Digging for Diamonds: Finding Value in Last Year’s Draft Class, Part Four
As we discussed in the introduction post to this series, more and more dynasty leagues are rostering upwards of 150-200 minor leaguers these days, and some ridiculously deep leagues (like a few that I’m involved with) roster double or triple that amount. Often times performances from the previous year’s draft class go largely unnoticed before the end of the minor league season, which we’re rapidly approaching. These performances are highlighted 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, which is always fun for the whole family.
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:
Reece Reese Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies (Drafted: Fifth Round, 142nd overall)
Hoskins is a huge (6’4″, 225 pounds) right-handed hitting first baseman plucked in the fifth round out of noted baseball powerhouse Cal State Sacramento, which I believe is right down the street from one of my favorite universities. Hoskins’ numbers (.237/.311/.408 in 273 plate appearances) weren’t earth-shattering in the New York-Penn League last season as he acclimated himself to his first taste of professional ball, but he did club nine home runs in 70 games and was perhaps victimized by a .268 BABIP. His walk rate (7.7 percent) and strikeout rate of just under twenty percent were acceptable and overall the numbers were still good for twelve percent above league average.
Video courtesy of MiLB.com
Despite the spelling of his first name, the Phillies decided to keep him around and assigned him to Low-A Lakewood to start this season and the 22-year old certainly enjoyed his time in the Sally, mashing his way to a .322/.397/.525 (wRC+ 161) line that included nine home runs in 290 plate appearances, and his .204 isolated power mark was good for sixth overall in the league (min. 200 PA). The Phils moved Hoskins up to the Florida State League, where he continued his tear, hitting .317/.394/.510 with eight homers in 277 plate appearances, and bumped up his walk rate to over ten percent while keeping his strikeout rate below twenty percent. Hoskins’ numbers in the FSL are more impressive when looked at in league context, as his wRC+ mark of 174 was tops for all hitters, dwarfing the next two hitters, outfielders Harold Ramirez (wRC+ 163) and Anthony Alford (wRC+ 153) — the only two other hitters to post a mark above 150. As a 22-year old, Hoskins was right at the league average age, and his numbers — across the board — were better than a fellow 22-year old college graduate performing in the same league, Mets prospect Michael Conforto, with Hoskins’ OPS (.904) checking in at almost one-hundred points higher than Conforto’s mark of .811.
On the most recent episode of the award-winning TINO podcast, our overlord Bret Sayre said that Hoskins might sneak into the back-end of the top-100 fantasy prospects this offseason, and for good reason — he can mash –and you might have heard that there just might be an opening soon at first base in Philadelphia.
Isan Diaz, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks (Drafted: Second Round, 70th overall)
Diaz is a prospect that may be owned in deeper leagues, but the Pioneer League MVP deserves more attention in shallower leagues as well. The Pioneer League (Rookie Level) is a great place to hit with many ballparks at altitude, and Diaz has certainly benefited from the combination of the thin air and a whopping .434 BABIP this season. However, Diaz’s monster 2015 performance in posting a .360/.436/.640 line with thirteen home runs and twelve stolen bases from a middle infield position cannot be further ignored. The 19-year old’s wRC+ mark of 169 (second overall in the league) was the highest of any teenager in the league and he was one of only two players under the age of twenty to finish in the league’s top twenty, with the other being Royals outfielder Amalani “Mother” Fukofuka (wRC+ 131), which yes, this is mainly a guise to include his wonderful name.
[milbvideo id=”350981683″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]
Video courtesy of MiLB.com
Brewers “shortstop” Jacob Gatewood, taken twenty-nine picks before Diaz in last year’s draft is far more widely owned in leagues of all sizes and the native of Puerto Rico compiled an OPS of almost three hundred points higher; Diaz at 1.076 and Gatewood checking in at .807. Their ownership levels shouldn’t be as drastically different as they are.
Brad Markey, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Drafted: Nineteenth Round, 559th overall)
Markey is a name to monitor in very deep leagues (300+ prospects), as the Cubs have moved the former Virginia Tech product to the rotation at High-A Myrtle Beach (after appearing in the bullpen at Low-A South Bend earlier in the year), where he was downright diabolical. Markey isn’t overpowering (although ESPN’s Keith Law saw him at 91-96 MPH in a recent start), but he does offer stellar control, walking just ten batters in 84 innings pitched between the two levels, only allowing 59 hits, with only one of those leaving the ballpark — good for a 0.82 WHIP total. Markey struck out 40 hitters in 55 innings since being inserted into the rotation in limiting hitters to a .185 batting average against on his way to a sparkling 1.15 ERA (2.36 FIP) over his nine appearances. At 5’10” and 185 pounds, Markey doesn’t offer the projectable frame ideally desired from an elite pitching prospect, but if the Cubs start him off in their Double-A rotation and he carries over his good work from the end of this season, he could put himself on the prospect map in his effort to establish himself as a back-end rotation option.
We’ll be back soon to take a final look at the 2014 draft class before moving on to take a look at some standout performers in the complex leagues.
J.J. Jansons is a contributor to The Dynasty Guru. You can also find his work (often dynasty related) at Baseball Prospectus. Be one of the first to follow him (literally) on Twitter, where you can request future topics to be covered here at TDG.