The Rule-4 draft, as always, is the keeper leaguer’s first glance at potential minor league squad picks for the following season. In other words, the depth of the draft and where the talent ultimately lands (AL or NL), may determine how hard they wish to push in order to obtain a good draft pick. Of course, draft picks in keeper leagues come from a variety of means. Whether the simple last place team gets first minor league pick (dump as hard as you can and eschew league minimum IP and AB requirements) or the first non-money spot team (have to rebuild and somewhat still compete at the same time) gets first pick could impact your strategy.
Generally speaking, with the exception of the truly top prep-candidates, I tend to prefer to draft college players given their more rapid ascent to the Majors. This is particularly noteworthy given the tendency of keeper leaguers to go for it one year and dump the next. This way, you are either acquiring keepers while you rebuild one year and then deal the next when you make your championship run.
With all that in mind, here are some thoughts on some key position players who will be drafted this year:
The catching class was not particularly deep this year. Reese McGuire was the top backstop selected (Pirates). The lefty is skilled enough to stick behind the plate and could develop plus power as he matures. Andrew Knapp was the top collegiate receiver taken (Phillies). The switch-hitter has the tools to be a catcher, but it is unclear whether or not he will remain there given that his main tools are on the offensive side of things. The Braves may have gotten a bit of a steal in Victor Caratini, who is a disciplined hitter with teens or better power potential.
Dominic Smith was technically the first “true” first baseman selected in the draft. The lefty has a quick bat, great swing, good approach, and possible plus power potential, but will have to stick at first base for the long-term. It will likely be a long while before he sees the Majors given the Mets' one level at a time approach with other recent prep selections. D.J. Peterson (Mariners), a third baseman in college, will likely be the first first baseman to make the Majors from this draft class. Peterson is a patient right-handed hiter with 20-plus home run per season power. The next first baseman was not selected until the 88th overall pick (3rd round). Yellowjacket Daniel Palka is a left-handed hitter with good raw power. Given the presence of Paul Goldschmidt, however, Palka may have to move to a corner outfield spot.
L.J. Mazilli (yes that Mazilli) was the top collegiate second baseman selected in a rather weak crop of second basemen. Granted, there were a number of shortstops selected who were ranked higher who may end up at second base in the long run. Like his dad, Mazilli projects to be able to hit for average, provide high single digits to teens power and has decent enough speed/savvy to be a double-digit stolen base threat. Mazilli is not a high-ceiling player, but for now does project as a MLB regular.
The draft was fairly deep at third base. Two of the top talents in the draft are third basemen Kris Bryant (Cubs) and Colin Moran (Marlins). Both players project to stay at the hot corner long-term. Bryant, a righty, has 30+ homer potential while Moran profiles more as a 20+ home run type, but is a lefty with a superior approach. I might be inclined to lean towards Moran when making my draft choice even though Bryant has a higher ceiling given Bryant’s right-handness and strikeout rates. The Yankees may have gotten a steal in Eric Jagielo when he dropped to them with the 26th pick. While Jagielo may end up at first or the outfield long-term, he has mid to upper twenties home run power to go along with a patient approach and is a left-handed bat. The A’s selection of Chris Pinder was something of a traditional A’s selection as a college player with advanced plate discipline, a good glove and gap power. The righty should be able to stick at third, but is not a high-ceiling player.
Hunter Dozier (Royals) perhaps plays good enough shortstop to stick at the position but may, due to his size, eventually move to the hot corner. If he can stay at short, his twenty-plus per season home run power could make him a standout. For those interested in speed, keep track of Tim Anderson. The righty is a 30+ steal threat and has gap power along with very good contact-making skills.
The Indians selected high schooler Clint Fraizer with the fifth overall pick. Like many early-round high school outfielders, Frazier has high-end tools and 20 HR/30 SB potential. The Pirates, meanwhile, selected Austin Meadows, who likely has greater long-term power potential compared to the 5’1l” Frazier. Frazier, however, is the less raw of the two prospects and has a greater feel for the hitting game at this point. Hunter Renfroe (Padres) was the first college outfielder selected. A righty, Renfroe has 25+ home run potential as well as at least double-digits stolen base tools. Given Renfroe’s tools, he should be amongst the first selections in any NL-only keeper league, but keep in mind that he will be playing in Petco and given his handedness/strikeout rates, a high batting average may not be a part of his game. The Reds selected centerfielder Phillip Ervin with the 27th overall pick. Given Billy Hamilton, it’s hard to see how the Reds will eventually fit the two into their outfield when both profile best as centerfielders and neither is a slugger. Ervin at least has double-digit homer potential to go along double digits, if not 20-plus stolen base potential. Ervin’s arm would play well in either right or left field.
Next week, a look at the 2013 Draft’s pitchers!