Previous installments in this series
The beat goes on with rounds three and four, which feature a whole lot of outfielders and our first real run on pitchers. Enjoy!
It might be his disdain for batting gloves, but Tucker’s bat seems to be one with his body. He has an innate bat-to-ball ability, and the size (6-foot-4, 190 pounds) to grow into more power as he matures. Strikeouts won’t be an issue, he’ll walk plenty, and he has the speed to steal 20 bases annually in his first few seasons. He can also play all three outfield spots, so his glove won’t cost him playing time. It will be tough to earn one of the top three spots in the Astros’ lineup for the foreseeable future, but Tucker has a chance to profile there by the end of the decade.
What's that I just said about hit tools? I know that Williams had a rough second half both on the field and in the dugout. I know there's a chance he won't make enough adjustments to let his natural talent shine through. And I know that his plus natural speed might not play up the way I hope on the bases. But just for a second, imagine if everything does break right for Williams. If that happens, we're looking at a .300 hitter with 25-homer power and 20-steal speed, and it doesn't matter for our purposes that he's probably just a left fielder. Williams is close to the majors, projects to play in a good offensive park and could be a five-category contributor. In round three that's plenty good enough for me.
3.33) James Kaprielian, RHP, Yankees (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
After taking a shortstop and outfielder with my first two picks — and with a 24-pick gap between my selections — it was time to add a pitcher. The three at the top of my queue are all in AL East organizations, but despite having the least professional experience as well as elbow troubles that cost him nearly the whole 2016 season, Kaprielian was my favored pick. There is just so much to like about someone who throws in the upper 90s with control and has a plus slider and changeup to go with his heater. In his brief time in the minors, Kaprielian has also shown the ability to induce grounders, which should help him to survive Yankee Stadium, as well as the difficult environments in Baltimore, Toronto and Boston.
While I won’t pretend that Lewis’ gnarly knee injury didn’t happen last year, I also don’t think it puts too big a dent in his future profile. He boasted some of the best bat speed in last summer’s class, with loft and quickness into the zone that drives the kind of all-fields power that can help carry a couple fantasy categories. While there’s some elevated risk if the legs don’t return to their former double-digit steal potential, I had him as the best fantasy prospect in the class before the injury, and grabbing him second to Senzel in this draft does right by me.
3.35) Ozzie Albies, SS/2B, Braves (Scott White, CBS.com)
This is one of those let's-not-outsmart-ourselves kind of picks. Albies doesn't profile as a power hitter, which I guess limits his appeal in a fantasy baseball context, but he has been a "name" prospect since he was about 17 and is in virtually every publication's top 20 (not to mention on the verge of graduating) at the ripe old age of 20. Much of that ranking he owes to his athleticism, which speaks to his upside at such a young age. Combine it with some advanced bat-on-ball skills, and I don't know that we can fairly speculate how he'll measure up as a power hitter at this stage of the game. Even if he's only eking out double-digit home runs, he'll be like a speedier version of what Jose Ramirez was last year. That's plenty valuable.
Again, the top guy on my board gets snagged right before I pick, but again, I'm not too upset about it. Rutherford might have been the best bat available in the draft this year, and while he isn't the potential fantasy monster that Nick Senzel is, he has a broad base of offensive skills and could move more quickly than your average first-round prep pick.
3.37) Corey Ray, OF, Brewers (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
Ray may not yet be able to lay claim as the top fantasy player from this year’s draft class, but the fifth overall pick has the five-tool upside to challenge Nick Senzel for the title in a few years. Already in High-A, Ray could be in the big leagues by 2018, and should make an immediate impact with his plus-plus speed. Beyond the 30+ stolen base potential, Ray has at least average power and a strong bat, and the ultimate upside is 20 home runs and a solid average to go with those steals. There’s a good chance he falls short of that ceiling, but Ray’s speed and skillset also give him a decent floor.
3.38) Bradley Zimmer, OF, Indians (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
There's obviously some risk here (more than I'd like in the third round) but it's hard not to love the tools as well as his proximity to the majors. Zimmer has plus power and speed to go with solid center field defense. The problem is the strikeouts that have just gotten worse as he's moved up through the minors, as well as his difficulty hitting left-handed pitching. Can he put it all together? If he does, he's an OF1, but more likely he ends up hitting 10-15 home runs while stealing 15-20 bags. I'll take that, with the hope that there could be more.
3.39) Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Padres (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
While his introduction to full-season ball was disappointing from a statistical perspective in 2017, the scouting reports remained strong. The pieces are there for an impact starter: Easy mid-90s fastball velocity that he can command, two potential plus secondary pitches in his curveball and changeup, youth (still 19), and impressive intangibles (high baseball IQ and poise among them). Inconsistency of breaking stuff and approach, along with a small frame, are the main question marks. The latter is unlikely to change, but the former could improve with more reps and experience. If it does, the result will be yummy, especially in PETCO.
3.40) Kevin Maitan, SS, Braves (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
There are a few tempting pitchers, but enough of them that I can still grab a good one if I want with my next pick at 51. I'll go for another young, high-upside hitter in Maitan, who's considered the best prospect to come out of Venezuela since Miguel Cabrera. I'm not counting on Cabrera numbers, but Maitan should hit for a lot of power and average and fit nicely at third base in Atlanta.
3.41) Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
So, 42 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances. Yes, 42 strikeouts in 95 plate appearances. That happened. The shaky debut likely pushed Judge down here, but I can’t ignore his massive power potential and the situation he finds himself in. The 6-foot-7, 275-pounder has a long swing which will continue to make him vulnerable to the strikeout, but he’s shown that he’s capable of making adjustments in the minors. Here’s to hoping he can do it again with more opportunities in the majors.
It’s time to dip into the 2016 draft pool for one of my favorite bats. Collins was a standout hitter at Miami for three years, and all while donning the catching gear—the same gear he will at least start his pro career donning as well. It’s fair to say the big question with Collins is whether he can keep the catcher eligibility, and while I do think the answer is he’ll play enough there to do just that, it undersells his potential as a fantasy first baseman. Were Collins moved from behind the plate today permanently, he’d still rank as an easy top-100 fantasy prospect for me. And the specter of that “C” next to his name is awfully appetizing as the landscape among fantasy catchers is as bleak as it’s ever been.
This may be a bit of a reach, but one benefit of participating in at least four of these things is that you know how many arms tend to drift to the latter rounds of the draft. Diaz has the potential to provide impact fantasy value in batting average, and should produce above-average power for the position. There's a chance he ends up at the keystone, but that shouldn't hurt his ability to provide value at an up the middle position. While I'd love to snag a five-category contributor, I'm not going to be unhappy with someone who should propel themselves further up the rankings in 2017.
Continuing on my "I still believe in this dude" tour of 2017, here comes De Leon. No, he probably won't pile up the strikeouts, but he can miss bats with his fastball and change, and he pounds the strike zone with those two pitches and a good enough slider. Floor matters, and De Leon has one of the highest floors of any starting pitching prospect in baseball, in this guy's humble estimation.
3.45) Brent Honeywell, RHP, Rays (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
What is not to like in this still 21-year old second-round pick in 2014? Over 279.6 minor league frames he has 286 whiffs and just 223 hits allowed with 58 walks (1.006 WHIP). He has succeeded, without challenge, at every pro level thus far up and into Double-A last year. Honeywell has a lovely smooth motion and though his AFL numbers might look suspect, he was brilliant at the AFL All Star game, whiffing five of six over two innings to earn the win. Honeywell rated #21 on my 2017 Top 250 Prospect List.
4.46) Willie Calhoun, 2B, Dodgers (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
Built in the mold of Kirby Puckett, Calhoun (5-foot-8, 190) is a plug of a guy who can crush the ball for sure. As a 21-year old Calhoun held his own with a .254-27-88 line at Tulsa, but I really love that over his 883 minor league plate appearances, Calhoun has 83 walks to just 103 strikeouts (.345 OBP). That suggests excellent bat control/zone judgement/discipline for a very young player, and the bottom line suggests the more experience he gets, especially at higher levels, the more those skills will be honed.
4.47) Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (Christopher Crawford, Rotoworld)
I'm not normally a huge fan of guys with this little of patience, but I'm going to make an exception with Renfroe, especially this "late" in our draft. The power is legit, and even in a less forgiving ballpark, he should hit his share of dingers. He also sees the ball well enough to maybe hit for average despite the aggressive approach, and he could give you a handful of steals, too. There's some risk, but the proximity to the majors helps alleviate some of it. I like him. I hope you like him, too.
4.48) Robert Gsellman, RHP, Mets (Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
With one of my favorite guys off the board (Honeywell), I'm emotionally lashing out against Jeffrey Paternostro with the Gsellman pick. There are some high-octane arms on the board still, but Gsellman is in the majors now, and has added the vaunted Warthen slider and a few ticks to his fastball, making him something of a different pitcher than the one that only a few people knew or cared about the last couple years. He pitched like a mid-rotation arm in his brief stint in the majors, and I think there's upside beyond that too. He's got the full slate of offerings at his disposal, and the slider provides him a swing-and-miss pitch. If he can refine his fastball command, tighten up his curve, or improve his change, he'll provide immediate value. If he does more than one of those things, this'll look like an absolute steal. I think he just might.
4.49) Jason Groome, LHP, Red Sox (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
The Red Sox took the New Jersey left-hander just eight months ago in the draft, yet he already has probably the highest upside of any pitcher who has yet to make their MLB debut (and yes I carefully cut out Alex Reyes and Lucas Giolito from that bucket). Groome has the size and the electric arsenal to be an SP1 one day, even if that day is likely four years or so away. He’s a pitcher, so there’s no shortage of risk, but if you’re going to gamble on arms, gamble on sheer upside.
4.50) Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cubs (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
I wanted another close to major-league ready bat and Happ qualifies, even though there’s not a clear fit on the Cubs’ roster right now. The 22-year-old played exclusively in the outfield during his first year in pro ball, but he mostly saw time at second base last year. His numbers could end up playing at either position and there’s always value in a multi-position eligible option in fantasy leagues. We saw an uptick in strikeouts after his promotion to High-A last season, so I wonder about the batting average upside, but the switch-hitting Happ has the potential to regularly reach double-digits in home runs and steals while posting a strong on-base percentage.
4.51) Francis Martes, RHP, Astros (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
If I had taken a pitcher at no. 40, it would have been Martes, so I'm happy to get him here. He has one of the best fastball/curveball combinations in the Minors, and he could be the next Johnny Cueto. He still needs a little more development, but at the same time he's advanced for a 21-year-old, so I feel good about his chances of becoming a frontline starter.
4.52) Jorge Alfaro, C, Phillies (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
Catchers with a stick are a huge fantasy asset, as any Buster Posey or Evan Gattis owner (2016 version) will tell you. Alfaro doesn’t have the impact of either of those two, but the ball jumps off his bat to all fields currently, and the raw power is there for 20-something HR per year at maturity. The concern is his tendency to swing and miss, as well as his lack of selectivity at the plate, both of which could become more pronounced as he faces better pitching. But the strength is there to contribute in the power categories even if ends up with a below-average BA. He’ll start at Triple-A, but could use a full season at that level.
4.53) Yadier Alvarez, RHP, Dodgers (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
If you asked me to name five minor-league pitchers with an ace ceiling, Alvarez would be in that group. He tosses 100 mph and what control problems he had got better as the year went on, posting a 35% strikeout rate and a 7% walk rate in Low-A. With any pitcher, there are a lot of risks, and with his youth (20) and how hard he throws, Alvarez certainly is no different. The difference here is that there's also the potential for a top-five overall prospect in the future.
4.54) Cal Quantrill, RHP, Padres (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
There’s still some room on the Quantrill bandwagon, so I’m hopping on while I still can. The eighth overall pick in last year’s amateur draft, Quantrill showed the same stuff in his professional debut that made him a potential 1.1 pick before undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2015. A plus fastball and changeup headline his arsenal, along with a slider that should also be at least an average offering, Quantrill has that top-of-the-rotation upside we all covet in drafts. The command still needs to return, and Quantrill’s TJ gives him some added risk, but I’m thrilled to snag a potential SP1/2 (that isn’t forever away) in the fourth round.
4.55) Mitch Keller, RHP, Pirates (Jeffrey Paternostro, Baseball Prospectus)
The late-season reports we got on Keller pushed him up pretty high on our BP 101, and while I was tempted by a couple high-upside short-season bats here, Keller's pro track record and plus stuff makes him a fairly easy choice for me here. Both the fastball and curve could be bat-missers, he's a strike thrower, and a better bet to stick as a starter than most of the arms going in this range. He could easily be one of the top two or three pitching prospects in baseball this time next year (but yes, I was banking on Gsellman getting back to me here).
4.56) Jesse Winker, OF, Reds (Scott White, CBS.com)
So my only hitters so far are Josh Bell and Ozzie Albies, two with dubious power upside. Might as well go further down the rabbit hole, right? At this stage of the draft, the only surefire power sources are flawed in other ways, and this last year showed that home runs don't have to be so carefully cultivated anyway. I'd rather put my faith in the skilled batsmen to grow into power than the other way around, and Winker is the epitome of this approach. He's an on-base machine with a couple of 15-homer seasons on his resume, but strangely enough, he hit only five in 110 games last year. A wrist injury may have had something to do with it, and I'm thinking maybe his ultra-patient approach did as well. Minor-league pitchers aren't exactly known for giving hitters pitches to hit, after all.
4.57) Dan Vogelbach, 1B/UT, Mariners (Wilson Karaman, Baseball Prospectus)
I’ve written approximately 1,346,718 words about Vogelbach on these and other assorted pages over the years, and the gist is this: He has a delicious approach. He’s powerful. He can hit, too. He’s round. I love him. With a strong-side platoon trial run scheduled against big-league pitching this year, it’s finally time to see what this kid’s made of (besides cake. Mmmm…cake).
4.58) Chance Sisco, C, Orioles (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
Sisco hasn't shown signs of being a home run hitter, but catcher is the one position left where a player can make a fantasy impact without having 15- or 20-homer power. His double-walk rates and solid contact skills are encouraging, but in combination with ultra-high line drive rates, they portend a perennial batting average and on-base percentage contributor. Just maybe Sisco can develop enough power to make playing in the AL East work to his — and his fantasy owners' — advantage.
4.59) Jorge Mateo, 2B/SS, Yankees (Ben Carsley, Baseball Prospectus)
Mateo's stock took a hit last year, what with the pouting and the increase in strikeouts and the .306 OBP. Not ideal. But he was a 20/21-year-old in High-A for the first time, and his potential game-changing speed remains. Given the influx of talent the Yankees have acquired I'm not sure Mateo will stay on the dirt, but he's at least got a prayer to hang around at second, and if not, OF isn't the worst fantasy position. There's a chance his approach holds him back and this looks silly in a year, but there's also a chance he makes adjustments and we view him as a potential high-average, 50-steal threat once more.
4.60) Juan Soto, OF, Nationals (James Anderson, Rotowire)
I was happy to see the last two hitting prospects that I realistically think have star potential left for me here. While most of the other top prospects from the 2015 July 2 signing class were assimilating into pro ball in the Dominican Summer League, Soto was posting a 185 wRC+ in the more advanced Gulf Coast League and then impressed in a brief run in the New York-Penn League to close out the year. He has the potential to hit 30-plus homers and already showed off an excellent approach and advanced hit tool at an age when most players just finished their junior years of high school. I think he stacks up well against the top prep hitters from last year’s draft class.