With the offseason 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.
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 - Steven Matz (LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
Despite being drafted in 2009, Matz did not make his professional debut until 2012 due to Tommy John Surgery, and the specter of that injury has yet to truly go away. However, that is not due to a lack of performance, as the southpaw dominated at every minor league level before making his MLB debut this past Summer. And in nine starts between the regular season in playoffs, Matz produced the following line: 50.1 IP, 51 H, 11 BB, 47 K, 1.23 WHIP, 2.68 ERA. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, he has two average to above-average off-speed offerings in his change-up and curve, and he has solid-average command. It's a top of the rotation profile - what more is there to say?
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.
The Mets do not have any prospects in this tier.
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.
#2 - Dominic Smith (1B)
Age on Opening Day: 20
You would be hard-pressed to find a prospect that is more divisive than Smith. Heading into 2015, Keith Law ranked him as the 65th best prospect in the game, but he did not make the cut for MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, or Baseball America. At mid-season, Law bumped him to 40th in his top-50 and MLB.com slotted him in at 92nd, but he remained unmentioned by BP and BA. The reason for this is rooted in Smith's power, or lack thereof thus far. Few doubt his contact skills, approach, and athleticism at first base, but he's a 1B-only prospect that has 10 HR and a .097 ISO in 1221 plate appearances. If the power doesn't develop as some expect, Smith's fantasy profile will be severely limited by his position - and, for the time being, he reminds many of James Loney.
#3 - Amed Rosario (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 20
Rosario is one of those prospects that may end up being far more valuable in real life than he is in the world of fantasy, given his tremendous defense at short. Opinions vary greatly on his offensive profile, though; some feel that he could be a solid all-around hitter with some power and speed, others feel that his value will depend on his BABIP, and others still see a future All-Star with 'crazy bat speed.' The offensive baseline at shortstop remains low, and Rosario held his own at High-A at 19. The fact that he seems a lock to stick at short raises his floor a bit, and gives his offensive tools a chance to shine.
#4 - Gavin Cecchini (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 22
Prior to the 2014 season, Cecchini was beginning to look a bit like a bust. His defense at short was fringe-y at best, and the pure contact skills that had been raved about were nowhere to be seen. Cecchini broke out in 2015, however, batting .317/.377/.442 with 26 2B, 4 3B, and 7 HR in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League (Double-A). He was making harder, more consistent contact throughout the season, and showed a bit of pop, to boot. Keith Law believes in the contact skills but not the power, and still thinks he can be an above-average defender at short. Others, however, struggle to see a shortstop or a competent big league hitter. I see Cecchini as a safer bet to hit than Rosario, but I'm not sure if he can stick at short much longer (second base may be his best fit).
#5 - Brandon Nimmo (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 23
What is it with the Mets and divisive prospects? Nimmo is to the outfield as Cecchini is to the outfield, with an offensive profile that would look great in CF, yet underwhelming in the corners. He has hit at every level, demonstrating an approach that is somewhere between patient and passive, with moderate contact and in-game power. Nimmo is big (6'3", 210-plus) and athletic, with the instincts for center field but range that may end up limiting to right. Many see him as a platoon player, due to persistent issues against southpaws, but if he can tap into his above-average raw power and stick in center that may be moot.
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 - Desmond Lindsay (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 19
The Mets did not have a first-round pick in 2015, due to their puzzling decision to sign Michael Cuddyer, yet many think that they landed an equivalent talent in Desmond Lindsay. One of the best athletes in the draft, Lindsay has plus to plus-plus speed, above-average bat speed, and a solid frame that could portend average power down the line. He profiles as a terrific defender in center field, as well. Despite underwhelming numbers, Lindsay showed a strong approach at the plate in Low-A against older, more experienced competition.
#7 - Wuilmer Becerra (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 21
Nearly three years ago, Becerra was a lottery ticket thrown into the R.A. Dickey trade that has paid tremendous dividends for the Mets (see: Syndergaard, Noah and d'Arnaud, Travis). He is not quite on that level, but Becerra is a legitimate prospect in his own right, with above-average to plus raw power, solid speed, and strong arm - a prototypical RF profile. Becerra has an aggressive approach and struggles with spin, but he has performed well at every level, trimming his strikeout rate along the way. He may end up being a .250 hitter, though that may not matter if he's hitting 20-plus home runs and stealing a dozen bases.
#8 - Gabriel Ynoa (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 22
Ynoa has all the makings of a command/control lefty, with the small exception of him being right-handed. He's a true four-pitch guy, throwing his low-90s fastball (though he can touch 95), change-up, slider, and fringe-y curve for strikes, thriving by keeping hitters off-balance and inducing weak contact. Ynoa lacks the swing and miss stuff to be an elite pitcher and may slot in at the back of a rotation, but he's a smart, durable pitcher that should be able to eat innings and limit walks.
#9 - Robert Gsellman (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 22
Gsellman is another mid to back of the rotation prospect, thriving in the minors as an extreme groundball pitcher. The 6'4", 215-plus right-hander features a low-90s sinker, an above-average curve (that may already be an MLB-quality pitch), and a passable change-up, as well as the build to handle a heavy workload. He does not have a true swing-and-miss pitch, which may limit his strikeouts in the early goings, but the Mets have worked wonders with breaking balls before (particularly with Jacob deGrom).
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.
#10 - Milton Ramos (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 20
Ramos was ranked 48th among all prospects in the 2014 draft, as well as its best defensive shortstop. The fact that he slipped into the third round seems to be a result of alleged maturity issues (he did bounce between four different high schools), which resulted in many viewing this selection as a steal. His defense has been more tools than performance at this point, yet few doubt his ability to stay at the position - it's a matter of Ramos translating those tools into sound defense at short. Offensively, Kiley McDaniel sees an offense revolving around above-average speed and double-digit home runs, whereas Jeff Paternostro sees fringe-average to average tools on that side of the game.