Last week, I was scouting the future starting 2B for the New York Yankees…in 2019. At least a father can dream, as he is watching his 10-year-old son manning the keystone position in a little league game. My boy was grinning ear to ear despite little action in his direction. Bottom line, we were both living the dream. In similar fashion, dynasty league owners start researching players younger and younger. This last fall and winter, I began spending a great deal of time studying teenagers, especially imports. It really is ridiculous the lengths in which the hardcore dynasty owner will go to build their farm system in a deep league. With this in mind, let’s take a deeper look at 21 and under 2B prospects…
1. Rougned Odor, TEX (20)
Not only is Odor the top 2B prospect on the 21 and under list, but he is the top 2B prospect period. He has performed well at every level in the minors and always played against competition that was older than he. What sets him apart from the rest is an elite level hit tool that compensates for his “aggressive” approach at the plate. He has a fairly high contact rate for someone who only walked 35 times in 511 minor league AB in 2013. All the scouts seem to agree that he might not have the highest ceiling as a prospect, but by far has the highest floor. This is significant to the dynasty league owner as a low risk investment. I would think his ceiling is 20 HR/20 RBI but I don’t see that happening more than once or twice in his career. He is an outstanding line-drive, gap power hitter and could easily be a 35+ 2Bs per year type player but his power is likely to average around 12-15 HRs per season. That still is not too shabby for a middle infielder and if he improves his plate discipline he could hit consistently around .300. I’m buying in and recommend acquiring him in your dynasty/deep keeper league. He is polished enough to perhaps sniff the majors as early as this season in the event of a season-ending injury to Andrus or Profar. A September call-up would not surprise me either. My take is that the Rangers will not rush him with a nice young infield already in place and we see Odor break in the majors after the Super 2 deadline in 2015 at the age of 21.
2. Mookie Betts, BOS (21)
Betts may only be 5’9” but he can sure handle the stick. He was a shortstop with fantastic athleticism, but just not the arm to stay there. He has above every speed and good base-running instinct which should make him a fixture in the leadoff spot for many years in the future. He has great plate discipline and good contact rate. He had an incredible 81 walks to 57 Ks in 2013. If he is able to keep up this on base rate and plus extra base power in the high minors this year, Boston will be forced to make a decision. Mookie is pretty much a clone of Dustin Pedroia. Problem is that he is signed into the next decade so there is little chance Betts sees anytime at the keystone in a Boston uniform. He could be an excellent trade chip at the trade deadline if Boston has a glaring need, but more likely they will transition him to CF in the next two years. His athleticism will play well in center and his arm will be adequate there. If he is traded, he might make the show in 2015, but more likely we see him roving CF in Fenway around 2016. Stash him in your dynasty leagues. He likely won’t hit for much more than 10 HRs in the majors, but he will get on base and be productive. His value will be much higher if he sticks at 2B, but acquire with confidence as he will have future value regardless of where he plays.
3. Jorge Polanco, MIN (20)
Jorge is definitely more raw than the first two on this list. No elite tools, but solid if not above average tools across the board. He has spent three seasons as a teenager in low levels of the minors and looks to make a jump this season, maybe ending in AA but the end of the year. He will be a bat first middle infielder playing mostly 2B, but he could see some time at SS making him valuable in deep fantasy leagues. Another little guy with some decent pop, but likely will settle into strong gap power. He should hit for decent average and get on base due to above average plate discipline and contact. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate and above average speed should get him regular ABs and projects as a solid #2 hitter in the batting order. Polanco likely won’t be ready for the bigs until 2016. I don’t consider him a high ceiling prospect but if you play in 30 team leagues, he should be stashed in your minors.
4. Chris Bostick, TEX (21)
Another player in the Rangers system? Don’t they have enough highly rated middle infield prospects? I like Bostick as a sleeper stash in large format dynasty leagues due to the fact there is no way he doesn’t get flipped to a team in need of a 2B prospect with 20/20 ceiling. Texas got him with Michael Choice from Oakland for a few major league scrubs that would have been vetoed in most fantasy leagues. If he can develop some plate discipline and learn to hit the off-speed pitch, he can be a huge trade chip in the next two years for the Texas. He has good raw power for a middle infielder and managed 14 HRs and 25 SBs in a 489 ABs during his first full season of professional ball. He needs to figure out how to improve on a dismal 122K/51BB ratio so he is a risk. But since he is a bit under the radar, you can pick him up for cheap and reap the potential rewards in 2016 or 2017 when he finds a home with a new franchise. Not plus tools anywhere, but a solid swing and decent speed should be enough for a MLB franchise to be patient enough to allow him to develop. Get him while you can.
There is a lot to be excited about in the future for the keystone. There are a lot more middle infielders that are developing into “bat first” prospects. The future of dynasty leagues look bright. Next week we look be Looking Deeper at 21 and under Shortstops.