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The original plan for The Prospect Ticker was to profile 20 prospects over four weeks and then update and re-evaluate those same prospects every four weeks over the remainder of the 2015 season. But, after finalizing the original list, it felt incomplete without a group made up entirely of players from the 2014 MLB amateur draft. And in keeping with the spirit of bonus coverage, I added a bonus player to be a part of this bonus group. So, now the Ticker has five groups of prospects and this week we have six players to profile for you.
When I chose the 2014 MLB amateur draft group, I decided to go with prospects that have developmental time ahead of them. What that means is that most of the “current development status” profiles are based on projections and draft scouting reports rather than statistical analysis. It also means that in the coming months their updated reports should be glowing with words like “dominance” and phrases like “ready for a promotion.” This group should perform like men among boys, and in five weeks their profiles should reflect that fact. I chose three pitchers and three batters and four of the six were first round picks.
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Miami Marlins
Current Development Status: Saying that Kolek has a huge arm is downplaying it. He has one of the biggest arms the amateur draft has ever seen and he lacks polish, command and control, which is no surprise. It has been suggested, without any statistical evidence, that pitchers throwing harder and exerting themselves more to increase their velocity could explain why Tommy John surgeries are on the rise. This was suggested as a possible concern when Kolek was drafted. The question with Kolek is, can he be a pitcher rather than a pure thrower? Does he have the feel for pitching and can he develop the secondary pitches necessary to be a successful starter? Major league batters can hit velocity, any velocity.
An interesting thing to watch with Kolek is how the Marlins choose to develop him. It will be very tempting to rush him through the system and have him throwing 100 mph in the majors by 2017, but that would be damaging for Fantasy owners and Kolek’s future. A player with his velocity and lack of polish will need time to develop, and it won’t be easy for the Marlins to be patient.
Fantasy Breakdown: With a 100-plus mph fastball, he is going to be in the major leagues at some point, with the only stumbling block being injury. Kolek’s floor is as a dominant closer due to his serviceable command and with any above average secondary pitch he profiles conservatively as a SP2. If he can develop three average to plus pitches then he has the potential to be one of the most dominant pitchers in Fantasy baseball. Whether a prospect will make it to the major leagues or not is a significant part of their Fantasy value and Kolek is about as safe a bet as you are going to find. Because of that, he has trade value as a first-year high school draftee.
Spencer Adams, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Current Development Status: Adams has a low-to mid-90s fastball with movement and a plus swing-and-miss breaking ball. He is a tall and lanky 6’3″, 171 lbs. with room to add weight, and his velocity could increase along with it. He currently throws a changeup that needs work to be serviceable but when he was drafted scouts thought it had plus potential. He has SP2 potential with his fastball-slider combination, but to reach his ceiling the third pitch needs to develop into a weapon rather than a show-me offering.
Fantasy Breakdown: If Adams had ace upside (like Lucas Giolito) or would be in the majors quickly (like Aaron Nola), then he would have trade value or could be a prospect to build your immediate future rotation around. He is currently a second round draft pick that flies under the radar and is often un-owned in leagues with shallower minor league systems. His SP2 potential makes him a must-claim. If you can get him added to the back end of a bigger trade then he could be the player that wins you the trade three years from now. The potential is there and he is in the right organization to develop it.
Tyler Beede, RHP, San Francisco Giants
Current Development Status: Beede was drafted with three above-average pitches (fastball-changeup-curveball) that could all develop into plus offerings. His fastball ticks up to 95 mph and with the potential of two secondary out-pitches, Beede has the building blocks to be an ace. More realistically, he profiles as a high-end SP3 with the chance to be a SP2 and dreams of it all coming together to become a surprise ace.
College pitchers traditionally move through the system quickly, often making their major league debut with less than two full minor league seasons under their belt. Given Beede’s inability to consistently throw strikes and command the strike zone, he will need innings to improve and that will take some time. You should expect him to take longer than college pitchers with Beede’s potential normally would.
Fantasy Breakdown: Beede’s three-pitch mix gives him trade value if he’s available in your league. His combination of a high ceiling and relatively short path to the majors justifies making him the foundation of a future rotation. Beede will take a little longer than most high-end college pitchers, but it doesn’t damage his Fantasy value in a meaningful way.
Beede doesn’t justify a high-end major leaguer in a trade, but he would be an acceptable second player in a blockbuster deal. He should be contributing by mid-2017; he will pitch in San Francisco’s pitcher-friendly confines against National League lineups. The tools and talents are there, the peripheral factors are in Beede’s favor and he will learn in an organization that has shown that they know how to develop pitchers, which should not be underestimated.
Nick Gordon, SS/2B, Minnesota Twins
Current Development Status: Gordon was the highest drafted middle infielder in the 2014 amateur draft class because of his above-average hit tool, above-average speed and power potential. His bloodline also undoubtedly played a part. (He is former pitcher Tom Gordon’s son and Dee Gordon’s brother) Gordon will have to develop physically and learn to pull the ball to generate the power that scouts project. He will also need to work on his defense to stay at shortstop because the slightly above-average speed doesn’t profile as well in centerfield.
Fantasy Breakdown: It’s pretty clear that scouts and analysts have an unexplainable desire to praise the most recent Gordon to be drafted into the baseball community, but the reports are all over the map and not all of them are complimentary. Scouts don’t believe he has the athleticism to handle shortstop or the plus base stealing speed that his half-brother Dee has, and they go as far as to say he is average out of the box. It isn’t the best sign for Fantasy owners when scouts talk about a need to develop physically.
Gordon is an example of a player that gained Fantasy credibility and momentum in spite of the scouting reports because he was a first round draft pick. The bar is set pretty low for middle infielders so Gordon has that going in his favor, but he has a lot of developmental hurdles to clear to prove that he isn’t a slap-hitting centerfielder with average stolen base ability and low-end home run totals. It is difficult not to own a prospect drafted in the first round in leagues of any size, but if he was drafted in a later round with these scouting reports and the issues in his profile, he wouldn’t be owned. Right now, I don’t recommend him for Fantasy ownership.
Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners
Current Development Status: Jackson has plus to plus-plus power and was the best bat in a mediocre 2014 draft class. He was a catcher in high school but scouts believe he could play third base. However, the Mariners transitioned him to the outfield, where his power plays, and the move will speed up his progression to the major leagues. He has above average bat speed that projects solid batting averages and below-average speed that won’t prevent him from playing the outfield, but stolen bases aren’t going to be a part of his Fantasy value.
Fantasy Breakdown: Plus-plus power is a rarity that makes Jackson one of the better prospects from the 2014 draft. His lack of speed and the move to the outfield diminishes his potential Fantasy value, but his transition away from catcher increases it. Jackson doesn’t profile at the same level as potential untouchables like Corey Seager or Byron Buxton, so owners can feel comfortable including Jackson in trades for current contributors as a part of a title run.
Forrest Wall, 2B, Colorado Rockies
Current Development Status: Wall has everything you want from an offensive-minded middle infield prospect with one significant concern. He may not stay in the middle infield because of his below-average throwing arm. He has above-average raw power and plus speed to go with a plus-plus hit tool. Prospects with his kind of hit tool often make easy work of the lower levels, so don’t be surprised to see him move quickly through the Rockies system.
Fantasy Breakdown: If not for his below-average throwing arm, he would have been a first round pick and he deserves a minor league roster spot in all dynasty leagues. Walls’ power, speed and hit tool all profile better than first-rounder Nick Gordon, even though you are unlikely to see him ranked ahead of him on any prospect lists. Walls’ plus-plus hit tool and above-average offensive profile could force the Rockies to make room for him sooner than they may have originally planned. A situation like Mookie Betts’ in Boston could arise in which Wall changes positions to get his bat in the Colorado lineup, or he could be promoted quicker than you may expect (like Rougned Odor in Texas) because of a need at second base. Wall is three or four years from this kind of situation becoming a possibility, but it is a potential scenario with his hit tool.