We've arrived at Round 3 of my 20 team dynasty league minor league draft, and this is where the draftniks and prospectors separate themselves a bit, as the talent has thinned (though considerably less so this year than others). In the past, it was the third round where we really started seeing first rounders (or big bonus guys) from the most recent draft start flying off the board and this year was no exception. I'm going with a different format for Round 3, as I tried to say a bit more about each player as we're getting into lesser known territory. Let me know which you prefer in the comments.
1.Team 1 - Tim Wheeler (OF COL)
I can't complain about any of these first five picks. I had been wondering why Tim Wheeler hadn't been popped yet considering the numbers he posted last year. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of questions on Wheeler, but if the power is at ALL for real, his 20/20 potential makes this a steal. See my take on Wheeler in my top 12 hitters in '12 (he's number 11).
2. Team 2 - Eddie Rosario (OF/2B MIN)
Rosario is a great pick in this spot. He's a long way away from the majors having only played in rookie ball, but his bat could move him quickly and he has a chance for an impact bat at a generally weak position. Rosario treated the Appalachian League as though it scorned him in the past, leading the league in runs, triples, homers, slugging and total bases. His present power was a bit of a surprise, but he projects to have average to plus power down the line. His defense at 2B is raw, but he has the athleticism to make it work.
3. Team 3 - AJ Cole (SP OAK)
This was a devastating pick for me. I love Cole and while I didn't think he'd make it back around to me, a man can dream... Cole was a 4th round pick who was paid above-slot money in 2010, and made his full season debut last year. What drew me to Cole was that he got stronger as the year went on, hitting 98 MPH on the gun by season's end and finishing with a 108/24 K/BB ratio. Cole is 6'4/180 and has a chance to add to his frame to make sure his increased velocity is no fluke.
4. Team 4 - Drew Hutchison (SP TOR)
Another from the Blue Jays cadre of impressive young arms, Hutchison draws differing opinions from scouts. BaseballAmerica ranks him 9th in the Jays top 10, behind Norris, Nicolino, and Syndergaard, while Keith Law ranked Hutchison in his top 50 and left the other three unranked. What they both agree on is that Hutchison has superb control of improving stuff (low 90s fb, plus change, inconsistent slider) that plays up due to deception from a cross-body delivery that could impact his ability to stick as a starter. Not a bad value early in the third round.
5. Team 5 - Mason Williams (OF NYY)
I anticipated Williams benefitting from the Yankee hype machine and getting overdrafted somewhere early in the second round. Turns out he goes in the top of the third, and I think that's just about right and possibly even undervalued, given his skill set. See my expanded thoughts on Williams in this prospect comparison.
6. Team 6 - CJ Cron (1B LAA)
Cron could be nice value here as he generated more uses of the word "smash" in the Pioneer league than an NBC advertisement. His biggest attribute is his power, which is usable right now, and the ability to compliment that power with enough hitting that he won't kill you in average. His detractions are many however, as he has a bulky frame and won't ever be a great defender, even at first base. He also had a torn labrum in his shoulder (that he played with), and suffered a dislocated kneecap while swinging in a game. He has had surgery to address both injuries, but it remains to be seen what effect that will have on him when he returns in 2012.
7. Team 7 - Zach Cone (OF TEX)
Cone, a surprise pick in the supplemental round by Texas, was also a surprise pick here in the 3rd by Team 7. Cone certainly looks the part of a 5-tool ball player with good athleticism in the field and on the basepaths, as well as quick wrists that generate good bat speed. Unfortunately, all his tools have never translated to any production, and his hit tool is gathering major questions after he regressed in his final year in college. Perhaps he struggled with the switch to less powerful bats, but Cone went from hitting .363 with 10 home runs in 2010 to .275 with 4 home runs in 2011. While Cone has several issues, some think they're fixable, and if they are, both Texas and Team 7 will walk away with a steal. However it seems like an unnecessary risk to take in a fantasy league.
8. Team 8 - Garin Cecchini (3B BOS)
Cecchini was a surprise of a different order, in that I was surprised he hadn't already been taken at this point. A 4th round pick in 2010, Cecchini signed for an above slot $1.31 million. He had torn his ACL in March preceding the draft but the Red Sox loved his hitting ability. Cecchini proved them right in short-season ball, posting a .298/.398/.500 slash line while facing mostly older competition. His season was cut short when he was hit by a pitch that resulted in a broken wrist. If he can stay healthy, I anticipate his ability and the Boston hype machine to push him up prospect lists this time next year.
9. Team 9 - Matt Barnes (SP BOS)
No surprise here as Matt Barnes comes off the board. As I said in the intro, it's around the time where the first round picks going to reputable farm system get taken, and Barnes is no exception. He effortlessly hits the mid 90s and can hold that velocity deep into games, though as of now, his fastball is his only plus offering. His change-up is in its nascent stage and while he's shown a solid curveball in the passed it regressed in 2011. The Red Sox will try and nurture growth for both his offspeed pitches, and if they succeed, they, along with Team 9, will both reap great value relative to their draft pick.
10. Team 10 - Wily Peralta (SP MIL)
Following in Cecchini's footsteps, I was shocked that Peralta was still on the board. At this point I was kind of figuring people forgot he existed. I know he doesn't have the upside that AJ Cole might represent, but I like Peralta a lot more than Drew Hutchison at this point. I would argue that Peralta has a higher ceiling and is closer to it than Hutchison. Peralta sits in the low to mid 90s with his fastball and can reach as high as 98. He uses both a two- and four-seam fastball and generates a great deal of groundballs with the two-seamer. He also offers a slider with some bite to it and a change-up that shows good if inconsistent sink. He doesn't have great control of his offspeed pitches and walks a few too many hitters as a result. He's not just a groundball pitcher though as he struck out 157 batters in 127 innings in 2011. I would expect him to make an appearance at the big league level in 2012.
11. Team 11 - Jose Campos (SP NYY)
Making his stateside debut in 2011, Campos led the Northwest League in ERA and strikeouts as a 19 year old. He possesses good command of a lively fastball that has been clocked as high as 98. At 6'4 he gets good plane on his pitches, and his delivery adds deception. He attacks the zone and shows good control, evidenced by his 85 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks in 81 innings. His secondary pitches (curve and change) flash plus, though they remain inconsistent, not surprising for a 19 year old. He made improvements as the season went along and was more consistent in his delivery, aiding the development of his pitches, command and control. Far from a throw-in, the Yankees might have netted themselves TWO frontline starters in exchange for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi.
12. Team 12 - Brandon Jacobs (LF BOS)
I first noticed Jacobs while looking over the BaseballAmerica daily prospect report and his numbers in 2011 jumped off the page at me. I followed his progress closely the rest of the season, and looked up his draft profile as well. Not to be confused with the OTHER Brandon Jacobs who was ALSO a running back recruit to Auburn University, this Jacobs chose to sign for over-slot money with the Red Sox as a 10th round pick in 2009. His production was underwhelming until this year, though that could have been a function of being behind developmentally due to his time with football. In 2011, Jacobs broke out behind a .303/.376/.505 slash line and 30 stolen bases in 37 tries. For a raw player, he shows good plate discipline and makes hard contact. He does strike out a lot and he does not show plus speed, likely making his stolen bases a bit of a fluke. For the 3rd round though, I was happy enough to take a chance on someone with his profile, and my faith was confirmed (a bit) when Kevin Goldstein (no relation) ranked him in his top 50 prospects this year.
13. Team 13 - Daniel Norris (SP TOR)
Another pick that satisfies the first round or big bonus criteria I laid out in the intro, Norris was popped in the 2nd round by the Blue Jays and they forked over $2 million at the deadline after failing to reach an agreement with first round pick and early frontrunner for top pick in 2014, Tyler Beede. Norris was a dual-sport and two-way athlete in high school, though his future was fated for the mound. He brings low 90s heat from the left side and has been clocked as high as 96 MPH. His secondary pitches lag behind, no surprise for a high schooler, though his breaking balls (slider, curve) have both flashed plus and he shows good feel for the change. Likely to start 2012 in extended Spring Training and debut in a short-season league, Norris is a long way from helping the Blue Jays and your fantasy team. Certainly not a bad pick in the third round given the upside, but I would be aiming to get someone who can help a bit sooner if possible.
14. Team 14 - Taylor Guerrieri (SP TB)
Marking the fourth straight pick from the AL East (and 6/7), Team 14 makes a great selection in Taylor Guerrieri. I had considered him at pick 12, and perhaps foolishly, I thought he might make it back to me in round 4 given the surprising amount of talent available. Guerrieri was perhaps the best prep arm available after Bundy and Bradley in the first round and slid due to makeup concerns (mascara is a bitch) that the Rays deemed overblown. He vaulted himself into the first round discussion when he added 6-7 MPH to his lively fastball in his senior year. He gets both sink and run on his fastball and supplements it with a power curve, and an in progress change-up and cutter. Command is a weakness at the moment but he clearly shows electric stuff. Similar to Norris, Guerrieri is a long ways away from the majors, especially considering the Rays deliberate pace in regards to promoting prospects.
15. Team 15 - Jesse Biddle (SP Phi)
Biddle would fall right into the mold I described in the intro...if this were 2010. Being 2011, I was surprised to see his name here as he didn't have a stellar season. When I looked closer, the selection made a bit more sense to me. As the third-youngest pitcher in the South Atlantic League, Biddle racked up 124 strikeouts in 133 innings. While he sat in the low 90s as a high school senior, Biddle generally threw in the upper 80s in 2011, though he did develop a nice change-up that featured good fade. The strikeouts are nice to see from such a young pitcher but with them came walks, an unacceptable 66 in 133 innings pitched. Biddle displays great work ethic, and while the drop in velocity is concerning it is not uncommon for pitchers jumping from high school to the pros. If he is able to regain some of that velocity and pare down his walks he could be a mid-rotation starter. Given the talent coming off the board behind him, including picks going into the fourth round, I think this was quite the reach and probably would have left Biddle undrafted.
16. Team 16 - Tyrell Jenkins (SP STL)
Jenkins is the type of pick that I love here, and I'm not surprised as Team 16 is a Cardinals fan and knows the heck out of their system. A four-sport star in high school, Jenkins came to baseball rawer than one normally expects out of a high school player. The Cardinals have moved deliberately with him, and it's paid off. Still just 19, Jenkins sits in the low 90s but can touch 97 and already shows an above-average curveball and a much improved change-up. Jenkins features a high leg kick in his delivery and gets good extension before releasing the ball. Unsurprisingly, he is a strong competitor and shows a willingness to throw a pitch even when he makes mistakes with it, which bodes well for the development of his secondary offerings. If Jenkins can continue his progress in Lo-A, I fully expect him to be in the top 30 prospects in all of baseball next year. A worthy investment of a 3rd round pick to be sure.
17. Team 17 - Corey Spangenberg (2B SD)
Spangenberg can flat out hit and flat out run. Another 2011 first round draft pick, I was anticipating someone taking him in the second round of this draft due to the two above average tools and a likely fast track to the big leagues. Spangenberg has already squeezed in just under 200 at-bats in Lo-A and is likely to start 2012 at Hi-A, and could even see an mid-season promotion. Read more on Spangenberg in this prospect comparison.
18. Team 18 - Brandon Nimmo (OF NYM)
While his background would suggest sushi-level rawness, Nimmo shows an advanced approach at the plate. As the first ever pick first round pick from Wyoming (a state with no high school baseball), Nimmo is by no means on the fast track. He projects as a plus hitter with solid power due to a quick, compact swing. He also shows plus speed in centerfield with enough arm for the position. While his projections are nice, he's quite a ways from fulfilling them and his risk factor is fairly high. That is why he fell to the bottom of the third round, but I still believe his risk is worth the reward on this one. The Mets believe they can push him to Lo-A in 2012 due to his fantastic makeup.
19. Team 19 - Dillon Howard (SP CLE)
Howard was drafted in the 2nd round but was paid mid-1st round money at the deadline. He is mostly arm strength and projection right now, though that projection is pretty rosy. Howard gets grounders and whiffs with a low 90s two-seam fastball with plus sink. He will occasionally throw a four-seam fastball, though mainly to give hitters a different look. His secondary offerings include an average change-up with room to grow and a breaking ball that is often caught between a curve and a slider. It could become an average pitch in time, if he can tighten the pitch and stay on top of it. Like Norris and Guerrieri before him, he has frontline starting potential, and like them, he will take time to get there.
20. Team 20 - Justin Nicolino (SP TOR)
The third arm from the Blue Jays overflowing stable to be taken this round, Nicolino throws a high 80s/low 90s fastball that touches 94. He dominated short-season ball and earned a promotion to Lo-A Lansing behind an above-average change-up that could become a plus pitch in time. He sells the change with good arm speed, and isn't afraid to throw any of his pitches inside or out. His curveball lags behind the other two pitches but have room for development and showed signs of tightening as the year moved on. He's intelligent on the mound, already changing his approach the second time through the order. He profiles as a mid-rotation starter with a chance to be more if the breaking ball develops.
As usual some picks had me nodding my head while others had me scratching it in confusion, all in all though I felt that good value was obtained by most team and even some of the more questionable decisions were defensible, though that gets easier and easier as the draft goes on. What say you?