Many consider the break between the Super Bowl and the beginning of Spring Training, to be the most boring weeks of the sports calendar. For us Prospectors it’s probably from the end of the MiLB regular season until the beginning of the Arizona Fall League. This is a time for us to put our pick axes, and helmet lights down, and reflect on the year that was. So in that vein, today we embark on the first part of a two part series, detailing my 2016 All-Prospect Team. Today’s feature, focuses on the position players, or the lineup for our Minor League dream team. Wednesday’s post will look at our rotation. I’ve eliminated players I view as graduated, whether MLB guidelines agree or not. So no Alex Bregman, Joey Gallo, Andrew Benintendi, Gary Sanchez, or Ryon Healy etc. I’ve also provided a runner up for each position, listed as bench options. These bench options deserve considerable acclaim, but unfortunately for them, I deemed the player ahead of them to be more deserving. Obviously these picks can’t be argued with, because what I say goes, and should be accepted as fact. So if you try and argue with me in the comments about my choices, I’m going to head to your house and pummel you while wearing foam Hulk mitts.
Catcher: Francisco Mejia, Cleveland Indians | A/hi-A | .342/.382/.514 11 HR, 2 SB, 80 RBI: Despite Gary Sanchez’s Bronx coming out party, there’s really only one backstop truly deserving of this spot. The switch hitter’s 50 game hitting streak was the longest in the minors in 62 years, and helped push his prospect stock to the next stratosphere. IMO the top catching prospect in baseball entering 2017.
Bench Option: Tom Murphy
First Base: Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies | AA | .281/.377/.566 38 HR, 8 SB, 116 RBI: It was a banner year for the middle of the Reading Phillies lineup; Hoskins and fellow bash brother Dylan Cozens set the pace for power production in the minors, ranking first and second in home runs respectively. Though this was a breakout year for Hoskins, it wasn’t totally unexpected, like say Cozens. He did slug .518 last year with 17 homers across a few levels of A ball. While the 40 home run power is most certainly Reading aided, there’s a lot more to like about Hoskins game. He takes walks at a rate of 10%+, and keeps the strikeouts around 20%. He also hits a ton of flyballs (42%) which is what I like to see from power hitters.
Bench Option: Rowdy Tellez
Second Base: Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox | hi-A/AA/MLB | .294/.407/.511 15 HR, 45 SB, 62 RBI: I really wanted to take Willie Calhoun and his 27 homers here, but Moncada’s across the board production made him more deserving. He’s had a rough go of it at the big league level after starting out hot. The struggles call into question his ability to break camp with the Sox. My guess is he sees some time at AAA Pawtucket next season, before an early May promotion. He’s headed to the Arizona Fall League at season’s end.
Bench Option: Willie Calhoun
Shortstop: Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies | A | .281/.342/.481 19 HR, 6 SB, 73 RBI: The number three overall pick from the 2015 draft has held his own amongst the heady company of his classes top ten. He spent his entire first year of full season ball with the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League, winning the league’s award for the Most Outstanding Major League Prospect. Not sure if he sticks at short or moves to second, but either way he’s the top middle infield prospect in the game now that Moncada has moved to third.
Bench Option: Isan Diaz
Third Base: Edwin Rios, Los Angeles Dodgers | A/hi-A/AA | .301/.341/.567 27 HR, 3 SB, 76 RBI: Another breakout prospect from the draft class of 2015. Rios was part of strong Dodgers class that netted them, Rios, Willie Calhoun, Walker Buehler, Mitch Hansen, and Josh Sborz. The production this season was other-worldly from Rios. As he stormed his way through two levels of A ball; eventually settling into AA Tulsa’s lineup alongside Cody Bellinger, Calhoun, and Alex Verdugo. Rios’ batted ball profile backs up his numbers, showing a high percentage of hard hit balls (28% LD rate), and more flies than grounders (32% FB rate). He should see some time in the PCL next season, before getting his first major league at bats mid to late summer.
Bench Option: Hunter Dozier
Outfield: Dylan Cozens, Philadelphia Phillies | AA | .276/.350/.591 40 HR, 21 SB, 125 RBI: If there was a fantasy MVP for the minors it would go to Cozens, Halp said this on the last episode of the Razzball Prospect Podcast, and it’s absolutely true. He led the minors in home runs and RBIs, and transformed from a 15/15 type player to a 40/20 guy. It’s easy to dismiss Cozens season as being heavily Reading aided, but you still can’t ignore the gaudy numbers. His nearly 40% HR/FB is totally unsustainable, but his overall batted ball profile is legit (39.76% GB, 31.5% FB, 24.16% LD, 4.59% Pop), and he shows power to all fields. In the future Cozens projects more as a 20/15 type player with a batting average in the .250-.270 range.
Outfield: Tyler O’Neill, Seattle Mariners | AA | .293/.374/.508 24 HR, 12 SB, 102 RBI: As I continue to drive the Tyler O’Neill bandwagon I’m more than happy to take a moment to acknowledge his spectacular season at AA Jackson. After slashing .260/.316/.558 with 32 dongs at hi-A Bakersfield in 2015, he followed it up with another step forward in 2016. Showing advanced approach, raising his Bb% from 6.5% to 10.8% year over year. He’s a power hitter through and through hitting a ton of flyballs (36%), and spraying homers to all fields.
Outfield: Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres | AAA | .306/.366/.557 30 HR, 5 SB, 105 RBI: There’s no denying Renfroe his share of the PCL/AAA home run crown, even if he had to share it with a pair of older prospects (Jesus Aguilar and Kyle Jepsen). He’s currently immersed in a slump that’s seen him slash .229/.285/.424 since August 1st. Should be up once El Paso’s season ends, for a cup of coffee with the Friars.
Designated Hitter: Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics | AA/AAA | .237/.328/.519 36 HR, 7 SB, 96 RBI: Well we had to have a DH right? Truthfully it was a way to sneak in Chapman’s booming power bat. Due to his low average I took both Rios and Dozier over him at the hot corner. His 36 dingers was third in all of MiLB behind fellow All-Prospect Team members Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins. So I guess you could say Chapman led the minor leagues in homers outside of Reading. There’s a great deal of swing and miss in the package, but he brings real power too.