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The keystone should be a position for players developed to keep everything together, both offensively and defensively. However, that is not the case in most years. It is generally comprised of athletes that move off of shortstop for one reason or another.

Therefore, the position is usually very thin in the minor leagues. It is even thinner this year with the promotions of Yoan Moncada, Ozzie Albies, and Willie Calhoun.

Today we will discuss a few players whose trajectory are going higher as well as a few whose glide paths are going in the opposite direction.

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Stock Rising

Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies

Scott Kingery made one of the biggest unexpected jumps in the rankings. He went from the back of the team’s Top-10 prospect list in 2017 to a Top-100 prospect on the verge of contributing in the majors in 2018. It should be noted Kingery’s breakout season occurred mostly at Double-A (Reading), which is known to be a hitter’s park. He has always been known for his speed (29 stolen bases), but this was the first time Kingery displayed more power (26 home runs). Only eight of those home runs were at Triple-A (Lehigh Valley) though.

Kingery changed his swing path, reducing his ground-ball rate and increasing both line-drive and fly-fall percentages. This led to an increase in slugging from 2016 (.388) to 2017 (.530). While the slugging increased, Kingery’s on-base percentage has stayed in the same area (.359), led by a poor base on balls percentage of 6.65.

Kingery is currently blocked at the major league level. Therefore, he will continue to increase his versatility by playing at other infield positions at Triple-A. This positional flexibility will increase Kingery’s chance of getting major league playing time in 2018. If he continues to hit for power and increases his BB%, Kingery will not only justify his drastic jump in the rankings but place him with elite level talent.

Keston Hiura, Milwaukee Brewers

Imagine a hitter that clearly has the best hit-tool in the amateur draft and you envision a top-five selection. Add elbow concerns and it causes a drop in value as was the case when Hiura slid to the Brewers at pick nine. The uncertainty of surgery or even recovery led some to be cautious. Hiura rewarded the Brewers with excellent hitting across the AZL and Low-A leagues with a .371 average and a 1.033 on base plus slugging. He added four home runs and two stolen bases, providing encouragement that he could be a decent producer in those categories as well. Hiura’s approach at the plate is far superior to his current level. He is able to hit the ball to all fields; Hiura hit to the opposite field (31%) comparably as well as he pulled the ball (40%).

Despite rarely playing the field, the Brewers have confidence in Hiura. During the offseason, they have been bringing in contact hitters and Hiura is built from that same mold. Barring any further elbow issues, Hiura is expected to begin playing the field full time this year and quickly rise through the system. Hiura is one of the top 2B prospects and should be owned in all dynasty leagues, with an eye on him in redraft leagues.

Esteury Ruiz, San Diego Padres

Esteury Ruiz was 16 years old when the Royals signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. In July 2017, the Padres acquired him via a trade. Across two Arizona League teams, Ruiz was dominant, hitting for .350 average and .602 slugging. While Ruiz only hit four home runs, he did generate 20 doubles and 10 triples. Ruiz also displayed his speed with 26 stolen bases. With development, Ruiz could easily turn many of those extra-base hits into home runs. Combined with the speed, he has the profile to be a dangerous power/speed hitter.

Ruiz did have a 23.7% strikeout rate and was benefited by a .464 batting average on balls in play. He will have to reduce the strikeout rate as he goes through full-season ball. However, there is no doubting the talent and skill level.

Ruiz, now 18 years old, is a couple of years away from the major leagues. If his performance continues, Ruiz will be known across the entire fantasy baseball spectrum and your opportunity to get him in dynasty leagues will have vanished.

 

Stock Falling

Isan Diaz, Miami Marlins

Isan Diaz had a lot of hype after his 2016 season, but he took a step backwards in 2017. While Diaz’ stock is falling, it is not all bad news. Diaz hit for a .222 average, led by a 26.6% strikeout rate and a .283 batting average on balls in play. Whether it was the struggles or something else, Diaz began to pull the ball more than in past years (46.6%). Near the end of the season Diaz broke his hamate bone in his wrist and had surgery in August, ending his season.

The good news is that Diaz found a way to demonstrate power and patience despite the above troubles. He was able to hit 13 home runs and steal nine bases, but did get caught three times. His base on balls percentage (13.6) actually increased as well.

Diaz was traded from Milwaukee and now finds Miami as his big league destination. While he is currently blocked at the majors, the entire system is full of youth, including the big league roster. There will be plenty of opportunities if he can improve his swing and miss tendencies.

Forrest Wall, Colorado Rockies

Forrest Wall, the 34th overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft, was known for his quality hit tool and speed. Due to arm injuries, it was estimated that he would be relegated to second base in the field, but the bat would be his source of success.

In his first couple years, Wall validated such a draft selection despite question marks batting .286 with an .803 on-base plus slugging leading to a promotion to Class-A Asheville. After a slight regression in 2016, the hope was that Wall would bounce back in 2017 to his former self and expectations. He started the year batting .299 with three home runs and five stolen bases in 22 games, but his season was cut short in early May due to a dislocated shoulder. He spent most of his 2017 season playing in the outfield, which is where the injury occurred while diving for the ball. Despite some recent positive indicators, the Rockies lost confidence with Wall at second base and subsequently fantasy managers should not be confident either.

Travis Demeritte, Atlanta Braves

The Braves acquired Demeritte in a trade from the Rangers and it was believed to be a steal; Atlanta was getting the power they needed without giving much in return. Prior to 2017, Demeritte was ranked at the end of most top-10 second base prospect lists. His performance was not reassuring and will rarely find himself on a top-10 list this season.

Demeritte only hit 15 home runs, despite being known to hit big for power and strikeout big. He had a slash line of .231/.306/.402 slugging. Demeritte’s season was not one to write home about, but there were some stats that give cause for hope. He lowered his strikeout rate from 32.9% in 2016 to 26.2%. Additionally, he seemed to be focused more on improving his actual hitting ability. He increased his opposite field hitting from 28% to 34.2%. The one victim, aside from home runs, in his new hitting approach was his walks; he dropped his base on balls percentage from 17.1 to 9.6 in 2017. Demeritte is not a prospect that needs to be owned right now. If he can continue to reduce his strikeouts and maintain his power, Demeritte’s value could change quickly.

 

More 2018 MLB Prospects Analysis





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