Bernie on the Scene: Young NL Position Players I Want on My Fantasy Team

Bernie on the Scene: Young NL Position Players I Want on My Fantasy Team

This article is part of our Bernie on the Scene series.

Today I will share my short list of National League position players under the age of 25 I want on my fantasy teams.

Of course I want Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis and Ronald Acuna. They aren't the guys on my list. Each of the above have the ability to win a fantasy league for the team manager lucky enough to roster them.

Austin Riley, 3B/OF/1B, Atlanta Braves, age 25

I first scouted Riley in the 2017 Arizona Fall League, where he hit .300 in 77 plate appearances. He flashed power at the plate, with six home runs. At 6-3, 240 pounds, Riley has a very powerful frame. Last year he surprised a lot of baseball analysts by hitting 33 homers and driving in 107 runs. He has the ability to hit the ball to both gaps and is no longer strictly a pull hitter. While he has more power to his pull side, he still knows how to take a pitch where it is thrown.

Riley has a strong arm and can be used at both corners or in the outfield, depending upon where he is needed by the Braves. Scouting Grade: 55

Daulton Varsho, OF/C, Arizona Diamondbacks, age 25

Varsho was a supplemental second-round pick of the Diamondbacks out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2017. As pick No. 68 in the draft, Varsho was given a signing bonus of $881,100. Drafted as a catcher, the Diamondbacks quickly converted him to the outfield. As a center

Today I will share my short list of National League position players under the age of 25 I want on my fantasy teams.

Of course I want Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis and Ronald Acuna. They aren't the guys on my list. Each of the above have the ability to win a fantasy league for the team manager lucky enough to roster them.

Austin Riley, 3B/OF/1B, Atlanta Braves, age 25

I first scouted Riley in the 2017 Arizona Fall League, where he hit .300 in 77 plate appearances. He flashed power at the plate, with six home runs. At 6-3, 240 pounds, Riley has a very powerful frame. Last year he surprised a lot of baseball analysts by hitting 33 homers and driving in 107 runs. He has the ability to hit the ball to both gaps and is no longer strictly a pull hitter. While he has more power to his pull side, he still knows how to take a pitch where it is thrown.

Riley has a strong arm and can be used at both corners or in the outfield, depending upon where he is needed by the Braves. Scouting Grade: 55

Daulton Varsho, OF/C, Arizona Diamondbacks, age 25

Varsho was a supplemental second-round pick of the Diamondbacks out of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2017. As pick No. 68 in the draft, Varsho was given a signing bonus of $881,100. Drafted as a catcher, the Diamondbacks quickly converted him to the outfield. As a center fielder, Varsho gives fantasy managers dual-eligibility, and is among the best hitting/catcher targets in fantasy baseball. A very good athlete, Varsho has outstanding speed, a quick bat, good hands and an ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field.

A left-handed hitter, Varsho has sneaky power that can produce 20 to 25 home runs. Using good bat control and a fine knowledge of the strike zone, Varsho works counts in his favor. He can accept a walk, but more often than not, he is looking to drive the ball. On a fairly weak hitting Diamondbacks club, Varsho stands out as a potential RBI candidate. But while he won't hit for a great batting average, he will help fantasy managers fill the catcher position with his powerful bat — while he plays the outfield. Scouting Grade: 55

Jazz Chisholm, SS/2B, Miami Marlins, age 22

Hitting left-handed, Chisholm is a combination of good speed and good power, especially appealing for a middle-infielder. In his early days with Arizona, Chisholm struggled to make contact. That aspect of his game has improved markedly, as he reads pitchers better and can handle breaking balls with much more efficiency. He is pretty much pull happy at this stage of his career, but it seems to work for him.

What I especially like about Chisholm is his ability to steal bases with good speed and above-average technique. Combining his power and speed at the shortstop position makes him very attractive as a fantasy target. Scouting Grade: 55

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates, age 25

The Pirates had two first-round picks in the 2015 draft. At No. 19 overall, they picked infielder Kevin Newman and gave him a $2,175,000 signing bonus. They selected third baseman Hayes at No. 32 overall, and he received a signing bonus of $1,855,000.

Hayes signed an eight-year contract with Pittsburgh for $70M. It means the Pirates have Hayes in their future. Hopefully, for them. He's the son of Charlie Hayes, a former big league player. A good hitter, Hayes has the ability and the plate discipline to hit .300. He's off to a very nice start to the 2022 season, on a club not known for scoring runs.

Hayes is more of a contact hitter rather than a power hitter. I don't think we can expect more than 20 home runs a season from him, and that would be a reach. In his minor league development Hayes never hit more than 10 homers in six seasons. What Hayes does well is solid contact hitting. He won't strike out often, and he'll use the entire field with a very measured swing from the right side of the plate. A good base-runner with some speed, Hayes may sneak in a few stolen bases for you.

Hayes is a superb defensive third baseman with a very strong and accurate arm. While that defensive prowess won't win fantasy baseball leagues, it will assure Hayes is in the lineup, increasing his opportunities to hit. Scouting Grade: 55

Alec Bohm, 3B/1B, Philadelphia Phillies, age 25

Bohm was drafted by the Phillies in the first round of the 2018 draft out of Wichita State University. He was the No. 3 player selected in that draft. The Phillies gave Bohm a signing bonus of $5,850,000. 

For me, Bohm is a solid fantasy baseball target, even though he will struggle on defense. With the DH now available in the National League, that may become a future role for him. He is still struggling to handle breaking balls at the big league level. He may, in fact, have been promoted too quickly. But when all is said and done, I think he'll hit for average.

I got to see plenty of Bohm in the 2019 Arizona Fall League, where I found him to be one of the more advanced and better hitters in the league. In fact, Bohm hit .361/.397/.528/.9256 in the Fall League in his 78 plate appearances. A right-handed hitter, Bohm has good bat control, and I just hope he doesn't get caught up in trying to hit the ball out of the park. He is at his best when he cuts down on his swing and takes the pitch to the gaps.

Tall and lean at 6-5, 218 pounds, Bohm looked awkward and uncoordinated to me when he played third base in the Fall League. I projected him at the time to have more success playing first base. I'm not sure how the Phillies will view him, other than as a DH.

Bohm doesn't have much speed, and his base running instincts aren't the best. I would count on him as a solid hitter with a chance to drive in runs. Ultimately, the home runs may come. For now, however, be patient with him. I think he'll hit. Scouting Grade: 55

Tyler Stephenson, C, Cincinnati Reds, age 25

Out of Kennesaw Mountain High School in Georgia, Stephenson received a $3,141,000 signing bonus from the Reds as the No. 11 overall pick in the draft.

To me, Stephenson is one of the best hitting catchers in fantasy baseball. Playing half his home games in Cincinnati doesn't hurt. With enough power to be an interesting power threat, Stephenson is mainly a solid contact hitter with good pitch recognition and patience at the plate.

At 6-4, 225 pounds, the right-handed hitting Stephenson makes a huge target at the plate. But his bat speed and his hitting mechanics are very solid. He is clearly an offense-first catcher. He does not run well and may not project to play anywhere other than catcher, which is fine with me. He doesn't have much mobility, but he gets around behind the plate well enough.

I view Stephenson as a guy who can get the big hit when it is needed, and as a hitter with good plate discipline and the ability to make solid, consistent contact by finding the barrel. I am very bullish on him, and I think he has a very bright future. Scouting Grade: 55

HEADING HOME

Reid Detmers threw a no-hitter last week against the Tampa Bay Rays. Granted, luck comes into play for any low-hit game, and the Rays aren't the most dangerous team in baseball. But Detmers was brilliant. He is part of a pitching staff that includes Shohei Ohtani, Patrick Sandoval, Michael Lorenzen and Noah Syndergaard.

The Angels have a fine baseball team. And they finally have fixed their pitching. Can they take out the Astros in the National League West? Why not?

Every day, Aaron Judge gets more expensive. How much will he end up costing some big league club? Will the Yankees pay his asking price? Together, Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are 13 feet, 1 inch tall. Together they weigh 527 pounds. One of my most favorite memories in baseball is seeing Judge standing next to Jose Altuve. Amazing.

Cleveland came back to beat the White Sox in extra innings after trailing by six runs heading in to the top of the ninth. Then Josh Naylor went to work. He hit two homers in two innings, drove in eight runs in the game and has now surfaced as a fantasy stud. If it isn't too late, and I think it probably is, jump on Naylor. And while you're at it, don't sleep on Andres Gimenez, an emerging hitter as a young middle-infielder.

I'm not surprised Justin Verlander almost threw his fourth no-hitter.

In all their greatest wisdom, proof is now positive that MLB has deadened the baseballs used in the big leagues. They must not like home runs. The deader ball, the humidor being used in all baseball parks and the awful weather in the East and Midwest have converged to take us back in time. But…and I said this early this season, players are making better contact, and some are content to meet the ball and get base hits rather than home runs.

Will Byron Buxton ever have a season when he doesn't get hurt? Ever? No. I don't think so. I don't know how or why it happens, but it happens. Buxton is a fantastic baseball player. But I have heard you actually have to play to be great. And his constant trips to the IL really are worrisome.

George Springer can get on a roll and set the table for a fantastic Blue Jays lineup. And Bo Bichette can scald the ball to the opposite field. We know how great Vladimir Guerrero can be. But for me, the Blue Jays are a much, much tougher team to beat with Teoscar Hernandez in the lineup. He's just that good.

I'm hoping Christian Yelich is back. He hit for the cycle last week and is showing great signs of life in his bat.

Thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff and for reading my work at Forbes. I value your comments and opinions in the space below. Have a great week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bernie Pleskoff
Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.
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