The Fantasy Baseball Prospector: Mining the Draft Talent

by on June 4, 2012 @ 13:30:58 PDT


by Rob Leibowitz

Last week I covered some interesting names that are sure to be selected in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft and will be targeted in your minor league/dynasty leagues next year. This week, let's take a bit deeper look beyond the early picks to find some additional targets.

Relief Help

Chicago White Sox SP Chris Sale
Sale a model of development

The crop of college talent can usually be relied upon for several strong-armed pitchers with setup or possible closer potential. Their college experience and concentrating on 2 to 3 pitches tops in the minors tend to help them cruise through the minors to the majors, if they are effective.

Matt Koch is a right-handed reliever out of Louisville whose pitch arsenal contains multiple plus-potential offerings, including the requisite heat. Like with many hard throwers, command is the key for Koch. I would not be surprised to see him handled somewhat like Chris Sale, moved between relief and starting, since he does have enough pitches to potentially be a starter.

Nolan Sanburn throws harder than Koch and has a rather nasty curve to boot. While his pure stuff may rate a bit higher than Koch's, he is still working on a pitch to combat lefties and, like Koch, also has issues with commanding his pitches.

Another potential late-inning reliever available in the 2012 draft is Jake Barrett. He's a big righty with power stuff and three quality pitches. He will likely fall in the draft due to injury and/or potential future injury concerns but should still go in the first few rounds on the basis of his stuff alone.

Dan Langfield may not be as tall as some power closers at just 6-foot tall and is probably more effective when he doesn't try to throw too hard in order to rely on more movement. Langfield has some weapons including a cutter against lefties and has made some strides this year as far as throwing strikes, but he needs to prove this is a for-real change at the professional level and especially over a larger sample of innings.

Hitters of Note

Moving away from pitching we are brought to the backstop and Kevin Plawecki. There are other catchers more highly rated in the draft, but Plawecki may move through the minors more speedily than most. The righty first and foremost is noted for his contact abilities and drawing walks more often than he strikes out. The Purdue Boilermaker also has gap power and could be capable of high-single-digits to low-teens power output in the long run. His defense is solid enough to keep him behind the plate too. So overall, he is not a high-ceiling player, but rather one who should hit his ceiling quickly and be quite fantasy-relevant.

Stephen Piscotty is another contact-hitting type, with not too high a ceiling, but who like Plawecki might be able to reach his ceiling in the majors quickly. His frame is more built for power than Plawecki's, but his bat, while quick, has a swing designed more for line drives than home runs. The soon to be Stanford alum could hit for average in the majors and is a reasonable fantasy target as long as he can stay at third base. If Piscotty has to move off third to first or a corner outfield spot, his bat will not play as well and could cost him his career.

At shortstop, Nolan Fontana has all the skills and tools to be a regular major leaguer. He has the glove to stay at shortstop, makes contact, has some gap power, and boasts well-above-average plate discipline that will allow him to get on base and perhaps hit for average as well. I see .280, 5- to 10-homer, 10- to 20-steal output from him.

Outfield Items

The 2012 draft does consist of a few college outfielders that could move through their respective systems at a fair rate. Travis Jankowski has true center-fielder skills, including the glove and plus speed to handle the position. The lefty bat out of SUNY Stony Brook has little power to speak of but at least makes contact. This, however, is not enough, as many a low-powered speedster has not been able to make the kind of quality contact it takes to be a major leaguer, so Jankowski will have to pass that test.

Barrett Barnes is more of a left fielder in the long run, but has a more well-rounded set of tools and skills than Jankowski. The Texas Tech Red Raider is a right-handed hitter that has good bat speed and at least average power potential. Barnes is also blessed with plus speed and may have a shot at 20-20 in the long run. I remain a bit skeptical at this time regarding his ability to hit for average given a power-conscious approach and his right-handedness.

The Cal Poly slugger Mitch Haniger has 20-plus-HR potential. Normally I would be skeptical of a right-handed power hitter's ability to make it in the majors, but Hanigan has made strides in the plate discipline department, walking as much, if not more, than he has struck out. Time will tell whether he can translate this skill development to the pros.

James Ramsey, a senior for the Florida State Seminoles, will probably be a quick signing. He gets excellent reviews for his makeup and is a disciplined hitter who makes good contact. The lefty hitter, however, only has teens-per-season home run potential. His best tool may be his speed, where he has 20-plus-steals potential. As an outfielder, Ramsey is something of a tweener as he is more of a fringy center fielder and does not have the bat for a corner spot. He may be tried in the infield by some organization where his bat would be a better fit.

Next week we will take a look to see how the draftees look to fit into their new organizations' long-term plans.

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