Fantasy: Spring Dynasty Stashes To Dream On
The sharp managers in your dynasty league know all about the Top 100 Prospects. The sharper ones can probably give you a lede on the next 100 prospects, too.
It’s after that point where information asymmetry pays off. Knowing which prospects are the wise investments outside the top 200 can give you an advantage.
In a best-case scenario, you can pluck a talented but lesser known (or undervalued) prospect off the waiver wire, watch him build value in your farm system and then trade him for assets to help your major league team win.
As we exit spring training and head into the regular season, let’s take stock of a few rising prospects who you can dream on. Players are presented in alphabetical order.
Brandon Bielak, RHP, Astros
The Astros’ pitching factory could be on the verge of producing another major league arm. Bielak fell to the 11th round in 2017 coming off a lousy junior year at Notre Dame, but he quickly regained his footing in pro ball, under the tutelage of Bill Murphy, the short-season Tri-City pitching coach who is now Houston’s minor league pitching coordinator.
Like most of the success stories here, Bielak has gained velocity and sharpened a pitch in his arsenal. In his case he added a true slider and augmented his circle-changeup, which gives him the wide repertoire and control to work as a starter in the big leagues.
Brock Burke, LHP, Rangers
Burke struck out six of the 10 batters he faced in Cactus League action before being optioned to minor league camp. Given the state of the Rangers’ rotation, he is almost assured of making his big league debut this year. Texas acquired him in the offseason as the headlining prospect return for Jurickson Profar.
Burke’s stock soared in the second half of 2018, when he cruised to a 1.95 ERA over 106 innings with 10.1 strikeouts and 2.9 walks per nine innings in the Rays' system. He has feel for four pitches and they all play thanks to enhanced velocity and control.
On top of that, Burke does things around the margins that I like to see from young pitchers. He allowed just three stolen base attempts during his hot spell, wasn’t particularly hit lucky (.299 BABIP) and made half his appearances in Double-A.
Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
As Cardinals correspondent Derrick Goold noted, Carlson earned a large share of playing time in Grapefruit League games, especially for a player who spent last season in the Florida State League. That can only mean good things about the his standing in the organization.
Carlson, a switch-hitter out of Elk Grove (Calif.) High, melds a low swinging-strike rate with a strong batting eye and high flyball rate. Those factors could precipitate a breakthrough as he moves from the power-suppressing FSL to Double-A Springfield this year.
Marco Luciano, SS, Giants
Marlins outfielder Victor Victor Mesa may have been the top international prospect for 2018, but Luciano was the top 16-year-old prospect available for July 2. He hasn’t played an official game yet, but anticipation is building for the Giants’ teen shortstop.
Luciano already has effortless power and should get to it consistently as his body matures. He comes highly recommended in deep dynasty leagues if you have four or more years to invest in his development. A young shortstop who hits and delivers power like Luciano is exactly the player type you want occupying a roster spot.
Oscar Mercado, OF, Indians
A Colombia native who grew up in Florida, Mercado has eclipsed 30 steals in each of the past four seasons in the minors, including a Triple-A high 37 last year. That has obvious appeal for fantasy players in leagues where stolen bases are one of just a few offensive scoring categories.
What else should be appealing is the fact that Mercado traveled to Cleveland this offseason, his first with the Indians organization, to tweak his swing. The changes were aimed at incorporating his lower half, and the spring results were encouraging. Mercado went 16-for-40 (.400) with seven extra-base hits, including three homers, in Cactus League games.
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Kyle Muller, LHP, Braves
As a second-round draft pick and member of a prominent Braves farm system, Muller is a known commodity—but that doesn’t mean his value has peaked. To the contrary, we are expecting the 21-year-old southpaw to emerge as a Top 100 Prospect this season.
Muller’s offseason training regimen as he headed into 2018 helped him increase his peak velocity into the high 90s, and he capped a three-level climb with an eye-opening turn in the Arizona Fall League. He looked sharp in spring training and has the Braves excited about their next homegrown arm.
Patrick Murphy, RHP, Blue Jays
Armed with a new changeup grip and finally healthy enough to log 150 innings, Murphy was the Florida State League pitcher of the year last year. He continued to earn praise this spring with steady velocity and a sharp curveball. Murphy has already two surgeries on his elbow, plus thoracic outlet surgery, but if he can stay healthy he has a major league arm.
Pablo Reyes, OF/2B, Pirates
The Pirates heralded Reyes as the next Josh Harrison last season when they called him up in September. After all, Reyes is a 5-foot-8 overachiever who started multiple games last season at every position but catcher, first base and right field. This year he made the Pirates’ Opening Day roster as a backup outfielder.
One scout told us that Reyes has the potential to achieve regular status because of the whip and power in his swing. He makes frequent contact and his hard-hit rate in the majors last season ranked inside the top 25 for all batters with at least 40 batted balls.
Caveats: Small sample, of course. Also, Reyes is already 25 years old and is not guaranteed regular playing time. But file his name away.
Jose Rojas, 3B/1B, Angles
Rojas is an Anaheim kid who could be one injury away from seeing big league reps for his hometown team. That is If he hits at Triple-A the way he hit at Double-A last year, in the Venezuelan League over the winter and in the Cactus League this spring. He’s building an increasingly long track record that will be difficult for the Angels to ignore.
But what’s most remarkable about Rojas’ story is that Angels coaches had to lobby the organization not to release him one year ago. All he did to reward their faith was smack 17 home runs in the ultra pitcher-friendly Southern League, where his .554 slugging percentage led all hitters with even 250 plate appearances.
Rojas is already 26, so "soon” could quickly become "now” for the lefthanded hitter.
Gregory Santos, RHP, Giants
Signed by the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, Santos spent two years in the Dominican Summer League. During the second of those seasons he was traded to the Giants as part of the return for Eduardo Nunez.
Santos has developed from a raw arm strength project to a pitching prospect who could be on the verge of a breakthrough. He pitches in the mid-90s and throws an impressive slider. All he needs to do is refine a changeup. If he accomplishes that, Santos will have serious helium. Of course, if he doesn’t he probably faces a future in the bullpen.