Unheralded Prospects to Target in Dynasty Leagues (2020 Fantasy Baseball)
Prospects are critical to success in dynasty leagues, and every owner is always chasing the next shiny new toy. However, acquisition prices for consensus top prospects can be extremely steep, and they often require the prospect to hit 80th-percentile upside just to meet value. Alternatively, fantasy owners can target less touted prospects who are cheaper, thus offering to much greater payoffs should they hit. There is often a major discrepancy between real-life and fantasy prospect evaluation — both real-life top prospects and non-prospects are regularly overlooked by fantasy owners.
Here are four unheralded fantasy prospects to keep an eye on for 2020 and beyond:
Nick Madrigal (2B – CHW): ETA 2020
Madrigal will be a mainstay on every preseason top-100 prospect list, but fantasy owners seem to be overlooking him as more of a real-life talent than a fantasy one. I remember many making the same mistake with Francisco Lindor prior to his rapid ascension to superstardom. Madrigal’s contact ability is extraordinary — in 473 at-bats combined between A+ and AAA last season, Madrigal struck out a grand total of 16 times for a 3.4% strikeout rate, better than every single player at all levels of baseball. Madrigal’s keen batting eye extends to his 9.7% walk rate in AAA. He hits the ball hard and sprays it all over the field (42% pull rate, 38% opposite rate) — Madrigal is a strong bet to hit .300 in the majors straight from the jump.
Madrigal also has wheels, as he racked up a combined 35 steals through three levels last season. So, what’s the catch here? Madrigal is small for a big-league baseball player — the White Sox generously list him at 5’7, 165 lbs. Madrigal only hit a total of four home runs last season, which is staggeringly low in the juiced baseball era, but he is just a 22-year-old, and he will continue to get stronger. Besides, you’re not after Madrigal for his power anyway. The White Sox hope to compete this year, and the keystone job is wide open. We could see Madrigal on the South Side by May, if not sooner. Buy now before the price skyrockets.
Randy Arozarena (OF – TB): ETA 2020
When the Rays make an impact trade, fantasy owners should pay attention (those of you who bought low with Tampa on Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow are likely quite pleased). Enter Randy Arozarena, whom the Rays recently acquired from the Cardinals for top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore. Arozarena is a Cuban outfielder that could eventually become a five-category contributor, with upside approaching the good version of Yasiel Puig as a 25 HR/15 SB threat with a solid batting average. In 283 AAA plate appearances last season, Arozarena hit .358/12/38 with nine steals.
His plate discipline was solid enough with a 17.0% strikeout rate and an 8.5% walk rate, so any improvements there would likely fast track Arozarena’s ascension to a starting role. Only the injury-prone Kevin Kiermaier is blocking Arozarena from starting every day in center field.
Ryan Vilade (SS/3B – COL): ETA 2022
Arguably the best hitter in the entire A+ league last season was Colorado’s Ryan Vilade, who tore up his first year of high-A ball to the tune of .303/12/71 with 24 steals and a .371 wOBA (third highest among all A+ hitters). Vilade’s batted ball profile is exceptional because he uses the entire field (34% pull, 33% center, 32% opposite). Vilade also has a keen eye for the strike zone for such a young hitter with a 16.2% strikeout rate and a 9.5% walk rate.
Vilade has the profile of a future fantasy stalwart with his plate discipline, contact skills, pop, and speed. If Vilade improves upon his 17% line drive rate, he could really become something special. At only 20 years old, Vilade looks like a player ready to make the jump to AA ball, where prospects differentiate themselves. He is at least a year or two away from the show, but if Vilade hits in AA, he will instantly become buzzworthy among prospect ranks.
Isaac Paredes (SS/3B – DET): ETA 2021
It’s very rare to see 20-year-olds hold their own in AA ball quite like Paredes did last season. His mastery of the strike zone is truly an elite skill, with his 0.93 BB/K rate buoyed by an 11.1% strikeout rate and a 10.3% walk rate. Paredes’ plate discipline gives him an extremely strong chance to become a rock-solid hitter. Paredes has also demonstrated decent pop (13 HRs and 23 doubles last season), while his young age and stout frame suggest more room for growth. Positional question marks may hold Paredes down in the minors even after the bat is ready, but that is of negligible concern to fantasy owners. Twenty-year-old prospects demonstrating this type of plate discipline in AA just don’t come around that often — it’s time to buy on Paredes.
Jarad Evans is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Jarad, follow him @jarad_evans.