Seasonal fantasy baseball leagues are nearing their ends, making it a great time to start looking into the future. Dynasty league owners should already have started deciding on the best MLB prospects available to them-- whether it be for prospect drafts or free agent stashes. However, there are a handful of projected MLB superstars who aren't worth stashing-- that is, if you are a keeper-league owner. But in dynasty formats, it is never too early to pounce on elite prospects, even if they are several years away from debuting.
Long term dynasty success stems directly from farm-system research. In order to maintain and sustain competitiveness, owners will need to study the major league farm systems. Now, one may think that only top-rated prospects hold any relevance, but this train of thought couldn't be further from the truth. There are plenty of deeper formats out there, for example, where middle- to lower-tier prospects are worth scouting.
What constitutes a prospect? Is it a guaranteed stud, a major league regular, or a career-long minor leaguer? Well, it's actually all of the above. With any prospect comes the infamous 11-letter word: uncertainty. Prospects have potential, with some higher than others, but nothing is ever assured or guaranteed. Sure, there are scouting reports, but don't count on crystal balls falling from the sky. Listen folks, if predicting player careers were as easy as munching on a bag of Cracker Jacks, then where would all the excitement lie?
It is your job to learn the farms, and look into which crops you should invest in. Prices may vary and values are constantly changing, but the market is now open. It's all yours. What follows are my five best dynasty league hitting prospects. Use the "Legend Guide" at your disposal to accurately value the players.
For each prospect, you must take into account each of five key factors:
- Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) - debut date
- Statistical Makeup (SM) - category strengths
- Ultimate Upside (UU) - highest potential at peak of career
- Levels of Impact (LI) - growth rate of skill-set
- Durability (D) - duration of prime years
* Player Comparisons are not duplications of player's careers. They are used as guidelines to display the "type of statistical input" each prospect is expected to provide.
MLB Prospects - Fantasy Baseball Dynasty League Hitter Rankings
1) Oscar Taveras, St. Louis Cardinals
Future Position: OF, most likely RF.
Best Player Comparison: Vladimir Guerrero
Risk: Moderately low
Floor vs. Ceiling: Borderline All-Star vs. best hitter in the game.
SM: Elite BA, HR, and RBI hitter.
UU: Taveras is a classic "number-3" hitter with Triple-Crown potential. This could be fantasy's next Miggy, except at the outfield position.
Prime Years' Stat line: .320 BA, 35 HR, 120 RBI, 100 R, 15 SB.
LI: Taveras will have elite BA and RBI numbers right from the start, and his home run potential will quickly emerge. His SB numbers could take a major dip in his later years, but speed isn't his primary asset. 10-15 SB seasons should be the norm. An immediate impact player, he should be stashed in all 2014 formats.
D: There are injury concerns here-- Taveras experienced a season-ending ankle sprain while playing for Triple-A Memphis in 2013. However, his ankle ligaments were repaired via surgery, so he will be ready to play next season (7+ prime years).
2) Byron Buxton, Minnesotta Twins
Future Position: CF
Best Player Comparison: Eric Davis
Risk: Extremely high; still needs to polish his hitting tools.
Floor vs. Ceiling: An above-average regular vs. one of the best power/speed combos this game has ever seen.
ETA: Late 2015 - Early 2016
SM: Good BA hitter, excellent HR and SB hitter .
UU: Buxton is the ultimate five-tool player with elite HR and SB potential, he could become one of the best all-around players alongside Mike Trout, except by providing more power and less speed.
Prime Years' Stat Line: .280 BA, 30 HR, 90 RBI, 90 R, 40 SB
LI: Buxton's power tools should take to-to-three years to fully maximize, as his body still has a lot of filling out to do. In the meantime, expect a 15-20 HR-type hitter initially. His SB potential is immense as he possesses high-end speed, especially for the earlier stages of his career.
D: His amazing level of athleticism should make him a great defensive player--creating a nice safety net in case he struggles offensively. The biggest downside to his durability projection is his style of play. It's not by nature, but rather by his attitude of the game. Buxton is a max-effort player who makes all the hustle plays. (5+ prime years)
3) Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds
Future Position: CF; could become a 2B
Best Player Comparison: Vince Coleman
Risk: Insanely high. His swing needs several refinements.
Floor vs. Ceiling: Utility player with a very weak batting average vs. one of the greatest base-stealing threats in MLB history.
ETA: September Callup.
SM: Excellent run scorer and elite SB hitter.
UU: Hamilton has cheetah-like qualities-- and even as a bench player, he would steal 30 bases in his sleep. If he can maintain a respectable BA, then he is very likely to break base-running records.
Prime Years' Stat Line: .260 BA, 5 HR, 40 RBI, 90 R, 90 SB
LI: As long as Hamilton makes it to first, there is no chance of slowing him down. Hamilton owners in rotisserie formats will benefit the most-- utilizing a single player to dominate the stolen-base category. Can you imagine a Rajai Davis 2.0? Didn't think so. Well, that is exactly what Hamilton has the potential to be. Stash him in keeper leagues now!
D: His durability doesn't project to be great, since maintaining an elite level of speed is hard to do. But hey, who can complain if he gives you multiple 90-SB seasons, right? For however long his legs can hold up, there's little reason to believe he won't remain highly productive. (5+ prime years)
4) Jonathan Singleton, Houston Astros
Future Position: 1B
Best Player Comparison: Eddie Murray
Risk Moderately low.
Floor vs. Ceiling: Borderline All-Star vs. a perennial MVP candidate.
ETA: Early 2014 - Mid 2014
SM: Excellent BA and RBI hitter; good HR hitter.
UU: Singleton has a beautiful and natural swing with power to all-fields. Playing in an extreme hitters' park should allow him to succeed in the HR department.
Prime Years' Stats: .290 BA, 25 HR, 110 RBI, 80 R, 5 SB
LI: He should break Astros' training camp on the starting roster-- but regardless way, Singleton will be an offensive force right away. He has solid power potential to go along with tremendous contact-hitting ability.
D: There are question marks regarding his worth ethic, but he already has all the tools to become a superstar. And by playing for such a youthful team, his long-term future looks even brighter. The Astros are serious about becoming contenders and Singleton is one of the franchise's cornerstones. (7+ prime years)
5) Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Future Position: SS; could become a 3B
Best Player Comparison: Adrian Beltre
Risk: Moderately high.
Floor vs. Ceiling: An above-average regular vs. one of the best power-hitting shortstops or third basemen.
ETA: Late 2014 - early 2015
SM: Excellent HR and RBI hitter.
UU: Baez is a classic "clean-up" hitter with elite HR potential. If he can develop a more selective approach at the plate, he could become one of the game's most feared hitters.
Prime Years' Stat Line: .270 BA, 30 HR, 100 RBI, 80 R, 10 SB
LI: His elite bat speed should help make up for his lack of plate discipline. In his early years, it will probably take him time to develop consistent contact, but his power tool is already advanced beyond his years.
D: Position eligibility remains uncertain. Even if he doesn't become a SS, his value should still remain extremely high. Of course, it would be nice to own a player at a premium position, but Baez's potential move to the hot corner only benefits him from an "injury-risk" perspective. (7+ prime years).