Before we start the second half of the draft, I would like to observe a moment of mourning for Cardinals outfielder and former top prospect Oscar Taveras, who tragically passed away in an auto accident in his hometown on Sunday. I was writing this post when I heard the news, and felt it fitting to offer a tribute to one of the best that could have been.
We now move on to the second half of the draft. Same parameters apply for each selection.
Here’s a recap of the first half of the mock draft:
1. ARZ: Daz Cameron
2. HOU: Phil Bickford
3. COL: Michael Matuella
4. TEX: Brady Aiken
5. HOU: Brendan Rodgers
6. MIN: Nathan Kirby
7. BOS: Walker Buehler
8. CWS: Ian Happ
9. CHC: Justin Hooper
10. PHI: Alex Bregman
11. CIN: DJ Stewart
12. MIA: Chris Betts
13. SD: Carson Fulmer
14. TB: Mike Nikorak
15. NYM: Dansby Swanson
And now, the second half.
16. Atlanta Braves: Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente High School, California
A good farm system has an excellent balance of left and right-handed pitchers. Atlanta does not have that balance. Since trading Sean Gilmartin to the Twins for Ryan Doumit, the Braves have been left with two lefties in their top 20. One is on the cusp of permanently pitching in the majors, the other went in for Tommy John surgery and while he is only 20 years old, he is stuck in rookie ball.
But enough about what’s concrete, let’s focus on a pipe dream. Kolby Allard is one of the better prep pitchers in his class, and his summer on the showcase circuit, where he won PG All America game MVP honors, has definitely brought attention. He’s a very advanced pitcher for his age, and his body fits the typical pitcher mold. Teams shouldn’t be overly scared of his UCLA commitment, and assuming he does sign with whomever drafts him, he’ll be a very interesting prospect to observe.
17. Milwaukee Brewers: Jahmai Jones, 2B/OF Wesleyan High School, Georgia
Jahmai Jones may be one of the most intriguing prospects in next year’s draft. Born into an athletic family, his father, the late Andre Jones played football for the 1988 Notre Dame football team, and his brother TJ is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Jones is a natural athlete. Although projected more to be an outfielder, don’t be surprised if he dabbles in infield this spring, especially given the fact that this year’s prep infield draft class is weak outside of Brendan Rodgers.
Jahmai continues the trend of potential Georgia prep products who could go in the first round, following Michael Chavis (2014) Clint Frazier and Austin Meadows (2013), and Byron Buxton (2012). Idiosyncrasies in his swing and stance will taper some of his power, but his bat speed and his wrists, not to mention his legs will allow him to play in either the 2 or 5 spot in any lineup. If anyone can tailor his swing so that he can play to his full strengths, Jones could end up being a potential steal at his present value.
I loved the Brewers draft last year, as they managed to turn three selections into a potential big league closer (Kodi Medeiros), a true potential major league shortstop (Jacob Gatewood), and an athletically gifted outfielder (Monte Harrison). Adding in the potential for a promising development of 2012 and 2013 draft picks Clint Coulter and Devin Williams, and the possibility that Jahmai gets drafted, and the Brewers could potentially wreak havoc in the highly competitive NL Central in the coming years.
18. Toronto Blue Jays: Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College
I have a soft spot for NECBL alumni, I did mention that I worked with the Danbury Westerners this summer, so hearing that a guy like Chris Shaw, (2013 New Bedford Bay Sox) is a potential first rounder, along with former Keene Swamp Bat Nathan Kirby is actually pretty great.
Shaw is a masher. He had an exceptional summer in Chatham this year, and before that, an exceptional summer with the Bay Sox. The fact that he is a left handed hitter is definitely going to boost his value even further, given this year’s hitting class is very weak. Looking at his swing, it’s one of the more balanced one’s I’ve seen. Shaw’s power potential is great, and the fact that he’s played his ball in the unforgiving New England climate his entire life is a testament that he could play for any team.
Toronto’s draft strategy changed dramatically last year after the Phil Bickford fiasco. Taking East Carolina pitcher Jeff Hoffman (who was also a standout Cape League prospect and who fell from potential #2 pick to #9, was a major coup for a team that had lost a lot of their pitching talent in the previous two years. Max Pentecost was arguably the best catcher in the draft, assuming that Kyle Schwarber moves to the outfield and Alex Jackson does the same. Toronto would greatly benefit in going for collegiate talent for the next couple of years, and a guy like Chris Shaw could potentially prove to be the jewel of a rebuilding system like Toronto’s.
19. New York Yankees: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville
Give the Yankees some credit for trying to develop a homegrown product again. Jacob Lindgren may just end up being one of the best non first round picks in last year’s draft, Ian Clarkin has the potential to be the next Andy Pettite, Aaron Judge could be the next Adam Dunn, minus the high strikeout numbers, Eric Jagielo could be the next Yankee infield star, and Gosuke Katoh, should he be able to learn the shortstop position, may be able to help ease the loss of Derek Jeter in the coming years.
But enough about what has already happened, let’s talk about why Kyle Funkhouser would look good in pinstripes. I’ll begin by saying that the American Athletic Conference is starting to become one of the premier power conferences for baseball. Yes, I said it. This Gigli in football may become a Godfather in baseball. Funkhouser is turning this conference into his own personal playground, having trimmed his ERA to a sub 2.00 mark. He also played exceptionally well for Team USA this summer.
Funkhouser’s scouting report indicates that he is a bit of a project, as while he has the offerings to be a potential rotation piece, he does need to work on his command. Given the fact that the Yankees will be moving on from CC Sabathia in the coming years, with Hiroki Kuroda in tow, Funkhouser (and Clarkin and Lindgren) may usher in a new era of homegrown (Masahiro Tanaka doesn’t count here) Yankee pitching dominance. All he needs is to fix his command issues, and he could be a solid draft pick.
20. Cleveland Indians: Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral High School, Indiana
Eric Jagielo, Sean Manaea, Trey Ball and Kyle Schwarber deserve credit for turning Indiana from a strictly basketball state into a basketball and baseball state. It’s because of them that Ashe Russell has gotten the attention that he deserves. All joking aside, Russell could turn out to be a better prep product than Ball.
He has a pitchers’ body. a major plus for prep scouts, and a solid arsenal of pitches. Russell also has a solid fastball offering that with development could be great.
Russell’s already had major exposure thanks to the showcase circuit; he played for the Evoshield Canes, as well as the Under Armour and PG All-America teams.
The Indians would greatly benefit from a guy like Ashe, as he, along with Corey Kluber and a more mature Trevor Bauer would make for one of the best future rotations.
21. Seattle Mariners: Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
You’re probably wondering the same thing as I was: Who is Cody Ponce and what is Cal Poly Pomona? I’ll start off with the what, since the who will be easier to explain later. Cal Poly Pomona is a Division II school out in California. It is in no way affiliated with the much better known Cal Poly, despite the similar names.
As for Cody Ponce, he’s the big product that’s expected to be a first round pick. A junior, Ponce was impressive enough to score an invite to play in the Cape Cod League, where he wowed scouts.
Ponce is the ultimate in top potential prospects with room for improvement, is the right size for a pitcher, and can throw in the high 90’s.
Small school pitchers have flourished in recent years, see Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg and Jacob deGrom for reference. While their level of competition is completely different than a big time college pitcher, their ability to adapt has been well noted.
Ponce would flourish, and possibly move quickly in the Mariners’ system, given the fact that the team is looking for someone to distract from the eyesore that is Danny Hultzen and his protracted development. He could advance through the system quickly and be in the Majors by late 2016 at the earliest.
22. San Francisco Giants: Ryan Johnson, OF, College Station High School, Texas
Oh Gary Brown, what happened to you?
All joking aside, the Giants can’t keep the outfield they have now for forever, so it may be time to draft outfielders, albeit at the prep level.
I like Ryan Johnson here because he reminds me of current Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, except with plenty of room to improve. Johnson can hit for some power, possibly more if developed properly, and he does have the speed to run the expansive outfield of AT&T Park. Like Pence, however, especially in his earlier days, his defense does need work. The added benefit of having Johnson on the Giants roster is that he is a left handed hitter, and his power would allow him to play the field in his own way.
While his potential is great, he is going to need some time to develop, so I wouldn’t expect him in the majors until 2019-2020. Regardless of that, Giants fans should be excited, especially if the team finally addresses the elephant in the room of a weak future outfield.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates: Mac Marshall, LHP Chipola College
Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of what Marshall (and by extension, Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford) did in order to speed up their eligibility, particularly in the case of Marshall, who ended up slighting LSU in favor of reentering the draft a year later by pitching at Chipola, a launchpad for premier young pitchers. Whether or not Marshall actually intended on signing with LSU in the first place, however, does not concern me, because if ethics ruled draft position, then Bryce Harper likely would have been forced to wait until his senior year of high school.
Diatribe on ethics aside, Marshall must have known what he was doing, because this is arguably one of the weakest LHP classes in recent years, particularly at the juco/college level. Sure, Brady Aiken and Nathan Kirby have potential as top ten picks, but again, a lot of things happen between October and June.
Marshall does have the stuff to be a first round pick, with a low 90’s fastball, and powerful secondary options including a 70 MPH changeup. He’s got adequate height to pitch, and relies on power to strike batters out.
Marshall’s history (He was the #66 prospect on Jon Mayo’s board before the draft) and his ability should entice teams to take a long, hard look at him, don’t be surprised if a team that lacks a sufficient LHP prospect goes after him.
24. Oakland A’s: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School, Michigan
I really liked Billy McKinney as a potential outfielder in Oakland, and was sad to see him leave by way of the Jeff Samardzjia trade, especially since he’s found his stroke in Daytona, but I realize that in terms of prep outfield prospects, the A’s aren’t going to miss him that much if they get Nick Plummer.
Plummer is one of those rare northern prospects, much like Mike Nikorak and Ashe Russell. A jack of all trades athlete, Plummer does have the potential to be a 5-tool player with the ability to anchor the top of a lineup.
Plummer is committed to the University of Michigan, which doesn’t seem to indicate any issues of signability, something Oakland is very good at doing. Drafting a guy like Plummer would be the final nail in the coffin for moneyball drafting in the Beane era, as the A’s haven’t drafted a college pitcher in the first round since Sonny Gray in ’11.
25. Kansas City Royals: Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU
I’d honestly be surprised if Ferrell falls this far, but stranger things have happened. Look at Sean Manaea and Ryne Stanek from two years ago, everyone thought they’d be #2 and #3, and they both ended up nabbed in the compensatory round.
I’ll admit that part of me wants Riley Ferrell and Brandon Finnegan on the same team, as the chemistry between those two could potentially reap many rewards for the Royals pitching staff.
From a scouting standpoint, Ferrell is much more than Brandon Finnegan’s teammate. Armed with a high 90’s fastball and developing secondary pitches, Ferrell has done his best work out of the bullpen. He’s a rare fast pitcher with command, which will be an added bonus. If Ferrell can ease himself into a starting spot for the Frogs this year, expect his stock to rise considerably.
The Royals are particularly strong right now in their rotation, but change could be on the horizon, especially when pitchers like Kyle Zimmer and Finnegan are deemed rotation-ready. If and when they are, new prospects will find their way in through the bullpen. Ferrell’s floor is a Major League bullpen, but his ceiling could be as high as future closer, or should he pitch well as a starter, 3rd starter in a rotation.
26. Detroit Tigers: David Thompson, 1B/3B, Miami
Thoracic Outlet Surgery may have knocked the now-junior third baseman out for the majority of the last college season, but a resurgent summer in Orleans was more than enough to get his draft stock back up. Thompson is your prototypical big league slugger who can play the corners, although listed primarily as a third baseman, I see Thompson sliding over to first, allowing Miguel Cabrera to DH in his final years.
I first heard about Thompson through his Cape league highlights, as he posted a very detailed video journal. Thompson did extremely well for himself this summer, A well-regarded athlete who, once upon a time, was considered a legit first round prospect out of high school, Thompson exploded as a freshman and would have continued as a sophomore, but a medical issue forced him to have potentially life-saving surgery.
Thompson does have the potential to go far in baseball, as he is the only player in Miami history to start his first game as a cleanup hitter. Given the players that have played at Mark Light Field, that comes as a major surprise. Don’t be surprised if Thompson ends up bringing his stock up enough for him to be a top-10 pick.
27. St. Louis Cardinals: John Aiello, SS/3B Germantown Academy, Pennsylvania
It isn’t very often that high school position players up north are noticed, but John Aiello may be the exception to the rule, much like Brother Rice’s Nick Plummer.
Aiello has a power stroke that is best utilized when he’s hitting righthanded. He has an arm that allows him to play on the left side of the infield, Aiello is an athlete in every definition of the word, and his ability to hit allows him the opportunity to succeed in a major league lineup.
The Cardinals would greatly benefit from a long term project like Aiello, and should he be drafted, he’d be on the same development track as Oscar Mercado, the highly talented shortstop taken last year, as well as Rob Kaminsky, another northern prep product who has developed into one of the more intriguing prospects in the Cardinals organization.
28. Los Angeles Dodgers: Kyle Tucker, OF Plant High School, Florida
We’ve seen what happens when the Dodgers develop prep outfielders, and it’s a beautiful thing. Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson are testaments to that.
The Dodgers would greatly benefit from developing an outfielder with major power potential, like Kyle Tucker. The brother of Astros prospect Preston Tucker, a former College World Series star, the younger Tucker has the power potential and the defensive capability to play in the majors. Tucker’s build is ideally suited for the outfield, especially in centerfield.
Tucker’s downside is his inconsistency, but his upside as a power bat, plus the added allure of being a left-handed hitter should have teams falling over each other to try and grab him. Tucker would greatly benefit from playing in an outfield alongside Pederson, and the two could potentially help the Dodgers hold the NL West for a long time.
29. Baltimore Orioles: Kyler Murray, SS, Allen High School, Texas
If guys like Archie Bradley, Dylan Bundy, and Monte Harrison can be swayed from exceptionally strong football commitments, then a guy like Kyler Murray can certainly be swayed as well.
Murray is arguably the best prep athlete of the group, which will allow him to command a high bonus should he be taken in the first round. He has a bat that has scorched Texas prep pitching, and defense that allows him to play wherever he wants in the middle infield.
Murray, who has major league bloodlines thanks to his uncle Calvin, and college football bloodlines thanks to his father Kevin, will have a difficult choice to make, as it is generally discouraged to be a two sport professional athlete. As a football player, he is undersized, plus he would be battling incumbent starter Kenny Hill for the position at Texas A&M. As a baseball player, he is the right size, and has the potential to be a #2 hitter in a major league lineup.
The Orioles aren’t averse to spending freely to get what they want, and a guy like Murray would certainly be worth sacrificing bonus money to get. Having Murray and Manny Machado be the future of the right side of the infield would be more than worth it for the Orioles.
Don’t be surprised however, if Murray ends up not being on the second mock draft, especially if he leans towards playing football in college.
30. Washington Nationals: Brendan Davis, 3B/SS Lakewood High School, California
Brendan Davis just screams potential, at least in terms of development. Davis has the ability to play the left side of the infield, allowing him to potentially succeed either Ryan Zimmerman or Asdrubal Cabrera at their positions.
Davis comes from the same high school as 2013 HAPS (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop) JP Crawford, and current New York Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
If Davis can continue to utilize his power swing, and bulk up during the offseason, he’ll be a major threat in the 4 spot of any lineup.
31. Los Angeles Angels: Brett Lilek, LHP, Arizona State
Sure, the Angels drafted a lefty last year in Sean Newcomb, but the philosophy is that you can never have enough left-handed pitching, especially if your farm system is the worst in baseball.
Lilek’s delivery, as well as his speeds, are more in line of a finesse pitcher, Despite this, he does have the ideal pitcher’s body, and, having pitched in the Arizona heat, wouldn’t have much of a problem with the Southern California sun.
I like the idea of Lilek and Newcomb forming the nucleus of an up and coming rotation for the Angels, mainly because both are entirely different animals. Newcomb’s power allows him to be the direct attack, while Lilek’s finesse allows him to work as a strategic planner. Having those two anchor a future rotation would be the best thing the Angels could do for themselves.