2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: 10 prospects to stash besides Ronald Acuna, with an update for Scott Kingery
We all know about Ronald Acuna, but he's not the only top prospect ticketed for the minors who is nonetheless deserving of a roster spot in Fantasy. Our Scott White shares his top 10.
- Draft Prep Tiers: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP
- Heath's Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts |
- Scott's Top 100 prospects | Sleepers | Breakouts | Busts
You heard about Ronald Acuna, right?
Not that it was unexpected. Getting another year of team control just by leaving him in the minors for another 14 days is simply too big of an advantage to pass up. Much like Kris Bryant in 2013, he'll be up too soon for anyone to miss him and presumably go on to win NL Rookie of the Year and a few thousand Fantasy championships.
So putting him at the top of a prospects-to-stash list would be like putting the turkey at the top of a Thanksgiving-musts list. If you need someone to tell you, you're in over your head.
Nobody's backing down from the 20-year-old now that he's patrolling minor-league camp. If anything, his stock continues to rise after hitting .432 (19 for 44) with four homers and four steals in Grapefruit League play. His average draft position has entered the top 100 and figures to close in on the top 70 before the season starts.
So let's go about this a little differently: These aren't the top 10 prospects to stash. They're the top 10 other than Acuna.
By "prospects," I mean the ones expected to begin 2018 in the minors, not the majors or even the DL, as figures to be the case for Alex Reyes and Luiz Gohara (they're worth stashing, just so we're clear). I'm also not including David Dahl and Tyler Glasnow, who are certainly stashable but no longer prospects.
By "stash," I mean within reason. In shallower leagues -- say, ones where 250 or fewer players are drafted -- it'll be hard to justify stashing anyone, and even in deeper leagues, attempting to stash more than a couple from this list could leave you short-handed in the short term.
But as a general rule, stashing potentially impactful prospects is a good idea. For these particular 10, the upside exceeds whatever you might find on waivers, and the expected timetable for each is short, perhaps even the same 14-day window Acuna is looking at.
1. Gleyber Torres, SS, Yankees
2017 minors: .287 (202 AB), 7 HR, 14 2B, 7 SB. .863 OPS, 30 BB, 47 K
Early in the offseason, the Yankees freed up two infield spots for Torres by trading away Starlin Castro and Chase Headley but then filled both just a couple months later with Neil Walker and Brandon Drury. Is it because they saw something they didn't like from Torres just nine months removed from Tommy John surgery? Is it because they want an extra year of control, as the Braves with Acuna? Or could it be they like the versatility of Drury and Walker more than what they already had? Probably a little of everything. But seeing as the Yankees were preparing to call up Torres when he tore his UCL last June, it won't be long for a prospect thought to have Carlos Correa-level upside.
2. Scott Kingery, 2B, Phillies
2017 minors: .304 (543 AB), 26 HR, 65 RBI, 29 SB, .889 OPS, 41 BB, 109 K
Seemingly blocked at second base by the underrated Cesar Hernandez, Kingery has tried his hand at both shortstop and center field this spring, but it wasn't until he played third base that I began to see a path to the majors for him. A few down weeks from Maikel Franco, who has mostly disappointed since his rookie 2015 season, and Kingery will be taking over at the hot corner. Or he may arrive as a super sub, earning at-bats the Marwin Gonzalez way. One thing's for sure: The 20-20 man has been one of the most buzzed-about players this spring.
Update: The Phillies signed Kingery to a long-term deal a the end of spring training and will consequently award him a major-league job. He'll play the super sub role, potentially starting five times a week at six different positions. He's worth drafting on about the same level as Javier Baez, who has similar playing-time concerns.
3. Austin Hays, OF, Orioles
2017 minors: .329 (523 AB), 32 HR, 95 RBI, .958 OPS, 25 BB, 85 K
2017 majors: .217 (60 AB), 1 HR, .555 OPS, 2 BB, 16 K
As with Torres, the job was seemingly Hays' for the taking at the starting of spring training, but then the Orioles signed Colby Rasmus to a minor-league deal just in case. And then "just in case" presented itself as a sore lat that has had Hays in and out of the lineup all spring. Add a strong showing from Rasmus, and here we are. Still, there's no doubting Hays is first in line, and with Mark Trumbo nursing a quad strain, there's still a remote chance he makes the opening day cut. You'd just the think the Orioles would want to see some production from a guy who has yet to set foot in Triple-A.
4. Ryan McMahon, 1B, Rockies
2017 minors: .355 (470 AB), 20 HR, 39 2B, 11 SB, .986 OPS, 41 BB, 92 K
2017 majors: .158 (19 AB), .544 OPS, 5 BB, 5 K
Another prospect upended by the slow-developing free agent market, Ryan McMahon went from being the favorite at first base to a casualty of the Carlos Gonzalez signing, but it doesn't change the impression he made this spring or his absurd production between two minor-league stops last year. He would probably be more productive than Gonzalez at this stage of their careers. Same for Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra, and time will bear it out. The biggest reason McMahon isn't No. 1, as you might expect for a hitter with Coors Field in his future, is because Dahl may be ahead of him in the pecking order.
5. Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
2017 minors: .321 (455 AB), 14 HR, 40 2B, 14 SB, .905 OPS, 49 BB, 97 K
Finally, a prospect we never expected to break camp with the team. Senzel nonetheless had his moments before being reassigned. Most notable, though, was how often he played shortstop, a position that the Reds may see him ultimately filling now that Eugenio Suarez is locked up long term. It's a pleasant development for a player already thought to have Scott Rolen-level upside, and it possibly shortens the timetable given that the Reds incumbent shortstop, Jose Peraza, is a flawed offensive player. The second overall pick in the 2016 draft, Senzel had a big second half at Double-A Pensacola last year and just needs more of the same at Triple-A.
6. Victor Robles, OF, Nationals
2017 minors: .300 (430 AB), 10 HR, 37 2B, 27 SB, .875 OPS, 37 BB, 84 K
2017 majors: .250 (24 AB), .766 OPS, 0 BB, 6 K
Michael Taylor's recent brush with competence buys Robles a little extra development time, but it should only be a little after getting his first taste of the majors last September. It may be as simple as Taylor slumping his way out of a job, but then again, Robles has played only 50 games above A-ball and looked overmatched this spring. A big reason I'm ranking him this high (apart from his elite pedigree, of course) is because steals are in short supply, and five-outfielder Rotisserie leagues are where you're most likely to be stashing any of these prospects anyway.
7. Willie Calhoun, OF, Rangers
2017 minors: .300 (486 AB), 31 HR, 93 RBI, .927 OPS, 42 BB, 61 K
2017 majors: .265 (34 AB), 2 BB, 7 K
When opening day rosters are announced, Calhoun will be the most surprising exclusion of these 10 since he looked like the obvious choice to play left field just a month ago. But the thing is he's not a left fielder, having spent most of his minor-league career at second base. He's not a second baseman either, which is why he debuted in left field late last year. The portly slugger is a player without a position, which is difficult to accommodate even for an AL club, so while his bat may be ready, he'll have to wait until the Rangers are desperate for it.
8. Francisco Mejia, C, Indians
2017 minors: .297 (347 AB), 14 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB, .835, 24 BB, 53 K
2017 majors: .154 (13 AB), .368 OPS, 1 BB, 3 K
It's clear the Indians want Mejia in their lineup sooner than later. It's why they keep trying him at positions other than catcher -- first at third base this winter and now in the outfield. That's not to say catching isn't still his future, but the bat is ahead of the glove right now and the Indians already have a couple catchers they like. For Fantasy purposes, Mejia is eligible at catcher regardless, and getting a chance to play another position full-time would potentially give him an at-bat advantage over other catchers. I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where he arrives, plays every day and isn't a must-start option at the weakest position in Fantasy.
9. Eloy Jimenez, OF, White Sox
2017 minors: .312 (369 AB), 19 HR, .947 OPS, 35 BB, 72 K
Of every prospect on this list, Jimenez's bat might profile the best for Fantasy purposes. He'll hit for average and power, and based on the little bit we've seen of him this spring and his rapid ascent up the minor-league ladder, he's a reasonable bet to do it right away. His biggest problem is he's in an organization with nothing to play for, and seeing as he spent most of last season at A-ball, the White Sox have an easy excuse to hold him back, potentially stringing us along the entire year. Granted, if that's how I thought it would go down, I wouldn't put Jimenez on this list, but the possibility is plausible enough for me to rank him only eighth.
10. Jack Flaherty, SP, Cardinals
2017 minors: 2.18 ERA, 1.04 WHIP (148 2/3), 8.9 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
2017 majors: 6.33 ERA, 1.55 WHIP (21 1/3 IP), 8.5 K/9, 4.2 BB/9
Owners in points leagues can justify stashing a pitcher a little easier than owners in categories leagues. It just seems like in today's landscape, the hitters have much better odds of making an immediate impact. Flaherty, though, has made a strong case this spring for being the exception to that rule, striking out 15 over nine innings in his past two starts. He took a big step forward with a spike in velocity last season, and now the introduction of a two-seamer is drawing rave reviews. Between Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Miles Mikolas, the Cardinals have more potential pitfalls in their starting rotation than you might think, and until Reyes fully recovers from Tommy John surgery, Flaherty is first in line.
Miguel Andujar, 3B, Yankees: As with Torres, the Drury trade and Walker signing also pushed Andujar out of the picture, though he was always the less likely of the two to make the club. The bat is major league-ready, but the glove not so much.
Walker Buehler, SP, Dodgers: The path to innings is especially murky for Buehler, given the Dodgers' ample rotation depth, but the truth is they only have 3 1/2 trustworthy starting pitchers (with the half being part-time reliever Kenta Maeda). Ultimately, though, his talent will see him through.
A.J. Puk, SP, Athletics: Puk was the sixth overall pick in the 2016 draft and has mostly looked the part, averaging 13.2 strikeouts per nine innings between two stops last year. At 6-foot-7, he struggles to throw strikes consistently, but he was so impressive this spring that there was some talk he could claim a rotation spot. A bout with biceps soreness ended that, but it's not a long-term concern.
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