Dynasty Dugout: Infield Breakout Prospects
Acuna, Guerrero, Jimenez, Senzel.
These are the names we all know. They’re the shiny new toys in the front window of the toy store. The toys people get into fights over on Black Friday and fantasy baseball drafts alike. These elite prospects make up the cores of our dynasty squads, but they are far from the only reason why a championship-caliber dynasty team is built.
In addition to these blue-chippers, filling out your dynasty roster with under-the-radar prospects can also pay big dividends in the end. There are the guys that haven’t quite broken out yet or played to their full potential. At this time two years ago, Acuna wasn’t even considered a top-100 prospect. It’s not because he didn’t have the tools needed to become one, but rather that he was still relatively unproven as a professional ballplayer. Now look at him. Fantasy owners would gladly donate a limb to get this guy on their team.
I’m not saying the below six-pack of prospects will turn out to be the next Acuna. Or am I? No, I’m not, but each has high offensive upside and should be shooting up prospect lists in the very near future. Grab ’em now and reap the rewards later.
Organization ranks are from my Top-10 team by team prospect rankings.
Freudis Nova (SS – HOU)
Org Rank: 5th, Level: RK, ETA: 2022
You know a kid is talented when he’s drawing comparisons to a young Hanley Ramirez before he even stepped foot on a minor league diamond. Say what you want about Hanley lately, but in his early years, he was a fantasy juggernaut. Is it fair to put that type of comparison on Nova? Probably not. But if we’re talking strictly about best-case upside, Nova could end up being a special talent.
Nova had an up-and-down professional debut in Rookie ball last season, but he did show glimpses of tantalizing upside. In 166 at-bats, Nova had four home runs and eight steals with a 7.9 BB% and 17.4 K%. That’s a solid debut for a 17-year-old in his first exposure to U.S. professional ball. You can immediately see his power/speed upside with the 15/30 pace he was on, and there’s more where that came from. Many scouts have his hit tool, raw power, and speed all graded as above average or plus, especially his speed, which is his greatest offensive asset.
Nova is still several years away from the Major leagues, and not to mention, thoroughly blocked in the Astros infield. However, has the type of upside worth gambling on in dynasty formats. This is likely the lowest we’ll see his value, so get in on Nova while the getting is good.
Yasel Antuna (SS/3B – WAS)
Org Rank: 5th, Level: A, ETA: 2021
The Nationals could potentially have a good problem on their hands in a few years. Not only do they have Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner in the left side of the infield, they have a decent duo of Carter Kieboom and Yasel Antuna coming up through the ranks, as well. Like Nova above, Antuna is many years away from being a fantasy contributor, but he is already giving us a sneak peek at what could be ahead for the talented Dominican native.
First and foremost, Antuna has an approach at the plate well beyond his years. In 199 at-bats, he registered an 11.6 BB% and 14.6 K% while posting a .382 OBP. Did I mention he was only 17 last season? Cause he was. On top of the approach, Antuna consistently barrels up and drives the ball to all fields with a quick swing through the zone. He’s not hitting for much power at the moment, but Antuna has a swing built for more power as he matures and fills out physically. In his prime, he should settle into 15-20 homer pop with a tad more speed to go along with it.
While Antuna’s defensive home is still up in the air, there’s no question that his offensive profile will play well at either short or third. Keep an eye out for his current Hagerstown teammate, Luis Garcia, as well. Garcia, who is a little over half a year younger than Antuna, possesses an above-average hit tool and plus-plus speed.
Shed Long (2B – CIN)
Org Rank: 7th, Level: AA, ETA: 2019
Long isn’t necessarily a sleeper prospect, but he is one that appears on the cusp of breaking out in a big way. Drafted as a catcher, Long shifted to second base in 2015, where his thunderous bat should allow him to become an offensive force. Long has averaged 20 home runs and 18 steals per every 600-minor league at-bats, and while that might be his speed ceiling, there’s more power potential in that bat.
Don’t let his 5-foot-8 frame fool you, either. Long generates hard contact and easy power to all fields with a lightning-quick swing that generates good loft. He has legit 30 home run power to go along with those 15-20 steals, and his hit tool has developed nicely as he’s progressed through the Reds farm system. Don’t expect any batting titles in his future, but an average in the .275 range is certainly attainable. Scoop Long up now, as his price won’t be this low in dynasty leagues for very long. Darn, I told myself I wouldn’t use that line. Joking aside, Long is an offensively gifted second baseman with top-10 upside at the position, though it might take a position/organization change with Senzel sliding over to second this season.
Garrett Hampson (2B/SS – COL)
Org Rank: 5th, Level: AA, ETA: 2019
The Colorado organization has a long track record of pumping out high-upside hitting prospects. Most of whom contribute handsomely in the power department, but not so much on the base paths. Sure, you have your 20+ steal threats like David Dahl and Charlie Blackmon, but none have been considered plus speedsters. That’s soon to change.
Garrett Hampson is exactly what you would consider a plus speedster. Across 789 at-bats in 2016-17, Hampson swiped 87 bases while being caught only 18 times. That’s an 82.9% success rate. On top of that, Hampson has a good approach at the plate, can work the count well, and doesn’t strike out that often. He struck out only 77 times in 603 plate appearances last season at High Class-A Lancaster, good for a 12.8 K%.
Hampson won’t factor into the picture this season, but a debut in 2019 seems likely if the Rockies can make a spot for him. His plus hit tool and speed should allow him to be a valuable fantasy asset if he can get the at-bats. I’ll be attending the Hartford/New Hampshire game on Saturday, and he’s one I’ll be keeping an eye on.
Bobby Dalbec (3B – BOS)
Org Rank: 4th, Level: A+, ETA: 2020
Every conversation about Bobby Dalbec needs to start with his immense raw power, which is the best in the entire Boston system. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound third baseman slugged 20 home runs and 29 doubles in his first 443 minor league at-bats in 2016/2017 and already has a dinger through his first two games at High Class-A Salem.
The power will never be questioned. That’s for sure. But what will be questioned is his hit tool and overall approach at the plate. Dalbec has whiffed in 32.7% of his minor league at-bats, including a whopping 37.4% of his at-bats last season in Single-A Greenville. That’s getting damn close to Gallo-ian levels. It also doesn’t help that he struck out in five of his first eight at-bats at High Class-A Salem this season.
Dalbec has been able to keep his batting average respectable thanks to an insanely high BABIP at every level he’s played at so far. Call me Captain Obvious, but maintaining a BABIP of .383 or higher is nearly impossible. If Dalbec can refine his approach and cut down on the strikeouts, he has the power to become a fantasy asset at the hot corner. However, that might not happen in Beantown, as the Red Sox have Rafael Devers entrenched at third long-term.
Jacob Gonzalez (3B – SF)
Org Rank: 4th, Level: A, ETA: 2020
Is everyone a second-generation prodigy these days? Some might say I have a soft spot for Jacob Gonzalez since his father had the game-winning hit to beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series. And not many things give me more joy than seeing the Yankees lose. It seems that Pop passed down some good baseball genes to his son, Jacob, who is a pretty darn good hitter in his own right.
The Giants used a second-round pick on Gonzalez last June and have to be happy with the early returns. Gonzalez got in 168 at-bats in Rookie ball before the end of the season and slashed .339/.418/.458/.876 with 15 doubles, one home run, and a 16/23 BB/K ratio. Now, some might see the one homer and goose egg in the stolen base department and look the other way. Those who do so would be fools.
Yes, he’ll likely never get out of the single-digits in steals, but Gonzalez has much more power potential than he showed in his professional debut. He was actually considered one of the top prep power bats in the 2017 draft class, but he focused on his approach and contact skills during Rookie ball last season. That is exactly what a currently top-25 fantasy asset did in his first taste of professional baseball. Which one, you ask? That’d be the unanimous 2017 National League Rookie of the Year, Cody Bellinger.
Put the pitchforks away; I’m not saying Gonzalez is the second coming of Bellinger. I’m just showing that adjustments can be made to improve contact and then again to regain the power stroke. Gonzalez has the makings of a 30/100 middle-of-the-order hitter. The time is now to get on board in dynasty formats.
Thank you for reading another edition of Dynasty Dugout here on Fantrax. I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question that I didn’t cover here? Follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there.