Generally speaking, annual draft leagues handle prospects in one of two ways. Either league rules allow minor leaguers to be drafted at any time or the constitution requires players to reach Major League Baseball before they are eligible for pick up.
Even in the latter case, rules may be less restrictive on draft day. At that point, season-opening rosters are not yet in place, so which players are major leaguers and which are not is unclear.
In terms of the two major industry leagues, Tout Wars adopted the former model, while LABR follows the latter case.
Making matters even more challenging in LABR is the fact that the drafts are among the very earliest, traditionally held on the first weekend in March.
Past history has shown that in many of these leagues, one cannot wait for top prospects to be called up to the majors. In LABR, any owners who wanted to be proactive had to make their decision at the start of March. Or even if their favorite prospect was bypassed by others on draft day, there would surely be an expensive bidding war when the player was finally called up.
In preparation for drafting, the questions we asked ourselves were along this general theme. How many prospects do I want to draft and how many can I afford to hold among my six reserve spots until they are eligible in the league (in other words, when they are called up and prove they are worth starting)?
In my two years in the league, my observation has been that owners cannot even wait until the reserve rounds of the draft if they want to roster the brightest prospects. Some bidders have been willing to spend several dollars on minor leaguers whose contributions were coming later in the season, at best.
Now that we are a month into the season, I thought it would be interesting to see which prospects were taken in National League LABR in early March and how they are doing. Listed first are those who went in the auction, followed by reserve choices.
Ty Blach, RHP, San Francisco – Lenny Melnick, $1.
I was even tipped off by a Bay Area friend that Blach was a great end-game stash in NL-only formats, but did I get him anywhere? No, I did not. In this league, Lenny Melnick did and was rewarded when Madison Bumgarner had his unfortunate dirt bike mishap and Blach moved from the pen into the rotation.
Alen Hanson, IF, Pittsburgh – Bob Radomski, Sandlot Shrink, $1.
One of the beneficiaries of Jung-ho Kang’s troubles with the law opened the season on the Pirates’ 25-man roster, but has done little with the bat. Hanson’s line through 22 games is .171/.216/.286/.502.
Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers – Greg Ambrosius/Shawn Childs, NFBC, $2.
This looks like a brilliant purchase by the NFBC team. Though Adrian Gonzalez’ injury opened the door a crack, Bellinger’s play in his big league debut blew it wide open. The early pick as NL Rookie of the Year.
J.P. Crawford, SS, Philadelphia – Ambrosius/Childs, $3.
I drafted Crawford a year ago and held him all season, only to get nothing, Odds are much better the shortstop will make his MLB debut in 2017, though he needs to step up his hitting first. Over the first 29 games at Lehigh Valley, the 23-year old’s line is a disappointing .167/.286/.196/.482.
Koda Glover, RHP, Washington – Ambrosius/Childs, $2.
On the surface, Glover’s 5.03 ERA in his first 19 1/3 MLB innings last season suggested nothing special, but the NFBC duo saw the unsettled closing situation in the Nation’s Capital and got what already appears to be a nice bargain.
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Mets – Steve Moyer, Yakkertech, $1.
How can anyone argue with taking Mets infield reserves, especially based on what we have seen since draft day? Cecchini is off to a so-so start with Triple-A Las Vegas, batting .254 with two home runs and nine RBI in 30 games, but he received “The Call” on Monday.
Jae-gyun Hwang, 3B, San Francisco – Moyer, $3
The infielder was a trendy draft pick based on a good pedigree from a decade of play in Korea. Hwang did not make the Giants’ roster out of spring camp, however, and has a .293/.320/.379/.699 start at Triple-A. Further, the 29 year-old has yet to go deep through 28 games. Still, with the Giants struggling, the call could eventually come.
Dylan Cozens, OF, Philadelphia – Melnick
The Phillies outfield prospect is struggling mightily in his Triple-A debut, with a slash line of .178/.256/.346/.602.
Yefri Perez, 2B, Miami – Melnick
Coming off a decent stint in the Arizona Fall League, the 26-year old was asked to repeat Double-A. It is going poorly with the bat in the early going, as evidenced by his .120/.270/.152/.422 line through 27 games at Jacksonville.
Nick Kingham, RHP, Pittsburgh – Eric Karabell, ESPN
This is a long-term hold. Given Kingham is likely not going to return from his Tommy John surgery until the second half and would need to reestablish himself at Triple-A, September might be his only shot to provide anything in 2017.
Steven Brault, RHP, Pittsburgh – Karabell
Karabell’s second speculative choice of a Pirates pitching prospect has a 3.52 ERA and a 31/15 strikeout to walk count in his first 30 1/3 Triple-A innings this season.
Destin Hood, OF, Miami – Brian Walton, Mastersball
Though Hood has four homers and 17 RBI to go with a .255 average over his first 30 Triple-A games this season, he has the misfortune of playing behind arguably MLB’s best outfield over the first month in the Marlins’ trio of Ozuna, Yelich and Stanton.
Scott Kingery, 2B, Philadelphia – Walton
The second baseman drew positive reviews early in camp and now has seven homers and 19 RBI to go with a .959 OPS in his first 27 games this season. However, Kingery is still at Double-A, making the chances for 2017 contribution shaky.
Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets – Walton
My third speculative buy was partially based on Smith’s power potential and part on my lack of confidence in Lucas Duda. The former Mets first-rounder is off to a nice start with Triple-A Las Vegas with 21 RBI in 33 games and a slash line of .326/.378/.470/.847.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia – Ambrosius/Childs
The first sacker is off to a great first month-plus at Triple-A with eight long balls and 21 RBI in 31 games. Hoskins’ slash line at Lehigh Valley is a lusty .330/.412/.631/1.043. Ahead of him, both Tommy Joseph and Brock Stassi are struggling. It should only be a matter of when.
Brett Phillips, OF, Milwaukee – Ambrosius/Childs
Another solid choice by the NFBC team is producing well at Triple-A Colorado Springs, with six homers and 26 RBI in just 25 games. Phillips’ slash line is .304/.390/.565/.956.
Cody Reed, LHP, Cincinnati – Ambrosius/Childs
The lefty has made just one start, which was a disaster, but his numbers have been ok in six outings out of the Reds pen. A red flag is 15 walks to go with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings. Reed’s overall ERA is 6.43 with Cincinnati this season.
Ozzie Albies, 2B/SS, Atlanta – Moyer
The top prospect and native of Curacao has a so-so start with a line of .254/.289/.389/.678 through 30 games. Of concern is 30 strikeouts against seven walks. Albies has stolen nine bases in 10 attempts.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Washington – Moyer
After eight underwhelming starts for the Nats last season and a rotation ahead that looked locked down, Cole was a spring afterthought. Now, barely a month into 2017, Cole is back up and delivered a strong six-inning, one-run season debut last Saturday.
T.J. Rivera, IF, Mets – Moyer
The infielder proved to be a nice fill-in for the injury-racked Mets in 2016 and though he did not make the roster this Opening Day, looks to reprise his role again in 2017. It is only 177 career MLB plate appearances, but his .325/.364/.481/.845 line could help any NL league fantasy roster.
Raimel Tapia, OF, Colorado – Moyer
With Ian Desmond back, Tapia may have to wait longer to get an extended chance. He is just 0-for-7 with the Rockies this year, but has been raking at Albuquerque with 20 RBI in 24 games and an eye-popping line of .405/.436/.595/1.030.
Time to take a break!
To be honest, until I got into it, I had no idea we had rostered this many rookies and prospects. I have profiled 21 players - and I am only halfway through the 12-team league! Next time, I will pick it up with the rest of prospects taken by NL LABR owners on draft day.
Hopefully, there are a few players here who you can grab and use – when your league rules allow, that is!
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 18-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter @B_Walton.