Unlike some lists, 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.
In case you missed it, here’s a link to the Top 10 Prospects for 2021 Fantasy Baseball.
And here’s one for the Top 25 Prospects for 2021 Fantasy Baseball.
One more: Top 75 Prospects for 2021 Fantasy Baseball.
Word from the training site is Duran was tweaking his swing and to add power and smoking the ball like a bong in the hands of Cheech or Chong. Duran never had much punch in college but slugged .534 in A+ in 2019. At 6’2” 200, he’s got enough physicality to keep the thump but struggled in AA, slashing .250/.309/.325 across 82 games. He’s an interesting player in draft-and-hold redraft leagues at this point thanks to his prowess on the bases. Despite that low OBP, Duran swiped 28 bags across those 82 AA games and was caught just eight times.
A first-round pick out of high school in 2019, Priester boosted his profile at the training site in 2020, showcasing his double-plus curveball against top-tier minor league bats and adding a few ticks on his fastball, sitting near the 97 mph range and pounding the strike zone with plus control, even mixing in a functional change up. He won’t turn 21 until September and could be in AAA by that point. The Pirates of years past might teach a guy like this to pitch to contact. Those years are behind us. Might take a minute for our minds to adjust, but the Pirates are set up to become a hotbed for under-priced pitching.
Drafted out of powerhouse Le Moyne College in the 2nd round of 2018, Gray was shortly thereafter shipped to LA in the exchange for Yasiel Puig. He played 72 games at shortstop across his two college seasons but shifted to the mound full-time as a pro and has been incredibly effective in his brief career. At 6’1” with excellent ride on his his four-seamer and two benders he can bury, Gray’s traits are ideal for succeeding in the pitching paradigm that dominates our game now. His athleticism enables plus command that might be elite when all is said and done and has been good enough already to limit batters to just four home runs across four levels of minor league baseball–three of those coming in the hitter friendly California League. The Dodgers didn’t need his assistance this season, but I suspect he was ready to succeed if called upon and will be eager to answer the bell early in 2021. He’s a redraft target for me in deep leagues and someone I’ll be adding in shallow leagues when it seems his time is nigh.
I linked one conversation there, but it was not alone. In a world of conformity, even a little smudge outside the perceived value lines can get you called to the mat. People hated my Alex Bregman outlook last year, too, but even a broken clock is right sometimes, and though I’m certain I missed a lot last year, I was right about Bart and Breg so far. They’re both good fantasy assets, of course, but neither matched up with perception. The world has cooled a lot on Bregman but remains bullish on Bart, who’s BB/K ratio of 2.7/36.9 percent is the stuff that demotions are made of. In 2020, this club didn’t have much else at catcher, but if Buster Posey comes back at all rejuvenated from his COVID-avoiding convalescence, Bart will take a backseat. On a team that’s getting great results from retreads, there’s not a lot of room for a catcher who does little more than strike out.
Important to note: Bart had just 22 AA games before 2020, and getting promoted into a pennant chase with a whole new pitching staff is such a tall order I’m more inclined to completely ignore the statline than make any significant meaning from it. On the other hand, confirmation bias is real, and I always thought Bart would struggle to make enough contact for our game. Beware of the great defensive prospect in fantasy baseball.
Manning’s elbow might be fine, in which case this is going to look low because I’d put him above Mize if I knew he was beyond the forearm scare that ended his 2020 at the training site. I’ve always had some trepidation about Manning because he steps toward third with his lead leg then has to kind of launch his body over his front side. A fantastic athlete whose father was a professional basketball player, Manning actually repeats this delivery quite well, which has made Detroit reluctant to change it in part because it creates incredible deception. At six foot six with a unique release point and excellent extension, he might be the most deceptive right handed SP in the majors if he sticks as a starter.
Bleday’s game made a leap in his Junior year at Vanderbuilt, when he bumped his home run total from 4 to 27, but it’s not like he wasn’t good as a Sophomore, slashing .365/.494/.511 in 166 plate appearances. The Marlins liked him enough to send him straight to high A Jupiter after selecting him 4th overall in the 2019 draft, where Bleday held his own (107 wRC+) and could find himself in AA to begin 2021. The hope is he becomes a plus hit, plus power bat who can hold his own on defense, so margin for error is thin for him to become an impact fantasy player. He spent 2020 at the training site facing the team’s elite young arms on a weekly basis, which could be a very good thing for the team’s young bats, even if they were getting bullied out there.
Several scouts thought Hassell was the top prep hitter in the class, and San Diego must have agreed to pick him 8th in the 2020 draft, one spot ahead of Rockies OF Zac Veen. Although Veen was the more highly rated player, nobody blinked at San Diego’s decision because they’d been linked to Hassell for much of the process. He obliged by signing for $4.3 million, or almost a million less than the $5.18 million San Diego had for the draft slot–money they used to snag Cole Wilcox in the third round. All in all, it was a big win for the club even if I’d have taken Veen and been happy with whatever pitchers I could get. Hassell has a quick bat, a good idea at the plate and the kind of smooth uppercut lefty stroke that makes scouts smile. He also runs and throws well enough that he might get some run in center field early in his pro career to see how he handles the challenge.
I suspect I’m comparatively high on Sabato here, but I partly blame Hobbs for this outstanding write-up in his Top 25 College Prospects to Target in Dynasty Leagues.
“Sabato cranked 18 home runs and 25 doubles as a freshman in 2019 while slashing .343/.453/.696 across 230 at bats. Clearly, that line jumps off the page and his 55-grade hit tool and 60-grade raw power only exacerbate the drooling. Sure, there’s not much speed here and he’ll probably never provide anything in that category in the fantasy realm, but the upside from a pure hitting standpoint here is enormous. Sabato sits at the bottom of this list solely because he has only played one full college season and may elect to return for another. He may also spend a little added time in the minor leagues as a result of his lack of experience beyond high school ball. Despite that, the swing isn’t as raw as one might expect, stays through the zone well and is really under control for a guy with as much raw power as he possesses.
Bottom line: I love this bat and think it has potential to play at the professional level much more consistently and with more upside than maybe every other hitter on this list. Still, he only has 285 at bats at the college level and scouts were banking on seeing another full season of him in 2020, so it’s tough to say where he might get drafted (if he begins his pro journey at all). If he becomes available in your league this summer, he has incredible value as a sleeper prospect.”
Groshans has a lot going on in the batter’s box. His load involves a hitch (timing mechanism in the parlance of our times) in both his hands and his lead leg. So, two separate timing mechanisms. Maybe I’m nitpicky, but his profile doesn’t have a ton of room for error. He’s been snake-bitten by difficult injuries and lost a lot of at bats along the way. The raw power is plus, but I’m concerned he’ll need truly elite hand speed to fight through all the moving pieces, or he’ll need to eliminate some extraneous movement, which can make a hitter feel uncomfortable, especially as he’s getting extended run in pro ball for the first time in his life. It’s kind of a wild thought. This 2018 draftee out of high school will get a chance for his first real season in pro ball in 2021. The most he’s played at any level is 37 games in rookie ball in 2018.
After slashing .200/.316/.294 in 56 games as a Sophomore in the SEC, DeLoach went nuts on the cape (.353/.428/.551 in 37 games) then jumped another level in his junior year at Texas A&M (.421/.547/.789 in 18 games). What a difference a year can make. Seattle has a good idea what they’re doing on the scouting and development side. Even before his sophomore struggles, DeLoach hit well with wooden bats in the Northwest League (.323/.409/.495 in 51 games), so I’m inclined to just give him a mulligan on his sophomore season and treat him like an elite college bat who struck out just thrice and walked 14 times over his final 18 games at the level.
Houston fell in love at first sight with this 5’10” 170 lb centerfielder from Havana, reportedly agreeing to a $4 million contract just hours after his first big workout for MLB teams. He’s been moving up lists for me and could make a big leap with a loud Spring.
Busch is a six-foot, bat-over-glove prospect with plus plate skills who probably wouldn’t stick at 2B in any other baseball epoch but has a chance in this one. He’s a lefty at the plate, so the 31st overall pick in 2019 will have the platoon advantage more often than not—something that’s becoming increasingly important year over year.
88. OF Jake Vogel | Los Angeles Dodgers | 19 | HS | 2024
One of the fastest players in this year’s high school class (with his 6.15 60-yard-dash representing the fastest recorded time I can remember seeing), Vogel could not have asked for a better landing spot to develop his craft. The third round pick already has a plus hit tool and uses his base effectively, but if anyone can find the power to make him a fantasy dynamo, it’s the Dodgers development team. Two arrows way up here, but just for some cold water context, I will always love plus hit plus-plus speed players with power potential. I’d say something like “who doesn’t, am I right,” but experience tells me that plenty of prospectors don’t, or at least they don’t all bake that topside love into their fantasy lists.
89. OF George Valera | Cleveland | 20 | A | 2023
Lefties just look good with a bat in their hands. Not all of them, I suspect, but guys like George Valera make swinging a bat look so natural it seems to be the truest state of being for all involved: the swinger, the lumber, the viewer and the baseball.
Big league pitchers got inside on Lewin Diaz a lot this year, and he didn’t get much time to adjust to the MLB rhythms. A 6’4” lefty who used to be a bit on the softer side, Diaz has slimmed down over the past few seasons, unlocking improved bat speed and defensive mobility. His glove was already a strength, and while he hasn’t hit well since the Marlins acquired him, he’s still the first baseman of the future, and he’s still a guy who posted a 157 wRC+ for Minnesota’s AA team in 2019, striking out just 16.7 percent of the time across 138 plate appearances there. That kind of contact-skill in a power bat is rare, so the arrows are still pointing up for Diaz regardless of a rough 14 games in the majors (11 wRC+ . . . eep!). Point of information: I’m working to disregard most bad debuts, especially brief ones from guys who didn’t get any game action to prepare.
Thanks in part to his level bat plane and type 1 diabetes, Mitchell fell to the Brewers at the 20 spot in the 2020 draft despite being a top ten talent on most public-facing rankings. If the bat comes along, Mitchell is a true five-tool talent and plus defender in centerfield with plus-plus speed and athleticism. His MLB draft price could make him a nice value in most first-year-player dynasty drafts this off-season.
The lefty with double-plus command and a dynamic bender he can spot in any count has his share of believers in the fantasy community and comes at a significant discount compared to Emerson Hancock, who was drafted just a few spots ahead of Detmers on draft night and didn’t throw a pitch at the training site in 2020 due to a sore elbow. If you’re in a contention window and could use some innings–and who couldn’t–you can’t do much better than Detmers from a cost/benefit perspective among the current crop of minor league arms.
93. SS Jeremy Peña | 23 | A+ | 2021
Peña has a chance to leap the lists this season. I recall getting some negative responses for ranking him fifth on last year’s list, but the echo chamber has swayed my way on Peña since then, so I doubt anyone will blink to find him here. The son of big leaguer Geronimo Peña, Jeremy features a well-rounded game buoyed for fantasy by plus plate skills and a potentially plus hit tool along with just enough speed to steal us some bags. The big question here is whether Houston likes Peña enough to reserve the gig for him when Carlos Correa’s contract expires after this season. If Bregman wants to switch back to short, that could leave Peña on the outside looking in or competing with Abraham Toro at third base.
Here Comes the Sun is one of the all-time great winter songs. One of the all-time great songs, perhaps. The song also describes the mindset of San Francisco fans responding to the early minor league rise of 2017 first-round pick Heliot Ramos.
Whew. Bit of a jog but we got there in the end, I hope.
Ramos is the kind of prospect who breaks the age-to-level math in that he’s more physically developed than his same-age peers, which sometimes leads to bad habits. The Giants have responded with aggressive promotions that landed Ramos in AA at age 19, where his power still played, but his speed continued to fizzle out against better batteries, which have thrown him out on more than half his stolen base attempts since the beginning of 2018.
At the top level, I’m dubious of the ultimate upside here but curious about how it plays out when he gets some time with the big league coaches and plays against guys closer to his size.
A skinny kid with phat bat speed, Mauricio generates a lot of hype in certain prospecting circles, even pulling somewhat frequent comparative mentions of Fernando Tatis Jr. That’s pretty loud but has always felt more like clickbait than analysis to me. His swing has never generated such superlatives from me, but he is extremely young and signed for 2.4 million as one of the top international prospects in his class. In his favor is the Mets recent success in developing their own bats like Michael Conforto and Dominic Smith. Working against him is the possibility that he’ll add weight, lose mobility and move off shortstop, where his bat will have to find the loft it’s lacking and actualize the power potential some scouts see in his batting practice sessions.
Aside from a Twitter video or two, all we really have so far is blood and words, but the words were good (Tatis Sr. said Elijah has more natural pop than Fernando), and the blood is so elite it’s a little strange he signed for about 700K, but that happened before Fernando fully actualized at the highest level. It’s the sort of soft factor I don’t often consider, but one thought I keep having about this is the incentive the White Sox have to get this one right. I think Tatis would continually force the next opportunity on merit alone, but it works in his favor to have more leeway than the average teenager.
97. SS Ed Howard | Chicago Cubs | 19 | HS | 2024
At the 16th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Ed Howard represented a tremendous value for the Cubs. He was the top shortstop prospect in the group, and he figures to add skill with the bat as he gains pro reps thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination, big frame (6’2” 185 lbs) and burgeoning strength.
Even after losing a year, SWR is well ahead of the age-to-level math. The primary return for Marcus Stroman, Woods-Richardson headed to High A Dunedin after the trade and dominated the competition across six starts as an 18-year-old (4.9 years younger than league average). His plus command of a four-pitch mix stems from impressive balance born of an athletic base physically developed beyond his years. Real chance he debuts later this year as a 20-year-old.
Look, he’s your kid so you name him whatever you want, but I feel bad for any little one born into the name “Gunnar.” That said, it’s working out pretty well for Henderson, who got invited to the MLB training site in early August despite having played just 29 games in the Gulf Coast League after being drafted 42nd overall in 2019. Hendo hits the ball with authority, having posted exit velocities above the 90th percentile in his draft class and generating good buzz for same at the training site, but he’s not a runner. Might swipe some bags on his way up the chain just by being a grinder, but his times suggest that won’t be part of his fantasy appeal. His best two tools are glove and arm, which isn’t ideal for our purposes as it will likely inflate the profile on non-fantasy lists and juice the fantasy value by osmosis. Still, it’s nice that he can stay on the left side of the infield, and he could become a plus hit, plus power bat in the end.
Though he didn’t hit in his 2020 debut, Jose Garcia remains a true five-tool talent who’s already plus defensively at short. He might wind up a four-tool big leaguer if he can’t make more contact going forward, but I think it would be shortsighted to put much stock in his struggles after jumping straight from high A to the show.
Thanks for reading.
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.