ESPN's Keith Law released his 2016 Top 100 Prospect Rankings on Thursday, and here are some of my thoughts, from a fantasy point of view, on what he wrote in his scouting report on several players in his Top 100 rankings.
1. Corey Seager, Dodgers
Seager's pitch recognition is advanced way beyond his years, and you'll see him make adjustments within at-bats that even veterans don't make. He's better than most players his age at adjusting to a pitch he didn't expect and does very well covering the outer half without creating a hole on the inner third.
Older brother Kyle, still just 28, already has had four All-Star-caliber seasons for Seattle, but he's going to end up second fiddle to his big little brother.
There is a reason why Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had Seager batting in the top third of the Dodgers lineup in September and in the playoffs. The guy can hit, and will probably be the best position player on the Dodgers in 2016, but outfielder Yasiel Puig may have something to say about that, in my opinion. Some might hesitate at drafting Seager ahead of more established shortstops in drafts in the coming weeks, but I think Seager can be really special, and is easily the favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year heading into the 2016 season.
3. Lucas Giolito, Nationals
If you wanted to build the perfect pitching prospect, he'd look a lot like Giolito, who continued his march through the minors in 2015 despite some tight restrictions on his workload; he was held to 117 innings. Giolito isn't quite ready to join a major league rotation yet, but that's about the end of the negatives in his scouting report.
The Nationals have one ace right now in Max Scherzer, but within a few years, they'll have a second one joining him.
It seems to be the consensus among all the prospect experts out there that Giolito will be an ace in due time, and is the best pitching prospect in the game right now, but Baseball America released their Top 100 Rankings last night and they ranked Giolito behind Dodgers pitching prospect Julio Urias.
There is a chance we see Giolito by midseason, but the Nationals may want to see how he handles AAA before making that call. He made just eight starts in Double A last season, pitching to a 4-2 record over 47.1 innings, and saw a drop in strikeout rate and bump in walk rate with the promotion from High A. I can see him starting the season in Double A, with a May/June promotion to Triple A, but there is a chance the Nationals fast track Giolitio if there is a need in the major league rotation.
15. Gleyber Torres, Cubs
Torres looked much older than 18 in terms of his plate skills during the 2015 season; he stayed behind the ball really well, with great hand-eye coordination and the ability to shoot a ball to the outfield the way Derek Jeter would do with two strikes. He needs to continue to get stronger, as well as work on some of his reads in the field and on the bases, where his physical tools have exceeded his acumen. He has a good chance to jump into the top 5 by next year.
The Cubs will have a decision to make in a couple of years when Torres is ready to make the jump to the big leagues, as they already have Addison Russell at shortstop, and Ben Zobrist at second base. I guess, there is a chance they could move Kris Bryant to right field, with Kyle Schwarber in left field, Jason Hayward in center field, and Russell moving over to third base to make room for Torres at shortstop. Or, they can move Zobrist to right field and move Russell to second base if they want to keep Bryant at third base. Having too much talent is never a bad thing.
18. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox
Benintendi has an unusual profile: He's a short, athletic power-hitting center fielder with the potential for a Mike Cameron stat line from a Reed Johnson body. He's probably a 55 defender in center when it's all said and done, an above-average runner with good instincts, a potential 20-homer, 20-steal guy at a position where, other than Mike Trout, that kind of player just doesn't exist much anymore.
Law went on to say that he wouldn't be surprised to see Benintendi make a jump to the big leagues in the second half of THIS season, ala Mets outfielder Michael Conforto. Like the Cubs, the Red Sox will have a decision to make when Benintendi indicates he is ready, as they already have a center fielder named Mookie Betts. He should be taken very early in dynasty leagues or AL-only keeper leagues that have a separate minor league draft.
34. Javier Guerra, Padres
Guerra is a plus defender at shortstop already, with soft hands, easy actions and plenty of arm for the position. The Panamanian has plus bat speed that generates raw power; he finished fourth in the Sally League in home runs even though he was one of the league's youngest regulars. His approach improved the more he played -- he cut his strikeout rate from 29 percent in the first half to 19 percent in the second. However, he's too aggressive to be a high-walk guy right now. Even if his OBPs stay low, he has enormous upside as a 20-homer shortstop who plays plus defense, and at 19, he's young enough to become a more patient hitter and develop into a possible cleanup hitter who competes for MVP awards.
MVP awards?? I guess I question whether he can get to 20 home runs hitting in Petco Park, but that park isn't the pitchers park it once was due to some structural changes in the park and around the park over the last 3-4 seasons. Petco went from depressing home runs by 20% in 2014 to 8% above league average in 2015.
I think Law might be the highest on Guerra right now, and I haven't seen anyone projecting him as a possible middle of the order hitter down the road. I guess we will find out if the power breakout in 2015 is a fluke or not real soon.
51. Alex Verdugo, Dodgers
Only Corey Seager has a higher ceiling among Dodgers position-player prospects than Verdugo, who has special ability at the plate and when he's throwing, although ultimately he's going to end up in right field. At the plate, Verdugo has great bat speed and the ability to make quick adjustments, reacting well even when seeing an off-speed pitch in a fastball count. He started slow in Great Lakes, but those adjustments kicked in around the Midwest League All-Star break, after which he hit .349/.372/.460 with only 16 Ks in 200 plate appearances. He was then promoted to Rancho Cucamonga and raked.
He looks like a 20-homer, high-batting-average hitter who can play plus defense in a corner with a 70 arm and add a little value on the bases.
Law is higher on Verdugo than all other prospect experts with the exception of Minor League Ball's John Sickels who likes Verdugo quite a bit as well. I traded for Verdugo in my NL-only keeper league this offseason and am pleasantly surprised to see him ranked so high. Verdugo doesn't strike out a lot, so he has a good idea at the plate, and I think there is more power to come.