Combing the AFL Desert

As the various minor leagues wrap up their seasons, there is one more event for prospect seekers, the Arizona Fall League. This is a five-week baseball extravaganza that includes top prospects, injured prospects, and a mix-match of everything in between. While not all of the rosters are completely filled, a few names caught my eye as particularly interesting with regard to dynasty fantasy baseball. While not all standouts in this league will continue to see their prospect status rise – here’s looking at you, Adam Engel – some of these players will be future top prospects.


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Scouring The Lower Minors

A few weeks ago, my deep dynasty league had their monthly minor league auction which is the only time that true minor leaguers may be added to our rosters. Considering that there are 20 teams with up to 50 roster spots dedicated to minor leaguers, this is an important time. Since the team I took over hadn’t had any minor league transactions to date, I had the full $100 to work with. I quickly proposed about 20 one-dollar bids after a quick look at high performers at the Rookie and Low-A levels. One of the names I identified was Samir Duenez. When another owner bid $2, I let him go and laughed to myself at his effort to raise the price on a player I didn’t really care much about. A month later, I’m wondering if the other owner was in fact laughing at me. Duenez has seen a significant rise in value after a season in which he has seen him earn promotions from full season A ball to Double-A. It’s too soon to draw conclusions from his Double-A performance, but his other two stops were rousing successes. Leading up to 2015, Duenez, while young for his placement, did not show much success with the bat. He hit a total of two home runs in his first three seasons and generally had an OPS in the .650 range. This year has been a different story. For the season, he has posted a triple-slash line of .288/.348/.451. He’s probably not going to be a future star, but players with his profile – low strikeouts, decent walk-rate, a little speed – tend to have a high floor. He’s not a must-add in regular formated dynasty leagues, but in my league that rosters 1000 prospects, he was a great find.

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2016 New Player Mock Draft: Rounds 3-5

At long last, we wrap up the 2016 new player mock draft. In case you missed it, the new TDG writers did a mock draft of players who entered the draft pool in 2015. This includes 2015 international signings and Rule 4 draft picks. We’ve each written up a short explanation of our choice. Our hope is that you’ll be able to use this information to help you in the upcoming draft season. We’ll post each round separately along with a wrap-up post following the fifth round. At the end of it all, you’ll know 50+ players a little bit better, and you’ll know us a little better too.

Round 1
Round 2

3.1-Eric – Garrett Whitley, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
I considered Diaz here, but ultimately decided to go upside over floor.  The Rays made Whitley the 13th selection in the 2015 draft based on his impressive tools and approach at the plate.  While the quickness and bat speed are enticing, he had a terrible debut at rookie ball, so this is a true boom or bust pick.  

3.2-Matt – Yusniel Diaz, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
I went with upside here, and took the toolsy 19-year-old Cuban outfielder. He signed in late November, so there’s some chance he’s ineligible for your draft, but he has a mature body for someone his age, plus speed, and very well could stick in center field. He’s by no means a sure thing, but if everything pans out for him, Diaz could be a 15-30 type of player.

3.3-Ben – Yadier Alvarez, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Alvarez is one of the riskier picks here, but there’s also a chance that he ends up at a steal in the third round.  Signed out of Cuba for $16M this July by the Dodgers, he was seen by many as the top international prospect. Given that he was relatively unknown by teams about a year ago, there’s a higher chance that he ends up a bust compared to a lot of stateside picks in the draft.  Still, Alvarez features an impressive arsenal of a possibly elite fastball, plus slider, and solid changeup. Alvarez’s chance of reaching his upside will ultimately depend on command, but he has a chance of becoming a frontline starter.  Although many international signees are forever away, Alvarez is a bit closer than usual and his ETA is on par for most 19-year old draft picks, if not better.

3.4-Jack – Kolby Allard, SP, Atlanta Braves
Allard is a lefty with a plus fastball and a plus curveball. He was overlooked until the middle of our draft because of the back injury he sustained in high school, and the lengthy development time he’ll face, his talent is not in question.  The Braves have shown an ability to develop younger prospects in the past, and the John Hart regime invested their first round pick in Allard.  His longer timeframe is disheartening to many owners who like to turn their prospects into big league contributors quickly, but if your league allows you the flexibility to sit on a guy for a longer period of time, Allard is worthy of being on your radar.

3.5-JJ – Lucius Fox, SS, San Francisco Giants
The guy I wanted went *literally* the freaking pick before and I highly considered the player selected directly after my pick for this pick once Allard went off the board, but I ultimately settled on Fox, whose name will at least make me smile every time I see it on my roster. When a team that knows what it’s doing like the Giants spends $6 million on a J2 player, that will certainly get my attention, and with Fox it’s easy to see the fantasy appeal of an up-the-middle player that could be capable of 30+ steals. I was bummed about missing out on Allard, but then I realized that this is a mock draft.

3.6-Jesse– Michael Matuella, SP, Texas Rangers
If two times is a coincidence, three is definitely a trend. I’ve decided to triple up on the high risk/high reward starters with my third pick, Texas Rangers right hander Michael Matuella. Matuella was a consensus top 5 pick prior to the 2015 draft before undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring, and falling all of the way to Texas in the third round. The 6 foot 7 inch right hander battled injuries his entire tenure at Duke, tossing only 141 innings in three years for the Blue Devils. During that time though, he showed a high 90s fastball and two major league caliber breaking balls. If he can find a way to stay out of the trainer’s room, I may have just got a top half of the rotation starter who can reach the majors by 2018.

3.7-Travis– Willie Calhoun, 2B, Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though there are a few notable first rounders still on the board, none of them really stand out from the rest of the field any more. On the flip side, no one has done more to increase their stock since draft day than Calhoun. The definition of a “Billy Beane Special”, he’s shown an advanced approach at the plate and milks a considerable amount of pop out of his stocky, 5’9” frame. One comp being thrown around a lot is Mighty Mouse. His .316/.390/.519 line across 3 levels was enough for me to pull the trigger here.

3.8-Tyler– Vlad Guerrero Jr, OF, Toronto Blue Jays
Little Dracula might be an early pick here (you heard that nickname here first, folks!). At 16, he’s ages away from the majors. But he has the kind of raw power you can dream on. He’s currently an outfielder and is built like someone who probably won’t win any gold gloves, but this is fantasy baseball and Guerrero-power has been hard to come by. The raw power is real, and he should shoot up prospect lists in the years to come.

3.9 –Frank– Tyler Nevin, 3B, Colorado Rockies
I’ve had my eye on Nevin at 3.09 since the draft began. He fits the mold of exactly what I’m looking for here after drafting two MLB contributors. He is a massive kid who should continue to fill out his 6’3 200-lb frame. Early reports are positive and he has shown the ability to limit strikeouts and make consistent contact as an 18-year-old professional. With a move to first base likely at some point, I can dream about finding the next Paul Goldschmidt playing first base in Coors Field.

3.10-Greg– Demi Orimoloye, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
It appears the back half of the third round is forget-the-board-I’m-taking-my-favorite-player time. I’ll oblige and select Orimoloye, a first round talent who slipped to the fourth because of his subpar senior season. Orimoloye exploded upon entering pro ball, hitting .292/.319/.518 with six home runs and 19 steals. He’s a physical specimen with immense upside and will shoot up prospect lists if he continues to display an enviable power-speed combination. Alternatively, he’ll continue to swing at everything and make me look like an idiot for grabbing him here.

4.01 – Eric – Desmond Lindsay, OF, New York Mets
Sticking to my plan, I decided to go with another lottery ticket.  The prep star out of Florida has all of the tools to develop into a complete offensive player, but he is still very raw and has a wide range of outcomes.  His draft stock slipped due to a hamstring injury his senior season, which allowed the Mets to grab him with the 53rd pick.  It’s a legitimate concern for a player whose strongest tool is his speed, and hamstring problems can be chronic.  However, with health, he has the bat speed, power potential, and wheels to impact the game in a variety of ways on the offensive side of the ball.

4.2- Matt – Phil Bickford, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Arguably my favorite arm in the 2015 draft class, Bickford’s long blonde locks are nearly as dominant as his stuff. Standing 6’5”, he does a decent Noah Syndergaard impression (or Jered Weaver). While he doesn’t have the upper-90’s heat of Thor, Bickford has an effective mid-90’s fastball and good command of his two average secondary offerings. Drafted 17th overall by the Giants, Bickford joins an organization who has enjoyed relative success developing first-round starters, as well as the exclusive club of players drafted in the top-20 picks of an MLB Rule 4 Draft twice (also taken 10th overall by Toronto in 2013). While he’s likely more of a 3/4-starter with high-leverage reliever upside, I think there’s a chance Bickford’s frame fills out and he becomes a power 2-starter.

4.3- Ben – Tyler Jay, LHP, Minnesota Twins
Jay’s an interesting player: he was drafted sixth overall in this year’s draft despite being used primarily as a closer in college.  Even with a reliever background, the Twins see a starter in Jay due to his four pitch arsenal, featuring what may be three plus pitches in his fastball, slider, and curveball, and a fringe-average changeup. Jay’s collegiate background and thin frame lead some scouts to see him as a reliever, and in that case Jay could make it to the majors at some point next season.  If Jay sticks as a starter though, his upside is that of a number two man in the rotation.  Jay makes for a good pick here given his floor is that of a near-MLB ready elite relief pitcher, and his ceiling is of a very good starter.

4.04- Jack – James Kaprielian, SP, New York Yankees
Kaprielian lacks the ceiling that many other players have in this draft, but he’s arguably the most MLB ready arm in the whole draft.  He brings four average offerings along with the ability to locate his arsenal.  His debut went just as you’d expect, easily mowing down the less polished players in the Gulf Coast and New York Penn League, and now he’s ready for a full season assignment.  Kaprielian has the polish to conquer multiple leagues in a single season and could potentially be the first arm to reach the bigs from this draft class.

4.5- JJ- Derian Cruz, SS, Atlanta Braves
Baseball America had Cruz as the fifth best player in the J2 draft class and the Braves certainly went through a lot of trouble in addition to paying him his $2 million bonus to add him to the organization. They had to trade several prospects already in their organization to free up the international bonus money to sign Cruz, which tells me quite a bit about how much they like the player. Make no mistake, Cruz is forever away, but those are the types of prospects that I typically target in this portion of these drafts. Historically, I have found the international prospects and the high-ceilings that accompany quite a few of them more alluring than some of the high school kids that are on the board and are also forever away when picking after the 40’s.   

4.6- Jesse- Nick Plummer, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
With my 4th pick I decided to diversify and go with my first hitter, Nick Plummer, the 23rd overall pick from the St. Louis Cardinals. The centerfielder went late in the first round, despite being ranked as the 11th best prospect by Baseball America. Plummer, a high school bat, continues the theme of high risk/high reward picks for my team. The high schooler currently projects as a plus bat with a potential for plus power, but is obviously far away from his pro debut. He probably won’t remain in centerfield, but scouts do believe his bat should be able to make it as a regular in left field. One thing I’m always concerned about with high school bats, is how long it takes for them to adjust their technique to pro pitchers. But, it seems like Plummer already has a good approach that may not need too much tweaking, which is one of the main reasons I took him here over the other hitters available.

4.7- Travis- Triston McKenzie, SP, Cleveland Indians
He’s a long way away. But he’s also 6’5” with plenty of room to grow into his frame, 3 potential above average pitches and an advanced command profile which is even more impressive considering his age and height. Pitchers with this much development left are pretty risky, but the potential is certainly there for for McKenzie to move quickly and the upside is that of a top of the rotation starter…even if it is sometime next decade.

4.8- Tyler- Andy Ibanez, 2B, Texas Rangers
In a different year, a 22-year-old Cuban export with a strong hit tool and a glove that should stick up the middle might command more attention. Last year, however, the intricate politics of international signings led to a depressed value and Ibanez got signed for a meager $1.5 million by Texas. This in turn has depressed his value. Once people get eyes on him, if he can show the hit tool translates he should become yet another in a long line of impressive Rangers middle infielders.

4.9 Frank- – Leodys Tavares, OF, Texas Rangers
The 17-year-old, switch-hitter’s swing is described as sweet in more places than I can count. He has the lean frame to put on good size and projects to stay in CF. His best tool is his plus speed and he has the ability to develop 15-20 home run power. The road to a return on my investment here is a long one and doesn’t come without substantial risk, but there are few organizations I trust more than the Rangers right now when it comes to signing developing young J2 talent.

4.10 Greg- Tyler Stephenson, C, Cincinnati Reds
Stephenson was a top 30 asset on my board and I almost popped him the last time around, so this was an easy pick. Prep catchers require the patience of a monk, but the potential payoff is worth the wait for the Reds’ first round selection. There’s 25 home runs in that bat if he can overcome some swing-and-miss he’ll have along the way, and his thump will play even if he does have to move off the position, not something that is currently anticipated because of solid receiving skills and a big arm.

5.1 Eric – Chris Shaw, 1B, San Francisco Giants
I decided to wrap up my draft with a player who has huge power potential from the left side of the plate.  The hulking first base prospect out of Boston College had an encouraging professional debut, especially considering some of the questions surrounding his hit tool.  He posted a respectable .287 batting average to go along with 12 home runs in 46 games at low A ball.  He also demonstrated a solid approach at the plate, limiting his strike out rate to 20%.  His size will limit him to first base, so he’ll need to continue mashing to make an impact at the major league level.

5.2 – Matt – Harrison Bader, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
There were other options I liked here, but I went with Bader specifically because Bret didn’t include him in his Top-50 at Baseball Prospectus. Taken with the 100th pick, the former Florida Gator crushed the New York Penn League for seven games before being promoted to to the Midwest league (A), and hitting .301/.366/.505 in 54 games. He finished his first season of pro ball with 11 HR and 17 SB in just 61 games, and seems to have the athleticism to stick in center. While there’s a good chance Bader’s never more than a fourth outfielder, there’s some AJ Pollock to his game, and that’s enough for me to draft him in the top-50.

5.3 – Mitchell Hansen, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
The 6’ 4” outfielder is one of the toolsier players in this year’s draft, but slipped to the 67th pick due to signability concerns. Despite the lower draft position, Hansen’s got serious upside.  The 19-year old did scuffle a bit after being drafted, but his above average speed and raw power, along with a solid swing, is very intriguing. He’ll take a while to reach the big leagues, but in the fifth round of dynasty drafts, there is nothing wrong with taking an upside-over-floor pick.

5.04 – Jack – Jhailyn Ortiz, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Jhailyn brings the boomstick to Philadelphia, regularly receiving plus plus power grades, AKA the best in the entire J2 class.  His average hit tool enhances the fantasy drool factor as Ortiz has used that to allow his power to translate to games already at 16 years old.  He is listed at 6’2”, 260 pounds, but doesn’t get noticed as an adonis, and there are mumblings about him having to move to 1B already.  He’s managed to stay in the outfield, and is considered average, but projecting what position he’ll be at in 4-6 years is damn near impossible, and frankly it doesn’t matter with his profile.  I personally believe that huge gambles like this are a necessity at the end of drafts, and the next potential masher from Santo Domingo was the highest ceiling left on my draft board.

5.5 – JJ – Donnie Dewees, OF, Chicago Cubs
I added some high-upside potential to my team with my last two picks and I balance out the risk of those two here with a college hitter drafted by the Cubs, a team that might have an indication of what to look for in college hitters over the last couple of seasons. Dewees has a nice power/speed combo going for him and since he didn’t exactly tear it up in short-season ball (.682 OPS) after being drafted, I’m noticing him going lower than where a player that was selected 47th overall and stole 19 bases in 66 games seems like they should be going.

5.6 – Jesse – Chris Betts, C, Tampa Bay Rays
With my last pick, I decided to go with the 52nd pick in the draft, Rays catcher Chris Betts. Betts has a smooth swing for a High School left-hander, and already has good size, at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds. Scouts’ early reports are that his potential hit and power tools may be enough to play if he has to move to first base. My hope, obviously, is that he stays behind the plate, strengthening his value considerably. Betts has some work to do defensively, to stick at catcher, but it’s a very plausible route.

5.7- Travis – Drew Jackson, SS, Seattle Mariners
A speed first infielder drafted 155th overall by the Seattle Mariners is still available?! In all seriousness, Jackson looked like an absolute steal for the M’s as he ran circles around the competition at short-season Everett to the tune of a .358/.432/.447 line and 47 steals in just 266 plate appearances. So what if there is no power to speak of? That just means there is nothing for SafeCo to suppress… if he can hit enough to make it there.

5.8- Tyler- Ashe Russell, SP, Kansas City Royals
There’s a time and a place for taking prep arms. With two plus pitches (fastball and slider) and some command, the Royals’ first round pick has the upside of a decent starter. Upside is what you want out of a young pitcher, since the risk is so great. At the end of a draft, it’s worth taking the chance that Russell’s unorthodox delivery won’t relegate him to the bullpen. There are enough reports that can project Russell as a starter, and Kansas City should let him plenty of opportunities to prove the doubters wrong. If he can improve his changeup or stay healthy despite his delivery, his value could take a big leap forward.

5.9 – Frank – D.J. Stewart, OF, Baltimore Orioles
The most surprising thing about this pick is the fact that Stewart was available to be selected here.The 2014 ACC player of the year was selected 25th overall this June after slashing .344/.481/.570 in 3 seasons at Florida State University, where he was a line drive machine with an all-fields approach. His pro debut was a bit underwhelming, but he’s a big, athletic guy with untapped power potential with an advanced feel for the strike zone. I would bet Stewart at #49 overall looks pretty crazy this time next year.

5.10 – Greg- Ke’bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates
With so many J2 and other international signings getting plucked, there is more draft talent than is typically left at the end of the fifth round. Man crush and complete wildcard Ledarious Clark drew some consideration, as did personal favorites Paul DeJong and Joe McCarthy, and other well-known prospects like Scott Kingery, Cody Ponce, and Christin Stewart. But the pick is Hayes, who I think will will continue to hit as he climbs the ladder. Whether he can produce acceptable power for the hot corner is an open question, as he’s more of a gap-to-gap line drive hitter at present. There’s some raw power in there, it’s just a matter of whether his BP cut will show up when the lights are on.

Big Willie Style: Calhoun’s Impressive Debut

Of the 1,215 players selected in the 2015 amateur draft, only 14 reached High-A (1.2 percent), and only a select three saw more than 50 plate appearances above A-ball. Second-overall pick, Alex Bregman; 132nd-overall pick, Willie Calhoun; and 852nd-overall pick, Kyle Garlick. We’ll get to the nearly-24 Garlick another day, but for now, we’ll focus on the prospect who went from playing at a community college to posting a .935 OPS in High-A in the course of three months, all at the age of 20.

Initially recruited by the University of Arizona, Calhoun transferred after one season of spotty playing time and uninspiring results. It was a year later at Yavapai Community College where Calhoun was downright Ruthian, hitting more home runs (31) than a majority of teams in the ACCAC (Arizona Community College Athletic Conference), and in turn, launching his name up draft boards. A word of warning, however: don’t let Calhoun’s dual-position distinction (2B/OF) fool you. It’s the result of limited range and an unpolished glove, which will likely relegate him to a corner-outfield role. The Dodgers were aware of his defensive deficits on draft day, and yet he’s exceeded even their expectations with the bat.

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2016 New Player Mock Draft: Round 2

After a little break to get the rankings out of the way, the new TDG writers continue our 5 round mock draft of players who entered the draft pool in 2015. This includes 2015 international signings and Rule 4 draft picks. We’ve each written up a short explanation of our choice. Our hope is that you’ll be able to use this information to help you in the upcoming draft season. We’ll post each round separately along with a wrap-up post following the fifth round. At the end of it all, you’ll know 50+ players a little bit better, and you’ll know us a little better too.

See Round 1 Here

2.1-  Eric – Brady Aiken, SP, Cleveland Indians

Securing the best player in the draft with the first overall pick gives me the luxury of rolling the dice here.  Aiken’s combination of pure stuff, command, handedness, and build made him the top selection in the 2014 amateur draft.  The Astros failed to come to terms with the talented pitcher after a physical revealed concerns about his left elbow, and he underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.  The injury did not dissuade the Indians from investing a first round pick in Aiken, and if he fully recovers, I may have landed the best position player and pitcher in the draft.

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2016 New Player Mock Draft: Round 1

A new year has brought a new crop of writers to TDG, and we decided the best way to introduce our various styles, quirks, and personalities was via a mock draft. Eight of the new writers, and two of your old favorites, did a five-round slow mock draft of players who entered into the player pool in the past year. This includes 2015 international signings and Rule 4 draft picks. We’ve each written up a short explanation of our choice. Our hope is that you’ll be able to use this information to help you in the upcoming draft season. We’ll post each round separately along with a wrap-up post following the fifth round. At the end of it all, you’ll know 50+ players a little bit better, and you’ll know us a little better too.

1.1- Eric – Yoan Moncada, 2B, Boston Red Sox

This one is a no-brainer for me.  With his rare combination of speed and power potential, Moncada offers the most upside of the group, and unlike most of the other players who are eligible for this draft, I have the benefit of almost 350 professional plate appearances to support my assessment.  After his assignment to full season A ball, Moncada got off to a slow start.  I’m guessing it had something to do with the long layoff, because he blew up in the second half, posting a .310/.415./.500 triple slash line along with 45 stolen bases and 25 extra base hits.  The switch-hitting second baseman has the potential to fill up the box score from a historically weak position.

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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:

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