January 27, 2016
Get to Know
In our last installment of Get to Know, in which I covered first-base prospects, I spent the intro rejoicing, as there were actually a few pretty solid first-base prospects to write about.
The list below makes me miss those days. Aside from one elite option and a handful of interesting names for next year and beyond, there are pretty slim pickings at the keystone base. It would be better if potential future second basemen like Brandon Drury, Ian Happ, Wilmer Difo, and Trevor Story qualified here but, since they all played more games at other positions last year, the rules I made up in the first place are have a starkly limiting effect below.
Still, things could be worse. I could be writing about catchers.
Previous entries in this series:
Names for 2016
Jose Peraza, Reds
I’m aware that I am very much in the minority when it comes to Peraza now, but I still see a really nice fantasy contributor. His lack of power stinks and I wish he’d take a walk now and then, but Peraza has real bat-to-ball ability, legitimate bat speed and plus-plus wheels. Add in 2B eligibility (and the potential for SS/OF eligibility at that down the road) and his 2016 ETA and you have the makings of a solid, non-star fantasy contributor. Peraza is not the type of player who’s likely to have immediate dramatic success, but he could settle in as an eventual .280-plus hitter who routinely swipes 30-plus steals. You need those guys in every league... or at least every non-OBP league. Don’t be scared by the fact that he’s been traded twice, although maybe don’t invest in a Peraza Braves shirsey (cough Bret Sayre cough).
Alen Hanson, Pirates
It’s tempting to view Hanson through the lense of what we once thought he might be and label him a disappointment. Thanks to his dominant 2012 campaign as a 19-year-old in the Sally, Hanson broke onto the national prospect and dynasty league scenes, as visions of a potential five-tool shortstop danced in our heads. Sure, Hanson has moved to second base and the tools have dulled a bit since then, but the 23-year-old still has talent to enjoy a long MLB career. Hanson hit .263/.313/.387 with six homers and 35 steals in High-A last season, continuing a smooth and linear progression through the minors. I expect him to hit for slightly more power and run less once he settles into the majors, and while he’s unlikely to ever be a top-10 fantasy second baseman he could be a top-20 option for a long time. With Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, and Jung-ho Kang around, he doesn’t have a super-clear path to playing time, but the Neil Walker trade at least helps Hanson’s 2016 prospects a little.
Micah Johnson, Dodgers
You could view Johnson’s gaudy Triple-A stat line from last season and decide he’s a pretty nice sleeper to grab, what with only Chase Utley and Enrique Hernandez in front of him. Don’t decide that. To watch Johnson is to understand the limitations of his tools. Decent hand-eye coordination and a willingness to walk are betrayed by poor pitch recognition and an utter lack of power. His blazing speed is betrayed by an inability to reach base and poor instincts, which lead to his good-but-should-be-better stolen base totals. And he’s not a particularly inspired defender at second base, which doesn’t really matter for our purposes but could limit any potential playing time. Add it all together and you get a guy who will tantalize you with dreams of it all coming together, but burn you when you realize the sum of the parts is significantly less than the whole.
Rob Refsnyder, Yankees
It’s easy to dog on Yankees prospects for being overrated, but I think Refsnyder was so decried as overhyped outside of New York that it’s easy to miss his fantasy upside. We have Refsnyder’s hit tool a 55 grade in this year’s Yankees top 10, and while he doesn’t have a ton of power or speed to speak of, all you need to do to be productive in the Yankees lineup is get on base. Refsnyder is unlikely to ever be a starter in any format (AL Only included), but with little in front of him it’s easy to see Refsngahhh damnit, Starlin Castro, right, nevermind.
Darnell Sweeney, Phillies
Micah Johnson is going to be the sexy, speed-based second-base sleeper (say that five-times fast, or even once) this year, but I’ll take Sweeney if I’m looking for steals on the cheap. The swing-and-miss is a bit concerning, but Sweeney has enough pop to at least keep pitchers honest, will take a walk and while he’s faster underway than he is stealing bases, 20-plus swipes are a real possibility if he can wrestle about 400 PA from the Phillies. That’s a big if in one sense, but not so big when you realize Cesar Hernandez is all that stands in his way.
Tony Kemp, Astros
Imagine Micah Johnson, but blocked by Jose Altuve. That’s a bit unfair to Kemp, but this is a player who’s used to being on the short end of analogies.
Chris Bostick, Nationals
Bostick might be a stretch for inclusion in the 2016 portion of this list (or inclusion on this list at all), but he did reach Double-A last year and he is on the 40-man roster and Anthony Rendon’s legs are made out of paper mache. Don’t bank on Bostick ever making a big impact, but he’s got enough natural power and speed to be interesting if he learns to take a walk once or twice a moon cycle. I’m trying here, guys.
Names for 2017 and Beyond
Yoan Moncada, Red Sox
And here we are with the savior of the second-base prospects. Moncada struggled in his first few months in stateside ball, which is just shocking giving his age, layoff and all the adjustments he had to make starting a totally new life. Oddly enough, from July 1st on, Moncada was dominant, hitting .305/.414/.503 with seven homers and 40 steals in 241 PA. Sure, those numbers might oversell his speed, but Moncada looks to be every bit the offensive monster many projected he’d been when he became an international FA. He might have to move to third base but that’s not a given, and regardless of where he plays, he’s got among the highest upsides of any player in the minors. Moncada could reach Double-A at some point in 2016, and he’s my odds-on favorite to be the no. 1 fantasy prospect at this time next year. In fact, with the possible exception of Lucas Giolito, one could argue there’s a bigger gap between Moncada and the next-best prospect at his position than at any other. That’s meaningless, yes, but as a Red Sox fan it was still fun to type.
Forrest Wall, Rockies
If parents mispel their child’s name but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Forrest Wall will answer this question once and for all, joining the proud ranks of Deven Marrero and Domonic Brown as players who will screw up how I spell first names forever. Wall was a favorite of my beleaguered colleague Craig Goldstein when drafted, and especially when drafted by the Rockies. He’s done little to disappoint thus far, hitting well as a 19-year-old in Asheville last year. Wall possesses an outstanding hit tool and enough speed to make things interesting, and while his swing isn’t geared toward hitting for power he could be a modest contributor there if he plays half his games at Coors. He’s already close to a national name and he’s about to head to the Cal League, so if you want to buy in on him, there’s no time like the present.
Willie Calhoun, Dodgers
If you’re not a Dodgers fan or a total draft geek I don’t blame you if this is the first you’re hearing of Calhoun. A fourth-round pick from this year’s draft, Calhoun used his bat to make a pretty incredible first impression, rising to High-A after just 53 games of abusing Rookie League and Low-A pitchers. Calhoun is already 21, yes, but that makes him age-appropriate for his current league, and while there are plenty of questions about Calhoun’s ability to stick at second base, his offensive profile is tantalizing enough for Bret Sayre to rank him no. 33 on this year’s list of new dynasty signins.
Are you ready for the next player who will be inappropriately compared to Dustin Pedroia for the rest of his life? Enter the small, scrappy, gritty, dirt-dogish Lowe, who the Rays nabbed in the third round this year. His upside is very, very modest, but he’s got a hit tool and he’s a lock to stay at second base. It’s not much, but in leagues that roster 300-plus minor-leaguers, it’s something.
We Hardly Knew Ye (Fantasy Value)