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Tuesday 23rd Jan 2018

I don't know about you, but this is a big week. As I write, I fly to the Grapefruit League, where I will attend a few games and hook with Todd, Ron Shandler, Brian Walton, Trace Wood, Jeff Winick and Brian Feldman to complete the XFL Roster Expansion Draft. The XFL allows for a 23-man auction in November at First Pitch Arizona, and then a 17-player expansion draft just prior to the start of the season. 

Because of the size of the rosters, we can draft at any level, and freeze (up to 15) end of season, with prospects being key to long-term success, for if an owner should find a Yoenis Cespedes-type player, he gets activated his first year for a buck, and the salary increases just $3 a season as long as the player is not tossed back into the player pool. As in, I am now enjoying the Mets outfielder for a sixth season at the modest price of $16, and at $3 a season, the Mets outfielder might well spend a decade on my roster. 

So, the XFL runs pretty deep, but so does my 24-team Scoresheet League which just concluded a 35-player draft, where again, prospects at the lowest levels can be mined and protected for a number of years even though we only allow eight freezes in that format.

As usual in each draft, I try to ensure I have innings and at-bats and even more important, bench strength to support the starters, but I similarly will invest five-to-seven roster spots when the opportunity arises just to see what the numbers shake out.

So, this time, here are eight more names, but this time they are minor leaguers who might not be familiar in the Cody Bellinger/Eloy Jimemez sense, but they well could be by season's end (and some could indeed make it to the Show). Note some of these names have indeed come up during my Top 250 work, and if they made the list, their number is noted in parens. Also, alll these players were drafted during the Murphy Scoresheet League draft.

Jake Bauers (OF, Rays, #19): Drafted in the seventh round in 2013 by the Padres, Bauers caught enough Ray-eyes to be part of the Wil Myers swap of 2015. A full year at Montgomery last year resulted in a .274-14-78 line with 28 doubles and 73 walks to 88 whiffs, good for a .370 OBP. He is .444-4-11 this spring over 27 red-hot at-bats, so figure the outfielder could make his presence known at Tropicana before long.

Yohander Mendez (P, Rangers, #13): Hard to not like 6'5" hard throwers with control and Mendez posted a miniscule 1.02 WHIP at three levels, going 12-3, 2.19 over 111 innings with 113 strikeouts. Teams dig deep for arms during the season, and since Mendez had a sip last year at Arlington, expect the team to give him a look this year. 

Ramon Laureano (OF, Astros, #67): The 22-year-old crushed it at High-A Lancaster, going .317-10-60 before a promotion to Corpus Christi where the outfielder hit .323-5-13, giving an aggregate season of .319-15-73 with 28 doubles, seven triples and 43 swipes. Laureano also walked 70 times to 111 strikeouts, good for a .428 OBP and a .955 OPS.

Bradley Zimmer (OF, Indians): At 24, Zimmer is a little older, but he was a first round pick of the Indians in 2014, and responded with a .268-37-157 with 94 steals over 369 games. Zimmer made a case for Major League consideration last year when he hit .250-15-62 with 38 steals over 130 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. Zimmer did strike out a bunch (171 times) but also nudged 77 walks, good for a .365 OBP. He has to be given a shot somewhere before too long.

Nick Senzel (3B, Reds, #113): First round pick of the Reds last summer, Senzel is nearly big league ready, having debuted hitting .305-7-40 over 68 games split between Rookie ball and the Midwest League. Senzel also grabbed 38 walks to 54 punchouts, good for a .398 OBP and .912 OPS. The hot corner guy is probably not even much of a secret at this point, but don't let him slip past your Ultra reserve list, and even in an NL-only throwback league for 2017, Senzel makes a good reserve pick gamble.

Victor Robles (OF, Nationals, #89): The 19-year-old, signed in 2014, blasted through two levels last year (ignore the five GCL games), hitting .280-9-42 with 37 steals over 105 games divided between Potomac and Harrisburg. Robles makes good contact, for though he only has 66 walks over 218 minor league games, so does he have only 136 strikeouts. With 17 triples and 83 swipes as a pro, Robles looks like a potential center field/leadoff hitter somewhere.

Ian Happ (2B, Cubs, #193): Does it ever get tiring these days, reading about the Cubs and their prospects with brilliant prospects? Happ, the #1 pick in 2015, is yet another kid who hit .279-15-73 with 30 doubles and 16 steals over 134 games last year, half at Myrtle Beach and half with the Tennessee Smokies. He has 108 walks to 198 strikeouts over 201 minor league games with a .368 OBP and .914 OPS. The question, of course, is where will he play? The answer is surely "somewhere."

Jacob Faria (P, Rays, #81): Lesser known, this tenth-round selection of the Rays in 2011 has a 35-31, 3.31 minor league line over 92 starts and 540.3 innings. The righty has 542 strikeouts over that span and just a 1.13 WHIP and 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Faria climbed as high as Triple-A last year, finishing the season at Durham going 4-4, 3.72 over 13 starts and 67.6 innings, striking out 64 with a 1.14 WHIP and a  .190 allowed batting average.

Good luck with your drafts this week, and don't forget you can follow me @lawrmichaels. And, since this is Tout Wars week, there will be lots of articles, posts, and radio programming geared to and covering all four weekend drafts. Make sure you follow us for all the details.

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