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