It is no secret that most keeper leagues work on a two-year plan or cycle. One year, you go for it. The next, you dump. While there are exceptions to this depending on league dynamics and quality of the owners of the teams in your fantasy league, this cycle pushes the prospect focus towards the near-term and those prospects that are going to help out at the MLB level this or the following season.
So heading into 2016, the recent draftees are typically amongst those first selected in any keeper league minor league draft. Those players then become the target of dumping teams hoping those players become factors the following season and beyond. That mindset pushes most, except the extreme top tier high school prospects like the recently called up Byron Buxton (after being drafted second overall in 2012) off the table, especially pitching prospects, unless it’s the next Dwight Gooden on the horizon.
With that in mind, here are a few early favorites of mine to target from this amateur draft class.
It is easy to peg Dansby Swanson (ARI) as a favorite. He was the consensus top college hitter in the draft and the only surprise was that he went first overall rather than second. While it remains to be seen whether he’ll have to move back to second base long-term, Swanson is an interesting hit for average, 15 HR, 20+ steal threat at the MLB level. He could be up at A+ or Double-A before the end of the season with a possible mid to late 2016 call-up date depending on how quickly the Diamondbacks can sign him.
Alex Bregman (HOU), the second overall pick, is another obvious target as an extremely polished college hitter with decent speed. He strikes me as more of a safe pick rather than an impact player pick though. While he is more likely to stay at shortstop than Swanson until he runs into Carlos Correa anyway, he has limited power, and may only be just into the double digits in the steals department, meaning his value may entirely come from his ability to hit for average and get on base. I would target him in my minor league drafts, but only if he falls in later in the first round or second round. With Jose Altuve and Correa around, it is also a bit difficult to see how Bregman fits, barring a position change for him or someone else, into the Astros lineup, at least in the near-term.
Dillon Tate (TEX) is a better choice as an early-round 2016 minor league draft pick. The best college pitcher in the draft, Tate has at least two wipeout pitches and multiple weapons with which to combat lefties. The righty has worked as both a starter and a closer in his college career and profiles well in either role with #2 starter or late-inning reliever upside.
I can pretty much discuss Carson Fulmer (CHW) in the same breath as a college reliever turned starter who is expected to stay in the latter role. Not surprisingly, as a first-rounder, Fulmer can touch and hold his velocity in the mid to upper nineties but also knows how to change speeds, and perhaps his best speed is a plus curveball which he commands well. The White Sox have shown themselves to be aggressive with their college picks and have a penchant for drafting reliever/starter types (Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon), so don’t be surprised to see Fulmer broken in to the Majors in a relief role before he slots into the starting rotation.
Though on the small side, Andrew Benintendi (BOS) may be my favorite college hitter in the draft. He’s a centerfielder who makes consistent, hard contact and has legitimate 20-20 potential. The Red Sox, however, are a bit clogged in the outfield at the moment, trying to figure out which of their young players is part of their long-term outfield composition, so a mid to late 2016 call-up with more of a 2017 sustained impact seems more likely at the moment for Benintendi.
Switch-hitter Ian Happ (CHC) will end up at either second base or left field, though he’ll likely never earn defensive accolades at either position. His bat will have to do the talking as a disciplined hitter with a quick bat and high teens to low-twenties home run power and double digit steals potential.
For those who like to gamble on upside from prep talent, Kyle Tucker is probably your guy. His older brother Preston is noted for having upper teens to low-twenties power potential, decent patience at the plate, and an ability to make consistent contact. Think of Kyle as having a similar plate approach, but perhaps an even quicker bat and greater (30+ HR) power potential.
Sticking with more of a dynasty league look, Mike Cameron’s son Daz (HOU) must be considered. Like his dad, he is a potential top of the line defensive centerfielder with 20/30 potential. Inconsistency in his approach led to his stock dropping him out of the first round when he was originally considered a possible top-10 pick. For now, the scouting reports compare him favorably to his dad, a patient right-handed hitter who will provide in the defense and HR/speed games but may come up short in the batting average department.
Jon Harris (TOR) is a polished right-hander out of Missouri State who could move quickly through the Blue Jays system. He has a deep repertoire of pitches, all of which are already considered plus pitches. However, it remains to be seen if the can throw them consistently for strikes.
Next week, back to looking at prospects who will help us out in 2015.