Dynasty Dugout: Prospect Trends for Dynasty Fantasy Baseball Leagues
After around five months and thousands of games, the minor league season has come to an end. That sound you hear is me booing from my kitchen table as I write this. But even though the minor league regular season might have concluded, a dynasty owner’s work is never done. That’s the beauty of dynasty leagues, it’s a year-round thing. Wait until next February to get back in the swing of things and you’ll be 3-4 months behind your league-mates. That’s where this article comes in. Getting ahead of prospect trends is always a major component of being a successful dynasty manager, especially in this day and age. With so many trending prospects right now, let’s break it up and focus on just infielders today.
Infield Prospect Trends
Trending Up: Daulton Varsho (ARI)
I’m a big fan of Daulton Varsho. He’s a catcher that can hit for average, has some pop, and can chip in with double-digit steals. What’s not to like? Any way you slice and dice Varsho’s numbers they’re impressive. In 316 at-bats this season, he’s slashed .294/.367/.475/.842 with 13 doubles, 12 home runs, and 19 steals in 22 attempts. Varsho uses a short, compact swing with quick wrists to generate plus bat speed and can make hard contact to all fields. He’ll never be a big masher, but with his raw power, 20-25 home runs should be expected. Even if he’s forced out from behind the plate, his offensive potential will play well anywhere.
Trending Down: None
First Base Prospects
Trending Up: Nathaniel Lowe (TB)
Peter Alonso is the obvious choice here with his minor league-leading home run (tied) and RBI totals, so let’s go another direction with Nathaniel Lowe. In a stacked Rays farm system, Lowe quietly had an exceptional season. In at-bats across three levels, Lowe slashed .330/.416/.568/.985 with 32 doubles, 27 home runs 102 RBI, and 93 runs scored. Everything in that last sentence was a career high by a mile. On top of that, Lowe dropped his strikeout rate from 22.4% to a very solid 16.2%.
— The Southern League (@SLeagueBaseball) July 19, 2018
Despite his imposing frame, Lowe doesn’t have huge power but should settle in as a 30-home run threat that also is a strong contributor in AVG and OBP as well. He should be up with the Rays early next season.
The two things I can’t stand the most about fantasy first basemen are ones that have good power, but a putrid batting average, and those that have no power at all. That’s exactly what we have here with Bobby Bradley and Pavin Smith. Bradley was trending up in preseason prospect rankings after three straight seasons of more than 23 home runs, 89 RBI, and a .251 average. We knew the batting average would never be anything special, but we can usually stomach a .250 average if it comes with 35-40 home runs annually. Well, that .250-ish average dropped to .224 this season with Bradley’s strikeout rate rising 4.1%. The plus raw power here is very evident, but the hit tool needs some work if he wants to keep his average away from the Mendoza line.
On the flip side, we have Pavin Smith. A man with minimal power. He did have 11 home runs this season after a big fat goose egg in 2017, but this is not a man with a swing geared for home runs. Smith is more of a line-drive, gap hitter right now with the profile of a 15-20 home run hitter at best. Twenty might be a little generous, too. His plus bat-to-ball skills and exceptional plate discipline will be valuable, but the minimal power caps his overall potential. It’s best to look elsewhere for your dynasty first baseman.
Second Base Prospects
This pair of second basemen are trending up for different reasons. First, we have Garrett Hampson and his stellar combination of hit tool and speed. In each of the last three seasons, Hampson has recorded at least 36 stolen bases and a .301 batting average. Even more impressively is that his 36 steals in 2016 came in just 68 games. The power will likely never progress to more than 10-15 home runs a year, even playing in Coors Field, but Hampson just continues to prove that he’s a fantasy dynamo waiting to happen due to his speed and batting average potential.
Then we have a player with a very different skill set in second-generation star, Cavan Biggio in the Toronto Blue Jays system. I saw a ton of New Hampshire Fisher Cats games this season, the Double-A affiliate for Toronto, and one of the constant things I saw was Biggio making hard contact. Biggio finished the season with 23 doubles, 26 home runs, 99 RBI, and even 20 steals to boot. Unlike Hampson, Biggio will likely never hit for a high batting average, but the power will be a major asset at second base. Those in OBP leagues should covet Biggio even more due to his high walk rate (17.7%) and .380-plus upside in OBP.
Another prospect on the rise is Esteury Ruiz out in San Deigo. He doesn’t quite have the batting average upside that Hampson possesses, but the speed is elite.
Trending Down: Isan Diaz (MIA)
This was Isan Diaz’s first taste of the upper minors and all he managed to do was leave a bad taste in the mouths of his dynasty league owners. And frankly, I’m not sure why anyone would have a good taste in their mouths when it comes to Diaz. Sure, he has the ability to pump out some 15/15 seasons, but the hit tool needs major work. Outside of a ridiculous .360 average in Rookie ball back in 2015, Diaz’s averages have been puke-worthy. If you took that Rookie Ball average out, his career batting average would be .235. Diaz simply doesn’t have enough power or speed upside to provide much fantasy value when you factor in the poor batting average.
Third Base Prospects
I’ll spare you more Nolan Gorman rants… for now (insert evil laugh here). He’s certainly on the rise, but I wanted to focus on two other third basemen that really caught my eye this season. First, is Red Sox farmhand, Bobby Dalbec. I got to scout Dalbec live after he was promoted to Double-A Portland late this season and his 65-grade raw power was very evident. This is a very strong man.
He wasted no time showcasing that power in Portland, blasting a 451-foot blast shortly after getting promoted to the level. In the end, his 32 home runs and 109 RBI both ranked in the top-5 of all minor league hitters this season. There’s some swing and miss to his game, but he makes enough contact to hit .250 or better in the Majors to go along with that 35-40 home run power. Expect him up in Boston later next season.
Though not as powerful as Dalbec, Jones is developing into a solid all-around hitter. For his career, Jones has put up a .289/.410/.452/.862 slash line with 44 doubles, 23 home runs, and a solid 16.9% walk rate in 754 at-bats. With some added loft to his swing, some of those doubles are going to start clearing the fence and turn into 25-30 home run pop to go along with his strong batting average and on-base percentage.
Trending Down: None
Trending Up: Andres Gimenez (NYM) and Jasrado Chisholm (ARI)
That quartet of elite shortstop prospects is no longer a quartet after Kieboom and Franco joined the cool kids club this season, but those are two guys I’ve rambled on about plenty this season. Instead, let’s focus on Andres Gimenez of the Mets and Jasrado Chisolm of the Diamondbacks. As you can see below, Gimenez had quite the season for himself, racking up 40 extra-base hits and 38 steals while hitting .281. However, due to the Peter Alonso explosion, this fine season flew under the radar.
In the past 10 years, 91 MiLB players have managed 500 PA, 40 XBH and 35 SB.
11 of them were under the age of 20 (Trout, Buxton, Acuña, Trammell, etc)
— Connor Kurcon (@ckurcon) September 4, 2018
When you watch Gimenez play, his plus speed and hit tool are very apparent. The power isn’t there right now and likely will never develop past 10-12 home runs annually, but that’s not why you want Gimenez on your dynasty squad. Gimenez has top of the order hitter written all over him with .300/30 upside in AVG and SB. Don’t sleep on him with all the elite names at this position in the minors. He’s right there below them.
Coming into the 2018 season, the name Chisholm wasn’t a name you heard in prospect discussions. After all, he hadn’t shown much offensively to date and missed most of the 2017 season with a torn meniscus in his knee. Chisholm started the season with Kane County in the Midwest League and earned a midseason promotion to Visalia in the High-A California League.
The power was there all season, but it was after his promotion to Visalia that Chisholm really took off. In 149 at-bats at the level, Chisholm slashed .329/.369/.597/.966 with 10 home runs and 9 stolen bases. It wasn’t all rainbows out in the California League for him though as both his walk rate and strikeout rate regressed. There’s plenty of upside here in the 20-year-old Bahamian (That doesn’t look right, but Google confirmed it), but still, a lot of work to be done if he wants to continue to hit for a decent batting average. The time is now to grab some Chisholm stock in dynasty.
Trending Down: Nick Gordon (MIN)
Another name I pondered here was Kevin Maitan of the Angels, but I refuse to label an 18-year-old as “trending down”. Instead, I’ll give that label to a soon to be 23-year-old prospect that has spent five years in the minors and hasn’t shown jack squat for offensive potential. Everything about Gordon can be described as “blah” or mediocre.
His best tool is his speed but even that has regressed over the past two seasons due to his inability to get good reads on pitchers. So now instead of expecting 25-30 steals annually from Gordon, we’ve sunken to the 15-20 level. Outside of that, his hit tool is average at best and he’ll likely never be more than an 8-10 home run threat. I want nothing to do with Gordon in dynasty formats unless the price is dirt cheap.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB writer and prospect analyst here on FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. He is also a member of the FSWA. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.