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June 11, 2014

Top 50 Dynasty League Prospects

2014 Draft Edition

by Bret Sayre

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In some ways, it’s a chicken or the egg argument as to whether the growing popularity of the MLB draft is leading to the boom in dynasty leagues, or whether the boom in dynasty leagues is leading to increased interest in the draft. Either way, it is much more common today for fantasy owners to pay attention on draft day, to get a glimpse of the players they are either going to be drafting later this month, this off season or throwing out at auctions in three-to-five years.

There has been much talk over the last year or so about the quality of this draft class, and while it certainly is great for major league organizations, it’s not ideal for those fantasy owners picking at the top of dynasty drafts. What this class makes up for in incredible depth, it lacks in potentially elite fantasy talent at the top. This means that instead of 2014 being a great year to be picking at the top of draft (sorry, those of you who were tanking to get Rodon last year), it is a great year to have multiple selections. Last year, Kris Bryant was the slam-dunk no. 1 option among Rule 4 draftees, but this year offers no such clarity. It also didn’t help that a few choice players in the top-10 went to organizations that are big detractors from their fantasy value. Just taking two examples, if Alex Jackson had gone to Colorado and Kyle Freeland to Seattle, there would be more net fantasy value in the draft. However, the opposite happened and we are now left in the balance by a combination of those rough home parks and the organizations’ abilities to develop those types of players in recent history.

Before we get down to the specifics of the list, let me state the obvious: if you are looking to read about these prospects in detail and get a great sense of who they are from a scouting perspective, you need to be reading what Nick Faleris has been putting out on the site over the past few months, and check out his video library. What I am able to do here, with fantasy valuations, is made possible by the work that Nick and the rest of the prospect team are doing in covering these players. In other words, I am the CliffsNotes, they are the Shakespeare.

So with the 2014 First Year Player Draft now in the books, it’s time to take initial stock of how the players involved rank from a dynasty league perspective. It’s also important to keep in mind that a lot will change between now and January (when the final 2014 signee list will come out)--especially because the pushed up signing deadline will get more of these prospects into games sooner. The economics are relatively simple, like all of the other dynasty lists you see at Baseball Prospectus, this assumes a medium-sized mixed league (14-16 teams) with one catcher spot. It also presumes that you can keep a player forever without price or contract consequences.

Anyway, the list awaits.

1) Carlos Rodon, LHP, Chicago White Sox (Round 1, Pick 3)
Rodon’s stock has taken a tumble over the last four months, but it’s quite impressive that even a downtrodden Rodon tops this list. If the summer 2013 version of him shows back up, he’s a slam dunk top pick here--and it’s in there somewhere. No one else in this draft (hitter or pitcher) boasts the combination of upside, floor and ETA than Rodon does--and those are all very important in the fantasy world.

2) Kyle Schwarber, C/OF/1B, Chicago Cubs (Round 1, Pick 4)
On one hand, it's a shame he was taken so early in the draft, as he would have been nicely undervalued as a fantasy asset if he hadn't. The position is up in the air, but don't draft him expecting to stick at catcher--his odds are not high enough to let it away your decision. Instead, let it be swayed by his ability to hit for average and power.

3) Brady Aiken, LHP, Houston Astros (Round 1, Pick 1)
Aiken has a great combination of stuff and advanced feel for a high-schooler, and should move faster than most of the prep pitchers in this draft. Taking him with the top pick is certainly defensible, but I’d prefer to slot him in behind Rodon and Schwarber, if for no other reason than the safety of those two.

4) Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins (Round 1, Pick 2)
5) Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners (Round 1, Pick 6)
6) Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 1, Pick 9)

This is the upside and risk tier. Kolek is an extreme power arm going to an organization that has had success molding and developing power arms. Their track record causes his stock to rise. Jackson has the most power potential in the draft, and while it's a bummer he was selected by a team that has trouble developing hitters and plays in a very pitcher-friendly park and was immediately stripped of his future “C” eligibility, he can still be a high-end fantasy outfielder. Hoffman could have gone 1-1 in this draft, and he has the makings of a front-line fantasy starter. Toronto isn’t the greatest landing place for him, but he slides due to the elevated risk of his recent Tommy John surgery and the expanded ETA.

7) Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets (Round 1, Pick 10)
8) Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins (Round 1, Pick 5)
9) Trea Turner, SS, San Diego Padres (Round 1, Pick 13)
10) Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (Round 1, Pick 7)

If the last group was the exciting, high-upside tier, that makes this the “kinda boring but has value” tier. Conforto is a better fantasy player than real-life player and could move quickly with 25-homer power. Gordon has the most upside of this tier, and it’s real (could be a .290-15-15 guy if he reaches his potential), but he’s unlikely to be a fantasy star. Turner could steal 40-50 bases annually, if he can hit enough. And Nola may be the fastest starting pitcher taken to reach the majors--it could happen as early as May or June of next season.

11) Touki Toussaint, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round 1, Pick 16)
Yes, it may have been a bit much to drop a Bob Gibson comp on Toussaint during the live draft coverage on MLB Network, but it also hints at the tremendous upside that rests in that right arm of his. There is a lot of refinement that needs to happen here, but I would not be surprised in the least if Toussaint ends up being the most valuable pitcher taken in this draft long-term.

12) Tyler Beede, RHP, San Francisco Giants (Round 1, Pick 14)
Beede had an up and down college career, but if fantasy owners were hand picking an organization for him to end up with, the Giants would be on the short list. The organization develops pitching well, and it would not be surprising at all to see them reclaim the frontline upside that once existed in Beede’s arm.

13) Sean Newcomb, LHP, Los Angeles Angels (Round 1, Pick 15)
14) Michael Chavis, 2B/3B, Boston Red Sox (Round 1, Pick 26)
15) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians (Round 1, Pick 21)
16) Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Round 1, Pick 23)

As we move down this list, it’s easy to start getting an appreciate for just how deep it is. Newcomb is a little more raw than some of his fellow college arms, but could develop into a solid number two fantasy starter with that park at his back. Chavis just flat-out hits, and that bat (along with his high-energy style) will carry him a long way. Zimmer is very athletic with the potential to contribute across all five categories—if the power is there. But even if it’s not, he’s still a valuable fantasy outfielder as a good average table-setter with stolen base ability. Holmes has some of the best stuff of any prep arm in this class, and fell to the Dodgers because he’s not quite as big as you’d want him to be.

17) Max Pentecost, C, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 1, Pick 11)
There may not be a ton of power in Pentecost’s bat at the highest level, but a catcher who can run well enough to meaningfully contribute in stolen bases and hit around .280? Sign me up.

18) Braxton Davidson, 1B/OF, Atlanta Braves (Round 1S, Pick 32)
19) Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros (Round CB-A, Pick 37)

These two are my favorite dynasty prospects taken outside the “proper” first round. Davidson’s bat will carry him, and it could be a plus-hit, plus-power profile. Fisher comes from the George Springer mold of raw-ish college player with tools (though his tools aren’t as sharp as Springer’s was), and could be a five-category contributor at the highest level.

20) Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington Nationals (Round 1, Pick 18)
The Nationals have done such a good job of rehabbing Tommy John victims that they decided to add another fresh one to the stable. Fedde could have been a top-10 pick before surgery, and even though his ETA will get pushed back at least a year, he still carries no. 2 fantasy starter upside.

21) Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies (Round CB-A, Pick 35)
22) Kyle Freeland, LHP, Colorado Rockies (Round 1, Pick 8)

One of these two players is the type of guy you WANT to see drafted by the Rockies and the other is the exact opposite. You don’t need me to tell you which one is which. The storm brewing around Freeland’s medicals only make him more risky.

23) Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Round 1, Pick 17)
24) Jack Flaherty, RHP, St Louis Cardinals (Round 1S, Pick 34)
25) Alex Blandino, 2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds (Round 1, Pick 29)
26) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 2, Pick 49)
27) Monte Harrison, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Round 2, Pick 50)
28) Nick Burdi, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Round 2, Pick 46)

And yes, more meaningful fantasy players. Like I said at the top, it’s a good year to have a multitude of picks. Flaherty didn’t get much press in the spring, as he wasn’t viewed as being the most signable player in the pool, but the Cardinals are taking care of business and will add another potential impact arm to their system. Don’t sleep on Reid-Foley just because he wasn’t taken until the middle of the second round. Harrison goes first among the raw prep position players, and Burdi is ready to be a big league reliever right now.

29) Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays (Round 1, Pick 20)
30) Sam Travis, 1B, Boston Red Sox (Round 2, Pick 67)
31) Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers (Round 1, Pick 12)
32) Derek Hill, OF, Detroit Tigers (Round 1, Pick 23)
33) Nick Howard, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (Round 1, Pick 19)
34) A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros (Round 2, Pick 42)
35) Mike Papi, OF/1B, Cleveland Indians (Round CB-A, Pick 38)

This tier has a whole lot of corner bats. Gillaspie has the best combination of skills and should move quickly, but the Rays’ current drafting history doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Medeiros is a divisive player, as his stuff jumps all over the place (both from a movement and a consistency perspective). Hill will likely be a better real-life prospect than fantasy one given that he could be an impact defensive center fielder, but he has enough speed and potential with the stick to be on fantasy radars.

36) Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals (Round 1S, Pick 28)
37) Tiquan Forbes, SS, Texas Rangers (Round 2, Pick 59)
38) Jacob Gatewood, SS/3B, Milwaukee Brewers (Round CB-A, Pick 41)
39) Michael Kopech, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Round 1S, Pick 33)
40) Justus Sheffield, LHP, Cleveland Indians (Round 1S, Pick 31)
41) Marcus Wilson, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round CB-B, Pick 69)
42) Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers (Round 1S, Pick 30)

Upside, upside and more upside. If you get the point where you’re gambling on this tier of prep arms, Griffin is a tall, projectable lefty who has flashed plus to plus-plus velocity at times as an amateur. Gatewood is going to get reached for by someone in your league because of the name recognition and the power potential, but I’m skeptical that he’ll return value where you’d need to take him.

43) Luke Weaver, RHP, St Louis Cardinals (Round 1, Pick 27)
44) Jacob Bukauskas, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round 20, Pick 600)
45) Matt Chapman, 3B/RHP, Oakland Athletics (Round 1, Pick 25)
46) Chase Vallot, C, Kansas City Royals (Round CB-A, Pick 40)
47) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians (Round 3, Pick 97)
48) Jake Stinnett, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Round 2, Pick 45)
49) Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres (Round 2, Pick 51)
50) Jakson Reetz, C, Washington Nationals (Round 3, Pick 93)

Finally, we close with a tier that contains two of the three catchers on this list. It’s easy to say that the crop wasn’t as strong as usual this year, but it may be closer to reality that every other position was just stronger. Vallot and Reetz are guys who could have been end of the first round or supplemental picks in a weaker draft class and carry real offensive potential behind the plate. Bukauskas is a top-50 name on talent, but as a 20th round pick, he’s far more likley to become the Friday starter in Chapel Hill than a member of the Diamondbacks’ org. Also, Mike Ferrin said that he’d punch me in the throat if I didn’t put Jake Stinnett on the list. I am not a violent man.

Honorable Mention:

  • Alex Verdugo, OF/LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers (Round 2, Pick 62)
  • Spencer Adams, RHP, Chicago White Sox (Round 2, Pick 44)
  • Isan Diaz, SS/2B, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round CB-B, Pick 70)
  • Michael Cederoth, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Round 3, Pick 79)
  • Carson Sands, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Round 4, Pick 109)
  • Eudor Garcia-Pacheco, 3B, New York Mets (Round 4, Pick 115)
  • Joe Gatto, RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Round 2, Pick 53)

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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