Fantasy Baseball: 11 eye-opening prospect performances to note
Chris Towers dives into the minor-league leaders to find what Fantasy players need to know about down on the farm.
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Usually around the middle of the week in this space, Scott White gives you his prospects report — check out last week's when he talked about Eloy Jimenez's. I am not Scott White, obviously. He's on vacation. So, no prospects report this week.
But, I'm interested in prospects too, and I know you are, so I thought I would contribute something to hold you over. With that in mind, I took a look at some of the leader boards from around the minors, to find 11 numbers you need to know about from around the prospect world. Some of them are good; some are bad; some aren't even from players you consider prospects. But all are worth knowing, for one reason or another, whether you have an eye on this season or beyond.
Here you go:
Brendan McKay, A+, Rays
Stat to know: 50 K, 2 BB as a pitcher; 28 BB, 20 K as a hitter
You read that right. Strikeouts and walks aren't everything, but they're obviously important for both hitters and pitchers. And McKay has been elite in both regards, on both sides of the ball.
He's considered a better pitching prospect than a hitter prospect, and that makes sense. He has allowed just three runs in 35 2/3 innings of work, while leading all affiliated baseball in strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's been so dominant, first in Class A Bowling Green and then through 11 innings in High-A Charlotte, that it's fair to wonder if the 22-year-old has much left to learn in the minors on the mound, even with just 55 2/3 total innings under his belt.
The bat is a fair bit behind, and he's off to a rough start at Charlotte as a result, striking out seven times with no walks in his first six games. The arm might be ready for another promotion soon enough, but if the Rays want to continue to develop him as a hitter, he won't be moving quite as fast as his numbers suggest. The concern here is that McKay might be ready to make an impact as a pitcher long before the Rays are ready to actually give him a shot, a frustrating possibility for Fantasy players.
Mickey Moniak, High-A, Phillies
Stat to know: .514 OPS
If you still had hope for Moniak after his full-season debut struggles a year ago, this is the last straw. Scott didn't include him in his pre-seasoncolumn, and that's looking like the right move, as Moniak has hit just .226/.246/.268 through 44 games at High-A Clearwater. And, honestly … there really aren't any positive signs. Moniak has miserable plate discipline (four walks, 45 strikeouts), no power (seven doubles, no homers), and isn't showing much speed (three steals). I guess that's what happens when you don't take the best prospect on the board, Phillies. It's time to give up on him as a Dynasty prospect, if you haven't already.
Kyle Wright, AA, Braves
Stat to know: 4.73 ERA
Wright was a top-30 Fantasy prospect for Scott before the season, despite just 17 innings of professional work under his belt. He was considered an advanced prospect out of Vanderbilt, with a four-pitch arsenal that includes a high-90s fastball. That kind of profile is expected to make quick work of the high-minors en route to a fast track to the majors, but that doesn't appear like Wright's track right now. The problem has been consistency, as his last four starts illustrate:
- 5/12: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
- 5/17: 5 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
- 5/23: 2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
- 5/29: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB 6 K
That's nothing to be ashamed of for a young pitcher, but it does lead one to question whether Wright is going to move as fast as we might have hoped before the season.
Myles Straw, AA, Astros
Stat to know: 31 SB (Leads baseball)
Straw stole 38 bases in 127 games last year, so I think it's safe to say he's going to establish a new career-high. And it's not all speed, either, as he hit .290 last season and is hitting .360 in his first 48 games of 2018 at Double-A. He rarely strikes out (13.0 percent this season), and has more walks than strikeouts two years running, so he's someone with a good command of the strike zone.
There are two problems from a Fantasy perspective, and they should be obvious:
- He has no power. Like … none. Two career homers, only 10 extra-base hits all season.
- He is in the Astros' organization. Where is he going to play?
Straw was the Astros' No. 20 prospect before the season according to MLB.com, and there are definitely questions about whether he'll be able to sustain his elite plate discipline against major-league pitchers, but his speed could be an obvious asset if he ever gets a chance in the majors.
Luis Rengifo, AA, Angels
Stat to know: 28 BB, 22 K
The profile here doesn't look much different from the one I detailed for Straw, with plus plate discipline and speed serving as the primary tools of note. The difference here is Rengifo can put one in the seats occasionally, which could help his tools play up more as he progresses through the minors. Most don't see an everyday player here — he's the Angels' No. 28 prospect, per MLB.com — but Rengifo has hit .330/.429/.486 this season with 23 steals in 45 games, and that plays as a middle infielder. He's a low-end dynasty prospect, but one to keep an eye on. Especially with Ian Kinsler looking cooked.
Peter Alonso, AA, Birmingham
Stat to know: 1.096 OPS
I know, OPS is so basic, but … how could I not write about this guy? He's been one of the best hitters in baseball at any level, sporting a .333/.459/.637 line, with no apparent flaws in his game right now. He's on a 40-homer pace, while walking 16.3 percent of the time and striking out 19.1 percent of the time. He was solid in 2017, but the plate discipline is really where he looks like he has taken a big step forward in 2018, and we're at the point where it might not take much to get him called up. He is a better Fantasy prospect than a real-life one, though the way he's played this season, he might be underrated in both facets. The profile looks Rhys Hoskins-esque, and that's a big compliment, despite his recent struggles. With Adrian Gonzalez no longer an impact bat and Dominic Smith failing to impress even in the thin air of Triple-A Las Vegas, it wouldn't be a shock to see Alonso get a shot this season.
Shane Bieber, AAA, Indians
Stat to know: 2.5 percent walk rate
We'll see if Bieber's approach will work in the majors when he starts for the Indians Thursday, but minor-league hitters must be happy that he's out of their lives for the time being. The stuff has never wowed scouts, but hitting against Bieber sounds exhausting, because he's going to make you work. He has walked just 15 batters in his professional career, despite racking up 262 2/3 innings, one of the more astounding numbers I've come across recently. Whether working in the strike zone as much as Bieber does will work against major-league hitters remains to be seen, but with a 1.65 ERA in 19 career starts between Double- and Triple-A, there doesn't seem to be much left for him to do in the minors.
Chris Paddack, High-A, Padres
Stat to know: 14.5 K/9
It's just 26 2/3 innings over five starts, but this is continuing a theme for Paddack. In 114 1/3 innings as a professional, the 6-foot-4 righty has a 1.42 ERA with 153 strikeouts and just 14 walks. He didn't pitch in 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, but has still absolutely dominated in 2018, despite pitching for the first time in High-A. Scouts have never been as high on Paddack as the numbers suggest, but that could also be because of the limited track record; he pitched just 42 1/3 innings in his breakout 2016 campaign before suffering ligament damage. Before the injury, he was showing two potential plus pitches in his fastball and changeup, while the curveball was developing. That he's picked up right where he left off bodes well. Don't be surprised if he starts to force his way into mid-season top-100 prospects lists. Baseball Prospectus prospects writer Wilson Karaman recently said Paddack put together "one of the more impressive games I've seen at the High-A level." This seems like a name we need to know.
Touki Toussaint, AA, Braves
Stat to know: 11.8 K/9
If there's a recurring theme on this list, it is of late-blooming former top prospects, and Toussaint is a great example of that. His prospect standing took a huge hit as he sported a 4.83 ERA and 8.9 K/9 before getting to Double-A. However, since reaching that level last season, Toussaint has started to flash the potential that made him the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft. In 90 innings at the level, Toussaint has a 3.40 ERA and 11.0 K/9. He's still walking too many batters (10.3 percent this season), but Toussaint needs to be on Fantasy radars given his pedigree and results in the high minors.
Monte Harrison, AA, Marlins
Stat to know: 37.4 percent strikeout rate
I said not all of these were positive, and this might be the most alarming one. That Harrison has some swing-and-miss in his game shouldn't be a surprise even after his breakout 2017, when he still struck out 27.1 percent of the time. You'll live with that in a package that includes 30-30 potential. But there's almost no way a strikeout rate over 35 percent can play, and this was the concern with Harrison as a prospect. He's always been a box of tools, but 2017 was the first and only time we've ever seen it play up in games. His first exposure to the upper minors hasn't been a disaster — the tools are still evident in his .251/.322/.440 line with seven homers and six steals — but he looks a lot further away than we might have hoped before this season. Even with relatively little standing in the way in Miami, Harrison looks like he might need another year of development.
Zack Collins, AA, White Sox
Stat to know: 24.4 percent walk rate
Collins was the No. 10 pick in the 2016 draft, and was a top-100 prospect according to Baseball America going into last season. He put up an .816 OPS between High-A and Double-A, but hit just .224, costing him some of his prospect shine. I'm not sure that was fair, and he's showing us why this season. Collins strikes out a lot, yes, but he also hits for power and walks a ton. In 56 games to date at Double-A, he's hit .261/.445/.466, with nine homers and 17 extra-base hits total. Sure, he's also struck out 26.5 percent of the time, a big number, but not alarmingly high. He's broken out in Double-A, and if he can stick behind the plate, he's starting to look like a very Fantasy-relevant prospect. He could be the good version of Mike Zunino.
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