Digging for Diamonds: Finding Value in Last Year’s Draft Class, Part Three

We as discussed in the introduction post to this series, more and more dynasty leagues are rostering upwards of 150-200 minor leaguers these days. Often times performances from the previous draft class go largely unnoticed before the end of the calendar year when various prospect lists come out and some prospects that should be owned in deeper leagues end up in the same player pool as the year’s most recent draftees during offseason dynasty drafts. If you’re able to beat your competitors to the punch and pick up these types of prospects before the end of the season, you’re essentially getting free draft picks, and that’s always a nice feeling.

Let’s take a look at a few prospects from the 2014 draft class that have seen their value rise this season and might not be owned in your league:

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Digging for Diamonds: Finding Value in Last Year’s Draft Class, Part Two

If you missed last week’s introduction post, shame on you, but I’ll be nice and summarize what we’re trying to touch upon with this series of posts. There is a lot of value to be found this time of the year in reviewing the previous draft class as more data becomes available to peruse and explicate. If you can beat your fellow owners to the punch and identify some prospects that might generate buzz over the rest of the season and into the winter, you might be able to use a few roster spots to turn a profit as soon this offseason if you need to include a few prospects as tack on pieces to help close trades for bigger fish, or even find a few long-term pieces, if that’s what you’re aiming to accomplish.

Let’s take a look at a few prospects from the 2014 draft class that have seen their value rise this season and might not be owned in your league:

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Digging for Diamonds: Finding Value In Last Year’s Draft Class, Part One

Now that the short-season leagues are in full swing, we are able to get a much better look at the 2014 draft class as a whole. This time of the year is a great time to try and find some undervalued players who might not be owned even in 16 or 20 team leagues that roster over 150-200 minor leaguers. Some players that are currently unowned might even be able to sneak their way onto the back-end of various top-100 prospect lists by the end of the season, establishing value that requires very little investment.

There are basically two types of prospects that fit this profile, high school draftees exceeding expectations in short-season action and players with college experience who are mashing their way through the lower minors in their first taste of full-season action:

Let’s take a look at three prospects from the 2014 draft class that have had their value rise this year and might not be owned in your league:

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Prospects Poppin’: Who Is Victor Robles?

Trust and value your sources. Doing so is obviously of great importance when delving into the world of prospects, particularly since it’s impossible to keep track of the roughly 9,712 different minor league players currently getting a paycheck to play baseball. Whether it’s John Sickels of Minor League Ball, Keith Law of ESPN Insider, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, Ben Badler or JJ Cooper or any other the other fine folks at Baseball America, the great prospect team over at Baseball Prospectus — you get the idea — when a voice you trust tells you to pay attention to prospect you’ve never heard of, you’re best served as a dynasty league owner to take notice. Hopefully we have a few folks here at The Dynasty Guru whose opinions that you trust and value, and one person whose opinion I value greatly is Jeff Moore of Baseball Prospectus. When Jeff left this little nugget in his Spring Training notebook on March 26th, my ears perked up and I filed it away for later:

“Robles has yet to appear stateside in regular season action, so excitement should be quelled for the moment, but keep it in the queue. This is a name you’re going to hear a lot about soon.”
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Scouring Midseason Prospect Rankings

We’ve reached the middle of July, which is when most prospect purveyors update their respective lists to reflect the multitude of changes that have occurred since the beginning of the season. As we’ve touched on before, it is extremely important to stay abreast of the constant changes in the valuation of prospects in order to run a profitable dynasty league franchise. Perceived value in the prospect world is very important, especially in trade talks where it can sometimes be the final piece of information that closes a deal, particularly if your trading partner lacks the knowledge of prospects (and life in general) that you, The Dynasty Guru reader has in spades.

We’ll be diving into the midseason rankings of:

John Sickelsthe proprietor of the outstanding SB Nation site Minor League Ball (who ranks 75 prospects)
Baseball America (who ranks 50 prospects)
Keith Law of ESPN.com Insider (who ranks 50 prospects)

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Midseason Catching Prospect Check-In

It’s hotter than the surface of the sun where I live and I’m going on vacation in three days, so let’s skip the pussyfooting around and get right down to business.

Several of the top catching prospects made it to the majors this year and/or exhausted their rookie eligibility, including Blake Swihart (#15 in our preseason top 50 catchers), Kyle Schwarber (#18), Kevin Plawecki (#29), Andrew Susac (#30), Austin Hedges (#37), Christian Bethancourt (#38), and J.T. Realmuto (#48). Here’s a quick update on the guys from our preseason list who are left in the minors and a word about a couple of risers who weren’t.

Jorge Alfaro, Texas Rangers (#16)

Alfaro’s season is likely over after having ankle surgery in June. Scouts seems somewhat divided, with some still placing him inside the top 50 on midseason lists and others taking a wait-and-see approach. Baseball Prospectus was highest at #34 and Keith Law also had him barely inside the top 5o while Baseball American and Minor League Ball did not. There’s no question Alfaro still possesses two elite tools in his raw power and cannon arm but over 49 games before the injury, Alfaro was striking out just shy of 30 percent of the time and only walking at a 4.3 percent clip. A 61:9 walk-to-strikeout at Double-A doesn’t portend great things for his ability to access his raw power as he moves up the ladder and the lost development time won’t help but Alfaro just turned 22 and still has the same high ceiling that earned him a spot inside our top 20 in the first place.

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Perusing Futures Game Pitchers

Let’s get our jump to conclusions mat out and make some rash judgments based upon hitters getting one or two at-bats playing in their first game in front of a more than a few thousand fans — or even better — let’s make some sweeping generalizations regarding starting pitchers who are overthrowing because they are only going to pitch one inning in an exhibition game. Or, let’s not ever do that. If you’re in need of that type of hard-hitting analysis, you can look at plenty of people’s Twitter feed from Sunday. As the Mike Pelfrey of Baseball Prospectus’ award-winning TINO podcast says, casting aspersions based upon one game makes about as much sense as following MLB Trade Rumors on Instagram.

To be sure, there is certainly knowledge to be gained from seeing top prospects play against each other on a major league field, but adjusting prospects ahead of one another based upon one game (which I saw plenty of going on while monitoring the game on Twitter) falls somewhere between dangerous and ludicrous. Instead, let’s take a look at a trio of prospects who appeared in Sunday’s Futures Game that are largely unowned in dynasty leagues and could see their value rise over the ‘second half’ of the season:
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