Dynasty Fantasy Baseball: Buy-Low Infield MLB Prospects
Two of the best words to hear in fantasy baseball are “buy” and “low”. Together, they sing a beautiful duet in perfect harmony, giving hope of greener pastures on the horizon. What, you wanted me to say they go together like peanut butter and jelly? That saying has only been used 3.6 billion times. Buy-low is an even more potent duo in dynasty leagues where you can add prospects into the fray as well. That’s where our focus is today. The below nine infield MLB prospects experienced down 2019 seasons for one reason or another. But should you run away from them? As Randy Jackson used to say, “That’s gonna be a no from me dawg.”
Exactly the opposite actually. These nine infield prospects make for great buy-low targets in dynasty leagues while their value is below their upside. So, do yourself a favor and swoop in with some buy-low offers while you can.
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MLB Prospects to Buy-Low on in Dynasty Leagues
Nolan Gorman, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Alright, I’ll admit this is partially my fault. Nobody pumped up Nolan Gorman more than me, including his own family. Before the season, I ranked the slugging third baseman 16th overall in my top-250 and then 10th in my midseason update. Reasons for those lofty rankings were the elite raw power and run-producing upside along with a hit tool I saw as better than most. After his rookie season where he hit .291 with 17 homers in 63 games, it was hard to not be excited. Granted, that .291 average was a mixed bag when you see that he hit .350 in 38 Appalachian League games (RK) and then .202 in 25 games after his promotion to the Single-A Midwest League.
— Derrick S. Goold (@dgoold) June 11, 2018
That Midwest League showing, which included a disgusting 36.4% strikeout rate, did cause me and many others to wonder how Gorman would handle full-season ball this season. Looking back, it was an okay/uninspiring season for Mr. Gorman with a .248 average and 15 home runs. And once again, he struggled after a midseason promotion to the Class-A Advanced Florida State League. Gorman cut his strikeout rate to 28.0% in the Midwest League only to see it jump back up over 30% to 31.7% in the Florida State League along with a regression in his walk rate. However, at season’s end, his 29.9% strikeout rate was an improved mark over how he ended 2018. Slight silver lining there.
Following this slightly disappointing 2019 campaign, the time is now to sneak a buy-low offer into the Nolan Gorman owner in your league. The elite raw power is still there with Gorman ranking inside the top-5 in estimate fly ball distance for teenage prospects and a swing that is built for a ton of power. Both his fly ball and pull rate are north of 40% and Gorman has 70 or 80-grade raw power. The home runs will come, Ray. Home runs will most definitely come.
Wander Javier, SS, Minnesota Twins
Well, the long-awaited return of Wander Javier didn’t exactly go as planned. The toolsy Minnesota shortstop prospect ended the 2019 season with an atrocious .177 average and .601 OPS in 342 Single-A plate appearances. That OPS was one of the worst marks in the entire minor leagues for those with 300-plus at-bats. But hey, at least he’s playing again after over a year on the sidelines. That’s a positive by itself. Obviously, Javier is not this bad. I’m going to chalk this up as a “cleaning off the rust” season for Javier after the long layoff. With his above-average hit tool and raw power, and double-digit steal upside, Javier should be in store for a much better 2020 season. His value will likely never be lower than it is right now. Capitalize on that and laugh about it later.
Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins
From one Minnesota shortstop prospect to another. Not much went right for the 2017 #1 overall pick. Following a .292/14/28 season across two levels in 2018, Lewis struggled mightily in 2019 dropping to a .236 average and .662 OPS. Not exactly what we were expecting from a universal top-10 overall prospect. To me, it looked like Lewis was pressing too much. He’s always been a tad pull happy, but took it to new levels in 2019, finishing with a pull rate above 50% for the season and a ridiculous 62.1% pull rate in 33 Double-A games to end the season.
— Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) June 19, 2018
There haven’t been any noticeable mechanical concerns with Lewis, who has some of the best bat speed in the minors. There is still major AVG/SB upside here due to his easy plus speed and plus contact skills. He’ll need to start using the whole field more to fully capitalize on those contact skills, however. With his struggles, Lewis’ dynasty value has likely dropped from that of a top-10 overall prospect. That’s fair and all, but with his raw tools, we easily could see Lewis firmly back in the top-10 by mid-2020. Long-term, there’s .300/20/30 upside at peak.
Kevin Smith, SS/3B, Toronto Blue Jays
Okay, I’ll admit I failed with my Kevin Smith pre-season ranking. Actually, I failed horribly. After a .302/25/29 season in 2018, Smith fell flat on his face during his first taste of the Double-A Eastern League. In 116 games, Smith slashed .209/.263/.402/.666 with a 32.3% strikeout rate. On the plus side, he was still able to muster 22 doubles, 19 home runs, and 11 steals. When you break it down by month, it looks even worse with four of the five full months ending with an average of .200 or worse.
The only bright spot for Smith was the month of July when he hit .333 with eight dingers and a 1.078 OPS. It’s going to take more than one good month to put together a solid season Kevin. While he might not be as good as he showed at the Single-A level, where he was old for the level I might add, there’s still an enticing power/speed blend here and enough contact skills to hit north of .250.
Andres Gimenez, SS, New York Mets
Kevin Smith wasn’t the only shortstop prospect to have a tough season in the Eastern League. Deep in the land of Rumble Ponies lies Andres Gimenez and his .695 OPS. Listen, Gimenez is never going to be a big power guy. There’s more raw power in his bat than he’s shown so far, but the AVG/SB upside is what has made Gimenez a top prospect in this Kelenic-less Mets system. Sorry Mets fans, had to. Gimenez showed more promise from July 1st on, hitting .276 with six of his nine home runs. He might not be the top-25 caliber prospect that he was entering the season, but with his .280/15/30 upside, there’s still a lot to like here with Gimenez. If he can carry over his end of season success and increase his efficiency on the base paths, Gimenez can return to top-50 overall status.
This might’ve been a routine 4-3 putout, but you can see the clean mechanics, exceptional bat speed, and plus speed here. If memory serves me correctly, Gimenez scalded this ball and it took a great defensive play to get the out.
Jazz Chisholm, SS, Miami Marlins
Man, there are a ton of shortstop prospects on this list. Coming into the 2019 season, it was no big secret that Jazz Chisholm’s power and speed were ahead of his hit tool. Sure, he hit .272 in 112 games between the Class-A Midwest League and Class-A Advanced California League in 2018, but also had a strikeout rate above 27% for the third year in a row and was a hair shy of having his second straight season above 30%.
Chisholm isn’t going to fool anyone into thinking that he’s going to hit .300 any time soon. That’s just not the type of hitter he is. But at the same time, his .220 average came as a bit of a surprise this season. That batting average was even saved a bit by a .284 average in 23 games following the trade from Arizona to Miami at the deadline. His strikeout rate also dropped from 33.8% to 25.5% after the trade as well. A small sample size indeed, but encouraging.
A couple of positives to take from Chisholms 2019 season was that his power remained and he continued his efficient ways on the bases, converting 16 of his 20 attempts for a clean 80% success rate. On top of that, Chisholm hit more flyballs that he ever has and continued to pull balls at a near-50% clip. Both good signs for his continued power growth.
With his 30/20 upside, Chisholm has fantasy darling written all over him, especially as a shortstop. But he’ll have to cut down on the strikeouts and put more balls in play to keep his batting average respectable. Don’t expect his average to ever be an asset, but Chisholm is better than the .220 average he had this season. Hopefully, he can carry over his late-season success into 2020 and reward the owners that buy-low on him now in dynasty leagues.
Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets
Without question, Mark Vientos was a bat squarely on the rise after the 2018 season. In 60 Appalachian League games, Vientos slashed .287/.389/.489/.878 with 12 doubles and 11 home runs. On top of that, he walked (37) almost as many times as he struck out (43). His combination of hit, power, and approach vaulted Vientos into top-50 overall consideration this spring. Fast-forward five months and all three of those areas regressed in a big way. The batting average dropped to .255, Vientos only hit one more home run in 192 more plate appearances, and the once stellar BB/K rate transformed into a disgusting 22/110 mark.
What we need to remember is that the jump from Rookie Ball to full-season Single-A can be a difficult jump to take in stride. Stop laughing Wander Franco. As you can see above, Vientos’ power started out good, dropped midseason, and trended back up in a big way to end the season. And like with Gorman above, Vientos produced a top-10 estimated flyball distance for prospects under 20 years old. So, even though the home run total didn’t improve, the plus raw power is still there and his flyball rate has slowly been trending up. I’m expecting more home runs from Vientos next season which will likely be at the Class-A Advanced level. And now that he’s gotten some full-season ball under his belt, the average and plate discipline should improve as well. This is still a very potent bat with .280+/25+ upside.
Keibert Ruiz, C, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2019 season was a gigantic mixed bag for Keibert Ruiz. On one hand, his batting average remained in the .260s and the power gains he made in 2018 failed to carry over. But on the other hand, his unwillingness to strike out got even more stingy with a puny 6.3% strikeout rate this season, marking the 2nd straight season Ruiz has recorded a strikeout rate below 10%. Even Nick Madrigal is impressed by that.
With the bat to ball skills Ruiz has shown, that average isn’t going to remain in the .260-.270 range for long and will likely settle into the .280-.300 range more often than not. How much power tags along for the ride is the real question. Ruiz will never likely be a big power guy, but could settle in as a 15-homer threat to go along with the high batting average. He’s still one of the top catching prospects to own in dynasty and can likely be had at a slight discount right now.
Grant Lavigne, 1B, Colorado Rockies
There was a lot of talent in the 2018 draft class, especially at the top. Due to that, a guy like Grant Lavigne was able to slide in slightly under the radar. But after tearing up Rookie ball in 2018, the name Lavigne was firmly on the map and inside my top-100 prospects to start the 2019 season. He’s still on the map, but a .236/.347/.327/.674 slash line and only seven home runs in 440 at-bats have a tendency to leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Even with the less than stellar surface numbers, there are still some positives to focus on here with Lavigne. First is the plate approach. Although both regressed from 2018, Lavigne still posted a 12.9% walk rate and a 24.4% strikeout rate this season. Both solid marks for a slugging first baseman. And speaking of slugging, just seven home runs, a .091 ISO, and a .327 slugging? Yuck! Yes, all of those numbers are as inspiring as my Red Sox pitching staff this season, but Lavigne’s plus raw power is currently suppressed by a 52.4% groundball rate. Call me Captain Obvious, but ground balls have a tendency to not end up in home runs. Crazy, right? With Lavigne’s contact skills, plate approach, and raw power, I’m expecting a big bounce-back season from him in 2020.
Photo/Video Credit: Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire, Derrick Goold, Minor Graphs via Prospects Live, Lance Brozdowski.
Eric Cross is the lead MLB/Fantasy Baseball writer and MiLB prospect analyst for FantraxHQ and has been with the site since March 2017. In the past, he wrote for FantasyPros and FanSided. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and a contributor in the best-selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book. For more from Eric, check out his author page and follow him on Twitter @EricCross04.
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