According to Whitney Houston the “Greatest Love of All” had something to do with children’s laughter or something like that. I however, Ralph Z. Lifshitz, Prospector for Hire, Prospect Jesus, Bringer of Light, Master of his Domain; believe the ‘Greatest Love of All” is the satisfaction I gain from combing through scouting reports, end of season statistics, used garbage cans at minor league complexes, and sleeping with the wives of scouts for information. Some of those women aren’t handsome, or maybe they are. I usually get rather “engulfed” in the Olde E before I make it through the door. I’m jumping around aren’t I? Sorry, I started drinking early today. I actually was trying to explain how much I like sleepers but really got caught up in the Whitney analogy, and the Mother of Dragons name thing. So, to my original point, every off-season I build a list, usually starting around mid-August, of under the radar names to target in the later rounds of my 30 team dynasty draft. Last year my list included Sixto Sanchez, Jose Albertos, Jesus Luzardo, Seuly Matias, and Ty Blach, nailed my pitching, but hitters either didn’t pan out (Ramon Laureano), or are still too young to be blowing up (Eguy Rosario). This year however, I feel my list is full of strong hitters that just might be difference-makers. I’m a giver, so I decided to share a few of the names I’m going to be targeting this offseason. You won’t see the 50 plus names down there, but you will see 8 players I’ve highlighted from my list that I hold in the highest regard.
Nelson Velasquez, OF Cubs | 2017 Level: Rookie | Stats: .236/.333/.536, 8 HR, 17 RBI, 5 SB
A 5th round pick out of PJ Education School in Puerto Rico, Velasquez brings an exciting power hitting profile for a relative unknown. He generates great bat speed, hits the ball in the air a ton, and at just 18, is getting to very real game power (.300 ISO). At the moment he’s more power than contact, but he looks like he has the tools to refine his approach, and ultimately become a well rounded hitter. Was already awarded Cubs minor league player of the month back in August, and looks like a worthy target later in your first year player drafts.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic back in 2014, Brujan fits the prototypical leadoff profile to a T. Impossible to strikeout, Brujan’s K% and BB% was nearly identical this season. His greatest value to our game is his speed, and he gets on base enough for his wheels to matter. Following a strong season in the New York-Penn League, Brujan is starting to gain some buzz. Sort of reminds me of a switch-hitting DJ LeMahieu in a lot of ways, except they look nothing a like, and LeMahieu is of course no switch-hitter.
A player I mentioned as a sleeper coming out of the 2016 draft, Baddoo was a toolsy but raw outfielder from the Georgia prep ranks. He’s the kind of profile dynasty managers love; raw athlete, power in the bat, speed, a gift for getting on base, and an improving approach. Baddoo year over year cut his K% by 50%, and rocked a 17.2% Bb% to a 12.1% K% over 33 games in the Appalachian League. There’s some question as to how much speed he’ll have at peak, and he was caught a lot during his time in the Appy. He does however have a potentially special bat, pairing contact, on base ability, and above average raw power. Baddoo has 5 tool upside, but multiple paths to fantasy relevance.
Somewhat of a breakout year from Almonte with AA Hartford, as he missed more bats and flashed improved command. Almonte mixes a plus four seam fastball that sits 92-97, an above average slide piece, and an improving changeup. I saw Almonte pitch for Hartford this season, and his fastball only got better as the game went along, with velocity jumping, and the slider, though inconsistent, at times flashed plus. He looks like a back of the rotation piece, but one with fantasy appeal. Too bad he’s a Rockie.
The first catcher taken in this year’s draft doesn’t get tons of fanfare, despite an intriguing offensive profile. He has some pop in his bat, and a decent approach for an 18 year old kid. Campusano looks like he should stick behind the plate too, I wouldn’t be trading up to take him, but could see the value in snatching him around 50 in first year player drafts. Power hitting everyday catchers have value in the deepest leagues.
Part of the Padres 2016 J2 class, (I’ve been touting for close to a year and a half now) Arias is a toolsy shortstop, that looks like he could develop more pop in his bat. Arias doesn’t turn 18 until February, and has already played 16 games in full season ball. His bat to ball skills are excellent, and he’s said to flash more power in batting practice. If you take Arias, you have to be willing to wait, but there’s a very good chance it’s worth the investment.
The lefty jumped three levels in 2017, and now sits on the cusp of the major leagues. The talent has always been there for Borucki, but the health has not, as he missed all of 2013, and a chunk of 2014 following Tommy John surgery. Fully healthy for a few seasons, Borucki has exceeded 120 innings in consecutive years. Based on his recent track record and improving performance, it’s safe to say the injury concerns are a thing of the past. A deceptive delivery where Borucki hides the ball behind his left leg for an extended moment, allows his lower 90’s fastball, slider, and changeup to play-up. In 2017 Borucki scrapped his curveball in favor of his slider, and started to use it on the outer-half of the plate to great results. With the improvement in his breaking ball, Borucki has a third pitch, and two true secondaries he can throw in any count. Look for Borucki to make his debut in 2018.
Lolo Sanchez, OF Pirates | 2017 Level: Rookie| Stats: .284/.359/.417, 4 HR, 20 RBI, 14 SB
A plus plus runner, with gap to gap power, and a line drive focused approach. Lolo was one of the standouts of the Gulf Coast League this summer, and not just for his peculiar name. He’s adept at using the whole field, putting the ball in play to use his speed, and working counts like a seasoned vet. At just 18 the upside for Sanchez is through the roof.