For you dynasty leaguers, September fantasy baseball isn’t just for those trying to secure league titles. Maybe your spot in the standings is fairly locked in and there’s little movement that can be made in 2022, but there’s still plenty of baseball news of interest for you that can help you in 2023 and beyond.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the 2022 MLB draft’s 1st round hitters that have gotten their feet wet above rookie ball and see how their debuts have gone. There are First Year Player Drafts (FYPDs) coming in the offseason, and while I’m not writing this article to suggest you should take any of these over Druw Jones (who hasn’t played any MiLB ball yet), or even Jackson Holliday who’s had a solid debut in Single-A, there are some performances at levels above rookie ball that may help you decide on who you want after the first couple of guys are off the board.
Let’s start off with a hitter who’s risen quickly and is already in Double-A–shortstop Zach Neto. The Angels snagged him 13th overall, but Neto is showing out for the Rocket City Trash Pandas and may already be making some teams (ahem, Detroit?) wish they’d have jumped on him. Neto didn’t necessarily light it up at High-A, only hitting .200 over his 25 ABs there, but the Angels knew they wanted to push this 21-year old and see quickly what they’ve got. And what they’ve got may be an absolute steal, as Neto has triple-slashed .321/.365/.509 through just over 100 ABs, with four homers, 21 RBI and a pair of steals (in two attempts). Now, the bad news–he’s got a 24:5 K:BB, but his 2022 season at Campbell had him with 39 walks against 19 Ks, so we can charitably chalk this up to a small adjustment period and look for Neto’s eye to improve. The fact that the Angels plucked him out of the draft in July and he’s already proving up to the Double-A task is pretty neat-o for you Halos fans. Neto is tracking toward aggressive advancement, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him in the bigs after the ASB next year if he continues his production–it’s not like Los Angeles has him blocked by a pretty good major leaguer at SS.
Since I already “ahem”’d them, let’s move on to the Tigers and their pick right in front of Neto in 21-year old second baseman Jace Jung. I can’t prove it to you, but I was in my living room that day clamoring for Neto or Cam Collier, and Al Avila gave us Tigers fans one last treat in Jung. So much of the story of his career is yet to be written, so I don’t want to seem too down on Jung–I’m not. Just had my own personal preferences there, and believe it or not, Al Avila didn’t consult me (nor is he consulting anybody else currently as he was fired shortly after the draft). Anyway, back to Jung. He’s already in High-A West Michigan, where he’s struggling to hit and impact the ball when he does. Jung is hitting only .231 while slugging a mere .333. The sample size is small (barely over 100 ABs) but when the carrying tool is the hit tool, the organization would no doubt like to see a bit more impact. One skill Jung has proven proficient at is his eye and control of the strike zone, as he’s got a 28:25 K:BB, so even if he’s been a little slow out of the gate, he hasn’t been overmatched, either. I would expect Jung to get extended run into Double-A next year, as he’s already 21 and the Tigers will want to see if their pick is going to be ready to help soon. Lord knows the Tigers and their historically futile offense could use some help, but it’s to be seen if Jung is the type of bat to provide it. As it stands, I wouldn’t be reaching to acquire him in the top-10 of any of your FYPDs.
Another High-A advancer is 21-year old Twins SS Brooks Lee. It took 17 ABs in rookie ball for Minnesota to decide Lee could skip Single-A and go right to Cedar Rapids, and Lee is taking to it like butter to corn. In just shy of 100 ABs, Lee is triple-slashing .289/.395/.454 with four bombs. Another impressive stat is his eye–18:16 K:BB. With plate discipline like that and a strong September finish, it wouldn’t surprise to see Minnesota start him in Double-A in 2023.
These next two paragraphs are probably my two favorite FYPD targets (again, outside of Jones/Holliday). Let’s start with Royals OF Gavin Cross. The 21-year old Cross has been at Single-A Columbia for just 99 ABs, but they’ve been impactful. Cross has slugged seven HRs and driven in 22 runs in this small sample while triple-slashing .293/.423/.596. One caveat is his K rate, which is nearly 33% (31 Ks in those 99 ABs), but if you flip the coin over you’d see he’s also walked 22 times, for just under a 25% BB%. It’s definitely more Ks than you’d like, but he’s also shown a keen eye and when the bat has met the ball, it’s likely going for extra bases as half of his total hits have been XBHs. The Royals may struggle to develop pitching, but man have they been churning out some hitters from their farm system lately.
The lowest draft pick of those I’ve covered here may be the one with the most upside–Yankees OF Spencer Jones. Jones is 6’7 and 225 lbs. I wonder if the Yankees have anything going on with their active players in the majors that makes them more prone to big, athletic OFs with pop? *scrunches face to consider* Jones hasn’t mauled Single-A pitching like Aaron Judge has mauled MLB pitching, but there’s considerable power upside here. Jones has three HRs in just over 80 ABs thus far, but his biggest carrying tool leading into the draft was his power. He’s so far shown an above-average hit tool, triple-slashing .325/.411/.494. And if you thought he was a plodding slugger, you’d be wrong–Jones has 10 steals in those 83 ABs! The dude is supremely athletic, huge, and has power that you don’t have to wonder about or hope gets “unlocked” by some sort of swing tweak or change–it’s just a matter of time. Jones has all of the makings of a fantasy monster, and the Yankees got him at the 25th pick. Freaking Avila. (move on, Hoove)