Five Prospects To Avoid

Since joining RotoGraphs last month, I’ve spent the bulk of my time here discussing prospects who are worth considering as impact fantasy commodities. Today, I want to focus on the flip side, and talk about five prospects I’ve seen this season who don’t quite measure up to their hype or statistics and should be avoided.

Jorge Alfaro, C, Rangers (Low-A Hickory)–Alfaro is often hailed as a top-50 prospect, an athletic 20-year-old catcher with all kinds of bat speed, power potential, and defensive chops. I have seen him extensively this year, and while there are certainly some intriguing elements to his skillset, there are also two very significant problems that leave me troubled regarding his ultimate potential.

The more fantasy-relevant of these is Alfaro’s lack of plate discipline. He has just 40 walks in 951 plate appearances (4.2%) in his career, and has been just a shade over 5% each of the last two seasons. It would be one thing if he also had good contact rates, but he’s struck out 27.3% of the time in his career, including 25.3% this season. As such, he’s needed a high BABIP (.324) to hit .263 this year, as well as a lot of hit-by-pitches (14) to post a .334 on-base percentage. The last of these broke his hand, and he’s currently on the disabled list. More advanced pitchers are likely to exploit Alfaro’s free-swinging ways even more, and he will need to make significant progress with his discipline (never an easy task) to project as a competent producer of hits or walks.

It would be one thing if he was gradually eradicating his rawness, but Alfaro is repeating the Low-A level this season and shown precious little improvement. Compare the statlines:

2012: .261/.320/.430, 21 2B, 5 HR, 84/16 K/BB in 300 PA
2013: .263/.334/.458, 16 2B, 11 HR, 74/15 K/BB in 293 PA

Alfaro’s turned a few doubles into homers, slightly inflating his slugging percentage, he’s been hit by more pitches, slightly increasing his OBP, and he’s cut his strikeouts from 28.0% to 25.3%, but that’s not much to show for repeating the level.

Defensively, Alfaro flashes a big arm (38% CS), but has worlds of trouble handling pitches. He leads the South Atlantic League in passed balls with 22, five more than anyone else in the circuit, despite catching just 58 games. He has unusual athleticism for a catcher, but he has a ton of work to do on his receiving before he’s going to be a playable major league catcher.

Add it all up, and you have a player who does have intriguing tools, but may never have the approach to make them play in the majors, let alone play well enough for him to be a fantasy asset. The easy comparison to make is Miguel Olivo, who was known for his athleticism (29 steals in 2002!) back in his prospect days, but had receiving and plate discipline issues. There are two problems with that comparison, though: a) At age 20, Olivo hit .305/.363/.519 in High-A, with a reasonable enough 60/21 K/BB and b) If Alfaro’s upside equates to the career of a player who had a .241 average and .275 OBP for his career, he probably isn’t somebody to stash and wait on for half a decade.

Alfaro has a whole lot of work in front of him on both sides of the ball just to get to an Olivo/J.P. Arencibia-type career, and such a modest upside (especially in setups where walks and/or OBP count) just isn’t worth betting on. If you own Alfaro, it’s possible that his reputation might make him a decent trade chip, but otherwise, he should be dropped from all but the most far-reaching fantasy rosters. Look into Kevin Plawecki, Tom Murphy, Josmil Pinto, or even Mike Blanke as potential alternative catching prospects.

Matt Purke, LHP, Nationals (High-A Potomac)–Purke is known for turning down the Rangers out of high school after being picked 14th overall and then getting a $4.4 million major league deal after being taken in the third round by the Nationals two years later. He’s been plagued by shoulder problems for years, and they limited to just three poor starts in his first season in 2012. He finally got back on the mound on May 29 this year and rekindled hope by dominating the SAL in six starts (29 IP, 7 BB, 41 K, 2.48 ERA), earning a quick promotion to the High-A Carolina League.

I saw his second (and most recent) start in that latter circuit, and while I entered hoping to see a renewed power arm, all I saw was a finesse lefthander who was no match for the hitters in a relatively ordinary Winston-Salem lineup (he allowed nine runs on eleven hits in 3 2/3 innings). Purke worked at 88-91 mph with a bit of life on the ball, his mid-70s curve flashed plus but was very inconsistent, and he barely even showed a changeup. He throws across his body somewhat and still appears to put a lot of stress on his shoulder in his motion, taking away from his command while also putting him at an elevated re-injury risk.

Purke turns 23 next week, so the fact that his relative polish and good curveball allowed him to carve up the SAL doesn’t make him a premium pitching prospect by any means. It seems that whatever worked so well for him in Low-A isn’t translating well to High-A, and even if it did, Purke’s lack of velocity, a changeup, or pristine command doesn’t bode well for his future. That’s not to write him off entirely–88-91 with some movement isn’t exactly bad for a lefty starter, the curveball is good, and Purke has shown the ability to at least find the strike zone, which could add up to a back-of-the-rotation career if he stays healthy–but as with Alfaro, if you’re going to stash an A-ball player, you should stash one that could pay off more handsomely than just being a fringe fantasy asset.

Luis Heredia, RHP, Pirates (Low-A West Virginia)–Heredia was signed to a $2.6 million bonus out of Mexico as a 16-year-old, billed as one of the best Latin American arms in recent memory. He’s still just 18–he turns 19 in a few weeks–but he’s already made it to full-season ball and hasn’t been bad, allowing just three runs on eleven hits and ten walks in 17 innings, with twelve strikeouts.

It’s easy to take Heredia’s youth and record of success (in addition to getting off to a good start this year, he had a 2.71 ERA in short-season ball as a 17-year-old last season) as a sign that he’s a high-upside prospect, a notion that both his high-profile background and massive size feed into. But while I didn’t see Heredia get knocked around like Purke was (he threw three scoreless innings, allowing just two baserunners) in my viewing this week, I came away similarly disappointed.

First off, Luis Heredia is a huge kid. He’s every bit of his listed 6’6″, and a whole lot more than his listed 205 pounds–reverse the 0 and the 5 and you probably have a more accurate picture of his body type. There’s nothing especially wrong with that, other than that it probably compromises Heredia’s ability to field the position somewhat, but what it means is that for all of Heredia’s youth, he’s not a projectable pitcher. Physically, he probably is what he is, so he’s not likely to suddenly pick up a ton of velocity.

It would be one thing if that were the case and he already threw in the mid-90s, but Heredia instead works in the more pedestrian 89-92 mph range. He has a nice low-80s changeup with bigtime fade, though he hasn’t figured out how to command it yet, and he has a passable but unexceptional curveball (the Pirates generally emphasize changeup development over curve development with their A-ball starters). Both offspeed pitches should improve with time, leaving Heredia with an average fastball and curve and plus change–the sort of recipe that makes for a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Heredia also has very poor mechanics–he bails out his front side extremely early (and awkwardly), which compromises his command and causes his pitches to float at times. He has yet to strike batters out at a high clip at any level, and his delivery likely will not allow him to be the sort of efficient pitcher who can be above-average without a lot of whiffs.

Again, when a player has so many significant roadblocks to being more than a mediocre fantasy asset and is light years from contributing, he’s not worth the roster spot. There are plenty of guys who have the same upside and two or three levels higher who are likely to be sitting on most or all dynasty league free agent pools, to say nothing of the fact that many current MLB #4 types often are floating out there. Heredia’s backstory gives him an aura of intrigue and mystery, but once he takes the field, he can’t sustain the excitement that his background generates.

Viosergy Rosa, 1B, Marlins (Low-A Greensboro)–Rosa has already slugged nineteen homers in 87 games this year, ranking third in Low-A and tied for 18th in the minors. His 50 walks rank sixth in Low-A, so he has discipline to back up his power. One could view him as an interesting discipline-and-power sleeper based on that production.

The problem is, Rosa plays in a very hitter-friendly home park in Greensboro, which is especially friendly to lefthanded hitters. Lo and behold, check out Rosa’s splits:

Home: .320/.407/.605, 15 HR
Road: .210/.341/.336, 4 HR

The power display is likely largely a Greensboro mirage, as this indicates–indeed, Rosa had just five homers across three seasons of short-season ball. That’s not to say he has no power at all, but his short stroke isn’t geared toward excessive power, though it does have some loft. Rosa does a nice job controlling the strike zone (78/50 K/BB, and 45/46 last year in the NYPL), but he’s already 23 years old and is limited to first base due to his below-average athleticism and stiff actions. He’s turned himself into a nice organizational player, but he’s not somebody to look to as a future major league contributor.

Kendry Flores, RHP, Giants (Low-A Augusta)–Flores is another guy you might stumble across if you’re sorting through statistical leaderboards. He certainly has impressive numbers, with an 89/14 K/BB in 94 innings and a 2.97 ERA, and he’s more age-appropriate than Rosa, being a 21-year-old in Low-A.

While Flores has turned himself into a nice fringe prospect with his breakout campaign, he is not a pitcher with much upside. He works at a mere 87-91 mph without much life on the ball, an issue that has led to an alarmingly low 33.3% groundball rate–look out for the issues this will cause when he hits the hitter-friendly California League at his next stop. Flores has a four-pitch mix and a low-effort motion with a deceptive, slow tempo that approaches Dan Haren-pause territory, but none of his four offerings rate or project as more than average pitches. I wouldn’t rule out Flores picking up a bit more velocity as he fills out and finding a way to become a command-and-control fifth starter, but it’s more likely that his skillset will lend itself best to working as a Triple-A rock who can make spot starts on a big league club without embarrassing himself. While it’s nice that he’s pitching so well, don’t expect that performance to fully translate to the next level, let alone the level that really matters.

Print This Post

Nathaniel Stoltz is a prospect writer for FanGraphs. A resident of Winston-Salem, NC and Wake Forest University graduate student, he frequently views prospects in the Carolina, South Atlantic, and Appalachian leagues. He can be followed on Twitter at @stoltz_baseball.

22 Responses to “Five Prospects To Avoid”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. AlEastbound says:

    What is going on with Trevor Bauer? Mechanical, mental, stuff, overrated? Any thoughts?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Ian says:

    In an unlimited auction keeper, and have been prospect stashing. I’d like to add George Springer. Who should I drop? I have the following prospects all at $1. Their value goes up $4 annually.

    Buxton, Hamilton, Yelisch, Boagerts, Archie Bradley, Gausman, Carlos Martinez, Cole, Tijuan Walker.

    Should I leave Springer on the WW?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Derek says:

      In my estimation, I would only consider dropping Billy Hamilton amongst those that you have listed. You know the old saying, “You can’t steal first base”.

      If it were me, I would drop Hamilton for Springer. Hamilton’s down year should leave him available to be picked up again while Springer’s sensational season probably has him on just about everyone’s radar.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Kevin says:

        Hamilton is the only player on that list that can win a category for you. He is a risk, but the potential there would keep me holding on

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Kevin says:

      With the other 4 pitchers you have, I might drop Carlos Martinez

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nathaniel Stoltz says:

        Yeah, Martinez jumps out as one possibility to drop if you’re satisfied with your pitching. Otherwise, I’d probably just leave Springer out there in comparison to the others–his strikeouts are just scary enough to keep him out of the top tier of prospects, and he’s not all that young either.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Martin says:

    I have many of the same guys on my keeper: Springer, Bogearts, Gausmen, Walker … I had dropped Yelich for Springer because he had struggled so terribly against LHP. I know there was talk earlier this year of promoting him right before that extended slump and then the oblique got in the way. I’d like to see him handle LHP much better.

    In the meantime, in spite of Luhnow putting forth the plan that Springer will stay down the whole year, I think there’s a possibility he could force his way up.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Sean says:

    This is somewhat of a minor point, I am pretty sure I’ve never seen Jorge Alfaro on a top-50 list. He made a few top-100s in the preseason so maybe he’s starting to creep up on a few lists with graduations, but I really can’t agree at this point that he’s “often” hailed as a top-50. Many top-50s going around for midseason rankings were notable for having no Rangers at all.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • O'Doyle Rules says:

      Alfaro was on the mid-season top 50 for Bullpen Banter and FakeTeams.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Sean says:

        Those are two sources I would generally not use.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Cliff says:

        Al Skorupa, JD Sussman, and David Wiers have combined to write 241 articles for FG overall. Al, JD, and David are basically the three founders/main writers/top 100 list creators of Bullpen Banter. Maybe you should reconsider the idea that your too good for their lists. 

        Also, there is a very large crossover between SBNation and FG. I doubt FG would have it as one of their main links on the front page if they thought the website sucked. 

        But hey, we’re all glad that sites like Bleacher Report exist for such advanced prospect list guys like yourself. Us simpletons are stuck with FG, BB, and SBNation.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Astro Villain says:

        Did Sean do something to your mom, Cliff?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Sean says:

        I’m sorry if I offended you, I realize my comment may have come across as dickish. I usually use BA, BP, Sickels, and Law as my four main sources. Beyond that I take different sources here and there… I like reading what Marc writes here, for example, Baseball Prospect Nation, Dynasty Guru, etc. But anyway, because I don’t use those other sources as much, I had not seen Alfaro ranked in a top 50. It would never have occurred to me that he would make one at this stage. I guess the fact that some people did, makes what was written in this article make sense.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. CabreraDeath says:

    Heredia has shown/possesses the ability to throw harder than 89-92. While your points are well taken, his velo is of lesser concern to the others you listed, from my perspective. He’s been mid-90′s and higher from first-hand reports. He’s simply working on getting command/control honed in.

    Weight, delivery, development of K-pitch are bigger issues at the moment.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nathaniel Stoltz says:

      I will say I’m not the only person to see him 89-92 firsthand; I’ve heard multiple reports from guys who scouted the NYPL last year that he was usually in that range there as well. Obviously, if he does indeed start throwing harder, then that concern washes away.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. John C. says:

    FWIW, there are differing reports on Purke’s velocity. In a recent radio interview with 106.7 in DC, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo offered the following assessment:

    “His velocity is creeping back up there. We’re told by our rehab people that we’re not going to see the true stuff of Matt Purke, pre-injury stuff, until next spring training. Because this was a little bit different. It was a shoulder scope. It wasn’t the Tommy John ligament and that type of thing. So, Matt’s progressing nicely. His velocity is up to 94 [mph], he touched 95 the other night. But the last thing that comes in these guys’ rehab, don’t forget, is consistency and command of their stuff and that’s been inconsistent for Matt thus far this year.”

    I’m not promoting Purke as a TOR starter, but I will offer that a one-off on his worst start of the season does not define him as a prospect.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Nathaniel Stoltz says:

      Sure. I think that’s totally fair. I don’t expect him to suddenly get bashed around every time out; clearly, he wasn’t on his game that night, which happens to guys from time to time. There’s only so much one can take away from that.

      Still, I think there are very real problems that transcended just the bad statline that night. The mechanics and lack of a third pitch are still problematic even if you see Purke ultimately returning to consistent low-90s velocity and gaining consistency on his breaking ball.

      In any case, given the worry about shoulder issues in general, I’d like to see him show that stuff consistently before I really buy in. The idea of him regaining stuff next year sounds great in theory, but will it actually happen? He’s got to prove that. He also needs to prove he can get High-A hitters out, being a supposedly polished pitcher who turns 23 this week.

      I’m sure if I’d seen him on a different night, my evaluation would be less pessimistic, but I’ve seen plenty of prospects get hit around this year and still come away impressed. The issues here are deeper, even if there are some reasons for optimism.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. KG says:

    I feel like this is a very valuable piece, worth being a regular segment. (If it isn’t already… I don’t think it is?)

    So often prospects are much ballyhooed as they come up, and in fantasy leagues that values longevity, there’s often a blind rush to grab them as they get close to the show. I’d love to see regular analysis of which prospects are maybe not worth grabbing, and why- fringe guys, and the blue chippers as well.

    Obviously nearly any top 50 or top 100 prospect is worth keeping an eye on, but being astutely aware of early chinks in the armor seems more useful than just another list pointing out what a guy does really well.

    Well done!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. brett says:

    nathan….toady we have our All NL mid year-draft…we CANT take players drafted in the 013 draft…..we have 12 teams and we all carry 12 minors so i have to dig deep much like the players listed above…..i was wondering if u had any reccomendations regarding prospects that are personal favorites of yours that would be considered under the radar prospects….SS and rookie season ball included as long as they are with an NL affiliate thanks

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cliff says:

      Maikel Franco, Wilmer Flores(better fantasy that real-life), Rafael Montero, Roman Quinn, Brian Goodwin, Robbie Ray, Adam Conley, Jimmy Nelson, Eddie Butler, Hunter Morris, Julio Urias, Zach Lee, Rymer Liriano(could be forgotten due to injury), Brad Boxberger(good shot to clos next year), David Holmberg, Andrew Chaffin, Chris Owings(hitting the hell outta the ball all year), Arismendy Alcantara, Kyle Parker, Corey Seager.

      Some more well known than others but generally lesser known guys that I like for fantasy purposes in deeper leagues.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Nathaniel Stoltz says:

        I echo the Eddie Butler selection. Matt Koch, Luis Cessa, Kevin Plawecki, Mauricio Cabrera, Robby Hefflinger, Andrew Heaney, Martin Agosta, Edwin Escobar, Clayton Blackburn, Mac Williamson, Robbie Ray, Greg Garcia, Lucas Sims, and Rainy Lara are some names that come to mind.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current day month ye@r *