If you play in a deep dynasty league, then you have felt the joy of sifting through minor-league stats and scouting reports in hopes of finding that one hidden gem who appears poised to skyrocket up the next set of rankings. You know this prospect will not help you win anything for at least a few years, but that knowledge does not diminish the moment's joy.
For present purposes, a dynasty league qualifies as "deep" only if its combined rosters include more than 300 minor-leaguers. With this in mind, I have set the following parameters:
--No prospect who makes this list will have appeared on any of our Fake Teams organizational Top 10 lists during the past offseason. That's 30 teams times 10 prospects to exclude 300 players.
--Among the "ten-to-target," no prospect will have reached Double-A or higher. This eliminates a handful of players who have blossomed at the higher levels, but those players' proximity to the Majors makes it unlikely that they have been overlooked.
Here, then, are ten players whose possible future fantasy value merits immediate attention and who currently are assigned to either Advanced-A or Low-A leagues. Target them if you can.
Ten to Target:
1) Ronald Acuna, OF, Rome Braves (Braves)
This season Acuna, 18, has become one of my favorite prospects. Every time I tune in to watch one of Rome's well-regarded starting pitchers such as Touki Toussaint, Max Fried, Ricardo Sanchez, and Mike Soroka, it is Acuna who jumps off the screen. The young centerfielder has all the tools to become a star, including raw power that is beginning to show up in games. His .300 average with 2 HR and 12 SB is impressive enough for a teenager in the South Atlantic League, and it looks even more impressive when one considers that he will not turn 19 until a week before Christmas.
2) Mitch Keller, SP, West Virginia Power (Pirates)
Have the Pirates plucked another power arm from the prep ranks to follow in the paths of Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon? While it's far too early for those kinds of comparisons, the early returns on Keller, 20, look quite promising. Through six starts Keller has posted a 0.79 ERA and a ridiculous 3:42 BB:K ratio in 34 IP. Earlier this week he smothered the Victor Robles-led Hagerstown Suns (Nationals) with six innings of two-hit ball and eight strikeouts.
3) Marcos Diplan, SP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (Brewers)
The Brewers have to be thrilled with Diplan, 19, who was the centerpiece of the 2015 offseason trade that sent SP Yovani Gallardo to Texas. In his first full season at Wisconsin the young righthander has posted a 2.35 ERA with 10 BB and 27 K in 23 IP. Milwaukee's impressive farm system features depth everywhere except frontline starting pitching. He's a long way from the Majors, but Diplan could emerge as the best of the bunch.
4) Tom Eshelman, SP, Clearwater Threshers (Phillies)
Part of the package acquired from Houston in exchange for RP Ken Giles, Eshelman, 21, came out of college with double-plus command of a fringy repertoire. In three seasons at Cal-State Fullerton Eshelman walked a total of 18 batters--one of the most eye-popping statistics in recent college baseball history. He has begun his first full professional season with a solid 2.35 ERA and 8:26 BB:K ratio in 30.2 IP at High-A Clearwater. While he does not project as a frontline starter, he could prove to be one of the fastest-moving prospects in the minors.
5) Enyel de los Santos, SP, Fort Wayne TinCaps (Padres)
Acquired this past offseason from Seattle as part of a deal for Joaquin Benoit, de los Santos, 20, has picked up where he left off in 2015, when he struck out 71 batters in 62.1 IP between the rookie-level Arizona League and the Everett Aquasox of the short-season Northwest League. As part of a solid Fort Wayne rotation, de los Santos has posted a 3.16 ERA and 9:25 BB:K ratio in 25.2 IP. He features a plus fastball, a promising changeup, and a strike-throwing propensity that bodes well for his future as a starter.
6) Sandy Alcantara, SP, Peoria Chiefs (Cardinals)
Another young arm who is thriving in the Midwest League, Alcantara, 20, might have the highest upside of any pitcher in the Cardinals' system. This season, on the strength of a high-90s fastball, Alcantara has posted a respectable 4.43 ERA with 16 BB and 24 K in 22.1 IP. As he refines and learns to command his secondary stuff, the walks should diminish, and Alcantara will have a chance to reach his ceiling as a frontline starter.
7) LaMonte Wade, OF, Cedar Rapids Kernels (Twins)
I've already written of my enthusiasm for Wade, 22, as a prospect well worth targeting at this early stage of his career. His power-speed potential, coupled with an advanced batting eye, makes him one of the more promising of the truly unheralded prospects. Wade did not appear on Baseball America's list of Top 30 Twins prospects, and he checks in at #27 on MLB.com's Prospect Watch, so he's still pretty far under the radar.
8) Kevin Padlo, 3B, Bowling Green Hot Rods (Rays)
After hitting .257 with 11 HR and 35 SB across two levels in 2015, Padlo, 19, came to Tampa Bay this past offseason along with OF/DH Corey Dickerson as part of a trade that sent RP Jake McGee to the Rockies. Thus far in 2016 Padlo has struggled to duplicate last season's success (.221, 4 HR, 4 SB), but the talent is there. And who knows? A frustrated, impatient owner might be willing to part with Padlo on the cheap.
9) Drew Jackson, OF, Bakersfield Blaze (Mariners)
Much like Padlo, Jackson, 22, has struggled to build upon last season's .358 average and 47 SB at short-season Everett. His .307 average is nice, but his speed game (4 SB in 10 tries) has not yet translated. In fairness, Jackson was so good at Everett that the Mariners gave him an aggressive assignment to the High-A California League, so perhaps we should expect a period of adjustment to advanced competition.
10) Jose Pujols, OF, Lakewood BlueClaws (Phillies)
Pujols, 20, struggled last year at short-season Williamsport (.238 average, 81 K in 66 games), but in 2016 he already has set a career high with 7 HR. If you play in a very deep league, he could be worth a flier.
Three Bonus Prospects Who Are Closer to the Majors:
1) Daniel Mengden, SP, Nashville Sounds (Athletics)
A fourth-round pick of the Astros in 2014, Mengden, 23, breezed through Double-A (4 GS, 23 IP, 0.78 ERA, 12:28 BB:K) and has reached Triple-A Nashville, where, in two starts, he has yet to surrender a run. He could be an option for Oakland's mediocre rotation before the end of the year and would be worth a look in deeper mixed leagues.
2) Rio Ruiz, 3B, Gwinnett Braves (Braves)
After a dreadful 2015 season in Double-A, Ruiz, 21, has turned things around in his first year with Triple-A Gwinnett, batting .289 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. The Braves don't have a Major-League-ready third baseman to block him, so he could get a look in Atlanta later this season.
3) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals)
Cuthbert, 23, is so close to the Majors that he's actually arrived. With the injury to Mike Moustakas, Kansas City had an immediate need on the hot corner. If Cuthbert rakes the way he did in Triple-A (.333-7-28), then the Royals will find him some playing time even when Moose returns, perhaps at second base.