2020 Dynasty Fantasy Baseball: Catcher & First Base Prospects On My Radar
(Luis Campusano: Padres #4 overall prospect according to MLB.com.)
By Michael A. Mantia
August 26th, 2020
Ok, so, my plan was to come out guns blazing in my first article and have some really groundbreaking stuff. Instead, it turned into a really mundane article about catcher and first base prospects. I wish I could say I would be spicing things up a bit by introducing myself, but it might actually put you to sleep… So, for that reason, I will keep it brief.
My name is Mike Mantia, aka The Godfather in my fantasy circles. I earned that nickname in jest because my league mates know I’m going to give them an offer they can’t refuse! Which they will promptly reject! I play in 2 deep dynasty fantasy baseball leagues as well as some redraft action too. I’m all about the dynasty leagues though. If I had even more free time than I already do, I would play in 10 dynasty leagues, but I’m a new dad, and my baby momma might make some life choices that aren’t agreeable with me if I do even one more. It’s a wonder she tolerates the amount of time I spend on baseball currently. So, the real question you wanna ask is this, right? Why in the hell should you care about anything I say? Well, the number one reason is probably because I will shame you to death for not listening to me when I’m proven right! On a more serious level though, I dedicate an inordinate amount of time doing fantasy baseball, baseball, and prospect research. I’m also what they call a “prospector” in the baseball card investing community, so I have more incentive than just fantasy to be right about certain prospects. I also run a start-up website (www.cosdogcards.com) that focuses on selling trading card/hobby supplies as well as baseball cards. The reason I decided to start writing articles, and who knows, this could be the first and the last article (one and done?), but the reason I decided to write is because I feel as if I can provide value to other fantasy baseballers because my methods have served me well; and that is the most humble you will ever hear me say it! So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
So far it has been a really exciting first month of the season for those of us in dynasty fantasy baseball leagues! The rookie performances and MLB debuts have truly been a blast to watch. The list of prospects we have seen get the call is staggering. Add on top of that the amount prospects making their MLB debuts last season, and you have some seismic changes that have happened over the last 2 seasons to prospect ranking lists. So, with all these names clearing off of our prospect ranking lists in the recent past, or in the near future, and with no minor league baseball season to speak of, the biggest question for us as dynasty fantasy baseball owners to ask ourselves is this: How can I find the next big thing? … Thankfully, that’s what we are going to dive into today in this article! At least in terms of the catcher and first base positions, but we will cover each position if more articles are to come!
The specific focus of this article is on catcher and first base prospects that have zero MLB experience, but we will not be including any 2020 FYPD prospects in this conversation either. We will cover the FYPD in a later artice. The reason for excluding players that have made their MLB debuts, as well as the FYPD prospects, is to just to just look at things through a different lense and help us potentially find some value for our dynasty fantasy baseball teams. My hope is that this article will make it easier for those of you that are not able to do as much research to still find some hidden gems and come out smelling like roses after trades and/or enhance your ability to make savvy waiver wire adds! Let’s get it!!!!
*Ownership percentages based on Fantrax ownership as of 8/25/2020 - 8/26/2020.
*Current rankings according to Eric Cross on his most recent Top-250 list on Fantrax.
*For your viewing pleasure, enjoy the videos linked to each player’s name!
In most leagues, or in a lot of leagues anyway, catcher is a position you can almost completely punt in the long and short term and still come out with a positive results. In some deeper leagues you may not have that luxury, but hat being said, I am currently sitting in 1st place in a brand new 14-team/80-player dynasty league, and the only two catchers on my entire roster are Roberto Perez and Martin Maldonado. So, take that for what it’s worth. That doesn’t mean I think it’s a bad idea to roster prospect catchers though. I would just be extremely selective and not get your hopes up, but just because the catcher position has been a black hole in recent years doesn’t mean it always will be. The following catchers would be the guys I would target via trade, or maybe even luck out and find on waivers:
(Adley Rutschman: Orioles #1 overall prospect according to MLB.com.)
Adley Rutschman Baltimore Orioles (#19 Overall Prospect, 41% Owned)- I’m not going to beat a dead horse here, Adley Rutschman is good at baseball. The End.
Luis Campusano San Diego Padres (#118 Overall Prospect, 24% Owned)- First lesson is free, don’t ignore the accolades. In his age 20 season, Campusano won Co-MVP honors in the Class A-Advanced California League in 2019, checking a lot of boxes along the way too. First of all, the slash line speaks for itself, .325/.396/.509/.906, and if he sniffs anything close to that for you at the catcher position in fantasy, then he will be a God-send. He walked 52 times and only struck out 59 times. Yes please! Listed as 5’11” 232 lbs. on Baseball-Reference, if you have seen any video of him, he obviously doesn’t carry it like you, or I, would carry 232 lbs. at 5’11”. He has a real catchers body, thick legs and he looks built to last. We might be looking at the next Pudge here as far as fantasy purposes are concerned. That would not be an accurate defensive comparison. He shouldn’t be considered a defensive liability by the time he makes his debut, but it is probably the only thing holding him back at this point. A recent report from Rotowire was quoted as saying Campusano has been “red-hot” at the alternate site this summer, and has been hitting multiple “loud” dingers. If that isn’t enough to make you get excited in the pants, I don’t know what else would! I advise buying now because once he reaches the bigs the jig is up.
Francisco Alvarez New York Mets (#122 Overall Prospect, 19% Owned)- Word on the street is that even if Francisco Alvarez doesn’t stick at catcher his bat will play just fine at any position. Alvarez is currently thought of as an advanced defensive catcher for his age though. Alvarez spent the bulk of his time in 2019 being three and a half years below the average age in the Appalachian league (35 Games). The age difference didn’t phase him as he went on to slash .282/.377/.443/.820. He had 17 walks and only 33 strikeouts. Compared to Campusano, Alvarez is listed as 5’11” 220 lbs. and has a similar build as Campusano, though he hasn’t filled out as much as Campusano has yet. So, unlike Campusano, you are going to have to be a little more patient on Alvarez to make his debut, he’s only approaching his 19th birthday, but the above average hit and power tools, combined with the likelihood that he sticks at catcher, definitely puts him on my radar as a prospect to own.
Sam Huff Texas Rangers (Unranked Prospect, 17% Owned)- Huff is a catcher that could give you some more immediate returns. He isn’t an all around prospect like Rutschman, Campusano, or Alvarez, but for a catcher, the potential Huff has some to mash some homers once he reaches the bigs is very enticing. For fantasy purposes, a catcher with the ability to mash is definitely going to get my attention. I’ll be honest I probably had my hopes a little high that Huff might get the call this season, and had there been a full season he may not have been such a long shot to make his debut, but at this point he still has not played above Class A-Advanced and I don’t think we will see him this season. In 2019, he played 97 games in the Carolina League, he slugged 13 homers and slashed .262/.326/.425. He also hit an eye opening 15 homers in 30 games at A ball which prompted the promotion. Listed as 6’4” 240 lbs. sticking at catcher longterm might be a long shot, but the raw power is real, and if he does move to first base, you will soon find out he’s equally as relevant at that position as he is at catcher as a prospect. His ISO in 2017 was .203 and in 2018 it was .198. Let’s say he does that at the big leagues for you with catcher eligibility, J.T. Realmuto posted an ISO of .173 in 2017, .208 in 2018 and .217 last season, that’s the type of upside he possesses. If he can cut down on the strikeouts we may have a really nice asset here.
Heriberto Hernandez- Texas Rangers (#222 Overall Prospect, 12% Owned)- Heriberto Hernandez has been nothing short of amazing since making his professional debut, and we might be talking about one of the best all around hitters in the minor leagues right here. Don’t sleep! Get on this train now because it’s about to take off! I think the Rangers made a big mistake leaving this kid off of the 60 man roster, he’s approaching his 21st birthday, and with a full minor league season the sky could have been the limit for him. Luckily the lack of a minor league season may have helped keep this guy relatively under the radar, or under valued for our purposes at least. There still may be a window to buy low, but savvy owners have already identified this kid so you need to move fast. His long term outlook of remaining at catcher is pretty dicey, but I don’t care, I want this guy on my team. Over 113 games in the minors so far, all he has done is get 121 hits, 32 doubles, 9 triples, 23 homers, scored 102 runs, drove in 98 runs, walked 82 times, only struck out 101 times and slashed .320/.450/.635/1.085. Baseball America’s scouting report literally says his best position is “the batter’s box.” Need I say more?
Alejandro Kirk Toronto Blue Jays (Unranked Prospect, 8% Owned)- Alejandro Kirk isn’t exactly what you envision when you think professional athlete. I believe “rotund” has been thrown around to describe his physique. He’s listed as 5’8” 265 lbs. on Baseball-Reference, and unlike Campusano, he carries it exactly like you or I would at that size! That being said whatever Alejandro Kirk is eating, I want him to keep eating it, because this man can flat out hit. I can’t remember exactly where I read it, I don’t want to misquote anyone, but 70 grade hit tool has been thrown out there, and he more than backed that up after his promotion to Class A-Advanced in the Florida State League last season where he went on to slash .288/.395/.446/.841 in 71 games. He walked 38 times and struck out only 31 times during that span. A 70 grade hit tool with plate discipline? Ya, I’m gonna be all over that, and so should you.
Gabriel Moreno Toronto Blue Jays (Unranked Prospect, 5% Owned)- A converted infielder, Gabriel Moreno has reportedly been impressive defensively, so while he is still young and relatively new to the position, there is reason to have optimism that he remains at catcher. Now to what really matters, the bat! For starters, he posted an OPS+ just slightly below Nolan Gorman last season in the Midwest League to give you an idea of the company his stick hangs around with, and he was 2.3 years below the average age in the league. Pair that with his .205 ISO over 82 games and it’s time to start paying attention. You may have to be patient with Moreno, but with only an underwhelming Danny Jansen and a rotund Alejandro Kirk standing in his way, I like Moreno’s chances if he can continue to develop; and at 5% ownership, you may be able to get him off waivers uncontested in your league now!
A nearly complete list of fantasy relevant catchers is so shallow I might as well just write the complete list: Adley Rutschman 41%, Luis Campusano 24%, Francisco Alvarez 19%, Sam Huff 17%, Shea Langeliers 16%, William Contreras 14%, Miguel Amaya 14%, Heriberto Hernandez 12%, Ronaldo Hernandez 12%, Diego Cartaya 12%, Alejandro Kirk 8%, Ivan Herrera 8%, Bo Naylor 8%, Cal Raleigh 6%, Gabriel Moreno 5%, MJ Melendez 5%, Ronnier Quintero 5%, Korey Lee 4%, Antonio Gomez 1% and Connor Wong 0%. Any prospect I put in bold would also be viable options to do further research, but I encourage you to research every prospect on that list, and don’t stop there! It should be noted that Diego Cartaya is ranked #215 overall on Eric Cross’ top 250 though.
So, as pitiful as the depth at the catcher position may be, first base may be even worse. The difference between the two positions is that having a franchise cornerstone at first base can have a much larger impact on your fantasy season(s) than having a great catcher usually will. Again, don’t get me wrong, having a catcher like J.T. Realmuto is a major difference maker, but having a top 3 player at the first base position is far more valuable in my opinion. While the list of quality prospects at first base may be short, first base tends to be a position that players switch to from other positions, so you also want to keep as close of an eye as you can on prospects that may switch to the position, but for this article we are only going to cover current first base prospects. The following are the guys I would target via trade or waivers:
(Andrew Vaughn: White Sox #2 overall prospect according to MLB.com.)
Andrew Vaughn Chicago White Sox (#15 Overall Prospect, 41% Owned)- SEE ADLEY RUTSCHMAN. Look, if you can get these guys, or if you already have them, that is fantastic, but you don’t need me to tell you how good they are. For what it’s worth, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY value Andrew Vaughn. Adley Rutschman is still a catcher, so i would take Andrew Vaughn 10 times out of 10 over him. If you needed that, there you go.
Well... now there is!
Seth Beer Arizona D-Backs (#86 Overall Prospect, 24% Owned)- Ok, so, Seth Beer has officially been transitioned to first base, much to Pavin Smith’s dismay, but on Fantrax and other sites he is still listed as an outfielder. You can use this to your advantage as you attempt to get him as a buy low in a trade. It’s not that his current owner isn’t hip to the talent, but if he doesn’t know that Beer moved to first base, or isn’t aware that that increased his overall value, then that is an opportunity for you to get a steal in my opinon. Anyway, why do I like Seth Beer you ask? I mean, besides having a pretty awesome last name, it’s the bat! To this point, Seth Beer has displayed elite raw power at every level, but his ridiculous .244 ISO over 63 games at Double-A can’t be ignored. In 189 minor league games he has hit 38 homers and slashed .294/.388/.508/.897, is that good? I can’t stress how criminally underrated Beer is, and those are words I thought I’d never say! We are talking elite on base skills, elite plate discipline and elite power. Hop on the Beer wagon now and have a few, or at least one, but make sure its an ice cold Seth Beer! We actually would prefer a red-hot Seth Beer, but that did not sound nearly as good.
Michael Toglia Colorado Rockies (#109 Overall Prospect, 18% Owned)- Well, it’s hard not to be excited about a 6’5” 226 lb. monster who had a .234 ISO in his first taste of pro ball. Top it off that he will be heading to Coors if he makes it to the bigs with the Rockies and my interest is fully piqued. Now, it was a 41 game sample size during short-season A ball, so keep your pants on, but these are the things we are looking for if we don’t want to be late to the party on a prospect. If Toglia can cut down on the strikeouts and show more of the plate discipline that allowed him to produce big results during his time at UCLA, then I think we may have a budding fantasy superstar here. The key for him will be if he can make those adjustments so he can be successful at the upper levels of the minor leagues, if he can do that, the thin air at Coors awaits this behemoth!
Bryce Ball Atlanta Braves (#237 Overall Prospect, 13% Owned)- Bryce Ball is a guy that if he seems like he came out of nowhere, it’s because he pretty much did. Drafted in the 24th round of the 2019 Amateur Draft, all Bryce Ball went on to do was hit 17 homers, and slash .329/.395/.628/.1023 in 62 games. The other numbers are insane too. During his 41 game stint in rookie ball he had a .352 ISO, .456 wOBA, and 177 wRC+. Can you see my eyes popping out of my head with excitement!? He didn’t really slow down during his 21 game span in A ball after he was promoted either: .209 ISO, .412 wOBA, 163 wRC+. Oh, and he’s 6’ 6” 240 lbs. making Toglia look small… Just get this man on your team now and put some respect on that name in your league after you do it!
Mason Martin Pittsburgh Pirates (Unranked Prospect, 7% Owned)- The Pirates eventually have to have somebody good on their team right? I mean they are just an absolute embarrassment. Well, good news, help is on the way in the form of Mason Martin. Mason Martin, not unlike Bryce Ball, also put up some pretty crazy ISO numbers last season. I know I’m really hammering home the value of raw power in this article, but first base specifically is a traditional power hitting position, and we can’t afford to lose sight of that. So, last season at Class A in the South Atlantic League Martin posted an ISO of .312 over 82 games. Then he went on to Class A-Advanced ball and all he did was post a .290 ISO over his next 49 games, and it should come as no surprise that he had a whopping 35 homers across both leagues to go with it. He’s striking out an insane amount of times too, so that needs to be corrected to the tune of about 10% less of the time, but this power should not be sitting on your waiver wire. Go get it!
Similar to catcher, the list of remaining quality prospect first basemen with no MLB experience is pretty slim, so I’ll go ahead and list a good amount of them here too. Andrew Vaughn 41%, Triston Casas 26%, Seth Beer 24%, Michael Toglia 18%, Bryce Ball 13%, Grant Lavigne 13%, Pavin Smith 11%, Nick Pratto 9%, Tyler Nevin 8%, Matt Thais 8%, Mason Martin 7%, Jhonkensy Noel 4% and Logan Wyatt 3%. Casas, Lavigne and Smith aren’t guys I would hate owning either, but I would prefer to own Vaughn, Beer, Toglia, or Ball over all three. Pavin Smith actually has some appeal due to his hit tool and on-base skills, but he really doesn’t have much power to speak of to this point, and he’s got one too many Seth Beer’s on his team to overcome. It should also be noted that Jhonkensy Noel is currently #202 overall on the Fantrax Top 250 list.
In conclusion, if you don’t already have Adley Rutschman and/or Andrew Vaughn, I strongly recommend you do what you have to do to get Luis Campusano and Seth Beer on your team. Hell, even if you do have them, just because they are “better prospects” now doesn’t mean jack once these guys get to the bigs, and I think Campusano and Beer may legitimately both be better than the top dogs at their respective positions (Andrew Vaughn is a beast though). Other top pivots would be Francisco Alvarez or Heriberto Hernandez at catcher and Michael Toglia or Bryce Ball at first base... Anyway, I appreciate your time reading my ramblings, hopefully there will be more to come, and hopefully I have provided some kind of value that helps give you an edge in your dynasty fantasy baseball league.
What happened? I blacked out...