The TDGX Draft has been alternately slowly creeping and gallantly galloping along, and as I write this I’ve just made my 26th selection of the draft. You can read a more in-depth look at my first five selections here, and I’ll post my roster construction as it exists presently at the bottom of this piece. Here’s some briefer commentary on the picks I’ve made since that top 5 and how I see my squad shaping up.
6.112 Everth Cabrera, SS SDG
Cabrera was far and away the best SS option on my draft board here, and I was excited to be able to snap him up. His speed and stolen base efficiency is second only to what we assume is to come out of Billy Hamilton, and he was in the midst of a tremendous breakout before the suspension came down last year. He’s always shown an impressive ability to take walks despite poor power, and if he can couple a double-digit walk rate with the .280 AVG he was on pace for last year he’s a guy that can steal 60+ bases in a full season. At 27 I like what I’ve got here for the next 4 years, and between him and Braun I can launch a “Bash Brothers” redux marketing campaign: the Biogenesis Brothers. The kids will love it.
7.129 Billy Butler, Util KCR
Butler gives me some needed AVG stability, and in a league with two Util slots I’m not the slightest bit worried about his lack of positional eligibility. He’s seen a crazy increase in two-seam fastballs over the last couple seasons, and now that it’s pretty clear what the book is on him I’d expect to see some adjustments from him going forward. He’s too good a hitter. I’m looking for three-four more seasons of .300/20/80/80 out of him, and I think there’s a solid chance I get it.
8.152 Dylan Bundy, SP BAL
I’m hopeful he can come back later this season and give me something down the stretch, but this was a pick made with an eye towards 2015 and beyond. Before his Tommy John surgery he was the best pitching prospect in baseball, and his work ethic and make-up are enough to convince me he comes back post-surgery without missing a beat. Went back and forth between him and Gausman, as well as a brief flirtation with underrated veteran Doug Fister But I wanted some youth here, and I view Bundy as having that next level of true #1 ceiling that Gausman doesn’t have.
9.169 Corey Kluber, SP CLE
I was thrilled Kluber was still here at this point in the draft. I buy completely into his breakout performance of last year, and if anything his 3.30 FIP shows room for substantial growth on top of his 3.85 ERA with some help in the LOB% and BABIP luck ferries. His cutter was one of the deadliest in baseball last year, and he should provide strong strikeout numbers and a steady WHIP from the #3 slot in my rotation.
10.192 Mike Napoli, 1B BOS
I missed out on an elite first base bat earlier in the draft, but wanted to make sure I didn’t end up entirely empty-handed. Napoli and Teixeira were the headliners of a very thin remaining field, and there was really no contest for me. Bracketing the part where I’m a die-hard Red Sox fan and can’t conceive of ever rooting for Mark Teixeira to succeed at playing baseball, it’s an open question as to what Teixeira’s wrist surgery will do to his power. And since Teix changed his approach to sell out for pull power at Yankee Stadium, that power’s all that he has left. Napoli’s got a similar swing-for-the-down approach, and what he gives away slightly to Teixeira in HR ceiling he makes up for with a much more stable floor. And he’ll move up to the cleanup spot in Boston this year behind two guys in Ortiz and Pedroia that should both be on base around 38% of the time (or better). I like him for 25 homers and 175+ R+RBI, and that’s stellar production at this point in the draft.
11.209 Hisashi Iwakuma, SP SEA
12.232 Alcides Escobar, SS KCR
13.249 Omar Infante, 2B KCR
I’m slightly concerned about Iwakuma losing some bite and effectiveness on his devastating splitter, but in the 11th round I view him as a steal for the #4 spot in my rotation. He’ll lose ~30 innings in April on account of the injury, but it’s a small price to pay if he can deliver even 80% of last year’s value for te next few seasons. Escobar is another high SB% guy that should be able to maximize his SB opportunities as a result and provide some additional near-elite speed from my MI slot. I think his BABIP recovers from some bad luck last year and he posts .270+ averages going forward. That’s important given his lack of walks, but even with a poor OBP at 27 he should have a few more years of 30+ stolen bases for me. Infante is the least exciting pick I think I’ve ever made in a fantasy league, but I needed a second baseman and it was slim pickings for guys guaranteed a starting job. I actually like him for AVG and R at e top of the Kansas City lineup, but yeah…not my finest moment.
14.272 Dan Vogelbach, 1B CHC
15.289 Raimel Tapia, OF COL
I decided to was the taste of boring Infante out of my mouth with a youth movement, and I’m glad I did, as our benevolent dictator Bret unleashed a cascade of profanity unfit for publication on this family site upon hearing of the selection. Vogelbach might be my favorite prospect in the minors, and not just on account of my affinity for fat baseball players. He can flat-out hit, and for fantasy purposes I could care less about his “lack” of defense “skill” and general “liability” for run-prevention efforts. He’s got a potential 65 hit tool to pair with 70 power. I may have missed an elite present first baseman, but Vogelbach’s going to be the standard of the next wave. And Tapia’s got some of the most renowned raw hitting skills in the low minors. If he hits like scouts think he will this season he’s one of the better bets to make the leap from short season ball to the upper echelons of prospect lists across the country. He’s a lottery ticket at this point, but one with the potential for a huge payout down the line.
16.312 Ryan Howard, 1B PHI
17.329 Denard Span, OF MIN
18.352 Andre Ethier, OF LAD
19.369 Dan Haren, SP LAD
20.392 Garrett Jones, OF/1B MIA
21.409 Adam Dunn, Util CHW
At this point it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and fill out my roster with crusty, unloved veterans – hopefully ones with the potential to still contribute well in at least one category or, failing that, give me a well-rounded floor. Howard’s two years removed from an exploded Achilles – an injury so gruesome that my toes are curling just typing it. Buried under his horrifying performance against lefties and recent injuries is an ability to punish right-handed mistakes and once again flirt with 30 homers in a hitter–friendly park, health of course permitting. I like the gamble here for my CI slot. Span and Ethier are both boring veteran types, but should provide some steady value for my outfield – Span with AVG, R, and hopefully more SB’s playing for a more aggressive manager, and Ethier with solid AVG and RBI numbers to pair with won’t-kill-me HR and R totals. I think he logs 450 at-bats as an absolute floor given Kemp’s ongoing health issues and Crawford’s general fragility. Fellow Dodger Dan Haren is hittable but doesn’t walk anyone, and he should hopefully have enough left in the tank to provide me with some steady WHIP support. He’s also a solid bet to win a whole bunch of games with the potent Dodger lineup backing him up. As a #5 man in a league this deep I like his value here. Jones hits cleanup for a Major League team and Dunn hits bombs sometimes, so there’s that.
22.432 Brad Peacock, SP HOU
23.449 Sean Manaea, SP KCR
24.472 Nick Williams, OF TEX
25.489 Alex Avila, C DET
26.512 Amed Rosario, SS NYM
Thirsting for a little bit more upside and youth I switched gears at this point. Peacock came out of nowhere in 2012 to dominate AA and AAA, but struggled subsequently before posting a nice stretch in the second half in Houston. He has a pattern of struggling initially at a new level before making adjustments, and it looked like he may have made the necessary changes down the stretch last year. His slider took several steps forward, and he offers some intriguing potential on the cheap as as 26 year old #6 starter for me. By all accounts I’ve read the hip and back issues that dropped Manaea’s stock from a potential 1.1 guy last spring down to the supplemental 1st round are behind him. If that’s true the 22 year old has the potential to shoot through the minors very quickly and make this pick look like a heist in short order. Williams is not nearly as raw a hitter as his ugly 110:15 K:BB ratio in the Sally League might suggest, and if he can refine the rest of his game enough to pass for a Major Leaguer his plus-plus potential hit tool and plus raw power and speed tools could make him a fantasy monster. Between him and Tapia I’ve got two high-ceiling, low-floor bets to anchor my future outfield. And lost in the shuffle of a terrible injury-addled 2012 and poor first half to 2013, Alex Avila is still only 27 years old and already has one top 5 fantasy catcher season under his belt. He rebounded to hit .303/.376/.500 in the second half last year. Yes, that was fueled by a ludicrous .422 BABIP, but he’s shown himself to be a good line-drive hitter in the past who’s capable of posting deceptively high BABIP’s, as his .320 career mark can attest. IF he can get back to hitting fly balls at the 40% level he was at pre-2012 instead of the 30% mark he’s posted since there’s some real potential value here. If not, he’s a .240/15/45/45 type like every other catcher available here, and I go along my merry way knowing I at least found a glimmer of upside this deep in the draft. Rosario is light years away, but plus power projection in the middle of the diamond is something worth rolling the dice on.
Conclusions in Progress
Overall I’m generally pleased with how my draft has unfolded, save one glaring weakness that I don’t have a single closer or prospective closer on my roster at a time when every one of those ships have sailed. I don’t like to entirely punt a category like that in a 5×5 league, but that’s the position I’ll start the season in. I’ll have to be smart in targeting some next tier middle relievers with breakout potential over the next several rounds, and be aggressive with my FAAB bidding for any closer jobs that open up during the season. I’ll also need to ramp up on reliever selections for ratio support. I think my rotation as it stands has a chance to be an asset, with a good mixture of cagey vets and upside youth. I don’t have any real WHIP murderers (yet), and I’ve got some nice strikeout potential even as far down as Peacock at #6. I’ll likely grab another couple starters to add to my depth, but there’s not a lot left in terms of pitching upside. Offensively I’ve got a nice mix of plus power (Braun, Longoria, Howard, Dunn, Napoli, and eventually Springer) and plus speed (Cabrera, Escobar, Braun, Span, and eventually Springer), and hopefully enough AVG support from guys like Braun, Butler, Infante, and Span to offset some of my anchors (Napoli, Dunn, Howard, and potentially Springer once he’s up). I’m hoping to stay at or slightly above the middle of the pack there, while competing across the rest of the offensive board. Down on the farm I’ve managed to build a nice collection of high risk/high reward upside types. Springer gives me what should be immediate Major League production, as he’ll be up by June at the latest this year, and Bundy won’t be far behind. Vogelbach and Manaea hopefully represent a next wave, followed by longshot youngsters Williams, Tapia, and Rosario. I’ll give the draft so far a 55 present and 60 future on the 20/80 scale, which I’d be quite happy with given the quality of competition.