The Pitcher List dynasty staff dropped our Top 100 Prospect rankings last week, which combined lists from 11 different staffers. Understandably, there was a lot of variation in how many of us viewed each prospect. Some valued players who are closer to making the big leagues, or have already had a small level of big league success, while others shifted toward teenagers who showed promise in the lower-levels or in the DSL.
I fall more into the former category, as evidenced by the following list, although I have some guys who I either love or hate that don’t fall into a particular distinction — just my own preferences.
Here are the players I differed on the most, along with some general dynasty advice:
Prospects I’m higher on
Jazz Chisholm, SS, Miami Marlins
My rank: 37/Staff rank: 61
I have a soft spot for Jazz. Not the music, although I am partial to Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, thanks to a jazz history class I took in college. The history of Jazz Chisholm, however, will now be forever linked with the unique prospect-for-prospect trade engineered last summer between Miami and Arizona, which sent Chisholm to the beaches and electric right-hander Zac Gallen to the desert.
Chisholm has been considered one of the strongest middle infield prospects for nearly two years now, thanks mostly to his excellent 25 home run, 17 stolen base season in 2018 between A and A+. He took a step backward in 2019, hitting just .204 in Double-A with the Diamondbacks — albeit with 18 home runs and 13 steals — but he turned things around in Double-A with Miami, slashing .284/.383/.494 with three home runs and three steals in 23 games.
Strikeouts are the biggest concern for Chisholm, who has struck out in nearly 30% of his minor league plate appearances. But his walk rate has continued to climb, and in his small showing with Miami, he lowered that K rate to 25.5% — perhaps a sign of growth for the 22-year-old.
Chisholm has a violent swing and tons of raw power, with elite exit velocities and the ability to put the ball in the air, which could easily allow him to hit 30-40 home runs annually in the big leagues. I’m not sure how much of the speed will translate to the majors, but there’s some real Javier Baez-type potential here, and I’m more than happy sliding him into the top 40 prospects despite a small step backward in 2019.
For nearly every one of my higher picks, I was predictable: I like hitters who are close to or in the big leagues. Jung is the exception, not as a hitter but as a player who, at age 22 with 44 professional games played, is far away from the show.
You never want to glean too much from a small sample size, but Jung absolutely crushed, crushed rookie ball pitching to the tune of a .588 BA in 19 plate appearances. The Rangers allowed him to skip all the way to Single-A, where he still posted very respectable numbers: .287/.363/.389 with a home run and four steals in 40 games played.
Posting a 121 wRC+ at an advanced level (considering his experience) is certainly notable, and after he raked for three years at Texas Tech and got picked eighth overall, well, it’s no surprise he was on all 11 of our Top-100 lists.
The reason he’s higher on mine is some of the underlying numbers he posted in Single-A, namely an eye-popping 33% line drive rate and a 33% rate of hitting to the opposite field, both traits that more than make up for his relative lack of power at that level.
If he can muscle the ball a bit more in 2020, which is certainly not out of the question considering the raw power he’s displayed in the past, he could be a big-time breakout star.
This starts my string of being higher on close-to-the-big-leagues hitters than the rest of my colleagues. Hays had a very nice big league debut in 2019, slashing .309/.373/.574 with four home runs and two steals in 21 games played.
Hays, a third-round pick back in 2016, finished 2019 with 21 home runs and 11 stolen bases in 108 games played, split between a whopping five different levels. A true center fielder with 60-grade raw power and 55-grade speed, Hays is a consensus Top-100 guy.
However, I think he has the makings of a future stud, like stud-stud, with power/speed/plate discipline and good contact rates allowing him to potentially contribute in all five categories as soon as 2020 — where he could be leading off for Baltimore.
I’m honestly not sure what is holding Sam Hilliard back from being a consensus Top-100 prospect. I have some guesses, namely his age (25) his lack of pedigree (15th-round pick in 2015) and the same thing that nearly cost Larry Walker the Hall of Fame: Coors Field.
However, none of that is enough to sway me away from the hyper-toolsy Hilliard, and in fact my deeper research makes me even more enthusiastic about him — both in 2020 and beyond.
Hilliard spent a few years at various junior colleges before he had a strong junior year at Wichita State. Still, he was very raw, which caused him to drop into the 15th round — a straight-up scouting error according to Eric Longenhagen at FanGraphs. And while the tools remained present at the lower levels of the minors, he did display some discouraging swing-and-miss tendencies.
However, last year the tools overpowered everything else, as he managed to blast a whopping 42 home runs with 24 steals, 122 runs, and 114 RBI, split between Triple-A and 27 games in the big leagues. Hilliard did strike out about 28 percent of the time, but that came with a 10 percent walk rate and respectable .340 OBP.
Scouting reports paint Hilliard as a 55/60 grade runner, and his 60-grade raw power is clearly beginning to show up in games, as evidenced by the 42 boppers in 2019. Some people will scoff at the numbers coming in the PCL, but as long as he is with the Rockies, he’ll have that advantage — so why knock him for it?
Hilliard is penciled in as Colorado’s starting right fielder, and while I think he could fall into a platoon, he is an asset I’d want in nearly every dynasty league, and honestly someone I would target in deeper redraft leagues as well. His NFBC ADP of 289 indicates he’s being viewed as a late round flyer in 12-teamers, a spot where I’m more than comfortable grabbing him.
Once again, my affinity for guys with close proximity to the major leagues is what drew me to Dalbec, a sentiment that was not shared by a single other one of the 11 staff writers.
Dalbec is never going to hit for a high average in the big leagues, but his raw power (70-grade at Fangraphs) could easily lead to 30 home runs annually, and he’s taken strides to work on his contact numbers, which resulted in a 25.1% strikeout rate in Double-A and a 23.1% mark at Triple-A, both massive improvements from 2018.
A fourth-round pick in 2016, Dalbec is a third baseman by trade but transitioned to first base last year, likely in response to the emergence of Rafael Devers for Boston. Dalbec is actually in contention to platoon with Mitch Moreland some at first base right out of the chute, depending if Michael Chavis wins the starting second base job.
With back-to-back seasons of 26 and 27 home runs and plus walk rates, along with steadily decreasing strikeout numbers, I feel confident that Dalbec can be a .240/30/90 type guy with a solid OBP, numbers that easily place him on the fantasy radar, and should have him among the top 100 dynasty prospects. The floor is fairly low, as a platoon power hitter with little else to show, but I like the upside enough to drop him in the top 100.
Prospects I’m lower on
A.J Puk, LHP, Oakland A’s
My rank: 51 /Staff rank: 30
It’s not that I don’t like A.J. Puk. He’s an imposing 6-foot-7 left-hander with a plus fastball and slider, and strong offerings in both his changeup and his curveball. I just see the classic TINSTAAPP red flags: the injury risk and the bullpen risk.
Maybe it’s because he looks a bit like Josh Hader, or maybe it’s because he’s made just four starts since the 2017 season, only one above High-A, but I’m not sure he will hold up over a full season as a starter, and we haven’t seen enough of him deep into games to know if he can be a consistent, top-of-the-rotation strikeout machine a la Randy Johnson.
I know he’s projected to start this season fighting for a rotation spot, and the A’s recently announced he and Jesus Luzardo don’t have inning limits this year, but with less than 30 innings pitched last year and none in 2018, I’m not buying into Puk at all in 2020 — and realistically think he ends up an absolute stud out of the bullpen in a year or two.
That still has fantasy value, as we have seen from Hader, so I still value Puk as nearly a top 50 guy. However, I can’t commit to a guy who has a classic bullpen profile to a top 30 spot until I see him actually make some starts above Double-A.
I buck tradition with my less-than-favorable ranking for Solak. Typically, I am higher on hitters who have reached the big leagues and played well (a la Hays and Hilliard), but Solak has some issues that have me concerned.
His 2019 season was one for the ages, as he blasted 32 home runs with eight steals and elite OBP rates, but a look under the curtain shows some discouraging truths — albeit in his small big league sample.
Solak had an 88.3 mph average exit velocity, barely above the MLB average, along with a really weak 6.3 degree launch angle. Basically, he was a worm-burner with average exit velocity — along with abhorrent numbers against off-speed pitches (.212 wOBA against breaking balls).
I think he’ll start to see way more off-speed stuff in 2020, now that he has some tape out on him, and his lack of a true position (he is terrible defensively, and Roster Resource does not have him starting for Texas right away) could be a recipe for a big step backward in 2020 — enough to have him off the radar heading into his age 26 season in 2021.
In deeper dynasty leagues, and ones that count OBP, I could see him having value — which is why he still makes the top 100, but it’s safe to say I’m more concerned than my peers for Solak’s future.
I’m actually surprised I only have two pitchers on my lower list, as I tend to follow the TINSTAAPP rule almost to a fault. That’s part of the reason I’m down on Gray, and while some will think that’s unfair after he posted a masterful 2019 campaign across three levels, I feel like I need to see more from his secondaries before I project him as an automatic big league rotation piece and not as a future reliever.
Gray has a nice fastball with movement and velocity in the mid-90s, but his slider is inconsistent and his changeup is squarely below-average. Without another breaking pitch, I fear Gray falls into the mold of a two-pitch pitcher — which does not play in a big league rotation.
There’s plenty of reason to think I’m wrong, but I still think even if he puts it all together he’s a No. 3/4 starter. And with a low floor and relatively middling ceiling, I’m not ready to crown him a top 100 guy just yet.
Similar to Gray, I’m just not quite ready to put Martinez in my top 100. One of the top J-2 signings in 2018, the Blue Jays shortstop hit .275 with seven home runs and a 150 wRC+ in 40 games in the Gulf Coast League.
At 18 years old, Martinez is already a stout 6-foot-1 and 188 pounds, with FanGraphs lamenting his lack of physical growth potential as a negative. He also has a hard-to-predict swing, with a tendency to take really ugly hacks. While that did not manifest itself in strikeout issues in the GCL (17.8% rate) I’m going to take a cautious approach with Martinez.
If he proves he can make enough contact to hit .270 or so, he’ll jump up my (and a lot of other people’s) list in the near future. He has potential 60-grade raw power and enough defensive skills to stick in the infield. Without much speed, Martinez will need to hit well in order to avoid being a power-only fantasy asset — which still plays okay at a middle infield spot, but won’t make him a must-own dynasty asset.
Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire | Featured graphic designed by James Peterson (@jhp_design714 on Instagram and Twitter)