Unheralded Dynasty Prospects to Target (2019 Fantasy Baseball)
Any dynasty manager can look up a prospect list and grab the top-rated hotshots. True champions, on the other hand, find value in the later rounds by poaching undervalued talent.
One way to turn a major profit on draft picks is by grabbing toolsy teenagers a year before they become everyone’s top target. In January, Michael Waterloo identified younger gems on the cusp of a major breakout. For the sake of variety, let’s take a different approach.
Some of the following players are too old to excite prospect hounds. And while their stock hasn’t skyrocketed, they already delivered the goods in 2018. They also place lower on prospect rankings — none made MLB.com’s top 100 — without a fantasy lens because of defense and/or upside limitations. Those who attacked the discrepancy between real-life and dynasty lists could have poached Peter Alonso, who was recommended in last year’s version of this article. Let’s dig for more value beyond the mainstream names.
Isaac Paredes (SS – DET)
Everyone in this article is at least 22 besides Paredes, who turns 20 on Feb. 18. Also possessing the most upside of this grouping, it may require a bit more aggression to snag him in an offseason prospect draft.
In his third minor league season, the international signee batted .278/.359/.456 with 15 homers in 123 games between high Single-A and Double-A. While that’s hardly a breathtaking slash line, he improved against tougher competition with a .388 wOBA in Double-A Erie. In addition to batting .321 in 155 plate appearances, he flashed plate discipline beyond his years. Any teenager who posts 12.3% walk and 14.2% strikeout rates demands attention.
Despite his offensive success, Paredes has not received much mainstream recognition due to defensive warts. The 5’11”, 225-pound infielder likely won’t cut it as a major league shortstop, but that’s not a deal-breaker in a time where the once-bleak fantasy spot is arguably even deeper than first base. A solid contact hitter with some pop and a keen plate approach would play at second or third just fine, so consider him a top-100 fantasy prospect.
Dennis Santana (SP – LAD)
Dustin May nearly made this list, but MLB.com’s 69th-rated prospect may hold too much clout for our purposes. While Santana isn’t as popular, he could easily announce himself as the Dodgers’ premier pitching prospect.
Posting a K/9 of at least 9.8 in each of his five minor league campaigns, the 22-year-old righty boasts a career 10.2 K/9 and 3.59 ERA. Although plagued by control troubles throughout his development, he issued just 17 walks over 53.1 frames in Double-A, Triple-A, and one major league relief appearance. He throws his heater in the mid-90s and wields a wipeout slider that could morph into a lethal money pitch. His changeup has shown signs of a promising third pitch.
The converted shortstop looked poised to at least get a shot in the Dodgers’ bullpen before straining his rotator cuff. The unfortunate setback, suffered right after his MLB debut, gives some dynasty players one last chance to invest.
Brandon Lowe (2B – TB)
Not to be mistaken with Rays first-base prospect Nathaniel Lowe, Brandon Lowe plays second base and pronounces his last name “Lau.” Like his organizational namesake, he’s a polished hitter who can make a serious big league impact this season.
Having logged 129 big league at-bats, the 24-year-old second baseman narrowly maintained his rookie eligibility. Be sure to check your league’s rules, as some might instead go by plate appearances or require less (or no) MLB service time. Lowe leveraged a 10.8% walk rate and 113 wRC+ to a promising start, but managers might not have rushed to add a .233 hitter who deposited just six homers and two steals.
Before his promotion, he flaunted far more power by belting 14 homers in 46 Triple-A games. He previously offered eight long balls and steals apiece in 54 Double-A contests, collectively hitting .297/.391/.558 at both levels. There’s upside despite the subdued start, but he’ll need to improve a 64.5% contact rate to unlock it. While playing time isn’t guaranteed, he could eventually replace Matt Duffy (with Joey Wendle moving to third) or lock down a corner-outfield spot when Kevin Kiermaier makes his annual trip to the DL. Lowe is a sneaky pick for someone seeking an immediate contributor.
Daulton Varsho (C – ARI)
Skepticism of sticking behind the plate has shunned Varsho from real-life prospect adoration. While a position change would unquestionably hurt his fantasy stock as well, he may have the skills to contribute elsewhere.
Since getting drafted in 2017, the lefty has batted .301/.367/.497 with 19 homers in 566 plate appearances. That’s enough to raise some eyebrows, but they should shoot wide open upon seeing last season’s 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts. Isiah Kiner-Falefa led all MLB catchers with seven steals in 2018.
Still not sold? Here’s Varsho taking batting practice dressed as Buddy the Elf.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) October 31, 2018
Like former Diamondback star Paul Goldschmidt, the 22-year-old has the potential to offer a scarce commodity at a position where few others receive a green light. As drafters will soon discover, catcher is currently terrible, even for its low standards. Even hitting .275 with 15 homers and 10 steals would make Varsho an elite option behind the plate or a useful piece in the outfield. Backstop prospects typically aren’t the wisest fantasy investment, but make an exception for Varsho.
Myles Straw (OF – HOU)
A 24-year-old with four home runs in 1,840 career professional plate appearances, Straw is probably a prototypical fourth outfielder. He also stole 72 bases last season.
He’s essentially a Triple-A Billy Hamilton without the elite glove. Straw, however, is more equipped to put his speed to use thanks to a career 12.9% walk rate. Yet there’s also the pesky matter of receiving playing time for the stacked Astros. Stud prospect Kyle Tucker doesn’t even have a job, so Straw certainly isn’t next in line. He’s also probably behind Tony Kemp, who can also bring plate discipline and speed to the party.
That makes 2015’s 12th-round pick more of a late-round flier in deeper roto dynasty formats without stringent prospect limits. He could become a Jarrod Dyson clone, which sounds like an insult before remembering that the outfielder poached 184 bases from 2012 to 2017 without ever reaching 400 plate appearances. Straw may need a trade to even unlock that possibility, but he could morph into a major fantasy weapon (especially in OBP leagues) if given the chance.