The AL West is not the strongest division in the majors. The Astros are leading the pack with winning the world series in 2017 and making the ALCS last season. They completed their rebuild a few years ago and now are getting the rewards of all the high draft picks and talent coming through the system. The Angels are doing their best to compete while they have the prime of Mike Trout. They have not been to the playoffs since 2014, but the good news is they have cavalry coming soon. Oakland has been competitive over the past few years, but has not been able to reach the ALCS in over 10 years. The prospect talent is close, but may not be enough to reach the playoffs this coming season. Seattle is just starting their reboot. They have some prospects for a future core in a few years, therefore I do not see a long rebuild. Texas on the other hand is floating in uncertainty. They made the playoffs in 2016, but have not won a series since 2011. The team currently does not have a lot of trade value guys and the prospect talent is very thin. Now that we have done a quick overview of the state of each team, lets take a look at their prospect pool and more importantly how they did in the FYPD (first year player draft).
The Astros as I said above are the top of the class in this division. The rebuild started back up with the starts like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman. Over the years they have been signing talent whether it’s through the draft or international signings. Now the second wave of talent will start to come and the Astros reign will continue. This second wave will is lead by Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley. Yordan is already up now, Tucker saw some time last season at the major league level, and is most likely the next one up if the opportunity arises.
This year the Astros continued their three year streak of taking a college player in the first round. They continued to mainly select all college players until the 36th round with one exception, Colin Barber. Colin is a high school outfielder that was selected in the fourth round. The team liked Barber so much, that they singed other draftees under the signing bonus slot to give Barber more than double the value of the pick at which he was taken for to help steer him away from his commitment of University of Oregon. He already possesses tools that have a 50 grade across the board with a 55 in speed. Barber may not reach the majors quickly, but by the time he is ready he could be a top prospect with a high floor. He has a short and compact swing and fast bat speed through the zone.
Honorable mention for spotlight: Korey Lee (C RD: 1 Pick: 32)
Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have not been known as great overall drafters over the years. Yes there is Mike Trout and even Jo Adell along with some others, but they have not had a deep system. The talent they have drafted, has helped them go from a bottom of the ranking system to closer to the middle of the pack. I believe that the Angels are in a long term reload. In the coming years we can see the Angels start spending more money in free agency with big contracts coming off the books. In fact, there is about $30 million dollars coming off the books each year over the next three years. With most of the prospect talent being hitting, we can expect most of that money to go toward pitching. Overall if I had to describe the system in one phrase it would be top heavy. There are not more than ten prospects that I would target in my dynasty leagues.
If you were to look at the the past two years the Angels selected a high school bat in the first round. This year the Angels did something different, they selected a college bat. Once the third round started, the Angels addressed a major concern throughout their organization and that’s starting pitching. Out of the 40 picks the Angels made, 28 of them were pitchers. Now quantity does not equal quality, but hopefully it’ll help the depth throughout the different levels. One pitcher of note that gained my interest was Jack Kochanowicz. Jack was the first pitcher taken by the team in the third round. Jack stands tall at 6’6″ and 212lbs. His size has helped his velocity as the fastball currently sits at 89-93 with the ability to reach 95mph. The fastball is complimented by a solid curveball and a changeup. The curve has potential of being a plus pitch and the changeup needs a little work, but that is to be expected with an 18 year old coming out of high school who probably did not need to use that pitch too much. Jack isn’t someone I would target if your league does not specifically do FYPD drafts, but for those that do you may be able to snag him a little later and he could become something of significance down the line.
Honorable mention for spotlight: Erik Rivera (P/OF RD: 4 Pick: 121)
Oakland has a middle of the pack system similar to the Angels. Their top two prospects are future aces in Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk. After that there is some talent, but it starts to thin out after the top 10 similar to the Angels. The A’s are known for trades involving prospects whether it is acquiring or sending for a major league player. Therefore, the state of the system is never overflowing with talent, nor is it bare with none. Though after Luzardo and Puk graduate to the majors, the system will not be as strong. I like how they started out the draft though and got some talent to be the next wave of top prospects.
The A’s drafted pretty evenly between pitchers and position players. They would take mostly college players, though take a fair share of high school players as well. One pitcher they took that I think could be their next top pitching prospect is Tyler Baum. Tyler is a right hander out of the University of North Carolina and was taken in the second round. He stands at 6’2″ and about 180lbs. We can of course expect Baum to put on a little more weight with that frame, but his arsenal is already pretty impressive. Baum has four pitches that already grade out to solid or better, he throws fastball, curve, slider and changeup. The velocity won’t blow you away, but the stuff is what helps get the batters out. He could have a very high floor and the potential to be a number 3 type started or a 3/4 in fantasy aspects. Baum’s performance can dictate how quickly he progresses through the system. Many Oakland starters are hurt this year, but when healthy plus adding Puk and Luzardo they have a very solid rotation and do not need to rush him.
Honorable mention for spotlight: Logan Davidson (SS RD:1 Pick: 29)
The Mariners are starting their rebuild, and already have done better than other organizations at filling the minor league system with talent. It helps when your GM makes more trades than you do with your fantasy team. In fact he finished a three way trade from the hospital bed, if he can do that then there are no excuses for you not to make a trade at a wedding no matter what the wife says. Just kidding (kinda), anyway the Mariners made a big trade with the Mets last off season to bring in Jarred Kelenic who instantly became their top prospect and now proving that ranking was right. Kelenic along with other major impact plays may be a few years away, but start familiarizing yourself with guys in this system because you’ll want them on your team.
This year the Mariners decided to focus on pitching, it wasn’t until the 5th round that they selected their first position player. I agree with this strategy as I see the rotation and bullpen as their biggest weakness even in a rebuild. At this point they do not have a definitive ace of the staff currently or in the future, could they have found one in the draft? I’m not saying they found an ace, but I think selecting George Kirby in the first round was a fantastic choice. The right handed pitcher has 4 pitches: a fastball that sits in the low 90’s but can reach high 90’s in relief, 2 breaking balls in a curve and slider, then a change up. All pitches have the potential to be solid at least, with upside of one or both breaking balls becoming plus pitches. He has the potential to become a front of the line starter in the first round. He is probably my favorite pitcher taken by a team in this division and someone you should target in dynasty leagues.
Honorable mention for spotlight: Brandon Williamson (LHP RD: 2 Pick: 53)
Texas is in a tough position as a minor league system, they do not have a definitive top prospect, but a couple of guys that can become the top guy and have not made the strides to do so thus far. Hopefully as the major league team starts to trade valuable assets away it can help bring in more talent and make the eventual rebuild shorter and more bearable for Ranger fans knowing the end isn’t as far as it is now. The Rangers are also a team known to mostly make their splash in the international pools, if they can bring in some talent that way then it can help. Either way this system needs help for their future.
This draft, similar to other teams the Rangers focused on pitching. Starting in the 6th round, they took a pitcher in every round expect for four of those picks. Rangers probably assume they can land a bat in the international market. Though one bat that I think can make an impact is their first round pick Josh Jung. Josh is a third basemen coming out of Texas Tech. He is a really solid player that might not be someone who is a superstar, but someone who gets the job done very well. He is not the fleetest of foot, but has a strong enough arm and athleticism to stay at third base long term. They do not have someone with Joey Gallo power, but I could see 20-25 home runs consistently. The approach is more about contact and gaps though as he matures that may adjust to more of a power approach. He probably has the highest ceiling of any draftee in this division. For a fantasy prospective, I can see Jung as a solid play at third base, but not a top option. He will be owned in 10-12 and deeper leagues, though third is becoming quite a deep position, so he can reach more of a 8-12 ranking at the position long term.
Honorable mention for spotlight: Cody Bradford (RD: 6 Pick: 175)
Now for the divisional awards segment of the article. If I did not cover the player given the award, I will give a quick profile of the player.
Highest Ceiling: Josh Jung (TEX RD: 1 Pick: 8)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 55 | Power: 55 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
I just went over Jung above in the Rangers section, though I think that he is the bat to own in this division. He will not be a superstar, but he will contribute at the highest level.
Highest Floor: Korey Lee (HOU RD: 1 Pick: 32)
Lee got the honorable mention in the preview of the Astros. The first round draft pick is a switch hitting catcher with plus power. While he may not be the highest ranked prospect, being with an organization that needs a future catcher along with the tools that he possesses it can be easy to see him in the major leagues eventually. Catchers are typically slow to progress through the system, but if he can show the ability to hit that can help him progress quicker.
Best Arm:Tyler Baum (OAK RD: 2 Pick: 66)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Fastball: 55 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 45
Tyler is my second favorite arm in this draft class. I went over him in the Seattle preview. There was no clear pick for this award, but Baum was my favorite out of the potential other options.
Best Stuff: George Kirby (SEA RD: 1 Pick: 20)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 60 | Overall: 50
Kirby was also previewed above, but I think in this pitcher heavy division he is most likely to contribute to the major leagues. You can argue to swap Jung and Kirby with highest ceiling and I would not argue with you.
Best Tools: Colin Barber (HOU RD: 4 Pick: 136)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
I went over Colin in the Houston preview. It was close between him and Seattle’s Logan Davidson for this award. I went with Barber due to the better hit tool with the ability to grow more than I think Davidson can.
Fastest Path to Majors: Will Wilson (LAA RD: 1 Pick: 15)
Scouting grades according to MLB.com: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 40 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 50
Will wins this award because of his versatility. He was the first round pick for the Angels and I think he can make it to the majors with a job as a utility man. Long term I can see him sticking at second base, but short term he is a decent bat and good glove enough to move quickly. As you can see with his tools, he does not have an outstanding tool and the worst is the speed tool. This can either help him progress through the system or he can get stuck and others can jump him with better tools.
Biggest Reach of Draft: Cody Freeman (TEX RD: 4 Pick: 115)
While you may say that round 4 is not a reach, Cody was not ranked in the top 200 players. When you watch tape of him, he looks to have minimal power and a singles approach. Long term he does not have the arm strength to stick at short, I can see a move to second base pretty quickly. When he makes throws from short there is an extra step and he shows lots of effort sacrificing accuracy. This will definitely be a project for the Rangers and he already signed so he will not be going to college to continue developing.