The last few weeks have been busy with watching who will make the team out of camp and head north, for most teams, with the major league club. However, camps are just about over, with just a week and a half left until Opening Day, and most prospects have been assigned to minor league camps or sent to Triple- or Double-A affiliates already. That doesn’t mean though that we should put these names out of our heads until the get the call-up, since then you’re blowing FAAB dough on acquiring these players without knowing about them previously. Knowing what prospects are the ones likely to come up and make a fantasy impact is the key to late season runs in the fantasy baseball realm.
Eloy Jimenez (OF CWS) – Jimenez was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Jose Quintana just uptown to the Cubs last season and he gives the White Sox yet another prospect in the top-50 of baseball. Why was he so coveted by the Sox in the deal? Well, in 89 games last season, across two levels and three teams, he put up a slash line of .312/.379/.568 with 19 homers, 65 RBI, 54 runs, and a steal. That’s in just over a half a season at age 21.
Answer the question?
He did strikeout 72 times in the 89-game span and walked 35, which are both okay, though the strikeouts should be better a touch lower. He is 6’4” 205 lbs. and he has slowed since he started maturing, that plus his average arm, makes him a DH or left field candidate but his bat can certainly play. There is a chance that he could be up later this summer if Chicago wants to get a peek at their shiny new toy in either role.
Nick Senzel (3B CIN) – Senzel’s was a name that was bandied about quite a bit this spring as a guy who was thought to be making the team out of camp, that doesn’t look to be happening though unfortunately. He was a stud draft pick out of Tennessee in June 2016 and since then he has simply been a force through the minor league system of Cincinnati. Last year, his first full season, he played in 119 games, slashing .321/.391/.514 across two levels with 14 each of home runs and steals, 81 runs, and 65 RBI. Every tool he has is either plus or above-average from hit, power, speed, arm, and fielding making him a real threat both offensively and defensively, which helps him stay on the field. The problem for Senzel is that he has to learn a new position now. He was moved to Shortstop a bit this spring but will likely play second base full-time to start the season down in the minors. Once he gets the hang of the defensive change, Senzel should be up to play keystone in Cincinnati sometime in May.
Brendan Rodgers (SS/2B COL) – His infield-mate, Ryan McMahon, has gotten a lot more attention this spring, and rightfully so as the likely starting first baseman for the Rockies. However, Rodgers isn’t far behind him. In 89 games at High-A and Double-A last season he slashed a .336/.373/.567 line with 18 homers, 64 RBI, 64 runs, and two steals. A couple of things for him to work on would be the lack of walks drawn with just 14 in 372 at bats last year and that he will get pull happy sometimes instead of working the ball to all fields like he is capable of. He has the defense to stick at short, but can also work at second well, and provide a bit more offensive upside at second than a typical middle infielder would. Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu block him up the middle in Colorado at the moment, but with Story’s injury history and LeMahieu being in a contract year, Rodgers could get his time in Denver sooner rather than later.
Mitch Keller (RHP PIT) – A lot was made of the Pirates’ decision to trade Gerrit Cole in the offseason, but Keller was part of the thought process in that trade. The soon-to-be 22-year-old righty pitched 116 innings last season across three levels and posted a very good 3.03 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 116 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched. His BAA was .202 while also walking only 32 guys, giving him an elite near 4:1 K:BB ratio. Over the course of his pro career in the Pittsburgh system, his amassed a 2.70 ERA over 317 IP with a 21-13 record in 67 starts and one relief appearance. Keller features a fastball that sits 93-95 but can touch 98 mph with ease and has late downward life that works well with his 11-to-5 curve and developing changeup. The three-pitch mix is more than enough to be a top of the rotation starter and he could crack the starting five at PNC Park come July once he gets some more work in the upper levels of the minor leagues.
A.J. Puk (LHP OAK) – Puk was made the sixth overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft out of Florida and since then he has put together some confounding stats in a way. Last year, Puk has the best K/9 rate of any pitcher in the minors with a mark of 13.2 but put up a 4.03 ERA in 125 innings across two levels. His WHIP of 1.25 wasn’t terrible and his rate of 48 walks to 184 strikeouts is beyond elite. So how is the ERA so high for a guy who sets down that many hitters and features the devastating arsenal that he does? Well this is where FIP helps us out. In 61 innings of High-A ball his ERA was 3.69 compared to a FIP of 2.24 and in 64 innings at Double-A a 4.36 ERA gives way to a 2.35 FIP. So his defense failed him with not getting to balls that should have been outs from more rangy defenders. A 6’7” southpaw with a 97 mph fastball, upper-80s slider, a developing curve and change is a menacing sight on the mound. Once he gets to the upper levels and gets better defenders around him, his ERA and WHIP should come back down to where it should be, ace-caliber.
Scott Kingery (2B PHI) – Kingery has hung in camp with the big league club longer than any other player on this list and for good reason. His skills play at a big league level. He split last year between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley and logged 132 games with 543 at bats. A .304/.359/.530 slash line with 26 homers, 29 steals, 103 runs, and 65 RBI display his skill with the bat. Coming into Tuesday’s spring training game, Kingery was hitting .378 (14-for-37) with three homers and two doubles while also playing all over the diamond. He has been played at second – his natural position – third, and even outfield a few times. So the problem for the future Phillies keystone is that there isn’t a place for him just yet. Cesar Hernandez has hit .294 with a .372 OBP the past two seasons combined and plays a very good defensive second base. So the option for Kingery maybe a move to third or outfield in the short term as Maikel Franco has struggled with the bat over the past few years and the outfield is a work in progress in Philly. He will start the year in Triple-A to work on the new position’s fielding and nuances, plus to avoid service time issues, and should be up come mid-May most likely.
Anthony Alford (OF TOR) – Alford took a mildly interesting track to get where he is today, the 47th ranked prospect in baseball. He was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft and was signed by the Blue Jays but played football at Southern Miss from 2012-2014 before turning to baseball full time. Since then however, his raw athleticism has turned into a polished ballplayer knocking on the door of the majors. Across three levels last season, High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A, he posted a .299/.390/.406 line with five homers, 43 runs, 26 RBI, and 19 steals. So there isn’t much pop there with just 21 home runs total in 301-career minor league games. However his speed is top-end with 75 steals in the same span. That rate of steals gives him the potential for 40+ at a 162-game pace. Alford’s BB rate has been double-digits every season while his K-rate has fallen each of the last three seasons. With his speed, good defense, and high OBP marks he profiles as a leadoff type hitter and Toronto could use a quality outfielder given their current roster’s shape.