Dynasty baseball is all about value- mining undervalued resources and cashing in on overvalued resources. With prospects, dynasty owners must work to sell prospects whose hype has reached a position where it likely exceeds their long term value. In the same way, owners should look to target players who are poised for breakouts and increased attention. Knowing when to buy and sell is an important part of garnering the most possible value from your farm assets.
When looking at minor league breakouts, both upcoming and past, here are some things to keep in mind:
– International prospects are more likely than draft picks to fly under the radar. Because there is often an information shortage on international scouting reports, it can be tough to properly gauge a player’s value. Additionally, prospects are often signed at 15 or 16 years old, leaving many possible outcomes. These players also often spend a year or two in developmental leagues and thus lose some of the hype that might surround their initial signings.
– League park factors play an important part in a perceived “breakout.” Thus, buying a player with desirable tools and/or skills in the offseason before they head to those leagues can be a smart way to take advantage of the perks of the parks or leagues. The High-A Cal League for example, is notorious for offensive “breakouts” that often do not carry over to future years. The Phillies‘ Reading facility is also famous for such offensive eruptions (Rhys Hoskins and Dylan Cozens’ 2016 seasons come to mind). For the Braves, Double-A Mississippi typically rates as a pitcher-friendly environment, and thus might be a place to target.
– Increased or decreased opportunity can play a large role in a player’s stock. A guy who is set to make either his stateside or full season debut is going to give far more data than we have had on him before. That means more at-bats/innings, more scouting reports, more exposure to advanced pitching/hitting, and more fantasy attention. On the other hand, crowding in the system either at a player’s position or on the major league roster can decrease a player’s playing time, cause a position change, or stunt development.
Ronald Acuna’s 2016 rise through the prospect rankings is a perfect example of a breakout that could have been foreseen with these things in mind. He was a highly-ranked international signing with strong tools making his full season debut. Even with an injury-plagued season, Acuna flew up prospect lists after showcasing his tools and skills for the Rome Braves. Which Braves prospects are poised as similar risers this year? Who has peaked in value and is an asset that should be sold?
- Cristian Pache is my favorite breakout candidate in the system this year. He will likely follow in Acuna’s footsteps and spend the year at Rome, and he is an 18-year old with 5-tool potential. Pache’s stats from last season were solid, but he did not tap into any home run power. Scouts expect that to come, and a full season should help put it on display. Pache possesses solid bat to ball skills and good speed. If you missed the quick rise of Acuna, pounce on Pache now.
- Touki Toussaint is more of a buy low candidate than a breakout, which is absurd for a 20 year-old. Toussaint is a former 1st round pick of the Diamondbacks who ranked #69 on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 in 2015. Command has been the major struggle that has caused Touki to fall from favor, but he is an extremely athletic pitcher who should be able to make adjustments to his delivery and mechanics to harness his stuff. He’ll likely take on the Florida State League in the inaugural season of the Florida Fire Frogs.
- A.J. Minter could be the Braves‘ closer in 2018. With where he is ranked, that should be enough reason to buy. The stats from 2016 should just seal the deal. Minter was a comp round draft pick while recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2015. In 2016, he blew through 3 levels with a combined .149 average against, 0.84 WHIP, and 47 K’s in 34.2 innings. Minter will get a shot at making the team out of spring training, but is more likely a midseason call up after destroying AAA hitters.
- Max Fried returned from Tommy John surgery in 2016. He took some time to round into form upon return, but finished the season with a strong run of high-K performances. The second season back should see him leap back onto the prospect radar in a big way as a part of a very talented Mississippi roster (and pitcher’s park).
- Juan Yepez is a target for deep league owners. It’s possible he’s owned in your league, but it’s also unlikely that the owner is particularly attached to him. Yepez is a first baseman, so the bat will have to be significant to help carry him. Scouts note his strong bat speed and wrists, which should help him hit for both power and average. 2016 was somewhat of a lost year due to injuries, but Yepez should get a full season to show off his hitting tools in 2017 and be poised to open some eyes.
- Travis Demeritte struck out 175 times last year. That alone should be enough for owners to sell high. The second base prospect also hit 28 home runs and brings some speed to the table. It should be noted that 25 of Demeritte’s homers came in the hitter-friendly Cal League prior to his trade from the Rangers. In 124 at-bats after the trade, he tallied only 3 big flies. Demeritte’s strong defensive performance in the Arizona Fall League has also likely contributed to his rise up prospect lists. Double-A pitching is likely to expose the flaws in his swing this year, and Ozzie Albies looms as a road block to his playing time down the road. If you can find an owner who fully believes in the breakout, I’d pounce now
- Lucas Sims‘ star has already fallen significantly. Now is likely the last time that you can sell him as a starting pitcher, however, and Sims still has some name recognition from his time as the Braves‘ top prospect at the end of the Frank Wren era. The strikeout numbers keep coming for the former first rounder, but they were accompanied by a 1.86 WHIP at AAA last season. With continued concerns about command and control and a talent crew of pitching prospects breathing down his neck, I’m still tempted to sell.
- Ozzie Albies is in the prime spot to sell high. He ranks amongst the top 30-40 on most prospect lists and is set to make his major league debut in 2017. The downside is that Albies is coming off a broken elbow and is likely a better real-life player than fantasy player. He’s unlikely to contribute much in terms of power, and thus will need to hit at the top of the order to provide peak value. Plus, he’ll be a 20-year old taking on major league pitching at some point in 2017. Those question marks are enough to at least test the waters, especially with the prospect-crazed owner (or Braves fan) in your league. For many big-time prospects, their peak value is right before their major league debut.
Buying a Sean Newcomb breakout? Selling Acuna at potential peak? Leave me your thoughts in the comment section.