What I Look for in “Unknown” Prospects

jeter downs.jpg
Billings Mustangs shortstop Jeter Downs readies to field the ball during Wednesday’s game against the Idaho Falls / Chukars. BRONTE WITTPENN, Gazette staff

  There are two types of prospect hunters in fantasy baseball, the ones who use top 100 lists, and the ones who dig outside and hunt for more. Admittedly, it’s not easy to get out of your “comfort” zone if you are the first type of prospect hunter I described. Top 100 lists make it so much easier in terms of research. If you want a leg up, however, you will want to become the latter. I will make it easy for you for today, providing you with three names outside the top 100 that you absolutely need to monitor/draft depending on your league size.

  So the question is, what do you look for in a player when you are digging deep through the prospect pool? Ask 10 people and you could get 10 answers. My answer though? I look at plate discipline or pitching discipline. I look at pitchers who minimize walks, and hitters who maximize them. That is how I found and drafted guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr before the hype. In his rookie ball season in 2016, he walked 33 times with 35 strikeouts. He immediately went on my radar and now I have a healthy ownership percentage of him in dynasty leagues.

Here are three names outside the top 100 that I’m drafting in dynasty leagues. (For reference I am referring to MLB Prospect Line’s top 100). These names aren’t guys that are close to the Major Leagues, but rather guys early in their career. You have to find them early, or someone else will.

  1. Jeter Downs, SS, Cincinnati Reds: Drafted 32nd overall by the Reds in 2017, Jeter Downs is another name in what is quickly becoming the most elite position in baseball, shortstop. He had a nice year in Rookie Ball last year, batting .267 with 6 home runs and 29 RBI in 50 games for the Billing Mustangs. He also had 8 steals, though he was caught 5 times. The reason he is on my radar? He walked 27 times compared to 32 strikeouts. Plate discipline, as aforementioned, is a great thing to find in a young player. Downs is only 19 years old and I am eagerly awaiting a full season from him in 2018.
  2. Brandon Marsh, OF, Anaheim Angels: Yes, I know, they are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but I just pretend that name never happened. Marsh is somewhat of cheat on this list, as he does crack the top 100 on a few lists, just not MLB’s one. Still, this is a guy who could be a 5 category contributor in the future for your fantasy team. Marsh was drafted in the 2nd round by the Angels in 2016 and played his first ball last year. He only played in 39 games, but slashed .350/.396/.548 in Rookie ball for the Orem Owlz. With guys like Jahmai Jones and Jo Adell stealing the spotlight as outfield prospects in the Angel’s system, don’t let Marsh slip you by. He wasn’t near Downs when it comes to plate discipline, having a 9:35 K/BB ratio, however, what he did do was steal 10 bases in 39 games while hitting 4 home runs and driving in 44. Not to mention Marsh had 13 doubles and 5 triples! Marsh has all the tools of a 5 category monster for the Angels and should Trout leave, Adell, Marsh, and Jones will make one behemoth of an outfield. Marsh is only 20 years old and like Downs has a ways to go before making the Big Leagues, but you got to learn the names early if you want the advantage. 
  3. JoJo Romero, Starting Pitcher, Philadelphia Phillies: By now everyone knows Sixto Sanchez’s name, but there is a ton of depth in this Phillies Organization. Rhys Hoskins wasn’t even on a prospects list, and you see what he did when he came up in 2017. Romero played in A ball last year for the Lakewood BlueClaws and Clearwater Threshers. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 MLB draft. During his time in A-ball, he compiled 129 innings while posting a 2.16 ERA. He also had 128 strikeouts, missing a 9.0 K/9 by one strikeout. In the period he only walked a total of 36 batters, and only 15 in 10 starts for the High A Clearwater Threshers. Romero has thrown a total of 174.2 innings in the minors in a 2-year span. He might not be the top name on the Phillie’s impressive haul of prospects, but he is a pitcher to watch, (and draft), in dynasty leagues going forward.

This concludes my first round of prospects ranked outside the top 100. I hope I have whetted your appetite to get out there and find those gems in the rough before your league mates do. Be a leader, not a follower in your fantasy league and you will likely end up with the best minor league system.

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