This is the fifth and final installment of my “Top 50” fantasy baseball prospect rankings for 2015. Once again these rankings have been compiled with a focus on fantasy only, as we keep the standard “5 x 5” rotisserie categories in mind. This is a list for those that are concerned with nothing more than how the top prospects in the game may someday impact fantasy baseball.
10. Henry Owens, LHP (BOS):
2014 Stats (AA, AAA): 159.0 IP, 2.94 ERA, 1.132 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 3.3 BB/9, 2.88 K/BB
This could be the highest prospect ranking that you find for Red Sox pitcher Henry Owens. While many are high on Owens, I insist that some just aren’t high enough. The 22-year-old made his way to Triple-A Pawtucket last season, climbing the ladder much sooner than expected. While it was impressive enough that the left-hander accomplished this in just his third season, he was also able to retain excellent peripherals at the highest level of the minors. Owens has made hitters look foolish, getting them to swing and miss often while also suppressing big hits and keeping walks to a minimum. Considering that he’s been making batters swing and miss on his fastball, curveball, and change-up, Owens is actually pretty polished and could find his way to Boston some time next season.
Looking Deeper: Among pitchers that logged at lest 150 innings pitched in the minors last season, Owens ranked 6th with a K-BB% (strikeout-minus-walk percentage) of 17.1%. This made him by far the youngest pitcher to record a rate over 14.0%. This tells me that Owens has advanced command for his age and can keep it up over a high volume of innings.
9. Carlos Rodon, LHP (CHW):
2014 Stats (Rk, A+, AAA): 24.1 IP, 2.96 ERA, 1.356 WHIP, 14.1 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, 2.92 K/BB
Carlos Rodon was drafted third overall by the Chicago White Sox just last June, but is polished enough to be considered one of the best pitching prospects in the minors already. While he didn’t have too much time to prove it, the 22-year-old already demonstrates two plus pitches in his fastball and slider. Though he’ll need to develop a third pitch (his changeup) to truly reach his potential, Rodon has nasty stuff and makes garnering swing and misses look easy. If his control is solid at the very least, we should see Rodon starting for the White Sox at some point in the 2015 season.
Looking Deeper: Between college and professional baseball last season, Rodon hurled a total of 123 innings. Though it will only be his first full season next year, his innings load and durability can allow him to throw somewhere in the range of 150 innings already. This is very encouraging in terms of him making an impact as soon as this season.
8. Noah Syndergaard, RHP (NYM):
2014 Stats (AAA): 133.0 IP, 4.60 ERA, 1.481 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 3.37 K/BB
Despite lackluster numbers in 2014, Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard still has the makes to be a frontline starter. The right-hander felt the rough effects of pitching in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (and more specifically, Las Vegas) last season, which inflated his ERA and WHIP to the highest they’d ever been in a single season. Regardless, there has been no change in his plus velocity, his curveball continued to generate swings and misses, and he’s actually been making strides with his change-up. What really mattered is that he struck out batters at an elite rate, while limiting both the walks and home runs. This is the recipe to success, so the 22-year-old should see his luck turn around soon.
Looking Deeper: Opposing batters held an absurd .378 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) against Syndergaard this season. While some pitchers can leave themselves susceptible to giving up a lot of hits, it’d be simply preposterous to believe that Syndergaard allowed this to happen on its own. This is likely a testament to the hitter-friendly environment he pitched in and a poor defense behind him. Moving up to the majors should actually help him keep his ERA low.
7. Corey Seager, SS (LAD):
2014 Stats (A+, AA): 118 G, 20 HR, 6 SB, .349/.402/.602
Corey Seager was a mid-level prospect heading into 2014, but really skyrocketed up the rankings after establishing himself as one of the top hitters in all of the minor leagues. The left-handed batter has a great swing and the ability to make contact at a very high rate. While his aggressive approach holds him back from taking too many walks, he makes up for that with his power potential. The 20-year-old already put up his first 20-homer season, but there’s reason to believe he could have even more power than that. With a 6’4”, 215-pound frame, he’s basically a bigger version of his older brother Kyle of the Seattle Mariners. While the two can’t be compared so simply, fantasy owners would likely be happy to get a similar statistical output from Corey. However, he could be capable of even more.
Looking Deeper: In this era of the game, 20 home runs at any level is an intriguing feat. But, there’s reason to believe that Seager could be capable of even more as he matures. The young shortstop totaled 75 extra-base hits in just 118 games last year, which led him to a tremendous .602 SLG. Whether he’s belting homers or doubles in the big leagues, batting in a prolific Dodgers lineup should help him become a very useful fantasy asset.
6. Joc Pederson, OF (LAD):
2014 Stats (AAA): 121 G, 33 HR, 30 SB, .303/.435/.582
While minor league accolades often go unnoticed, Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson is coming off a seriously monumental season. With 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases last year for Triple-A Albuquerque, Pederson was the first player to join the “30-30” club in the Pacific Coast League since 1934. This makes it obvious that he has speed on the base paths and power in his bat; the two most coveted skills that fantasy owners look for. He can drive balls well enough to rack up hits, but it could be a couple of seasons before he adds a decent batting average to his list of assets.
Looking Deeper: Going “30-30” at the major league level is obviously much harder than doing it at Triple-A. Considering that Pederson was successful on just 69.8% of his stolen base attempts last year, there’s reason to believe he’s not quite as fast as his 30 steals make him look. 30 home runs would be a reach too, but that’s something he can gain in time. Nonetheless, he has a shot to go “20-20” as soon as this year. That alone should be enough to rave about.
5. Jorge Soler, OF (CHC):
2014 Stats (Rk, AA, AAA): 62 G, 15 HR, 0 SB, .340/.432/.700
Jorge Soler looked like a future slugger when he was signed out of Cuba in 2012, but his health held him back from reaching the ranks of being a “Top 10” prospect. He has finally worked his way to that echelon, and for good reason. The 22-year-old proved last season that he has immense raw power and can accumulate a high total of extra-base hits. His plate discipline is actually pretty solid for a player with so much power, so his batting average could be a safer bet than some may think. The only area of his game where he is truly lacking is his speed, as lower body injuries have forced him to stop running as often as he used to. He’s likely capable of swiping 15+ bags when healthy, but it isn’t clear if the Cubs will ask him to run at all.
Looking Deeper: When Soler was promoted to the majors last season, he held a .292/.330/.573 triple slash line with 5 home runs in just 24 games played. While his strikeout percentage increased to 24.7% when he joined the majors, this is actually not a terrible rate and won’t hold him back from sustaining a decent batting average. The Cuban has shown enough success at the big league level to earn himself a spot in the Cubs everyday lineup this year, so look for 2015 to be a breakout season for Soler.
4. Byron Buxton, OF (MIN):
2014 Stats (A+, AA): 31 G, 4 HR, 6 SB, .234/.307/.395
2014 was a rough year for Byron Buxton, who was the industry’s consensus “number one” prospect prior to the start of last season. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old was limited to just 31 games on the year, as he suffered a nagging wrist injury and a devastating head-on collision. While he was unable to really show off his talents, the outfielder still has a vast amount of potential. With great speed on the base paths, the ability to hit for contact, and power that is expected to develop with time, Buxton profiles as a five-tool player that could produce across the board in fantasy. 2015 will be an important year for him, as last season could be chalked up as a lost year of development.
Looking Deeper: 2013 was the season that put Buxton on top of MLB prospects lists. Including his Arizona Fall League performance that year, the versatile outfielder recorded a .322/.411/.509 triple slash line with 15 home runs and 57 stolen bases in 137 games. As he racked up a total 38 doubles and triples that year, many were looking for him to increase his homer total in 2014. The injury-plagued season held him back, so it’ll be interesting to see what strides he makes in the power category this year.
3. Addison Russell, SS (CHC):
2014 Stats (A+, AA): 68 G, 13 HR, 6 SB, .295/.350/.508
Addison Russell entered last year as one of the top prospects in baseball and clearly the best in the Athletics organization. But when an opportunity came for Oakland to contend, the Cubs expanded their already great farm system by pulling off a deal to acquire the shortstop. While injuries held him back from playing a full season, he continued to prove that he has five-tool abilities. Playing in just 68 games hindered the 21-year-old’s year-end totals, but he still put up a great triple slash line and his on pace numbers may have produced him his first 20-homer season. Similar to fellow Cubs prospect Jorge Soler, Russell’s stolen base totals fell off because of his injuries. He’s shown that he’s capable of eclipsing 20 steals, but it all really comes down to what his team asks from him.
Looking Deeper: Russell was actually having a pretty disappointing season before being traded to the Cubs. After the deal, he played 50 games for Double-A Tennessee, in which he put up a .294/.332/.536 slash line with 12 homers. The change of scenery seemingly allowed him to really take off, so it’ll be exciting to see how much he can improve from here.
2. Carlos Correa, SS (HOU):
2014 Stats (A+): 62 G, 6 HR, 20 SB, .325/.416/.510
Astros prospect Carlos Correa is a very talented player who is poised to put up excellent numbers. At just 20 years old, the former first overall pick has been developing his skills since 2012 and has continued to make strides in virtually every area of his game year-after-year. While an ankle injury knocked him out for a good portion of the season, his power was really taking off in a way it had never before. He was looking to break into double-digit homers for the first time ever, while likely racking up an abundance of extra-base hits. Prior to the injury, he’s always stolen bases and hit for a good average, so power is the area of his game that fans have been waiting for. He’s been touted as a “five-tool” prospect for a reason and 2015 could be a huge season for him.
Looking Deeper: While Correa hasn’t put up year-end totals that blow you away, it’s encouraging to have seen him record a .185 ISO last year. Additionally, he recorded a 15.4% strikeout percentage and 12.3% walk percentage, both of which are a testament to advanced plate patience and pitch recognition. He’s looking like a lock to hit for contact and get on base, and there are signs that the power is coming soon.
1. Kris Bryant, 3B (CHC):
2014 Stats (AA, AAA): 138 G, 43 HR, 15 SB, .325/.438/.661
Though some will attempt to debate it, it’s hard to make a major argument against Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant being the top prospect in the game. For fantasy purposes, he’s practically a lock to be great no matter what position he plays. The 23-year-old has demonstrated elite power and great contact ability since being drafted in 2013, and this did not change as he reached the ranks of Triple-A. The potential fantasy stud has a chance to be one of the absolute best hitters in the game, and his opportunity to do this in the big leagues is not far away. While the “Super 2” deadline may keep him chained to Triple-A Iowa until around June, he does have a shot at joining the Cubs opening day lineup.
Looking Deeper: The only notable flaw in Bryant’s offensive game thus far is his vulnerability to striking out, as he struck out in 27.2% of his plate appearances last season. This number could climb slightly as he initially joins the big league Cubs, which could hold back his ability to hit for a great average. However, with all of the great things that he does as a hitter, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t improve upon this and eventually post a bating average that’s as impressive as his power.
As I wrap up this “Top-50” prospects list, I’m also wrapping up my career as a fantasy baseball writer and analyst. Due to taking on a full-time position with a professional baseball entity, I will no longer be writing for DSE or any other website. To all of those that have read my work in the past, I appreciate your time and interest.
I’d just like to give a HUGE thank you to DSE’s CEO Lawrence Marino for giving me this opportunity. Without him and the rest of the DSE family, I wouldn’t have the future that I’m looking at. I’d also like to say good luck to all of those that are associated with this website. I believe that this site will continue to progress and be useful for those who love dynasty leagues and fantasy sports in general. Thanks for reading and please continue to come back!