Long-Range Outlook For Jharel Cotton and a Dozen Other Prospects
The trade deadline provided a significant amount of activity even though there wasn't an elite starting pitcher to change laundry. During the season I provided reports on the Fantasy-relevant prospects who changed organizations at the trade deadline, and this week I will revert back to the deadline for a look at some of the other prospects on what is a long list.
Oakland Athletics Acquired From Los Angeles Dodgers (Rich Hill/Josh Reddick Trade)
- RHP Jharel Cotton
- RHP Frankie Montas
- RHP Grant Holmes
All three prospects have a chance to be Fantasy-relevant. Two of them have back-of-the-rotation profiles. The other has some ceiling due to his plus velocity and a high floor because, at worst, he should be an impact late-inning reliever with a good chance to be a lights out closer.
Frankie Montas, RHP
Comparables: Rubby De La Rosa/Trevor Rosenthal
Montas has elite velocity - sitting at 95-97 mph - that he can maintain deep into games and a secondary pitch (slider) that flashes plus. With the potential for two plus pitches comes below average command, making his plus-plus fastball much more hittable than any 100 mph pitch should be. The trade to Oakland should provide Montas with more of an opportunity to remain a starter than he would have received in Los Angeles with the Dodgers, so the trade should have positive effects on his Fantasy value.
If Montas can resolve his command issues, which would force hitters to also respect his slider, he has the ceiling of a SP2. As things stand, Montas profiles as an effective late-inning reliever and his fastball, slider mix looks ideal as a closer. It’s always beneficial in Fantasy to have a prospect with both a high ceiling and a high floor. While Montas comes with some risk, that is what makes him relevant.
Jharel Cotton, RHP
[caption id="attachment_113077" align="alignright" width="370"] Jharel Cotton has shown he can be an impact Fantasy starter with command and a plus-plus out-pitch changeup. Photo Credit: David Dennis/Icon SportsWire[/caption]
Comparables: James Shields/Dallas Braden
Cotton lacks the velocity to profile as a No. 2 starter in a major league rotation (sits low 90s), but his changeup is a double-plus out pitch that projects Cotton to be an above average Fantasy pitcher in strikeouts. His command is average at best and he lacks a third pitch. However, he manipulates the movement on his fastball well enough that he could be an effective starter with just two pitches if a third can develop to be something that at least resembles average.
Cotton's strikeouts have been above average in Triple-A (140 Strikeouts in 118 innings pitched) this season just like they were at Double-A in 2015 (114 strikeouts in 95.2 innings pitched), a trend that bodes well for his ability to remain a starter. The A's are always trading veteran pitchers and filling their spots with young, controllable replacements, which is good for Cotton's chances to remain a starter. Pitching in O.Co Stadium is also a benefit for a pitcher with below average velocity.
Grant Holmes, RHP
Comparables: Matt Garza/Chris Young
Holmes profiles perfectly as an SP3 in a major league rotation. His fastball is not elite, but it is above average and can top out in the upper 90s when he rears back and lets it fly. He has developed a changeup since being drafted that can flash above average and while it's inconsistent, his curveball flashes plus too.
There isn't a lot of ceiling to Holmes' profile, but he is a safe investment to be a solid matchup or double-start Fantasy pitcher. You don't target this kind of prospect and he isn't going to win you titles, but he is a solid pitcher to fill out a Fantasy pitching staff.
Cincinnati Reds Acquired - From New York Mets (Jay Bruce Trade)
- INF Dilson Herrera
- LHP Max Wotell
Dilson Herrera has been on the prospect radar for what seems like forever because of respectable tools, while Max Wotell flashes some interesting potential.
Dilson Herrera, INF
Comparables: Martin Prado/Chris Coghlan
Herrera has an above average hit tool (career .298 hitter) with a little pop to go with some stolen base potential in his legs. He will need to bring his all-around game to the park consistently to be Fantasy relevant because he projects to max out at 10-15 home runs and 10-15 stolen bases. He does, however, have a chance to bat .290 or above - which would be a saving grace for Fantasy owners.
Herrera spent two years at Triple-A while the Mets looked high and low for middle infielders, so it’s pretty clear he wasn't in their future plans. The Reds are stuck with Brandon Phillips through 2017 and Jose Peraza is trying to find at-bats at any position that might be available, so it’s difficult to see an opportunity for Herrera. The hit tool, athleticism and second base eligibility make him an interesting prospect but as things stand, his future isn't bright. If he ever receives an opportunity (like Adam Duvall did this year), he could be a waiver wire claim to monitor.
Max Wotell, LHP
Comparables: Andrew Miller/J.A. Happ
Wotell isn't a Fantasy prospect yet, but he has the potential to develop into one. His fastball velocity is average to slightly below average (91-93 Mph), but at 6'3" and 180 lbs., but he has some room to grow and possibly increase his velocity. He has an out pitch slider that can be filthy from his three quarter delivery. and an average changeup that has the potential to be above average because of his deception.
It’s easy to see Wotell as at least a lefty specialist in a major league bullpen, which elevates his floor, but with a bump in velocity to go with an impressive slider, there is upside here and he is only 19 years old. He is a prospect to check in on from time to time in 2017 because he has the raw parts to become an interesting Fantasy prospect.
Los Angeles Angels Acquired - From Minnesota Twins (Ricky Nolasco/Hector Santiago Trade)
- RHP Alex Meyer
This deal was an odd diversion in the middle of a crazed few hours of trade noise that swirled mostly around Jonathan Lucroy and Chris Sale, but Alex Meyer is intriguing from a Fantasy perspective.
Alex Meyer, RHP
Comparables: Andrew Cashner/Anibal Sanchez
Alex Meyer is a long, lanky pitcher with a plus arm and plus "stuff." His fastball sits mid-90s, his power curveball is an out pitch and he has a power sinker that can generate groundballs.
Meyer has an SP2 profile, but he hasn't shown any signs that he will get there with any consistency. It’s clear the Twins finally gave up hope and that the Angels have nothing to lose by taking on a flier that could at least provide innings.
Tall, long limbed pitchers often take a long time to coordinate their mechanics so that they can repeat their deliveries and maximize their natural ability. Meyer's has walked 194 batters in 449.1 innings pitched with a career ERA of 3.41 and a WHIP of 1.31. That is a significant sample size and one that encompasses struggles at every level, including the major leagues.
Where Meyer's is intriguing is that he has also struck out 517 batters in those 449.1 innings. It’s a good risk on the Angels part and Fantasy owners should take the same approach. He isn't a must own prospect, but if you have the roster space to "stash and hope," there is a lot of potential in Meyer. However, the likelihood is that he never reaches anything close to his ceiling and that he never throws a relevant Fantasy inning, so owners shouldn't feel the need to keep or own Meyer either.
Pittsburgh Pirates Acquired - From Washington Nationals (Mark Melancon Trade)
- RHP Felipe Rivero (Non-Prospect)
- RHP Taylor Hearn
Taylor Hearn, RHP
Comparables: Brett Cecil/Jake McGee
I wasn't shocked that Melancon was traded at the deadline from a team still trying to contend, but I was surprised there wasn't a viable Fantasy prospect involved in the swap. I looked hard at Rivero and couldn't get there, but I was able to find some redeeming Fantasy qualities in Taylor Hearn.
Let’s start with the negatives. He profiles more like a reliever than a starter and while his statistics look good, he is much too old for the levels he is currently pitching in (21 years old in High-A). The positives are that he sits mid 90's with his fastball, his slider flashes potential and he brings it off the bump from a 6’5” and 210 lb. frame from the left side. That kind of body is what aces are made of. I don't want anyone to think I am suggesting that Hearn's is a future ace, but that’s a good base to work from and eventually develop into a viable Fantasy starting pitcher. The strikeouts have been impressive this season (57 SOs in 40.2 innings pitched) while the walks are a little high (18).
Hearn's doesn't justify a roster spot in any league with reasonable roster limits, but he is a guy worth checking in on from time to time because there is some natural potential.
San Diego Padres Acquired - From Miami Marlins (Andrew Cashner Trade)
- 1B/DH Josh Naylor
Josh Naylor, 1B/DH
Comparables: Prince Fielder/Eric Hosmer
It’s hard not to compare Naylor to Prince Fielder for a multiple of reasons. Billy Beane said a player’s value should not be impacted by how he looks in jeans and you need to remember that with Naylor, he carries a lot of girth into the box which limits him to first base or as a designated hitter. He has an above average approach at the plate and a plus hit tool that should result in above average batting averages and he partners that with plus-plus raw power.
The batting average and power should and will need to carry him because first base has a high bar to justify a roster spot for a prospect. Naylor is a reliable risk to be a professional and the profile is certainly there to be the next Prince Fielder, an underappreciated Fantasy player for years.
Minnesota Twins Acquired - From San Francisco Giants (Eduardo Nunez Trade)
- RHP Adalberto Mejia
Adalberto Mejia, RHP
Comparables: John Danks/Jeremy Guthrie
Mejia doesn't have the upside or the ceiling to be a must-own prospect, but he is a good pitcher to own for matchup and two-start situations during a season. He has an ordinary three-pitch mix that should allow him to be a back-of-the-rotation fourth or fifth starter with serviceable ratios and below average strikeouts. If he can develop his slider into a swing-and-miss pitch, that would elevate his ceiling slightly, but he isn't going to be an impact Fantasy contributor. Mejia will benefit from pitching in Minnesota and hurt facing the designated hitter.
Atlanta Braves Acquired - From Texas Rangers (Lucas Harrell/Dario Alvarez Trade)
- 2B Travis Demeritte
Travis Demeritte, 2B
Comparables: Brian Dozier/Jed Gyorko
2016 is a perfect snapshot of what Demeritte is as a prospect. 28 home runs, 16 stolen bases, a .260 batting average and an enormous 162 strikeouts in 113 games. Demeritte has enough speed to steal double-digit bases and the power to be an impact offensive second baseman, but significant contact issues may limit his production and put his future as a major leaguer in doubt. Strikeouts are a part of today’s game, but we have seen Javier Baez's playing time limited because of his swing-and-miss tendencies and Demeritte isn't as talented. He isn't as versatile on defense and his contact issues are worse. The tools are enticing and certainly justify a roster spot, but with them is a meaningful amount of risk.
Seattle Mariners Acquired - From Chicago Cubs (Mike Montgomery Trade)
- 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach
- RHP Paul Blackburn
Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH
Comparables: Travis Shaw/Yonder Alonso
Vogelbach profiles as a fringe major leaguer. His hefty frame is unlikely to handle the outfield at a league average level and his power doesn't have the ceiling to profile well at first base or as a negative defensive corner outfielder. The saving grace for Vogelbach could be that he has an above average approach that might result in positive contact rates and some scouts believe the power is still coming. If he can make enough contact and develop into a 20-25 home run hitter, then he could have a future in the major leagues and as a deep league Fantasy first baseman.
Paul Blackburn, RHP
Comparables: Jonathan Niese/Dillon Gee
Blackburn profiles as a fourth or fifth starter, devalued by the fact that he is right handed. He has above average command that could allow him to stick as a starter, but he lacks a plus or swing-and-miss pitch that would make him an interesting Fantasy prospect. His ceiling is that of a two-start pitcher and matchup or streaming option on the waiver wire in deeper leagues.
San Diego Padres Acquired - From Boston Red Sox (Drew Pomeranz Trade)
- RHP Anderson Espinoza
Anderson Espinoza, RHP
Comparables: Danny Salazar/Carlos Carrasco
Espinoza might have the highest ceiling of any prospect traded at the deadline and that’s saying something when Lewis Brinson and Clint Frazier changed organizations. He also has some risk because while the "stuff" is already at least major league average, he is extremely young to be this good and he has struggled this season.
Espinoza's fastball has been clocked as high as 100 Mph, while scouts believe his breaking ball and changeup are good enough to get major league batters out today. They project them both to become plus pitches. He has been compared to Pedro Martinez because of his high ceiling and slight frame and Felix Hernandez because of how good he is so young.
Because he hasn't dominated in 2016, there may be an opportunity to swoop in and steal him from an unsuspecting owner. The Padres will have the same challenge of developing Espinoza as the Dodgers have had with Julio Urias. We will see how it goes.
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