The outfield is so stacked with prospect talent that I’ve decided to break it into two lengthy articles. You can find a bit of everything you desire in a fantasy player here, some speed, some power, and some batting average. In a select few, you can find it all rolled into one player. Even having split up the outfielders by league, there were some tough cuts. What you should gain from that nugget of information is that the bar is set high by those included.
Anthony Gose, Toronto Blue Jays, 21 years old
If you’re looking for star level tools and athleticism, Gose has got them. However, his Achilles heel could prove a fatal flaw, and that is his questionable hit tool. Guys like Drew Stubbs have shown that it is possible to get by with a below average hit tool and become a fantasy asset, and Gose hopes to follow along that path. Gose has the patience to help offset a poor average and get on base at a respectable rate, where he causes havoc. He made huge strides as a base stealer going from a putrid 58.4 percent success rate to an ultra efficient 82.1 percent success rate. As you can see in the table above, that success rate came on a monstrous volume. He swiped 70 bases and could single-handedly carry fantasy teams in the category. This isn’t a Michael Bourn type burner, though; no, this is a guy that has power as well. When he made contact last year, it was hard contact, resulting in 43 extra base hits, including 16 home runs, and a .161 isolated slugging (ISO). Perhaps this is faulty thinking, but his big gains in stolen base success rate make me believe he’s receptive to coaching and has the aptitude to make adjustments in his game. Hitting for average is a completely different skill, but if my logic proves correct, he should be able to be “coached up” to a passable hitter that has value thanks to everything else he does. He is set to begin the year in Triple-A, and could soon get his chance to take cuts at the highest level.
Jake Marisnick, Toronto Blue Jays, 20 years old
Marisnick needed to repeat Low-A for his tools to translate to the diamond, but boy did they. He does a little bit of everything. He hits for some power, is able to steal some bases, and can hit for a high average, all while showing patience and keeping his strikeouts in check. His ceiling isn’t as high as Gose’s, but because his hit tool is much better, he has less bust potential. He is an efficient base stealer, and still physically maturing into more power. Marisnick could be a five-category contributor, but he’ll need to face high minors pitching first. He’ll start the year in High-A, and if he picks up where he left off in Low-A, could see Double-A before season’s end.
Mikie Mahtook, Tampa Bay Rays, 22 years old
One of the Rays’ 2011 first round picks, Mahtook got his first taste of professional baseball in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) where he made a good first impression. He received 68 plate appearances in which he hit .338/.410/.544 with a solid 7:16 walk-to-strikeout rate. He flashed some power, hitting three home runs, and some speed, stealing five bases. His tools don’t scream star level, but he lacks any glaring weaknesses. He’s an advanced hitter that should start in High-A and zip through the minors. His floor is relatively high and helps offset a good, but not great, ceiling. Guys that chip in across the board allow fantasy owners flexibility in drafting, and Mahtook could be that type of player.
Bryce Brentz, Boston Red Sox, 23 years old
The Middle Tennessee State product struggled in his 2010 pro debut, hitting below the Mendoza-line in 262 at-bats in Short-Season ball. He got into the “swing of things,” so to speak, in 2011. He annihilated Low-A ball, and found the sledding a bit more difficult in High-A. His power still translated, but he looked more like the player he projects to be in the majors, a low-ish average slugger with plenty of power. His strikeout rate was at the high side of acceptable (24.9 percent strikeout rate), but will be fine as long as it doesn’t balloon any higher. He’ll walk enough to provide some on-base-percentage (OBP) value, but he’s more of a number five hitter than a three or a four. He’ll start the year in Double-A, and could get a cup of coffee at season’s end like fellow Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway did after starting 2011 in Double-A.
Brandon Jacobs, Boston Red Sox, 21 years old
Jacobs’s skill set is more well-rounded than that of Brentz. Where Brentz offers 30-plus home run potential, Jacobs sits closer to the 20-25 home run range. He projects to hit for a decent average, and is a good enough base runner that he was able to steal 30 bases in 37 chances. Don’t let his 20-25 home run projection fool you; Jacobs packs plenty of punch, but it is just more likely to come in terms of doubles. He’s more an average runner than speedster, so the stolen bases may come down in the upper levels, but the total package looks good. After a breakout 2011, he’s ready to tackle High-A in 2012.
Mason Williams, New York Yankees, 20 years old
Heck of a performance from a 2010 high school draftee getting his first extended professional experience (played in just five games in his draft year). He used 80 grade speed and top-notch contact skills to finish second in the New York-Penn League in batting average and lead the league in stolen bases. He flashed some pop with 20 extra base hits and projects to possibly hit for average power down the line. Average power will be gravy if he’s able to continue to hit for high averages and pile up the stolen bases. Williams is ready for a full season test in 2012, and will move up prospect lists if he continues to perform when being challenged by better pitching.
Ravel Santana, New York Yankees, 19 years old
Santana isn’t as far along on the development path as Williams, but he has the higher offensive ceiling. He had some swing-and-miss in his game last year, but more than made up for it by crushing the ball (.272 ISO). His swing is built for power, and if he cuts back on the strikeouts even slightly, he should continue to hit for high averages even when facing more advanced pitchers. He’s not a plodder, and in fact, grades as a plus runner. He already has an understanding of how to steal bases efficiently, stealing them at a 76.9 percent rate. He could be an offensive force, but is oh so far away and should follow in Williams’s footsteps playing in the Short Season New York-Penn League.
Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals, 19 years old
Starling is a world-class athlete. The Royals paid him a big bonus to lure him away from a college football scholarship. No longer splitting his focus between football and baseball, the onus is on Starling to turn his tools into skills. Of course, those tools are special, arguably the best in the minors, making his ceiling insanely high. He has plus-plus drool-inducing raw power, and adds plus speed. Like most athlete types, it is likely to all come down to how his hit tool develops. This is a lottery ticket worth waiting on though, and it is unclear what level he’ll start his professional career at.
Wil Myers, Kansas City Royals, 21 years old
What the stat line doesn’t tell you is that Myers missed time with a knee injury. It also doesn’t indicate that he traded in the tools of ignorance for an outfielder’s mitt. Some may consider 2011 a lost season of development, but I think it is more of a hiccup. Myers followed up his lackluster season with a gargantuan AFL showing, hitting .360/.481/.674 and walking more than he struck out (20 walks and 18 strikeouts) in 106 plate appearances. Myers is an OBP monster, and he may flirt with a .400 plus OBP annually. He should hit for high averages, but where his power peaks is more debatable. Some project for average power, others see a guy who will learn to turn on the ball and crank out 25 plus home runs yearly. He’s a good athlete, but not a guy that should be expected to steal more than a handful of bases. His play in the AFL should earn him a trip to Triple-A to start the year instead of a return to Double-A. There is no rush for him to reach the bigs with Alex Gordon occupying left field, and Jeff Francoeur inked through 2013 in right field. Francoeur was roughly a replacement level player for the 2008-2010 seasons, so don’t rule out him fumbling right field duties to Myers by season’s end.
Oswaldo Arcia, Minnesota Twins, 20 years old
Arcia is a hit first outfield prospect, which is a good thing for his fantasy outlook. His approach at the plate in High-A leaves a lot to be desired, but his hit and power tools do not. Arcia spent all of 2010 in Rookie Level ball and didn’t need more than 20 games in Low-A to show he was ready for a more advanced assignment. He should begin the year back at High-A, where he can work on toning down his aggressiveness and reigning in his strikeouts a smidge. A mid season promotion to Double-A is likely, and he could be raking in the majors as soon as 2013.
Joe Benson, Minnesota Twins, 23 years old
A BABIP (.353 in Double-A) driven batting average hides the fact that Benson’s value is still largely tide to his athleticism. He has a questionable hit tool that will probably always be below average. He makes up for it with plus power, a patient approach that earns him walks, and above average speed. If you can tolerate a poor average in the .250-.260 range, he should be able to use his tools to be an asset in home runs and stolen bases. He’ll have a shot to break camp with the Twins but may be the out man out and start the year in Triple-A.
Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins, 22 years old
Hicks is the ultimate tease. He’s the guy you look at when he gets off the bus and say, “Wow, that’s what a baseball player should look like.” He shows power in batting practice and times well on stopwatches. That hasn’t translated to the field yet, and may never translate to the field. Hicks epitomizes what it means to be too patient. It would probably be more accurate to call his approach passive. If he doesn’t get it together, he runs the risk of taking the Matt Bush development path (i.e. going to the mound where his mid-90s fastball made him a two-way prep prospect as a pitcher). Hicks showed his most promise to date in the AFL, so perhaps 2012 is the year the light goes on.
Eddie Rosario, Minnesota Twins, 20 years old
An oversight amongst the second basemen, the Twins will be moving Rosario there in 2012 where his already high value in dynasty leagues goes through the roof if he can stick. As you can see above, Rosario put up video game numbers in the Appalachian League. His power was the most impressive aspect of his game. He compiled 29 extra base hits and a jaw dropping .333 ISO in 298 plate appearances. He has five above average tools, which all play up thanks to his makeup. The team’s 2010 fourth round pick is giving them everything they could have hoped for and more. He’ll open the year in Low-A.
Trayce Thompson, Chicago White Sox, 20 years old
What an ugly strikeout rate, but look at the power! Thompson is a member of a very athletic family. His father, Mychal Thompson was the number one overall pick in the 1978 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers, one brother, Mychel plays basketball for Pepperdine, and his other brother, Klay, is a member of the Golden State Warriors. If you’re handicapping, Thompson has top-notch bloodlines. Power is at a premium these days, so when a guy gets plus-plus grades on his, it becomes more worthwhile gambling on now than in previous years.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, 20 years old
Trout can do it all. He reached the majors as a 19 year old and didn’t embarrass himself. That alone is noteworthy. He’s part of a trio of prospects that could make an argument for ranking atop prospect lists both in reality and fantasy. He barely qualifies as a prospect, falling just seven at-bats short of losing his prospect status. A traffic jam, coincidentally in a city known for them, in the Angels outfield may push Trout to Triple-A to start the year. He’s never seen an at-bat at that level, but will undoubtedly put up jaw dropping numbers in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Current Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto wasn’t responsible for bringing in the albatross contract of Vernon Wells, and thus, may not feel obligated to give him a long leash in the outfield if he struggles and Trout is punishing the ball in the minors. This could be the last buying opportunity for Trout in dynasty and keeper leagues, and even still, he won’t come cheap. Then again, when a guy has star level skills that should make him a future first-round fantasy pick, he shouldn’t.
Michael Choice, Oakland Athletics, 22 years old
One of the major knocks on Choice coming into the season was his high strikeout rate, something that is likely to always be a part of his game. He made big gains in 2011 though, cutting his 2010 35.5 percent strikeout rate down to 24.7 percent. His batting average only went up one point, but was no longer the product of an unsustainable BABIP. The desert treated Choice well. He hit .318/.423/.667 with six home runs and an almost unbelievably low for him 15.2 percent strikeout rate in 79 plate appearances. Choice should develop into what the organization hoped Chris Carter would become: a middle of the order slugger that makes up for a modest batting average with strong walk rates and light tower power. He’ll begin the year in Double-A, but even a big year may not be rewarded with a September call-up this year because of a suddenly crowded outfield from an offseason of Billy Beane activity. A more likely ETA is late 2013.
Jermaine Mitchell, Oakland Athletics, 27 years old
Mitchell is a late bloomer, and his breakout may be too little to late to reap the rewards in Oakland. He’ll also have the burden of proving his big year wasn’t a fluke. He’s always had the tools, and 2011 hints at what he’s capable of. Some power, some patience, and some speed make for a glue guy even if his average regresses a bit. There is no room for him on the major league roster right now, but that could change at the trade deadline. It’s also possible he himself could get moved. First things first, he’ll need to continue raking in Triple-A for this speculation to mean anything.
Guillermo Pimentel, Seattle Mariners, 19 years old
Pimentel is yet another outfielder in this article with 80 grade power and an approach in need of major work. He doesn’t have as atrocious a strikeout rate as Trayce Thompson, and is a year younger than Thompson, but his 27.4 percent mark raises some red flags. The good thing is, it was only his second season in professional ball, and with more coaching, he’ll hopefully improve. Plenty of prospects like Pimentel have stalled out in the minors, but 35 plus home runs on a year-to-year basis in the majors is a tantalizing thought.
Phillips Castillo, Seattle Mariners, 18 years old
One year after plucking Pimentel out of the Dominican Republic, the Mariners dipped back into the talent pool there to ink Castillo to a contract. Whereas Pimentel gets high grades on his power, Castillo’s high grades come on his hitting ability. He only hit one home run in 2011 but projects to have average power in the future. Castillo actually struck out more than Pimentel last year, succumbing to strike three in 31.4 percent of his plate appearances. Be careful not to overreact — Castillo is still incredibly young, and it was his first taste of professional experience state side. Castillo should move up from the Arizona League to the Rookie Level Appalachian League this year or Short-Season ball.
Leonys Martin, Texas Rangers, 23 years old
Martin’s offensive ceiling falls well short of fellow Cuban defectors Yoenis Cespedes (who doesn’t qualify as a rookie in MLB’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement) and Jorge Soler. That said, Martin hit for a high average and breezed through Double-A. He wasn’t as successful in Triple-A but earned a September callup nonetheless. He’ll be in the mix for the center field job in the spring, and is probably the favorite to come out on top of the depth chart. His power comes in the gap variety, but could end up resulting in double-digit home runs because of his friendly home environment. Martin was an inefficient base stealer, but has plus speed and should easily best 20 stolen bases if he learns the nuances of base stealing. If his walk rate falls closer in line with the one he sported in Double-A than the one in Triple-A, he could eventually hit near the top of the Rangers order where he’ll scores runs in bunches. If he ends up as more of a speedy defensive minded outfielder, he’ll hit near the bottom of the Rangers order and struggle to be more than a one trick pony, at best.
Josh is a graduate of SUNY Cortland's Sport Management program, and an aspiring fantasy writer. You can catch up with Josh in the Cafe Forums where he posts as B-Chad. You can also follow his work at The Hardball Times and follow him on Twitter (BChad50).
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