OK, ladies and gentleman, it’s time for the finale of our off-season first-year player draft rankings for dynasty leagues! We’ve seen studs like Mackenzie Gore, Jo Adell, Hunter Greene, and Heliot Ramos, and today’s list may have some players that are a bit more flawed. However, the talent pool is still pretty deep, so there’s reason for optimism across the board. Where will two-way stud Brendan McKay end up? Read on to find out!
If you’re picking at this point in the draft, that means you likely finished higher in the standings and might prefer a player with a quicker proximity to the majors. For the most part, I personally ignore this rule, because the players remaining aren’t likely going to be superstar studs unless they are toolsy, young players who need to work on their contact or control. You’ll see guys like Bubba Thompson or Austin Beck, but by all means, if you want someone closer to The Show, take a guy like Brendan McKay a little earlier. Just remember to always think about your team. If you are low on pitching in your minors system, rank your pitchers a bit higher than the hitters. However, it is still a good rule of thumb that hitters have a much lower attrition rate than pitchers, so you run less of a risk of wasting a pick if you go for an offensive player. Now let’s get to it!
11. Bubba Thompson, OF, Texas Rangers
Taken 26th overall by the Rangers, Thompson is a 19-year-old outfielder with five-category stud potential. His 60-grade speed should turn into consistent stolen bases throughout his career, and he has a quick, easy swing with good wrist strength that could turn into some nice power as he grows and improves his pitch recognition. He likely needs quite a bit of seasoning before making it to the majors. And unless there is a drastic change in his approach, he won’t likely walk all that much. However, that should be offset by good contact skills, which should lead to a solid batting average.
12. Austin Beck, OF, Oakland Athletics
Another raw player with tons of tools, Beck is also several years away from the majors. He has really good bat speed, plenty of raw power, and above-average speed that could make him a solid 20-20 guy in his prime. He struggled a bit in rookie ball after being drafted, with a .211/.293/.349 line to go along with two homers and seven stolen bases. He can take a walk, as he registered a 9.8% BB/9 rate even through his struggles. This is another boom-or-bust, high-upside pick, and as I stated earlier, this is the kind of pick I prefer to make at this point in the draft to maximize your value. Watch Beck’s career. If he makes the right adjustments, he could become a very highly valued prospect in just a few short years.
13. Nick Pratto, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Pratto was a first base-only prep player that managed to get selected in the first round of the draft, which is a very rare feat. It goes to show how good the bat is likely going to be if he was valued that highly. He has a nice, smooth left-handed swing that generates plenty of bat speed that goes along great with his natural hitting ability. He has shown power to all fields, though one big question about him is how much in-game power he will develop. He’s had plenty of comps to Joey Votto, but on the downside of things, he has also been compared to Yonder Alonso. I think the power develops a bit better than the single-digit home run totals that Alonso put up prior to this season, but I don’t know if he’s truly a 30-homer guy, either. Don’t let the 10 stolen bases from his debut fool you, either. He’s not a runner and can’t be counted on for double-digit steals.
14. Brendan McKay, 1B/SP, Tampa Bay Rays
It seems odd seeing a fourth overall pick sitting 10 spots lower on a rankings list, but that’s ultimately how I feel about McKay. There was talk about whether or not the Rays would use him as a pitcher, hitter, or both, and they seem committed to at least letting him try his hand at both for the time being. He projects as a better pitcher than hitter, and ultimately I think that’s where he lines up in the long run. His debut ERA of 1.80 is a bit misleading, as he also allowed only a .159 BABIP, and advanced run metric FIP pegs him at a 4.03 ERA. I honestly don’t know if the talent actually makes him worthy of even this pick in the draft, but on name recognition alone, he warrants a taking. If I find myself drafting him here, I likely will float him out there for a trade and see what kind of value I can get.
15. Logan Warmoth, SS, Toronto Blue Jays
A 22-year-old collegiate shortstop that just plain knows how to hit, Warmoth’s power isn’t likely to be anything to fawn over. He did make some adjustments prior to the draft and showed some more over-the-fence pop, but I’m not banking on it really translating to anything special. He fields his position well, and despite a lack of walks, he does have the bat control to hit for a good average. He should develop double-digit stolen base potential, though it’s also never going to be anything in the elite territory. I think of Warmoth as kind of a less polished Dansby Swanson. His proximity to the majors is close, and I could see him up by mid 2019 or so.
16. Tristen Lutz, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Though lacking the raw athleticism of his fellow high school players, Lutz combines 60-grade power and a 60-grade arm to project as a good right fielder. He has more polish in his swing than other players his age (19), and he really won’t hurt you in any category other than stolen bases. He’s no slug on the basepaths, but he shouldn’t be counted on for anything in the speed department. In his first taste of the minors, Lutz played through two levels and batted over .300, walked about 8% of the time, and didn’t strike out too much. He should be on your radar if you’re looking for a good power prospect. Although he’s young and likely a few years away, he could ascend quickly if the bat develops like I think it could.
17. Pavin Smith, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Some scouts have claimed that Smith, a 21-year-old first baseman from the University of Virginia, is the heir apparent to Paul Goldschmidt in Arizona. I think that’s probably a bit too much to expect from him, and I’m also not certain the in-game power develops into anything special. It hasn’t been consistent for him in his career, and he didn’t have a single homer in his 223 plate minor league appearances last year. However, that’s not to say he wasn’t successful, as he hit .318/.401/.415, which attributed to a 12.1% BB rate. He also struck out only an astounding 10.8% of the time, so it stands to reason that once he sacrifices a bit of his swing and miss for some power, it should be there. I expect 20-25 HR power in his prime, and coupled with a very good approach and contact rate, it all adds up to a very solid hitter.
18. Nate Pearson, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
Pearson is a very big boy, with a true pitcher’s build at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds. There was a bit of concern about his secondary offerings coming into the draft, but those were all alleviated after his first taste of minor league action. Pearson’s plus-plus fastball sits 97-99 mph, and his three secondary pitches consist of a curve, changeup, and slider. He allowed only a .158 BABIP in Low-A ball, and though that’s obviously not sustainable, it does go to show how good his stuff is. The control is good enough that he doesn’t appear to be a guy who is going to struggle too much with walks. The upside here is of a No. 2 starter, and even the downside of a bullpen stud isn’t too bad. If you’re in need of pitching, I wouldn’t hesitate to take Pearson higher in the draft, but this feels about right for where he should go.
19. Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners
Very similar to Pavin Smith, there were also questions about White’s power coming into the minors. He quickly quieted that talk down with three homers in 55 plate appearances and a nice .532 slugging percentage. He’s also bizarrely very good at defense, and there has been plenty of talk about him shifting positions, with some saying even center field is an option. I ultimately don’t know where he ends up on the diamond, but a very real possibility is in a corner outfield spot or at first base. White does have some solid speed in addition to the fielding prowess, and though I don’t think he’s quite that good, some evaluators believe he could potentially steal 20 bases in a season. A big question here is the strikeout rate. In White’s first two years of college baseball, he struck out three times more than he walked. However, in his limited action in the minors, he struck out just 10.9% of the time. He has a chance to move rapidly up the rankings, but there are enough questions here for me to hold back on him until I see some good minor league stats.
20. Alex Faedo, SP, Detroit Tigers
Faedo could very well go much higher in your draft, as the potential is high and a late-season return to velocity has lifted his stock a bit. However, in the fall of 2016, he had surgery on both of his knees. He has, by all accounts, bounced back from those surgeries, but a kid that young who already needs work done to both knees scares me away a bit. Faedo features a fastball that sits 92-94 and can touch 98, an above-average slider, and a show-me changeup that he throws out there every now and then. In addition to the solid velocity, the fastball shows quite a bit of movement that makes it tough to barrel up on the ball. A funky delivery also works against him, particularly if the knee issues flare up again. Overall, if he’s healthy, there’s potential to be a good No. 3 starter, though he would likely fill out the back half of the Tigers’ rotation. If Faedo does have the knee issues flare up again, I could see him moving to the bullpen to save the wear and tear on his body.
Well, folks, that does it for my top-20 player rankings. This draft feels pretty deep, so some of these guys in the back half, like Evan White, Alex Faedo, and Nate Pearson, could wind up providing a lot more value than you would expect from that kind of pick. A few guys that just missed the cut include Chris Sease, who is a solid shortstop prospect, Hans Crouse, who has excellent stuff but might be destined for the bullpen, and J.B. Buskaukas, who has good stuff but isn’t the best size for a starting pitcher. It will be an absolute blast watching these prospects grow and evolve as players, and hopefully we will see more success than failure with these guys.
Good luck and happy drafting!