Day 1 of the MLB Draft went, and surprisingly, it went with a bang. For a draft that doesn’t allow trades, and whose prospects are not as well known in casual circles as the NFL or the NBA, there was enough buzz for some degree of coverage. From the first three picks to the acknowledgement of South Carolina-Beaufort pitcher Jason Boulais donating marrow all the way to the end of the draft, this was definitely one of the more interesting drafts in recent memory. And of course, with that, I present my list of winners and losers from this year. So without any further delay, here are my winners and losers of the 2015 MLB draft.
Winner: The 2015 Shortstop Class
Let’s start this off by going with the completely obvious. 8 of the 36 first round picks in the draft played shortstop, which accounts for 22% of the first round, a solid statistic. What’s even better for this position is that the first three picks in the draft were shortstops. Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers find themselves as future franchise faces, and all three are considered very advanced players, likely to make a quick run through the minor leagues.
After the big three were picked, the Phillies used their pick on Griffin High School shortstop Cornelius Randolph, arguably one of the better prep power hitters in the draft. The Pirates took Arizona’s Kevin Newman, one of the fastest players in the draft, and the A’s took Richie Martin, one of the better defenders of the draft. In the compensatory part of the first round, the Yankees took Kyle Holder, also a defensive stud, and a solid insurance policy, should Didi Gregorius fail, while the Orioles took Ryan Mountcastle, a developmental project ideally set to inherit the position when JJ Hardy retires.
This year’s shortstop class is valuable, and should most of them pan out, it would be a solid equivalent to the NFL’s famous quarterback class of 1983.
Loser: Michael Matuella
Whether it was the medicals or the possibility that he was commanding a big signing bonus, Duke’s Michael Matuella, once considered the top pick in the 2015 draft, slid all the way out of Day 1. For me, the slide draws some comparisons to Jon Denney’s horrible 2013 Draft day slide, where at one point he was considered the top catching prospect in his class, he ended up being a second day pick for the Boston Red Sox.
Matuella’s medical history was a big red flag, with back trouble and Tommy John surgery really hampering his ability to capitalize on a solid sophomore campaign. There probably was hope that he could be a high risk high reward late first round pick, but something obviously scared off teams enough to have him land here. I would expect Matuella to be picked in the third round, but in the worst case scenario, he falls even lower and decides to go back to school, becoming a top senior prospect in the 2016 draft, like Mark Appel.
Three picks in the first two rounds shows that our neighbors to the north do have some value when it comes to their talent. With the Marlins selecting first baseman Josh Naylor as a future power hitter, the Braves going for Mike Soroka as a potential starter, and the Yankees adding pitching depth in Indiana State’s Jeff Degano, Canada had possibly their best draft in a while. And yet, they’re not finished, as Demi Orimoloye is still on the board, and likely could be picked early in Day 2.
On the other side of the coin, the Blue Jays were able to make a solid first pick, tabbing Missouri State righthander Jonathan Harris in the compensatory first round. Missouri State has provided some value with picks like Ross Detwiler and Shaun Marcum, and Harris could be a legitimate rotation arm behind Marcus Stroman in the coming years.
Give the Cavaliers some credit for having two Day 1 picks, but A, the picks were later than expected, and B, there could have been three, if not for some bad luck.
Like Matuella, Nathan Kirby at one point was considered a top 5 pick in the draft, but as the year went on, it was clear that he didn’t have the stuff he had during his sophomore year. This was even more evident as he suffered from fatigue and an arm issue and had to be shut down towards the end of the season. Kirby’s stock did plummet, and he eventually landed in Milwaukee with their CB lottery pick. Milwaukee’s track record for developing pitchers hasn’t been great, however.
The other Virginia pick, Josh Sborz, had a lights out season for the Cavaliers, pitching as both the team’s closer and occasional spot starter. His performance allowed him to go to the Dodgers in the second CB lottery round. Oddly enough, Sborz had comparable numbers to sixth overall pick Tyler Jay, although not as high of a ceiling.
Left out of Day 1 was outfielder Joe McCarthy, who at one point would have been a solid second round pick. McCarthy however was injured early in the season and he had a down year, effectively dropping him to a Day 2 pick. It’s possible he could find himself going by the fourth or fifth round, though.
Virginia’s a strong program, but this year’s draft class is definitely not as strong as last year’s.
Winner: Rick Honeycutt
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt is probably one of the happiest coaches in baseball right now, especially given what his team did in the draft. After there was legitimate complaints that the Dodgers had no back of the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, the Dodgers used their first two picks on high ceiling, high floor pitchers Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser. Buehler may need a little more time, but Funkhouser has been considered one of the more Major League ready pitchers in the draft, despite inconsistency in his junior season.
Although it is unprecedented to have players make such a quick jump to the major leagues, the Dodgers have had some degree of success doing it with former second rounder Paco Rodriguez. I wouldn’t be surprised if Funkhouser is in the majors by 2016.
Loser: Jose Altuve
The writing is on the wall. Jose Altuve, once considered the face of the Houston Astros, is likely on his way out of the Space City. It became especially evident when the Astros drafted Alex Bregman, a shortstop whom experts believed would play second base in the big leagues.
In a way, it almost makes sense. Altuve is going to be expensive, and as the Astros retool for success, with all the young and cheap talent they have, he’ll likely be the odd man out. Granted, Altuve’s contact extension he signed back in 2013 is paltry given the extensions that many players have signed, but he’s already halfway through it, not including the options. Although I have mentioned that Bregman could make a quick run through the minors, I doubt it will be quick enough for him to play alongside Altuve. In my opinion, Altuve will play on borrowed time, but he could be shipped out early for more prospects should the Astros feel that Bregman is ready.
Winner: Chicago White Sox
Two straight seasons of getting possibly the consensus top pitching talent definitely gives you a “winner” label. The Sox were able to get Carson Fulmer, a battle tested ace whose height adds to his deceptiveness when he pitches.
Fulmer joins Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon as college aces whom the Sox have drafted, and although he is considered the highest risk, at worst, he could still be a solid closer for the team.
If Fulmer is put on accelerated development like Sale and Rodon, it’s possible he could make his debut next season, depending on if the team still has Jeff Samardzjia.
Loser: Chicago Cubs
I could only face palm as the Cubs used their first two picks on Ian Happ and Donnie Dewees. Considering the amount of offensive talent in the minors, it seemed impractical for them to make the investments they did, especially when there were pitchers available.
Ian Happ, who has no set position, would be in a logjam with the Chicago Cubs infielders and outfielders; the same goes for Donnie Dewees.
The Cubs could have gone for San Clemente pitcher Kolby Allard, or Park Vista’s Austin Smith. Instead, they added more offensive talent they didn’t need. Unless the team is planning on acquiring pitchers with the offensive prospects they have, I find it very difficult to justify what the Cubs have done.
Winner: The Kolby Allard-Lucas Herbert Battery
It’s not often that high school teammates, particularly high level talent high school teammates, are available in the same draft. However, in some cases, it does happen. The Braves may have made a risky pick with Kolby Allard when they took him 15th overall despite constant back problems, but they really helped optimize his environment when they used their second rounder on his battery mate, Lucas Herbert. Herbert may be far from the best catcher in his class, but he is a defensive asset, and in the world of catching, there is nothing more important than carrying a defensive expert behind the plate, at the very least as a backup. Allard and Herbert will definitely generate solid chemistry and hopefully progress through the Braves minor league system at the same time.
Loser: The Kevin Newman-Scott Kingery Middle Infield
Let me start this off by saying that the Pirates had a solid first day, especially with their first two picks. I like Kevin Newman and I love KeBryan Hayes going to Pittsburgh. However, through no fault of their own, they missed out on possibly one of the best middle infields in college baseball when Scott Kingery was drafted by the Phillies. Chemistry is key in baseball, and having Kingery and Newman would have been a big boon for the Pirates.
Winner: Rob Manfred Acknowledging Jason Boulais
The decision that South Carolina-Beaufort pitcher Jason Boulais made, to donate bone marrow to a child in another country was probably the biggest, and hardest decision he ever made. And while it could have gone unnoticed, the fact that he gave up playing baseball in order to save a child’s life was compelling enough for people to take notice. Public relations boon or not, inviting Boulais to watch the MLB draft was a great move on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s part. Listening to Manfred’s speech about what Boulais did was inspiring. All in all, it was touching. In some ways, it does draw parallels to last year’s NBA draft, when Adam Silver stepped up to the podium and announced that the NBA would select Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who had been diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome shortly before the draft. And while Manfred could have done something similar, saying something along the lines of “Major League Baseball will draft Jason Boulais” or have him announce the Red Sox pick (He is a Red Sox fan), the decision to acknowledge what he did is definitely a solid pat on the back to those who sacrifice what they want for the betterment of others.
Loser: Rob Manfred completely botching Andrew Benintendi’s name
Of course, right after acknowledging Boulais, Manfred did announce the Red Sox’ pick. And with the seventh pick in that draft, the Red Sox selected Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi, or as Manfred said, the Baud, Boston Red Sox selected Anrew Benintenitendi. I get it, some names are harder to pronounce than others, but wow, that was a botch if there ever was one. Maybe it would have been a good idea to have Boulais try his luck at that name?
Winner: Ashe Russell’s fashion sense
I was originally going to put this one as a loser, but then I realized something. This is actually the first time that we have a unique outfit at the MLB draft. The NFL has done it for a few years, see Dante Fowler and Danny Shelton for reference, and the NBA has made it an annual tradition since Jalen Rose pulled out the red pinstriped suit from Beetlejuice’s closet. Ashe Russell’s outfit was both awesomely good and awesomely bad at the same time, It was the Anaconda of draft suits. While he wasn’t exactly as flamboyant as Fowler and Rose, his bright orange shirt with white collar and tie was definitely a wonder to behold. Considering how the draft is starting to gain some popularity, there should be an Ashe Russell rule, where at least one player must dress up in the most ridiculous outfit imaginable. Players get points for looking like a giant traffic cone.
Loser: Those of us who had to hear Alex Bregman’s “Naked” story
A good story makes a great prospect; we all remember when Ian Clarkin was drafted by the Yankees and the spotlight revealed that he hated them growing up. playing up the awkwardness. However, that’s nothing compared to Alex Bregman’s three story tangent after he was picked.
First we learn that in his first game, he turned an unassisted triple play. Okay, considering how uncoordinated kids are when they start playing, it’s not the hardest thing to do.
Then we learn that he’s not an instagram poster or a big picture guy, for that matter. Okay, great, neither am I.
And then we get to the story about how when he was “little little” he ran naked around his house naked. (those were his words, not mine) and he started riding a toy horse, to the embarrassment of his parents.
Three words, Bregman, Too. Much. Information. While we’re on the subject, why don’t we hear the story about the one time at band camp with the flute? Or how about that one about the infamous Fourth of Ju-Luau?
Thankfully, Bregman was able to save his spotlight from ending in awkward crickets by asking the cameraman if he could make him look “jacked”. Still, while we like to know about our prospects, we don’t need to delve that deep.
Coming up, a recap of the draft with a division by division look at some notable prospects.