These aren’t going to be a lot of the names you’re familiar with on top-100 lists. At least, not yet anyway. Each man below wasn’t a highly-regarded prospect entering the 2018 season, but their performances are getting their names firmly on the map as prospects on the rise. Now, they weren’t totally ignored before the season. I mean, the first name on this list is a second-generation hitter that plays on the same team as two current top-20 prospects. But they weren’t elite names that were highly sought after in dynasty leagues. That’s all changing now just two months into the minor league season. Getting some dynasty stock of these six names below is highly recommended. So, what are you waiting for?
Hitting Prospects on the Rise
Cavan Biggio (2B – TOR)
What if I told you that Vladimir Guerrero Jr, punisher of baseballs and the undisputed heavyweight prospect champion of the universe, doesn’t even lead his own Double-A team in home runs? That honor goes to Craig Biggio’s son, Cavan. Yes, another second-generation hitting star in the Blue Jays system. What a shock.
When it comes to Toronto prospects, Biggio didn’t get a whole lot of love coming into the season. MLB ranked him 19th in the Toronto system, and Biggio didn’t even crack the top-30 for Baseball America. Yours truly didn’t even have him in my top-10. I know, shame on me. In my defense, his career minor league OPS coming into the season was .710.
After hitting 11 home runs last season, Blue Jays Double-A 2B Cavan Biggio today hit his 12th home run of 2018. Up to .313/.429/.732, fifth in the minors in OPS. ⬆️⬆️ pic.twitter.com/XcyVESwvFg
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) May 16, 2018
It’s looking like Cavan is going to have more pop than his old man. Through 151 at-bats this season, Craig’s kid has 12 home runs (two more than Vlad), 11 doubles, 40 RBI, and ranks 4th in the Eastern League in total bases. That modest slash line of his past is now a robust .311/.431/.662/1.093. Biggio has always been able to get on base, but he is now providing plenty of production in the categories fantasy owners care about most. He’s even added seven steals just for kicks and giggles and raised an already strong walk rate from 13.3% to 17.0%.
Without any major roadblocks at the Major League level, Biggio should continue to move rather quickly with a debut by early 2019 very likely.
Kevin Smith (3B – TOR)
If the Blue Jays are an offensive juggernaut within the next few seasons, I’m going to be incredibly disappointed. In addition to the stud Toronto prospects you know and love, Kevin Smith is making some serious noise in Single-A. In 183 at-bats, Smith is slashing .355/.407/.639/1.046 with seven homers, 44 RBI, 36 runs, 12 stolen bases, and a whopping 23 doubles. He’s currently amongst the Midwest League’s top-5 in average (1st), runs (3rd), hits (1st), RBI (1st), doubles (1st by a freaking mile), total bases (1st), slugging (1st), and OPS (1st). Excuse me while I catch my breath.
Another aspect to get excited about is his much-improved plate discipline. He wasn’t Joey Gallo or Lewis Brinson bad or anything, but his improved plate discipline makes his lofty slash line look less like an anomaly. Smith has improved his strikeout rate from 24.7% to 16.2% and his walk rate from 5.7% to 8.3%.
Smith has always had this type of extra-base power in him. He has a quick swing through the zone with a slight uppercut that generates solid loft. More doubles have come from this than home runs, but expect more to start clearing the fence as he matures and develops as a hitter. Don’t sleep on Smith due to the bigger names in this system. This kid is for real, folks.
Oscar Mercado (OF – STL)
While a lot of the attention for St. Louis hitting prospects has been on Tyler O’Neill, one of his teammates has quietly been putting together a season worthy of more attention. Oscar Mercado is his name; get used to it. Yes, he’s another Cardinals outfield prospect, which isn’t ideal. It’s been like pulling teeth trying to find a spot for Tyler O’Neill this season. But we can’t get too caught up in prospects not having a clear path to Major League playing time when deciding on how to value them in dynasty leagues. Injuries and/or trades are always right around the corner.
Now, back to Mercado. He current ranks 12th in average (.331), 7th in runs (35), 5th in steals (11), 14th in total bases (85), and 4th in hits (59). On top of all that statistical goodness, Mercado has also made improvements in his approach at the plate. His strikeout rate has dropped from 21.4% in 2017 to 13.3% this season, while his walk rate has risen from 6.1% to 7.7%.
Mercado is proving that he’s more than just a speed-only player. With the improvements he’s made over the last couple seasons, Mercado now has the makings of a top-of-the-order hitter with plus speed and decent on-base skills. His prospect arrow is trending up.
Pitching Prospects on the Rise
Jalen Beeks (SP – BOS)
A left-hander in the Red Sox system is making a lot of noise this season. No, it’s not Jay Groome. The only noise coming from him this season is his destroyed pitching elbow. No, I’m talking about Jalen Beeks, a man that entered the season absent from any Red Sox top-10 prospects list. Now that’s not to say his prospect star was dull, as Beeks was ranked 14th by MLB and 11th by Baseball America. If those lists were re-done today, Beeks would easily be top-5 and likely in the top three along with Groome and Michael Chavis.
Beeks doesn’t have what you would call a dominant arsenal, but he still leads all of Triple-A in strikeouts with 73 through his first nine starts. That’s five more than Michael Kopech in one fewer start. Now, Beeks is no Kopech. However, he is a player to target in dynasty leagues while his price is still reasonable.
You can attest his rise up prospect rankings to two improvements in his game. Firstly, he’s simplified his delivery. What used to have some “herky-jerk” in his arm motion is now clean and much more fluid to the plate.
Jalen Beeks' delivery pic.twitter.com/gtiJiZfX6s
— Evan Drellich (@EvanDrellich) February 18, 2018
Beyond that, Beeks has been relying more heavily on a cutter which has been a major asset for him. He started developing the pitch prior to the 2017 season and studied the likes of David Price and Jon Lester to see how they used their infamous cutters. Those are two damn good pitchers to model your cutter after, if you ask me.
Beeks is knocking on the doorstep of a Major League debut. And with the back-end of the Red Sox rotation struggling, that knocking is getting louder and louder.
Chris Paddack (SP – SF)
If you a stat-head, you’re really going to love Chris Paddack. The 22-year-old right-hander is currently annihilating Single-A hitters to the tune of a 1.01 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 0.7 BB/9, and 14.5 K/9 through his first five starts of the season. Not only are these his first five starts of the season, these are his first five starts back from Tommy John surgery. That’s pretty damn impressive right there.
This level of production isn’t new for Paddack, either. He was just as dominant before the injury. Just take a quick look at his numbers below courtesy of Baseball Reference.
See? Dominant numbers as far as the eye can see. A lot of people foolishly pushed him to the back burner on the prospect stove once he went under the knife. Big mistake. Paddack features a low-90s fastball with strong arm side run that he can rev up to 95-96 and pairs that with a downright filthy change-up in the low to mid-80with two-plane fade. Those two pitches alone will get him to the Major Leagues. What will determine if he’s a mid to back-end rotation starter or someone that is a #1 or #2 in a rotation is the development of his curveball, which has shown improvement, but is still a work in progress.
The time is now to buy dynasty stock in Chris Paddack. As demonstrated above, the numbers are there and the value is sure to skyrocket soon.
Enyel De Los Santos (SP – PHI)
With the help of a quick Google translation, I now know that “De Los Santos” means “of the saints.” Here I was thinking it meant “dominator of hitters” or something along those lines. That would certainly be more fitting with how well De Los Santos is pitching this season. The 22-year-old Dominican right-hander was only the 12th ranked prospect in Philadelphia’s system, according to MLB, and Baseball America had him 18th in the San Diego system before his mid-December trade to Philadelphia in the Freddy Galvis deal. It’s safe to say he’s going to be moving firmly into the Phillies’ top-10 at mid-season rankings updates.
On the season, De Los Santos has posted a 1.40 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.5 BB/9, and 9.8 K/9 through his first nine starts of the season. He featured a mid-90s fastball and plus change-up, both of which are capable of getting Major League hitters out right now. His curveball lags behind those two pitches but has flashed plus at times, albeit very sparingly, and should be at least an average offering for him going forward.
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