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Diamonds in the Rough: Single-A Hitting Prospects

Finding the right players to take your dynasty baseball team forward is tough. There are a million prospect lists to scour out there, all of them with a variety of pitching and hitting prospects you probably have never heard of. The issue with all these lists is someone is always left off, and that player could end up being a difference-maker.

Welcome to Diamonds in the Rough. This is a series that will attempt to identify MLB prospects that are under the radar: non-Top 30 players.

Let’s start with a few preliminary qualifications. First, there is a 50-plate appearance minimum, taking out extremely small sample sizes. Second, There is an age limit for each level as well. If a player is too old for a level, odds are they are not considered a valuable prospect by that organization. Teams make a higher investment in these players and thus have both more patience and more coaching. Third, each player has to have a specific combination. For hitters: consistent underlying power and plate discipline. For pitchers: control and run management.

This is the beginning of a breakdown for these diamonds, so let’s get to mining.

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Diamonds in the Rough: Single-A Hitting Prospects

These under-the-radar hitting prospects are headlined by the AL East and NL Central, where we see two of the most notable arms races in baseball. I am sure fans of the NL Central would chuckle at that, considering most of the teams have been under .500 in the last few years.

Single-A is a bit tougher to evaluate. Considering the lowest level of talent outside of rookie ball, utilizing statistics to pick up an unpopular player feels almost impossible. Older players are usually proven,

Jose Colmenares (NYY, 2B/3B, 21)

Colmenares was an international signing out of Venezuela who got off to a slow start to his career, putting up a sub-.700 OPS in rookie ball in 2019.  The pandemic and injuries took the following seasons. 2023 was different. There were more encouraging signs, like a well-above-average K/BB rate and home run rates. In 100 Plate Appearances, Colmenares hit seven home runs with a .974 OPS.

Colmenares will not be found on any prospects rankings lists, mainly due to his lack of playing time. He’s been in and out with injuries but certainly has the potential to rise quickly in a full season. The ability to hit the ball hard and have a good eye at the plate is a deadly combo worth taking a flyer on in deep leagues.

Peyton Williams (TOR, 1B, 23)

A sweet, compact swing with decent plate vision gives this first baseman a chance at hitting north of 20 home runs every year as he rises through the minors. Last season, he hit 14 home runs in 343 plate appearances. Additionally, nearly 40% of his hits were for extra bases. Although first basemen generally are not the standard in prospect hunting, they are also the most likely to be overlooked given their positional value. First basemen, generally, are not able to move to another position. It is hit or bust.

Williams’ home-run-to-fly ball percentage is over 19%. Despite this, he puts the ball on the ground more than we would like to see. Williams needs a little bit of optimization. He could drastically increase his output by just evening out the fly ball and ground ball numbers a little bit more. Toronto has a history of players popping up as well, like Spencer Horwitz.

Brian Kalmer (CHC, 1B, 23)

Kalmer is a hitter, make no mistake. Initially, the Arizona product started his career at his hometown ASU, playing with Gage Workman and Spencer Torkelson. That did not work out, but since then he has never posted an OPS south of .899. The first baseman currently has a career at-bat to HR ratio of 12 to one, and a strikeout percentage of less than 25%.

The downside is Kalmer is going into his second season at the age of 23, which will make or break his prospect standing given the hitting ability. If he does not succeed this season at the A+ or AA level, he will most likely lose any value the Cubs found overall. I do not anticipate that happening.

Take the chance. There are most likely not enough draft picks in your league to get to Kalmer, but if there’s a question mark on a prospect you do not know anything about, may as well burn a pick on him this season for 20+ team leagues. Might as well give the Gonzaga draftee a chance.

Alex Iadisernia (STL, OF, 23)

There is a trend here with older players that makes perfect sense with valuations. However, it is hard to ignore a player who had 18 home runs and 27 stolen bases in his first full season. Iadisernia, predominantly a center fielder in 2023, has the makings of an average center fielder who can string together quality seasons.

Iadisernia does a few things well, like hitting the ball in the air and pulling the ball most, but not all of the time. His GB/FB could be better, and he could generate a few more line drives but that’s nitpicky. For example, he averaged 40.8% fly balls, 39.9% ground balls, and 19.35% line drives.

The reason I bring this up is extrapolation: is there room to grow, or continue the success? Most likely, the home runs and stolen bases will stay.

With the above in mind, and quality plate discipline (21.05% strikeout percentage, and 11% walk rate) there may be a boom season here shortly where he puts himself on the map in a lackluster St. Louis farm system. Mike Antico and Victor Scott both sit above him and for good reason but it is not unreasonable to see a potential third outfield grade on Iadisernia.

Ranking These Prospects

  1. Alex Iadisernia
  2. Brian Kalmer
  3. Jose Colmenares
  4. Peyton Williams

My rationale in ranking these prospects is mostly about sustained success and positional ability. Iadisernia is playing consistently in Center, which is more valuable than the two first basemen. Ideally, Colmenares would be higher on this list but he does not have the same hitting ability as Kalmer at present.

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