PL Dynasty Mock: Ben Ruppert’s Picks
In the midst of a sea of mock drafts, the PitcherList staff completed a prospect draft in which 300 prospect-eligible players were selected. With no real guidelines for roster building, selections came down to how much you liked the player’s prospects (pun intended) for the future, and how likely he is to reach those goals. Here is the link to the draft results. Other mock draft reviews can be found below:
With how fickle prospects can be, it is important to draft players mixed between close to and far from the majors to maximize value. I began my draft looking for bona fide talent, then switched to players that flashed high-upside talent. That being said, here are my 25 picks, and why I selected each player.
Pick 1.3 – Fernando Tatis, SS, San Diego Padres – AA
My colleague Adam Garland (give him a follow on Twitter @AdamGarlando) wrote a fantastic piece on Tatis here. Adam goes into great depth discussing his rise as a prospect, as well as his big strengths and weaknesses. The biggest hole in his game is his swing and miss tendencies, evidenced by his high K% throughout the minors paired with a low BB%. He has also consistently carried a high BABIP, which will likely take a hit once he reaches the majors.
Despite these holes, he has always found ways to put up big numbers. He was one of 10 players in the minor leagues to post a 20-20 season in 2017, and after a slow start in an injury-shortened 2018, he recovered to slash .286/.355/.507 with 16 home runs and 16 steals. The slow start weighed down his overall numbers, but finding a shortstop prospect with this much raw power and speed is a rare commodity. He is a special prospect and was the no-brainer pick at number three after Vlad Jr. and Jimenez went one and two.
Pick 2.22 – Brendan McKay, LHP/1B, Tampa Bay Rays – A+
Really debated taking now Marlins prospect Sixto Sanchez here, but McKay is an extremely intriguing player. McKay has risen through the Rays’ system as a two-way player, starting games on the mound and playing first base. While he has had far more success on the mound and analysts have suggested they halt the two-way experiment, the Rays are adamant on giving McKay every chance he needs to thrive as a hitter and pitcher.
As a pitcher, McKay has dominated at every level with a strikeout rate consistently in the high 20s, even as high as 40% in single-A. In A+ last season he started nine games and held a 28.1% K% with a 3.21 ERA and 2.88 xFIP. He has great command of all of his pitches and could be ready to pitch in the majors if he didn’t have anything else to work on. What does need fine tooling in his game is his bat. McKay his only .210/.317/.403 in A+ last season with a 27.3% K%, prompting the Rays to deploy him at DH heading into this season to keep his pre-game work simpler. We already know he can pitch well, if the experimenting with his bat improves it will make McKay all the more dangerous of a weapon for Tampa Bay moving forward.
Pick 3.27 – Triston McKenzie, SP, Cleveland Indians – AA
This may be my Tribe homerism showing, but I couldn’t help myself taking McKenzie in this spot. He is expected to start the year in AAA after throwing 90.2 innings in AA last season. His fastball, changeup and curve are all plus pitches, and he maintains good command of all three. He has posted a solid K/BB ratio at every level.
What’s questionable about McKenzie at the moment is not his talent, but the opportunity. The solid Indians rotation features stalwarts Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco at the top, Michael Clevinger solidifying his spot last season, and Shane “Not Justin” Bieber with the fifth spot, he would need an injury or a poor season from Bieber to make the rotation. Given that, when he does make it to the majors this season it will likely be in a bullpen role. Give him time though, when he makes it he’s going to be a special talent with SP1/2 upside.
Pick 4.46 – Dylan Cease, SP, Chicago White Sox – AA
Went back-to-back pitchers here, right before taking bats for the next several rounds. Cease, who came over with Eloy Jimenez from the Chicago Cubs for Jose Quintana, was named the MLB Pipeline Pitcher of the Year in 2018 after going 12-2 with a 2.40 ERA and 1.06 WHIP over 124 innings. He was particularly impressive after his promotion to AA, posting a 1.72 ERA and 2.29 xFIP while inducing a ton of swinging strikes and punch-outs.
Despite all the strikeouts, he isn’t a perfect prospect. He has posted a double-digit walk rate across every level of his career, showing he still has work to do with his command. His fastball is electric, his curve is good, but his changeup needs some fine tuning. If he can develop his secondary pitches, Cease, along with Michael Kopech, can become an excellent 1-2 punch for the White Sox. He has a chance to break the Sox rotation later in the year.
Pick 5.51 – Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves – AAA
This fictional team needed a 3B, and falling into my lap in the fifth round was Austin Riley. Riley is a bit of a polarizing prospect, with some not quite sure how his bat will translate to the majors. His 70-grade raw power is as advertised, with 71 home runs throughout his minor league career including the 12 last season he knocked out in AAA. He has even made great strides in the defensive aspect of the game, now rated as an average defender with a solid arm from third.
His contact skills are OK, but he swings and misses a TON. Throughout his career, he has held a K% well above 20%, and in AAA last season, it got as high as 29.3%. He still managed to hit .282/.346/.464, but if he wants to stick around and be more than a power threat in the majors, he will need to be more selective at the plate. He will get some time to work things out with the acquisition of Josh Donaldson to man 3B, but an injury to him (feelings in calf intensify)could cause Riley to see the majors sooner than later. His power alone makes him a big threat at the plate.
Pick 6.70 – Estevan Florial, OF, New York Yankees – A+
Florial is still a ways away from the majors, with a projected arrival time of 2021. He is a gifted athlete, flashing plus speed, power and one hell of an arm in the outfield. Unfortunately, that may be where the good stops for Florial. He has some serious issues with pitch recognition, with a K% hovering anywhere from 27% to 32% over the past three seasons. This stems from some holes in his swing. As you can see here, his lack of control over the bat causes him to seemingly flail at pitches.
Florial is the definition of a boom or bust prospect for the Yankees. The tools are certainly there; between the power, the speed, the arm, he’s got it all. However, until he cleans up the mechanical parts of his game, he will never capitalize on his oozing potential. This was a risky pick, but the upside here is tremendous.
Pick 7.75 – Yusniel Diaz, OF, Baltimore Orioles – AA
Diaz was the prize of last year’s Machado deal and is a much more stable prospect than the aforementioned Florial. Heading into this season, he is the Orioles’ number one prospect, highlighted by his elite power at the plate. He was thriving with the Dodgers AA affiliate before the trade, hitting .314 with more walks than strikeouts. He then made it to the minor league Futures Game and caused a ruckus, smacking two HRs while taking home MVP honors.
Diaz endured a slow start with the Orioles AA affiliate, hitting .239 over 38 games. Despite that poor start, he has made some strides in his career, with walk and strikeout rates continually moving in the right direction and a slowly rising ISO. He does put the ball on the ground too much (42.9% GB% last season), which would be huge for his power if it can be corrected. With the O’s outfield crowded as it is, he will have time in the minors to work on these issues.
Pick 8.94 – Daz Cameron, OF, Detroit Tigers – AAA
Cameron is the last in my string of OF selections. Son of former major leaguer Mike Cameron, Daz Cameron ended last season in AAA and is the closest Tigers prospect to making the leap. He turned 22 this offseason, and at 6’2” 195 lbs., he is a beast in the outfield. He rose from A+ to AAA last season, posting double-digit walk rates in A+ and AA before struggling in limited AAA work. He will need to work on lowering his strikeout rate, but he has flashed power and solid speed in his time in the minors.
Cameron struggled in his brief AAA stint, slashing .211/.246/.316 over 15 games with a career-low 3.2% BB%. He will begin the year in AAA this season and will hopefully post a line closer to the .285/.367/.470 he posted in 53 AA games. If Cameron comes out hitting, there isn’t much talent in the Tigers outfield keeping him down. He may never hit for a high average, but has 15/20 upside at the plate.
Pick 9.99 – Adrian Morejon, SP, San Diego Padres – A+
At only 19 years of age, Morejon is still a big work in progress for the Padres. Injuries have limited him in the past and his emotions have gotten the best of him at times, but between 2017 and 2018, he has made some nice improvements. He was able to add a few ticks to his fastball and further developed his curveball, allowing him to get it in the zone more often when needed, or get hitters to chase it in two-strike counts.
The results were an increase in strikeout rate from 19.2% in A ball to 26.6% in A+ last season while limiting hitters to a .230 BAA. The majority of contact he did allow was put on the ground. Though he still has a ways to go, Morejon flashes the stuff needed to be an effective major league pitcher. If he can put a full season together in the minors, he could shoot up the prospect ranks.
Pick 10.118 – Brady Singer, SP, Kansas City Royals –
Singer was selected 18th overall in the 2018 MLB draft out of the University of Florida. He was superb in his time as a Gator, helping lead his team to a national title while winning the Dick Howser Trophy and the SEC Pitcher of the Year award in 2018. He finished last season with a 12-3 record and a 2.55 ERA while holding hitters to a miniscule .204 BAA.
On the bump, Singer offers three solid pitches. The heater is his best, sitting at 95-96 consistently with life. Scouts have pointed out the pitch can be flat at times, but Singer has worked between 2017 and 2018 to fix the issue. He also features an above average slider and a continuously improving changeup. At 22, he still has plenty of time to develop, but with three good pitches, he should shoot up through the Royals system with his top-of-the-rotation potential.
Pick 11.123 – Sean Murphy, C, Oakland Athletics – AAA
Team Ruppert needed a catcher, and with several off the board at this point, Murphy was my best target. Murphy is due to start this season at AAA, but with Josh Phegley and Chris Herrmann being the only obstacles in his path, it will only be a matter of time before we see him in the majors. He spent the majority of last season in AA, hitting .288/.358/.498 while showing good pitch recognition at the plate. His power won’t turn any heads, but he did manage to smack out eight in 68 games.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners, offense isn’t his strength, but he could quickly become a Gold Glove winner behind the plate. He has an absolute cannon of an arm, gunning down 50% of runners in AA and AAA last season. His glove will get him to the majors, and anything he does with the bat will be a huge bonus for the A’s. For fantasy purposes, at catcher, all you need is someone who plays every day and isn’t a sinkhole offensively. Murphy could fill that void upon arrival if all goes right.
Pick 12.142 – Marco Luciano, SS, San Francisco Giants –
Back on July 2nd of last year, the Giants inked 17-year old Luciano to a $2.6 million contract out of the Dominican Republic. He was ranked #3 on MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects list and comes into 2019 as the Giants #5 prospect overall. At 6’2” and 180 lbs., Luciano has already turned heads with his power & speed combo, as well as his great arm from shortstop. He will begin playing ball in the Giants system this season, but at 17, he is still a ways away from being fantasy relevant. Check out this video. He has a swing that looks nice and fluid and can generate easy power. It remains to be seen how he adjusts to baseball in America, but the future looks bright given his raw skills and abilities.
Pick 13.147 – Kevin Smith, 3B/SS, Toronto Blue Jays – AA
Behind the Blue Jays more well-known top prospects hides Kevin Smith. Smith went from being a glove-first SS in 2017 to a rising star in 2018. While working with the Blue Jays hitting staff, he noticed some holes in his swing, ones that did not allow him to square up on high fastballs and saw him flailing at breaking pitches. In 2017, he hit .271/.312/.466 with mediocre power and strikeout rates.
We saw a huge change in 2018, where he tore up A ball and was promoted to A+, where over 83 games he hit .274 but with 18 HRs and 17 steals while improving his strikeout and walk rates. He did this while maintaining his well above average defensive abilities. With Bo Bichette and Vlad Guerrero Jr. manning SS and 3B for the Blue Jays for years to come, it remains to be seen where Smith will fit with the big-league club. For now, he can continue to improve his hitting in AA to open the 2019 season.
Pick 14.166 – Mark Vientos, 3B, New York Mets – R
The 19-year old Vientos is a towering figure at 6’4”, but at 185 lbs., has some filling out to do. The Mets drafted him in the second round of the 2017 draft, which was a bargain because he was considered first-round talent. He debuted in the Mets system in 2017, playing in 47 games while posting OK numbers as one of the youngest players in the league.
He was able to make huge strides in 2018, mainly in the plate discipline department. He posted a nearly 1:1 K:BB ratio while upping his power numbers and overall batting average. Vientos plays good enough defense with a nice arm, so he should stick at 3B, but moving to 1B is an option. If he can put on some weight and boost his power numbers in 2019 along with his already elite plate discipline, he will be a force to be reckoned with. He should begin the season in A ball.
Pick 15.171 – J.B. Bukauskas, SP, Houston Astros – AA
This was one of my favorite picks of this draft, and I was happy to snag him this late. Bukauskas rose from Rookie ball to AA last season, and although he struggled with his control at times, he posted very solid strikeout rates across every level. He spent most of his time in A+ ball, where he made five starts, going 3-0 1.61 ERA wit ha 29% K%. This also came with a 3.23 xFIP, but he held hitters to a .138 average.
Like other Astros’ pitchers, Bukauskas has benefitted from the RPM revolution (see this article). Bukauskas routinely posted some of the highest RPMs in the league with his heater, making it far and away his most dangerous pitch. He also possesses an excellent slider, but his changeup needs plenty of work to be an effective third pitch. He may be sent to the bullpen if he cannot further develop the change, so his ceiling varies between being a quality starter or a high-leverage piece in the bullpen.
Pick 16.190 – Jeter Downs, 2B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers – A
Downs was acquired by the Dodgers in the blockbuster trade that sent several major leaguers to the Reds. He played his first full season in A last season, hitting .257/.351/.402 with decent power numbers. While the .257 average leaves much to be desired, he was able to steal 37 bases and got on base enough thanks to a good 9.9% BB%.
Drafted as a SS, Downs spent most of last season playing 2B and figures to do so with the Dodgers, with Corey Seager manning SS for the foreseeable future. He played fine defense at 2B, making half as many errors as he did at SS while playing 30 more games at the position. Downs is one of the top 2B prospects in the league and could see time with the Dodgers as early as next season, though most likely in 2021.
Pick 17.195 – Julio Rodriguez, OF, Seattle Mariners –
The Dominican Republic-born Rodriguez signed with the Mariners in July 2017 and immediately excelled in the Dominican Summer League, finishing as an All-Star and league MVP. Last season in Rookie ball, he continued to post solid numbers, showing excellent plate discipline and flashing good power/speed numbers.
He held a .75 BB:K ratio while hitting .315 with a .404 OBP. He did hit a ton of balls on the ground and there was some weak contact in there, with a relatively high infield fly-ball rate, but when he did make contact, he fared very well, with 27 of his 69 hits going for extra bases. Rodriguez has a very high ceiling if he continues to fill out, with his next test at A ball beginning this season.
Pick 18.214 – James Kaprielian, RHP, Oakland Athletics – A+
Injuries have kept Kaprielian off of the mound for two straight seasons, but the key piece in the Sonny Gray trade has tons of potential if he can stay healthy. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017, and though the A’s hoped to have him available for 2018, he was not due to lingering shoulder soreness. Here we are now in 2019 and, uh oh. Injuries have struck again in the form of a lat strain, which will keep him out for a minimum of two weeks before being reevaluated.
When he last pitched in 2016, he made three starts in A+ and held a 1.50 ERA with a 1.70 xFIP. He has talent, and at 24, is still young enough to overcome these injury woes eventually.
Pick 19.219 – D’Shawn Knowles, OF, Los Angeles Angels – R
In his first taste of pro ball, Knowles impressed with the bat and glove while playing all three outfield positions. The Bahamian import displayed nice plate discipline and flashed elite 70-grade speed. His compact swing won’t bring much power, but he was able to put the ball in play often, with a .311 average over 58 games. When he wasn’t making quality contact, he was able to draw walks with an 11% BB% and steal nine bases. He has top-of-the-order, table-setting potential in the Angels lineup.
Pick 20.238 – Nick Solak, 2B, Tampa Bay Rays – AA
Solak had an excellent first season in the Rays system, showing a nice power improvement in AA. After hitting only 15 HRs in 194 games prior to last season, he blasted 19 in 2018 with 21 steals, while hitting .282/.384/.450 with good walk and strikeout rates. While his talent may be on the rise, the 2B may have trouble cracking the Rays lineup with Willy Adames and Joey Wendle holding down the middle infield.
Pick 21.243 – Andrew Knizner, C, St. Louis Cardinals – AAA
Knizner tore it up on his promotion to AAA last season, slashing .315/.383/.407 over 17 games. He has never hit for much power in the minors, but has routinely posted averages above .300 with a low K% and an OK BB%. He is the clear heir apparent to Yadier Molina and should see time with the Cardinals this season. He doesn’t have the same arm as Molina or even the aforementioned Sean Murphy, but Knizner has a good contact bat and is solid defensively. His skill set should translate nicely into an everyday catcher role.
Pick 22.262 – Tyler Freeman, SS, Cleveland Indians – A
Freeman impressed last season in A- ball, doing a nice job atop the order with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He hit .352/.405/.511 with 14 steals and 49 runs scored. He posted an extremely low K% for the second straight year, though it came with a 2.7% BB%. He only hit two HRs over 72 games, but his SLG% was supported with 29(!) doubles. If he can turn some of those doubles into HRs, his stock could soar. He will likely need to transition to 2B with Lindor manning SS, but his fielding and hitting look solid so far.
Pick 23.267 – Joey Wentz, LHP, Atlanta Braves – A+
Wentz joins a long line of Braves pitching prospects, which includes Michael Soroka, Kyle Wright and Touki Toussaint. He made only 16 starts due to a lat injury last season, but did well with a 2.28 ERA and did a good job of limiting the long ball. Though the lat injury may have made an impact on his season, he did still have a 3.91 xFIP and posted the lowest strikeout rate of his minor league career. He is mainly a control-over-power pitcher, with an excellent changeup and an alright fastball and curveball.
Heading into 2019 healthy, it should be a rebound season for Wentz. He could see the majors next year, possibly debuting in a bullpen role with the logjam of starters the Braves have.
Pick 24.286 – Jordan Yamamoto, SP, Miami Marlins – A
The 22-year old Yamamoto has already thrown 397.2 minor league innings. Starting in 2014, he has continually found ways to improve his control while increasing his strikeout rate. Between 2017 and 2018, he has pitched between Rookie ball and AA, posting an ERA no higher than 2.51. Flashing a good fastball, plus breaking stuff and a decent change, he has made big strides for the Marlins and could make a big impact as early as next season. Low risk, very high reward as a 24th round pick.
Pick 25.291 – Lewis Thorpe, SP, Minnesota Twins – AAA
Last but not least, we land on Lewis Thorpe. Thrope made his way up to AAA last season, though spent the majority of the year in AA. He has routinely posted mid-to-high 20% strikeout rates and has been slowly declining his walk rates. His fastball-slider combo led him to post a 3.58 ERA in AA with a 3.04 xFIP. In 2018, he earned the Twins’ most outstanding minor league pitcher award. While he lacks a solid putout pitch, Thorpe has middle of the rotation potential down the road for Minnesota.
Graphic by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)