Welcome to the fourth annual* Baseball Prospectus Mock Draft! You know the drill by now; we gather 15 dynasty experts from around the various corners of the interwebs. We give them 10 roster spots each. We hold a snake draft. You read our reactions. It’s that simple.
First, a reiteration of the ground rules. 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 intact. 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.
You can check out our 2016 edition of this draft here, and stay tuned for more installments throughout the next week or so. Enjoy!
*This is the fifth annual installment of this draft overall. Shout out to FakeTeams.
This is one I struggled with for a few weeks when it came time to make lists this offseason. Andrew Benintendi offers top-100 value right now and his long-term upside can be undersold at times (I almost just talked myself into him again). In the end, Moncada’s immense tools, which could realistically allow him to be a 30/30 second baseman, give him the edge. There will be more developmental struggles against advanced pitching this year, at least in the first half, but he should come on strong to close out the year and could be a top-10 pick in 2019.
One of the reasons I love this exercise is it truly forces you to consider which prospect you prefer to another. I recently sent a draft of my top 101 dynasty prospects to Bret, and in it, I had Dansby Swanson ranked ahead of Benintendi. But here we are, and when proverbial push comes to proverbial shove, I'm leaning on Benny with the Good Hair. Benintendi might face some bumps in the road early in his career, but I believe in his long-term ability to hit for a high average and steal 20-plus bases a season. His power is also undersold because of his frame, but he should be in the 15-to-20 homer range in his prime. Put that package in Fenway Park and in the middle of a high-octane offense, and you get the safety of an OF4 now with the upside of an OF2 in his better years. That's enough to barely edge out Swanson's positional advantage for me.
1.3) Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
There is a glut of good-hitting shortstop prospects, but Rodgers looks like he is the best of the bunch in terms of his power skills. Of course, playing at Coors Field won't hurt either. He's not bad at making contact, and in demonstrating an ability to hit line drives, he could hit for a high average, even though he has batted a fairly pedestrian .279 to date. Rodgers got a lot of help by playing in a hitter-friendly park in Asheville, but according to StatCorner, Rodgers still tied for ninth in the Sally League in park-adjusted home runs (14). If he doesn't eventually supplant Trevor Story as the Rockies' shortstop, he could be ready to take over second base, just as DJ LeMahieu hits free agency after the 2018 season.
Are there sexier upside picks to be made here? Sure! Victor Robles can run faster than six snow leopards and hit like Wade Boggs! Eloy Jimenez is from the moon, and can knock 11 feet off the height of a Sierra redwood with his bare hands! But while y'all are drafting those guys and watching them lay waste to A-ball pitching, I'll be reaping the benefits of the next three years (and beyond) of steady-as-it-comes, above-average, across-the-board production that Swanson will provide at the six. He may lack the kind of carrying fantasy tool people tend to crave this high in a draft, but when the floor is as higher as Swanson's there's no shame in playing the safe card. Factor in the rights to gaze longingly at his gorgeous mane on your team's home page for the next decade, and this pick is a slam dunk as far as I'm concerned.
Back when this draft started, Alex Reyes' elbow was still intact, and so it made perfect sense to draft him here … except he's a pitching prospect, and there's no such thing as a pitching prospect. We learn the hard way sometimes. But look, proximity wasn't the only reason he was considered the best of them at the time. Ability had a little something to do with it, too, and the only pitching prospects who can compete with Reyes in that regard, with the possible exceptions of Lucas Giolito and Tyler Glasnow, are all at least a year away anyway. He has been to the promised land and flaunted his 101-mph fastball, hammer curveball, and swing-and-misses changeup to the tune of a 1.57 ERA. I don't know that he shouldn't still be the first pitcher off the board, even if not quite this early.
Well I don't even get to make my first pick without the guy I wanted getting sniped a spot ahead of me. Rosario is a pretty good consolation prize–a potential five-tool shortstop who’s already hit in Double-A. He's a lock to stay at the 6, and the offensive ceiling isn't that far off the bats already off the board. There is a clear path to a full-time major league role in 2018 with the Mets, and while there might be growing pains against major-league offspeed stuff, I'm bullish on both the hit and power tools playing to at least average, and it's not hard to see more than that from Rosario. Throw in his turning himself from a 55 to a 70 runner this season, and he's a potential five-category contributor.
1.7) Austin Meadows, OF, Pirates (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
This pick came down to a trio of outfielders: Victor Robles, Eloy Jimenez and Austin Meadows. In the end, proximity to the big leagues won out, and I went with the potential five-tool star who could debut in the majors next season. Meadows does happen to be extremely blocked in Pittsburgh right now, and his hamstring seems intent on sabotaging the rest of his leg, but the bat is special enough to make the 21-year-old an OF1. Meadows’ power has yet to completely materialize, but this is a player who could hit near .300 with 20-plus home runs and at least double-digit steals … and should be playing in the MLB at some point this season.
1.8) Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
I was pleasantly surprised that Devers fell to me at 8 with his big-time power and ability to hit for average. He struggled early last year but hit .331/.371/.522 after June 1st as a 19-year-old in High-A Salem. He's likely to start in Double-A, but we've just seen Xander Bogaerts, and more recently Benintendi and Moncada, move through Double-A and Triple-A, to go straight to the majors in one season. Third base is Boston's weak position, so while I wouldn't count on him seeing time this year, it's not impossible either. When he does get there he could (eventually) threaten to make the Big Four fantasy third baseman a Bigger Five.
1.9) Victor Robles, OF, Nationals (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
Eloy Jimenez was really my only other consideration here, but Robles’ advanced hit tool as a teenager, in tandem with his quick-twitch athleticism, gives him the edge. His current speed (37 SB in 401 AB across two levels of A-ball) provides a fantasy floor, and though there’s still some question as to how much his power will develop, his swing is clean and there’s still a chance of additional physical growth/strength to come, which would result in future HRs. Robles has top-of-the-lineup skills, but could be one of those players who eventually moves into a no. 3-5 hitter as he matures. And though it means little for fantasy, he’s a joy to watch in center field with his excellent range and strong throwing arm.
1.10) Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
I'm torn, because there are two players I was hoping to have a shot at here at 10, and they're both on the board. (Of course, I won't mention the other in hopes he slides to me in the second round, which is unlikely.) I'll take Bellinger because I think he's the best power prospect in the minors, and I also think he'll hit for a high average (look at how that strikeout rate shrunk in 2015). And he's athletic enough to steal a few bases and also qualify in the outfield for a while.
1.11) Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
I was debating between Eloy Jimenez and Senzel here, but I ultimately decided to go with who I think might be the safer option. Senzel was regarded by many as the most polished college bat coming out of last year’s draft class and he showed it by hitting .329/.415/.567 over 58 games with Class-A Dayton. The 21-year-old might not have massive power, but he’s someone who should contribute in all five categories and should play in a great park (well actually, Great American Ball Park) for offense in Cincinnati. The double-digit steal potential could help him stand out at third base in the early part of his career and his on-base ability only boosts his all-around appeal. I also like that he’s not far off from the majors.
1.12) Eloy Jimenez, OF, Cubs (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
With the first 11 picks being mostly chalk, Jimenez was a natural fit here given his upside and the fact that he’s comparatively safe among prospects who haven’t graduated above Low-A yet. He’ll likely strike out too much in the majors to be a .329 hitter like he was in the Midwest League last year, but his combination of average and power is uncommon amongst prospects and could lead him to be a .280 hitter with 30-plus homers in time. With any other organization, he could be ready as soon as next year, but the Cubs are likely to take a little more time given the glut of position players they are already trying to squeeze into their lineup on a daily basis.
I'm caught between a few players who I have somewhat equal to each other here. The upside of that is there's a good chance I get two of them when it comes back around to me. The downside is this may seem like a reach already, and could look worse in a year. Still, Brinson has the upside worth chasing in fantasy leagues. He's going to a great place to hit in the minors, and Miller Park shouldn't treat him badly once he cracks the majors. I would expect an adjustment period in the short term, but a guy with his power/speed combination who has shown the ability to adjust is just too tempting to pass up on. Doesn't help me that I've been drooling over his potential as a prospect since 2013, either.
Giolito was disappointing in 2016, I don't think anyone can disagree with that. I think we should probably pump the brakes on dismissing this young man, however. He still will flash two plus-plus pitches, the change has gotten better, and he threw more strikes after going back to his "original" delivery. Maybe he's not a transcendent prospect, but he's a pretty darn good one.
1.15) Josh Hader, LHP, Brewers (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
A lot of whiffs means potential dominance as we all know, and Hader has blown away 559 batters over 489 frames, good for a solid 10.3 Ks per nine. But, the lefty also shows despite the power, he does have control with a 1.19 WHIP and just 375 hits allowed (31 HR). And, do not betray yourself by looking at Hader's 1-7 mark at Colorado Springs last year, for he still whiffed 88 over 69 IP, though his walk rate moved up a tick. Hader does indeed have the stuff to be a no. 1 guy, and should be part of the Brewers rotation by mid-season at the latest, I wound venture.
2.16) Gleyber Torres, SS, Yankees (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
Not much I can say about Torres that has not been written in print, but well, the 20-year held the hottest bat in the Fall League, ripping a .403-3-11 line with a 1.158 OPS. Despite his youth, Gleyber has a .282-16-163 line with a .356 OBP (131 BB/235 K) over 201 minor league games. Rumor has it a hot start—likely at Double-A—could even fast-track Torres to the hot corner of the rebuilding Bombers by the end of this season. Whenever it comes, this kid looks to be good.
2.17) J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Christopher Crawford, Rotoworld)
Maybe I'm stuck in 2016. I know Crawford's stats in 2016 are ugly, but I also know that he was a 21-year-old playing Triple-A baseball, and the approach was still excellent. He's also a lock to stick at shortstop, and that matters. I still see a hitter with a plus hit tool who can steal 15-20 bases, and do it while playing a position that's tough to get offense from. You can do a lot worse than that.
2.18) Clint Frazier, OF, Yankees (Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
I considered Frazier with my previous pick as well, so I'm more than happy to get him on the return. He's at Triple-A and should find major-league playing time sometime this year. His production hasn't been in line with the scouting reports thus far, but far be it from me to pass on bat speed this electric. He's still only 22 years old and there's time for the production to catch up to the raw tools. Playing in New Yankee Stadium should only help his offensive production as well. There's considerable risk in pairing these two outfielders in the top two rounds, but the combination of proximity and high-ceiling reward make it a risk worth taking.
2.19) Raimel Tapia, OF, Rockies (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
An easy plus hit tool plus Coors plus upper-minors success equals a pretty safe pick to return value at this spot. While it’s true that there may not be a ton of power here (even Coors may only inflate him to around 15-18 homers a year), his all-around profile gives Tapia the chance to be an OF2 as soon as Colorado can clear either Charlie Blackmon or Carlos Gonzalez from their payroll. Just don’t factor in too many steals, as despite the fact that he’s a plus runner, he’s not exactly deft on the basepaths—he’s stolen 120 bases and been caught 71 times in the minors.
2.20) Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
I went “safe” with my first pick, so I’m shooting for the moon with this one. And it’s easy to see the upside with Kopech, who has earned comparisons to Noah Syndergaard for his extraordinary velocity. There’s also the hair and the Texas connection, at least from a superficial perspective. There’s obviously work to be done for Kopech to realize those lofty comparisons, but he could emerge as an ace if all goes well. And hey, a dominant closer wouldn’t be a bad outcome from a fantasy perspective either. I should note that I managed to get Kopech in the ninth round last year. Life is not fair.
2.21) Mickey Moniak, OF, Phillies (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
I knew Gleyber Torres probably wasn't going to make it back to me, but I'm happy to snag Moniak, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft. I can't remember the last time I got such glowing reports on a high schooler's hitting ability — I had a number of scouts drop 70s (on the 20-80 scouting scale) on the bat, and they're usually stingy with 70s. I could see him winning batting titles, providing double-digit home run power and a healthy number of steals.
2.22) Willy Adames, SS, Rays (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
Seems he gets a bit overlooked in fantasy circles, as he doesn’t have the flash of the current Torres/Rosario/Rodgers SS group. And yes, he may need to move off SS in the coming years. But his improvements in plate approach, power output and speed over the past few seasons, while consistently being young for his level, stand out to me. Might still need a full year at Triple-A, but Adames is a high-floor infielder who will be a multi-category producer at MLB maturity. In addition, the typical Rays slow-bake of his foundational skills sets the stage for a potential production spurt several years into his MLB career.
2.23) Manuel Margot, OF, Padres (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
I was tempted to grab Margot in the first round, so am more than a little bit thrilled to have him available to me here. I admit to being a bit of a fan, as Margot is precisely the type of player I enjoy, with his plus-plus speed and ability to hit for average. He should hit atop the Padres lineup as soon as 2017. Now, it's not much of a lineup and his counting stats are surely going to suffer in the short term. I guess that's maybe why he's here for me in the second. Nevertheless, I'll take it and run… and then watch him run.
2.24) Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
When it comes to buying pitchers in dynasty leagues, I’m looking for two things: upside and proximity, in that order. Upside is my priority, because it’s not worth waiting for a potential SP4 when plenty are available in trade, and proximity is next on the list: pitchers are a risky bunch already, and throwing a few years of lead time into the equation makes the investment awfully volatile. That’s why I went with Tyler Glasnow over some other big names, such as Brent Honeywell, Anderson Espinoza and Jason Groome. The 6-foot-8 righty has two easy plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, with a changeup that is plenty good enough as a third offering, and that electric repertoire could make him an ace. He’s also big-league ready after throwing 23 1/3 innings in the big leagues last season. Maybe Glasnow’s command will never be good enough for him to become a SP1/2, but I’m willing to gamble on the upside and proximity.
2.25) Francisco Mejia, C, Indians (Jeffrey Paternostro, Baseball Prospectus)
He's a good bet to stick at catcher, and he can really hit. The bar for offensive catchers in fantasy isn't much higher than it is for them in actual baseball. I am not as excited about this pick as I should be, but the next tier on my big board is mostly guys that I like less than the rest of the industry. I considered Ronald Acuna—who I like more than the industry for sure—here, but I am fairly confident I can get outfielders I like a lot later in the draft.
I know what the numbers say, but Josh Bell gave us a fine demonstration of his power potential by hitting a grand slam into the Allegheny River in his second major-league at-bat. Whether or not he actualizes that potential remains to be seen, but the scouts aren't backing down from their predictions of a middle-of-the-order bat. And looking at his broad shoulders and chiseled physique, I don't blame them. Frankly, the ball should run away screaming. Did I mention he had more walks than strikeouts in his first ever look at major-league pitching, continuing the stellar plate discipline he exhibited throughout the minors? Shoot, this guy could sell jeans and check off every one of Peter Brand's boxes. He might be the closest we've come to Joey Votto since Joey Votto, and his ETA is now.
2.27) Ronald Acuna, OF, Braves (Wilson Karaman, Baseball Prospectus)
I mean, in theory it's probably too early to pop a just-turned-19-year-old with 40 games of full-season under his belt, but I've already got my big-league safety net with Swanson, and if you're gonna go nuts for a ceiling-scraper in A-ball, Acuna ain't at all a bad choice. Between David Lee's highly trained eye dropping a 7 on his future raw and other reports predicting a hit tool north of average, there's an awful lot to like for dynasty leaguers looking to speculate on this year's Eloy Jimenez-style breakout. There's an awful lot of tantalizing pitching sitting around for the taking, which leads me to believe there will still be plenty of it available coming back off the turn. So in the meantime I'm going hunting for the next big thing, and Acuna's got as good a shot as anyone to evolve into just that.
2.28) Tyler O’Neill, OF, Mariners (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
O'Neill not only emerged from his year in the California League with his power numbers largely intact, but he improved his walk and strikeout rates as well. The latter is especially important, because he has been enough of a pull-happy flyball hitter to be at risk of having a low BABIP. He's not as extreme in those tendencies as the still-undrafted Hunter Renfroe, so he could be a steady .260 hitter with 20-20 potential—sort of a right-handed Gregory Polanco. O'Neill will have to whittle his strikeout rate further, but at age 21, there's still time. He also has a clear path to a starting role in the Mariners' outfield, as Jarrod Dyson will become a free agent after this season.
2.29) Franklin Barreto, SS/2B, Athletics (Ben Carsley, Baseball Prospectus)
I'll ignore pretty much everything else about a prospect if he has a hit tool, and I really believe in Barreto's bat-to-ball ability. I'm not sure exactly where the power will end up (I'm hoping for about 15 homers a year) but I think he can flirt with a .300 average in his better years, and he should swipe 20-plus bases with regularity. I hope that package comes with shortstop eligibility, but if it comes with Barreto playing at 2B instead, I'll live. Basically I like the combination of high floor, moderate ceiling and proximity to the majors. In a strange twist of fate, this is exactly where I popped Barreto a year ago, too. Time is a flat circle.
Not only did Vlad Jr. post a 122 wRC+ and 35-to-33 K:BB in 62 games in the Appy League as a 17-year-old, but he has the pedigree and bloodlines to legitimize those numbers. An AL East scout told me after the season that he has a future 7 on the hit and the power, so ETA and defensive home be damned. Rarely is a teenager’s bat so special that it projects to play at DH, and even rarer does a 17-year-old fit that bill, but that’s where I’m at on Guerrero. It would be cool if he stuck at third (probably not happening) or moved to first base or an outfield corner, but he should return value even if he slides to the bottom of the defensive spectrum.
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