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Breaking down inaugural Pipeline fantasy draft

Braves' Acuna goes No. 1 overall, followed by Vlad Jr., Tatis Jr.
April 6, 2018

Welcome to the first MLB Pipeline prospect fantasy draft!This has been a long time coming, as members of the Pipeline staff have been talking about doing something like this for years. As it turns out, 2018 was the year to make it a reality.Here's how it worked:There were six of us

Welcome to the first MLB Pipeline prospect fantasy draft!
This has been a long time coming, as members of the Pipeline staff have been talking about doing something like this for years. As it turns out, 2018 was the year to make it a reality.
Here's how it worked:
There were six of us drafting -- Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis, Mike Rosenbaum, producer extraordinaire Jason Ratliff from the Pipeline crew, Tim McMaster, host of the Pipeline Podcast, and Jordan Shusterman, half of the Cespedes Family BBQ team. The draft pool consisted of any prospect in the Top 100 or on a Prospect Watch positional Top 10 list, and we used those players to construct rosters that consist of: a catcher, first baseman, second baseman, third baseman, shortstop, three outfielders, one utility man and five pitchers.
The categories are pretty simple: Runs, total bases, RBIs, stolen bases and OPS for hitters, and innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP and wins for pitchers. We won't be making roster changes or trades during the season, but we will have a midseason redraft that will allow each owner to replace up to two of his players. Below is everyone's draft, along with some self-analysis. Who will win the first MLB Pipeline Prospect Fantasy Draft? Only time will tell.

Listen to us break down our drafts on the Pipeline Podcast.
Rnd-pick. Player, Pos., Org (Top 100 or Top 10 position rank)
1-1. Ronald Acuna Jr., OF, ATL (2)
2-12. Walker Buehler, RHP, LA (12)
3-13. Gleyber Torres, 2B/SS, NYY (5)
4-24. Cal Quantrill, RHP, SD (40)
5-25. Taylor Trammell, OF, CIN (43)
6-36. Willy Adames, SS, TB (22)
7-37. Alec Hansen, RHP, CWS (54)
8-48. Miguel Andujar, 3B, NYY (65)
9-49. Jay Groome, LHP, BOS (85)
10-60. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP, MIN (79)
11-61. Lewis Brinson, OF, MIA (27)
12-72. Peter Alonso, 1B, NYM (No. 7 1B)
13-73. Nick Gordon, SS/2B, MIN (81)
14-84. Danny Jansen, C, TOR (No. 7 C)
Highest ranked player (Top 100): Acuna (2)
Average rank: 51.3
Average age: 21.9
McMaster says: With the first overall pick, my draft started with the impossible choice of Acuna or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. I ended up going with Acuna hoping he'll be able to fill out more categories than Guerrero, but realizing that passing on a full Minor League season of the latter could come back to haunt me.
Looking back on my picks, MLB service time could definitely cost me in regards to Torres and Andujar. I had my sights set on Michael Chavis at third before the draft started, but waited one round too long. After Ratliff snatched up Chavis, I took Andujar. That sequence led to me eventually taking Groome just to ensure I have a Red Sox player on my roster. The southpaw has plenty of upside, but also risk. With the rest of my pitching staff, I tried to go with more finished products whose innings won't be too limited. I'm hoping Buehler dominates as a starter in the Minor Leagues before rejoining the Dodgers' bullpen at some point and that Quantrill can perform well in the Minors, too.
The two spots that give me the most doubt are first base and catcher. After Mayo picked Bobby Bradley one pick before I was going to, I went back to the drawing board eventually using my 12th- and 14th-round picks on Alonso and Jansen. I'm crossing my fingers that Alonso reaches the friendly confines of Las Vegas and that the Blue Jays don't find a need to call Jansen up at any point. Overall, I like my roster, but I'll need to catch some breaks to win this league.
Rnd-pick. Player, Pos., Org (Top 100 or Top 10 position rank)
1-2. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, TOR (3)
2-11. Mitch Keller, RHP, PIT (15)
3-14. Royce Lewis, SS, MIN (20)
4-23. Sixto Sanchez, RHP, PHI (26)
5-26. Scott Kingery, 2B, PHI (35)
6-35. Austin Hays, OF, BAL (23)
7-38. Justus Sheffield, LHP, NYY (48)
8-47. Mike Soroka, RHP, ATL (31)
9-50. Jesus Sanchez, OF, TB (57)
10-59. Bobby Bradley, 1B, CLE (No. 6 1B)
11-62. Jake Rogers, C, DET (No. 5 C)
12-71. Alex Verdugo, OF, LA (33)
13-74. Beau Burrows, RHP, DET (78)
14-83. Mickey Moniak, OF, PHI (88)
Highest ranked player (Top 100): Guerrero Jr. (3)
Average rank: 47.1
Average age: 20.5
Mayo says: I feel pretty good about my squad overall and really like my balance. I was concerned about steals, but I think Lewis, Kingery and even Moniak will help with that enough. I wanted to get a pitcher early and I think my Keller-Sanchez one-two punch is as good as any. Getting Sanchez -- a guy I think might be the best pitching prospect in baseball a year from now -- was a steal in the fourth round. Adding Soroka in the eighth was not just a nod to all the crazy Braves prospect fans out there. Is there a better, more underrated top pitching prospect out there?
I tried to stay way from the guys who might run up and down from the big leagues, but Verdugo in the 12th seemed like good value. And I had wanted to stay away from MLB rookies in general because of a lack of certainty regarding production. But when Keston Hiura went in the fourth, I grabbed Sanchez in that round and then targeted a second baseman in the quick wrap-around in the fifth. I think Kingery will play enough to put up numbers; that might be the key to my team.
Rnd-pick. Player, Pos., Org (Top 100 or Top 10 position rank)
1-3. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, SD (8)
2-10. Shohei Ohtani, RHP/OF, LAA (1)
3-15. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, SD (19)
4-22. Keibert Ruiz, C, LAD (52)
5-27. Jesus Luzardo, LHP, OAK (60)
6-34. Juan Soto, OF, WSH (29)
7-39. Colton Welker, 3B, COL (No. 8 3B)
8-46. Monte Harrison, OF, MIA (72)
9-51. Alex Faedo, RHP, DET (59)
10-58. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, HOU (77)
11-63. Leody Taveras, OF, TEX (34)
12-70. Garrett Hampson, 2B/SS, COL (No. 8 2B)
13-75. Nick Pratto, 1B, KC (No. 4 1B)
14-82. Adam Haseley, OF, PHI (95)
Highest ranked player (Top 100): Ohtani (1)
Average rank: 57.8
Average age: 20.4
Callis says: I didn't spend a lot of time preparing for the draft, but I did have a couple of general thoughts. Position scarcity was a consideration and I also wanted to target players at the lower levels because I figured they'd have a better chance to put up dominant numbers. I believe eight of my 14 players are starting the year at one of the Class A levels, and I only have one player about Double-A. I didn't do any park-factor research, but I knew I wanted Welker because he'll play at Class A Advanced Lancaster.
I was reasonably happy with my team. I think we were all mostly on the same page, so outside of Welker, rarely did a player I wanted last longer than I expected. I didn't put much stock in Ohtani's Spring Training numbers so I was happy to grab him in the second round, especially because I get his stats as both a pitcher and a hitter. I feel pretty confident that I'll have the best pitching staff in the league with Ohtani, Gore, Luzardo, Faedo and Bukauskas. We'll see how the lineup turns out.
Rnd-pick. Player, Pos., Org (Top 100 or Top 10 position rank)
1-4. Bo Bichette, 2B/SS, TOR (13)
2-19. Victor Robles, OF, WAS (6)
3-16. Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP, TB (25)
4-21. Michel Baez, RHP, SD (42)
5-28. Jorge Mateo, SS/OF, OAK (73)
6-33. Dylan Cease, RHP, CWS (61)
7-40. Jon Duplantier, RHP, ARI (74)
8-45. Chavis, 3B, BOS (80)
9-52. Tyler O'Neill, OF, STL (95)
10-57. Estevan Florial, OF, NYY (44)
11-64. Zack Collins, C, CWS (No. 8 C)
12-69. Jahmai Jones, OF, LAA (93)
13-76. Chance Adams, RHP, NYY (76)
14-81. Evan White, 1B, SEA (No. 10 1B)
Highest ranked player (Top 100): Robles (6)
Average rank: 63.1
Average age: 21.6
Ratliff says: I targeted two things early: power/speed combos and position flexibility. I grabbed Bichette, Robles and Mateo, all of whom had 10+ homers and 20+ steals last year, with my first, third and fifth picks. Of the 12 drafted players who were 10/20 last year, I took five of them, adding Florial and Jones with my 10th and 12th picks. Also within my first five picks were three players who qualify at multiple positions. That isn't important for the purpose of roster flexibility throughout the season, as our rosters will be static, but it afforded flexibility during the draft itself.
McKay might be my favorite pick. When we decided that Ohtani and McKay's hitting and pitching stats would count, their value skyrocketed. In a rotisserie league with counting stats for seven categories, having a player that is effectively two players should be a big advantage.
Another pick that I've decided I like is Collins. Mejia and Ruiz went in the third and fourth rounds while the other four catchers went in the 11th round or later. I nearly popped Ruiz one pick before Callis did (I like him hitting in the Cal League), but upon further review, I'm glad I held off. Their 2017 stats in our categories were nearly identical:
Round-pick; 2017 stats
3-17. Mejia: .819, 53 R, 172 TB, 56 RBI, 7 SB
4-22. Ruiz: .813, 58 R, 170 TB, 51 RBI, 0 SB
11-4. Collins: .815, 70 R, 167 TB, 53 RBI, 0 SB
And Mejia and Ruiz put up those numbers while hitting .292 and .316, respectively, while Collins managed to match them while hitting just .224.
Rnd-pick. Player, Pos., Org (Top 100 or Top 10 position rank)
1-5. Nick Senzel, 3B, CIN (7)
2-8. Kyle Tucker, OF, HOU (16)
3-17. Francisco Mejia, C, CLE (11)
4-20. Triston McKenzie, RHP, CLE (24)
5-29. Willie Calhoun, OF, TEX (53)
6-32. Kyle Wright, RHP, ATL (30)
7-41. Luis Robert, OF, CWS (28)
8-44. Luis Urias, 2B/SS, SD (36)
9-53. Carter Kieboom, SS, WAS (90)
10-56. Ian Anderson, RHP, ATL (51)
11-65. Dane Dunning, RHP, CWS (92)
12-68. Ryan McMahon, 1B/2B/3B, COL (41)
13-77. Shane Baz, RHP, PIT (67)
14-80. Jake Bauers, OF/1B, TB (64)
Highest ranked player-Top 100: Senzel (7)
Average rank: 44.4
Average age: 21.1
Shusterman says: I feel very good about my team and the general balance it has, especially considering where I was picking. I did my best to select a fair share of both extremely safe performers (Tucker, Senzel, and Calhoun) and guys with potential to blow up and be even better than their current ranking (Kieboom, Robert). I think my pitching staff is considerably safe, with the exception of Baz who could be a wild card in the South Atlantic League this year, but with first-round pedigree and stuff could get me some big strikeout numbers as my No. 5 starter.
The pick that I think will basically define my team is Mejia. He will either go to Triple-A Columbus, stay there all year and continue to put up insane offensive numbers for a catcher or he ends up bouncing between Columbus and Cleveland while never having the consistent at-bats to make an impact. Considering where I took him, this could be an issue. I was set on Gore or McKay for that slot and they went right before me, so I semi-panicked and went Mejia. My other biggest concern for my squad is the severe lack of speed -- Tucker could get me 20-plus steals, but other than that, I'm not sure who is going to contribute to that category for me. Luckily all my players hit dingers so it won't actually matter when I'm miles ahead in the OPS category.
In conclusion, my team is clearly the best team and to think otherwise is to think incorrectly. I look forward to the competition all year long.
Rnd-pick. Player, Pos., Org (Top 100 or Top 10 position rank)
1-6. Eloy Jimenez, OF, CWS (4)
2-7. Brendan Rodgers, SS/2B, COL (14)
3-18. Michael Kopech, RHP, CWS (10)
4-19. Keston Hiura, 2B, MIL (56)
5-30. Heliot Ramos, OF, SF (63)
6-31. Hunter Greene, RHP, CIN (21)
7-42. Jo Adell, OF, LAA (62)
8-43. Adonis Medina, RHP, PHI (86)
9-54. Pavin Smith, 1B, ARI (91)
10-55. Austin Riley, 3B, ATL (97)
11-66. Corbin Burnes, RHP, MIL (69)
12-67. Chance Sisco, C, BAL (No. 6 C)
13-78. Austin Meadows, OF, PIT (45)
14-79. Albert Abreu, RHP, NYY (75)
Highest ranked player (Top 100): Jimenez (4)
Average rank: 56.9
Average age: 20.8
Rosenbaum says: Drafting last in a snake format was frustrating at times, mostly because I had to watch other owners -- Jim, namely -- make a total of 10 picks between my turns. Having back-to-back picks did have its perks, though. In addition to allowing me target a hitter and a pitcher consecutively on five separate occasions in the draft, the two-pick flexibility allowed me to balance high-upside picks with high-probability contributors.
My fourth-round selection of Hiura was my favorite pick as well as my best, in my opinion. In a thin pool of second basemen, I believe I landed the best of the bunch -- a guy who is going to hit for high average and power while contributing in all five offensive categories. Subsequent rounds saw me add young, high-ceiling guys like Ramos, Adell and Greene, all 2017 Draft picks who have the potential to tear up full-season ball. In the later rounds I focused on filling out my roster with veteran prospects like Meadows and Sisco -- guys who likely were overlooked in earlier rounds due to prospect fatigue and their proximity to the big leagues.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.