Things get a little weirder here, by which I mean the difference between the 75th prospect and the 150th prospect largely comes down to timelines and tastes.
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.
The best Texas prospect since Gallo, Josh Jung brings full-field power, plate discipline, and a plus hit tool along with functional defense at the hot corner. I’m trying to acquire him in my 20-team OBP league and suggest anyone seeking potentially affordable third base help consider the same in their leagues.
52. OF Heston Kjerstad | Baltimore Orioles | 21 | NCAA | 2022
Selected second overall by Baltimore in the 2020 draft, Kjerstad was having an epic campaign when covid concerns cancelled the college baseball season, slashing .448/.513/.791 with six home runs in 16 games after posting a .327/.400/.575 as a sophomore and .332/.419/.553 as a freshman. I wish he’d played in a wooden bat league at some point, but everything he’s put on paper so far is elite. He’s even running at 100 percent efficiency, having never been caught in nine stolen base attempts across three seasons. The Orioles figure to be light on steals under the current regime, but I won’t be shocked if Kjerstad finds a way to chip in a handful year over year given his plus athleticism and on-field awareness. He’s 6’3” and 220 pounds and fits perfectly into this ballpark and organization.
Another ready-now prospect who figures to earn an early promotion, Gilbert is a prototypical workhorse starter at 6’6” 225 lbs with plus conman of a diverse arsenal. He’s dominated so far, limiting walks and home runs while striking out more than a better per inning at every level. I think he can keep that up in the heavy north-pacific air.
Okay so the thing about Taveras is that you have to look past certain things, like strikeout rates and slash lines. Because he was 21 years old jumping from AA for just 33 games, that’s not hard for me to do. I tend to focus on the eight steals in eight attempts. He’s not likely to steal 40 bases in 2021 because nobody does that anymore, but he’s among a handful of guys in a situation where that could happen, and just one more time for the people in back, his 33-game sample as a 21-year-old trying to tread water on an awful team after a jump from AA put him on pace for a 20 HR 40 SB season. Numbers beyond that are somewhat irrelevant for a player who has something like a limitless leash on that centerfield job.
Some lists will flip these two lefties. Lacy was utterly dominant in his abbreviated junior season at Texas A&M and deserves every accolade he receives. I was a little surprised to see Kansas City select him fourth overall this summer rather than banking the sliding positional value of Austin Martin, so General Manager Dayton Moore must really love what he sees in Lacy, a well-built power lefty (6’4” 215 lbs) with a plus-plus fastball-slider combo. Could probably compete in the majors out of spring but will likely spend the bulk of 2021 in the minors.
A late-night Adderall run pumped the brakes on Whitley’s exponential assent up the prospect rankings, then a combination of performance and injury pumped the brakes a few more times. I think he’ll be better off under Dusty in the post-Lunhow era than he was trying to squeeze his 6’7” frame and five plus pitches into Houston’s high-heat, low-curve mold. Whitley is a guy whose angle works better if he attacks all around the zone and just lets his arsenal eat, and I think Dusty’s calm and old-school approach could really help a guy like Whitley who has the profile to thrive in any era.
The risk here is extreme from my perspective. His power and speed are real enough, but if Kim struggles for a few months out of the gate, you’ve essentially Tsut-sunk this pick. Just about every solid domestic and international prospect of note holds their value even though a tough couple seasons. People still rank Travis Swaggerty like he’s been rolling along. Kim’s a fine redraft play. He’s a sharp snag for a contender in a deep league seeking MI help. He’s incredibly risky for a builder.
The new Ray is a brilliant fit for his surroundings. Tampa has organizational vision on par with any group in the game. Hernandez faces a crossroads of sorts as a plus-sized plus athlete without enough present defensive acumen to keep up with the development of his bat, which has elite potential by any measure or metric known to baseball. I think a huge majority of scouts to see him would report the same. The bare necessities of Heriberto’s swing are just better than those of departing fantasy lust pot Nate Lowe, who’s been a shade too slow so far in a too-small sample. Whereas Lowe is a lanky lefty with a slow coil, Heriberto’s hips and hands are a centrifuge built to channel menacing, chaotic force through a baseball bat.
I don’t have much to add except to add that I’m worried about the thickness here. Patino has added a lot of muscle the past few seasons, and I wonder how that will impact his ability to repeat his delivery. Every kind of outcome is on the table here, from dominant top-end starter to dominant back-end reliever to flashy tweener who struggles to find a long-term foothold.
Though he’s blocked like a 55-foot curveball, Campusano played well enough at the alternate site to get promoted in 2020 despite zero experience above high A. He started one game and hit one home run then turned the job over to newcomers Austin Nola and Jason Castro. Puff puff pass indeed. Campusano is an elite hitter (zing!) who’d probably be higher on fantasy lists if he played any other position. In his last full season at high A, his BB/K rate was a sparkling 10.7%/11.7%, and his wRC was 148. He was 20 years old at the time, slashing .326/.396/.509. I wouldn’t target him specifically in trades but am curious about his cost of acquisition. Maybe he could be a second piece in a bigger deal? Can’t hurt to check in with his dynasty shareholders, who might be afraid to get burned but the club’s depth. Plus, some people pick up catchers specifically to trade them over the off-season in dynasty.
Crochet is born from only the best ingredients: the lithe 6’6” 218 lb lefty generates deception from a three-quarters arm slot that pairs spicily with his upper nineties heat and salty slider. He reportedly has gained 15 pounds since we saw him last, which sounds interesting.
Though he’s currently ticketed for the bullpen, Crochet presents several paths to value. For a few years, he’ll have an outside shot at becoming a starter and truly dominating there. If not, he’ll be among the best K/IP sources of strikeouts money can buy. All I am saying is big league arms the world’s best hitters struggle to see or touch are rare and sort of break our molds for what we expect. It’s easy to mention Hader in a Crochet blurb, but that’s because the comps for a guy like Crochet are hard to find. Might as well throw in a Chris Sale and an Andrew Miller while we’re here. It’s fun. For that reason and others, he’ll always have trade appeal.
Here’s what I wrote about Bryce Ball last October:
“A 24th round pick this July, he’s a 6’6” lefty listed at 235 lbs who played just one college season but thrashed older professional competition across two levels in his debut season. He might get exposed by better breaking balls, but he’s extremely quiet in his approach, tracking the ball deep with both eyes from an open, tall stance. Fast hands for an enormous human. I like him.”
Only thing that’s changed since then is Ball got invited to Spring Training and even blasted a home run. He struggled in the at bats that followed but still impressed enough to spend all season at the team’s training site. Also I like even more now than I did then.
63. 2B Aaron Bracho | Cleveland | 20 | A- | 2023
A compact switch hitter with power and plate discipline from each side, Bracho brings a tremendous skill set for fantasy baseball but doesn’t offer a great floor on defense. If he can remain a viable option at second base, his plus hit, plus power, plus patience profile fits beautifully in our game.
Nimble Nick the quick with the slapdick stick is a popular pick in fantasy leagues despite undergoing shoulder surgery in October. I’m a little worried the speed won’t translate to the majors, at least not in the 30-steal sense his dynasty investors might be hoping to get, but I have to think he’s a good fit with new manager Tony La Russa. Madrigal was going to have a long leash as a former fourth overall pick regardless of the manager, but I have a feeling he’ll wind up at the top of the lineup a lot this year, which would be huge for his profile in that it takes him from a potential two-category player (AVG and SB) to a three category player (Runs).
Ranking Madrigal inside a top 100 feels weird to me because I wouldn’t own him in most leagues. Not somebody I’d target for trade in dynasty or keepers. Not how I want to get my steals in redraft until we know for sure he can steal enough bases to matter for our game.
A pre-swing bat wrap saps a bit of Marsh’s reaction time and contact ability. Aside from that hitch—not a load in his case as his hands aren’t in the hitting position synced up with his hips when it ends—Marsh is a great baseball prospect. A potentially elite defender with plus power and speed, he’ll get every opportunity to learn on the job at the highest level.
You might find several shades of Grayson across the various prospect platforms, which is partly a function of the various approaches to pitching. Fourth in the system represents an aggressive ranking for a low-minors arm, especially coming off a lost pandemic season, but Rodriguez demands the attention. Last we saw him in 2019, he was mastering the South Atlantic League as a 19-year-old, striking out 34.2 percent of the hitters he saw and posting a 0.99 WHIP. The 11th overall pick in 2018 stands 6’5” and weighs in at 220 pounds. Considering that he’s wielding five potentially plus pitches and coming up under the former Houston brain trust of Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal, he gives me Whitley vibes in the best way. I’d love to know if the front office has a similar feel and will try to avoid putting Rodriguez into a two-pitch, cookie-cutter box the way Houston dealt with Whitley’s diverse arsenal.
Waters is a hit over power switch hitter who looks better from the left side and has some hidden upside as he learns to access his power. He’s generated glowing reports about his ability to make adjustments in-game and even in the middle of at bats. Atlanta’s scouting team has an eye for that tough-to-identify talent, which doesn’t really manifest until a hitter faces opponents who can consistently execute multiple pitches, typically in AA or high A.
A plus-plus athlete, Chisholm gets to his power and speed in-game despite troubles making consistent contact. His electric energy and supreme confidence give him an edge in a game dominated by failure. It might take a while for him to hit enough to contribute to standard rotisserie leagues, but he’ll have hot streaks that make him a must-own in 2021 and beyond.
Wait, no. That was Greg Vaughn. Fun stuff, that memory. Dug those uniforms. But as the old saying goes, the better the uniforms, the worse the team.
That’s not a saying. I made that up.
Jones was the 22nd overall pick in 2019 due in no small part to his 80-grade speed and the club’s desire to employ a traveling track team during winter to supplement the franchise’s income. He splashed a little in the 2018 Cape Cod League as a freshman, carrying a nice .374 OBP using a wooden bat against solid pitching. He also stole 20 bases in 37 games there and got caught just thrice.
In his sophomore (and final) season at UNC Wilmington in 2019, Jones stole 42 bases in 63 games and slashed .341/.491/.543. He brought that success to the New York Penn League with him, slashing .335/.413/.461 in 48 games after the Rays drafted him and swiping 19 bases in 27 attempts in his first crack at professional batteries.
He makes an outstanding target in dynasty leagues right now because he’s down on this list and blocked a million ways from Sunday, but he’s also working with an excellent development team and brings a drool-inducing skill set for fantasy.
70 represents a hopeful ranking for Greene, who gasses it up above 100 mph with relative ease but hasn’t seen game action since 2018 due to Tommy John surgery. With the pitching lab team that Boddy’s built combined with the breaking ball teaching expertise demonstrated by Johnson, Greene is in an ideal setting to add some movement to his heater and maximize his considerable talents. It’s just a cliche for most, but the sky seems like the limit for this former shortstop.
Los Angeles lives to take premium athletes in the draft, and athletes don’t get much more talented than Adams. It’s kind of rare for a glider to look fast, but Adams does. He moves like wind. True 80 speed when legging out a triple or striding the outfield. A little less ludicrous-to-plaid when stealing a base but still plenty fast to make that a key feature of his game.
The Angels have been pushing him aggressively, sending him to High A to reward him for a successful 2019 that saw him post a 110 wRC+ in his first full season. I think his hit tool might be a little underrated, which is often the case with hyper athletic players. If he can hit and access his considerable raw power in game, we’re looking at something special: a fantasy force who’s only downfall on the field is his throwing arm, which matters not to us.
Lodolo might need a little work on repeating his base mechanics, but he could also be so dominant in 2021 that he flies right through the system. He’s 6’6” and incredibly deceptive with a low release point he hides until the last moment, when it comes from a place few releases do and pairs well with his changeup and curveball. He’s among the rare minor league arms worth an aggressive investment in dynasty leagues.
73. SS Luisangel Acuña | Texas Rangers | 19 | R: DSL | 2023
Younger brothers are hard to rank for dynasty purposes. Little and middle brother Acuña put up an impressive slash line in the 2019 Dominican Summer League, even if pretty much everybody who’s anybody produces pretty well there, as evidenced by Luisangel’s wRC+ of 151 despite a .438 on base percentage. He also stole 17 bases in 23 attempts. He’s listed at 5’10” 155 lbs but almost certainly weighs a bit more than that now. Might even be a hair taller. Or shorter, I suppose. I think he’s a buy as the dynasty leagues I’m in have treated him like a back of the top hundred piece, maybe even less, and I think he’ll hold name value for a long time even if he struggles in his first taste of stateside spin. If, however, he posts a big first half in the low minors and gets promoted midseason, he’ll be pushing for top 25 type prospect value on the market. Has a real case to be the top prospect on this list, in my opinion.
Signed for $3 million standing at 6’2” 165 lbs with present loft and power, Hernandez puts on a show in batting practice and is the top player in his class according to many sources. Being a Cubs prospect gives him a little extra value boost. While he’s unlikely to generate the kind of hype we’ve seen in Jasson Dominguez, he’s coming at a steep discount relative to the fervor surrounding international classes these past couple years.
If you sold Gorman coming off his 2018, nice work. If you held this corner power bat with contact issues glowing up into the echo chamber top 25 lists, that’s understandable, and you might recoup a solid slugger for your troubles, but perhaps this can function as a case study. If a low-speed, medium-contact-skills player has an amazing year that tickles the fancies of prospect rankers across the game, you should probably check in with the trade market. He’ll still be young for his level when baseball resumes, but he’ll turn 21 in May and struck out 31.7 percent of the time in 58 high A games after striking out 28 percent of the time in A ball. I’ll be surprised if they move him to AA just to keep him ahead of the age-to-level math, and if he strikes out 30 percent of the time again repeating the A+ level, his prospect stock will sink.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.