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It’s been a long time coming for the Kansas City Royals, but they finally tasted the sweet fizz of championship champagne last fall, and it was all due to Jonny Gomes. I’m not sure if you know this, but he’s the kind of guy you want to go to war with. Hacksaw Jonny musings aside, the Royals built a winner the old fashioned way. And by old fashioned I mean good drafting, solid player development, and excellent trading. In the process, they’ve graduated quite a few players onto their major league squad, traded some for established vets, and let others take the time needed to fully develop. The aftermath is there isn’t a ton of sexy fantasy prospects anymore, but the farm’s not barren, and there are some really intriguing players in the low minors. Dayton Moore and his constituents stuck to their philosophy, and in the end they’re the poster children for why prospects matter. Just ask Baseball America!

2015 Graduates
Paulo Orlando | Christian Colon

Tier 1: Specs On The Beach
Potential stars. Consensus T100 prospects with premium fantasy ceilings

Raul Mondesi, SS | Age: 20 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA 

2015 Stats: 338 PA, .243/.279/.372, 6 HR, 19 SB, 5.0% BB, 26.0% K

After a whirlwind season that took him from AA to the World Series, Mondesi looks primed for a season at AAA with some matinee appearances for the Royals mixed in for good measure. At this point he’s a glove first speedster with some power upside. He’s the kind of guy that you’ll see described as “toolsy”, with the more positive evaluations focusing on those tools, rather than his actual skills. He’s developed into a good runner, and has moments of greatness, but he’s hardly a sure thing to be the offensive star us fantasy folk are seeking. There’s some chance he breaks into the majors as the starting second baseman with Escobar in town for a few more years.

Kyle Zimmer, RHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 64 IP, 2.39 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 10.1 K/9

You fall into two camps on Zimmer, you’re either a believer and think he’s ready to break out, or you read the injury history and run for the nearest hill. There’s a little truth on both sides. Let’s focus on the good, he’s a big righty with a fastball in the 92-94 range that touches 97. He’s also the owner of a grade 70 curveball. At this point Zimmer is a risk/reward guy who’s buy low window could be closing. For the record I like Zimmer, and have bought a few shares myself.
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Tier 2: Floorboreds
Lacking the “star” upside. They might have some warts, but their ETAs are on the horizon.

Bubba Starling , OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 418 PA, .269/.337/.448, 12 HR, 6 SB, 8.8% BB, 25.8% K

We should just rename the floorboard tier the Bubba Starling all-stars. Starling’s never going to be the player he was hoped to be going 5th overall in 2011, but he’s a future major league with a closer ETA. He’ll make his bones as an excellent defensive outfielder, but he could see enough at bats that a couple of useful fantasy seasons are possible. He’s got a little speed and a little power, and maybe 15/10 is what we can hope for in his peak years.

Jorge Bonifacio, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AA
2015 Stats: 536 PA, .240/.305/.416, 17 HR, 3 SB, 7.8% BB, 23.5% K

The 2015 season was a breakout one for Bonifacio’s power stroke. His homers jumped from 4 to 17, and his extra base hits from 28 to 49. What was once a plus hit tool has been transformed into a plus power tool. That’s really where it begins and ends for Bonifacio, he doesn’t walk a ton, and doesn’t have any plus skill outside his power hitting. For our purposes if you’re going to have one plus skill, power’s the one to have. It’s just nice when it comes with speed, plate discipline, or some batting average. You get none of the later three with Bonifacio.

Cheslor Cuthbert, 1B/3B | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 438 PA, .277/.339/.421, 11 HR, 5 SB, 8.4% BB, 13.7% K

In many ways Cuthbert is a typical Royals prospect, a solid all around ball player with no particular outstanding skill. He’s consistently made progress at every level and found himself in the big leagues at 22. He’s not going to unseat Moustakas or Hosmer at the corners, but he could find some playing time if there is an injury to either. At his peak he’ll be a .280 hitter with about 10-12 homers.

Miguel Almonte, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: AA/AAA/MLB
2015 Stats: 103.2 IP, 4.51 ERA, 3.6 BB/9, 8.3 K/9

After a rough MLB debut (4 homers, 6 earned in 9 innings), the hard throwing Dominican righty should head back to AAA Omaha for some more seasoning. He mixes an excellent change with a 94-97 mph fastball, and an average to below average curveball. Many project the finished product to be a mid rotation starter, but in order for Almonte to get there he’s going to need to work on commanding his pitches.

Matt Strahm, LHP | Age: 24 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 94 IP, 2.59 ERA, 3.0 BB/9, 11.6 K/9

After sitting out a majority of his first two years in pro ball, Strahm moved across two levels of A ball and flashed the ability that made him a star in Juco. At this point Strahm looks likely to reach the bigs as a reliever or lefty specialist. The arsenal includes a low 90’s fastball, a below average curve, and a nasty sluvy pitch that’s extra tough on lefties. He’s another arm in the Royals farm that some project to be a mid-rotation guy, but he screams loogy to me.

Ryan O’Hearn, 1B | Age: 22 | ETA: 2017 | 2015 Level: A/A+
2015 Stats: 537 PA, .263/.339/.478, 27 HR, 7 SB, 10.2% BB, 26.2% K

A big strong power hitting first baseman with a strikeout problem. You could pretty much begin and end there with O’Hearn. His upside is probably limited by the strikeouts and the lack of batting average, he hit .236 in 46 games at high A, but anyone with power upside is worth keeping an eye on in deeper dynasty formats. It will be interesting to see how much O’Hearn progresses if he spends the season at AA NW Arkansas.

Brett Eibner, OF | Age: 27 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA
2015 Stats: 431 PA, .303/.364/.514, 19 HR, 10 SB, 8.8% BB, 18.3% K

Want an off the radar outfielder that could make an impact this season? Try Eibner on for size, he’s an old prospect at 27, but he’s been toiling around the minors for a while and popped up on my radar with a .303/19/81/10 season in 103 games at AAA. He’s a solid OBP guy with some pop and enough speed to swipe a couple of bags. He’s also a good defender that could play all three outfield positions. If there are any injuries to the Royals opening day outfield, Eibner could find himself serving fill in duty with the world champs.

Jose Martinez, OF | Age: 27 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: AAA

2015 Stats: 396 PA, .384/.461/.563, 10 HR, 8 SB, 12.1% BB, 13.9% K

After leading the minors in batting average (.384), and on base percentage (.461), the former White Sox prospect could finally be reaching his potential. It’s not unheard of for washed up specs to find their strokes in their late 20’s and parlay it into a decent career. Nelson Cruz comes to mind, but in no way is 2016 Martinez on the same plain as 2009 Nelson Cruz, just an example that illustrates that it does happen. The big difference is Martinez will need to make his bones on his hit tool, and not power like Cruz. We’re probably talking 10-15 home run power, with a decent average, and on base skills. The Royals added him to the 40 man roster, which indicates they’re at least willing to see if last year was a flash in the pan or not.

Others: Alec Mills, Hunter Dozier, Cam Gallagher, Brian Flynn, Ramon Torres, Pedro Fernandez
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Long Shot Lolita’s
Sexy ceilings, but these youngsters also come with risks and distant ETAs.

Nolan Watson, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 29.1 IP, 4.91 ERA, 3.4 BB/9, 4.9 K/9

This is where things get a bit interesting, the Royals dipped into the prep arms pretty heavy the last few years, and Watson seems the safest of the bunch. Not that high school players are ever safe. His arsenal includes a sinking fastball, slider, and a newly learned curveball.


Ashe Russell, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: RK

2015 Stats: 36.1 IP, 4.21 ERA, 3.2 BB/9, 5.9 K/9

The second half of this season’s first round prep duo, and the bad boy of the two. Not really, but it seemed cliche, and sounded cool. Anyway, Russell is your high upside raw high school player. He throws a mid to high 90’s fastball, and mixes in a slider, a curveball, and he’s learning a change up from the sounds of it.

Josh Staumont, RHP | Age: 22 | ETA: 2018 | 2015 Level: RK
2015 Stats: 40 IP, 2.48 ERA, 7.2 BB/9, 13.0 K/9

Another early round arm from the 2015 draft, only this one touches triple digits on the fastball. He’s being discussed as a reliever in what I’ve read, but it will be interesting to see how fast he moves in 2016. He’s one of those arms every system has, crazy high k rate and crazy high walk rate.

Marten Gasparini, SS | Age: 18 | ETA: 2020 | 2015 Level: RK   
2015 Stats: 233 PA, .259/.341/.411, 2 HR, 26 SB, 00% BB, 00% K

Between Max Kepler and Gasparini, Europe could have some legitimate MLB players soon enough. Well that’s a bit more than a bit of hyperbole. Signed out of Italy as a 16 year old, and he’s truly Italian, grew up there, etc. He sounds like he could be best described as a raw switch hitting middle infielder with plus running ability.

Scott Blewett, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats: 81.1 IP, 5.20 ERA, 2.7 BB/9, 6.6 K/9

Another prep arm with a plus fastball and mid rotation stuff. Fun fact he’s a walking pun! For this reason alone I featured him on this list and will say a prayer every night until he makes the majors.

Foster Griffin, LHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2019 | 2015 Level: A
2015 Stats: 102.2 IP, 5.44 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 6.2 K/9

An appropriate way to close out the post, a prep arm. A 2014 first round pick that finished 2015 strong at low A. He’s a command and control pitcher that relies on precision and not stuff. He throws an average fastball, an above average change, and a meh curveball. Seems like a borp to me.

Others: Chase Vallot, Seuly Matias, Jeison Guzman, Ricky Aracena, Gerson Garabito, Amalani FukoFuka
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2016 Minor League Preview Index

   
  1. Tweak says:
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    Excellent stuff. It seems as though KC has their work cut out for them once their all-star team starts to head to free agency. Hopefully, a couple of those prep arms blossom in their minor leagues.

    Also, Amalani FukoFuka? You kiss your mother with that mouth?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Tweak: Yeah they have some time, but it will be interesting to watch. I wonder if they end up resigning some of the MLB talent, financially they’re in a better position than say Tampa Bay was when they made their run.

  2. Yescheese says:
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    RIP Hunter Dozier’s fantasy future

    What a fantasy Zero system. I guess Bubba Starling is OK. I guess.

    BTW, I’m gonna picture you as Ralph Cifaretto, from Sopranos fame. Lay off my prize horse bro!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Yescheese: Break out the cheese grater honey we’re celebrating Valentine’s right tonight!

      • Ralph Lifshitz

        Ralph Lifshitz says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: Yeah Dozier is just a pile of turkey scat. I don’t hate some of the lower level arms like Russell and Watson, and as I said I’m still a Zimmer believer. I actually wouldn’t be shocked if Bubba has the worst career of all the hitters featured in the FB tier when all is said and done

    • J-FOH says:
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      @Yescheese: agreed to the 100th degree. KC is like generic cereal. It might look like fruit loops but when you get a taste of it you realize the box should say “now with half the flavor”

      • Ralph Lifshitz

        Ralph Lifshitz says:
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        @J-FOH: yeah at all levels they lack hitters or starters with stud upside. The bullpen is it.

  3. J-FOH says:
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    Agreed on Bubba or more like hub bub starling.

    There minors and majors is a whole Lotta mah. Nothing to see here but a team and a system built to blah you to death.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @J-FOH: Zimmer is the only hope.

        • J-FOH says:
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          @J-FOH: *their

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @J-FOH: Yeah baby! Boston and LA working together

      • J-FOH says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: I think he is from slaughter house

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @J-FOH: Who Crooked I? Yeah he’s in SHF but he’s bean around forever.

          Love this freestyle, came out the week before the Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA finals. Even has a line about that famous game 6 game winner Artest hit.

  4. Regan says:
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    Hey guys, got my prospect draft today. First one so i could use some help. Anyone have a top 20-50 list handy? Goes 4 rounds OBP league. Thanks!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Regan: What’s the parameters? Is it anyone all specs, College, unsigned internationals. Is just J2 and 2015 draftees and unowned specs. Or is it a first time minors draft for a new dynasty. I have lists I can shoot you and I will answer all questions on here to help.

      • Regan says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: It’s not a new league. 10 owners 10 man minors bench. Only signed players eligible for draft. Here is the official rules:

        iii. Players are eligible to be drafted for or added to a Prospect Roster if:

        They have less than 130 MLB AB and less than 50 MLB IP.
        They had not turned 24 before Jan. 1 of the current calendar year
        They have a MLB contract at the time of our draft, or have gone through our prospect draft with a contract. (See clarification below)
        They are not currently on a MLB active roster. (This is the “25-man roster”, or the “40-man roster” after September 1. This rule only applies from the announcement of the 25-man rosters–on or around Opening Day–to the last out of the regular season.)

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Regan: Andrew Benintendi, Brendan Rodgers, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, Trent Clark, Carson Fulmer, Kyle Tucker, Ian Happ, Cornelius Randolph, Dillon Tate, Brady Aiken, Garrett Whitley, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Ke’Bryan Hayes, Kolby Allard, Daz Cameron, Lucius Fox, Yusinel Diaz, James Kaprielian, Eddy Julio Martinez, Matuella, Leodys Taveras.

          If there are a lot of guys unowned obviously check on AJ Reed, Anderson Espinoza, Anthony Alford, Blake Snell, Orlando Arcia, Javier Guerra, Austin Meadows, Jorge Mateo, Max Kepler, Cody Bellinger. If Moncada isn’t owned he’s #1.

          If you click on the link for the minor league preview, Mike has his incoming player list as well.

          • Regan says:
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            @Ralph Lifshitz: Thanks!

            Benintendi, Rodgers, Swanson, Bregman, Happ, Martes, Mateo, Kepler, Alford, and Brian Johnson have already been picked. I pick at 18 and 19. Got 8 Picks until my picks.

            Some interesting highly ranked players still available besides the first year eligible are.

            Gleyber Torres
            Raul Mondesi
            Dan Vogelbach
            Brandon Drury
            Bobby Bradley
            Willson Contreras
            Dominic Smith
            Jordan Patterson
            Sam Travis

            How would you rank those guys with the first year players still available. Not really interested in pitchers since there are so many available.

            Thanks!

            • Ralph Lifshitz

              Ralph Lifshitz says:
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              @Regan: Torres, Smith, Bradley, Mondesi, Travis, Contreras, Drury.

              I would forget Vogelbach’s name. Patterson is pretty meh too.

            • Ralph Lifshitz

              Ralph Lifshitz says:
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              @Regan: Is Robles owned?

              • Regan says:
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                @Ralph Lifshitz: Yup. Robbles is already on a team. Don’t like the Vogel huh. Not good enough for a DH spot? Seems like the bat is pretty good but… he is a blob.

                • Ralph Lifshitz

                  Ralph Lifshitz says:
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                  @Regan: In a league where only 100 minors are owned you’re dealing with the cream of the crop.

                  • Regan says:
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                    @Ralph Lifshitz: So got one pick before i pick back to back. My boy Vlad Jr just got picked so kinda bummed out about that. Here is the list of premium names available. Care to weigh in on who you would take? OBP league.

                    Dominic Smith
                    Bobby Bradley
                    Sam Travis
                    Brandon Drury
                    Cornelius Randolph
                    Willson Contreras
                    Cornelius Randolph
                    Trent Clark
                    Javier Guerra
                    Billy McKinney
                    Dillot Tate
                    Eddy Julio Martinez
                    Yusinel Diaz

                    Thanks!

                    • Ralph Lifshitz

                      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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                      @Regan: OBP take Dom Smith. He’s an OBP animal, only guy who’s better is Olson

                    • Regan says:
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                      @Regan: Who would be your second choice?

                    • Ralph Lifshitz

                      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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                      @Regan: Bradley and Guerra

  5. Jordan says:
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    Hey guys, off topic, but I could use your sage advice.

    I’m in a 12-team H2H 10×9 dynasty keeper league with no contracts or $ (keep forever). We have 40 man rosters (32 MLB and 8 MiLB).

    The offensive categories are: H R HR RBI SB BB K AVG OPS TB
    The pitching categories are: IP K/9 K/BB QS W SV+HLD HR WHIP ERA

    Each spring we keep 28 guys (20 MLB and 8 MiLB) and we have a 12-round draft. I have an enticing trade offer that I’m mulling over.

    I trade Strasburg/2nd round pick (24th pick)/7th round pick (84th pick) FOR Encarnacion/10th round pick/12th round pick

    At SP I have – Arrieta/Carrasco/Cueto/Lester/Strasburg
    At 1B I have – VMart/Ortiz

    I’m enticed with EE’s power. I know he’s 33 and starting his decline phase; whereas, Strasburg is 27 and *could* put it together this year but I’m starting to have my doubts if he’s got that extra gear.

    What side would you want to be on? EE or Strasburg?

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Jordan: Can you get the better end of the pick swap? I’m sure you could find another trade partner for one of your pitchers of this owner declines. See if you can get some picks. Trading Stras for E5 isn’t a bad idea when the combined age of your current 1b is 100.

  6. Tom says:
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    I need help from a fantasy veteran.

    I just set up a keeper league on ESPN, but I don’t see any information on salaries for players selected in my auction draft. I see where I can set keepers for next year, but what is the point if you can’t assign salaried contracts for the players you want to keep?

    On CBS and Yahoo you can set salaries for keepers then deduct the amount from money available to draft from in the auction draft.

    Thanks.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Tom: Hmmm not sure, I’ve always used CBS, Fantrax, or one of those in combination with custom Pro Boards pages.

  7. goodfold2 says:
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    if you were posting Mike’s BAL team list for this year where would you put chris lee SP? he isn’t on my list and is unowned in my 30 man with 30 minor league slots league, and only thing i can think happened is he was bought from HOU right after Mike did the BAL post, so he’s not on either of HOU or BAL’s posts. SB nation’s lists are finally coming out faster and he’s 10th over there, and it’s quite rare other after our draft (early to mid January, stupid timing) to find anybody not owned at 10th on those lists.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @goodfold2: He’s kind of interesting, and certainly ownable in a 30 team

      • goodfold2 says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: shit, i meant to post where would you slot him in this list (if he’s a long shot)
        mckenna OF
        heinrich OF
        scott RP
        cleavinger RP
        fenter SP
        c.bautista MI
        or in where with these (if he’s closer)
        rickard OF
        wright SP
        marin MI/OF
        j.garcia RP
        these are non-owned guys from Mike’s BAL list.

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @goodfold2: Lee, Wright, Scott, HGarcia, Fenter, Cleavinger, Henrich, McKenna, Bautista, Rickard.

          • goodfold2 says:
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            @Ralph Lifshitz: i’m only seeing a J (jason) garcia, was that H just a typo or is there some other non-fantrax H.Garcia?

            • Ralph Lifshitz

              Ralph Lifshitz says:
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              @goodfold2: Typo

  8. MB says:
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    Wow this is good details.

    I am drafting my supp draft at no. 3 soon, and assuming Rodgers is gone, how you rank the next 3? (Benetendi, Bregman, Swanson)

    Appreciate your time

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @MB: Swap Swanson and Bregman

  9. Jeff says:
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    Any thoughts on Balbino Fuenmayor? I know he’s a bit older than you’d hope for and he has a disappointing MiLB history, but the kid has raked for the past couple of years now.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Jeff: Yeah he was pretty good last year before he hurt his knee. He’s under contract for this year. I thought about him, he could compete with Cuthbert for at bats if Hosmer goes down. Even then it might be tough. He’s a guy that would fit into the FB tier for sure.

  10. WalleyWorld says:
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    Thanks for taking over the prospect writ ups. They continue to be great!

    I had a trade offer in my dynasty league and wanted your thoughts. His Bradley Zimmer for my Joe Panik. Its a 20 team league, we have 25 man rookie rosters. My other MI’s are Schoop, Jose Ramirez, Giavotella, and Javier Baez, so I would be leaving it a little thin up the middle. Have to start 3. I own Mondesi and Rosario also. My OF is in decent shape with Schwarber(@C for now), Khris Davis, Buxton, Avi Garcia, Maybin, Bradley Jr., Altherr, with Brinson in my minors. Thanks again for any help, I’m looking forward to the conclusion of all your rankings.

    I also had a question regarding a minor league draft. Same league as the trade I asked about. Second year dynasty. All newly signed players will be eligible (i.e. 2015 draft signees, J2 signees, new international signings, and anyone who may have gone under the radar from 2015 rookie drafts whose stock is up, etc.). We are going around 150 +- picks. Not sure what kind of lists you can provide but I would be interested in anything. Cheers!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @WalleyWorld: First thing, I would make the trade if you felt you needed to. Maybe I’m nuts but I would see if he’d take Mondesi over Panik. Who knows maybe he’s higher on Mondesi than Panik. A lot of people overrate Mondesi because of Top-100 lists focused on real baseball.

      Click on the Minor League Index link at the bottom of the article, Mike did a Top 25 of 2015 Draftees and J2 signings. Only major change I’d make is putting Benintendi at 2 behind Rodgers. I’d also probably move Eddy Julio Martinez down

  11. endershadow says:
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    12 team 5×5 dynasty. Should I send Jake McGee for McCullers? And is it a fair offer?

    Also, ETA on keeper rankings? Thank you!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @endershadow: Yes, that’s a no brainier. If I’m the McCullers owner I’m rejecting it with the quickness though. Who knows, people are dumb.

      Keeper rankings is J-FOH, I’m doing a top 100 list that drops a week from Sunday.

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