When scouting prospects to build a minor league system in fantasy baseball I break players into four categories.
The first category “BUILDING BLOCKS” is populated with potential superstars. These players, guys like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez, are on everyone’s radar and it’s virtually impossible to gain a scouting advantage in this category in even the most basic of leagues. These players fill industry Top 10 lists and are perceived to be bonafide stars. The only way to acquire these players is to draft them or sell high-end major league assets to a team looking to contend.
The second category “SHOOTING STARS” is occupied with players whose perceived valued is higher than what I believe their reality is. These are players that I want to own primarily to trade to a GM who overestimates the praise they are getting in the fantasy community at the moment. A prime example of a player like this is Nico Hoerner’s meteoric rise. Is Hoerner a good baseball player? Sure. Do I want to own Hoerner? Sure. Would I love to find a manager who has bought into the hype around Hoerner and trade him for a solid, but potentially unsexy, major league contributor? Absolutely. While this strategy can occasionally backfire (see Francisco Lindor who shot up real-life prospect lists and was widely considered a glove-first shortstop who wasn’t expected to be taken at the top of draft boards) it’s a good way to add depth to your system while selling high on “it-now players.”
The third category “FILLING HOLES” are players I try to avoid. The back half of Top 100 lists are often populated with players who, for one reason or another, aren’t going to make any substantial impact for your fantasy baseball team. These players are often on the list because of their proximity to the big leagues. They’re good baseball players who will contribute in the major leagues but have virtually no chance of becoming a category one player. Often, they’re players who at one time fit into the second category but their prospect shine has dimmed. For that reason I believe a roster spot is better served by taking a flyer on a player in the fourth category.
And that brings me to my last category “MOVERS AND SHAKERS” where the scouting war is waged and where building a quality minor league system is won and lost. Rather than rostering players from category three, which many teams will do to fill out their system, I take risks on players who are essentially 100 percent ceiling. Many of the international players, who are often teenagers, fit into this category. Players in this category have the ability to become category one, two or three players in the future. There’s also a chance of them falling of the fantasy radar altogether.
With that in mind, here is a category four player who I believe will jump into Top 100 lists this season.
Osiel Rodriguez, RHP, NYY
Rodriguez was considered one of the top arms in the 2018 J2 class. Signed at 16, the six-foot-three, 205-pound Cuban had his fastball clocked in the high 90s mph as a 15-year-old.
Here’s the newest Yankees prospect, Osiel Rodriguez, from when I saw him pitch in San Pedro de Macoris in November. He was 15 and threw 96 mph that day. https://t.co/zJaurxTLUc pic.twitter.com/8RPuYXn1aq
— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) July 29, 2018
The Yankees gave Rodriguez $600,000 after acquiring bonus pool space. While it’s difficult to know how much stock to put in the landing spot for any player, the Yankees penchant for identifying and developing young arms has Rodriguez trending the right way.
Now 17, Rodriguez showcases a mix of pitches that he can throw out of different arm slots. There is definitely effort in his delivery and Rodriquez falls off to the first-base side similar to other power pitchers.
I expect Rodriguez to make a significant move on fantasy boards once he gets some stateside games under his belt: Buy now.
*It’s tough to come up with a true definition of the fantasy term “sleeper.” For the purpose of this article I classify any minor league player outside of the industry’s consensus Top 100 lists as a sleeper.