14 Prospects Who Showed Second-Half Growth In 2019
Recency bias colors how we perceive prospect performance—except when it comes to giving players credit for late-season development.
A player who struggled through the first half but shined in the second will tend to be viewed less positively than one who excelled early but faded late. That's because in many cases there exists a lagging awareness of value for the second-half standout.
We will help remedy that situation by examining seven pitchers and seven hitters who performed markedly better in the second half of 2019 than the first. Maybe these prospects figured something out. Maybe they adapted to a higher level of competition after the game sped up on them initially.
Maybe it's random variance.
Regardless, the astute dynasty player is always looking for value, and these 14 prospects could be at their lowest value—and acquisition cost—right now.
The halfway point for this exercise is defined as June 18, the date of the Class A all-star games and roughly the midpoint of the season. Age and projected assignment are as of Opening Day.
1. Luis Medina, RHP, Yankees
Age: 20 | Projected level: high Class A Tampa
Medina has as much arm strength as any pitcher in the minors, but throwing strikes had been a mountainous challenge. That all changed in the second half of 2019, when Medina found his release point and dominated low Class A competition with triple-digit heat and a hammer low-80s curveball before receiving a late promotion to high Class A Tampa.
2. Brailyn Marquez, LHP, Cubs
Age: 21 | Projected level: high Class A Myrtle Beach
A lefthander who hits triple digits is always going to have appeal, but Marquez’s late surge suggests he has another level to reach. Later in the 2019 season he began to harness his stuff and flash plus with both his power breaking ball and changeup, earning a late bump to the Carolina League.
3. Joey Wentz, LHP, Tigers
Age: 22 | Projected level: Triple-A Toledo
It looked like a lost year for Wentz as he tackled Double-A for the first time, but then everything seemed to click into place at Mississippi. He continued to cruise at Double-A Erie after the Tigers traded Shane Greene to acquire him. At his best, Wentz shows a solid three-pitch repertoire. Continued success is dependent on maintaining his second-half control.
4. Seth Corry, LHP, Giants
Age: 21 | Projected level: high Class A San Jose
In his third pro season, Corry pitched effectively at low Class A Augusta in the first half of the season, albeit with pronounced wildness. Everything came together in an incendiary second half for Corry, who used a potent fastball/curveball mix to rank second in the minors with a 1.76 ERA.
5. Ronald Bolaños, RHP, Padres
Age: 23 | Projected level: Triple-A El Paso
Signed out of Cuba late in the 2016 season, Bolaños found his footing in 2019 and pitched his way to San Diego in September. He made his final 15 minor league appearances at Double-A and mastered the extreme hitter’s environment at Amarillo. His high-spin breaking ball is notable, as is a fastball he manipulates the action and velocity on.
6. Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
Age: 24 | Projected level: Triple-A Gwinnett
The fifth overall pick in 2017 hasn’t lived up to his draft billing, but underneath the surface numbers are encouraging signs of growth, including improved control and command and more swings and misses. Wright even closed the season with three effective September relief appearances in Atlanta.
7. Scott Moss, LHP, Indians
Age: 25 | Projected level: Triple-A Columbus
When the Indians dealt Trevor Bauer at the trade deadline, they acquired Yasiel Puig, Franmil Reyes and Logan Allen. The 6-foot-6 Moss also was a part of that return, and he has a chance to pitch his way out of obscurity and into the big league rotation after he threw more strikes late in the season. His changeup is his out pitch, but he made giant strides with his slider velocity in 2019.
1. Gilberto Celestino, OF, Twins
Age: 21 | Projected level: high Class A Fort Myers
The Twins picked up Celestino at the 2018 trade deadline when the dealt reliever Ryan Pressly to the Astros. Celestino scuffled through the first half of 2019 in the Midwest League before tweaking his swing to get set earlier and start earlier to impact the ball. The change resulted in a strong second half.
2. Jeter Downs, SS, Dodgers
Age: 21 | Projected level: Double-A Tulsa
Downs was plenty good in the first half at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga but took flight in the second, when he showcased fast hands, great timing and all-fields power. He reached Double-A for 12 games. On the season, Downs totaled 24 home runs and 24 stolen bases to make him one of the game’s premier power-speed prospects.
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3. Gabriel Arias, SS, Padres
Age: 20 | Projected level: Double-A Amarillo
Arias has always had notable physicality for a young shortstop, but his power spiked at high Class A Lake Elsinore with 17 home runs after he smoothed out his swing by toning down his load. The result was enhanced fluidity and sharper plate discipline. Arias is a strong defender who could be ready to take off if his second-half gains hold.
4. Pavin Smith, 1B, D-backs
Age: 24 | Projected level: Triple-A Reno
Smith’s power output has improved progressively over the course of three pro seasons—just not at the rate expected of a first baseman who was drafted seventh overall in 2017. But on the strength of his second half at Double-A Jackson, Smith ranked third in the Southern League with an .835 OPS in 2019. Going back to his all-fields hitting approach helped.
5. Travis Swaggerty, OF, Pirates
Age: 22 | Projected level: Double-A Altoona
The 10th pick in the 2018 draft struggled at high Class A Bradenton in the first half of 2019 before recovering in the second. As he made more contact, his productivity improved. His strong secondary skills—23 stolen bases, 57 walks—help keep him relevant even when the hits aren’t falling.
6. Jared Oliva, OF, Pirates
Age: 24 | Projected level: Triple-A Indianapolis
Speed is the appeal for Oliva after he swiped 36 bases to rank second in the Double-A Eastern League. He is a classic overachiever who combines a disciplined approach and plus wheels to amplify his hit-over-power profile.
7. Julio Pablo Martinez, OF, Rangers
Age: 24 | Projected level: Double-A Frisco
Martinez has work to do to get his strikeout rate in check, but if he does he can become a fantasy asset. He flashed both power (14 homers) and speed (28 steals) at high Class A Down East in 2019 after jumping almost directly from short-season ball. The 2020 season is huge for him.