The 2018 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft begins on Monday June 4 and continues through Wednesday. The Detroit Tigers will be on the clock at 7:00 pm for the first pick in the now made-for-TV event. Here is a preview of the MLB draft and future prospects for your dynasty fantasy baseball team.
The odds on first pick in the draft is Auburn University pitcher Casey Mize. Though I have no doubt that Mize will be a good to very good (or maybe even great) MLB pitcher, he won’t do it immediately. Unlike the NFL or NBA, very few players play in the Majors in their first or even second year.
In what is obvious, but needs to be said, the older the player and the more experience he has, the more likely he is to play in The Show earlier. So college players will likely be called up to the Majors faster than high school draftees.
Also, hitters tend to get called up faster than pitchers. I outlined the reasons for a pitcher’s slow development in my dynasty prospects pitcher article. The short version of the story is that pitchers don’t learn how to call pitches until they get to professional baseball. Additionally, Major League Baseball isn’t always kind to pitchers taken number one overall. Of the sixteen pitchers taken first in the history of the MLB Draft, only seven have a winning record.
Due to the learning curve for pitchers, Casey Mize will not pitch in the Majors for probably two or three years and won’t be an impact player for an estimated five years after being drafted. There are always exceptions to every rule, as we saw the Chicago White Sox put Chris Sale into their major league bullpen just weeks after being drafted in 2010, and he was even an impact arm in the pen down the stretch. This isn’t the norm and what recent history has shown us is that Mize is destined for the minors for a full course of “How to Pitch in Professional Baseball”.
So let’s look at a few of the key 2018 draftees who are expected to grade high on top prospects lists in the near future, and maybe even make a Major League impact sooner than later.
Along with Mize, Florida’s Brady Singer is the other top college arm that could realistically go number one overall. Both Mize and Singer are big right-handed pitchers who were successful in college. They both had swing and miss dominance in college, but history tells us to be patient with pitchers. For this reason, I strongly discourage picking up draftees for your dynasty fantasy baseball team until they get to Double-A and start to show they belong.
High school pitchers take an even longer time to develop and are a lot riskier. Matt Liberatore and Carter Stewart will both likely go in the Top 10, but neither is likely to see The Bigs for 4-5 years. They both have measurables that the scouts covet. Liberatore is a lefty with feel and command. Stewart is a righty with overpowering power. They both should be very good in time.
Nick Madrigal is the guy I’d bet on to make the earliest significant impact from this draft class. He’s a small guy out of Oregon State and isn’t your prototypical draft pick since scouts like to see size and room to grow. Of course, Jose Altuve and Ozzie Albies won’t be growing much, but they sure can hit. Like these two, Madrigal also plays second base and also has an advanced hit tool. He won’t have the power of Altuve or Albies, but he will steal a lot of bases to go along with a high average.
Alec Bohm and Jonathan India have a lot in common. Both are college juniors who are likely to be drafted in the Top 10. They both have a good hit tool and will be above average defensively at third base. But Bohm is a lot bigger and his power will play likewise. India is smaller and will provide speed. You will get good production from either one, likely within the next couple of years.
Like pitchers, catchers also take a while to develop. Learning to call a game is not a weekend crash course. Most big bats are quickly moved to other positions where they can start crushing the ball sooner, which is why it is rare to see great hitters as catchers. Joey Bart has a chance to become just that. The Georgia Tech backstop will stick as a catcher and his power will put him in the elite hitters at his position.
Not all of the draft heroes are found in the top of the first round. Mike Trout went 27th overall, Corey Kluber at 134 and Mike Piazza, the all-time biggest draft bargain, went 1,390 in the 1988 MLB Draft.
Don’t get too hung up on the top draft picks, though they will be the talk of their team’s minor league system in the short-term. Players take a lot of time to develop and players can develop at vastly different rates. Don’t waste bench spots waiting three or four or five years for a high draft pick this year, if there are available players who are already advancing quickly through the minors. Put your trust in guys who are showing ability against professional competition.