It’s been a rough couple days. What can I say, sometimes I leave fantasy behind, and actually dabble in the realm of investing my emotions into real baseball. For shame, my Red Sox have let me down. It’s okay, I have things to take my mind off these hard losses. Sure, I have my loving wife, and three beautiful children; most normal people would seek solace in those they hold most dear. Not me, I’m far too twisted for that. I need to bury my face in minor league stats and scouting reports. Thinking somewhere in all this I’ll find my happy place. Well now that I’ve gotten my rambling incoherent emotional discharge out of the way. Let me tell you I’m excited. Not because I’ve been doing Google image searches of busty actresses, but because it’s time to release my First Year Player Draft (FYPD) post. I’ve been working on it, and kicking around the names for a few weeks to a month now. Hopefully this can help you navigate the upcoming first year player drafts in your leagues. In addition to today’s post, Michael Halpern and I will be inviting two special guests onto next week’s episode of the Prospect Podcast. The four of us will mock out our top 32 picks, and speak a little on each. Look out for that… Speaking of Halp, he put out his first year player draft top 10 over on imaginarybrickwall earlier this week. Make sure you check that out. Today I’ll hit you with my top 15, and finish off the top 30 on Wednesday.

Before we get into the rankings, let’s explain them a bit. I’ve decided to eliminate the Gurriel’s from my list, as well as tanking Shohei Otani. All three of those players should be in your top 5. If Otani posts, he’s the undisputed number 1 pick in my eyes, but if he posts remains to be seen. Yulieski Gurriel, slides in somewhere between 2-5. I’d probably take him after Otani, Senzel, Lewis, and Ray, but depending upon team need, I could see gambling on him at 2. For me I’ll take the young college bats with upside and full careers ahead of them, over a 32 year old, but I can see the value in a plug and play major leaguer. Particularly if you’re in a salary cap league, have a hole at 3rd, and can get a few good years of cheap control. As for Lourdes Gurriel Jr., that’s a little more tricky. Some reports tell me he’s capable of rivaling Otani for the number one spot, while others indicate some risk. When I hear hype, Cuban, and risk, I tend to proceed with caution. He could be the next Yoan Moncada, or Rusney Castillo. It’s a thin line we walk with Cuban imports, and that’s a worry. I’ll err on the side of caution here and say he’d slide right after Maitan around 6. As for everyone else, they’re listed below.

 

2017 First Player Draft Rankings

1. Nick Senzel, Reds 3B | 41/.305/.398/.514/7/40/18: Senzel is the safest pick available, but still offers a tasty skill set at the hot corner. He’ll probably never hit 30 dingers, but he’s got 20/20 upside with solid average and obp.

2. Kyle Lewis, Mariners OF | 26/.299/.385/.530/3/26/3: Damn knees. Seriously, if it wasn’t for his stupid knees he’d be ranked one. As long as he makes a full recovery, Lewis will be a star. He’s a gamer, and the bat is real. I was shocked he dropped as far as he did in the real draft. I assume it was concerns about his small school background. Scouts there is life outside the ACC/SEC etc.

3. Corey Ray, Brewers OF | 26/.239/.307/.370/5/17/10: I know, I know, Ray had a rough first month in proball, but over the course of his second month + he showed the power/speed profile we’ve all been raving about. In his final 33 games he slashed an improved .264/.349/.457 with 5 homers and 6 steals. His aggressive assignment to Brevard County should be noted, as the degree of difficulty was much higher than those other 2016 draftees that raked in rookie ball. In other words, excuse his bad first month.

4. Zack Collins, White Sox C | 25/.244/.396/.435/6/18/0: The powerful college bat had a very solid transition to proball with Winston-Salem in the Carolina League. Collins, contrary to the popular belief going into the draft, played predominantly behind the dish. This is a huge swoon for his fantasy value, as catchers with homer and on base skills are hard to come by. There’s the element of swing and miss to his game, but he has maybe the best power in the draft. His ability to draw walks is legendary, posting a 21.6% walk rate in 36 games in High-A.

5. Kevin Maitan, Braves SS | N/A: Every time I discuss Maitan I feel like I’m Barry Mardones, “he’s just 16 years old, leave him alone, Ralph says.” On the really tho, for my reader bros; he’s probably the most talented/highest upside player on this list. If you’re in a deep dynasty, let’s say 14+ teams with 20+ man minor league rosters, I could see taking him first to stash. It’s not altogether a crazy idea, but for your shallower dynasty leagues, I’d play it safe and take the four college hitters. I know his upside is enticing, but he’s a ways away. Signed at the beginning of the July 2 period for $4.25 million, he’s been described as a young Miguel Cabrera or Chipper Jones, take your pick. No big deal, right? Only two of the greatest hitters of all-time, ho-hum. Many think he’ll move off short and slide over to third, so I didn’t factor his position into my ranking what-so-ever. The power is off the charts, and he’s been described as polished beyond his years.

6. Matt Thaiss, Angels 1B/C | 40/.292/.361/.462/6/43/3: I’ve fallen in love with Thaiss a little bit, and might be the high guy on him, but let me state my case before you pass judgement. He brings a truly unique skill set to the table; he never strikes out, walks a respectable amount, and still hits for power and average. He’s looked likely to be moved off catcher, but there’s some talk that his catching days may not be over quite yet. I like the floor, and think you’re drafting a guaranteed future major leaguer.

7. Will Craig, Pirates 3B | 28/.280/.412/.362/2/23/2: Considered one of the top college bats in the draft, Craig is lauded for his bat speed, and pretty right handed swing. He has advanced approach which he showed with West Virginia of the New York-Penn League. He’s someone who will draw a lot of Billy Butler comps, but those are kind of lazy and body driven. Craig’s power didn’t translate initially but I wouldn’t write it off, based on what he showed at Wake Forest.

8. Alex Kirilloff, Twins OF | 33/.306/.341/.454/7/33/0: Wait did I just rank Kirilloff as my highest prep hitter/player? Yes, and I’ll tell you why; power, serious freaking power. At just 18 he hit 7 homers in 232 Gulf Coast League at bats.

9. Cal Quantrill, Padres RHP | 37 innings, 5.84 ERA, 11.2 K/9, 1.9 Bb/9: After not pitching for most of 2015, and all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Quantrill went to the Padres at pick 8. While his ERA left something to be desired, for his first foray into proball, his peripherals were solid. Had it not been for the injury Quantrill was well on his way to being considered the best pitcher in the country in 2015. I like his mix of floor and upside, and I’ve learned to bet on the talented players coming back from TJ (Lucas Giolito and Erick Fedde to name a few).

10. Heath Quinn, Giants OF | 43/.344/.434/.564/9/34/3: This is my bold pick of the top 10. He’s an unheralded choice, sure, but the numbers were eye-popping in his limited time this season. He’s out of a small school (Samford), which probably hurt his stock, but he has as much if not more fantasy upside than 2/3rds of the first round. He swings a powerful stick, ranking second in NCAA division 1 this season with 21 homers. He also showed well in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2015, finishing 4th in slugging (.486). Could be this year’s Willie Calhoun. Major props to Halp for putting me onto Quinn.

11. Mickey Moniak, Phillies | 27/.284/.340/.409/1/28/10: The upside here is he develops into a Christian Yelich type player for fantasy. He’s still 4-5 years away, and is a hit tool/speed guy, so proceed with caution. He was the #1 overall pick, for the ever boring “real baseball reasons”.

12. Adrian Morejon, Padres LHP | N/A: Cuban lefty with oodles of upside, and the stuff to match. Throws a plus fastball in the low to mid 90’s range, and two changeups. One that’s more of a knuckle change with late dive, and the other which is your traditional change with sink and run. Also features a curveball that he’s shown feel for. Smooth mechanics, and clean arm action are both pluses toward his ability to stick as a starter.

13. Blake Rutherford, Yankees OF | 16/.351/.415/.570/3/12/0: Young upside pick, one that had some serious buzz a year ago. In fact many projected him to be a top 3 pick. Then over the course of the spring he fell behind Mickey Moniak and others as the top Prep bat of the 2016 Draft. Looked good in his short stint in the Appy League with Pulaski. Flashes power and hit tool, you’re hoping he matures into your classic powerful corner outfielder.

14. AJ Puk, Athletics LHP | 32.2 innings, 3.03 ERA, 11.0 K/9, 3.3 Bb/9: “Holy crapo Ralph why is Puk so low?” Cause he’s a college arm that’s all projection and upside. The numbers look better than he pitched. I’ve read a lot of scouting reports that quote other coaches in the New York-Penn League, and they all describe his control as spotty. He’s very risky for a highly touted college arm.

15. Jason Groome, Red Sox LHP | 6.2 innings, 2.70 ERA, 13.5 K/9, 5.4 Bb/9: Many thought Groome could go first overall, but some off the field concerns, and questions about his signability led him to drop to the Red Sox at 12. He’s as upsidey as any prep arm in recent memory. His repertoire features a 96 MPH heater, a nasty curve with spin and bite, and a change.

Follow me on Twitter @ralphlifshitzbb and subscribe to the Prospect Podcast on iTunes

 

  1. howtathor says:
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    Thanks Ralph! Not to worry, I don’t think the Red Sox will let Big Pappi go quietly into the good night!

    I play in a Franchise based (Astros) 30 team dynasty league where we’re allowed to keep four from each minor league draft. My choices were:

    Forrest Whitley, Astros RHP – 18.2 Innings, 4.82 era, 28k, 6bb
    Currently playing with Greeneville RK of the Appalachian League

    Ronnie Dawson, Astros OF – 41/.225/.351/.373/7/36/12
    Currently with Tri-City of the Class A SS New York-Penn League

    Stephen Wrenn, Astros OF – 289/.260/.324/.471/12/39/15
    Currently with Quad Cities Class A Midwest League

    Jake Rogers Astros C – 159/.233/.341/.377/3/16/1
    Currently with Quad Cities Class A Midwest League

    Whitley and Dawson were no brainers, Rogers was for my endless search for a homegrown C and I passed over Brett Adcock and my Homy Abraham Toro-Hernandez to take Wrenn.

    Obviously it’s early and time will tell but I’m definitely encouraged by some of the stats notably Whitley’s k/bb ratio and Wrenn and Dawson’s SBs.

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  2. Malicious Phenoms says:
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    Solid rankings Ralph..I would flip a few around, but hey its just 15 players, any of those are top 15 worthy..

    As a Yankees fan I don’t know what to say about your Redsox, other than, GO INDIANS!

    Javier Baez’s homer in the ninth was SO sweet..

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Malicious Phenoms: Thanks MP, who would you move up or down?

      Haha, my wife is from NJ and her whole family is Yankees fans so I’m used to it. Then again you guys are used to losing :) What happened to Yankees fans?

      Indeed!

      • Malicious Phenoms says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz:
        I would swap out 7, 8 & 9 with Rutherford, Puk & Groome…

        I think Puk and Groome with be much better than Cal. I also think Rutherford is better overall than Kirilloff and Craig..Just my two euros..

        Nothing wrong with Yankees fans , we are just waiting fto begin our next dynasty run..hehe

        Baez’s homer was in the 8th, either way it was a game winner..

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @Malicious Phenoms: All good choices. I’m very cautious with prep arms, and truthfully Insomt be owning Puk. He’s the guy everyone wants to believe in but gives us no reason to. A lot like Alec Hanson the numbers on the surface look good but he’s struggled to find his command and control. That becomes a deal breaker at the upper levels.

          I think Cal would have been the top pick if not for TJ. I like what I’ve watched and read. I know I’m in the minority on him.

  3. What Kind of Wood Was That?! says:
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    Thanks Ralph, where would Acuna fall on this list for you if he was in this mix? Before or after Maitan?

  4. Miketron says:
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    So I guess you are not a fan of Alec Hansen? He has looked good so far. Also seems really high for a catching prospect. They never seem to work out…

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Miketron: No, I have major concerns, as good as the production looks on paper, there are MAJOR command and control questions. He looked good in rookie ball as he should, he has one of the highest ceilings but a huge bust and pen risk. Just not my kind of prospect. Not even in my top 40.

      Regardless if position Collins is one of the top bats in the draft. The overwhelming majority of scouts don’t envision him sticking either way his bat plays. We’ve also had a few good prospect catchers recently, and he compares favorably to both Sanchez and Schwarber. Collins earned that rank IMO. I understand your view on catching prospects.

  5. Matt says:
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    I’m in a keeper league and hope to contend next season (points HTH, pitching much more valuable than bats). We can keep eight prospects but each will cost us a pick in next season’s prospect draft. Looking at my keeper list below, do you see anyone that you would chose to not keep in order to get pick #21 (knowing this league, I should be able to land a player like Collins there)?

    Brendan Rodgers, Anderson Espinoza, Willy Adames, Brent Honeywell, Cody Reed, Manuel Margot

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Matt: Willy Adames, particulary if you have middle infield depth.

  6. Matt says:
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    That isn’t a huge strength-on my MLB roster I have Semien, Schoop, and Schimph for 2b, SS, and MI slots. With Rodgers, do you think that’s enough? There was a bit of a 2b renaissance this season-might be able to pick another up.

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Matt: You have enough coverage

      • Matt says:
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        Ok, thanks

  7. regan says:
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    Looking to get into a deeper keeper league. The one i play in now is only 100 deep. It’s kind of boring. What in your opinion is the perfect size keeper league?

    • The JoGarza says:
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      @regan:

      I think a lot has to do with how active your managers are in the minors. I’m in a 16-team league with 12-man farms (192 total) and it still feels pretty shallow because only about 4-5 managers are “in the know” about prospects. Granted, it’s not a bad problem to have on my end because everyone in my farm is top 100, but I feel like a league that has only 100 minor league spots but all active managers in the MiLB would probably feel “deeper” than mine.

      That said, to answer your question, deep leagues are considered to be around my level of prospects.

  8. john b good says:
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    when is 16-30 coming out ?
    thank you

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @john b good: I’all have it ready to post on Saturday.

      • john b good says:
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        @Ralph Lifshitz: super -i have a keeper league first year draft coming up next week

        • Ralph Lifshitz

          Ralph Lifshitz says:
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          @john b good: I’ll have it out on Saturday and as long as the recording software works we’ll have a 32 pick draft podcast coming out tomorrow.

  9. john b good says:
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    when is 16-30 coming out.
    great rankings -thank you

  10. Max

    Max says:
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    I have picks 1 and 8 in Prospect draft coming up. The notable names available are:

    Ian Happ
    Bellinger
    Kyle Tucker
    Eloy
    Bobby Bradley
    Francisco Mejia
    Isan Diaz
    Willlie Calhoun
    Alex Verdugo
    Senzel
    Kyle Lewis
    Corey Ray
    Collins
    Maitan
    Thaiss
    Will Craig

    Where do you think your top 8 is right now in an OBP league? (I know 8 is a lot haha feel free to provide less if needed).

    My top 7 goes is below and then I am really not sure who to grab if they are all taken before me at 8.

    Senzel
    Happ
    Bellinger
    Tucker
    Eloy
    Collins
    Lewis

    How would our lists compare?

    Thanks and looking forward to all the podcasts this summer! Been listening (for the entirety of each podcast) since day 1!

    • Ralph Lifshitz

      Ralph Lifshitz says:
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      @Max: Eloy is the no doubt #1 IMO he’s a top 10 prospect IMO.

      This is how I’m rankings these guys in my first run through of the top 100. Not sure where to put Maitan in a league where prospects of this caliber are available. He’s a good 3-4 years away best case scenario and maybe it’s more like 5-6.

      Eloy
      Willie Calhoun
      Bellinger
      Isan Diaz
      Bobby Bradley
      Ian Happ
      Alex Verdugo
      Francisco Mejia
      Kyle Tucker
      Nick Senzel
      Kyle Lewis
      Corey Ray
      Zack Collins
      Kevin Maitan
      Matt Thaiss
      Will Craig

      • Ralph Lifshitz

        Ralph Lifshitz says:
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        BTW thanks for the listens! New one coming tomorrow talking Arizona Fall League.

        • Max

          Max says:
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          @Ralph Lifshitz: No problem! I love the prospect talk.

          The league has this much available because its the top prospects that arent in the yahoo database haha.

          You like all of the non 2016 draftees way more than this years draft class eh?

          Not even Senzel in the upper ranks has me rethinking everything!!

          • Ralph Lifshitz

            Ralph Lifshitz says:
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            @Max: 2016 wasn’t a very good year. I think the J2 guys long term will far exceed the draftees. The best prospects in this draft were high school guys, particularly pitchers. That’s risky business in dynasty leagues. Nobody busts like prep pitchers.

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