With the playoffs in full swing, that means it will be time for teams to assess their needs for next season and start planning for a longer than hoped offseason. We're at the same point for fantasy owners in dynasty leagues, and we're here to help you with the information you need as you prepare for your minor league drafts.
In previous years, we have done rather intensive top 10 prospect lists, including an organizational rundown, opportunities in the coming season, as well as the top fantasy prospects. However, we have found that a number of these topics are covered as we continue through the offseason, and specifically through profiles done as a part of our preseason redraft rankings. As a result, this year's top 10 lists will be primarily that: a list of the prospects with brief writeups rather than the 4000-8000 word opuses that have occurred in the past. We feel that this year's format will both suit the goal better (of providing fantasy relevant information and rankings) as well as allow us to move through them much more quickly so that they can be completed by the Christmas holiday.
The schedule itself is fairly basic: We cover a division, going in alphabetical order of city/location name. This means the next team after this post will be the Twins. After that, we'll move on to the AL West. Once we've finished one league, we start over on the East Coast in the National League and do the same.
With fantasy prospect rankings, the key to knowing the usefulness of a specific player is how large and deep of a league you would need to be in for them to end up as a fantasy starter. We will be ranking 10 prospects in each system, but that doesn't mean that every one of them is useful if you play in a 12-team mixed dynasty league. With that said, we're aiming to provide useful information whether you play in a 10-team mixed, a 15-team AL-only, or a 24-team mixed.
Prospect rankings also come with the same caveat I provide every year. They represent a snapshot of how we view the players at the time of publication. There will inherently be more information published throughout the offseason, and so it is very possible that by the end of the offseason, how we view a player may be very different from where we had them originally. We're going to get some of these right, we're going to get some of these wrong, and in general my reminder is to find information you trust, and use it to your advantage. If that comes from us, that's great and we're happy you're here. If it doesn't, we'll continue to work and hope that you'll keep checking in to see how we're doing.
Something new I wanted to introduce this year is a tier system to help delineate where prospects are likely to fall on the overall top prospect list. We have not completed our top prospects lists yet, and will not likely do so until we are close to finishing all the prospect rankings. The tiers are here though to provide some clarity when comparing between different teams. It's by no means a perfect system, but the goal is to give you a general idea of which players we think are in a similar range in terms of value and ranking. Since the tiers are also expected to be relatively consistent across teams, there may be tiers which do not have prospects for certain teams.
Tier 1 - The Elite Prospects
These prospects are expected to be in the top 25-50 prospects overall, and have the potential to be among the top options at their position regardless of format or league size.
No Royals prospects at this time meet Tier 1 criteria.
Tier 2 - The Top 100 Candidates
These prospects are expected to be in the discussion for the top 100 prospects overall, and are expected to be starting options in all formats.
#1 - Raul A. Mondesi (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 20
The son of former Dodger/Blue Jay/Yankee outfielder Raul Mondesi Sr., Raul Adalberto Mondesi will not be putting up big time counting stats like dad did anytime soon. Ranked as the #33 overall prospect by MLB.com, Mondesi is no stranger being on top prospect lists; he has appeared on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects each of the last 3 seasons. Mondesi struggled quite a bit in 2015, as he hit .243 with a BB/K of 17/88 and a horrid OBP of .279. While the talent is undoubtedly there, he hasn’t seen much improvement in his game over the last 3 years from a fantasy standpoint. One thing to note, Mondesi has been much younger than the competition at each of his minor league stops. His development may have been hindered somewhat by the Royals aggressively pushing him through their minor league system. At this point Mondesi is worth way more to the Royals than prospective fantasy owners, but with his baseball pedigree and future potential, he is still worth a roster spot in all leagues with MiLB rosters.
#2 - Kyle Zimmer (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
Former 5th overall pick Kyle Zimmer’s pro career has somewhat been hampered by injuries. He missed nearly the entire 2014 season due to arthroscopic shoulder surgery, and didn’t see his first action in 2015 until May 29th. If it wasn’t for injuries, I believe our prospect staff would’ve been more inclined to peg him as the Royals #1 prospect in the organization. Zimmer has very high upside, as he has the ability to miss bats consistently with two plus pitches. MLB.com grades his repertoire as having 4 average to above average pitches, which is very seldom seen. Zimmer is a very tough prospect to project given he’s only thrown over 64.2 innings once in his MiLB career. Zimmer is quite the speculation play, but has the upside of a #2 fantasy starter if he ends up staving off the injuries.
Tier 3 - The Next Group of Starters
These prospects would likely slot into the 100-200 range on an overall ranking list, and would be starters in mid-depth formats like 12 and 14 team leagues.
#3 - Ashe Russell (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 19
Ranked as the #83 prospect on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list, Russell was a first round draft pick in 2015 from Cathedral High School out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Russell’s best pitch his is fastball which works into the mid 90’s with some reports saying he’s topped out as high as 97mph. He has a plus slider to pair with his fastball which could make for a deadly relief pitching option. For the time being it looks like the Royals will be developing him as a starter; the development of his changeup will be a contributing factor to whether or not he remains a starter. Russell is one of the more intriguing arms in the Royals’ org as he has one of the higher ceilings. He’s still years away from contributing making it difficult to project what kind of impact he will have in fantasy, but for now he could become a mid-rotational fantasy starter or a good source of holds/saves if the Royals end up going the RP route.
#4 - Miguel Almonte (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 23
Since advancing from Full-Season A-ball in 2013 Miguel Almonte has struggled at every stop along the way to the show. Almonte holds a solid 3 pitch mix consisting of a fastball, curveball and a changeup. His changeup and fastball both project as future plus pitches making him an ideal candidate for a reliever. The development of his curveball will be key going forward as he will need that 3rd consistent pitch in his repertoire to stick as a starter. Almonte holds solid value and has an opportunity to become a mid-rotational starter for the Royals; he could become solid backend option in leagues with 12+ teams.
#5 - Bubba Starling (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 23
One of the best pure athletes in all of minor league baseball, Bubba Starling was once thought of as a top-tier prospect; however, views have changed quite drastically since. Starling has all of the physical tools that you’d want in a big time prospect, a 6’4 210 lb frame with legitimate power and enough speed to potentially steal 20 bases at the big league level. His hit tool is drastically holding him back and may ultimately prevent him from ever being an impact player in the bigs. Starling will be more valuable as a defensive player than as a fantasy asset. Starling, being such a great athlete, is still worth a flier in leagues with MiLB rosters as he’s only 23 years old and still has time to put it all together.
Tier 4 - Single League and Deep Format Plays
These prospects would likely slot into the 200-300 range on a ranking list, and would have the most value to mixed leagues with 16+ teams and single-league formats with 12+ teams.
#6 - Nolan Watson (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 19
A 2015 first round draft pick like Ashe Russell, Watson may be a little more polished than his counterpart. While he doesn’t have the pure stuff that Russell has, Watson may be better suited as a starter as he features a four-pitch repertoire. Watson is most likely a back end fantasy starter or a mid-rotational option at best and only carries value in the deepest formats at this time.
Tier 5 - We Ranked Ten Prospects, We Really Did
These prospects generally will be useful in the deepest of formats. Think 24+ teams for mixed leagues and single-league formats with more teams than the league it uses. In many cases, these will be part-time players or utility-types when they get to the majors.
#7 - Hunter Dozier (3B)
Age on Opening Day: 24
Hunter Dozier- Former first round picks are the name of the game in this organization as Dozier was selected 8th overall in 2013. Dozier is the oldest prospect on the list at 24 years old so his time to shine is limited. While Dozier has some solid power in his bat he sells out for the long ball far too often. From his scouting report on MLB.com
The problem is that Dozier's right-handed stroke got out of whack when he started swinging for the fences when he reached Double-A in 2014. Making matters worse, he tinkered with his stance and stride and struggled to find a comfortable approach. If he can fix his swing, he still has the natural strength and leverage to hit 20 homers per season while hitting for a decent average.
Dozier will most likely end up being a big league fringe player unless he can hone in on improving his hit tool. He only carries value in the deepest of formats.
#8 - Jorge Bonifacio (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 22
The brother of Emilio Bonifacio, Jorge is quite opposite from his brother. Jorge has a stout 6’1", 200 lb frame that holds above average to plus raw power in his bat. Jorge finished the year tied for 4th in the Texas League with 17 HR while finishing 11th in RBI with 64. Bonifacio often sells out for the long ball evidenced by his scouting reports from MLB.com
He got in trouble trying to hit home runs last year instead of letting his power develop naturally, which the Royals believe will happen once he does a better job of incorporating his lower half in his swing.
Bonifacio has the ability to stick in right field given his plus arm strength and solid defensive skills. He is another prospect that should really only be owned in deeper fantasy leagues with MiLB rosters.
#9 - Foster Griffin (LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 20
Another Royals first round draft pick, Foster Griffin was selected 28th overall in 2014. Griffin struggled mightily in his first full-season action in the Southern Atlantic League. He compiled an ERA of 5.44, struck out 71 across 102 IP and walked 35. An alarming stat that stands out is his average against as it sits at .296, as he also gave up 123 hits this year. The scouting report on his pitches point to a potential solid starting pitcher, and MLB.com notes the following:
Griffin has advanced feel for a changeup and while his curveball is just his third-best pitch, it has downer action. He has tremendous aptitude for pitching, which he showed off while twirling a shutout and helping The First Academy (Orlando) win the 2014 National High School Invitational. His build, changeup and pitchability have prompted comparisons to Cole Hamels.
Griffin looks like another backend starter or a guy that could turn into a middle reliever with time.
#10 - Chase Vallot (C)
Age on Opening Day: 19
Vallot is a catcher that has fantastic arm strength and has the ability to stick behind the plate. He holds a powerful bat and a hit tool that needs further development. Vallot turned in a mediocre season during 2015, batting .219 while hitting 13 HR and driving in 40RBI. Despite the terrible average, he still finished with an OBP of .331. Vallot is years away from contributing and should only be owned in leagues of 20+ with deep MiLB rosters.