Fantasy Baseball 2017: Impact Hitting Prospects for Deep Leagues

Sep 28, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot (70) slides to score in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Manuel Margot (70) slides to score in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Deep leagues and prospects go hand in hand. Knowing which prospects to draft and when to take them is a key to a successful fantasy baseball campaign.

In a separate article, we dealt with the truly elite prospects that will make an impact in mixed leagues in 2017. Here we are going to look at five players who will make contributions in 2017, but they will be more important in deep leagues and NL/AL-only leagues.

We are only looking at players with an almost definite spot on the Opening Day roster. There are plenty of other prospects, many with far higher potential, but unless you have an unlimited bench to stash them, it will be a wasted roster slot until they are finally called up.

That is why you won’t find Austin Meadows, Brad Zimmer or Lewis Brinson in this article. They are elite Minor League prospects, but until they play in the majors, their contribution to fantasy baseball leagues is zero.

Prospect Manny Margot in action
Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

Speed is in very limited supply in 2017. Finding a prospect you can take in the late rounds with the potential to steal 30 or 40 bases could be a difference maker in your fantasy league.

Manuel Margot
Margot is expected to make the Padres’ Opening Day roster, and he will immediately become an intriguing pick for stolen bases. The 22-year-old has exceeded 40 stolen bases across all levels in three straight seasons. This winter, he topped the Dominican League with 14 stolen bases and has already started to run in Spring Training.

He is an elite center fielder with excellent patience at the plate and has never been afraid to take a walk.

Presumably, Margot will hit first or second and will offer fantasy baseball owners three-category production of runs, stolen bases and batting average. With only 34 home runs in five years, do not expect much in the power categories.

Unfortunately for Margot, the Padres already have a speedy center fielder, with excellent defensive abilities but limited offensive production named Travis Jankowski. He was one of the best center fielders last year (7th in defensive WAR, immediately behind the Rays’ superstar Kevin Kiermaier). It is unclear whether the Padres will be happy for both to be everyday outfielders.

Left fielder Alex Dickerson (.788 OPS last season), has been sidelined for four weeks with a disc protrusion, which almost guarantees both Jankowski and Margot make the Opening Day roster.

Prospect Yuli Gurriel in action
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

Some of the best hitters in fantasy baseball are from Cuba. Some arrived as prospects, others as established veterans. They all shared one thing in common when they reached the majors – it is difficult to predict their success.

Yuli Gurriel
Let us be honest, no-one knows what to expect from Gurriel.

If you trust the believers, he is one of the greatest players to leave Cuba since …… well, maybe ever. Better than Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu or Kendrys Morales.

In 2015, he slashed .589/.874/1.463 in the Cuban National League with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 49 games. If those figures don’t impress you, then his 1.7 K% strikeout rate will. Amazingly, he only struck out three times in 174 at-bats.

The non-believers will cite that Gurriel was a 31-year-old veteran playing against kids in a low-standard league with his best baseball days behind him. He has drawn comparisons with Cuban flops Rusney Castillo and Hector Olivera. Olivera was a similar 30-something signed to a big deal on the back of excellent stats in Cuba. He is now out of baseball.

Whichever side of the argument you choose, in 130 at-bats in the majors, Gurriel hit three home runs with 15 RBI and .262/.292/.385 slash line. He is in a Spring Training battle with A.J. Reed, Marwin Gonzalez and Tyler White for the starting job at first base. Gurriel is currently the favorite to win the job but has yet to hit a home run. His main rival A.J. Reed leads the Astros with four.

Prospect Dan Vogelbach in action
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Some prospects are built for speed. Others are built for power. Dan Vogelbach is definitely the latter.

Dan Vogelbach
In Triple-A last season, Vogelbach hit six home runs with .791 OPS against left-handed pitchers but destroyed right-handers with 17 home runs and .307/.430/.516 slash line. It is evident that he has nothing left to prove in the minors.

Disappointingly, for fantasy owners, the Mariners intend to platoon Vogelbach with 32-year-old Danny Valencia. This hurts the production potential of both players but increases their value in DFS or daily lineup leagues

Vogelbach is a disciplined hitter with a career .390 OBP across all levels and could easily work himself into everyday at-bats.

In Jarrod Dyson and Jean Segura, the Mariners have acquired two speedy players to hit at the top of their lineup. The Cubs and Indians have utilized the on-base abilities of power hitters Kyle Schwarber and Carlos Santana as non-stereotypical leadoff hitters. If the Mariners push Vogelbach up the order, his value will obviously increase.

Vogelbach’s ADP is 399 and he splits opinions with CBS projecting 27 home runs and ESPN just 10. If he hits 15 home runs with a decent average, the 24-year-old will be a useful corner infielder. Vogelbach’s on-base skills give extra value in OBP or points leagues.

Prospect Albert Almora in action
Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The deeper the league, the more necessary it is to be aware of all of the prospects that will make an impact in 2017.

Albert Almora
The fact that the Cubs were prepared to start 2017 without Jorge Soler or Dexter Fowler gives you some idea as to the faith they have in Almora as their center fielder of the future.

It looks like he will start the season in a platoon with the offensively-challenged Jon Jay. The veteran outfielder slashed  .260/.326/.339 over the last two seasons, so Almora doesn’t need to hit that much to see an increase in playing time.

Last season, across Triple-A and the majors, Almora hit seven home runs with 60 runs, 57 RBI, ten stolen bases and .296 AVG. Batting ninth in Cubs’ lineup should not be underestimated. If Almora can get on base, he will have Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting behind him.

Almora is an excellent defensive center fielder with the pedigree of a former top-20 prospect. There is no doubt that he is a glove-first player, but at only 22-years-old, Almora is improving with the bat. It is debatable whether he will provide enough counting stats to make a worthwhile contribution even in deep leagues this season.

Prospect Tom Murphy in action
Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /

Catching prospects are the most frustrating of all prospects. Elite catchers are generally glove-first, bat-second, and they take so much longer to develop in the minors than other hitters.

Tom Murphy
In 79 Major Leagues at-bats, the Rockies’ catcher hit 13 home runs with .949 OPS. You’ve got to love that thin Colorado air.

Murphy destroyed Triple-A pitching in 2016 with .327/.361/.647 slash line. He had no discernible splits, with .996 OPS vs. right-handers and 1.035 OPS vs. left-handers, so the .161 AVG against lefties in 35 Major League plate appearances is irrelevant.

The Rockies first-choice catcher is the pitch-framing specialist Tony Wolters. He offers little power, hitting .259 with .395 SLG last season. With Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story, the Rockies have plenty of sluggers, so they can afford to lose a little production behind the plate.

Unfortunately, Murphy fractured his forearm in Spring Training and will miss six weeks. The 25-year-old will then have to wrestle playing time from Wolters, who will already be firmly entrenched behind the plate.

If you have a DL-slot, Murphy is a must-stash. Even with limited playing time, the power potential from the catcher position is too great to ignore.

Prospect Hernan Perez in action
Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports /

Sometimes the prospects that make the biggest impact are ones that you least expect.

Aledmys Diaz was not one the Cardinals’ top-12 prospects at the start of last season. In fact, he had been outrighted off the 40-man roster in July.

After Jhonny Peralta had injured his thumb in Spring Training, the favorites for playing time were the higher profile names of Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong and Ruben Tejada, and the highly ranked prospect Greg Garcia.

Diaz grabbed the opportunity and the rest, as they say, is history. He slashed .300/.360/.510 with 17 home runs and four stolen bases, finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. No-one saw that coming in April.

Watch Spring Training and be prepared to react in the draft or on the waiver wire.

Next: Why you should take Paul Goldschmidt second