Dynasty Baseball Deep League Gems

MLBpipelineWritten by Matthew Gille  Photo by MLBpipeline.com

I joined a deep fantasy baseball league five years ago and really had no clue where to start with my research. I’ve made moronic mistakes (drafted Luis Sardinas first overall in my initial minor league draft) and monumentally stupid trades, but I can now say that I know a few things about deep league fantasy baseball.

Each squad in our league is slotted a maximum of 200 minor league players. Currently, we are embarking on a 20 round minor league draft. Players eligible in the minor league draft include available minor league players and international free agent signings. Last fall we completed our 20 round “First Year Player Draft” which consisted of high school and college players drafted and signed through the MLB draft. As you may see, the depth of research for the league is not shallow. The following are results from the first round:

  1. Shohei Ohtani – RHP/DH, LAA

Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement in baseball, international free agents must now sign a minor league deal before signing a major league deal. Ohtani falls into that category and the Angels of Anaheim got a steal when they signed Ohtani. Sure, there are many question marks (adjustment to MLB from JPPL, ankle injury, two-way player status, etc.), but when you can sign a two-way player with the skill-set of Ohtani, one must jump.

  1. Luis Robert – CF, CWS

It did not take long for Robert to get started as he tore up the Dominican Summer League to the tune of a .310/.491/.536/1.027 slash line over 82 at-bats. He also added 3 home runs and 12 stolen bases while maintaining an excellent K/BB rate. Robert is a special talent with a rare blend of power and speed. Robert will be given ample time to adjust to life as a baseball player (first full year in America), which will give White Sox fans tantalizing thoughts of Robert roaming center field of the future with Eloy Jimenez in right.

  1. Wander Franco – SS, TB

Ranked number one on MLB Pipeline’s top-thirty international signings list, Wander Samuel Franco signed with Tampa Bay for a cool $3.85 million. The switch-hitting shortstop has “flashy” skills and good speed to combine with baseball bloodlines (older brothers also named “Wander” in Royals and Astros organizations) and pedigree (nephew of Erick Aybar). Franco is a complete player, but very young and it will most likely be five years before he sniffs the bigs.

  1. Everson Pereira – CF, NYY

The Yankees were the favorites to land Pereira, a true center field prospect, and signed him to a $1.5 million signing bonus. A teenager from Venezuela, Pereira is ranked as the fourth best international free agent by both Ben Badler from Baseball America and MLB.com. Badler stated that Pereira’s calling card will be his speed, but defense and a strong arm also highly regarded. Pereira’s short swing also has attributes of future power possibilities.

  1. Brusdar Graterol – RHP, MIN

Our league is Minnesota-based, so Twins often become a hot commodity. The weather in Minnesota is often prohibitive to outdoor activity, so deep league fantasy baseball research is not as guilt-ridden for Minnesotans when the weather is beautiful elsewhere. Guiltless research helped me find Graterol, the true definition of a sleeper. His status as a Tommy John-surgery survivor unfairly shrouds the talent beneath the fear of the two letters, T and J. Graterol took his rehabilitation seriously, gained 60 pounds of muscle and parlayed that into a career 10.9 SO9 rate and top-of-the-rotation future possibility. I’m all-in on Graterol.

  1. George Valera – RF, CLE

Scouts seem to differ a bit regarding the right field-destined teenager from the Dominican Republic. Valera has a drool-inducing left-handed swing in which “the powers that be” are seemingly wetting their pants over. Signed for a $1.3 million bonus in July of 2017, Valera is projected to hit for average and produce a strong on-base percentage. The only real knocks on Valera are that his defense most likely relegates him to a corner outfield spot and he lacks impact speed.

  1. Julio Rodriguez – RF, SEA

I’m not a huge fan of drafting players from the Seattle Mariners farm system, but talent can override derisive thoughts connected to system loathing (i.e. Sam Carlson – RHP). Although I’m not a Mariners system guy, I am a fan of Julio Rodriguez’s skill-set. Signed for $1.75 million out of Venezuela, Rodriguez boasts prodigious power, a patient approach and ability to spray the ball to all fields. Limited to a possible future corner outfield spot, Rodriguez’s bat must play at all levels.

  1. Kristian Robinson – CF. ARI

The only real negatives that I can find regarding Robinson are his youth (probably won’t see majors until 2023) and the lack of quality pitching he faced in the Bahamas. Otherwise, Robinson has the tools to be the most impactful signing from the 2017 international signings group. Robinson has great size, which has not diminished his ability to use his wheels around the diamond. Robinson might, eventually, move to a corner outfield spot and his speed may decrease as he adds weight. Added weight plays into plus power potential that many scouts suggest Robinson possesses.

  1. Lolo Sanchez – CF, PIT

Lolo Sanchez is another sleeper with promising upside. Sanchez put up some impressive numbers in the Gulf Coast League in 2017 (.284/.359/.417/.776) and shouted “Hola! Mi llamo Lolo!” to scouts everywhere and nerdy deep leaguers like myself. Sanchez is ranked tenth in Pittsburgh’s farm system top twenty by John Sickels at Minor League Ball and 21st by Ryan James at Prospects1500 Top 50. Sanchez is the possible CF of the future in Pittsburgh. Speed and defense paired with power potential makes this 18-year old intriguing.

  1. Raimfer Salinas – CF, NYY

The Brochachos (favorite team name in our league) selected Venezuelan free agent Raimfer Salinas in the ten spot. Salinas is ranked the 10th best international free agent by Baseball America and 6th best at MLB.com. Salinas’ plus arm and good defense with 5-tool upside is worth the roulette wheel spin gamble in selecting the youngster. Salinas has also shown the ability to hit the ball to all fields with some home run potential.

  1. Adbert Alzolay – RHP, CHC

The 23-year old Alzolay had a breakout 2017 that propelled him to the top of the Cubs farm system rankings in many lists. Originally signed out of Venezuela in 2012, Alzolay has great fastball velocity and routinely hits 95 mph on the radar gun. John Sickels grades Alzolay to have a mid-rotation ceiling. Alzolay’s arsenal needs refinement, but he is ripe for a 2019 call to the majors if he can repeat his 2017 success.

  1. Ronny Mauricio – SS, NYM

Mauricio signed with the New York Metropolitans for $2.1 million. The soon to be 17-year old Dominican Republic native hits well from both sides of the plate, hits to contact and projects to hit for average. Mauricio is ranked 10th in MLB Pipeline’s top 30 international free agent ranking and third at Baseball America. Like any other player drafted at his age, Mauricio is a project, albeit with the tools to become an outstanding player at the premium position of shortstop.

Follow Matthew Gille on Twitter @MatthewGGille for more fantasy baseball news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos.



Written by Ben Wilson and Mark Nikolov

Pick 1 (Mark) Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH, Los Angeles Angels

OhtaniIf you have the chance to get Ohtani in a weekly league that will reward you for both his pitching and hitting stats, you MUST draft him. The numbers that he could put up are potentially massive. He’s already flashed ace stuff in Spring training, with a fastball that hits between 92-97 mph. If he stays healthy and manages to get everyday at-bats in the Angels lineup, he might score more fantasy points than Mike Trout.

Pick 2 (Mark) Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves

Acuna Jr.Acuna is an absolute phenom. At only 19 years of age, he has excelled at every level of the minors. He was named 2017 Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America and MVP of the Arizona Fall league. Recently, he’s been tearing the cover off of the ball in Spring Training. If he doesn’t start off the season in Atlanta, he’ll get his big league call sooner than later.

Pick 3 (Ben) Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals

img451Victor Robles is an impressive ballplayer. An athletic outfielder with elite speed, Robles has the makings of an true fantasy star. Robles’ ability on the field is special, but what sets him apart are his leadership skills and intangibles to help a ballclub win games. If he adds more game power into his already formidable offensive profile, look out!

Pick 4 (Ben) Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

Eloy Light Tower PowerLight-tower power is an accurate description of this big time baseball talent. Jimenez is one of the premier power bats in all of the minor leagues, but he is also a well-rounded hitter with strong on-base ability. He played very well in 2017 after being traded from the Cubs and has a chance to blossom into one of MLB’s elite, middle of the order run producers.

Pick 5 (Mark) Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays

2016 Bluefield Jays Rookie Ball - V Jr. 1st MiLB team setVlad Jr. has the most advanced hitting approach of any teenager on the planet. He should continue to hit for average and power in 2018 and beyond that. His plate discipline is unreal: 76/62 BB to K ratio in 2017. Once He gets called up to Toronto he will have the benefit of playing in a launching pad ballpark. May not stick at third base in the bigs but will still be a very valuable fantasy asset nonetheless. Roster him now and reap the benefits in 2019.

Pick 6 (Mark) Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

img571A left handed hitter with all five tools. Power is underrated. Will be playing in what could be the best lineup in baseball. Tucker didn’t tear up the Arizona Fall League (only hit .213) but he didn’t need to. The AFL is not meant to be super competitive. It’s simply a prospect league where MiLB players go to get more exposure and work on maybe one particular aspect of their game. His true potential has become apparent in spring training, where he has hit extremely well against major league pitching.

Pick 7 (Ben) Gleyber Torres, 2B/3B, New York Yankees

2016 Myrtle Beach Pelicans - Gleyber TorresMany people had Torres ranked in the top two before he succumbed to Tommy John surgery last June. Torres could very soon be the next great Baby Bomber to grace The Bronx. With the recent trade of Starlin Castro for Giancarlo Stanton, Torres may break into the majors as a middle infielder. His versatility will ensure that his talented right handed bat finds its way into the Yankee lineup for years to come.

Pick 8 (Ben) Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds

Senzel MugThe 2016 number two overall pick, Nick Senzel, could make a swift MLB impact similar to that of 2015 second overall pick, Alex Bregman. Senzel radiates talent and baseball acumen, has a knack for hard contact and on-base skills, and is an adept baserunner. With the announcement that the Reds will increase his positional versatility, Senzel may make himself a tremendously valuable asset in dynasty leagues, similar to a Kris Bryant.

Pick 9 (Mark) Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies

2015 Brendan Rodgers Bowman Chrome ASIA Black RefRodgers was the most talented offensive player in the California League in 2017. He has an aggressive approach at the plate (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a young hitter) but needs to develop a bit more patience. Started 2017 on the DL with a wrist injury. Should be able to rake in Coors Field if he stays healthy. Draft him with confidence in your dynasty league(s).

Pick 10 (Mark) Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

img587Petco Park, or as some call it “the Grand Canyon”, is anything but a hitter friendly ballpark. Nevertheless,Tatis Jr. has tremendous upside after putting up excellent numbers in 2017. He hit .278 with a .379 OBP, 22 HR and 32 SB. Also, the Padres farm system is loaded right now. So he should be surrounded by some serious talent for years to come. This should equate to more at bats, more runs, more RBIs and more stolen bases. At only 18 years of age, the sky’s the limit for Tatis.

Pick 11 (Ben) Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Lansing Bo BichetteBichette slashed a mighty impressive .362/.423/.565 between Low A and Advanced A in 2017. He also compiled a staggering 59 extra base hits in 110 minor league games between A and High A. While his offensive results this past season are undeniable, Bichette’s only questions are how he will handle higher level pitching and what will be his ultimate defensive home?

Pick 12 (Ben) Willie Calhoun, OF, Texas Rangers

img513Calhoun has proven himself as a true high-average and power threat, while limiting strikeouts across the highest levels of minor league competition. He popped 32 HR between the Dodgers and Rangers AAA affiliates, as well as securing his first big league HR this past season. While he was traded from the Dodgers for Yu Darvish at the deadline, the deal may go down as “The Calhoun Trade” when all is said and done.

Pick 13 (Mark) Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox

KopechKopech is a fast ball pitcher with a lot of upside but he also comes with a lot of risk. He’s had some issues with self discipline in the past (broke his hand punching a water cooler in A ball). There’s also the possibility of Tommy John with the kind of high velocity he throws with. The reward probably outweighs the risk at this point but you never really know with starting pitchers. Pick him up if he slips in your draft or let someone else take the risk.

Pick 14 (Ben) Francisco Mejia, C/3B, Cleveland Indians

img195Mejia is on my short list of prospects that I would build an IRL team around, though Mejia is certainly profiling as a heck of a dynasty player too. A switch hitter, with a cannon for an arm, Mejia has the makings of a perennial All-Star who will contend for numerous batting titles. Once he gets some more polish at 3B to start next season (where he got his feet wet at the hot corner during the AFL), Mejia will transition seamlessly into the big league lineup starting in mid-2018 as both a 3B and dynamite catcher. If the Indians do decide to move him permanently from behind the plate due to his offensive talents, let’s hope his career of other catching converts has more of a Josh Donaldson trajectory, than say, a Pablo Sandoval one (although, early career Panda, especially in the postseason, is not a bad place to be).

Pick 15 (Ben) Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins

668904Lewis had a fantastic debut season after claiming the top overall draft spot in the 2017 draft. Given his exceptional athleticism, hit and on-base profile, and base-stealing prowess, Lewis has the chance to be a high impact bat as either a SS or CF at the big league level. With a patient approach, and eye-popping hit tool, the power should continue to develop as he adds strength to his projectable frame. To top it off, his amiable personality makes it easy to see that he can be the face of the Twins a few summers from now. To read more on Royce Lewis, check out Mark’s article of the young star from earlier this off-season, published on this site.

Pick 16 (Mark) Ryan McMahon, IF, Colorado Rockies

img577McMahon was one of the best hitters in the minor leagues in 2017. Between AA Hartford and AAA Albuquerque, he hit .355 with a .403 OBP, 20 HR and 11 SB. He’ll be the starter at first base for the Rox at some point in 2018. Get him on your team before this happens! Coors Field has always been a hitter’s haven and Colorado has one the best run producing lineups in baseball. What more do you need to be convinced of McMahon’s future potential? Ralph Lifshitz @ProspectJesus is calling him a dark horse candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. P.S. – word has it that Ralph will be dropping a top 200 prospect list soon!

Pick 17 (Mark) Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles

Austin HaysNo other player accelerated through the minors with the same amount of success as Hays did last year (with the exception of Ronald Acuna). He should continue to hit for power and average at the major league level. He’ll also benefit from playing in one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball and in a lineup that can produce a lot of runs. He’s not a five tool guy but he does have a bit of speed. Hays and Willie Calhoun could be competing for AL Rookie of the Year.

Pick 18 (Ben) Lewis Brinson, OF, Miami Marlins

Lewis BrinsonA tall, lean athlete, Brinson boasts one of the most impressive set of tools in the minor leagues and could be a serious power-speed threat with some more seasoning. While the short 2017 MLB debut was uninspiring, Brinson has a bright future in Miami and as a potential future building block in dynasty leagues. A clear path to MLB playing time this year with the Marlins boosts his ranking.

Pick 19 (Ben) Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

Alex ReyesLike Torres, Reyes was a surefire top prospect before yielding to Tommy John surgery. Of course as a pitcher, Reyes presents us with a bit more pause, but before the injury there was sure a lot to be excited about. Boasting filthy stuff and three dynamite offerings, Reyes has the chance to be a top of the rotation force after regaining his form post-surgery. As an added bonus, the Cardinals organization has a good track record of developing pitching, which helps make Reyes a worthwhile investment to build a pitching staff. Given the volatility of pitching prospect outcomes, Reyes possesses as dynamic talent as any that will play an important big league role in the future.

Pick 20 (Ben) Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

WalkerWith the strength of the Dodgers minor league system, it is a testament to the kind of talent that Buehler possesses in his right arm that he tops their organizational prospect lists. Buehler has big K stuff, and the ability to flat-out dominate on the mound. After recovering from Tommy John surgery, Buehler soared through the minors this past year (A+ to the MLB) by piling up 125 K against 31 BB in 88.2 IP. Like the Cardinals, the Dodgers have a track record of developing impact pitchers, and Buehler looks like a special arm. The Dodgers dream that he can be the #2 behind Clayton Kershaw, and at the very least, he will be an electric high-leverage reliever. It may take some time to crack the Dodgers rotation; but once he does, the NL will have their hands full.

Pick 21 (Mark) Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies

Scott KingeryFive tool second basemen are pretty hard to come by and Kingery has shown all five tools at the highest level of the minor leagues. The Phillies are high on this guy and you should be too. Cesar Hernandez is a great second baseman but there are injury concerns with him. If Hernandez goes down and Kingery is given the opportunity to shine in 2018, he might run with it. Playing in the same lineup as Rhys Hoskins makes his stock even more appealing. Dan O’Dowd from MLB Network compares him to Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins.

Pick 22 (Ben) Taylor Trammell, OF, Cincinnati Reds

TrammellI feel like one of the most common questions this season in dynasty was, “who will be the next Ronald Acuna?” As Mark accurately called Acuna a phenom, the question really means to address which young, athletic outfielder possesses the offensive tools to fly up rankings and project as a five category contributor in fantasy circles in the future? Trammell is as good a bet as Florial, Jones, and Sanchez (all appear below) to be in that discussion. Given Trammell’s 15 HR potential and high 2B, 3B, and SB profile, the comp I hear most with Trammell for offensive output is Starling Marte, which is a great outcome to hang your hat on developing an OF 1-2 profile. If for some reason Trammell is not owned in your league, you should snatch him up immediately. An incredible athlete, Taylor will be a fun player to watch terrorize the minor leagues, and soon enough, the NL central.

Pick 23 (Mark) Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros

img730Whitley has, arguably, the highest ceiling of any pitcher on this list. After making the jump to Double-A at the age of 19, he’s already received comparisons to Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. He would’ve made our top 10 if he hadn’t failed a recent drug test. There is concern that the MLB will keep going after him. The league tends to target guys when they smell blood. Again, as with Kopech, the risk is high but the reward could be much higher.

Pick 24 (Mark) Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

Willy AdamesAdames got off to a slow start in Durham last season but he finished off strong. In over 500 AAA at bats he hit .277 with a .360 OPB, though he did strike out a lot. He has above average power potential with decent speed as well. His batting average has gone up consistently every year in the minors since 2013. Tropicana Field, however, is not a hitter friendly ballpark. Willy will have to continue to improve on his bat to ball skills at the MLB level. His best tool is his defense, which is plus plus. This should give him the opportunity to play as the Ray’s starting shortstop on opening day.

Pick 25 (Mark) Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees

Miguel AndujarJohn Sickels @MinorLeagueBall has speculated that Andujar might not have the defensive skill set to stick at third base. However, the way he’s been raking this spring, I don’t see how the Yankees can keep him out of their everyday lineup. Even with the recent acquisition of Brandon Drury, Andujar’s spectacular offensive profile is just too good to leave on the bench. Look for him to be a mainstay in the Yankees lineup, whether it be at 3B, 1B or DH.

Pick 26 (Ben) Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals

img464Hailed as the “Dominican Bryce Harper,” the sweet-swinging lefty sure has some thunder in his teenage bat. As a side note, part of the exercise of digesting such grand statement around prospects is seeing what is actually real: with Soto, the Nationals believe they have a guy here with a ceiling at least that of Victor Robles, if not quite Harper. If not for two injuries (hamate bone and ankle), Soto would have logged some more developmental innings. But with that, comes this relatively conservative ranking for Soto: injury free, there’s no reason to believe the numbers wouldn’t have put him in the top 15, and a little more noise around his name to boot. Speaking of Harper, if he leaves the nation’s capital for “greener pa$ture$” (aka zillionaire land), Soto has all of the talent to become an impact bat in his stead, albeit probably not quite a top 2 bat in MLB like Bryce.

Pick 27 (Ben) Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians

663474The lanky 6’5”, 165 lb righty, affectionately nicknamed “Sticks,” has dazzled the minor leagues. While Triston doesn’t exactly look the part of a physically imposing hurler you’d see on a Wheaties Box, McKenzie’s nasty fastball-curveball-changeup combination has befuddled hitters in his professional career. For such a prolific strikeout pitcher (32.8% K rate in 238.1 IP), the control has been really impressive. Some talent evaluators wonder how his frame will hold up with a big league SP workload, but I say the results speak for themselves: McKenzie should be considered among the highest ceiling pitching prospects in the minors. Those that invested historically in slighter frames (Pedro Martinez, Tim Lincecum, Marcus Stroman) surely scoff at those skeptics; and given McKenzie’s performance, you should too.

Pick 28 (Mark) Jahmai Jones, OF, 2B Los Angeles Angels

img545Jones was impressive last year in the Midwest and California Leagues. He hit a combined .282 with a .348 OBP, 14 HR and 27 SB. Not bad for a 19 year old. The thing that scouts like the most about him is his strong work ethic. If he continues to succeed in AA, he should be able transfer that success to the majors. Go after him now before his stock price is out of reach.

Pick 29 (Mark) Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates

Mitch Keller Bowman 1stThe Pirates have had a reputation for grooming talented young pitchers and Keller is their best prospect. Apparently his curveball is more of a ground ball inducing curve rather than a swing and miss pitch. If he can improve on that his fantasy appeal becomes much more attractive.

Pick 30 (Ben) AJ Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics

AJ 1Taken 6th overall in the 2016 draft, Puk put together a blistering 2017 campaign that saw him climb all the way up to AA Midland for 64 IP. The strikeout stuff is certainly there for Puk to be a frontline starter (24.5% K rate in 157.2 IP), and the “control issues” are more of the “spotting stuff in/out of the zone” variety versus walking guys. Puk is as high-end a pitching prospect as you can get of the group mentioned so far, with the added left-handed bonus. I like Puk more and more with each passing day, and this ranking may someday be too conservative.

Pick 31 (Ben) Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers

img490The UC Irvine standout and former member of Team USA became the 9th overall draft pick this past summer, and the Brew Crew most definitely found a pure hitter in Hiura. Huria obliterated rookie ball to the tune of 4 HR and 18 RBI while slashing .435/.500/.839 in his first 15 professional games. The Brewers aggressively pushed him to A ball, where he found similar success through 27 games. Though there are thoughts that he will move off the dirt to the outfield as he continues his development, Hiura can hit wherever his ultimate defensive position happens to be. He has a fast track to the major leagues with the level of polish and high profile experiences he has already.

Pick 32 (Mark) Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

2015 Great Lakes - Alex Verdugo 1st MiLB team setVerdugo started off last season as one of the youngest players in AAA. In a full season for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, he hit .314 with an impressive .389 OBP. The Dodgers seem to be experts at grooming prospects and in Alex’s case they’ve certainly done everything right. I’ve been following Verdugo’s progress since his first season in Rookie Ball and he’s exactly the kind of player I want to roster in dynasty leagues. He plays above his age level. He’s in a great system. His hit tool is plus plus. He has some speed. All he needs to do is increase his power, something he already worked on in AA by adding a toe tap to his batting stance.

Pick 33 (Mark) Estevan Florial, OF, New York Yankees

MiLB: AUG 18 FSL - Fort Myers Miracle at Tampa YankeesFlorial is one of the hottest prospects in baseball right now. Ironically, at this time last year few people even had him on their radar. Even prospect guru John Calvagno @SALNotes admitted that he underestimated this guy. Last season he hit .298 with a .372 OBP, 13 HR and 23 SB. He followed that up with a good showing in the Arizona Fall League. His AFL coach gave him very high praise, mentioning him as a future big league All Star. Once he gets called up he should benefit from batting left handed in Yankees Stadium.

Pick 34 (Ben) MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres

Gore-242x300The third overall pick of the 2017 draft landed Gore, a high school lefty, atop one of the game’s strongest farm systems. With four solid offerings and advanced feel for them already, Gore is a poised competitor who has the makings of a big time ace. The 6’3” southpaw has had legitimately unbelievable performances as a high schooler heading up to draft day; and his first taste of rookie ball was very promising for the Padres, where he compiled a 1.27 ERA, 34K/7BB, and allowed just 14 H in 21.1 IP. While the Padres have no reason to rush him, Gore will continue to emerge as one of the brightest young arms in all of baseball.

Pick 35 (Ben) Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

SixtoThe Phillies have one of the most exciting and electric arms in the minors in Sixto Sanchez. At 19 years old and hovering around 6’0”, Sanchez sizzles the fastball in the upper 90’s to go along with above average control. Though there is some thought he may be a high leverage reliever in the future given his size, and with only a respectable curve and change to this point, Sanchez has still impressed with his quick pace and competitiveness on the mound. While he lit up A ball, his ascent to High A in Clearwater was underwhelming. Though he had just five starts, Sanchez racked up 4 losses and his ERA (2.41 to 4.55) and WHIP (0.82-1.30) jumped significantly after the transition. The K and BB rates were similar at both stops, but nonetheless, Sanchez and his 80-grade name has flown up lists in prospect land.

Pick 36 (Mark) Jordon Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels

img701Adell hit .325 in 222 at bats last season in Rookie Ball. Then he really turned it up a notch in Orem, where he hit .376 with a .411 OBP. With his five tool capabilities, Adell has a very high ceiling. Add in his high character profile and his future becomes even more appealing. Pick him up now in dynasty leagues and track his progress in the minors.

Pick 37 (Mark) Michael Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves

SorokaSoroka doesn’t pitch with the same amount of velocity as some of the other Atlanta prospects. He’s more of a spot pitcher. He ranks higher than Gohara because of the success he had in AA at only 19 years of age. Gohara will help you more this season but Soroka should pay higher dividends if you can be patient and stash him.

Pick 38 (Ben) Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics

BarretoBarreto is an exciting hitting prospect, who some have soured on due to his rough debut against MLB pitching in 25 games in 2017. Still just 21 years old, Barreto flashes a good blend of power-speed while playing in the middle infield. While second base seems his likely fielding destination in the majors and he is a bit of a free swinger, there is plenty to like with him.

Pick 39 (Ben) Jorge Mateo, SS/OF, Oakland Athletics

2015 Charleston RiverDogs - Jorge Mateo 1st team setMateo is a true speedster who can impact the game with his wheels on the bases, but can also hold his own in the box. Acquired from the Yankees as the top prospect in the Sonny Gray haul, Mateo had 57 SB and also swatted 12 HR between A+ and AA in 2017. Mateo gets on base enough to warrant him as a top-of-the-order hitter; and as speed becomes more elusive in the fantasy landscape, Mateo may be a valuable asset who can deliver that unique category while still contributing across the board.

Pick 40 (Mark) Keibert Ruiz, C, Los Angeles Dodgers

Keibert MiLB photoRuiz may not have a lot of power but his hit tool is off the charts for a player his age. He has been “en fuego” thus far in spring training and is now easily considered to be the second best catching prospect behind the highly touted Francisco Mejia. He’s another guy that you want to have on your roster right now and track his progress throughout the year. Look for him to start the year off in AA Tulsa.

Pick 41 (Mark) Luis Robert, OF/1B, Chicago White Sox

RobertThe White Sox paid an enormous amount of money to sign Robert and he’s surrounded by a lot of talent in the White Sox farm system. He is currently getting comparisons to big league teammate Yoan Moncada. This can either be a good thing and a bad thing. Perhaps we won’t know until after this season. What worries me about the comparison is that Robert might fit the mold of better athlete than baseball player. He does draw a lot of walks and I’m always encouraged by guys with good plate discipline. So for right now I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Pick 42 (Ben) Luiz Gohara, LHP, Atlanta Braves

GoharaIn just one year, Gohara went from a decent prospect acquired from the Mariners, to a rotation building block for the rebuilding Braves. Gohara is a big-bodied lefty with a hard fastball/slider combination that has proven to pile up strikeouts. Gohara impressed as a September call-up last season by showing advanced feel on the mound, and proved that he has massive upside as a big league starter.

Pick 43 (Mark) Jesus Sanchez, OF, Tampa Bay Rays

JesusSanchez was named the number two prospect in the Rays organization by Prospects 1500 and I like the aggressive ranking. Projected as a number two hitter in the Rays lineup, Sanchez is another guy that should be surrounded by some very talented players – i.e. Willy Adames, Jake Bauers, etc. Draft Sanchez now and just be patient.

Pick 44 (Mark) Carter Kieboom, SS, Washington Nationals

img731Kieboom got off to a great start last season until he was hit with the injury bug. He came back healthy toward the end of the season and picked up right where he left off. His stats are encouraging. The injuries are not. Nevertheless, he ranks this high on our list based on his offensive potential in a system that produces a lot of talent.

Pick 45 (Ben) Leody Tavares, OF, Texas Rangers

LeodyThe Rangers’ minor league switch hitting center fielder is a can’t miss, high ceiling prospect. At just 19 years old, Tavares can impact the game with all five tools. He has been a fast mover since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, rarely being outmatched while consistently being one of the youngest at his respective level. Tavares has the blueprint of a speedy, impact bat at the top of the lineup. Playing his home games in Arlington will only add to his future HR projections.

Pick 46 (Mark) Michel Baez, SP, San Diego Padres

micWhen Ralph Lifshitz says he’s taking a guy in all his leagues, I’m paying attention. Baez performed well last season in both the summer and the fall. His K/BB rate was particularly impressive. The Friars are on the up and up right now. Baez could be in a very good predicament in the coming years, pitching in an ideal ballpark with a team that will give him good run support. I’m not as high on Baez as others are but I’m not going to miss the boat on him either.

Pick 47 (Mark) Jesse Winker, OF, Cincinnati Reds

2013 Dayton Dragons - Jesse WinkerThe biggest question surrounding Winker in fantasy baseball circles is: can he hit for power at the major league level? The good thing, for him, is that the hitting environment in Cincy could facilitate that, even if the answer is “no.” Winker is too good of a hitter not to succeed. If the power isn’t there right away he’ll have time to develop it.

Pick 48 (Mark) Jake Bauers, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

2015 Bowman Chrome Jake Bauers autoBauers might not win a starting job out of spring training this year but I’m still a fan of his. His offensive profile is very intriguing. He has a tendency to strike out, but he also takes a lot of walks and runs the bases really well. In AAA last year he stole 20 bags and was only caught three times. His power is still developing and we could eventually see him hit 20 plus homers a year in a full time role. Hitting conditions can be rough in Tropicana Field but Jake’s talent and potential are too good to ignore. If he starts the year in the minors again make sure to track his progress and add him to your roster BEFORE he gets called up. If he can hit .280 in AAA and continue to do everything else well, that should be a good indication that he’s the real deal.

Pick 49 (Mark) Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves

img729Over the past year Austin Riley has been up and down on prospect lists. We like him as a top 50 guy because of his encouraging performance in the minors last year. In AA Mississippi, he not only improved his batting average and K/BB ratio but he also continued to show advanced power (8 HR in only 178 AB). Riley followed up the regular season with a spectacular showing in the AFL. For further reading, check out this article that Ben wrote this past November. After receiving an invite to big league camp Riley seems to be holding his own there at only 20 years of age. Once he gets the call, we expect him to thrive in Atlanta’s lineup and new ballpark for years to come.

Pick 50 (Ben)  Monte Harrison, OF, Miami Marlins

MonteFinally demonstrating his five-tool talents during a fully healthy season, Harrison generated plenty of excitement, particularly during the Arizona Fall League. Boasting loud, athletic tools, Harrison was one of the top prospects sent from the Brewers to acquire Christian Yelich. If Harrison’s hit tool approaches his others as he advances through the minors, he will be a future All Star.

Follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. You can also click or press on any of the cards pictured above to make a purchase. Thanks for checking out our top 50 list.

7, 8, & 9 – The Outfield

TribeWritten by Mark Firkins Photos by MiLB.com

Will Benson – OF (Cleveland Indians)

Will BensonThe Indians were definitely targeting Benson’s offensive abilities when they drafted him with their #1 pick (14th overall) in 2016. The 19 year old has everything that scouts drool over.  A 6′ 5″  – 225 lb – powerful build. A combination of bat speed and physical strength that translates into raw power from the left side of the plate. The ability to pull the ball to the short corners of RF. And, for as tall as he is, the rare combination of speed and agility.

In his Pro debut season in 2017, Will Benson played for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in the NY-PENN League. It was definitely a tale of two seasons for Will. In his first month of the season, from June 9th – July 16th, his slashline was .169/.244/.296 – However, from July 17th – September 6th, Benson raked to the tune of .275/.399/.575

Benson connected for just one home run in his first month but smashed nine over the final months to lead the NY-PENN League with 10. Like all young hitters Benson struggled with strikeouts, swinging and missing almost 30% of the time. He did make up for that by walking 16% of the time as well.

The Indians can take their time with Benson and allow him to develop his hitting. He may be a project, but all the ingredients are there for Benson to develop into a middle-of-the-order hitter. Some scouts and reports view Benson as the most exciting teenage prospect the Tribe has had since Grady Sizemore, with the potential to become a 30 home runs/20 stolen base player.

Conner Capel – OF (Cleveland Indians)

Conner CapelCleveland’s 5th round pick in 2016, Conner Capel showed scouts everything they wanted to see – speed, alertness, versatility, power, and instinct. On the offensive side, Capel’s bat heated up as the weather did in Northeast, Ohio. Assigned to Lake County of the Midwest League in 2017, Conner overcame a slow start and improved with each month throughout the season showing impressive tools. In June he was deservedly named Midwest player of the week for going 12-25 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles, a triple, and 8 RBI’s. He finished the season with 22 home runs, 61 RBI’s, .478 SLG, and led the Indians farm system in runs scored with 73.

Capel showed he could hit the ball out of the deepest part of the parks with his clean, left handed swing, strength, and bat speed. While his climb in power resulted in more strikeouts, he showed maturity in recognizing spin and making plenty of hard contact.

Capel has above average speed and strong instincts which identify him as an ideal baserunner and defender in center field. He swiped 15 bases for the Captains and was always a threat to score anytime he got on base. He has the arm strength to play any OF spot and saw time in all OF positions in 2017, playing 26 games in LF, 24 in CF, and 67 in RF.

The 2018 season could be a big year for Capel as he’s expected to debut with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats of the Carolina League. If he continues to make strides in his development, Capel can continue to surge up the Indians prospect rankings.

Mitch Longo – OF (Cleveland Indians)

Mitch LongoMitch Longo is from Mayfield, Ohio – not too far away from Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. Drafted in the 14th round in 2016, Mitch has done nothing but torture minor league pitching. In his two minor league seasons he has batted to the tune of a .349 AVG, with a .411 OBP, 29 doubles, and 43 RBI’s.

In 2017 he played his first full season at Lake County – Midwest League, where he posted a .361/.431/.530 clip and earned a late season call up to High A Lynchburg, where in 5 games he went 9-16 and scored 8 runs. Add to all that the fact that he has a decent K/BB rate of 1.52, stole 20 bases in 21 attempts, and suddenly you have a very impressive and exciting 14th round pick.

What’s Mitch’s secret to his fast start in the minor leagues? An open batting stance that creates leverage on the ball and a swing that stays over the whole plate and in the strike zone. This allows him to cover both sides of the plate and use the entire field. There’s a little pop in his bat, though it’s mostly to the gaps and not over the fence. Longo has all the tools of a leadoff hitter. He hits for high average, he’s fast, he doesn’t strike out a lot, and he draws walks.

Longo’s speed also suits him well in RF, where he played all of his games defensively last season. He has good arm strength and is a natural fit for the position. Longo got a taste of High-A Lynchburg at the end of last season, and he figures to start there again in 2018. If he continues to hit and run, he could be in Double-A at some point in 2018. And once you make it to Double-A, you’re just one phone call away from the majors, which for Mitch is almost home.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. Thanks!


Early Spring Training Roundup


Written by Ben Wilson  Photos by MiLB.com

Baseball is back! The first week of Spring Training games is in the books, and already there are plenty of 2017 minor leaguers who are putting up impressive performances out of the gates here in 2018. I will highlight some of the top performers across the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues.

Rogelio Armenteros, RHP, Houston Astros (Spring Training: West Palm Beach, FL)
Rogelio ArmenterosFor a team that goes seven solid starters deep at the major league level, Houston’s AAA rotation should feature the strong arm of Armenteros in 2018. Along with other highly talented young arms Francis Martes and David Paulino, Armenteros should not be overlooked as a premium young talent in his own right in the minor leagues. Through two spring outings and one start, Armenteros has 5 IP, allowing 1 R, 3 H, and putting up 9 K and only 1 BB. Armenteros features a low 90’s fastball, two breaking balls, and an excellent changeup. His good control and durable build signal a rotation future for the 23 year old Cuban, and a call up to help defend the World Series title in Houston at some point this season.
Miguel Andujar, 3B, New York Yankees (Spring Training: Tampa, FL)
Miguel AndujarIn December, I wrote about Andujar’s struggles in the Dominican Winter League. That seems like a long time ago now. Since the calendar has turned to March, Andujar is sizzling at the plate this Spring: 6 hits in 14 at bats, including 4 home runs and a double. With Gleyber Torres looking more like the everyday 2B for the Yankees, Andujar is playing for a shot to start at the hot corner in the Bronx. Newcomer Brandon Drury provides insurance for both top prospects, but Andujar is as hot as they come in the batters box right now. The energy in his swing is exciting here in the early going for the Yankees! If you don’t believe me just ask @PeoplezPen.
Franchy Cordero, OF, San Diego Padres (Spring Training: Peoria, AZ)
FranchyCordero is coming off of a stellar 2017 season at AAA, capping it off with an MVP award playing winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Cordero is picking up right where he left off so far in the Cactus League, swatting 2 HR and 2 doubles in 13 at bats. Though he has 5 strikeouts, the Padres have an intriguing power-speed bat in Cordero that looks ready to contribute at the major league level. With the team’s signing of Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers will slide to LF, further complicating the already crowded OF picture for Cordero to emerge as an everyday option this season. The Padres may need to make some trades to clear space for Cordero, but his loud play for the better part of the last calendar year makes it hard to ignore his potentially bright future playing in San Diego in short order.
Greg Allen, OF, Cleveland Indians (Spring Training: Goodyear, AZ)

Greg AllenSpeedster Greg Allen profiles as a top of the order hitter and an excellent outfield defender. Similar to both Armenteros and Cordero, Allen is also blocked positionally in the big leagues. Nearly 25 years old, Allen played primarily for the Akron Rubberducks (AA) in 2017, swiping 24/26 bases (92%) in 76 total games. In 388 career minor league games, Allen has gotten on base at a stellar .379 clip. In 7 Cactus League games so far, Allen has 8 hits in 15 at bats, including 2 doubles and 1 triple. He also has 5 runs and 5 RBI. With incumbent LF Michael Brantley questionable for opening day, Allen could have an opportunity to begin the season in Cleveland. Regardless of where he starts the season, Allen should be among the first OF considered to be called up from the minor leagues, especially with his switch-hitting ability and all-around exciting skill set.

Follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos! Thanks!


Flashback: Stockton Ports vs. Modesto Nuts – July 28, 2017

PortsWritten by Brian Bice

I have always wanted to get a lineup card. I have seen people at Banner Island Ballpark with ones from previous games getting them autographed. I have never been lucky enough to get one from a coach or manager. Towards the end of the season I was at a Modesto Nuts game and in the team store they were selling game-used lineup cards. They were $25 and the proceeds went to the charity fund. I thought it was a decent price, but I didn’t think much about buying one until I noticed one detail: they were autographed by the Nuts players. This was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

I looked through the cards to find ones where they played Stockton. I found a couple and settled on the one from Friday, July 28th. I wasn’t at that game, but it turns out that I was at the game the next day. I went with this card for 2 reasons. The first is that Sheldon Neuse, Oakland’s No. 13 prospect, went 3 for 5 and hit his first 2 home runs in the Athletics organization. Neuse had come over from the Washington Nationals with Blake Treinen and Jesus Luzardo in the Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson trade on July 16th. The other reason is that Seattle’s No. 1 prospect, Kyle Lewis, is on the lineup card (on the bench) and he autographed it.

As you can see, I have since framed the lineup card with some autographed cards of some players on the Ports. I don’t think I am going to get the Ports players to sign the lineup card. At this point it will be too difficult. Many of them will likely not be on the team next year.

Please follow Brian Bice on Twitter @bicemusic  and check out our eBay store at http://stores.ebay.com/realmccoybaseball

nuts-ports-line-up-card-0728*This article originally appeared on www.elephantfarm.wordpress.com

Tools of Ignorance


Written by Mark Firkins Photos by MiLB.com

Baltimore Orioles Catching prospects Chance Sisco, Alex Murphy, & Austin Wynns

Andy Etchebarren in the 60’s & 70’s, Rick Dempsey in the 80’s, Chris Hoiles in the 90’s, and Matt Weiters in the 2000’s. The Baltimore Orioles always seem to have a decade long plan at Catcher that produces offensively, has good defensive tools, earns the respect and has a good rapport with their pitchers.

The Orioles must have been looking to find that future long-term backstop in their 2013 draft when they picked 4 catchers through 10 rounds. The Orioles selected Chance Sisco in the 2nd, Jonah Heim in the 4th, Alex Murphy in the 6th, and Austin Wynns in the 10th. Jonah Heim was traded to Tampa in 2016 to get Steve Pearce back. That leaves Sisco, Murphy, and Wynns as their top home-grown catching prospects.

Chance Sisco – Catcher


Currently ranked #1 on the Baltimore Orioles prospect list and #45 overall by MLB.com, Chance Sisco has done everything to impress offensively. Through five minor league seasons he has batted .311, with 98 doubles, 25 home runs, and 206 RBI’s. A lefty hitter, with a fast, level swing that makes a lot of quality contact. Sisco has excellent discipline at the plate and utilizes the whole field, as displayed in his very notable 98 doubles. While there is a little over the fence power, he has shown at all minor league levels that he will most likely hit for average and take a walk, as shown in his .390 OBP.

There are minor concerns with Sisco on defense. Passed balls and errors were an area where he had some troubles earlier in his career. Improvements is his blocking, receiving, and game calling have lessened that issue. The area of defense that needs the most improving is his ability to throw base runners out. While Chance has an accurate arm, it may not be the strongest or fastest getting the ball down to second base. Would be runners advanced at a 70% success rate. Working with and learning from former catcher and current O’s coach Einar Diaz, who in his playing days threw out runners 51% of the time could be exactly what Chance needs. At only 23 years old he’ll have plenty of opportunities to do just that.

Alex Murphy – Catcher


Alex Murphy grew up in Monrovia, Maryland, not far away from the Baltimore Orioles minor league affiliates, and within an easy day trip to Camden Yards. It was a dream come true and an opportunity for him to chase his goals and dreams. A chance to be like Steve Johnson and Steve Clevenger and play for his hometown Orioles.

A big, strong, right-handed batter, with good bat speed and power to all fields, is how most scouts and Orioles staff have described Alex Murphy. In his five minor league seasons he shows a .251 AVG, 84 doubles, 35 home runs, 172 RBI’s, and a .331 OBP. Alex has shown a spike in power over his past two seasons, hitting 27 of his 35 homers in 2016 and 2017. Murphy is the guy you want up to bat with RISP. He hits .327 when there’s a chance for an RBI. Defensively, Alex is solid. He owns a career .988 FPCT and throws runners out at a 40% rate. He shows decent ball blocking skills and has few inconsistencies.

During instructional league workouts Murphy was asked “what do you think you need to improve on?” Like most of his game thus far, his answer? “Consistency, not getting too high or too low with hitting, try to stay in that middle plateau all season. Same with catching. Stay solid behind the plate.”

Murphy played some first base in 2016 and 2017 and there may be some plans for him to play there more in the future. Alex is fine with that, “anyway to get to the big leagues is the way I look at it.”

Austin Wynns – Catcher


Of the three catchers mentioned so far, Austin Wynns is the only player with collegiate experience, playing for Fresno State. While his offensive numbers don’t exactly jump out at you, they are admirable. Through his five minor league seasons, he has posted a .269 AVG, with 79 doubles, 20 home runs, 169 RBI’s, and a .336 OBP. He may not be the catcher who will hit 20 homers, but he is a smart, structured hitter and will get the job done.

Wynn’s greatest asset is behind the plate. He owns a remarkable .994 FPCT, rarely lets a ball get by him, throws out 48% of runners attempting to steal, and knows how to call games. At age 27, Austin definitely has the maturity over most of his minor league teammates. It also makes him a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. Young pitchers love having him behind the plate. This is not just a guy flashing fingers and signals, he reads the hitters and is making decisions on the next pitch.

Although he has played most of his career no higher than AA, the Orioles must see value and a future for Austin, as they protected him from the Rule 5 draft last November and added him to their 40 man roster.

Former star catcher Matt Weiters departed after the 2016 season. The O’s split catching duties between Wellington Castillo and Caleb Joseph in 2017. Castillo was a 1 year deal and is now with the White Sox. The Orioles traded the Brewers for one time SF Giants (2nd round pick in 2011) prospect Andrew Susac. Caleb Joseph would appear to be the O’s top catcher in 2018. The question is who among these others will fill and learn the role of MLB back up catcher until it’s their time?

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster and check out our eBay store at http://stores.ebay.com/realmccoybaseball. Thanks!

Scoop & Stretch – Highlighting First Base Prospects from the Cleveland Indians

DF_uzCRW0AMRmvdWritten by Mark Firkins  Photo by Lianna Holub

North-East, Ohio. A hot bed of Cleveland Indians baseball. Within a 2 hour drive of Cleveland you have 4 of their 6 MiLB affilliates; AAA – Columbus Clippers, AA – Akron Rubber Ducks, A – Lake County Captains, and A – Mahoning Valley Scrappers. A drive to these ballparks will find you traveling through the Rust Belt and Steel Mill towns, Amish Country, a beautiful mix of old architecture and modern design, and cities that have reinvented themselves and are once again thriving.

I have had the pleasure of taking a road trip through this part of Ohio every summer for 35 + years now from my home in Western NY. I never tire of the scenery, landmarks, ballparks, and great baseball I am treated to at any one of the stops I make. This past summer was no different as I visited Lake County and Mahoning Valley (along with Cleveland, many, many times)

Emmanuel Tapia – 1B (Cleveland Indians)

642268At 6′ 3″ – 215 lbs, Emmanuel Tapia is a powerful figure that looks more like a linebacker than baseball first baseman. The Indians signed “Manny” as an International free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2013. He has acclimated and grown within the Indians system playing through their Dominican Summer League, Arizona Rookie League, Mahoning Valley – NY PENN League, and the 2017 season at Lake County – Midwest League.

Raw power and an extremely hard swing are the best ways to describe Manny’s approach to the plate. He led the Midwest League in home runs (29) and RBI’s (71) in 2017. Though, he unfortunately led the league in strikeouts as well with 180 (in 461 AB). As stated, Tapia is a big, strong player, who no doubt can hit the ball far. There is plenty of room for growth if he can minimize the strikeouts, add some base hits & average, and take some base on balls when offered. He is certainly capable of more average. In past seasons he has hit as high as .315 (2014) and .286 (2015). Manny is patient with himself and knows this is a process. He knows he needs to learn to put himself in a better position to hit.

Originally a Left Fielder in the Dominican Republic, Tapia was shifted to and is still learning first base. A dedicated, hard working player, he is one of the first players to the field every day. He works with the coaches and takes extra fielding practice any chance he can get. 2017 Lake County Captains manager, Larry Day, was quoted often saying “Manny is making steady progress as a first baseman, he’s eager, he’s such a hard worker.”

With the excitement of his powerful hitting and progress at fielding, it will be interesting to see where the parent club, Indians, place Tapia to start 2018. A start at Lake County again or an advance to Lynchburg of the Carolina League? We’ll soon find out as spring training approaches.

Ulysses Cantu – 1B (Cleveland Indians)

668784A 6th round pick out of Boswell, Texas High School in the 2016 draft, Ulysses Cantu is an interesting player for the Indians. Cantu was drafted as a Third Baseman.  However, little opportunity to play or develop there exists, as the Indians are well stocked with other third base prospects at all levels (see my previous post about Nolan Jones).

Cantu is a 6′ righty, first baseman, which may not be the ideal profile. The Indians no doubt looked at Cantu’s bat tools first. He has good balance at the plate, manages the strike zone, recognizes pitches and rarely gets fooled. Cantu’s swing is quick and compact. He squares the ball up on the barrel with ease. Ulysses is incredibly strong (he trains cross-fit) and above average power can be seen in his bat.

The Indians are most likely concentrating on developing Cantu as a hitter first and will worry about where he fits in defensively later. Third base is his natural position and where his size fits him best. He does have experience in high school as a catcher and the Indians could possibly explore that, but that might take a toll on his bat.

Cantu played the 2017 season for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (NY-PENN League). He played 53 games at his new position, first base, and posted admirable numbers. On defense, he posted a .987 FPCT – converting 457 out 463 chances and was on the receiving end of 39 double plays. He hit 53-209 at the plate for a .254 AVG, with 10 doubles, 4 home runs, 25 RBI, and 17 BB.

Ulysses Cantu is still a very young player. He’ll turn 20 in May 2018. There’s plenty of upside in all aspects of his game. The hits, average, and power will all increase as he continues to see more professional pitching. Patience and time will find him a defensive home or even a future as a DH.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster and check out our eBay store at http://stores.ebay.com/realmccoybaseball. Thanks!

The Next Wave of Top Prospects: National League


Written by Ben Wilson

I have highlighted one sleeper prospect from each NL team for deeper dynasty leagues that are on the verge of garnering more attention. This list looks at minor leaguers who were taken before the 2017 draft, but are still eligible for this season’s minor league dynasty drafts. The accompanying AL edition was published previously on this site.

Jhoan Duran, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

The 6’5” right-hander out of the Dominican Republic just turned 20 years old, and has been in the Diamondbacks system since 2015. Duran has a lively mid 90’s fastball, with the heavy sink and late movement that makes the offering play up even more. While his curveball and changeup are still works in progress, Duran has been able to limit walks by showing decent control: in his first taste of Low A, he was able to maintain a 1.19 WHIP in 51.1 IP. If Duran can develop more consistency with his changeup, he will see his K numbers rise significantly to play off his excellent fastball.

Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B, Atlanta Braves

An exciting 20-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Encarnacion is generating some buzz in early 2018 in deep dynasty leagues. By being attached to one of baseball’s most prominent farm systems, Encarnacion is in a great environment for his tools to develop. Encarnacion has shown signs of hitting for average as well as power, while flashing some useable, situational speed on the bases. Encarnacion has the arm and athleticism to stick at 3B. Encarnacion has some wrap to his swing and a very low walk rate; but after smoothing it out with continued development and refining his approach, he has all the makings of a very solid MLB player for the Braves.

Charcer Burks, OF, Chicago Cubs

Taken in the 9th round of the 2013 Draft out of Richmond, Texas, Burks has climbed steadily through the Cubs system and reached both AA and the Arizona Fall League in 2017. Burks has been praised for his on base approach and high character, and he found some over the fence power this season. While Burks will not become a prolific HR hitter, he does possess good strength, and a small leg kick in his right handed swing which helps generate extra base hit power. Burks may have the speed to steal 20 bases as a regular at the highest level, but needs to refine his technique since he was successful at a 57% clip at AA (16SB, 12CS).

Michael Beltre, OF, Cincinnati Reds

With Taylor Trammell (LF), Jose Siri (CF), and Michael Beltre (RF), the Dayton Dragons had one of the most toolsy outfields in the minors in 2017. A switch hitter, Beltre can both cut down his swing and slap the ball the other way, or sell out for pull side power. Watching tape of Beltre, I am reminded of Jose Reyes and Corey Patterson respectively in those situations. Beltre has the ability to take a walk, but can sometimes be overly patient, hence his higher K numbers. He has an impressive foundation of tools and is a name to watch among a bright crop of prospects in Cincinnati.

Breiling Eusebio, LHP, Colorado Rockies

If you look past the “Colorado pitcher thing,” Eusebio is a compelling pitching prospect that I am really excited about. Eusebio primarily boasts a dynamic fastball and curveball (11-7) combination, with both offerings currently above average at present. Eusebio has an athletic presence on the mound, and looks the part operating from a high-handed set position. With a groundball generating arsenal, Eusebio should not be an overlooked name in Colorado.

Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Speaking of compelling left-handed pitching prospects, Ferguson really came on this year in the Dodger system pitching at A+ Rancho Cucamonga. In 24 starts and 122.1 IP, Ferguson compiled a 2.87 ERA, with 140K/55BB. Still just 21 years old, Ferguson fell in the draft in 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, but has been steadily developing since. Ferguson has a simple delivery and a sturdy build in his 6’3” frame. If he takes a comparable step forward this year, Ferguson will not be available for very long in most dynasty formats.

James Nelson, 3B, Miami Marlins

Nelson is a talented all-around player in the Marlins system. Initially drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 18th round, Nelson passed on signing and was taken instead by the Marlins just a year later and three rounds earlier. Nelson’s play on the field this past season was undeniably impressive, as he was selected to the All Star team in A ball. Nelson sets up at the plate from the right side with a slightly open stance and low hand position with a medium right elbow lift. While he put up 106K/26BB in 102 games in 2017, Nelson has been an excellent contributor and has the ability to develop into an exciting 3B regular in the big leagues.

Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers

The 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft from Hawaii has had some struggles in his early years, but really figured some things out this past season at High A Carolina. Consistently putting up good K numbers in the minors due to a wicked fastball-slider combination, Medeiros has been working on mechanical adjustments to his arm slot, which has contributed to his mixed results. He has a bit of a “Bumgarner sling” to his delivery, but Medeiros has the pure stuff to be a starter with a high leverage relief fallback from the left side. He certainly has the draft pedigree to take the next step in his development, and hope that the Hawaiian lefty can continue to build on his growth from his strong showing this year.

Corey Oswalt, RHP, New York Mets

Oswalt has been around for a few years in the Mets system, as he was a 7th round draft pick in 2012. Spending 2017 at AA Binghamton, Oswalt compiled a 12-5 record, with a 2.28 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 119K/40BB in 134.1 IP. Oswalt has the makings of an innings eater at the back of the rotation, as 17 of his 24 starts in 2017 were 6+ IP. Oswalt uses his 6’5” frame and strong lower half in his delivery of his four-pitch mix. Given the Mets proclivity for pitching injuries at the big league level, Oswalt should have a bag packed ready to get the call in Queens as soon as mid 2018.

Victor Arano, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies

Arano was acquired from the Dodgers back in 2014, and has seen time in both the rotation and bullpen. Converted to a full time reliever in 2016, Arano’s already solid stuff played up as electric out of the pen. Arano even saw 10.2 successful big league innings in 2017, whiffing 13 and allowing on 4 free passes with a 1.69 ERA. I talked to a talent evaluator about why they like Arano for dynasty leagues, citing the “precarious Phillies closer situation” and “high digit heat” as attractive parts of Arano’s profile. If Arano can break camp with the Phillies this spring, he has the talent to work his way into high leverage opportunities in short order.

Jason Martin, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Martin moves into the Pittsburgh system in the last few days as one of four players shipped from Houston to Pittsburgh in the Gerrit Cole deal. Martin was a potential Rule 5 pick when he was left unprotected by Houston, and seems that his time ending in Houston was inevitable. Given the Astros deep farm system, the Pirates gladly pounced on the opportunity to acquire the talented Martin.  He has solid tools across the board, as he swatted 18 HR and swiped 16 bases across 125 games at the A+ and AA levels. Standing at 5’11”, Martin is a bit of a tweener in his ultimate outfield home due to his arm and offensive production, but he can contribute to the big league picture as soon as 2018 in a 4th OF role.

Jordy Barley, SS, San Diego Padres

There are multiple candidates for the San Diego sleeper highlight, but Barley stands out as a talented teenage shortstop. One of Barley’s best tools is his speed, but he has a solid hit tool already and plays the game with high energy. He has a quiet setup in the box and a small double toe tap, but uncorks an explosive, full body swing. While fellow San Diego SS Gabriel Arias may be grabbing attention from his loud play in Australia, Barley is yet another name to circle in the San Diego system flush with prospects.

Sam Wolff, RHP, San Francisco Giants

Wolff has yet to throw a pitch in the Giants system, as he was involved in a trade package in December from the Texas Rangers organization for LHP Matt Moore. Wolff sports a fastball that can touch 100 out of the bullpen, where he became a full time reliever in 2017. The 26 year old should work his way into the San Francisco bullpen picture at some point in the near future, and his control will need to set him apart from a handful of other right-handed flamethrowers in the high minors in their system.

Alvaro Seijas, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

According to pictures that Seijas posted on Twitter a couple of days ago standing next to the 5’11” Yadier Molina and the 5’9” Kolten Wong, Seijas definitely appears to be taller than his listed 5’8”, perhaps closer to Molina’s height than Wong’s. Given this conservative height listing to date, fewer people are as high on this interesting righty as they should be considering his big stuff from the mound. At 19 years old and billed as undersized to this point, Seijas is still getting every opportunity to be a starting pitcher for the Cardinals and has impressed with his body of work so far. His long arms and athletic presence on the mound are only the beginning of his pitching profile, as he has a very promising future in a system that has had high levels of developmental success with pitchers.

Taylor Gushue, C, Washington Nationals

Gushe is a switch-hitting catcher who spent a majority of this past season at High A, while earning an end of year promotion to AA. Gushue also was a member of the 2017 Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, playing behind Oakland’s Sean Murphy and Chicago Cubs’ Ian Rice. Gushue mashed 18 HR’s playing for Potomac in the Carolina League, where he was tied for second in the league in that category. Gushue also showed patience at the plate, putting together 41 BB in 91 G. The solidly-built Gushue is worth a look in deeper two catcher formats, as the 24-year-old catcher has enough to be an offensive-first backup as a floor.

Make sure to check out the AL Deep Dynasty Sleeper Edition here.

Please follow Ben Wilson on Twitter @TBDubbs11 for more MLB prospect news and updates. Thanks!


Flashing the Leather – Highlighting SS/2B Prospects Royce Lewis and Nick Gordon

sportsSlammers_confessor_Lara_signs_with_Minnesota_Twins_t750x550Written by Mark Firkins  Photos by MiLB.com

The Minnesota Twins have one of the most dynamic 1-2 punches of middle infielders who can handle balls hit up the middle, as well as use their bats and speed.

Nick Gordon – SS/2B (Minnesota Twins)

624503Does the last name and position look familiar? That’s because this is Dee Gordon’s younger brother and oh yeah, his father Tom pitched his way to 138 Wins and 158 saves in his MLB career.

A 1st round draft pick by the Twins in the 2014 draft, Nick has progressed through the Twins farm system in perfect steps. He has advanced his way through Rookie Ball in Elizabethton (2014 – Appalachian League), Cedar Rapids (2015 – Midwest League), Ft. Myers (2016 – Florida State League), and Chattanooga (2017 – Southern League).

Through 4 MiLB seasons he carries a very consistent .281 AVG. Like his brother, he slashes the ball down the lines or into the gaps for plenty of extra bases, 81 doubles and 25 triples so far. While not known for his power, he showed a little bit of extra pop in his bat in 2017 by connecting on 9 HR. A patient and disciplined hitter as well, drawing 53 BB at AA Chattanooga last season and 126 thus far in career. Certainly capable of stealing bases, he has swiped 68 over his four seasons in the minors.

Gordon has played the majority of his games at SS but has played 2B as well (a permanent shift to second could be in his future). He is a quick and slick fielding player with excellent range and a strong arm. Errors have been a bit of a concern as he has committed 69 and carries a .960 FPCT. However he has turned an impressive 253 double plays in 373 starts.

With Jorge Palonco most likely to serve as the Twins SS in the future and veteran 2B Brian Dozier eligible for free agency after this season, it would seem that Nick Gordon’s call to the Twins would come as a second baseman.

Royce Lewis – SS (Minnesota Twins)

668904Another 1st round pick by the Twins with very high expectations, Royce Lewis was the top high school position player in the 2017 draft. He has all the tools worthy of a #1 pick, especially his bat.

He started his pro career with the Gulf Coast Twins last summer and played 36 games at Shortstop. He carried a .271 AVG, walked more times (19) than he struck out (17), of his 36 hits 9 went for extra bases, and stole 15 bases in 17 attempts. His defense in rookie ball was excellent, converting 124/128 chances.

He was promoted to the Twins Midwest League affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels on August 12th and made quite the impression in his first game. He went 4-5 at the plate with one RBI, one stolen base, and scored twice. He appeared in 18 games for Cedar Rapids, playing SS in 17. He finished the Midwest League season going 28-71 (.296 AVG), with two doubles, a triple and a home run. His defense stayed right in line with his GCL numbers, converting 77-80 chances.

He is extremely athletic on both sides of the ball. While he may not profile as a home run guy, there is plenty of extra base ability in his swing, sending line drives into the gaps, then using his speed to take extra bags, as well as steal them. There is no concern with his glove, it’s his arm and throwing accuracy that needs to be watched. Of his seven errors, six were throwing.

Royce Lewis is a young and exciting player to keep your eye on. The Twins will be patient, yet not afraid to challenge their #1 pick. The 2018 season will most likely see Royce start at Cedar Rapids. If he continues his impressive all around play a trip to Fort Myers in the Florida State League would be in order.

“It’s (shortstop) a premium position. I can show my leadership skills, take control of the game. It’s what I love about it. I want to play the position Derek Jeter played. Except I want to be Royce Lewis.” – Orange County Register

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our graphing page on Instagram. Thanks!

Prospect Profile: Matt Foley – New York Mets

20479058_1571487289561964_337400875448270848_n(1)Written by Mark Firkins  Photos from Instagram

I was looking for something motivational in the new year. Inspirational quotes, books, websites, and tweets are everywhere. What I needed was a personal connection, a baseball player, and the perfect name to tie it all together for me. I found all of that in Matt Foley. Matt Foley is a player who I briefly met in 2016 in Batavia NY. He may not have known it, but our brief interaction that night has always meant something to me. His name, while maybe more famous for comical reasons, motivated me to start writing again and receive this opportunity with Real McCoy Minors, for which I am so grateful.

I admit it. I laughed when I saw Batavia’s lineup on June 22, 2016. I admit to chuckling again when the starting lineup was announced and the Batavia Muckdogs First Baseman took his place and warmed up on the field. I admit, I embarrassed my daughter, made my two sons, my wife and a couple of dozen other fans behind us laugh. I couldn’t help myself. When the PA annDRW4ImnV4AA-TqAouncer delivered the name “Matt Foley – 1st Base” I did my best impression of Saturday Night Live’s beloved Chris Farley character – Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker. I received a brief ovation from the crowd. The real Matt Foley on the field, shook his head, put his face in his glove (laughing as well) and I said to him “I’ll bet you never heard or seen that before, huh?” I believe his response was something to the tune of “not since this morning” then he tossed his warm up ball to my youngest son.

My family and I attend 15 to 20 Batavia Muckdogs games each season. We prefer to sit above the visitors’ dugout on the first base side. Each season we pick a player to be our favorite, pay a bit more attention to, and cheer a little extra loud for. This is the player we’re hoping that one day will find his way to the majors. It took us all of three seconds to decide, Matt Foley was going to be our guy that season. I was so determined to be his biggest fan that I was going to buy a checkered sports coat and show up at the games as the Foley Fanatic. Unfortunately, June 22, 2016 was the last time we saw Matt play in Batavia, as he was reassigned by the Miami Marlins to their Gulf Coast League affiliate the next day.

21372894_1742734566023818_3176788267181801472_nMatt Foley was drafted in the 40th round (1,196th overall) in 2015 by the Miami Marlins. In three minor league seasons, he has played for three organizations (Marlins, Braves, and Mets). He has spent most of his time in the Gulf Coast League for these clubs. His stat lines In 51 career games show he is batting .254 (33 for 130), with 7 doubles, 7 RBI, and 1 home run. Drafted as a Catcher, Matt has also played, First Base, Left and Right Field, and DH.

So what do I find motivating about Matt Foley? Just like the SNL character Matt Foley tried to be an inspiration (he did at least make us laugh), Matt Foley the baseball player, truly has motivation on his path and dream to the big leagues. He played his collegiate career at Rhode Island College, a Division III school.  He obviously caught the attention of pro scouts in his junior year when he won The Little East Triple Crown, batting .453 with 53 hits, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 11 home runs, and 45 RBI. He registered a .872 SLG, .515 OBP, and a .988 FPCT behind the dish. He wants to prove he was worthy of a draft pick. He wants the chance to play more and at his natural position. The Mets are giving Matt that opportunity.

QN2RacExLook beyond his overall career MiLB numbers and you’ll see that in 2017 for the GCL Mets, Matt had his breakout season. This is where you’ll find his extra base hits, a .290 AVG, .347 OBP, a perfect 1.000 FPCT behind the plate, threw out 43% of those attempting to steal a base on him, and oh yeah, MOTIVATION. His last tweet toward the end of his 2017 season reads: “Been proving them wrong ever since the day they decided to give up on me..don’t sleep on me #ComebackSZN” and from instagram “months ago you could’ve said that the dream was over for me…but now look at me..flying home knowing I still get to fight another day. Don’t sleep on a kid with motvation and a opportunity #comebackszn”. Matt will be back with the Mets and report to spring training soon. He’s optimistic about starting a new season and looking to build on the success he showed last summer. As a 40th round pick from a smaller school, he is motivated to work even harder than the other players in camp. Matt is hoping to get the reps and opportunity to play at a higher level this year.

Life in the minors is not glamorous. The bus rides are long. The hotels are not 5 stars. The food and nutrition are adequate at best. Matt Foley knows this and continues to improve his game, work hard, and keeps trying to climb the baseball ladder. Matt knows that while baseball, the minor leagues and the road to the show are hard, it’s better than “living in a van down by the river!”  Keep on motivating us Matt!

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our graphing page on Instagram. Thanks!