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8 Under-the-Radar Prospects (Fantasy Baseball)

Apr 14, 2020

Austin Hayes may be highly undervalued heading into the 2020 season

Every year, we seem to bear witness to at least a couple of relatively unknown youngsters who make an immediate fantasy impact. Mike Soroka and Pete Alonso were just two such examples from yesteryear. Everyone knows about the tantalizing upside that newcomers like Luis Robert or Jesus Luzardo wield, but who are the diamonds in the rough that could show up and push your fantasy squad to the postseason? Our featured analysts aim to tackle that question today.

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Q1. What under-the-radar hitting prospect isn’t getting the attention he deserves and what are your expectations for him?

Austin Hays (OF – BAL) 
“Hays had plenty of hype after his first full season in the minors in 2017. That year, he hit .329 with 32 home runs in 128 games. It seemed as if he was on a fast track to the big leagues. However, he struggled mightily in 2018 before an ankle injury cost him the final two months of the season. He fared adequately at Triple-A in 2019, hitting .254 with 10 home runs in 59 games, but the failure to regain his 2017 form has caused the buzz that surrounded him back then to seemingly disappear. I think Hays is way undervalued considering his potential. He should get close to everyday at-bats in Baltimore. It is also quite likely he hits towards the top of the lineup. Over the course of a full season, I could see Hays flirting with 80 runs scored, 20 homers, and 10 stolen bases. Those numbers may not seem like anything special, but consider that just 22 hitters have reached those thresholds in each of the past three seasons. Now consider that Hays is going off the board well after pick 200 in virtually every draft. He is a solid value at that price and an ideal post-hype sleeper who can pay huge dividends in 2020.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Cristian Pache (OF – ATL) 
“Few people have talked about Pache for redraft purposes, but he’s got one of the clearer paths to playing time of any major prospect. An elite defensive centerfielder, he need only show that he can bring more to the table for a contending team than Ender Inciarte, and he surely can. Pache’s minor league numbers won’t blow anyone away, but scouts have been impressed with his development and maturity as a hitter. Once the owner of a 32-steal season in the minors, Pache stole three bases in just 13 games this spring and had an .863 OPS. The Braves can’t waste time in a shortened season, meaning Pache should see substantial time in the majors and hit to roughly a .270-15-15 pace over the course of a full season.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Dylan Carlson (OF – STL) 
“Carlson registered 26 homers, 20 steals, and a .914 OPS last season. After losing Marcell Ozuna to the Braves, the Cardinals have no formidable options in their outfield. If there’s a shortened season, the contender could feel compelled to play the outfielder immediately rather than playing service-time games. The 21-year-old has the ability to help across the board in standard mixed leagues when promoted.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Brendan Rodgers (2B/SS – COL) 
“Rodgers is going virtually undrafted with an ADP of 535, so you can still pick him up today if your league already picked. With the National League teams likely being forced to adopt the designated hitter for this season, Rodgers sees his opportunity for immediate playing time increase substantially. This is a top-20 prospect with tremendous minor league stats at every level. If he gets in the Rockies’ lineup, we could be looking at a top-15 fantasy shortstop from the get-go.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Q2. What under-the-radar starting pitching prospect is not getting the attention he deserves and what are your expectations for him?

Michael Kopech (SP – CWS) 
“The longer the start of the 2020 MLB season is delayed, the more I like Kopech. Het missed all of the 2019 season following Tommy John surgery in September 2018 and reports suggest that he should be ready to return around Memorial Day. That also seems to be the most optimistic start date for the 2020 campaign. If Kopech can earn a spot in the starting rotation once the season begins, he has massive upside. He pitched just one inning in spring training this year, but made quite an impression. He touched 101 MPH on the gun and flashed a nasty slider and curveball. From 2016-2018, Kopech struck out 428 batters in just 317 minor league innings. That type of strikeout upside is difficult to find later in drafts, which is why Kopech is so intriguing. He is going outside the top-60 starting pitchers and makes for a great flier late in drafts.”
– Mick Ciallela (Fantrax)

Nate Pearson (SP – TOR) 
“Pearson was heavily discussed in dynasty formats this spring, but he’s been somewhat overlooked in redraft leagues. After missing most of 2018 with a fractured ulna, he dominated in the minors last year across three levels, pitching to a 2.30 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. Pearson has the stuff to dominate in the majors right away: a triple-digit fastball, a wipeout slider, and an excellent curveball and changeup. Although an innings limit and service time issues may have looked like an obstacle to his path to fantasy-relevancy this year, a shortened season should obviate those concerns. He need only crack an incredibly weak Blue Jays rotation to have a potential impact this year and will likely pitch to a high 3.00 ERA with over a strikeout per inning in the majors.”
– Dan Harris (FantasyPros)

Spencer Howard (SP – PHI) 
“Howard wasn’t getting much attention in drafts conducted before MLB suspended the start of the season. If they’re able to play at all in 2020, the Phillies are reportedly open to using the 23-year-old righty out of the gate. A polished prospect with four strong pitches, Howard sprinted through Philadelphia’s farm system by posting a 2.03 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 71 innings. He’ll hold his own as an immediate impact performer when given the nod.”
– Andrew Gould (FantasyPros)

Elieser Hernandez (SP/RP – MIA) 
“I’m not sure that Hernandez technically qualifies as a prospect, but he has just 21 career starts under his belt and is practically unheard of. His ADP sits at #585 overall, but he has the upside of a solid SP3 in fantasy this season. Not only was he the third-best minor league pitcher last season (after MacKenzie Gore and Brendan McKay), but Hernandez’s underlying metrics at the big-league level were actually great too. If he makes the Marlins’ rotation, he could give fantasy owners a sub-4.00 ERA, sub-1.25 WHIP, and over a strikeout per inning.”
– Bobby Sylvester (FantasyPros)

Thank you to the experts for sharing their under-the-radar prospects. For more great fantasy advice, please be sure to follow them on Twitter.