Digging for Diamonds: Finding Value in Last Year’s Draft Class, Part Five: The Final Frontier
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 before rosters freeze, you’re essentially getting free draft picks, which was the goal of this exercise and we hoped you’ve enjoyed all four prior editions. If you missed any of the previous four, they are linked here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4.
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:
Dylan Cease, RHP, Chicago Cubs (Drafted: Sixth Round, 169th overall)
The Cubs threw the keys to Lil’ Cease by selecting the 6’1″ right-hander out of a Georgia high school and sent him almost immediately to the operating table to undergo Tommy John surgery in late July of last year. Cease is certainly not your ‘normal’ sixth round pick, as he was given $1.5 million (just slightly above the slot value of $269,500) from the Cubs to forgo his Vanderbilt commitment. The bonus, at the time it was signed, was the fourth highest of all-time for a sixth-round selection and certainly the most since the current slot system was implemented in 2012 for a sixth-rounder.
(Video courtesy of Perfect Game Baseball)
Cease, whose fastball was clocked at 97 miles per hour in high school, was kept out of action until June 22nd of this year when the Cubs sent him to their complex-level team in Arizona, and in his first start back he reportedly was sitting at 94-96 MPH and touched 98-99 MPH — not too shabby for a first time back from Tommy John and doubled as his first professional appearance. Cease went on to make eleven appearances (eight starts) this year in Arizona, pitching 24 innings in total, striking out 25 and allowing only twelve hits, with the team capping his starts at a maximum of three innings. Cease understandably struggled with his command, walking sixteen hitters, but he looked sharp enough for Baseball America to name him the second best prospect this season in the Arizona League. Cease was viewed as a first-round talent by many (and was paid as such) before his injury and he is certainly a prospect that has the ability to take a giant step forward next season as he gets more professional innings under his belt. The Cubs selected Cease after taking pitchers Jake Stinnett in the second round and the previously profiled Justin Steele in the fifth round, and while he may be the riskiest of the trio — he also likely has the highest ceiling of the three and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cease sneak his way onto the back end of top-100 lists by next winter.
Ryan O’Hearn, 1B, Kansas City Royals (Drafted: Eighth Round, 243rd overall)
The Royals selected the big left-handed hitter (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) out of Sam Houston State after his junior season, where he hit eight home runs and posted a .799 OPS — numbers that don’t exactly scream power-hitting first baseman. That a first baseman would be drafted as highly as he did from a non-powerhouse program indicates that the Royals believed that he’d be able to tap into his in-game power once he was removed from Don Sanders Stadium (apparently a hitting graveyard) and thus far in his professional career, they’ve been exactly right.
(Video courtesy of MiLB.com)
O’Hearn took home last year’s Pioneer League MVP award after clubbing his way to a .361/.444/.590 line (wRC+ 162, .229 ISO), that was certainly buoyed by a .425 BABIP. He added thirteen home runs in 64 games and walked in over thirteen percent of his plate appearances while striking out in just over twenty percent and was moved up to the South Atlantic League to start this year. O’Hearn’s BABIP normalized to a .321 mark, but he still slugged nineteen home runs in 81 games at the level, didn’t seeing much of a dip in his isolated power output (.217) and still walked in over ten percent of his plate appearances before being sent up to the Royals High-A affiliate in Wilmington of the Carolina League. The overall numbers that O’Hearn compiled at the new level weren’t earth shattering (.236/.315/.447) as he struggled to a .594 OPS with one home run in his first thirteen games. However, after O’Hearn got his feet wet, he hit for a .928 OPS and seven home runs over 25 games in August, flashing the power that he had shown at each previous level. Add it all up and the 21-year old O’Hearn totaled a .817 OPS with 27 home runs (and seven steals) in 537 plate appearances across the two levels and established himself as a power bat to watch in the Royals system.
Roberto Ramos, 1B, Colorado Rockies (Drafted: Sixteenth Round, 473rd overall)
(Video courtesy MiLB.com)
Ramos is an interesting name for leagues that roster 300-500 or more prospects as I don’t think he’s quite ready to be rostered, but he did enough this season to warrant attention for those crazy deep league owners (you know who you are). The Rockies found Ramos, a big lefty that stands 6-foot-5, at the College of the Canyons, which apparently is in California, and he struggled out of the gate after being drafted last year (.615 OPS, three home runs in 136 PA) in his first bite of the professional apple. Ramos was held out of action this season until the start of Rookie-level Grand Junction’s season, where he hit three home runs in ten games and was quickly sent to Low-A Asheville of the South Atlantic League. Ramos mashed his way to a .341/.413/.610 line that included ten home runs in his 46 games at the level. Ramos certainly enjoyed the friendly confines of McCormick Field’s short right field, but a closer look at his splits finds that while he did hit seven of his ten home runs at home, his 1.004 road OPS number certainly contributed to his wRC+ mark of 185 — far and away the best tally for hitters that received at least 150 plate appearances. Granted, we’re talking about a sample size of 190 plate appearances and Ramos certainly needs to improve against left-handed pitching (.689 OPS), but his power output certainly got my attention and in the system he’s in, sometimes a platoon bat that’s on the right side of the ledger is enough to make a fantasy impact and we’ve seen in recent years that more than a few under-the-radar Rockies prospects have gone on to become fantasy darlings. Ramos’ next stop up the Rockies organizational ladder should be the California League, certainly not a league known for diminishing one’s power output.
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.