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.