Early season minor league performance needs to be tempered with caution because of the small sample size, but it can be relevant in yearly leagues. It can best benefit Fantasy owners when it’s at the Triple-A level, where quality performance can earn a player a promotion to the major leagues. A 27-year-old dominating at High-A won’t perk my ears up because a player of that age and that level should be dominating younger competition. But when a player is a step away from the major leagues that performance can translate to Fantasy relevance extremely quickly.
Here are some prospects doing some noteworthy things early in the 2017 minor league season.
Jacob Faria, SP Tampa Bay Rays
Innings Pitched 41.1 – SOs 62 – ERA 3.92 – Whip 1.33
Faria lacks sizzle due to average fastball velocity and the lack of a breaking ball of any meaningful kind, but the strikeouts have always been there because of a plus changeup. He currently leads the Triple-A International League in strikeouts while maintaining a manageable BB/9 ratio.
It’s difficult to know where the Tampa Bay Rays see themselves and how they want to handle Faria this season, but if he is promoted he could be a two-start or matchup specific starter. Jharel Cotton of the Oakland A’s was a hot name during draft season and it was entirely due to his strikeout potential, which is entirely because of his plus changeup. Faria is a similar pitcher with less buzz and a lower ceiling, making him potentially available in leagues. It’s good business in Dynasty leagues to own Triple-A starting pitchers that are on the verge of receiving the call and Faria fits that description.
Dylan Cozens, OF Philadelphia Phillies
HRs 9 – SBs 1 – BA .221 – OBP .293
Cozens had a monstrous 40 home run season in 2016, but that has to be tempered with some skepticism because he had never hit more than 16 home runs in a minor league season and the breakout season came in a hitting environment that could be considered the minor league version of Coors Field. Cozens hits for power and steals bases, which makes him an intriguing Fantasy player once he is promoted, while his enormous K/9 (186 strikeouts in 521 at bats in 2016) raises questions about how effective he will be when he arrives in Philadelphia. If you’re batting .221 in Triple-A there is reason to doubt that he will make enough contact to contribute at the highest level. When Cozens is promoted, likely in late June or July, the tools justify a claim in deeper leagues, but don’t break your budget.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B Philadelphia Phillies
HRs 9 – BA .336 – OBP 427
Hoskins has hit at every level, suggesting that he will be able to hold his own at the Major League level, something I can’t necessarily say for fellow teammate Dylan Cozens. He will hit for some power but as a first baseman the bar is much higher, and that’s where Hoskins value falls short in Fantasy leagues. He lacks stolen base speed, the potential ceiling and the positional value as a first baseman that fellow teammate Dylan Cozens has as a power/speed outfielder. Hoskins is worth monitoring when he is promoted but doesn’t justify a claim except for in deep leagues with deep benches.
Lane Adams, OF Atlanta Braves
HRs 5 – SBs 10 – BA .295 – OBP .333
At 27 years of age Adams isn’t a prospect with a Dynasty league future, but in yearly leagues he is doing enough that it could justify a promotion to Atlanta to contribute in deeper Fantasy leagues. Nick Markakis has one home run and 10 extra base hits, so it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that they might want to give Adams a chance. At 11-20 the Braves are unlikely to promote a prized prospect until June or July, but they aren’t helping their future by providing Markakis full time at bats.
Max Moroff 2B/SS/3B Pittsburgh Pirates
HR 9 – SB 2 – BA .252 – OBP .360
Moroff was promoted and then demoted after only nine at bats, but he has the power, speed and defensive versatility to be of some value in deeper leagues in 2017. At 24 years old his Dynasty league value as a prospect is limited, but not completely lacking if you have expansive minor league roster limits. His limited ceiling is why he has never been a legitimate prospect, but he has an intriguing skill set for a Pirates franchise that relies on cheap talent from within the organization because of budgetary limitations. We don’t know when Jung Ho Kang will resurface and Jordy Mercer is an empty bat in the middle. Josh Harrison is having a resurgent season and his versatility along with Moroff’s provides the Pirates a lot of flexibility if they want to give Moroff a second chance.
Jamie Romak 3B San Diego Padres
HRs 11 – SB 2 – BA .347 – OBP .392
At 31 years old Romak isn’t a prospect, so Dynasty leaguers can move along, but he has always hit for power and he is doing it again at Triple-A in 2017. Aaron Judge is one of the biggest April stories in Major League Baseball and Jamie Romak is doing similar things at Triple-A. He has 25 strikeouts to go with only six walks in 95 at bats, so things don’t bode extremely well if he is promoted to San Diego, but he is smashing the ball. He is a “prospect” to watch in deep yearly leagues if he is promoted, even though his age precludes him from a place on Dynasty league rosters.
Dinelson Lamet SP San Diego Padres
Innings Pitched 33 – SOs 41 – ERA 3.55 – Whip 1.36
Lamet’s fastball sits mid-90s while his slider has the sharp bite to be an out pitch when used in combination with that kind of velocity. He has developed a changeup that should allow him to remain a mid-rotation or back end starter for the Padres.
The strikeouts have always been there for Lamet, and now that he has the third pitch to stick in the rotation, he has become a viable Dynasty league starter. With the benefit of pitching in the National League and in Petco Park, those strikeouts are an appealing reason to make a claim for your minors. He is also another one of those Triple-A pitchers who has a chance to contribute at the Major League level sooner rather than later. He should be owned in all Dynasty leagues.
Reymond Fuentes, OF Arizona Diamondbacks
HRs 0 – SBs 9 – BA .376 – OBP .403
Raimel Tapia, OF Colorado Rockies
HRs 0 – SBs 8 – BA .400 – OBP .434
Both Fuentes and Tapia are good athletes who can play centerfield, make consistent contact and will steal bases at the Major League level. Tapia has more power but it isn’t enough to impact his Fantasy value, while Fuentes has a path to at bats because of A.J. Pollock’s injury that Tapia doesn’t have. Both can provide cheap steals while contributing in the batting average category as well, and justify a roster spot only in deeper leagues due to their lack of home runs.
Wilmer Font, SP Los Angeles Dodgers
IP 42 – SO 63 – BB 9 – ERA 4.29 – Whip 1.05
Font doesn’t appear in Baseball America’s 2017 Dodgers Top 30 prospect rankings because he is almost 27 years old as of this writing, but his K/BB, BB/9 and K/9 ratios have been off the charts at Triple-A this season. Font has always struck out a lot of batters but in 2017, he has taken it to another level. With all of the injuries in Los Angeles and their cautious handling of Julio Urias it is difficult to see how Font doesn’t receive an opportunity sooner rather than later. At his age, Font isn’t a “prospect” per se, but Triple-A pitchers that are performing at a high level justify a claim in Dynasty and deeper yearly leagues because they can contribute now. He is worth a claim.