With the playoffs underway, 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 finish up the division with the Blue Jays. Once we finish a division, we'll move to the next division to their west, (the AL Central in this case), then repeat for 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.
#1 - Blake Snell (LHP)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 23
One of the biggest movers in the 2015 season, if not the biggest, Blake Snell has caught the attention of the fantasy world. Named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the year, Snell dominated across three different levels in 2015 (A+/AA/AAA). Snell had an unprecedented 49 IP scoreless streak during the first part of the season. In all, Snell struck out 163 over 134 IP with a spectacular 1.41 ERA. While Snell probably doesn't have the stuff to become a true front of rotation ace, he is still a tier 1 prospect. Snell projects as a top of the line #2 starter and should make fantasy owners happy for years to come. This was an easy choice for us as Snell is by far the best prospect in the Rays organization. He holds value as a starting pitcher in any league format as he will most likely debut in 2016.
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.
#2 - Willy Adames (SS)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 20
Dealt to the Rays in the David Price trade, Adames is a top 100 prospect in his own right. Adames holds solid future value as he is a shortstop that has developing power and can also steal bases. Holding that kind of ability makes Adames one of the more sought after prospects in dynasty leagues with MiLB rosters. Adames has yet to show his true power potential, although keep in mind that he played this season at 19 years old, while the majority of his competition was 2-3 years older. Adames is a five-tool shortstop prospect that can provide production in all categories. A must own in dynasty leagues with MiLB rosters.
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 - Brent Honeywell (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 21
One of the more intriguing prospects in the Rays organization is SP Brent Honeywell. Honeywell features a plus-fastball with an above average change-up and potential for a plus screwball. Finishing the 2015 season with a 3.18 ERA, he struck out 129 over 130.1 innings across two single-A levels. Honeywell realistically profiles as a mid-to-backend fantasy starter in standard formats, and has the potential to be better than that depending on the development of his secondary pitches. Honeywell is one worth keeping an eye on as he is in one of the best organizations for maximizing pitcher development with the Rays.
#4 - Daniel Robertson (SS)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 22
A down year in 2015 didn't stop us from adding shortstop Daniel Robertson to the list. Robertson may not be the most exciting prospect in the Rays' organization, but he does have the potential to provide value in some formats. Robertson shows an above-average plate approach with the ability to consistently make contact. Despite having a down year Robertson still finished the year with a .772 OPS. He hit 15 home runs in the Cal league in 2014 so he's shown a little pop in his bat. Robertson will never be one to steal a lot of bases and he's a question mark to stick at shortstop. 10-12 home runs per year with a .270-.280 average is not out of the question. Robertson is most likely a play for deeper dynasty leagues only at this point.
#5 - Garrett Whitley (OF)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 19
A 2015 first round draft pick, Garrett Whitley may have the best set of tools on the whole list; he may also have the highest ceiling out of anyone on our list. While he's one of the riskier prospects in the top 10, given his distance from the big leagues, he's a great prospect for dynasty leagues that have MiLB rosters. Whitley has plus speed with the ability to steal 30 bases a year at the big league level. One concern scouts had going into the 2015 draft was his ability to make contact. He did not ease those concerns putting up a .174 average through 42 games at the minor league level; however, he did show a solid plate approach with a 21/37 BB/K ratio. Although there are concerns here, we will give Whitley a pass as he is a top tier athlete with the potential of developing into a legitimate contributor in all categories, a pure speculation play.
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 - Taylor Guerrieri (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 23
Considered to be near the top of pitching prospects in early 2013, a mid-season elbow injury causing TJ surgery put Guerrieri on the shelf for the rest of '13 and most of '14. In his first extended action since elbow surgery, Guerrieri showed everyone what all of the fuss was about pre-injury. In 2015 he went 5-3 with a 1.85 ERA, struck out 72 in 78 innings while only walking 19. Guerrieri is probably the toughest player in the top 10 to project, as he has immense talent, but fear of another injury keeps him lower on the list. He projects as a mid-rotation starter with the ceiling of a #2 starter. Taking proximity to the big leagues into consideration, Guerrieri will be more useful to some in shallower dynasty leagues.
#7 - Chris Betts (C)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 19
A 2nd round pick in 2015, Betts missed all of his first season of pro-ball due to having Tommy John surgery. The TJ surgery does not concern us near as much as it would with a pitcher. One of the biggest factors for Betts' value will depend on whether or not he stays behind the plate. One of the better hitters in the 2015 draft class, Betts, a left handed batter, provides above-average power with a potential plus hit tool. While it's unlikely he stays behind the plate, unless he makes big improvements, his bat should play up enough to man one of the corner OF positions. With his position uncertainty Betts is a difficult prospect to project. His ability to hit profiles him as a top 10 catcher if he can stick at the position.
#8 - Jacob Faria (RHP)
Age on Opening Day 2016: 22
Faria is another Rays prospect that has made huge strides during the 2015 season. A rather unknown coming into the 2015 season, Faria has dominated across the A+/AA levels while pilling up strikeouts. Named the co-winner of the Florida State League Pitcher of the year, Faria fanned 159 in 149.2 IP with a 1.92 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP while finishing with a 17-4 record. As the year went on Faria kept improving while the majority of minor leaguers were tiring. In his final 4 games of the season, he struck out 11, 13, 8 and 8, showing the ability to consistently miss bats. Faria's recent success may have been a benefactor of focusing on the development of his secondary pitches in the offseason, per an interview with MILB.com's Josh Jackson:
"Developing a more consistent changeup was something I worked on a lot, and that's probably been my biggest pitch this year. Putting on weight, getting stronger -- I'm trying to do that every offseason."
Faria projects as a back end fantasy rotation starter; however, if his secondary pitches keep improving he could surprise us all and become a solid #3 option. He's an option for dynasty leagues and definitely one to keep an eye given his proximity to the show.
Age on Opening Day 2016: 17
Age on Opening Day 2016: 25