We’ve reached that point into the season. There’s around 100 games left, the All-Star Game is four week away, and teams selected for their future in the 2017 MLB first-year player draft. Each season, around 1200 players are selected through 40 rounds. The endless amounts of data, scouting reports, and game tape is unmatched. Personally, I feel this would be one of the greatest job in the world. Nothing compares to working within the sport you love, for a professional organization, and getting to break down potential draft targets. Of course, it’ll take a few years to grade how each team did. Some players will reach Major League Baseball faster than others, and others will fall short. This week, I want to take a look at the 2017 MLB draft throughout the American League Central in “That’s Amore!” Building for the Future: AL Central Draft Breakdown 2017.
It’s been a rough go around for the Minnesota Twins. They’re coming off a 2016 season that saw them lose 103 games and the drought continued missing the playoffs each season since 2010. Former number one overall pick Byron Buxton is starting to look more and more like a bust, while their second of the three 2012 first-round picks, Jose Berrios, is blossoming in his first full season in the Majors. After finishing the 2016 season 35.5 games out of first, the 2017 team is hanging in the race currently two games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians.
With the first pick, the Twins selected high school shortstop Royce Lewis. There was no questioning Lewis at the top high school position player in this year’s draft. The JSerra Catholic High School product ended his senior year hitting .429 with four home runs. At 6’1″ 190 lbs, Lewis brings great athleticism while having a plus speed and hitting, and an above-average arm. Even if he doesn’t end up a shortstop in professional baseball, he has the necessary tools to play second, and the speed to cover ground in centerfield. With all the athleticism he possesses, Lewis immediately becomes a name on the radar of all dynasty, and keeper, owners. He still has a ways to go, but the pure athleticism is impressive.
With their second first-round pick (35th overall) the Twins selected Mississippi State outfielder Brent Rooker. Rooker is an interesting choice as the Twins selected him in the 38th round of the 2016 draft. 2017 saw Rooker finish as the 2017 SEC player of the year. He saw most of the 2017 at first base after playing the outfield for the majority of his college career. At 6’4″ 215 lbs, he possesses the size, and strength, to become a solid source of power. After selections covering the infield and outfield, the Twins used their next three picks to cover the mound selecting high school pitchers Landon Leach (RHP) and Blayne Enlow (RHP), and Clemson left-handed pitcher Charlie Barnes.
Chicago White Sox
It’s impressive what the White Sox organization have done over the past few seasons in terms of replenishing their minor league system. This past off-season, they are acquired the number-one minor league prospect in Yoan Moncada, and added additional prospects in Reynaldo Lopez, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, and Dane Dunning. Add the recently signed 19 year-old Cuban free agent Luis Robert, and the White Sox have arguably the top prospect farm system. It’s only a matter of time before all of the prospects reach the Majors, and when they do; watch out!
It’s been many seasons since the South Siders received consistent production from the third base position. With Todd Frazier off to horrendous start, I’d say Joe Crede was the last third baseman to produce season-after-season. Already having top prospects covering the infield, outfield, and pitching the White Sox used the eleventh overall pick on Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger. One of the best collegiate power sources in this year’s draft, Burger followed up his 21 home run 2016 season hitting 22 in 2017 to go along with 43 RBI and a .328 batting average. He may not be close to the most athletic player on the field, but Burger can hit for power and average.
After taking Burger with their top choice, the White Sox drafted 6’4 230 lbs Wake Forest first baseman Gavin Sheets (49th) and New Mexico centerfielder Luis Gonzalez (87th). Sheets finished the 2017 season hitting .317 with 21 HR, 84 RBI, and accumulating more walks (46) than strikeouts (37). Gonzalez is an intriguing pick as he’s a true athlete that played both the outfield and pitched. 2017 saw him slash .361/.500/.589 with 8 HR, 42 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. On the mound, Gonzalez compiled a 4-3 record through 11 starts. Destined for the outfield, you can’t help but notice the athleticism Gonzalez possesses. After using their first three picks on position players, the White Sox focused their attention on the pitching mound selecting Lincoln Henzman (Louisville), Tyler Johnson (South Carolina), and Kade McClure (Louisville). The interesting fact with Henzman is he took over the closer’s role after the White Sox drafted former Louisville Cardinal closer Zack Burdi.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are the perfect example of what happens when you trade away your farm system to go after a World Series Championship. Yes, it makes it easier to deal with when you win, but it also speaks to the fact they haven’t drafted well enough to replenish a depleted minor league system. With it being only a matter of time before the Royals decide to sell of the pieces on their Major League roster, it’s time for the them to start hitting on draft picks.
With the fourteenth pick of the 2017 draft, the Royals selected Huntington Beach High School first baseman Nick Pratto. The top prep bat in this year’s draft, Pratto committed to USC, but I’d be shocked if he turns down a contract with the Royals. He’s more athletic than prototypical first basemen, and has used his athleticism on the mound. He may not possess the most power, but his plus batting skills allow him to hit at great frequency. The former Little League World Series Champion could be the next in line to play first base after the Royals decide to start trading away pieces from their 2015 World Series Championship team.
After Pratto, the Royals used their two second-round picks to select high school catcher MJ Melendez and Chipola College left-handed pitcher Evan Steele. The former Vanderbilt Commodore went 5-0 this past season with a 2.01 ERA and 58 strikeouts to only 16 walks. Vanderbilt has a history of finding phenomenal pitchers, and so was the case with Steele. At 6’5″ 210 lbs, he brings a 95+ MPH fastball, and has the ability to mix his two and four-seam fastballs. He brings a plus slider, as well as an advanced changeup. If Steele was ruled ineligible at Vanderbilt, leading him to head to Chipola College, he may have been the top pitcher off the board. Following Melendez and Steele, the Royals used their third and fourth round picks on left-handed pitcher Daniel Tillo and center fielder Michael Gigliotti.
The Tigers are another team I can see moving pieces if they fall out of the race by the trade deadline. Their window is starting to close, and it’s starting to seem like a “what if” story. They’re another team that have made moves to go after a World Series run, but haven’t necessarily replenished the pieces they’ve traded away. Their only eight games out of first, but you’re starting to see injuries creep up on aging stars. Now is the time, to start hitting on draft picks to allow the next generation of stars to be ready when they decide to move on from their current Major League roster of players that still hold solid value.
The Tigers had an interesting draft in 2017. Pitching seemed to be the name of the game for many teams, and the Tigers were no different. They used the number eleven overall pick on Florida right-handed pitcher Alex Faedo. Easily in the conversation of the top collegiate pitcher in the nation, Faedo battered injuries, and minor knee surgery, to hand an up and down junior year. At 6’5″ 225 lbs, Faedo has ideal size to be a front-line starter in professional baseball. Faedo finished his career, at Florida, going 26-6 (43 starts) with a 3.09 ERA and 2[98:67] K:BB. He’s able to get his fastball up to the mid-90s with a solid slider, and developing changeup. While he may not be one of the more over-powering arms, he has some of the best control throughout any pitching prospect.
Detroit’s next four picks were used to select Chipola College outfielder Reynaldo Rivera, Washington catcher Joey Morgan, Palm Beach Community College right-handed pitcher Gio Arriera, and Suwannee High School catcher Sam McMillan. With no solid catchers in their minor league system, it’s not unreasonable for the Tigers to try and find a catcher to develop. Of all the pitchers to get drafted, the Tigers may have drafted the best steal in Alex Faedo.
What can be said about the Indians? They’ve developed minor league pitching into some of the top arms in MLB, and have a plethora of talent in their current minor league pipeline. They’ve proven how valuable pitching can be, and they’re off to another hot start in 2017. With solidified arms at the MLB and minor league level, the Indians looked to add position players to their minor leagues.
With no first round pick due to signing Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians wasted no time using their two second-round picks on high school outfielder Quentin Holmes and high school shortstop Tyler Freeman. One of the fastest prep outfielders (only true-80 speed) in the draft, there’s no reason why the Indians wasted no time drafting the speedster. I don’t if it’s something with players from the East Coast, but one of my collegiate teammates, and good friend, had similar speed to that of Holmes. He reminds me a lot of former Indians speedy centerfielder Kenny Lofton. Assuming Holmes passes on Mississippi State, he has all the necessary time to learn the tools to play centerfield. He already has the top-rate speed, and he’ll look to grow into his 6’1″ 175-pound frame. When Holmes gets the call, could be looking at a Billy Hamilton-type player that can actually hit?
Tyler Freeman is a line-driver hitter who projects more at second base. As with many young players, power will develop over time, and he could be the future double player partner of Francisco Lindor. It’ll be interesting to see if Freeman signs with the Indians or sticks with his commitment to Texas Christian. The younger middle infielder has a lot to learn, and may be better off going to college for a few years of grooming. After Holmes and Freeman, the Indians continued to draft position players selecting high school outfielder Johnathan Rodriguez, Virginia second baseman Ernie Clement, TCU outfielder Austen Wade, and Florida catcher Michael Rivera. Of the four, Rivera has to be the most interesting. He’s arguably one of the best defensive catchers at the collegiate level, but has a long road ahead of him offensively. Rivera’s name should become a household name as he develops into one of the best defensive catchers in minor league baseball.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join guest host Andrea LaMont, and Kyle Amore live on Sunday June 18th, 2017 from 7-9pm EST for episode #91 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We will the latest information in the world of fantasy baseball.
Our guest this week is Bilal Chaudry. Bilal is a commissioner, an occassional radio guest, and veteran owner in MLFS leagues.