Best AL East power-hitting prospects by level

For those of you looking to get an edge in your dynasty leagues, we’ve decided to do a live video series detailing the top prospects based on some of the standard categories. On Monday night, I sat down with Jason Woodell for Part One of our moonlight discussions…

VIDEO: best power-hitting prospects in the American League East

We decided to breakdown the prospects by their level of competition from last season. For example, Vladimir Guerrero Jr is bundled into the group of Triple-A guys, while Wander Franco is discussed with his Rookie-Ball counterparts. While we don’t have time to discuss all of the AL East prospects, you can get better acquainted with our top 30’s right here: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays.

Triple-A

  • 3B Michael Chavis (Red Sox)

  • 1B Nate Lowe (Rays)

  • 3B Vladimir Guerrero Jr (Blue Jays)

Despite the fact that three names are listed, Guerrero Jr is the clear-cut winner here. In fact, Jason himself will tell stories of the time when he turned around his fantasy team by completing a deal centered around the Blue Jays No. 1 prospect — in return he received the reigning AL MVP, Mookie Betts. Since there’s almost no way you haven’t heard about Guerrero Jr’s abilities and expectations, we’re going to simply tip our cap, declare him the winner here, and move on to some other names.

The 70-grade power of Chavis is a huge highlight. It may lead to an elevated level of prospect-hype, but the swing-and-miss stuff, as evidenced by the below graph, is an issue. Plus, there are major questions as to whether he can stick at third base long term. Given a likely move to first base, the shimmer isn’t quite as bright.

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The Rays first baseman is a much better all-around hitter than Chavis — plus, the 12.3% walk rate is something to appreciate for those in OBP leagues. Is Lowe a .330/.416/.568 hitter at the MLB level? No. However, you can expect the OBP to be above average and that’s certainly going to interest many fantasy owners if the 25-30 HR power plays-up as well. Both Chavis and Lowe are great sources of power but Lowe will provide more consistency and is a much better play in OBP leagues.

Double-A

  • 3B Bobby Dalbec (Red Sox)

  • 3B Ryan Mountcastle (Orioles)

  • OF Austin Hayes (Orioles)

  • OF Yusniel Diaz (Orioles)

  • SS Bo Bichette (Blue Jays)

  • 2B Cavan Biggio (Blue Jays)

While several guys may possess more raw power, the favorite here is Diaz. We broke down his game, and his impressive progress last season, in a recent story by Ralph Lifshitz.

Ultimately, Biggio profiles more as a “super-utility guy” that can provide some thump. Bichette is more of a gap-to-gap, line-drive guy that shows off raw power but the game power is more of the double-in-the-gap variety.

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As you can see, Bichette has a tremendous ability to stay on the ball and go the other way. In each of the last two seasons (2017 A+: 43.6%, 2018 AA: 40.5%) he has posted over a 40% oppo rate. His pull percentage, 35.7% in 2017 and 37.1% in 2018 is a stark contrast to the 44.1% he posted in his 2016 pro debut. Check out more at here.

Dalbec has some question marks mainly because he posted a 37.1% strikeout rate once he was promoted to Double-A. There’s no question that the power will play — 32 home runs in 129 games between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland. However, we’ve seen guys like Cris Carter and Chris Davis ignored in some fantasy circles because the negatives (BA, OBP, K) seem to far outweigh the possibility of a 40-HR season.

The Orioles reloaded their farm system after trading away Manny Machado in 2018. However, two names that still remain at the top of the prospect list are Mountcastle and Hayes. The latter will need to prove that he is healthy after an ankle injury ended his 2018 campaign, while the former needs transfer some of his raw power into game power. With good bat-to-ball skills, he just needs to hit with more consistency and the power numbers will likely come. There’s a reason he graded out as our No. 2 prospect in the Baltimore system.

A-Ball

  • SS Kevin Smith (Blue Jays)

  • C Ronaldo Hernandez (Rays)

This is where Jason and I differed the most. Although I’m not completely sold on Diaz as the winner from the Double-A ranks, I can easily be convinced. This is a bit different.

From my perspective, and again this is fantasy we are talking, Hernandez is a guy that can do things that most catchers can’t: he can hit. Not only that, he can hit for power. Sure catchers aren’t being drafted at the top of any fantasy drafts, but if you have the opportunity to strike gold with a guy that could turn into a tier 1 backstop you should do so. Especially when we are plucking from the low levels and aren’t creating as much risk. When looking at those three names, in terms of fantasy, only one of them has the potential to be a top-five player at his position. I don’t care if he’s a catcher.

With a .210 ISO and 15% strikeout rate, Hernandez belted 21 home runs in 109 games during his age-20 season. His pull percentage is almost 50%, so eventually pitchers at the higher levels will target the outer-half of the zone. But still, I’ll take my chances on a catcher that has posted a well-above-average wRC+ in each of the last three seasons. Perhaps the biggest issue is whether he can sustain it for a full season.

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Jason, on the other hand, is a big believer in Smith. Mostly because he adds more versatility than a guy like Bichette and perhaps even Biggio. As always, you should be looking at your roster to see what your team needs, however, since we are talking about A-Ball here, you want to take the guys that have the most talent and are the lowest risk.

Smith posted 26 home runs and a .247 ISO last year — that’s gonna draw the eyes of many. However, because there are some deep bloodlines in the Toronto system, he’s probably a guy that some people haven’t even heard about. Allow me to put those folks on notice. Smith is more of an everyday player than Biggio and has more position flexibility than Bichette.

Rookie-Ball

  • SS Wander Franco (Rays)

  • OF Antonio Cabello (Yankees)

  • SS Jordan Groshans (Blue Jays)

  • SS Orelvis Martinez (Blue Jays)

This conversation starts and ends with Franco. He’s incredibly advanced for his age, and in the eyes of Jason, he could be a .260 hitter at the big-league level right now. That’s high praise for an 18-year-old kid. If you want to hear just how high we are on Franco, check out the Rays Top 30 Podcast.

These other names are intriguing.

For example, both Groshans and Martinez are slated as first round selections in our First-Year Player Draft preview, and Cabello lands as a second-rounder.

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Cabello posted a .308/.427/.522 slash line last season and added 10 stolen bases. He ranks as our No. 16 prospect in the Yankees system and if he continues this trend, he’ll likely enter the top 10 next season. By the time he’s old enough to drink a beer we may be talking about the best prospect in New York.

That said, his 14.1% walk rate is a bit inflated simply because rookie-ball pitchers are not that polished. Given the ability to sit back and wait for the perfect pitch, it’s no surprise that his BABIP was hovering around .400 throughout the season.

Groshans, despite a lot of depth up the middle, ranks seventh in the Blue Jays farm system. He profiles well as an offensive-minded shortstop and may eventually find himself at third base. Here’s what Jason had to say about him in his Blue Jays top 30 write-up.

Groshans has a slender build with projection to add 15-20 pounds without sacrificing his athleticism. He boasts plus bat speed with power to all fields. The swing can get long at times and pitchers can get him to chase with off-speed out of the zone.

Looking a bit further down the list of infield prospects, the Blue Jays handed out $3.5MM to Martinez, a 16-year-old from the Dominican Republic. If you haven’t already circled him on your list of guys to follow, please do so now.

He ranked fourth on MLB.com’s list of top international prospects and, given the recent success of international guys like Guerrero Jr and Franco, you’ll want to keep an eye on this kid. For now, here’s a look at some batting practice video where you can see just how smooth his swing is.

Don’t forget to check out all of our prospect lists and our newest feature, Minor Graphs.