We’re about a third of the way through the prospect rankings for every MLB organization. The amount of prospect information that is available to us as fantasy players is immense. Videos, reports, and rankings are out there in spades. They come from a variety of sources and are typically valuing players for real life baseball instead of fantasy. I want to give you an idea of how I sift through everything when I do each team’s fantasy rankings and what to look for when you go out and do your own research on players.

It’s not a comprehensive list by any means, but it might save you some of the time that I spent on the learning curve. First and foremost, these are prospects we are talking about, so the reality is many of them will not even pan out. I’d wager that of the 300+ players mentioned in the organizational top tens, maybe ~50 will truly make a big impact in standard fantasy leagues. And yet we still look, because there are players who are fantasy studs in the making. My goal with each player in the reports is to give a little background, compile info on the players’ tools, look at their path to playing time/role, and attempt to relate all of that to their value in fantasy baseball. Here are the things I have found to be most helpful when looking at fantasy prospects…

Prospect rankings are really fluid and usually aren’t fantasy-driven

Prospect rankings change all the time and become dated pretty quickly. Traditional lists are often ranking on real-life value, which can greatly differ from fantasy value.

Don’t put too much weight on minor league stats

I include a stat line for the year in each player’s blurb. Its purpose is to provide a snapshot of what that player’s year looked like. It’s not necessarily going to tell you all that much about their potential.

Find good information

Since stats aren’t really reliable, we need something else to go by – or at the very least combine them with. That’s where scouting reports come in. I’m not a scout, so I have to trust information from places like Baseball America. The important thing is that you find information that is fresh (see bullet point #1) and that is based on more than one look at a player. Just like I wouldn’t want somebody to judge my performance based on just one sample, I don’t trust prospect evaluations that are based on a game or two. Instead, it’s better to get information from multiple looks and preferably at different points in a season. Cross reference different reports. If everybody that sees a player thinks he has plus power, then he probably does.

Use the scouting scale as a guide

Scouts use a scale to grade a player’s tools, and fantasy owners can use that information to get a feel for what that may translate to in the majors. It’s 20-80 (or 2-8) where 50 is average. Average power might translate to about 15 homers, an average hitter might be a batting average in the .250-.260 range, and an average overall grade for a pitcher might equate to a #3/#4 starter. The grades go up or down from there. Plus is the same as 60. Plus plus is 70. 80 is elite. Be careful with 80. You shouldn’t see it that often in reports on players. Billy Hamilton is 80 speed. Giancarlo Stanton is 80 power. Miguel Cabrera might be the closest thing to an 80 hit right now if there even is one. Honestly, seeing a 55 or 60 grade on a hit tool is great. When I convert the scouting scale into potential stats, it makes it much easier to determine what a player’s fantasy value might look like.

Hitting is really hard

Here are just a few of the things that seem to go into a player’s ability to “hit”: bat speed, hard contact, knowledge of the strike zone, ability to turn on fastballs, ability to hit breaking balls, ability to hit to all fields, ability to make adjustments, etc. etc. Not only is it easy to see why players don’t make it, but it is also easy to see why stats can be unreliable. There are just so many things a hitter may be working on that aren’t reflected in their stat line.

Raw power versus game power

Just know that they are two different things. Home runs are gold in fantasy. It seems obvious, but what a player can do in batting practice is much different than what they can do in a game. Any good scouting report will mention the difference. Power is typically the last tool to develop.

Speed

We want stolen bases in fantasy, but the grade on the speed tool doesn’t take into account everything that actually goes into stealing a base. Typically it’s a player’s time from home to first and his 60-yard time. There’s obviously more to steals than raw speed, so don’t assume plus speed automatically means big steals numbers. On the topic of speed, it seems to be the first thing to deteriorate, so big stolen base totals don’t usually have a long shelf life.

Projecting

Some players get ranked highly even though they are really young and haven’t played much yet. This can be because scouts see more power in the bat or strength in the arm as the player fills out and develops physically. You may not want to invest too much in prospects who are “maxed out physically” or who “don’t have much projection left”.

Age

Is a prospect young for their league? Some teams are aggressive in promoting players. Others aren’t. If a prospect is “old” for a level, they should be handling themselves. If they are well below the average age, it should be expected that they struggle. Players who hit or pitch well against older competition stand out. Along these lines, the jump to Double-A seems to be one of the biggest in the minors.

Pitching

Fantasy value can hinge on whether a player ends up as a starter, closer, or middle reliever. Starters tend to have at least a three-pitch mix of average or better pitches with solid control and command. Control is the ability to throw strikes. Command is the ability to hit your spots. Like power, command is typically the last facet to develop. On a side note, #2 and #3 starters are actually pretty good. Don’t get flustered if all of your pitching prospects aren’t labeled as an “ace” or a “#1”.

Role/Playing time

Don’t let a player’s position sway you. Just because a team has four shortstops doesn’t mean you shouldn’t own one of them because “we don’t know where they will play”. Those things tend to work themselves out. In fact, a player changing positions in the minors is a good sign they are getting closer to a call-up. I will say this though…I like to collect shortstop prospects. Even though they often change positions, some of them stick and they are usually the best athletes (along with center fielders).

I hope this will be helpful when looking at prospects for fantasy purposes. Feel free to add how you go about evaluating fantasy prospects in the comments.

NL T10 Fantasy Prospects Index

AL T10 Fantasy Prospects Index

Happy New Year!

  1. Wow. Excellent primer! Thanks.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Thanks! I’m glad it was helpful

  2. Nimrod says:
    (link)

    Very informative. Now when I read your future articles they will have new meaning. Thanks.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Awesome! That’s what I was going for

  3. james says:
    (link)

    SS prospects also almost aways find a position to play in the field (so no fear of a DH). I am in a slow draft league and literally just pointed out how many SS prospects move around. Jim Thome was drafted as a SS (but quickly moved to another position).

    I personally am wary of 1b prospects that are not in the upper minors. First off their ceiling must be huge to play at a position like first. Second, it is easier to get blocked since there really is no where to move. Third, teams generally play you are the position that will deliver the most value, so 1b means there is on where else on the diamond you can play. Forth- so many guys shift there in the upper minors to get their bat in the bigs.

    The other thing i like to point out- even top 10 prospects (Buxton, Correa, Sano, Gallo, Seager, ect. right now) only have about a 30% chance of turning into regulars at the all star game. about 50% more are mlb regulars but nothing specia;, and the last 20% either totally wash out, or never have more than a junk inning or pinch hitter type career (Feliz Pie, or Bryon Bullington). do not buy in too much, since even having every one of the top 10 propsects, there is still a good chance you only have 2-4 fantasy assets (the likelyhood of sucess falls the further you go down prospect rankings too)

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Good stuff James

      • Matt says:
        (link)

        @Mike: I think even Miggy was orginally a SS in the Minors, and guys like Pujols/Tex started out as 3B’s

        • Mike

          Mike says:
          (link)

          Lots of examples for sure

  4. Al koholic says:
    (link)

    great job,im ready for some baseball

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Thanks! Me too!

  5. Natty Boh says:
    (link)

    Good read….Thanks.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Anytime. Thanks for reading!

  6. J-FOH says:
    (link)

    wow lots of love, it was alright if you’re into that thinking thing when you play this game. I thought the whole point of here is to ask the writers about every move we make so we don’t have to think.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      That works too ;)

      • J-FOH says:
        (link)

        @Mike: I spend way too much time in Grey’s post’s. I’m also a little agitated this time of year, can’t handle all the year end lists and what not. Like I give a f**K what some publication thinks at the end of the year.

        • Sky

          Sky says:
          (link)

          You should give us your year end list of all the year end list publications you despise.

          BTW, your name is Jack Full of Hate. Don’t kid yourself that it’s just this time of year you’re agitated.

          • J-FOH says:
            (link)

            @Sky: fair enough. I need an emotional makeover and a spa day for my soul.

            • Sky

              Sky says:
              (link)

              Talk with Bill O’Reilly. He’ll scrub it with a falafel for you.

              • J-FOH says:
                (link)

                @Sky: his brand of hate is in a completely different realm than mine. His being opportunistic while mine is deep seeded

                • Sky

                  Sky says:
                  (link)

                  Do you know what I’m referencing, though? That’s the bigger part of the fun.

                  • J-FOH says:
                    (link)

                    @Sky: *searches O’Reilly and falafal*

                    Oh, thats weird

        • Mike

          Mike says:
          (link)

          Top 20 J-FOH Moments of 2014

          Click to Begin Slideshow…

          • J-FOH says:
            (link)

            @Mike: I’ll have to work something up

  7. SwaggerJackers says:
    (link)

    Can’t say I’m ever going to dig in and do my own prospect research but it’s nice to see a little bit behind the curtains.

    Keep doing what you’re doing Mike!

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Thanks Swag!

  8. SheriffMcRawDawg says:
    (link)

    Hey Mike – I got an answer from Grey on this already, but I’d love to hear what you think – and sorry for taking up the real estate:

    This year, I’m adopting a relatively crap team in a 12-team keeper league (30-man rosters), where players are kept in the round they were drafted in with a 4 year max. 8 players can be kept from year to year w/ a max of 4 non-drafted FAs. FA’s can be kept in the 25th round for the first year, and then the 10th round the 2nd year, and cannot be kept a 3rd year, so there’s really an emphasis on holding on to drafted players.

    Here’s a list of the end of season roster with the round these guys were drafted in.

    2 Reyes – can be kept 4 more times
    3 Josh Hamilton – 4x
    4 Zobrist – 4x
    5 Phillips 4x
    6 Cruz – 4x
    7 Gattis – 4x
    9 Trumbo – 2x
    10 Gray – 4x
    12 Carl Crawford – 4x
    14 Janssen – 3x
    18 Chris Davis – 2x
    21 Lorenzo Cain – 4x
    23 Moss – 4x
    26 Dickey – 2x
    29 Masterson – 3x

    Here are the only 2 notable FA’s that ended up on my team:
    – Jesse Hahn
    – Dallas Keuchal

    I’m pretty sure I’m leaning:
    Cruz, Trumbo, Gray, C. Davis, Lorenzo, Moss for the first 6…

    BUT for the last 2 spots, I’m wondering if I should keep Gattis in the 7th/Dickey in the 26th (not a big fan of his)/Masterson in the 29th (ditto), or either/both of Hahn and Keuchal as FA’s (would be kept as 25th and 24th rd the first year, and then plummet to 10th and 9th rd the next, with no 3rd year option)

    Or keep early round guys, using later picks on prospects/or not keep all 8 and try to draft for the future… first year in this format for me.

    REALLY would appreciate your input.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      No problem. Keuchel I’d keep.
      Gattis if you can still slot him at catcher.
      Agree with your other picks.

      • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
        (link)

        @Mike: Thanks! Grey was urging me to go Hahn over Gattis essentially, and it is a 2 catcher league… am I missing something on him? Will be he an everyday OF now with no Heyward (I know you like your power)? Is 7th rd too steep for him? What are your thoughts on Hahn?

        thanks as always!

        • Mike

          Mike says:
          (link)

          I think he’ll probably play left field.

          Nothing wrong with Hahn, I just think his numbers might be easier to replace.

      • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
        (link)

        @Mike: also meant to add – Wily Peralta is also a FA option… if that changes anything

        • Mike

          Mike says:
          (link)

          I’d still take Gattis

          • SheriffMcRawDawg says:
            (link)

            @Mike: thanks a lot Mike – it’s a Y! league so I think I’m safe at C with Gattis.

            • Mike

              Mike says:
              (link)

              anytime Sheriff

  9. Matt says:
    (link)

    Thanks Mike

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      no problem

  10. Alan says:
    (link)

    So in a dynasty league I am trying to get the first pick to get Rusney or Tomas.

    Am I crazy to trade two of Tapia, Clint Frazier, Dahl for that pick?

    Thank you in advance

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      You’re not crazy, especially if landing one of those guys helps you win now. That said, I think two of the three is too much to give. If it was me I’d move one, but not two, and I’d prefer to hold onto Dahl and Tapia.

      • Alan says:
        (link)

        @Mike: Thank you

        • Mike

          Mike says:
          (link)

          no problem

  11. Tyler says:
    (link)

    Very interesting guide, now im gonna go reevaluate my Milb players. I also loved the bit on looking out for young prospects playing against older competition and prevailing, good stuff.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      thanks!

  12. Fabio says:
    (link)

    hi Mike, happy new year! how do you see trading Starling Marte for a package of Almora, Jose Berrios and Gleyber Torres in a deep dynasty league?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
      (link)

      Thanks! You too!

      I would hold Marte. He’s good enough to help you now and young enough to build around, so while the package isn’t terrible, I would want some bigger prospects.

Comments are closed.