Just like that Opening Day has come and gone in a flash. Well, a thunderstorm in Boston and COVID testing in Washington DC reminds us that we still live in one crazy world. But regardless, we have baseball and with baseball we have Fantasy Baseball to keep us occupied. Whether you have one or five or even ten teams, early in the season is when we search for those hidden gems.
In today’s article, we are going to review three young hitters that broke camp with the big league club due to strong springs. While spring training stats are generally useless to project into the regular season, they sure can help win a starting role. The real question we need to answer is: Does spring success mean it is time to invest? Do we have a Mike Olt on our hands or did we discover the next Mike Trout? While I am pretty certain we have not discovered the next Mike Trout, we need to dig in and see what type of value might be sitting on the waiver wire to add that young spark to your fantasy clubhouse. Because if we know anything, it is extremely important to have fantasy clubhouse chemistry!
A 26th round draft pick in 2015 and 5th overall in 2018, Jonathan India was the first Reds player to make his debut start on opening day since Chris Sabo. While that tells us absolutely nothing about him, it sure is fun to work Chris Sabo into anything. For Jonathan India, we have limited insight to run on as he only has 34 games at AA during 2019. However, his minor league profile across 165 games does tell us he has power and speed with 17 counts apiece.
There were several reports this spring that scouts were impressed with the changes he made between 2019 and spring of 2021. Delivering a 1.045 OPS over 22 games this spring was a promising start. Even with those indicators, this is still a player learning a new position with limited experience two years ago above A ball. Is he worth a stash to see if he figured something out? Yes. Nevertheless, he is more of a 10/10 player in 2021 than the 20/20 player he can grow into over the next few seasons.
Vaughn was the #3 pick in the 2019 draft and has played a whopping 54 games at A ball or lower. Despite, that limited record Vaughn was on track to make the opening day roster for what should be a competitive White Sox team even before the Eloy Jimenez injury. While he has the potential to remind many of Kyle Schwarber in the outfield, he has all the writings of a future all-star at the plate. The only question is when?
Vaughn played a full schedule of 25 games this spring and delivered a solid stat line with a little glimpse of that power potential. To pour a little cold water on his potential in 2021, we have to remember all of his numbers have stemmed from the tempered starting pitching of spring training and the aces of single-A. So, while expectations long-term will be strong, we must expect some level of growing pains this year. That said, I would be investing a roster spot and a decent chunk of FAAB as his spring indicated he is a quick learner. If he is truly able to accelerate some of those learnings, he could be a steal for his power upside.
Kyle Isbel is a far cry on the prospect pedigree spectrum from the aforementioned high-round draft picks. Isbel’s statistical profile is also out the window as much of his 2019 campaign was impacted by a broken hamate bone. That type of injury is notorious for a slow recovery leading to a disappointing finish for his A+ season in 2019. Ignoring the stats, Isbel has the potential to lever his small stature into some pull-side line drive power and a smattering of steals. It looks like the Royals will mostly use him for his defense and platoon potential in 2021. He is best left for the waiver wire unless you are desperate for speed in a daily league.