The Joy of a Minor League Draft, Part 2

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The Joy of a Minor League Draft, Part 2

In Part One of this article, I introduced my AL-only, fantasy keeper league and the anticipation that accompanies the Minor League Draft.

Now that Round 1 of the draft has come and gone, I present the results with commentary as promised. Please keep in mind that many of the players who are currently considered top prospects in the American League were drafted in previous years by league owners.

Here's how I would have ranked the draft-eligible prospects going into the first round:

  1. Carlos González
  2. Ian Kennedy
  3. David Price
  4. Desmond Jennings
  5. Ryan Royster
  6. Rick Porcello
  7. Jed Lowrie
  8. Alexei Ramírez
  9. Mike Moustakas

 

THE RESULTS

 

1) David Price, Starting Pitcher (Tampa Bay Rays)

Having the draft's number one pick is an unenviable position. Conventional wisdom states that whichever player is selected first, chances are he'll be a sure bet. However, the reality is that every player out there is equal parts success and failure.

Was David Price the best fantasy pick at  No. 1 this year? Only time will tell. He sure is a big athletic kid with three-plus pitches. Throughout his college career he was practically unhittable and won nearly every collegiate award possible in 2007.

That said, he has absolutely no professional experience and because of that I have a hard time gauging how he'll respond to the type of coaching and hitting he'll see when he finally makes his debut. Can he strengthen his mechanics in order to become a consistently dominant pitcher?

In all likelihood, Price will progress through the Minor Leagues and find a spot in the Rays' rotation by 2010. If he becomes an ace or second starter, he will have fulfilled his potential.

 

2) Rick Porcello, Starting Pitcher (Detroit Tigers) 

Every one likes a young gun, but I didn't realize they liked them this much.

Porcello is one of the best pitching prospects to come out of prep school in a long time. The hype around him reminds me of the anticipation that met Joe Mauer when he was drafted by the Twins in 2001. 

Porcello brings four pitches and a great pitcher's body to the table. Although some project him as a future closer, nothing short of a disaster would convince the Tigers that this guy shouldn't be a starter.

Again though, with no professional experience and a 19-year-old arm, I wouldn't have predicted Porcello to jump so high up in the draft. High school pitchers without at least some pro experience can be scary. Does anyone remember Jeff Allison?

Look for Porcello to spend the season in A-ball. If he comes out unscathed and still sporting that cannon for an arm, this pick will be genius.

 

3) Mike Moustakas, Shortstop (Kansas City Royals)

Moustakas came onto the scene last year as a mature prep star from California and was selected by the Royals with the second overall pick in the 2007 MLB amateur draft. The Royals signed the 18-year-old in time to get him some Rookie ball action, despite the fact that he is represented by Scott Boras.

Limited to 40 at-bats at Idaho Falls last year, Moustakas still was able to demonstrate the pop that so attracted the Royals. A sweet swinging lefty, scouts rave that Moustakas can flat out rake. He has a patient swing that puts the head of the bat in the strike zone, and he uses his size (6'0" 190 lbs.) well to produce power.

He's projected to start in A-ball this year, but due to his mature approach, don't be shocked to see a promotion to AA if he can keep his batting average above .300 and demonstrate plus gap power early on.

 

4) Chris Tillman, Starting Pitcher (Baltimore Orioles)

At this point in our league's draft, there were still plenty of good prospects out there who posted big numbers in 2007. So you have to ask yourself, why Tillman?

This is the sort of pick that can ruin your draft karma and earn you an "F" come time to hand out draft grades.

Tillman has two years of pro experience under his belt with little to show for it other than mediocre statistics. An average ERA to go with an average WHIP and K-to-BB ratio rarely equate to a first round selection.

If Chris has an upside though, it has to be his size and age. He'll turn 20 in April and has the physical assembly you look for in a southpaw.

Let's hope he's a late bloomer.

 

5) Matt Wieters, Catcher (Baltimore Orioles)

If you have a bat, can swing it, and are willing to don an Orioles' uniform, you might just have the most potential for immediate job growth of any profession, anywhere in this country, from Provincetown to Pasadena.

Everyone knows the Orioles need to start hitting and Wieters, the product of Georgia Tech's hit machine, was an easy target for the team last June during the amateur draft. Wieters hits from both sides of the dish for power and average.

His collegiate career reminds me a little bit of Pat Burrell and Phil Nevin with all the plus power and plus strikeouts that will probably translate into during Wieters' pro career.

Positionally, Matt's a big catcher at 6'5", but scouts project him to remain behind the plate since his game-calling and defensive abilities have steadily improved through his college career. Consequently, as a hard-hitting catcher, his fantasy value greatly increases.

Out of necessity, I predict Wieters finds himself in Camden Yards come Opening Day 2009. 

 

6) Fautino De Los Santos, Starting Pitcher (Oakland A's)

I don't know what's more impressive about De Los Santos—his fastball (>96 mph) or the fact that Billy Beane was able to wrangle him away from the White Sox along with top pitching prospect Gio González in exchange for Nick Swisher.

In 2007, Fautino mowed down nearly every batter he faced in the Sally League, showing off an electric arm. At the same time, De Los Santos lacked a viable second and third pitch to complement his fastball and had a tendency to get wild with his pitches.

He'll start the season at high-A Stockton and work on harnessing his repertoire. He has one of the livest arms in all of baseball, but if he can't settle down and become a pitcher he may be destined for the bullpen. 

 

7) Ian Kennedy, Starting Pitcher (New York Yankees) 

For all the pundits who enjoy Yankee farm bashing, the young pinstripers just might have the last laugh. While Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain have a bountiful arsenal of nasty pitches between them, Ian Kennedy is the unsung arm of the bunch.

Kennedy has consistently found success at every level, handling batters better than many of his counterparts who were deemed to have better "stuff." It's true that his ratios don't blow you away, but his W-L record is uncanny. Ian wins where he goes and pitches well. He attracts a low ERA and WHIP, which are—call me traditional and old-fashioned—still the two best categories by which to judge a pitcher.

Scouts also love Kennedy's intelligence and his artistic approach on the mound, which is a nice way of saying he paints the corners. Although that's become a taboo categorization for a pitcher these days, if you can paint and win, then why not?

I'm holding back from making the Greg Maddux comparison so to make myself feel better I'll say David Cone.

From a bang for your buck point of view, this was the second best pick of my league's draft. Stay tuned for the first.

 

8) Desmond Jennings, Outfielder (Tampa Bay Rays) 

Jennings and his Columbus teammate, Ryan Royster, tore up Sally League pitchers last season. While Royster deals with the question of how his gaudy power numbers will translate against more sophisticated pitching, Jennings basks in the glow of his more humble plate approach.

A .401 OBP combined with 21 doubles and nine home runs in 387 at-bats leaves the 21-year-old with room to grow into his stroke without sacrificing discipline. Add to that 45 SB and the Rays might have another Carl Crawford on their hands. The difference is that there's no rush to get Jennings into the big leagues. Watch for a possible debut in 2009 by which time I suspect his power numbers will have slightly increased.

A wonderful late, first round selection. 

 

9) Carlos González, Outfielder (Oakland A's)

Every good draft need ones...A steal that is. The player who was on top of my draft board goes last. Unfortunately, I traded my first round pick last season, otherwise it could have been me who pulled off this coup.

As evidenced by his fall, González is not without his vocal detractors who say he strikes out too often and does not hit for a high enough average to be a relevant all-around force in the Majors.

He may not be a perennial All-Star, but fantasy Minor League drafts are not about that. If you can recognize the player with the most talent who is also closest to getting a shot with their big club then you're halfway to a player who will contribute to your team for years to come.

Talent is talent is talent and it will adapt anywhere at any level.

It may take González half a season to find his swing in Oakland, but he has shown enough polish and power through his five Minor League seasons, as well as the ability to adapt that it warrants considering him the hitter furthest along the development curve in this year's draft.

 

In Part Three of this article, we'll highlight some sleepers selected in the draft's later rounds and reveal the fates of the prospects profiled in Part One.

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