This week, we started a new series where some of our writers profile prospects who could have an impact on fantasy rosters in 2016. Thus far, we have addressed the top five unheralded prospects from the following MLB divisions:
Today, I address prospects from the National League West division who could help you in 2016. Later today, Jason will take a look at five unheralded prospects from the American League West.
Silvino Bracho, MR, Diamondbacks
Bracho is a 23 year old, small-framed reliever who tore through two levels of the minors in 2016 before his eventual call up to the big leagues at the end of August. Prior to his call up, Bracho dominated High A hitters, striking out 14 of the 20 batters he faced in just six innings of work. He was promoted to Double A, where he continued his dominance, as he struck out 59 and walked nine in 44.2 innings, saving 16 games in doing so. After his late August call up, Brach struck out 17 batters and walked four in 12.1 innings, but was victimized by the long ball. He is an extreme fly ball pitcher, so he will need to work on this aspect of his repertoire in the big leagues, but he could end up closing in Arizona this season. He is blocked by closer Brad Ziegler and set up man Tyler Clippard. Ziegler gets by with his sub-marine delivery and an extreme ground ball rate, as you and I could probably strike out more batters than he does. Clippard has closed in the past, but is better suited in the set up role, opening up a spot for Bracho should the Diamondbacks front office want to make a change at the closer role should Ziegler struggle.
Tom Murphy, C, Rockies
Murphy was send down to Triple A Colorado Springs last week, but make no mistake about it, he is the Rockies catcher of the future. He has a solid arm, but he won't be known for his defensive abilities. Murphy raked through two levels of the minors last season, hitting 20 home runs and driving in 63 runs in just over 100 games played in Double A and Triple A. He made 11 starts behind the dish for the big league club upon his call up in mid-September, hitting .257 with 3 home runs and 9 RBI in 39 plate appearances. There is a lot of swing and miss in his plate approach, so he will have to tone down the power stroke as he gains experience against advanced pitching. Triple A should provide a glimpse into adjustments he makes.
Trayce Thompson, OF, Dodgers
The Dodgers have more outfielders than they can roster on their 25 man roster, so it was curious when they traded for White Sox outfielder Trayce Thompson in a three-team deal with the Reds and White Sox this offseason. Thompson has the tools to be a 15-20 home run hitter with 20+ stolen bases and can really pick it in center field. I see the Thompson deal as insurance in case Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson's second half struggles continue into the first few months of the season. In a full time role, Thompson could put up double digit home runs and stolen bases in 2016, he just needs an opportunity to play regularly.
Update: With the news that Dodgers outfielder Andrew Ether will miss 10-14 weeks due to a broken leg, Thompson has a very good shot at making the Dodgers Opening Day roster.
Colin Rea, SP, Padres
Anytime you can draft a Padres starting pitcher for a buck, you have to jump on the opportunity, and that is exactly what I did in Sunday's Tout Wars NL-only auction. I threw his name out and was surprised no one bid $2 for him. Rea has a chance to make the Padres starting rotation out of spring training due to the injury to Brandon Morrow and the ineffectiveness of another Brandon, Brandon Maurer, who is probably more suitable for a bull pen role where he has thrived in the past. This opens up the door for Rea to crack the Padres rotation to open the season. Rea isn't a big strikeout pitcher, but he does own a strikeout rate above 7.00 K/9 and showed some ground ball tendencies in his limited work at the big league level in 2015. There are worse options out there on the waiver wire than Rea.
Here is a quick take from ESPN's Keith Law on Rea in a recent article discussing impact prospect for 2016:
Rea is a command right-hander, probably a No. 4 starter at the end of the day, but can sink the ball a little and miss just enough bats to be better than any of those other options.
I don't need Rea to be an ace, just a serviceable starter who doesn't get roughed up to often.
Clayton Blackburn, SP, Giants
The Giants made a huge splash this offseason, signing both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to big contracts to firm up their rotation behind ace Madison Bumgarner, with Jake Peavy and Chris Heston taking care of the back end. Should any of these pitcher go down to an injury, Peavy is no spring chicken, Blackburn could be the guy who gets the call up to replace the injured starter. Yes, Matt Cain is still on the Giants roster, but he appears to be done as a big league starter. Blackburn pitched well in his first taste of Triple A last season, going 10-4 with a 3.55 ERA, 2.85 FIP, while striking out seven batters per nine innings. He doesn't have to be especially dominant pitching in the spacious AT&T Park in San Francisco, as the park is very pitcher-friendly.