I always preach adaptability when evaluating and drafting baseball players, and that mantra has definitely been tested after the last few years. I recently went over the ever-changing evaluation landscape as it pertains to the insane number of home runs that are being hit at the Major League level (link here in case you missed it), and now that I have established the new baseline and concepts have been put in place, it’s time to put those ideas into practice. No longer are pure mashers like Brendan Rodgers my main target, but instead solid contributors across the board like Scott Kingery catch my eye.
Before we begin, in summary, power is up, so the value of power is down. Guys with 80-grade power don’t hold as much weight as they used to, and now hitters with solid-average and good speed are more desired. Pitching is also a bit tougher to come by, so I’m actually beginning (shudder) to preach taking some elite pitching prospects (the same I want to take at least one ace in most drafts), though that’s a topic for another day. Let’s begin by taking a look at a few guys who might need their values bumped a bit because of their skillset.
Scott Kingery, 2B – Philadelphia Phillies
Kingery is becoming more of a household name amongst most prospect hounds after racking up a couple of solid seasons in the minors. He was taken 48th overall in the 2015 draft, and though he’s a bit older for a prospect (23), he’s showing enough talent to push his way to the majors sooner rather than later. I know the infield is crowded in Philly, but there’s a solid chance they give him playing time this year.
In his 603 plate appearances in 2017, Kingery managed to slash .304/.359/.530 with 26 home runs and 29 steals (against only five caught stealings). This was the first season the power showed up, and just like I said in my previous article, even players who haven’t displayed much pop in the minors are likely to hit for at least a bit more power in the Majors. I certainly don’t think he’s a 30-HR threat, but with his bat-to-ball ability and good instincts, 15-20 dingers wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.
What Kingery has shown me is that he is a legit threat to hit for a good average, and his speed is solid enough to potentially equate to 20+ stolen bases at the highest level. So if I have a .300 hitter who provides our 20-HR baseline AND racks up 20 or more stolen bases, I have a true stud on my hands.
There is a bit of fluctuation amongst top prospect lists as I’ve seen Kingery anywhere from 22nd to 50th. I’m not sure where he would be on my top list, but it would certainly be closer to top 30 than top 50. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on and I know in my dynasty leagues I’m going to see what the trade price is.
Alex Verdugo, OF – Los Angeles Dodgers
I recently had a bit of a debate about what Verdugo will actually be, and after doing some research and thinking, I’m as high as ever on him. There are plenty of question marks to be seen here, but the overall hit tool and discipline seem like they will be good enough to help him make a difference.
Another second-round pick, this time in the 2014 draft at number 62 overall, Verdugo was taken as a toolsy high school player with plenty of athleticism and plenty of question marks. He was also seen as a potential threat on the mound, but the performance at the dish has been good enough that the idea of him pitching is firmly in the rearview mirror.
In his four seasons in the minors, Verdugo has hit below .311 exactly once. In his first trip to Double-A, he batted .273 and struggled a bit in his first taste against the advanced competition. This past season saw him really make adjustments, and he managed to slug .314/.389/.436 with six homers and nine stolen bases. Those counting stats certainly aren’t eye-popping, but it does stand to reason that there is the potential for more.
When Verdugo gets his first solid taste of the Majors (he did have an uninspiring 23 at-bat showcase that I’m largely ignoring in 2017), it isn’t a huge stretch to think he could put 15-20 out of the park with the way the ball flies out of the park. And his 50-grade speed means that as he gets comfortable on the basepaths, a jump in stolen bases also isn’t out of the question.
So with a nice hit tool and easy .300 average potential, power at our baseline level, and enough speed to someday potentially translate to decent steals, it’s entirely possible to think we might have a .300 hitter with 20-20 potential on our hands. In the meantime, if the “fantasy relevant” stats don’t show up immediately, we do have a .300-hitting center fielder on our hands, which is valuable enough in its own right.
Jo Adell/Jahmai Jones, OF – Los Angeles Angels
This one is a bit of a cheat, and I do have to profess that I am an Angels fan, so these names come easy to me. More so than these actual players, though, I advocate taking guys with their skillsets. Both hitters translate to basically raw, young outfielders with risk but insane upside. Both possess solid power in the 50-60 range on the 20-80 grade scale, both have potential solid hit tools (though nowhere near the level of the two players listed above), and both guys have 60+ grade speed.
If a guy with this level of talent reaches their full potential, then you’re looking at a very early Matt Kemp level player who could hit .280 with 20-20, 30-30, or even 40-40 seasons in front of him. Compare that with, say, the potential of a Willie Calhoun, who, if he reaches his ceiling, is likely a corner outfielder/first base/DH type with a .280 average, 35 home runs, and no steals. The bat is enticing, of course, but the payoff is vastly superior for an Adell or a Jones. And to be honest, I don’t think there’s ever going to be a shortage of Logan Morrison/Lucas Duda types in this offensive environment, so replacing Calhoun’s line won’t likely cost you very much in your drafts and through trades.
The most important thing to take away from all of this is, yet again, that power is abundant. If you come across a guy like an Eloy Jimenez or a Brendan Rodgers who is mostly just power, don’t be afraid to draft them or keep them on your minor league team, but keep an eye out for that well-rounded player that can give you the edge in multiple categories. Now, say it with me in your best Sean Connery voice: “Think Kingery!”