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We have run through five weeks of The Prospect Ticker, which means we are at the beginning of our second lap. The first five Tickers discussed the development status and Fantasy value of 31 minor league prospects and now its time to update the readers on how they have been developing.
We are almost 10 weeks into the season and two of our original five Group A prospects, Boston Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart and Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, have been promoted to the majors, so they’ve been replaced with Boston Red Sox SP Henry Owens and Houston Astros SP Mark Appel. The two newbies will start from square one, while I will update you on the developments and revise the Fantasy values of Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor and Miguel Sano.
Javier Baez, 2B/SS/3B, Chicago Cubs
Triple-A: Games 34, BA .313, OBP .390, HRs 7, BBs 11, Ks 38, SBs 6
Current Development Status: The most important part of Javier Baez’ development coming into the season was for him to improve his approach to a level the Cubs can live with. He is always going to strike out and he will always be an overly aggressive swinger. The question is whether he can keep the strikeouts in check at least a little bit? Baez is still striking out an average of once per game and he hasn’t improved his walk rate, but he is batting .313, which means he is making more contact. That suggests that he is swinging at better pitches, but based on what we know of Baez, it’s likely due to the competition and not any fundamental adjustment to his approach. “He is what we thought he was” so to speak, but it is a small sample size.
Fantasy Breakdown: Kris Bryant is playing some outfield, suggesting that the Cubs have a plan for Baez and it may not be too much longer before he is promoted. The Cubs have a group of respectable offensive players in the majors, and with Kyle Schwarber and utility man Arismendy Alcantara in the minors, the field for at bats in Chicago is crowded and the leash could be short for Baez. Jorge Soler’s injury and Chris Coghlan’s .299 on-base percentage could mean that Baez is swinging and missing in the majors soon. If he is available on your waiver wire, now is the time to get ahead of the field to avoid a bidding war. Baez has a good chance to run into 15 home runs and 15 steals this season, and if he can continue to improve there could be more than that.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins
Double-A: Games 46, BA .253, OBP .355, HRs 10, BBs 26
Current Development Status: In the original Prospect Ticker breakdown of Miguel Sano it was difficult to gauge where his development was and assess how far away from the major leagues he is, because he is a position player with exceptional offensive tools who missed an entire season of development due to Tommy John surgery. If the approach was advanced and the results were there, then it’s conceivable that Sano could be in Minnesota by July or August.
It’s no surprise that the power has been there; the walks and OBP have been pretty good, while the batting average is a little lower than we would like to see so far in 2015. In order to leave no doubt that he is ready for major league pitching we would like to see a higher contact rate. It’s a demanding evaluation and a high bar, but to move from Double-A to Triple-A before a jump to the majors in July or August, he has to prove that he has nothing left to challenge him in the minors. Sano has done as good or even better than should be expected through 46 games, but he still has some things to prove when it comes to making contact. It doesn’t get easier at the next level and a .255 batting average at Double-A suggests that he could use more at bats before moving up.
Fantasy Breakdown: Sano has picked up where he left off before Tommy John surgery and has even exceeded what should have reasonably been expected after a full season without baseball. After proving that he isn’t in over his head in Double-A, it’s clear that it won’t be long before Sano is in the major leagues, possibly in August, and that has enhanced his Fantasy value. At worst, Sano should break next spring’s camp as the Twins starting third baseman for 2016, and that makes him the type of prospect that should be part of a blockbuster trade involving an established Fantasy star or a permanent fixture in your Fantasy minor league system.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians
Triple-A: Games 50 , BA .260, OBP .338, HRs 2, BBs 24, SBs 8, CS 6
Current Development Status: Entering 2015, Lindor didn’t have anything to prove defensively, but he did have to continue to develop his approach, power and base running. He doesn’t have plus raw power or elite speed, so he needs to continue to smooth out the rough edges and perfect the nuances of his game so that he gets everything out of the tools he does have.
After 50 games, his approach (supported by a .338 OBP) has been on par with what he was in 2014. His walks are up, but his power is down and he has been caught stealing almost as often as he has been safe. It’s a small sample as far as the power is concerned, but it is distressing that Lindor has been caught stealing so often at Triple-A, where base runners start to face major league caliber defenders behind the plate. Everybody steals bases in the lower minors, meaning that his early struggles with stealing bases could be a stumble, or it could be a sign that stolen bases may not be a meaningful part of his profile.
Fantasy Breakdown: The 2015 sample size is small enough that Lindor’s value hasn’t been damaged, but If he can’t hit 10 home runs a season, steal at least 15 bases and bat .280, then his Fantasy value is limited and his Triple-A stats have left room for doubt. His defense and Cleveland’s lack of a meaningful contributor at shortstop suggests that he could be promoted once the Super-Two threshold passes, but if he doesn’t start contributing more to the standard Fantasy categories, he won’t be a starter this season.
Henry Owens, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Triple-A: IP 59.1, ERA 3.36, WHIP 1.33, Ks 49, BBs 38
Current Development Status: Owens is a different kind of pitching prospect. He is a tall lefthander who lacks the plus velocity that you would normally expect from someone 6’6″, 220 lbs. His long limbs come flying at hitters from all directions, creating deception and making his changeup an unhittable out pitch. Scouts have had concerns about his lack of plus velocity and the inconsistency of his curveball, but the results prior to 2015 have been dominant.
How Owens’ curveball develops will decide whether he is a high-strikeout SP2 or a serviceable SP3, while his control will determine whether he can stick in a major league rotation or not. Control was a concern in the lower minors, but it looks like he took a step forward in 2014, only to regress through 59.1 innings in 2015.
Fantasy Breakdown: After back-to-back dominant seasons at High-A and Double-A, Owens had a chance to solidify his place as one of the top pitching prospects this season and earn an early to midseason promotion to Boston. Instead, a return of control issues has delayed his ascension and exacerbated the concerns of scouts that have never fully bought in to Owens.
SP Eduardo Rodriguez and SP Brian Johnson have passed him on the Red Sox depth chart, and because control issues were a significant part of early scouting reports his struggles have legitimized the concerns and has damaged his Fantasy value. With his value in decline there is a buy low opportunity, but 2015 has set back his timetable and owners shouldn’t expect Fantasy contributions from him before August at the earliest.
Mark Appel, RHP, Houston Astros
Double-A: IP 45, ERA 5.20, WHIP 1.62, Ks 32, BBs 18
Current Development Status: Appel has been one of the toughest minor league prospects to figure out, and I don’t think anyone can accurately explain exactly what has happened to one of the top college pitchers in the 2013 draft. The presumption, at the time, was that he was a finished product and it wouldn’t be long before he slotted into the Astros’ rotation. He has the arsenal and the pitcher’s body to front a rotation, but his career has been filled with stumbles, regressions and downright miserable performances.
When you see his stuff you can see why he was a first round pick, and then you look at the stat sheet and you wonder how he is a prospect at all. He was injured, but that caused a delay and wasn’t a cause of his significant struggles. At this point, owners should be looking for consistency, but think baby steps.
Fantasy Breakdown: Like Appel’s professional career to this point, his Fantasy value is a complete mystery. The performance says that Appel is a “buy bad” rather than a “buy low”, but at one point, Josh Hamilton was on the minor league waiver wire and he became a cheap home run for Fantasy owners. If you can get Appel for a song then he is worth a roster spot, but don’t sacrifice anything of value because his 2015 numbers suggest that Appel is a bust.
Miguel Sano Photo Credit: Bryan Green