The Must-See Prospects of the Futures Game
Anyone reading this article knows that Yoan Moncada is an elite prospect with freakish physical ability, and that Alex Bregman is tearing up Double-A on his way to what we presume to be a promotion sometime this month. You are also aware that Alex Reyes throws lasers from the bump with a slider that he should be declared illegal, and that Andrew Benintendi could be in Boston before Labor Day. The Futures Game is a great opportunity to actually see the top prospects that we read about and whose stat sheets we monitor, but what the game does best is give avid prospect watchers a look at some of the lesser known prospects who don't receive the attention that we would like. Here are some of the prospects playing in this weekend’s Futures Game showcase that most avid prospect watchers may have heard about, but who don't get the ink or TV time that the elite players receive.
Tyler O'Neill, OF, Mariners
[caption id="attachment_108707" align="alignright" width="375"] Tyler O'Neill has the bat speed and pop to be Adam Duvall with more speed and walks. Photo Credit: David Dennis/Icon Sportswire[/caption]
2016 Stats: 312 ABs, 16 HRs, 33 BBs, .308 BA, .375 OBP
Adam Duvall is one of the best stories of this year’s All Star Game and Tyler O'Neill has a very similar profile. He mashes home runs with an overly aggressive approach that results in few free passes, like Duvall, but he will take more walks and he will steal some bases as well.
The bat speed is electric and the raw power is real. He hit 32 home runs over 407 at bats in 2015, and he already has 16 home runs in 312 at bats this year. He has a chance to be an impact Fantasy power source that should contribute some stolen bases to enhance his value.
Joe Musgrove, RHP Astros
Stats: 71.1 IP, 71 K, 9 BB, ERA 3.03, WHIP 1.07
ETA: Sept 2016 – 2017
Musgrove hasn't blown up the prospect buzz lines but Fantasy owners haven't ignored his solid season either. Command is his calling card but he has struck out a batter per inning this season, and he has 304 punch-outs in 323.1 professional innings pitched, making him more than just a command and control pitcher.
You won't see an overpowering pitch from Musgrove at the Futures Game this weekend, but he commands four pitches with low 90s velocity. He profiles to be a reliable Fantasy pitcher, who will be an above average two-start and matchup starter who can deepen your rotation. Because his stuff doesn't "pop" he should be affordable in trade, especially as a second or third piece that you "sneak in" as part of a larger deal. He warrants a minor league roster spot if he is on your waiver wire.
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Nationals
Stats: 87.1 IP, 109 K, ERA 3.19, WHIP 1.25
ETA: Sept 2016 - 2017
It isn't going to be easy for Lopez to find a rotation spot in Washington, but it won't be difficult for Fantasy fans to get excited after they see him in the Futures Game. St. Louis Cardinals’ fireballer Alex Reyes will receive the most buzz this weekend (he is likely to get the start), but don't be surprised if Fantasy fans walk away from their televisions remembering Lopez.
He isn't a "sleeper" but Lopez is not a player who receives the kind of buzz his raw stuff suggests he deserves. He has better command than more highly touted prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Alex Reyes, while his stuff is right there. He struck out a total of 286 batters in 285.2 minor league innings pitched including 109 in 87.1 innings at Double-A. He doesn't have the physical frame of elite pitching prospects like Lucas Giolito (6'0", 185 lbs.), but durability hasn't been a concern. Owners shouldn't be stunned if Lopez turns out to be the best Fantasy pitcher of the bunch.
Reyes and Glasnow are either untouchable or prohibitively expensive on the trade market while Lopez should be obtainable at a reasonable price.
The Futures game has its sleepers and it has its headliners, but it also has some niche players with potentially relevant skill sets as well. Let’s take a quick look at a few players that won't wow Fantasy owners but could catch your eye Sunday.
I don't typically recommend stashing closer prospects unless they are close to the majors or have the potential upside of becoming a starter, but there are a few hard throwers that justify a mention and a peek in Sunday's game.
Joe Jimenez, RHP, Tigers
2016 Stats: 32 IP, 55 K, ERA 0.28, WHIP 0.69
ETA: Aug 2017 - 2018
Jimenez went undrafted but he features two swing-and-miss pitches that profile perfectly for a closer prospect. He has a mid-90s fastball that has been clocked as high as 97-98 mph, and a hard breaking slider that perfectly profiles Jimenez to be a closer when he reaches the highest level.
Jimenez struck out 181 batters in 120.1 innings pitched while only walking 34 with a .161 batting average against. He is currently pitching at Double-A so it’s a little early to add him, but he is worth a look Sunday, and owners would be smart to keep him on their radars in spring training when he could get a look for the major league roster. Francisco Rodriguez has defied age but he can't close in Detroit forever and Jimenez has as good a shot as any to be next in line.
J.T. Chargois, RHP, Twins
2016 Stats: 36.1 IP, 47 K, 13 Saves, ERA 1.49, WHIP 1.02
The resume of a potential Fantasy closer whom you should get a glance at in Sunday’s game would include 33 Saves, 122 strikeouts in 100.1 innings pitched and most importantly, a triple-digit fastball. He has a changeup and a slider that are both serviceable, especially working off his high-octane fastball, but neither is impressive enough to transition Chargois from a reliever to a starter. Velocity is his calling card but command is an issue (40 walks in 100.1 innings pitched). However, triple-digit velocity can be unhittable on its own and should give him a leg up for the closers role when the opportunity arises, which could be in 2017.
Nate Smith, LHP, Angels
2016 Stats: 94.2 IP, 77 K, ERA 3.99, WHIP 1.31
Smith lacks special velocity or a filthy secondary offering that bends, but his calling card is a changeup, an out pitch that should enable him to stay a starter.
He is a back-end starter that Fantasy owners can use in good matchups or double start weeks, but a plus changeup is a weapon in today’s game and there is a decent chance that he is a free agent in the majority of leagues. He lacks the upside to be a "must-own" prospect, but if you have a spot he is worth a look.
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