Sometimes we all need a little divine intervention, no matter the shape it takes. Of course, there’s the serious, life-altering kind and then (way, way, way down the list) there’s the fantasy baseball kind. Dynasty leaguers got a little of that with the way this draft class ended up dispersing among the major-league teams selecting them. The first nine picks on Monday night included four hitters going to hitters’ parks and three pitchers going to National League teams. It continued throughout the rest of the first round, although not quite at that pace. It’s as though it was known that this class needed help.
And honestly, boy did it. There’s no true impact talent (at least without being flanked with extreme risk), and there’s not a whole lot of depth either. In fact, as of writing this, I’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this class who I’d feel comfortable slotting into a top-30 fantasy prospect list right now—which is extremely unusual. We had college standouts Nick Senzel and Corey Ray last year. We had Brendan Rodgers and Alex Bregman the year prior. Then there was Carlos Rodon and Kyle Schwarber in 2014. The list goes on.
With that lack of standout talent, you get a real glut at the top of this list. In reality, despite what the harshness of numeration suggests, there’s very little that separates the first 10 names on this list. There’s an argument to be made for any of this group of 10 to sit at the top spot, and they are all likely to be back-end/borderline options for the mid-season top 50. The order of dynasty drafts this year is going to come down to individual owners’ preferences in terms of risk/reward profile. If you’re not easily spooked by investing in prep arms, there are two great names for you to choose from. If you like high-end college performers without elite fantasy upsides, there’s quite a few of those go to around. If you like to gamble on prep players with notable tool grades, I might interest you in three of them.
In the end, there’s no truly wrong answer, and it may be highly dependent on your league size/format. The deeper your league, the more important safety becomes. The shallower your league, the more important upside becomes. As always, this list is created under the guise of a medium-sized dynasty league (14-16 teams) with a separate farm team. And we now briefly shrink into the disclaimer portion of the column.
This list is for fantasy league purposes only, focused on dynasty leagues where you can keep players in perpetuity. It will not factor in a player’s defensive ability or an outfielder’s arm, unless it affects that player’s ability to register the eligibility that we seek of them. It also does consider a player’s organization and potential future home park—unlike a standard prospect list. Since it is only raw stats that we are after, we understand that this matters; after all, when Travis Shaw moves from Boston to Milwaukee, we upgrade him from a fantasy perspective. [Sub-disclaimer: while we do this, we also know that nowhere near all of the players who are fortunate enough to make the majors from this list will do so with their current organization, so it can only be so important.]
I’ve been told that there’s a prize waiting for me if I can keep this column to under 3000 words this year, so I’m going to cut off the introduction here and patiently wait while I see what’s behind Door #1. Everything else can be handled the way true 21st century warriors handle things: in the comments. To the list!
1) Brendan McKay, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays (Round 1, Pick 4)
For a proven college performer, McKay certainly seems like quite a wildcard because of his wide variety of ability. Reports are that the Rays are at least considering developing McKay as a two-way player, which could break fantasy baseball as we know it. More realistically, he’s likely going to be a hitter and that’s the better outcome for dynasty leaguers, as he can realistically be an OF2 at the plate or an SP4 on the mound.
2) Keston Hiura, 2B/OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Round 1, Pick 9)
I thought long and hard about putting Hiura at the top spot here, and it’s about much more than Miller Park. Even with the specter of Tommy John surgery, which is anything but a sure thing, Hiura should be one of the first bats to reach the majors from this class and combines that with an average/power ceiling that at least rivals any of his college peers.
3) Royce Lewis, SS/OF, Minnesota Twins (Round 1, Pick 1)
This isn’t the game-changing type of no. 1 overall pick, similar to what we saw last year with Mickey Moniak. In fact, their profiles aren’t too different. It’s at least plus speed with the potential for a strong hit tool and average power if it all comes together. The biggest difference will be whether Lewis can stay on the dirt.
4) Mackenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres (Round 1, Pick 3)
The top prep arm on this list isn’t quite who you probably expected, but then again one spot does not a huge difference make. Gore is that great combination of advanced pitchability for a HS pitcher and high-end upside, with an easy plus fastball and three secondary pitchers that could one day get there as well. Don’t underestimate his athleticism either.
5) Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds (Round 1, Pick 2)
It’s not entirely fair that the player with the most tools and athleticism is this far down the list, but betting on tools and athleticism is way more fun with hitters than pitchers. Yes, Greene hits triple-digits on the radar gun and he’s young for his class to boot, but even the most exciting prep arms tend to be poor investments in dynasty leagues given their bust and injury rates. That said, Greene has no-doubt SP1 upside, but a long, long way to go.
6) Adam Haseley, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Round 1, Pick 8)
He’s been the less heralded of the Virginia products in this year’s first round, but Haseley is a rare five-category college performer with additional projection left. The approach and hit tool carries his profile, but he also brings 20-homer and 20-steal potential alongside it; though it’s anything but a sure bet that it all coalesces together.
7) Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves (Round 1, Pick 5)
The best combination of safety and fantasy upside among pitchers in this draft class, if you’re into that sort of thing, Wright will move quickly and can miss enough bats to profile as an borderline SP2/SP3 within a couple of years. Yes, the new stadium in Cobb County is playing more hitter-friendly than its predecessor, but it’s nothing worth noting here.
8) Jeren Kendall, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Round 1, Pick 23)
The swing-and-miss may have caused him to freefall a bit in the draft, but the plus-plus speed will have fantasy owners overlooking…well…almost everything else. Kendall is probably more of a .250 hitter with more pop than you’d expect, but he can bring 30-plus steal speed along with it. He could be what fantasy owners want Keon Broxton to be.
9) Austin Beck, OF, Oakland Athletics (Round 1, Pick 6)
There’s likely only one player in this draft class who has more power/speed upside than Beck, and we’ll get to him soon enough. He played a lot of catch up after missing all of the 2016 showcases that get dynasty prospect junkies like us excited because he blew out his knee, but he’s back in full force now.
10) Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels (Round 1, Pick 10)
The upside is intense with Adell, but so is the risk. The toolsy outfielder crushed Kansas pitching so hard this spring that they woke up the following morning curled up alongside the yellow brick road. However, he’ll have to face far more advanced arms in pro ball, who could exploit him and limit the damage he can do with his 30-homer power.
11) Pavin Smith, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round 1, Pick 7)
It’s almost like they grow these guys on trees in Charlottesville. Smith is likely to be a greater contributor in average than power, but playing in Chase Field should help the latter play up a little. If he can tap into that average (or slightly better) power and hit 20-25 homers, he might blossom into a potential top-10 first baseman down the line.
12) Shane Baz, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Round 1, Pick 12)
This is going to be one of the few write-ups on Baz that does not talk about rin spate. The clear third prep arm behind Gore and Green, the Texan has the exact arsenal you’d expect from a high-end Texas prep arm. It’s a big fastball with true swing-and-miss breaking stuff and a developing change, with great athleticism and makeup to top it off.
13) Logan Warmoth, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 1, Pick 22)
I’ve learned my lesson with players like Warmoth. The upside may not be sky high, but he’s almost surely a middle infielder (and likely a shortstop) with a great hit tool and enough power and speed to get to double digits in each. Don’t overlook him because he’s not a prep outfielder with tools like half of this list.
14) Bubba Thompson, OF, Texas Rangers (Round 1, Pick 26)
Speaking of prep outfielders with tools for days, Thompson may just be the best athlete taken in the first round, which makes it totally shocking the Rangers would take him. More speed than power, Thompson is more in the mold of Brett Gardner than a true five-category contributor, but the power could eventually touch average (like Gardner).
15) Evan White, OF/1B, Seattle Mariners (Round 1, Pick 18)
The lazy comp as a good hitter who can play both excellent defense at first base and passable defense in center field is Cody Bellinger, but White doesn’t project to have that much power. That said, he has the speed to steal double-digit bases, which is not something many other first basemen can claim.
16) Nick Pratto, OF/1B, Kansas City Royals (Round 1, Pick 14)
The California prep star is like White, but with more upside in the power department and a longer lead-time. The latter very slightly outweighs the former, at least in comparison.
17) Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco Giants (Round 1, Pick 19)
One of Craig Goldstein’s favorite pre-draft players, Ramos has potential big-time power and is one of the youngest players in the draft class—he was the youngest first-rounder this year by more than a month. AT&T Park won’t help that power play up, but if we get to the point where we’re worried about that, it will have been a successful minor league journey already.
18) J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Houston Astros (Round 1, Pick 15)
The under-sized but over-stuffed righty is looking to be more in the Tim Lincecum mold than the Carson Fulmer mode, but as this ranking portends, I think he’s much closer to the latter than the former.
19) Alex Faedo, RHP, Detroit Tigers (Round 1, Pick 18)
Hard-throwing right-hander? Check.
20) Drew Waters, OF, Atlanta Braves (Round 2, Pick 41)
We hear a lot about how the Braves scout their own backyard extremely well, so what exactly does that mean? Over the last ten years, they’ve taken six players in the first two rounds of the draft: Jason Heyward, Lucas Sims, Alex Wood, Josh Fields, and Zeke Spruill. Some of this also goes back to when they drafted Brian McCann and Adam Wainwright out of high school in the early aughts. So yes, there’s some merit to this (but like all things, it’s probably overstated). That said, I also liked Waters’ skill set prior to the draft anyway as a speedy outfielder with an advanced approach and a chance at average power.
21) Jake Burger, 3B, Chicago White Sox (Round 1, Pick 11)
In theory, a big, college slugger getting drafted by an American League team in a small ballpark would be net win, but the 3B next to Burger’s name is very unlikely to last for long and his power is built more on brute strength than anything else, giving advanced arms a game plan to exploit him.
22) Kevin Merrell, SS, Oakland Athletics (Round 1A, Pick 33)
With speed at a premium across fantasy leagues, anyone who can potential steal 40-plus bases down the road is going to get a long look. Add a potential above-average hit tool to the equation and that look only gets longer.
23) Tristen Lutz, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (Round 1A, Pick 34)
Hey look it’s a prep outfielder with a classic right-field profile. Lots of power and bat speed.
24) Sam Carlson, RHP, Seattle Mariners (Round 2, Pick 55)
The Minnesota prep arm was more advanced than exciting, but a tick up across the board this spring brought his ceiling from an SP4 to a possible SP2.
25) Seth Romero, LHP, Washington Nationals (Round 1, Pick 25)
If Romero can keep his head on straight, this will be one of the biggest steals of the draft. That said, he’s got a lot of work to do. As a starter, he could be an SP2 with big strikeout totals, but a relief future is very much in the picture. In other words, if you like risk…
26) Quentin Holmes, OF, Cleveland Indians (Round 2, Pick 64)
For Holmes, it’s speed. The only prospect who matters in this draft with legit 80 speed, the NYC prep outfielder will make you overlook the fact that he’s very raw everywhere else, but could one day hit .260-.270 with 10-15 homers.
27) David Peterson, LHP, New York Mets (Round 1, Pick 20)
Sure, being Mets pitcher does make you more likely to develop a killer slider and increase your velocity. It also only gives you one more wish on the monkey paw.
28) Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 1, Pick 28)
We’re now entering the “he does one thing extremely well” phase of the list. For Pearson, it’s velocity as he was hitting triple-digits routinely in pre-draft workouts. He’s likely a reliever, but on the off chance he can start, the upside is tremendous.
29) Corbin Martin, RHP, Houston Astros (Round 2, Pick 56)
He flipped back and forth between the bullpen and rotation at Texas A&M, but the Astros should give Martin every opportunity to start and fulfill an SP3 ceiling.
30) Trevor Rogers, LHP, Miami Marlins (Round 1, Pick 13)
For Rogers, it’s the fastball. It’s not a triple-digits, but the combination of velocity and deception make it a potential plus-plus offering. The rest of his repertoire lags, but there’s time to piece that all together. Otherwise, Jake McGee was pretty good for a while.
31) Garrett Mitchell, OF, Oakland Athletics (Round 14, Pick 411)
It seems very unlikely that Mitchell will ditch his commitment to UCLA, but his tools compare favorably to the other prep outfielders taken outside the first round. Don’t be surprised if he shows back up as one of the best college hitters of the 2020 draft class.
32) Brendon Little, LHP, Chicago Cubs (Round 1, Pick 27)
There may not be a first-rounder with a greater chance of pitching in the bullpen long-term than Little, but the good news is that if he does make it, he could be very, very good.
33) Mark Vientos, SS, New York Mets (Round 2, Pick 59)
The potential five-tool shortstop is so young, even compared to his prep peers, that it’s surprising the Mets didn’t send Ser Meryn Trant up to announce him.
34) Tanner Houck, RHP, Boston Red Sox (Round 1, Pick 24)
Could he become the reliever that Craig Hansen never became? Or maybe the starter that Matt Barnes never became? Are these questions rhetorical? (Sorry, Ben.)
35) Griffin Canning, RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Round 2, Pick 47)
There’s probably no more than SP4 ceiling, but the UCLA star will move quickly and could see the Angels’ rotation during the first half of 2019.
36) Alex Lange, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Round 1, Pick 30)
The last time an LSU starter came into draft season as a potential top pick and left it as a near afterthought in the first round, it was Anthony Ranaudo. No, you can’t unread that, Cubs fans.
37) Daulton Varshow, C, Arizona Diamondbacks (Round 2B, Pick 68)
The only catcher on this entire list shows up towards the very end, but has the offensive potential to contribute in all five categories (yes, even steals). Just hope he sticks behind the plate.
38) Blayne Enlow, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Round 3, Pick 76)
The likely beneficiary of the Twins’ choice to go with Lewis as the top pick overall, Enlow isn’t quite in the Kevin Gowdy/Joey Wentz class of way over-slot prep arms from 2016, but he’s both projectable and well-rounded at present.
39) Jeter Downs, SS, Cincinnati Reds (Round 1A, Pick 32)
On some level, the Reds’ supplemental pick is doing a disservice to his namesake by being a good defensive shortstop. Not very thoughtful, if you ask me.
40) Ryan Vilade, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Round 2, Pick 48)
A power-hitting prospect getting drafted by the Rockies? Please and thank you.
Honorable Mention (in draft order)
Clarke Schmidt, RHP, New York Yankees (Round 1, Pick 16)
D.L. Hall, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (Round 1, Pick 21)
Brent Rooker, OF, Minnesota Twins (Round 1A, Pick 35)
Stuart Fairchild, OF, Cincinnati Reds (Round 2, Pick 38)
Hagen Danner, C, Toronto Blue Jays (Round 2, Pick 61)
Conner Usleton, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (Round 2B, Pick 72)
Nick Allen, SS, Oakland Athletics (Round 3, Pick 81)