2017 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Unheralded Top-100 Prospects
Everyone wants the elite, top of the rankings prospects, but not everyone can get them. Matthew Selz gives you names of guys to watch in the back half of the Top-100 who can be elite.
Everyone loves to talk about the prospects at the top of the 100 best lists that get updated throughout the season, including me. However sometimes the best values in prospects can be found in guys who are in the bottom half of those lists because they are off the radar just enough that they don’t have such a high acquisition price in a draft or keeper pick given up.
We’re starting with a look at the 53rd ranked prospect in Jack Flaherty (RHP STL AAA) who has been steadily climbing through the Cardinals, often deep, farm system. He offers a mid-90s fastball now, a plus-changeup, potential plus-slide, and a slow curve that misses bats. Flaherty, 21 for all of 2017, has always missed bats with his repertoire averaging better than 9.0 K/9 in his four pro seasons. In eight starts at Triple-A Memphis, after having 10 starts at Double-A earlier this year, he has a 3.24 ERA and a 9.94 K/9 after stellar numbers in the lower levels. He profiles as a very good number-3 starter at the MLB level.
In May of 2015, Tampa Bay signed Jesus Sanchez (OF TB A) to a $400,000 deal and now look to have a steal of an international signing. The now 19-year-old five-tool prospect is putting up very good numbers in Class-A. In 84 games he’s put up a .298/.342/.474 slash line with a .327 BABIP, .363 wOBA, 11 homers, 61 RBI, 56 runs, and five steals. The impressive part about his numbers is the 15.2% K-rate for such a young hitter. Sanchez, 6’3”-210 lbs., brings a nice power-speed combo from the left side of the plate that will only get better as he matures and discovers to use his speed more effectively. Tampa Bay is typically cautious with their prospects so expect him not to skip any levels, putting him in the majors in 2020.
Cincinnati used the 35th pick overall in 2016 to take a two-sport high school athlete named Taylor Trammell (OF CIN A). Since being selected, and now ranked 79th overall, he has shined in Rookie ball and Class-A, posting a .285/.360/.453 slash line with a .358 BABIP and .365 wOBA. In 93 games at Daytona in 2017 he’s also added eight homers, 59 runs, 55 RBI, and 28 steals to his stat line including 36 of his 103 hits going for XBH with nine being triples. Trammell, unrelated to the former pitcher, will fit any of the three outfield spots, but has worked mostly in left this season and should slot in as a likely number two-hitter in the majors with power and RBI upside.
Minnesota made Fernando Romero (RHP MIN AA) a part of their farm system in November of 2011. However an elbow injury and TJ surgery cost him two years after that. Now in 2017 he is back on his frontline starter track and showing his wares well. Romero features a 70-80 grade fastball that works 95-97 and touches 100+ at times, along with an average slider and changeup. His slider needs more break and bite and the changeup needs more feel to improve. He has already pitched the most pro innings he’s ever pitched this season with 100.2 thrown in 18 starts with a 2.68 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 3.22 xFIP and a 9.21 K/9 rate. Romero is giving up too many walks this year, 3.58/9 IP, but that will clear up as his pitchability improves. The Twins maybe starved for another pitching prospect to pan out, other than Jose Berrios, but they will progress Romero slowly and 2019 is his likely MLB ETA.
Jake Bauers (1B/OF TB AAA) was a key piece that came back from San Diego in the Wil Meyers three-team trade. Since joining the Tampa system he has proven himself to be a very good two-position player and has made it to Triple-A Durham at just 21 years old. In 93 games in 2017 he has posted a .273/.370/.420 slash line with a .330 BABIP, .355 wOBA, eight homers, 58 runs, 48 RBI, and a surprising 12 steals. The power numbers are a bit concerning with an ISO mark of .147 and .146 the last two years making him average in the category. The best comp for Bauers is Brandon Belt as an on-base decent power first baseman.
A seventh round pick in the 2013 draft, Tyler Mahle (RHP CIN AAA) sits as the 89th ranked prospect in baseball in the middle of 2017. Mahle is a four pitch mix guy with a low-90s fastball, two different breaking pitches, and a nice changeup mixed in. He is not a high-velocity high-movement pitcher; Mahle is more in the mold of a command and control type pitching in the middle of a rotation. The only real hiccup in his progress through the system was his last 14 starts of 2016 when he first reached Double-A and posted a 4.92 ERA in 71.1 innings. He returned to Double-A to start 2017 and in 85 innings pitched to a 1.59 ERA and a K/9 better at 9.21. Mahle should be competing for a rotation spot in Cincinnati starting in 2018 offering 8-9 K/9 and less than 2.0 BB/9.
Nearly last at 99th ranked in baseball is the Brewers Isan Diaz (2B/SS MIL A+). He was selected by the D-Backs in the Competitive Balance Round B in 2014 before being traded for Jean Segura after the 2015 season. Diaz’s first two season in Milwaukee have shown what the burgeoning hype is all about with a 20-75-71-11 year in 2016 and now, in 95 games in 2017, an 11 homer, 47 RBI, 50 run, eight steal campaign is happening, His average could use help, .230 AVG though a .296 BABIP and .329 wOBA, but his 13.4% walk rate is great for a 21-year-old. Diaz has produced a K-rate at better than 25% the last two years too. The middle infielder is still at least two years away but if he pans out, a player similar to Brian Dozier is the comp that makes the most sense.