Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE
Craig Goldstein reviews the first ten picks in his dynasty league's minor league draft
Last year I took you through my 20-team dynasty league's four round draft and gave my thoughts on each of the picks. People seemed to like it, so I'm bringing it back this year. We concluded our draft on Sunday and I'm going to break this out into six parts going ten picks at a time. I figure this is at least a mildly interesting look at the types of players that are going in leagues this deep, and how different people value different players. After all, it's nice to know you're not alone on your valuations. Additionally,
our own Baseball Prospectus' Bret Sayre joined this league in the offseason, so he may add in his own comments from time to time.
While this won't be as instructive as Bret's departing gift to all of us (a write up of the industry experts minor league mock draft that we participated in), it might be of service for those of you in similar leagues that are in progress and whose drafts are often built on first round talent from the most recent draft and pop up guys from the most recent year.
As mentioned above, this is a 20-team dynasty league. We have 25 man rosters, 22 keepers, and a 15 man minor league system. Roster cut downs were made prior to the MiLB draft, and the MLB portion of the draft is held after the MiLB draft. Not everyone's minor league rosters are stocked but of the 300 available minor league roster spots, I would guess over 200 of them are filled. Our rosters use only three outfield spots, not five, but are restricted by LF/CF/RF positions, not the generic OF. This puts extra value on centerfielders who can produce and also changes team needs a substantial amount.
Foreign imports (Ryu, Fujikawa et al.) are eligible to be picked in our draft. The other rules are standard; the players must be rookie eligible by MLB standards with the exception of service time, meaning fewer than 130 at-bats for hitters and fewer than 50 innings pitched for pitchers.
Lastly, this is not a snaking draft. In a league this deep, we gear the draft toward replenishing the weaker teams as much as possible. Each team has three picks in the three rounds and trading of MiLB draft picks is not allowed*, so keeping track of each teams haul should be relatively easy. With all that said, let's get to the picks.
*There is a bit of a loophole that will be addressed later on in the series
Team 1 - Carlos Correa - SS - Houston Astros
Not a surprising selection for this owner. He was seeking premium overall value in the long term and it's hard to argue against Correa through that lens. Though Byron Buxton must also have been a consideration, my guess is that the positional eligibility of Correa (SS or 3B vs OF) weighed heavily here. This team is in the midst of a massive rebuild with many MiLB players occupying spots on his MLB roster at the moment, so thinking long term makes some sense. There were other players available that I would have taken ahead of Correa, such as...
Team 2 - Jose Fernandez - SP - Miami Marlins
This was the guy at the top of my draft board and was my expected #1 overall pick. Part of me can't believe that the entire league let Fernandez slip through four rounds last year, while the other part of me remembers thinking he was mostly an arm-strength guy and not someone I liked. I still may not be as high on Fernandez as some others, but he's an elite talent who has the potential to provide dividends in the not too distant future. His fantasy ceiling isn't that of a Correa or a Buxton, but he should arrive considerably sooner and carries less risk in my eyes.
Team 3 - Mike Zunino - C - Seattle Mariners
This was the first truly surprising pick for me, though perhaps that's more on me than it is the value of the pick. Zunino is clearly a first round value given his talent at a scarce position but it was a surprise to me that he was selected ahead of at least Buxton and perhaps some other players that follow. Most of Zunino's value comes from his ability to be better than average at a scarce position and close to the majors. All of these are good things of course, but the lack of upside is what bothers me here. In real life, where defense and leadership matter? I get it. In fantasy though, I want a potential star with this kind of pick. No one values catchers more than me - I had 7 between my majors and minors last year (I'm down to four this year) - but I make a habit of snagging guys like Jon Lucroy, Salvador Perez, and Rob Brantly off of the in-season waiver wire. Those guys might not end up better than Zunino (I'm high on Lucroy and especially Perez, though), but the cost paid for them is relatively minimal. Zunino should be nothing if not solid, but minor league drafts end up being about opportunity cost in many cases, and this is one that I think comes back to bite Team 3 in that respect.
Team 4 - Byron Buxton - CF - Minnesota Twins
This is just great value. Even with a neglected talent like Fernandez sitting around, it's not often that the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 draft and often top rated overall talent will drop to 4th overall in a MiLB fantasy draft. A potential 5-tool monster, Buxton receives an additional bump in value for being a sure-fire centerfielder. Getting a CF who can hit is no easy task in a 20-team league.
Team 5 - Addison Russell - SS - Oakland Athletics
It doesn't seem that long ago, directly following the amateur draft, that I was daydreaming scenarios in which Russell could fall to my 14th pick. That was foolish at the time and only served to look more foolish after Russell laid waste to any league he was placed in. The A's have invited him to spring training already and simply put, Russell was probably my favorite player available in this draft. In discussions with leaguemates I had stated that I could probably make a case for Russell to go first overall. Given what he's accomplished and my adoration of him, one could easily surmise I think this is great value at 5th overall.
Team 6 - Aaron Sanchez - SP - Toronto Blue Jays
Another pick that fills me with angst and regret, this one burns more than the Fernandez oversight. I was just plain wrong on Fernandez, and I better be able to live with that because I'm wrong a lot. Sanchez though was under consideration for my final pick in each of the last two drafts we've run in this league, only to be passed over for other players (regrettably; Jared Mitchell and less regrettably; Yordano Ventura). Sanchez has blossomed into a top prospect, checking in at 19 in Keith Law's top 100 prospects ($). Sanchez is an especially intriguing target in fantasy with his impressive strikeout totals and the stuff to back it up. Control is an obvious concern but for most prospective owners that only extends as far as WHIP does and Sanchez has proven adept at limiting hits, allowing only 64 hits in 90.1 innings pitched in 2012.
Team 7 - Kyle Zimmer - SP Kansas City Royals
Zimmer was the top arm on my board for 2012 draftees, edging our Kevin Gausman and Max Fried. He and Gausman are very similar in my opinion and I actually have the prep-schooler Fried right there with the two of them, but he was further down my board because I am a contending team and Fried is that much further away. I have Zimmer over Gausman because he has a more effective breaking ball, and I prefer to have a guy need to develop a change up than a curve or slider. I was a little surprised to see him go this early, as bats often carry the day in this league, but the value seems right.
Team 8 - David Dahl - CF - Colorado Rockies
While Dahl might not have played his way out of two different leagues, he did do his best Addison Russell impersonation while setting the Pioneer League on fire as one of it's youngest regulars. It's no surprise to see a talent like Dahl go in the top 10 in a league like this, perhaps it's only surprising that he didn't go sooner. It's almost always the case that the defensive component of a scouting report is not too consequential for fantasy owners, but in Dahl's (and this league's) case it could be. If he stick as a CF he's a potential fantasy superstar, but if he moves to a corner those numbers become above-average but not game changing. Positional depth is a big factor, but the risk is worth the reward at this value.
I thought this was early for Puig, but this is a team/owner who often throws a curveball in these minors drafts. Last year he took Yu Darvish first overall and immediately traded him for Alex Gordon and Jeremy Hellickson, so I know to expect the unexpected. I also know that he has a predilection for older players that are closer to contributing and he will sacrifice some ceiling to accommodate that preference. On the one hand, this is a reasonable choice in that Puig should start the season at Double-A or reach it shortly and profiles to have power and solid speed. On the other hand, we don't really know much about Puig. We've seen very little game action and he came down with an injury to prevented him from playing in the Arizona Fall League, where we could have learned a bit more. On top of that, the Dodgers starting outfield is locked in for the next 5 years, so it's difficult to conjure up a path to ample playing time.
Team 10 - Alen Hanson - SS - Pittsburgh Pirates
I would have taken Hanson ahead of Puig, and probably head of guys like Zimmer and even Zunino (I guess I'm down on Zunino). Hanson has a lot of risk as a guy without a long track record, but if you're in the prospect game, track records aren't always a luxury one can afford. If you want to get in early, it comes at the cost of security. When I look at Hanson, I see a guy who can straight up hit. Lots of hard contact (62 XBH in '12) from a premium position. Whether Hanson can stick at shortstop is up for debate, but if a position change is required, it's likely he ends up at the keystone and second sackers who can hit like Hanson don't grow on trees either. I took Hanson in the 3rd round of the aforementioned experts mock, so he's clearly a talent that I believe in.
So those were the first ten picks in my 20-team dynasty league minor league draft. I hope that my thoughts on each pick were useful, but if you can think of a way this process can be more advantageous to the reader, I'm all ears. I'll be back with picks 11-20 on Thursday.