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Prospects To Cut Loose In Dynasty Leagues

fantasy baseball prospects MLB prospects rookies call-ups

The dynasty format requires an owner to consider both the immediate and future implications of draft picks, trades, and waiver wire moves. Viewing roster decisions through two lenses, both present and long-term future makes fantasy baseball much more strategic and, unfortunately, much less forgiving. Any wrong move lives with you for years and makes you the subject of continuing brutal harassment from league mates.

The decision to cut loose a prospect in lieu of another prospect, a major leaguer who fits a specific need or for roster space is always difficult. With the minor league season canceled in 2020, the decision to cut loose a prospect that you may have invested draft capital and time in becomes even more difficult. There are no updated statistics or 2020 metrics we can use to evaluate the growth and development of those prospects.

Below I will cover four players who had poor 2019 campaigns who won’t have an opportunity to show additional development until 2021. As a result, these players can be dropped in dynasty formats to make room for other prospects, roster space, or major league talent that fits an owner’s immediate needs.

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Victor Victor Mesa (OF, MIA)

Miami Marlins outfielder Victor Victor Mesa was signed by the Marlins in October 2018 and received a sizeable $5.25M signing bonus. In 2019, Mesa failed to live up to his lofty signing bonus and expectations. Heading into 2019, Mesa was the Marlins’ No. 2 MLB Pipeline prospect. Unfortunately, between high Single-A and Double-A in 2019, Mesa posted a putrid .235/.274/.263 line with no home runs, 29 RBI, and just ten extra-base hits in 464 at-bats. Mesa did compile a low strikeout rate of less than 13%, a good attribute for a speedy table-setter. However, his high groundball rate of more than 60%, combined with overall low exit velocity, led to a large number of weak outs.

Mesa is considered a top-tier defender in centerfield and he has successfully utilized his speed on the base paths. In 2019, he swiped 18 bags in 20 attempts between two levels in the Marlins’ system. That said, despite the defensive prowess and elite speed, the general consensus is that Mesa only projects as a reserve outfielder. While his skill set may be beneficial for Miami in the late innings when they have a lead or need a pinch-runner, it doesn’t play in the fantasy landscape. As a result, Mesa, once a top-100 prospect, has fallen from second to 26th on MLB Pipeline’s top-30 prospects list for the Marlins. FanGraphs also has significantly downgraded Mesa to the Marlins’ 32nd best prospect due to his offensive woes and total lack of power.

Mesa will not have an opportunity to enhance his value and play in a formal game until sometime in 2021 when he is 24 years old. This is obviously not ideal for someone who struggled so mightily against low minor league pitching in 2019. In addition, Mesa faces competition for regular playing time, if and when he reaches the majors, from higher-rated prospects including Monte Harrison, J.J. Bleday, Jesus Sanchez, and Peyton Burdick. The once top prospect Mesa, now considered a defense-first outfielder blocked by higher ceiling prospects, is not worth holding in dynasty formats.

 

Bubba Thompson (OF, TEX)

Despite his inclusion in the column, Texas Rangers outfielder Bubba Thompson still projects as a starting centerfielder whom I remain a tremendous fan of. Thompson was the 26th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Despite his pedigree, a poor, injury-riddled 2019, combined with a possible future logjam in the Rangers outfield, makes Thompson expendable in dynasty formats.

Thompson’s main issues have been his inability to stay on the field, his poor strikeout rate and low career on-base percentage. Repeated injuries have impeded Thompson’s development since he was drafted. Tendinitis in both knees hampered him in 2018, limiting him to just 84 games in low Single-A that season. In April of 2019, Thompson suffered a broken hamate bone in his left hand which required surgery. Once he returned in June of 2019, he crashed into an outfield wall which set him back another month due to a resulting ankle injury. When all was said and done in 2019, his hamate and ankle injuries limited him to just 57 games in high Single-A. In those 57 games, Thompson posted an awful .178/.261/.312 line with only five home runs and 21 RBI in 202 at-bats. More concerning was the fact that Thompson also struck out 72 times, equating to a career-worst 32% strikeout rate. By the end of 2019, his career on-base-percentage in the minors had plummeted to .313 in 714 plate appearances across three levels.

Although Thompson has a natural speed and power combination skill set, his inability to make contact, get on base, and stay healthy, calls into question whether he can reach his 20-20 potential. His strong defense and speed should theoretically keep him in the lineup once he reaches the majors. However, competition from other top prospects including the speedy Leodys Taveras, the powerful Bayron Lora, the versatile Nick Solak, and Steele Walker could potentially relegate him to reserve status. That is why 2020 was so crucial for his development. His next real opportunity to work on hitting deficiencies and prove he can remain healthy won’t be until 2021.

Thompson’s natural athleticism is still recognized by the industry. He remains ranked 15th on MLB Pipeline’s Rangers top-30 prospects list. There’s no doubt he has the potential to become a 20-20 player if everything clicks. That said, there are way too many variables at work here. Can he stay healthy? Can he sufficiently cut down on strikeouts and get on base? How will the hamate injury impact his power ability going forward? As a result, Thompson should be let go in dynasty formats to make room for more advanced prospects who have shown development and returns on their potential. That is not to say Thompson is a lost cause. Owners should monitor Thompson’s season next year. If he begins to show signs of consistent health, on-base prowess, and a power return despite the wrist injury, owners should be quick to get back on this train.

 

Albert Abreu (P, NYY)

New York Yankees pitcher Albert Abreu signed with the Astros back in 2013. He was eventually traded to the Yankees in 2016 as part of the deal that brought Brian McCann to Houston. Despite his high ceiling, thanks to a 94-98 mph fastball that tops out at 101 mph and two other highly graded pitches, Abreu’s production in the minors has fallen short of expectations. As a result, the 24-year old who once ranked third on MLB Pipeline’s Yankees top-30 prospects list is now ranked No. 11.

Injuries and a lack of control have been Abreu’s Achilles heel since coming over to the Yankees. In his first three seasons in the Yankees organization, he managed to pitch only 222 2/3 innings due to a variety of injuries. These included shoulder, biceps, and elbow issues, not to mention an appendectomy for good measure. Beyond his injury history, in 439 career minor league innings pitched, Abreu has walked 211 batters. This translates to a minor league career 4.3 walks per nine innings, contributing to a minor league career 1.33 WHIP.

While the Yankees have been patient with Abreu in his development as a starting pitcher, he is simply not progressing in limiting his control issues. Just last year, while at Double-A, his walk rate exceeded his minor league average. In 96 2/3 innings pitched, Abreu registered 4.9 walks per nine innings. This amounted to an awful 53 walks which contributed to a bloated 1.61 WHIP. Falling behind in counts regularly and consistently issuing free passes won’t play in the majors (or Yankee Stadium for that matter). As a result, Abreu has yet to pitch above Double-A.

Given the other top prospect arms in the organization, including Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, and Luis Gil, it is more likely than not that Abreu will end up a power bullpen arm. His top-tier fastball velocity should help him make the transition to a reliever. This would help bolster the Yankees bullpen, but it doesn’t do much for dynasty league owners. Those who have held onto Abreu hoping to realize his high starting pitching ceiling may want to consider letting him go for other more developed arms.

While Abreu may one day be used as a closer given his fastball that tops 100 mph, he would still need to reign in his control issues to be effective. Abreu has shown absolutely no signs that he can limit walks over his six-year minor league career. Despite being on the Yankees 40-man roster, Abreu won’t really get the chance to work on his control issues until minor league games resume in 2021. As a result, he can be let go in dynasty formats.

 

Luis Garcia (SS/2B, PHI)

Philadelphia Phillies infielder Luis Garcia is another player who I remain a huge fan of despite being included in this column. After an incredible Rookie-League debut in 2018, Garcia had a disastrous 2019. In 524 plate appearances with the low Single-A Lakewood Blueclaws of the Southern Atlantic League, Garcia posted a .186/.261/.255 line with four home runs, 36 RBI, nine stolen bases, and a .516 OPS. By comparison, in 2018 with the Gulf Coast League Phillies West, Garcia posted a .369/.433/.488 line in 187 plate appearances. He added one HR, 32 RBI, and 12 stolen bases on his way to winning the Gulf Coast League batting title at 17-years old.

Garcia, who turns just 20 in October of 2020, is still very young. It is clear, however, that at 18 years old he was overmatched by the pitching in the Sally. The Phillies’ decision to push Garcia aggressively to full-season ball in Lakewood did not translate into success. Scouting reports from 2019 reveal that Garcia was frequently late on fastballs, way too passive on pitches that were in the zone, and confused by breaking balls.

Perhaps more than any other player in this column, the minor league shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacts Garcia’s development. Were it not for the shutdown, I would have recommended dynasty owners continue to hold Garcia to see if he could have bounced back in 2020. Garcia, who was one of the top prospects in the 2017-18 international amateur class, is still ranked 6th on MLB Pipeline’s Phillies top-30 prospects list. He has a solid contact, defense, and speed skillset, with some power growth potential as well. That said, although Garcia does project as a starting MLB shortstop, his next taste of competitive ball won’t take place until 2021, most likely in low-Single-A again. As a result, dynasty owners may wish to move on to prospects who showed growth in 2019 or who produce against MLB talent as members of their MLB taxi squads in 2020.

Garcia’s potential as a starting middle infielder who can hit, run, and provide some punch is there. It really becomes a matter of how much opportunity cost dynasty owners will need to expend to eventually get a return on investment. Dynasty owners would be better served to move on from the 19-year old Garcia in the short term while keeping an eye on his development in 2021. Should he start to produce in 2021, then, similar to Bubba Thompson, be ready to get him back onto your rosters.



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