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New Top-50 Picks, Part 3

Part 3 of 3. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2, you can check those out. The idea here is that we're looking at guys who have entered the overall top-50 this year and then identifying a comparable player who could make a similar leap.

Chris Archer [TB, SP]

  • 2015 ADP: 159
  • 2016 ADP: 47
  • Difference: 112

I've always liked Archer. His talent is undeniable and it was on full display last season.  My concerns were always injury-related as he had two strong precursors: major velo (95+ MPH fastball) and heavy slider usage (34% career, 39% last year). That didn't stop me from investing, though, as I've always been willing to bet on premium skills even with health risk. And in fairness to Archer, he was only carrying precursors. He's never been on the DL in the majors.

His 2015 actually could've looked markedly better if it weren't for three utter Shellackings. In the second half of his season, he had two starts of 9 ER and another of 7 ER on his way to a 4.48 ERA in his final 16 starts after a 2.18 in his first 18. He allowed 33% of his season earned runs (25-of-76) in those three starts so his final ERA doesn't really speak to his growth.

He only shaved 0.10 runs off of his 2014 mark (down to 3.23), but his 29% K rate was 5th-best among qualified starters and his 2.90 FIP was just outside the top-10 at 11th. The drafting public isn't too worried about him pissing away his sub-3.00 ERA late in the season (the last of those Shellackings came on September 26th in Toronto) as he's the 15th starter off the board and even when he falls out of the top-50, it's just barely with a Max Pick of 63.

2016 Comp: Jake Odorizzi (pick 159, 42nd SP). I didn't just pick this one because they are teammates with the same ADP, but that did make it easier once I saw where Odorizzi was going. Odorizzi doesn't have the premium heat or strikeout breaking ball of Archer, but comparing Archer pre-2015 to what Odorizzi has done so far shows similarities:

  • Archer (age 23-25): 352.7 IP, 3.39 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 21% K, 8% BB
  • Odorizzi (age 22-25): 374.3 IP, 3.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 22% K, 7% BB

Odorizzi has shown glimpses each of the last two seasons including a blazing hot start to 2015 with 2.47 ERA in his first 12 starts before an oblique injury cost him a month and then he had a 4.08 in his final 16 starts. His method for success is different than Archer's, but Odorizzi could make a serious bid to be a top-20 starter in 2016 and you don't have to pay nearly that high of a price tag.

Manny Machado [BAL, 3B]

  • 2015 ADP: 115
  • 2016 ADP: 8
  • Difference: 107

Flashback a year: Machado was coming off of a second devastating knee injury (this time the right one) which limited him to just 82 games. The former uber-prospect had just less than two seasons of play under his belt (spread out over three) with some flashes, but certainly not eye-popping numbers: .278/.313/.434 with 33 HR and 10 SB in 1266 PA. He as only coming into his age-22 season, though, so the numbers weren't such a big deal. The real issue was the pair of knee injuries two years in a row. Of course, at pick 115, it's not like he was being forgotten.

Now a year later he's a first-rounder. When he hit 51 doubles in 2013 (and just 14 HR), there was a belief that those doubles could soon turn into homers and that kind of played out in 2014 as his full season pace would've yielded 28 2B and 24 HR (he only played 82 games). No one could've seen a 30 2B/35 HR season in 2015. Oddly enough, the biggest surprise was probably the 20 SB given the fact that he had just 10 in his first three seasons and the two knee injuries.

There's likely to be some regression after a fantastic season like this, but this skills profile is great. He makes great contact, added walks to his arsenal, and didn't ride a gaudy BABIP or HR/FB rate for the success. His 18% HR/FB rate was a career-best, but he's only been below 12% once. He hits the ball hard, in the air, and with enough pull to remain a power force. I'd chop off 5 HR and SB as a start for a projection, but I don't see a collapse back to 2013-14 level. He's a beast.

2016 Comp: Addison Russell (pick 136, 7th SS/10th 2B). There are no blue-chip prospects returning from a pair of massive injuries that has their value depressed, so when looking for a comp here, I was looking for blue-chip prospects with MLB experience who haven't broken out and thus don't have much hype. It was injury-related, but Machado was a post-hype sleeper. Russell essentially logged a full season last year and it was just OK. He picked the wrong year to be just OK as a rookie.

It was a historical season for rookie impact so the hype has slowed on Russell, although it's not like pick 136 is free so I don't mean to overstate it. He is still regularly going in the single-digit rounds. Unlike Machado, Russell has a big swing-and-miss element in his game that he'll need to improve upon to have a breakout season, but he only had a 21% K rate as a minor leaguer so there is reason to believe he'll be better than the 29% mark last year. Like Machado, he wasn't a huge base stealer in the minors, but still has 20-SB potential and he's on the right team to do it.

Russell had a pair of double-digit SB seasons in the minors, including 21 back in 2013, but he was just 7-for-11 in his final 326 PA as a minor leaguer. Steals are more about effort than skill, especially when you're talking about guys with average-or-better speed. We know Joe Maddon has no problem running so we could Russell get more opportunities in 2016. Don't sleep on Russell this year. Corey Seager played 27 games in the majors last year and he's going 78 picks higher than Russell. That's a mistake (and I like Seager; this is more pro-Russell than anti-Seager).