With MLB’s draft pick signing deadline set for 5:00 today, there are obviously several high holdouts that have yet to ink deals. In total, in the first two rounds, competitive balance picks included, there are 7 picks who remain unsigned. Considering the measures taken to limit bonus pool money, the fact that only three first round picks are unsigned indicates that something clearly is working here. Whats even more surprising is the fact that there are no high school first round picks who haven’t signed. But I digress.
This article will focus on the remaining unsigned first and competitive balance round picks in the draft. There are four of them. Without further delay, here they are.
1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks.
The first overall pick becomes the second straight pick to hold off signing at the deadline. But unlike Brady Aiken last season, whose UCL wiped out any chance of him receiving a top level bonus, Swanson is perfectly healthy, and has no incentive to return to school.
Why he will sign:
As the first overall pick, Swanson is perfectly capable of commanding the $8,616,900 recommended bonus that is the league recommendation. The Diamondbacks have a large enough pool to afford the deal, and considering the fact that all but one of their first 10 picks signed for at-slot deals, and their only other remaining major commitment is 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, it seems that the best way to say it is that all that needs to be done is figure out how much money they want to commit to him.
As of now, the top bonus in the draft belongs to #2 pick Alex Bregman, who topped out with $5.9 million. If all goes well in Swanson’s camp, and given the fact that the negotiations between them and the D-Backs camp have been more about evaluating his market, I could see Arizona following their trend and signing him at slot. Should Rodriguez who may elect to recover from Tommy John surgery in college choose not to sign, the D-Backs could afford to sweeten the pot by offering him even more. However, the verdict is this. Swanson will sign, and based on the positive lines of communication, he’ll be rewarded handsomely.
24. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
The first of two remaining unsigned Dodgers, Buehler was a solid starter and piece of the 2014 NCAA champions and 2015 NCAA runners up. Buehler at one point was considered the best of the three Vanderbilt products taken in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 24th pick.
Why he will sign.
This one comes down to two major factors: Who do the Dodgers want to commit their remaining pool money to, and how much can they afford to? In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers do have another first round pick and a 6th rounder who have yet to sign, but the chances that they sign all three are incredibly slim. Buehler had a decent season this year, even if he had to take a 2 and a half week break to rest during the season.
The Dodgers ideally would want to sign Buehler because he would further add to the arsenal of future arms set to take over the Dodger rotation in the coming years. Given that Buehler is a college pitcher, there would be a chance for him to come up as early as late 2016 or early 2017.
Buehler would be the Dodgers’ best chance to sign, and if it means that they have to commit what remaining bonus money under the 5% threshold they have to sign him, then they should, and should let go of their remaining picks.
35, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Dodgers
Kyle Funkhouser at one point in the draft was considered the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft, but a down junior season dropped his stock, and he tumbled all the way down to the 35th pick.
Why he won’t sign:
The way I look at this, Kyle Funkhouser has leverage that former potential top pick Michael Matuella didn’t have. A bad junior season? Fine, go back to school, see if you can rebound, and hope to enter next year’s top pick conversation. Matuella didn’t have that same leverage because of his Tommy John surgery and back issues, which would have prevented him from pitching at all in his senior year.
Funkhouser knows that he’s worth more that whatever the Dodgers can offer him, and given the fact that they spent their top picks on college pitchers, he likely views himself as the odd man out.
Admittedly, the risks of returning to school for a senior season are big. What if Funkhouser doesn’t improve? What if he’s only able to slightly raise his stock from last season? Since compensation for losing a first round draft pick began, only one player who didn’t sign was a collegian, and that was Stanford’s Mark Appel in 2012. Granted, Appel was able to move from being selected by the Pirates at 8th overall to the Astros at first overall, but his decision to return doesn’t indicate a trend.
The only way I see Funkhouser choose to sign is if the Dodgers elect to not sign Edwin Rios, their sixth rounder. If they do that, they could try and split the remaining threshold bonus pool money they have in the hopes of getting both Buehler and Funkhouser. Knowing full well that the Dodgers don’t want to be the first team to lose a draft pick for exceeding their pool, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. In all likelihood, it will come down choosing between Buehler and Funkhouser, and signs indicate Buehler is their first choice.
40. Nathan Kirby, LHP: Brewers
Nathan Kirby was a preseason favorite to be a top pick in the draft, but an ineffective junior season towards the end dropped his stock and pushed him to the CB round, where the Brewers snatched him.
Why he will sign:
An article on the Daily Progress’ UVA sports blog indicates that Kirby has decided to wait until just before the deadline to sign. For Kirby, going pro would be the best decision. The Cavaliers will be fine without him, especially with the emergence of Connor Jones as a staff ace. Plus, as a UVA product, Kirby has a chance to go through the minor league system quickly. The Brewers could use the remainder of the minor league season to shut down Kirby and wait until next season, when he will be fully healthy and ready to go.
Considering the Brewers have made no effort to sign their gamble picks, Justin Hooper, Donny Everett and John India, they could definitely allocate the money they have left towards a higher bonus for Kirby.
As usual, MinorLeagueMadhouse will be taking its annual summer hiatus barring any major prospect news, because the blog’s proprietor has accepted an internship, this time in Sacred Heart University’s Athletic Department however, the readers will not be left empty handed. After much deliberation, there will be one last mock draft published before the actual draft. The mock will stick to the first round, as well as the compensatory selections. It will be a one post mock, rather than a split, and the analysis will be more on how the player fits with the team, unless the pick in question has not been on the mock draft list before.
Without further delay:
Part of me really thinks that the recent rumors that Arizona is staying as far away from Brendan Rodgers are just a distracting tactic meant to drive down his price tag, but as draft day continues to make its approach, and rumors that the team is considering options like Garrett Whitley and Tyler Stephenson continue to gain steam, it’s become increasingly clear that Rodgers isn’t going to Arizona.
The rule of the first overall pick is that the player is the best player available, unless you’re the Padres, in which case it’s the guy who costs the least amount of money. Thankfully for the D-Backs, there are plenty of candidates for BPA.
Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson has to be arguably the most high profile College World Series MOP since Pat Burrell in 1996, and his follow-up season has been nothing short of impressive, as he led the team in most offensive categories and was ranked in the top 10 in the country in runs. Swanson’s offensive output completely overshadows the fact that he’s played out of position all year. A second baseman, he’s moved to shortstop, but the expectation is that he’ll stay there when he turns pro.
Swanson’s ability as a hitter and a defender makes him a valued commodity; not since Stephen Drew played for Florida State has there been a more high visibility college shortstop. Considering how well he’s adapted to his position change, not to mention the fact that he plays in arguably the toughest college baseball conference in the country, I’d expect his time in the minor leagues would be pretty quick, probably a year and a half.
Swanson would be an immediate upgrade over the current shortstop Nick Ahmed, at least on the offensive side, and given the model of having a primarily offensive shortstop and a defensive shortstop on the roster, he’d be the perfect complement to the offensive output from Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas.
2. Houston Astros
The two players that I have the Astros picking in the first round could chance in terms of slot, but it would be crucial if they were the two picks they made. We’ll get to the other one in due time, but let’s focus on Illinois lefty Tyler Jay right now.
At the beginning of the year, Jay was considered a first round candidate, maybe top 15, but definitely not a legitimate number one, especially given the competition for top left handed pitcher, especially with Brady Aiken and Nathan Kirby.
As the year progressed and the aforementioned Aiken and Kirby both fell due to injury, Jay continued to rise, and was a key contributor during Illinois’ 25 game win streak which saw them winning the Big Ten regular season title. Granted, Jay’s work this season has been mostly (read: all but one appearance) in relief, but his potential has led some to believe he could be a legitimate starter, especially since he’s worked long relief and had a solid summer pitching for Team USA last year. Not only that, but he is a potential Golden Spikes Award finalist.
Given Jay’s limited experience as a starter now, I could see the Astros playing this to their advantage, offering a safe deal so they can guarantee that their other pick signs. Granted, the Astros tactics in the past three years have been questionable, but they have been right when it’s come to talent in the past three drafts, so whatever works for them shouldn’t be questioned until it completely fails.
At worst, Jay is strictly a closer or a bullpen member, at best, he becomes a part of a strong rotation. We’ll see what his drafting team has in store for him.
3. Colorado Rockies
The worst kept secret in baseball is that Troy Tulowitzki will definitely not be a career Colorado Rockie, and given the advantageous position the Rockies are in with two or three available shortstops in this year’s draft, I’d be surprised if they went a completely different direction.
Arizona’s hesitance to draft Lake Mary shortstop Brendan Rodgers opens the door for the Rockies to take him. As this year’s Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop, there is no doubt that he has the ability to make the big leagues faster than any high school talent in this year’s class. After all, Addison Russell and Manny Machado did it before him, what’s to say he won’t continue the trend?
As the consensus top talent in this year’s draft, it’s possible that he would command a high bonus, but if the Rockies play their cards right and draft a low level college senior with their next pick, they could save a lot of money and utilize it to sign Rodgers, a Florida State commit.
Rodgers’ hitting ability and defensive capability make him a well-rounded athlete. While he’s no Trout or Harper, his ceiling has him as a potential star for whatever team takes him. Should the Rockies take him, he would fit well in a future lineup alongside future outfielder David Dahl, forming a lethal combination which would be the spiritual successor to the CarGo-Tulo days.
4. Texas Rangers
The Astros have been lucky enough to find enough diamonds in the rough to establish a solid rotation. The Rangers have bought enough high level offensive talent, but their rotation is putrid without Yu Darvish. Is it time then to build a rotation through the draft?
The Rangers have the benefit of having the 4th pick in a rich college right-handed pitching class, and should the predictions in this mock hold, they’d have first dibs at the righties.
Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer is the latest evidence that height is only a number, as he’s virtually dominated the SEC despite his effort-filled grunty delivery. Fulmer finished second in the NCAA in strikeouts and fourth in wins. Fulmer is also big-game tested, and would boost any rotation.
He’d probably go higher if he worked on his delivery, which may concern teams, but as a potential top 5 pick, he’d more than justify his value here.
5. Houston Astros
Legacy picks are often a big part of the MLB draft, but it’s not often that those picks are good enough to go in the first round. The Astros are in the unique position to potentially have brothers play on their team, which while we’ve seen it with the Upton brothers on the Padres this year, it’s not as common as we are led to believe.
While Brendan Rodgers may be the best prep player in the class ,Gulf Coast HS outfielder Kyle Tucker, brother of Preston, is potentially the best prep hitter, partially because his mechanics, especially with his swing, are so fluid.
While Tucker’s swing is smooth and effortless, and his potential is that of a middle of the order hitter, the big question mark is his attitude, which many scouts have considered is too lackadaisical and a potential turn-off, although some have said it may help him adjust to the minors better than other prep prospects.
The idea of having Preston and Kyle on the same team would definitely be a major chemistry boost, and would definitely be intriguing, especially if Preston is able to keep his spot on the team,
6. Minnesota Twins
I used the same justification in my last mock when i sent Chris Betts to the Cardinals, and I could probably justify the Minnesota Twins taking Kennesaw Mountain HS catcher Tyler Stephenson for the same reason: the incumbent catcher is getting old, and by the time Stephenson would be ready, Kurt Suzuki would likely be retired or playing DH.
Stephenson has been one of the fastest rising prep players in this year’s class. Some scouts have compared his baseball IQ to that of former Georgia Tech star Matt Wieters, and his defense is considered the best among his position, even better than Betts’.
Stephenson may need work on his bat, however, as while he does have power potential, he has the risk of being an all or nothing hitter due to his swing.
At worst, Stephenson is a value pick, as previously mentioned, he was considered a possibility as the number 1 pick, but at best, he’s a project who could emerge as a potential valuable backstop, aiding in the development of the Twins’ pitching surplus.
7. Boston Red Sox
Four years ago, the Red Sox took a New Mexico prep catcher by the name of Blake Swihart with one of their first round selections. Swihart was considered one of the top prep catchers in his class. A year later, the team opted to take a New Mexico prep shortstop in the 29th round. He didn’t sign, and went to LSU where he established himself as possibly one of the best collegiate talents.
LSU shortstop Alex Bregman is a friend of Swihart, and there have been rumors that the Sox want them to play together again. And to be honest, the idea is actually very appealing. Bregman can hit; in his three seasons at Baton Rouge, he’s never hit below .316. He does have home run power, enough to justify hitting him at least 5th in the order. He’s also a big hustler on defense, which while some scouts feel may hinder him in the future, the effort shows that he’s willing to try hard.
I believe I’ve mentioned this several times, but Bregman could theoretically become the heir to Dustin Pedroia’s position. With Xander Bogaerts currently at the shortstop position and Bregman considered a better second base prospect, it seems more likely that he will slide over to the right side of the infield.
8. Chicago White Sox
Players falling in this draft is not an indication of their stock, but rather of the fact that there is plenty of variety in this year’s class. Granted, it’s not as strong as the previous two classes, but still there are plenty of interesting names.
The White Sox may be lucky enough to have one of the consensus top talents fall into their lap, in this case it’s UCSB righty Dillon Tate, who’s enjoyed quite the season since moving from the Gaucho bullpen to the rotation.
Tate has the ability to throw premium gas, and his arsenal of pitches guarantees him a ceiling of a mid rotation starter. Should he fail there, he does have experience as a closer; last year, he finished in the top 25 in saves.
Though the Sox have one of the weaker farm systems due in part to the rise of several prospects to the big league team, Tate, like Carlos Rodon before him, would give them a big boost.
9. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs are definitely set on offense for the foreseeable future, to the point where they have the enviable problem of trying to figure out who to get rid of. What they lack in their organization is a homegrown pitcher, set to take over when Hammel, Arrieta and Lester are done.
The prep pitching in this year’s class isn’t as strong as it was in previous years, but there are a few names who could conceivably jump into the top ten given the right circumstances. Among them is Pennsylvania prep righty Mike Nikorak. Nikorak, whose season just ended, may not have gone far in games, and his walk total may be slightly concerning, but his value as a low contact pitcher could have some teams considering him as a possibility.
Nikorak could be a part of a troika that consists of 2014 draftees Carson Sands and Dylan Cease. His stature and his pitches almost ensure that he’ll be contributing in the rotation in the future.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
I have to give credit where it’s due, and it’s that the Phillies are somewhat prepared for the inevitable fire sale that will dismantle their roster. Even if Cole Hamels doesn’t fetch the price the Phillies are asking, the selections of JP Crawford and Aaron Nola, not to mention the signings of Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera have been somewhat smart.
That being said, baseball is the ultimate example of the Law of Averages, and given the Phillies’ draft history, it wouldn’t surprise me if they fall in love with a player that might be a reach here. No offense to Cincinnati outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ. Happ’s calling card is his unique positional versatility; not many baseball players can play first base, second base, and outfield. With that being said, he may find himself in the outfield, but the Phillies would be wise to try him out in each position, given the players that are likely to depart.
Happ has power, he was ranked in the top 25 in home runs this year, and he can hit, he was ranked in the top 50 in average. I see him as a potential successor to Chase Utley.
Having Happ and Crawford in the same infield would be interesting given their ability to hit and defend. It almost brings back the glory days of Rollins and Utley.
11. Cincinnati Reds
Gut feelings usually aren’t meant to have good connotations attached, but there are exceptions to the rule. In this case, my gut feeling here is that the Reds will use their first round pick on one of the two Cincinnati collegians.
If it isn’t Ian Happ, then they certainly will go after local boy and Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi. A rare draft eligible sophomore, Benintendi has been very impressive this year, running away with the SEC Player of the Year after finishing second in the nation in home runs and in the top ten in other major offensive statistics.
Benintendi would fit somewhere in a future outfield consisting of a speedster (Phil Erwin) and a contact guy (Jesse Winker). He has the potential to be a future star, and it’s not often that a local boy gets the chance to star for his home team.
12. Miami Marlins
Another team that seems to be set for the future is the Miami Marlins. Not only are their two top outfielders locked up until the mid 2020s, but they have a young and up and coming rotation, a solid middle infield and a future franchise catcher. What they lack in their future plan are solid corner infielders.
The Marlins could use this pick to go for Griffin HS infielder Cornelius Randolph. Randolph may be listed as a shortstop, but he definitely will move to third in the future. He, like fellow Georgia prep product Daz Cameron, will likely bulk up and be a better power hitter when he turns pro. His reflexes do need work, but as of now, he’s not a defensive liability.
Interestingly enough, Randolph comes from the same high school as current Tampa Bay Rays shortstop and former first overall pick Tim Beckham.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
The beauty of this year’s draft is that there are so many good talents, if one is taken another good one will show up. This is especially good for the Rays, who could be in the market for their next dynamite starter in this year’s class.
Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser has fluctuated between the top 5 and the top 15. in this year’s draft, mainly because of the emergence of high ceiling arms. While I would love to put Funkhouser above the likes of Dillon Tate, Tyler Jay and Mike Nikorak, I feel that the most comfortable spot for him is somewhere in the middle of the first round proper.
Funkhouser had a pretty average year this year, but his potential and his build suggests that he is bound to be a high value pick. Even though he doesn’t have the zip that most scouts would like, his durability indicates he could be a solid workhorse starter in the middle of a good rotation.
14. Atlanta Braves
Atlanta’s outfield reads like a who’s who of players that were one at the pinnacle of their game. In a few years’ time, they will be replaced by younger and more impressive guys. Thankfully for the Braves, there are plenty of options in this year’s draft for them to consider.
ELCA outfielder Daz Cameron stands ahead of guys like Nick Plummer, Trenton Clark and Garrett Whitley because of his pedigree, and being the son of former Gold Glover and All-Star Mike Cameron is going to get you somewhere. Take that away, and you have a guy who at one time was considered the top talent in the draft. While Cameron failed to live up to his potential in his last year, his stock has rebounded enough for him to possibly be a legitimate early to mid first round pick.
Like Cornelius Randolph, Cameron has a lot of growing to do in order to be a true pro, but once he does, he could potentially surpass his dad as one of the better outfielders of his era. His bat alone carries him to the middle of any order and his speed, arm and glove are strong enough for him to play in center.
Not since Jason Heyward left have the Braves had a legitimate home grown All-Star outfielder, and this could very well be the guy they draft to be their future franchise face.
15. Milwaukee Brewers
The specters of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley are clearly in the rearview mirror for the Brewers. Gone are the days of making sense and going for the tried and the tested. Last year’s selection of Hawaii prep product Kodi Medeiros was pretty clear about that. So who do they go after now?
Given their weakness in organizational pitching depth, the ideal pick would be a pitcher, and no enigma stands out more than Missouri State’s Jonathan Harris.
Harris was a virtual unknown until recently, in fact, when I went to research him, there was nothing on the NCAA’s career stats page. Still, his stats weren’t eye popping, although he did have a solid Cape League.
Harris is a four pitch pitcher with low to mid level speed pitches which compensate with movement. He’s built tall, but is about ten pounds thinner than expected.
Missouri State has had a first rounder before in current Rangers starter Ross Detwiler, it wouldn’t be impossible to believe that Harris could be another strong possibility.
16. New York Yankees
As much as I would have loved to have kept Kyler Murray here, his decision to go to college and withdraw his name from draft consideration has forced me to change course. Furthermore, the Yankees have failed considerably in developing Derek Jeter’s replacement (see CJ Henry and Cito Culver for reference) and it’s possible that in this pitching rich class, they may want to look for CC Sabathia’s replacement.
The Yankees like winners, and nothing says winner like a College World Series hero. Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler completes the Vandy troika, and while he tailed off from his sophomore year, he still was a strong part of the Commodore staff.
Buehler is not sized to be an ace, but a back end rotation arm, he could be. A year younger than former first rounder Ty Hensley, Buehler’s accelerated development ensures that at least one arm could join Ian Clarkin as a potential future 1-2 punch.
17. Cleveland Indians
Another example of a team that seems to be primed for future offensive domination but would do well to add some future pitchers is the Indians. Granted, they did just sign Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to megadeals, but it’s always good to have a sustainability or contingency plan when their run of dominance is up.
Back in January, I mocked Cathedral High School pitcher Ashe Russell to Cleveland, and I think it’s possible that he returns to this spot. Russell has been considered the top prep pitcher, although my gut tells me he could be a tough sign, potentially dropping him a bit.
Baseball America’s most recent mock pointed out that Russell has been more consistent than Mike Nikorak in terms of his velocity, but he is smaller by an inch and ten pounds. Additionally, he does need to fine tune his delivery in order to stay in a rotation. Still, he could make a strong case to be a back end starter in about 4-5 years, with a possibility of going higher.
18. San Francisco Giants
Looking at the Giants’ top 20 prospects, you can tell that there’s a major emphasis on pitching, and that’s a good thing, considering the ballpark they play in. However, in baseball, it doesn’t hurt to develop hitting to complement pitching.
There are four big prep outfielders in this year’s draft, but none have experienced a rise as big as Niskayuna outfielder Garrett Whitley. Considered one of the major sleepers of the draft, Whitley was even debated as a top pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Whitley’s speed and contact hitting makes him look like a raw version of Hunter Pence, except in this case, he could be an asset in centerfield.
The one red flag for Whitley is that he’s from uncharted territory. Niskayuna is not what you would call a baseball hotbed, in fact, Whitley is the first potential MLB draft pick from the school. Still, his ability to play in all weather will give him somewhat of an advantage to his southern counterparts.
Incidentally, the Giants have had experience drafting talent from New York, taking Joe Panik from St. John’s four years ago. Although there hasn’t been enough time to properly evaluate him, it’s a possibility that the Giants could use him as motivation to grab Whitley here.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates love big names, as their recent draft history would indicate. and they’re not averse to taking big risks, see Josh Bell and Mark Appel for reference. Their system could use a left handed pitching project, and there are two big names here that were, at one time, considered top 5 talents.
IMG’s Brady Aiken is probably the biggest celebrity of this draft. He’s an ideal starter who has solid stuff, and his ability and potential allowed him to catapult above players like Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon to be the top pick. The one killer to his stock was the UCL issue which eventually forced him to get Tommy John surgery. In fact, there are concerns that he may not reach the level he did last year.
One thing is for certain; Much like Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde last year, whomever drafts Aiken this year will have to wait a year to see how he throws. It’s obvious he’ll be handled with kid gloves, something the Pirates are used to doing, see Jameson Taillon for reference, but should Aiken bounce back, he’ll be a worthwhile risk to take.
Incidentally, as a fun side note, it would be fun to see the Pirates draft a former Astros first round pick after the Astros drafted the Pirates’ first round pick last year.
20. Oakland Athletics
Oakland’s purge of offensive talent with little to no star prospect power has left them grasping for straws, and while they may have some bright spots adequately filling in, there is no clearer signal that Billy Beane is going to lean back on his old Moneyball crutch.
Every year, there is an ideal moneyball candidate, and this year’s example just happens to fall into the A’s lap: DJ Stewart, the hulking Florida State outfielder, has a body built for power, but a mind more oriented to getting on base. Stewart may have a talent for drawing walks, but he isn’t a liability on the basepaths.
Stewart may have had a bit of a slump this year, but he still managed to hit .above .315. He also managed to finish in the top 5 in on base percentage, the top 40 in home runs, and be the national leader in walks.
If Stewart can tap into his power, he has the potential to be Josh Donaldson’s spiritual successor, potentially bringing excitement back to the Bay.
21. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have enough good pitching and enough young Major League offensive talent for them to do whatever they want with this pick, as well as the one they have in the compensatory round. That being said, this could be where the picks become less obvious and more “what am I losing if I go for this option?”
In an ideal world, the Royals go for a developmental player, one who takes enough time to mature for him to come up as another player goes. In this case, it’s Plano High School outfielder Mitch Hansen. Hansen is like a hitter’s version of Aaron Nola, a jack of all trades but a master of none. He has good contact, good power, good speed and good defense. What he needs is to improve them.
Hansen has been compared to swiss army knife players like Michael Saunders and Brandon Nimmo. In an American League lineup, he’d probably land in the 6 hole. Still, his potential for growth definitely could lead to his stock rising further in this draft.
22. Detroit Tigers
As I have pointed out several times in this mock draft, the amount of pitching in this year’s class almost ensures that a team picking later gets an above average arm. Heck, some teams might even get a pitcher who at one point was considered a top 10 pick.
I could see the Tigers drafting a future replacement for either Justin Verlander or David Price here, and depending on how much time they want to invest, they could definitely take a lefty.
Between Duke’s Michael Matuella and UVA’s Nathan Kirby, I feel the Tigers will go for the latter. Kirby is the latest in a long line of UVA pitchers that goes back to Danny Hultzen. Kirby may not have improved as much on his excellent sophomore season, mainly due to fatigue, but he’s not as much of a risk as Matuella, Kolby Allard or Brady Aiken.
Kirby could run through the system quickly, and be ready in time to take the reins from Verlander. He definitely has ace material and could be a late gem.
23. St. Louis Cardinals
The catcher class in this year’s draft is a major dropoff from year’s past. While we were fortunate enough to have Max Pentecost and Kyle Schwarber (since moved to outfield) last year, and the decent class of 2013 and the super class of 2012, this year, there are two definitive first round talents. A team looking to grab a catcher who’s out of range may have to wait until 2016 when guys like Chris Okey and Jeremy Martinez are available.
The Cardinals would be in a position, however to get a catcher now, thanks to Chris Betts of Wilson High School. Maybe it’s because of Tyler Stephenson’s rising stock, but Betts has gone from being the consensus number 1 to a very certain number 2. Still, Betts is a good catcher in his own right.
He fits the mold of a slow runner, but amazing defensive star. Furthermore, his bat is great, allowing him to be a middle of the order run producer.
Betts’ development easily coincides with Yadier Molina’s twilight years, and in all likelihood, he’ll be up by the time Molina is ready to call it quits. Learning from one of the greatest catchers in our era will definitely do Betts some good though.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers would love to have a pitcher who can contribute almost immediately, and while it’s inadvisable for players to make that type of jump after being drafted, it’s not unprecedented.
Yet another known first rounder in this year’s class, Phil Bickford felt that he was ready to go pro after a year at Fullerton. Bickford’s transfer to College of Southern Nevada, while controversial, has certainly produced no ill effects, as he’s won 9 games and kept a sub 2.00 ERA.
Bickford’s run through college has been impressive enough that I feel he could make a case for an early debut in the Majors. His stuff has high velocity and he can control it.
Bickford, like Aiken, could be seen as a hard sign, but a team willing to fork over money will definitely be doing themselves a service.
25. Baltimore Orioles
Another strength in this draft is that of the shortstop class. Whether it’s prep shortstops or college shortstops, there’s definitely a good amount of talent. Baltimore may be chugging along with Everth Cabrera holding the fort for JJ Hardy, but the clear indication should be that they should develop a future successor, not a band-aid.
This college season, I have grown to like Kevin Newman. He’s a fast athlete, he’s gutsy, he can hit for a high average, and he’s tough to strike out, qualities that fit a solid leadoff hitter.
While Newman’s bat probably would be a better fit in a bigger stadium, I think that he could still make Camden Yards work. As a defensive player, he compensates for his range deficiency with hustle and leadership, also admirable qualities.
Newman would be a fine asset for the Orioles to develop, and I hope that he can make himself known in the minors.
26. Los Angeles Angels
If there’s anything the Angels could use in their future plans, it’s hitters to replace their aging stars. Albert Pujols may be on a mega contract, but I doubt he stays for the duration of the deal. In this case, the Angels could go for a power bat to transition in the future.
Although this may be a bit of a reach, I think Chris Shaw of BC could definitely make a solid case as a late first round pick. After a slow start that was further complicated by injury, Shaw rebounded to hit .319 with 11 home runs. numbers that were somewhat expected of him.
Shaw’s power combined with Angel Stadium’s dimensions make him an ideal candidate. He’s a smaller Lucas Duda a capable defender who has the potential to provide offensive protection for Mike Trout. If Shaw can avoid injury and play to his full potential, he definitely will be worth the reach.
27. Colorado Rockies
Although the Rockies drafted a lefty a year before, I feel that they could double dip and go after a guy whose stock has slipped here.
Kolby Allard is definitely better than his position suggests, it’s just back issues have dropped his stock. Though he’s not built as big as your typical pitcher, he still can pitch like one, and given the Rockies’ assets, he would fit well in the back end of the rotation.
It does take time for pitchers to get a feel for throwing in thin air, but Allard has the benefit of time, given his injury and prep status.
28. Atlanta Braves
A young outfield will go far for the Braves, and with Braxton Davidson and Daz Cameron hypothetically in the fold, it’s possible the team could go for one of the high value prep bats.
Nick Plummer fits here because of his contact and his speed. He’ll make a strong case for a corner outfield spot and his bat will offer good protection in a future Braves lineup.
29. Toronto Blue Jays
Demi Orimoloye may be one of the more interesting prospects partially because he’s essentially an in-province product. Even if he has that going for him, he also is a strong hitter and a physical specimen with solid defense.
The Jays’ attempts to “go Canadian” have been well-received by fans, and in a class where there are 3 top Canadian prospects, it would be a disappointment if the Jays missed out on all three.
30. New York Yankees
If a guy like Slade Heathcott can have his top prospect status resurrected, who’s to say that a guy like Michael Matuella can’t have his? Matuella may have an injury history and he may have to wait a year before he gets back on the mound, but the Yankees have somehow managed to make lemonade out of young, injured hurlers before.
31. San Francisco Giants
Justin Hooper is a tall, weird bodied lefty, but his pitches are intriguing and his ceiling as a possible future ace make him hard to ignore. San Francisco is also a 50 minute drive from De La Salle High School, so they must have good intel on him. Assuming most of the power bats are gone by this time, I’d expect them to invest in another southpaw.
32. Pittsburgh Pirates
I like the idea of Ke’Bryan Hayes in Pittsburgh because his power, effortless swing and fielding ability allow him to eventually replace Pedro Alvarez. If he can bulk up, he’d definitely be a middle of the order producer. Hayes is also one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, giving the team ample time to develop him.
33. Kansas City Royals
One of the more underrated prospects despite leading the nation in home runs, David Thompson continues to be my favorite player in this draft. The Royals could use him at first base or DH where he could fill the Billy Butler role, although his defense is still good. In my opinion, Thompson is possibly one of the most underrated players in the draft.
34. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers could recoup a lot of the pitching they lost in the offseason by getting both a college and a prep arm. Donny Everett of Clarksville has popped up on draft boards as a late first rounder. While I’ve ignored him as of late, I think now would be a good time to acknowledge his arm and admit that he could be an anchor in any rotation. He’d definitely slide in in 4-5 years time.
35. Los Angeles Dodgers
If the Dodgers go best player available, then they’ll probably invest highly in Richland’s Trent Clark. I feel that Clark could be a tough sign as he has major potential and could command a high bonus. Still, his athleticism is hard to ignore and I think he’d make a strong case as a future replacement for Andre Ethier.
36. Baltimore Orioles
If the Orioles can grab both Kevin Newman and Scott Kingery in the same draft, they could have the benefit of a double play combo that has three years of experience together, forming an exceptionally cohesive unit. Kingery’s bat also has him as a lower end run producer, but there is potential for growth.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Brendan Rodgers, SS Lake Mary HS, Florida
The one constant in an ever changing landscape of potential number one picks, Brendan Rodgers has the ability to be one of the best Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstops in the history of the draft. Blessed with a solid arm and an excellent bat, Rodgers is a player who could run through Arizona’s system in three years rather than the standard five for prep prospects. His leadership at the prep level will also translate well to the pro game. I project him as a potential 2-4 hitter in the Arizona lineup, likely ahead of Paul Goldschmidt.
2. Houston Astros: Dansby Swanson, SS/2B Vanderbilt
It’s hard to imagine that Dansby is only seven months older than Astros super prospect Carlos Correa, but the dates never lie. The former College World Series Most Outstanding Player has the bat to be a solid middle of the order producer. Defensively, Swanson profiles higher as a second baseman, which works out a lot better for him, as he and Correa could form a potentially lethal future double play tandem, assuming Jose Altuve isn’t blocking him.
3. Colorado Rockies: Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt
Size isn’t everything, at least that’s what Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer would like you to believe. After seeing a similarly sized Marcus Stroman succeed as a starter for the Toronto Blue Jays, Fulmer has done everything possible to justify the possibility of being the first pitcher off the board. Yes, his delivery is awkward, and he does show a lot of effort when pitching, but Fulmer’s sinking action is deadly, and something the Rockies would love to add (based on their previous forays into collegiate pitching) Fulmer also has one of the best fastballs in the class, and should he not work out as a starter, he’d be a more than impressive closer.
4. Texas Rangers: Dillon Tate, RHP California-Santa Barbara
The Rangers were fortuitous enough to have a bad season right around now, especially considering the rise of certain collegiate pitchers to take the place of others. Among those pitchers is UCSB’s Dillon Tate, a young man who has a blazing fastball. While most of his college work has been in relief, Tate’s transition to the starting rotation has been nothing short of amazing, to the point where he’s been considered a top three, even the top pick in the draft. Tate’s versatility as a pitcher will help upgrade a woeful corps that has had to rely on the likes of Logan Verrett, Anthony Ranaudo, and Ross Detwiler for stability, no offense to them. His presence will almost immediately help a rotation in search of protection for their ace, Yu Darvish.
5. Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker, OF Gulf Coast HS, Florida
The younger brother of Astros farmhand Preston Tucker, Kyle has one of the best pure swings in this year’s class. While he does need some work in the defensive department, his above average speed will definitely ensure that he’s at least a 6 hitter in the big leagues. Psychologically, Tucker’s supposed devil-may-care attitude may push some teams away, but on the flip side of the coin, he’s blessed with the confidence and poise that should help him mentally adjust to the rigors of professional ball
6. Minnesota Twins: Ian Happ, 2B/OF Cincinnati
Positional versatility is a valuable asset, and for Cincinnati’s Ian Happ, it may be his biggest ally before the draft. Happ has played first base, second base, shortstop, third base and outfield, and while his current projection is in the corner, his swiss army knife capability, coupled with his solid bat could make him even more valuable than he is now. While the Twins do seem to have their infield determined for the future, figuring out who plays alongside Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia could be solved easily with this selection.
7. Boston Red Sox: Alex Bregman, SS LSU
Four years ago, the Red Sox used their second first round selection on a young New Mexico prep catcher named Blake Swihart. Swihart has since become the Sox’s top positional prospect. This year, they could have the opportunity of a lifetime if Swihart’s friend Alex Bregman is still on the board with the 7th pick. Bregman has an unorthodox approach to defense that many in the scouting industry feel will warrant a position change to second base. Admittedly, I see this as a possibility, with Bregman potentially inheriting Dustin Pedroia’s job when he can’t play the position. Bregman’s bat is also approaching its freshman levels; he has adjusted well to the new flat seam baseballs.
8. Chicago White Sox: Tyler Jay, LHP Illinois
There’s nothing more fun than seeing a team draft a home state product, and while Urbana-Champaign is a hike from Chicago, I’m certain that both Chicago teams have had their eyes on the Illini southpaw. Jay’s ceiling isn’t high, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong here, as he does have the makings of at least a dominant, if small reliever, thanks in part to his deceptive fastball.
9. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville
While missing out on Jonathan Gray was pardonable, given the consolation prize was Kris Bryant, missing out on pitchers like Aaron Nola and Kyle Freeland in favor of Kyle Schwarber was definitely not a popular move with the fans. This year, the Cubs are going to have to use their pick on a pitcher, given the state of their offensive prospects, it seems the most obvious way to go. Kyle Funkhouser may look like the safest pick at the end of the day, but truthfully, he does have the potential to be a top half starter, provided he tinkers with his control. He is a workhorse as well, a trait that many a team would desire.
10. Philadelphia Phillies: Cornelius Randolph, 3B Griffin HS, Georgia
A draft isn’t a draft without teams reaching for players, otherwise, what fun would there be? Cornelius Randolph is a reach, but his potential as a power hitting replacement for Ryan Howard in the distant future may be enticing enough for the Phillies to go after him. Randolph comes from the same high school as former first overall pick Tim Beckham, and judging by his ability, he could conceivably be the school’s second first rounder. Griffin best fits as a third baseman, which could mean that Maikel Franco would have to move across the diamond, not that that would be much of an issue. Griffin could conceivably also play second base or the outfield, meaning that wherever he goes, he would definitely be an upgrade over whomever leaves.
11. Cincinnati Reds: Nathan Kirby, LHP Virginia
Nathan Kirby is one of my favorites, and I do have a list of favorites in this draft, but unfortunately, his performance as of late has dropped him from an unquestionable top five to a potential top 15. While he still has the velocity and the mechanics that would make him a solid starter, there’s concern that Kirby has gotten too predictable, and could possibly drop more unless he has a turnaround in the last two months of the season. Still, he has the ceiling to be a number two pitcher in a staff, and for the Reds, who may be remodeling their rotation in the coming years, Kirby may be one excellent young mainstay.
12. Miami Marlins: Kevin Newman, SS Arizona
Stock often rises as a result of visibility, and there is no better evidence from an offensive perspective than Kevin Newman stealing home against Rice back in February. Newman’s gutsiness, or as I referred to it in a tweet, his balls of steal, definitely set the stage for him to climb up in the rankings. While Newman is probably a slap hitter at best, his defensive ability and his legs are considered valuable assets, and in a year or two, he could replace Dee Gordon as the starting second baseman. Newman’s a solid hitter for average, he won the batting title twice in summer ball, so expect him to play a key role in the top of any lineup.
13. Tampa Bay Rays: Kolby Allard, LHP San Clemente HS, California
Three of the next five picks in this draft are what I would deem high risk-high reward. At one point, they would have been top ten picks, but injuries have dropped their stock to the point where other teams just as easily can pick them up. First up is Allard, who at one point was considered the top prep pitcher in the class. While he still is the first one off the board in this mock, going 13th overall is probably indicative of how unpredictable this year’s prep pitching class is. Allard still has the height, the liveliness, and the workhorse ability as a starter, but back trouble has knocked him out of commission. Of course, he still has some time to raise his stock back to preseason levels, and should he impress, he could definitely jump back into the top ten.
14. Atlanta Braves: Daz Cameron, OF Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Georgia
I probably forgot to mention this with Cornelius Randolph, but I can definitely say it now. Georgia is a hotbed for prep baseball talent. Since 2007, there has been at least one first round pick from a Georgia high school. This year’s top prospect is arguably its most famous. Daz Cameron may be playing a weaker schedule this year, and his junior year may have been a down year, but his potential as a five tool player, despite what he has now shouldn’t be that concerning, especially if the right team moulds him into a Jason Hayward type star.
15. Milwaukee Brewers: Brady Aiken, LHP IMG Academy
Brady Aiken will likely be the biggest risk of the draft, and whether or not teams are willing to take him especially after the findings on his physical turned out to be legitimate, it could potentially spell a lot of trouble for the young man in the future. I could see the Brewers, who have yet to find the next Ben Sheets, potentially taking a look at him, especially given their recent forays into high ceiling prep arms. Even though he’ll likely be on the shelf until next March, and will be limited for the next year, the potential for him to bounce back from this major setback, especially since he’s only 19 years old, would be worth the year of waiting.
16. New York Yankees: Kyler Murray, SS Allen HS, Texas
Kyler Murray is a celebrity draft pick, in the sense that his presence on this board will definitely cause a lot of controversy. Yes, he’s also the consensus top high school quarterback recruit, and yes, he’s committed to Texas A&M, where he’s expected to step into the long vacated shoes of Johnny Manziel, bur given the history of dual sport athletes who have been taken high in the MLB draft, it’s likely that Murray, who reminds me of Everth Cabrera with a higher ceiling, could sign with the Yankees for the right price. Assuming the Didi Gregorius experiment doesn’t work out as planned, it’s safe to assume the Yankees will want to look for their next homegrown shortstop star.
17. Cleveland Indians: Michael Matuella, RHP Duke
Two years ago, it was Ryne Stanek and Sean Manaea. Last year, it was Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde. This year, it’s Brady Aiken and Michael Matuella. Long plagued with health issues related to a back problem, Matuella’s potential to throw a major league fastball has been his longstanding support, and even with Tommy John surgery, I’d be surprised if he falls completely out of the first round. Certainly, he is going to fall out of the top ten, which is where I had him before, but a team looking to strengthen their rotation would definitely be inclined to overlook the health problems in the hopes that they can get him back in working order. And just imagine the quartet of Cory Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Michael Matuella. That would instantly upgrade the team’s rotation from scary to dangerous.
18. San Francisco Giants: DJ Stewart, OF Florida State
Drafting for need is a rare thing in the MLB draft, but in the case of the Giants, the team needs power. DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, and he has the capability to be one, but like any young power hitter, he needs consistency. Considering the successful developments of guys like Brandon Belt and Crawford into top hitters, making DJ Stewart into a consistent power hitter shouldn’t be a major challenge for the Giants.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates: Justin Hooper, LHP De La Salle HS
Justin Hooper is probably the biggest enigma of the draft. He’s got the height and the tools to be a frontline starter, but the consistency and the signability are the biggest issues. Considering Pittsburgh’s history with overpaying for quality talent, it wouldn’t surprise me if they really make Hooper an offer he can’t refuse. Having Hooper in the same staff as Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon is what elevates the Pirates from contenders to champion picks.
20. Oakland A’s: Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt
The A’s may have a glut of pitching now, but knowing how unpredictable their GM is, it’s possible that that pitching could be gone soon. In this case, it’s time to go with safe pick number 2, Walker Buehler has the stuff to be a solid number two, and despite the fact that he’s not your typical starter build, he’s managed to hold his own for the past three seasons. If Buehler can put away the durability concerns, he could jump back into the top 15.
21. Kansas City Royals: Beau Burrows, RHP Weatherford HS, Texas
Consistency is a wonderful thing to have if you’re a prep pitcher, and if you’re consistently throwing mid 90’s heat, that’s even better. Admittedly, I’ve not been as high on Burrows as I should have been, but seeing the reports on him, I could conceivably see him making an impact on a rotation by 2020. Burrows’ mechanics however are what drop him, as he has a bit of a kink in his torso which has some concerned is a tell. The Royals would still do well to draft and develop him into the young arm they’ve been looking for for years.
22. Detroit Tigers: Mike Nikorak, RHP Stroudsburg HS, Pennsylvania
He has the body, the speed, and the mechanics to be a starter in the majors. What he lacks is a track record, which is why he’s fallen to pick 22 in this mock. Unknown until last year, Nikorak’s saving grace was an excellent junior season which put him on the map. The Tigers could possibly use him as a successful transition from Justin Verlander. Nikorak however could be a tough sign, since he has a strong commitment to Alabama, but the opportunity to play for the Tigers could sway him a bit.
23. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Betts, C Wilson HS, California
Did you know that Yadier Molina is going to be 33 years old this year? And that he’s been catching for 11 seasons? The Cardinals would have incredible foresight if they start looking for Yadier’s heir now, especially given the weakness of this year’s catching class. However, Chris Betts does stand out, especially considering his hose for an arm and the fact that he’s a left-handed power hitter. Betts also has a more athletic body this year, which bodes well for his chances to stay behind the plate. He’ll likely be ready for the Majors by the time Molina is 37, by then he’ll likely have retired.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers: Trent Clark, OF Richland HS, Texas
Having a guy who consistently hits and hits is a major plus, especially if that player is a prep athlete. Trent Clark has yet to show if he’s more contact or power oriented, and his defense puts him in a corner outfield, but to have him in a Dodgers outfield that consists of Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson is enough to make any Dodger fan excited. Clark could conceivably be the next pre-slump Andre Ethier,
25. Baltimore Orioles: Richie Martin, SS Florida
Richie Martin’s defense is what makes him such an attractive asset, and while he had some initial difficulties as a hitter, it’s started to come around for him. The Orioles would be smart to tab him as their successor for JJ Hardy.
26. Los Angeles Angels: Phil Bickford, RHP College of Southern Nevada
Phil Bickford’s decision to leave Cal State Fullerton may have rubbed some teams the wrong way, but he has shown that he can be a dominant pitcher when possible. If he could show some consistency, then he’d be much higher on the list, but his pure stuff keeps him at least at the tail end of the first round of the draft. The Angels were nine minutes away from him when he was in college, so they must have gotten good enough info on him. I could see Bickford and Sean Newcomb forming a dominant 1-2 punch for the Angels.
27. Colorado Rockies: Nick Plummer, OF Brother Rice HS
Plummer’s speed would definitely complement David Dahl’s power. Having players with similar attributes to Tulo and CarGo will ease the transition.
28. Atlanta Braves: Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College
The Braves will soon figure out that power hitting is key. Shaw’s season may have been less than stellar, but the potential to replace Gattis’ power could have the Braves taking a long hard look.
29. Toronto Blue Jays: Demi Orimoloye, OF St. Matthew’s HS, Ontario
Orimoloye is a tank. A potential five tool Canadian star, he could find himself playing for his home province team should his stock stay where it is now.
30. New York Yankees: Garrett Whitley, OF Niskayuna HS
Whitley’s defense and speed make him an already decent centerfielder, his bat makes him Niskayuna’s first legitimate MLB prospect. Expect his home state Yankees to be looking hard at him.
31. San Francisco Giants: David Thompson, 1B/3B Miami
I have been high on Thompson since I saw his Cape League tape, and my faith has been rewarded as he’s hit 10 home runs so far this year. The Giants could completely revamp their power hitting with Thompson behind DJ Stewart in the batting order
32. Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B Concordia Lutheran HS, Texas
Charlie’s boy has the bat and the arm to stay at third base. He’d be a solid successor to Alvarez, who’ll likely be at first when Ke’Bryan comes up.
33. Kansas City Royals: Gio Brusa, OF Pacific
Though he hasn’t broken out the way he was expected to, Brusa has the hitting ability and the power to be a long term DH, potentially taking over for Kendrys Morales when he’s done.
34. Detroit Tigers: Tyler Stephenson, C Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia
A guy who’s considered a prep version of Matt Wieters could definitely find himself playing for a team in need of an answer when Alex Avila finally leaves.
35. Los Angeles Dodgers: James Kaprielian, RHP UCLA
Kaprielian would likely be an arm our of the bullpen for the Dodgers, but once properly developed, his fastball and curveball would make him a solid closer.
36. Baltimore Orioles: Alonzo Jones, 2B/OF Columbus HS, Georgia
His speed makes him a candidate to play outfield in the future, but what really matters is his ability to be the leadoff hitter that the Orioles can use to add dimension to their future offense.
Here is part 2 of the 2015 Pitchers and Catchers MLB Mock Draft.
*Note: Apologies for mixing up the draft order, you can find Boston’s selection in the previous article.
8. Chicago White Sox
We’ve all seen it happen, a promising young player is beset by injuries and falls in the draft. It’s a common story when it comes to baseball, in fact, some of these injured prospects fall out of the top ten rounds entirely, like Jordan Sheffield. Now, granted, Sheffield was a prep arm, but in college, falling out of the first round due to injury, especially if you’re a pitcher indicates either a lack of confidence that a player will recover.
Of course, if you’re Duke pitcher Michael Matuella, that may not be an issue at all. Matuella, who has been dealing with back problems since entering college, showed in his season debut that he has the potential to be a high pick, still. Tossing six innings of shutout ball, with eight strikeouts and four hits allowed, he is making a solid case to go higher, if only he was in a weaker college pitching class.
Matuella’s height, fastball (arguably the best of his class) and secondary pitches make him an imposing force in the ACC, and his overpowering delivery only solidifies how much pro potential he has.
Chicago has become an example of pitching gone right, having made Chris Sale into an ace and bringing Carlos Rodon into their immediate plans. Adding a right-hander like Matuella will make this rotation even scarier.
9. Chicago Cubs
It seems as if the Chicago Cubs are ready to end 100+ years of suffering this season and make the World Series for the first time since World War II ended. They have enough young and controllable hitting that can last them until the beginning of the 2020s, and their rotation is anchored by a proven winner in Jon Lester. But, in order to sustain this hypothetical success, the Cubs may need to build up their future rotation, and there may be no better way than to pick up a proven winner.
It’s an arms race between Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler and Carson Fulmer, but Buehler, despite not having the desirable build, compensates by being a more complete hurler. With a four pitch arsenal, solid command, and, the ability to stay a starter, not to mention the strong collegiate pitching class, Buehler could theoretically fall into Chicago’s lap.
Even though the last first round pitcher the Cubs drafted failed to gain any traction in the system, the fact that there is so much potential in this class, coupled by an impressive amount of depth in the positional prospects practically ensures that the Cubs try again, hopefully with different results.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia’s reputation as a wasteland for prospects is largely due to the dark period between 2004 and 2012, when the Phillies drafted prep players that amounted to little to no success. Of course, lately, that reputation, while still present, is starting to show some cracks, as players like Jesse Biddle, JP Crawford, and Aaron Nola are making major cases to be successful additions. to a future Phillies team. However, in the case of Philadelphia’s latest rebuild, more must be done in order to ensure future success, and that rebuild starts in the middle of the infield.
I had previously mocked LSU’s Alex Bregman here because of the Nola factor, but the emergence of Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson as a viable future second baseman, coupled with the hypothetical chance that he would be available here has me feeling that the Phillies would definitely consider taking him over Bregman.
Unlike Bregman, Swanson was a second baseman entering college, and has only become a shortstop because of necessity, and granted, while he’s done an adequate job filling the position, in all likelihood, when he does go pro, he’ll have better prospects as a second baseman.
The idea of having Swanson and JP Crawford forming the future of the Phillies’ middle infield is a very appealing one. Swanson, on the offensive side of the ball, would take Rollins’ role, a viable leadoff hitter with some pop, the ability to hit to the gaps, and the speed to stretch singles into doubles.
11. Cincinnati Reds
Brandon Phillips is a mercurial asset for the Reds. For the past nine seasons, he’s gone from being one of the best at his position to being both an injury risk and a major headache. However long he has left, the Reds at least should do themselves the favor of starting to look towards his future replacement. While I would love to see them go local and grab Ian Happ, the idea is that Happ will likely pull a Craig Biggio and become an outfielder in the future.
In this case, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman may be the best fit. While he plays a passable shortstop in college, his intangibles will almost assure him a spot at second in pro ball. Bregman, like Phillips, is a solid offensive producer, capable of filling at least the 5 hole, and the 3 hole at best.
Bregman is characterized as a hard worker, and while he did have a down sophomore year that many collegians would strive for, expect him to work harder this year and make a case for a top five pick. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays his junior season, as he could potentially raise his stock to pre 2014 levels, when he was considered a near lock for the number 1 pick.
12. Miami Marlins
Although the Marlins have a good pitching staff now, it’s entirely possible that they’ll want one at the level of their NL East bretheren, and whether it’s best asset is bought (Nationals) or developed (Mets), the best time to get that missing piece would probably be right now. Imagine a staff led by Jose Fernandez, with two big flamethrowers offering protection behind him.
Following their selection of Tyler Kolek who possessed the best prep fastball in the 2014 draft, the Marlins would have a world of opportunity here to grab what is likely the fastest pitcher in this year’s draft: De La Salle’s Justin Hooper. Like Kolek, Hooper is a tall pitcher, but unlike him, he’s not fully developed, as scouts feel that he could bulk up and add more speed to a high 90’s fastball that’s considered one of the best in his class.
Hooper is incredibly raw, however, as his curveball, changeup, and control all need retooling, and as of now, he figures to be a professional bullpen arm. However, his current attributes and the potential for development as he fills out could help him become a solid middle of the rotation pitcher.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
When it comes to the draft, the Rays are one of the best teams. Having turned Evan Longoria into a franchise face, David Price into arguably the best pitcher in team history, and being able to somehow resurrect the careers of Tim Beckham and Justin O’Connor, the Rays deserve some credit for what they have done. Of course, changeover is inevitable, and with Price and Hellickson gone, it’s likely the Rays will want to develop another staff ace.
Though small for a pitcher, Carson Fulmer of Vanderbilt is not to be taken lightly. Blessed with a very lively arm, Fulmer is able to throw mid 90’s fastballs and breaking balls that keep hitters off balance. While his control is in need of tuning, his mound presence is definitely intimidating.
A winner at the college level, both for Vanderbilt and Team USA, Fulmer would fit right in with the Rays pitching staff, though the question is, where? The height stigma that still exists in scouting suggests that he’ll be an adequate bullpen arm, although history has shown as of late that height doesn’t matter, given Marcus Stroman’s successful first season as a Jays pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see what course Fulmer takes once drafted.
14. Atlanta Braves
Every team is due for a rebuild, and the Braves are no exception. Swapping out established stars like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis is every indication that the Braves know that it’s time to cash in and restart the process. Now granted, they did receive a solid haul for their trouble, but none of those pieces included a bona fide outfield prospect, a position that likely will give the Braves trouble in the future.
Understandably, this is one of the weaker classes for positional talent, but the players there do have unique potential. Cincinnati’s Ian Happ is one of these products, an AAC star who has flashed that potential in two tours of summer ball. Happ has positional versatility, while he is likely going to play outfield professionally, he has a history of playing second base as well.
Happ may not be your typical power hitter, but he does have the ability to hit for power, albeit not in a full time capacity. His speed also allows him to be a contributor in the top of the order as well, and he provides value as a switch hitter.
The 2015 MLB Draft Order has officially been set, thanks to the San Diego Padres electing to sign James Shields. With their forfeiture of the 13th overall pick, the start of the college baseball season, and of course, pitchers and catchers reporting for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it seems appropriate to do yet another mock draft.
You all know how this works by now, the selections are done based on organizational (as in top 20 prospects) need, the draft will be split up so as to not have this take all day, after the draft is complete, I’ll release the full results, etc. etc. etc.
So without further delay, here are the first seven picks for the 2014 MLB Mock Draft
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
Like the center in basketball, the quarterback in football, and the goalie in hockey, shortstop is often considered one of the most important positions. While one is mainly valued for his defensive abilities, a shortstop that can hit is considered a major boon, and for the Diamondbacks, who have the likes of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings piloting the position now, it couldn’t be a better time for them to have the number one pick.
Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School is arguably the best prep player in the country. I’ve used the term HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop to describe players like him, prep shortstops with advanced tools and the ability to go through a minor league system quickly. His bat alone could have him in the majors in three years, and his defense while currently decent enough to allow him to stay at his current position, will only improve with time in the minors.
Rodgers would be the perfect complement to Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, who would be 31 and 27, respectively. Having three potent bats with power potential would certainly allow Arizona to complement what is likely going to be a solid up-and-coming rotation, allowing them to compete in the NL West.
2. Houston Astros
The Astros have managed to build a system that many teams would kill to have, especially with the high floor college talent they’ve acquired in the past draft. While they have a solid foundation of righthanded pitching, thanks in part to Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, their lack of a future impact left-handed pitcher is what holds the team from having a solid system.
Virginia’s Nathan Kirby may not have the upside that 2014 draft pick Brady Aiken had, but he also doesn’t have the history that Aiken has with the Astros. This isn’t to say that Kirby is your prototypical safe pick, rather, he has the potential to be a staff anchor. In his opening start, Kirby only allowed three hits in seven innings of work against East Carolina, which is one of the American Athletic Conference’s toughest teams.
Kirby has a solid three pitch mix, a fastball, slider, and changeup which will only get better due to his commitment to filling out his frame during the summer. He has solid command, and will play the zone in order
The Astros would also benefit from drafting Kirby, as his old college teammate, Derek Fisher, is already in their system, and building upon that preexisting chemistry will do them a world of good in developing confidence in their starter.
3. Colorado Rockies
I mentioned it in my last mock, but I think it bears repeating: By developing their own starters instead of buying them, the Colorado Rockies will have an advantage that no NL club has: pitchers who are used to throwing in the thin air of Denver. And it doesn’t matter if the pitcher is left or right-handed, the idea is that in developing their own arms, they form a pitching staff that allows them to compete in the NL West. Having Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland starting the staff is good, but what they need is another bona fide arm.
The past five years have been kind to teams who have had the number three pick in the draft, and 2015 will be no exception. Brady Aiken’s decision to forgo his UCLA commitment has catapulted him to the top of what is already a vaunted arms class, and significantly improves the talent level of a limited left-handed class.
Whether or not he does have an issue with his throwing arm will be negligible, given his upside as a pitcher. His fastball-curveball-changeup combination are incredibly advanced for his age, and his build is similar to that of top right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser.
Aiken will complement fellow southpaw Kyle Freeland quite well, and will allow the Rockies to develop variety in their rotation with Gray and Butler as righthanded starters.
4. Texas Rangers
You can make as many jokes as you like about the state of the Rangers rotation, because currently, aside from Yu Darvish, there is little upside. Sure, getting Anthony Ranaudo from Boston may offer some hope, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could turn out to be a better draft choice then I thought, but truth be told, even if the Rangers had a lineup of players that possessed Joey Gallo’s attributes, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the rotation will need to be fixed in the future.
Sometimes the stars align, however, and an advanced college arm will fall into your lap. Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser is that arm. While I had a feeling that he could be one of the best arms in the draft, but was wary of whether or not his ability and potential demand for a big contract could drop him a few picks, his 12 strikeout performance against Alabama State is pretty much him saying to me, “Give me some credit and put me in the top 5 already!”
Funkhouser certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as he was Team USA’s top prospect last summer, but what really makes him attractive to teams is his pitch arsenal, which currently would grade as league average, but has the potential to improve to ace levels.
While Alabama State isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, should Funkhouser continue pitching the way he does even if he drops his strikeout totals, there’s no doubt he could be in conversation to be the top pick.
5. Houston Astros
Legacy prospects are as much of a gamble as any other prospects. Some turn out to be as good, if not better than their fathers, while others fail in that regard. There’s no doubt that Delino Deshields could have been a solid prospect, but the Astros organization was running out of patience and understandably, with plenty of talent and few 40 man roster spots open, left him unprotected for the Texas Rangers to take. Of course, Deshields was known mainly for his speed; Houston’s hypothetical pick here has more dimension to his game.
Daz Cameron, of Eagles Landing Christian Academy, is the son of Mike Cameron, who was probably one of the most underrated players of his generation. Cameron the younger, at one point was viewed as a top pick, but a drop off in his junior year has him somewhere between top ten and top fifteen. However, Cameron’s current ability affords him the opportunity of improving his draft stock.
A solid contact hitter now, he has the potential to add power to his swing, and while he has average speed for the basepaths, he does have the ability to cover his position well enough to compensate defensively.
Cameron is a prodigy, however, as he is part of the very exclusive club of players who have played in the All-American Game twice His talent will be hard to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, should he improve, the Astros end up taking him second overall.
6. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota’s future will be bright for as long as Byron Buxton continues to prove he is a top prospect, and the Twins will have a solid staff to look forward to with the impending arrivals of Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi. However, how do you repopulate the system? Who becomes the next top pitching prospect?
Kolby Allard of San Clemente High School has taken a meteoric rise from where I originally slotted him, 16th, to where he stands now, as a top ten prospect with the potential to be top five. He has similar attributes to Brady Aiken, but the stigma of his height drops his value.
What he lacks in height, Allard compensates for in the ability to pitch in big games; he made it out of the summer as USA Baseball’s top prep pitcher.
Pairing him up with Kohl Stewart will do nothing but good, as two young and lively arms anchoring the Twins rotation will give them a solid future hold in the AL Central.
7. Boston Red Sox
Rarely does a team have a plethora of Major League ready left-handed pitching like the Boston Red Sox. Guys like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson make up 2/5 of their top ten prospects. However, the point here is that these pitchers are practically Major League ready, and when they graduate, Boston’s system will need to adjust. Given the amount of prep options, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox opt to go for a long term project in the hopes of replenishing their pitching stores.
Cathedral High School righty Ashe Russell has seen his draft position rise, mainly because he has that much growth potential. Even though Indiana is starting to develop a reputation as a northern prospect pipeline, it’s still in its developing stages, and as a result, Russell has plenty of potential to grow. A two pitch man now with a solid fastball and up-and-coming slider, Russell does have a changeup, but it probably will suit him better once the talent level adjusts.
Russell does have the build to be a pitcher, but he’s still raw, and should he be taken by Boston, he probably will start out as a reliever and be developed into a spot starter or closer. Still, his potential is too great to pass on, and Boston has developed some solid pitchers as of late.
I have decided to add on the last ten picks for the compensatory picks, mainly because I’m on track to break my monthly views record set back in June of 2013. So as a bit of a “thank you” to those of you who have taken the time to read this site, here are the last ten picks of the 2015 mock draft. A side note: Although James Shields has not been signed yet, the mock draft will be done based on the assumption that he will be signed before June.
28. Colorado Rockies
(First Selection: Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy)
You can’t teach pitching to established major league arms, which presents a problem for the Colorado Rockies. In their atmospheric conditions, humidor or no humidor, the best plan for success is to develop starters and teach them how to pitch in Denver. The Rockies seem to have this figured out as they have a trio of impressive future starters coming through the ranks: Jon Gray, who projects to be an ace, Eddie Butler, a solid second arm, and Kyle Freeland, a pitcher who, as a Colorado native, may already have figured out the nuances of pitching in thin air.
Alex Young of TCU would be an interesting fourth arm. While he doesn’t have teammate Riley Ferrell’s fastball, or Brandon Finnegan’s tools, he does have the feel that allows him to be a more versatile pitcher. Like Ferrell, Young has more experience in the bullpen, but he also has worked in the rotation, and could make a seamless transition during his junior year.
Young’s best asset is his pitch movement, his curve and slider are considered his best weapons, and while he’s reticent to use his changeup, proper development of said pitch, which already has some movement, will allow him to become a four pitch starter.
29. Atlanta Braves
(First Selection: DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State)
And you thought the Miami Marlins were the king of fire sales.
The Atlanta Braves have all but openly stated that they are building their future after the 2014 fiasco. Having unloaded much of their hitting corps, including their top power source in Evan Gattis, the Braves may want to look at developing another power bat at another position, And while previous selection DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, he still needs to learn how to be one.
The selection I have in mind for the Braves here is smaller than Gattis, but certainly could match him in terms of power. Chris Shaw an outfielder for Boston College, is likely going to play first base professionally, as that’s his original position.
Much like Florida’s Richie Martin, Shaw needed a year to figure out how to hit collegiately, and when he finally did, he made an impression. After going deep 6 times last season, Shaw feasted on Cape Cod pitching, adding another 9 blasts, good for the league lead. He’s a left handed power hitter, a valuable commodity to have in a major league lineup, and he makes a conscious effort to correct his swing if he gets aggressive.
Shaw’s not a fast runner, and there’s still a question as to why he was in the outfield during his sophomore season, but these concerns can be covered up by his defensive ability as a first baseman. He’d be a solid part of the Braves future lineup, and someone who could help fans forget Gattis in the future.
30. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto is often at a disadvantage when it comes to the draft, as their home stadium is less then ideal when it comes to position players. The turf has been known to be a deal breaker for many an athlete, and the Jays have lost many talented players because no one wants to play there. Last season, they lucked out when they nabbed Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost, two high level players from college. Hoffman was coming off Tommy John surgery, and Pentecost was coming off an outstanding summer ball and junior season.
The Jays are going to look for a homegrown post-Jose Reyes plan, as two seasons on turf have worn him down, and I estimate he’s good for maybe five more seasons before there are more obvious problems. In this case, the best option is the defensively versatile John Aiello from Germantown Academy.
Aiello is a third baseman primarily, but he’s also capable as a shortstop. His power swing is better utilized when he’s hitting right-handed. Aiello also has the benefit of playing in a northern high school, which allows him to adapt to the cold of Toronto.
If developed as a shortstop properly, Aiello figures to be a 5 hitter in the Jays lineup. Again, the turf issue may cut his career by a couple years, but he may be one of the more underrated prep stars in the draft.
31. New York Yankees
(First Selection: Phil Bickford, RHP, College of Southern Nevada)
The Yankees need to realize that the perfect balance for a winning team is a mix of developed and bought talent, and while they certainly have the bought part down, they do need to develop another few bats for when their high profile acquisitions do finally wear down. Brett Gardner has been a solid start, but there needs to be more.
Sometimes, when it comes to scouting players, especially for teams like the Yankees, there’s some value in looking in their own backyard. Look at the crosstown rival Mets and their developing prospect Steven Matz, or the Toronto Blue Jays and their prospect Dalton Pompey.
It would be a pretty expansive backyard for the Yankees, as Niskayuna High School outfielder Garrett Whitley is almost 3 hours away from Yankee Stadium, but his talent is undeniable, and with the potential to be the first MLB draft pick in the school’s history, he’s really making a solid case for a first round pick.
In a way, Whitley is like Gardner, but with more pop. He’s got value in the 9 or 2 spot of a lineup based on his speed, and he has the defensive capability and the arm that allows him to play centerfield for a major league team. The fact that he’s used to playing in the cold weather that comes with the territory of upstate New York makes him even more attractive.
32. San Francisco Giants
(First Selection: David Thompson, 3B, Miami)
I’d be remiss to not point out the state of the Giants outfield in the future, as both Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence will be 32 by the end of the 2015 season. While Gary Brown may be part of the future of the Giants outfield, am I supposed to believe that Nori Aoki and Juan Perez will be part of the long term future?
The Giants have many outfield options, both prep and collegiate in the compensatory round, but none offer quite the ceiling like North Carolina’s Skye Bolt. Similar in story to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, Bolt started his college career quite nicely, showing signs of both power and speed, a rare combination. He slashed ACC pitching, hit 6 home runs, and showed solid patience at the plate.
Bolt regressed slightly this past season, but he still has the potential to be a big time hitter in a major league lineup. The fact that he is a switch hitter will help his value even further. Should he play like he did his freshman year, he could be considered a dark horse top 15 pick.
33. Pittsburgh Pirates
(First Selection: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School)
Gerrit Cole is certainly going to be a solid right-handed rotation arm for years to come, and while the rest of the Pirates homegrown arms, Glasnow, Taillon, and Kingham will come in due time, they will also all be right-handed, and there’s a certain predictability about that which makes drafting a left-handed pitcher that much more important.
Tyler Jay, the Illinois southpaw, was originally mocked to the Nationals, but it’s become all but official that Max Scherzer will sign with the team, forcing them to lose their first round pick, which puts Jay back in the draft pool. I put him here for the exact same reasons. You can find them, albeit with strikethrough text, in my previous post.
34. Kansas City Royals
(First Selection: Riley Ferrell, LHP, TCU)
Note: Keep in mind, this pick isn’t official yet, but in all likelihood, will happen. Whether or not the team who signs James Shields is one of the ten worst teams or one of the 19 other teams who stand to lose a draft pick, is yet to be seen.
One of the major proponents of the build, not buy, philosophy, the Royals finally saw their long term plan come to fruition by becoming the 2014 AL champions Thanks to a nucleus of well-developed talent, Kansas City could be a legitimate dark horse threat in the AL for years. And to continue that sustained success, the Royals should look to develop more parts. Losing Nori Aoki and Billy Butler, both a key hitter and a key runner, is going to be difficult, and the Royals would love to have a guy who can at least try to replicate both.
Gulf Coast High School outfielder Kyle Tucker may not be as fast as Aoki, and he may not be as powerful as Butler, but if developed properly, he could be an adequate replacement for both of them in about four or five years. The brother of Preston Tucker, an Astros farmhand, Tucker is one of the more gifted hitters in his class. Although he’s somewhat lanky, he still is an excellent hitter, his swing is one of the best, if more unorthodox, in prep ball. Tucker is defensively capable, but while he is a centerfielder now, expect him to move to right field when he turns pro, as he has an arm more suited for the corner positions.
35. Detroit Tigers
(First Selection: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami)
We all knew that Max Scherzer was never going to stay in Detroit, and in all likelihood, neither will David Price. A contingency plan had been in place with Jonathan Crawford and Kevin Ziomek, but Crawford left by way of the Alfredo Simon trade. I know it sounds like I’m talking about replacing Scherzer and Price immediately, but I could not be any further from that sentiment. Rather. it may be time to develop another set of arms for Detroit for the future.
I still think the Tigers should opt for Andrew Suarez, but maybe I should flip him and their hypothetical second selection, Stroudsburg right-hander Mike Nikorak. A classic case of value in a northern prep arm, Nikorak has excellent tools, including a fastball which ranges from low to high 90’s. Well built, Nikorak really brought attention to himself during the showcase season, when scouts gushed on his pure stuff.
Nikorak is an athlete, having played quarterback in high school, but his focus is strictly on baseball now. Development of his secondary pitches is key for him to establish a reputation as a solid starter, and given Detroit’s handling of pitching these days, Nikorak wouldn’t have much to worry about.
36. Los Angeles Dodgers
(First Selection: Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthew’s School)
It can’t be expressed how important a bullpen is in Major League baseball. There’s a difference between letting a starter sit because the manager is confident that a reliever can keep the momentum, and forcing said starter to pitch longer because the particular relief corps is weak. And while the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in baseball, not to mention some decent relief pitching from Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, it wouldn’t hurt to add another solid arm to that mix.
Like AJ Reed (who ended up being drafted as a hitter), Alex Meyer and James Paxton before him, Kentucky pitcher Kyle Cody is considered a high talent. Cody has the ideal pitcher’s body at 6’7″ and 245 pounds, and he uses it as an emphasizer for his mid 90’s fastball. Cody has the potential to work his fastball into the triple digits, should he be used exclusively out of the bullpen, but there will be teams who want to try him in the back end of a major league rotation. Should the Dodgers take him, I see him more of a former than a latter.
37. Baltimore Orioles
(First Selection: Richie Martin, SS, Florida)
Oriole Park at Camden Yards isn’t exactly the most ideal place for a speedster, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be one in the Orioles future lineup. While it’s ideal to have a fast slugger in a lineup, sometimes a guy whose primary weapons are his legs may be the perfect solution to adding a degree of dimension to a lineup that’s more power oriented.
Clemson speedster Steven Duggar is considered the fastest collegian, perhaps even the fastest first round prospect this year, depending on if you’re in Kyler Murray’s boat. Duggar’s primary weapon may be speed, but he is fleshed out enough that he can be more than a singles hitter, even if he has shown limited potential on the power front.
Duggar is also a decent defensive player. While situated in a corner spot right now, scouts believe he has the potential to play center field. However, in a park like Camden Yards, perhaps the corner would be the best spot for him.
Duggar would be the perfect future complement to Chris Davis and Adam Jones, and his speed will ad another dimension to the Orioles offense and will allow them to continue their stronghold of the AL East for years .
And that is the final part of the 2015 Mock Draft. Stay tuned, as the next one will likely be released in time for MLB.com’s top 100 prospects and team top 20 prospects lists.
The first 14 picks have been revealed for MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2015 MLB Mock Draft; what happens with the next seven?
15. Atlanta Braves
The Braves dismantled their outfield, with the exception of BJ Upton, this winter, sending Justin Upton to the Padres and Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. When a team decides to take apart an area that could be considered well-established, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. Even the current Braves outfield leaves a lot to be desired, which brings me to whom they should draft.
DJ Stewart is Florida State’s top outfielder, a tank of a man, who, although he saw his stock drop somewhat due to a poor summer, scouts feel that it’s nothing to worry about.
Though he looks the part of a slugger, Stewart needs some fine tuning to actually be a true power hitter, as his stance and swing prevents him from making powerful contact.Although it looks like a reach now, Stewart’s potential, plus the opportunity in his junior year, will definitely springboard him into the top 15, especially in a weak collegiate hitter’s market.
Not only that, but Chipper Jones would potentially endorse the move, especially given the fact that Stewart went to Jones’ prep alma mater.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are probably the last place you’d look these days for a homegrown pitcher, but the emergence of Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson as potential All-Star starters has allowed the team to stop being averse to drafting high pitching. Heck, they took a chance on Devin Williams and Kodi Medeiros the past two years, maybe it’s time to go for a bigger fish after having slow success with the once thought to be deadly combination of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. In this year’s strong collegiate pitching class, the Brewers have plenty of options, even if they’re mainly right-handed starters.
Take Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer for instance. The latest in a long line of intriguing Vanderbilt prospects, Fulmer can throw mid 90’s heat with regularity, and has solid secondary and tertiary offerings to give him dimension. What Fulmer needs work on is his control, and his delivery needs to be less… severe.
Although scouts will constantly knock pitchers who lack height, Fulmer’s experience with the Commodores and Team USA, both premier levels of competition, have shown that it is just a number, and given Marcus Stroman’s successful debut this season, Fulmer can only help that opinion change further.
17. New York Yankees
When it comes to the Yankees, especially in the draft, they usually go for players that either have major name recognition or are just plain good. Need proof? In 2008, the team drafted Gerrit Cole, who three years later would become the top pick in the 2011 draft, and another two years later, the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. In 2011, they drafted Dante Bichette Jr, the former little league star and son of Rockies legend Dante Bichette. In 2012, they drafted Rob Refsnyder, that year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and in 2013, they took Ian Clarkin, who has emerged as one of the best young starters of the 2013 class.
2015 might as well be known as the year of the famous retreads, as both Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford, a former CSU Fullerton Titan, now a member of the College of Southern Nevada, highlight this year’s class. Bickford’s got the fame, as the only member of the 2013 first round draft class not to sign, he’s since dominated the summer league circuit after a meh freshman year at Fullerton. After being voted the Cape’s best prospect, Bickford left Fullerton, deciding that 2016 was too long of a wait for him.
Bickford’s fastball is the main reason why he’s such an appealing project, a mid 90’s offering with plenty of life, he can play the strike zone to his advantage. His slider has also become a solid pitch, and while he does need development on his third, a change, he could become a solid 3 pitch starter. Bickford is definitely more than a name though, and he’ll be worth watching when he plays his final season in college, or to be more precise, junior college.
18. Cleveland Indians
I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Cleveland Indians are that bad at developing starting pitchers, especially out of college. What are they, anti-moneyball? While they have had success with developing pitchers that they have gotten elsewhere, see Corey Kluber as the major example, the fact that the Indians have failed to make a homegrown pitcher blossom since CC Sabathia is baffling. Maybe there is hope that Kyle Crockett will buck the trend, but that’s another story.
There’s a caveat to developing small school pitchers, that the athlete will be on a major learning curve, that they haven’t exactly faced prime competition, but really, if it’s that hard, then why draft small school pitchers in the first place? Of course, pitchers like Division II star and Cal Poly Pomona ace Cody Ponce would really be at a major disadvantage.
Ponce worked his way through two seasons of California Collegiate Athletic Association baseball to make it to the Cape League this past summer, and while there, scouts got a taste of why Ponce is special.
While he is a work in progress, Ponce does offer more pitches than your average hurler, and a strong fastball can be improved even more if Ponce can give it more life. Ponce’s appeal though is his ability to keep the ball in the park, and while Progressive Field is no Yankee Stadium, and the CCAA is no SEC, the ability to keep the ball in the park is going to help Ponce more than hurt him regardless of competition or home stadium.
Ponce will be a work in progress, but if the Indians pitching coaches can somehow turn a Stetson product into a Cy Young winner, it wouldn’t hurt to see what they could do with a Division II star.
19. San Francisco Giants
I am of the belief that a team often needs to stretch out of their comfort zone when it comes to drafting and developing prospects. And while I did catch a little flak for saying the Giants should go for a prep outfielder when there were plenty of pitchers, which is their forté, my belief is that the Giants will need to build in other areas in order to stay competitive.
A third baseman can be replaced by the next man up, in this case, Matt Duffy, but when you lose two big power guys in one offseason, in a weak free agent class, then maybe it’s time to start looking at future homegrowns.
I’ve been pretty high on Miami 1B/3B David Thompson for a while. He’s a prodigy, the first Hurricane hitter to ever make his debut as a cleanup man, and a constant All-America threat. While his sophomore campaign was cut short due to life saving surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he showed that he hadn’t lost a step when he played in the Cape that summer. Thompson is a student of the game, he was able to reinvent his swing after his injury, and he really adjusted to the learning curve in summer ball.
Health will be an issue, but if Thompson is able to get back to his freshman potential, then he’ll definitely be a late first round pick.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Every so often, there’s a team that has such a dearth of talent in their system that you wish they would just not have a first round pick. In this case, it’s the Pirates. The Pirates are strong in this year’s draft’s areas of strength, outfield, and right-handed pitcher, which means that BPA is the best way to go.
The BPA for the Pirates would be Brother Rice High School outfielder Nick Plummer, A lefty, Plummer is valuable because he has advanced power for his age. Plummer also has a good baseball IQ, taking “reach” pitches and aiming for the gaps.
Plummer is no Andrew McCutchen, nor is he Austin Meadows, but he could find value in a lineup as a 6 hitter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can improve his stock in the coming season.
21. Oakland Athletics
I could use the refrain from Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler as my intro for the Oakland A’s, as they pretty much gambled their bright future, that is, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, etc. for a shot at the World Series which ultimately failed, leading to a Marlins type fire sale for prospects whom I wouldn’t even recognize.
It was clear that when the A’s ditched Moneyball, they really got some major talent, but sometimes, familiarity with an old system may be the best option. In fact, familiarity as a whole is often the best way of going at things during a rebuild.
Meet University of the Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. In perhaps the weakest hitting class of any draft, Brusa stands out by being a switch hitting slugger. Although he’s only recently reclaimed his hitting ability in summer ball that led to a failed 5 round courtship by Boston in 2012, Brusa’s potential could lead to him hitting 3rd in a major league lineup.
Brusa is a more well-rounded athlete as he has solid running and fielding ability to complement his hitting. He also has the added appeal of being an in state and somewhat local product; University of the Pacific is based in Stockton, home of the Ports, the A’s California League club.
Like any publicity obsessed blogger, I often take a detour through my stats page to see the amount of reads I get in a given day, views from around the world, and links I get to other sites.
My mock drafts have been viewed by team-centric message boards and blogs, my opinions on controversial topics (Like Ben Wetzler-gate) have been analyzed, and recently, college football fans have debated whether or not a prized quarterback recruit will go play there or opt to be a baseball player.
The intent of this article is not a massive ego stroke, believe me, I love the attention, but I’m not a whore for it. No, rather, it’s answering the question, would said athlete, Allen High School shortstop and quarterback Kyler Murray, consider turning pro or enroll at Texas A&M.
Kyler Murray is perhaps one of the greatest beneficiaries of Lamarckism due to both his father’s and uncle’s athletic abilities. Although undersized as a quarterback, he’s made himself into one of the most sought after recruits in college football history, eventually deciding to sign with Texas A&M. In baseball, he’s considered a raw talent with a very high ceiling, a speedster with some hitting ability, and the talent to play shortstop.
Murray’s also a trailblazer in the fact that he played in the Under Armour showcases for both baseball and football, a feat that had never happened before.
Kyler Murray is no doubt one of the more interesting athletic recruits in the nation. Not only that, but he also has major leverage thanks to his uncle Calvin being a sports agent.
But that doesn’t address the question: Where will Kyler go?
To answer this question, one has to look at the past five years, where at least one major dual sport athlete was drafted out of high school.
To begin this half-decade journey, one only needs to look at current Dodgers prospect and former LSU quarterback commit Zach Lee.
Lee was the original Kyler Murray, a top prep multisport athlete considered a tough sign due to a commitment to play for Louisiana State’s baseball and football teams. In his senior year, the McKinney High School product posted NFL-style numbers, and was named the offensive player for the year in his district. It was safe to say that in order for him to sign, a team had to be willing to pay big for him to drop his commitment.
Concerns about his signability dropped him from an early first round pick to a late pick, even in mocks. In fact, some mocks took him out of the first round entirely.
Finally, on draft day, Lee was taken 28th overall by the Dodgers, and signed with a hefty $5.25 Million bonus at the deadline.
Since being drafted, Lee has been moving at a typical pace for a prep player, and expects to be in the majors by this spring. He most recently finished in AAA Albuquerque, going 7-13 with a 5-44 ERA, extreme numbers even by PCL standards.
Bubba Starling and Archie Bradley only increased awareness of the highly valued dual sport prep athlete.
Starling was a star quarterback and outfielder for Gardner-Edgerton High School in Kansas. Considered arguably one of the best athletes in memory, he had both pro baseball scouts and University of Nebraska football and baseball fans salivating. Starling was a no-doubt first rounder in baseball, mainly because he was a five tool player, rare for a high schooler.
Archie Bradley was also a highly touted two sport star from Broken Arrow High School. Considered one of the top prep athletes in Oklahoma history, Bradley was named one of ESPN RISE’s Elite 11 quarterbacks, in a class that included Teddy Bridgewater, Everett Golson, and Cody Kessler, among others. He had a commitment to the University of Oklahoma as a two sport star as well.
Both Starling and Bradley ended up being top ten selections, with Starling going to the Royals fifth overall, and Bradley going to the Diamondbacks seventh overall. Because of their leverage as potential college athletes, they were able to sign big contracts with bigger bonuses, incidentally, this would be the second to last year that bonuses went unregulated. Since then, Bradley had become arguably one of the top pitching prospects with the Diamondbacks, with a major league debut projected at 2015. Starling’s development has been more protracted, having just finished his last season in Wilmington, the high-A affiliate of the Royals.
In 2012, Hueytown High School quarterback/pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston was a highly touted dual sport athlete. A top talent, Winston supposedly would have been a high draft pick had he not been so intent on playing football at Florida State. The Texas Rangers would draft Winston in the 15th round, and in an attempt to get him to sign on, offered to let him play football at Florida State. Winston refused, and has since become one of the top quarterback prospects in the NFL draft, and a former third team All-American utility baseball player.
Of course, Winston hasn’t ruled out professional baseball either, and has considered a baseball and football career, like Bo Jackson, another former Heisman winner.
Before Kyler Murray, however, Texas A&M fans had to look forward to Kohl Stewart as Johnny Manziel’s replacement. Stewart was a highly rated two sport star who was set to play both sports. There were questions about his health, however, as he was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. This however did not deter the Twins, who took him fourth overall. Stewart signed rather quickly, with a signing bonus set at $4.5 million and in his first two seasons, has made it to Low-A Cedar Rapids, a good pace for a prep pitcher
Lee’s Summit High School outfielder Monte Harrison was an immensely talented wide receiver as well and was considered a tough sign from the beginning. His strong commitment to play football and baseball for Nebraska dropped him to the second round. The Milwaukee Brewers drafted him, and he signed quickly, however. Harrison had a so-so year to start his career, but is one of the Brewers’ top prospects already given the strength of the Brewers’ system.
Even if a prep baseball player isn’t a dual sport athlete, teams will often look for ways to ensure a commitment to them as opposed to a college. Look at the Chicago Cubs last season. In order to get highly rated prep pitcher Carson Sands, the Cubs spent their first three picks on high floor college talent, catchers Kyle Schwarber from Indiana and Mark Zagunis from Virginia Tech, and pitcher Jake Stinnett from Maryland. Knowing full well they could sign their first three picks for less money, they treated Sands as their first round pick and signed him for about the amount of a late first rounder.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for football fans, but in the business of sports, money rules everything. Draft a player high and offer him the moon, while still being within the limits of the bonus pool, and a player will sign. It doesn’t matter if the player could be the best quarterback in university history, the player will go where the money is. Unless Kyler Murray explicitly tells teams not to draft him because he wants to play football in college, ensuring that he drops to a day 2 or 3 pick, you can bet there is going to be at least one team willing to pay whatever amount is necessary to get him on their team as the shortstop of the future.
To satiate the draft heads around baseball (and don’t think I don’t know that there are any, I’m looking at you Reddit, Indians Baseball Insider SoxTalk, DC Prospect Report and You Gotta Like These Kids), I have decided to release a new mock draft once every other month. Admittedly, I also need to update my draft order as three of the picks I already made would not be possible now thanks to Nelson Cruz, Russell Martin and Michael Cuddyer signing with the Mariners, Blue Jays and Mets. respectively.
So let’s go over a few rules. Again, the idea here is that best player available is a joke, so I’m going by either organizational need (as in depth in the top 20 prospects) or general manager tendencies. Of course, if neither of those parameters lead to a clear first round pick, THEN we go to best player available.
So, without further delay, here is the December edition of the 2014 MLB mock draft, part 1. This covers picks 1-7. The mock will be split into four parts, each released one week after another.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks:
Ten years ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks were in the same position they are now, looking for somebody to be the face of their franchise-in-transition. And they actually did that with Justin Upton. Ten years later, and they’re in the same position once again.
The D-Backs have been more inclined to draft pitchers, netting guys like Trevor Bauer (since traded to the Indians), Archie Bradley, Braden Shipley, and Touki Toussaint in three of the past four drafts.
Although the hitting class can be considered arguably the weakest this year, and the Diamondbacks clearly have established options in Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed, perhaps the best bet is for them to go with Lake Mary High School Shortstop Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers becomes the latest HAPS (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop), and possibly the first since Carlos Correa to be drafted first overall. He has an advanced feel for his tools despite his youth. MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo feels that his biggest asset is his bat, because he can generate power without trying too hard. Though versatile, and potentially able to move to other positions, his fielding ability will allow him to stay where he is.
If Rodgers is as advanced as he is, then he too could potentially make it to the Majors quickly, just like Upton did back in 2007, a full two years after being drafted.
2. Houston Astros:
Looking at the big picture, i.e, Houston’s last three drafts, it becomes clearer and clearer that the administration likes to save money in the draft. In 2012, they opted for Carlos Correa over Mark Appel, a move which initially was a head scratcher, since Correa didn’t appear to be a consensus top pick, but seems to have paid off, aside from Correa’s season ending injury last year. In 2013, they took senior Mark Appel, a smart move given the fact that Appel likely would have had little to no leverage after being picked, having exhausted his college eligibility. However, in 2014, the Astros made a mistake, exposing their draft strategy when they drafted Brady Aiken, offered him a mutually agreed-upon bonus, retracted the offer and then intentionally lowballed him and borderline blackmailed him by leaking a physical which revealed a supposed arm issue. Aiken didn’t take the bait, and Houston was left empty handed.
A year later, the Astros are still looking for a franchise left handed pitcher, and possibly also a cost effective one. Enter University of Virginia pitcher Nathan Kirby. Kirby is one of the more interesting prospects, having only become UVA’s latest ace a year ago. Kirby has a solid three pitch offering, a low to mid 90’s fastball with good movement, a great slider, and a potentially devistating changeup. Kirby also has big game experience, having pitched in the 2014 College World Series, and value, having been named the top prospect in the New England Collegiate Baseball league the year before, and winning the league championship with the Keene Swamp Bats.
Kirby will be an interesting and more experienced alternative to Aiken, especially in a weak LHP draft class.
3. Colorado Rockies:
Probably the second biggest question a Rockies fan may have after “Will we ever compete again” is “Who will become the new face of the Rockies Franchise when Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are gone?”
While the Rockies may not find Tulo’s replacement at shortstop in this year’s draft, they could find his replacement as a hitter.
Eagles Landing Christian Academy outfielder Daz Cameron, son of Mike Cameron, the former Major League All-Star, was, at one time, considered the top prospect in this year’s draft, however his stock took a bit of a tumble this past season due to a junior slump.
Cameron’s potential shouldn’t be overlooked for his stats however, considering he has a very high ceiling. Having been selected to the Under Armour All America Classic as both a sophomore and a junior, a rare feat, he has physical tools which, if developed properly, can lead to him becoming a legitimately well-rounded hitter.
Cameron doesn’t have his dad’s leadoff ability, but could potentially make it as a #5 hitter in an average lineup. In the thin air of Colorado, he could be a #3 hitter.
4. Texas Rangers:
The Texas Rangers are in line to be a strong hitting team, with slugger Joey Gallo looking like a potential MVP threat each and every year, but the team lacks a solid rotation. What once was Cliff Lee, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, and Derek Holland has since been dismantled with only Yu Darvish as an optimism point, and what happens when he, like countless other Japanese phenom hurlers, is figured out?
The Rangers need to build their rotation from the ground up, and the first piece of the puzzle, should he be available, must be Brady Aiken.
Aiken’s potential as a starter is great, and despite the controversial physical that he got from the Astros, there has been no evidence that it affected him, as he had a great senior season. With a mid 90’s fastball, and an advanced feel for his pitches, Aiken is one of the most promising pitching prospects in this draft. His current scouting grades are consistent with those of a college pitcher, and unless he decides to not go to school or the elbow issue in the physical does prove to be a concern, don’t be surprised if he goes in the top 5, or even the top pick in the draft.
5. Houston Astros:
In the draft, there are no restrictions as to how many of a certain position you can draft, especially in the early rounds. And of course, there is that old, and possibly beaten-into-the-ground adage that “You can never have enough pitching” But I digress. The Astros have a strong group of right-handed pitchers coming up in the near future, with Mark Appel, Mike Foltynewicz, and Lance McCullers, but their left handed pitching prospects begin at Josh Hader, who was ranked as the #10 prospect for the Astros at the end of the 2014 season.
The Astros hypothetically took Nathan Kirby second overall to start the draft, could they conceivably double dip and grab another lefty?
San Clemente High School pitcher Kolby Allard has done nothing but shoot up draft boards. In my first mock, I had him as a first round pick, and now, he has the potential to be a top five choice. Allard is smaller than your average pitcher in terms of height, but what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in game experience, winning MVP honors at the Perfect Game Classic and being a part of Team USA.
Allard’s pitching repertoire differs from Brady Aiken in a slightly slower fastball, a curveball, and a purely developmental changeup, but he has top notch command on his pitches. Allard has the durability to stay as a starter as well, and could be a nice mid rotation piece.
6. Minnesota Twins:
The past two drafts showed that the Twins are willing to look at high upside, if somewhat risky prospects, especially after the Levi Michael debacle of 2011. Kohl Stewart was arguably the best prep arm of the 2013 class, despite being diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes and having a very strong commitment to Texas A&M. The year after that, the Twins took Nick Gordon, who was arguably the best two-way player in the draft, leaving them the healthy problem of finding his best position. But enough about the past, who do they take now?
There is a lot of healthy debate as to whether Duke University right handed pitcher Michael Matuella is the top prospect of this year’s class. He’s got one of the best fastballs in college, if not the entire class of 2015, and two excellent secondary offerings. Matuella also is deceptive, his height also masks his pitch deliveries.
So if he’s one of the top prospects in the draft, why is he falling to outside the top 5?
Matuella does have an injury history with his back, which cut short his first year of summer ball, and completely wiped out his second. Though his condition is treatable, if he continues to work in small sample sizes, don’t be surprised if he falls out of the top three, much like Jeff Hoffman did last year after his Tommy John surgery.
Injury history aside, Matuella does profile as an ace, and should he overcome his initial problems, he could be a very good investment in a relatively new market, Duke baseball.
7. Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox have been great developers of collegiate middle infield talent for years. From Nomar Garciaparra to Dustin Pedroia to Deven Marrero (who has yet to make the big leagues, but is close), the Sox will likely never have to resort to buying a shortstop or a second baseman for a while.
That being said, the Red Sox are eventually going to have to look for a Pedroia replacement, and could find their answer at Vanderbilt. Dansby Swanson may be a shortstop right now, but his natural position is at second base. A contact hitter who led the NCAA in doubles, Swanson could profile as a 2 or 6 hitter in the Red Sox lineup.
Swanson is a proven winner, having been named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player last season.
If Swanson can showcase some versatility, there is a possibility that he could raise his stock even further. Don’t be surprised if mock drafts in the spring have him as a possible top five selection.