For baseball fans and especially 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 prognostication toolbox.
Looking back at some of the surprising players from 2017, it’s interesting to see what their MLE’s looked like from 2016. It’s a reasonable guess that some of these guys weren’t highly valued in your Fantasy Draft last Spring, but they turned out to be the kind of bargains that help win leagues…
> Albert Almora, Cubs OF – Buried behind lots of more-hyped prospects, his ’16 MLE’s showed the possibility of a .270+ BA at the major league level. Of course, platooning helped, but a .298 BA and 8 HR’s in 299 AB’s was a positive contribution.
> Josh Bell, Pirates 1B – Experts were somewhat skeptical about his impact, but the ’16 MLE’s showed a .270 BA and double-digit HR’s. 26 HR’s and a .255 BA for the big club in ’17 shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise.
> Alex Bregman, Astros 3B – Success was expected after his debut in ’16 but check out these numbers…’16 MLE’s projected a .274 BA with 17 HR’s and the MLB ’17 performance was .284 with 19.
> Matt Chapman, A’s 3B – His ’16 MLE’s predicted a low BA but some significant power. In 290 AB’s for the Athletics, he hit .234 with 14 HR’s.
> Mitch Hanger, Mariners OF – The ’16 MLE’s showed a .270+ BA with 19 HR’s & 9 SB’s. Despite being limited to 369 MLB AB’s due to injury, his line in ’17 was .282, 16 & 5.
> Rhys Hoskins, Phillies 1B/OF – Almost unknown a year ago, he burst on the scene last August with record-setting power. Guess what? His ’16 MLE’s from AA equated to 34 HR’s.
> Manny Margot, Padres OF – At AAA in ’16, his MLE’s were a .258 BA with 21 SB’s. His rookie season in San Diego had real numbers of .261 & 19.
> Hunter Renfroe, Padres OF – Also at AAA in ’16, the equivalent was a .248 BA & 21 HR’s. His ’17 numbers with the parent club were .231 & 26.
> Bradley Zimmer, Indians OF – His ’16 MLE’s predicted a .229 BA with double digit HR’s and a bunch of steals. In 299 AB’s for Cleveland in ’17, he hit .241 with 8 HR’s & 18 SB’s.
Some of these guys might have been had at single-digit prices in an auction or late round picks in a snake? Of course, we’re not reviewing the opposite end of the spectrum, but MLE research can be another stat to consider. As we head toward the 2018 season, let’s look at some top prospects with solid MLE’s along with a few that might be flying under the radar. The number represents where they are on the current MLB.com top 100 prospect list.
> Miguel Andujar, Yankees 3B (#65) – Only 22, he’s a potential .300 hitter with power.
> Jake Bauers, Rays 1B/OF (#64) – Also 22, his BA needs work (.245) but double digit HR’s & SB’s are part of the profile.
> Bobby Bradley, Indians 1B (NA) – The #3 prospect for the Tribe, he 20 projected HR’s at AA and he’s only 21.
> Lewis Brinson, Marlins OF (#27) – Should play everyday in Miami and his MLE’s show a .284 BA with power & speed.
> Willie Calhoun, Rangers OF (#53) – Built like a fire-hydrant, he projected 24 HR’s at AAA. If he’s in the line-up at that ballpark, the ball could fly.
> Thairo Estrada, Yankees SS (NA) – Added to the 40-man roster in November, he hit well at age 21 in AA.
> Dustin Fowler, Athletics OF (NA) – #8 on their organizational list, The A’s are hoping he’ll be ready for Spring after a horrific leg injury. His ’17 MLE’s at AAA included a .273 BA with double digit HR’s & SB’s.
> Zach Granite, Twins OF (NA) – A .315 comp BA at AAA with SB potential.
> Danny Jansen, Blue Jays C (NA) – Hit an equivalent.295 in the low minors at age 22 and is the #15 prospect in the system…we’re always looking for Catchers with decent BA.
> Ryan McMahon, Rockies 1B (#41) – A spot might be open and his MLE’s are .340 BA with power.
> Jurickson Profar, Rangers IF (NA) – Once the top prospect in baseball, now forgotten at age 24. At AAA in ’17, he had a 9% walk rate and a 89% contact rate…maybe a fresh start somewhere?
> Luis Urias, Padres SS (#36) – If you love players who put the ball in play, here’s your guy…a .294 comp hitter with a 13% walk rate at AA…at age 20!
Hope you find a few sleepers for your squad.