At this time of year, the focus in dynasty leagues is squarely on two things: the yearly draft and polishing off those last few keeper spots heading into the new season. Usually, these two are very intertwined, especially when it comes to off-season trading—and knowing both the depth and pressure points of the draft class can help you figure out the best course of action for your team. After all, not all draft picks or classes are created equally.
It’s easy to look back at last year’s class—specifically, last year’s list—and see that this is a great year to have multiple draft picks. We’ve known for quite a while that the 2014 class was extremely deep, but when you look at the last five or so names from last year’s list, it’s not exaggeration to say that those players (at this time last year) might have struggled to fit into a top-75 now. In fact, while three members of the J2 class from 2013 made that list, no member’s of last year’s made this one. Some of that may have been due to the talent of Rafael Devers, Eloy Jimenez, and Gleyber Torres, but then again, it’s not like Gilbert Lara, Adrian Rondon, and Juan De Leon are chumps either.
The problem comes at the top of the draft. We’ve been spoiled recently with the combination of draftees with elite potential and high profile international signings. Here is what the top of my draft board has looked like the last four years:
As you can see from the chart above, not only is the top spot significantly less valuable in 2015 drafts, but it’s weaker across the board in the first half of the first round. If you were drafting the 2013 and 2014 classes together (with values locked at time of each draft), you might be hard-pressed to squeeze anyone into the top six from the current crop.
And while the issues with the no. 1 slot may be talent-based, the rest of it isn’t. There is a lot of upside scattered throughout these rankings, but there is more risk than usual—and mitigating circumstances that make the high end of the board look weaker. Things could have been slightly different had Jeff Hoffman not had Tommy John, or if Kenta Maeda had been posted and Yoan Moncada had signed (though this could still happen—and he’d rank in the top tier if he were eligible).
And 500 words is just about enough of an introduction here, so let’s move things along. Here are the top 50 players available in 2015 dynasty league first-year player drafts:
So this is the top tier we get this year. If these four break right, we’re looking at a 30-plus home run threat in the desert, a perpetual borderline SP1 candidate, a five-category threat that calls Fenway home, and a catcher who can hit for average and eclipse 25 homers (something that’s only been done five times in the last five seasons). Of course, we know that won’t all happen. The trouble is, when you’re deciding at the top of the draft this year, all four of these players are reasonably close to each other in value.
The incredible thing here is that I’ve spent so much time and effort over the past few years trying to get across the BPA (best player available) mentality in dynasty drafts. You’ve seen me write about it, and you’ve heard us talk about it on TINO. Yet this year, if you’re picking in the top three (fourth doesn’t matter, you’ll take who comes to you), the top tier is so densely packed, your team composition actually matters. If you’re built to win right now and need an outfielder, Castillo might be your guy. If pitchers are more valuable in your league and you’re short an arm or two, Rodon might be your pick. Just don’t get too used to me saying that it’s okay not to go with the best player available.
There’s no great pick at the top of the draft this year, and there’s no inherently bad pick at the top of the draft this year. Whether you find comfort in that, largely depends on your individual valuations and what your draft slot is. Tomas might not make enough contact to be a difference-maker in fantasy. Rodon could end up just being the guy from his junior season at NC State. Castillo could be a center fielder better known for his defense than offense. Schwarber could be a generic almost power hitting outfielder. Such is life. Choose wisely or trade back.
Both Hoffman and Jackson have the talent to be in the first tier, but not only does each carry his own risk, they both have ended up in pretty unfavorable future home park situations. In fact, it would not be surprising if either player ended up as the best dynasty-league asset from this draft class. Of course, if you’re not much of a risk taker, Nola will probably top out as a good SP3, but he could be in the majors this year and pretty close to peak value by next.
8) Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Kansas City Royals
9) Trea Turner, SS, San Diego Padres
10) Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
11) Grant Holmes, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
12) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Cleveland Indians
13) Michael Conforto, OF, New York Mets
Here’s where things start to get interesting. There’s a slight line of demarcation at this point between the players who are surer bets and the ones who have more upside, with a small amount of crossover. Finnegan has already pitched in the big leagues, and though a rotation future is far from guaranteed, he’s passed the first test. Turner, Zimmer, and Conforto should all be relatively fast movers in their systems—and they all may get to the majors as soon as 2016. For better or worse, Turner will lose two months of developmental time due to being a PTBNL in the Wil Myers trade. Where things get slightly divergent is with Kolek and Holmes, but for different reasons. Kolek has plenty of upside, and despite his ETA, the Marlins have a strong track record of developing power pitchers. Holmes is very polished and should be one of the first prep pitchers to reach the majors from this class.
14) Touki Toussaint, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
15) Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies
16) Erick Fedde, RHP, Washington Nationals
17) Nick Gordon, SS, Minnesota Twins
18) Derek Fisher, OF, Houston Astros
And if you’re less into safety, this is the tier that probably looks more attractive. From the mound, Toussaint may have the best fastball/breaking ball combination in this entire draft class, but he’s got a lot of work to do before he can start to make good on his TORP. Fedde is the second player on this list recovering from Tommy John, and while his upside doesn’t match Hoffman’s, he would be on the edge of the top-10 if fully healthy. Wall has the whole sexy Coors angle going for him, and he’s a natural hitter with speed. Gordon will get inflated slightly because of his draft spot, but it’s not a true defense-first profile. Fisher remains one of my favorite targets, as a toolsy college guy who may not put it together but could approach five-category fantasy star territory if he does.
19) Kyle Freeland, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Where Freeland falls in drafts is going to be one of the more fascinating things to track this offseason. On one hand, he’s a top-10 pick who put up ridiculous stats in his junior season, including K:BB rates that would make your mother blush. On the other hand, eww Colorado. Let’s be honest, if Freeland had been drafted by the Mariners or the Mets, he would be right up near Nola and Finnegan, but the history of how pitchers fare in Coors can’t be ignored.
20) Michael Chavis, 2B/3B, Boston Red Sox
21) Derek Hill, OF, Detroit Tigers
22) Max Pentecost, C, Toronto Blue Jays
23) Luis Ortiz, RHP, Texas Rangers
24) Tyler Beede, RHP, San Francisco Giants
25) Jack Flaherty, RHP, St Louis Cardinals
To show how deep this draft class is in this segment, all six of these players were darkhorse candidates for the Dynasty 101. Chavis has one of the most natural hit tools of the draft class, but his position is unknown and he’s got a pretty long road ahead of him. Hill’s road may be even longer, but he could be a five-category contributor, in the mold of Austin Jackson—though his defense will make him more valuable in real life than fantasy. Pentecost doesn’t have huge upside, but should be a mixed-league starter for a while as an all-around contributor. Ortiz has as much talent as any pitcher in this draft class outside the top five of this list, with the possible exception of Toussaint. Beede had a mostly strong college resume and landed with a good organization for his profile, but he has his work cut out for him if he wants to remain a starter. Flaherty flew under the radar because of perceived unsignability, but he is a first-round talent with athleticism, four offerings, and advanced feel for a prep arm.
26) Roberto Baldoquin, 2B/3B, Los Angeles Angels
Probably the biggest unknown in dynasty drafts this year, Baldoquin is a 20-year-old Cuban import who doesn’t have the Serie Nacional experience to have name recognition among dynasty leaguers or the big-time tools of Yoan Moncada. He doesn’t project to have a ton of power or speed, but could be ready in a year or two and provide some value everywhere.
27) A.J. Reed, 1B, Houston Astros
28) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Cleveland Indians
Two big guys. Two potentially big bats. Both Reed and Bradley had impressive debuts in 2014 and carry plenty of potential with the stick. The fact that they are both limited to first base in the long run will keep them off or down prospect lists, but not here.
29) Alex Blandino, 2B/3B, Cincinnati Reds
30) Mitch Keller, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
31) Sean Newcomb, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
32) Braxton Davidson, 1B/OF, Atlanta Braves
33) Monte Harrison, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
34) Brent Honeywell, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
The depth continues, as this tier includes a nice collection of upside with some proximity sprinked in. Blandino doesn’t have much to offer in terms of speed, and his power is middling at best, but he should move quickly and can offer sneaky value in non-shallow mixed leagues. Keller and Honeywell aren’t well known, especially given their draft position, but they are prep pitchers with exciting futures despite not carrying ace upside. Davidson was one of my favorite prep bats coming into the 2014 draft, and none of that has changed in the face of a disappointing pro debut.
35) Nick Burdi, RHP, Minnesota Twins
The velocity out of Burdi’s right arm is special, and he should be ready very quickly. Reliever investments in a dynasty context are still not a recommended strategy, but if you’re not going to listen to that advice and take one anyway, it should be him.
36) Michael Gettys, OF, San Diego Padres
37) Cole Tucker, SS/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
38) Carson Sands, LHP, Chicago Cubs
39) Michael Kopech, RHP, Boston Red Sox
40) Nick Howard, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
41) Spencer Adams, RHP, Chicago White Sox
The parade of upside continues as all six of the names above have the potential to be strong fantasy contributors if they can overcome their weaknesses and ETAs. Gettys could be a fantasy star if he has just a fringy hit tool. Tucker was widely considered an overdraft by the Pirates, but has the tools to be a five-category contributor—just likely not at shortstop. Sands, Kopech, and Adams are another three in a long line of prep pitchers to watch from this draft class, and Howard has similar upside but his conversion from relief to starting pitcher will give him more risk and lead time than some of his fellow college first-rounders.
42) Alex Verdugo, OF Los Angeles Dodgers
43) Ti’Quan Forbes, SS/3B, Texas Rangers
44) Foster Griffin, LHP, Kansas City Royals
45) Sam Travis, 1B, Boston Red Sox
46) Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
47) Jacob Gatewood, SS, Milwaukee Brewers
48) Jakson Reetz, C, Washington Nationals
49) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
50) Luke Weaver, RHP, St Louis Cardinals
There are some famous pre-draft names in this group, including the two back-to-back members of the Brewers (though they both check in behind their third pick, Monte Harrison). Medeiros is very likely a reliever, but there’s still a glimmer of hope that he could be a starter with high-strikeout potential. Prep catchers are the slowest of burns, but Reetz has the chops to stick and plenty in the bat. Travis and Weaver are likely to be quick movers, but are also unlikely to ever be fantasy stars.
- Marcus Wilson, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
- Mike Papi, 1B/OF, Cleveland Indians
- Matt Chapman, 3B, Oakland Athletics
- Justus Sheffield, LHP, Cleveland Indians
- Gilbert Lara, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
- Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays
- Gavin LaValley, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
- Chase Vallot, C, Kansas City Royals
- Adrian Rondon, SS, Tampa Bays Rays
- Jake Stinnett, RHP, Chicago Cubs
Look, I usually stop with the comments after the top 50 is over, but all 10 of these players would have made the list in almost any other year, so we’ll continue. There are some interesting first-round bats (but not too interesting) in Chapman and Gillaspie—though they drop off the list because of a lack of upside. The two biggest J2 signings for fantasy purposes finally show up here in Lara and Rondon—Lara is the bigger bat, but Rondon is relatively advanced and should stick at shortstop. Also, I have mentioned Jake Stinnett again, so that I don’t get punched in the neck by Mike Ferrin. He may seem harmless, but the man has a serious mean streak.
Thank you for reading
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