Digging for Diamonds: Taylor Sparks
There comes a time in fantasy baseball where many of us decide it’s time to branch out and try a new league. For many of you who spend time reading this site it is safe to say you are far more than the average fantasy baseball enthusiast. Here at The Dynasty Guru we cater to dynasty league owners of all formats and roster sizes and recently I decided to branch out into an 85-man roster linear weights league where I found myself having to dig deeper than ever to find value.
The 85-man league that I participate in holds a Rule 5 draft, International draft, and a Rule 4 amateur player draft. When I took hold of my team the Rule 5 draft had passed so myself and fellow TDG writer George Bissell had begun to prepare for the other two drafts. The international pool is always much harder to figure out since translating stats from other leagues can by dicey but when preparing for the Rule 4 draft we decided a good place to start was organizational track record.
I began focusing on the first three rounds of the Rule 4 draft and already had some idea of which teams were most successful drafting that high. Obviously many of the players that are taken in the first few rounds never even make it to the show but one team that consistently seems to place guys there is the Cincinnati Reds. If you go back just ten seasons the Reds have produced the following major league players in the first, second, and third rounds.
- 1st Round– Homer Bailey, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, Todd Frazier, Devin Mesoraco, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Mike Leake, Yasmani Grandal and three prospects on the cusp Robert Stephenson, Jesse Winker, and Michael Lorenzen
- 2nd Round-Travis Wood, Zack Cozart, Billy Hamilton and the just missing the cutoff Joey Votto who was taken in 2002
- 3rd Round-Tony Cingrani
During our draft we ended up taking quite a few Reds players Wyatt Strahan, Daniel Wright, and Taylor Sparks. In fact the Reds and the Oakland Athletics were the only teams that we ended up drafting three players from. Despite being drafted in the second round by the Reds, Sparks ended up falling to us in the 7th round where we started our string of Reds picks taking Strahan in the 8th and Wright in the 9th. At the time Sparks was selected he was the 153rd player off the board and at this point in the draft you are just looking for a good tool or two.
Sparks has tools up the wazoo and was recently graded by Fangraphs own Kiley McDaniel as having 60 grade raw power and 55 potential speed. In his write-up on Sparks McDaniel mentions the “Todd Frazier comps some in the Reds organization are putting on him” referring to the potential power and speed combo that the player possesses. Sparks no doubt looks the part at 6’4” and an athletic 225 lbs. During his final season at UC Irvine Sparks put up a .360 BA, 10 HR, and 7 SB over the course of just 222 at-bats.
What Sparks struggles with is his strikeouts and suspect history of being able to lay-off pitches. While hitting .360 at UC Irvine sparks only walked six times. During 2014, his first taste of rookie ball, positives and negatives were on full display as Sparks managed to hit 10 HR and steal 14 bases all while getting his walk rate up to a respectable 12.9%. On the negative side he struck out 35% of the time and only batted .232 over his 55 game sample size. Because of this Sparks failed to make the top ten list of Reds prospects for Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, and Fangraphs.
Sparks could be your Tuna!
In a surprisingly aggressive promotion the Reds have decided to start Sparks off in A+ ball playing third base for the Daytona Tortugas. So far he has been rewarding them with a .277/.306/.468 slash line to go along with two home runs and three stolen bases. While much work still needs to be done to refine his game Sparks has plus physicality with ample power and speed and is just the type of guy I want to be taking a flyer on late in my drafts. If he puts it all together we could be looking at a 20/20 third baseman down the road and if he can’t make enough contact he’s out of the league. I’ll take a raw toolsy player like Sparks anytime over a low ceiling sure thing reliever because it’s a lot more fun to land a tuna than it is to come home with a perch.