Last evening, my National League-Only home league held its minor league auction via e-mail. Holding 3 of the first 10 picks, I spent quite a bit of time preparing for the draft, as it could hold a key to my season, either by way of a second-half major league contributor or a quality dump chip as I race for first place. It dawned on me that minor league draft strategy (which also applies somewhat to leagues with reserve lists) is something we do not talk about often, so for those of you with auctions over the next two weeks, here is a little something for you to think about.
1. Do Your Homework
As opposed to a decade ago, when information on minor leaguers came from a very select few sources, there is information out there and it is reliable. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus, Keith Law at ESPN, John Sickels at www.minorleagueball.com, MLB.com, and others compile some of the best scouting information and rankings in the business. Use them. In fact, Baseball Prospectus usually compiles a spreadsheet of about 10 or 11 scouting sites and supplies their rankings in a spreadsheet matrix (along with team by team rankings, Arizona Fall League rankings, etc.). As an initial pass-through, I average out the rankings to get an initial list. It is not enough, however, to just compile a list. Research the players a bit. Find out who is 18-19 years old and projectable versus who is 22-23 and a major league ready arm or bat. For example, Kevin Goldstein loves projectable, toolsy players with high ceilings. That player might not work in your particular minor league strategy, where you are looking for a potential replacement arm to help your staff this year.
2. Craft A Strategy
Be sure you enter the minor league phase of your auction with a strategy in place. If you are contending in 2012, are you looking for potential immediate help to fill a hole on your roster (see Drew Pomerantz, for example)? Alternatively, do you know someone in your league craves young arms (see Gerrit Cole), and that team is considering a 2013 run? If you are out of the running already, does someone like Trevor Bauer make sense, considering he will likely be up before the year is out and cost you a year on the contract and some contract dollars, or are you better off with someone a little further away, like Cole or Archie Bradley? These are very important considerations, as you do not want to put yourself at a competitive disadvantage. This is particularly true for the contending team that drafts a minor leaguer who suddenly comes up to the big leagues and cannot be activated because there are no holes in which to insert him into the lineup. Suddenly, that uber-prospect is being traded for pennies on the dollar or , worse yet, waived.
3. Pitchers Versus Hitters, High School Versus College
This is an area of debate. Personally, I tend to weight hitters more than pitchers. I find, anecdotally or otherwise, pitchers to be more risk, more variable, and more unpredictable on the path to the majors than hitters. Hitters are generally a little more predictable. Also, as a general proposition, I generally like college players better than high school players (particularly pitchers…I make a lot of exceptions for high school hitters). College players sometimes are closer to their ceilings, but they tend to be more experienced and more predictable. Your experiences and preferences may and will vary, but this is something to look at and something for which you should find a comfort level.
Some National League Minor League Players To Watch
If you play in a deep league like I do, the majority of the "top" prospects are usually already gone. For those of you who do not, or for those of you with reserve lists instead of farm systems, here is a look at the National League prospects who rank in the Top 50 of my averaged matrix scores. I also posted some estimated arrival times as well.
Bryce Harper (ETA 2012)
Anthony Rendon (ETA 2013-2014)
Nolan Arenado (ETA 2012)
Brett Jackson (ETA 2012-2013)
Christian Yelich (ETA 2013-2014)
Anthony Rizzo (ETA 2012-2013)
Gary Brown (ETA 2013)
Yasmani Grandal (ETA 2013-2014)
Billy Hamilton (ETA 2014)
Shelby Miller (ETA 2012)
Julio Teheran (ETA 2012)
Trevor Bauer (ETA 2012)
Gerrit Cole (ETA 2014)
Tyler Skaggs (ETA 2013)
Drew Pomerantz (ETA Next Week)
Carlos Martinez (ETA 2014)
Randall Delgado (ETA 2012)
Archie Bradley (ETA 2013-2014)
Zach Wheeler (ETA 2013)
Matt Harvey (ETA 2014)
For those of you in deeper leagues, I am happy to compile other minor league lists upon requests. If anyone has questions or comments regarding these minor leaguers, I am happy to field those as well. Leave a comment, or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Good luck and Sweet Passover and Happy Easter to you!