Buying the Farm: Mid-Season Hitter Prospect Buyers Guide

OK, so you spent the first three months of the year trying to scrape together production to cover your slow starters. Your Stantons, your Keuchels, your Uptons (Justin, not Bossman....

OK, so you spent the first three months of the year trying to scrape together production to cover your slow starters. Your Stantons, your Keuchels, your Uptons (Justin, not Bossman. Melvin?? Are you serious you’d rather be called Melvin than Bossman?! I digress) You’re streaming your FAAB down to the bone and managing to tread water but sadness lurks. J.D. Martinez breaks his elbow. Matt Carpenter strains his side. Clayton Kershaw…sigh, this one is too brutal to even…I can’t.

Right, so none of the latter may apply to your specific squad, but nonetheless, the All-star break provides us with an arbitrary, yet important, time to take stock. If you’re in a keeper this is the time to make a move to set yourself up for future. Plenty of competing owners are chomping at the bit for your better players to make a stretch run and if you play your cards right you can land some of the best future talent to stash for your next dynasty. 

Alex Fast is busy churning out future aces for you guys so let’s take a look at some hitters poised to make a massive impact on the fantasy radar in ’17 and beyond. We’ll break this down by league for you Only-Leaguers, but all these guys are going to rake enough to have good value for 12 team mixers as well. Let’s start in the Senior Circuit.

NL Players

Josh Bell (1B, Pittsburgh) – AAA International League pitchers are absolutely fed up with Josh Bell. After crushing them to the tune of a .946 OPS in 35 games after a mid-season promotion from AA last season Bell’s picked up right where he left off posting a league leading .942 mark through 83 games this year. You have to go four names down the leaderboard to find the next highest OPS from someone Bell’s age (23) and it’s a full 100 points lower (Trea Turner at .842).

Bell’s always possessed impeccable plate discipline for such a young hitter. He’s managed to improve his strikeout and walk rates at every level with the exception of this season, a rare feat for a young hitter. Despite the uptick in K’s this year (15.3% not at all a bad rate), his 14 homers, a new career high, have Pirates fans giddy.

After some disappointing power production early on is his pro-career Bell’s finally maximizing his 6’4″ 245lbs frame to generate the plus raw power scouts recognized during his draft year in 2011. This was on full display over the past weekend during his brief call up when Bell absolute smoked an Adam Warren curveball for a pinch hit grand slam. Weirdly it was the second pinch hit granny Warren’s surrendered this season…that was the hitter’s first ever MLB homer…WEIRD GAME BASEBALL.

Bell’s looking like a can’t miss guy right now. The plate approach and proven ability to adjust raises his floor, while his ceiling has undeniably expanded with the arrival of his power stroke. Bell will play up even more in OBP leagues, but no matter the format it’s a great time to add this future stud to your roster. You’re gonna wanna be the guy for whom the Bell Tates.

David Dahl (OF, Colorado) – Dahl’s 2015 was, um, interrupted by this ridiculous collision while patrolling center field. Dahl had his spleen removed in the aftermath. Ouch. He’s come back with a purpose in 2016. Prior to this season Dahl’s super aggressive approach at the plate yielded results against less refined pitching in the low minors, but left him susceptible to easy outs via whiffs and weak contact. Without displaying better discipline many scouts were hesitant to buy into his hitting ability.

Well, in a grand ‘Eat Me’ to pitching Dahl is walking at a 11.7% clip through 332 PAs in AA thus far in 2016 after posting a paltry 3.6% BB in 302 PAs in 2015. Better selectivity has resulted in better contact when he does swing and the Alabama native is posting his best Isolated Slugging percentage since his first year in Rookie Ball. 

Strikeouts are a part of his game. He’s whiffed in nearly a quarter of his PA’s this season at AA, but since his call-up to AAA last week Dahl has yet to K in 28 PA’s. He’s gone 13 for 26 in that stretch with 2 taters and an unconscious .846 Slugging Percentage. Obviously small sample caveats apply, but the 6 game K-less stretch is the longest he’s gone all season and worth paying attention too. The bump in walk rate shows us a hitter able to make the necessary adjustments and I wouldn’t be surprised if Dahl could take further strides with his batting eye as he moves forward. Despite the strikeouts his 15 homers and 16 steals on the season portend for an elite power/speed combo when you consider his future home ball park. Hey, we’re all familiar with the story of another whiff prone Rockies prospect crushing in the Show as we speak….That was cheap, I know.

Jorge Alfaro (C, Philadelphia) – The preponderance of Yuck that we often times must suffer through at the catcher position in fantasy would try the patience of a buddhist monk. While there’s been some more exciting overall offensive showings from other NL prospects (Dan Vogelbach, Willie Calhoun, and Hunter Renfroe were strong considerations here), I chose to honor the forces of position scarcity with Alfaro. 

One of many pieces to come over to the Phillies during their Texas shopping spree last year Alfaro has made some impressive strides at AA this season. His ability to make consistent contact was a major question mark coming into the season but Alfaro’s cut his K% by 8pts this season. While there’s room for improvement with his current 21.6% clip his ability to adjust is a major plus. When he does hit the ball, dude hits it hard. His 11 homers are good for 1st amongst all of AA level catchers. So too are his .203 ISO, .498 SLG, and .833 OPS marks.

You’ve heard a thousand times how the hitting skills of catchers mature much later than other position players. Alfaro is no exception. There’s more work to be done, particularly with his batting eye as he has yet to post a walk rate north of 6% in any full season. Nonetheless, Alfaro is showing us this year that a patient approach with him could yield tremendous dividends in a year or two.

AL Players

Alex Bregman (SS/3B, Houston) – Uh, what more can be said about the season this dude is having…??. He’s gone absolutely nuts. 19 homers in 70 games. A .974 OPS which lead all of AA baseball prior to his recent promotion to AAA. And while you need to keep in mind the extreme hitter friendliness of the leagues he’s played in (both the AA Texas League and AAA Pacfic Coast League inflate offense like a Thanksgiving day parade balloon) Bregman’s underlying skills are undeniably elite. He had 42 walks against 26 Ks at AA posting the second highest walk rate, and leading the league with a 9.1 K% That’s just…it’s…he’s…wow. While we’ve seen his discipline percentages go in the opposite direction since his promotion through 38 PAs the sample size is still pretty small. Gotta keep an eye on it going forward but considering the bulk of what he’s done at AA this year, and his work last year after an aggressive promotion to High-A, Bregman looks like a beast going forward.

He’ll definitely lose some value if he moves off of Shortstop, which seems imminent given the presence of Carlos Correa. However, there’s been talk that long term Correa projects as a better 3B option given his size. Speculation at this point but Bregman’s worth the investment regardless of position, 100 times over. The truth is out there at it’s name is Alex Bregman. Go. Get. Him. Now.

Tyler O’Neill (OF, Seattle) – O’Neill hit a ridiculous 32 homers in 442 PAs, drove in 87 runs, and posted a mighty .297 ISO in A-Ball for the Ms last season. Dude also K’d at a 30.5% clip with a pedestrian 6.5% BB rate, and as an unheralded 3rd round pick for the Mariners in 2013, it was easy for detractors to chalk up O’Neill’s 2015 season to the crazy good run environment of the California League.

Well, not so fast hate train. Through 359 PAs as a recently turned 21 year old in the more challenging run environment at AA Jackson O’Neill is slashing .308/.376/.552 with 17 taters. All while making significant improvements to his Strikeout and Walk rates. He was just recently named the no. 45 overall prospect by Baseball America, a massive jump considering he wasn’t even mentioned by the regarded prospect outlet a year ago. Oh, and he’s doing stuff like this. It’s worth it just for the over-the-top intensity of the broadcaster’s call.

O’Neill has his biggest challenges ahead of him, but he’s quieted his critics this year and looks poised to provide impact offense in Seattle. 

Willy Adames (SS, Tampa Bay) – At the time Adames was included in the package the Tigers sent over for David Price he was virtually unknown to the fantasy community. An international signee out of the Dominican in 2012 Adames signed for a modest bonus compared to what the more hyped July 2 signees often net. Right now he’s looking like he might be the best of that years class.

Through 352 PAs at AA this season Adames is slashing .266/.365/.439 with 8 homers(he hit 4 all of last year), 9 steals, and a solid .173 ISO…as a 20 year old. For context, the average age of players in AA is just over 24. There’s some swing and miss in his game, but he’s cut down this year from 27% in 2015 to 20.7% this year. Impressive stuff for such a young hitter. Especially, considering the improvement is coming at a higher level, and his 13.1% walk rate. With a glove that confidently projects to stick at short there’s a lot to be excited about here.

The buzz on Adames has picked up but he’s still overshadowed by the Bregman’s of the prospect world. That’s gonna change real fast if Adames keeps this up. His performance for his age is nothing short of awesome. It won’t be long before Tampa fans are clamoring for the team to Free Willy……….I hate myself.

Max Eddy contributes for Pitcher List and spent his childhood watching and re-watching Ken Burns’s Baseball. When he magically happened to attend Game 4 of the ‘99 NLDS, witnessing Todd Pratt’s walk off homer to clinch the series, his fate as a Mets fan was sealed. Coping mechanisms include Pacifco, BBQ, and playing as much fantasy baseball as possible.

Nick Pollack

Founder of Pitcher List. Creator of CSW, The List, and SP Roundup. Worked with MSG, FanGraphs, CBS Sports, and Washington Post. Former college pitcher, travel coach, pitching coach, and Brandeis alum. Wants every pitcher to be dope.

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