Fantasy Baseball

2019 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Year in Review


Before I transition into fantasy football writing, I wanted to give the readers one last prospect report. Sure, I only do defense streaming articles, but, hey, time has been my enemy in 2019.

As you can tell by the title, I will be covering the big storylines for minor leaguers who are still prospect-eligible as of this writing. These are mostly in line with the stories that everyone knows about, but it’s important to highlight them nonetheless and give a glimpse into some hot offseason commodities for those in keeper/dynasty leagues.

We’ve got studs, duds, breakouts, and more in the final fantasy baseball prospect report of 2019. Enjoy!

2019 Fantasy Baseball Prospect Report: Year in Review

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Stud of the Season

Gavin Lux, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers

There were a few options to pick from, but Lux won me over by catapulting into elite prospect status. Plus, I got to watch him in person (a few times) in the Texas League earlier this year so I’ve got a little unashamed bias going.

Nonetheless, the 21-year-old shortstop was electrifying in his time between Double-A and Triple-A. He knocked 26 homers, stole 10 bags, and had a great 0.60 BB/K ratio. His OPS cleared 1.000 and the 166 wRC+ was among the best in the advanced levels. He parlayed that performance into a platoon gig for a Dodgers team that currently has the best record in the NL. While the majors have not been so kind to Lux, it’s obvious that the organization believes in him and for good reason.

Next year, look for Lux to get the prospect-contract treatment to start the year and get called up in mid-April. From there, he should dominate the starts at 2B with the ability to shift to short when Seager gets hurt or needs rest. He’s going to be very interesting to monitor during draft season. He’s an easy top ten fantasy prospect going into 2020.

Expectations Met

Kyle Tucker, OF, Houston Astros

It was a slow start for Tucker, who had a 0.121 AVG and a negative wRC+ throw his first 18 games. He was leapfrogged by Yordan Alvarez, who turned his opportunity into a monster fantasy season for the Astros.

Fast-forward to today though and Tucker certainly met fantasy expectations for the keeper and dynasty league owners. He’s capped off a 30/30 Triple-A season into a platoon job for Houston this September. His OPS was just shy of 1.000 since April 22nd and his 131 wRC+ was much more in line with what is expected of him at that level.

2020 will be put up or shut up year for Tucker as far as major league production goes for most fantasy baseballers. I am still a firm believer and expect his fantasy stock to grow rapidly over the offseason. The obvious spot for Tucker would be right field, where the Josh Reddick-Jake Marisnick experience still exists. The weaknesses are slim in the Houston lineup, but Tucker should find a way to break through for consistent playing time.

Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Adell is almost ready for a taste of the big leagues. The 20-year-old bullied his way through the lower levels and even got a month in Triple-A under his belt. The wRC+ timeline on his FanGraphs page is magnificent and reminds me of Ronald Acuna Jr. just a couple of years ago. A couple of injuries hurt his stock midseason, but he didn’t let that stop him from reaching the highest minor league level.

Looking ahead to next season, I think Adell is going to have some redraft league value. With a strong Spring Training and a hot start at Salt Lake in April, he could force the Angels’ hands. At worst, I could see Adell requiring a little time at Triple-A and becoming a Super 2 callup. Either way, he should be a fantasy asset by midseason in 2020.

Matt Manning, SP, Detroit Tigers

Manning added some accolades with his 2019 performance. The Tigers named him their minor league player of the year which is impressive given the names also in the organization. Additionally, he won the 2019 Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. With a 2.56/2.53/2.63 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash in 24 starts at the level, it’s no surprise. He allowed three or fewer runs in all but two of those starts and was just shy of a double-digit K/9.

That strikeout rate coupled with his ability to keep the ball in the yard (47% GB% and 6.6% HR/FB) should give him a high floor as a future fantasy starter. I’m curious to see how that game translates to Triple-A with the juiced ball and tougher competition in 2020. Should he rise to the challenge, we could see Manning earn a slot in a weak rotation very quickly.

Wander Franco, SS, Tampa Bay Rays

I mean, the expectations were sky-high for the 18-year-old and he met them easily. I almost just don’t want to write anything here – it’s like writing about how good Mike Trout is at the major league level. Across three levels in the last two years, he’s run a double-digit walk rate alongside a single-digit strikeout rate. Not only is his plate discipline impeccable, but the dude mashes with a silky smooth swing. His BABIP ratios aren’t that wild considering his skill set, yet he’s pumping out 0.320+ AVG like it’s nothing. His wRC+ has not fallen below 150 in any of those levels, the most recent being a 157 wRC+ at High-A Charlotte in 52 games.

There’s no reason to doubt that he won’t be up next year. When that occurs is uncertain, but the Rays have to be itching to move him up the ladder and get him situated in what could be a stacked lineup next year with Austin Meadows, Nate Lowe, Brandon Lowe, Yandy Diaz, and Tommy Pham. Franco’s in his own tier at the top of fantasy prospect lists this offseason.

Expectations Exceeded

Luis Robert, OF, Chicago White Sox

As with Franco, I could ramble on and on about Robert’s ability and performance in 2019. However, I put him in this section because I didn’t expect him to reach Triple-A as quickly as he did considering how his 2018 season of injuries and underperformance went. We forget how good players are when they basically sit out a year, but it’s even worse with minor leaguers. Not only did he reach the highest minor league level, but he crushed it there. A 0.337 ISO is bonkers across 47 games at that level and Robert has placed himself firmly behind Franco for me in prospect rankings.

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Many folks wanted the White Sox to call Robert up this September to the 40-man roster, but that wouldn’t quite follow protocol for Chicago. Instead, look for Robert to get a quick promotion next April after reaching the appropriate service time. His appearance will be highly anticipated and his draft stock will be one to watch in March. I think he lacks the plate discipline that is required for a smooth transition into the majors right away, but his athleticism and punishing swing could easily prove me wrong right out of the gate.

Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves

One of my favorite swings in the minors comes from Waters, who will be an easy name to use in punny waiver wire articles in 2020. The youngster had a 0.309/0.360/0.459 triple-slash across the Double-A and Triple-A. He ranked in the top 50 in most fantasy prospect lists to start the year, but I expect him to jump into top ten consideration.

There will be open spots for Waters and a colleague of his I will discuss next going into the 2020 season for the Braves. With Josh Donaldson’s one-year deal expiring and an unknown designation for Ender Inciarte, opportunities will present themselves. The Braves have been aggressive with their rookies in recent years and I expect 2020 to be no different with this being a team in win-now mode. Look for Waters to be a stash option before the Super Two deadline.

Cristian Pache, OF, Atlanta Braves

You can’t talk about Waters without talking about his outfield counterpart throughout the minor league season. This Braves fan is giddy about an outfield of Acuna, Waters, and Pache for years to come to go with Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley across the infield. The Marlins may be doing well to just stockpile young talent for the next few years while the other four teams in the division beat up on each other.

Back to the topic of discussion, Pache basically matched Waters in production across both advanced levels. Surprisingly, Pache actually hit for better power than Waters and stole fewer bases. If you told any prospect analyst that before the season started, you might have gotten laughed out of the room.

I show you a defensive highlight video because I believe Pache’s defense could earn him a major league spot before Waters. Like Waters, he will require an extended look at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2020 before a potential Super Two call-up. Many scouts believe he could play a Gold Glove-caliber defense in center field right now, so that’s going to keep him in the lineup as long as he doesn’t completely suck at the plate. It could take a year or so to fully recognize his fantasy value, but reps will be there in the second half of 2020.


Dylan Carlson, OF, St. Louis Cardinals

I hate that Carlson is on the Cardinals (see Tyler O’Neill’s development), but no one can deny how amazing his 2019 minor league season was. He wrecked the Texas League to the tune of 21 dingers and 18 steals to go along with a healthy 0.882 OPS. He even got a brief stint in Memphis, where he got to have fun with the juiced balls in the PCL for 18 games. He’s parlayed that into a skyrocket up the prospect rankings from basically off of lists in March to the top 30-40 here in September.

You’ve probably missed the buying window in dynasty leagues, but he’s definitely a player to watch in Spring Training for redraft leagues. There’s certainly a path for playing time between him, O’Neill, Dexter Fowler, and Harrison Bader, who will likely have a spot locked up because of defense. Nonetheless, Carlson has put his name on the fantasy map and we all got to enjoy it.

Trent Grisham, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

Here’s a guy with prospect status that is actually performing well in the majors right now. Grisham, who failed to put up a wRC+ north of 110 from 2016 to 2018, has opened eyes in 2019. The former first-round pick is finally making good on that selection and ran rampant through Double-A and Triple-A this year. 26 homers, 12 steals, 0.430 wOBA, 166 wRC+, 1.010 OPS – there’s nothing here to hate on. He straight up balled and he credits it to a grip-change on the bat back to what he used to do in high school. Stories like this are excellent!

As if the Brewers needed more options on offense, I could actually see Grisham providing fantasy value in 2020. It may take an injury or a move of Ryan Braun to first, but great hitters find their way into lineups. Sure, the jury is still out on whether Grisham is that great hitter, but with the pedigree and the newfound confidence, he could be a steal in 2020 redraft leagues.

Tarik Skubal, SP, Detroit Tigers

Skubal was briefly mentioned in the tweet above for Manning, but he certainly deserves to be mentioned in this section. This is the biggest breakout of 2019 for me, especially in leagues that crave starting pitching. For example, I am in a pseudo-dynasty league that rosters over 700 players when you take into account amateur squads and such. I was able to scoop up Skubal off the waiver wire in late July. This is a league that will trip over itself and blows FAAB budgets to acquire Devin Smeltzer or Peter Lambert. That’s how I gauge my breakout pitchers!

The 22-year-old southpaw started the year in High-A Lakeland and was fantastic in 15 starts, earning a promotion to Erie in early July. How does he handle the promotion? Oh, just by striking out 82 batters in 42+ innings and allowing just ten runs, good for a 2.13 ERA. His 1.26 FIP and 1.27 xFIP in those nine starts confirm his dominance as well. Six of those nine starts featured double-digit strikeouts despite the Tigers actively trying to limit his innings.

His stellar three-pitch mix from the left side will make him an intriguing candidate for the Tigers to call up early next year. I would expect Detroit to throw him in Double-A for a month or so before a promotion to the International League. From there, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him pitch major league innings in the second half of 2020. He’s a pitcher I’m very excited about in an organization that is flush with arms at the advanced levels.


Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins

He put up okay hard statistics with 12 homers and 22 steals, but some of these ratios are concerning. You never want to see a sub-0.700 OPS out of high-end fantasy prospects and he did that in both High-A and Double-A this year. Luckily, we get to see him in the Arizona Fall League this autumn. I’ll be watching him very closely there to see what strides he makes against stout competition.

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Forrest Whitley, SP, Houston Astros

It was supposed to be the season where Whitley joined the likes of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole to form the triumvirate. A few injuries and terrible minor league performances later, Whitley’s stock has taken a hit in the fantasy world. However, I’d like to think that those injuries were the primary cause for the down year and that he should return to form this offseason. It would be wise for dynasty owners to gauge his value and potentially buy low.

Check out the rest of our 2019 Fantasy Baseball content from our great team of writers.

About Tyler Thompson

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