In the 3rd installment of my series on the draft we meander into the waning rounds of the draft’s second half. We’re in our third week of drafting at this point, and as you can imagine we’re down to the longest of shots and fringiest of regular and semi-regular Major League contributors at this point. To refresh your memory on my first five picks you can check here, and rounds six through 26 are here. Here’s a brief synopsis on the thinking behind each of my next eleven picks and where I stand heading into the final three selections I’ll have in this draft.
27.529 Paco Rodriguez, LHP LAD
I took a small amount of guff for drafting a glorified LOOGY here, but I see Paco as more than that longterm. And in the meantime while he figures out how to maximize his stuff against righties he will be one of the premier shutdown lefties in any bullpen in baseball. Last year he held lefties to a .129/.218/.182 line, good for .188 wOBA. Righties didn’t exactly light him up either, though they hit a discernibly more robust .198/.284/.357. His changeup showed marked improvement though, and actually rated as a plus pitch. Just now entering his Age 23 season there’s plenty of projection left here if he can keep developing that change to keep righties off his fastball. And even if he can’t I’ve got years upon years to look forward to of 50-60 dominant ratio support from the soft underbelly of my bullpen.
28.552 Jarrod Dyson, CF KCR
A speculative pick to be sure, and one that if injury (cough cough Lorenzo Cain cough cough) or ineffectiveness hits the Royal outfield should net me boatloads of steals. Dyson’s shown elite stolen base efficiency in his career, with two straight 30+ seasons and a career 87% success rate. He gives me some depth in a shallow outfield in the event of Springer staying in AAA longer than anticipated this summer, and if he does find himself a full-time gig for any stretch of the season immediately becomes a nice asset for speed.
29.569 Brian Wilson, RHP LAD
Since I managed to get myself shut out on actual current closers I figured I’d target the reliever with the best chance of landing himself a Proven Closer gig next off-season. Wilson came back well from Tommy John surgery last summer, pitching lights out relief down the stretch and in the post-season. He flashed velocity that rebounded to pre-surgery levels (though not to the highs of his heady 2010-11 stretch of dominance), and a strong year setting up Kenley Jansen this year will put him in line for a three year, twenty-something million dollar deal to close games for a crappy team at the least. In the meantime I’ll look to get some additional ratio support from him this summer.
30.592 Charlie Morton RHP PIT
I thought this was one of my better value picks of the draft. Since his comeback from Tommy John surgery Morton’s been the single best groundball pitcher in Major League baseball, and he plays in a perfect environment in front of the shift-happy Pirate defense. The club just inked him to a three-year deal that provides a nice vote of confidence in projecting his stability as a part of their rotation. He’s a fringe top 60 starter by FIP-, and as a seventh starter for my squad a steal here.
31.609 Vaughn Bryan, CF StL
I decided to balance this last little run on stable MLB pieces with a lottery ticket purchase, and Bryan was at the top of my queue for low-minors upside. He’s an extremely raw talent, but the athleticism oozes out of him and he’s got the kind of absurd fantasy upside that only St. Louis could find in the 35th round from a tiny Florida community college. He snuck into BP’s top 10 list on account of a 7+ run tool and dreams of a 5/6 hit/power combo. That’s Carlos Gomez if it all clicks. That “if” is the size of my 33rd round pick (see below), and the accompanying “when” is several years away, but he’s a fun one to dream on. I always like to bet on superior athletes when I make longshot picks like this, and Bryan certainly fits that mold.
32.632 A.J. Ellis, C LAD
I grabbed Ellis as a caddy in case my hopeful projection of an Alex Avila renaissance don’t come to pass. Ellis is more valuable in OBP leagues, but the fact that he gets on base at a nice, consistent pace is helpful in a lineup as potent as the Dodgers’, and he should be a solid bet for 10ish homers and 40-50 runs a year for the next couple seasons anyway. He’s a nice insurance policy to have on my bench.
33.649 Japhet Amador, 1B HOU
Seriously, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS MAN! He’s listed at 6’0” and three hundred fifteen pounds. And yet…he killed the ball in the AAA-equivalent Mexican League last year, putting together a ridiculous .361/.409/.655 line with 36 bombs in under 500 plate appearances. It certainly remains to be seen if any of that production can translate against big league pitching. And thanks to a delayed arrival this spring he lost valuable time to make the case for an opportunity to hit against big league pitching. But he’s a fun flyer to see if he can’t force the Astros’ hand, and at 27 they’re likely to give him a shot on the sooner side of later to see what, if anything, they have in him.
34.672 Jesus Aguilar, 1B CLE
First base flier-b to Amador’s –a, I figured I’d grab another MLB-ready option for some potential 1B/CI/Util punch. No slouch himself in the big boy department, Aguilar checks in at 6’3” and 265 pounds. He’s hit well at every stop in the minors, most recently sporting a .275/.349/.427 line at AA Akron. Things really came together for him in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason though, as he mashed 18 homers in just 58 games. The Indians seem open to giving him a shot at playing time this summer, especially if the great Carlos Santana Project at third doesn’t pan out and/or Yan Gomes struggles to repeat last year’s breakout. He’s got the kind of pop and professional hitting approach to make some fantasy noise if he gets the opportunity, and I like the upside a lot at this point in the draft.
35.689 Neal Cotts, LHP TEX
This pick may just come back to haunt me in 2019, as I decided to wait one more round on Red Sox bonus baby Rafael Devers and instead snatch up Cotts for additional present ratio help. After battling severe injuries since his last big league appearance in 2009 Cotts last year returned to the majors armed with an extra two miles-an-hour on his fastball and a devastating cutter, and those new toys helped make him one of the better bullpen arms in the American League at age 33. I don’t think the performance was a fluke, as the peripherals and arsenal support his breakout. I like him for strikeout, WHIP, and ERA support for the next couple years, health permitting.
36.712 Jordan Schafer, OF ATL
Similar to my piggybacking of Amador and Aguilar for corner infield pop, I grabbed Schafer here as another option for bench speed in my outfield. Similar to Dyson, Schafer appears pretty locked in as his team’s 4th outfielder, and if and when he’s able to sneak in a stretch of regular playing time he’s got the stolen base chops to deliver bags in bursts. He’s not a long-term solution for anything, but there’s at least potential here for a plus contribution in one category this season, and as I fill out my roster that’s more than pretty much any other available bat has to offer at this point.
37.729 Justin Williams, OF ARI
I was extremely excited to land Williams here, as Arizona’s 2013 second rounder was the top prep power bat on my draft board last summer. His hit tool is a big ol’ question mark, but there’s nothing questionable about his 70 grade power. He raked in the Arizona and Pioneer leagues after signing last year, and I’m hopeful for a low-A assignment to open the year this spring. He’s forever and a day away, and he’s got a long way to go in refining the raw into usable game power. But 30-homer upside is nice to be able to dream on this late, and he’ll be one of the more fun prospects in my stable to follow.
Overall I still like the general direction of my squad, and I think I was able to find a nice blend of raw upside and (hopefully) usable Major League component parts in this stretch of the draft. My ability to compete for this season and next will depend in large part on catching some breaks with offensive veterans like Howard, Dunn, Napoli, Span, and Ethier playing to the upper echelons of their projections. It’s not an impossibility, though it will certainly require some luck. I see batting average as my biggest potential liability offensively, while a full season of George Springer would really allow me to do some damage on the basepaths. My power numbers should be solid at worst, with some upside if enough of those veterans come through. Runs and RBI I’ll adjust accordingly as the season unfolds, though I’ll note that I think I start from a decent theoretical point for both. On the pitching side it’s going to hurt that I’ve already punted 10% of the scoring categories by snagging no closers. Still, if I can scrape together enough saves to finish out of the basement in that category I like my rotation to be able to deliver strong value in the other four categories. Lee-Miller I’ll put up against just about any other 1-2 around, and assuming his finger heals properly enough to avoid any loss of effectiveness with his splitter I love Iwakuma as a #3 to pair with Kluber in the middle of my rotation. And at the back Haren and Morton should be capable innings eaters that won’t destroy my ratios, while I like Peacock as an intriguing flyer. My farm’s got a strong top three in Springer, Bundy, and Vogelbach, followed by a tremendous lot of boom/bust types in the low minors. If I can hit on one or two of those guys I’ll enter 2015 in decent shape to keep a pipeline of talent headed for the big club.