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.
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 Padres.
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 - Corey Seager (SS)
Age on Opening Day: 21
Seager is ranked by many as the top prospect heading into the 2016 season. He oozes with potential as he will have SS eligibility for the 2016 season and likely for the foreseeable future. Seager holds all of the tools you'd like to see in an elite fantasy option. While his speed might not blow you away, it's not out of the question for him to steal around 10 bases a year, while providing 20+ HR power and the ability to hit over .300 every year.
In his first stint in the majors he played 27 games batting .337 with a .425 OBP. Seager should be a priority for dynasty leagues going forward and is a legitimate top 10 option for re-draft leagues, as he has the ability to be a top 5 SS in 2016. Seager will be the starting shortstop for the Dodgers in 2016.
#2 - Julio Urias (LHP)
Age on Opening Day: 19
At only 19 years old Julio Urias may be the safest prospect in all of minor league baseball. He has the ceiling of a #1 starter and the floor of a #3 starter. Urias carries a 3 pitch arsenal in which all 3 pitches grade above-average. Urias excelled in the Texas League, at only 18 years old, compiling an impressive 2.77 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 74 K's over 68.1 IP.
Urias has a chance of sneaking into the Dodgers rotation in 2016. Zack Greinke's departure to the Arizona Diamondbacks should open a spot in the backend of the Dodgers rotation. The decision to fill the backend of the rotation with a prospect will most likely come down to Jose De Leon and Julio Urias, with De Leon more likely to get the first shot. Even if Urias does see the big leagues in 2016, you should temper your expectations, as the Dodgers will look to limit his innings over the next couple of years.
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.
#3 - Jose De Leon (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 23
There might not be another prospect in the last few years that have improved their prospect status as much as Jose De Leon. A rather unknown prospect heading into the 2014 season, he has been downright dominant ever since. De Leon spent most of 2015 with the Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers AA affiliate) and has a chance to be a high end #2 starter that can pile up strikeouts.
De Leon boasts 3 pitches that grade above average with two secondary offerings that can be used as out pitches. In 2015 De Leon put up video game type numbers by striking out 163 batters in 114.1IP. De Leon has a good shot of seeing major league action in 2016 and may be a useful "draft and stash" prospect for deeper re-draft leagues. While he doesn't boast the same "ace" potential of Urias, the Dodgers have two outstanding pitchers whom they can rely on for years to come.
#4 - Grant Holmes (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 20
A first round pick in 2014 Grant Holmes was seen as the one of strongest prep arms in the class behind Tyler Kolek. While Holmes doesn't have the prototypical workhorse frame, scouts agree that his stuff is good enough now to make him a starter. Holmes uses an outstanding FB/CU mix to make hitters look foolish at times and projects as a high end #2 starter if he develops as hoped. Holmes had issues with his control in '15, walking 54 batters in 103.1 IP. He still has a lot of work to do, but is a fantastic prospect for 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.
#5 - Alex Verdugo (OF)
Age on Opening Day: 19
A 2nd round pick in the 2014 draft, Alex Verdugo holds many tools that have some fantasy owners drooling. In 2015 Verdugo hit .311 with 9 HR, 61 RBI and 14 SB across 2 single-A levels. The potential for a 15HR/15SB type player is certainly there; Verdugo's bat should also provide an average around .280 or above. He's likely to stick in the outfield as he possesses a strong arm and enough athleticism to stick in RF. Verdugo is a solid all-around player that has the ability to produce in every fantasy category, making him valuable in a number of different dynasty formats.
#6 - Jharel Cotton (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 24
Cotton had a fantastic 2015 season, throwing 94 IP with a 2.45 ERA and striking out 114 batters across 4 different levels. Cotton's changeup may be his best pitch as it is flat out nasty at times. He also has a plus fastball that sits 92-94MPH and topped out at 95MPH. There is a little bit of concern that Cotton will be used as a reliever. He was called up to AAA near the end of the year where he was used primarily as a reliever. If he's able to stick as a starter going forward, Cotton holds some very good value. He could develop into a #3/#4 fantasy starter and someone who can pile up strike outs. The development of his curve will be key as he needs a reliable 3rd pitch to become a dependable starter. At worst, you are looking at a RP who could become a closer or set-up man.
Cotton is probably behind Urias and De Leon in the pecking order of players who could see big league action as a starter in 2016. Whether Cotton remains a starter or switches to a reliever will be one of the more interesting things to follow in the Dodgers minor league system this year.
#7 - Cody Bellinger (1B/OF)
Age on Opening Day: 20
This ranking could end up being entirely too low if Bellinger has another monster season in 2016. Bellinger smashed 30 HR and 103 RBI while batting .264 in 128 games in 2015. A lot has been said that he was the beneficiary of the California League, but 30 HR is impressive for a 19/20 year old regardless of the league they were in. From the top 10 prospect chat at Baseball America:
Emmett (Chicago): I know you like Cody Bellinger quite a bit, but what has you convinced that the power will play outside the Cal League?
Ben Badler: The Cal League does inflate his numbers, but there were legitimate, underlying reasons for Bellinger's power surge beyond playing in a hitter-friendly environment. Some of it is just natural strength progression where he's finally filling out that lanky frame, but a lot of it was the mechanical changes he made throughout the course of the season that I wrote about in his report. Is he going to be a 30-plus home run guy going forward? Probably not. But it's legit plus power and a swing that's conducive to tapping into that power in games.
Bellinger is one of the more intriguing prospects in MiLB as he was an unknown going into 2015. I drafted Bellinger in the 20th round of a 20-team MiLB draft just a month ago. He could potentially provide huge rewards in a couple of years and is someone your league mates probably haven't discovered yet.
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.
#8 - Jose Peraza (2B/SS)
Age on Opening Day: 21
Peraza was probably the most discussed prospect on this list as the opinions were drastically different. Some see Peraza as a "Jose Reyes" type prospect and others see him as nothing more than a stop gap utility man.
The pros: Peraza holds elite speed with the ability to steal 40+ bases over a 162 game season. He's shown the ability to hit for average over the last 4 minor league seasons.
The cons: Peraza offers no power in his game; he's only hit 9 HR in his minor league career. He rarely walks and will mainly rely on singles to get on base.
Peraza's ability to succeed will heavily depend on how well his bat translates to the next level. Playing against elite defensive players every day could inhibit his ability to reach base consistently, given that he doesn't walk a whole lot. Peraza is a solid candidate for dynasty leagues and could be a useful source of steals in deeper re-draft leagues if he gets solid playing time. The Dodgers resigned 2B Chase Utley, which could greatly hinder Peraza's playing time in 2016.
#9 - Walker Buehler (RHP)
Age on Opening Day: 21
A first round selection in the 2015 draft (24th overall) Buehler will likely not see any action in 2016 due to Tommy John surgery in August. A highly regarded prospect coming out of Vanderbilt, he dropped in the draft amid concerns of elbow trouble. Buehler has a fantastic four pitch repertoire, all of which grade as average or above. Buehler is a draft and stash candidate for dynasty leagues with MiLB rosters due to the injury risk, but if he returns to his pre-injury form, can be a late steal.
#10 - Willie Calhoun (2B)
Since being drafted in the 4th round this past year, all Calhoun has done is hit. Calhoun played across 3 different levels and compiled a .316 batting average, 11HR, 48RBI and a .390 OBP. He holds an impressive K/BB ratio of 38/35 which suggests he has a great plate approach.
Calhoun is one of the "lesser" known prospects that have made our top 10 lists. He's definitely worth a late round flier in dynasty leagues and could certainly sky rocket up lists with an impressive 2016. The second base profile will likely scare off some, but a strong return engagement in High-A could solidify his value for fantasy owners. You can read a more in-depth profile on Calhoun from back in September as well.