Welcome to RotoExperts Midseason Top 25 Fantasy Prospects list: a re-ranking and breakdown of the best Fantasy prospects the minor leagues have to offer.
Ranking Fantasy prospects is different than ranking MLB prospects for many reasons. For one, context matters: the organization a prospect plays for, who plays in that organization ahead of him and positional scarcity all play a major role in evaluations. Secondly, offensive players get the bump over comparable pitchers, thanks to attrition rates and overall ability. Thirdly, upside matters more: No. 4 starters and versatile fielders are plenty useful in the majors, but you don’t want many of them on your Fantasy team. And finally, playing time matters too, so don’t be surprised to see some MLB-ready names make these lists over higher-ceiling players who are eons away.
All rankings and evaluations are based off of a combination of mainstream prospect analysis, industry sources, video scouting and in-person game observations.
Players must currently be in the minor leagues as of 7/22/13, and must meet rookie eligibility requirements (less than 130 AB, 50 IP) to qualify. Preseason rankings are included in parentheses next to position and team.
1) Xander Bogaerts (SS, BOS –PR: 3)
Bogaerts isn’t going to steal a lot of bases. From a Fantasy perspective, that’s really all he fails to offer. He’s a potential .300 hitter with 30 homer power, he plays a premium position, he’s close to the majors and he’ll play half his games in a favorable park. The upside here is Troy Tulowitzki minus speed.
2) Oscar Taveras (OF, STL – PR: 2)
The best overall offensive threat in the minors, Taveras only finds himself trailing Bogaerts because of positional scarcity. Taveras doesn’t strike out, can hit anything within a foot of the strike zone and should grow into a 25-30 homer threat in his prime. He’ll be batting near the middle of St. Louis’ lineup by June next season.
3) Byron Buxton (OF, MIN – PR: 24)
Mike Trout. Matt Kemp. Jacoby Ellsbury. Andrew McCutchen. Such are the comps we generally see listed with Buxton, and the center fielder has the highest Fantasy upside in the minor leagues. He has to slow down eventually, but Buxton’s shown a more advanced approach than anticipated this year, and the potential here is scary.
4) Miguel Sano (3B, MIN – PR: 11)
I saw Sano in person a few weeks back and it’s hard to adequately describe just how big he is. His build is athletic, though, and some reports now indicate he may be able to stay at third base, which would be a huge boon to his value. Sano’s power tool is almost on par with the likes of Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper.
5) Javier Baez (SS, CHC – PR: 12)
With his free-swinging ways and questionable pitch recognition, Baez is far from a lock to reach his potential. That potential would see him become one of the best power hitters in the game, though, and he can generate that pop while playing shortstop. His bat speed makes me feel feelings.
6) Nick Castellanos (OF, DET – PR: 14)
I don’t really understand why Castellanos isn’t getting more hype in Fantasy leagues. Yes, it’s disappointing that he moved off 3B, but he’s also hitting .285/.356/.455 in Triple-A. Castellanos is ready for MLB duty, is as “safe” as a prospect can be and profiles as Alex Gordon without the speed.
7) Taijuan Walker (SP, SEA – PR: 9)
No pitching prospect is guaranteed health, but with his athleticism and repeatable delivery, Walker is as safe a bet as any to log 200-plus innings every year. If the curveball regains its form, Walker could be an ace. If he has to rely more on the fastball and cutter, he’s still very good and will throw half his innings at Safeco.
8) Archie Bradley (SP, ARI – PR: 36)
Bradley has had among the best seasons of any pitcher in the mid-minors, striking out nearly a batter per inning with a 2.49 ERA in Double-A. He has a prototypical pitcher’s build, a nasty curveball, heavy fastball and an improving changeup. This is everything you look for in a right-handed pitching prospect, and he’ll be ready soon.
9) Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT – 48)
One of my favorite prospects to follow, Polanco does everything well on the diamond. He’s walking as often as he’s striking out in Double-A as 21-year-old, and Polanco has the skill set to hit 15-20 homers and steal 30 bases with a good average in his prime. No one tool stands out, but he’ll be a five-category contributor.
10) Carlos Correa (SS, HOU – 25)
For a former No. 1 overall pick, Correa hasn’t generated a lot of headlines this year despite a phenomenal performance in Single-A. Don’t sleep on how well he’s playing, though, and don’t let Buxton’s star overshadow him. Correa is a future Fantasy first-rounder and he could start to move quickly.
11) Addison Russell (SS, OAK -26)
I’m a bigger believer in Correa’s talent, but what Russell is doing this season is more impressive, as he’s performing well as a 19-year-old in High-A. He’s showcasing an intriguing power-speed combo and while he’s striking out a bit too much, he’s not afraid to take a walk either. There’s nothing not to like here.
12) Billy Hamilton (OF, CIN -6)
You could’ve made the case coming into the season that Hamilton was the best Fantasy prospect in the game, given the damage he can do on the bases. But in order to steal, you need to get on base, and that’s something Hamilton has struggled with in Triple-A. There’s still plenty of value here, but some red flags as well.
13) Kris Bryant (3B/OF, CHC – N/A)
The second overall pick in the 2013 draft, Bryant can hit and hit for a ton of power, which is a rare commodity from the right side of the plate these days. He’ll need a season-and-a-half or so in the minors, but he won’t take too long to reach Wrigley and he’ll challenge for 30 homers as soon as he gets there.
14) Christian Yelich (OF, MIA -15)
Yelich is a really good hitter who’s going to add a ton of value via his hit tool and willingness to take a walk, but he’s a bit overrated in the Fantasy world. The power and speed combo are modest, he’ll be playing in Miami in a terrible hitters’ ballpark and he struggles against lefties. I don’t see him as a future Top 10 Fantasy outfielder.
15) Mark Appel (OF, HOU – N/A)
People seem to be down on Appel since his upside might fall just shy of a true No. 1 starter, but he’s ready to pitch in a big league rotation now and he’ll probably spend most of his career as a No. 2 starter. Wins will be hard to come by in Houston for a bit, but the rest of the package is there.
16) Noah Syndergaard (SP, NYM – 38)
I’ve been hesitant to fully jump on the Syndergaard bandwagon until now, and I still have my doubts about his secondary offerings. But his good command and plus-plus fastball give him a high floor, and the No. 2 starter potential is very evident. He should reach the majors next season.
17) Kevin Gausman (SP, BAL -19)
Don’t let Gausman’s poor performance in the majors fool you: there’s a ton of upside here, and Gausman isn’t far off from being able to contribute to the Orioles more significantly. He’s more of a No. 2 starter than a true ace, but that’s not an insult and the strikeouts will be there. Now’s a good time to buy low.
18) Jameson Taillon (SP, PIT -21)
Another player I’ve been comparatively low on in the past, Taillon is forcing my hand by continuing to pitch well in Double-A. I don’t think he’s an ace and it’s too easy to square up his pitches, but he’s a safe bet to at least perform as a mid-rotation starter. He could reach the majors by season’s end.
19) Jonathan Singleton (1B, HOU -20)
Singleton has struggled since his return from a 50-game suspension served for Marijuana use, but he’s still the best 1B prospect in the game by a long shot and the power is still very real. If others are just looking at the stat line and want to sell low, Singleton makes a nice acquisition for rebuilding owners.
20) George Springer (OF, HOU – 42)
Springer strikes out way too often and eventually that’s going to stop him from hitting for a high average, but he has the potential to hit 20-30 homers and steal 20-30 bases. I think he’s pretty likely to turn into B.J. Upton from an offensive standpoint, but there remains the hope that he can be a little something more.
21) Jake Marisnick (OF, MIA -60)
This is an aggressive ranking for Marisnick but he’s having an excellent year in Double-A, showcasing the combination of power, speed and patience that first caught my attention in 2011. He’s flying under the radar right now but don’t be surprised to see him in the majors next season.
22) Dylan Bundy (SP, BAL – 4)
Bundy was universally viewed as the best pitching prospect in the game before the season, but will now miss the next year after Tommy John surgery. While the TJ success rate is good it’s not a guarantee, and this is the highest I can justify ranking someone who might not throw a pitch in 2014.
23) Carlos Martinez (SP, STL – 44)
I’m not thrilled by Martinez’ declining strikeout rate and he still walks a few too many batters as well, but the potential for Martinez to develop into a No. 2/3 starter or a shutdown closer is too hard to ignore. I don’t see how the Cardinals keep him in the minors for much longer, especially if he moves to the bullpen.
24) Robert Stephenson (SP, CIN – 85)
Stephenson is the player I underrated most coming into the year, but I shall make that mistake no longer. The fastball is at least a grade 70, and he just did horrible, mean things to Single-A hitters. By this time next year, he could be the best pitching prospect in the game.
25a) Maikel Franco (3B, PHI – 100)
One of 2013’s biggest breakout prospects, Franco has taken a big step forward this year, hitting over .300 with a combined 21 homers between High-A and Single-A. He may be Jose Molina-slow, but Franco has plus-plus power and natural bat-to-ball ability, even if the walk rates could use a boost.
25b) Garin Cecchini (3B, BOS -132)
I couldn’t decide between Cecchini and Franco for this final spot, because while the two are very different players their timetables and ultimate roles as Top 10 Fantasy third basemen are the same. Cecchini is still growing into his pop but he’s going to hit over .300 several times in his career, and he could swipe 15 bags per season to boot.
Honorable Mention: Travis d’Arnaud (C, NYM), Yordano Ventura (SP/RP, KC), Jonathan Gray (SP, COL), Gary Sanchez (C, NYY), Aaron Sanchez (SP, TOR), Jorge Soler (OF, CHC), Kyle Crick (SP, SF), Corey Seager (SS/3B, LAD), Kolten Wong (2B, STL), Delino DeShields (2B, HOU)
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