It’s time to get down to business.
With the college season heating up, the prep season beginning, and, of course, Major League Baseball officially underway, I think it’s safe to say that mock drafts might start to pick up right about now. Baseball America has already churned out their first mock of the season, for instance. It won’t be long before Keith Law, Jonathan Mayo, and Jim Callis, among others, churn out their mocks. So to continue to stay ahead of the game, here is MinorLeagueMadhouse’s April Edition of the 2016 Mock Draft. Same rules apply, picks are judged by organizational strength or best player available.
1. Philadelphia Phillies:
So I may have been a bit overeager to change my mock a bit last time.
Lately, it’s been a three horse race for the number 1 pick in the draft, between a prep lefty, a college lefty, and, according to BA, a college infielder. Of course, since the prep season only began last week, the best way to judge who was the top prospect was based on reputation and workouts vs. actual stats. Until Tuesday.
Jason Groome had an interesting debut, to put it conservatively. Against Point Pleasant Borough HS, he struck out ten while allowing two hits and a walk. Groome’s day was short though, as he was pulled in the 5th inning. The Barnegat ace has long been in the top pick conversation and after Tuesday’s performance, it’s not hard to say that it’s been deservedly so. My main concerns however are the low level of competition and Groome’s Vanderbilt commitment – considering last year’s recruiting class for the Commodores, Philly might have to spend later picks wisely if they want the guy in their own backyard.
2. Cincinnati Reds
Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan recently released his new book, titled The Arm, which took a look at one of the more highly valued commodities in the MLB draft, a prep arm. In it, he talked about how prep pitchers run the risk of being overworked for the sake of showcases, particularly those done by Perfect Game. One of Passan’s case studies is a top prospect in the draft.
I did read the excerpt that was published in SI, and found the information on Riley Pint, particularly his composure off the field to be of particular interest. We know that Pint has the potential to reach triple digits with his fastball, and his secondary offerings are definitely not developmental. Pint has been a smart prospect in the fact that he hasn’t overworked his arm in showcases, mainly because of his refusal to participate in Perfect Game’s events, which is practically a requirement in order to get visibility.
Pint’s stuff, and his character will serve him well as he goes through the season, and despite the fact that he doesn’t play in a baseball hotbed, expect him to garner serious consideration to be the first ever right-handed prep pitcher to be taken first overall.
3. Atlanta Braves
As bad as the Braves will be this season, they are perhaps in a better place than they were back in 2014. With rebuild mode in full effect, the Braves have managed to obtain solid future pieces that should contribute anywhere between mid 2016 to 2019, with a chance to add more. Of course, with the draft, even more prospects will be coming in, and with the third overall pick, the Braves have myriad options.
Though they could go with a home state product, I think they would rather jump at arguably the best all-around position player in the draft, Corey Ray. Ray has had an excellent season for Louisville, leading the team in home runs and RBI. Ray, in my opinion, does look like a future Jason Heyward. I could see him, Dansby Swanson, and Freddie Freeman making up a solid middle of the order for Atlanta when they move to SunTrust Park.
4. Colorado Rockies
Whether or not this ends up being the year that Colorado’s long-term rebuild finally comes to a head rests in their future rotation members. Sure, Trevor Story has shown that he’s more than just a bridge to Brendan Rodgers, in fact, that may have to be addressed down the line, but in all honesty, Colorado has always been a great hitting team. Pitching on the other hand has been the team’s Achilles heel, which has led to the team drafting hurlers in the hope of finding some that stick.
AJ Puk is probably the most pro-ready pitcher in this year’s class. The lanky lefty has had, for the most part, a decent season, and of course, nothing can take away from his fastball, considered one of the best in the draft. However, he hasn’t been as dominant as he was last season, and in his last start, he only lasted 11 pitches before leaving due to back spasms. Puk’s injury is not considered to be serious, but he should still be watched carefully, while he is still the top college pitcher as of now, there is a chance that others can pass him. Still, Puk would make a nice addition to Colorado’s stable of future arms.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are a team that we know will be having a bad season, mainly because they do have a glut of replacement level players along with stars that we are almost certain will be traded for talent. With that being said, Milwaukee stands to be in a good spot with the 5th overall pick, as they could pick anyone at this spot and it would still improve their farm system.
Every year, Baseball America has a darling player that they tend to hype up before the draft, and this year is no exception, as Nick Senzel has been amazingly high on their draft boards lately. Blessed with solid contact and power, as well as positional versatility, Senzel has a .387 batting average with 4 home runs and 40 RBI as of now. The Volunteers slugger would be a great future replacement at third base for Aaron Hill, or at second base for Scooter Gennett.
6. Oakland A’s
It seems like a lifetime ago when the A’s had one of the most offensively powerful teams in the league, but of course, that time has come to pass, and yet another fire sale leaves the A’s with some pieces but a lot of questions. Considering Oakland is in possibly the most competitive division, it seems the best course of action would be for the A’s to start building again, and there is probably no better draft than right now to find a future star.
Kyle Lewis has been one of the more controversial draft prospects, considering the fact that he plays in a weak conference that may have inflated his stats, but there’s no denying that Lewis’ potential as a power hitter is there. Tied for third in home runs, Lewis would definitely benefit from playing in the Coliseum. If he can keep playing at the level he has for the past few weeks, he will definitely cement his status as a top 10 pick in the draft.
7. Miami Marlins
As the prep season starts and goes on, more and more candidates for the HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop designation make their case. What started as Delvin Perez on his own has gradually grown into a triad, and each HAPS candidate has shown a different set of skills.
While I have largely ignored Nolan Jones of Holy Ghost Prep, his name has really started to pop up in internet forums as a potential dark horse top 10 pick, and justifiably so. Jones, according to some people, bulked up over the offseason, and should be adding more power to his swing. Jones has no definite weaknesses as of now, however, like many HAPS, he could find himself switching to a different position professionally, like third or second base. Jones’ offensive potential as of now has been compared to super utility man Ben Zobrist, but if the rumors of him adding more muscle are true, he could present more of a Daniel Murphy-like profile.
Jones’ potential for growth should be something the Marlins could monitor, and because he’s a prep product, he’ll have plenty of time to figure out where he’ll end up position wise.
8. San Diego Padres
Anyone who has had the chance to watch some SEC baseball this year, regardless of the teams that are playing, can say that this year’s class of draft-eligible players has to be arguably the best in recent memory, from the already established players to the ones whose stock has risen the past few weeks.
Last year at around this time, Andrew Benintendi was the darling of both the SEC and the MLB draft, going from a potential unknown to a top 10 pick. This year, it could be a pitcher that sees their stock rise, and there has been no better example of rising stock this year than Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson.
Surprised? Well you should be. Hudson has taken this season by storm so far pitching to a 4-2 record, a 1.68 ERA, and 59 strikeouts. Hudson has one of the better fastballs in the class, and has a solid arsenal of secondary pitches, all of which range from average to plus. Hudson has the ideal build for a pitcher as well, standing at 6’5″ and 205 pounds. Despite a rough outing against Florida, his stock could still rise and he could make a solid case to displace AJ Puk as the top college pitcher in the draft.
9. Detroit Tigers
I have to give credit to owner Mike Ilitch and Tigers GM Al Avila on the offseason they had. A season after acknowledging that nothing was working and selling off major pieces, the Tigers reentered the AL Central race by signing two major pieces, and not having to lose their first round pick served as an added bonus. This New York Jets-like gamble could be yet another high risk-high reward proposition for the Tigers, but it still is early to tell. The Tigers do have a weak farm system however, due to graduation and gamble trades from previous seasons. While the possibility of getting one of the top prep outfielders seems attractive, I feel that getting an Ian Kinsler succession plan would serve them better here.
Delvin Perez comes with many benefits. He’s one of the youngest prospects in the class, has no looming college commitment, and comes from one of the best talent factories in the US. Perez is also one of the best defenders in the class, meaning that among all the HAPS candidates, he has the best chance to stay at shortstop. While his offense is developmental, the Tigers could take plenty of time to develop him. He and Jose Iglesias would make a Gold-Glove potential middle infield that would provide excellent support for the Tigers pitching staff.
10. Chicago White Sox
After spending 2013, 2014, and 2015 in the lower half of the farm system rankings, something clearly has to change for the White Sox. While I still believe that Rick Hahn wants to draft a collegian with the 10th pick, the chance to grab a top prep talent could prove to be too great to ignore, and since the Sox have a compensatory selection, they could use it to grab a collegiate player later.
The debate regarding Blake Rutherford as of late has been whether or not he can keep his status as the consensus top hitter in the draft. Having already been exposed to the national spotlight, some prospect sites, particularly MLBPipeline, feel that Rutherford could go through prospect fatigue, which could plummet his draft stock. Having been named to the All-Tournament team for the National High School Invitational, it seems that Rutherford may avoid that fate for now. Rutherford’s power and speed make him the ideal candidate to succeed Melky Cabrera, and his age (19) will either help or hinder his progression through the minors.
11. Seattle Mariners
You might think with the Seattle Mariners’ draft history that the team would have a lot more success with their picks. Having gone with safe bets for the past few years however has not been a solid strategy for them, and it may be time for a change.
My first real surprise of the draft has the Mariners taking a guy whose stock has been steadily rising the past few weeks. Cal hurler Daulton Jefferies has been what Oregon’s Matt Krook could not be, the top prospect in the Pac-12. Sporting a 6-0 record, a sparkling 1.29 ERA and 47 strikeouts as of this writing. Jefferies has quietly ascended from an almost Day 1 pick to a practical certainty. The Mariners will get an opportunity to see him pitch in their home state when Cal plays Washington State in May, so if Jefferies continues to pitch the way he has been, the Mariners should send plenty of scouts to Pullman.
12. Boston Red Sox
The thing that amazes me about the Boston Red Sox is the fact that despite their clear plan to go all-in this year, they made such great moves without sacrificing too much talent. Sure, they did give up some solid prospects for Craig Kimbrel, but still, their system is considered one of the best in baseball, mainly due in part to Yoan Moncada, Rafael Devers, and Andrew Benintendi. So if that’s the case, where do the Red Sox go from here?
While Blake Rutherford may have more visibility, in my opinion, Mickey Moniak has better potential. The La Costa Canyon outfielder has seen his stock rise and fall even before the season started, and yet he still could make a solid case to beat out Rutherford as the top prep outfielder. Looking at Moniak’s highlight reel, I see a very capable centerfielder with a solid swing. While it is fundamentally different than Kyle Tucker’s from last year, it still is very smooth, like Tucker’s. Moniak, in my opinion could be a very solid choice for Boston, who has already had success developing outfield talent. Having him, Betts, and Benintendi playing alongside each other would give them quite the homegrown outfield.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
Two-way prospects are a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have a prospect that has two major strengths, which you can figure out where they will fit better into your team’s future plans, on the other, the development time is often increased because it can take a while to determine where they fit. In fact, there really hasn’t been a solid two-way player in baseball in a while.
The Rays have an advantage with Josh Lowe because they can look at him one of two ways, on the one hand, he does have projectable power, and his defense allows him to stay at third base, making him a potential successor for Evan Longoria. On the other, he’s got a solid fastball and an above average slider, with a developing changeup, allowing him to join the long line of solid pitching prospects in the Rays’ farm system. I personally feel that Lowe would stand to be a better option as a hitter based on his power potential, but it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility if the Rays decide to make him into yet another potential ace.
14. Cleveland Indians
When it comes to NCAA stat leaders, in particular, batting average, the last thing you expect is for a first round prospect to be in the top 5. Yes, they’re good, but they shouldn’t be that good. Usually, those positions are occupied by players that come from smaller schools, those that will be drafted high but will likely end up as a career farmhand. Of course, anything can happen, just look at Seth Beer and his amazing season that shouldn’t have been.
Digression aside, I think that Will Craig has the chance to make a serious case to be a first round prospect. Sure, he’s missed a few games, but so far, Craig has made the ACC his personal playground, leading the league in batting average (.476) and RBI (43) while tied for second with Corey Ray in home runs (9). Craig will be a corner infielder in the pros, it just depends on where exactly he fits. If the Indians draft him, I see him as a potential third baseman, taking over for Lonnie Chisenhall. Craig has the potential to be a solid producer in the lineup, and there’s no doubt that if he can handle one of the top conferences in college baseball the pros shouldn’t be that difficult to adjust to.
15. Minnesota Twins
Though the focus last year was on the Astros and their jump from being one of the worst teams in baseball to a potential future threat, someone should really give credit to the Minnesota Twins for what they did last year, making a serious run for a wild card spot until the final week of the season. The Twins’ homegrown talent has managed to meet expectations so far, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they make a compelling case to win the NL Central this year.
One of the more common assumptions in mock drafts is that teams will make every effort to grab home-state talent, and in some cases, it’s true, while in others, it’s not. Minnesota has benefitted from 11 years of Joe Mauer, so with the opportunity to grab Logan Shore another home-stater, presenting itself, the Twins would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t at least look at him.
Going into the season, many assumed that AJ Puk would be the breakout starter in the Florida rotation, but it’s been the complete opposite. Shore has not yet lost a game, is second on the team in strikeouts, and owns the lowest ERA among the Gators’ starters. It’s clear that Shore wouldn’t be a token home state pick to appease the Minnesota faithful, he could make a serious case to be a part of what will be a dangerous future rotation.
16. Los Angeles Angels
A while ago, on Reddit, a discussion popped up on which team was in the worst situation heading into the 2016 season. I argued that the Angels were the most likely candidate, given the amount of bad contracts on the team, the fact that most of the roster was starting to decline, and the atrocious state of the farm system. Now would be the perfect time for the Angels to start a rebuild and if one of the top prospects in the draft starts to take a tumble, you can bet that the Angels should pounce.
While Buddy Reed has had a good season, there’s no doubt that he really hasn’t blown anyone away, and that the top 5 pick potential was clearly preseason talk. Reed is still a valuable commodity, his speed and defense make him one of the best athletes in the draft, and put on the right team, he will definitely provide a jolt in the lineup. Though Reed is a natural centerfielder, with Mike Trout already there, I could see him learning left field so that he can contribute almost immediately.
17. Houston Astros
Jeff Luhnow was appointed the general manager of the Houston Astros after spending 8 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. In the time that Luhnow has been with Houston, the Astros have gone from being a laughingstock to a very serious threat. Years of stockpiling draft picks that have started to contribute, like George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Lance McCullers has shown that Luhnow does deserve respect for what he has done, even if he’s had a few misfires along the way (Mark Appel and Brady Aiken, cough cough.)
While the Astros have a particularly strong farm system, one thing they could stand to improve is their future catching situation. Chris Okey has been one of my favorite players in the draft, partially because he’s managed to shake off a slow start to be Clemson’s second best hitter this year. Okey may only be 21, but he’s been cited for having one of the more veteran minds behind the plate. He may not be a power hitter like Zack Collins or Matt Thaiss, but as a defense first catcher with an average bat, Okey would be the perfect battery mate for the up-and-comers in the future Astros rotation.
18. New York Yankees
Short pitchers often get a bad rap mainly because of their inability to look dominant on the mound. To compensate, many rely on pure velocity and movement, at the expense of control, in order to throw hitters off. We’ve seen it with Marcus Stroman and Kelvin Herrera, is it possible that this stigma can be broken?
Perhaps there is no better way to prove height doesn’t matter by bringing in a prospect from one of college baseball’s premier factories. Jordan Sheffield has a solid pitch selection, and a solid team behind him, but the main issue with him is control, as he does have 22 walks to his credit. Still, if his control problems can be fixed, he could be a solid mid rotation arm for the Yankees, but as of now, expect him to work out of the bullpen professionally.
19. New York Mets
In five seasons as general manager of the Mets, Sandy Alderson has used only one first round selection on a pitcher, and that was Michael Fulmer way back in 2011. Considering how good the rotation is now, it almost seems as if he had the foresight to make the call not to emulate his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who loved drafting college pitchers. However, 2018-2022 will be looming, and the Mets will start making decisions on who stays and who goes. If Alderson is prepared for this, he will start looking for future rotation pieces in this draft.
For me, Connor Jones is one of the more intriguing players in the draft. He has a track record of success, having played a key role in the Cavaliers’ first College World Series title. However, like the Cavaliers prospects before him, Hultzen, Howard, and Kirby, he does come with a red flag. Virginia starters have had a tendency to falter down the stretch, particularly when they are considered top draft prospects, and until his last start, Jones seemed destined to follow that trend until he pitched a complete game one-hitter against Boston College. Still, Jones has a long way to go to prove he’s still legitimate first round material.
Part of me feels that Jones will succeed if coached the right way, i.e, the right pitching coach works with him. If that’s the case, then Jones would greatly benefit working with Frank Viola and Dan Warthen. He definitely could be a solid future replacement for any Mets starter that leaves via free agency.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers
Roster construction in baseball is one of those things that you know is either black or white. You either build a team from the ground up, or you buy a team through trades and free agency. At least, that’s what we’ve grown to accept. However, there are exceptions to the rule. The Dodgers have managed to create a hybrid strategy, giving big money to players and still managing develop talent that can contribute in the near future.
Will Benson is interesting in the fact that he projects to be a power hitter, but has yet to build into his power. Still, his versatility as a first baseman and outfielder make him a valued commodity, especially for the Dodgers, who would stand to have plenty of roster questions by the time he’s ready. Benson looks to go in as a first baseman, but if Cody Bellinger continues to develop at the pace that he has, Benson could look to replace Andre Ethier in the outfield. He can throw, so he wouldn’t be a liability there.
21. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have always been a team that has been heavily reliant on offense, and the roster they have constructed is no exception. With Jose Bautista in a contract year, Josh Donaldson coming off an MVP season, and Troy Tulowitzki in his first full season away from Colorado, it’s clear that as long as Toronto focuses on offense, they will remain competitive in the AL East.
I did mention that Jose Bautista is in a contact year, and at 36, it’s debatable how long he can continue to be the late blooming star that he has been, so in my opinion, the Jays could stand to take a look at a pro-ready college outfielder, like Anfernee Grier. Grier has had an unbelievable season as one of the members of Auburn’s potent offense, having had at least one hit in all but one game this year. Grier isn’t afraid to go all out on defense, and his power potential ensures that whenever he comes up, he will be a threat.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
One of the first rules of the MLB draft is that nothing is certain, and this is especially true when it comes to determining who is the best college pitcher. Because of this, many surefire top 5 or 10 players often find themselves dropping due to an underwhelming junior season. It’s a humbling experience, but in some cases, those prospects end up proving that they should have been taken early in the first place.
It’s been an especially rough season for Alec Hansen however, and under any other circumstance, I’d pull him out of the first round entirely. However, part of me feels that Hansen could benefit by being drafted by Pittsburgh, where Ray Searage could get him back on track. Hansen does have the stuff to be a rotation arm, and the build as well. It will be tough to evaluate him right now, as he was recently demoted to the bullpen, and has yet to see action, but if any team decides to take a flier on him, I could see Pittsburgh doing so as a succession plan for Gerrit Cole, should he depart via free agency.
23. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are one of those teams that have the good problem of too much talent. Because they are among the best at developing homegrown talent, they often find themselves with a surplus, that can be dealt for pieces to be used for a postseason run. Of course, now would be a great time for them to start using some of the talent they have obtained, as some of their key pieces from their 2011 title are starting to get old.
I like Bryan Reynolds here because while scouting reports insist that he’s a developmental college prospect, he is a Vanderbilt player, and Vandy has had a solid track record of producing players with big league potential This season, he’s been absolutely impressive, batting .328 while leading the team in home runs. In my opinion, Reynolds would be an excellent successor for Matt Holliday, and if his stats translate to the big leagues, he could be a solid #3 hitter in the Cardinals lineup.
24. San Diego Padres
Drew Mendoza is a lot better than his draft position suggests. Considering his pro potential as a third baseman, and his doubles power, he could really play Petco Park to his advantage.
25. San Diego Padres
Avery Tuck is practically in the Padres’ backyard, but like Logan Shore with Minnesota, he wouldn’t be a token hometown pick. His potential for growth will definitely make him a serious consideration for AJ Preller and the Padres’ brass.
26. Chicago White Sox
While Nick Banks may not have had the season that everyone has expected him to, the fact that he is a solid hitter that can play a corner outfield spot should make him particularly attractive to any team looking for a short term developmental project.
27. Baltimore Orioles
Carter Kieboom may have pro potential as a third baseman, but if the Orioles do take him, they could use his solid hitting skills to justify using him as an offensively minded shortstop, a potential heir to JJ Hardy.
28. Washington Nationals
Though Zack Collins is a catcher, his power makes it difficult for any team to justify sticking him behind the plate. If he’s drafted by an NL team, I could see him playing first base. Considering Ryan Zimmerman is starting to slow down, I see plenty of reason for the Nats to look into a future first baseman.
29. Washington Nationals
Eric Lauer has rebounded from being shelled in his first outing to become one of the more intriguing small-school pitchers in the draft. The Golden Flashes ace has a solid array of pitches that should convince the Nationals to take him.
30. Texas Rangers
After striking out 15 in his season debut, Braxton Garrett and his pro level curve should definitely garner a lot more attention as the season goes on.
31. New York Mets
It wouldn’t be the first time the Mets went in-state, but Ian Anderson and his fastball look to make a compelling case to be, at the very least, a compensatory first round pick. Considering there’s an unwritten rule that there must be at least one prep product from the Northeast taken in the first round, Anderson makes the most compelling case.
32. Los Angeles Dodgers
There’s no doubt in my mind that Zack Burdi has the potential to be just as good, if not better than his brother Nick. At the very least, he’s LA’s closer for the future, at the most, he’s a future member of their rotation.
33. St. Louis Cardinals
Robert Tyler and his workhorse mentality would serve him well if he wanted to break into the Cardinals’ rotation. He really has bounced back from a slow start to his junior season.
34. St. Louis Cardinals
Kevin Gowdy has really seen his stock rise, mainly due to a quick recovery from an underwhelming showcase circuit. His potential for growth from an above average pitch repertoire gives him the opportunity to show that he has the starting potential that scouts have been gushing about lately.
And with that, we conclude this month’s mock draft. Tune in next month when we do the first, compensatory, and competitive balance picks in the May edition of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2016 MLB Mock Draft.