Farm Futures: Florida State League Hitters

Farm Futures: Florida State League Hitters

This article is part of our Farm Futures series.

Note: This will be the last Farm Futures before a big three-part rollout of the midseason top-200 prospect rankings. There has been a lot of clamoring for an updated top-200, and rest assured one is in the works, but it is a very lengthy process that I do not want to rush. In addition to the players who were eligible for the last rendering of the list, there is now a new draft class and an international free agent class to integrate, so thoroughness is required for the list to have the utmost utility for dynasty league owners, as this will be the last time the list is updated this season.

The Florida State League has at least six hitters who will slot into the updated top-200, as well as some very interesting fringe prospects. Before getting to the players, it is important to understand that this is a very pitcher-friendly league. Only three ballparks -- Fort Myers, Clearwater and Daytona -- rank in the upper half of run scoring environments in the minor leagues, and none of the league's parks ranked in the upper 75th percentile. Meanwhile, five parks -- Tampa, Palm Beach, Lakeland, Bradenton and Brevard County -- ranked in the lower 25th percentile of minor league run scoring environments. For this reason it is important to view the numbers of these hitters on a bit of a curve.

Phillip Ervin, OF, High-A Daytona
.257/.342/.429, 11 HR, 15-for-20 on SB attempts through 268 at-bats

Ervin was just

Note: This will be the last Farm Futures before a big three-part rollout of the midseason top-200 prospect rankings. There has been a lot of clamoring for an updated top-200, and rest assured one is in the works, but it is a very lengthy process that I do not want to rush. In addition to the players who were eligible for the last rendering of the list, there is now a new draft class and an international free agent class to integrate, so thoroughness is required for the list to have the utmost utility for dynasty league owners, as this will be the last time the list is updated this season.

The Florida State League has at least six hitters who will slot into the updated top-200, as well as some very interesting fringe prospects. Before getting to the players, it is important to understand that this is a very pitcher-friendly league. Only three ballparks -- Fort Myers, Clearwater and Daytona -- rank in the upper half of run scoring environments in the minor leagues, and none of the league's parks ranked in the upper 75th percentile. Meanwhile, five parks -- Tampa, Palm Beach, Lakeland, Bradenton and Brevard County -- ranked in the lower 25th percentile of minor league run scoring environments. For this reason it is important to view the numbers of these hitters on a bit of a curve.

Phillip Ervin, OF, High-A Daytona
.257/.342/.429, 11 HR, 15-for-20 on SB attempts through 268 at-bats

Ervin was just activated from a brief stay on the minor league DL, but prior to the undisclosed injury he had reestablished himself as one of the top prospects in the Reds' system. Ervin's combination of power and speed make him a very intriguing dynasty league prospect, even in shallower leagues. He fell flat on his face last season, but has rebounded very well in his second full season in the minors. Ervin, who turns 23 on July 15, may only hit .250 or .260 in the big leagues, but he has the on-base skills to still be pretty valuable in the counting stats. His overall production could be similar to that of Gregory Polanco.

Alex Blandino, SS, High-A Daytona
.295/.372/.428, six HR, 7-for-17 on SB attempts through 271 at-bats

Just before the Tortugas got Ervin back from the DL, Blandino, another top-five prospect within the organization, was placed on the DL with an undisclosed injury. If the injury does not prove to be serious, Blandino could be a fast climber through the system. If he can't stick at shortstop, he will certainly hit enough to be an average or better fantasy option at second base. The Reds have yet to move him off of shortstop, but he has 16 errors in 67 games this year, and it would not be surprising to see him moved to the keystone. That said, if he continues to impress at the plate, his plus hit tool could be enough for the Reds to just push him to whichever middle infield spot opens up first.

Clint Coulter, OF, High-A Brevard County
.259/.356/.449, 11 HR, 20 2B, 6-for-11 on SB attempts through 301 at-bats

Coulter is tied for the league lead with 11 home runs, and given his home ballpark that is very impressive for a 21-year-old. His defense figures to be fringey, but this is a bat that continues to get underrated in dynasty leagues. A recent convert from catcher to outfielder, Coulter has raked at Low-A and High-A without compromising a very strong approach. He has a 107:160 BB:K ratio, 33 home runs and 48 doubles in 207 games since the start of 2014, and could profile in the middle of the Brewers lineup in a couple years.

Austin Meadows, OF, High-A Bradenton
.288/.357/.384, three HR, 12-for-18 on SB attempts through 292 at-bats

Meadows has long been a guy I have been a little lower on than most. There is no denying the plus hit tool, which is one of the best in the lower levels of the minors. However, I'm not so sure there will be much to go with the high batting average. Pre-breakout Michael Brantley seems like a reasonable outcome for Meadows, and he gets much more love than that in dynasty leagues. The one thing that does not seem to be up for debate is that Meadows won't be debuting in Pittsburgh until at least 2017. As with Alen Hanson, who was written about here last week, Meadows feels like a good trade chip if the Pirates want to make a serious push this season.

Willy Adames, SS, High-A Charlotte
.275/.356/.411, four HR, 7-for-8 on SB attempts through 265 at-bats

With Nick Franklin looking like a washout and Drew Smyly's shoulder surgery jeopardizing his future as a mid-rotation starter, Adames may be the Rays' last hope at saving face in the David Price trade. None of the 19-year-old's tools figure to get to plus, but he could offer average power and speed with a very solid approach. Like Rosario, Adames is at least a couple years away, but unlike Rosario his power has already started to show a little in game action. He could be the second best position player (behind Daniel Robertson) in a weak Rays system, but Adames is still a fringe top-100 guy due to his lack of an elite tool and a distant ETA.

Amed Rosario, SS, High-A St. Lucie
.260/.303/.344, zero HR, 16 2B, 9-for-13 on SB attempts through 288 at-bats

It is easy to look at Rosario's slash line and not be very impressed, but the fact that he is holding his own at the plate as a 19-year-old in a pitcher-friendly league is actually pretty promising. Nobody should expect power numbers to show up for Rosario for at least a couple more seasons, and he is already showing a good knack for stealing bases with slightly above average speed. He may be further away from the big leagues than anyone else covered in this piece, but Rosario's upside rivals that of any hitter in the Florida State League.

Barrett Barnes, OF, High-A Bradenton
.266/.350/.438, six HR, 11-for-16 on SB attempts through 192 at-bats

Barnes, 23, is old for the level, but injuries have been the reason he has moved so slowly through the Pirates' system since being drafted with the 45th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has a chance to make it as an everyday left fielder thanks to a solid approach and average power. There is also the potential for 15-to-25 steals a season if he can stay healthy. Barnes will be in consideration for the back half of updated top-200 and is someone worth keeping an eye on as he moves to the upper levels of the minors.

Dominic Smith, 1B, High-A St. Lucie
.296/.341/.408, two HR, 25 2B through 277 at-bats

Smith has been a doubles machine this season, which is good, considering his home run tallies ever since he was drafted with the 11th overall pick in 2013 have been very underwhelming, given the fact that he is a first baseman. In fact, he has more steals (six) than home runs (three) through 196 games of full-season ball. It's important to not completely focus on Smith's home run totals, as scouts in and out of the Mets' organization project the power to get to average or better by the time he is in his prime in the big leagues, but in a dynasty league it can be dangerous to bet on that projection, given how far away he still is. If he becomes James Loney or Yonder Alonso, then stashing him in most formats will be all for naught. Some of this can come down to personal preference, but I don't like rostering first base prospects in dynasty leagues unless there is 25-plus homer potential, and it's just hard to envision that with Smith right now. The most optimistic outlook could be that he becomes a poor man's Freddie Freeman, where the hit tool carries the profile and he rarely hits many more than 20 homers in a season. However, even Freeman hit 18 homers as a teenager in his first full professional season in 2008. In the end, I see Smith being a guy who gets to the big leagues but is annually available on waivers in most formats.

Tyler Wade, SS, High-A Tampa
.273/.341/.342, two HR, 28-for-42 on SB attempts through 275 at-bats

It is pretty easy to see where the intrigue lies with Wade. While he really needs to work on his success rate, his 28 steals rank third in the league. At 20 years old, Wade is more than holding his own thanks to a contact-oriented swing that allows his speed to play while also possessing the patience (28:52 BB:K ratio) to get on-base enough to hit atop a lineup. Wade, a rare shortstop who hits from the left side, should beat Jorge Mateo to the big leagues, which will give him a chance to prove his worth as an everyday shortstop, both in the eyes of the Yankees and other organizations. Even if he only hits .260 with 20-30 steals, that's a starting shortstop in most formats.

JaCoby Jones, SS, High-A Bradenton
.266/.337/.411, nine HR, 14-for-18 on SB attempts through 304 at-bats

At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, it is very difficult to see Jones sticking at shortstop, which means the bat will have to play enough for him to profile at third base, and that could be a stretch. His ISO is down from .216 last season to .145 this season, and while a lot of that can be explained by the tough hitting environments in the league, at 23 years old he is also older than a lot of the players he is facing. Some players can get away with striking out more than 26 percent of the time, which Jones has done at Low-A and High-A, but the players who can make that work also bring a bit more to the table when they do make contact. He has plus speed to go with above average raw power, so fantasy owners will always want to be aware of what Jones is doing, but this has the feel of a bench bat or a Quad-A guy to this observer.

Andrew Pullin, OF, High-A Clearwater
.275/.314/.416, eight HR through 298 at-bats

It's a bit of a shame from a fantasy perspective that Pullin, 21, was moved from second base to left field this season, but his bat-first profile has continued to show promise against High-A pitching. His eight home runs in 73 games puts him on pace to easily best the nine homers he hit in 129 games at Low-A last year, and he is also striking out at a lower rate (13.4 percent) than he did as a 20-year-old (17.5 percent). He may not make it as an everyday player because there is not one true carrying tool, but if he does make it, the bat will be the reason why.

Miguel Andujar, 3B, High-A Tampa
.207/.251/.315, five HR, 5-for-6 on SB attempts through 295 at-bats

Andujar has fallen victim to a .243 BABIP while his walk rate and K-rate have both moved in the wrong direction compared to last year's rates at Low-A. He is still just 20 years old and it is clear that Andujar's road to the big leagues will be a long one. It's not time to give up on him, but given the relative lack of offensive upside for his position and the distant ETA, there are probably better options available in most dynasty leagues.

Willians Astudillo, 1B/C/3B/LF/DH, High-A Clearwater
.311/.344/.403, three HR through 238 at-bats

As one can tell by looking at his position breakdown above, Astudillo does not have a true position other than hitter. He has started more games at first base (32) than any other position this year, but at 5-foot-9 he would make Adam Lind look like Frank Thomas setting up to receive throws at first. Make no mistake, Astudillo will be written off by scouts because of his frame and lack of a defensive position all the way up the organizational ladder, but he may be one of the best players at making solid contact in all the minor leagues. In 674 plate appearances in full-season ball, Astudillo has just 29 strikeouts, and as a result he has never posted a batting average below .310 in professional baseball. To put that into perspective, Victor Martinez quite easily had the lowest K-rate (6.6 percent) among qualified big league hitters last season and he struck out 42 times in 561 plate appearances. It would not be wise to bet on Astudillo making it as an everyday player, simply because the Phillies may have nowhere to put him, but until he proves otherwise, this is a hit tool that needs to be followed up the organizational ladder.

Reese McGuire, C, High-A Bradenton
.263/.308/.300, zero HR, 11-for-14 on SB attempts through 240 at-bats

McGuire will make the big leagues thanks to a plus defensive profile behind the plate, but it's difficult to project him to be much of a fantasy asset when he does get there. In deep two-catcher leagues, McGuire will likely be rosterable in three or four years, but he's hardly worth rostering now, even in those leagues, when he is so far away from contributing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Anderson
James Anderson is RotoWire's Lead Prospect Analyst, Assistant Baseball Editor, and co-host of Farm Fridays on Sirius/XM radio and the RotoWire Prospect Podcast.
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