I’m in the middle of my home league’s midseason minor-league draft right now, and that has me thinking front and center about how this year’s draft class has looked in their professional debuts. As a brief aside before we dive in, I can’t recommend this format of prospect drafting strongly enough. This is a 16-team league with 11 minor-league slots per team, so 176 prospects are rostered at any given time. We hold two prospect drafts annually, one in February as the off-season lists are rolling out, and one right now, after the Rule 4 draft and opening of the international signing period on July 2nd. The specter of the mid-season draft beginning right after our trading deadline encourages more deals. It gives us an opportunity to pounce on the new talent while it’s still fresh. And we can pop the pop-up guys before they jump onto off-season lists. Then in the winter we get to clean up on the rest of the draft class that makes some noise after signing. It’s a wonderful way to play.
Anyway, back in the aftermath of the first-year player draft in June, our noble overlord Bret Sayre unveiled his Top 40 Dynasty League Prospects for the recently professionalized players of this class. We’re all of seven weeks removed from that list dropping, so realistically it is way, way too early in the process to go changing our pre-draft opinions on players. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start gathering some info on the early returns, for both the stars of the draft and the guys who might not have gone in the first round, but who may quickly emerge as interesting fantasy players.
I surveyed the prospect team here at Baseball Prospectus, and here are a few bats that came up as having made positive first impressions.
Hey, the first overall pick is on this list, this is going to be an awesome list! To say that a certain leeway is afforded 1-1 guys is something of an understatement, but still, it’s nice when they hit the ground running. Moniak has sprinted out to a .327/.396/.459 line through his first hundred-plus professional plate appearances, showing the hit and glove tools that really propped up his draft prospect status. Moniak threatens to be the kind of player with more real-life than fantasy prospect cache, as his defensive profile up the middle drives a hearty chunk of his value. But scouts have seen a translatable hit tool that can play at plus, and with similarly-scaled speed along with fringe pop that’ll play up if and when he calls Citizen’s Bank Ballpark home, this is one of the best fantasy prospects in the draft class.
Matt Thaiss, 1B, Anaheim Angels (Low-A Burlington)
Thaiss was a mid-first-rounder in June, and he checked in seventh on Bret’s list, so again we’re certainly not talking about a dude in the weeds here. He immediately slid down the defensive scale from catching to first base upon signing, which won’t do him any favors with those who compile real-life prospect lists. But both BP scouts who’ve seen him as a pro noted the advanced hit tool and playable power to come. In OBP and points leagues he’s an especially valuable asset, as the advanced approach should lead to plenty of walks, and the power may just manifest primarily in loads of doubles. There might not be quite enough over-the-fence pop for excited utility in shallower standard leagues, but then again he might just hit enough that it won’t really matter.
I actually just wrote about Erceg in the Minor League Update the other day, and he should be on the fantasy radar as potential source of third-base power down the line. He’s put up a .386/.431/556 line thus far with 17 extra-base hits through 38 games, and hasn’t slowed down at all since a promotion to full-season ball a couple weeks ago. The power is real, it’s just a question of how much of it will play in games. It’s working just fine so far, however, and he’s one of the higher-intrigue second-rounders from this class for his pop and a higher likelihood that he stays at third base.
Yes, another Bichette. The Blue Jays went over slot in the second round to buy him out of his Arizona State commitment, and the young shortstop was quickly priming himself for a promotion after crushing the Gulf Coast League to a .421/.440/.724 tune with 13 extra-base hits in 20 games. Alas, his appendix had other ideas, and he’s currently on the DL, possibly for the remainder of the season. It is extremely unlikely his glove is enough to keep him at short, and the club already hedging with second-base reps in rookie ball is a nod in that direction. Still, there’s a shot he lands at second, and power potential on the keystone is not to be ignored. He has an unorthodox setup and trigger, but he’s shown barrel skills thus far, and power. So much power.
Peter Alonso, 1B, New York Mets (Short-Season Brooklyn)
It’s going to be a tough road for Alonso, but as one of our guys confirmed, the raw power is real. Alonso was undrafted out of high school and undistinguished in his early collegiate career before crushing the ball in the middle of the best lineup in college baseball in his draft season. The Mets grabbed him in the second round, and he’s held up with a .288/.366/.500 line in the age-appropriate New York-Penn League to start his career. He’s a high-risk investment in most leagues given the more limited track record of playable power and the limited profile, but if the power keeps playing he can get fantasy interesting quickly.
Josh Stephen, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (Rookie GCL Phillies)
The Phillies spent some of their Moniak savings on Stephen, a USC commit who dominated at the NHSI tournament in March to vault into view as one of the better prep bats in southern California. He’s a hard-nosed player who attacks the ball with a short, hard swing that has some plane to drive the ball. His is a strong, projectable frame, and there’s a highly intriguing raw box of tools and talent here. He’s forever and a day away and best left for monitor lists for the time being unless you’re in a league with 20-plus teams, but if his solid early performance holds down the stretch he could enter into end-of-draft territory for winter drafts.
There may not be a better debut anywhere in the class than what Thomas has put together thus far, as the 16th-rounder has hit .385/.447/.786 with 11 home runs and five steals in his first 132 plate appearances across two levels. After you wipe Matt Pullman’s drool of your screen, you can read his gushing write-up from a couple weeks ago. Thomas was a former D-1 quarterback, and has done just absurd damage since signing despite being a new convert to full-time baseball and thus comparatively quite raw. Elite athleticism should always intrigue, and Thomas has it in spades. At this rate he’ll be a fun end-game flyer in deeper league drafts this winter.
Thank you for reading
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