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When you’re perusing the latest prospect lists for the next fantasy star, the next Mike Trout or Manny Machado, it’s important to keep in mind the variables that go into such rankings.  Defensive ability plays a major role in player evaluation — it’s not all about the hit tool and the power potential.  And when it comes to guys who play premium positions on the diamond (catcher, center field, shortstop), a plus defensive projection can vault a prospect far, far up the board.  This sort of inflation based on defense oftentimes skews perspective when considering prospects for fantasy purposes.  When we constantly see a certain light-hitting shortstop pop up in the top 20 overall prospects at Baseball America or MLB.com, it can be easy to look past the scouting report and simply click “add player” once he surfaces in the bigs.  To help avoid such unnecessary blunders, I’ve detailed a few of the more highly-touted defense-first prospects below.

Francisco Lindor | SS, Indians | Born:  11/14/1993

Lindor is a master in the field, a real-life Henry Skrimshander.  The arm is plus, the hands are plus-plus, and the instincts and feel are otherworldly.  I watched him play Midwest League ball last summer, and it didn’t take long to realize the remarkable nature of his defensive game, and exactly how that sort of attribute can elevate a prospect’s status to elite levels.  Lindor will be a top 10 prospect on many lists this offseason, and rightfully so.  But his fantasy impact doesn’t figure to be as great as the names that will surround him on those lists.  Not that he’s an incompetent hitter — the 19-year-old his hitting .308/.379/.414 with 18 SB through 69 games at High-A Carolina — but it’s probably unwise to expect much from him at the plate.  And don’t get me wrong here, Lindor will eventually be a useful fantasy option at a shallow position, hitting for decent average, stealing bags in the double digits, and running into a homer once or twice a month.  I wouldn’t expect that sort of production soon after arrival, however.  One last thought:  Lindor, at just 19 years old, has the potential to remove himself from this schmohawky group if he continues to hit and get on base at Double-A.  He should arrive there later this year.

Jackie Bradley Jr. | OF, Red Sox | Born:  4/19/1990

For fantasy purposes, I’ll take the defense-first shortstop over the defense-first outfielder every time.  I’ll make do with Brendan Ryan at SS if it means I have an outfield full of big time producers.  Jackie Bradley Jr. is not a big time producer.  Sure, he’ll make some damn marvelous plays in center, but he doesn’t hit homers and he doesn’t steal bags and he’s no guarantee to help out in AVG.  He’s a top 50 prospect, but he”s not a guy you stash, and he’s not a guy you want to make room for once the Red Sox recall him.  Outside of AL-Only, I wouldn’t touch Bradley until he’s proven himself as a steady option at the big league level.

Austin Hedges | C, Padres | Born:  8/18/1992

As more and more data on the subject is analyzed, it’s becoming increasingly clear that catcher defense is an underestimated component of the game.  I think we all sort of suspected this was the case, but now that we have really smart people quantifying the value of such nuances as pitch framing, we don’t really need to suspect any longer.  By some measures — and, yes, these metrics are probably in need of further refining — catcher defense is a the most significant win/loss factor in the game.  That brand of data is forcing talent evaluators to look at defense-first catching prospects — guys like Austin Hedges — as elite-level prospects.  Hedges is a brilliant defender with arm and instincts and wonderful receiving ability.  That skill set will put him in the top 30 on most prospect lists this offseason.  His arrival in San Diego (2015-ish) will come with loads of hype, but for fantasy purposes, it’s important to differentiate catching prospects like Hedges from ones like Travis d’Arnaud and Gary Sanchez.  Hedges swings an okay stick, and has the upside to max out around a .275 AVG and 15 homers, which could certainly be useful, but that’s years down the road.  He’ll be a decent NL-Only option upon arrival, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be relevant in mixed leagues for quite a while.  Still, Padres fans should be thrilled.

From Around The Web

  1. Mike

    Mike says:
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    Good stuff as usual Scott. Lindor’s my boy, but that’s a realistic write-up of him. I’m pretty excited to see him in person in Akron later this year (if he advances). Quick question on George Springer: I heard your take on him in yesterday’s podcast. If he doesn’t come up this year, do you think he’ll break camp in 2014, or would he more likely be a midseason call-up in 2014? Reason I ask is I could select him as a keeper for next year this offseason, but he’d have to occupy a slot on my major league roster going into next year’s drafts.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Thanks, Mike! My guess is that Springer is a June arrival next season… just like Wil Myers this year.

  2. Wake Up says:
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    Great idea for a post.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Thank you, sir!

  3. uncdrew says:
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    Nice “The Art of Fielding” reference.

    Anyone who likes to read (yes, all three of you) should read it. Great book about baseball.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      A great book, indeed. Glad someone caught the reference!

    • Chicken Dinner says:
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      @uncdrew: Can you come to my house and say your post to me so I know what it says. I ain’t reading that shhhit!

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Niiiice!

      • sanfran1966 says:
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        @Scott Evans:

        my son (16) said they are facing a 17u kid that sits at 94 on Saturday…

        for your long-term projections, Mike Cameron’s son is a 16u and is already projected as the #1 pick when that times come.

        just 5 years ago:

        2008 WWBA 2008 Grads or 18u National Championship Alumni

        Name MLB Current MLB Debut Drafted by (Rd.) HS Grad

        Nick Franklin Mariners Mariners (5/27/13) Mariners (1) in 2009 2009
        Bryce Harper Nationals Nationals (4/28/12) Nationals (1) in 2010 2011
        Zack Wheeler Mets Mets (6/18/13) Giants (1) in 2009 2009
        Jackie Bradley Red Sox Red Sox (4/1/13) Red Sox (1 Comp) in 2011 2008
        Nolan Arenado Rockies Rockies (4/28/13) Rockies (2) in 2009 2009
        Xavier Avery Orioles Orioles (5/13/12) Orioles (2) in 2008 2008
        Patrick Corbin Diamondbacks Diamondbacks (4/30/2012) Angels (2) in 2009 2007
        Alex Wood Braves Braves (5/30/13) Braves (2) in 2012 2009
        Nick Maronde Angels Angels (9/2/12) Angels (3) in 2011 2008
        Tyler Pastornicky Braves Braves (9/30/11) Blue Jays (5) in 2008 2008
        Brett Marshall Yankees Yankees (5/15/13) Yankees (6) in 2008 2008
        Cory Dickerson Rockies Rockies (6/22/13) Rockies (8) in 2010 2008
        Michael Roth Angels Angels (4/13/13) Angels (9) in 2012 2008
        Chris McGuiness Rangers Rangers (6/7/13) Red Sox (13) in 2009 2006
        Ryan “Scooter” Gennett Brewers Brewers (6/3/13) Brewers (16) in 2009 2009
        Michael Roth Angels Angels (4/13/13) Indians (31) in 2011 2008
        Nick Maronde Angels Angels (9/2/12) Athletics (43) in 2008 2008

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          Those PG tourneys are always flush w/ future big leaguers… I’m truly jealous.

        • THE_FREAK says:
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          @sanfran1966:

          Do you know the kids name you’re referencing by chance?

  4. Oz says:
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    Hey Scott, love your posts. What’s the word on Dylan Bundy? I’m in a h2h points semi-dynasty league (Keep 25/38). SP is super important in my league so I’m always lookin for them. I’ve held Bundy since mid 2012 and I love his potential but I’m getting concerned about his health. I’m already stashing C-mart, Cingranni, Wacha, and Erasmo.

    2nd Q: I know u said on the podcast you doubt George Springer is gonna be called up this year but I’m hearing if Justin Maxwell goes to the d/l he may get called up. Do you think he might get called up? And if he does, would it likely just be for a couple weeks unless he has a Puig-esque performance? Thanks.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Bundy is gonna have TJ surgery… it’s all but official. You could probably cut him at this point…

      I’ve been saying this since early May, but Springer is this year’s version of Wil Myers … there’s gonna be hype about his call-up all year long, but I’d be very surprised if Luhnow pulls the trigger on that promotion… Nothing is certain, but my guess is we won’t see him til June next year. Once he arrives (this year or next) he’ll be up for good.

  5. Jay

    jaywrong says:
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    I love how my Padres drafted Hedges for his defense, and then offense happened. Yum.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      I thought you were an east coast guy…

      • Jay

        jaywrong says:
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        @Scott Evans: I am, but grew up in San Diego.

  6. Tyler says:
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    Great prospect article as usual. What do you think a reasonable time table would be for xander bogaets and tiajuan walker? I’m in a keeper league with a huge lead in first and stashing these guys really wouldn’t hurt me. Do you think they would be worth holding?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Bogaerts has a better shot at arriving this year than Walker does, but realistically, I doubt we see either ’til next year… Bogaerts would be the safer stash if you have room…

  7. k claw says:
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    who would your top 5 SS prospects be based on overall potential, batting of course for fantasy purposes? ETA does not matter here to me.

    Thanks Scott!

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Bogaerts, Baez, Russell, Correa, Mondesi

  8. Thorbs says:
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    How do you see Grandal-Hedges working out? I think Grandal is only 24 himself.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Grandal moves elsewhere when Hedges is ready.

  9. Chris says:
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    drop milone, kluber joyce or cole for franklin?

    • Chris says:
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      @Chris: or henderson

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Drop the bench bat if you’re not using him…

  10. THE_FREAK says:
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    If Carlos Rodon was in the minor leauges right now, about where would you rank him? Who does he remind you of?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Top 15 arm right away… maybe better. Arsenal reminds me of Samardzija’s… obviously a little smaller & lefty, but similar stuff.

  11. TheNewGuy says:
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    Good stuff man will read in a bit.

    But when talking about Rosies closing prospects next year we talked about Mujica likely leaving but forgot about one guy…Motte! Wouldnt Motte be the favourite to close next season for the Cards again?

    Reason why im asking is because im trying to pry Reyes off a seller in my league. And im shopping prospects for him, if Rosie isnt closing next year he’d be a good guy to shop now right?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Motte will be coming off of TJ surgery… it’s not a sure-thing that he’ll bounce back as the same guy he was before, and it can surely derail his closing hopes. Wouldn’t sell Rosenthal.

      • TheNewGuy says:
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        @Scott Evans: id still say Mottes the favourite once hes healthy again to close. You dont just jack a guy from a job hes been very good at just because of one injury, people come back from TJ better than ever these days. Can see it still being Motte no 1, Rosie no 2 next year.

        And sorry if I sound a bit bitter this morning, horrendous pitching day last night. When youve owned Hamels and Gallardo for most of their crappy year thus far it starts to get to you! Dunno what to do with these guys…cant see either figuring it out soon. Hamels even getting pummelled by the Padres? FMLBBL.

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          TJ recovery is not not a sure thing… sure, it’s a lot better than it was 10 years ago, but not sure why so many people assume that a return to form is a given…

  12. malamoney

    malamoney says:
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    I know I’ve asked a similar question, but can you rank the prospects that will debut next year based on their value next year in a H2H points league.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Hard to say who’s gonna be up late this year or early next year, so I’ll include the fringe guys: Taveras, Bogaerts, Walker, Bradley, Yelich, Singleton, Springer, Taillon, Appel, Sano

      • malamoney

        malamoney says:
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        @Scott Evans: I’ve got Taveras. Hoping he doesn’t get called up. Otherwise I was leaning towards Sano, Springer or Bradley.

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          I’d go Bradley among those 3…

  13. malamoney

    malamoney says:
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    Would you give up either Marte or Myers to get Hamels? H2H points.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Maybe Myers…

  14. Alex says:
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    Man I stashed Erasmo but thinking now i should have Carlos Martinez. Who has best chance at contributing the best in QS league this season?

    thanks

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Erasmo

  15. malamoney

    malamoney says:
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    Springer to AAA. You think there’s any chance he surfaces this year?

    Something tells me we see Singleton this year…

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      There’s always a chance, but I doubt we see either this year…

  16. JK says:
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    Hey Scott,

    Brad Miller got the call up in Seatlle. How does he compare as a fantasy player to Nick Franklin?

    Think it’s worth dropping Kelly Johnson at 2nd/SS spot for him? Kelly J seems to have disappeared with the appearance of Myers.

    (14 team mixed)

    thanks.

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Similar immediate outlook to Franklin. Fewer steal, same power potential, maybe a few ticks higher on AVG… Definitely worth a look in a 14 teamer.

  17. MB says:
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    Hola, in first in dynasty.

    Is Addison Russell too much to pay for the upgrade from Reddick to Alex Gordon?

    5×5 roto

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Yeah, I think that’s too steep.

  18. Chris says:
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    Hey scott…Can you give me your top 3 hitting prospects as of now for standard 5×5 keeper league… (is Oscar Tavarez worth a stash still?)

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Taveras, Hamilton, Castellanos… none of the three are wonderful stashes at this juncture, but if you have room, there’s no harm…

  19. chico says:
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    would you trade harper for bumgarner/adam eaton/kevin gregg?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      I’d consider it if I were hurting in pitching cats.

      • chico says:
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        @Scott Evans: even in a dynasty league? or especially in a dynasty league?

        • Scott Evans

          Scott Evans says:
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          Definitely hold Harper in a dynasty… sorry I was thinking re-draft.

  20. chico says:
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    or how about harper for b.j. upton/mike zunino?

    • Scott Evans

      Scott Evans says:
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      Hold Harper in this one…

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