Fantasy Baseball | Minor league report week 15

Chicago Cubs right fielder Eloy Jimenez takes a swing against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Friday, March 10, 2017, in Peoria, Ariz. The Mariners defeated the Cubs 11-10. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) fantasy
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

For those of us in keeper and dynasty leagues, the Futures Game is more important than the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby. I know; it’s sacrilege to utter such a thing. I like watching both of those events, but the Futures Game holds a special place for me.

An average fan has access to major league games and can see those All-Star players somewhat regularly, even with basic cable in most places. Granted you don’t get to see them all together as in the All-Star Game, but at least you are afforded the opportunity when a star player’s team faces your hometown heroes.

When it comes to minor league players, unless you have some sort of web subscription or on-demand service, the ability to see these future stars is limited. Even though I am fortunate enough to be able to watch these future stars daily, I still find the Futures Game more exciting. It is special to get a glimpse at players before they come up and see the talent that doesn’t always show up in the box scores.

With the 2017 Futures Game in the books, I decided to take the next few weeks and dig into some of these prospects from the Futures Game. This week I’ll take a look at the World roster, specifically the hitters. Next week I’ll move to the pitchers, followed by the U.S. roster.

Some of the names I have covered from the World roster this year are Amed Rosario, Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Ronald Arcia, Victor Robles, and Yordan Alvarez. I will not beat a dead horse when it comes to these prospects. I like them all and consider them strong trade targets. I’m also sticking to my guns with Francisco Mejia as a sell-high candidate.

Let’s see who I like (or not) from the remainder of the roster.

Eloy Jimenez (OF Cubs): High-A
.271/.347/.490, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 23 R

The Cubs have taken their time with Jimenez. He began to display his power last year at the age of 19, hitting 40 doubles and 14 home runs over 432 at-bats. We’re not seeing the same line drive stroke this year, but the power has inched up. The batting average has slipped as expected; last year’s was somewhat BABIP induced. Strikeouts remain steady at 20 percent, and the walk rate is now in double digits. Finally, he has not attempted to steal a base this year. Either this is by design or the team saw something it didn’t like.

Even without the speed Jimenez has the potential to be a 30-home run hitter. I’m not as confident as some are in predicting a batting average close to .290. I can see something between .270 and .280, and with his power that is more than acceptable. I can’t say buy or sell with Jimenez. His current top-10 ranking would fetch a good return. Then again, there is the potential given his size that the strikeouts will spike in Double-A. That could lower the batting average potential, drop his ranking, and his possible asking price.

Until we see him in Double-A I would hold, but feel free to jump in with both feet and buy if you’re confident in his future potential.

Josh Naylor (1B Padres): High-A
283 AB, .297/.360/.452, 8 HR, 7 SB, 45 RBI, 41 R

You can view Naylor in one of two ways, glass half-empty or glass half-full. I see eight home runs and .155 ISO at age 20 and a low-end corner infield option in fantasy. Others may look at the 16 doubles, age, and pedigree and decide he is still growing.

Regardless of which camp you are in there are two things we can all agree upon. He has a patient approach, evident in the 15.3 percent strikeout rate this year and last, along with an improved walk rate. He has a little speed as well, enough to steal at least 10 bases annually.

I don’t trust the batting average gains this year. I also don’t see the power developing much, giving him a 20-22-home run ceiling. That could be enough if the team continues to let him run. Naylor dropped out of the top 100 this year and is hanging on to the final top-10 spot in positional rankings. I would sell as an owner, but if you can get him for cheap I’d be willing to roll the dice. Like Jimenez above, the real test will come at Double-A.

Estevan Florial (OF Yankees): Class-A
288 AB, .295/.378/.493, 11 HR, 15 SB, 40 RBI, 57 R

Despite the pretty numbers, approach Florial with skepticism. At age 19 the power is still developing, but 16 doubles and 11 home runs shows great promise. There is also enough speed to steal 20 bases annually. I can see future 20-20 potential, but that power speed combo could come with a steep price tag.

Florial has a 31 percent strikeout rate this year, up from 29 percent last season. While the batting average is sitting pretty, I can’t see him hitting higher than .260 if that continues. If the average drops we could see fewer home runs. Fewer homers make him less of a threat, meaning he could lose some walks as pitchers challenge him more. That in turn could affect the stolen base potential.

Is this the next Melvin Upton? That is what I see in a best-case scenario. If you own Florial you are in a league with a deep minor league pool. You could hold him and hope things turn around, or you could sell high, taking advantage of his hot numbers. I prefer the latter, and I’m sure there is a Yankee fan in your league that would pay a premium.

Alex Verdugo (OF Dodgers): Triple-A
298 AB, .346/.418/.463, 3 HR, 18 SB, 42 RBI, 52 R

I get that “better in real life than fantasy” feeling from Verdugo. He makes terrific contact, draws a good number of walks, and is difficult to strike out – all the things you like to see from a hitter. The batting average this year is BABIP-induced, but you should still get something close to .300 if that were lower.

The issues I see are power and speed, both of which come with a limited ceiling. His 18 doubles this year along with a .117 ISO (.134 last season) suggest a single/line drive hitter with maybe double-digit potential. While he did steal 14 bases in 2015, I don’t see stealing more than a dozen outside of a career year.

Verdugo is only 21 and is one of the youngest players in Triple-A. Maybe he can develop more power, but I doubt it. He could have value as a number-two hitter, but he will not hit leadoff or in the middle of the order. That limited potential is the number one reason I would sell high. The problem: The demand for his name is limited so you might have to stick with him and hope for the best.

Mauricio Dubon (SS Brewers): Triple-A
268 AB, .276/.339/.351, 2 HR, 31 SB, 24 RBI, 34 R

Dubon is your typical speed-only shortstop. This is the third year in a row he has stolen at least 30 bases. The batting average has been .274 or higher since his debut. He doesn’t strike out much and draws a fair amount of walks. The above numbers are from Double-A this year. He has since been promoted to Triple-A. The 60 at-bat sample size is small, so don’t read too much into the early struggles.

I would give Dubon the ceiling of Elvis Andrus and a floor of Alcides Escobar. Simply put, he could be a useful fantasy player or an injury fill-in for your team. The minors are full of middle infielders like this, which makes him replaceable with limited trade value. I would set my sights elsewhere. Odds are the Brewers will trade him for pitching help since his path to the majors is blocked.

Lucius Fox (SS Rays): Class-A
.279/.362/.357, 2 HR, 26 SB, 26 RBI, 42 R

Take everything I said about Dubon and apply it here. The only difference between the two players is age; Fox is two years younger. He also strikes out a little more. Outside of that there is very little difference, which gives them the same future outlook. Actually the outlook is a little cloudy, since not everyone is sold on his defensive prowess. A move to the outfield, something that has been mentioned, would all but sink any potential fantasy value he might have had. He may have made the Futures team, but this is not a future star.

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