The 2015 draft was one of the weakest I have ever covered and while this draft doesn’t compare to a 2011 crop that included Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Archie Bradley, Javier Baez, George Springer, Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray or the superstar blue chippers we saw in 2010 when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Matt Harvey were drafted in the top seven, it’s a solid group of depth and upside.
I will take a deeper look into the profiles of a few of the better prospects in this draft class in my next column after we see where the different players will hang their hats, and I plan to do it that way because it is important to look at some alternative factors that might be even more significant to a prospect’s Fantasy value than their tools – like who they are drafted by and where they might play in their major league careers.
As a prospect analyst, I am always fighting the generally held belief that prospects are a crapshoot. I fight that fight not because the claim is baseless, but because it dismisses the wide array of factors that help explain why a prospect develops or doesn’t. There are a lot of reasons why a prospect falls short of expectations or exceeds them. To throw up your hands because of the complexity or the multitude of reasons why and to just say it’s a crapshoot does a disservice to scouts and to the organizations that develop them. That’s what I want to get into by discussing a few organizations and suggesting how they impact the potential Fantasy value of the prospects they will draft.
The Amateur Draft will be the start of a Prospect’s future and Fantasy owners are advised to pay close attention to where they are drafted because it is every bit as important as the player’s tools and talent.
The Coors Effect
Coors Field threatens the legitimacy of Major League Baseball, and I am not exaggerating when I say that. It is my belief that the Colorado Rockies will never be a serious playoff contender, never mind a legitimate World Series threat because of Coors Field. It drastically affects their major league pitchers, and the trickle-down effect of how it influences their drafts and the impact of the development of their prospects. Their home field is overwhelmingly detrimental to their chances of competing, and it is an even more enormous factor in how you project their prospects.
Where teams play their home games impacts the way they draft players and how they develop them as a group. American League teams can afford to devalue defense in favor of offense because they have the designated hitter. The Boston Red Sox can afford to start an offensive lineman to play the monster at Fenway Park if he can hit for some pop (Rafael Devers – I am talking to you) while they have to be a little more diligent and cautious about drafting left handed pitchers because of how unfriendly that same monster can be to them on the bump.
Regardless of how talented a pitcher is, if the Rockies draft him then you have to avoid him. It’s really that simple. Offense, on the other hand, is just the opposite. Mediocre bats become viable Fantasy studs because of Coors Field. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon were two good prospects that have become two great Fantasy players because of the performance enhancement that is Coors Field.
Starting pitcher Riley Pint and outfielder Mickey Moniak have been rumored as possible Rockie draft picks, and they are two perfect examples to illustrate the Coors Effect. Pint is an electric arm with above average secondary pitches, while Moniak is a good hitter with below average power. Pint’s Fantasy career will be destroyed if he is drafted by Colorado just like Jonathan Gray’s has been, while Moniak will become one of the two or three best prospects in this draft class if he is drafted by the Rockies. His slightly below average power to go with a plus-hit tool and above average speed will all play up in Coors and could turn him in to the next Mookie Betts rather than the next Adam Eaton.
Draft and Development
A good argument can be made that who drafts a player is more important and has a larger impact on their potential Fantasy value than the tools they bring to the table. Some organizations struggle to develop even can’t-miss players, while others are able to find diamonds in the rough and late round impact prospects that can help owners significantly improve their minor league systems quickly. The Twins are an example of the former (Byron Buxton) while the Red Sox (Betts) are a great example of the latter.
Here are some impressions about different organizations and their impact on a prospect’s Fantasy outlook.
Kansas City Royals
I am going to try to make a nuanced point here so bare with me and follow along closely.
The Royals are a small market team that can’t afford to spend on big-ticket free agents or to take risks and spend valuable free agent dollars at the back of their major league roster for bench players and minor contributors. Because of this financial fact, there are always going to be opportunities for homegrown players. That doesn’t mean that the Royals draft and develop their talent well.
It is my evaluation that the Royals draft well, but that they develop poorly, by Fantasy Sports standards. If you look at the Fantasy relevant prospects that the Royals have developed (Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon) it is fair to say that they either took too long to make it and/or their production has fallen short of what their tools projected, and I see that same trend continuing in their minor league system right now. They have more prospects that profile with above average tools that are currently developing below expectations according to scouting reports.
I am not suggesting that you should avoid Royals draft picks all together, but I am suggesting that you consider Bubba Starling, Raul Mondesi Jr. and Moustakas when you evaluate the tools of their draft picks and the likelihood that they reach their ceilings.
It is my belief that the Royals developmental system damages a player’s ceiling and that it needs to be considered by Fantasy owners when comparing prospects and amateurs drafted this year. Playing in Kauffman stadium could certainly be a factor, just like Coors Field has been for Rockies prospects, but that doesn’t explain their lack of quality pitchers in the organization. Just because the Royals, as an organization, provide more opportunities for at–bats and innings pitched doesn’t mean that they develop better or that they should be targeted rather than avoided by Fantasy owners.
My recommendation is that you downgrade the value of their draft picks because they have become Royals.
They are another small market team that has to be selective with their dollars, but they have done a great job drafting and developing Fantasy prospects. Their starting outfield (Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco), their number one starter (Gerrit Cole) and their top two pitching prospects (Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow) are all borderline Fantasy stars or have the potential to be and they are all homegrown.
If the Pirates draft a player then they should be upgraded on your boards.
They haven’t developed a legitimate Fantasy starting pitching prospect since Mike Mussina and that was before most of the people reading this column were born. They have had plenty of highly touted ones, but they all busted or flourished after leaving Baltimore. Jake Arrieta is at the top of the marque of successful defectors, but Chris Tillman, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Dylan Bundy, Hunter Harvey and Kevin Gausman have all been touted as potential Fantasy stars without much success in the rotation to confirm it.
The Orioles haven’t really drafted and developed offensive players either. Chris Davis was traded to the Orioles by Texas before becoming a star with Baltimore, and Adam Jones did most of his development in Seattle before coming to Baltimore in the Erik Bedard heist. Manny Machado is definitely a success, but with a can’t-miss talent that made it from draft pick to major leaguer as fast as he did, I find it difficult to gush praise on the Orioles for that one. Hitting in Camden Yards is reason to be instinctively happy about an Orioles offensive draft pick, but don’t be so quick to fall in love, as the track record isn’t a great one.
St. Louis Cardinals
They rarely pick at the top of a draft and so they rarely land the high-profile blue chip prospects, but year after year they draft and eventually develop viable Fantasy pitchers and batters. For that same reason, they often fly under the radar and are undervalued assets that can be plucked from other owners as well. Matt Adams, Randal Grichuk (they traded for him but they still finished the job getting him to the majors), Steven Piscotty, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Martinez, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha (I realize the verdict is still out on the last two but they justify a mention) are all varying degrees of Fantasy relevant without varying degrees of Fantasy value.
The Cardinals draft hard throwing arms and they develop those arms as well as their offensive players to be productive Fantasy players. The tools don’t always scream “impact star,” but trust the Cardinals track record; they know what they are doing and you can benefit from that trust.
Just trust them. It’s that simple. Theo Epstein built a juggernaut of a developmental system in Boston, and he has done it very quickly in Chicago as well. He had a lot of high picks in Chicag,o and like in Tampa Bay by Andrew Friedman, that can be a huge boost, but that doesn’t explain it all in Chicago and it doesn’t explain much of anything in Boston (a different set of draft rules does to some degree there). If the Cubs like them, you should be willing to as well.
San Francisco Giants
Play it straight with Giants draft picks. They have hit on some (Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey) and they have missed on others. The Giants develop good baseball players that fit perfectly in their system and in the National League game, but they aren’t always great Fantasy players. They do an above average job developing pitchers while a somewhat below average job at drafting or developing above average tools on offense. They don’t target plus-tools and they don’t develop them, either.
I give the Giants an above average grade on pitchers and a below average grade on developing batters, and I suggest you do the same.
With John Hart at the helm, they are without any doubt rebuilding through youth and the draft. Hart built a pennant contender from within in Cleveland drafting and developing superstars like Albert Bell, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel. You shouldn’t just assume, like you should with Epstein, that Hart will return to being the development guru that he was in his earlier days in Cleveland, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise. Evaluate their picks based on tools first, but you should feel more confident about them because of Hart.
I recommend that you downgrade Twins drafts picks because of their poor track record of developing relevant Fantasy players, They have had more than their fair share of high picks and they have been unable to develop them into impactful contributors and their later round picks haven’t hit in any meaningful way either. Going all the way back to Carlos Gomez and in more recent years with Buxton, Aaron Hicks and Alex Meyer, they have had prospects with above–average profiles that have been nothing more than well below average Fantasy contributors. They have been equally as bad at developing bats as they have been at developing pitchers.
In my next column, I will do an analysis along with a Fantasy breakdown of the best players in this year’s draft and who drafts them, but more importantly, who develops them. Where they will eventually play is an important factor in determining and ranking a prospect’s future, but it wouldn’t be an inefficient undertaking to do it until we know where they will start to build their Fantasy futures.