by Ivar G. Anderson
Most dynasty or deep keeper league owners know the names of the “cream of the crop” prospects that are just toiling away until the Super Two designation date passes, such as Gregory Polanco (PIT), Oscar Taveras (StL) or Byron Buxton (MIN). My purpose here is not to extol their virtues as future MLB players, but rather to dig deeper and locate some players still developing in the lower minors that may or may not prove beneficial if you can stash them now. Just remember, production in the Rookie Leagues or Single-A levels does not necessarily translate, immediately or down the road a piece, into star-quality production in the Majors. After all, just look at the rate at which redraft players are dropping George Springer. A leg up on your competition, though, is always welcome long term in fantasy.
Phillip Ervin RF/CF CIN (Low-A, Dayton/Midwest League)
The first of two Cincinnati outfielders I am profiling, Ervin profiles as a nice across the board producer if he can stay healthy, as his 2013 was beleaguered by nagging injuries (a wrist injury ended his 2013 prematurely). He could be 20/20 player in the majors, with a .300 average to go along with that above-average speed and power. He has good base running instincts, as shown by his 23 successful steals in 24 attempts over his short career. He is not a big, physical specimen by any means, topping out at 5’9″ and 190 pounds, but he also covers the outfield well and has a good arm that would allow him to make all the throws needed to roam there for the Reds. Expected to advance a level or two again this season, he could be on the field as early as 2015, and if he keeps hitting and stays injury free, certainly by 2016.
Jesse Winkler LF CIN (High-A, Bakersfield/California League)
The left-handed hitting Winkler has a lot going for him, but defense is not one of his stellar qualities. He lack speed in the field and possess a below average arm, which would play well at 1B, but so long as Joey Votto mans that position in Cincy, he is slotted in at left field. His hitting skills are impressive, though, and he hit a surprising 16 homeruns in 2013. He hits both left and right handers equally well, and uses the entire field, not being afraid to go opposite field if warranted. He has plus bat speed, and shows great discipline at the plate, making opposing pitchers work to try and get him out. He is not expected to move through the minors as quickly as Ervin, needing time to work on upgrading his defensive skills, but so long as he continues to stroke the ball with power and a good batting average, he should be in the Reds’ outfield by 2016.
Victor Reyes LF ATL (Single-A, Rome/South Atlantic League)
The Venezuelan prospect is not nearly ready to make an impact in the majors for a couple of seasons. He projects out as a corner outfielder, with decent range and enough arm strength to slot in at either right or left field. He has height, but needs to fill out his frame, as he is just 190 pounds going into this season. Has not demonstrated any power to date, but could develop some pop as he grows into his body, being just 19 years old (he turns 20 in October). His base running instincts are not fully developed either, as despite swiping 22 bags between Rookie and Single-A, he has also been thrown out 10 times). Another plus for the youngster is an advanced understanding of the strike zone. If you believe in his power potential, now is the time to put him on your radar so you can act quickly as he develops into a usable corner outfielder of the future.
Just to be clear, these articles are not intended to be exhaustive discussions of all prospects at a position. In a lot of cases, I am attempting to bring to light players that may be flying under the radar, but I do read the comments and take the suggestions into consideration for future articles (e.g. the Mookie Betts discussion from the 2B article last week).
I am always available to talk fantasy baseball, especially starting pitching and prospects. Feel free to drop me a note with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and inquire about your team. Just remember the advice is free and you get what you pay for in this day and age.