I love the MLB All Star Festivities!
Not because of the exhibition game they play that determines home field advantage for the World Series. Not for the Home Run derby which coincidentally often puts the participants into a slump following the contest. Not for that “celebrity” softball game that is…well…unwatchable. I love this time of year because we get to see some of the brightest prospects in baseball in one game which is actually televised.
The 2014 version of the “Futures” Game will be played on Sunday, July 13th at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN. This game is a major “scouting” opportunity for dynasty league junkies to see how these prospects handle the spotlight. This year’s game has the makings to turn into its own version of a home run derby. This week, I would like to take a closer look at a few AA prospects that look to make an impact on next week’s Futures game as well as your fantasy teams in the near future.
Norris, the former 2nd Round pick, has been climbing up the Toronto organizational prospect ladder with a breakout 2014 campaign. He has been in the shadows of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez for the last two plus seasons, but he is quickly becoming the pitcher that “real life” GMs are asking for in exchange for their rental pitchers the Blue Jays are considering for a playoff run. Please, AA! Resist the temptation! Let’s take a quick look at what Norris has been doing this year. In 16 games started this year between A+ Dunedin and AA New Hampshire, Daniel has pitcher to the tune of 1.63 ERA, 1.016 WHIP with 101 Ks in 82.2 INN. He sports a blistering 11.0 K per 9 Innings and 4.21 K to BB ratio. He was absent from all the pre-season Top 100 lists that I read, and most sites were projecting a 2016-2017 MLB debut. This season, however, Norris has established a much better command over this pitches, especially his low to mid-90s fastball. In the one inning he pitches in the Futures game, he could easily run his fastball up in the high 90s with down movement that could make the World Team hitters look silly. He has a plus curveball and a developing hard curveball. All his pitches angle downward which should create a lot of ground balls as well swings and misses. What has impressed me is his improvement and the consistency of his command on his entire arsenal. Daniel has reached the radar of MLB scouts and GMs and should be on your radar for your dynasty and deep keeper leagues. With his rapid development this season, he could see the majors next summer (2015). If AA can resist trading him (and Sanchez) this coming month, we could see the 3-headed monster of Stroman, Sanchez and Norris anchoring a young, impressive Blue Jays rotation by the end of 2015. AL East has been put on notice.
Ok, so here is my attempt at compensation for a former Supplemental 1st Round pick that has proven me wrong. Joey has always been known as a prospect with incredible raw power. He has also been known as the prospect that strikes out an eye-popping 172 times in 467 plate appearances in 2013.During the off-season, I spent some time watching video clips of his violent swings and lack of plate discipline as well as amazing HR shots. Despite his 40 HRs, his 172/50 K to BB ratio and .251 avg. had me questioning what kind of impact he could have in the majors. He started the 2014 season on fire in A+, Myrtle Beach, just murdering the ball, hitting for average and showing some improved pitch recognition. In my infinite wisdom, I wrote about how this sample size isn’t enough and he has so much to overcome to become a legit prospect. Both Gallo and Rangers’ fans responded. I got crushed by loyal Rangers’ fans who, most likely, follow him more closely than I do. Gallo has continued to rake this season and earned a promotion to AA, Frisco in early June. He has slowed down a tick in AA, but still has combined slash of .311/.444/.724. He also has hit 29 HRs so far this season. As gaudy as these numbers are, what has impressed me the most is his 61 walks in 322 plate appearances. He has still struck out a ton (96), but I can live with that as a slugger when his OBP is .444. I was curious what changed over the off-season. I happened to catch an interview with Asst. GM, Thad Levine, in which he said that Gallo spend time training with Jason Giambi this off-season. There you have it. He actually is beginning to resemble the Oakland A’s version of Giambi. You know, the one who was the 2000 AL MVP. Gallo has obviously made some adjustments and great strides this season. He has a chance to put on a real power show during the Futures game which could be just a taste of what he could bring to your fantasy team. He has made me a believer. I wouldn’t expect to see him this season as the Rangers plan to allow the young slugger develop in the minors this season. I would think he should be ready to make his debut next summer and will instantly lengthen the Ranger’s lineup.
Taylor has been having the best season of his career in 2014. In his first few seasons, he flashed his plus speed, arm and glove but not much else. He strikes out way too much and never had a OBP over .340 prior to this season. He is vulnerable to good breaking pitches and will chase pitches out of the strikes zone. However in 2014, he has spent the entire season thus far in AA, Harrisburg, and has slashed a surprising .328/.407/.560 in 336 plate appearances. He has shown both plus power (17 HRs) and plus speed (22 SB vs 6 CS). He has been exceptional in the field sporting a .996 fielding pct with 9 OF assists in centerfield. His plate discipline is still a concern as he is still struggling with the strikeout (101 Ks) but he is walking enough with his developing hit tool to get on base over 40% of the time. In my opinion, Taylor has overtaken Brian Goodwin as the top hitting prospect in the organization. Taylor is looking to show off his well-rounded abilities during the Futures game. He is already on the Nationals 40 Man roster so it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he could see Nation’s Capital by the end of the season if there is a significant injury. Depending on off-season moves, Taylor could have a chance to earn a roster spot out of spring training. I would be shocked if we don’t seem him taking his talents to Nationals Park by next summer. This is someone who should be on your fantasy radar that can impact several categories in the near future.
Bryan Luhrs Real Deal Dynasty Sports, Creator & League Commissioner MajorLeagueFantasySports.com, Fantasy Baseball Writer http://www.realdealdynasty.com @realdealdynasty