With MLBpipeline.com releasing their top 50 draft prospects on December 2nd, MinorLeagueMadhouse will now be able to do the long-awaited sequel to the 2016 Mock Draft from October. All information is taken from Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis’ scouting reports, although I will be able to offer some personal insight on a couple prospects this year, having seen them pitch while I was interning in summer ball. Same rules apply as last time, the players are picked based on organizational depth, although best player available does consider into the equation. Without further delay, here is the 2016 Mock Draft, version 2.0.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
Mike Trout has long been regarded as the best prospect to ever come from the state of New Jersey, and for the longest time, that went unquestioned. This year, however, he may have some competition, courtesy of Barnegat High School’s Jason Groome.
Groome was thrust into the national spotlight last season at IMG Academy. When Brady Aiken went under the knife for Tommy John surgery, Groome stepped into his role and took off. After his junior year ended, he went back to Barnegat to pitch his senior year.
He has the look of an ace, standing 6’6″ and weighing 220 pounds. Groome also has solid pitches, a Major League ready low to mid 90’s fastball, a solid curve, and a developmental changeup. Groome’s advanced feel for pitching could mean that he could be fast tracked in the minors, although not at the level that Jose Fernandez was. Expect him to make his major league debut 3 years after being drafted, barring any setbacks. With him, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eichoff, the Phillies could have the makings of a solid top three by 2019.
Groome’s one major drawback is his commitment to Vanderbilt. Because of that, he could potentially command a very large bonus, that if not fulfilled, could see him leave for Nashville.
2. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds could conceivably go any direction with this pick and still come out looking good. The Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake trades effectively rebuild their rotation for the long run, and with Walt Jocketty saying that anyone is available this offseason, it’s possible the Reds could be primed for long term success.
Considering pitching has already been addressed, I could see the Reds maybe looking at the consensus top hitter in the draft, Louisville’s Corey Ray. Ray, who is part of a banner class of Louisville draft prospects, more on them later, is considered one of the more complete athletes in this class. He has the arm and the speed to play wherever needed in the outfield, and he can hit well enough to be at the top of the order.
Although the Reds did draft Phil Ervin two years ago in the first round, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they opt to go for Ray, as he seems like a much more complete package than Ervin was when he was drafted. He would definitely slot in well with Jesse Winker and Ervin, and they would definitely form a formidable outfield trio.
3. Atlanta Braves
Another school that could make up a considerable portion of the top part of the draft is Florida, with four potential selections. Atlanta happens to be lucky enough to be in play for the two top talents.
Much like the Reds, the Braves have been able to build a potential future juggernaut pitching staff through selling off major pieces. Because of that, I feel that the Braves might be interested in upgrading their lineup. Florida’s Buddy Reed may not be as well-rounded as Corey Ray right now, but he does have the potential to build himself up to that level.
Reed’s best asset is his speed, giving him a defensive presence in centerfield. He’s also a switch hitter, although his best work comes from the right side. At best right now, he profiles into two players, from the right, a polished player who has power plashes, from the left, a leadoff hitter. Reed will likely benefit from some mechanical tinkering in the minors, in the hopes that he can improve from the left side, so it’s possible that he could get even better then.
4. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have been major beneficiaries of the past three drafts, both on their own and thanks to others. They’ve been able to nab a future ace in Jon Gray, three future rotation stalwarts in Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, and Mike Nikorak, and a top offensive prospect in Brendan Rodgers. Why not continue this run of success with another top of the line starter?
Considered the top college pitcher in the class, Florida’s AJ Puk happens to be the second best lefty, behind Groome. He has a very lively fastball, a slider which is tough on lefties and a changeup. While his arsenal is big league, his control and command do need work in order for him to be a top of the rotation starter.
Puk also has the added appeal of height and can contribute somewhat offensively, as he was a two-way player when he started. Overall, it may come down to him and Groome battling it out for the number 1 spot, and if the Phillies do what Arizona did last season between Rodgers and Dansby Swanson, Colorado may be lucky enough to choose between Puk and Groome.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have managed to make some more interesting draft choices in the past two years, nabbing three quality prep players in 2014, then another in 2015, as well as a former consideration for top pick in the draft. Nathan Kirby, when he fell due to injury. Combine that with the late emergence of Taylor Jungmann after four years of toiling in the minors and you may have a resurgence in the Brewers’ prospect department. So where do you go from there in a pitching rich class?
I’ll admit, I did consider the humor angle when it came to St. Thomas Aquinas HS pitcher Riley Pint being drafted by a team that’s associated with beer brewing, heck, if the Brewers had another pick in the first round and Seth Beer had not opted to go to Clemson early, that also would have been considered, but for me, the Pint selection has to due with what he is as a pitcher. Pint has the best fastball among prep pitchers, and his body could potentially bulk out and make it even better. His secondary offerings range from developing (curve) to redundant (changeup).
Much like AJ Puk though, Pint needs to fine tune his mechanics if he wants to succeed at the next level. He’s at best a 5th starter right now, but could move up if everything develops correctly for him.
6. Oakland A’s
Billy Beane has constantly preached the Moneyball philosophy, and in most cases, it has worked, but in a rebuild, the A’s are going to need to build up their roster in order to succeed again. Whether or not Sonny Gray factors into the future plans of the A’s matters little, but if Beane does decide to move on from his ace, then June would be the ideal time to find his heir.
It’s a three horse race for the top pick between Groome, Puk, and Oklahoma’s Alec Hansen, but Hansen had the early jump after a dominant sophomore season, so much so that he was nearly considered a lock for the number 1 pick. Another 6’7″ pitcher. Hansen has a nearly elite fastball and a pro-ready slider. His curve and change are considered above average offerings.
Hansen’s accuracy is the main issue, but many say it’s because of his delivery, Tweaks could make him a more accurate pitcher. Although he was shut down for fall ball, he should be back and ready for spring, giving him plenty of chances to surpass Groome and Puk.
7. Miami Marlins
Last year’s selection of Josh Naylor was definitely the puzzler of the 2015 draft, and it raised questions as to whether or not Miami was once again acting cheap after yet another failed offseason spending spree. Assuming Jeffery Loria once again pulls the Fire Sale button, it’s possible that the Marlins could find their replacement for Adeiny Hechavarria here.
Puerto Rico high schooler Delvin Perez is a byproduct of the Carlos Correa-Francisco Lindor phase, a young shortstop who could conceivably outperform expectations. I’ll admit when Correa was taken first overall in 2012, I had my doubts, but he really prove me wrong. While Perez is no Correa, he still can play like some of the best Puerto Rican shortstops. Perez’s main calling card right now is his defense, he is a professional shortstop, what needs to catch up, however is his hitting. As of now, he’d probably slot into the lower part of a batting order, but if he hones his hitting skills in the minors, he could become a middle of the order hitter.
8. San Diego Padres
The Padres came out with the worst luck in the 2015 season, gambling the future of the organization on what they believed was a playoff run. A year later, they were able to mitigate some of the damage by sending Craig Kimbrel to Boston for prospects, but they do need to add more in order to have a shot at the future.
Dealing Yonder Alonso did deprive them of a power bat, albeit an underperforming one, but the Padres should look for his replacement. Arizona’s Bobby Dalbec may not be a first baseman, but he does have a power bat that the Padres could use to somewhat combat the extreme dimensions of Petco Park.
Dalbec does have the arm to stay at third base as well, but his fielding may be an issue. Additionally, he’s a classic example of a feast or famine power hitter. If Dalbec can learn to hit for contact, he could be the power hitter the Padres have been looking for that Alonso wasn’t.
9. Detroit Tigers
Every draft has its fair share of risks, and I’d be hard pressed to admit that every once in a while I do take risks. Given the fact that the Tigers recently signed Jordan Zimmermann to a contract, thus forfeiting both a second round pick and a fair amount of their bonus pool, I feel that Al Avila could potentially play the signability card here.
You may recall that in one of my 2013 mocks, I put Chris Okey, then a high school star, in the compensatory first round. At the time, he was considered one of the better prep catchers in a loaded class, but signability issues sent him to Clemson. In his two years at Clemson, he’s shown to be a solid game caller, and has made two appearances on the Collegiate National team.
Okey’s a jack-of-all-trades catcher in the fact he’s a good player, He may not dazzle with his star skills, but he could definitely become a team leader in a few years. When the Tigers do rebuild, I would imagine he would be one of the players left behind to mentor the new team.
10. Chicago White Sox
Give the White Sox credit for somehow drafting two of the most major-league ready pitchers in the past two drafts. Losing Jeff Samardzjia will definitely hurt less when Carson Fulmer takes his place alongside Carlos Rodon. Now it’s time to start thinking about upgrading the offense.
This one comes down to three college players, Mercer’s Kyle Lewis, Tennessee’s Nick Senzel, and Texas A&M’s Nick Banks. I choose Banks in this spot because he’s the surest bet of the three. Banks can hit, giving him ample chance to be a part of Chicago’s lineup. He’s also a decent fielder.
Banks won’t wow with power, but inconsistency in his speed ratings put him as an ideal table setter in any lineup. I would imagine that he could be a good threat to get on base, allowing Jose Abreu ample opportunity to drive him in.
11. Seattle Mariners
The last time the Seattle Mariners drafted a player that worked out well for them, it was 2010 and Taijuan Walker was their pick. Before that, it was Alex Rodriguez in 1993. The Mariners are essentially the New York Jets of the MLB draft, in that there have been very few successes among a handful of failures.
Grabbing the top high school bat in the draft may help, and Chaminade Prep’s Blake Rutherford is special enough to warrant major consideration. Although he’s one of the oldest prep prospects this year, this could matter little. Rutherford has an advanced approach at the plate, and his attributes have plenty of opportunity to get better with proper development. He and Alex Jackson could conceivably help reshape Seattle’s outfield in the coming years.
12. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are an interesting organization. Whereas in the 2000’s they were consistent enough to constantly be mentioned in the championship conversation, the 2010’s Red Sox are a mixed bag of contender vs. overhyped mess. I’ll always consider 2013 to be a big fluke because somehow through some combination of low-key signings, developed talent, and the Boston Strong mentality, they were somehow able to pull off a World Series win. Feeling that they could continue that run of success, they’ve made several questionable roster decisions that have so far backfired and put them in an even worse position.
By some miracle, the Sox haven’t lost a draft pick after signing David Price, so they could possibly use their pick to grab a young, controllable college starter who could come up quickly. Georgia’s Robert Tyler is one of the more underrated top tier pitchers in this draft, and thus warrants some consideration as a top pick. Tyler’s toolbox has some solid offerings, he has a mid to high 90’s fastball that is good in short stints and a curve and changeup that will need some development. Tyler may be built like a starter, but his durability has always been a question, so much so that he’s never completed a full season since his junior year in high school. Tyler may be one of the bigger college projects, but some tinkering will do him good as he prepares to pitch the next level.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
It will be the five year anniversary of the Rays’ 2011 draft class, a class which produced a major league record 11 first round picks due in part to the decimation of the Rays’ relief pitching corps. The 2011 class has been largely hit or miss. Taylor Guerrieri has yet to reclaim the form that had many scouts considering him a viable arm, while Mikie Mahtook looks ready to be a full-time big league outfielder, and Blake Snell is viewed as the future of the Rays’ rotation.
The Rays are fairly balanced in their system, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another hitter to take a load off the pitching. Tennessee’s Nick Senzel is defensively ambiguous, but he can hit, so much so that he completely demolished the Cape Cod League over the summer. Senzel may not be a power guy, but he can produce.
The one issue of course is where to put him. He’s bounced around the diamond in college, and scouts are agnostic on whether or not he can be an infielder or will have to move to the outfield. At worst he doesn’t have a position and becomes a Major League DH, at best, he figures out where he can play and becomes the heir apparent to that position.
14. Baltimore Orioles
I’d be lying if I said I’m not keen on small school prospects. This is mainly because I believe that the level of competition is vastly different between a smaller conference and a power conference, and that level of competition artificially inflates the prospect’s profile. Of course, players can prove me wrong by playing well in the Cape League, and this is where our next pick comes in.
I’ve held off long enough on Mercer’s Kyle Lewis because I feel that outside of the 2015 Cape League season, he’s really not proven himself to be a full first round threat quite yet. However, it is possible that he does have the skills necessary to put him in the conversation. He does have a power bat that could, with the right amount of development, easily displace Chris Davis as a home run threat. I do also feel that he has plenty of room for improvement in the outfield, playing in a corner position where he would be able to learn the nuances of being a corner threat. If Lewis can prove that he’s not a byproduct of the SoCon’s competition level, then perhaps he can go higher in the draft than my initial projection.
15. Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians have somehow emerged into a darkhorse each year, mainly because of their underrated pitching. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer have definitely kept the team competitive and relevant in a division that’s basically been the Tigers, Royals and nobody else for the past two seasons. The question now is how can they possibly continue this wave of pitching success, especially with the increasing likelihood of their star pitchers leaving?
In 2014, the Indians drafted Tullahoma HS pitcher Justus Sheffield with the final pick of the first round, then the following year, added Brady Aiken and Rob Kaminsky via draft and trade. They are three great options, certainly, but the main issue is that none of them are right handed, and as good as left handed pitchers can be, too many can lead to predictability.
I met Vanderbilt righty Jordan Sheffield (Justus’s brother) during the 2014 New England Collegiate Baseball League season when he pitched for the Laconia Muskrats, and he was a very nice guy. I only wish he had not been recovering from Tommy John because the only time I saw him play, the Danbury Westerners had a field day with him. Still, Sheffield has managed to regain his old form since then. He can throw a fastball in the mid 90’s with regularity topping out at 98 MPH, and his slider and changeup have become reliable secondary pitches.
Sheffield comes with pretty much the same concerns that Carson Fulmer came with last year, height, and issues with pitch location, as well as the question of whether or not he’ll be a big league starter. At worst, he becomes a taller and lighter throwing version of Kelvin Herrera, serving as Cleveland’s closer. At best, he’s another member of a potentially vaunted future rotation.
16. Minnesota Twins
No team has made a better killing in the development ranks than the Twins, who have seen Byron Buxton blossom into a potential Kirby Puckett-like franchise face, and Miguel Sano into another power hitting stud. All that needs to come up now is the young pitching talent that could make the Twins’ rotation a scary one. Tyler Jay, Kohl Stewart, Nick Burdi, basically these are all young guns that could make a major killing in the AL Central. Of course, when they come up, the question will be who will catch them?
This year’s catcher class is stronger than Jim Callis would have you believe, and there is probably no better example of high ceiling catching talent than Miami Killian HS catcher Herbert Iser. Iser has been on the radar since early 2015 when he was considered one of the top juniors to watch.
Iser has a hose for an arm, and he is a steady presence behind home plate. Although his hitting is considered developmental, he has the potential to be a well-balanced hitter once given the proper training. Depending on his development, he could run through the system at a decent pace and still be ready to catch the electric arms of the Twins’ rotation by early 2020.
17. Washington Nationals
The Jayson Werth era will come to an end in 2017, and when that happens, Nationals fans will probably remember it as both a mixture of expectation and disappointment. While he didn’t exactly become the solid bridge to Bryce Harper that everyone expected, he definitely played a key role on the 2012 and 2014 NL East Championship teams.
The Nationals in turn would be smart to grab a young, moldable college outfielder like Vanderbilt’s Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds first came to national attention when he was the driving force on the 2014 National Championship team, and yet lost out on winning the College World Series Most Outstanding Player to Dansby Swanson. Reynolds is considered a raw talent, but potential wise, he could transition easily into Werth’s vacated role.
Reynolds as of right now would probably be best suited to play either in the lower part of the order, but once he clicks in the minors, could easily move up to as high as the #2 or #5 spot in the lineup. Because Reynolds hasn’t found his niche quite yet, it’s possible he might be tinkered with by whomever drafts him until they find the right spot for him.
18. Los Angeles Angels
Remember when Sean Newcomb was expected to be the next young star for the Los Angeles Angels? That quickly went out the window when Andrelton Simmons became available. Ever since Mike Trout graduated from the minors, the Angels have had a standout prospect problem. Sure, they’ve made some splashes, like Joe Gatto and Roberto Baldaquin, but nobody has really popped onto the top 100 radar outside of Newcomb and Andrew Heaney.
The Angels’ best approach would be best player available then, and in this case, it would be another left handed pitcher that would take Newcomb’s spot as top prospect, Virginia’s Connor Jones. Like Jordan Sheffield, I did have the opportunity to see Jones play in the NECBL, when he was the ace for the Keene Swamp Bats, but also like Sheffield, he was very hittable that game. Jones is one of the few players on the MLB Draft top 50 who has 4 pitches, and his fastball can range from low to mid 90’s with a lot of weight.
Jones has already proven he can win in big game situations, having served as the Friday Night Starter for the Cavaliers during their 2015 championship season, and he seems like a high floor talent. The one major issue is the fact that Virginia has gained a reputation for producing players that can’t adjust to the next level of competition. He will have every chance to prove that wrong this year.
19. Houston Astros
Houston’s prize for being a terrible team four years in a row was four straight seasons of high draft picks and an absurdly large bonus pool to sign most of the talent they recouped. Because of this, the Astros have a system that’s considered one of the best, if not the best in baseball. Even after seeing Lance McCullers and Carlos Correa graduate from the minors, the team could still draft whomever they see fit.
In my opinion, the Astros would do fine if they went with another southpaw after whiffing on two big ones in 2014. The best option right now, although he is a big wild card, would be Oregon’s Matt Krook. No stranger to being a high draft pick, he was a CB choice in 2013 by Miami, he went to Oregon where he’s shown both flashes of promise and disappointment due to Tommy John surgery.
Krook recently resurrected his prospect status in Cape Cod, and while statistically, it wasn’t a great summer, he still showed what he has, a pro level fastball and curve, and an average changeup. He has every chance to raise his stock in the spring since he’ll be fully recovered from Tommy John and well rested from not pitching fall ball.
20. New York Yankees
Power is a crucial tool for draft prospects, but power combined with contact makes for an ideal slugger. For a team like the Yankees, who play in a smaller stadium, a power hitter is definitely an ideal piece to have. With a lot of aging stars like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez approaching the twilight of their careers, it may be time to go back to the good old days of building talent, especially considering the Yankees’ system is one of the lower tier systems in baseball.
Miami catcher/first baseman/DH Zack Collins may just be the best power hitter in the draft. A well-built slugger, his best asset is his power, and he and former teammate David Thompson completely terrorized ACC pitching last season en route to the College World Series. Collins would instantly be a #4 hitter in any lineup, offering solid protection, and he is an average contact hitter, showing that he won’t be a feast or famine player. His one trick point is his defense, and although he can through, his defense has left a little to be desired. Ideally, Collins could become a DH at the pro level and form a terrific tandem with top prospect Aaron Judge.
21. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers look more like a team that’s been assembled through buying rather than building, with some exceptions, and it has paid off in all but one year since 2010. Of course though, those contracts are going to expire and those players will soon age, so it may be an ideal time to start building young again.
Although Delino DeShields is looking more and more like he may stick in Texas after his Rule 5 season, it wouldn’t hurt to grab the second best prep outfield bat in the draft, La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak. Moniak is a consistent hitter that can find holes in the outfield and exploit them with his pro level speed. He may have an average arm, but his speed also could keep him in center field, almost in a Juan Lagares-type role. Moniak, in my opinion is a much better and more likely to stick DeShields. His baseball IQ will definitely resonate well with his coaches.
22. New York Mets
When you have a rotation that’s full of ace-level starters, all of whom are under team control, you have a solid advantage over all comers. But when you have a free agent market where two of the best starters received deals with a $30+MM AAV, you can bet you will lose at least one or two arms come free agency. Because pitching in such high supply in the 2016 draft, the Mets could conceivably find two replacements in one draft.
Sandy Alderson loves guys who can pump premium gas, but it wouldn’t hurt to draft a workhorse like Kyle Funkhouser. The highest rated senior in this year’s class, Funkhouser turned down an opportunity to pitch for the Dodgers after they picked him 35th overall. There isn’t much to be said that hasn’t been discussed in my 2015 mocks, but it’s pretty much the same with him, he can throw in the low to mid 90’s, with an effective, if somewhat inconsistent low fastball. His secondary pitches are above average, but mechanical tinkering and a confidence adjustment could make them better. If he can refine his command, he’ll definitely look like a stronger and higher ceiling version of Jon Niese.
23. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays had a golden opportunity to rally the local fan base by selecting a Canadian prospect in 2015, but missed on Josh Naylor and Mike Soroka, and didn’t go after Jeff Degano or Demi Orimoloye. However, this year, they may be more inclined to take this year’s top Canadian prospect.
Stanford righty Cal Quantrill is the son of former Blue Jays reliever Paul Quantrill (1996-2001) and although he will be a year removed from Tommy John surgery, is still considered one of the most underrated, and possibly one of the higher rising prospects in the 2016 draft. It wouldn’t be just a legacy pick either, as Quantrill has four solid pitches, and an advanced feel for them, allowing him to be a very effective starter.
24. Kansas City Royals
When you have a team whose offense was built through the draft and international free agency, with a few trades and signings thrown in, you’re going to have a lot of cost-controlled assets that will tide you over for a while. And since the Royals have had such a stellar track record with developing prospects, it almost makes it impossible to find an organizational weakness. In this case, my version of Dayton Moore will select the best player available.
Continuing the trend of prep stars from Georgia is Westminster Schools outfielder Will Benson. Benson is what you would call a well-rounded player with solid contact, power, and speed as well as defensive skill. He can play either first base or outfield and is more than capable of carrying an offense. Benson has drawn comparisons to Jason Heyward, and could possibly eclipse him as a better player by the time he hits his age 27 season. Although Benson would be going to an organization with solid depth, he could definitely fit in at any spot a few years down the road.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates
The fact that the Pirates have gone from 20 straight losing seasons to three straight years of qualifying at the very least for the Wild Card shows how much value there is in developing talent. Gerrit Cole has emerged into a legitimate All-Star ace, Andrew McCutchen is one of the most exciting players in the game, and with so much impressive young talent coming up in the next few years, the Pirates could be a solid team in the future.
What the Pirates lack from an organizational perspective is a standout left-handed starter, and while this year’s class is top-heavy, the second tier of southpaws isn’t too bad either. Matt Crohan of Winthrop may come from the same conference as Kyle Lewis, but unlike Lewis, he has actually performed on the biggest collegiate stage, pitching for the National Team and beating Chinese Taipei. Crohan is a well-built lefty with a fastball that can reach the high 90’s but is typically low to mid. He also has a changeup and a developmental slider.
Crohan’s delivery does need some work, and his consistency will determine whether or not he’s in a big league rotation or bullpen. Having already seen him play in person in 2014 when he was in the NECBL, I can assume that he’ll be much better than he was when he pitched in relief for Keene.
26. St. Louis Cardinals
For the past two years, I have harped on the Cardinals, and their seeming inability to find a contingency plan for when Yadier Molina retires, and I still believe that they can draft his successor in this year’s draft.
In my opinion, Orange HS catcher Brad Debo is the heir apparent to Molina. He is an above average fielder, however this is greatly enhanced by a pro-ready throwing arm. His offense is above average and his contact and power are even. The one thing he lacks is speed, but as far as catchers go, who needs it? Debo may need a little time to develop, but if he makes it through with very few setbacks, he could definitely find his way behind home plate by the time Molina’s ready to hang it up.
Although there are already compensatory picks on the board, I will be holding off on mocking them until the full draft order is realized. Until then, next mock draft will be coming in January.