With the conclusion of the MLB draft comes the beginning of First-Year Player Draft research. We’re doing deep dives on a lot of these names to see who are the players that can outperform their expectations and become draft day targets.
Ralph, Matt and Eddy got together and instead of doing a pure fantasy rank, we opted to mock draft 30 names. Each of us drafted 10 players and had to roster at least two pitchers. Be sure to visit our Top 50 MLB Draft rankings for video and blurbs on each of these names you see below.
Andrew Vaughn, 1B, CHW (Eddy)
Adley Rutschman, C, BAL (Matt)
Bobby Witt Jr., SS, KC (Ralph)
Riley Greene, OF, DET (Eddy)
JJ Bleday, OF, MIA (Matt)
Hunter Bishop, OF, SF (Ralph)
Corbin Carroll, OF, ARI (Eddy)
Greg Jones, SS TB (Matt)
Brett Baty, 3B, NYM (Ralph)
Josh Jung, 3B, TEX (Eddy)
Keoni Cavaco, 3B, MIN (Matt)
CJ Abrams, SS, SD (Ralph)
Jackson Rutledge, RHP, WAS (Eddy)
Kameron Misner, OF, MIA (Matt)
Will Wilson, 2B, LAA (Ralph)
Kody Hoese, 3B, LAD (Eddy)
George Kirby, RHP, SEA (Matt)
Alek Manoah, RHP, Blue Jays (Ralph)
Michael Toglia, 1B, Rockies (Eddy)
Zack Thompson, LHP, Cardinals (Matt)
Logan Davidson, SS, Athletics (Ralph)
Rece Hinds, 3B, Reds (Eddy)
Seth Johnson, RHP, Rays (Matt)
Michael Busch, 1B, Dodgers (Ralph)
Quinn Priester, RHP, Pirates (Eddy)
Treyjn Fletcher, OF, Cardinals (Matt)
Gunnar Henderson, SS, Orioles (Ralph)
Sammy Siani, OF, Pirates (Eddy)
Brady McConnell, SS, KC (Matt)
Nick Lodolo, RHP, Reds (Ralph)
Vaughn over Adley, what’s up with that?!
I’m not budging from this stance. I’ve written about why you shouldn’t roster catchers on your farm system. I’m obviously not going to say don’t roster Rutschman, but if you have the first pick, it has to be Vaughn. Catchers, no matter how good they are, will usually max out at 500 PA in a year if they’re elite. And if they’re not, more in the 450 PA range. That’s too many at-bats to give away. Vaughn has 60 hit/65 power potential, a friendly hitter’s park, an excellent eye at the plate, is going to move fast through the minors, and already has the DH fallback. Don’t think hard about it, this is the number one guy for first year player drafts.
You took a prep bat in Riley Greene over college standouts Hunter Bishop and J.J. Bleday. Feeling lucky?
Simply put, the allure of a 70-hit, 60-power bat is too much to pass up. Greene has some slight swing and miss issues and I notice he drops his shoulder on his big hacks. But his weight transference looks good in his swing and his body is ripe for added muscle. It’s a high variance pick and Bleday would have been my backup if I care more about proximity.
Your two pitchers are a JUCO guy and a high school righty. Good luck.
First off, you have to understand that pitchers are the weakest position in this class. It’s a wasteland. As such, if you’re going to bother drafting any (or are forced by arbitrary rules like we were), then aim high. Rutledge is a 6-foot-8 monster that’s already drawing some comparisons to Nate Pearson thanks to a fastball that sits 94-97 and two plus offerings in a curve and slider. Despite the size he’s short and efficient with his delivery. There’s SP2 upside here but also RP risk. Priester is someone who’s relied on YouTube to teach himself mechanics and hasn’t had the benefit of extensive coaching. Despite that, he flashes an above-average fastball and a plus curveball with a repeatable delivery. He’s a good makeup kid and I always count on those to maximize their potential.
Did you miss out on anyone?
Matt surprised me by taking Rays Greg Jones eighth overall. I was hoping he’d last another 10 or so picks, but this served as a wake up call. I loved the pick. Jones has elite speed, some sneaky pop and is a switch hitter who’s worked to improve on cutting down his strikeouts. I was ready to take BAL SS Gunnar Henderson with my final pick but Ralph swooped in. He could be a 50 hit/60 power shortstop if things break right.
OK, we know about the big names. Any sleeper picks out there you want to highlight?
If you’re picking at the backend of a draft, keep new Dodgers 3B Kody Hoese in your mind. He hit a ridiculous .391/.486/.779 with 16 HR and a 39/34 BB/K. That slugging was second best in D1 baseball. And while the AAC is not a premiere conference, it’s still an impressive line. I trust the Dodgers to further develop him; they’re an awesome organization for unlocking potential, further exciting me about his future.
Did the top three play out as you had pictured?
Yes, and I think this will be reflective of the first-year player drafts we’ll see over the next nine or so months. Despite Witt’s elite talent, he doesn’t offer the immediate production or safety of Vaughn or Rutschman. I certainly wouldn’t take Witt over Vaughn in any format, but I would considered Witt over Adley. I do think Adley will be a rare breed, an everyday catcher with a viable bat and offensive production that should play at a wide variety of positions, even if he didn’t catch. That said, Witt’s combination of power, speed, and upside that comes with an uber-talented prep prospect make him a hard one to pass up.
Ralph, you’ve been one of the more vocal critics of Bishop throughout the draft season, why take him where you did?
Despite my apprehension with Bishop when compared to other writers, draftnicks, etc, I still see massive potential upside with Bishop’s elite athleticism and combination of power and speed. While I question the hit tool to a degree, and San Francisco is just about the worst landing spot for any hitter, I still think he’s in an elite group when it comes to his potential future fantasy value. At the end of the day Bishop will be fun to own.
What’s up with all the middle infielders, are you the Padres?
It’s just how the draft fell, and I’ve always subscribed to the belief, take the best athletes and figure the rest out later. With a combination of Witt, Abrams, Will Wilson, Logan Davidson, and Gunnar Henderson I was able to add what I view to be five of the higher upside players in the draft. Granted three come from the prep ranks, and each have their questions, the strength of the middle infield class is on full display here.
Your first pitcher was Toronto’s Alek Manoah, was that the top pitcher on your board?
Yes, I’m firm believer in Manoah, even if the profile brings with it some bullpen risk. The combination of a plus fastball and slider should lead to lots of swings and misses in the professional ranks and I expect him to be a fast mover. Kirby offers more safety with his elite strike-throwing, and Rutledge offers a similar package to Manoah, but I feel the former Mountaineer righthander offers a little safety with the same upside Rutledge provides. As an aside, I was happy to have Lodolo fall in my lap, he easily could go as the top arm off the board in a majority of FYPDs this season.
Did you miss out on anyone?
GREG JONES!!!!! I love Jones’ upside, and fell in love at first sight way back in the summer of 2018. Jones can impact fantasy teams in a multitude of ways, speed, feel to hit, and some growing power. Jones added good weight between the Cape and the spring season and his extreme athleticism leads me to believe there’s a potentially very good player in the making. Nice pick, Matty!
Why Bleday at five over Bishop and Carroll?
This wasn’t actually that tough of a choice for me as I have JJ Bleday as my third ranked player behind Vaughn and Rutschman. It’s hard to ignore the 26 homers and the .357/.467/.752 slash line that accompanied it while playing in the nation’s premier conference. Bleday’s 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio also point to a high floor here. Bishop’s hit tool isn’t as refined as Bleday’s in my opinion and Bishop also finds himself in the worst ballpark possible for a left-handed slugger. Carroll is conceivably a 1.5 or two years behind Bleday.
Any overall strategy you used here? Did it work for you?
I draft for tools. Bleday, Jones, Cavaco, Misner, Fletcher, and McConnell are all bats that have a chance to be top-100 fantasy players if everything breaks right. Even my pitchers; Kirby, Thompson and Johnson all have some upside. The Cardinals pick of OF Trejyn Fletcher out of Maine might have been the biggest swing for the fences pick of the entire draft. He reminds me of Garrett Whitley when he was coming out of high school, and while that hasn’t necessarily panned out you should always bet on the athlete.
Did you miss out on anyone?
I ended up with most of the guys I wanted, but I think I made a mistake by passing on CJ Abrams one too many times. I’ve said on the podcast how I’m not as high on Abrams hit tool as others, and with that being said, Ralph got an absolute steal here at pick 12. Abrams has serious upside and feels like one that got away from me.
What was the logic behind taking the three arms when you did?
Well I thought the three arms I took had some value where I grabbed them. Thompson was my first choice, and if it wasn’t for the injury history he probably goes ten picks higher in the real draft than he did. Kirby a combination of stuff and command as his 107-to-6 strikeout to walk ratio shows. Seth Johnson is fairly new to pitching and has a low-to-mid 90s fastball and can spin two breaking balls. Being drafted by the Rays might be the most attractive selling point though.
Which pick was your favorite of the entire draft?
I thought I may have reached a bit on Greg Jones, but I came into this draft with him in mind. Jones has true top of the scale speed but actually pairs it with other usable offensive traits and an organization that does a great job developing talent. He may not stick at short, but it doesn’t matter. The upside is worth a top ten pick in this draft.