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Imagine this scenario: you are an owner who plays in a dynasty league, but all the known prospects have been already taken.  No Francisco Mejia, no Brendan Rodgers, and no Bo Bichette.  Your team sits in the rebuild section of the standings and now is an excellent time to start flipping those assets for the future.  And yet, when most of the big names are owned, it is hard to get fair value back for known quantities. Other owners can be stubborn, and the need to add future talent is already hard enough.

That is where this article fits into mid-season plans and offers insight on some below the radar players to add or acquire.  None of the players making this list are currently listed in the top 100 lists, but still, offer huge fantasy upside that can help most teams.  Ideally, owners reading this column play in leagues with the ability to stash prospects for the long term, as some of these players have yet to hit even age 20.  

Even better, when owners can, try to add these as the compliment pieces in significant deals.  When dealing top talent make sure to get those top prospects back, but sweeten the return by adding the no-name prospect who everyone will know this time next season.  This week the focus is on hitters, but will back next week with pitchers to target as well.  Happy prospect hunting to all. 

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Players to Target

C - Will Smith (C/2B/3B, LAD)

While not even the top catching prospect in the Dodger system, Smith has turned in a bounce-back 2018 campaign that should have him topping the lists for owners looking to add catching depth for future seasons.  After missing almost half of the 2017 season due to injuries, Smith has responded to post a slash of .292/.385/.605 with 16 homers in 55 games. With this in mind, the “bounceback” is less due to an off year, but not knowing how the player would respond in his recovery, and there are no flags to report.  Highlighting the profile is an 11.9 BB% which is consistent with the close to 12% he showed in the lower minors, but the ability to keep this as he moves up the ranks shows that this is a critical skill that he brings to the table. The homers are the other critical piece in the stat line, as his career high for a season coming into this year was 11 last year, and he has shot past that in just over half of the games.  While only catcher eligible right now, the other positions included are hints from scouts have linked to him in the Austin Barnes mode. If Smith keeps this profile he is that much more valuable, but if he stays at catcher this is a good bat with enough glove to make him a top C2 on most teams or a fringe starter early in his career.

1B - Chad Spanberger (1B, COL)

Power, power, and more power with the promise of Coors makes Spanberger the top player to watch at the position moving forward.  After a promising first year in pro ball, 2018 has seen the excellence continue, and other parts of his skillset have grown to round out the profile. In 82 games, he already has 21 homers with 16 steals, and all while slashing .323/.362/.601 for a WRC+ of 166 in “A” ball.  While still two or more years from the majors, there is nothing to turn owners off from adding this piece and then waiting for the play to pay off just for that power and speed alone. Even more, while still in the low minors, Spanberger has dropped his K rate from 26.4% last season to 21.4% this campaign.  The walk rate has fallen as well, down to 4.5% from a flat 10% last season. Even with this, the overall batted ball profile looks good with only a 34.2 GB%. While the jump to Double-A will be a good litmus test for long-term viability, all signs point to a prime Carlos Gonzalez-like player playing first for the Rockies in 2021+.

2B - Shed Long (2B, CIN)

The concern with Long has never been his bat. Well, that was, until last season.  In a tough 2017 campaign at Double-A, Long slashed .227/.319/.362 and failed to continue his stats from the lower levels.  This year has been different, and for all the right reasons. So far he is slashing .259/.351/.424 with nine homers and 13 steals.  While that batting average might need to come up to make him a lock to be a fantasy play at second, even if stays at .260 with that power and speed this looks to be a great prospect to target for stable, but not spectacular production. The other good news is that when he is approaching the majors, Scooter Gennett will be gone or locked up for the long term which is will give owners some ideas on how and when Long will feature.  Do not be alarmed to see Long move to the outfield with some defensive questions, but a power hitter at Great American should play well in all leagues.    

3B - Mylz Jones (3B, COL)

While not appearing on many, if any, prospect lists to enter the season Jones has quietly put together two excellent seasons that should shoot him up most lists going into 2019.  Ignoring that he does not have a place to play with the Rockies until Arenado leaves or retires, the bat looks good enough that he should find a position with the team, if not be a key trade piece next season.  This season at Double-A, Jones is slashing .283/.318/.453 with eight homers and seven steals. The power is well on pace to pass his marks in the last few seasons, but even on the high end 20 might be a good target when he makes it to the Bigs.  In the meantime, the speed and average keep him high at the position, and perhaps a move to second would fit the profile even better. What makes Jones stand out is how even his approach is regarding batted balls as his Pull%, Cent%, and Oppo% in order are 39%, 33.3%, and 27.7%.  While still more of a pull hitter than any other field, compared to others at this level the ability go to all fields is not something that needs to develop but exists already in the approach. A .270 hitter with 18+ homers and 15+ steals will be a great fantasy play at third and could be elite at CI.  

SS - Malquin Canelo (SS, PHI)

With shortstop being a stacked position, this pick digs into the Phillies system to pull out the player with the most upside to be an SS2 in the bigs.  After struggling at Double-A last season, Canelo has rebounded with a good season, and the stat line makes him look like a future fantasy play. First, this season he is slashing .271/.331/.403 with seven homers and 16 steals.  The issue has been bat speed, but with the average climbing, there should be enough contact to keep him in the mix moving forward. Second, the glove could be elite, as PhuturePhilly gave him a 65+ FV on the glove, and watching him this season, he looked at least to have that.  Again, not the flashy pick, but when no one will know who he is, this could be that extra piece that wins a trade in a dynasty league.  Contact and some pop at short is always good to have on a team.   

OF - Jason Martin (OF, PIT)

The former eighth-round pick of the Houston Astros in 2013, Martin is still only 22 and playing this year at Triple-A.  Only once in his career has he posted a WRC+ below 100, and that was in a 20 game stretch to begin his second pro season.  Since then the offensive profile has taken off and should be a player that fantasy owners are buying in on while they still can. Only playing 15 games at Indianapolis, Martin’s Double-A numbers perhaps offer a better picture of the profile, and this year he raked at that level.  In 68 games, Martin slashed .325/.392/.522 with nine homers and seven steals. While the K rate sat at 21.1%, the walk rate was respectable at 9.7%. Martin projects as a .280 hitter with 20+ homers and steals, making this a solid OF2 profile if it all works out.

OF - George Valera (OF, CLE)

This recommendation is a pick for the future as the J2 signing is only 17 and has a total of six games in professional ball.  That being said he should be on most top 100 lists to begin the 2019 season, and with that, the ability for owners to add will come down to waivers and other league formats. In those six games he has a .333 average with a homer and a steal, but perhaps the most impressive number is the tied K and BB rates at 13.6%. Before yelling sample size too loudly, remember that at 17 the ability to see any positive batting approach and patience is worth its weight in gold. Of all tools to flash this early, that should carry over and only improve as he learns and develops in the Cleveland system. There are concerns that the power plays up, but if he can hit for average with some speed, this could be the second coming of pre-injury Michael Brantley.  

OF - Myles Straw (HOU, OF)

So far in his pro career, the only bump Straw has hit concerning offensive production was, in fact, his first shot at Double-A last season.  Even then, this season’s re-try at the level has paid off with a quick promotion to Triple-A. In 27 games at Triple-A Fresno, he is slashing .300/.394/.382 with 15 steals and 18 runs.  Little to no power in this profile, Straw looks to be the better version of Tony Kemp regarding better plate production and just as much speed to keep him in the lineup. He does strike out a fair amount, but the plus .400 OBP numbers for most of his career in the minors shows he can get on base even when he makes outs at the plate.  When stealing he has only been caught 12% of the time, and if this keeps up, expect 40+ in the Majors. For a player that could be seen to start next year, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.

 

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