There are always some draft picks outside of the first three or four rounds who were not highly lauded coming into the draft but who emerge as good prospects in the following year. Fans of each team often notice these sooner than prospectors do nationally, by delving into scouting reports, watching video, and looking at statistics As we close on the end of the minor league season, I thought it might be interesting to get up a post about what sleepers to watch moving into next year.
As one of the writers for the Astros SB Nation blog, The Crawfish Boxes, I obviously follow the Astros farm system more closely than any other. I was involved in draft coverage for the team this year, so I've got a good handle on Houston's draft. I'll point out a few of the Astros' players to watch, but I'd love to hear about other teams' sleepers in the comments, so please fire away with your own prospects below.
Here are my Astros sleepers:
5th round - Ben Heath, C: .261/.372/.473 between NYPL (A-) and SALL (A) (226 PA). Mostly an unknown heading into the draft, Heath never got much playing time in college until this year, his junior season, and didn't get much national attention as a result. His statistical profile in college was impressive this year, as he was one of the best-performing hitters in his conference, displaying good patience and serious pop with a metal bat. That above average patience translated well to pro ball, but more importantly, his .212 ISO demonstrates that he does, indeed, have some legitimate power. He has some holes in his swing, as his 22% strikeout rate illustrates, but if he can stick at catcher, his combination of power and patience should carry his bat as he advances up the levels. Heath's limited playing time in college suggests that he may be behind most college juniors, though, so I'm not going to write off his ability to hit for average just yet. More questionable is his defense; I don't have any read on whether he'll stick at catcher, but the Astros organization seems to think that's his position, so I'll trust them on that until I hear otherwise.
12th round - James Robinson, RHP: 3.19 ERA, 8.2 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 1.81 GO/AO at NYPL (A-) (48.0 IP). As a college senior and relief pitcher for Georgia Tech, Robinson was statistically solid but unspectacular this year. At 6'1", he is a little bit on the small side, but couples a fastball/slider/change combination with good command and pitchability. Reports during college had his fastball sitting 91-93mph and touching 95mph. What makes him interesting is that the Astros started him in long relief and have recently converted him to starter; he has posted, as you can see, good numbers in both roles, albeit to be taken with a grain of salt since he was a senior. I don't have a read on the quality of his secondary pitches, but if he can stick as a starting pitcher, his live, well-located fastball could make him a player to watch as he advances up the levels.
17th round - Tyler Burnett, 3B: .255/.376/.400 at NYPL (A-) (267 PA). A former shortstop in college, Tyler Burnett is a good defender at third base, but has nonetheless been playing more games across the diamond at first due to the presence of supplemental first round draft pick Michael Kvasnicka at third. What intrigues me about Burnett, though, is his strikeout to walk ratio: He has 41 walks and 48 strikeouts in 267 plate appearances, good for a 15.3% and 17.9% rate respectively. I think he'll hit for a higher average than he has so far, and although he might never have above average power, he may have enough to hit double digit homers down the road, coupled with good on-base skills and defensive value. Burnett has, in fact, outperformed 33rd overall pick Kvasnicka in every statistical category as a player half a year younger, picked 16 rounds later in the draft. Stats don't tell the whole story, but I put more stock in strikeout and walk rates than in any other statistic in this sample size, and what I see from Burnett so far impresses me.