In all of our responsibilities, we make decisions and come up with ideas that are not our finest moments. It’s human nature. It’s what drives us to do better. When I came up with the idea to create a mock prospect draft for dynasty leagues years ago, it was one that frankly I wasn’t sure would be super helpful or entertaining—but it has turned into one of my favorite exercises of the off-season. And it’s only become more fun as the participants have gotten stronger. This year we added names from CBS, BaseballHQ, and Rotoworld—along with many of our household-name-in-the-fantasy-community participants form last year.
Just like we did last year (and the year before that), we first must examine the parameters. There are always parameters. These were the instructions for the participants of this draft, straight from the email I sent out prior to kickoff:
“The premise is very simple, we're drafting a minor league roster for a brand new dynasty league team (no one has a major league roster yet). The "league" is a standard 15-team 5×5 rotisserie where you keep all players indefinitely with no contracts/salaries involved. The first rule is that any player you select must currently still have their prospect status in tact. The second rule is that there are no other rules. You don't have to fill any position requirements, it's just about building the type of farm system you would want to start from scratch with. And yes, both Rusney Castillo and Yasmany Tomas are eligible.”
Just 15 guys drafting 10 minor leaguers a piece to start a dynasty league roster with. And the most fun part about this exercise is that with all of the picks, I asked each “owner” to write a quick comment on why they were taking the player—so you’re going to be reading analysis directly from the person who made the pick in the draft. The result of this is not a precise prospect list by any means, but a great representation of how minor league players are valued for fantasy across the industry.
And as an added bonus, I’m going to add in a few noteworthy picks from last year’s corresponding rounds—since many of the participants returned to test their meddle once again. Here are a few picks that jumped out as particularly prescient (and no, I’m not excluding my own picks, as there are a few that I’m proud of—and the ones I’m not, you’ll have to dig through the archives to find yourself):
- At Pick 1.8, our own Ben Carsley selected Kris Bryant. He now finds himself as the top fantasy prospect in baseball (Kris, not Ben).
- At Pick 1.11, Craig Glaser selected George Springer; even though he only stayed healthy for a small piece of the season, he made quite a few teams mad they passed on him with his big power and tempting speed.
- At Pick 2.24, yours truly selected Yordano Ventura, who ended up making the Royals rotation to start the season and will look to build off a very successful rookie season in 2015.
With those pleasantries out of the way, here are the first two rounds of the 2015 Baseball Prospectus Experts Mock Prospect Draft:
“I was tempted by Kris Bryant's power, but Buxton's all-around brilliance made this a fairly easy choice. If he reaches his ceiling, his ability to hit for a high average with 20-homer pop and plenty of runs, RBIs, and steals could make him the most valuable player in fantasy baseball once he hits his prime. I think his injuries have been more of a fluke than an indication that he'll have trouble staying in the lineup.”
“After Buxton came off the board, the decision between the two was made for me, but Bryant has an argument for the top spot. He showed off tremendous power in the minor leagues last year, hitting 43 home runs across two levels in 138 games, and should spend a good portion of this year in the majors.”
“Nick spared me a dilemma when he selected Kris Bryant with the second pick, but I was leaning towards taking Correa, even if somehow Bryant was still on the board. While I generally prefer players who are closer to the majors (as we have a better indication of how their numbers might translate), it would have been too hard to pass up on the potential combination of power, speed and good contact skills for someone who has a chance to stick at shortstop. Even though Jed Lowrie's arrival in Houston may mean a 2016 debut for Correa, he should be worth the wait.”
1.4) Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs (Craig Glaser, BSports)
“I also grabbed Soler in last year's mock draft (although I got him in the fourth round instead of with the fourth pick.) There were four guys who I strongly considered with this pick, and while some of the others may have more positional value, or more fantasy-relevant speed, I think Soler is the safest of the bunch. He had a very successful stint in the majors last year, and Steamer already has him contributing some pretty nice fantasy stats in the upcoming season, hitting 23 HRs with a batting average that won't hurt you and even throwing in a couple of steals for good measure. Soler is actually a couple of months younger than future teammate Kris Bryant and the combination of his high floor and growth potential gives him the slight edge here.”
“I can't take a pitcher this early, so this boils down to a trio of hitters for me: Joey Gallo, Addison Russell, or Corey Seager. Positional value makes the latter two more attractive. As for which one to pick, Seager is a few months younger than Russell and appears less prone to injury. On the other hand, Russell is more likely to be able to handle shortstop long-term than Seager is. It is a tough call and I don't feel I can go wrong either way, but I will go with Seager due to being slightly younger and slightly out-hitting Russell in Double-A.”
1.6) Addison Russell, SS, Chicago Cubs (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
“Even though we are not required to field an actual team in this exercise, obviously shortstops that can do everything are highly valuable. In the Cubs infield orgy of offense, Russell seems like the one most likely to ultimately claim the position. Love his patience, contact ability, power, and if his legs are healthy, he could be a five-category contributor. Worst-case scenario, he ends up at second base, where his broad base of skills remain valuable. I briefly considered Lucas Giolito and Joey Gallo for this slot, but for me, Russell's advanced profile gives him a slight edge.”
“I would prefer to be in Bret's spot, as there are a couple of guys I value similarly here, but Syndergaard offers an ideal combination of proximity, safety and upside to headline my minor-league roster. His second half numbers—3.54 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings—were particularly impressive for a 21-year-old in the Pacific Coast League, and at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he is equipped to handle 200-plus inning seasons. The Mets might have the most starting pitching depth in the majors, but that won't stop Syndergaard from forcing his way into the rotation this season.”
“It was going to be a very tough call between Sano and Syndergaard here, but I’m glad I didn’t have to make it (though I didn’t have a choice when it came time to do my rankings). Despite missing all of the 2014, Sano still boasts the same potential 40-homer power and has an outside chance to make his major league debut later in the season. The average will always be a struggle, but this isn’t a Mark Reynolds situation—he does have the talent to hit around .260 if the hit tool progresses to its current capacity. Gallo is the current power darling of the minors, and while he would have been a reasonable pick, Sano is the better fantasy prospect.”
“The risks with Gallo are obvious: he's never going to be much more than a .240 hitter at the big league level because of his contact issues, and his value drops somewhat precipitously if he does have to move across the diamond. With that being said, few—if any—prospects can match his raw or in-game power, and his approach at the plate took a major step forward in 2014. A corner infielder who can get on base at an average rate and give you 35 plus homer seasons is a valuable commodity, even if he's not likely to help you with batting average or stolen bases.”
“My normal tendency in dynasty leagues is to get players that are closer to the big leagues. I want as much data against good competition as I can get, and I like solid floors. I don't want to waste a ton of roster spots on lottery tickets. But this one I can't resist. Dude can't even drink beer legally yet and he's taking walks, making contact, hitting for a bit of power, and flashing the glove at shortstop. As the 19-year-old fills out, I like him to approach league-average power in the bigs, with some speed. And I don't doubt Crawford's ability to stick at the position, as he's made some improvements in the last year-plus and is a good athlete. He's ready for Double-A, his team needs a shortstop, and I think he could play in the big leagues in 2016, too. So I'm not too far from my comfort zone.“
1.11) Lucas Giolito, RHP, Washington Nationals (Ben Carsley, Baseball Prospectus)
“Not gonna overthink this. Yes, there's plenty of risk here. There's also more fantasy upside than any other pitcher in the minors can bring, and we're probably only two seasons away from Giolito seeing the majors. Does the TJ on record make me nervous? Yes. Am I thrilled that he's yet to throw 100-plus professional innings in one season? No. But we're talking about a potential fantasy monster, the type of pitcher who could annually finish as a top-five starter in his prime. I want impact potential within a two-year timetable in the first round of a draft like this, and Giolito provides that in spades. I also considered Garin Cecchini <3.“
1.12) Joc Pederson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers (Mike Rosenbaum, Bleacher Report)
"Pederson enjoyed one of the better seasons in minor league history in 2014, as the 22-year-old was named MVP of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after leading the league in home runs (33), OPS (1.017), on-base percentage (.435), runs scored (106), walks (100) and total bases (259). He also became the first Pacific Coast League player to hit 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season since 1934. While he struggled with the Dodgers as a September call-up, Pederson’s allure from a fantasy perspective is obvious as a potential five-category contributor. That said, I don’t expect him to hit for average as he has in the minor leagues; but it also shouldn’t be unexpectedly low. Regardless, I think he’s a 20/20 guy as a near-everyday player and could achieve such status next season as a rookie."
1.13) Rusney Castillo, OF, Boston Red Sox (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
“Castillo is already 27, so I was a little hesitant about taking him here initially. There's also still a bit of an unknown quantity factor with him. Ultimately, I couldn't pass up on the upside. Castillo was known for his speed in Cuba and has gotten stronger since, so there's some intriguing power potential as well. He's aggressive at the plate, but shouldn't hurt in batting average either. Admittedly, I wouldn't feel nearly as secure about this if I didn't see his brief sneak preview last September, but I think he's capable of 15-plus homers and 20-plus stolen bases right away.”
“While I'm not particularly thrilled about grabbing an arm in the first round, such are the perils of picking 14th overall. While I considered Archie Bradley for his immediacy/upside combination, I was ultimately swayed toward Urias. There's essentially nothing negative on his resume aside from a lack of innings, and while that will affect his impact early on, it's something he should grow into without a problem. He should be able to rack up strikeouts by the bushel, even if there's some attrition as he pushes towards throwing deeper into games. He could reach the majors as soon as next year, although again, that impact will be muted by a lack of overall innings. Even without reaching the majors quickly, Urias is one of the top talents in the minors and his fantasy stock will continue to trend upwards as he tears through higher levels. I think he can be a SP1 in fantasy, even if he falls short of ace status in the majors.”
“The Rockies can't decide whether to rebuild or not, but it will happen soon enough. Their farm is stocked with solid prospects and the top hitting prospect is outfielder David Dahl. He possesses the power and speed combo that all fantasy owners drool over. The soon-to-be 21-year-old will start the year at High-A with a promotion to Double-A in the cards if he can master High-A like he did Low-A. The fact that he will play half of his games at Coors Field made my decision that much easier.”
“The Pirates outfield is pretty much set for the next 4-5 years, but Meadows could make the Pirates front office think twice when approached about dealing one of their three excellent outfielders in a few years. Meadows' first full season in pro ball was cut short due to injury. When healthy, Meadows showed a solid power and an excellent eye at the plate. He has the tools to make a big jump in prospect rankings by midseason.”
“Better in real life than he is in fantasy, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to snag Lindor here in the second round. He should provide value as soon as 2015, and while he's a special, instinctual defender, he's overlooked at the plate because of it. While the power has yet to show itself fully in the minors, he's not an empty threat at the plate, with 10-12 home runs as an attainable goal, possibly providing more in a peak season. He should be able to hit for average, and beyond home runs, he makes hard contact that should result in plenty of doubles. His instincts help his speed play up on the basepaths and he should be able to contribute 20 stolen bases regularly. I know it's not the sexiest offensive profile, but a potential five-category contributor who can go 10/20 from shortstop in relatively short order? I'll take it.”
2.18) Blake Swihart, C, Boston Red Sox (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
“I wanted to wait on a pitcher at this point in the draft, so I decided to take arguably the best catching prospect in the game. A first-round pick from 2011, Swihart made some nice strides offensively last season by batting .300 with 12 home runs and an .840 OPS across 92 games with Double-A Portland. The switch-hitting backstop scuffled a bit after moving up to Triple-A, but it was a small sample and doesn't diminish what he accomplished overall. Swihart will begin his age 23-year-old season in the minors, but he could make his major league debut later this year and push Christian Vazquez for the starting job before long. Without getting into comps, I see someone who could hit in the .270-280 range with 15-plus homers annually while playing solid defense behind the plate. That's a very valuable player in real life and fantasy.”
2.19) Yasmany Tomas, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks (Mike Rosenbaum, Bleacher Report)
"There were countless guys I considered with for my second pick, but I ultimately went with Tomas knowing that he and Rusney Castillo would probably come off the board in short order. Honestly, I don’t know anything more about the Cuban slugger than the next guy; but if the Diamondbacks were willing to drop over $68 million on him, then I’m willing to gamble on him with this pick. He’ll be given a chance to play third base, but Tomas is better suited for a corner outfield position. His bat, meanwhile, profiles at any corner spot, as he’s a power-oriented offensive player with an uppercut swing and aggressive approach."
2.20) Archie Bradley, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (Ben Carsley, Baseball Prospectus)
“Winding up with two pitchers for my first two picks is terrifying, but if you have to bet on two arms, these are two pretty stellar choices. Bradley's 2014 was disappointing, obviously, and his command will need to take a step up before he's truly a no. 1 or 2 fantasy starter. Even if that doesn't happen for a few years, he should reach the majors in 2015, and while he's learning how to be around the plate more often he can still rack up strikeouts with a low ERA. Pairing him with Giolito, who's a few years away but somehow has even more upside, could win me a lot of strikeout crowns.”
“I'd like to wait on pitching, too, but there were a few factors with Carlos Rodon that made me grab for the South Sider. First, he's close. He'll get big-league time this year, whether it’s in the ‘pen or the rotation, and I'd rather not wait three years to find out if my pitcher's a bust. Secondly, the velocity on the fastball and the bite on the slider are very compelling. Personally, I think the change will be enough to make the package work, and I'm willing to blame the poor minor league walk rates on the mechanical changes he was attempting to make. His college history doesn't suggest to me that he'll flame out due poor command. I like Chicago's history with developing pitchers, and I love Rodon's stuff.”
2.22) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Chris Crawford, Draft to the Show/ESPN)
“There's only one pitching prospect I think has better swing-and-miss stuff than Glasnow, and that's Carlos Rodon. Since Eno stole him from me, I'll "settle" for the next best thing. I have some concerns about the control, but with a 70-grade fastball and curveball that seemingly jumps up a grade every year, I believe Glasnow is a potential no. 1 starter who will post low ERAs and give you plenty of strikeouts, as well.”
“At this point, I’m just considering taking all of the Tommy John recoverees and naming my team ‘The TJ House’. The fact that Bundy went behind Rodon (who I like a lot) and Glasnow (who scares the bejesus out of me) speaks to how overlooked Bundy is after a year off and a couple of months of erratic performance. The upside is still that of an SP1, even with the ballpark and division working against him—and I like his chances of working his way into that rotation this year. After all, it may be a crowded rotation, but if Bundy is right, there’s no one standing in his way.”
2.24) Nomar Mazara, OF, Texas Rangers (James Anderson, Rotowire)
“Last season Mazara started to live up to the potential the Rangers were betting on when they gave him that record-breaking signing bonus out of the Dominican as a 16-year-old in 2012. An .840 OPS with 22 homers between Low-A and Double-A as a 19-year-old should make owners in even the shallowest dynasty leagues start to pay attention. Mazara’s size and raw power make him a prototypical cleanup-hitting right fielder, and it doesn't take much imagination to see him posting Jay Bruce-esque fantasy numbers by the end of the decade. It took him two cracks to master Low-A, so he could spend most of 2015 at Double-A, but a 2016 debut in Arlington seems reasonable.”
“Norris probably doesn't have MLB-ace potential, which I think I'd normally look for in the middle of round two (if I ever did these types of drafts before, which I haven't). But as a lefty with three plus pitches (fastball, slider, change) and an average fourth (curveball), it's the strikeouts I'm chasing. Across four levels in 2014, Norris K'd 176 in 132 innings, and while that rate will decrease at the big-league level, he still has the chance to be a 200-plus strikeout guy at maturity. And if his control would take a step forward at some point, he might even be a fringy no. 1 starter.”
“I went with Corey Seager over Addison Russell in the first round despite Russell's positional premium. That kept my mind on high-ceiling shortstops, and one of the best is Franklin Barreto, recently traded from the Blue Jays to the Athletics. He's a long way off at age 18 with no full-season experience under his belt, but in an assumed dynasty "build the best farm system you can" format there are few shortstops with as much upside. He hit .311/.384/.481 with 29 steals in the Northwest League against older competition. His defense needs polish but the tools to remain at shortstop are there and the bat looks very strong at this point.”
2.27) Clint Frazier, OF, Cleveland Indians (Craig Glaser, BSports)
“After going with an MLB player in round 1 I reversed course to grab Clint Frazier here. Frazier went at the very start of the second round in this draft last year, before ever playing full season ball and his first full season showed us a little more about his game. He put up some interesting numbers in A-ball, cracking double digits in HRs, SBs, and walk rate. I'll be looking for him to cut the strikeouts and increase the power, but I'm happy to grab a guy with his kind of upside here.”
“While one can't put too much stock in an Arizona Fall League stat line — especially for a hitter — Jesse Winker's .338/.440/.559 slash line was highly reassuring. Coming off a wrist injury and a subpar 21-game stint in the Southern League, it was good to see that Winker could still mash. A strong power showing in the Midwest League in 2013 raises hope that his 13 homers in 53 Cal League games weren't just a park factor mirage, and his ability to draw walks has been apparent at every level. All that may stand between Winker and the starting left field job in Cincinnati is Marlon Byrd, and he could be traded at the July 31 deadline or at least potentially become a free agent next offseason.”
2.29) Jonathan Gray, RHP, Colorado Rockies (Nick Shlain, Baseball Prospectus)
“While taking a Rockies pitcher is a bit of a drag because of Coors Field, and Gray's results in the minors weren't fantastic last year, I'm happy to get a pitcher with his stuff at this point in the draft. He still has a fastball that touches the upper-90s and one of the best sliders in the minors. If he can put it all together, even in that park, he'll rack up enough strikeouts to be worth it.“
2.30) Dalton Pompey, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
“Steals are always hard to find, and with his on-base ability and plus speed, he should delivery plenty of them. He also should hit for average and as anyone who has seen his second-deck homer off Felix Hernandez knows, he has some pop, too. Playing in Toronto will help in that regard, too. I see Pompey as a guy who can contribute in all five hitting categories.”
To be continued…
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