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Stock Your Dynasty Farm: AL East Sleeper Prospects

fantasy baseball prospects MLB prospects rookies call-ups

The AL East features the top farm system in baseball, two uber-prospects, the only Canadian team, as well as two of sports’ most prestigious franchises. Needless to say, there are some storylines to mine for content here. And yet, what may be the richest and most influential division in baseball is, in my humble opinion, set up for one of the best run, cheapest franchises in sports to take the crown in 2020. Tampa Bay built its success the same way a dynasty owner does: good post-draft prospect evaluation, and ridiculous smart trading. Their title of best farm club in baseball is well-earned, and as a result, there will be a lot of guys who don’t get their due, but do yourself a favor and dig in as there are a lot of diamonds in that particular rough.

The Yankees are still recovering after graduating and dealing away a variety of prospects, but the farm system is built less on hyper-dynamic talent and rather on spectacular development practices. Theirs is quietly one of the more stable farm clubs in baseball, and there’s a lot of good-not-great talent that with coaching can take a step up. The Orioles have more question marks with regards to who will rise to the top, but the addition of Adley Rutschman suddenly brings more clarity on what window the O’s could be targeting for contention. The Red Sox feature a deep bench of talent that needs seasoning; they feature a bevy of under-the-radar relievers that underscore their decision to not chase bullpen help in the offseason. Finally, as Toronto graduates what projects to be their core for the foreseeable future, the question becomes how they can develop a team to go around them. So far, the results haven’t been particularly exciting, but solid drafting of guys who refuse to be failures has kept them afloat. Nate Pearson fits this mold, but the Blue Jays have just not taken those toolsy balls of clay and shaped them into baseball players.

Keep in mind that many of these players will be owned for at least a couple of years before you can expect either MLB playing time or the kind of value jump that turns a non-asset into a real trade chip. Remember to check back to Rotoballer.com and follow @Rotoballer and @RotoballerMLB on Twitter for more juicy tips to help you dominate your fantasy league.

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Baltimore Orioles – Gunnar Henderson, OF

I don’t what it is about the Orioles and the sorts of positionless, offense-first players like Ryan Mountcastle, but they love them a quality bat who they have no idea where he’ll play. 2020 draftee Gunnar Henderson is another in the Mountcastle mold. I don’t mean to suggest that these two, and fellow bat-first draftee Kyle Stowers, are all super similar, more that eventually Baltimore will have to, you know, field the ball successfully, and all of these three have major holes and questions about their gloves.

The most significant difference between the 19-year-old Henderson and Mountcastle is the level of athleticism on display with the second-rounder. Henderson is a much better athlete, so the chance that he’ll develop at least an average glove that can keep him at his current third base or at a corner outfield spot is much better.

This gives us much more confidence that he won’t have to be hidden in a part-time DH role to accumulate a full season’s worth of plate appearances. And, of course, this is fantasy, so making sure that he can get those at-bats is critical.

Questions about his baseball fit aside, the bat is fantastic, with above-average to plus grades across the board. Henderson has an outside shot at a plus-hit tool, but it’s more likely to fall into the above-average range.

That’s not a slight, as he’ll pair it with above-average power and potentially above-average speed. Plug that into a roster at the No. 3 slot behind Adley Rutschman, or No. 5 behind Mountcastle, and you’ve got a very strong offensive core that will give Henderson tons of opportunity to rack up counting stats.

Honorable Mention: Luis Ortiz, SP; Kyle Stowers, OF

 

Boston Red Sox – Thad Ward, SP

I got to tell you, Rotoballers, when I or any other analyst posts juicy content like this, we are basically putting out all of the oppo research that the owners we compete with could ever hope for! I mean these sleepers aren’t just random names pulled out of the hat, they become more than that. They become almost family, and I want to have the opportunity to draft these guys!

Too much? Fair enough, but the lead serves to underscore the relationship we dynasty players develop when we find a guy to buy into that others overlook. Last season, Jarren Duran and Owen Miller were guys I went into draft season really excited about, ended up with multiple shares, and they popped onto the national scene right away; thus justifying my excitement. This year, Red Sox 2018 5th rounder Thad Ward is one of my guys.

Ward was an odd case of the college reliever who was converted back to starter in the pros. After a year of middling success, Ward improved dramatically in his second full season in the role. A 1.99 ERA (2.85 FIP) to go with a huge boost in K/9 led to a midseason promotion to High-A ball, where he promptly improved on his K/9 again, albeit with a boost in walks as well. The improvement has been driven by Ward’s ability to pair a deep repertoire of cut fastballs and breaking balls with a true plus slider that one Red Sox coach called “a Chris Sale slider”.

A student of the craft of pitching that thankfully lacks Trevor Bauer’s trademark charm, Ward is the rare pitcher who doesn’t need a tremendous amount of velocity to miss a ton of bats. Oddly enough, he’s exactly the kind of pitcher who could counteract the Astros’ infamous “trash-can pitch selection” move. Ward is a high-ceiling, high-floor prospect somehow masquerading as a “No.4-type”.

Honorable Mention: Brainer Bonaci, SS; Eduardo Vaughn, OF

 

New York Yankees – Alexander Vizcaino, SP

A 22-year-old starter at High-A who posted a 4.28 ERA and 1.61 WHIP with just an 8.89 K/9. But Alexander Vizcaino didn’t start his professional career until he was signed out of the Dominican Republic at 19. The late start notwithstanding, Vizcaino hurled three relatively nondescript seasons before clicking a bit in 2019 at A-ball with a 3.16 FIP and a 10.37 K/9 alongside a solid 2.77 BB/9.

All that said about his statistics, the fact is that Vizcaino is one of the more talented pitchers in the Yankees’ system, bringing plus heat and has been coachable to the point that he’s adding true weapons to his arsenal.

What makes Vizcaino especially interesting is a hugely-improved changeup to pair with an already elite upper 90s fastball. The offspeed pitch comes in a little faster at low 90s, but that higher velocity is combined with a sharp dive at the plate, confusing even the best hitters with whether it was a split-finger heater or the change.

The upside on the pitch is plus, and an average to an above-average slider is on the way. The feel Vizcaino has shown with his spin rates gives me hope that his tools will play up and he’ll end up a really productive, high-strikeout starter for fantasy owners.

Honorable Mention: Kevin Alcantara, OF; Ezequiel Duran, 2B

 

Tampa Bay Rays – Joe Ryan, SP

In case you hadn’t heard, the Rays have a pretty good farm system. Because there is so much quality at every level, finding guys that you really like that end up being buried by superstar-level teammates like Wander Franco or Brent Honeywell. Joe Ryan is one of those guys who is starting to get some industry love, but the sheer depth around him has led to him being well underappreciated.

A 2018 7th rounder, Ryan has been dealing K’s from the day he stepped onto a pro mound. After 160 innings across four levels, the 23-year-old has racked up 234 strikeouts, including a small-sample-sure-but-still-mind-numbing 16.2 K/9 in 13.1 innings over three starts at Double-A.

Ryan has an ultra-loose arm, which allows him to really get the best stuff out of what was expected to be average-ish grade pitches. But as his development continued, Ryan has shown an ability to very quickly pick up new ideas and mechanics, using his loose arm and athleticism to his advantage.

Ryan is the perfect type of pitcher that Tampa Bay has shown to get the absolute most out of, and Ryan is the type of player to learn, adapt, and improve as he goes. While there’s a lot of differences in terms of skills and tools, Ryan’s development narrative reminds me of fellow Rays project-turned-All Star James Shields.

What was once hoped to be a back-end of the rotation innings eater has seen his perceived ceiling bump all the way up to a second-division No. 2.

Honorable Mention: Jhon Diaz, OF; Niko Hulsizer, OF

 

Toronto Blue Jays – Dasan Brown, OF

Honestly Rotoballers, I wish I could punt this one and just talk about Nate Pearson for 500 words. But, we press on. It’s really tough shining in a farm club that includes my most exciting pitching prospect in baseball, but there are a handful of players I feel are going to power their own way to the bigs, even if the Blue Jays don’t have the most sterling record of development.

So, for Toronto, we’re looking for players that have undeniable tools that could pop if things click. That being the case, we’re really making a bet on the player himself, and little else. Brown is the type of player I’m betting on.

The 18-year-old Brown has a ton of natural athleticism and raw tools. He’s among the rawest in the system, but his natural ability is among the most tantalizing. Plus-plus speed, a plus glove, and plus-bat speed are the foundation of my optimism. Billy Hamilton turned his 80-grade speed into a long career, and Brown’s speed is a true 80.

The difference between him and Hamilton is the overall feel at the plate. Brown is further along than Hamilton at his age, and profiles as a similar slap-hitting outfielder who gobbles up steals by the bunches. But between the juiced ball and Brown’s own thicker frame, there’s no reason to think that the former third-rounder could experience a sudden power surge. Even league-average pop and an average bat, combined with his already elite speed and defense, add up to a borderline All-Star.

Honorable Mention: Estiven Machado, SS; Leonardo Jimenez, SS

More MLB Prospects Analysis




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