Deep Prospect Diving: Identifying Three Under-the-Radar Prospects Who Belong On Our Radars

by Shawn Kohlmeier

I’ve been blown away at what the prospect deals have been so far this year.  First it was Fernando Rodney for Chris Paddock.  Then it was a potential ace in Anderson Espinoza (by the way can you picture what Espinoza could be out in Petco…insert heart eye emoji face) for a guy six months earlier had the equivalent value of Yonder Alonso.  Now it is the massive haul the Cubs have given up for a couple months of Aroldis Chapman (many times more than what the Yankees had acquired him for a few months ago).

If Chapman is a key piece in closing out the World Series for the Cubs, I don’t think you will find a single GM, fan or writer who wouldn’t make the trade, but Chapman far from guarantees anything in terms of ultimate prosperity.  It may seem like that way on paper, but that’s why the game is played and it’s why we love this sport.  I am a big fan of Gleyger Torres and think he is a potential star for the Yankees.  Personally, it would not shock me to see them bring in one more big relief arm and shorten the game even further (despite Manfred’s stupidity, I love me some dominant bullpen’s that can shorten the game).

All I can think after seeing these deals is please David Stearns, please, don’t be left holding the bag on Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith or just about anyone else on the MLB team that anyone wants.  Take advantage of this rampant spending!  Now let’s get to some deep diving of our own, maybe we’ll see a few of these guys get worked into a deal or two as the ultimate wild card.

 

Anderson Franco, 3B, WAS
Franco has just three games to his name on the season, but that likely has helped keep him off the radar.  I have not been able to track down why he didn’t make his season debut until late July, but now that he has I am keeping a very close eye on him.  Last week we wrote about a system-mate in Juan Soto, and honestly I was higher on Franco coming into the season.  Despite Soto’s early season success, I’ll still take Franco every day of the week.

He doesn’t have enough game time this season to read into anything he has done, but last year showed a potential prototypical third baseman.  He demonstrated a terrific approach with 21 BB vs. 28 K in 193 AB across two rookie league levels and showed a good amount of pop for a kid that was 17-years old for the entire season pretty much.  On top of the solid bat, there are no questions about whether he can stick at third base long-term either, so he has that working in his favor as he progresses through the minors.

If you are playing in deep leagues, Franco is one of my favorite flier prospects in all of baseball as I think it’s a beautiful package as it all comes together.  Next year is when I would expect to see him really start popping because of the late start, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on the ground floor and enjoy owning an up-and-coming prospect.

 

Jhailyn Ortiz, 1B, PHI
It looks like Philadelphia found themselves a potential monster at 1B in the future.  Rarely would I say to invest in a 1B only type profile who is a 17-year-old in the rookie leagues, but if you can snag Ortiz it should be done.  He has beaten up on opposition in his professional debut to the tune of a .296 average and a .993 OPS, including 6 HR in his 83 AB (and 11 total extra base hits).

There is going to be swing and miss to his game, as he has struck out 24 times, and that was one of the reasons I was not super aggressive on him coming into the season (so I own zero shares on him at this point).  I personally thought he profiled too much like former big-bonus-baby and fellow Philadelphi farm hand Luis Encarnacion.  While Encarnacion flopped badly (I still remember people putting him and Devers as the Top 2 and I took zero part in the Encarnacion party that year and am very happy right now), Ortiz has shown his bat is one of the rare 1B to invest in and it’s potentially an impact #4/#5 type hitter long-term.

 

Thomas Szapucki, SP, NYM
Szapucki is going to be good, because let’s face it he has an awesome birthdate (representing June 12).  Am I the only person that likes drafting guys with that share a birthday with themselves, anyway, back to reality… Szapucki was definitely an under-the-radar guy coming into the season but has quickly emerged as one of the Mets best arms.

Control was the biggest question mark and it’s why he fell to the 5th round in the 2015 draft.   Stuff is not a question, as the lefty has a plus fastball that runs mostly in the mid-90’s and a strong slider.

He was recently promoted to Short Season Brooklyn after decimating Kingsport (Advanced Rookie) to the tune of a 0.62 ERA, 49 K, 9 BB and just 16 hits in 29 IP.  He walked 3 BB in 5 IP in his first appearance but let’s hope that he can sustain the success while making the jump to playing against advanced college bats.  If he does he’ll place himself firmly inside the Mets’ Top 10 prospects heading into the offseason (if he isn’t used to sweeten a deal for a bat or bullpen arm).

 

Well I had no deliberate intentions of having the three guys all be from the NL East this week, so that’s just a happy surprise as I finish things off.  Next week I hope to write both of my weekly articles on prospects who have swapped teams during the deadline.

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