Regardless of the strengths or weaknesses of any given draft class, I always get excited about some of its draftees when I am researching the amateur draft. 97 MPH velocity and filthy breaking pitches, the potential of a world-class athlete to become a superstar baseball player with 30 home run or 30 stolen base potential gets to me every year, and I am a self proclaimed pessimist. It’s too easy to get swooped up by the storm and the energy of the optimism. It happened last week with the batters and I am now in the eye of the storm with the 2016 top pitchers today.
This class has velocity and swing-and-miss breaking pitches, it has left-handed plus stuff as well as pitchers with the kind of command and polish that could result in number two starter results. It doesn’t have the next Lucas Giolito or even Gerrit Cole unless you believe Coors Field won’t kill Riley Pint’s future, but that doesn’t mean this class doesn’t have some boys on the bump that can make an impact on your Fantasy teams. I am not changing my analysis or the profiles of the batters I wrote up last week, but I am less bullish on them today because I have come to the conclusion that your focus in Fantasy league amateur drafts this year should be these top pitchers.
Jason Groome, LHP, Boston Red Sox
Comps: Chris Sale/Matt Moore/James Paxton
Groome was the guy in the green room that kept falling and falling on draft night and the Red Sox may be this year’s biggest beneficiary as a result. Groome already sits mid-90s and has touched 97 with command from the left side, which is a filthy combination. He has an out-pitch breaking ball that has the potential to be a plus-plus SP1 type pitch as well. He is already more physically developed than many of the pitchers in this class while being younger than most of them too. When you combine two plus-plus pitches and a physically powerful kid with physical maturity still to come, you can dream on a potential ace in Groome.
Off the field concerns were why he fell to Boston at twelve, but his stuff profiles to be one of the best in this class with the highest ceiling. Boston has struggled to draft and develop starting pitching, but there are a lot of reasonable explanations for that that have nothing to do with the Sox just being bad at it. Owners should feel more confident about Groome developing in Boston rather than concerned because of their history. He is my top pick in Fantasy amateur drafts.
Ian Anderson, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Anderson showcases a solid fastball that won’t break the radar gun with the potential for an above average breaking ball, but his changeup is his best pitch, and he will have to get swings and misses to reach his ceiling. He doesn’t have the best pure stuff in this draft but it is above average, and as he matures physically we could see another level to his game.
Anderson has a higher floor but you really have to squint to believe that he has the ceiling of the some of the better pitchers in this class. He is less risk and less potential, but that’s not the worst thing from a pitcher in Fantasy.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Comps: A Young Bartolo Colon/Danny Duffy
Puck has a big, sturdy frame that creates elite mid to upper 90s velocity from the left side. He flashes above average command for a big guy with that kind velocity, but he can be inconsistent due to those long limbs. He doesn’t have a plus secondary pitch and it’s a reach to think either his curveball or changeup will get there, but above average isn’t out of the question. His calling card will be the fastball and it’s good enough to carry him if he can find a satisfactory second pitch to work off of it.
Braxton Garrett, LHP, Miami Marlins
Comps: Jose Quintana/Gio Gonzalez
Solid velocity, a plus curveball and a changeup that has the potential to be plus to go with plus command makes Garrett an intriguing prospect in a crowded class of above average pitchers. He lacks the velocity to excite owners or profile as a true SP2, but his plus command could allow his stuff to play up.
It’s a three-pitch mix that profiles as a solid SP3 with upside to be a low-end SP2, especially if he can develop more velocity as he matures physically. The base is intriguing and there is room for upside to dream on. He could be the “guy” that develops into more than was expected on draft day.
Cal Quantrill, RHP, San Diego Padres
Comps: Michael Wacha/James Shields
Quantrill hasn’t pitched since 2015 because of Tommy John surgery when he was throwing 94 mph with a plus change up and a mediocre curveball.
The lack of a plus breaking ball before the surgery or upper level velocity makes Quantrill a little risky, but a plus secondary pitch and hopes of increased velocity as he matures along with a future in the National League in the friendly confines of Petco make Quantrill a risk/reward possibility.
Matt Manning, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Comps: Zach Wheeler/Shelby Miller
Manning offers plus velocity that clicks the gun at 96-97 and some reports say he has hit 99 mph, but he lacks a plus secondary pitch or something filthy that bends. He is a plus athlete with professional family members in the bloodlines, suggesting to scouts that he can develop the secondary stuff to go with a special arm and an elite fastball.
There is more projection and hope with Manning than many of the other pitchers at the top of this draft, which also means potential upside, but an elite fastball and an athletic player is a great combination to dream on.
I haven’t liked the way the Tigers have developed their prospects, but Dave Dombrowski is gone and maybe the new regime is better at drafting and developing than the previous one was.
Zach Burdi, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Comps: Fernando Rodney/Wade Davis
Burdi sits 97-99 mph and has cracked 100 on the gun. He mixes that elite velocity with a plus change up and a power slider that could be plus if he is given the chance to develop it. Burdi has the raw stuff to be a closer in the major leagues right now, and if the White Sox want to give his electric arm a chance as a starter, they could have landed themselves a steal with the 26th overall selection.
He has a limited ceiling because he is probably going to be a closer, but he has an extremely high floor for a Fantasy prospect because his fastball guarantees that he will be a major leaguer and probably sooner rather than later. There is a scenario in which Burdi profiles as both a high floor and high ceiling prospect because he does flash plus secondary offerings if the White Sox do give him a chance to develop as a starter.
He is one of the more intriguing Fantasy prospects in this draft because the stuff plays as a professional; we just don’t know exactly what roll he will eventually serve. If you’re in a league with holds and you don’t mind living with uncertainty, then Burdie is about as safe a selection as you will ever come across with intriguing upside as well.
Dakota Hudson, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Comps: Jordan Zimmerman/Chris Tillman
Hudson is a risk/reward guy because at his best he has four above average pitches that profile as a solid SP3, but he lacks an elite fastball and the secondary offerings are inconsistent enough now to profile as a SP2 or more. There is a chance that he develops in the Cardinals organization and all of his stuff plays up a tick and that would profile Hudson as a SP2 starter. Hudson is one of the more difficult Fantasy viable prospects to project in this draft.
Jordan Sheffield, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Comp: Jake McGee/Kevin Siegrist
Sheffield’s 98 mph fastball is one of the most explosive pitches in this draft and it plays up because it’s from the left side. His secondary stuff is average with a chance to be slightly above, but neither profiles to be a plus or plus-plus pitch.
He was drafted in the supplemental round because his command has been suspect and the upside on his secondary offerings is in question. Fantasy players should look at his fastball and pray that something clicks because the fastball is an ace pitch that could make him a Fantasy difference-maker if he can find a pitch to play off of it. If he doesn’t then he is a reliever and possibly a closer.
Joey Wentz, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Comps: Jose Quintana/Gio Gonzalez
The Pirates have drafted and developed pitchers extremely well (Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow, Gerrit Cole) and Wentz has a chance to be another steal for the Buckos.
Wentz lacks the plus velocity to profile as a true SP2 or a number one, but he has a chance to sit mid-90s and that would be enough to be a number three starter or possibly a low-end SP2. He has the makings of a plus curveball and a serviceable third pitch in his changeup along with above average command that could profile as a low-end SP2 or solid SP3 from the left side, and being drafted by Pittsburgh increases my confidence in his chances to become Fantasy relevant.
He was drafted in the supplemental round so there is a chance that some of your league owners won’t be aware that he is viable and he could fall in drafts.
Riley Pint, RHP, Colorado Rockies
Comp: Justin Verlander/Jon Gray
Before the draft, I wrote an article discussing the impact who you are drafted and developed by can have on a prospect’s Fantasy future and on draft night my biggest reaction was to Riley Pint related to this very topic. I was struck by the strange juxtaposition of seeing Riley Pint smile ear to ear with happiness when he was drafted fourth overall and the dread and sorrow I felt for him because he was drafted fourth overall – by the Colorado Rockies. His potential is immense and his future is pretty grim.
Pint has the best arm in this draft, if not one of the best we have seen in a few years. He sits upper 90’s and has been clocked as high as 102 mph. He has a potential plus changeup that could play huge coming out of the same arm slot as a 100 mph fastball and two different breaking balls that project as above average.
Developing in the Rockies system and eventually pitching in Coors Field almost guarantees that Pint will never be Fantasy relevant in spite of his immense potential, and you need to draft him accordingly.
Because of the odds against him being Fantasy relevant you should not draft Pint until all of the prospects with a chance to be relevant are off the board. Prospects with lower ceilings or higher risks, mediocre tools or limited upside all should be drafted before Pint. The odds, sadly, are THIS long that Pint will ever throw a meaningful season on your Fantasy team. What I am saying, essentially, is that when you are feeling the urge to draft a catcher, THEN you should be looking at Riley Pint. Dylan Carlson, an outfielder drafted by the Cardinals, was selected 33rd overall and lacks the tools or upside to be a Fantasy starter. You should be looking to take a chance on Pint instead of a player like Carlson because of his limited profile.
While Riley Pint and his family and friends were glowing with excitement, I couldn’t help but feel bad about the fact that while he just realized his dreams of being a professional baseball player I am fairly certain that his future is about as dim as any viable prospect in this year’s draft. The Colorado Rockies and Coors Field has THAT big of an impact on a pitcher’s future and it is truly unfortunate for Riley Pint and Fantasy owners.