Future Fantasy Studs from the 2019 Draft

Today, we’re dropping in unannounced on some of the 2019 draft picks to see how they’re acclimatizing to pro baseball. In the process, we’ll have some thoughts on when they should be targeted in your dynasty or keeper fantasy leagues based on their MLB ETA. Keep in mind that a strong start to pro ball is encouraging but does not always guarantee future success (the opposite is also true). So this is just the first step in a long journey.

*Prior to the 2019 amateur draft, I published a mock draft based on where I thought the prospects should go based on a review of video, statistical information, and other scouting reports (as opposed to most mock drafts that attempt to accurately predict where players are going). I’m including a link to that piece as it’s referenced below on a number of occasions).

Adley Rutschman, C, Orioles:
2020 LEVEL: High-A
MLB ETA: 2022

The first overall pick of the draft took some time before making his pro debut so he’s only played in 11 games so far, split between Rookie ball and Short-Season A-ball. It’s been a slow start for the switch-hitting catcher as he’s hitting just .158 through 38 at-bats. The good news is that he’s had some bad luck on balls in play at the higher level. He also has a decent strikeout rate (13.5% K-rate) while also showing patience (12% BB-rate). Rutschman is looking good defensively and has thrown out 57% of base runners in seven attempts.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B, White Sox:
2020 LEVEL: Double-A
MLB ETA: 2021

I personally advocated for Vaughn first overall but he instead went third overall to Chicago. And the White Sox have done what the White Sox tend to do far too often. They’ve pushed a prospect extremely aggressively – for reasons that remain unclear. Now, Vaughn has done OK. He has an .898 OPS overall and a BB-K rate of 16-24 in 30 games over three levels. But his .798 OPS in 23 Low-A games was OK-not-great but he was recently pushed up to High-A ball nonetheless. My guess is that the front office wants to get the young core together as quickly as possible since the AL Central is hardly the AL East so you can conceivably rebuild and win the division at the same time.

CJ Abrams, SS, Padres:
2020 LEVEL: Low-A
MLB ETA: 2022

Prior to the draft, I hemmed and hawed over the placement of Abrams as I felt I liked him more than the consensus based on the video I’d seen and reports I’d read. In early iterations of the list, I actually suggested that he go third overall but ultimately put him fourth. He actually went sixth overall to the Padres and even that looks like a steal. Abrams oozes athleticism and has excellent bat control. He’s hitting .401 through 31 Rookie Ball games with a BB-K of 10-14. He actually has as many steals as strikeouts (14). The biggest surprise has been his power. He still has room to get stronger but 23 of 57 hits have gone for extra bases — including eight triples. Add in Xavier Edwards, whom the Padres took 38th overall in 2018 and I advocated for him to go even higher, and you have two dynamic up-the-middle prospects rocketing towards the Majors.

Josh Jung, 3B, Rangers:
2020 LEVEL: High-A
MLB ETA: 2021

MLB.com had Jung ranked 16th overall prior to the draft. Baseball America had him at 17. My mock recommended that he go sixth overall The Rangers grabbed him seventh overall. Why the gap? It was likely due to concerns over where Jung would end up playing. But when a player can really hit — and it was clear in the video I saw that he could hit (and the college numbers backed that up) — you invest in the bat and find a position later. Jung’s overall numbers look amazing but he also posted a 1.573 OPS in four Rookie Ball games — a league he was far too advanced for. He has then promoted to Low-A ball (much more aggressive) where he has a .710 OPS in 15 games. There is some disagreement with his numbers at that level. His Isolated Slugging rate is a measly .036 but his line-drive rate is an eye-opening 33%. And he’s using the entire field — going the other way 33% of the time. He’s a player that could really explode in 2020.

Corbin Carroll, OF, Diamondbacks:
2020 LEVEL: Low-A
MLB ETA: 2022

Carroll was another player I was quite fond of before the draft and recommended that he go 10th overall. He actually lasted until 16th where Arizona, with the draft’s biggest budget and most early picks, grabbed him. The biggest concern with his outfielder is future power production. He can really hit — and has an .848 OPS through 28 games — but he still has room to add good weight and muscle to his frame. His strikeout rate is a little higher than I’d like to to be (21%) but he’s also shown an advanced eye with a walk rate at 18%. Just nine of his 29 hits have gone for extra bases but he can still get himself into scoring positions thanks to his legs; he’s 14-for-15 in stolen base attempts.

George Kirby, RHP, Mariners:
2020 LEVEL: High-A
MLB ETA: 2021

The draft was light on potentially-impactful college arms but there are always players to be found that can provide excellent value. Kirby was my top college arm (Third overall behind high schooler Matthew Allan and junior college stud Jackson Rutledge) and I recommended having him go 11th overall in my pre-draft mock draft. Other pre-draft rankings had him ranked in the 18-20 range. He lasted until the 20th pick when the Mariners took him. Kirby hasn’t thrown a lot of innings given his heavy college workload but he’s looked good with a K-BB of 10-0 with nine hits allowed in 11 innings. He’s given up just one run in five appearances in Short-Season A-ball.

Anthony Volpe, SS, Yankees:
2020 LEVEL: Low-A
MLB ETA: 2022

Volpe was an interesting prospect leading up to the draft. MLB.com had him ranked 63rd overall. Baseball America had him at 52. I recommended the New Jersey native be taken 15th overall based on his great makeup, athleticism and excellent swing. The Yankees were happy to gamble on his upside at 30th overall. He was challenged as an 18-year-old, first-time pro with an assignment to Advanced Rookie Ball and he has a modest .699 OPS and 17-30 BB-K through 28 games. He’s hitting better lately and has a .314 average with a BB-K of 5-9 in the last 10 games. He’ll take a little time to put it all together but Volpe could be special.

We hoped you liked reading Future Fantasy Studs from the 2019 Draft by Marc Hulet!

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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KJL
Member
Member
KJL

I dont know… I dont think A+ is that aggressive of an assignment for an elite college hitter. He had a 137 wRC+ in A- and is at 107 right now in A+.

Art Fay
Member
Art Fay

I see both sides but I lean your way considering how advanced his bat was supposed to be and his draft position. The best hitter in college baseball shouldn’t really spend time in Low A if we’re being honest.

redsoxu571
Member
redsoxu571

Acknowledging that things were different back in 1989, this is when I like to remember that John Olerud went straight to the major leagues after being drafted and signed! And he was a 3rd round pick! I’m not sure why a guy who put up broken college hitting numbers was, apparently, not all that highly regarded. Anyone have any background on that?

burtsmith
Member
burtsmith

Olerud had a brain aneurysm, which is why teams were reluctant to take him. That’s why Olerud wore a helmet in the field his entire career.