Any fantasy leaguer whose league has a “farm draft” is familiar with the scenario of multiple owners mulling through identical prospect lists trying to find the highest-ranked player who is not selected. The following explains why college players are often better late round choices than the lower-ranked prospects.
There are many reasons drafting “straight from the prospect lists” is a mistake. Most importantly, as previously discussed, the lists fail to consider the players’ proximity to the major leagues. However, an owner sacrifices upside when choosing a mlb-ready (but lower ranked) prospect like Chris Heisey, Daniel Hudson, or Reid Brignac. College players provide owners with the best of both worlds. Every year, college baseball has 5-10 players projected to develop into stars. Moreover, most will reach the majors within 2-3 seasons. Their absence from the prospect lists also provides your fantasy baseball team with a great advantage because the other owners will forget these players.
This strategy comes with several warnings. First, college players are only worth picking when it is a near certainty they will be among the 10 best players in the upcoming draft. Second, the strategy does not work with high school players. Finally, this is a bad year for the strategy because there are no college players (besided Harper) unanimously considered to be an elite prospect.
I would reccomend the following college players in your draft if available.
1. Bryce Harper (2010)—Harper is not a traditional college player, but my recommendation would be to select him (in the first round, if he’s available), hold him until July, and trade him after the draft when he has garnered a great deal of publicity. I would be less enthusiastic about holding him because it will take several seasons before he reaches the major leagues.
2. Anthony Rendon (2011)—this is my favorite pick even if you have to wait an extra year. A hard-hitting third baseman from Rice University, Rendon was best freshman in college baseball since Pedro Alvarez. He will one day rank among the 2-3 best prospects in the game.
3. Gerriit Cole (2011)—another elite prospect. I watched Cole pitch recently and he is worth the hype. His fastball never drops below the mid-90’s and he offers several good secondary pitches.
4. Matthew Purke (2011)—Purke is a year younger than Cole and Rendon, but he will be draft eligible in 2011. He would have been a top 50 prospect if he signed with the Rangers, but he ended up at TCU. He is worth taking in the late rounds if available.
5. Deck Maguire (2010)—some speculate McGuire will be the Nationals’ #1 pick in the ’10 draft if the team passes on Bryce Harper. McGuire is an extremely solid pitcher who will develop into a very good 2-3 starter at the major league level.
6. Anthony Ranaudo (2010)—I am more skeptical on picking Ranaudo since he has missed his first two starts this season with tightness in his throwing elbow. He is an excellent starter who will be picked highly in next season’s draft, but I would avoid him unless he has returned from the injury.
7. Christian Colon (2010)—Colon is a debated prospect. Some, like myself, think he will reach the major leagues extremely quickly and be a solid shortstop. Others view him as a mid-first rounder who might require a new position. Nevertheless, if I was picking between Colon and Giovanni Mier, I would probably choose Colon (tough call though).