As your dynasty league seasons come to a close in the coming weeks, much of the real work of the off-season begins. One of the biggest components of success in fantasy is based on the research you put in, particularly in the off-season. This is only magnified in the dynasty when much of the player movement likely takes place. Whether it be via trades, first year player drafts, or some form of free agency, now is when you build the foundation of your squad for the year to come. One of the best exercises in this preparation process for me historically has been digging in on short season and rookie ball performers. It’s good to know the landscape, and identify, through research of first hand scouting reports and video, which strong stat-lines are skills based versus statistical mirages. The next wave of buzz-worthy Top 100 types usually comes from these ranks with some mentioned below already there (See Franco, Wander; Rays). This is typically a great source of talent to focus on when building out your minor leagues, as many of these investments could return serious dividends on next year’s trade market come deadline time. Below we’ll touch on some of the names you should be targeting. Obviously depending upon your league rules and depth some suggestions might be more helpful than others. None of the players discussed will be 2018 draftees, they will be covered in a followup post.
Possibly the biggest story in the second half of the minor league season, Franco, the 2017 International class’ top player, made a splashy stateside debut. The young switch-hitting infielder displayed a compact powerful swing particularity from the left-side, with uncanny control of the barrel, and natural power. Many believe he’ll likely move off short to second, but for now all of his starts in the field have come at short. Heading into the off-season he has pushed his way into the conversation for top 20 prospect with his performance in July and August. Needs to be owned in every dynasty league, is likely already owned in most.
An exciting overall prospect, Newton brings a nice mix of athleticism, feel to hit, on base ability, and some power. He’s still prone to some swing and miss due to getting over-aggressive in fastball counts. Newton balances this with the ability to lay off spin, and get into hitters counts. An excellent characteristic from a player so young. A switch-hitter, his righthanded stroke generates more power, and projects to be the strong side of his platoon splits. He’s a very solid defender, displays good movements to the ball, soft hands, and a strong arm.
One of the more controversial prospects at the moment. While Santana’s hit tool teeters on above-average to plus, the rest of his skills are lacking. His power is below average, and despite his age reports clearly state a rather maxed out body. He’s an average fielder with a well below average arm putting his future at second into question. Santana might be one of these players that hits for great numbers in the lower minors before tapering off by the time he reaches AAA. Think Max Schrock. While his bat is worth a flier in deeper formats, let someone else take the bait. Sustained an injury in the last week of the season.
D’Shawn Knowles, OF Los Angeles Angels | Age: 17 | .311/.391/.464, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 9 SB, 130 wRC+
The teenager from the Bahamas signed in the 2017 class for a little over $800,00. In his professional debut, he showed well across multiple levels of rookie ball, displaying good bat speed from both sides of the plate. He makes loads of hard contact, but at this point his power is more gap to gap than over the fence. There’s good foot speed, but he’s raw as a base-stealer. That said, it’s important to keep in mind he’s just 17. A nice overall skillset from a talented athlete showing advanced skills for his age.
A true five tool prospect, with three plus tools in his power, speed, and throwing arm, Robinson is the brightest of a nice core of young players in the D-Backs lower minors. He showed the ability to hit for power, get on base, and use his legs to make plays as a 17 year old in rookie ball. With his quick hands, athletic gifts, and the ability to adjust quickly to coaching Robinson is a star in the making. I’d look to add him every where I could.
Brayan Rocchio, SS Cleveland Indians | Age: 17 | .335/.390/.442, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 22 SB, 138 wRC+
A switch-hitting middle infielder, with plus feel to hit, wheels, and some projectable power. One of the standouts of the Arizona League via the Dominican Summer circuit. He played all over the dirt, but mostly at short, and looks to at least have a utility floor. Those that have seen Rocchio hit, put plus grades on the bat, and praise his hands and barrel control. Nice combination of skills from a prototypical top of the order infield type.
The best hitter in the New York Penn League this season, Freeman flashed a possible plus-plus hit tool during his time with Mahoning Valley. His bat to ball skills, discerning eye, and control of the strike zone are elite. He should grow into more power as his body matures, paired with his quality of contact Freeman could be a plus offensive shortstop with perennial fantasy value.
An absolute monster in his rookie level stops, Vargas pushed his way up to full-season ball after just 30 games at the rookie ball level. Of course slashing .400/.464/.592 over a month across two levels will do that. He comes from baseball roots, as his father was a star performer in Serie Nacional in Cuba. He actually defected a few years ago, signed for an under the radar $300,000, and was a relative unknown until July. His last month in the Midwest League was a struggle, but such should be expected from a player so young with so few professional reps. This might be the second best hitter listed in the post besides Wander Franco.
Perez burst onto the map following an impressive early run in the Gulf Coast League, he saw promotion to Connecticut of the short-season NYPL, struggled there early before finding his footing, and earning a promotion to full season West Michigan for their playoff run. He pairs wiry strength with plus speed, and good bat to ball skills. Looks like he could be a decent source of speed and batting average one day, with the ability to grow into some more pop. Though the latter is by no means an absolute.
Walking more than you strikeout will always get you somewhere in my book, when you pair it with feel to hit, plus speed, plus defense at short, and some projection, you make me downright frantic. That’s exactly what you have in Marcano, not the most exciting profile, but one that has some interesting ceiling if he can add some power, at the moment there’s little. He does have a plus hit tool, with speed, and a glove to match. That combination will buy him a lot of time to blossom. Presently Marcano’s value lies below the players mentioned ahead of him.
One of the standouts of the GCL, the other Luis Garcia is making a name for himself. Wait, what?!? A good defender that will stick at short, Garcia has plus bat speed, with the ability to grow into over the fence power at maturity. For now he sprays the balls to the gaps, and shows a mature approach. Another switch-hitting prodigy in this season’s class.
Antonio Cabello, OF New York Yankees | Age: 17 | .308/.427/.522, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 10 SB, 168 wRC+
Prior to sustaining an injury Cabello was making noise with his early season performance. Behind the statline is a player more raw than perception might be across the prospect community. He certainly has plus bat speed, some pitch recognition, and feel to hit. But the flaws in his game right now are illustrated nicely here by my Prospect Live colleague Jason Woodell. All in all there’s a lot to like, plus power potential, plus hit, and plus plus speed. He’s converted catcher that the Yankees moved to center, so he’s still very much an adventure out there.
Anthony Garcia, OF | Age: 18 | .218/.300/.456, 10 HR, 24 RBI, 3 SB, 107 wRC+
A 6’6 switch-hitting monster, Garcia is raw, but an impressive specimen with some upside. His raw power gets 70-80 grades, but the swing and miss is an issue, and he’s still figuring a lot of the game out. He’s going to be a slow burn, and certainly calling a guy who hit .218 a breakout is a stretch, but there’s a very exciting ceiling here.
Everson Pereira, OF | Age: 17 | .263/.322/.389, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 3 SB, 88 wRC+
A toolsy athlete with feel to hit, a quick bat, and an advanced approach. Pereira is raw, but shows the building blocks of a potential star. There’s not much game power now, but room for growth, with the ability to pair it with a top of the order centerfield type profile. One of the brightest futures featured on this list and the best of the Yankees trio.
We finally got a look at Nova stateside this season, and he did not disappoint. Putting together a strong performance showcasing both power, and speed. Nova has historically drawn comps to Hanley Ramirez, both for his play and flare. A high upside reward could come with adding Nova now.