Dynasty leagues are the fantasy baseball connoisseur experience given the ability to own players at all levels and watch them flourish (or flounder) under one’s watchful eye. The thrill of competing for a fantasy title knowing that your roster was carefully cultivated over many years is a just reward. Much of the enjoyment comes from scouring for prospects, and much of the pride is derived from betting on the right talent and believing in those young players long enough to reap the benefits when they emerge as stars. Many become foundational pieces, while others become currency to trade away for established stars who can help shore up areas of need.
In a sense, it’s as close to real franchise team-building as fantasy baseball gets.
For that reason, First-Year Player Drafts are crucial for future success. While the hype surrounding these prospects might be high (as shiny new things always are), it only grows as those young bucks shine in their first opportunity at pro ball.
A new pool of players gets drafted every summer, called Rule 4 picks, followed by all eligible international players to be signed in early July. Most fantasy dynasty leagues push this new crop of players into the next offseason to be eligible for auction or picked in a draft. Some leagues allow owners to pick them up immediately as soon as they show up in their respective hosting site’s player pool.
A few of us at Pitcher List participated in a snake-style draft of first-year players: Ten managers each selecting five first-year players with an accompanying analysis of their picks. You can view the draft board here. Mock Draft Analysis will run from July 1-5 and July 8-12, with one release per day.
|Brennen Gorman’s Analysis||Adam Lawler’s Analysis|
|Travis Sherer’s Analysis||Jamie Sayer’s Analysis|
|Paul Ghiglieri’s Analysis||Shelly Verougstraete’s Analysis|
|Andy Patton’s Analysis||Scott Chu’s Analysis|
|Daniel Port’s Analysis||Hunter Denison’s Analysis|
My pre-draft strategy was simple: I intended to emphasize hitters. The obstacle I faced was landing the eighth pick in this draft. I feared many of the hitters I wanted to make the cornerstone of this draft would be gone by the time I picked, so I was already thinking about how I may have to pivot in Round 2. Let’s take a look at my selections:
Pick #8: C.J. Abrams, SS, (Padres)
C.J. Abrams went sixth overall to San Diego, so I suppose I should be delighted he slipped to me with the eighth pick. However, international players like Jasson Dominguez weren’t part of the actual First-Year Player Draft, so Abrams didn’t really slip much at all in this fantasy draft.
In any case, Abrams was the best hitter available here, and he’s arguably a top-five fantasy talent in this draft class. With 80-grade speed, he’s the fastest player in this group of young players; he currently profiles as a high-contact hitter, but there remains further projection that allows for at least average power at peak performance. Speed is increasingly becoming a premium in baseball, and the Padres aren’t afraid to let their players run.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is the current shortstop of the future, but it’s very possible San Diego took Abrams with designs of having him play center field given Manuel Margot‘s stalled development. Abrams’ strong hit tool and speed should make him what the Padres had hoped Margot would be: an ideal leadoff hitter with blazing speed to roam cavernous Petco Park and elite contact skills to set the table for the rest of a loaded lineup. Abrams is already off to a scorching start to his pro career in the AZL.
C.J Abrams through 35 plate appearances…
ISO of .212
wRC+ of 211 (not sure how it went down yesterday, but okay)
12 runs scored
5.7% BB rate
11.4% K rate
Speed score of 9.2 (For context, Edwards at the same level was 8.9)
— Ryan Payne (@RyanPayne32) June 26, 2019
Pick #13: Jackson Rutledge, RHP, (Nationals)
This is where I debated a pivot. The pitchers in this class were not nearly as heralded as the hitters, and my plan was to go hitter heavy. However, Josh Jung, Brett Bady, Bryson Stott, and Corbin Carroll all went before I could pick again. Stott and Bady had been my targets—I was sure at least one of them would fall back to me, but it didn’t happen. I almost went with Keoni Cavaco here due to his loud tools, but the lack of a track record had me wary. Thus, I had to at least consider an alternative strategy. Ultimately, I decided to pivot.
Jackson Rutledge wasn’t the consensus top pitcher in this draft class. That honor went to Nick Lodolo out of TCU. However, to me, Lodolo projects more like a middle-rotation arm in terms of upside.
I like Rutledge’s tenacious JUCO background, and his high velo and elite spin rates project top-of-the-rotation stuff in the hands of a Washington franchise with a strong history of developing aces. At 6’8″, 240 pounds, he’s built like an oak tree, and his fastball, slider, and curveball all give him big time stuff to match. Rutledge had 134 Ks in 82.2 IP in 2019. In short, he has some of the biggest upside of any pitching prospect in this draft class. Rather than take a hitter rated much lower on my board, I felt comfortable taking the plunge on a pitching prospect I had rated as the best in this class.
Pick #28: Will Wilson, SS, (Angels)
A lot of quality players were made before I could make this pick, which I anticipated given the fourteen picks I had to watch ensue before I could make another selection. I decided to return to the strength of this draft (hitting) and balance out the speed pick (Abrams) with some power. In 2019, Will Wilson hit the third most home runs in the ACC. He doesn’t have the speed or arm strength to stick at shortstop long term, but I’m content with him at second base where his power potential will have more value.
Wilson boasts solid tools, emerging plate discipline, real power potential, and a plus hit tool. I’ll take that at second base. In fact, he’s wasted no time asserting himself as a pro.
Will Wilson smacked a two-run shot in the first for @OremOwlz to open the scoring for the visitors.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) June 30, 2019
Pick #33: Matthew Allan, RHP, (Mets)
Feeling pretty good about the power and speed I’ve already added, I took a gamble on more pitching as more hitters flew off the board. While they zig, I might as well zag. Matthew Allan is the best high school pitcher in this draft and arguably a first-round talent; he had been ranked as high as the 13th-best prospect available. Former MLB executive Adam Fisher referred to Allan as the “linchpin” of the Mets’ draft, and for good reason. To get him in the fourth round here was worth whatever risk may come. Asking price and signability concerns suppressed his draft stock, and he was a better investment this late than the hitters still on the board, nearly all of whom had question marks that made me hesitate.
Allan features a prototypical build (6’3″) and he’s been scouted as having two potential plus-or-better offerings in his fastball and curveball. If he can develop a third pitch (changeup) and refine his command some, the upside is a front-line starter. In a draft rich with bats, I’m not taking a pitcher from this class if he doesn’t have the upside of a front-line starter. So far, I’ve taken two arms, and both do have that upside. The floor seems to be a mid-rotation starter, so there’s some extra cushion value in that for a fourth-round pick.
Pick #48: Logan Davidson, SS, (Mets)
Tons of power. Tons of swing-and-miss. At this stage, I’m exclusively looking for upside. Having invested more in pitching than I thought I would, it was time to grab one more hitter to capitalize on the value this draft has to offer. Logan Davidson’s raw power is undeniable, and he even features some speed as well. He was the Athletics’ first pick, so to find him still available in Round 4 could be considered a steal. Davidson plays solid defense, and he should be able to stick at short so long as he is able to improve his contact skills.
A’s director of scouting Eric Kubota has compared Davidson to Corey Seager, so the upside is certainly there.
Although the plan had been to load up on bats in a draft loaded with talented hitters, I came away with a nice blend of position players and pitchers featuring projectable speed, power, and top-of-the-rotation stuff. Many would say the best bet with the eight pick would be to just take the biggest upside prospects, warts and all. However, a better pivot might be to find stability baked into the upside of my selections. Most of the biggest hype prospects had all been snatched up by the time I was able to make the eighth overall pick, so I had to do some digging to mine for the traits and grades that would yield that right combination of potential and solid floor. All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with the end result.
Graphic by Michael Haas (@digitalHaas on Twitter)