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June 6, 2014

Day One Draft Recap

Fantasy Outlook

by Bret Sayre

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If you’ve been hanging around Baseball Prospectus over the past few weeks, you’ve certainly noticed the heavy draft content that we’ve had, driven by our draft guru Nick Faleris. Just about all of that information has been from a real-life baseball perspective, so now that these players have teams (and contracts hopefully soon), we can finally start digging into them from a fantasy perspective. Next week, I’m going to be releasing a top 50 list of 2014 draftees from a dynasty league perspective, but for now, we’re going to do something a little more high-level and fun.

With the first round now in the books (and analyzed by Faleris), it’s time to take a fun look at the players who are most likely to make a fantasy impact in each of the ten standard categories. We’re obviously a long way from knowing what these players are going to be (especially the ones at the prep ranks), but based on what we know now, here’s a quick run through out where some of the standout categorical contributions could come from this very deep draft class:

Batting Average: Nick Gordon, SS, Twins (no. 5 overall pick)
The truth is that this was not a particularly strong draft at the top as far as bats were concerned. But even with that being the case, Gordon is a guy who can stick at shortstop with a chance to hit .300 at the major league level. Despite the last name, he’s not a burner and despite adding strength over the last 12 months, he’s not a slugger. At his peak, he has the potential to be a hitter who barrels up a ton of balls from the left-hand side and has enough strength to send many of them to the gaps and enough of them over the fence to please fantasy owners.
Risk Level: High.
Honorable Mention: Michael Chavis

Home Runs: Alex Jackson, OF, Mariners (no. 6 overall pick)
It was the story of the first round—players being drafted to play in stadiums that will hinder their skill sets. Of course, this is merely a fantasy concern, but even with Jackson likely destined for Safeco, he still has the potential for the biggest power display from the draft class. Jackson may not be a potential 40-homer bat in the mold of a Miguel Sano or Kris Bryant, but unless you really, really, really dream on Jacob Gatewood, that player doesn’t exist this year. He’ll never be a .300 hitter, but the hit tool projects to be strong enough to allow the in-game power to play at a plus level. And while the Mariners announcing him as a catcher does hurt him slightly from an eligibility standpoint, he’ll make up for it in additional playing time and shorter ETA.
Risk Level: High.
Honorable Mention: Jacob Gatewood

RBI: Kyle Schwarber, C/1B, Cubs (no. 4 overall pick)
While it may have been a surprise to see Schwarber get picked this early on Thursday night, it’s not because he lacks offensive potential. The power is great, and it’s a good part of what makes Schwarber attractive from a scouting perspective, but the hit tool will not only buoy his fantasy value, but it will allow even more of the power to play out. As a relatively fast mover, it’s not difficult to imagine him hitting behind some of the more well known names in the Cubs system and racking up counting stats like crazy. The potential is there for him to be a .280 hitter with 30 homers at peak, and even at first base, that’s a high-end fantasy performer.
Risk Level: Low.
Honorable Mention: Casey Gillaspie

Stolen Bases: Trea Turner, SS, Padres (no. 13 overall pick)
It’s been a few years since there was a first round without a player who graded out with elite speed. However, that doesn’t mean that Turner can’t impact fantasy teams with his legs. The surrounding skills are a question mark, as he may not be a good enough hitter to profile as a top-of-the-lineup option and he’s unlikely to have enough power to be a potential power/speed guy. However, what Turner does have is the potential to steal 40 bases in the right organization—and even with nothing else attached to it, that’s a valuable proposition at a middle infield spot.
Risk Level: Moderate.
Honorable Mention: Marcus Wilson

Runs: Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians (no. 21 overall pick)
The biggest question with Zimmer is whether or not there’s going to be power. But regardless of that, Zimmer is an athletic outfielder who projects to be a good average, good OBP hitter who can do some damage on the base paths as well. It all adds up to a top-of-the-lineup producer who is likely to be undervalued in fantasy leagues during his career because even the most seasoned fantasy owners still tend to underrate batting average and runs scored. And being a college product, albeit not the most advanced one out there, he should see the majors by the first half of 2016.
Risk Level: Moderate.
Honorable Mention: Alex Blandino

Wins: Carlos Rodon, LHP, White Sox (no. 3 overall pick)
Everyone was familiar with Rodon as the slam-dunk number one overall pick heading into draft season, but despite a poor-by-his-standards spring, he continues to project as a potential front-end starter who will log a ton of innings. And when you’re looking at pitchers who can contribute in the wins category (as medieval as some may say it is), you want pitchers who can throw 220 or 230 innings in a season, and continually go deep into games. Even the reduced version of Rodon we saw in 2014 is still plenty capable of that, and in very short order.
Risk Level: Low.
Honorable Mention: Grant Holmes

ERA: Brady Aiken, LHP, Astros (no. 1 overall pick)
Whenever you are a high school pitcher being selected first overall, you’re going to have a large spotlight on you from the get go. And while Aiken doesn’t have jaw-dropping upside, when his high-quality raw stuff is combined with a very advanced approach for a prep arm, the ETA and risk both get reduced. From a fantasy perspective, Aiken may not be the kind of guy who puts up elite strikeout numbers, but he has the potential to be a near fantasy ace regardless—and that comes from the potential to produce elite ratios.
Risk Level: Medium.
Honorable Mention: Sean Newcomb

Strikeouts: Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Blue Jays (no. 9 overall pick)
Without the Tommy John Surgery, Hoffman would have likely been a slam dunk top-three pick in this draft, with the potential to go at the top spot. The profile is front-end, with a high capacity for both innings and missed bats. Of course, as was the case with too many top-10 picks, Rogers Centre won’t be the most advantageous place to call home, but a healthy Hoffman will rack up the strikeouts despite the tough environment. That ability will come from the potential to have two secondary pitches that grade out as plus or better (in his change and curve) to flank his fastball that not only sits in the mid-90s, but gets strong downhill plane to boot. The ETA is obviously pushed back because of the surgery, but he’s still no further away than an advanced prep pitcher.
Risk Level: Medium.
Honorable Mention: Touki Touissant

Saves: Nick Burdi, RHP, Twins (no. 46 overall pick)
It was just so predictable. Burdi goes to the AL Central team who just can’t pass up big right-handers with huge velocity. Oh, wait. Really? The Twins took him? You can’t be serious? Are you sure? Hold on, I’m going to check the website. [thirty seconds elapse] Damn. Regardless, Burdi has two potential plus-plus pitches in his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and wipeout slider. If that sounds like a high-end closer profile, that’s because it is. In fact, he could see the majors in 2014—though that was more likely when he was being mock drafted by a contending team. The Twins are unlikely to get his service clock running that quickly.
Risk Level: Low.
Honorable Mention: Jacob Lindgren

WHIP: Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies (no. 7 overall pick)
Nola has a real chance to be the first starting pitcher to reach the major leagues from this draft class, but he can offer more than just proximity. The right-hander has the right combination of potential in this category, as he knows how to limit walks, miss bats and induce weak contact. It’s unlikely that Nola will ever be mistake for an ace, but as a mid-rotation type who is capable of keeping his WHIP in the 1.00-to-1.10 range and logging a lot of innings, Nola should be a dynasty league target regardless.
Risk Level: Low.
Honorable Mention: Kyle Freeland

Bret Sayre is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Bret's other articles. You can contact Bret by clicking here

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