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MLB Draft 2011 Prospects: Fantasy Implications for the Top 1st-Round Picks

Big-Time Timmy-JimAnalyst IJune 7, 2011

MLB Draft 2011 Prospects: Fantasy Implications for the Top 1st-Round Picks

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    Gerrit ColeChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Round 1 of the 2011 MLB draft is in the books, but if your interest comes from a fantasy baseball perspective, the order of the picks isn't likely to do you too many favors in determining which players will be fantasy-relevant the soonest.

    Some of it's easy. Gerrit Cole, who went first overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates, is a no-brainer. But No. 4 overall pick Dylan Bundy (Orioles) and No. 7 choice Archie Bradley (Indians), for example, are each less valuable in most dynasty leagues because of their youth/inexperience as high school pitchers.

    With those guys, basically your best-case scenario is Jordan Lyles—a shiny prospect with a live arm and good control...who takes three years to reach the majors and hits some bumps in his initial tour through The Show due to inexperience. Lyles will likely be a stud, but do you want to wait that long without being guaranteed of your best-case scenario?

    Bubba Starling, a high school outfielder who went fifth overall to the Royals, is even less appealing (despite his delightful name). Sure, he has tools, but look no further than Donovan Tate for evidence of why a minors spot on your fantasy team is better spent on a more reliable player at a more valuable/scarce position who is also likely more developmentally able to bounce back from an injury. Plus signability is a concern, and aside from the relatively quick promotion and success of an exceptionally more polished bat in Eric Hosmer, the Royals tend to be pretty slow with their position prospects.

    You sense the theme by now. Basically, let's weed out most of the high schoolers and figure out which remaining players are both (1) likely to reach the majors soon and (2) pay dividends by having a shot to be among the best at their respective positions from a fantasy perspective.

    We'll keep this simple and especially focus on the five players most worthy of being owned in fantasy baseball as soon as possible in your league(s)...

2011 MLB Draft Results

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    First, let's run through the full list of picks from the first round of this year's MLB draft.

    All high schoolers just say "HS" on their rows to keep it simple. For better or worse, this was a pretty youth-heavy first day.

    There are definite exceptions to the rule with drafting high schoolers in fantasy baseball (Bryce Harper, of course), and a guy like Dylan Bundy should definitely prove worthy of ownership in a healthily deep league, but it's good to view that youth as a two-fold detriment: (1) they are less proven/polished, as the college ranks are generally like High-A ball, and (2) it'll likely take longer before they find their way to the big leagues.  

     

    First Round

    1

    Gerrit Cole

    Pittsburgh Pirates

    RHP

    UCLA

    2

    Danny Hultzen

    Seattle Mariners

    LHP

    Virginia

    3

    Trevor Bauer

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    RHP

    UCLA

    4

    Dylan Bundy

    Baltimore Orioles

    RHP

    HS

    5

    Bubba Starling

    Kansas City Royals

    OF

    HS

    6

    Anthony Rendon

    Washington Nationals

    3B/DH

    Rice

    7

    Archie Bradley

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    RHP

    HS

    8

    Francisco Lindor

    Cleveland Indians

    SS

    HS

    9

    Javier Baez

    Chicago Cubs

    SS

    HS

    10

    Cory Spangenberg

    San Diego Padres

    2B

    HS

    11

    George Springer

    Houston Astros

    OF

    Connecticut

    12

    Taylor Jungmann

    Milwaukee Brewers

    RHP

    Texas

    13

    Brandon Nimmo

    New York Mets

    OF

    HS

    14

    Jose Fernandez

    Florida Marlins

    RHP

    HS

    15

    Jed Bradley

    Milwaukee Brewers

    LHP

    Georgia Tech

    16

    Chris Reed

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    LHP

    Stanford

    17

    C. J. Cron

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

    1B

    Utah

    18

    Sonny Gray

    Oakland Athletics

    RHP

    Vanderbilt

    19

    Matt Barnes

    Boston Red Sox

    RHP

    Connecticut

    20

    Tyler Anderson

    Colorado Rockies

    LHP

    Oregon

    21

    Tyler Beede

    Toronto Blue Jays

    RHP

    HS

    22

    Kolten Wong

    St. Louis Cardinals

    2B

    Hawaii

    23

    Alex Meyer

    Washington Nationals

    RHP

    Kentucky

    24

    Taylor Guerrieri

    Tampa Bay Rays

    RHP

    HS

    25

    Joe Ross

    San Diego Padres

    RHP

    HS

    26

    Blake Swihart

    Boston Red Sox

    C

    HS

    27

    Robert Stephenson

    Cincinnati Reds

    RHP

    HS

    28

    Sean Gilmartin

    Atlanta Braves

    LHP

    Florida State

    29

    Joe Panik

    San Francisco Giants

    SS

    St. John's (NY)

    30

    Levi Michael

    Minnesota Twins

    SS

    North Carolina

    31

    Mikie Mahtook

    Tampa Bay Rays

    OF

    LSU

    32

    Jake Hager

    Tampa Bay Rays

    SS

    HS

    33

    Kevin Matthews

    Texas Rangers 

    LHP

    HS

     

    Supplemental First Round

    34

    Brian Goodwin

    Washington Nationals

    CF

    Miami Dade College

    35

    Jacob Anderson

    Toronto Blue Jays

    OF

    HS

    36

    Henry Owens

    Boston Red Sox

    P

    HS

    37

    Zack Cone

    Texas Rangers

    CF

    University of Georgia

    38

    Brandon Marin

    Tampa Bay Rays 

    SS

    HS

    39

    Larry Greene

    Philadelphia Phillies

    OF

    HS

    40

    Jackie Bradley, Jr.

    Boston Red Sox

    OF

    University of South Carolina

    41

    Tyler Goeddel

    Tampa Bay Rays

    3B

    HS

    42

    Jeff Ames

    Tampa Bay Rays 

    RHP

    Lower Colombia College

    43

    Andrew Chafin

    Arizona Diamondbacks

    LHP

    Kent State

    44

    Micheal Fulmer

    New York Mets 

    RHP

    HS

    45

    Trevor Story

    Colorado Rockies

    SS

    HS

    46

    Joe Masgrove

    Toronto Blue Jays

    RHP

    HS

    47

    Keenyn Walker

    Chicago White Sox

    OF

    HS

    48

    Micheal Kelly

    San Diego Padres

    RHP

    HS

    49

    Kyle Crick

    San Francisco Giants

    RHP

    HS

    50

    Travis Harrison

    Minnesota Twins

    3B

    HS

    51

    Dante Bichette, Jr.

    New York Yankees

    OF

    HS

    52

    Blake Snell

    Tampa Bay Rays

    OF

    HS

    53

    Dwight Smith

    Toronto Blue Jays

    OF

    HS

    54

    Brett Austin

    San Diego Padres

    C

    HS

    55

    Hudson Boyd

    Minnesota Twins

    RHP

    HS

    56

    Kes Carter

    Tampa Bay Rays

    OF

    Western Kentucky

    57

    Kevin Comer

    Toronto Blue Jays

    RHP

    HS

    58

    Jace Peterson

    San Diego Padres

    SS

    McNeese State

    59

    Grayson Garvin

    Tampa Bay Rays

    LHP

    Vanderbilt University

    60

    James Harris

    Tampa Bay Rays

    OF

    HS

Honorable Mentions

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians

    He's a young'un, and Lindor still doesn't quite qualify in the top five, but I like this pick for the Indians, and I think Lindor is likely to reach the majors pretty quickly for his young age and bump Asdrubal Cabrera (pictured) over to second base by 2014.

    Lindor should pan out to be a better fantasy shortstop than Elvis Andrus, able to hit for a higher average and more power. He's obviously not as likely to smell Andrus' Gold Glove-caliber skills, but that doesn't matter too much for fantasy.

    Some other honorable mentions worth extra attention in fantasy baseball:

    Matt Barnes, RHP, Red Sox

    George Springer, OF, Astros

    Jed Bradley, LHP, Brewers

    Levi Michael, SS, Twins

    Taylor Jungman, RHP, Brewers

    Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Rays

    Archie Bradley, RHP, Diamondbacks

    Matt Purke, RHP, Undrafted (so far...injury concerns hurt his stock)

    Blake Swihart, C, Red Sox

    Alex Meyer, RHP, Nationals

5. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles

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    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    Remember what I said about high schoolers? Sometimes you have to set it aside a bit if the player looks like he'll seize strong value, especially if you think you might be inclined to trade your draftee at some point.

    Their repertoires are a bit different, but I tend to think of Shelby Miller (pictured) when I look at Dylan Bundy. There are reports of Bundy hitting 100 mph, and you simply don't read a lot of downsides about him besides signability and inexperience.

    Miller, if you recall, was the 19th overall pick in 2009. He was just promoted by the Cardinals to Double-A after striking out 81 batters in 53 innings at High-A Palm Beach and could make the St. Louis rotation fearsome if he, Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia can all be active at the same time under pitching coach Dave Duncan.

    Being 18 and in the Orioles system (which is great but also displaying a bit of a logjam, not to mention feeding an AL East team) does not help him, but Bundy seems like the kind of prospect who will generate all kinds of buzz and trade interest as early as this time next year.

4. Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners

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    Erik BedardOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    I may be oversimplifying things, but this pick felt like the Mariners were looking ahead for a replacement in the rotation for the inevitable next injury that befalls Erik Bedard (pictured, left).

    It makes sense for the Mariners to covet a lefty starter here to complement Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda. (If they weren't feeling Anthony Rendon or the need for a third baseman or bat.) Hultzen won't blow people away, and he's a tad underwhelming for a No. 2 overall pick, but his fantasy value will be greatly aided if he stays with the club and pitches at Safeco Field. It's been pretty friendly to Pineda, Hernandez and Bedard so far this season, not to mention Jason Vargas and Doug Fister.

    Considering that depth and some likely work on Hultzen's mechanics, the Mariners aren't likely to rush their new lefty, but he's already fairly close to 22 years old and probably doesn't need a ton of development time.

    In reality, Hultzen is not likely to ever reach Bedard's level of dominance, and he's a different pitcher who uses a changeup and slider (Bedard's more of a curveball guy, hence his myriad injuries), but the newest Mariner can become a No. 2/3 starter as a deceptive lefty with a solid fastball. His control is good, too, as he walked just 17 batters at Virginia this season against 148 strikeouts in 103.1 innings. 

3. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Really, Rendon is good enough to be No. 1 on this list, but I think there is too much of a premium on high-end arms in good fantasy baseball leagues to choose a corner infielder over a potential ace.

    That said, third base has become a shallower position over the past few years, and Rendon has a good chance of being a similar-but-better-in-every-way hitter than Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar due to his advanced approach and solid tools. He's also got Ryan Zimmerman (pictured) ahead of him at the hot corner, though—a problem the Nationals will probably be happy to solve if Rendon knocks on the door too hard.

    In fact, that could represent a boon to Rendon's fantasy value, as he might get a shot at a middle infield position. For now, though, we have to assume that Rendon will stick at third.

    And as a third baseman, Rendon should be pretty good. He's not that fast, and his power is a bit of a concern, as fellow B/R writer Stephen Meyer noted that "his power production dropped all the way from 26 home runs and 85 RBI as a sophomore to just six and 37 as a junior," but he's got the kind of hitting ability to get on base at a .400-plus clip. Don't overlook him. 

2. Trevor Bauer, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    I was tempted to pick Trevor Bauer ahead of Gerrit Cole to shake things up, as I do like his chances of superseding Tyler Skaggs as the Diamondbacks' top pitching prospect in short order, and God knows Arizona has room in its rotation.

    In some ways I like Bauer's situation better than Cole's, and you can't go wrong with either UCLA teammate, but Cole is more of the conventional/safe pick to be a good starter in the major leagues due to Bauer's height (6'1").

    That said, Bauer looks like he could develop into a Tim Lincecum (pictured), and there are reports that Bauer has even modeled his mechanics after the original Big-Time Timmy-Jim.

    If you want more quantitative proof, Bauer went 13-2 with a sparkling 1.25 ERA this year for UCLA. Oh, and he posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 203 to 36 in 136.2 innings.

1. Gerrit Cole, SP, Pittsburgh

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Yeah, yeah—really creative of me to call the No. 1 overall pick the top pick in a fantasy baseball league as well, but it's usually pretty tough to argue with top MLB draft picks these days (Tim Beckham notwithstanding).

    But, I mean, this guy has several pictures in the Getty image database. He must be good, right?

    The Pirates have done a pretty good job turning other teams' trash into buried treasure lately, particularly with Charlie Morton and James McDonald and possibly with Brandon Wood, so Pittsburgh is feeling a bit less like a barren wasteland. Morton is a pretty different pitcher than Gerrit Cole, but the Pirates' ability to work on Morton's mechanics and harness his great talent shows some added hope that Cole won't be mishandled.

    I'm a bit leery of this pick over Bauer nonetheless because I do think Bauer is a bit more polished and likely to hit the majors first, but Cole is a beast and should immediately be considered the Pirates' top prospect, just ahead of fellow standout righty Jameson Taillon due to scouting reports like this one from MLB.com:

    Cole looks and throws like a future ace, with three plus power pitches. His fastball is 92-99 mph and sits comfortably at 95-96 deep into starts. His hard slider comes in at 88-90 mph, and even his changeup is 88-90 mph.

    While Cole's numbers aren't as eye-popping as Bauer's, his 119-to-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 114.1 innings this season is a great sign. Plus you've got to love a guy who turned down the Yankees after being drafted by Brian Cashman in the first round of the 2008 draft.

    Ultimately, Cole is the best pick simply because, all similarly valuable players being considered, he should hold the most trade value, and trade value of prospects cannot be underestimated in fantasy baseball if you're looking to win a championship. 

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