I decided that it’d be appropriate if I went back and analyzed our beginning of the season list from 2012 (the consensus list) and mine from 2013 to mark many of the noticeable differences in player value. This is a good way to see who really shot up the rankings, and who fell from their pedestal. First, we are gonna start with those who made the list, from obscurity (non-ranking) in the April version this year.
Instead of just regurgitating what I said in the Top 100 Prospects about each player, I think it’ll be far better to list all of the players and then comment on three players. This is my way of identifying those who I think I really believe in their growth. At the end you will see all the prospects listed who were “risers” and made the top 100 after getting no consideration in April, regardless of my feelings on them.
Guys Who Will Keep Rising
Jackie Bradley Jr (CF, BOS, 45): The fact that this kid is so “safe” makes people think he has very little upside. He’s not going to be a fantasy stud, and I accept that. And most of you should too. Or at least, it’s very unlikely that he ever becomes a top 20 fantasy player annually. Never say never. But he is going to play, and he’s going to rise on fantasy lists.
Statistics: In his first full season of pro-ball, the Gamecock .315/.430/.482 batting line between High-A and Double-A. He swiped 24 bases and clubbed out 9 home runs, padding that with a whopping 42 doubles and 4 triples. Most impressive might have been his batting eye, though. He struck out 89 times, and walked 87 times (Wow!). Yes, that’s nearly a 1:1 ratio of BB/K. In the future, it isn’t out of the question at all to see Jackie hit .285 year in and year out (peak of .300?), with 10+ home runs (likely 10-12, but peak could be 15-18) and stealing about 20 bases (peak of 25). So in his average season, you’ll see .285 with 12/20 (HR/SB). And at his best, you could get .300 with 16/25, phenomenal for a guy in CF.
Scouting: Jackie was a “polished” player coming out of South Carolina, and he dropped to the Red Sox in the supplemental round. And he’s found himself exceeding that purely polish label. He’s got a fantastic eye in the box, and good plate discipline. In any league counting OBP, he’s your man. He can hit for average and walk the world. Bradley should stick in CF because of his plus defense, so that shouldn’t be in question. Mainly, the biggest concern is how much is he going to grow as a player. Will he continue to progress and add to his abilities, or is he just maxing out right now and this is about what you’ll get for the next 15 years? Either way, he’ll be a welcome addition to the Sox, but if he can grow he’ll develop into a hell of a player.
Why is he going to rise? Well, I think he’s just underappreciated. Is he a star, or likely to become one? No, probably not. But if you account for the fact that he could end up the most consistently good player on your team for the next decade, he looks a hell of a lot better. A year from now, it’s not out of the question to think of JBJ as a top 30 prospect, not because of some immense upside that the low-A players have, but rather because of his great talent to be above average and maintain that so consistently. I’m a fan.
Michael Fulmer (SP, NYM, 77): I do think that he’s going to keep rising. I’m a huge fan of his. He’s young (drafted out of high school in the supplemental round, 44th overall) and has tons of time to improve. To me, he looks like a potential #2, and I think his aggressive mentality will lead him to achieve very near to his ceiling.
Statistics: Fulmer turned in a 2.74 ERA in 2012, pitching for Low-A Savannah. Opponents hit only .222 against him this season, which is promising for a starter. He turned in a FIP of 3.27, which even though it was below his ERA, it still shows a ton of promise and that he’s not just a lucky pitcher. His 3.27 FIP was much better than the league average of 3.83. Fulmer struck out 8.39 hitters and walked 3.16 per every 9 innings. This gives him a 2.66 K/BB ratio. Not bad for a pitcher, but I’d like to see the walks down around 2.7 in the future. The strikeouts aren’t elite, but I think they are maintainable and I think as his secondaries will improve to help him keep that number. I see him striking out 7.5 to 8 guys in the major leagues.
Scouting: Of course, we can’t just run the numbers, or else those scouting report junkies would have an aneurysm. So let’s see what he’s got. Fulmer has a mid 90s fastball with some natural movement on it, and it’s probably his best pitch. He also has a plus slider, which is thrown with speed. Fulmer is in need of some command refinement, but for now his electric arm and good stuff keeps him effective. His changeup will be the deciding factor. I personally think it can be league average, but others who project him as a back end or bullpen guy say that it’s a below average pitch.
Why is he going to rise? I think that Fulmer possesses the qualities that teams look for in a good arm as a #2/3 starter. He’s got two plus pitches, and I think that the changeup becoming average will look him in to being at least a #3 starter. As he reels in his command, he could even project higher. I think that this year he’ll take a step up to High-A and be just as good. And that will catch some eyes. Top 50 next season isn’t out of the question for Fulmer.
Dan Vogelbach (1B, CHC, 84): He’s one that people just need to get over the idea that he’s “too big” to play baseball. He may never be good in the field. Hell, he’ll likely never be above average at 1B, and won’t sniff anything other than DH for his career. But, Danny boy, he can just hit. He’s going to be a much bigger fantasy contributor than a real life one.
Statistics: Vogelbach tore up the Northwest and Arizona Leagues in 2012, mashing for a combined .322/.410/.641 line. That’s an incredible 1.051 OPS for him. Sure, that’s rookie ball and short season ball pitching, but he’s a high school player as well. He ripped out 17 home runs combined in the 245 at bats, and also hit 21 doubles. Laugh as you must, Dan legged out 3 triples as well! In the future, I can see Vogelbach maintaining Ortiz-esque talents. I think he’s harnessed his power more than someone like Billy Butler had pre-2012, so I think that he’ll surprise people when he hits the show. Could he hit .280 with 30 home runs year in and year out? It’s a possibility.
Scouting: Herein lies the biggest issue with Vogelbach: he’s 250 pounds now, and that’s the smallest he’s been in a long time. He reportedly had weight issues in high school that he was much higher, and only when he got into the Cubs organization did he drop weight. Scouts worry that he may not be able to maintain his low weight, and if he adds it back he’ll become even more immobile and perhaps his performance will also drop. He does square up the ball well, and he has a good eye in the box (35 BB, 48 K’s). So I think the biggest issue scouts see is the potential that his weight fluxuates up and affects his abilities.
Why is he going to rise? Well, I think that the biggest hump for scouts to get over is that he’s not prototypical. He’s not small, and he’s rather “big boned” as I’m sure his mother put it. But he can mash, and that’s really all that’s going to matter to us fantasy players. I think he’ll hit more than someone like CJ Cron, who typically gets more press (RBI King!) and that’s why I think as he gains more trust from scouts, he’ll gain a higher ranking on the lists.
Full Risers List
Top 50 Prospects: Alen Hanson (SS, PIT, 38), Austin Hedges (C, SD, 43), Jackie Bradley (CF, BOS, 44), Gregory Polanco (CF, PIT, 46), Kyle Crick (SP, SF, 48)
Top 75 Prospects: Jesse Biddle (SP, PHI, 49), Clayton Blackburn (SP, SF, 51), Chris Archer (SP, TB, 58), Tyler Austin (RF, NYY, 62), Alex Meyer (SP, MIN, 66), Delino DeShields Jr (CF, HOU, 68), Cody Buckel (SP, TEX, 71), Wilmer Flores (3B, NYM, 73), Brian Goodwin (CF, WAS, 74)
Top 100 Prospects: Trevor Story (SS, COL, 76), Michael Fulmer (SP, NYM, 77), Avisail Garcia (RF, DET, 80), Adam Eaton (CF, ARI, 83), Dan Vogelbach (1B, CHC, 84), Dan Straily (SP, OAK, 85), Roberto Osuna (SP, TOR, 93), Max Kepler (CF, MIN, 94), Yordano Ventura (SP, KC, 99), Brad Miller (SS, SEA, 100)
Honorable Mentions: Slade Heathcott (CF, NYY, HM), Victor Sanchez (SP, SEA, HM), Brandon Nimmo (CF, NYM, HM), Nick Tropeano (SP, HOU, HM), Kyle Gibson (SP, MIN, HM), Henry Owens (SP, BOS, HM), Tony Cingrani (SP, CIN, HM)