I’d like to take this time on a Tuesday morning to formally apologize to one Austin Riley, Braves third baseman. I should have ranked you at least 6th in my third base rankings. I didn’t, I ranked you 10th. I tried to make up for it by slipping you into the Top 100, at 95th, but even that feels a little low. You’ve really made good in the Fall League slashing .302/.362/.698 with 6 homers, and 17 RBI. He’s been part of a dynamic Braves quartet that I profiled in my Arizona Fall League check-in, and my Braves 2018 Minor League Preview. Riley comes along at a perfect time in prospects lists, as there’s a definite shortage on dynamic talent in the corner infield. After a difficult stretch in the Florida State League for the first two-thirds of his season, Riley was promoted to AA Mississippi, and the power returned. In 48 games at AA, Riley hit .315/.389/.511, with 8 homers, and 27 RBI, slugging numbers much more in line with his career norms. Riley has credited his continued improvement to the Braves developmental programs, who have worked at shortening Riley’s swing, and improving his conditioning. Both areas where he’s made significant strides. He’s eased concerns regarding his defense, getting mostly average grades with his glove, but plus and double plus grades on his arm. Meaning it’s increasingly likely Riley sticks at the hot corner long term. It’s usually the wrong time to buy a player when he’s coming off a noisy Fall League, but Riley is the rare exception where he’s widely unowned in dynasty formats of 14 teams or less. Here’s some other Minor League news…

 

  • Speaking of players mashing their way through the off-season, my 3rd overall prospect Eloy Jimenez is currently walloping the ball, to far less fanfare, in the Dominican Winter League. He currently leads the league in homers (4), RBI (20), and slugging (.698). The last number is the most staggering, as Jimenez is nearly 140 points higher than the second highest slugging percentage. BTW there’s tons of MLB players in the Dominicano, including Wilmer Difo, Socrates Brito, and the most thirsty man in Korea, Jung-Ho Kang.
  •  Fernando Tatis Jr. the 6th ranked prospect in my Top 100 is also down in the DR, and things have not gone as well. He’s slashing .246/.358/.386 with 1 homer and no steals. I wouldn’t worry, Tatis is just 18, and incredibly young for the league.
  • Speaking of former MLB players down in the Dominican League, the Red Sox Blake Swihart is looking to work his way back into relevancy. In 9 games in the DR he’s slashing .407/.515/.481, while catching. Swihart is out of options, so he has a real shot at a gig coming out of camp. I’ve even read locally that he could be used as a super sub, catching, playing the outfield, third base, and even some second base while Dustin Pedroia recovers from knee surgery. At this point Swihart is really only a viable flier in deep leagues of 16+ or dynasty leagues, and even then you need to temper expectations. If he can hit for a decent average and provide at least some pop, he could be a useful option at catcher in early 2018.
  • I’m not sure if I’m fooled by his Arizona Fall League debut, and good numbers in a small MLB sample, but I’m really looking to add Max Fried where I can. This is a real turn of events, change of heart, 180 degree turn, that-looks-like-a-360-degree-turn-because-I’ve-fallen-for-him-before. I’ve long loved his fastball-curveball combo, and he has real feel for his breaking ball adding velocity and break when needed.
  • I threw his name out there on Twitter yesterday, so I figure I’ll mention him here as well. The Padres 18 year old righty relief prospect Andres Munoz is lighting up radar guns, and getting a lot of love. He has a nasty fastball that hits 100-102 reportedly, and an equally tough, hard breaking slider. Take a look. If his future lies in the pen, he might move quickly though the minors. Most of my dynasty leagues have holds or value high K/9 pen arms. A player like Munoz is definitely not a fit for every league, but he’s kind of intriguing as a live teenage arm facing advanced competition.
  • Mitch Keller is the talk of the Fall League and is another player, much like the aforementioned Riley, that deserves an apology. I ranked him 52nd in my top 100 Prospects, and he probably should have been moved up at least 10 spots. There’s just a lot of new blood and I’m not a huge advocate of carrying tons of prospect arms. hardly an excuse, as I’ve ranked him 46thand 28th. My B. Either way there’s been a lot of talk about his easy 96-97, (and maybe 100 MPH), plus breaking ball, and now flashing plus changeup.
  • He’s not getting as much press as Fried, Keller, and the Braves hitters, but the Brewers Monte Harrison is having a great fall. He’s slashing .275/.310/.625, with 4 homers, and 4 steals in the AFL, and might have the best combo of power and speed, at least statistically, in the league. He has continued to be plagued by strikeouts, but it hasn’t hindered his results. He’ll probably never hit for average, but he has the bat speed, and raw power to hit 25+ homers, while being a weapon on the basepaths. Coming into 2017 Harrison had missed a majority of the previous two years to ankle and hamate injuries, but he played 122 games this year plus the fall league. With his development back on track, it will be interesting to see how he fits into an already crowded outfield picture in Milwaukee come 2019.
  • Can I have a non-prospect related conversation? I’m in the midst of a Mock Draft with the Crab Army. Yes a baseball mock draft, because I’m a meaningless boring boob of a man. All this to say; I’ve been digging on pitchers. Why? Because this time, unlike in Justin Mason’s 2Early Mock, I drafted a starter inside the first 8 rounds. But I was looking at Masahiro Tanaka’s second half splits and it’s insane what he’s done since nearly scrapping his fastball.

Find all of the 30 Minor League Previews, and Offseason Rankings on the Minor League Index
On Twitter as @ProspectJesus

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inferiorhippo
inferiorhippo
4 years ago

Hey Ralph,

I’m late to the post here, so you may not see this. You’re a major reason why I was first to Acuna in my league so thank you.

What are your thoughts on Josh Hader? He is still rookie eligible obviously. I’m in a league where we can keep 15 players and 5 minor leaguers. I dont want any of my 15 to be minors, so what would you do here.

I have:

Josh Hader
Walker Buehler
Dylan Cease
Ryan McMahon
Bobby Bradley
Scott Kingery
Ronald Acuna
Austin Meadows

My thoughts are Acuna, Hader, Buehler, McMahon and Meadows (real in between Meadows and Kingery.)

Any thoughts?

David
David
4 years ago

6×6 roto with OBP replacing AVG, and SLG being the 6th category. I can keep 4 forever. Which one do I drop: Machado, Just Dongs, Acuna, Hoskins, Rizzo,? Thanks Ralph.

LenFuego
LenFuego
Reply to  David
4 years ago

@David: Ouch, that hurts to think about letting one of them go. How about packaging two of them for Trout or Harper? With a gun to my head, I think I would drop …. ummmm …. Hoskins. (Seriously, I just broke out in hives typing that … see if you can package Machado and Hoskins to get Trout or Harper.)

R
R
4 years ago

Looking at picking up Fried, here is my list of pitching prospects/fringe starters by perceived tier:
The all-mighty Alex Wood

Allard, Sixto, Hader, Buehler, Honeywell, Reyes, Gonsalves, Keller, Mckenzie, Morejon

Groome, Mitchell White, Gsellman, Cease, Chatwood, Szapucki, Wentz

Hoffman, Kuhl, Littell, Ragans, D. Tate

See anyone(s) who should be cast aside? CBS still doesnt have Baez in pool..

R
R
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: Thank ya, bummed about him. Lots of early season buzz

Another Dan
Another Dan
4 years ago

Hey Ralph,

Good stuff again.

I sent a message to another owner asking about Riley yesterday. Let’s hope he doesn’t read this column.

I think I gave up too early on Max Fried. Think I might be adding him back in my FYPD (which includes any unowned prospects). Is he close to breaking your top 100 ? Is there going to be an expansion of the top 100 towards 200 ? The last few picks will come from outside your top 100.

Best wishes,

Dan

Another Dan
Another Dan
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz:

Thanks. Thought he might be, dropped him for Baez (since traded) so it wasn’t too bad a decision.

Will just have to try and pick up some names of who to target. 24 of your top 100 are unowned. I have 4 picks in the first 24 (2 rounds). Then I have 4 more (36,37,48,60) if I need them to fill out my roster (depends if I think I should cut guys for those I am picking up).

I’m sure I’ll be asking for lots of advice.

Best wishes,

Another Dan

MArk
MArk
4 years ago

How is Chavis looking in the AFL?

MattTruss
Editor
4 years ago

RE: Tanaka – Aren’t sliders and splitters two of the worst pitches for a pitcher’s arm? So here’s a guy that’s already had arm issues now throwing those more and his FB less? Doesn’t that seem counter-intuitive to long term health?

MattTruss
Editor
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

Yea, I guess he’ll be healthier post fastball usage, until he isn’t. His FB is gawd awful though, so I guess pitch to your strengths until your arm falls off, why not!?

F-FOH
F-FOH
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: I think you could add poor mechanics and the strength and training regiments (adding too much) as cause as well. Good point on dialing up the fastball too often and trying to over power hitters instead of just “pitching”.

Maverick
Maverick
4 years ago

RALPH!!!

You’ve got more info than IBM Watson, my prospectin’ friend! So, you’ve convinced me… I need Austin Riley in my life. But, right now, I’m currently 3 players over the max, so I can’t make any moves. Here’s the setup (using the Ottoneu points setup from FanGraphs):

C: Contreras, Wilson Ramos, Francisco Mejia
1B: Freeman, Bird, C. Santana
2B: Moncada, Kingery, Ian Happ
3B: Franco, Ryan McMahon, (I need Austin Riley)
SS: Rodgers, Adames, Tatis, Jr., Maitan
LF: David Dahl, Tyler O’Neil, Aaron Hicks, Nick Williams, Taylor Trammell
CF: Trout, Acuna, Robles, Clint Frazier, Kyle Lewis, Corey Ray
RF: Giancarlo, Dongs Martinez, Eloy, Kyle Tucker

P: Sale, Cole, Duffy, McCullers, Wood, Alex Reyes, Vince Velazquez, Steven Matz, Luiz Gohara, Jordan Montgomery, Mitch Keller, Forest Whitley, Adrian Morejon, Michael Baez, Jeff Hoffman, Walker Buehler, Anderson Espoinoza, and Yadier Alvarez
RP: Archie Bradley

So, with all of that, I need to essentially drop 4 players (I have 3 on the DL listed as DTD, so can’t make add/drops until that’s fixed) so I can add Austin Riley.

I feel like it might be time to cut bait on Anderson Espinoza and Corey Ray, but I’m struggling with the last two drop candidates.

Are there any other glaring weaknesses that you’d suggest I work to improve? This was out first year, and I obviously went prospect HEAVVVY, but most of them seem to be panning out quite nicely.

Thanks, Ralph!

~~ Maverick

John Stewart
John Stewart
4 years ago

Hey Ralph, thanks for all the great content and keeping us up to speed.

Looking for some Auction Keeper advice with $300 Cap. Should I re-sign these guys or no?
Can sign each up to 5 years at that rate, or drop them and hope to get cheaper at auction.

Calhoun $8
C Stewart $5
Isan Diaz $3
DJ Peters $3
Tyler Mahle $2

Also…is Walker Buehler a future stud SP or reliever? Was just offered Ozuna for Buehler and Duffy…can’t decide what to do.

Thanks in advance!

Miketron
Miketron
4 years ago

Tatis also just got done playing a full season at 18. Give the poor kid a break! I also agree Keller had jumped up a lot in my mental list list fall. Let’s mock around the clock until Spring Training starts.

Miketron
Miketron
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: I meant his team should give him a break, not you Ralphie. Seems like a push to have him in winter ball after full season ball at 18 including AA.

Chris
Chris
4 years ago

To be fair about Tatis Jr, Guerrero JR and Mateo have struggled mightily down there as well.

M
M
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: they are so young for the level, they may just be fatigued from the regular season

F-FOH
F-FOH
Reply to  Geoff
4 years ago

@Ralph Lifshitz: the shouting clarification!

Packers
Packers
4 years ago

Hi Ralph, I can’t get those 4 early mocks to come up. CM says error for draft number.

Johnny D
Johnny D
4 years ago

Great write up. I gave up on Riley but it looks like waaaaaaay to soon. If he keeps hitting he may be up for good come June/July? I will try to pick him up in our leagues Minor league draft.
This year I am treating Isan Diaz like I should have Riley. Give him one more year to figure it out.
Thanks for the work!!

John Hoe
John Hoe
4 years ago

Hey Ralphie! I read your column religiously! Pretty work!

I got to pick 7 bats to keep forever. Roto w/ 1 Util

Wil Contreras
E5
Schoop
Machado
Correa
Moncada
Haniger
Bour
Acuna
Senzel
Dahl

What 7 would you keep? Thanks in advance!

chris
chris
Reply to  John Hoe
4 years ago

@John Hoe: i’m not Ralph, but I’d keep:

Wil Contreras
Machado
Correa
Moncada
Acuna
Senzel
Dahl

those guys. but it was hard to drop Schoop.