I’m not a scout, nor do I go to hundreds of minor league games a year. There are plenty of other well-trained and well-regarded experts out there who do that. But I am a successful keeper and dynasty league player and that means I have to know the prospects that influence our game quite well.
Among the most influential sources of my knowledge are all the podcasts I listen to that focus on prospects and dynasty leagues. I get exposed to a wide variety of opinions, and of course, I form my own. Often, when you listen to scouting and prospect experts talk about how they formulate their rankings, they state that they don’t look at other lists while making their own. That is completely understandable from their professional perspective.
But for my purposes, I am the exact opposite. I soak in as much information as possible from a wide variety of sources and from folks who are looking at this from both a fantasy lens and that of a traditional scout.
Based on that knowledge, I’ve compiled my list of the top 99 prospects to draft in fantasy baseball dynasty formats. Before diving in, there are a few points to be made.
1) TINSTAAP – There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. Paul Sporer and Doug Thorburn – ironically, two of the biggest fans of pitchers ever – introduced me to this concept, and even named their old Baseball Prospectus podcast after this phrase. When I’m building dynasty rosters, I want bats, bats, and more bats. The top 29 prospects below are hitters. That’s how many I’d draft before picking a prospect arm.
2) Prospect arms need to be close. You’ll notice a theme with almost all of the pitchers that make this list. They’re either in the majors or knocking on the door. Sure, there are 18 year-old pitchers in Low-A ball putting up video game numbers with a major league ETA of 2023. You can have them (and all of the inevitable angst they bring along the way).
3) Name value matters. This list doesn’t necessarily reflect how well I think each of these players will perform in MLB. This is for keeper and dynasty league purposes, which means trade value is king. Jeter Downs is the 14th ranked player on this list mostly because I think he is a tremendously talented hitter who now has a clear path to playing time in Boston. But if he hadn’t been traded in a prominent deal this offseason, he’d probably be lower. His name was all over the headlines, and now people are excited about the kid named after Derek Jeter playing in Fenway. I view these players as assets, and when there’s big news about one of them, their stock goes up.
4) You need to get in early these days. There has never been more content about baseball prospects than there is now. Which means you simply can’t wait to get in on a prospect. Sure, this means you’ll swing and miss on some of the youngsters. But that’s better than missing out, especially because the premier game-changing players are often getting swooped up by both big-league and fantasy teams at the age of 17. Major-league scouts haven’t had a long enough look at Erick Pena or Luisangel Acuña (see point #3) to know where they rank. But the raw tools are there, and so is the excitement. These guys won’t be there for you in most dynasty leagues if you wait for them to develop.
5) Organizational context matters. I think many people consider team context in terms of a prospect being blocked by a talented or big-contract veteran at the big-league level. Like Andrew Vaughn in Chicago where José Abreu is at 1B and Edwin Encarnación is at DH. And that’s a legitimate concern. But those situations eventually work themselves out more often than not. In contrast to team context, organizational context is about the philosophy and approach to player development that franchises have from the big league team all the way down to the low minors.
When Xavier Edwards was traded from the Padres to the Rays this off-season, I immediately started shopping him and ultimately moved him in a couple of my dynasty/keeper leagues (along with Nate Lowe). They’re talented players, but the Rays don’t care about your fantasy team. They’ve built an exceptional method of team construction and platooning that wins games in Tampa but limits their players’ fantasy values, unless those players are superstars and excellent defenders (see Franco, Wander). Edwards also went from a team that isn’t scared to put their elite prospects in a big league lineup to one that slow-cooks them like a Sunday roast.
When I heard Kyle Boddy and team were joining the Reds, Nick Lodolo and Hunter Greene moved up my rankings. I give a similar bump to Yankees arms, where they seem to have unlocked a development system that maximizes the talent of their young pitchers.
Under the new regime in San Francisco, the Giants are drafting and signing a plethora of hitters with elite bat speed. Those are the hitting prospects I like gambling on, and you’ll see Giants hitters ranked higher on my list than just about anywhere else. I do also like that there is literally no one blocking any of them at the big-league level.
I encourage you to form your own opinions – about individual players, organizations, and drafting philosophies – and forming your own list. Watching a player you placed a bet on mature from a prospect to an impact major-leaguer is truly one of the most enjoyable aspects of the fantasy game. With the above five points for context and without further ado, these are my 99 Dynasty League Prospects for 2020:
|Bobby Witt Jr.||11||KC||SS|
|Simeon Woods Richardson||70||TOR||P|