There’s a section of the fantasy baseball industry dedicated to prospects; scouting, evaluating, and projecting among other aspects. Comprehensive sites like the one you’re on now have dedicated prospect writers (scratch that Itch) working tirelessly to keep you abreast of all the names to know for your fantasy teams, and there are prospects-only sites that continue to grow in popularity. Everybody wants to be first on the next big things, especially those in dynasty (or keep forever) leagues. I love building a team in dynasty, and part of that is building your taxi squad/minor league team. I also love collecting baseball cards, specifically 1st Bowman Chrome autos and colors, so not only do I closely follow the prospect world for dynasty baseball, but also for my collecting/investing enjoyment. Only the worst few teams in First Year Player Drafts can get the top draftees or J2 signings; likewise, only the people with the most disposable income can afford the autos of the Julio Rodriguezes and Bobby Witt Jrs. The trick for me is finding the guys that the masses haven’t gotten wise to yet. Finding guys who maybe aren’t getting the hype, but who are really making moves and the time to act is now before their price (in dynasty, or on eBay/Facebook card groups) gets higher than I want to pay.

That’s the purpose of today’s article; guys who weren’t really on the top-100 lists starting this year, or maybe weren’t even in their organization’s top-20 prospects starting the year. Each of these players has stated their case for why they should be on your dynasty teams, or directly on your radar for your 2023 preparations, and you may be able to get all of these guys for free in your league, or at least for far less than your top-50 types.

I stopped myself at these four; there are plenty of others I’d like to be able to point you to. Hopefully another time. Sorry for the AL slant, NL fans, and sorry for the AL Central slant, everybody else.

 

Kerry Carpenter, OF Detroit: Your time to acquire/pick-up Carpenter is right now. No, exactly now. Like, go check your league for his availability. He got called up to Detroit late Tuesday evening and may have debuted by the time this piece is published (I’m finishing it Wednesday afternoon/evening, for Thursday morning editing/publication). The almost-25-year-old Carpenter has never been one of the top-X Tigers prospects; in fact, if you look at 2022 preseason Detroit team top-30 lists from most any rankings site on the interwebs, you won’t find Carpenter on many, if any, of them. That hasn’t stopped him from absolutely destroying minor league pitching this year.

Let’s start in 2021. At Double-A Erie, Carpenter put together a nice season; nothing superlative, but it was definitely more than his complete non-prospect status would belie. A .262/.319/.433 triple-slash doesn’t make the nether-regions tingle, but from somebody that was getting zero hype as a potential major-league contributor, it at least raised the ears of the organization. Over 474 ABs, Carpenter showed modest power, swatting 15 HRs and knocking in 75, but he also had a strikeout problem, whiffing 20.6% of the time (not awful; it’s coming, though) but walking only 6.3% of the time. It put him on the radar, but didn’t necessarily announce that a new dude was duding.

Moving the calendar to 2022, Detroit may have a dude, completely duding all over MiLB pitching. Carpenter began the year in Erie again, and in just 240 ABs Carpenter slashed .304/.359/.646 while hammering 22 HRs (that won’t be my last carpentry pun). However, the K problem didn’t just remain–it worsened, to a 27.5% K% and a 6.1% BB%. Following the trail of lopsided baseballs and destroyed stitching led Detroit to give him another challenge this year–Triple-A Toledo.

That challenge couldn’t have gone better for Carpenter–he nailed it, you could say (is this my last carpentry pun? I’m going to level with you–I’m board with these). In only 118 ABs, he slashed .331/.420/.644, with 8 more homers, but get this turn of events–he walked and struck out the exact same amount: 17 times. He went from carrying ugly K/BB rates to complete balance. Did Juan Soto sprinkle some batting eye on the Midwest during his flight to San Diego? As mentioned earlier, the sample is reasonably small (118 ABs) but it’s large enough to say there’s something sticky there, and that Carpenter has this kind of ability/skill.

He has no MLB stats as of this writing, and he’s not some young guy (as mentioned earlier, he turns 25 before this season ends), but he’s a guy who was nowhere near prospect radars to force the Tigers and their anemic offense to call him up and probably plunk him right in the lineup to hopefully juice the limp lumber they’re lugging in 2022. If you need thump, this is probably a freebie for you to jump on immediately and see if his meteoric rise can continue into his latest challenge.

 

Drew Waters, OF Kansas City: Waters was a consensus top-100 prospect for Atlanta in 2019, slashing .319/.366/.461 with a modest five HRs but nine triples and 35 doubles, hinting at developing power. He hit so well while also carrying an unsightly 26.7% K% and 6.2% BB%. It was hard to argue with his raw numbers, and the Braves pushed him to Triple-A Gwinnett, where he hit a respectable .271/.336/.374 over 107 ABs. Though the triple-slash regressed a bit, he was still just a 20-year old getting an aggressive assignment, and he more than kept his head above, uhh…water(s). One big red flag continued to rear its head in his next assignment, as his K% jumped to 36.1%.

COVID turned Waters’s 2020 into a lost season, and when he resumed play in 2021, he had seemingly lost his ability to hit. He remained a reasonable power/speed combo, swatting 11 HRs and swiping 28 bags in just over 400 ABs, hitting only .240 while losing almost 10% on his LD% and gaining 11% on his GB% (neither of those are good things).

Atlanta appeared to lose faith and used Waters (and two other minor leaguers) to acquire the 35th pick in the 2022 amateur draft, a tradeable pick from KC, and Waters has been more of a tidal wave since the trade. In just 86 Triple-A ABs with Omaha, Waters has refound his hitting stroke, slashing .326/.426/.593, with five HRs (and six other XBHs), 10 SBs, and a 10% drop in his GB% which is no-doubt spurring some of the hitting/slugging gains. In other gains, his K% is still a touch high (but manageable) at 26.7%, but his BB% has risen to 14%, a career-high. 

It’s rough trying to find time in the KC outfield right now with Michael A. Taylor a mainstay in center, and the Royals rotating MJ Melendez, Nick Pratto, Kyle Isbel, and Nate Eaton in the corner spots, but Taylor is a free agent after next year and if KC isn’t any closer to contending, he will be an obvious trade asset for KC, opening up center field for Waters. Let’s paraphrase that one saying–71% of the earth is covered by water; the rest will be covered by…Waters. He isn’t so much a 2022 stash, but he’s a sneaky-great 2023 stash. He either grabs a spot by finishing 2022 well and starting 2023 the same way, or he carves out an excellent role as the heir to Taylor’s CF spot after a 2023 trade.

 

Emmanuel Rodriguez, OF Minnesota: Rodriguez is a 19-year old OF in the Twins system with only 136 ABs above Rookie ball, but what a debut for EmRod. He’s an intriguing, balanced power-speed combo with nine HRs and 11 SBs already, with a .272/.492/.551 triple-slash.

You may wonder how EmRod gets to a nearly-.500 OBP while hitting only .272–how does that happen? Well, it happens like this–with a 28.6% BB%! That’s absurd. He strikes out 26.1% of the time, a number that’s been used twice this article as a nit to pick with Carpenter and Waters. But I suppose it’s a lot less concerning when you pair it with a nearly 29% BB%. That’s 2001-2004 Barry Bonds-type stuff. I’m not saying that to compare EmRod to Bonds, but to just help illustrate how absurd that kind of patience/eye is. I’m not going to spend as much time on Rodriguez and the next guy, because they aren’t quite as close to the majors as the now-called-up Carpenter and likely-2023 debut of Waters, but Rodriguez is firmly in my top-100 prospects. A preternatural eye makes me feel like his floor is pretty high, and the displayed power-speed balance gives him a ceiling worth salivating over. That ceiling/floor may not be realized for at least one year, maybe two–great dynasty add/buy, less so if you’re looking for 2023 fantasy value.

 

Ceddanne Rafaela, IF/OF, Boston: Rafaela is probably the highest-ranked prospect on this list, as he could be Rocket-ela if you’re looking at his trajectory up prospect lists. The nearly-22 year old Rafaela has been mostly CF, but enough SS to likely make his expected flexibility a boon to his fantasy stock. Boston hasn’t had any issues with CF, have they? They don’t have a high-profile SS that has a player opt-out after 2022, do they? *thinking emoji* Enough with the ominous speculation, let’s get to why Rocket-ela has risen so quickly.

His 5’8”, 152-lb listed height/weight don’t scream “impact bat” but Rafaela’s output suggests otherwise. Think Altuve? Rafaela slashed .330/.368/.594 over 197 High-A Greenville ABs this year, with nine HRs and 10 SBs, but he also knocked four triples and 17 doubles, making nearly half of his 65 Single-A hits XBHs. He did have a pesky 24.4% K% and sub-5% BB%, but when your ISO is .264 and nearly half of your hits are XBHs, teams can live with that kind of plate discipline.

Upon Rafaela’s promotion to Double-A Portland, the station changed by the playlist remained the same. Through his first 178 ABs, Rafaela’s .281/.338/.511 slash line and almost-identical nine HR/11 SB production is almost identical to his lower-level line. His ISO is .230, as again almost half of his 50 hits so far are XBH. He’s even made a small improvement in his plate discipline, dropping his K% to 20.9% and upping his BB% to 5.6%–not great there, but improvement is improvement.

Rafaela isn’t one to watch for 2022, but it’s entirely possible that with a strong finish to this campaign, he puts himself firmly in the mix for either an OF opportunity if a) Jarren Duran doesn’t lock down CF, b) J.D. Martinez doesn’t re-sign with Boston after 2022, and/or c) Xander Bogaerts opts out after 2022 and signs a large contract elsewhere. There are multiple avenues to 2023 fantasy value for Rocket-ela, so acquire now if possible.

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Jimmy
Jimmy
1 month ago

This great! Team up with The Great one Itch! Wanted to snatch up Carpenter but he is not available on ESPN ?

Hoove
Hoove
Reply to  Jimmy
1 month ago

I’m not in an ESPN league so I can’t help you there, but he came from so far back I can understand if he wasn’t in their system. He’s up now, though, so I’d imagine he gets added ASAP.

Hoove
Hoove
Reply to  Jimmy
1 month ago

Appreciate the comment—Itch is great!

TheCheat
TheCheat
1 month ago

All taken in my 13 team rotisserie dynasty (35 active/bench and 30 MiLB) but I love this idea and format!

Hoove
Hoove
Reply to  TheCheat
1 month ago

Thanks, Cheat! Fairly deep league you’ve got, so bummer you can’t get them for free. Any roster churn guys you have that could help you pry somebody?