I may be in the minority of fantasy baseball enthusiasts, but I love me some MLB amateur draft. Although this draft may not have had a lot of blue chip prospects, there were a lot of players that have intriguing upside. There were some high risk/high reward types that are recovering from injury. As always, there were some teams that reached out of panic rather than value. After all was said and done, there were a few teams that separated themselves from the rest with the draft haul this season. Over the next three weeks, I will be breaking down some of the notable selections and how they might impact your favorite team or fantasy rosters in the near and not so distant future. I will be covering the American League teams and focusing on one division each week. Up first…the American League West. It seems that AL West teams outside the state of Texas, took the draft off this season.
Highest Ceiling Pick
Pick #5, Kyle Tucker OF, HOU
Height – 6’4”
Weight – 175 lbs
School – High School (FL)
Expected Draft Range — #4 – #10
ETA – 2018
The Astros set an early trend of drafting MLB blood lines in the first few rounds.. Kyle is the brother of current Astros prospect, Preston Tucker, who made his MLB debut this May. He is currently the starting LF for Astros batting anywhere from 2-4 in the order. As much as the Astros like Preston’s potential, they were thrilled to get Kyle who could develop into a five-tool player by the time he reaches the Major League level. His floor is at least average or better at all five-tools. He has excellent plate discipline for a prep hitter and could have the sweetest left-handed swing in the draft. He already exhibits a plus hit tool and should develop plus power once he fills out and adds the 15-20 lbs. that the pro trainers will work toward. He played CF in High School with an average glove and above average arm. He projects as a corner outfielder at the Major League level. Now that Houston has promoted four prospects this season, they needed a replenishment and Tucker slots in the organization’s Top 10 immediately, if not Top 5. Dynasty leaguers will be drafting him high in their MiLB drafts and should be a top target for dynasty teams that are in a full rebuild. All other leagues should monitor his progress but shouldn’t be on redraft or standard keeper rosters for another year or two.
Pick #78, Michael Matuella RHP, TEX
Height – 6’6″
Weight – 220 lbs
School – Duke University
Expected Draft Range — #15 – #30
ETA – 2017
Pick #26, Taylor Ward C, LAA
Height – 6’1″
Weight – 190 lbs
School – Fresno State University
Expected Draft Range — #50 – #85
ETA – 2017
This felt like a panic move. The draft class was very weak for catchers after two went top 10 in 2014. (Schwarber & Pentecost) The Angels don’t have a decent catcher at the Major League level or anywhere in their system so I understand the urgency. I just feel there was a lot of great talent on the board still at #26 and they wasted the pick on another fringe starter. The Angels must think there is more to his offense to invest such a high pick in him. He has a plus arm and his defensive is developing. There isn’t a lot to get excited about at the plate. Average hit tool, slight pull power, but it probably won’t develop into more than average. His arm will get him a job but the whole package projects as a career backup. Catchers usually develop slowly in the minors as they learn all the needed receiving skills and game calling. Despite the panic pick, I can’t see him reaching Anaheim until at least 2017. There is really no need to keep tabs on him from a fantasy perspective as he isn’t likely to make any significant fantasy impact.
Fastest Path to the Majors
Pick #79, Riley Ferrell RHP
Height – 6’2″
Weight – 200 lbs
School – Texas Christian University
Expected Draft Range — #30 – #65
ETA – 2015???
Last year, college teammate, Brandon Finnegan, went from College World Series to the Kansas City Royals bullpen in the same year. Riley Ferrell could be this year’s draft pick with the best shot at reaching the pros this season. While Finnegan was a projected starter at this level, there is no question Ferrell’s future is in the bullpen and could be a future dominate closer. He only has two pitches so TCU was content letting him close out games with a plus-plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s and touches 98. He also as a plus put-away slider that drops about 10 MPH off his fastball. The current TCU closer could prove to be a great value in the 3rd round. His command is average at best and he does not have another pitch worth a damn, but if the Houston brass feel his stuff can get Major League hitters out, don’t be surprised to see him move quickly through the system and get called up this fall. If they are in contention, power arm in the bullpen could be as valuable as a deadline trade. Fantasy owners in all league should keep an eye out for a late season lift.
Best Team Draft
Pick #2, Alex Bregman SS, Pick #5, Kyle Tucker OF, Pick #37, Daz Cameron OF, Pick #46 Thomas Eschelman RHP, Pick #79 Riley Ferrell RHP
The Astros had to score big in this draft after their debacle in 2014. They had the most bonus money to distribute and the extra 1st Round pick as compensation for Brady Aiken. They made the most of these assets and redeemed themselves. With all the prospects being promoted to Houston this year, they need to replenish the system and arguable got three Top 10 talents in the draft.
We have already discussed Kyle Tucker and Riley Ferrell, but there are some other significant players they added in the first few rounds. I would have loved to see Houston have the stones to take Brendan Rodgers with the 2nd overall pick as I believe he was the best overall prospect in the draft with the highest ceiling. However, Houston played it safe since that pick was not protected and they would not have received compensation if he didn’t sign. They had the bonus money, but they must have felt that it was too much of a risk that he wouldn’t sign. Instead, they “settled” for one of the most polished hitters in the draft class. Alex Bregman isn’t big in stature, but his plus hit tool, quick swing and advanced plate discipline make him close to “sure thing” to contribute at the highest level. He already shows average or better at all five tools, but won’t develop plus-plus tools like fellow organization-mates Kyle Tucker or Daz Cameron. It is a little puzzling they would select a SS so high with Carlos Correa penciled in as the starting SS for the next decade and Altuve likely to be around for a while. That being said, if he moves through the system quickly, he becomes a valuable trade asset or the club could consider moving Correa over to 3B if they believe Bregman can stick at the position. Experts gave a range of pick 2-6 for him so he is considered a Top 5 talent.
If Matuella never quite gets his health on track, Daz Cameron could wind up becoming the biggest steal in the draft. He is another potential five tool players and clearly inherited a plus fielding tool from his gold-glove winning father, Mike Cameron. He also shows a plus hit tool as a prep star and two-time Under Armor All-American. He has a short, quick line-drive swing with gap power. He has speed but might not develop into a base stealer, rather instinctual base runner with excellent range in Center-field. He fell in the draft because of his stated price tag of $5 million signing bonus. After taking Bregman at #2, they felt they would have enough to over-pay at #37 to reel in another Top 10 talent. It should be interesting to see how high the Astros are willing to go or if he will honor his commitment to Florida State. If he does sign, he will need several years to finish developing all his tools, but Houston can afford to be patient with all the young talent already on the 25 Man roster. Cameron is another name that will be hot around dynasty circles, but I wouldn’t expect to see if him impact your fantasy roster until at least 2018. It might be longer if he goes to college.
The final player to touch on to round out the Astros solid draft class is RHP Thomas Eschelman out of Cal St Fullerton. He is the epitome of “pitchability” as he has not plus pitchers (or even above average), but has plus-plus command. He is the perfect pitcher to sit at the back of your rotation and eat up innings and limit damage. He does throw four pitches just to mix things up, but his total command of the strikes zone is why the Astros wanted him in the 2nd round. He should move through the system quickly and make the Astros’ rotation some time in 2016. There might be a low ceiling, but the high floor makes him a near lock to contribute and should be on your fantasy radar. He could become a poor man’s Mark Buerhle.
I love the Astros’ draft because they mixed high ceiling guys with high floor guys with a good mix of talent that can and should contribute as soon as this season as well as potential All-star talent that will develop in a few years. Now hopefully, the can put the 2014 draft to rest and never speak of it again.
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