Super Bowl XLIX will feature two former baseball prospects battling it out for the game's top prize.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who roomed with Madison Bumgarner during the 2006 East Coast Showcase, was drafted by the Orioles in the 41st round out of high school and then again by the Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 first-year player draft. New England signal caller Tom Brady was selected in the 18th round in 1995 by the Expos as a catching prospect. One longtime scout, John Hughes, recently said he thought Brady had the tools to be a major leaguer, but who knows?
Projecting baseball prospects is extremely difficult, as numbers alone can be extremely deceiving, and many times, players simply fail to develop as expected for no particular reason. Bias and blind spots in evaluation will inevitably lead many to overrate and underrate prospects, but that's all part of what makes the process so fun.
On Thursday, I looked at a few prospects who have fallen off the radar due to injury or poor performance that I think could re-emerge in the near future, but today, I want to look at some prospects not named Kris Bryant or Joc Pederson who could make a fantasy impact this season.
Jose Peraza, 2B, ATL (NFBC ADP: 380.51) - With 124 steals on 154 attempts in the minors over the past two seasons, Peraza's blistering speed is well documented. That speed has allowed Peraza to maintain high batting averages – he hasn't hit below .281 in any of his four professional seasons – as well as above-average on-base percentages despite low walk rates. Perhaps the most encouraging sign from Peraza has been his ability to cut down on his strikeouts at each of his three stops at full-season affiliates. He went from a 12.7% strikeout rate at Low-A Rome in 2013, to 10.5% in 66 games with High-A Lynchburg to begin 2014 to just 7.7% in 44 games with Double-A Mississippi to end the year. The fact that he's shown that type of improvement between levels is encouraging, especially for a player who's still just 20 years old. Sure, Peraza still needs to learn to draw walks, but he could end up providing a nice spark to a Braves offense which, on paper, looks like one of the worst in the league.
Dalton Pompey, OF, TOR (NFBC ADP: 277.98) - Pompey is by no means a well-kept secret at this point, as his ADP would indicate. However, that doesn't mean there isn't still significant profit potential at his current price. The 22-year-old switch-hitter shot from High-A to the majors last season, and then impressed against other advanced prospects in the Arizona Fall League (11:14 BB:K, 9-for-11 in stolen base attempts). Anthony Gose was shipped off to Detroit in November, opening the door for Pompey to possibly take the reins in center on Opening Day. He'd likely bat ninth for the Blue Jays if he does earn the job, though that spot would likely prove more fruitful than it would on a lot of other teams, with opposing pitchers having to attack the strike zone with the likes Jose Reyes, Russell Martin and Jose Bautista due up after Pompey.
Daniel Norris, P, TOR (NFBC ADP: 475.30) - Like Pompey, Norris shot through the Jays' system last season, starting at High-A Dunedin and finishing the year with the big club. His numbers in five appearances with Toronto (5.40 ERA, 4:5 K:BB) leave a lot to be desired, but the sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusions. The left-hander's 1.16 GO/AO for his minor league career could foreshadow some issues with home runs at Rogers Centre, but it's hard to imagine he'll struggle more in that department than Marco Estrada, who gave up a major-league-leading 29 big flies while with the Brewers last season. With plenty of run support and an ability to miss bats at a high clip (10.7 K/9 in minors), Norris could become a fantasy darling once he finally claims a spot in the rotation. I'm expecting him to grab one sooner rather than later. Plus, who doesn't like a guy who lives that #vanlife in the offseason?
Alex Colome, P, TB (NFBC ADP: 506.20) - Colome has been an afterthought in most drafts so far, but that could change in a hurry once spring training begins. The right-hander has posted a 2.50 ERA across 39.2 innings in his two cups of coffee in the majors, albeit with less than stellar strikeout and walk rates (5.7 K/9, 4.3 BB/9). His strikeout numbers have been far better in the minors, with the 26-year-old averaging nearly a punchout per inning in his minor league career (8.9 K/9). Perhaps he'll always be a WHIP risk given his control issues, but he currently projects to open the year as the Rays' fifth starter, which alone makes him a better speculative target than Alex Meyer, Rafael Montero or Charlie Morton, all of whom are currently going ahead of him on average.
Notes from Saturday:
Yasiel Puig (NFBC ADP: 33.93) stole the show at Dodgers FanFest on Saturday, but it was what he said Friday that grabbed the most attention in fantasy circles. He said he is focusing on improving his speed with the intent of stealing more bases this season after going 22-for-37 on the basepaths in his first two major league seasons. Of course, it must be taken with a grain of salt, but if Puig were to approach 20 steals this season, he could very well finish as a top-10 hitter in 5x5 rotisserie leagues. He was already creeping up my draft board. The 24-year-old suffered from an 11.1% HR/FB rate and improved his contact rate from 2013 dramatically, from 67.6% to 74.7%. I would, however, like to see improvement in spring training on fastballs outside, a pitch he struggled with at the end of last season.
Just when it seemed like Yoan Moncada and other Cuban players were free to sign with MLB teams, the Commissioner's office pumped the brakes. Major League Baseball sent out a memo Saturday informing teams not to come to terms with Cuban players until they receive further word on the matter. For now, the 19-year-old Moncada, along with other players like Andy Ibanez and Hector Olivera, will remain in a holding pattern, though it may not be for long. A rule change could be coming. The hype surrounding Moncada is virtually unparalleled. Back in November, more than 80 scouts from around the majors came to watch Moncada's showcase, with the consensus seeming to be his power, arm and speed are all plus tools.
According to the Detroit News, James McCann (NFBC ADP: 597.55) is the current favorite for the Tigers' backup job ahead of Bryan Holaday. It's even possible he could push into the short end of a platoon with Alex Avila early in the year. McCann's dominance against left-handed pitching at Triple-A Toledo last season (.342/.404/.475) has put him in this position, and it appears he'll be groomed to take over the starting role in 2016 with Avila expected to depart after the season. Given Avila's history of concussion issues, McCann could be thrust into the primary role earlier than expected. Those scouring for possible third- or fourth-catcher options should take note, as McCann seems to have a clearer path to at-bats than J.P. Arencibia (NFBC ADP: 561.90) or Geovany Soto (NFBC ADP: 590.65)