It’s March Madness folks, which means it’s time to think about…baseball prospects!
Specifically, we’re looking for the prospects who have the most value in dynasty leagues and we’re going to cut straight to the Sweet 16.
They are seeded according to 4 “fantasy tools”, meaning their potential in hitting home runs, stealing bases, hitting tool, or ace potential. Without further adieu, our prospects in the dance:
Miguel Sano (Minnesota Twins) versus Wil Myers (Tampa Bay Rays)
Wil Myers got a lot attention as a result of the James Shields trade. Myers – the 2012 Minor League Player of the year – had fantasy owners giddy with his 30+ home run potential. While the Rays are starting him off in the minors, it won’t be long before he’s raking in the bigs and drawing Jay Bruce comparisons with a higher upside, particularly with average.
But Myers got the attention only because folks have yet to wrap their arms around Miguel Sano, not that they could wrap their arms around the 6’3″ 210 beast of a 19-year-old. Sano grades out as a true 80 on the 20-80 scout’s scale, which truly puts his power (described as “light tower” or “Godfather”) in rarified territory. He’s still a couple years away and there are concerns about him sticking at 3B, but he’ll draw Giancarlo Stanton comparisons when he does make it to the show.
While it was tempting to go with Myers because he’ll make a splash this season, Sano’s power is worth waiting on in dynasty leagues. Sano advances.
Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox) versus Carlos Correa (Houston Astros)
Xander Bogaerts (Boston Red Sox) has a chance to stick at shortstop and hit .280+ with 30+ homers. That’s Troy Tulowitzki territory. He has some warts like his plate discipline and defense, although the matter doesn’t matter much in fantasy as long as he starts at shortstop to establish his eligibility there.
I’m a sucker for what could be and Carlos Correa absolutely oozes potential, which is what made him the #1 overall pick last year. He could be a Alex Rodriguez in his youth or Hanley Ramirez in his prime. Unfortunately, he’s just 17 and there are a lot of developmental hurdles to get over before then.
While hard to pass on Correa’s potential, there are no guarantees and Bogaerts is closer to the Show. Bogaerts advances.
Billy Hamilton (Cincinnati Reds) versus Christian Yelich (Miami Marlins)
I’ve written about Billy Hamilton before, specifically a thought experiment of his value as a pinch runner only. Just as Sano grades an 80 on power, Hamilton is a true 80 on the speed scale and the the minor league record for most steals in a season. At worst, he’ll hit well enough in the Majors and his speed will single handedly win fantasy owners the stolen base category. He could dwarf the career of Kenny Lofton.
Christian Yelich should actually be a fine all around hitter, potentially hitting 18-22 homers while competing for batting titles. But he won’t dominate a single category like Hamilton will and I’m dinging him a point because I’m skeptical about the future of any Miami Marlins lineup. A Shane Victorino comparison seems to be unfair to Yelich, who flashes much more upside.
Yelich will be a fine all around performer and a potential $25 fantasy earner, but this one isn’t even close. Hamilton has 100+ stolen base potential in the majors. Hamilton advances, then steals third.
Byron Buxton (Minnesota Twins) versus Delino DeShields, Jr. (Houston Astros)
Byron Buxton is the 19-year-old from Georgia, who went second overall, while many thought he should’ve gone first. He has elite speed, but he’ll develop into a fine overall player and ultimately one of the best fantasy players in the game. But the risk is extreme as he has a long, long way to go, but he could be the player Justin Upton or Jason Heyward could be in their primes.
Even though Delino DeShields, Jr. stole 100 bases, he is hidden in Hamilton’s shadow. He has the defensive chops to stick in the middle infield and will even have 10 home run pop, but there is still a little work to do in his game, but he could have a career that matches his father.
I think Dynasty League owners will be rewarded with a potential top-3 second baseman in DeShields, granted they are willing to wait a couple more years. But if you are going to wait that long, you may as well wait another year on Buxton, who could become a top 10 overall player. Buxton advances.
Oscar Tavares (St. Louis Cardinals) versus Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers)
Oscar Taveras has the swing of man. It’s a masculine man’s swing that borders on the violent. So how does did he maintain a measly 10.5% strikeout rate? It was his freakish bat control that allows him to take monster hacks while still barreling every ball. He’ll be a future batting champ, a future home run champ, and quite possibly the future major of St. Louis because he’ll be a popular man in that town for years to come. He’s got a Bryce Harper swing with Vlad Guerrero bat control.
Jurickson Profar has as high a floor as any of these 16 guys. He’s going to be great, the only question is when he’ll get his opportunity. He’ll stick at a premium middle infield position which is great for fantasy owners, and while he might not immediately be the 20/20 guy all know he’ll be, he’ll still give fantasy value at age 20. He could have seasons that match the best from Derek Jeter.
In the closest matchup yet, we have two guys who should be solid fantasy contributors for years to come. While it was hard to pass up the middle infield eligibility of Profar, Tavares is coming off a Triple A line of .321 / .380 / .572 with 270 total bases. Tavares advances in a nail-biter.
Jorge Soler (Chicago Cubs) versus Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs)
There has been a lack of at bats with Jorge Soler, which means there are lots of questions marks before he reaches the Majors. But nearly everyone is giddy about his upside and potential to help in all 5 fantasy categories. If he takes the next step, he could be a $35, top 5 fantasy player in 2015, or he could falter under higher level pitching and drop right out of this bracket. Patient dynasty owners could be rewarded with Yoenis Cespedes type production.
I intentionally matched Cubbie versus Cubbie by putting Javier Baez in this spot. While Soler will be manning the outfield, Baez is a shortstop with tons of upside who could also contribute in all 5 fantasy categories. He’s a lighting bolt with wicked bat speed. The only problem is that he swings at everything. Everyone Cubs fan is looking for the next Ernie Banks. You don’t want to put that pressure on a young prospect, but he’s got All-Star potential.
Both of these guys have work to do and will be stashed in Dynasty Leagues for a couple more seasons. While I think that both ultimate become strong fantasy contributors across the board, Baez has shown signs of refining his approach which could make him a top 5 fantasy pick for years to come. Baez advances.
Gerrit Cole (Pittsburg Pirates) versus Dylan Bundy (Baltimore Orioles)
Gerritt Cole has outstanding stuff and there isn’t much out standing that will prevent him from showing it off soon in the Majors. He has a fastball that can touch triple digits, a plus changeup, and a knockout slider, three pitches that will allow him to dominate. He has Clayton Kershaw upside.
I’ve already drafted Dylan Bundy in one of my Dynasty Leagues and his owners will get a chance to see what he can do later this season. He’s wisely considered the best pitching prospect in the game today and should stick in the Majors at age 20 due to his 5 pitch arsenal. He’s certain to be a solid pitc her for years, maybe even surpassing the career of Roy Oswalt.
While Bundy’s stuff has played better and shown to be more proven, I’m a sucker for National League pitchers. In an upset, Cole advances.
Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins) versus Taijuan Walker (Seattle Mariners)
Jose Fernandez isn’t the most well known on this list, but he has had eye popping numbers in the low minors as just a teenager. He has mid-90′s heat with a sweet looking curve. He’s a big, think-bodied kid that could turn into a #1 workhorse, which brings up the inevitable CC Sabathia comparisons.
Taijuan Walker pitched at Double A against hitters much older than him, which gave him the label of a gamer. He’s also a fantastic athlete and hits mid-90′s with ease. His curveball and cutter aren’t polished and that raises the risk level and insures he probably won’t be seen until 2014. But he’s got incredible upside, works hard, and has been likened to Dwight Gooden.
While it’s close and Fernandez’s workhorse potential gives him a boost, it’s to hard to pass on the potential of Walker. Stash him in Dynasty Leagues for 3 more seasons and you may be holding one of the top 3 pitchers in baseball. Walker advances.
8 Elite Prospects
This is a good intermission to give two quick disclaimers.
- Prospects bust. All. The. Time. Careful when hanging the fate of your fantasy baseball season on a highly-heralded, but unproven prospect.
- The word ‘dynasty’ has been used 127 times in the post, but just to be clear: the bulk of these guys won’t see Major League time in 2013.
Now, let’s narrow the field to 4. We’re left with Miguel Sano versus Xander Bogaerts in the power division. While Bogaerts is more liekly to stick at a premium position, this one isn’t even close. Sano has true 80 power and could have multiple 40+ homer seasons for the Twins.
Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton advance in the speed division. While Buxton could have a better overall game, Hamilton could have multiple 100+ steal seasons in the majors. Billy Hamilton runs past Buxton and joins Miguel Sano in the final four.
In the division for overall hit tool it’s Oscar Taveras versus Javier Baez. Baez should have a fine career, but Taveras is much closer to The Show and will provide years of jaw-dropping at bats. I’m a believer and Taveras moves on easily.
Finally, it’s Gerrit Cole vs. Taijuan Walker, pitted head-to-head. While all 4 pitchers should have fine careers, Gerritt Cole continues his Cinderella season and advances, joining Oscar Taveras in the final four.
Miguel Sano versus Billy Hamilton presents an interesting matchup, power versus speed. But Hamilton will be MLB ready in 2013, while Sano stills needs to cut down on the strikeouts and is a couple years away. Hamilton “runs away” with the win.
The Gerritt Cole vs. Oscar Taveras matchup is a blowout as well. If given the choice between a fantastic pitching prospect and a fantastic hitting prospect, go with hitting 9 out of 10 times.
Billy Hamilton is matched against Oscar Taveras for the crown as the number one Dynasty League prospect. In a shocker, Billy Hamilton is left celebrating in the dugout after stealing home. While Tavares will absolutely be a star and a fun player to watch, Hamilton will be the one putting on a show. He’s electric and has the potential to obliterate a single category in fantasy baseball. Mike Trout, Everth Cabrera and Rajai Davis were tops in base stealing, combining for 139 steals. Billy Hamilton alone ran right past that.
His potential to lock down a category for fantasy owners makes him the champ of our March Madness dynasty prospect challenge.