2017 Midseason Top 75 Prospects

I’m a little beyond the midpoint in preparing this, but…life. Find an updated list of my original 2017 prospect list below:

  1. Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B, Chicago White Sox

    One of several pieces from the Sale trade, Moncada is a freak
    Courtesy: Zimbio
  2. Gleyber Torres, SS, New York Yankees
  3. Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., 3B, Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox
  5. Amed Rosario, SS, New York Mets
  6. Rafael Devers, 3B, Boston Red Sox
  7. Victor Robles, OF, Washington Nationals
  8. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Colorado Rockies
  9. Ronald Acuna, OF, Atlanta Braves
  10. Francisco Mejia, C, Cleveland Indians
  11. Nick Senzel, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
  12. Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros
  13. Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
  14. Lewis Brinson, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
  15. Alex Reyes, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  16. Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
  17. Willy Adames, SS, Tampa Bay Rays
  18. Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
  19. Walker Buehler, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  20. Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox
  21. Austin Meadows, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
  22. A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics
  23. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland Indians
  24. Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins
  25. Kolby Allard, LHP, Atlanta Braves
  26. Chance Sisco, C, Baltimore Orioles
  27. Ozzie Albies, 2B, Atlanta Braves
  28. Franklin Barreto, SS, Oakland Athletics
  29. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
  30. Fernando Tatis, Jr., SS, San Diego Padres
  31. Bo Bichette, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
  32. J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia Phillies
  33. Alex Verdugo, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
  34. Cal Quantrill, RHP, San Diego Padres
  35. Mike Soroka, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  36. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds

    The Reds got the best player in the draft at No.2 overall.
    Courtesy: MLB.com
  37. Leody Taveras, OF, Texas Rangers
  38. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres
  39. Blake Rutherford, OF, New York Yankees
  40. Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
  41. Franklin Perez, RHP, Houston Astros
  42. Carson Kelly, C, St. Louis Cardinals
  43. Chance Adams, RHP, New York Yankees
  44. Sandy Alcantara, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  45. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins
  46. Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Baltimore Orioles
  47. Sean Newcomb, LHP, Atlanta Braves
  48. Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  49. Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Tampa Bay Rays
  50. Isan Diaz, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
  51. Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
  52. Jason Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox
  53. Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox
  54. Riley Pint, RHP, Colorado Rockies
  55. Justus Sheffield, LHP, New York Yankees
  56. Dominic Smith, 1B, New York Mets
  57. Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies
  58. Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
  59. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP, Chicago White Sox
  60. Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros
  61. Jack Flaherty, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
  62. Alex Faedo, RHP, Detroit Tigers
  63. Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners
  64. Anthony Banda, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
  65. Estevan Florial, OF, New York Yankees
  66. Kevin Maitan, SS, Atlanta Braves
  67. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Chicago White Sox

    Giolito hasn’t lived up to the hype, but the stuff is still there – and unharnessed.
  68. Beau Burrows, RHP, Detroit Tigers
  69. Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago White Sox
  70. Adrian Morejon, LHP, San Diego Padres
  71. Chris Shaw, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants
  72. Michael Chavis, 3B, Boston Red Sox
  73. Lourdes Gurriel, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
  74. Jesus Sanchez, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
  75. Willie Calhoun, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Atlanta Should Brave Another Trade

Atlanta is so hot this time of year, and nothing is much hotter than “The Freeze”, a man in an uncomfortably tight leotard who uses his blazing speed to embarrass challengers in between innings. However, “The Freeze” isn’t the hottest thing within the Braves’ new SunTrust Park. That label belongs to its short-term first baseman, Matt Adams.


Adams was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on May 20th, just two days after their All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman had his left wrist broken after being hit by a pitch. Since landing in the “A-T-L”, Adams has a .948 OPS with eight homers and 21 RBI in 24 games and 106 plate appearances.

“Big City” slimmed down and has lit up opposing pitchers
Courtesy: atlallday.com

“Big City” had become pretty useless in St. Louis, as the club decided to move Matt Carpenter to first base, with Jedd Gyorko, Aledmys Diaz, and Kolten Wong bringing “stability” to the rest of the infield. With Diaz in the midst of a sophomore slump and Wong dealing with injuries after his own bouts of ineffectiveness over the last two seasons, the Cardinals aren’t the same, competitive club as they seem to annually be. Still, they felt that Adams wouldn’t cut it in the outfield, even after his whopping 34 inning test-run in five starts there this season, taking a 19-year-old first base prospect in return to rid themselves of the 6’3″ slugger, even as the club rosters the likes of Tommy Pham, Chad Huffman, and Jose Martinez as options in left field today.

St. Louis’ focus on defense in left field has been the Braves’ offensive gain, and the Braves would be wise to continue to reap the benefits of Matt Adams when Freeman returns in July.

The Braves are in an interesting situation. Yes, they have the new stadium. Yes, they have an interesting blend of talent on their roster; however, they are in the midst of a rebuild, despite the presence of Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, and Bartolo Colon on their roster. Dealing Matt Adams at the deadline, or whenever Freeman returns, would benefit the club tremendously, as several teams could be interested in the slugger for their own playoff push.

Adams’ outburst should help the Braves more than his bat has
Courtesy: ESPN

Atlanta sits 10 games out of first place entering play today. Adams may be of value to a team like, say, the Yankees, whose first basemen have hit just .195/.298/.345 with eight home runs and 23 RBI all season (see Adams’ stats again since joining Atlanta!). Another team that could make some noise, if everyone gets healthy, would be Seattle, who could use an upgrade over Danny Valencia, who is the main culprit in the Mariners’ first basemen hitting just .244/.300/.368 with just six homers all season.

With an already crowded outfield and the likes of Ronald Acuna and Dustin Peterson racing their way to Atlanta and through the minors, the Braves should only consider Adams as a tradeable asset and not a piece of their future. If he continues to produce, his price tag only increases, but the club shouldn’t alter their current roster by trying to hold on to another solid first baseman…unless Major League Baseball suddenly adds the DH to the National League.

Statistically Scouting the Minors: 6/11

There are a lot of things that make prospects special – their incredibly smooth deliveries, their sweet swings, and their game-changing gloves; however, I don’t have time to travel around the country. Therefore, scouting becomes what baseball is all about – the numbers. Based on the numbers, here are some prospects to watch in the coming months:

(NOTE: CLICK ON THE BLUE HYPERLINK TO VIEW PLAYER STATS!)

Another solid Venezuelan shortstop?
Courtesy: Twinsdaily.com

Jermaine Palacios, SS, Low-A, Minnesota Twins

The Midwest League is a difficult league for hitters, but you wouldn’t know that by taking a look at this 6′, 145 pound shortstop’s numbers. His .936 OPS ranks third in the league, enhanced by his recent surge at the beginning of June, as Palacios has hit .448/.467/.931 with three homers in six games. The Twins have a solid young core that has them leading the AL Central. He is a couple of years away, but could be another in a long line of successful Venezuelan shortstops, especially if he keeps up this pace.

Bo Bichette, SS, Low-A, Toronto Blue Jays

Bichette, like Palacios, is tearing up the Midwest League. Although he was ranked as the Jays’ No.5 prospect by MLB.com, his production will lead to a lot of helium in his already solid stock. Having just turned 19 in March, Bichette has raked all season, posting a .381/.457/.614 line, pacing the league in OPS by 116 points. Playing alongside Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., the Lansing Lugnuts have the most productive left-side of the infield in the lower minors, with exquisite bloodlines to thank for a beautiful future in Toronto.

Can Duplantier overcome the abuse at Rice to continue his dominance?
Courtesy: mwltraveler.com

Jon Duplantier, RHP, Low-A, Arizona Diamondbacks

It is downright absurd that this 22-year-old is still in the Midwest League. His numbers are outrageous and warranted a promotion weeks ago. Overall, Duplantier has a 0.95 ERA and 0.78 WHIP over 66.2 innings with a 71:14 K:BB. He has some issues, mostly the abuse that goes along with all of the pitchers who once attended Rice University, which shelved him in his debut last season when he had elbow soreness. Still, taken in the 3rd round last season, Duplantier ranked No. 8 in the D-backs system prior to this onslaught and he’ll only continue to rise with dominance like this. k

Jordan Humphreys, RHP, Low-A, New York Mets

Hey, look…another Mets’ pitching prospect. Maybe they won’t somehow ruin this arm. While he’s still 21 and successful in the minors, Humphreys is dominating the South Atlantic League to the tune of a 1.41 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, .164 BAA, and a 77:8 K:BB in 63.2 innings. An 18th round pick in 2015, Humphreys ranked 29th in the Mets’ system by MLB.com prior to the start of the season, and was said to be a “back of the rotation piece”; however, there could be more there.

Ryan Mountcastle, SS, High-A, Baltimore Orioles

At the age of 20, this former first round pick has managed to hit, probably more than expected. At 6’3″, he probably won’t be staying at shortstop, and with Manny Machado (pending free agency) around, Mountcastle will likely find himself in an outfield corner. Mountcastle’s 22 doubles and 12 home runs show a massive amount of potential for his bat to continue to mature as he continues to fill out his frame.

Long isn’t long for the minors if he keeps hitting like this.
Courtesy: redsminorleagues.com

Shed Long, 2B, High-A, Cincinnati Reds

After a breakout campaign over two levels last season, Long returned to the Florida State League to dominate once again. He shouldn’t be there much longer. The 5’8″ left-handed hitting second baseman has 26 XBH to go along with a .911 OPS. With the Reds possessing many solid middle infield prospects, Long continues to show that he could be a huge part of the future by 2019.

Andrew Pullin, OF, Double-A, Philadelphia Phillies

I don’t know much about Reading. It is either a hitter’s paradise or a place where Phillies outfield prospects prosper – at least over the last couple of years. Last year it was Dylan Cozens and this year it is Pullin, who has seemed to find himself since arriving in Reading last season. This season, Pullin has been solid again (.307/.373/.564), but over 104 games in Double-A, Pullin is hitting .324/.382/.562 with 30 doubles and 22 home runs. The 23-year-old is a left-handed hitter and wasn’t ranked in the club’s top 30 prospects by MLB.com, but maybe he works himself into a very crowded outfield of respectable prospects…maybe even becoming trade bait.

Jon Singleton, 1B, Double-A, Houston Astros

Yes, that one. What a sad way to go. After signing a $10 million deal before seeing his first pitch as a top prospect, Singleton is now in Double-A, wasting away as the Astros invest their playing time in other players, like A.J. Reed and Yuli Gurriel. After being removed from the 40-man roster, he has received his guaranteed money and may get a buyout before he becomes a free agent after next season. His .233 average this season is hidden by his home runs and walks, which have inflated his OPS to .920, so he still has some value. Perhaps he’ll get a chance to produce for another organization after this season, but it would require a release. He will only be 26.

How the Dickey Deal is Killing Toronto

Courtesy: Blue Jays Buzz

When the Toronto Blue Jays acquired RHP R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets following his 2012 Cy Young Award, they took a huge gamble. After all, this was a man who had just completed his age-37 season,  but Dickey was very good over his three full seasons with the Mets and knuckleballers are able to pitch “forever”, right? Well, after investing $41 million into the knuckler, the Blue Jays are still without a title and Dickey is now floating pitches for Atlanta.

Unfortunately, the Blue Jays didn’t just invest millions of dollars. They gave up prospects to receive Dickey from the Mets, including C Travis d’Arnaud and the majestical, golden locks of RHP Noah Syndergaard.

Dickey’s 49-52 record and 4.05 ERA over his four seasons to the north would ultimately cost the Blue Jays a legitimate ace. While Toronto made the playoffs in Dickey’s final two seasons with the club, he wasn’t the ace – by any means – as RHP Marco Estrada, RHP Aaron Sanchez, RHP Marcus Stroman, and LHP J.A. Happ had gradually taken on larger roles in the rotation. The problem, however, was that none of the other pitchers could give the Blue Jays the innings necessary to go deep into the playoffs. With a lack of pitching depth around the incredible bats of 3B Josh Donaldson, OF Jose Bautista, and 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays faltered in the ALCS the last two seasons.

Courtesy: Fan Rag Sports

While D’Arnaud has battled injuries…constantly…Syndergaard has become one of the best young arms in baseball, even leading the Mets to a World Series in 2015, winning his only start against the eventual champion Royals. Since the World Series loss, Syndergaard has thrown 202.2 innings, striking out 238 (10.6 K:9), and posting a 2.44 ERA (2.15 FIP). Still just 24 (25 in August), “Thor” has a microscopic 0.95 ERA and 0.84 WHIP thanks to his 20:0 K:BB over his first three starts and 19 innings of 2017. The Mets have control of their young ace through the 2021 season, which, clearly, leaves the Mets as the winners of this trade.

However, hindsight allows us to look back at this as miserable; it wasn’t always the case:

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Courtesy: New York Daily News

Getting Dickey with LHP Mark Buehrle and RHP Josh Johnson was, on paper, a huge, smart investment. Injuries to Johnson and age affecting the results of Dickey and Buehrle didn’t allow this wonderful offseason to culminate into anything but a last place finish in the AL East in 2013. Bleacher Report had a nice collection, including Stark’s, that you can check out if you’d like.

There are prospects dealt every year. Hell, OF Michael Brantley became the “player to be named later” in the Indians’ deal that sent LHP CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008 – and nine years later, “Dr. Smooth” is still rocking a Tribe uniform. You would think that teams would have learned about the value of those cost and team-controlled years, but we still see these types of deals. Risks are the norm when a team is chasing a title. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays’ gamble will likely go down with the acquisitions of Frank Robinson, John Smoltz, and Jeff Bagwell as one of the worst trades in baseball history, and Toronto fans will long for “Thor” as he continues to lead the Mets’ rotation for several years.

The series of trades that Toronto thought would bring them a title left their system bare. Sure, Sanchez and Stroman came up through their system, but when Syndergaard, LHP Justin Nicolino, RHP Henderson Alvarez, and RHP Anthony DeSclafani were dealt, the club’s depth took a hit. Now, sitting at 2-10 to start the 2017 season, the club needs a starter with Sanchez heading to the DL. What are their options? LHP T.J. House, RHP Mat Latos, and RHP Brett Oberholtzer. Another season without a title and another season with very little pitching depth at the Major League level, as many of their top pitching prospects are getting their first tastes of Double-A. They can always continue to just outscore the opposition, but it hasn’t worked this year. While we can look at this as the “Dickey deal”, it was so much more than that. The philosophy of buying a title by mortgaging the future is what continues to be problematic for the Jays.

2017 Predictions and Useless Guesses

Last season was no different than seasons past. I, once again, wrote a prediction piece and I, once again, was wrong across the board. There’s nothing wrong with that, as someone has to be wrong – why not me? I’ll look at this again prior to Opening Day of 2018, realizing how silly I was, likely predicting another Manager of the Year who will be the first to lose his job, just like last year.  Anyway…here goes nothing!

American League


Courtesy: MLB.com

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. New York Yankees

 

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Chicago White Sox

 

Courtesy: MLB.com

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Los Angeles Angels
  5. Oakland Athletics

AL Wild Cards

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Detroit Tigers

National League

NL East

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. New York Mets
  3. Miami Marlins
  4. Atlanta Braves
  5. Philadelphia Phillies

 

Courtesy: MLB.com

NL Central

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Milwaukee Brewers
  5. Cincinnati Reds

 

Courtesy: rumorsandrants.com

NL West

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Colorado Rockies
  5. San Diego Padres

NL Wild Cards

  1. New York Mets
  2. San Francisco Giants

World Series Prediction

Cleveland Indians over Chicago Cubs in seven – redemption.

AL Manager of the Year

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

So close last season, Tito has a roster that is improved with the addition of Edwin Encarnacion. In addition to that, you’ll see a healthy Michael Brantley. With a roster and lineup as loaded as the Tribe’s, why does he deserve this award, do you ask? Francona will maneuver all of those pieces in ways that make him look like a master, including the usage of Cody Allen and Andrew Miller as situational closers, changing the way that the league will use the bullpen for years to come.

NL Manager of the Year

Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Roberts, like Francona, has a lot of talent; however, Roberts doesn’t have the pitching depth that Cleveland has. He finds ways to win games, just like he found ways to be such a useful player during his career. He’ll find a way to help Yasiel Puig find success, and he rides Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urias‘ breakout to a division title. Young players like Cody Bellinger and Urias are the difference in the Dodgers’ success, and Roberts plays a major role in their ascension to success.

Courtesy: teepublic.com

AL MVP

Edwin Encarnacion, 1B/DH, Cleveland Indians

The contract will look even more brilliant when “Edwing” lead Cleveland to a title. The right-handed pop in between Brantley, Jason Kipnis, and fellow Dominican masher, switch-hitting Carlos Santana, makes the Indians’ offense one for the ages, in a season for the ages from the 34-year-old slugger.

NL MVP

Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs

Certainly, it may be challenging to find a Most Valuable Player on a team that wins over 100 games, especially one with reigning MVP Kris Bryant, but Rizzo has even more support around him in 2017. Another impressive season from Bryant will be enhanced by further gains from Addison Russell and Javier Baez, while Jason Heyward finds his groove again. In the midst of all of that mashing is Rizzo, who will reach career-highs in home runs, RBI, runs, and OPS, leading the Cubs back to the World Series.

AL Cy Young

Carlos Carrasco, RHP, Cleveland Indians

Perhaps he is a darkhorse with Corey Kluber still around, but this is the year that it all comes together for this guy.  Carrasco will reach 200 innings, eclipse 220 strikeouts, and continue to show overpowering stuff that he has mastered to control.  Counting on more than 30 starts from Carrasco may be the new version of counting on ten starts from Brett Anderson, but…he will be part of the Indians domination over the AL.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Since 2009, Kershaw has a 2.24 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP over 1,652.1 innings. While he has to share the spotlight with the likes of Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester, and Johnny Cueto in the NL, a healthy Kershaw is by far the best pitcher in the world…and certainly the NL. Bank on his healthy back and another Cy Young award in 2017, his 4th prior to turning 30.

AL Rookie of the Year

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Boston Red Sox

This seems like an easy one. Benintendi will be capable of spraying the ball all over the field, while his muscle growth over the winter seems to be the key in some of those balls flying out of the park in 2017. The 7th overall pick in the 2015 draft, he is already well-known, while his results and rapid arrival to the Red Sox have led to lofty expectations…expectations that he will reach in his first full season.

Courtesy: ATLallday.com

NL Rookie of the Year

Dansby Swanson, SS, Atlanta Braves

Swanson was taken with the 1st pick overall in the 2015 draft, several picks before Benintendi. He, also, rose quickly, reaching the A-T-L and playing in 38 games last season. He just fell short of losing his rookie status, which will allow him to run away with the award in 2017. He is one of the fresh faces of the Braves’ youth movement as they open a new stadium this year, beginning a new foundation of talent for the former perennial powerhouse of the NL East. It won’t be long, thanks to players like Swanson, until the Braves are relevant again.

If you want to see a list of sleepers for 2017, check out these 12 players HERE!

Comment, Share, Like on social media! It will be a great season, no matter how terribly wrong we all may be in our predictions!

 

Don’t Sleep on These 12 Sleepers for 2017

In fantasy baseball, it is impossible to have all of your teams loaded with the top-tier talent necessary to win every season. Even keeper leagues have players at the top every year who struggle with injuries. You need depth, you need to find a diamond in the rough, and you need to take gambles in order to win. For that reason, you need to know some players who may fly under the radar. This is a list of 12 players who may be available a little later than you think in your baseball drafts who could ruin the lives of your fiercest competitors.

pollock
Pollock should return to All-Star status after missing most of 2016. Courtesy: CBS Sports

A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Pollock had all of 46 plate appearances in 2016 due to injuries. It isn’t so much that he is a legitimate sleeper as much as how low he may rank on several draft boards due to his extended absence. Remember, this is a guy who hit .315/.367/.498 with 39 doubles, 20 home runs, and 39 steals in 2015. He was the Yang to Paul Goldschmidt‘s Ying, worthy of an early selection last season. Don’t let him fall too far and reap the benefits if he falls into your lap.

Carlos Gomez, OF, Texas Rangers

Gomez struggled so mightily last season that the Houston Astros released him on August 18th. Two days later, Gomez signed with the Texas Rangers and promptly put up the type of line that Houston was looking for during his time there, erupting to a .284/.362/.543 line with eight home runs and 24 RBI in just 33 games – he had five home runs and 29 RBI in 85 games for Houston. He signed for one-year and $11.5 million to prove himself capable of All-Star production in his age-31 season. He is playing in the right place for another offensive outburst.

buxton
Buxton still has the tools that made you fall in love. Don’t run away now. Courtesy: ESPN

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Buxton has really disappointed a lot of fans and prospect fanatics with a pretty abysmal start to his career. He has struck out 162 times (with just 29 walks) in 469 plate appearances, which has led to a putrid .220/.274/.398 triple-slash in his brief career. While others will look at those numbers and run, you shouldn’t let the prospect fatigue and struggles lead you astray. Look at Buxton’s September from 2016:

Months
G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip
29 29 113 101 24 29 6 2 9 22 1 10 38 .287 .357 .653 1.011 66 .370
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/4/2017.

While the strikeouts are still worrisome, this supposed clone of a young Eric Davis showed power and the abilities that made people drool. He was given the job for the month of September and ran with it, which is downright scary with his speed tool and the BABIP right where most speedsters have theirs. Look for a breakout in 2017.

tomas
Tomas can’t take a walk, but you don’t need to with power. A healthy lineup around him could lead to more power. Courtesy: Peter Gammons

Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Tomas was just a part of my story about overpaid Cuban free agents, so why would I have him on a sleeper list, you ask? Because Tomas has some tools that you can’t find everywhere, namely his power. He tore things up in the second half of 2016, posting a .913 OPS, which is impressive for a guy who walked in just 5.5% of his plate appearances. It meant that the 18 bombs in the second half – and 31 overall – could be overlooked due to how ridiculously horrific the Diamondbacks have handled him. With Jake Lamb locked in at third, it appears that Tomas is officially a slugging outfielder, and his numbers could continue to climb with the return of the previously mentioned Pollock to the Arizona lineup.

Hernan Perez, 2B/3B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Over his first 351 career plate appearances (2012-2015), Perez was pretty useless, posting a .235/.251/.307 line with 15 doubles, three triples, one homer, and six stolen bases. Then, at age 25, Perez got an opportunity in Milwaukee, and, boy, did he make the most of it. In the second half of the 2016 season, this previously unknown, organizational depth player went on to post a .281/.313/.449 triple-slash with nine home runs, 14 doubles, two triples, and 24, count ’em…24, stolen bases. He’d total 13 bombs and 34 steals on the season, playing third, second, and outfield. While no one knows whether he will put up similar numbers, Perez has some value, even if it is only in deep mixed leagues. That position flexibility is Zobrist-like, while the production isn’t too far off, either. He would be a nice addition in late rounds for depth purposes, though the addition of Travis Shaw at third could lead to Perez being a one-year wonder.

cotton
Did you know who he was before September? Be honest…Keep an eye on him, but don’t go crazy. Courtesy:sacbee.com

Jharel Cotton, RHP, Oakland Athletics

Cotton was a 20th round pick by the Dodgers in 2012, acquired by the A’s in the Rich Hill and Josh Reddick deal last season. He had long had solid numbers in the minors, striking out 10 per 9 IP over the course of 490+ minor league innings. Upon reaching the majors for the first time in September, Cotton posted video game numbers over five starts with a 2.15 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 23:4 K:BB, and 6 H/9. It is anyone’s guess as to whether the 5’11” right-hander will continue to miss bats at that rate, but you don’t want to be the one who watches someone else benefit from the gamble. He’s penciled in as Oakland’s No. 4 starter, so continue to monitor him this spring.

James Paxton, LHP, Seattle Mariners

If only this guy could stay healthy…which is exactly why he is a sleeper. After making only 20 starts in 2016, Paxton is the type of guy that Brett Anderson would like to be and every other pitcher avoids becoming; however, his final 11 starts were pretty impressive, injury-free, and worthy of fantasy acknowledgment. He posted a 71:9 K:BB over 67.2 innings, a 3.19 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, and a .235 BAA. Seattle made a lot of deals this winter to become contenders, and Paxton could be a “guy” who improves enough or continues to pitch like he did last season, to help make that happen.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Norris had an interesting year, spending a lot of time rebuilding stamina after beating cancer between the 2015 and 2016 season. Upon sticking in the Tigers rotation (from August 9th onward), the young left-hander posted a 3.04 ERA and 55 punchouts in 56.1 innings. While the 1.37 WHIP and 19 walks in the same 56.1 innings is worrisome, Norris has shown the ability to make it work. He will turn just 24 in April and he has to beat Matt Boyd and Mike Pelfrey to earn the No. 5 spot, but, if he wins it, he has the stuff and the teachers (Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann) to learn on the job.

Robbie Ray, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Run in terror if you’d like, but don’t forget to look at the 11.3 K:9 that Ray posted in 2016. That led to a whopping 218 strikeouts in 174.1 innings. Sure, the 4.90 ERA is gross. Sure, the 1.47 WHIP is disgusting. There is something here. You don’t miss that many bats without having great stuff. This will be Ray’s age-25 season and he will take another step forward because he won’t be posting a .355 BABIP in 2017 and he won’t be losing 15 games again if he throws it by so many opposing hitters in 2017. Keep in mind, Ray’s FIP was 3.76 in 2016. Jose Peraza, 2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

peraza
There could be a lot of this happening in Cincinnati. Courtesy: Getty Images

Jose Peraza, 2B/OF, Cincinnati Reds

Everyone is going to be on the Peraza bandwagon, with valid reasons. When the Reds traded Brandon Phillips (and millions of dollars that “small-market” teams don’t have) to the Atlanta Braves, it made fantasy baseball fans celebrate. Peraza posted a .324/.352/.411 triple-slash and 21 stolen bases in just 72 games and 256 plate appearances. With Peraza and Billy Hamilton around, the Reds could look a lot like the St. Louis Cardinals of the 1980’s, when Vince Coleman and Willie McGee ran wild on the league. They just have to get on base for that to happen, and Peraza has been more of a hit-tool and speed talent than an on-base machine.

Joe Panik, 2B, San Francisco Giants

After getting hit in the head on June 18, Panik battled some concussion symptoms, having played through them by passing concussion protocol through MLB. After the beaning, Panik hit just .215/.305/.346. Prior to that, he was hitting .263/.326/.411. Obviously, there could be something in the Justin Morneau area here that could scare you away from wanting Panik on your fantasy team, but he showed a couple of statistics that would warrant a rebound. Overall, including the times that he was apparently dazed, Panik walked more than he struck out in 2016, while posting career highs in homers (10) and RBI (67). In addition to that, Panik had a woeful .245 BABIP. While the league average is typically around .300, Panik’s was incredibly low. There are always outliers and it appears that Panik was one of them in 2016. Expect a rebound in 2017.

Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have a lot of interesting young pitchers. Finnegan was, prior to Anthony DeSclafani‘s return from injury, the only Reds’ pitcher worth owning in fantasy leagues. Like any young pitcher, there were growing pains…lots of them; however, it wasn’t all Finnegan’s fault. The Reds had Finnegan paired with Ramon Cabrera in 12 of his 31 starts and Cabrera was ranked 113th out of 114 catchers in pitch framing. Whether that is something you consider or not, you should know that he should have Devin Mesoraco back there again, barring another injury, in 2017. In addition to the potentially damning battery mate in 2016, Finnegan was able to change something in his approach down the stretch, throwing a changeup more often and posting some ridiculous numbers over his final seven starts: 1.93 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 47:16 K:BB, 37.1 IP, .199 BAA. Sure, the Reds will be one of the worst teams in MLB in 2017…unless they have players like Finnegan continue to grow while on the job. Consider adding him in late rounds and be willing to bail on him if he goes through battles of inconsistency in the middle of the year.

The Misguided Cuban Rush

The Misguided Cuban Rush

How Cuban Players Have Cashed-In on Desperate Ownership

Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig shocked the baseball world with their defections and domination of Major League Baseball in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Both players finished in the top 15 in MVP votes and second for Rookie of the Year in their debuts. At the time, both players signed life-changing deals for themselves, as Cespedes signed with Oakland for four years and $36 million, while Puig signed a seven-year, $42 million deal with the Dodgers. However, despite Cespedes receiving $110 million over the next four years this winter, he was forced into a deal with an opt-out to prove himself worthy of such a deal, while Puig faces an uphill battle to reclaim value after two down seasons, potentially sharing time with Andre Ethier in right field for Los Angeles.

Cespedes earned a huge raise, but had to do so thanks to hesitation from clubs that isn't present for "new" signees Courtesy: CBS Sports
Cespedes earned a huge raise, but had to do so thanks to hesitation from clubs that isn’t present for “new” signees
Courtesy: CBS Sports

Why do these things matter? Because MLB teams have sunk millions of dollars into contracts for unproven Cuban-born players, seeking the “lightning-in-a-bottle” that Cespedes, Puig’s rookie season, and Aroldis Chapman‘s left arm have provided for their teams. The only problem with all of these sunken costs is that teams don’t appear willing to dump such drastic amounts of money into any other international market, despite the significant failures of recent Cuban signings, such as:

Yasmany Tomas: six years, $68.5 million

Alex Guerrero: four years, $28 million

Yoan Lopez: $8.25 million signing bonus

Erisbel Arruebarrena: five years, $25 million

Hector Olivera: six years, $62.5 million

Rusney Castillo: seven years, $72.5 million

While teams seem willing to outbid each other for these players, they seem unwilling to make the same commitment to Korean and Japanese League players. Certainly, MLB clubs don’t have to worry about posting fees for players from Cuba, but the guaranteed money in baseball contracts that several of the aforementioned players received outweighed those fees for any players this side of Yu Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Are there any real reasons why clubs are so willing to shell out millions of dollars in gambles, or, better yet, why MLB allows clubs to spend so freely on these types of signings, while being so strict on signing bonuses for young players from the Dominican Republic, creating a pool for international signings for many of the 16 and 17-year-old kids from Latin America?

Castillo: Could he be looking for the punchline in the joke that is his contract?  Courtesy: csnne.com
Castillo: Could he be looking for the punchline in the joke that is his contract?
Courtesy: csnne.com

Obviously, there have been more signings and appearances of Cuban-born players than those who have bombed, as Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, Jose Contreras, and, more recently, White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, have had success, as well; however, the investments in players like Yoan Moncada, who cost the Boston Red Sox $63 million (due to the 100% penalty for going over their international pool allotment after signing him with a $31.5 million signing bonus), just to see him dealt for Chris Sale this winter, seems confusing when Boston could lock-up players who are proven commodities. Imagine if the club had $130 million in the bank to lock-up Mookie Betts to a long-time deal to continue his career in Boston…

The gamble seems downright absurd.

Major League Baseball has a lot of money in the game. While Rob Manfred spends his time trying to find ways to speed up the game, it continues to bank on its digital media platform and the rich revenues that allow owners to throw money away in the millions. Unfortunately, it is time that the commissioner finds ways to speed up common sense in front offices. It is dangerous to have so many millions of dollars in dead money, leaving teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks handcuffed by the idiotic contract that Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa tied them down with by signing Tomas.

No, baseball doesn’t need to go the route of non-guaranteed contracts like the NFL, but they should consider finding ways for clubs to have a level playing field when it comes to signing these highly-coveted international players, as the recent failures in this international signing lottery has so clearly demonstrated.

The failures of the league in controlling the overspending in Cuba cries for the league to develop an international draft. Major League Baseball has a level of parity when you see a team like Cleveland in the World Series, but the super contracts that teams are giving to unqualified players is not good for the game.

Baseball teams don’t need to be desperate to be great. Baseball needs to save the teams from themselves and end the insanity of massive contracts going to unproven players. Not all of the Cuban-born players are as good as the cigars.