I know a lot of leagues start their First-Year-Player Drafts directly after the MLB Draft, so I figured no time like the present to rank the first round or so.
1. Miami SS Kahlil Watson, pick 1.16
Watson’s interview with the broadcast team was a tough listen. Sounded like he was exhausted from being on the phone all night, telling his agent he wasn’t willing to sign for whatever fully leveraged, arm-twisting deals teams were offering, probably as early as the fifth pick. Probably negotiated with at least five teams before the Marlins landed him at 16. Sounded like he shut down the Giants, who pivoted late to College World Series star Will Bednar.
As much as I love aspects of the draft, the reality of a multi-billion dollar corporations needling high school kids down as far as they’ll go exhausts me as well. No doubt they tell the kids what they’re not good at, why they should definitely sign this lowball contract, how they’re risking their family’s well being by betting on themselves.
Between the lines, Watson can do it all: hit, field, throw, thump, run, and it’s this last piece that really ties the room together for us. Miami isn’t a great place to hit, but Donny Baseball’s fish sure like to steal. Can’t really predict he’ll still be there when Watson arrives, but the Marlins will always have to manufacture runs at home.
2. Boston SS Marcelo Mayer, pick 1.4
The night’s big surprise came when a lot of people’s number one player fell to Detroit at the third pick, at which point GM Al Avila drafted a high school pitcher.
I initially wrote this as “high school litcher.” Whereas “lich” refers to an undead wizard who’s bewitched his corpse to continue existence in a search for eternal life, litcher apparently refers to a pitcher of liquor, popularized at a bar near Clemson, and I have to say here that Tigers Twitter was ready to start chugging some litchers after Avila drafted that pitcher.
Word is he didn’t want to break his word to RHP Jackson Jobe, and while that sounds nice n all, that translates to “we got this kid to sign so cheap we’d rather have him anyway.” And it kind of paid off as it often does for the teams trying to game the broken slot system, with Detroit landing an elite college arm, Ty Madden, with their next pick because they had the money to sign him.
Mayer makes hay with the bat in terms of both hit and power. There’s a body-is-a-wonderland joke in here somewhere to indicate some likely physical development and perhaps loss of foot speed, but I’m not getting it figured it fast enough, and I’m not even sure everyone knows who John Mayer is anymore. What is a record? will be a Jeopardy clue by the time Aaron Rodgers is reading them.
3. Arizona SS Jordan Lawler, pick 1.6
Another elite prospect who fell due to being too good to sign on the cheap, Lawler led the way for this class throughout much of the process. He’s more physical (and bigger) than Watson, but he too is fleet enough on his feet to impact our game. I’m not thrilled he went to the Diamondbacks, who seem a little lost in the weeds at the moment in terms of organizational vision, but that’s a nice park for hitters if they can ever find some. Corbin Carroll and Jordan Lawler are a great place to begin a rebuild.
4. Pittsburgh C Henry Davis, pick 1.1
I can imagine a scenario or two where I’d pick Davis first this year.
Might be 1.1 for me if the Pirates move him to the outfield and he smashes the low minors this fall.
Might be 1.1 for me in a really deep catcher league. I used to be in a 20-team league that went two deep. Tough to say what I’d do for sure when it’s fully hypothetical, but I think he’s probably my top pick there. If Kahlil Watson had landed in San Francisco or somewhere else with a better track record for developing bats, he’d be pretty close to untouchable regardless of format, as long as we’re traveling down If Avenue at the intersection of Maybe Lane.
For his part, Davis is a good contact hitter with plus power. He’s athletic enough to switch to outfield and might even get a little faster across time if he does. The actions of catching do not marry well with the actions of sprinting, you’ll be unsurprised to hear. Sounds like Davis wants to catch no matter what, and he has all the fire needed to do it well, and maybe that’s all that matters in the end.
5. Texas RHP Jack Leiter, pick 1.2
I try to skirt resale value a bit while making most rankings because I just don’t think it helps readers much unless I’m making a pure echo chamber snapshot list, which I suspect I’ll never do for similar reasons. I try to clarify in places that I’m coloring well outside the lines when that occurs. Anyway, I do really like Leiter as a fantasy prospect, and I think Texas is a decent landing spot, but the main reason I can’t find the gumption to bump him back behind Sal Frelick is that mystical allure of name value. Guy could be bad a whole season and still have significant trade value. Belongs first all alone on a trade value list if you’d be interested in drafting that way, which makes a ton of sense to me.
6. New York Mets RHP Kumar Rocker, pick 1.10
Could copy and paste the Leiter trade value stuff here to some extent, though the narrative about Rocker’s stuff being easy come easy go has taken hold by now, I suspect. This irritates me. Half these first-round pitchers have one solid stretch on their resumes. They popped up and threw harder and dominated for a year or maybe even half a year or maybe just during a high profile tournament. Rocker has been baseball-pitcher famous for almost half a decade. Every pitcher has ups and downs over a five-year period. Over a three-year period. Within a single season.
And I suppose that’s the worry: that his velocity itself will be up and down within seasons, which also happens to every pitcher. How hard is Zack Greinke throwing these days? Rocker isn’t exactly Zack Greinke of course, but he’s similar in terms of what makes him great: everything beyond the fastball. Not to knock his heater; it’s plenty good, but the curveball is plus, the slider is double plus, and the change up is fine, as is his command of all three. Off-speed command is the rarest trait in young pitchers with big stuff, in my opinion, and I’m hoping Rocker somehow falls to me in my leagues.
7. Milwaukee OF Sal Frelick, pick 1.15
I love Frelick but suspect nobody can compete with Hobbs on that score.
I’ve already got him in the dynasty baseball championship over at Prospects Live and suspect I’ll land him elsewhere. Plus hit plus run spark plugs are precisely my type.
8. Baltimore OF Colton Cowser, pick 1.5
All-around skill set headed to a hot organization in a cozy ballpark. Yes, please.
9. Washington 3B Brady House, pick 1.11
Large young human with large young power. Reminds me a little of Jordan Walker last year in the sense that he’s so physically developed he will cruise through the minors if the hit tool can keep pace. Wide range of outcomes. Could see him atop this list by winter if Washington sends him to Low A right away and he performs.
10. Boston OF Jud Fabian, pick 2.40
Look I’m a Hobbs fan, what can I say. Fabian feels like a hill he’s willing to die on, eschewing the 30-percent strikeout rate to focus on the big present power and speed profile, seeing him as a true center fielder on defense and a four-category contributor with the bat. I’m here for that. The Boston piece adds a little sprinkle of trade value as well. Good case for a lot of guys in this spot: Matt McLain, Benny Montgomery, Bubba Chandler, Ethan WIlson . . . real rich part of the FYPD this year, it seems.
I’ll go ahead and mix McLain’s current blurb in here because I thought he’d land in the top ten for much of the process.
11. Cincinnati SS Matt McLain
Something about a high floor correlates to a moderate ceiling in the magic of our mind’s eye, but that’s not how I tend to see it. If the floor is solid, the player has a strong foundation on which to build. McLain went 25th overall in 2018, went to UCLA instead of Arizona, and went 17th to the Reds in 2021. While that might not sound like much, he will have skipped a chunk of time living the minor league life to undergrad around California. Not too bad at the end of the day.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.
Good stuff Itch. Thanks for the insight!
*sarcasm* Why isn’t Bachman on here. Swanson wants us to believe he’s better/safer than Rocker. Swanson thinks he be a starter. He’s better right? Right? No way the Angels scouting & front office would be so short-sighted that they’d pass on guy that plays hungry with plus secondaries just because velo is a mild concern at the draft right? Because he velo ticked up right before draft and rocker ticked down that tells the story for their entire career arc right? right???
Weird times for Angels fans, to be sure. Best players in baseball with very little signal that they’ll have a shot to win soon.
When Bachman went, I texted my brother “Who are these fucking guys?” but more because we love Major League quotes than because we didn’t know Bachman. But on the back of KC picking the no-hitter kid, things felt off at the point in the draft.
Rocker, Detmers would’ve been a dreamy duo
I’m always down for Major League qoutes
I know, I had a vision 2 sugar plums dancing in the strike zone in my head… you should have seen my face when the Angels pick came up and Rocker was still on the board, I almost lost my shit.
Then you should have also seen my face when they chose Bachman, and I actually lost my shit, in a different way.
Like wtf man. I’m dying out here.
And today, lets pick up Adam Eaton, another lost OF puppy without a home.
Come play for the Angels! We’ve got uniforms and everything!
Thanks for highlighting the scummy practice of multi-billion dollar organizations squeezing kids to try to get them to sign under-slot. Squeezing him to sign under a bonus slot that MLB had already rigged in their favor. No doubt Watson would get a lot more than just slot money if MLB hadn’t already rigged the system against him.
Hat tip and thank you for saying so.
We used to get a look at the real market value once in a while, like when Moncada went for 64 million, but then MLB got the rules in place to collude those numbers down with an artificial cap like the draft, so it’s party in the USA every time all the time now for the fuckery factory that is Major League Baseball.
Hey Itch! Great list to stay a step ahead in dynasty, love it. Do you have any news/thoughts on this years top international prospects? Timing doesn’t align anymore with the new January 2 date but do you have any idea if anyone would crack this list for a FYPD?
Thanks, Prawn Lord.
We’re so far out and I’m not in any open world leagues, so I haven’t really invested much there yet. I’m extremely concerned about that class in general—that a CBA in the wind will wreck havoc on that signing date—so I wouldn’t be likely to put one real high on an FYPD list just yet.
Thanks! Yeah I thought it was odd I’ve heard next to nothing on international guys this year but you’re right, it’s probably just that the signing period is so far off now. Interesting point on the CBA, I’m not too up to speed with the CBA negotiations and details but is there any chance we could come out of it with a completely different system for international players, like either a separate draft or making them draft eligible?
Itch – great stuff.
My thoughts echo a lot of what you’ve already laid out here.
Including Fabian was a wise move in my opinion. Elite defender with above-average speed that should allow him to routinely steal double-digit bags. The in-game power is real and could easily translate to 30-35+ bombs per year.
I understand the industry’s concerns about the swing-and-miss profile. It goes without saying that the lofty strikeout rates need to be capped at the pro level.
But despite striking out 79 times this past season, Fabian posted a 14.9 BB% and .364 OBP to finish with a .924 OPS. He’s a good base runner who plays excellent defense and can draw a walk when needed. Isn’t this the exact hitter profile that analytics is trying to tell us is far more valuable in today’s game than many realize?
I’m still iffy on Henry Davis. I’m not sure if the load + bat path is going to play as well with the wood. Metal can sometimes bail out some swing path inefficiencies. In his lone year on the Cape in 2019, he hit .133/.263/.333.
More on Davis, Fabian and others in my post-draft FYPD sleepers piece next week. I’m going to shut up now before I’m commented my entire article.
Thanks, Hobbs, and right back at ya on the great stuff!
And I think you’re right on the player type tip. Prospect Fantasy world seems to really struggle to parse what will actually be valuable to our game. I always think about Carter Kieboom on this point. JJ Bleday too. Like, max the guy out to something like an 85th percentile outcome, where does he go in a standard 15 team redraft. If the answer isn’t top 50, I don’t know why we’re ranking him as a big time fantasy guy.
Looking forward to that sleepers piece!
Looking to trade for a closer for my 14 team keeper league (7 keepers).
Chapman, Jansen, Alex Reyes or Brad Hand.
Which one do you prefer going forward?
Other teams are asking:
Chapman for a round 8
Janesen for a round 9
Reyes for a round 9
Hand (dont know yet).
I would basically drop Neris or give back, but nobody wants him.
other option can be to trade for Will Smith, or take the waiver wire and add Hembree or Soria and drop Neria.
thanks for your comments.
Reyes with Jansen a solid back-up plan.
I also really like Paul Sewald in Seattle and would probably pick him up and see how it goes for a few weeks.
Question not related to this draft ?
Who is a better 2022 stash: torkelson or Julio rodriguez?
Tork for me.
Been waiting for this list!
What’s your opinion of Trey Sweeney’s hit tool? Does he stay on the dirt?
Also Where do you rank Gunner Hoglund in this crop of arms?
I like Sweeney to hit and play the infield. Yankees are on a good run identifying and developing infield talent.
I’d put Hogland in the Ty Madden range just below the big 2 if he comes back healthy.
I’m new to tracking prospects all the way down in the minors.
Do you think the struggles of Heriberto Hernandez in low-A are a cause for concern or just more of a slump that most young guys go through and he’ll figure it out and be fine?
I didn’t think his hit tool would struggle at this level, but it may just be my inexperience.
Thanks buddy, great article as always and I appreciate you
Hi, Worm Burner,
I didn’t expect him to struggle either.
He still has a 120 wRC+ and a great on base percentage, so it’s not all bad, but a 30 percent strikeout rate without much power is no bueno. He’ll take a bit of a dip in my next rankings. I’m still in on him long term, but I’m easing off the accelerator a little.
I’m a big MSU homer, any thoughts on Bednar?
Couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot. Double arrows up for me given the Zaidi group’s success on the mound.
Watching Bednar’s clips after being drafted. His fastball exploded in the zone. Dare I say Nolan Ryan?
Hey Itch great stuff as usual….18 team 5×5 dynasty….waiting Curtis Terry and Seth Beer….who is up first and has a better chance of making an impact? I traded Ynoa….Burger and Bart for Yoan Moncada…thoughts…. Have a great day and thank you!
I think Beer gets there first but Terry is the better hitter but quite a ways.
Trade seems pretty good to me if Yoan helps this year. I like Ynoa a lot long term but can’t say how much of his early success was the spider tack.
Hey Itch! Great work as usual! 18 team dynasty 5×5…..waiting on Curtis Terry…..and Seth Beer…who is up first and makes a bigger impact? I traded Ynoa-Burger and Bart for Yoan Moncada…thoughts….have a great day and thank you!