on base.

 

23) Orlando Arcia, MIL

Itís probably too much burden to put on a prospect but the player Arciaís game reminds me most of is Derek Jeter. He has the same kind of power, speed and leadership that Jeter did. Jeter made more contact and had a better eye for balls and strikes so letís not put Arcia in the Hall of Fame quite yet. With Segura gone and his only remaining obstacle being Jonathan Villar, Arcia will likely be with the Brewers for good by mid-season.

 

24) Jose DeLeon, LAD

DeLeon is the forgotten Dodger prospect, overshadowed by Seager and Urias.He has good stuff (rated 60s across the board on the scouting scale), excellent control and good pitching instincts. Because Urias is so young, the Dodgers might promote DeLeon first should they need additional help this year in the major league rotation. When he was drafted he was viewed as soft but he has since transformed his body and added velocity and more consistent mechanics. Baseball America targets him as a future #2 or #3 but if he continues to improve at the current rate they might need to upgrade that assessment.

 

25) Dansby Swanson, ATL

None of Swansonís tools are exceptional but his considerable baseball intelligence and instincts make those tools play up enough to regard him as an above average to plus player. Conversely, none of his physical abilities are below average so he is not limited in the number of ways he can help a team. Heís still new to the professional game but thereís nothing to indicate he wonít be in the mix for the starting shortstop spot when the Braves open their new stadium next year. His peak is probably something along the lines of a 15/15 #2 hitter with excellent average and on base.

 

26) Jose Berrios, MIN

Berrios gets a lot of play as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and deservedly so. Sure, there are still some things he has to work on before heís ready but it wonít take long for him to become a permanent fixture in the Twins rotation. One thing that might elevate his ERA once he reaches the majors is that he tends to pitch up in the zone. While flyballs are generally not a bad thing when you pitch half your games in Target Field, they do occasionally leave the yard. Last year he improved greatly in keeping the ball down so thereís reason for optimism that he can master that aspect of pitching as well.

 

27) Bobby Bradley, CLE

Now that Joey Gallo has debuted in the majors, the mantle of most powerful minor leaguer probably belongs to Bradley. Like Gallo thereís a lot of swing and miss in his game, and like Gallo that can be mitigated by knowing the strikezone better and taking more walks. Heís unlikely to hit for much average but his power will play. His glove is questionable, even at first base, but as long as he stays in the American League there will be a place in the line-up for him.

 

28) Brendan Rodgers, COL

Rodgers is a solid prospect at short and should still be an everyday player should he be pushed to third. Comparisons to former Rockie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki are unfair as Rodgers doesnít have nearly the same kind of power upside. The player I would more likely compare him to is Khalil Greene, but without the personal demons. If you arenít familiar with him, Greene had solid 15-20 home run power, good contact ability and a modicum of speed.

 

29) David Dahl, COL

Early in Dahlís career, there were a number of scouts who wondered who had the better tools, him or Buxton. Buxton has since quieted that debate with several stellar seasons but Dahl still brings a lot to the table. Heís missed significant time in two of the last three seasons and heís known for an aggressive style of play so injuries will always be a concern. The player I would compare Dahl to, at least tools-wise, is David Peralta in Arizona. However, his all-out play could make those tools play up.

 

30) Gleyber Torres, CHC

Torres is one of the youngest of the shortstops on this list and thus probably has the longest wait to prove that he belongs. He possesses a solid box of tools but nothing spectacular like Turnerís speed or Crawfordís ability to make contact. Heís also got a quite capable very young shortstop ahead of him on the North Side of Chicago in Addison Reed, so perhaps Torres best bet is to be part of a trade to another team. Still, his future is as a major league regular and potentially an All-Star.

 

31) AJ Reed, HOU

While his minor league numbers are exciting, Iím not buying the hype on Houston power-hitting first basemen. Jonathan Singleton was also highly regarded for many of the same reasons and two years younger than Reed at the same level. True, Reed has made more contact but that could be due to his age rather than discipline or any innate talent. While Iíd give the slight edge to Reed over Singleton, thatís not a ringing endorsement since his competition has a .171 lifetime average in the majors. Who gets first crack at first base this year could come down to whoever has the hotter spring. Even then Iíd except production more in line with what Chris Carter did Ė albeit with fewer homers Ė than the second coming of Paul Goldschmidt.

 

32) Jon Gray, COL

I still believe in Gray because he still has the premium velocity, and he showed at times last season that he still has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter. However, heíll still call Colorado his home so development might take some time and some unpleasant results to get there. However, if anyone can make a go of pitching well in Colorado, itís this guy.

 

33) Nick Williams, PHI

Part of the Cole Hamels haul, Williams should become Philadelphiaís best outfielder the moment he becomes a regular. That is both damning of the quality of Phillyís outfield but also praise for the tools Williams has. Heís pretty solid in the five scouting tools and if he refines his approach at the plate to be a little more selective has a chance to be an All-Star. Itís not hard to project a few 20/20 seasons in his future.

 

34) Lourdes Gurriel, FA

Yulieskiís much younger brother (will be 22 this season) has shown much better power, speed and plate control than his famous brother to this point in their careers, which is why some teams value the younger Gourriel even more. It is difficult to discern what kind of player heís going to become because heís had relatively little playing time in Cuba. In no season has he accumulated more than 260 plate appearances; an everyday player in that league usually gets somewhere in the neighborhood of 400.He also defected at a younger age than when other Cuban defectors started getting regular playing time so thereís no way to get a straight up comparison. My guesstimate is that he ends up being something along the lines of Alexei Ramirez.††

 

35) Delvin Perez, FA

Perez is from Puerto Rico and is often compared to another young shortstop phenom from there, Carlos Correa. Like Correa, he is tall, lanky and possesses many of the same physical tools. However, the big difference between the two is that scouts are mixed as to whether they think heíll hit. Sure, Perez is young and thereís plenty of time to grow, but the hitting thing is pretty important. For me itís a pretty big red flag if itís not clear heíll hit because everyone hits at his age. His swing uses lots of arm and thereís doesnít appear to be the kind of whip-action that accompanies power, so unless he bulks up like Giancarlo Stanton, thatís not going to be a part of his game, either. So I put him on this list because heís young enough and has the kind of physical tools to be a really good player but he needs some serious mechanical adjustments to do it.

 

36) Manuel Margot, SD

It is not your imagination that speed guys with a little bit of power seem to be coming out of the woodwork on this yearís list. Buxton is probably the most notable and Robles is the latest model, but Manuel Margot and the next guy are certainly ones to keep an eye on. In 2014, Margot was one of five players to hit at least 10 homers and steal at least 40 bases. Last year produced nearly the same numbers split between two levels. I donít believe he has the kind of swing that will generate a lot of homers once he reaches the majors, especially if he ends up playing in Petco, but the speed and excellent plate discipline will definitely play there and his defense will be a boon to the pitchers.

 

37) Bradley Zimmer, CLE

Zimmer is two years older than Margot but split his season between the same two levels last year. Offensively he brings similar tool box to the table but with a little more power and a little more swing and miss. He also draws more walks than Margot but as with any minor leaguers that might not carry to the majors. Itís never clear from the numbers whether the walk rate is due to simply passing on obvious balls or whether there is real discernment close to the strikezone.Zimmer struggled in Double A last year so Margot might actually get to the bigs quicker. However, Clevelandís outfield situation is so dreadful he might get the call anyway if he shows any signs of mastering the level. Thereís promise here but heíll likely struggle if he gets called up this year. His future should probably be a year away.

 

38) Anthony Alford, TOR

While Alfordís numbers make him look like a slender, pure speed guy (career slugging just barely over .400), heís actually built more like an NFL running back so thereís potential for a significant increase in power. Adding to the optimism that he could become a full-blown five-tool player is the fact that his strikezone judgment is excellent. The Jays outfield is pretty set this year but with both Jose Bautista and Michael Saunders free to walk at seasonís end, heíll get his opportunity very soon. Heís viewed as the centerfielder of the future but has enough arm to play right.

 

39) Willson Contreras, CHC

Does the Cubsí pipeline of talent ever end? Contreras isnít in the same class as Bryant, Russell and Schwarber but heís not far behind. And unlike Bryant and Schwarber, he gets high marks for his defense. His power upside is limited but Contreras has an excellent eye at the plate and last year really emerged with his ability to make solid contact. Heíll probably be a better real player than a fantasy player but that wonít prevent him from becoming one of the better fantasy catchers in the league once he gets acclimated.

 

40) Dillon Tate, TEX

Tate was originally drafted out of high school in 2012 when his velocity wasnít as impressive as it is now. What intrigued scouts was an exceptional slider, which he still features. Only now, his fastball sits in the mid 90s with some arm-side run. Heís working on a curve and change which have yet to develop. How that plays out will determine whether his future is in the rotation or the pen. As a reliever, he could become an elite closer or set-up man.

 

41) Alex Bregman, HOU

All Alex Bregman did at LSU was hit. He doesnít hit for a lot of power Ė mostly doubles when he does Ė nor does he steal bases very often. He does have an almost peerless eye for balls and strikes and an ability to put the fat part of the bat on the ball, and that has carried over to his first exposure to professional baseball. Comparisons to Dustin Pedroia are completely justified. However, his path to the majors is blocked by two excellent young middle infielders (Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa). It will be an interesting decision to see what they do because Bregman doesnít really have the arm to play third, nor the lateral quickness to be an above average shortstop. Will he move to first if the current group of prospects canít hack it? Or will they move him to the outfield? Heís in the same kind of netherworld when it comes to his position that Dustin Ackley was in when he was first drafted by Seattle.As long as Bregman keeps hitting though, it wonít matter. Theyíll find a place for him.

 

42) Max Kepler, MIN

With toolsy Bryon Buxton getting most of the limelight in center field for the Twins, itís easy to forget Max Kepler. None of his tools are overly exciting but he might be a better bet to succeed at the major league level. Kepler demonstrates a superb knowledge of the strikezone and there is no aspect of his game that is weak. Looking a list of statistical comps for outfielders his age yields a veritable whoís who of very good to All-Star level former players: Mark Kotsay, Johnny Damon, Curtis Granderson, Frank Catalanotto and Jeff Conine to name a few. I will throw in Michael Brantley to that mix. Heíll never be a $30 player but he might be a $15-$20 player from the get-go and remain at that level for a decade.

43) Brett Phillips, MIL

Phillips was one of the two outfield prospects included in the deal that brought Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston, the other being Domingo Santana. Phillips doesnít have the upper end power potential that Santana has but he has a better all-around game. None of his tools are loud but heís at least a solid fourth outfielder and perhaps develops into an All-Star. What he brings to the table that doesnít show up in the stat sheet is a real team first attitude, akin to that of Paul OíNeill. What that means in terms of fantasy is hard to nail down, but Iíll elaborate using the Paul OíNeill comp. In his final season, after years of being a slugging, station-to-station type team, the Yankees became a running team. After never stealing more than 20 bases in a season and quite often stealing fewer than 10, at age 38 OíNeill swiped 22 while being caught only 3 times.

 

44) Franklin Barreto, OAK

If he never does another thing in baseball Baretto will be a footnote in baseball history for being one of the players dealt by Toronto to obtain eventual MVP Josh Donaldson. Rarely does a team trade away a potential MVP candidate the year before he realizes that potential. Barreto has his own potential to measure up to although I wouldnít predict any future MVP awards for him. For a smallish player, Barreto has surprising power and a good all around skillset high-lighted by above average speed. He still needs to work on not swinging at every offering but at age 20 and slated for Double A, he has plenty of time to refine that part of his game. The power will probably never be more than average but with his speed it makes him comparable to the other shortstops on this list.††

 

45) Alex Jackson, SEA

I still like Jackson quite a bit but itís clear I was overly optimistic last year when I ranked him at #15. The Mariners clearly felt the same way I did and over-enthusiastically placed him in the Midwest League to start with, where he struggled mightily to make any contact. Six weeks later he was back in Instructional to work on things. At mid-season he was placed in the short-season league where he hit for the expected power but still couldnít recognize breaking balls very well. The physical tools Ė the bat speed, the swing path, etc - are there to develop into a plus average and plus power middle-of-the-order hitter. What remains to be seen, as with most prospects, is whether or not he has the mental skills for that development to happen.

 

46) Jesse Winker, CIN

We are still waiting for that big power breakout from Winker. Anyone who has watched his batting practice knows that the ball flies off his bat exceptionally well. Unfortunately that hasnít translated to the games. From a fantasy perspective he still has value as a guy who will get on base, as he has an excellent eye for balls and strikes. When the home run power comes, if it comes, is anyoneís guess. It might be this year; it might take until heís 29 like it did with Jose Bautista. But it will always be there tantalizing.

 

47) Kenta Maeda, LAD

Maeda is the latest Japanese import. Heís not an elite talent like Darvish or Tanaka (or Otani) but he could be a very serviceable arm in the middle of a rotation, like Hiroki Kuroda provided in LA and New York for half a dozen years. While his strikeout numbers were never spectacular in Japan, his control was excellent and he has not posted an ERA above 2.60 since 2009. Maeda is not a big guy so his workload will need to be managed his first year pitching every fifth day but he should provide a pretty solid 180 or so innings.††

 

48) Austin Meadows, PIT

His push to become a major leaguer took a detour this spring when he suffered a fractured orbital bone on an errant throw. Itís just another in what is seemingly an endless number of bad luck injuries that Meadows has persevered through. As for the player on the field, Meadows has a good tools and skillset across the board and should be a solid major league regular once he gets his chance. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh outfield is pretty well populated with very good players so it may take a trade for him to see regular playing time once heís ready.

 

49) Clint Frazier, CLE

Frazier and Meadows are often compared to each other and thereís a lively discussion as which player will end up being better. Both were drafted out of Georgia the same year and both have similar physical tools. Frazier has a little more power but is not as accomplished in the other areas. Frazier also has the advantage of being unobstructed by quality competition in the Cleveland outfield. Even though he draws his share of walks, Frazier strikes outs quite a bit for someone with only above average power. Heís still only 21 so thereís plenty of time for his game to mature but at this point it looks like Meadows will be the better player.

 

50) Phillip Ervin, CIN

After a sterling debut in the low minors, Ervin struggled to make solid contact the last two seasons. He still possesses the potent power/speed combo weíve seen in other outfield prospects on this list, and he still has a pretty discerning eye at the plate. He was a bit unlucky on balls in play so perhaps his approach is fine and itís simply the results that were skewed. Cincinnati is rebuilding and Winker is the only other notable outfield prospect the Reds have so thereís a good chance Ervin will get to show his wares at Great America soon.

 

 

Thatís all for this year. Obviously, with more than 400 players who deserve recognition there are going to be plenty who are unfairly omitted so donít take it personally if your favorite prospect didnít make this list. These are just the guys I would pick if I was starting a team in a dynasty league.