One of the most common questions fantasy writers get -- particularly those who delve into prospects -- is who are some sleepers that have a chance to help them in both redraft in dynasty leagues.
It’s difficult to define what makes a prospect a “sleeper.” If you are a person who follows prospects scrupulously, then you may be well-versed on the overwhelming majority of potential MLB players. While following minor leaguers seems to be growing in popularity exponentially, it’s fair to say that there are numerous baseball fans who don’t pay close attention. So, whether a prospect is a “sleeper” is really subjective.
So, with that caveat aside, here’s a look at some prospects that aren’t getting much hype that have a chance to contribute in 2020. Next up: The AL and NL West.
Taylor Jones, INF/OF, Houston Astros -- Drafted in the 19th round, Jones hit Double-A pitching well in 2018 but struggled upon his promotion to Triple-A that year with a .210 average in 163 at-bats. He certainly didn’t struggle in 2019; slashing .291/.3881/.501 with 22 homers in his 125 games with Round Rock. The 26-year-old stands 6-foot-7, and he uses his frame to generate plenty of extension and loft from the right side in a swing that has easy plus power potential. He’s also a patient hitter who is willing to draw walks, and while the length in his swing creates strikeouts, he makes enough hard contact to project an average that won’t crush you. He’s not a great defender anywhere, but he can hold his own at first, and he has experience playing in the corner outfield along with a handful of appearances at the hot corner. If Jones gets a chance to hit for Houston in 2020, he’s worthy of consideration.
Jared Walsh, 1B/LHP, Los Angeles Angels -- Walsh is particularly interesting if you happen to be playing in a points league. The 26-year-old is a two-way prospect, and he hit 36 homers at Triple-A with a 4.15 ERA in 13 appearances in the Pacific Coast League. He also posted a 1.50 mark with the Angels in his six games, but he struggled with the bat; hitting just .203 in his 79 at-bats with the Halos. That sample size is far too small -- on both ends -- to take too seriously. Walsh has easy plus power from the left side, and 25-to-30 homer seasons are well within reach if he becomes a regular. On the mound, he’s the owner of two above-average pitches and can give left-handers fits. He’s not likely to pile up the saves, but he has good enough stuff to keep the ERA reasonable, and he could provide plenty of homers if given the opportunity. It may not come until 2021, but it’s not out of the question it’s this season -- assuming we have one.
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Brian Howard, RHP, Oakland Athletics -- Howard’s ERA of 4.30 on the season is misleading, as the 24-year-old really struggled in 14 innings with Triple-A Las Vegas (13.81 ERA) after registering a 3.25 mark and 118/39 K/BB ratio for Double-A Midland. The former TCU hurler comes at hitters from a 6-foot-9 frame, and his extension allows a low 90s fastball to play higher. His best pitch is a cutter that bares into the hands of left-handed hitters, and both his curve and change are solid-average pitches at his disposal. He throws strikes with all four pitches, and the command isn’t far behind the control. Howard isn’t a future ace, but he has a high floor because of his arsenal and ability to locate it. He should get a chance to finish this year in Oakland.
Joey Gerber, RHP, Seattle Mariners -- The Mariners have a few talented right-handed relievers in their system, but Gerber is the best of these, and he was outstanding in 2019 with a 2.59 ERA that lowed to 1.59 in Double-A after he got out of the pitching cesspool that is the California League. A former stopper for Illinois, the 22-year-old has a high spin rate on a fastball that gets as high as 98 mph, and he complements that heater with a slider he can throw for strikes or bury out of the zone when he’s ahead in the count. Gerber pitched well enough before the shutdown that he was likely headed to Seattle to begin the year, and while the Mariners may not win enough games to make any closer “elite,” it seems likely he’s going to get a chance to save games before 2020 comes to an end. Again, assuming 2020 gets a beginning.
Steele Walker, OF, Texas Rangers -- On top of having just a terrific name, Walker is a former second-round pick who came over to the Rangers in the deal that shipped Nomar Mazara off to the White Sox. He obliterated Low-A pitching to the tune of .365/.437/.581, and while his OPS in High-A was just .772, the talent in the 23-year-old is readily apparent. Walker has a smooth, line-drive stroke from the left-side that suggests a high average is very possible, and while his swing is more conducive to contact than power, he’s strong enough to hit 15-to-20 homers a season. Walker is more likely to make his debut in 2021 than 2020, but if he hits Double-A pitching like he did for a large portion of the 2019 season at the lower levels, it’s not impossible that he finishes the delayed year in Texas.
Andy Young, INF, Arizona Diamondbacks -- Young was acquired from the Cardinals in the Paul Goldschmidt trade, and while he won’t have Arizona fans saying “Paul who?”, he is a potential regular who hit .271 with 29 homers for Triple-A Reno last season. The 25-year-old has plus power in his right-handed bat, and his swing path suggests he can hit for a decent average with that power, as well. He’s just a so-so runner, so asking for more than a handful of steals is likely asking for too much. Young is also capable of playing all over the field -- second base is his best position, but he can handle third and shortstop in a pinch -- and he profiles best as a utility player. That being said, if the Diamondbacks give him the opportunity to play everyday, his offensive abilities make him worth a potential addition, particularly in NL-only formats.
Yonathan Daza, OF, Colorado Rockies -- Yes, Daza struggled in his 97 at-bats with the Rockies last year with a .206/.257/.237 line. No, that sample size isn’t enough to ignore the fact that he hit .364 in Triple-A with 11 homers and 12 stolen bases. It’s also worth pointing out that Daza was leading the Cactus League with a .414 average in his 32 plate appearances before the shutdown. Daza has plus speed, and his smooth stroke gives him a chance to make hard contact to all parts of the field. There’s a bit of a logjam in the Colorado outfield, but Daza can flat-out hit, and you shouldn’t hold his struggles in 2019 against him if you’re looking for help in the average and steal categories.
Zach McKinstry, INF/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers -- Daza was leading the Cactus League with his .414 average, but McKinstry wasn’t far off at .407, and he also had five extra-base hits -- two homers -- in his 14 games. This is not his first taste of excellence at the plate, as 24-year-old hit .300 last year, and that mark improved to .382 after he was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 24-year-old has a swing geared to hit for average from the left side, but he’s also beginning to tap into his power, and McKinstry also has the type of speed you see in players who steal 15 or so bases a year. He’s capable of playing all over the field, so McKinstry could be a multi-position player in fantasy formats, as well. He’s one of the more underrated prospects in baseball, and McKinstry absolutely has a chance to help the Dodgers/fantasy players this summer.
Owen Miller, INF, San Diego Padres -- The Dodgers took Miller with the 84th pick out of Illinois State, and after hitting .336 at the lower levels in 2018, he impressed in 2019 with a .290 average with 13 homers at Double-A Amarillo. There are three plus tools at his disposal, and two of those -- his ability to hit for average and speed -- are fantasy relevant. The 23-year-old also has close to average power, and the other third plus-tool -- his glove -- will also keep him up the middle. Miller isn’t likely to be an everyday shortstop with that Tatis fellow in San Diego, but even at second base, he has a chance to be a solid fantasy contributor. It’s also worth pointing out there’s no obvious answer at second base with all due respect to Brian Dozier and Jurickson Profar, so the opportunity is there, too.
Melvin Adon, RHP, San Francisco Giants -- Adon was moved from the rotation to reliever in 2019, and while he finished the year with a 4.72 ERA, that mark is not indicative of how well he pitched for most of the year. That number was 2.60 in his 36 games for Double-A Richmond, but it ballooned to 13.94 in 12 appearances in the PCL. Once again, it’s foolish to let small samples decide how you feel about prospects. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound 25-year-old can touch triple-digits with his fastball, and it’s an 80-grade pitch because of the late life on the offering. He also has a strong slider, and while he’s by no means a command artist, he is improving his ability to locate those pitches. The Giants do not have an obvious closer, and it wouldn’t be a huge upset if Adon got a chance towards the end of the year. Even if he’s just pitching in middle relief, his ability to miss bats would make him worthy of a roster spot in NL-only formats.