Prospects are always fun to follow for fantasy baseball enthusiasts. When the next big thing makes his mark on baseball’s biggest stage, fantasy geeks take pride in saying “I knew about him when he was riding the bus in Biloxi!”
This season I’ll once again help you navigate through the murky prospect waters on a regular basis, so be sure to check in regularly on RotoBaller.
My 2017 prospect coverage kicks off with a three-up, three-down piece on MLB prospects both gaining and losing steam. So before the popular industry lists are released, you can get a “one up” on your competition here.
Editor's note: Be sure to also check out our 2017 fantasy baseball rankings dashboard. It's already loaded up with tons of great rankings articles and draft analysis. Aside from our tiered staff rankings for every position, we also go deep on MLB prospect rankings, impact rookies for 2017, and dynasty/keeper rankings as well. Bookmark the page, and win your drafts.
Three Up - Rising Prospects
Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
The Braves thought so highly of Ian Anderson that they took the hard-throwing righty with the third-overall pick in last year’s draft. After signing a $4 million bonus, the 18-year-old was ready to roll. Over two different levels of rookie-ball, Anderson finished the season with a 2.04 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 39.2 innings. He also had a 36/12 K/BB ratio.
Anderson will turn 19 years old in May, and he will likely start the season in rookie-ball once again. He is quite a way from joining the big leagues, but with the electric stuff he possesses, the Braves believe Anderson is their ace of the future.
The likes of Kolby Allard, and possibly even Mike Soroka will rank ahead of him on Atlanta’s organizational prospect list, but make no mistake about it: Anderson is the young Braves pitcher to own in dynasty. He should launch his way up all the industry lists this year.
Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago Cubs
Eloy Jimenez turned 20 years old in November and has already completed three years in professional baseball. Jimenez has improved by leaps and bounds every year, and the Cubs think he will only continue to get better.
Jimenez hit .227/.268/.367 with three HR in 2014. He improved that to .284/.328/.418 with seven HR and 33 RBI in 2015. In his first year of low-A ball, he hit .329/.369/.532 with 14 HR and 81 RBI. The biggest knock on Jimenez right now is that he doesn’t draw enough walks, but the Cubs aren’t going to complain about his career .297 batting average. Expect Eloy to hit at the Double-A level at some point this summer. He has the chance to become the next big Cubs’ prospect to make a splash at Wrigley Field. That will likely come in 2018, but for now he is a prospect who is seeing his stock rise.
Juan Soto, OF, Washington Nationals
I was very bullish on Victor Robles last year, and felt as though the industry was not giving him enough respect. Sure enough, by year end, Robles made an ascent up all the prospect rankings you could find. The next line of Washington’s international signing gems is headed by Juan Soto.
Soto was signed by the Nationals back in 2015 and made his debut last season. The youngster was just 17 years old during his debut season, turning 18 in October. In short-A and rookie-ball combined, the phenom hit .368/.420/.553 with five HR and 32 RBI in 190 at-bats. The sweet-swinging lefty displayed his incredible knack for barreling up balls while having a keen eye at the plate; he also played more than adequate defense in right field.
Expect Soto to start the season in rookie ball, with the chance to hit his way to Single-A as an 18-year-old. The Nationals seem to have no qualms about moving prospects through their system quickly, and Soto could be on the fast track to the big leagues. Another solid season will propel the Dominican up all of your favorite prospect lists.
Three Down - Falling Prospects
Phil Bickford, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Phil Bickford’s potential is so good that he was selected in the first round. . . twice. The Toronto Blue Jays took him 10th-overall in 2013, but he decided to go to junior college instead. The San Francisco Giants then selected Bickford with the 18th-overall pick in 2015, before dealing him to Milwaukee last summer in the Will Smith trade.
Bickford has dominated throughout his minor-league career, posting a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with a 10.56 K/9 IP in 142.1 innings. He’s still just 21 years old and he can continue to grow into an even better pitcher, but the concerns for his status as a prospect are starting to take over his potential.
Bickford was suspended for 50 games for using marijuana in 2015, and he received another suspension in December. So, Bickford will sit for the first 50 games of 2017, hurting his development by almost half a season. Even without the suspension, there have been rumblings of a possible move to the bullpen. The fact that he can’t seem to lay off the marijuana, as well as a possible shift to the bullpen really hurt his stock, and he is likely too big of a risk for dynasty owners at this point. In the words of Stephen A. Smith: “stay off the weeeeeeeeed!”
Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Tyler Glasnow has made a lot of noise over the last couple of years, and rightfully so. Glasnow can light up the radar gun and has a devastating breaking ball. At 6-foot-8, the 23-year-old has all the makings of a superstar.
Glasnow has a career 2.03 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 500 career minor league innings, and has a ridiculous 11.61 K/9 IP. The stuff is not the question, and it never has been for the former fifth-rounder. Simply put: Glasnow can’t throw strikes. He has a career 4.43 BB/9 IP in the minors, and his control issues came to light in his 23.1 major league innings in 2016. He walked 13 batters while serving time as both a starter and reliever. In those innings, Glasnow showed his swing-and-miss stuff, picking up 24 strikeouts.
Again, the stuff is not the problem with Glasnow, but the legitimate question posed is if he will ever harness that electrifying stuff? Without the control, he’ll never realize that ace-like potential that he has. And if he doesn’t, he could wind up pitching his way into a relief role. Glasnow is still one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and the case could be made that he’s the best. If he continues to struggle with the command, however, it will be a matter of time before he starts struggling as a starter.
Aaron Judge, OF, New York Yankees
Gary Sanchez was not the only Yankee young buck to make a spectacular debut. Aaron Judge also did the same; unfortunately his assault only last three games. After going 5-for-10 in his first three games, with two HR and two BB, Judge fell flat on his face. He went 10-for his last 74, with 40 strikeouts.
The jury is definitely not out on Judge yet. He still has a chance to develop into the 30-plus homerun hitting prodigy that Yankees fans hoped he would develop into. His career minor league slash line of .278/.373/.473 and roughly 25% K-rate shows that he is more than capable of hitting.
Expectations have been tempered a bit, leaving some in the New York front office to be hesitant to hand the reigns to Judge. He will get an opportunity though. When the verdict is in, Judge will likely wind up being an everyday player, but again, his stock has dropped a bit.