Now that we’ve passed the “Super Two” date and teams no longer need to worry about service time issues, the floodgates have opened and some of the best Fantasy prospects in baseball are being promoted. Many of them have the potential to be Fantasy-relevant, but it’s important to know what their role will be with the major league club and whether they can make meaningful contributions to a Fantasy team before owners decide to claim or acquire any of these prospects.
Before you release a productive player or commit FAAB money or a waiver priority to acquire a prospect, make sure you know all there is to know about his talent, future role with the team and what might happen if they struggle at the major league level. We’ll examine some of the recently promoted prospects to see which of them is worthy of investment.
Lewis Brinson, OF Milwaukee Brewers
Brinson’s tools are immense. He has the raw power to hit 30 home runs and the speed to steal at least 15 bases annually. If he can improve on his success rate on the basepaths, 20-25 stolen bases are within his skill set. He has some swing and miss in his game, but there are a lot of prospects with fewer tools and a higher strikeout rate.
Brinson struggled in his first taste of Brewers baseball and was demoted as a result (14 games, 31 at bats, 13 strikeouts, .097 batting average). The Brew Crew can’t afford to “let a kid learn” at the major league level right now, and because of that, Brinson’s opportunities will have to be earned. The Brewers lead the NL Central and have a crowded outfield of talented players who are performing well.
During his two weeks in the majors, Brinson only started seven games, and because the Brewers have so many talented outfielders there is some question about how much Brinson will play and how productive he’ll be if/when he returns. It wouldn’t be a shock for Brinson to hit 10-12 home runs and steal 8-10 bases during the second half of the season, but that’s an aggressive projection. Somewhere between five and eight home runs and similar stolen base totals is more realistic because of the uncertainty about playing time.
Brinson should still be owned despite his demotion but because of the uncertainty of his circumstances, owners shouldn’t invest a significant potion of their FAAB unless they can easily afford it. Once he earns full-time at bats, he’ll become a must-own rookie.
Sean Newcomb, SP Atlanta Braves
Newcomb’s raw stuff offers impact potential, and in limited duty he’s shown that for Atlanta – 13 strikeouts in 18.1 innings pitched with a 1.96 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Command has been an issue throughout his minor league career, and 2017 has been more of the same on that score, but he’s managed to work around it so far this season.
Newcomb has the ability to strike out close to a batter per inning, and to offer dominant performances at the major league level as a rookie. However, he will have his off nights because of the high walk rate. He has pitched 76 innings so far in 2017, and it’s reasonable to expect another 75-100 innings pitched before the Braves shut him down.
There have been whispers that Newcomb could be demoted when Bartolo Colon returns from the disabled list. There is a legitimate chance that Newcomb works towards his innings limit for at least a few weeks at Triple-A, even though he is one of the Braves’ five best starters. Newcomb should be owned if it is feasible for owners to do so, but it would be prudent to wait and see what happens when Colon returns to be sure you don’t invest meaningful assets in a Triple-A pitcher. Once it is clear he is in Atlanta to stay, he will be a must-own prospect.
Francis Martes, SP Houston Astros
Martes has top of the rotation velocity with a plus-plus four-seam fastball and a swing and miss breaking ball. His raw tools and strikeout potential makes him one of the rookies in this class most capable of making an impact, especially on the bump where there aren’t a lot Fantasy prospects to get excited about.
Injuries in the Astros’ rotation have opened the door for Martes to be an impact Fantasy rookie, but his 2017 performance makes it doubtful that he will seize the opportunity. Aside from 2015, when he only walked 28 batters in 101.2 innings pitched, he has always had an issue with the free pass. In 2016, he walked 47 batters in 125.1 innings pitched, and this season he has walked an astounding 39 batters in 48.2 innings pitched.
If you have the roster space to carry a talented player, it’s always recommended that you do. While Martes is indeed talented, this season’s command issues are too disturbing to overlook, especially if you have a tough decision between two talented players and only one roster spot to fill.
Matt Chapman, 3B Oakland Athletics
Chapman profiles as a true three-outcome hitter (home runs-walks-strikeouts) who is likely to finish 2017 with 30 home runs, upwards of 150 strikeouts and a batting average below .250 between the minor and major leagues. However, Chapman’s plus defense makes him unique and it’s the reason he was ranked so high in the preseason prospect rankings.
Rookies often go through slumps that put consistent at bats in jeopardy and can lead to a demotion. Stolen bases are typically how I hedge my bets with prospects because even if they struggle to hit home runs or carry a poor batting average, at least they are contributing in the stolen base category. With Chapman, stolen bases aren’t going to elevate his floor because it isn’t a part of his profile. However, his defense will help ensure he is in the lineup every day, and full-time at bats will bring plenty of home runs from a Fantasy prospect like Chapman.
Chapman has never batted better than .250 in a season, and he has 362 strikeouts in 318 games played. He has hit 80 home runs, to average slightly more than 40 home runs every 162 games played. If you can afford to absorb a .230-.250 batting average, Chapman could hit 15-20 home runs in Oakland the rest of the way, making him one of the better prospect power hitters going forward.
Franklin Barreto, SS Oakland Athletics
Barreto has a career .291 batting average, 42 home runs and 81 stolen bases in 413 games played. That makes Barreto a Fantasy shortstop with a plus batting average and the potential for 15 home runs and 30 stolen bases per season.
The concern with Barreto isn’t his ability to contribute offensively as a rookie; it’s his base running. He has the raw speed to steal 30-40 bases, but he has been caught 36 times in 137 attempts (a 74% success rate). He was successful 30 times while he was caught 17 times in 2016 (a 64% success rate), and he has been caught more often than he has been successful in 2017 (4 steals in 9 attempts – 44% success rate).
He has the plus hit tool to be a positive contributor in batting average and he will run into 5-8 home runs, making his ceiling fairly high for a shortstop. However, just how safe an investment he is will be based on his floor. For Barreto, that will be determined by how successful he is stealing bases. If he continues to get caught at his current rate, he won’t be given the opportunity to make meaningful Fantasy contributions in the category. This is the performance to watch in his first few weeks with the A’s.
Another incentive to pay a meaningful price for Barreto is that he is likely to play second base for the majority of 2017, even though shortstop is his primary position and where he likely qualifies in most leagues. He played seven games at the keystone in Triple-A and his two starts with Oakland have both come at second base. Barreto should have the at bats going forward along with dual-position eligibility and both a high floor and a high ceiling, making him one of the safer prospect claims currently on the market.