For Fantasy players, prospects are a passion and a plight. This time of year, we scour lists from Baseball America, MLB.com, magazine annuals and numerous websites that claim to have that crystal ball. The reality is that each season’s top 100 list includes a logjam of bums who will never make an impact on your team or their MLB employer. Do the names Rick Ankiel, Paul Wilson, Brandon Wood, Joba Chamberlain & Jesus Montero sound familiar? They should because, over the last 20 years, they’ve each been one of the top three prospects in baseball.
In our ongoing quest to find talent, we look at pedigree (in terms of draft position or contract), athleticism, roster opportunity, scouting reports and statistics. One of those statistics should be Major League Equivalents (MLE’s). Originally outlined in 1985 by Bill James, the concept is to evaluate minor league statistics and create a reasonable expectation of how they would correlate to major league performance. A number of analytic sites have formulas in place to determine these outcomes and while no one statistic is carved in granite, it’s another item for your Fantasy toolbox.
Looking back at some of the surprising players from 2015, it’s interesting to see what their MLE’s looked like from 2014. It’s a reasonable guess that these guys weren’t highly valued in your Draft last Spring, but they turned out to be the kind of bargains that help win leagues…
> Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays OF – Not a top prospect and known more for his glove than his bat, his ’14 minor league numbers equated to a .287 BA, 22 SB’s and a 86% contact rate. His first full major league season resulted in a .278 BA, 25 SB’s and a 79% contact rate.
> Greg Bird, Yankees 1B – Those of us who watched him in the 2014 Arizona Fall League knew there was potential. In less than 100 AB’s at AA in ’14, he profiled for 6 HR’s and a 13% walk rate. If you knew that background, his 11 HR’s and 11% walk rate in 157 AB’s after being called up in ’15 were not a surprise.
> David Peralta, D’Backs OF – His projected .249 BA in AA early in ’14 wasn’t that impressive on the surface, but a predicted 88% contact rate and above-average power told another tale. After getting called up in ’14, he hit .286 with 8 HR’s and then exploded in ’15 with a .312 BA, 17 HR’s & 78 RBI’s.
> Eugenio Suarez, Reds SS – In the Tigers system during .14, his BA equaled .251 but he showed good power potential for an IF. After getting traded to the Reds, he hit .280 with 13 HR’s in less than 400 AB’s.
> Kevin Kiermaier, Rays OF – In minor league stops during ’13 & ’14, he profiled as a .265 hitter with good contact skills (80%) and outstanding speed. So, while winning the Gold Glove in ’15, he also rewarded Fantasy owners with .263 BA and 18 SB’s.
> J.T. Realmuto, Marlins C – At AA in ’14, his stats equated to .259 BA with exceptional speed at a scarce position. Now the main backstop for Miami, he finished ’15 with a .259 BA, 10 HR’s & 8 SB’s.
Wouldn’t you have loved these six guys at single-digit prices in an auction or late round picks in a snake? As we head toward the 2016 season, let’s look at some top prospects with solid MLE’s along with a few that might be flying under the radar. The ranking of the player will be their position on the current MLB.com top 100 prospect list.
> Corey Seager, Dodgers SS (#2) – No surprise here with his splashy debut last September. The MLE’s from AAA say a .269 BA with 16 HR’s is a reasonable expectation.
> J.P. Crawford, Phillies SS (#5) – A 20 year-old at AA last season, his predicted .241 BA isn’t great, but the 10% walk rate and 88% contact rate tells you about the skills.
> Orlando Arcia, Brewers SS (#12) – At AA in ’15, this 21 year-old had stats equivalent to a .297 BA with 23 SB’s.
> Manuel Margot, Padres OF (#25) – Acquired from the Red Sox in the Craig Kimbrel, this 20 year-old made it to AA last season and the MLE’s included a .263 BA, 16 SB’s and a 85% contact rate.
> Albert Almora, Cubs OF (#89) – Almost forgotten in the Cubs tsunami of prospects, his ’15 season at AA (age 21) shows potential with a .249 projected BA, 87% contact rate and good speed.
> Max Kepler, Twins OF (#96) – This German-born player is moving quickly. His MLE’s from AA included a .294 BA with 14 SB’s and a 11% walk rate.
> Trey Mancini, Orioles 1B (NR) – The signings of Chris Davis & Mark Trumbo cloud the future but his MLE BA at AA was .332.
> Andrew Knapp, Phillies C (NR) – Barely in the Phils top 20 list and certainly behind Jorge Alfaro as a Catching prospect, he still offers switch-hitting power with a MLE BA of .311 at AA.
> Trevor Story, Rockies SS (NR) – Troy Tulowitzki is in Toronto and Jose Reyes might be in jail, so he’s a player to watch. At A level in ’15, his MLE’s were .260 BA, 17 HR’s & 16 SB’s.
Just for the record, guess who had spectacular MLE’s before being called up last season? Some guy named Carlos Correa.