Previous installments in this series
Sleepers, low-ceiling guys who are close and some high-octane arms. Welcome to the middle rounds!
His speed is plus while his hit tool projects to be plus, and he has the body (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and bat speed to eventually grow into average or better power. All told, this is a potential up-the-middle star who could get MVP votes someday. He has not yet played in a full-season league and posted a 59 wRC+ in a 29-game run with Short-Season Spokane, but the fact that he was even playing in the Northwest League as a 17-year-old speaks volumes about how advanced Taveras is. He could finish 2017 as a top-10 prospect in the game. Even though the lead time is substantial with Soto and Taveras, they are ascending assets that can headline a trade if I have a chance to win in 2017.
“Yeah, but what does Diaz do really well,” you ask? Well, what does he do poorly? He’s still just 20, he hit .272/.333/.418 in High-A in his first real test of stateside ball, and he’s a potential five-category contributor. Will the output in those five categories be modest? Probably. But I see a dude who can hit .280 with 15-plus homers, 15-plus steals, and respectable run totals, sort of like a non-peak Melky Cabrera. I also love the reports I’ve seen about his two-strike approach. Basically, the high floor has sold me, and he’s closer to the majors than people think.
5.63) Alex Verdugo, OF, Dodgers (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
The Dodgers practically skipped Verdugo over the California League, where he played just 23 games in 2015. As a 20-year-old, he didn't blow the doors off the Texas League, but he continued to keep his strikeouts to a minimum (12.7 percent rate) and showed more power to the opposite field than he had previously. Verdugo is still an aggressive hitter, but he did increase his walk rate from 3.9 percent in 2015 to 8.3 percent last year. He could very well improve upon last season's .273/.336/.407 slash line in the Pacific Coast League, though even with a breakout performance, he won't likely be on the radar in redraft leagues until 2018.
I think I may have been the beneficiary of a majority of the draft room being unaware of his eligibility for this draft, but regardless of the contributing process, I was stoked to grab Reed all the way down in the fifth round. Did his big-league debut go according swimmingly? No! Not at all! He struck out in 34 percent of his plate appearances and hit 164. But the Astros didn’t exactly commit to giving him consistent at-bats, and he continued to crush the ball in Triple A in a manner befitting his 2015 breakout. Throw in the fact that the soon-to-be-24-year-old has a pattern of initial adjustment to new levels, and you’ve got the makings of a mulligan on his underwhelming debut. It’s a crowded depth chart in Houston, but he’ll get his shot at some point, and it should surprise nobody if he takes the opportunity and runs.
Josh Bell, Jesse Winker, and Dominic Smith are peas in a pod, aren't they? If you had to identify three minor-league hitters who might deliver a season with more walks than strikeouts someday, it'd be these three, which is of course the most applicable of skills in a traditional 5×5 league (he said sarcastically). But all three still have enough believers in their power potential that I don't think we can rule out a 20-to-25-homer peak. Smith has now come the closest to actualizing it, batting .348 with 10 homers and a .973 OPS in his final 233 at-bats. It was his first hint of power since the Mets took him 11th overall in 2013, but now that he's pulling the ball more, it may well be the start of something. One thing's for sure: I'm never losing batting average in this league.
Let’s just say that this time I didn’t miss out on the top guy on my board by one pick. I’m not a huge Newman fan either to be honest, but I am pretty sure that he hits major league pitching, which gives him a higher floor than the other bats in this range. He doesn’t offer much else—he’s not even all that fast—but a safe middle infielder who can help in batting average and runs isn’t a bad snag here. The chance that the Pirates keep him at shortstop is just icing on the empty .290 cake.
5.67) Anthony Alford, OF, Blue Jays (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
Fantasy owners have become accustomed to scouting the stat-line, but this approach can result in some players being overlooked. One example of this is Anthony Alford, whose 2016 was tanked due to a dislocated kneecap and concussion. The former college football player hit just .236/.344/.378 around those two injuries, but Alford finally hit his stride in the second half and continued to flash the tools that make him an easy top-100 prospect. The 20+ stolen base speed remains intact, and Alford could have a plus bat with very good plate discipline when it’s all said and done. If the 22-year-old can realize his raw power, we’re looking at a dangerous player, though the rough 2016 will likely keep him out of the top-50 on most top dynasty prospect lists.
5.68) Derek Fisher, OF, Astros (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
There are some pretty serious questions about whether Fisher will ever hit enough to make it as a regular, but at this point, I see risks everywhere I look. I'm happy to gamble on the plus power and plus speed from someone who just slashed .290/.347/.505 in 107 Triple-A at-bats. The strikeouts are a big concern, but Fisher went 22 HR/ 31 SB in 2015 and 21/28 last season after being drafted in 2014. He's shown what he can do in the minors, and we're just about ready to see if he can continue his success at the big-league level.
5.69) Reynaldo Lopez, SP, White Sox (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
The big question with Lopez is role—but he has more current stuff than most “if he switches to the bullpen” types. Though he doesn’t get much downhill plane on his pitches due to his short stature, his ridiculous arm speed pumps mid-90s fastballs with ease and allow him to live up in the zone. Both secondary pitches—curveball and change-up—have shown enough to extend hope that he’ll be able to remain in the rotation. Control problems raised its ugly head in his MLB stint, and will be a focus going forward for sure. But this is one strikeout-heavy fantasy pitcher who seems like could make a quick transition to the back end of the bullpen. And if he’s able to remain a starter? His fantasy impact is likely to be even better.
5.70) Jake Bauers, 1B/OF, Rays (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
Most of the top real-life position prospects left at this point derive significant value from their defense, which doesn't matter in fantasy, and at least some of the pitchers I'd think about taking here will make it back to me at pick 81. So I'm going to take one of the best bats remaining on the board in Bauers. He's more steady than spectacular, but he barrels the ball easily and I see him becoming a .280 hitter with 20 homers per year.
5.71) Amir Garrett, SP, Reds (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
I selected Garrett in the eighth round of this mock draft last year, so much like Michael Kopech, I’m being forced to pay up this time around. But I’m okay with that, as Garrett has made tremendous progress since giving up on basketball and focusing exclusively on his baseball career. The numbers weren’t as strong in Triple-A last year and the command is a work in progress, but I’m banking on the raw stuff and more development to come. He should make his major league debut before the end of 2017.
The still-21-year-old slugger posted a .917 OPS in Double-A last year and Blue Jays fans are just staring at Justin Smoak while wistfully dreaming of the day Tellez arrives north of the border. The power is real and the approach is excellent for a hitter who is as young for his level as Tellez has been—there’s little reason to think he’ll start swinging and missing far more often once he reaches the majors, and his 18 percent whiff rate is more than acceptable for someone who has 30-homer potential.
I might be jumping the gun here, but I think Quinn has a decent shot at getting extended playing time in the majors this year, and that his speed will be of use in fantasy. If correct (never a sure thing), that means the baseline for his contributions is relatively high. Anything he might contribute in average or runs is a welcome bonus. It's not the sexiest pick but I do think there's upside here. And yes, I know Michael Saunders and Howie Kendrick are the starters in the corners in Philly, but this should let you know what I think of them.
I have long been a fan of Ortiz, and I personally believe he's the best arm in Milwaukee's system. He can miss bats with the fastball and slider, the change has made progress, and he's going to throw enough strikes to start. My only concern is durability, but i have plenty of safety in my draft class. Let's go get a potential number two starter in Mr. Ortiz
5.75) Sam Travis, 1B, Red Sox (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
Off a solid (.307-9-78 with 19 swipes and 32 doubles) at two levels in 2015, Travis moved to Pawtucket last year and was going strong at .270-6-29 over 47 games when he tore his ACL, ending the first sacker's season. Travis has had a pretty solid line of .303-22-151 over 245 minor league games with a .364 OBP (85 BB/149 K) and likely would have moved up a level without the injury. He does have to get back to form, but with Big Papi gone, and defensive "gems" Hanley Ramirez and Mitch Moreland covering both first and DH, there should be an opportunity for Travis to make a name for himself at Fenway pretty quick.
6.76) Yohander Mendez, SP, Rangers (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
What is not to like with young 6-foot-5 left-handed fireballers? The 22-year-old blistered through the minors last year, starting at High Desert (4-1, 2.45), then Corpus Christi (4-1, 3.09), and then Round Rock (4-1, 0.57), going an aggregate 12-3, 2.19 over 111 innings, with 113 whiffs, a 1.018 WHIP, and just four homers allowed. That was enough to earn Mendez a sip of coffee (2 IP, 18.00 ERA in Arlington), although the southpaw will likely being 2017 at Triple-A. Like I asked: "What's not to like?"
6.77) Trent Clark, OF, Brewers (Christopher Crawford, Rotoworld)
Remember when Tyrone Taylor was the best prospect in the Milwaukee system? Good times. Clark is my second member of the Milwaukee farm system, and he's a good one. The swing is funky, but he makes lots of hard contact, and there's some developing power as well. He also should steal some bases, and those are always welcome. The numbers weren't pretty in 2016, but they're also not indicative at all of what kind of talent Clark has.
6.78) Jahmai Jones, OF, Angels (Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
This is probably something of a sexier pick, and one I considered making before Quinn. I'm really high on Jones, and think he has the potential to be a viable table setter at the top of the order or someone who finds his power stroke and becomes something more than a speed/average/runs guy. Either way I think he has enough power not to be a total zero, but that he has multiple pathways to contribute makes his ceiling all the more alluring.
6.79) Lourdes Gurriel, 2B, Blue Jays (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
The scouting reports range pretty wildly on this latest Cuban export, but while the younger brother of Yulieski is not the best hitter in his own family, he’s plenty good enough to carve out a role with the Blue Jays. The knock on Gurriel is that he doesn’t have any carrying tools, and yet he does have a very well-rounded game offensively. The adjustment when defecting from Cuba is tough to overstate, and he’ll likely struggle at the outset of 2017, but he has a chance to do Devon Travis type things in the majors as soon as 2018, should the opportunity arise.
6.80) Harrison Bader, OF, Cardinals (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
There have been some doubters about Bader and I get it. His aggressive approach caught up with him during his time in Triple-A last season and he only managed three home runs in 49 games. But I can’t ignore how quickly he has moved through the minors, and hopefully we see some improvement as he repeats the level. The success rate in steals last year left something to be desired, but ideally he’ll be someone who could reach 15-20 home runs and stolen bases annually. It’s tricky since he might not fit a corner outfield profile, but he’s not far off from making an impact in the majors.
6.81) Delvin Perez, SS, Cardinals (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
I'm running out of position players I really like for fantasy purposes, so I'm going to take one of the few left and worry about pitching later. Perez comes with risk — he failed a PED test shortly before the Cardinals made him a first-round pick last June — but with reward as well. He's a well above-average runner who should be a base-stealing threat, he has good feel to hit and he has some sneaky power. I'll take that package in a guy who's a lock to stay at shortstop.
6.82) Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
With a 34% strikeout rate Chapman is likely to be a batting average drain at the MLB level. But with power like his—36 HR in Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, good for third overall in the minors—he could still be a fantasy asset. The package is enhanced by his very good defensive ability at 3B, which doesn’t translate directly in most fantasy formats, but does bolster his value to an MLB club by giving him a leg up on playing time once he reaches the show. If he can make enough contact, of course.
6.83) Luis Alexander Basabe, OF, White Sox (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
Toolsy outfielders seem to be my modus operandi this draft (though unintentionally), so I might as well grab another. The sixth round is probably a reach at this point, but I like Basabe to break out in 2017. Last year Basabe started slow but hit .296/.358/.483 after June 1st. He also hit 12 home runs while stealing 25 bases; not bad for a teenager in A ball. Now in a new organization, Basabe is no longer living in the shadows of bigger names—oh wait, he still is, but that just makes him more fun to root for.
6.84) Jeff Hoffman, SP, Rockies (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
Waking up one morning to news of Jeff Hoffman being traded to the moon/Coors Field still hurts, and the former ninth overall pick’s value has been severely dinged as a result. Fantasy owners have shied away from Colorado arms, and rightly so, but Hoffman’s strikeout potential and impressive raw stuff still have me bullish. There’s an excellent four-pitch mix here, one that won’t exactly neutralize Coors but could still succeed despite the thin air. While Hoffman was a bit of a mess in his big-league debut with the Rockies, he looked gassed after the longest season of his professional career, and a bounce-back in 2017 wouldn’t be shocking.
6.85) Anderson Tejeda, SS, Rangers (Jeffrey Paternostro, Baseball Prospectus)
About as different a shortstop prospect as you can get from my last pick. Tejeda has big tools and is a potential five-category contributor…in 2022. He is a stash and might strike out 35% of the time in Hickory this year. He also might not be a shortstop, but with potential plus hit and plus power tools, the bat will play anywhere on the dirt. The Rangers also tend to get a lot out of this profile, although there is always the chance he gets dealt at the 2019 trade deadline for Giancarlo Stanton or somebody. In the end, we are just at the point in the draft where I am comfortable starting to grab “my guys.”
6.86) Mitch Haniger, OF, Mariners (Scott White. CBS.com)
The Mariners got Jean Segura back for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte this offseason, but to hear GM Jerry Dipoto talk, Haniger was the real prize of the deal. He won't shut up about the 26-year-old, calling him the best hitter at any level of the minors last year and all but declaring him the starting right fielder before spring training even begins. So Haniger at least has immediacy going for him, but Dipoto's unwavering enthusiasm also bolsters my belief that Haniger's .321 batting average and .999 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A last year weren't just statistical oddities, that the former sandwich pick (2012) has indeed figured something out, working to model his swing after Josh Donaldson and A.J. Pollock, two fellow late bloomers. Big sleeper for this year and beyond.
6.87) Andrew Toles, OF, Dodgers (Wilson Karaman, Baseball Prospectus)
Oh, hey, it’s another dude I’ve written a ton about. Toles’ rapid ascent through the Dodgers system last year was more impressive for the context coming off a year-and-a-half layoff from professional competition than it was the raw numbers. And that’s saying something, because he hit .331/.374/.511 across three levels before slapping up an eerily similar line in his first 105 big-league at-bats. He can’t hit lefties very well, and L.A.’s outfield depth chart rivals a small island nation. But Toles can flat-out hit, and he’s a plus-plus runner to boot. There’s enough here to generate fantasy value as the strong side of a platoon, and especially for those in daily lineup formats he’s a really nice target later on in a draft.
6.88) Luke Weaver, SP, Cardinals (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
At the time of this pick, Weaver's chances to make an impact in 2017 were more remote, as Alex Reyes and Michael Wacha were the presumed competitors for the fifth spot in the Cardinals' rotation. Now with Reyes shelved for the year due to Tommy John surgery, Weaver has an actual shot to begin the year as a starter. Regardless of when Weaver gets his first real chance to settle in as a major leaguer, I'm happy to have a pitcher who got Double-A hitters to whiff at a 14.3 percent rate while still maintaining sharp control. Even during his brief trial with the Cardinals in 2016, Weaver posted an above-average whiff rate. His fly-ball tendencies are his weak link, but pitching at Busch Stadium will help him to minimize the damage.
6.89) Sandy Alcantara, SP, Cardinals (Ben Carsley, Baseball Prospectus)
I almost pulled the trigger on Alcantara with my last pick and am thrilled to land him here. In my eyes, he has more upside than many of the half-dozen-or-so arms popped right before him. Sure, there’s a chance he’s a reliever, but there aren’t many pitchers who carry SP3 upside left at this point. Alcantara hits triple digits, has experience in the mid-minors and is in a good org for his development. There’s risk here and the lack of a strong secondary pitch scares me, but I’m still a big fan. He could go 50 spots higher than this next year.
6.90) Forrest Whitley, SP, Astros (James Anderson, Rotowire)
While he features a 70-grade fastball with late life, two potentially plus breaking balls, and a developing changeup, I get a “future ace” vibe from Whitley that goes beyond his deep and impressive arsenal. At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds, the Josh Johnson physical comps are apt, and he is a native Texan, which only adds to the intrigue. There were safer pitchers available here (if that’s even a thing), but this is a point in the draft where I don’t mind gambling a bit, and Whitley is my favorite lottery ticket from the 2016 draft class.
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