In terms of preparation for the fantasy draft season, this is about the time of year when I become fatigued from looking at my view of rankings and projections. While we always have mock drafts in which to follow and participate, to me nothing is as valuable as real, live drafts when the world is watching and the ultimate results really count.
One of the first and most respected industry drafts occurred on Tuesday, February 11. Our own Lord Zola had the first pick in the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) Mixed Draft. He can and most certainly will discuss his selection of Mike Trout first as well as the remainder of his roster.
I looked at the draft results for hints of how my industry peers are viewing rookies.
As we all know, a number of highly-respected prospect watchers also rank the best in the minor leagues each winter. Raters include Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN, MLB.com and many others.
The challenge in using those lists, especially for redraft leagues, is trying to figure out which prospects may have true big league opportunity in the upcoming season. For illustration purposes, I have married one such prospect list, Keith Law’s from ESPN, with the LABR mixed draft results.
In addition, on Twitter on Wednesday, former BA staffer and current MLB.com minor league expert Jim Callis weighed in on his three pre-season Rookie of the Year candidates by league. I offer that input as well.
At least 23 rookie-eligible players, including a dozen from the American League, were named among the 435 players chosen in the draft’s 29 rounds. Three of the 11 from the Senior Circuit were selected by Lord Z.
Only seven were taken before round 20. Another six were selected in rounds 20-23, while the final ten were not called out until the reserve rounds.
|AL rookies||round||top 100||ROY||NL rookies||round||top 100||ROY|
|Xander Bogaerts||11||2||x||Billy Hamilton||6||52|
|Taijuan Walker||16||16||x||Travis d'Arnaud||17||36||x|
|George Springer||18||19||Oscar Taveras||19||5||x|
|Nick Castellanos||20||32||x||Kolten Wong||19||91|
|Yordano Ventura||20||50||Gregory Polanco||22||13|
|Kevin Gausman||21||23||Archie Bradley||23||9||x|
|Matt Davidson||23||88||Chris Owings||25 *||72|
|Jackie Bradley||25||51||Javier Baez||28||7|
|Marcus Stroman||25||58||Jameson Taillon||28||27|
|Miguel Sano||28||8||Tommy La Stella||28 *||NR|
|Addison Russell||29||3||Maikel Franco||29 *||63|
|Jonathan Singleton||29||78||* Lord Zola pick|
Starting with the American League, the respective placements of the top three of Xander Bogaerts, Taijuan Walker and George Springer are not particularly surprising. Detroit’s Nick Castellanos in round 20 catches attention. The 21-year-old is among Callis’ top picks, likely because of the apparent clear playing time opportunity at third base.
Assuming Kevin Gausman can latch onto the back end of the Orioles’ rotation, his selection in the 21st round could pay off. While third baseman Miguel Sano and shortstop Addison Russell will have the opportunity to impress in Minnesota’s and Oakland’s big league camps as non-roster invitees, the top-10 prospects were taken in the reserve rounds due to a likely low number of MLB at-bats in 2014.
Switching over to the National League, Billy Hamilton’s projected value as a stolen base leader skyrocketed his placement into the sixth round – the first rookie taken. The potential benefits of Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud and Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras are well-known, though the latter may not get much playing time early on.
Taveras’ teammate, Kolten Wong, looked to have been taken ahead of his ranking, though Law is less aggressive on the second baseman than many other prospect raters. It should also be noted that Wong is coming to camp with a job in hand, of clear value to the LABR drafters.
Arizona hurler Archie Bradley looks like a nice pick in the 23rd round, but of course there are questions. Though the Arizona brass is saying that the signing of Bronson Arroyo does not diminish Bradley’s immediate opportunity, anyone who can count to five (as in five starters without Bradley) might beg to differ.
Who could blame Cubs shortstop Javier Baez if he pays a bit of extra attention in spring camp as to how Starlin Castro is playing? Baez’s projected late-season arrival could accelerate if Theo and Jed decide to send the disappointing Castro into early exile.
Lord Z nabbed an off-the-radar selection in Braves’ second sacker Tommy La Stella in the 28th round, before picking up an intriguing choice in 21-year-old Phillies third base contender Maikel Franco to lead off the final round of the 2014 LABR Mixed Draft.
In closing, I want to be clear that I am neither endorsing one prospect list over the others nor one draft over others. They happened to be the ones available to me today. As we get closer to March, much more tangible information will be out there, so let’s keep using it to our advantage.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 16-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.