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Fantasy Baseball: April Dynasty Stock Report

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Yordan Alvarez (picture by Stacy Jo Grant)

Prospects surprise us each season, both for better and worse.

To help fantasy players make sense of prospect performance in April, Baseball America unveils its inaugural dynasty stock report. In this installment we focus on performance by minor league prospects at each position in April.

For each position, we highlight a Standout player, who should be viewed as that month's prospect all-star, a Surging player, who is a lower-profile prospect who is playing well and could be worth tracking, and a Slumping player, who is a prominent prospect who has underperformed.

Struggling players are included not to pile on, but rather to highlight players for whom you may be able to buy low.

Key to the abbreviations used. Those with a plus sign (+) are index statistics in which the player is compared with league average and 100 average.

RAA = runs above league average (based on wOBA and R/9 for pitchers)
OPS+ = on-base and slugging percentage (not yet adjusted for ballpark)
XB+ = weighted extra bases divided by batted balls
SBA+ = stolen base attempts divided by times on first base (estimated)
FIP = fielding-independent pitching, e.g. strikeout, walk and home runs rate expressed as ERA

CATCHER

Standout: Sam Huff, Rangers (13.7 RAA)

While he’s repeating low Class A Hickory to open the season, Huff has loud power and arm strength. He led all minor league catchers in runs above average in April, and while making contact has been an issue, he impacts the ball when he does connect, as evidenced by his 250 OPS+ and 361 XB+.

Surging: Alejandro Kirk, Blue Jays (7.4 RAA)

Kirk spent two seasons in Rookie ball before Toronto jumped the 20-year-old Mexican catcher to low Class A Lansing this season. He appears to be up for the challenge with a 178 OPS+, a high walk rate and tiny strikeout rate in April

Slumping: Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers (-3.9 RAA)

Repeating the Texas League seemed like it would be a piece of cake for Ruiz, a young but advanced switch-hitter. That wasn’t the case in April. Ruiz posted a 61 OPS+.

FIRST BASE

Standout: Yordan Alvarez, Astros (10.6 RAA)

While Alvarez played more games in left field than first base, the latter is his best position. That’s OK because he delivered 11 home runs, a 197 OPS+ and a Pacific Coast League-leading 220 XB+ in April.

Surging: Kevin Cron, D-backs (14.4 RAA)

The 26-year-old launched 11 home runs at Triple-A Reno with a 203 XB+, all while improving his walk and strikeout rates compared with last year.

Slumping: Nick Pratto, Royals (-6.8 RAA)

Nothing went right for the 2017 first-rounder at high Class A Wilmington in April. He hit .149 with 35 percent strikeouts, a 28 OPS+ and three extra-base hits, all doubles. Note that Pratto started slowly last year, too, before rebounding in the second half.

SECOND BASE

Standout: Cavan Biggio, Blue Jays (14.0 RAA)

The unheralded Biggio just keeps raking. At Triple-A Buffalo in April he hit .403 with a 217 OPS+, 134 XB+ and a 22-to-15 walk-to-strikeout rate.

Surging: Jose Caballero, D-backs (9.6 RAA)

A native of Panama, Caballero played for junior college power Chipola and was Arizona’s seventh-round pick in 2017. A high-average hitter as an amateur and now as a pro, Caballero has shown roughly average power but an inclination to run with a 491 SBA+. Note: he has been playing more third base this season.   

Slumping: Jahmai Jones, Angels (-9.3 RAA)

Shifting from center field to second base in 2018 was intended to pave the way for Jones, but it has not played out that way. He reached Double-A as a 20-year-old last year but made little impact. The same has been true in 2019 as he repeats the Southern League.

THIRD BASE

Standout: Ty France, Padres (14.8 RAA)

The natural corner infielder began seeing reps at second base at Triple-A El Paso because the Padres have splurged on free agents Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. San Diego quickly made room for France after he launched nine home runs with a 220 OPS+ and 199 XB+ in April.

Surging: Dylan Busby, Pirates (8.5 RAA)

While Busby is a 23-year-old college player in the Florida State League, he cannot be entirely discounted because of his extreme power (406 XB+) and short track record (just 45 games last year). He is 2017 third-round pick from Florida State.

Slumping: Hudson Potts, Padres (-4.7 RAA)

Like Ty France at Triple-A, Potts is a Padres corner infielder who felt the ripple effect of the Hosmer and Machado signings. Potts began seeing time at second base at Double-A Amarillo. Though he struggled to do much in April, he did show average power (102 XB+)

SHORTSTOP

Standout: Carter Kieboom, Nationals (8.3 RAA)

The 21-year-old had no trouble adjusting to Triple-A ball at Fresno (180 OPS+, 148 XB+) and promptly earned a callup.

Surging: Terrin Vavra, Rockies (8.0 RAA)

We attach a lot of caveats to Rockies prospects because of the hitter-friendly nature of the ballparks they play in. That’s especially true for Vavra at low Class A Asheville, which plays as an extreme hitter’s park in the neutral South Atlantic League. However, what we’re seeing from Vavra in terms of secondary skills—16.5 BB%, 202 SBA+, 132 XB+—is encouraging. He was the Rockies’ third-round pick last year out of Minnesota, where he was a first-team All-American.

Slumping: Luis Garcia, Phillies (-6.0 RAA)

With the caveat that he is one of the youngest players in the South Atlantic League, Garcia has really struggled in his full-season debut. He hit just .175 in April with limited power and a higher-than-expected strikeout rate. Garcia won the Gulf Coast League batting title last year, so if you’re a believer, the price may never be lower.

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OUTFIELD

Standouts

Luis Robert, White Sox (16.7 RAA)

Robert led all minor league hitters with nearly 17 runs above average in April, the result of hitting .446 with seven home runs at high Class A Winston-Salem. What should interest fantasy players is the power (292 XB+) and speed (297 SBA+) he displayed.

Jarred Kelenic, Mariners (11.7 RAA)

Kelenic opened the year at low Class A West Virginia in a 2-for-25 funk. He quickly recovered to record a 206 OPS+ and 208 XB+.

Jarren Duran, Red Sox (12.9 RAA)

A seventh-round pick last year from Long Beach State, Duran hit a scalding .402 and stole 11 bases (236 SBA+) at high Class A Salem in April. As RotoWire’s James Anderson has noted on Twitter, Duran’s game is geared on contact and hitting to the opposite field.

Surging

Will Benson, Indians (9.5 RAA)

Benson is repeating the Midwest League and still making infrequent contact. However, when he does connect, he is doing extreme damage. His 367 XB+ rate ranked second in the minors in April (min. 75 PA), and he recorded a four-homer game on April 18.

Heliot Ramos, Giants (6.8 RAA)

After scuffling through his full-season debut a year ago, Ramos got out of the gates quickly at high Class A San Jose, showing power (224 XB+), patience (16.9 BB%) and a 188 OPS+.

Slumping

Connor Scott, Marlins (-7.9 RAA)

The Marlins rushed their top high school picks from last year’s draft to low Class A Clinton, where both Scott and catcher Will Banfield had sluggish Aprils. The 13th overall pick a year ago, Scott hit just .123 but did attempt six stolen bases.

Kyle Tucker, Astros (-6.2 RAA)

The heralded outfield prospect hit five homers and stole four bases in April—but did little else at Triple-A Round Rock. Tucker hit .165 with a 49 OPS+.

PITCHER

Standouts

Casey Mize, Tigers (14.3 RAA)

Mize looked every bit like the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft with his performance, which included a no-hitter for Double-A Erie on April 29. An 0.26 ERA and 0.26 WHIP over 35 innings speaks to his mastery of minor league hitters.

Wil Crowe, Nationals (9.7 RAA)

Crowe doesn’t have overwhelming stuff (his 11.6 percent swinging-strike rate ranks about 16th in the Eastern League), but he has been commanding the strike zone at Double-A Harrisburg. The 2017 second-rounder out of South Carolina recorded an 0.96 ERA through 28 April innings.

MacKenzie Gore, Padres (9.1 RAA)

Believe the hype when it comes to Gore, who recorded 13.0 strikeouts and 1.4 walks per nine innings in April at high Class A Lake Elsinore. He allowed only one home run in the California League, which helped him to a 1.45 FIP.

Griffin Canning, Angels (8.5 RAA)

Canning earned a quick callup to Anaheim, where he generated 18 swinging strikes out of 82 pitches. He had no trouble mastering the Pacific Coast League, where he finished last year. He should have moments of brilliance in the majors this season.

Nate Pearson (6.3 RAA)

One of the hardest-throwing prospects in the game is turning heads this season after missing virtually all of last year with a freak injury. Pearson moved rapidly from high Class A Dunedin to Double-A New Hampshire, where he will be tested. But his premium stuff and elite swinging-strike rate (21.4 percent) suggests he is up for the challenge.

Surging

Zac Gallen, Marlins (17.9 RAA)

The Marlins might yet get a useful arm from their Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals. Gallen looked like a new pitcher at Triple-A New Orleans in April by recording an 0.81 ERA in 33.1 innings with 10.3 strikeouts and 1.4 walks per nine innings. He mastered a cutter that is helping him miss bats and generate weak contact. His wide repertoire is chock full of average pitches and his command is excellent.

Ryan Weathers, Padres (7.8 RAA)

The seventh overall pick last year, Weathers was not only ready for low Class A Fort Wayne—he was ready to dominate. He struck out 31 and walked three in 24.2 innings to go with a 1.82 ERA. Caveat: the Padres placed Weathers on the injured list in early May with a dead arm, though when healthy he sits in the low 90s with a plus changeup. His poise and feel for mixing pitches elevates him above other high school pitching prospects.

Patrick Sandoval, Angels (-1.3 RAA)

Sandoval’s 3.62 ERA and negative RAA are misleading and largely attributable to an uncharacteristically high walk rate. In fact, the lefthander recorded one of the highest swinging-strike rates and FIPs in the minors in April. Look for Sandoval to iron out his control at Triple-A Salt Lake. Some scouts say his changeup could be a 70-grade weapon.

Slumping

Taylor Widener, D-backs (-10.1 RAA)

Widener had been building momentum the past two seasons, but that progress was halted at Triple-A Reno in April. In five starts totaling 19.2 innings, he ran up a 10.53 ERA and 2.08 WHIP. Many scouts project Widener to the bullpen, so don’t lose faith.

Sean Reid-Foley, Blue Jays (-12.2 RAA)

Nothing went right for Reid-Foley at Triple-A Buffalo in April, when he walked 20 batters in 19 innings and served up four home runs. Like Widener, his future could be in relief, where he could dominate with his slider.

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