Top Prospects with Questionable Rankings
Ah, prospects. One of, if not the most exciting things about dynasty baseball, is drafting a young player and watching him develop over the years. We all salivate over a player with 80-grade power like Eloy Jimenez, but there is always a wide range of outcomes when following a prospect’s career. Sometimes it works out and you have the next Bryce Harper on your hands, sometimes it doesn’t work out like with Mark Appel, and sometimes it just takes a while to get there like with Byron Buxton.
And while there are always outliers in evaluation, there is usually a general consensus that you can follow to evaluate a player. The aforementioned Jimenez is going to be on the top-10 lists for most analysts, and even the most critical of us wouldn’t put him out of the top-20. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top 100 prospects that I personally have a bit of hesitation on, and why I think you should maybe take the next guy on the list.
Eloy Jimenez – OF, Chicago White Sox
There’s a reason I used Jimenez as an example in the intro. Simply put, it’s because I just don’t think he’s going to be quite as good as advertised. The power is certainly legit, but instead of playing up like the 50-homer threat some people think he’s going to be, the power has been more 50-grade for the last few years. Over 464 Rookie-level plate appearances in 2016, Jimenez hit only 14 balls out of the yard. In 2017, that number increased to 19 homers in 369 plate appearances, good for a home run every 19.5 trips to the dish. While that’s nothing to scoff at, it puts him in the Jonathan Schoop/Eddie Rosario territory.
That’s also not to say that Jimenez doesn’t get better or even make a huge jump once he gets to the Majors and gets a crack at hitting the juiced ball. Either way, he’s not hitting like J.D. Martinez quite yet. On the other side of the coin, Jimenez is a big boy at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, and he is likely to fill out as he ages, thus making his 40-grade speed a bit less than it is currently. So there are no stolen bases to be had here, and if he does swipe a few, you have to just take them as a bonus and not expect it to happen again.
Jimenez made some strides in the walks department this past season, as his BB% went from the 5-6% range to 9.5-10% in Single-A. However, it fell to 6.8% once he ascended to Double-A. So I really don’t think he’s going to be quite the on-base player that many expect him to be. He should be able to hit for average, though I’m not certain the pitch recognition plays up against Major League-quality breaking pitches.
Overall, I think Jimenez becomes a solid player with good power, but a .250/.320/.480 corner outfielder/first baseman with no speed doesn’t quite hold the value it used to in this day of offense. Jimenez is No. 4 on the MLB.com top 100 list, and behind him are guys like Ronald Acuña, Nick Senzel, and Brent Honeywell, all guys I would take over him in a heartbeat. I just think there are better options. That said, you won’t likely end up wasting your pick on Eloy because he’s still going to provide some value. Just not as much value as many people think.
Brendan McKay – SP, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
Since he was taken fourth overall by the Rays in the 2017 draft, there aren’t many minor league numbers to look at with McKay. What we do know is that he was drafted with the potential to be a two-way player, with the ability to pitch as a left-handed starter and play first base. The question of whether or not he continues to both pitch and hit is one that will be answered in time. In my opinion, he profiles best as a starting pitcher, and I think the sooner he drops hitting the better. For the purpose of this evaluation, I’m treating him as just a pitcher.
In his 20+ innings in the minors in 2017, McKay did put up a solid ERA of 1.80 with more than a strikeout per inning. FIP doesn’t like him quite as much and suggests that his ERA should actually be over 4.00. He utilizes a fastball that sits 90-94 mph and often loses velocity the deeper he goes into games. This could potentially be alleviated if he were to focus solely on pitching, which is why I think it’s important he drops the hitting ASAP. He also uses a plus curveball and a below-average changeup that definitely needs work to make him a successful starter.
As it stands, I don’t really see McKay as much more than a No. 3 starter. If the changeup becomes a really good pitch, it stands to reason that he could get to No. 2 status. However, if it becomes merely a solid pitch, that limits his ceiling. And, of course, if he doesn’t develop the third pitch at all, he’s bullpen bound, which really depletes his value. On MLB.com’s list, he sits in the 19th position. Luis Robert, who has the potential to be a superstar, is three picks behind him at No. 22, Royce Lewis, who had an amazing showing his first time through the minors, is at 26, and Mackenzie Gore, who has a much higher ceiling as a starter, is ranked 24th. I would take any of those three guys over McKay. Even A.J. Puk, who sits 15 spots behind him at No. 34, is a better option, in my opinion.
J.P. Crawford – SS, Philadelphia Phillies
It seems like Crawford has been a prospect forever, but he’s still just 22 years old and has had fewer than 100 plate appearances in the Majors. The star has faded a bit for him after some mediocre years in the minors, but some people still have a lot of hope that he becomes an impact talent. I’m not so sure …
Not since making the jump to Double-A in 2015 has Crawford posted a batting average higher than .265. And though he does walk an insane amount (he’s consistently in the high teens in BB%), when your batting average hovers around .250, the on-base percentage doesn’t look quite as good as if you’re batting .280. He made a bit of improvement in the power department this past season, with his 15 home runs being a career-best by far. Of course, it took Crawford over 600 plate appearances to do so, and with seemingly everyone hitting 20 homers these days, it’s really tough to roster him. If the power output is subpar, a hitter will usually at least steal some bases to produce some value. That’s also not the case for Crawford. He was a 20 stolen base threat earlier in his career, but that number fell to 12 steals in 2016 and a lousy six swipes in 2017. There is certainly room for optimism here since he’s a solid runner, but I don’t think he’ll ever top 20 steals even in his best seasons, and his yearly average is likely to be much lower than that.
So what are we left with? Basically, Crawford profiles as a .250/.350/.400 hitting shortstop (he will remain at short; his defense is just fine) who could hit 15 homers and steal 10 bases. To be honest, that’s just not very exciting anymore. I think there will be quite a few growing pains as he gets more Major League experience, and his first go-round through the league didn’t pan out too well.
Crawford sits at the No. 53 slot in MLB.com’s rankings, two picks ahead of stud infielder Ryan McMahon, who profiles with more power, similar speed, and a much better average, and six spots ahead of powerful outfielder Willie Calhoun. He also finds himself ahead of high-ceiling, boom-or-bust prospect Alex Faedo (No. 65) and low-floor “professional hitter” Keston Hiura. I prefer all four of those players over Crawford.
What you choose to do with Crawford if he’s currently on your dynasty team is a tricky situation. You might be better served waiting and seeing if he breaks out, but it’s also a good idea to put his name out there to get some feelers for him. Maybe one of your fellow fantasy owners still likes the name recognition that Crawford has, and you can swing a deal for a steady Major League piece. Or perhaps you can move him for a player that’s a lot further away from his debut. I personally am going to try to move him, but his stock might have dropped far enough that there’s not much you can get for him. But it’s always worth a shot!