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:
Kevin Padlo, 3B, Colorado Rockies (Drafted: Fifth round, 143rd overall)
If I told you that there is a Rockies infielder that just turned nineteen and currently owns a 150 wRC+ (.887 OPS), has stolen 23 stolen bases in 41 games, and might not be owned in your league, is that something that you might be interested in? Padlo struggled mightily over 97 plate appearances in his initial assignment to full-season Asheville this season, which was an aggressive assignment for one of the youngest players of last year’s draft class. Padlo didn’t turn nineteen this season until July 15th and his .145/.273/.277 performance in 27 games to begin the year may be the reason why he’s still available for you to grab. In 41 games played in the more age-appropriate Northwest League, Padlo is hitting .289/.393/.493 and has five home runs to go along with those 23 steals (in 26 attempts).
(Video courtesy of MiLB.com)
Padlo’s performance this season comes on the heels of the 1.015 OPS mark that he put up in the hitter’s paradise of Grand Junction of the Pioneer League last year.
Mark Zagunis, OF, Chicago Cubs (Drafted: Third round, 78th overall)
(Video courtesy of MiLB.com)
The Cubs moved Zagunis to the outfield from behind the plate after selecting the former Virginia Tech product in an effort to try and get the most out of his athleticism — and to get his advanced bat in the lineup more frequently. After hitting .330 as a junior (the lowest mark of his collegiate career), the Cubs plucked him with the fourth pick of the third round and signed him to a below slot deal. Zagunis stole sixteen bases in 55 games last season and has added eleven steals to his six home runs in 99 games this season, playing for Myrtle Beach in the Carolina League (High-A). Zagunis’ profile includes outstanding plate discipline, as evidenced by his 70 walks against 71 strikeouts in 443 plate appearances this season, good for a .404 on-base percentage, which leads the league. The 22-year-old Zagunis’ wRC+ mark of 142 puts him fourth among league qualifiers and there’s no crime in being behind Brad Zimmer (wRC+ 162) and Clint Frazier (wRC+ 145). Zagunis has seen most of his action in right field this year, playing in 64 games at the position, and while he may not have the raw power of a prototypical corner outfielder, his speed potential and stellar on-base skills make him an interesting fantasy prospect. Zagunis has been working with hitting coach Mariano Duncan this season at Myrtle Beach, who (unofficially) Bret ranked 173rd on his inaugural Top-500 list. Circle of life.
Stone Garrett, OF, Miami Marlins (Drafted: Eighth round, 227th overall)
(Video courtesy of Fangraphs)
Garrett has opened more than a few eyes as a 19-year-old playing this season in the New York-Penn League, where he’s clubbed his way to a .302/.346/.568 line over his first 179 plate appearances of the season, adding in seven home runs and seven stolen bases. Doing all of this between taping episodes of Dateline NBC is impressive enough, and the right-handed hitting Marlins prospect’s wRC+ mark of 161 puts him fourth in the league — and Garrett is the only teenager in the top-ten. Garrett has been helped to this point by a .372 BABIP mark that will likely come down and will have to improve his walk rate (currently at 6.1 percent) as he gains more experience, but there’s a lot of like here from a fantasy standpoint.
J.J. Jansons is a contributor to The Dynasty Guru. Be one of the first to follow him (literally) on Twitter, where you can request future topics to be covered here at TDG. Follow @jansons_jj