Last month, the dynasty team at PitcherList worked hard to bring you a complete list and analysis on all prospects that have a chance to debut. With the calendar flipping to November, we are shifting our focus. There will be some Arizona Fall League review articles coming next week, but our main focus is going to be on First Year Player Drafts. To kick things off, I am breaking down one of my favorite players to target during drafts. Obviously, Wyatt Langford is great but we already know he is going to be the top target in these drafts. If you are picking a little bit later on, you should make Colt Emerson your top priority.
Colt Emerson: The Most Underrated Prospect in First Year Player Drafts
Who is Colt Emerson?
2023 Stats (CPX/A): 114 PA/.374/.496/.549/2 HR/8 SB/27 R/13 RBI
2023 High School Stats: 101 PA/.446/.594/1.013/8 HR/39 R/25 RBI
Prior to the draft, MLB.com ranked Emerson as the 29th-best prospect available. His skills were on full display for the US National team when he hit .360 last September. The then 17-year-old infielder grew up in Ohio and continued to put together strong offensive numbers throughout his senior year of high school helping him fly further up draft boards. The Mariners selected Emerson with the 22nd overall pick in the 2023 draft luring him away from his commitment to Auburn. He stands at 6’1″ with a strong and athletic build. His quiet approach features quick hands that fly through the zone. There is even more power projection here as Emerson continues to fill out his frame and add more muscle.
Emerson’s career could not have gotten off to a better start than it did. He absolutely dominated the Complex League batting over .500 in eight games before moving on and finding more success in Low-A. His maturity at the plate is years beyond his age creating optimism that he could move quickly throughout Seattle’s system. The team appears to have hit on prospect Cole Young last season and might have just hit on another star here.
Colt Emerson’s Hit Tool
Most high school batters struggle in their first taste of professional baseball. While college hitters (especially from conferences like the SEC) can sometimes make the transition appear seamless, the jump for high school batters is much more drastic. On top of that, Emerson is young for his level. Joining the league at 17, nobody would have batted an eye if he struggled to adjust.
This however was far from the case. According to the results, Emerson’s hit tool looked like it could have played up in Double or even Triple-A. He hit .536 at the Complex League before batting a lowly .307 in Low-A. At both levels, Emerson struck out under 18% of the time. This is obviously based on small sample sizes, but his contact skills actually improved after the jump to Low-A. His swinging strike rate went from 13.6% in the Complex League to 8.0% in Low-A. Emerson demonstrated the ability to adjust on the fly and get better as he grew more comfortable.
Not only are Emerson’s contact skills excellent, but his batted ball profile is typical of what we would expect from a high batting average player. Emerson hits a ton of line drives. He has excellent bat control and keeps his swing path smooth consistently. While more fly balls might benefit his power outlook (more on that to come), Emerson’s current swing is designed to deposit balls into the gaps. He uses the entire field preventing any shifts and should continue to run high BABIPs.
The Mariners may have landed another gem in SS Colt Emerson. Kid is slashing .500/.591/.833/1.424 so far in Arizona.
His batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS all rank 1st among all HS draftees (min. 20 PA) thus far. pic.twitter.com/SbWDdIv7Iq
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) August 18, 2023
Should dynasty managers expect Emerson to bat .374 in a full season? Probably not. However, he should continue to post strong BABIPs and work low strikeout rates. This profiles as a plus-plus tool that can carry him to fantasy relevance all by itself. I see no issue projecting the potential for a .290 hitter with the floor seemingly around .260.
Colt Emerson’s Power
One thing that scouts loved about Emerson going into the draft was his ability to make consistently hard contact. His elite bat control helps him get the barrel on balls and drive them to all fields. Emerson showed off more of the same in his first season posting a .176 ISO. His raw power is above average and his frame leaves plenty of room to project him growing into even more.
Part of what makes Emerson’s hit tool so effective is his ability to use the whole field. This unfortunately hurts his game power. While some hitters like Aaron Judge can flick home runs out the opposite way, many require high pull percentages to increase their home run totals. At his young age, Emerson has not fully learned to tap into his pull-side pop yet. While this could lead to lower home run totals early on in his professional career, it can also inspire optimism for what his future outlook could consist of. Emerson already profiles to be a ~15 home run bat. With more pull-side awareness, Emerson could easily increase this total to the 25 range.
Although the lack of pulled fly balls hurts Emerson’s home run totals, his elite plate discipline should help him get more pitches to drive. In addition to keeping his strikeout rate below 18%, he was able to walk just under 15% of the time last season. Seattle appears to have the mold they are looking for. 2022’s first-round selection Cole Young is another middle infielder with projectable power and elite plate discipline. Emerson looks to be more of the same and he should continue to work high walk rates as he moves throughout the Minor Leagues.
Emerson’s Fantasy Baseball Outlook
There is plenty to be excited about when evaluating Emerson’s fantasy potential. He has a solid base with an excellent hit tool. His ceiling grows higher with the potential increase in his overall game power. Emerson holds even more value in OBP leagues where his strong understanding of the strike zone helps him work plenty of walks. All of that, and we have not even mentioned Emerson’s speed. After joining Seattle’s organization, Emerson went a perfect eight for eight on the base paths. While his speed is nothing to write home about, his overall baseball instincts and average speed combine to provide him with strong base-stealing abilities.
Looking at just his floor projections, we can project a .260 hitter who walks 10 percent of the time with 15 home runs, plenty of doubles, and 10-15 stolen bases. This is not somebody who is going to win you a fantasy championship but could be a very useful depth infielder on your dynasty teams. A move to third base would probably be the worse case scenario for his value while a full-time switch to second base would be the most beneficial. At his ceiling, Emerson has the potential to bat .290 with 20-25 home runs, a 15% walk rate, and 15-20 stolen bases. That would turn Emerson into an elite fantasy asset. The odds of him making his Major League debut before 2026 are low, but he is still a name you should be targeting.
Where Emerson Should Go in FYPDs
The purpose of this article is not to convince you to take Colt Emerson at the 1.01 in your FYPDs. There are obviously players who have a higher ceiling and closer proximity to the Major Leagues. However, once you get past the top four names of Wyatt Langford, Dylan Crews, Paul Skenes, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto the conversation gets a bit interesting.
After those first four names, I would still put two names consistently ahead of Emerson. Matt Shaw was excellent in his first season for the Cubs and comes with a college background. Shaw could find himself in Chicago by the middle of next season which instantly creates more dynasty value. The other name is Walker Jenkins whose statistics were just as impressive as Emerson’s. Jenkins lacks the same plate discipline and his swing path is not as smooth as Emerson’s, but he comes with a higher power projection.
After that, I think that Emerson needs to be in consideration at the 1.07. Emerson’s 2023 success was no fluke season. He has the tools to be an elite fantasy asset providing contributions across all five categories. Collegiate prospects like Kyle Teel, Hurston Waldrep, and Tommy Troy lack the same upside that Emerson does. Max Clark comes with more upside, but also more risk. If you are not in a position to contend next season, selecting Emerson feels like an easy decision to make.
Emerson’s 2023 success got him some much-deserved notoriety. However, he still feels incredibly underrated. Capitalize on this value to set your team up for future success. Also, stay tuned for the rest of this month for even more FYPD coverage here at PitcherList. The coverage will all wrap up with an FYPD rankings primer by Martin Sekulski at the end of November.
Photos courtesy of Seattle Mariners | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on X)