Trolling for Prospects
A common discussion among fans of Major League Baseball and of Fantasy baseball especially is whether a players early season performance is an outlier or a sign of things to come – either good or bad. Are you nervous about Matt Harvey or Dallas Keuchel, and do you believe in Trevor Story, Mark Trumbo or Chris Carter? The reason why we have these discussions at this stage of the season is because we are in a narrow bottleneck of a sample size. We have seen enough to begin to seriously consider the numbers, but not quite enough that it is determinant or definitive.
That being said, those are major leaguers with years of sample to examine. It would seem that when we look at minor league prospects who are still maturing both physically and mentally while gaining much needed experience that 35-40 innings pitched or 100 at-bats would be too small a sample to even look at never mind come to some kind of conclusion, but you would be wrong. Evaluating prospects, especially from the perspective of the Fantasy baseball player, is often counterintuitive.
One of the reasons why small sample sizes are unreliable is because we have larger sample sizes to compare them too. What? What did you just say Mr. Berra? The reason why we don’t trust a small sample size is because it doesn’t correlate with previous performance and larger samples.
Trumbo is on pace for a career high in home runs while he is batting .324, even though he has a career batting average of .250 and has never batted higher than .268. This theory also applies indirectly to Trevor Story. He has hit almost as many home runs in 27 major league games (11) as he hit in an entire season in 2013 (12), 2014 (14), and he is more than half way to his career high of 20 in 2015 and those were in the minor leagues. Where did this kid come from, and are we to believe that this is for real? These are two of the most debated stories (my only pun of the day) in the 2016 season. With prospects and for Fantasy purposes, 100 at–bats or 35-40 innings pitched this early in the season is too small of a sample to decide that a player is the next Bryce Harper, but it is plenty to determine whether a player might have what it takes to make a significant impact for your Dynasty team.
With prospects, especially at the lower levels and at the early stages of their development, you should be looking for dominant performance or statistics that suggest an impact tool and now is the time to focus in on those prospects before other Fantasy owners catch on. That means owners should be trolling the stat sheets for significant stolen base and home run totals for batters and strikeouts and walks for pitchers. We don’t care about ERA or Whip because the sample sizes are too small for percentages to mean something, but we do care when a players stats separate them from their peers and sample sizes both large and small can tell us that.
When a player separates himself statistically, it doesn’t mean he is a perfect prospect or that he is the next superstar. Everything exists within a context, but it is an easy way to identify a prospect worth following or claiming. Prospects are hit or miss, more often miss than hit actually, but roster spots are precious and owners are best served using them on players with impact tools.
Here are a few early season standouts flashing tools that could develop into impact Dynasty performers.
Cody Reed – Arizona Diamondbacks, SP
Class A – 19 Years old
31 Strikeouts – 17.2 Innings Pitched – Zero Walks – one Earned Run allowed
Reed was a second-round draft pick in the 2014 amateur draft, and while he projected then to have above-average secondary offerings, he isn’t ranked in any Top 100 prospect lists or in the Diamondbacks Top 30 organizational rankings by Baseball America either.
That kind of K per 9 rate along with zero walks and one earned run is the dominance we are trolling for. Reed stands out as one of the most dominant early season prospects in the minors and demands an immediate claim if he isn’t already owned. He profiles as a SP3 with an outside chance at second starter potential if he continues to flash this kind of strikeout ability.
Eric Jenkins – Texas Rangers, OF
Class A – 19 Years old
102 at bats – 16 SB – 2 HRs – .279 OBP – .235 BA – 32K – 6 Walks
Jenkins has shown impact Fantasy speed along with flashes of power that ranked him sixth in the Rangers system by Baseball America.
Contact has obviously been an issue, and he needs to get on base at a much better percentage going forward, but it’s a very good sign that the performance is confirming his scouting reports. Jenkins should be claimed or at least monitored closely over the next month to see if this continues.
Josh Staumont – Kansas City Royals, SP
Class A-Advanced – 22 Years old
19.2 Innings Pitched -35Ks – 16BB – 1.63 Whip
6 Appearances – 3 Starts.
Staumont is intriguing because of the schizophrenic compilation that is his profile and his dominant strikeout totals. 35 strikeouts in 19.2 innings pitched is a ridiculous K/9 rate while 16 walks in 19.2 innings is just as absurd.
His advanced age could partially explain the dominant strikeout totals while three relief appearances could mean that the Royals are preparing him for a roll in the bullpen or his three starts could mean that his early season numbers convinced the Royals to give him a chance to develop as a starter. I am leaning toward the former because of his significant command issues, but what’s clear is that he has an impact arm that could be a future closer. He isn’t a must-claim, but he deserves to be on your check-in list for the next three weeks.
Luke Leftwich – Philadelphia Phillies, SP
Class A – 21 Years old
18 IP – 29K’s – 10 Walks – 1.50 Whip
10 walks in 18 innings is a concern, but the K/9 rate is confirmation of an impact tool that Fantasy owners should be trolling for.
Leftwich is old for the level that he is currently competing, but as a 2015 college draftee it isn’t as noteworthy as it would be if he had been in the Phillies system for 3-4 years. He isn’t a must-claim unless you have deep minor league rosters, but his dominance and improvement from 2015 to 2016 are good signs that he might deserve a claim if this continues to June.
Yefri Perez – Miami Marlins, OF
Double-A – 25 Years old
106 At bats – 20 Stolen Bases – 12 Walks – 19 Strikeouts – .362 OBP
Perez is much too old to be considered an elite Fantasy prospect, but that’s what makes him interesting and more than likely available in the majority of leagues.
Some prospects are late bloomers, and Perez’s recent patience at the plate suggests that he is starting to mature at the plate. His career high in walks was 31 in 135 games in 2015, and he already has 12 walks through 27 games this season. He stole 71 bases in 2015, and he is on pace to shatter that this season at a higher level. If his new-found approach continues maybe an opportunity develops in Miami. A prospect this close to the major leagues with his kind of speed could contribute in yearly leagues in 2016 as well. He is worth a peak from time to time, and if he is promoted to Triple-A then things start to get very interesting in yearly leagues.