Before you know it, first-year player drafts will be here. Although most normal dynasty leagues (if there is such a thing) will draft closer to Opening Day, us rabid dynasty baseball fans will be itching to draft as soon as the calendar flips to the new year. With that in mind, it’s time to look at some of the best draft values you’ll be able to find: the pre-helium players on the verge of a breakout. While not all of these prospects are first-year players, they’re unlikely to be owned in your league and may be smart late-round pickups now, before their stocks rise.
2B Shedric Long, Cincinnati Reds
Long is the first name that could be littered all over prospect lists very soon. A 12th round pick in 2013, Long was initially viewed as a catcher, but soon moved to the keystone. Two years later, in 2015, Shed finally found his stroke in A-Ball with a .283/.363/.474 slash line and six home runs in 173 plate appearances, made more impressive by his 10.4% walk rate and 17.9% strikeout rate. While old for the level, Long gained some momentum going into last season, where he ‘officially’ broke out, hitting .293/.371/.471 with 15 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Despite being just 5’8″, Long generates power with a high leg kick and solid bat speed. While a small hitch in his swing, along with some other pre-swing movement, is cause for concern, there’s still enough here for an average big league regular who can steal plenty of bases while helping some in the power department.
P Fernando Romero, Minnesota Twins
Romero took the scenic route to fantasy relevance via the trainers room, as 2014 Tommy John Surgery derailed the promising righty’s career for nearly 2 seasons. Armed with the new ligament, Romero’s velocity reportedly increased upon his return to pitching, and his fastball now looks like a double plus offering to go with a plus slider. He took the field for 90.1 innings in 2016 and showed remarkably good control (1.5 BB/9) for a pitcher in his first year back from Tommy John. Romero’s ERA of 1.89, WHIP of 0.90, and K/9 of 9.0 showed just how unhittable he was. He also allowed just one home run over those 11 starts. The 22-year-old’s first season since 2014 was impressive enough for the Twins to add him to an (admittedly thin) 40-man roster, despite finishing last year at just High-A. If Romero can stay healthy and develop his third pitch (a changeup), there’s #3 starter upside here.
RF Cody Thomas, Los Angeles Dodgers
When coming up as an amateur athlete, Cody Thomas was a well regarded quarterback at the University of Oklahoma with dreams of someday playing in the NFL. Today he is on the verge of a possible breakout as a RF for the Dodgers. So, how did we get here? Thomas was originally drafted in 30th round of the 2013 draft by the Yankees, but did not sign, choosing to go to college instead. After graduating, Thomas was drafted in the 13th round of this year’s draft by the Dodgers, and has impressed early on. Despite only recently devoting all of his focus to baseball, the 6’4″ lefty masher hit an impressive 19 homers in 267 PAs while slashing .297/.382/.621 in 2016. Next year’s jump out of rookie league ball will certainly test Thomas, but if he can build upon an impressive professional debut, the 22-year-old’s stock could skyrocket in 2017.
SP Rony Garcia, New York Yankees
Another unknown commodity I have been itching to discuss is the Yankees Rony Garcia. Rony is blessed with a great frame at 6’3″ and 200 lbs. His 2016 debut was excellent, as he cruised to a 2.28 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and a 4:1 K:BB. Garcia’s delivery passes the eye test, with good balance and posture in his motion. The 19-year-old can command a solid three-pitch mix of a plus heater, potentially plus curve, and developing changeup, and allowed him to carve up Rookie-League competition last year. If you have the time, take a look at video of Garcia from last summer courtesy of Baseball America below. Rony has the potential to be a fast mover, and in a system full of names, he could end up as one of the better ones.