These last ten prospects to watch for in 2015 have more development remaining than a lot of the previous players, or they have had some setbacks that put their Fantasy futures at risk. But, there are some big tools in this group. and at this stage in the rankings that takes priority. Safe, low ceiling prospects with a significant amount of development remaining don’t deserve to be ranked ahead of a 30 home run or a 30 stolen base player or a potential top of the rotation starter.
Eddie Butler, SP, Colorado Rockies
There is a lot to like about Butler and if the rankings were done in a vacuum he would be a Top 15 player. His raw stuff is comparable, if not better than top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito. He has three plus-offerings and above average command with movement. He profiles as a Fantasy ace.
Butler’s 2014 season was cut short by a rotator cuff strain and then his Arizona Fall League stint was cut short by upper back and shoulder discomfort. Those aren’t good things, but they should resolve themselves in time for 2015.
Butler will pitch the majority of his innings in Coors Field, a factor too significant to ignore, and his Fantasy value suffers significantly because of it. If you can trade for him cheap, or get him as a late round flier in the draft, then I would suggest it (emphasis on cheap). At worst, he could be a situational starter, especially in daily transaction leagues.
He will struggle to consistently post ERAs below 3.70 pitching half his games at Coors Field, but I would not be surprised to see a 3.00 ERA away from Coors, with high strikeout totals if he reaches his high ceiling. Assuming Butler is healthy, an unpredictable assumption right now, he should pitch at least 100 innings in the majors with 70-80 strikeouts and an ERA north of 4.00.
Floor: Clay Buchholz
Ceiling: Zach Greinke
Domingo Santana, OF, Houston Astros
Santana is a perfect example of what this section of the rankings is all about. He has the power to be an All-Star and enough problems making contact to make him a fourth or fifth outfielder. He struck out 163 times in 126 games while mashing 43 extra base hits in 2014. Over the last three seasons at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A Santana hit 64 home runs while striking out 436 times in 1,316 plate appearances (33 percent K%).
The power is too explosive to ignore and in his best seasons we could even see 10-15 steals. At best, his batting averages will be a drag on your lineup but the power makes them acceptable. At worst, Santana is never able to make enough contact to be a full time player and get enough at bats to hit 20-plus homers in a season. I would sell him if you can find an owner excited by the explosive power.
Santana played six games for the Astros after 120 in Triple-A in 2014. He is ready to make the next step and play full time in the major leagues. Jake Marisnick shouldn’t be an obstacle to at bats, so as long as he makes enough contact to justify a full-time spot, he should have one. Monitor him in spring training to be sure. In 2015 he should play about 115 major league games and hit 15 home runs with a .245 batting average.
Floor: Dayan Viciedo
Ceiling: Mark Reynolds/Todd Frazier
Luis Severino, SP, New York Yankees
Severino throws low to mid-90’s with an out pitch changeup and a slider that is currently average. He has a lot of steam behind him after a breakout 2014, but the profile isn’t special. In 2014, he dominated three levels, including an impressive inning in the Futures Game. He averaged better than a K per inning at Low-A, High-A and Double-A, but with his fastball-changeup combination that isn’t a huge surprise.
He has an above average fastball combined with an out-pitch changeup that often befuddles lower level hitters, which makes the development of his slider extremely important to his Fantasy future. His rise has been quick, which is exciting, but I see a mid-rotation ceiling because of the lack of elite velocity and a swing and miss breaking ball. Severino is expected to go back to Double-A to start 2015, and if he picks up where he left off in 2014, he could be with the Yankees by August. I wouldn’t expect more than 70 innings or 45 strikeouts but he could be an intriguing matchup guy in September.
Floor: Jeremy Guthrie
Ceiling: James Shields
Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Scouts are intrigued by the bat speed and the power potential. Pompey is a plus base stealer and he will be a full-time major leaguer because of his plus defense and arm. He has a good batter’s eye, makes good contact and has been above average at drawing walks for a player who lacks a power hitter’s profile. Pompey had his breakout season in 2014. He started in High-A and finished in Toronto with the Jays. He hit for a good average and stole more than his fair share of bases while hitting nine home runs.
The power hasn’t emerged yet which is reason for doubt, but with the speed to steal 30-40 bases and the potential to bat .290, you only need 8-12 homers a year to make him a strong second or third outfielder. If the power develops you could see 15-20 home runs and 30-35 steals with a .290 batting average. As a ceiling, that’s a very strong Fantasy prospect, and if not for his late bloom he would be much higher on this list. Pompey finished 2014 in Toronto and he has the inside track to start there in 2015. Pompey could be a top of the order bat one day but he probably bats at the bottom in 2015. He could hit 8-10 home runs and steal 20-25 bases, and with a late round draft pick he could be a steal. Five home runs and 20 steals with a .270 batting average are much more reasonable to expect but still a good draft day value.
Floor: Ben Revere/Denard Span
Ceiling: Starling Marte/Coco Crisp (better batting averages)
Hunter Harvey, SP, Baltimore Orioles
Harvey has three above average pitches – fastball/curveball/changeup – that he commands well. The concern is that his velocity is only mid-90’s, his breaking ball is above average but not filthy and his changeup is good, but also not a shutdown pitch. They all play up due to good command but he lacks ace potential. Harvey emerged on the prospect radar in 2014, throwing 87.2 innings with a 3.18 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in Low-A.
Harvey looks like a mid-rotation Fantasy pitcher with a higher floor but a limited ceiling. He has a pitcher’s body and the repertoire to be a consistent 200 inning major leaguer but lacks the tools of a difference maker. Harvey’s workload should increase into the 110-120 innings range starting at High-A, and finishing the year in Double-A. Watch to see if the high strikeouts continue while maintaining good command.
Floor: Jeremy Guthrie
Ceiling: John Lackey
Aaron Sanchez, SP/RP, Toronto Blue Jays
Sanchez has the “stuff” to be a number two starter, but with spotty command the verdict is still out on whether he can remain a starter. At his best, he dominates with a swing-and-miss breaking pitch and a plus-fastball with good movement. At his worst, he struggles to command everything, leading to an unacceptable 5.5 BB/9 IP rate in 2013. The Jays tweaked his mechanics resulting in a drop in his walk rate from 5.5 to 2.5 per nine innings in 2014, but he did it out of the bullpen where his stuff is even more impressive.
He has top of the rotation stuff and a great groundball rate but with his plus-stuff the strikeouts should be higher. The constant tweaking of his mechanics followed by a marked improvement in 2014, combined with his finish in the bullpen suggests that Toronto may see Sanchez as a Wade Davis type of late inning reliever rather than a top of the rotation starter. Watch him closely in spring training to get an indication of his role. The Jays’ free agent spending and trades for Josh Donaldson and Marco Estrada suggest that they are going for it in 2015, and that Sanchez is targeted for the late innings. It’s unlikely that he is their closer. If he is a reliever, then you can expect 65 innings, 45 strikeouts and very impressive ratios. If he earns a rotation spot you can expect 130 innings starting in June, an ERA around 4.00 and a WHIP around 1.35 and 95 strikeouts.
Floor: SP -Rick Porcello RP – Casey Janssen
Ceiling: SP – Jordan Zimmerman RP – Wade Davis/David Robertson
Steven Moya, OF, Detroit Tigers
Moya has explosive power, and is known for producing the disconcerting breeze that comes from consistent swings and misses. One strikeout per nine innings would be an improvement that Fantasy owners would gleefully welcome from Moya, but 575 Ks in 471 games is the running tally so far. To add to the concerns, he doesn’t walk much. Moya always had the raw power but in 2014 he exploded with 35 home runs in 133 games. He also happened to strikeout 161 times, but who is counting.
Hitting 35 home runs a minor league season makes Moya a potential impact Fantasy player. The fact that he swings and misses a lot and almost never walks just adds to the drama. In Fantasy, I try to sell these types of high upside, high-risk power bats. If you can find an owner excited by Moya, I would suggest you sell. Moya got some major league at bats in 2014, but he shouldn’t get more until July or August of 2015. That being said, Detroit often rushes their prospects and if he bashes a few home runs early in the season, you could see him sooner. The most you should expect this season is 5-8 home runs in about 30-40 games. He would be best served as a September call up.
Floor: Dayan Viciedo
Ceiling: Yoenis Cespedes
Michael Taylor, OF, Washington Nationals
Taylor will be a full time major leaguer that averages 25-plus stolen bases a season. The question is how high his home run totals will go, and how low will his batting averages fall? It was a break out season in 2014 for Taylor that culminated in a major league call up. He hit career highs in batting average (.304) and home runs (22), and second most in steals (37). His development took a major leap forward along with his stats, and he has some scouts believing he could solve his contact issues.
Taylor is a career .261 batter that hasn’t had a meaningful number of at bats above Double-A yet. He did bat .313 in 98 games at Double-A in 2014, a good sign that he might be figuring things out. Taylor should begin 2015 in Triple-A, and if all goes well see a promotion to the majors in July or August. You could see 40-50 games with the Nationals, with 5-10 home runs and 15 steals if he can make enough contact to earn full time at bats.
Floor: BJ Upton
Ceiling: Carlos Gomez/Ian Desmond
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Colorado Rockies
McMahon is more likely to exceed expectations than to fall short of them due to his makeup. Combine that with athleticism, above average power and contact tools and he projects to be a legitimate all around Fantasy contributor once he reaches Coors Field. McMahon continued his steady development in 2014. He moved up in levels and played more games while maintaining comparable statistics across the board.
McMahon is a smart player with the intangibles to go with above average tools. He is unlikely to be a Fantasy league MVP, but he is a safe, low risk gamble to be an above average third baseman. Playing in Coors Field could make his peak seasons well above average. Look at what owners got from Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson in 2014. McMahon has a similar profile. McMahon is only 20 years old, and should play most of 2015 in High-A with a chance to finish the year in Double-A. The Rockies have Nolan Arenado at third base, so there is no reason to rush the promising prospect. He is still under the radar for the most part and makes for a good claim or a hush-hush trade target. This could be the year that he becomes a popular up and comer.
Floor: Chase Headley
Ceiling: Kyle Seager
Matt Wisler, SP, San Diego Padres
Wisler’s tools don’t wow you. He survives mostly on smarts and command with four solidly average pitches. His velocity is average; his slider flashes plus at times but none of his other offerings suggest more than a number three starter. He commands the zone to both sides and uses movement and sink to limit hard contact and dominate right handed hitters. Wisler struggled in Triple-A in 2014, with an ERA of 5.01 and a WHIP of 1.43, by far the worst numbers of his career. He averaged almost a strikeout per inning prior to 2014, but only had 101 punch-outs in 116.2 innings this past season.
Wisler has the command and intelligence to be an above average pitcher. Average velocity and slightly above average secondary pitches without much promise for more limits his ceiling. He profiles as a 160 strikeout, number three starter. He will be an innings-eater and a strong matchup play, and his ratios will benefit significantly by pitching in the spacious Petco Park in San Diego. San Diego doesn’t have a strong fourth or fifth starter that would absolutely block Wisler, so a rotation spot out of spring training isn’t impossible, but it is highly unlikely. He struggled at Triple-A in 2014, and he isn’t ready for 200 major league innings. A June or July promotion and 130 major league innings is possible depending on how well the back end of the rotation options perform for the Padres. Fantasy owners should monitor reports for his promotion. He could be a serviceable late season matchup and double start option in 2015.
Floor: Ryan Vogelsong
Ceiling: John Lackey