LaMonte Wade, OF Cedar Rapids Kernals, Twins (Michael Schwarz)
When evaluating hitting prospects for fantasy purposes I begin by asking two key questions. First, does the player have the potential to become a legitimate power-speed threat? Second, does he demonstrate the plate discipline required to avoid ghastly BB:K ratios?
Minnesota's LaMonte Wade, a 2015 9th-round pick from the University of Maryland, allows me to answer "yes" on both counts. Through 86 games as a professional--68 last season and 18 so far this season--Wade has slashed a combined .314/.417/.498 with 10 HR and 15 SB. He also has collected 55 BB against only 44 K. At 22 years old, Wade offers a rare combination of 20-20 potential and an advanced batting eye.
If you play in a dynasty league, Wade's probably still available on the cheap. Ninth-round picks tend not to generate much fantasy buzz, but that should change as he climbs the ranks. He looks ready for a promotion to HIgh-A Fort Myers, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Chattanooga (AA) by season's end
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Reading Fightin' Phils, Phillies (Ray Guilfoyle)
Hoskins is not a name you will see on any Top 100 prospect rankings lists for several reasons. One, he's a first baseman, and not many first baseman are ranked unless they have huge power, or have power and excellent defensive skills. Two that come to mind are Mets 1B prospect Dominic Smith, Indians 1B Bobby Bradley and Dodgers 1B prospect Cody Bellinger. Two, he wasn't a first round pick, as he was picked in the fifth round of the 2014 draft.
That said, Hoskins has done nothing but hit at every level he has played, even in the Winter Australian League this offseason. After hitting a combined .319-.395-.518 with 17 home runs, 86 runs scored, 90 RBI and a 99-55 strikeout to walk rate in 567 plate appearances in Low A and High A last season, Hoskins is having a solid start to the 2016 season at Double A Reading. After a slow start to the season, Hoskins is currently on a 16 game hitting streak and is hitting .253-.324-.453 with 5 home runs, 17 runs scored and 18 RBI in 108 plate appearances this season. He is striking out more than in the past, which is expected when facing the more advanced pitching in Double A.
With Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in the last year of his contract, Hoskins has a chance to take over the first base position for the Phillies in 2017. I don't see Darin Ruf as an obstacle, but Hoskins will have to show he can hit advanced pitching in Double A and, eventually, Triple A before a promotion to the big leagues can be justified. He is doing just that so far in 2016.
Hitting in the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, Hoskins could be a 20 home run bat, so he is someone I am keeping my eye on this season. I drafted him in a 12 team NL only keeper league back in March, so I do own shares of him.
Dylan Cozens, OF, Reading Fightin' Phils, Phillies (Domenic Lanza)
It seems strange that a player of Cozens' pedigree and prodigiousness could fly under the radar, and yet here we are.
The 6'6", 240-plus pound right-fielder was a two-sport athlete in high school, splitting his time between baseball and football. He was committed to Arizona to play defensive end for the Wildcats, after being heavily recruited by Boise State and Washington, as well. Cozens ultimately chose baseball after being selected in the second-round of the 2012 draft, and given a signing bonus just shy of $660,000.
As is the case with most two-sport athletes, Cozens was a very raw talent as he entered professional baseball. His plus-plus raw power was obvious from the outset, as was his surprising athleticism for his size, but his contact skills and outfield defense were clearly works in progress. Through a slow-and-steady approach, however, Cozens has improved his all-around game markedly these last few seasons. His strikeout rate has dropped as he's risen through the ranks, and he has begun to tap into his considerable power more regularly. Cozens remains susceptible to left-handed pitching, but he isn't necessarily a platoon bat.
Though he lacks the polish of the similarly gigantic Aaron Judge, Cozens' ceiling isn't all that far off. He has the tools to hit .270 with 20-plus home runs, and the base-running smarts to steal 10-plus bases at the highest level. And given his performance in Double-A thus far, he may not be too far from the Show right now.
Jon Perrin, SP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Brewers (Ghoji Blackburn)
I will switch things up to a pitcher worth keeping an eye on going forward. Pitching his home games down the road from my house, Jon Perrin has been a pleasant surprise for the Milwaukee Low-A affiliate.
Perrin was selected in the 33rd round of the 2014 draft by the Padres, but didn't sign and returned to Oklahoma State. Now, as a 27th round pick in the 2015 pick it is not surprising that Perrin would fly under the radar. However the control that he has shown this season, so far, will allow him to quickly climb the minor league ladder. In six 2016 starts for the Rattlers, Perrin has a 47:1 K/BB ratio. Go ahead and look at that ratio again - 47:1. I would love those kind of numbers on my dynasty league team. That may not directly translate to the Show right away, if ever, but home plate is the same size in Appleton, Wisconsin as it is at Miller Park. That control can go a long way to overshadowing any faults Perrin may have within his three pitch arsenal. Take a look here at the top 10 K:BB ratios of 2015. I wouldn't mind any of those names on my team's pitching staff.
"I think the biggest thing is he kind of knows who he is as a pitcher, and he pitches to his strengths," Brewers farm director Tom Flanagan said of Perrin. "He doesn't so much worry about who he may be facing or what's going on. But he knows his strengths and he knows he can have success within the strike zone.
Perrin may not be worth a pickup today in dynasty leagues, but he should definitely be added to a watch list. With a WHIP currently at 0.889 and an ERA of 2.50, Perrin should quickly get the call from Adv A Brevard County and start 2017 with AA Biloxi. These moves, combined with good health, will allow for a potential 2017 call-up and 2018 roster spot opportunity.