Previous installments in this series
Savor all this hot mock draft action while you can. It’s almost over.
It’s possible that McKenzie never fills out the way I hope (he’s an extremely skinny 6-foot-5, 165 pounds), but the fact that he allowed three runs in 49.1 innings as an 18-year-old in the New York-Penn League and then posted a 49-to-6 K:BB in 34 innings just after his 19th birthday in the Midwest League illustrates his advanced pitchability. I believe in the rest of the package enough to project a no. 2 starter if he can add mass and in turn add a couple ticks to his fastball.
Gordon is, like, a five-year-old Honda Civic. He is not sexy. You do not show him off to your friends. You do not pine to own Nick Gordon. But he gets you where you need to go, he’ll return good value and he’s got enough wheels to be a little interesting. Gordon will probably never be a top-10 shortstop. He might be a top-15 one, like, 10 times, though.
7.93) Tyler Beede, RHP, Giants (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
Beede's second tour of Double-A worked out much better than his first. In ratcheting up his velocity, the 23-year-old righty hiked his whiff rate up from 8.7 to 11.3 percent (per StatCorner), while lowering his ERA from 5.23 to 2.81. Beede was slightly more flyball-prone, but as long as he remains in the Giants' organization, that could work to his advantage upon reaching AT&T Park. He also won't lack for opportunity in a big league rotation that is short on depth beyond the top four, and will get even thinner if Matt Moore leaves as a free agent after this season.
Yes, Cotton is a short right-hander without an overwhelming fastball, but that cambio, though. His change may just be a true plus-plus pitch, logging a full 15 miles-an-hour of separation off his four-seamer in The Show and generating an above-average whiff rate. Perhaps the make-or-break element of the arsenal, however, will be his curveball—a pitch he used sparingly in the majors, but which produced extreme whiff and groundball results when he did. The pitch is a one-plane downer that may or may not hold up to extended scrutiny, but if he can generate results even close to what he did last year while increasing his deployment, he could quickly evolve into a nasty starter. As is, there’s a solid profile to round out your rotation on the cheap, and I like him as an upside play in that capacity.
I've played it safe for the most part in this draft, targeting prospects who are major-league ready or at least on the verge, but in deference to John Coppollela's waves-not-windows mantra, it's time to think long term. And how better than by targeting the prize of Coppolella's first draft class, Allard, who is the kind of projectable 19-year-old who could develop into a top-of-the-rotation starter? That's critical in Fantasy, where the threshold for a quality pitcher is especially high because of the need to balance ratios like ERA and WHIP with counting stats like strikeouts. Allard still has some hurdles to clear, of course, and the back issue that dropped him to 14th in the 2015 draft may scare some folks away. But he was exactly as advertised in his first extended look last year.
Let the run on lefties with back issues commence. I set out not to be the guy that just takes prospects from his favorite team—nobody likes that guy in fantasy drafts—and there is a good case to take A.J. Puk here if I insist on picking from this genus of arms. Szapucki has an absolutely electric arm though, and may move faster than you think for a guy with just 54 professional innings, all in short-season ball. He’s also a lefty that touches 98, teams find major -eague roles for those dudes. If Szapucki does stay a starter he is a potential top-of-the-rotation one with the big strikeout numbers to go with it.
7.97) A.J. Puk, LHP, Athletics (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
You might be sensing a theme in my draft: upside, upside, and more upside. This 6-foot-7 southpaw has as high a ceiling as he needs to stand without being hunched over, as Puk, last year’s sixth overall pick, has flashed 1.1-worthy stuff more than a few times. Armed with potentially three plus pitches and not too far away, there’s top-of-the-rotation upside if the lanky 21-year-old can improve his command.
7.98) Matt Manning, RHP, Tigers (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
The Tigers like their big prep arms and Manning looks like he could be a special one. Just now 19, the 6'6" right-hander pitched 29 pro innings last year and struck out a whopping 46. He has a mid-90s fastball that he might be able to add to as he fills out. His curveball shows plus already, and he has a feel for the change-up. Like any young arm, there is substantial risk here, but he at least has the ceiling to be a worthwhile gamble.
7.99) Sean Reid-Foley, RHP, Blue Jays (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
Strikeouts are the allure here, but the test will get more difficult as he hits the high minors (Double-A this year). His build (6-3, 220) and raw stuff (low-to-mid 90s FB; CB and SL that grade out as average) say he’s a mid-rotation guy at least, with promise for a bit more if his improved control from 2016 is the new norm. A useable change-up (currently below average) will have a large say about determining his future.
7.100) Braxton Garrett, LHP, Marlins (Jim Callis MLB.com)
There were a lot of talented left-handed pitchers in the 2016 Draft, and Garrett might be the best of them. He has an outstanding curveball, a projectable fastball that already sits in the low-90s with angle and life, feel for a changeup, and advanced command. He's not as sexy as Jason Groome or A.J. Puk, but Garrett has a higher floor than either as well as frontline starter ceiling.
7.101) Tom Murphy, C, Rockies (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
It hasn’t been entirely on purpose, but I have put a lot of emphasis on now (or close to now) with my position players. Murphy fits this theme. After slugging five homers in 21 games down the stretch last season, Murphy should get a chance to share catching duties at the big league level in 2017. No, I’m not going to ignore that Murphy also struck out 19 times in 49 plate appearances in the majors last year. Strikeouts were also an issue for him in the minors, so I’m not counting on a high batting average, but the power is there and he’s playing in Coors Field. Hopefully he’s at least decent enough behind the plate to justify the playing time.
Come on, like you don’t have a type either. Thaiss gets pigeonholed with a cluster of other first base prospects without big-time power, but he has the potential to be a better hitter than all of them. The upside is certainly capped by his eligibility, which I blame the Angels for—they didn’t need to move him off catcher as quickly as they did, and maybe they’ll change their mind about it at some point in 2017. But barring an unexpected change of heart, Thaiss has the approach and contact ability to hit .300-plus with 15-20 homers even if that unfriendly stadium.
We're getting to the point where ignoring the pitchers remaining on the board means potentially losing value just to get a bat. I realize this but I can't pull myself away from Erceg, who has elicited more "Matt Carpenter" comps from scouts than I can shake a stick at (I have poor arm strength, don't judge). He's probably not going to be a huge power source, but could be an impact guy in average and runs, while not hurting me elsewhere.
There's a good chance we'll have another presidential election before we see Morejon in the big leagues, but he's too talented to pass on at this point in the draft. He has three pitches that can get swings and misses, he gets rave reviews for his feel for pitching, and he throws a gosh darn knuckle change. Obviously you're going to have to be very patient, but I can't name too many hurlers who have more upside.
7.105) Ramon Laureano, OF, Astros (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
I guess we do love our 22-year olds, and this one hit .319-15-73 last year at two levels, finishing with a solid show at Corpus Christi going .323-5-23 over 36 games. Laureano showed good plate moxie with 70 walks to 119 whiffs over 116 total contests, and similarly established a speed game with 43 swipes and seven three-baggers.
8.106) David Paulino, RHP, Astros (Lawr Michaels, Mastersball)
I swear, I don't have a thing for Houston players, but I do love tall (Paulino is 6-foot-7) hard-throwers (219 K over 191 1/3 minor-league innings). Paulino, who like Mendez, got a glimpse of the Show (7 IP, 0-1. 5.40) last season, definitely fits that description. That was the reward following a 90-inning, 5-4, 2.00 mark with 119 whiffs over three levels. And, had I made this pick end of last week, Paulino would have still been 22 (he turned 23 last Monday).
8.107) Bobby Bradley, 1B, Indians (Christopher Crawford, Rotoworld)
Dingers. That should be enough but I was told I had to write more than this. Bradley strikes out too much and he has zero speed, but he might have 70 in-game power when everything is said and done. He should draw his share of walks, too, so he can help you in on-base leagues.
8.108) Greg Allen, OF, Indians (Craig Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus)
Okay so we're probably past the point I mentioned in my Erceg writeup at this juncture. Allen probably is as good a fantasy prospect as some of the arms still on the board, but the separation between the arms left available isn't that big, and I know for certain I'm not getting a bat of Allen's quality by the next pick. He might end up as more of a fourth outfielder, but the gamble here is that he ends up a lower-end starter who can rack up steals and potentially contribute in runs and average. Is this redundant in my draft because of Roman Quinn? Maybe, but it's also something of a hedge.
8.109) Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins (Bret Sayre, Baseball Prospectus)
Yes, this pick was made before his 2017 was lost due to Tommy John surgery. And fortunately, he’s not a pitcher. Kirilloff is one of my favorite upside bats from the last draft as someone who has plus power potential along with the ability to hit for average and even steal some bases before he ages too far out on the curve. The injury is unfortunate, as he is somewhat raw being a cold-weather hitting prospect, but it shouldn’t tamper his upside.
8.110) Justin Dunn, RHP, Mets (D.J. Short, Rotoworld)
Selected 19th overall in last year’s draft, Dunn mostly pitched out of the bullpen in college. He was impressive enough in his pro debut with Low-A Brooklyn, posting a 1.50 ERA and 35-to-10 K/BB ratio over 30 innings, but he didn’t exceed three innings in any of those outings. There are understandable questions about his size and how he'll fare while using his full arsenal with a bigger workload, but obviously I’m banking on him finding his way as a starter. He could be a really good reliever, too.
8.111) Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers (Jim Callis, MLB.com)
Buehler ranked ahead of Vanderbilt teammates Dansby Swanson and Carson Fulmer as a 2015 Draft prospect entering that season, then injured his elbow and wound up having Tommy John surgery shortly after signing with the Dodgers as the No. 24 overall pick. He came back last summer and opened eyes by working in the mid-90s and hitting 99 mph with a fastball that had previously ranged from 90-96 mph. Add that improved velocity to a repertoire that already included a curveball, slider and changeup that all graded as at least above average, and factor in his ability to command his stuff, and Buehler could move quickly and become at least a mid-rotation starter.
8.112) Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pirates (Brent Hershey, BaseballHQ)
While the back injury that limited him to 252 AB in 2016 is a concern, Hayes showed considerable bat-to-ball skills and a selective approach after his first round selection in 2015. He has the frame and bat speed for at least average power in time. In addition he shows the defensive instincts and strong arm that should allow him to remain at the hot corner, which aid his fantasy value (as opposed to having to move to 1B). Still 20, there’s time to improve—just hope the body cooperates.
8.113) Andres Gimenez, SS, Mets (Paul Hartman, Fantasy Assembly)
I'm probably going in too early on the young shortstop from Venezuela, but better early than late I always say. Last year, at just 17 years of age, Gimenez hit .350/.469/.523 over 62 games in the Dominican Summer League. What was most impressive was his 46 walks compared to just 22 strikeouts. With a plus hit tool, some speed, developing power, and the good chance to stick at shortstop, Gimenez could very well make some leaps in 2017. If he does, I'll be happy I went in when I did.
8.114) Brett Phillips, OF, Brewers (Ben Diamond, The Dynasty Guru)
This pick would’ve looked a hell of a lot better a year ago today, and it’s safe to say I’m hoping that Phillips can make the last year a thing of the past in 2017. The former-Astro struggled mightily in his first full season at Double-A, slashing a mere .229/.332/.397, striking out nearly 30% of the time. Phillips’ power and speed tools are still there, as he hit 16 dingers and stole 12 bases in 124 games, but if he can’t make contact, that won’t matter. If Phillips can reign in the whiffs, there’s a valuable player here who should surpass double digits in home runs and steals, but the floor is a fourth outfielder.
8.115) Justus Sheffield, LHP, Yankees (Jeffrey Paternostro, Baseball Prospectus)
So he’s probably a reliever, but we also appear to be in the range of “probably a reliever.” Sheffield could be a damn good one though, with an easy plus fastball with wicked movement and two above-average secondaries in the holster. He’s also only a grade of command/control away—not impossible—and okay, three inches of height—not all that probable—from being a mid-rotation starter. The command jump might be enough on its own, even if there’s a league-wide bias against “five-foot-ten” starting pitchers.
8.116) Casey Gillaspie, 1B, Rays (Scott White, CBS.com)
Oh look, another corner player with incredible plate discipline (80 walks last year) but questionable power. How predictable. Look, drafting three first basemen is something nobody sets out to do, but more than anything, I just want my minor-leaguers to become something startable in fantasy. Most won't, and so duplicating at a position is the least of my concerns right now. Finding quality hitters, though, is paramount, and I maintain that one of the best ways to go about it is to target the hitters with superior strike-zone judgment and a physique that lends itself to power. Gillaspie's power potential isn't even entirely theoretical considering he has had back-to-back seasons with 17-plus homers, so I don't know why he doesn't get more love as a prospect, apart from being a lumbering first baseman.
8.117) Joshua Lowe, 3B, Rays (Wilson Karaman, Baseball Prospectus)
The Rays’ first-rounder last June was one of the better athletes in the prep class, and he boasts three high-end tools, with two of them (plus-plus raw power potential and plus speed) highly relevant to our purposes here. The bat speed is, dare I say, electric, and the swing is the aesthetically pleasing kind. This is a quintessential projection pick later on in a fairly deep league format, as Lowe’s ceiling is that of a top-five fantasy third baseman. You have to squint real hard to see it, though, and he’s much more likely to end up a boom-or-bust outfielder.
8.118) Hunter Dozier, OF/3B, Royals (Al Melchior, RotoGraphs)
Mitch Haniger is emerging as something of a fantasy darling after resurrecting his prospect status in the Pacific Coast League last season, but Dozier did the same thing, but just more quietly. After making quick work of the Texas League with a 1.042 OPS in 26 games, he went on to slash .294/.357/.506 with Triple-A Omaha. Dozier lacks the immediate opportunity that Haniger has, now that he is with the Mariners, but as a corner infielder, he could find a regular job if the Royals were to deal free-agents-to-be Eric Hosmer or Mike Moustakas. As an outfielder, Dozier could also be the Royals' Plan B if Jorge Soler doesn't work out.
8.119) Franklyn Kilome, RHP, Phillies (Ben Carsley, Baseball Prospectus)
On the one hand, Kilome was excellent in the second half, still gets glowing scouting reports (on the right days) and is likely to start 2017 in the mid-minors. On the other hand, hooo boy is his floor low. Like, doesn’t ever make the Majors low. There’s plenty of risk here, but there aren’t a lot of potential SP3s who won’t take a half-decade to make The Show left. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, etc.
8.120) Franklin Perez, RHP, Astros (James Anderson, RotoWire)
At 6-foot-3, 197 pounds and with the potential for three plus pitches and plus command, Perez has all the ingredients I look for in a future frontline starter. He has yet to post a K-BB% south of 20 percent as a professional, offering the best of both worlds when it comes to missing bats and limiting baserunners. Perez gave up more than two earned runs just three times in 15 appearances as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League, and is poised to establish himself as one of the game's elite pitching prospects in 2017.