Checking In: Top MLB Prospects to Make Fantasy Impacts (Week 6)

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Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of our Checking In: Top MLB Prospects list. Here, I will be discussing some of the hottest prospects in the game, guys performing well over the whole season, and guys heating it up over their past couple games.

Another thing I tried to do was include some high profile players, while also calling out performers who may gain a little less recognition than others. I know everyone knows who Rafael Devers and Jose Berrios are, but not many know who guys like Tyler Mahle and Kevin Kramer are. Unless you're a Reds fan, in which case you might know who Mahle is (also, can we please applaud the fact that it's May and the Reds are in second place in the NL Central, and a game and a half ahead of Chicago). Or, I guess there are probably some Pittsburgh fans out there who know who Kramer is (not the Seinfeld character), but he is definitely a lesser known prospect.

So which prospects should you all be looking into? Read below and find out!

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Hot Prospects this Season

Rhys Hoskins (1B, PHI, AAA)

Stats: 119 PA, .330/.412/.631, 8 HR, 0 SB, 11.8% BB rate, 16.8% K rate

If there was ever any doubt Hoskins’ 2016 success was due to the hitter-friendly environment of Reading, he is doing all he can to wash those doubts away. Hoskins bashed 38 home runs last year, but critics believed part of that success might’ve been the result of a hitter-friendly environment and saw his 21.2 percent strikeout rate as an indicator that he would struggle when the fences were pushed back. He is now on pace for 41 home runs, his strikeout rate has plummeted and his average has gone up.

Once believed to be a future power hitter with no batting average, Hoskins is slowly starting to turn that impression around with his solid plate discipline figures and career-high .330 average. The more Tommy Joseph struggles, the more likely it appears Hoskins will get a shot to start this season. When he receives his promotion, he could be a solid first baseman to own for a source of home run pop and respectable batting average.

Rafael Devers (3B, BOS, AA)

Stats: 101 PA, .312/.366/.559, 6 HR, 0 SB, 7.9% BB rate, 18.8% K rate

Being one of the youngest players in Double-A is not always easy, but Devers has made it look that way. He has continued to build off a stellar season at Advanced Class-A, demonstrating near elite power so far. His six home runs in 25 games put him on pace for over 38 home runs, 36 if you assume he reaches 600 plate appearances. This after he hit only 11 home runs in 128 games last year.

Scouts have long been in love with his swing, and some believe him to be a budding elite third baseman with a true middle-of-the-order presence. At only 20 years old, Devers has the future still well ahead of him, but some see a path to the majors this season if he keeps hitting this way and the Red Sox continue to lack a true third baseman. His upside is tantalizing, and he is worth an own in all dynasty leagues. Who knows, maybe he will be valuable in some redraft leagues later this season too.

Jack Flaherty (SP, STL, AA)

Stats: 39.1 IP, 0.69 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 27.6% K rate, 3.5% BB rate, 2.6% HR/FB, .171 AVG

Pitchers would do anything to have the season Flaherty is having. His worst start this season came on April 30, when he allowed one run on seven hits and one walk over five innings. That was his worst start out of six total games. Every other start, he has lasted at least six innings, has yet to allow more than one run, hasn’t walked multiple batters in a game and has only twice allowed more than four hits (one of those was the aforementioned worst start). Not bad for his first taste of Double-A.

Flaherty is not as highly regarded as his success might indicate. He is ranked only eighth on the list of the Top 30 Cardinals prospects by MLB Pipeline. His stuff grades out as average to above-average, though he balances it out with plus command which helps raise his floor. He lacks a truly dominant pitch which limits his upside, but he still profiles as at least a future middle-of-the-rotation arm.

Tyler Mahle (SP, CIN, AA)

Stats: 43.2 IP, 1.44 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 29.8% K rate, 5.6% BB rate, 5.1% HR/FB, .152 AVG

Quietly breaking onto the scene last season, Mahle looked outstanding at High-A, but was bit by the home run ball last year at Double-A. Safe to say, he has corrected a lot of his issues from last year. In seven starts this year, he has allowed two. And he has really been dominant in nearly every start this year. He threw a perfect game on April 22 in which he struck out eight batters, and has lasted at least five innings in every start with only two starts yielding more than four hits and one run. And despite being more of a groundball artist, he has still struck out at least six batters in every inning, at least seven in each of his last five starts.

Scouts have always been high on Mahle becoming a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. Many have compared him to Mike Leake given his hard biting sinker and near pinpoint control. He strikes out more batters than Leake does and comes armed with all average to slightly above-average secondary offerings. Like Flaherty, his upside is capped because of a lack of any true out-pitches, but he could be a solid No. 3 starter as early as later this season.

 

Hot Prospects over the Past Several Weeks

Franklin Barreto (SS, OAK, AAA)

Stats: (since 4/20) 76 PA, .389/.421/.569, 2 HR, 2 SB, 5.3% BB rate, 25.0% K rate

As stated earlier with Devers, it is not always easy to be one of the youngest players in your league. But that is a challenge facing the 21-year-old Franklin Barreto right now. So far, he has lived up to that challenge. He is striking out at a high rate this season, but he has continued to make a ton of contact and drive the ball with authority. Over his past 17 games, though, he has really been turning on the jets, with at least one hit in all one of those games.

Barreto will get a chance later this season, especially with Marcus Semien missing time with his broken wrist. The Athletics will likely wait until after his Super Two deadline, but he will see time in the majors this season almost undoubtedly. His combination of power and speed is rare for a middle infield prospect and would be an absolute asset to fantasy owners. A move to second base may eventually be in the cards, but his potential to be a future 15/15 or even 20/20 player makes him worth owning in nearly all leagues.

Kevin Kramer (2B, PIT, AA)

Stats: (since 4/23) 57 PA, .392/.456/.588, 0 HR, 2 SB, 3.5% BB rate, 14.0% K rate

Never heard of Kramer? You’re probably not alone. Few have. But he is doing his best to make sure you know his name. Kramer is neither an elite power hitter nor is he an elite burner. But he makes a ton of contact, and it shows. Over his past 13 games, he has gone only one game without a hit, and only five games without a pair of hits.

This reflects a serious trend for him over this season. His .385 batting average is the highest among all Double-A batters, and he has already tied last season’s stolen base total (three) and is one shy of his home run total from last year (last year: 4, this year: 3) despite 92 fewer games played. Scouts have compared him to Neil Walker, and some say he will eventually develop 15-homer pop. Regardless, he could be a future contact-first middle-infielder like fellow Pirate prospect Kevin Newman and current Pirate shortstop Jordy Mercer. He is not necessarily a must-own guy this year, but he could be valuable as a depth piece in a few years.

Sean Newcomb (SP, ATL, AAA)
Stats: (since 4/25) 16.0 IP, 0.56 ERA, 1.49 FIP, 35.9% K rate, 9.4% BB rate, 0% HR/FB, .190 AVG

A left-handed Tyler Glasnow. That’s probably the best way to describe Sean Newcomb. He’s got size. He’s got electric stuff. And he’s got seemingly no control. At least, that’s what it seemed for a while. Newcomb has lowered his walk rate to the lowest it’s been since 2014, and even though it’s still a small sample size, it’s a promising step forward. With Newcomb’s near-elite stuff, any progress is a good sign.

He is just one step away from the majors now, and if he can keep that walk rate down, he will be up in the big leagues before you know it. He is still only 23 years old, and the Jon Lester comparisons still linger even through all his struggles. Southpaws who throw as hard as he does with an elite curveball are hard to come by, giving him sky-high potential. If he gets a chance to start this season and his command really has improved, he will be worth owning in nearly all leagues.

Jose Berrios (SP, MIN, AAA)

Stats: (since 4/25) 20.2 IP, 0.87 ERA, 26.6% K rate, 6.3% BB rate, 4.3% HR/FB, .162 AVG

Berrios was just flat-out terrible last year in the majors. He walked 12.5 percent of opposing batters, struck out 17.4 percent of batters and posted a dreadful 8.02 ERA and 6.20 FIP. But this season, Berrios has been exceptional at Triple-A. He had one start this season where he allowed more than one run, but since that start, he has been nearly unhittable in his most recent three starts. His command has improved, and it appears he is pitching with more confidence than he had last season.

Don’t let his awful debut last year scare you away from Berrios. His first four starts were made when he was just 21 years old, and still today is only 22. There is a chance he sees another start this season, and if he does, you should not miss the chance to add him to your roster. He has all the makings of a future ace and could be a major boost for fantasy rosters this season.

 

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