Being the last pick in a dynasty draft is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy — but I would wish it on all 11 managers who picked above me.
Not knowing what my pick was coming into this draft, my strategy was initially to take as many power hitters as I could get my hands on. If I had an early enough pick, I might have been able to get two very good ones and go from there, but I didn’t. My strategy changed, but my philosophy didn’t: Of the prospects remaining, which one would I not make a one-for-one trade for any of the others? That is the guiding tenant of how I draft. If you haven’t read my guide to prospect dynasty drafts, feel free to check it out.
In all, I like this draft. The potential of all of my picks is collectively very high, and many of them have decent floors. There are a couple of do-overs I’d like to make in the later rounds, but for the most part, picks No. 1-9 went about as well as I could ask for from the 12th position.
Here we go:
No. 1/12: Forrest Whitley, RHP, Houston Astros; age: 21
Forrest Whitley falling to me was a gift. Simply put: He is the best pitching prospect out there at any age, at any level. I would have picked him fifth behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Wander Franco, Eloy Jimenez, and Fernando Tatis Jr. — in that order. With many pitching prospects, you are lucky if they have three legit pitches. Most have two and are working on a third. Whitley has five! Whitley can control them! Whitley might be in the majors this year! Whitley told me he’s a future Hall of Famer! Whitley’s mom told me the same thing! Why am I still screaming!?! It’s not: Top of the muffin, TO YOU! No. No, it IS!
Seriously, his fastball sits mid-90s, his power curve is one of the best in the minors, and he has a very good slider as well as an even better change up that fades away and a 90-mph cutter. So far in the minors he’s got the following stat line:
What more could you want? The only thing stopping him is health — which can be said about any prospect or player.
No. 2/13: Mackenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres; age: 19
I doubled down on pitching. I took the best right-handed pitcher in the minors at 12 and then the best left-handed pitcher at 13. Mackenzie Gore is a near 20-year-old strikeout machine. He’s got size, athleticism, a mid-90s fastball, a slow curve that can be a putaway pitch, a plus slider and a plus changeup. Picked third by the Padres in the 2017 draft, Gore flashed electric stuff in seven starts of rookie ball that year and fought through blisters in A-ball in 2018 for the following line:
He will likely begin 2019 in High-A as he tries to prove the blister problem is behind him, and all that is standing in his way from a rotation spot is one full season in the minors. He could be brought up in 2020.
No. 3/36: Nick Madrigal, 2B, Chicago White Sox; age: 21
Did I say that I was looking for power earlier? I must have forgotten that is what I was doing. Or maybe I remembered that having a 2B with speed, elite contact skills, and an incredible eye just might be as good. One of the best pure hitters in the 2018 MLB Draft, Nick Madrigal lived up to that billing, hitting a combined .303/.353/.348 in 155 at-bats shared between Rookie, A and High-A. He didn’t hit a single home run in those 155 at-bats, but he also only struck out seven times. At best, Madrigal will have average power, but if he reaches that, he’s got Dustin Pedroia potential.
No. 4/37: Trevor Larnach, OF, Minnesota Twins; age: 21
I went with two top-end pitchers in the first two rounds and two Oregon State teammates in the third and fourth rounds. I would have rather had a different Beaver, catcher Adley Rutschman, but he was picked a half-round earlier. To me, the difference between Kyle Tucker and Trevor Larnach is Tucker has more experience as a pro, having been drafted out of high school. Both Larnach and Tucker were picked out of high school in the 2015 draft, just 39 rounds apart. At 6’5″ and 200ish pounds, they are the same build. Larnach developed into one of the more consistent hitters in college baseball three years later, and I believe now has the same overall potential as Tucker.
|Trevor Larnach (Rookie through A)||.303||.390||.500||30.40|
|Kyle Tucker (Rookie through AAA)||.288||.357||.493||25.15|
Larnach has found his power stroke, hitting 19 HR in 68 college games in 2018, and another five between Rookie and Single-A. With a near 12% walk rate and a 16% strikeout rate, he has demonstrated an even approach that will work well in the upper levels of baseball.
No. 5/60: Malcom Nunez, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals; age: 17
This is what a lottery ticket looks like:
Numbers like this are a lottery ticket because Malcolm Nunez put them up in the Dominican Summer League. Now, if I put up numbers like this right now playing against little leaguers, I’d make it into a bumper sticker. But despite these numbers being unprecedented, the DSL competition is undeveloped and erratic. And Nunez is a thick, overpowering 17-year-old. He absolutely dominated his less-physically developed competition to a comical degree. This leaves us with the question: Just how good will he be against better competition? We’ll find out very quickly, but if it’s anything close to resembling his 2018 numbers, you should jump on him. The Cardinals have a track record of getting the most out of hitting prospects.
No. 6/61: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California; age: 20
We go from lottery ticket to war bond. I do not make many bold statements about prospects, but when I do, they turn into Paul Goldschmidt. Let’s make this quick — look at what he did for Berkeley in 2018:
|Andrew Vaughn 2018||.402||.819||1.350||23||59||63||44||18|
That is a better season than both Kris Bryant and Goldschmidt had before entering the draft. Mark my words: Vaughn will be an all-star — and more than once. His bat is too good not to be. He might not be the best fielding first baseman, but you don’t see this kind of production — even in college — combined with a solid approach (2:1 BB:K ratio) without MLB awards in the following years. Hot take alert: Vaughn is already the best fantasy 1B prospect.
No. 7/84: Spencer Torkelson, 1B/OF, Arizona State; age: 19
Who was the best hitter in Arizona State University baseball history? Barry Bonds. Who is the best hitter in Arizona State University baseball history? Spencer Torkelson. OK. That might not be true — yet — but it is very close. All Torkelson did as a freshman was break Bonds’ school record for homers with 25 in just 55 games. Statistically speaking, Torkelson’s first year in Tempe was as good as Bonds’ best:
|Barry Bonds 1985||.368||.447||1.160||23||66||61|
|Spencer Torkelson 2018||.320||.440||1.183||25||53||59|
What does that mean for the future? Got me. But it does mean this kid is a talented power hitter with above-average plate discipline for an 18-year-old. That is a rare and deadly combination. After all, Bonds had it, and look at how good he was.
No. 8/85: Nico Hoerner, 2B, Chicago Cubs; age: 21
Nico Hoerner has become a more household name recently, even being called the Cubs’ best prospect by some evaluators. He’s the fifth college hitter I’ve taken in this draft already because these are the kinds of guys I like: patient, seasoned prospects with developed skills. Hoerner has speed, bat speed, and a great eye, which he put together to dominate his very short 2018 pro debut after being selected 24th overall:
Scouts are impressed by Hoerner’s work ethic and baseball IQ. He played shortstop at Stanford, but he’s more likely to be at second base in the majors. Either way, the bat and speed will play.
No. 9/108: Ryan Noda, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays; age: 22
I’ll admit it: I made a mistake with this pick. Not that I don’t like Ryan Noda; I just should have picked him later. Who I should have taken was Cal Stevenson as he is a better version of Noda.
I am a big fan of OBP, almost more than any other hitting statistic when it comes to prospects. If a prospect can hit homers or steal bases without a good OBP, I usually drop him down the list further than most. On the other hand, when a player can hit, say, 20 dingers in 124 minor league games while accumulating 109 walks, he gets bumped up higher than most.
|Ryan Noda 2018 Single-A||.256||.421||.905||20||80||78||109|
10/109: Kyler Murray, OF, Oakland A’s; age: 21
NOTE: I made this pick before Kyler Murray said he’d enter the NFL Draft.
So this is what egg on my face looks like. At this point, he had only said he will play baseball. Now, there was obviously this risk baked in, but I stand by this pick. Murray is a freak athlete who has shown both power and speed. He’s the kind of athlete who could hit .250 with 20 HR and 50 SB. That kind of potential just isn’t out there at this point in the draft, and if that means it’s all or nothing, I’ll go for it.
11/132: Seth Beer, 1B, Houston Astros; age: 22
Another college bat (are you seeing a trend here?), Seth Beer was a Golden Spikes finalist his freshman year in 2016 after posting one of the best seasons ever:
His following years were not as impressive. He stopped getting pitches to hit and as a result reached for more, generating less contact. He also was seen as a hitter who would not do well in wood-bat leagues for the sole reason that he did not do well in wood-bat tournaments — talk about your small sample size. After getting drafted by the Astros at the end of the first round, he dominated A ball — which uses wood bats. He’ll start 2019 in Double-A and could advance quickly.
No. 12/133: Shane McClanahan, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays; age: 23
I have mixed feelings about this pick. On the one hand, I would rather have him than some of the pitchers picked before him (Franklin Perez, Jackson Kowar, Jonathan Loaisiga). On the other hand, Griffin Canning and Jay Groome, picked right after, are intriguing options. I like Shane McClanahan, who has a near-elite fastball with decent secondary stuff — along with durability concerns and velocity consistency concerns. He was lights out in his first stint as a pro, not giving up a run in 14 innings while striking out 26. More of that would make me look very good.
No. 13/156: Robert Puason, 3B, Unsigned; age: 16
I went from picking almost exclusively college players to some deep international prospects. Robert Puason has been thought of by scouts as the most talented international prospect to come along in almost five years (that includes Juan Soto, Franco, and Guerrero Jr., by the way). He was so good that former Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella risked his career — and lost it — by having a deal with him at 14, two years before MLB allows. Yes, Coppolella did this with other prospects too, but he was the one that everybody noticed, and Coppolella was banned from baseball for life. Maybe two other prospects picked 20 spots before or after him match his upside — that’s what I’m going for.
No. 14/157: Kotaro Kiyomiya, 1B, Nippon Ham Fighters; age: 19
This another one of those players who matches Puason’s upside. Rarely do you hear about high school prospects in Japan. The last time I heard of one was Shohei Ohtani. Then I heard of Kotaro Kiyomiya a year ago, when he broke the Japanese high school record for home runs, hitting 111. That is an insane amount of dingers at any level. What’s more is he visited the Cactus League in February 2018. He turned some heads with his power. He struggled after being called up as an 18-year-old in the NPB, but give him time.
No. 15/180: Cavan Biggio, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays; age: 23
Entering 2018, Cavan Biggio was a middling prospect in the Jays system. One might have thought he was only in the minors because his dad is a Hall of Famer. But changes to his approach and swing saw a burst of power as he went from 11 HR in Single-A to 26 in Double-A. He also walked 100 times, which is almost a walk per game. He also struck out 148 times, which is almost 1.5 strikeouts per game. It’s hard to tell what he will become, but if we’ve seen anything from kids of Hall of Famers the past few years, we know they are good bets.
No. 16/181: Corbin Carroll, OF, High School; age: 17
I picked Corbin Carroll for two reasons: 1. He’s from Seattle, and so am I, and 2. He reminds me of another advanced high school bat in last year’s draft: Jerrod Kelenic. He’s a little undersized, but Carroll has a fantastic approach for his age, an ability to spray the ball in all directions, and the speed to play center field at the next level. Barring a major step back in the 2019 prep season, he’ll be a top-10 selection. The real question is: At 5’10” and 165 pounds, how much power will he grow into?
No. 17/204: Colin Poche, RP, Tampa Bay Rays; age: 25
I just want to say: I love this man. It will be a shock if Colin Poche does not come out of the Grapefruit League with a spot on the Tampa Bay roster. Simply put, there is no way he should be as good as he is. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and his curveball is solid — and that’s it! Sounds dubious, I know, until you see the jaw-dropping results:
|2017 (A & High-A)||49.0||1.25||0.97||81||14.48||19|
|2018 (AA & AAA)||66.0||0.81||0.70||110||15.0||19|
Having not seen him live, I will say I can only guess by what I’ve seen through videos. His delivery doesn’t appear deceptive from center field cameras. So Poche must have a legendary ability to hide the ball either behind his head or elbow — and my guess is that his fastball also has unique movement. Those are the only explanations a guy with average stuff can lead the minors in K/9 for two straight seasons. He also has an impeccable walk rate (lower than 3.0) for a reliever.
No. 18/205: Blaze Jordan, OF, High School; age: 16
Some prospects you can just tell by their name what their future holds. Blaze Jordan (What?) has been hitting 500-ft bombs since before he could legally drive. That kind of power should not be ignored. How good is his hit tool? I have no clue. But that does not matter. This is the kind of talent that when we do know how good his hit tool is, he either becomes a mediocre prospect or he becomes Bryce Harper. Usually, when someone picks a 16-year-old kid in a prospect draft, everybody else rolls their eyes because they think it’s too early. But then, that is why I got him — because I got him too early. If I wait until everybody else doesn’t think it’s too early, I don’t get him.
No. 19/228: Cole Roederer, OF, Chicago Cubs; age: 19
A second-round pick in last year’s MLB Draft, Cole Roederer has already made a name for himself as a sound high school bat with a reasonable approach. I’ve read comps to an early Andrew Benintendi, which frankly sounds ridiculous. Something I do like to see high school draftees accomplish in their pro debuts: filling out doubles, triples, and home runs. It means that you don’t swing out of your shoes, you make solid contact, and you have speed. In 36 games, Roederer had 13 extra-base hits in rookie ball en route to slashing .275/.354/.465 with 13 steals. This kind of all-around production makes me believe there is a future for in dynasty leagues.
No. 20/229: Kumar Rocker, RHP, Vanderbilt; age: 18
One of the more sought after pitching prospects in the most recent MLB Draft, Kumar Rocker opted to let everyone know that he was headed to Vanderbilt instead. As a freshman, he’ll already have one of the best fastballs in the college game. Rocker has the build of a front-line starter, at ‘6’5″ and 250 pounds. He’s seen routinely hitting the upper 90s, and his slider flashes plus. Developing a third pitch will determine his success.
No. 21/252: Lenny Torres, RHP, Cleveland Indians; age: 18
A smaller right-handed pitcher, Lenny Torres stands 6’1″ and also has an exceptional fastball and slider. That combination has treated him well so far in the minors, as his pro debut yielded a 1.76 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 15 IP. Torres has shown decent control so far, but that is likely a mirage. As he faces better competition, he’ll need to better develop his changeup and control his arsenal.
No. 22/253: Zac Houston, RP, Detroit Tigers; age: 24
If you don’t follow the Detroit Tigers farm system, you probably don’t know who Zac Houston is. Allow me to enlighten you. Like Poche, Houston is a reliever with non-elite stuff who is producing elite numbers. Houston is ready for the big leagues, having thoroughly manhandled the International League to the tune of a 1.73 ERA in 38 innings while striking out 55. Those numbers pretty much encapsulate Houston’s entire minor league career:
|Zac Houston (5 Minor League Levels)||1.57||0.96||141.0||220||13.85|
No. 23/276: Jasson Dominguez, OF, Unsigned; age: 16
I spoke about Puason earlier. Meet Jasson Dominguez, who is giving Puason a run for his money for the top international prospect of 2019. Rumored to have a deal with the New York Yankees, Dominguez boasts tremendous power and above average speed. He’s a prototypical corner outfielder who could hit also hit for average.
No. 24/277: Tetsudo Yamada, 2B, Yakult Swallows; age: 25
When Tetsudo Yamada posts for Major League Baseball in the next few years, there will be no shortage of suitors. He’s not a prodigy like Ohtani, but he is a power-hitting second baseman who has a career .301/.432/.582 slash and who has gone 30/30 in the NPB three out of the past four years. Who wouldn’t want to get in on that? He turns 26 in July and could be in the majors in two years.
No. 25/300: Ibandel Isabel, 1B, Cincinnati Reds; age: 23
When you have the Mr. Irrelevant pick, you need to make a statement. Make no mistake: Power is what this pick is all about. Ibandel Isabel isn’t going to win any batting titles, but he did hit 64 bombs in 222 High-A games in 2017 and 2018. Now you might be wondering: Why would someone capable of averaging 3-plus homers at any level not get promoted? Because he also struck out 333 times in 222 games. Am I betting that changes? I guess. He is the 300th pick after all.
(Graphic by Justin Paradis)