I don’t have some big introductory explanation here. I trust you grasp the premise and intend to skip this paragraph, but if I still have your eyes for the moment, I’ll say I imagine a start-up build for a 15-team, 2-catcher dynasty league when parsing through the lists and try to explain when a player’s value varies based on settings. If you’re in a contention window, your rankings should look a bit different than they’d look on the front end of a rebuild. I’ll flag some players along the way for whom the disparity in value can get especially large from build to build.
Format: Position Player | Team| Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
Production stalled on Marvel’s Wandervision: Winter League Edition when the man himself came up injured. Shoulder. Nothing to worry about according to the Rays. In the series, Franco inherits the top-prospect mind stone from Vlad the Impaler and seeks to protect the future of Tampa Bay.
What can I tell you about Wander that you don’t already know?
You might already know, thanks to the good people at Prospects Live, that he hits a lot of ground balls. Naturally, this invites speculation that Wander could run into the same launch-angle issues facing Vladimir Guerrero Jr. these days.
You might also know his body type is rare. Weird, even. He’s wide. But so was Trout. And that’s kind of the bet here: that Wander keeps his speed due to being a freak athlete. Thick humans lose their speed with time, goes the theory. And it’s true, I’m sure, in part because all humans lose their speed with time. Time is time, man.
Some running backs stay fast, right? At least for a while? And NFL running back is a better physical comp for Mike Trout than most baseball players I can think of. The same might be true of Franco, who’s best attribute is that he very rarely strikes out (or even misses on a swing). This is helpful for baseball. I’m not inclined to care a whole lot about A-league or training site batted ball metrics anyway, so it’s pretty easy for me to dismiss whatever sample size (small) is driving this narrative. It might prove true against big league arms, but let’s consider the downside for a moment. If young Vladdy is the big red flashing light, is that so bad? He’s not yet 22 and has succeeded at age 20 (105 wRC+) and age 21 (112 wRC+) despite being pitched to like a superstar since his first day. That 112 came from an oversized Vlad in a big jiggly body straight out of the quarantine. At age 21 and badly out of shape, Vlad Guerrero Jr. was 12 percent better than a league average hitter. Perhaps you recall the home run derby from 2019. If not, here’s a link.
If the best case against Wander is that his downside is like Vlad’s in terms of groundball issues, that’s not much of a case in my opinion. Everyone playing dynasty baseball would be thrilled to have Vlad, and most would likely trade a great deal to get him, even with the physicality concerns made plain in the shortened 2020.
I almost ranked Luis Robert over Wander last year, and for a while it looked like I should have. Similarly, a few players in this group have an interesting case for the top spot, but I see little reason to pivot away from Wander before he gets an extended look against top-end pitching. Prospect fatigue is settling in now, and this launch angle thing along with the shoulder question feeds into that familiarity fatigue like Colin Robinson, energy vampire. You were bored when you saw Wander at one, I suspect. I know I was. Had I bumped him behind Abrams, this list might’ve been the talk of the Twitterverse for half a second. I almost did it because I believe CJ’s topside is higher, but the “floor” on Wander is the highest prospect “floor” of my lifetime, I think. The guy just doesn’t swing and miss. The trades I’ve seen involving Wander over the past couple years are downright obscene, baking in something like a .330+ batting average with 25+ home runs and 10+ stolen bases on an annual basis.
Did you even flinch at those numbers?
Imagine predicting a .330 batting average for any prospect who hasn’t played AA. It’s absurd. That’s a fair descriptor of the guy in general, I think. Wander Franco is absurd. The next time he struggles will be the first.
Abrams is my favorite player in the minor leagues, featuring 80-grade speed, 70-grade hit and 60-grade raw power from a sweet lefty swing he can adjust mid-pitch thanks to incredible hands in the box. His hands at shortstop have come along nicely, but he’s not going to play there in the show for San Diego, who says they’re not going to trade him. His position doesn’t matter much for our purposes, but I think he should move to center next year and learn to maximize his speed to play shallow and shrink the field. This takes a long time to learn. Drills can help, fungos can help, practice makes perfect and all that, but to really master and anticipate how the ball will come off the bat from centerfield, you really need in-game reps. If you watch Jackie Bradley Jr. play the position, he’s moving with the pitch and reacting as fast as Nolan Arenado at the hot corner. I take this detour because I think Abrams can be one of the game’s elite defenders but seems unlikely to get there the longer they leave him on the infield. It only matters for our game because it could take him a while to climb the ladder as an infielder, and then we could have another stall as he tries to change positions in the upper minors.
If you didn’t see the rose bloom this fall, I should tell you it was a beautiful thing, filled with home runs and base hits and general awesomeness as he carried Tampa’s offense to the World Series. I can’t really comment on what’s happened since then. I mean I’ve read more than I needed to about his encounter with the mother of his child, who opted against pressing charges, so he’s clear in the eyes of the law, but I suppose MLB still might take some games away.
The cold equations for our purposes are that Arozarena is more likely to stay good than stop being good, on the field. And maybe much better than good. It’s no stretch to say he’s got the look–and statcast profile–of a five-category fantasy superstar. Whatever numberwang reason you hear to avoid him in your leagues—the latest is some tiny sample tomfoolery about breaking balls—remember he just had the most impressive debut stretch of any rookie in baseball history and dominated the game’s best pitchers to do so. If he hits .280 with 40 homers and 20 stolen bases in what will technically be his rookie season, we should not be shocked. Nobody else on the board can match that topside. Nobody else on any board in prospect history has shown as much as Arozarena at the highest level.
A thunderous power bat with a knack for going the other way, Rodriguez might top somebody’s list this winter. Concerns exist about his ability to handle elite chase pitches on the outer half, and while that’s true of just about every young hitter, J-Rod’s first move in the box is a slight drift toward third base, and his front leg moves that direction as well. He’s adept at slashing or driving the ball to the opposite field, so I suspect this could be just an aesthetic thing because sometimes the greats just look different and force us to retrain our eyes a little. Might wind up a double plus in hit and power with just enough athleticism to chip in on the base paths.
Kelenic does everything well on a baseball field. Looks like an old Robert Redford out there. Can shoot a frisbee out of the air with one swing of his bat. If we’d had a regular 2020, he almost certainly would’ve pushed his way to the majors. Instead, he spent the season generating as much training site buzz as anyone in the game. Legend has it he once hit home runs on six straight swings. Or maybe that was six straight days. Truth gets foggy at these training sites. Point is he’s ready and should be up for good after now-standard clock-suppressing period.
6) 3B Spencer Torkelson | 21 | Detroit Tigers | NCAA | 2022
Tork is unique as a first overall pick in that it’s really just the bat Detroit drafted. They announced him as a third baseman on draft night, and Torkelson might be a good enough athlete to make that work, but it doesn’t matter all that much to his prospect stock if he has to slide back over to first base. The carrying tools are hit and power, and both could be plus plus depending how he reacts to premium spin. The clear #1 pick in dynasty First-Year-Player Drafts and an easy top ten prospect for fantasy.
We’re not far from Luciano being crowned the top prospect in baseball by several outlets. After the Franco, Rodriguez, Kelenic crew graduates, we’ll be onto the next few, and Luciano is in perceived pole position alongside Spencer Torkelson and CJ Abrams.
Here’s what I wrote last year about Luciano:
“There’s a case to be made for Luciano being baseball’s best power prospect. He might not steal bases or stay at shortstop, but that doesn’t matter. This guy is a star. I’d probably be floating him in dynasty leagues because the hype is loud right now and the wait will be long. I sold my only share (along with Brennen Davis) last summer to get Kris Bryant, who did not play well post trade but is still a better piece for that team in its contention window.”
Fast forward a year, and I would not be shopping Luciano today, who I highly doubt you could get in return for Kris Bryant. I mean maybe. Every league is different, but these ships have passed in the night: Bryant batting back problems that have sapped his power; Luciano positing insane exit velocities in Twitter videos on his assent to the peaks of dynasty prospect value. With the new hitting team in tow, Luciano looks like a runaway freight train.
You’ve probably read or heard some scout-laze lingo like “can flat out hit.” Such was created for players like Andrew Vaughn, about whom there’s not much more to say. He controls the strike zone incredibly well, a skill that’s aided by his six-foot frame and strong wrists. It’s not uncommon to see him fight off a pitch inside and wind up driving it to right center field for a double or even home run.
For some explicit opposite field Vaughn content, check out The Prospect I am Most Excited to See Debut in 2021 as penned and collated by Hobbs.
The most ballyhooed international amateur in recent memory, Dominguez is as physically developed as any ballplayer I’ve ever seen. Dude is so ripped his proportions look like a Picasso painting. His body makes more sense via cubism than in instagram videos. He’s also fast enough to play centerfield and steal some bags, with some scouts tagging him with 60-grade speed.
The swing is fast and still flexible at the moment, but any more muscle could topple that, making Dominguez a precarious case for fantasy. The eye test returns excitement with hints of aging-based trepidation, but the price represents only optimism at the moment. If his first season-long stat lines are loud, he’ll leap into conversations for best overall prospect in baseball. It’s become a little Twitter-hip to scoff in the general direction of this horizontal giant, but I’m way more in than out on Dominguez, who looks like he could hit a ball to the moon.
While I hate doing this, dropping a catcher into my top ten, Rutschman is an exception to most standard feelings about young catchers. He’s plus everything but run. The defense comes easily to him, as do the plate skills. This dude walked 76 times and struck out 38 in 57 games as a college junior. That’s borderline Bondsian. He also hit 17 home runs and slashed .411/.575/.751. He then tallied a 12/16 B/K ratio in 20 games in the New York Penn League at the end of his draft year, getting himself promoted to a third level in 2019 (four if you count college). He’d only played one year in the Cape Cod League, so 2019 was his first extended run with wooden bats, and he adapted well until 12 games in the South Atlantic League flummoxed him at the end of the long year.
If I had a better option for this spot, I’d take it, but I think Adley’s a cut above the Dylan Carlsons and Corbin Carrolls of the world, at least for now. There’s always a risk that a young catcher will flounder at the plate while he learns to be a big league defender, and that might be the ultimate buy window for Rutshman in dynasty (kind of like the Bart buy window that’s cracked open now), but this is not Joey Bart, who’s always battled a tendency to strike out. Rutschman hit .400+ with a .500+ OBP across two seasons in major college baseball. My guess is he hits well at the highest levels. His ETA says 2022 here, but if Baltimore can stay in a wild card race somehow, they’ll want Adley along for the ride.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.