Scouting The Stat Line: 2015 Draftees, Part Two
I started this series last week by covering several first round selections from June’s draft. You might have noticed that piece didn’t include any pitchers and this one will be the same. Scouting the stat line is dubious in any case but especially so for new professionals with a small handful of innings. Even more so than for hitters – from whom this is also an important truth – you should seek out the opinions of scouts on these guys instead of relying primarily on their statistical achievements.
I should also mention that my colleague and Dora the Explorer jersey enthusiast J.J. Jansons is currently running a series on 2014 draftees. You should check that out, not only because Jansons is good, but because it’s ultimately more useful than this series of my own since it relies on a full year of pro ball scouting and performance instead of a couple months’ worth.
Here are a few players taken in rounds two to four. I have one more of these in me, where I’ll cover some longer shots from the later rounds for you deep leaguers.
Austin Riley, 3B, Atlanta Braves (Competitive Balance Round A, 41st Overall)
The Mississippi prep prospect was a two-way player whose eventual role was unclear heading in to draft evaluation season but after Riley’s fastball velocity reportedly backed up this spring, third base became his most likely landing spot. Indeed, the Braves installed Riley at the hot corner during a brief but successful stay in the Appalachian League (.314/.417/.529 in 60 plate appearances). Riley has been arguably more impressive in 30 Gulf Coast League games, hitting .255/.331/.500 with seven home runs, good enough to tie him for the league lead. Riley was considered by some to be a reach this early but he’s a big kid with above-average raw power and the fact that he’s getting to it already, having just turned 18 years old, is an encouraging sign for the Braves.
Donnie Dewees, OF, Chicago Cubs (2nd Round, 47th Overall)
Dewees lost most of his sophomore season to injury, then had an impressive summer on the Cape as a precursor to his monster junior season. North Florida and the Atlantic Sun isn’t exactly first-class competition but a .422/.483/.749 triple-slash with 18 home runs, 23 steals, and a 6.4 percent strikeout rate will catch your eye no matter the context. The Cubs nabbed Dewees in the second round to go with first-rounder Ian Happ, himself a collegiate player with a resume full of production. Dewees has played 45 games with the Cubs’ Northwest League affiliate and has five home runs and eight steals, though his .239 average suggests some struggles at the plate. His polished approach hasn’t shown up in his walk and strikeout numbers yet (36:12 K:BB) and he wouldn’t be the first player to fade in his rookie debut after playing a full college season. There is little cause for concern here but it will be interesting to see how Dewees adjusts to advanced competition as he climbs the ladder.
Andrew Stevenson, OF, Washington Nationals (2nd Round, 58th Overall)
Stevenson played a plus centerfield at LSU and if his defense can carry him to the majors, his main fantasy asset will be his wheels. After leading the Cape Cod League with 21 steals in 24 tries during the summer of 2014, Stevenson swiped 26 during his junior season in Baton Rouge. Stevenson has played at three levels since the draft and has stolen 15 bases to go with a .322/.370/.409 triple-slash. He is currently in the Sally League and while he is unlikely to ever hit for power, the development of the hit tool will dictate whether Stevenson becomes an everyday player or fourth outfielder at the major league level and subsequently, whether he’ll be a viable fantasy option.
Mikey White, SS, Oakland Athletics (2nd Round, 63rd Overall)
White is an example of why this exercise can be as dangerous as it is instructive. After dominating the New York-Penn League to the tune of a 155 wRC+ in 29 games, the former Alabama shortstop has been awful in a 17-game Midwest League stint. We shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from either, as White isn’t as good as his NYPL line or as bad as the .145/.221/.226 he’s posted in Beloit. He swings an above-average stick and has enough approach to slot in at the top of a lineup but lacks the power or speed to be an impact fantasy player. After playing exclusively at shortstop in college, White has played shortstop and third base as a professional, an interesting mix since many believe second base is his eventual home. With first rounder Richie Martin also in the system, appearances in the six spot may be hard to come by in 2016.
Jahmai Jones, OF, Los Angeles Angels (2nd Round, 70th Overall)
Like Stevenson, Jones’ best fantasy attribute is his speed. Unlike Stevenson, Jones was 17 years old on draft day. As such, he’s forever away from making an impact but Jones is a tremendous athlete who played both second base and outfield in high school and has played solely on the grass in the Arizona League. He’s stolen 14 bases and while his .241/.333/.336 is pretty underwhelming, he projects to be a solid hitter with an advanced approach and a chance to grow into adequate power. Jones was committed to North Carolina and I’m selfishly disappointed I won’t get to see him in person since he chose not going to class in Burlington over not going to class in Chapel Hill.
Harrison Bader, OF, St. Louis Cardinals (3rd Round, 100th Overall)
You might know Bader as the guy who drunkenly crashed a scooter into a curb, knocked himself out, and was subsequently suspended by his manager for nearly a third of his sophomore season. If not, you do now. He’s worth knowing for his exploits on the diamond, too. In addition to poor control of two-wheeled vehicles, Bader’s college career included a team-leading .312 batting average as a freshman and a junior season that saw him sacrifice some contact for power, resulting in 17 home runs and a top ten slugging percentage in the SEC. He’s continued tearing it up as a Cardinal, quickly graduating from the NYPL to the Midwest League. Bader is batting .291/.379/.441 in full-season ball, with four home runs and 14 steals and as a productive, advanced college hitter, is reminiscent of fellow former Gator Preston Tucker. There’s more speed and feel to hit here but, like Tucker, Bader may be overlooked because of his triple-digit draft position. He makes for a solid play for dynasty owners looking for a prospect a little closer to the majors and it wouldn’t completely shock me if Bader outperformed both of the prep outfielders the Cardinals selected before him.
Demi Orimoloye, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (4th Round, 121st Overall)
Standing 6’4″, 225 pounds and boasting premium athleticism with a toolbox that would make Craftsman blush, Orimoloye hits all my soft spots. The tools have been evident in his 33 game professional career, as he’s hit .292/.319/.518 with six home runs and 19 steals. Orimoloye is producing in the Arizona League despite an approach that has seen him walk three times against 39 strikeouts. That kind of aggression is unlikely to play outside of rookie-league environments but Orimoloye is 18 years old and has plenty of time to tone it down a little. His upside is immense and even though most analysts think Orimoloye was a steal in the fourth round, even that characterization undersells his fantasy potential. I have Orimoloye comfortably inside my top 25 dynasty prospects from the 2015 draft and while that may seem aggressive, an uneven spring and subsequent draft slip isn’t enough to make me discount his prodigious raw tools.