Every year, we get giddy when we hear that a new prospect is going to get called up. We saw it last year in an extreme situation when seemingly every week a top prospect was getting the call. This year, the pitching prospects have ruled the early-season call-up list, but for the most part, they’ve failed to live up to the hype.
Enter Julio Urias, who at 19 years old will be making his major league debut on Friday evening against the New York Mets. Will he have the success of Noah Syndergaard right away, or will he struggle like Jose Berrios, Sean Manaea and Aaron Blair did this year?
With prospects, if they don’t perform right away, we kind of disregard them and look at them as busts because they didn’t perform immediately (see Byron Buxton, and to an extent, Addison Russell). But over time, the elite prospects can develop and turn into Fantasy mainstays and superstars at their own pace.
For three former top prospects, their time of arrival and super Fantasy impact is taking place before our eyes.
With ADP’s in the lower-half of drafts, these three Fantasy Baseball breakouts will only continue to improve and skyrocket up draft boards in 2017.
Yeah, I’ll say it. In 2017, Gregory Polanco will be the highest drafted Pirates player in Fantasy. Want to know why? Because he’s going to be considered the best player on the team. It won’t just be an upside pick anymore. It’s no shot at Andrew McCutchen or Starling Marte, either, who are great in their own right. But the Polanco breakout that we hoped for in his sophomore season is in full effect this year.
Polanco is enjoying a career season across the board, with a career best strikeout rate (17.9 percent), walk rate (12.8 percent), ISO (.240), AVG (.317), OBP (.402), SLG (.557), wOBA (.402 and wRC+ (158).
What is also at a career high for Polanco is his .367 BABIP, so regression there is going to happen, but Polanco is still on his way to a career season. In his first few seasons, we were waiting for the power to play for Polanco, as well as improvement against left-handed pitching. Polanco’s career high in home runs is nine, but he’s on pace to shatter that this year, as a 20-home run season is in play.
Polanco still has work to do against lefties, as he’s hitting just .250 with a .342 OBP and .531 SLG, but he has a 34.2 percent strikeout rate, which is alarming. I think of it as a Michael Conforto situation, but Polanco’s ceiling and floor is even higher as a Fantasy option.
Also of note for Polanco is his improved hard hit rate to 35.6 percent, and improved his line drive rate to 27.6 percent on the season.
Even with Marcell Ozuna’s improved play, the Pirates can boast that they have the best outfield in baseball from a real life and Fantasy perspective. Now, it’s just figuring out who the best Fantasy Baseball option is in that outfield for the next five years.
Speaking of outfielders, how impressive is it to see what Nomar Mazara is doing at the plate? The 21-year-old was a top prospect of the Rangers, and wasn’t even on the Fantasy radar at the beginning of the season for redraft leagues. It’s not because he wasn’t supposed to be good, but he wasn’t supposed to come up this early if at all this season.
All Mazara has done is hit while he’s been up, and with the demotion of Delino DeShields and the lineup card for Shin-Soo Choo’s brief return to the team shows that Mazara isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
On Wednesday, Mazara turned heads as he unloaded a 491-foot home run – the longest of the season – with an exit velocity of 107.8 mph. Seriously, the third base coach moved more on it than the fielders did.
While Mazara does have the eight home runs on the season, it is a tad weird that he has just three doubles and no triples, while 37 of his 48 hits on the year are singles. Mazara has moved around the order, too, batting anywhere from second to seventh in the Rangers’ lineup. When Choo returned, Mazara was batting seventh, which should help his RBI total (just 21 in 39 games) but may not increase his runs (21).
Mazara’s 7.2 percent walk rate could stand to get a little bit higher, and his O-Swing percentage could be lowered from 35 percent.
Even with a seemingly jammed Rangers outfield, Mazara has the chance to be the best outfield option for Fantasy owners going forward this year even with the way Ian Desmond is playing and with Choo on his way back … eventually. Next year, his ADP will reflect it, too, and we’ll be comparing him and his toolsy Triple-A teammate Lewis Brinson for years to come.
On the other side of the ball, let’s talk about Steven Matz, shall we? His overall 124 ADP preseason is looking funny now, isn’t it? For as many concerns as we have with Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, Matz is teaming up with Syndergaard to help Fantasy owners trust the Mets’ staff.
Get this, after his first start of the season, in which he allowed seven runs and struck out just one batter, Matz has allowed a total of six runs and has 49 strikeouts to just seven walks over his last seven starts, with a MLB-leading 1.13 ERA in those starts.
For all the talk about Syndergaard, you’re looking at the Mets truce ace.
And it’s all legit for Matz, too, as he’s seventh in baseball behind with a 23.3 percent hard hit rate. His 2.36 ERA is close to his SIERA (2.90) and xFIP (2.82), while he’s inducing a ground ball 55.6 percent of the time.
While Harvey and deGrom were the highest-drafted Mets pitchers this year, next year and beyond, look for Syndergaard and Matz to be taken as top 10 pitchers in 2017 and beyond.