In this post, I’ll go over some prospects who are being vastly underrated. None of these players have been in any Top 100 lists that I have seen so far, but could return Top 100 value. I usually do these posts biyearly as it is a fun concept to cover, and keeps me in tune with what is going on in the prospect world. This time I gave each prospect some grades, but not the grades you are use to. As I talked about in my Five Tool Fantasy Players post, the five tools for real life and fantasy are very different. In this post, Hit talks about BABIP, Power is related to BBE/HR, contact is related to strikeout rate, plate discipline is related to walk rate, and speed is related to...well, speed. I’m going to try to stay away from talking about prospects I have already discussed in prior posts, but I’ll make sure to put a related post section if you would like to check them out.
Austin Listi, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies
Hit: 55, Power: 60, Contact: 45, Plate Discipline: 60, Speed: 40
The first base position has become a lot shallower over the past couple of years, but some lesser-known prospects could bring excitement back to the position. Listi is one of these prospects. He’s got a tremendous amount of power, which should play well in Philadelphia. Like many other power hitters, the main concern is his strikeout rate. With a good amount of swing and miss surrounding his game, he will likely have a strikeout rate around 25.0%. With his batted ball profile, he will probably have a BABIP around .310. At age 25, there won’t be a lot of hype surrounding Listi, but he could be a post-hype prospect who hits 30+ home runs and posts a .250 batting average.
Brandon Wagner, 1B, New York Yankees
Hit: 65, Power: 65, Contact: 25, Plate Discipline: 70, Speed: 35
The amount of hype, or lack thereof, surrounding Wagner is astounding. This guy’s power is for real, and his superb plate discipline should help him have a double-digit walk rate at the Major Lleague level. He does have a lot of swing and miss, which will lead to a strikeout rate close to 30.0%. If he can overcome that and have a strikeout rate closer to 25.0%, then we are looking at a potential .260 hitter who could hit 35+ home runs.
Kevin Cron, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Hit: 50, Power: 65, Contact: 30, Plate Discipline: 45, Speed: 30
I remember watching a Spring Training game back in 2016 or 2017 in which Cron absolutely mashed a home run, and from that day on I have been enamored with this Diamondbacks first base prospect. He is the brother of C.J. Cron, and they are both pretty aggressive at the plate and have a lot of swing and miss in their game. The difference is that Kevin may actually have more raw power than his older brother and hits a lot more fly balls as well. These fly balls should him be on pace to hit 35 home runs, but it will also negatively affect his BABIP. With Paul Goldschmidt out of Arizona, there is a chance we could see Cron make his Major League debut this season. Here’s to hoping that happens so we can all see just how hard he hits the ball via Statcast data.
Eddy Diaz, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Hit: 55, Power: 20, Contact: 60, Plate Discipline: 55, Speed: 80
There may be no prospect currently in the minors who has more stolen base potential than Diaz. In just 223 plate appearances, he stole 54 bases! Granted, that was at Rookie Ball, but if you prorate through a full 700 plate appearance season, then he would have finished with 170 stolen bases. That is unheard of at any level. He had tremendous plate skills last season as he had a 1.82 walk to strikeout rate. It’s hard to know just how good Diaz will be, but he could become the next Dee Gordon or even better.
Esteban Quiroz, 2B, San Diego Padres
Hit: 65, Power: 60, Plate Discipline: 60, Contact: 60, Speed: 55
The Red Sox traded Quiroz to the Padres back in November, and I absolutely love the move. Quiroz will be 27 years old to start the season, so there probably won’t be much hype surrounding him coming into the season, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worth paying attention to. He has excellent plate skills as he can make consistent contact while also being able to take a walk. He has a short, stocky frame that doesn’t scream power hitter, but never judge a book by its cover. With his bat speed and fly ball tendencies, I think this is a potential 30-homer guy at the Major League level. I mean, he was on pace to hit 47 home runs at Double-A if he had a full season with 700 plate appearances. With the Padres starting to finish up their rebuild, there is a chance we see Quiroz in the Majors as soon as 2019.
Joe Perez, 3B, Houston Astros
Hit: 55, Power: 65, Plate Discipline: 65, Contact: 45, Speed: 35
Perez is only 19 years old but has already shown tremendous raw power. He has a compact swing that is quick to the ball and should generate great exit velocities. With this power, I could see him becoming a 30+ home run threat at the Major League level. He should be someone who posts an average to above-average BABIP, but I would like to see him play a full season in the minors to get a better idea on his contact abilities. He had to be shut down early last season due to Tommy John and only had 14 plate appearances, but his 3.00 walk to strikeout rate gets me excited of what might be to come.
Drew Avans, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
Hit: 55, Power: 60, Plate Discipline: 50, Contact: 50, Speed: 60
Avans was drafted in the 33rd round with the 1004th pick in last year’s draft by the Dodgers and ended the season with a .284/.386/.502 slash line. The power and speed are for real, and he could be a genuine diamond in the rough. My only concern is that he could get exposed more as he starts to face more experienced pitching and that his strikeout rate could begin to rise. It is still early, but I think we are looking at a .260 hitter who can go 25/25 but has the potential for more.
Jake Fraley, OF, Seattle Mariners
Hit: 55, Power: 45, Plate Discipline: 50, Plate Vision: 50, Speed: 65
Fraley is known more for his glove rather than his bat, but I think there is some sneaky fantasy upside with the new Mariners outfield prospect. He has never really been much of a power hitter, but when I watch him hit I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit around 15 home runs at the Major League level. He also has plus speed, which could help him swipe around 20 bags if he gets the chance. His glove should keep him in the lineup, and I expect him to produce Kevin Pillar like numbers offensively.
Joe McCarthy, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Hit: 55, Power: 55, Plate Discipline: 65, Plate Vision: 45, Speed: 45
McCarthy was someone I knew about, but never really thought that much about as a prospect. That was until I ran my projections for the Top 300 fantasy prospects, and McCarthy was projected as a Top 100 prospect. I know it sounds crazy, and I didn’t put him inside the Top 100, but it made me aware of just how good the 25-year-old outfielder could be. Last season he only had 191 plate appearances, but he started to show signs of a breakout. Over that time he had a .269/.377/.513 slash line and a 151 wRC+. He has a very disciplined approach at the plate which should lead to double-digit walk rates and decent contact skills that should keep his strikeout rate below the dreaded 25.0% mark. He has a fair amount of raw power and can barrel the ball often. He should be a high BABIP player who should be on pace for 90 runs and RBIs in. He’s not the sexiest dynasty option, but he is an intriguing one.
Pablo Reyes, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Hit: 55, Power: 55, Plate Discipline: 50, Contact: 60, Speed: 65
I wrote about Reyes in my super deep sleepers article and he made the potential five-tool fantasy players as well. He is easily the most underrated prospect in baseball as he has hit at every level yet gets no attention. He makes consistent contact and has a disciplined approach at the plate. During his cup of coffee in 2018, he had a 48.9% hard contact rate over his 47 batted ball events. That will likely regress as he logs more Major League at-bats, but it shows just how overlooked Reyes is. This is a potential .280 hitter who could have a 25/25 season who was left off most Top 30 lists.