2015 was the year of the prospect. They were promoted early and produced like veterans in a way that we rarely see from rookies, but that wasn’t what was so shocking. What led to the shock and awe of Carlos Correa and Lance McCullers’ 2015 seasons is how little experience they had at Double-A and Triple-A before jumping straight to the majors. We have seen prospects promoted younger and faster in recent years, but 2015 was the season that made it clear in yearly leagues that Fantasy owners need to have top prospects on their radar sooner than ever before.
It isn’t shocking in today’s game to have prospects promoted directly from Double-A to the majors, but traditionally they have had a meaningful sample size to prove they are ready to perform at the highest level. That is no longer the case. Lance McCullers only pitched 32 innings at Double-A before a promotion to the major leagues while Carlos Correa was promoted to Triple-A after only 29 games and 117 at bats in Double-A, and he landed in Houston after 24 games and 98 at bats in Triple-A. What this means for Fantasy owners is that the moment a prospect lands in Double-A they are on the Fantasy radar.
This makes life difficult for analysts like myself because there is no longer a clear indicator of when a prospect will be promoted. If a prospect is talented and he is in Double-A then he could be promoted tomorrow without any warning. A prospect doesn’t have to be performing well; he doesn’t need a meaningful number of at bats and they don’t need a short stop at Triple-A, which used to be the typical developmental path.
It was announced today that uber-prospect Julio Urias will make his major league debut Friday for the Los Angeles Dodgers at 19 years of age. I am not surprised that Urias is being promoted because he is dominating Triple-A (41 innings pitched, 44 strikeouts, eight walks, .176 batting average against, and 1.10 ERA), but I am surprised that he is getting the start rather than pitching out of the bullpen. Last week I profiled Red Sox outfield prospect Andrew Benintendi, who only has seven games in Double-A, and I commented on his possible promotion to Boston. Plus, everyone is monitoring the news for indications that Lucas Giolito could be promoted to pitch for the Washington Nationals. It still surprises me how quickly prospects are being promoted in today’s game, but I accept the reality, which is that top prospects can be contributing to major league rosters tomorrow and Fantasy owners need to be prepared.
Here are some Double-A prospects that need to be on season-long league radars.
Alex Reyes, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
Stats: 4 Innings Pitched, 8 Strikeouts, 3 Walks
Reyes only pitched 34.2 innings in Double-A in 2015, but the Cardinals decided that that was enough and they promoted him to Triple-A to begin his 2016 season after his drug suspension. Reyes throws as hard as any minor league pitcher in baseball and he has a filthy slider that results in ridiculous strikeout totals and guarantees that he will pitch in the major leagues in some role. His command is a major concern but it doesn’t appear that it will delay his rise to St. Louis.
When Reyes is promoted he will strike out major league batters. The question is whether his command troubles will prohibit him from being an effective starter this year. You aren’t hearing his name in season-long league radars yet, but he could be in the majors in the next 3-4 weeks. His ratios could be a drag on your starting rotation, but the “stuff” is too good to ignore and he justifies a claim in deeper leagues. He will be an extremely intriguing DFS option as a second starter, especially in tournaments, because he has a chance to strike out 8-10 batters every night.
Alex Bregman, SS/2B/3B, Houston Astros
Stats: 126 At-Bats, 12 Home Runs, .333 Batting Average .432 On-Base Percentage, 1.115 OPS
Bregman was selected second overall in the 2015 amateur draft from Louisiana State University. He profiles as a mature college hitter with plus bat speed who can play in the dirt, and he is crushing Double-A pitching. He is making consistent hard contact and he is hitting home runs with a good batting average, the two things Fantasy owners want to see from a potential impact player. Because he is doing so well, so fast, he is on the same fast track to the majors as Correa.
Bregman has begun playing third base and that is where his chance for at bats will be, but he could qualify at shortstop in some Fantasy leagues. The two potential roadblocks are Marwin Gonzalez, who is struggling, and Colin Moran who doesn’t profile as well as Bregman. If he continues to dominate Double-A he could be starting for the struggling Astros as soon as mid to late June. As a mature college bat with above average tools who is having a great season, Bregman has the potential to produce more as a rookie than most and justifies a roster spot when he is promoted.
Reyes and Bregman are top tier prospects that organizations are invested in, who are provided every opportunity ahead of other prospects regardless of performance in some cases. The prospects below are good prospects, but they don’t have the same “blue chip” status of Reyes or Bregman and they won’t receive that kind of preferential treatment when it comes to promotions and playing time. These players will need to earn their promotions and earn at bats in the major leagues, but they are making a strong case at Double-A and should be monitored.
Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Stats: 176 At-Bats, 13 Home Runs, 15 Doubles, 10 SBs, .934 OPS, 54 Strikeouts, .278 Batting Average
Cozens was not considered an elite prospect when the Phillies drafted him, but his plus power potential and raw physical tools made him a high upside second round pick in the 2012 draft. The Phillies minor league system has gone from a mess to a pretty impressive young crop and Cozens is forcing his way in to the discussion. Scouts love the physical frame and the tools, but they are concerned that he doesn’t have the dexterity or the flexibility to be a full time major leaguer. He strikes out a lot and he struggles defensively, but he can hit for power and run the bases a little bit. He has 13 home runs and 10 steals, a .934 OPS and a .348 on-base percentage at Double-A, which means he is only a call away.
The Phillies received Nick Williams In the Cole Hamels trade and he is far and away their best outfield prospect. Roman Quinn and Odubel Herrera are in the mix as well, but with the way Cozens is playing he could receive an opportunity. He isn’t an elite prospect and when he is promoted he isn’t a must-own, but the tools and the current performance could be viable in deeper yearly leagues. The batting average could be a problem but a few stolen bases and some home runs could overcome that downfall and make him a viable deep league claim.
David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies
Stats: 168 At-Bats, 11 Home Runs, 11 Doubles, 13 SBs, .923 OPS, .280 BA, 48 Strikeouts, 20 Walks
Dahl has had a bumpy development path due mostly to two major injuries, but when he was drafted he was a five-tool prospect and he is finally showing those tools at Double-A. The Rockies outfield is currently occupied at the major league level, but they need to see what their future looks like and the platoon of Gerardo Parra and Ryan Rayburn isn’t it. There is always the chance that Carlos Gonzalez gets traded, so at bats look likely for Dahl this season. The Coors effect is hard to ignore and Dahl has the tools to justify a roster spot when he is promoted.
Josh Hader, SP, Milwaukee Brewers
Stats: 45.2 Innings Pitched, 59 Strikeouts, 0.79 ERA, 16 walks, 0 Home Runs allowed.
Hader is compared to Chris Sale because of his awkward delivery and a plus fastball, but his delivery hurts his secondary pitches and command. Scouts believe Hader’s plus fastball and mediocre secondary pitches make him a bullpen arm more than an impact starter like Sale.
Regardless of the scouting reports, Hader’s numbers in Double-A have been filthy good and have to have the Astros brass regretting the Josh Hader and Brett Phillips for Carlos Gomez trade. The Brewers are a rebuilding organization and a pitching staff begging for any arm that can get outs, so I expect Hader to be pitching in Milwaukee no later than after the All-Star break.
Hader is likely to struggle over the long-term for Dynasty league players, but his plus fastball from the left side should result in high strike out totals in 2016, making him viable in yearly leagues and especially intriguing in Daily Fantasy.
Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians
Stats:160 At-bats, 6 Home Runs, 6 Stolen bases, .313 Batting Average, .944 OPS
I have always been higher on Frazier than other analysts and he is showing it at Double-A this season. He has plus bat speed, can hit for power, steal some bases, he takes his walks and has been cutting down on his strikeouts as he moves up in levels. He has the athleticism you like to see when trying to evaluate whether a player can be an impact prospect or not as well. The Indians need some pop and Frazier as well as fellow prospect Bradley Zimmer may need to produce in Cleveland for the Indians to contend this season.
Nicky Delmonico, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Stats: 142 At-Bats, 10 Home Runs, .338 Batting Average, 1.073 OPS.
Nobody can claim to know much about Nicky Delmonico, but his numbers at Double-A earned him a promotion to Triple-A this week. He has had a problem making consistent contact throughout his minor league career until this season, but he is 23 years old and the White Sox could use a shot in their offensive arm.
Delmonico is a sleeper if there is such a thing in Fantasy sports any more. He isn’t a must-claim in yearly leagues, but in deeper leagues we could see him in a major league starting lineup, possibly hitting some home runs in Chicago.
Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics
Stats: 172 At-Bats, 13 Home Runs, .273 Batting Average, .936 OPS
The A’s aren’t afraid of high strikeout bats that can hit home runs and Chapman fits that profile. He hit 23 home runs in 80 games at High-A in 2015, and is on a similar pace this season at Double-A. Chapman isn’t going to be the talk of the prospect town or headline the Fantasy talk shows, but he will be on the waiver wire one day and a cheap source of home runs in deeper leagues the next