The Minor League Big Board will keep tabs on the players down on the farm that have the highest potential to make a positive fantasy impact for their MLB parent clubs if/when they receive a promotion in ’17. This top 10 ranking is based upon statistical upside for the traditional 5×5 roto categories, while also heavily factoring in the player’s expected time frame for reaching the majors.
1. Yoan Moncada, ChW, 2/3 – Triple-A Charlotte
Moncada is widely considered MLB’s top prospect, and it is likely that the rebuilding Chicago White Sox won’t wait any longer than the estimated Super Two deadline (typically early June) to call him up. As it stands, the uber-talented switch hitter has opened his first seven games with Charlotte hitting .387 with 2 HRs and 2 SBs. His initial fantasy calling card will be his speed as he’s stolen 96 bases in 742 ABs in the minors, and he’s also scored 162 runs in that span, thanks to that motor and also the ability to work the count for free passes. But Moncada also possesses the power upside, thanks to elite bat speed, to deliver mid-teen HR pop early on with 20-plus homers a definite possibility not too far down the road. He’s currently owned in 37 percent of Yahoo leagues and that number should continue to climb towards 100 percent as we move towards June.
2. Bradley Zimmer, Cle, OF – Triple-A Columbus
Zimmer has struck out just 4 times in 27 ABs to open his season at Triple-A Columbus, a rate that is more than 20 percent less than last season (36.5%). That’s a very positive early trend as he has worked hard in the offseason to re-work his plate approach to cut down on the whiffs. The 6-foot-5 athletic specimen offers a rare blend of power and speed that could propel him to future 20/30 lines if he continues to make strides in his plate approach (he’s already adept at drawing walks). Tyler Naquin, Austin Jackson and Abe Almonte represent a fairly feeble roadblock for Zimmer in Cleveland. That’s a big reason, along with his roto-friendly power/speed mix, that the 24-year-old Zimmer sits at No. 2 on this list.
3. Ozzie Albies, Atl, 2B – currently at Triple-A Gwinnett
A .309 career hitter in the minors, Albies does not offer much pop, but has 30-plus SB upside. And like Moncada, Albies is a switch hitter that already does a good job of working the count. Brandon Phillips is getting it done at second base right now for Atlanta but he’s simply a place holder for Albies, as the rebuilding Braves envision their dynamic up-the-middle duo of Dansby Swanson and Albies settling in for a long time to come. Albies is another top prospect unlikely to be farming much longer than early June.
4. Austin Meadows, Pit, OF – Triple-A Indianapolis
A consensus top 10 MLB prospect, Meadows is another pop/speed combo talent (which you will likely notice is the biggest theme on this board). He delivered 48 extra-base hits (12 HR, 11 Triples, 25 Doubles) and 17 SB in just 306 ABs last season split mostly between the top two levels of the minors. Turning 22 in early May, Meadows has shown advanced maturity at the plate and appears to be poised to punch his ticket for Pittsburgh as soon as there is an opening – Andrew McCutchen trade? Starling Marte injury (he’s missed 27-plus games in three of the past four season)?
5. Lewis Brinson, Mil, OF – currently at Triple-A Colorado Springs
Brinson is another blended pop/speed talent that many have slated for future 20/20 fantasy lines, with some even wondering if he might reach the 30/30 club someday. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but at least he’s made major strides in making contact since 2013, when he struck out 191 times in 447 ABs in A-ball – last season he fanned just 87 times in 406 ABs spread out mostly between Double- and Triple-A. Brinson’s path to Milwaukee’s outfield is blocked by Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana but a Braun trade this summer is something the Brewers are likely to consider and, of course, injuries could also clear a path for Brinson at some point.
6. Clint Frazier, NYY, OF – Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Like Zimmer, Frazier has made positive strides with his contact issues. And like Zimmer (and a few others on this list), Frazier possesses an enticing blend of power and speed, though he has a bit more HR upside and a bit less SB potential than Zimmer. Frazier is capable at all three outfield positions, so an injury to veterans Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, or an Aaron Judge slump would open the door for Frazier.
7. Cody Bellinger, LAD, 1B – currently at Triple-A Oklahoma City
Bellinger, who turns 22 on July 13, is considered one of the top power hitting prospects in the game. He owns a 1.107 OPS through six games to open the season for Oklahoma City and, in ’16, he combined for 26 HRs in just 410 ABs between the top two levels of the minors. He’s only played 1B, thus far, this season, but he played 34 games in the outfield last season and with Adrian Gonzalez at first in LA, Bellinger might have to break through with the Dodgers in the outfield – left field is hardly on lock down, and Yasiel Puig is keeping quiet and playing well enough that the team may consider dealing him while his stock has jumped back up a bit.
8. Gleyber Torres, NYY, SS – Double-A Trenton
Torres makes a decent case for being the top prospect in baseball, but he’s still only 20 years old and hasn’t played above A-ball until this season. That makes a pre-All Star break call-up unlikely, even with SS Didi Gregorius expected to miss another few weeks with a shoulder injury. When he does arrive (likely post-All Star break), he’ll bring the promise of mid-teen HR/mid-20s SB upside to go with a solid plate approach that should deliver at least a serviceable batting average out of the gates.
9. Franklin Barreto, Oak, SS – Triple-A Nashville
Barreto has hit nearly .300 (.296) over more than 350 minor league games, flashing mid-teen HR pop and 20-30 SB speed. The A’s top prospect can handle shortstop or second base, increasing his odds of a call-up. Second base is a less obstructed path to Oakland for Barreto, with the elderly, and oft-injured, Jed Lowrie manning the position for the A’s.
10. Amed Rosario, NYM, SS – Triple-A Las Vegas
Rosario, just 21 years old, is one of MLB’s elite prospects, one that is already knocking at MLB’s door despite his youthful age. But he’s a much better real-life prospect than a fantasy prospect at this time. His power will take some time in coming and likely won’t be much of a factor for roto purposes if/when called up this season, but he has shown the ability to make consistently solid contact and that should allow him to hit for a decent average. He also possesses good speed, but with just 43 SB in over 1400 minor league at-bats, he’s yet to maximize that skill.
Bubble Watch: Jose Berrios, Min, SP (AAA Rochester); Ian Happ, ChC, 2/O; Jose De Leon, TB, SP (AAA Durham); Tyler O’Neill, Sea, OF (AAA Tacoma); Raimel Tapia, Col, OF (AAA Albuquerque); J.P. Crawford, Phi, SS (AAA Lehigh Valley); Brent Honeywell, TB, SP; Willie Calhoun, LAD, 2/O; Jorge Alfaro, Phi, C