Minor League Sleeper Team of the Week

Travis Demeritte, Robbie Glendinning, and many others are covered in the Minor League Sleeper Team of the Week from Jt Kohout.

Under the radar players are vital to your dynasty teams; players like Bryan Reynolds, Zac Plesac, and Harold Ramirez are among the many players that started the season in the minors and have made an impact. This is going to be a weekly article about some players who are putting up interesting numbers in the minors and maybe they should be stashed in your deep mixed and dynasty leagues. As a rule, the player must be 10% owned or less in Fantrax leagues. 

 

Catcher: Jake Rogers; Detroit Tigers (5% owned) Age: 24

 

Current Level: Triple-A

Known partially as part of the Tigers underwhelming return in the Justin Verlander trade, Jake Rogers had established himself as one of the top catching prospects in baseball after a breakout 2017 in which he had 18 home runs, 14 steals, a 54:102 BB:K ratio, and a .817 OPS. Rogers had a disappointing 2018 season where in his first test of Double-A his OPS fell 100 points and his strikeout rate jumped from 23.1% to 27.5%. 2019 was obviously going to be an important year for Rogers, and he has shown a ton of improvement. In his 28-game Double-A sample, Rogers hit 302/.429/.535 with a .233 ISO. He was then called up to Triple-A and he has continued to show great power with a .224 ISO in 31 games. The strikeout rate has jumped from 23.2% in Double-A to 28.7% in Triple-A, with the walk rate dropping from 17% to 10.7%, so he clearly needs to adjust again as he showed the ability to do in Double-A. With no clear option on Detroit, Rogers has a chance to establish himself as the catcher of the future with a good finish to the season.

 

First Base: Lewin Diaz; Minnesota Twins (3% owned) Age: 22

 

Current Level: Double-A 

Lewin Diaz is a very interesting prospect. His frame of 6’4” 225 pounds and 60-grade power profile him as a power hitter, but outside of a solid 2016 in rookie ball, Diaz had never really shown it. In 2018, Diaz entered the season a top ten-ish prospect for the Twins, but completely fell from prospect charts after his 2018 debut in High-A in which he had a .588 OPS and a 10:56 BB:K ratio in 78 games before his season ended due to a thumb injury. It’s hard to know what he changed, but he has completely turned things around in 2019. In 57 High-A games this season, his .243 ISO and .866 OPS with 13 homers got him a call-up to Double-A. His plate approach still leaves a lot to be desired, with a 14:48 K:BB ratio across both levels in 277 plate appearances, but the power upside is very clear for the 22-year-old.

 

Second Base: Travis Blankenhorn; Minnesota Twins (1% owned) Age: 22

 

Current Level: Double-A 

Travis Blankenhorn is similar to a couple other players on this week’s team in that he had a breakout season a couple years ago, has struggled since, but found his stroke in a new level. For Blankenhorn, the new level has been Double-A and the results have been fantastic. A career-high 14 home runs and .226 ISO in 257 plate appearances have shown improvement in what looked like a middling prospect bat in the two years prior. His 5.4% walk rate will have to improve for Blankenhorn to be considered a legitimately must-stash prospect, as right now it’s really the power carrying his intrigue, but at just 22 there’s still time for the plate approach to improve. It is also likely worth noting that in his professional career Blankenhorn is 33-for-40 on stolen base attempts. From watching him, it seems that he is more taking advantage of bad minor league catching than being a real speed specialist, but there’s potential as a power-speed threat (with much more power than speed). 

 

Third Base: Kevin Padlo; Tampa Bay Rays (1% owned) Age: 22

 

Current Level: Double-A

Kevin Padlo entered 2019 as a complete afterthought in the Rays farm system. Padlo was the least-remarkable part of the trade between the Rockies and Rays that landed Colorado Jake McGee and German Marquez in return for Corey Dickerson and the aforementioned Padlo. At the time of the trade, Padlo was considered to be one of the top prospects in Low-A. He followed that up with a solid 2016, but completely fell off a cliff in 2017 and 2018. In High-A playing his age-21 season, Padlo hit just .223 with a 26.5% strikeout rate, 10.5% walk rate, and eight home runs in 447 plate appearances. Something must have changed in the offseason, because Padlo has found his footing in his debut Double-A season. He has cut the strikeout rate down slightly to 25%, but more impressively he has upped his walk rate to a career-high 16.5% to go along with his highest ISO (.283) since his first professional season in 2014. His 12 home runs and nine steals are both his highest personal marks since 2016. Padlo has returned to being the intriguing power-speed option he projected to be when Tampa Bay traded for him, and at just 22 years old he still has lots of upside for the Rays. 

 

Shortstop: Robbie Glendinning; Pittsburgh Pirates (0% owned) Age: 23

 

Current Level: Double-A 

Robbie Glendinning is a really weird prospect in that for a 23-year-old who has been great in 2019, I can not find any information about him. He is a former 21st-round pick, he’s Australian, and he plays shortstop in the Pirates farm system. He’s so unknown that Fantrax doesn’t even spell his name correctly in their player pool. Even with all of the ambiguity, I think Glendinning is really interesting. He came into 2019 with two home runs and four steals in 344 plate appearances across Low-A and A-ball. He has towered over those numbers so far in 2019. Having started his season in High-A, Glendinning hit eight home runs, stole six bases, and had a .992 OPS and .259 ISO. You may say to yourself  “There’s not much impressive about a 23-year-old doing well in High-A” which is completely fair—except he’s kept it up since being called up to Double-A. A very small 79 plate appearance sample shows the same very good results with a .962 OPS, .214 ISO, and three home runs since being called up. From what I can tell, the key to his improvements has been a huge jump in fly-ball rate from 24% a year ago to 37% this season, which could reasonably be the reason for the jump in power. I do not know why he has just now started stealing bases. He is a really interesting prospect and I would suggest adding, because if a swing change is the cause for his recent results, then I could see some Jeff McNeil type of production out of Glendinning. 

 

Outfield: Ibandel Isabel; Cincinnati Reds (2% owned) Age: 24 

 

Current Level: Double-A

A word I will use for a lot of the players I write about for this article is “toolsy.” That basically means that those players show an ability to potentially do a lot of things well, but aren’t yet at a place to show those off consistently—Ibandel Isabel is not one of those players. He really only does one thing well, that is hitting home runs, but man he is really good at that one thing. A year ago Isabel broke the High-A level Florida State League record for home runs in a season, with 35 in 420 plate appearances. He has followed that up with 19 in 253 plate appearances in his debut season in Double-A. He legitimately has 80-grade power. The problem with Isabel is that right now that is the only projectable tool. His glove isn’t great, he doesn’t run particularly well, and his strikeout rate in 2019 is 40.7%. I consider Isabel very interesting because he is probably in the 99th percentile among minor leaguers when it comes to raw power. If you enjoy fun upside players like I do he’s your guy, but realistically unless he can become better in the field or improve his contact rate, it is hard to see him as an impactful major league baseball player. 

 

Outfield: Travis Demeritte; Atlanta Braves (2% owned) Age: 24

 

Current Level: Triple-A 

A former first round pick, Travis Demeritte fits into the post-hype sleeper category of prospects. He broke out in 2016 with 28 home runs, 17 steals, and a .915 OPS in High-A ball as a 21-year-old. His 33% strikeout rate that season showed clear flaws in his game, but it still seemed Demeritte had big-time potential. Unfortunately in 2017 and 2018, Demeritte didn’t show that same potential. His OPS across those two seasons fell to just .720 and he hit just 32 home runs in 1,005 plate appearances. That was especially alarming because power is his calling card. The Braves decided to have Demeritte start 2019 in Triple-A after spending his underwhelming 2017 and 2018 in Double-A, and he has responded by having his best season since his breakout 2016. A combination of his highest walk rate since 2013 at 12.8% and career-low in strikeout rate at 24.2% show a much improved plate approach. At the same time his 15 home runs in 297 plate appearances and .287 ISO show the power that made him a former top prospect in the Braves farm. The speed aspect of his game seems like it’s mostly evaporated, but I would not be surprised if Johan Camargo continues to struggle and the Braves call-up Demeritte to take over the utility bat role, and if he can get that chance there’s some solid power upside in Demeritte’s bat. 

 

Outfield: Edward Olivares; San Diego Padres (3% owned) Age: 23

 

Current Level: Double-A

As the main return in the Yangervis Solarte trade with Toronto in the 2017 offseason, San Diego acquired a very toolsy outfielder in Edward Olivares. Olivares’s power-speed combination is what makes him most interesting, with the latter tool being the more bankable. Olivares doesn’t have a perfect plate approach, with an 8.3% walk rate, but his strikeout rate is manageable at 20.1% and has stayed around that mark most of his minor league career. He profiles as more of a fourth outfielder with an above-average glove, but his speed is what makes him an interesting fantasy asset. His 21 steals in 314 plate appearances so far this season put him on about a 35 steal pace. His .819 OPS isn’t jaw-dropping, but as a current member of the Padres 40-man roster, Olivares is worth looking into if you need steals and believe in his bat. 

 

Starting Pitcher: Bryan Mata; Boston Red Sox (4% owned) Age: 20

 

Current Level: High-A 

Typically I will focus on players in Double-A and Triple-A for this article, but the upside is so clear for Bryan Mata, that I feel the need to tell everyone to go add him immediately in all dynasty leagues. Mata has broken out in 2019 with a 1.75 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 51 ⅓ innings. Mata currently features a very good fastball that sits around 94-96 mph and can top out at 99 mph. He also has an inconsistent changeup and a solid curveball, but the most interesting part of his offering is a slider he added in the offseason that he’s used heavily against left-handed hitters, and lefties’ OPS against him has dropped from .860 a year ago to .644 this season. 2018 was weird for Mata, as the walk rate jumped from 8.0% to an eye-popping 17.7%. In 2019 it has dropped back down to 8.3%, but the fact he completely lost his control for a season is alarming. Mata has also shown elite home run prevention in his minor league career with a 0.2 HR/9 across his 261 ⅓ minor league innings. Mata to me is the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization and will garner top-100 prospect hype coming into the 2021 season. 

 

Relief Pitcher: Kyle Nelson; Cleveland Indians (0% owned) Age: 22

 

Current Level: Double-A

Kyle Nelson’s profile is an interesting, yet familiar one. His fastball sits around 93 mph, which isn’t great for a reliever, but his slider is one of the nastiest pitches in the minor leagues. It has helped lead the way to some great results in the minors for Nelson. His career 154:25 K:BB ratio across 105 ⅓ innings shows how dominant he’s been. He was recently called up to Double-A for the first time in his professional career, and the early results have continued to be fantastic, with a 1.69 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 21 ⅓ innings. It’d be a bit of a surprise to see Nelson on the major league roster in 2019, but I would consider him very likely for 2020, and if you have space to carry a reliever, Nelson would be at the top of my list of ones to stash. 

(Photo by Icon Sportswire)

Jt Kohout

Twenty years old. Huge baseball, basketball, and football fan. Most importantly a diehard Orioles fan. Also write for FakeTeams of SBNation and Numberfire.

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