I can’t say it feels like baseball season looking out my window at empty trees and snow-filled streets, but just a few states to the south, human beings are playing the real game (for practice).

One of my favorite traditions as a young fan was Peter Gammons profiling each team’s spring training focus points. 

I loved the spittle and shake of his voice, the depth of his details, and especially how he always shot the segments in front of people playing catch, gloves popping symphonically as Gammons explained how Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, and Jason Isringhausen were going to re-define the New York Mets.

It’s in that spirit that I begin our next prospect series—one that works in concert with Razzball’s Gammonsian team previews and one that involves a few nods to some non-prospects. Graduating from eligibility requirements doesn’t mean you’re a known quantity, nor that you’ve graduated to an everyday opportunity. Yesterday’s failed prospects are often tomorrow’s sleepers, so let’s take a lap around the division looking for some fantasy profit. 


Atlanta left third base up for grabs, so Austin Mary Riley and Johan Camargo can become part of the long-term plan if they maximize this opportunity. Riley strikes out too much at 36.4 percent. Camargo is free. Neither was good last year. V exciting. 

Players have bounced back from bad rookie seasons, but that’s not really the full story with Riley, who was good early and awful mostly to the tune of a .276 on base percentage. 

From June 17 onward, Riley hit .170/.237.336. 

How long will he hold the gig if he can’t dig his way out of that? 

Not long, is the easy answer. I thought Camargo might break out last year and wouldn’t be surprised to see him steal this job and run with it.  In 14 AAA games, he hit .481/.531/.690. Might be the mythical 4A player but likely just needs a sustained opportunity.

The closer role is being handed to Mark Melancon, so that’s definitely going to be awesome. Don’t even bother with Will Smith. (Just playing, Uncle Phil!). 

Are we going to Miami? 

We’re going to Me om ee!

¡Bienvenido a Miami! 

But before we leave, let’s consider the possibility that Alex Jackson, former top Mariners pick and converted outfielder, could break his way into the lineup. He’s earning elite grades on defense these days, and while he doesn’t make enough contact for my tastes, he has plenty of power, and the Braves are ancient at catcher. 

In Miami, we party. It’s all about the young Marlins, and I’m watching everyone but the good players. By which I mean Villar. He’s the list of good players, fantasy-wise. Which means I’m watching everyone. Isan Diaz, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez: what could they really do? I’m not watching C-Dick, but I’m not judging if you are. They’re moving fences in. Maybe we should watch C-Dick, but I feel awkward already. 

Jon Berti is kind of a must-own for me at his price. What if he’s real? 

Monte Harrison, too, is an interesting buy right now in case he goes crazy this spring. He feels like the type to lead Spring Training in stolen bases. (Update: he stole two bases right after I put this piece in the system.)

Jesus Aguilar has all but squelched the fire around Lewin Diaz, but as long as it doesn’t dampen the fire inside Lewin Diaz, he’ll push for that job by July. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Edward Cabrera, Sixto Sanchez and Alex Vesia, who I love as a closer dart in deep leagues. Even Humberto Mejia could get some looks as he’s already on the 40-man roster.

Most of the New York Mets’ prospect group will be busy during the day but gets out of school around 3:30 p.m. They do have a couple adult lefties in David Peterson and Kevin Smith, and they’re both pretty interesting to me. If anything breaks, I think it’ll be one of these two before we see Gsellman or Lugo back in the rotation. 

Even on the streets of Philadelphia, Spencer Howard is not a big name, but he’ll be the ace of this staff sooner than later. He came into camp with a balky knee and seems a smart target for a few feeler offers. Once he’s seen on a national stage, the price will not be right. Buy window closing in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

Roman Quinn and Adam Hasely will compete for the centerfield job, but if they don’t hit, I think Scott Kingery steps out there to open 3B for Alec Bohm. Interesting dominos all, but perhaps none more so than the mighty Quinn. His exit velocities have been anything but strong, but that’s not an automatic negative for an 80 runner. One way to look at this might be: it’s not a big deal if you miss out on Haseley and he’s good for someone else. If Quinn pops, he’s going to toggle the standings all by himself. 

Which reminds me of our next focus point: Washington Nationals post-prospect Victor Robles. The Twitterati took potshots at Robles all winter long, deriding his 81 mph average exit velocity as worse than Stephen Strasburg’s.  

I loved it.

I remember a conversation with a friend early this winter in which he was farting in Victor’s general direction due to batting order placement. I loved that, too. Couldn’t refrain from telling him so–that it was hilarious to me that people thought Robles was stuck in the 8-hole. 

We’ve since received word that Robles is lined up to lead off, with Trea Turner sliding into the three spot. I actually wanted Robles to hit fifth or sixth, but I’m just as excited about him in the leadoff spot. 

Robles turned 22 on May 19 last year. If you tell me I can draft a 22-year-old starting center fielder who was five tallies shy of a 20/30 campaign the season before, I’m highly unlikely to care how softly he hit some grounders in his rookie year. 

15-team fantasy math suggests a stolen base is worth three times as much as a home run. Robles hit 17 actual homers and stole 28 bases, so standings wise, he was worth about 101 home runs playing almost half the year as a 21-year-old.

Sorry I got a little carried away there. There’s just a lot of profit to be made in this stats-crazy age for the context-focused fantasy player, and I’m very grateful to the Statcast Twitterati for suppressing the price on Robles.

On the dirt in the capital, Carter Kieboom has an invitation to take third base and is a fine pick to return value at his near-300 average draft position. 

Still, shortstop and third base feel deep enough that he’d be more interesting if he were lined up at second base, where my eyes are locked onto Washington super sleeper Starlin Castro (best read with lisp). Starlin hit 16 second-half home runs in Miami by lifting and pulling the ball. He’d tried this once as a Cub and had no problem lifting and pulling but didn’t have his man strength or the juicy ball going for him then. I’m buying now and wondering if he lands near the middle of that order in a great park for power. Manager Dave Martinez has said Castro will focus on second base. 

Kieboom looms. Howie handles business. Assdribble . . . happens, but it sounds like they’re more likely to play third than second, meaning most roads lead to Starlin almost every day at the keystone.

On the bump, Austin Voth was excellent in 2019, posting a 1.05 WHIP and 3.30 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning across 43.2 frames. Nobody’s expecting a repeat of that from the 27-year-old, but his command of a four-pitch mix gives him a chance at holding the 5th spot in that rotation. Solid deep flier. 

Thanks for reading! Enjoy the deluge of actual (practice) baseball!

  1. Rocky Roads says:

    Wish i could have them all, but need to choose 3 between Soto, Tatis, Robles and Hiura (not dynasty but for the next 2 years).
    Tatis and Soto seem obvious to me, but can’t decide between the other two…

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Yeah very tough call.

      Just two years, I’d probably take Hiura because second base is looking thin, and Milwaukee is such a great hitting environment.

  2. Rocky Roads says:

    Good point!

  3. jbona3 says:

    Itch, love this series already – looking forward to the rest of the divisions! Is this something you’ll continue to look at once the season starts as well?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, jbona3!

      I was on the fence about how it would turn out for much of the writing process, so I’m thrilled to hear it works for you!

      And that’s an interesting thought . . . will linger on the idea of an in-season version a bit . . . but I suspect I’ll give it a whirl in season if this works out well in the end!

      • Joseph St. Hilaire-Bona says:

        It could be a great early warning system to keep an eye out for prospects to get a jump on the waiver wire, being even a day or two early on a sharp add can be a huge advantage

  4. Homer's got the runs says:

    Which side wins? Bregman, Moncada and Conforto for Story, Albies and Sano. 12 team keeper league where 14 keepers are kept. The side getting Story also wants pick improvements .

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      I prefer the Ablies side, but that’s a good trade structure.

      Wouldn’t have any issue with a slight pick swap kicker.

      • Homer's got the runs says:

        Would it make a difference knowing that OBP was a counting category? Team getting story needs SBs while team getting Bregman could use OBP and Homeruns.

        • The Itch

          The Itch says:

          Doesn’t really change things for me.

  5. NUX says:

    Duh-Ayammm! Nice post my man. I’m gettin’ real itchy for baseball over here. Thx for getting us through the offseason. As I’ve told you before this is year 1 for me in Dynasty and I think I’m off to a great start after scouring all of the info you’ve been providing all winter.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Shucks, Nux!

      Thanks! That’s awful nice of you to say!!!

  6. joebobsays says:

    Useful well written article. Thanks. Pretty unrelated question— but seeking deep league auction (NL only-10team) keeper question. 15 can be kept.

    Acura’s contract is up. I have him at 5 currently for this coming season. 5 units a year to add to his salary. I have to pay him.

    My question: 20 for four years or pay 25 for 5? Great players in this league at auction sometimes break the $50 mark.

    All opinions accepted. Thanks!

    • joebobsays says:

      *Acuna (haha not the Acura)

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, Joebobsays!

      25 for five and cackle all the way through the half-decade.

      Can you go six at 30? I think I’d do that . . . not sure about seven . . . might hit the risk/value wall there but I’m not even sure of that . . .

      • joebobsays says:

        That’s what I was thinking—25. 30 seems dirty somehow.

  7. ozone ranger says:

    Easy – $25 for 5. Grey has him #1 overall in all leagues, and Acuña is only getting better. Even if The Beast is only stealing 15-20 bases a season in five years, he’ll still easily earn you more than $25.

  8. Mordacious Levator says:

    that same league where we drafted the NA draft psycho early (we have no regular draft, but waivers start tonight). i went howard and frias (seemed he had more upside from your comments than some of the others listed ahead of him still out there like kirby, espino (maybe it should’ve been him though), cantillo, j.ryan), o.cruz still out there (you are a bit higher than where ever these guys look for prospect stuff, a few guys drafted here wouldn’t have been very high for you)
    C (1) kraken
    1B (1) E5
    2B muncy (1-3B)
    SS mondesi
    3B dozier (1B/RF)
    LF yordan
    CF acuna (all OF)
    RF dannys antana (pretty much all non 1B/C)
    util (1) j.polanco (SS)
    BN: k.davis (if healthy and not freaked out from impregnating somebody he’ll probably be fine again, did drop upton though on him vs him), brujan
    SP: paddack, darvish, ryu, kluber, carrasco, hendricks, carmart, a.reyes, turnbull (streamer spot), yarbrough
    RP (max 5): osuna, rogers, r.iglesias (actually prefer him to get holds), hand, britton (so i have too many saves too little holds guys)
    NA (max 7, i draft the 2 i don’t have filled): r.lewis, groshans, k.robinson (CF), larnach (RF), puig (later puig and brujan will switch spots), s.howard, frias

    1. i got turnbull to drop for sure, thinking of nabbing ed cab (not NA in yahoo so he wasn’t draftable but can be obtained tonight), tsutsugo (3B/LF) in case say h.dozier isn’t great after last year or k.davis sucks again (already a minor injury), or puig gets signed so late he sucks too tsutsogo could go in util spot (or 3B) and any of these: akiyama, mercado (not sure where he’s playing though and i got speed guys already). if ed cab i could put him in frias’ slot later when he gets minored.

    2. also i’m dropping britton for n.anderson (holds in this league so i’d prefer anderson to get holds, and TB moves so many guys around he probably will, and he’s just better than britton easily), i’d assume n.anderson is a better get in a saves/holds sold separately league than any of your prospect RP guys (this is the kind of league where those guys could be obtained AS they get the role, not stashing them till they do, only 12 X 5 at most RP can be started unless they have SP)

    • Mordacious Levator says:

      grey prefers mercado over tsutsugo, what about dropping both of turnbull/j.polanco to get 2 out of mercado/ed cab/tsutsugo?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Hi, Mordacious Levator!

      Agree on Anderson over Britton.

      Agree on dropping Turnbull for Cabrera.

      Man I’d want to get Cruz somewhere. Over Frias if possible for me.

      And yeah Yoshi is kind of a must at the moment. Don’t have enough info to ignore him. I’m out on CarMart but realize he can’t be dropped. Maybe Yoshi over Groshans?

      I’d be working on consolidation trades in general, sounds like. Never easy to bring together but well worth the effort in a league with as many quality free agents as this one seems to have. Almost any league, really, as the player pool is ever-filling.

      • Mordacious Levator says:

        ok, so yr effectively tsutsogo over mercado (or at least with my roster having steals guys already in acuna/mondesi/antana) and willing to drop j.polanco + turnbull to do it. ed cab would slot into 7th and last NA slot over frias when he’s sent down later in preseason (or not, that’s fine too). tsutsogo can’t go over groshans as he’s active player only here. it’s a yahoo not fantrax, we can’t choose who’s up and down (no separate list either). i could also drop h.dozier instead of j.polanco (then tsutugo/antana could split up 3B, but that leaves SS with one guy total, whereas antana backs up everywhere but catcher now).

        • Mordacious Levator says:

          got tsutsugo and ed cab, wouldn’t have gotten mercado anyway (had the 9th waiver he went higher). guy right behind me went n.anderson so i could only have had anderson had i not went after tsutugo (2 others had claims in, in fact the guy i beat to tsutsugo was the guy that beat me back to anderson). nobody put claim on ed cab but me.

          • The Itch

            The Itch says:

            Nice score on Ed!

  9. Itch fan says:

    These articles are exactly what I need for my deep 20 team league. I need to improve on my late draft picks. There’s lots of good fliers here for my bench. Thanks.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks, Itch fan!

      (pssst: your check is in the mail . . . lemme know if it doesn’t clear . . . )

  10. LennyDykstraIsJustMisunderstood says:

    Phillies are talking about segura at 3b and putting kingery where he belongs at 2b

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:

      Thanks Misunderstood Lenny D!

      That’s interesting . . . and makes so much sense it seems kind of obvious now I’ve heard it.

      • LennyDykstraIsJustMisunderstood says:

        Hopefully it happens that way Rumor has it Girardi read segura the riot act and he came into camp in great shape and a new attitude. Also saw a kingery interview and he is bulked up especially the legs he was talking to howard eskin kingery said he was the same weight but on a new program so expect him to be even faster

        said hoskins is going focus on contact and early counts not getting mind f-kd thinking about launch angle

        if everyone is healthy just having girardi as skipper is worth 10 games Kapler blew at least that many.

        it is spring training so all that is nothing but rumors

  11. Worm Burner says:

    Hey Itch,
    Card question for ya……
    I have a good feeling about a good year from Eloy.
    Have you had good results buying young players who have already been in the league, or do you strictly stick to the hype of fresh prospects?
    If so, would you still try to stick with 1st bowman, or also take chances on non-rookie card autos since they’re much more affordable?
    Thanks again. I love how fantasy and cards tie-in with a stock market feel based on real results and hype.

    • Worm Burner says:

      Devers & even Vlad jr are two others I’m considering buying into fairly low for a quick flip. Any thoughts on these two as well?

      Thanks again Mr. The Itch

      • The Itch

        The Itch says:

        Hi, Worm Burner!

        I think Vlad’s a great buy at the moment bc the market is saturated after a marquee rookie year.

        The big multipliers are just the 1st chromes really. I used to break down the colors and sake prices and found bases are the best investment in general unless you can get an early gold—like one of the first BUY IT NOWs listed by a non-prospector on release day.

        I don’t mention that to dismiss it. It’s a decent place to look. Just Gold BIN newly listed around the release, especially for Draft because it’s in November usually.

        But loading up on Rookie autos (on card) the winter after a rookie season is a great way to go. It’s even a decent time to get a 1st chrome at auction sometimes bc the supply of low/medium end autos is so high.

        I bought a bit of Robles this way last year. Got a bunch of Mookie auto rookies $for 10-20 after his RC year. Eloy makes a ton of sense here are a power bat in a big city with a good hit tool who was up all season and therefore a featured dude in almost every product.

        All things equal, is probably rather by a cheap 1st bowman chrome of a kid than a cheap topps chrome of a rookie, but it’s gotten harder and harder to be early enough to get the 1st chrome auto cheap in part because they’re very strategic about waiting to drop that first chrome until the guy has enough hype to sell, so I was drifting toward that Eloy road myself.

        • Worm Burner says:

          Thanks Itch, I really appreciate and enjoy your advice.
          That all makes perfect sense.

          Looking at current prices, I’m guessing for prospects, you’re really buying deep into CJ Abrams?
          Based on your ranking, it looks like his cards are one of the best opportunities right now. Agree?

          • Worm Burner says:

            I apologize for all the questions………have you had better results unloading prospects in the hype when they’re 1st called-up?

            Or do you hang on a while and continue to gamble that they hit the ground running and wait for prices to continue to rise with on the field success?

            I’ll leave you alone now!……….

  12. Worm Burner says:

    Hey the itch,
    Card question for ya……
    With a good bounce-back season from Eloy, have you had good results buying young players who have already been in the league, or do you strictly stick to the hype of fresh prospects?
    If so, do you stick to 1st bowman or also try newer non-rookie auto versions since the price is much more manageable?

    I love how fantasy and cards tie-in with a stock market feel driven by real world results and hype.

    Thanks again!

    • Worm Burner says:

      Sorry for the double-post……..

  13. Eli Man Penguin Boy says:

    15 team roto dynasty with net saves and holds over saves, QS and OPS added. 3 year contract cycles (we can drop at no cost, the pricing is only for predraft and online draft budgets). keep max 18 predraft (25 active max, 10 NA’s, max DL’s (5)), finish draft with max 25. max predraft budget is 257, max in draft budget is 343 (predraft budget is 75% of in draft budget). in season adds for FAAB 10 or less had been 10 (and they start year 1 as soon as you add them, unless prospects, those don’t start their year 1 till they go over 130/50) now it’ll be exactly what the FAAB winning price is. if anybody is drafted/kept predraft their contract remains even if dropped that season and added by somebody else.

    2B hiura (10, year 2)
    SS baez (25, year 2)
    3B bregman (30, 2)
    LF alvarez (10,2)
    CF laureano (RF, 10, 2)
    RF judge (30, 1, if i match his arb bid, which i will)
    util mcneil (2B/3B/LF/RF 4, 2)
    util kingery (2B/SS/3B/LF/RF 10, 2)
    BN lux (10, 0)

    SP (want 7 or 18, small innings cap of only 1250, might go up to 1400, either is easily makable, i have to bench some guys to only get to 1250)
    – verlander (30, 2)
    – ryu (10, 2)
    – luzardo (10, 0)
    – maeda (9, 2)

    RP (room for 5 max):
    – hand (10, but he could be bid up to 30, i don’t think he will though, 1)
    – robles (10, 2)
    NA (10): patino (10, 0)
    – brujan (10, 0)
    also we have a draft coming up, i have the 13th pick in both rounds. ONLY those drafted in 2019 MLB draft can be bid on here. but their prices will be in the 4 to 1 range if i draft anybody, but that player counts towards the max 18 pre-main-online draft and his cost too towards the max 257 predraft budget. it used to be any 1st rounder was 10 and 2nd rounders were 5. now 1.1 is 10 but it slowly tapers downward towards 1 by early in round 2. i should probably leave 1 spot open here for a player i might get at 1.13 for 4.

    so far the above makes my budget 228/17 players.

    other keeper options:
    x.edwards (5,0)
    cron (5, 2)
    stanton (51, 2)
    n.lowe (10, 2)
    lucchesi (9,2)
    yarbrough (10, 2)
    paxton (30, 2)
    m.barnes, buttrey (10, 2)
    paxton i’ll go after to try to save money. stanton too. from injuries they will both probably be cheaper than this, certainly stanton will be. cron can be replaced or gotten back similarly cheap. what you think any changes?

    • Eli Man Penguin Boy says:

      forgot about the players i can bid on, those being (due by the 28th), but if i win any of these (i can say “only bid on the first one i win that’s not matched”) i’d either have to drop one of the 17 i have listed or not draft a prospect from 2019’s draft (only these 5 from your top 200 are higher than patino: abrams, vaughn, carroll, rutchsman, witt, and no guarantee any of them fall to 1.13, maybe only carroll or abrams):
      – bellinger (max 30 bid, about certain to be matched)
      – moncada (all of these are max 30 bids)
      – m.chapman
      – olson
      – albies
      – hoskins
      – devers
      – puig
      – mostsuckass
      – berrios
      there are others but these are the best

  14. Swfcdan says:

    Snow filled streets still? Where do you live? I’m a UK baseball fan and do miss our snow filled streets we got during most winters when I was a kid. Seems much more rare nowadays, only a sprinkling of snow this winter…damn global warming for ya.

    I signed up to a 16 team dynasty slow draft this offseason, all seemed great until I’ve realised it’s 40 man MLB AND MiLB rosters….so 640 players total!! I like digging deep in the MLB pool but even that is going to be bone dry, but I am seriously dreading the latter half of the milb draft….

    I have yours and another site which lists top 200 prospects, nothing deeper than that though. Where could I find any deeper lists? Am I screwed?

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