2018 Impact “Sleeper” Prospects: NL Central: Potential Sources Of SB and SV Await & More

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We all know the big prospect names who can make an impact in 2018, whether it’s Ronald Acuna or Lewis Brinson or another one of the highly touted Top 100 prospects.  It’s the under-the-radar talent that people may not see coming that could make an impact for fantasy owners.  We’re going to identify one “sleeper” prospect per team (all of whom are featured in our Rotoprofessor 2018 Draft Guide, which you can purchase by clicking here) who can make an impact this season:


Chicago Cubs
Dillon Maples – RHP

The Cubs appear primed to open the season with Brandon Morrow as their closer and they do have some alternatives with MLB experience who could emerge (like Carl Edwards).  That said Maples has the potential to force their hand, after striking out 100 batters over 63.1 IP across three levels of the minors (before adding 11 K over 5.1 IP in the Majors).  Couple that with a 63.3% groundball rate (50.0% in the Majors) and exactly what is there not to love?

He needs to do a better job of finding the strike zone, with a 5.26 BB/9, but even a small improvement (think 4.00-4.50) and it’s easy to imagine how dominant he can be.  Maples has closer of the future written all over him, it’s just a matter of showing a marginal improvement in his control.


Cincinnati Reds
Tyler Mahle – RHP

The Reds continue to have a rotation merry-go-round, with injuries to Anthony Desclafani and Brandon Finnegan opening the door once again.  Mahle made his MLB debut last season, and while he brings potentially elite control (1.9 BB/9 in the minors) is there enough in the other skills?  A 9.5% SwStr% at Triple-A (7.74 K/9) shows limited strikeout success and a 40.1% groundball rate shows that there could be home run issues.

The control is good enough that he could bring a solid WHIP and makes him worth including here, but the upside is limited.


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Milwaukee Brewers
Mauricio Dubon – 2B/SS

Acquired from the Red Sox, Dubon played 47 games at second base last season and could make an impact there before long.  Jonathan Villar is coming off a disastrous season and is no guarantee for a rebound.  If he struggles early on the door should be open for Dubon to step through it.

Splitting time between Double and Triple-A last season he showed an ability to make consistent contact (7.8% SwStr%), helping lead to a solid .274 AVG.  There’s more upside than that, considering his speed and .309 BABIP, and could ultimately develop into a .290ish hitter or better.  Throw in the potential to steal 30+ bases (he had 38 SB last season) and he could project as an ideal top of the order bat (especially if he can improve his 7.1% walk rate, even just a little bit).


Pittsburgh Pirates
Steven Brault – LHP

Mitch Keller gets the attention, as do Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, and after Brault struggled in his first taste of the Majors last season it makes sense.  That said if he gets an opportunity to start he could run with it, considering these numbers over 120.1 innings at Triple-A last season:

  • Strikeouts – 8.15 K/9 (11.6% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.29 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 52.2%

From a left-handed pitcher those are impressive and could play in the Majors.  He just needs a shot, and for a rebuilding team (regardless of what they say) why wouldn’t they give it to him?


St. Louis Cardinals
Dakota Hudson – RHP

There is a question as to whether or not Hudson profiles better coming out of the bullpen, and even if that were to happen there could be value considering the questions the team has in the later innings (Luke Gregerson, Bud Norris and Dominic Leone are currently under consideration for the closers role).  Hudson has posted a 57.7% groundball rate over 25 starts between Double and Triple-A, and while his control regressed with the promotion (3.49 BB/9 at Triple-A) the upside is still there.

The question is the strikeouts (5.66 K/9), but there is more potential and if he moves to the bullpen it could play up even more.  The Cardinals have a crowded rotation, but that doesn’t mean Hudson can’t rise up and make an impact in ’18.

Source – Fangraphs

Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings?  Make sure to check it out by clicking here.  Also don’t miss all of our 2018 Preseason Positional Prospect Lists:

First Base1-10
Second Base1-10
Third Base1-10

Order Rotoprofessor’s 2018 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide for just $7.50!!  Click here for the details, but don’t miss out on the best bargain in fantasy baseball preparation.

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