If you’re like me, you eagerly wait for the MLB draft the same way that a kid would wait for the last day of school. Then again, you’re probably not me, Heck, you probably didn’t realize the MLB Draft was a thing unless you have a subscription to Baseball America, read MLB Pipeline, or read Minor League Madhouse (Yeah, I know, self-plug, haha.) It’s kind of disappointing, really. How is it that everyone knows about the NFL Draft and the NBA Draft, but the MLB Draft is pretty much the equivalent of the chess club? Well maybe it’s because there are a couple issues that prevent the draft from getting the visibility it deserves.
First of all, the MLB Draft is the only draft that takes place during the season as opposed to the offseason. You know why the NFL Draft has so much coverage? Because it is the most exciting event for fans until the season starts. The same thing goes for the NBA Draft. Sure you have free agency, but you also have the NBA draft. The fact that the MLB draft coincides with the season, heck, it even goes on while games are being played, makes it one of the most overlooked drafts in pro sports.
Another problem is that the players that are available to be picked don’t have the same athletic profile as an NFL or an NBA prospect. People know these names because they see them on ESPN or the other sports networks all the time. I can guarantee you Dansby Swanson made it on ESPN about a third of the time that Jameis Winston or Karl Towns did. And it gets even worse if you are a high schooler because of the fact that the majority of high school games are not televised by national networks. If you want to see Jason Groome pitch so you can see the future, check YouTube or make a trip down to Barnegat, New Jersey, because the chances you see him on national TV right now are almost none.
The third problem is that whereas NFL, NBA, and in some cases, NHL talent have a good shot at making the jump to the pros immediately, in baseball, it’s rare to see that happen. Because it can take an average of three years to see a first round pick make the majors, the interest is not there unless the fans are made aware of the hotshot prospect. Sure, JP Crawford is supposed to be the next Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia, but let me ask you, Phillies fans, how many times have you seen Crawford play live? And no, the Futures game does not count. Additionally, there is the chance that a first round pick does not make the majors, making the MLB Draft one of the biggest risks involving amateur talent. In the 50 years the draft has been held, no class has had every first rounder make the majors.
While there is no way to guarantee the success of the draft, there is always a way to drum up more interest in the event itself. So how exactly is that done? Well, here are some ideas that could get the ball rolling.
1. Televise more college and high school games on MLB Network and other channels.
If you want to get people interested in prospects, the best way to do so is to give the prospects more visibility. Sure, ESPNU will televise a college game every now and again, and the regional networks will do as well, but they play to a niche audience. And when ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN U do cover college baseball regularly, it’s usually after players are drafted, when the NCAA tournament is going on. By getting more networks involved before the fact, especially the national networks and the sports networks, there should be at least a slight bump in interest. Play it like college football does and have college baseball games on in the morning and afternoon on CBS and ABC. Show highlights on SportsCenter, and not just the occasional Top 10 Play, make sure that baseball fans know the future of baseball. Heck, if possible, drum up interest early by showing summer league games on ESPN 2. The possibilities are endless.
As far as high school, perhaps there should be more games available to stream online. If MLB.com were to offer a service to allow fans to watch games that high level prospects pitch in, then you can guarantee fans will watch it. Reading about high school prospects is the equivalent of hearing a folk legend, people rarely get to see what these players are unless there is video footage. By highlighting the top prep players in each draft class through a stream, fans will be able to see what guys like Riley Pint or Jason Groome or Blake Rutherford actually are.
Come to think of it, if ESPN and MLB Network both decided to air the MLB draft, I’m sure there would be a major viewership spike.
Watching games may be a fun way to see the talent that does come up, but there’s more to evaluating players than seeing them perform, which brings me to my next point…
2. Create an MLB Scouting Combine.
Believe it or not, this was proposed as an idea last year in the wake of the Brady Aiken saga, and it may be the only time that prep and college players get to be evaluated side by side. The idea that players can have certain measurable categories that can be evaluated against other players in the same vacuum allows for a more open approach to scouting. Additionally, if medical tests are included, teams are not left in the dark about records, and open communication between players, agents, and teams is encouraged. The other fun in it would be seeing who would be the “workout warriors” of the combine, which players would see their stock rise enough to jump them into the first round. Sure, players do see their stock rise during their seasons, but it’s not as fun to watch as seeing Aaron Donald completely defy expectations.
Now there is a certain timing issue that may lead to the question of when the combine could be scheduled, and with the MLB Draft already competing with the NCAA Tournament and the MLB season. This brings up my next point…
3. Move the draft (and possible combine) to the end of June/early July.
College coaches’ biggest complaint about the MLB draft is that it’s scheduled during the tournament, meaning that players could get distracted by all the hype that comes with being selected. Sure, it’s nice to have a celebration with your teammates like Dansby Swanson and Walker Buehler did last year, but to be honest, wouldn’t it be better to have the draft right after the College World Series? With all the distraction behind them, players can focus on the future, and teams will be able to gather more information on the players as they go through the College World Series.
Of course, one of the main issues with this is that a month of negotiating time for contracts would be cut, and considering the fact that there are over 1200 players chosen in the draft, and teams do try and sign each player, there would have to be some quick negotiations done in order to get all players in a draft class accounted for. Considering teams want to get players in the system as soon as possible, it’s reasonable that they possibly just send their draft picks to extended spring training, and then if they feel they are ready, add them to a low level part of the organization.
Now how about the actual draft? How do we make more people watch it?
1. Give the draft its own day.
Now when I say the draft, I mean the rounds that are televised. No, we don’t need to do 40 rounds in one sitting.
Part of the problem with the way the draft is scheduled is that nobody really sees it, what with the competition being baseball games. By having there be a day off, you can bet more people would consider tuning in to watch the draft. In fact, encourage people to watch the draft by printing it on team schedules. In fact, promote it heavily, after all, this is the future of baseball that people should be seeing.
2. Invite fans to see it live.
Part of the reason why the NFL, NBA, and NHL drafts are so successful is because they encourage fans to attend the draft in person. And that’s why you see so many hardcore fans dressed up in their team colors, cheering for their team’s picks. The MLB draft, on the other hand, is almost like that exclusive party that very few people are invited to. It’s just the draft attendees and their families, the MLB Network personalities, the team representatives, the Commissioner, and maybe a few special guests. If you want to promote the future, don’t make it a stuffy cocktail party, make it an open experience. I’m sure there are plenty of fans that would give anything to sit in the left field seats at Studio 42 to watch players walk on stage and receive the jersey and handshake from Rob Manfred.
In fact, why restrict the location to Studio 42? Why not move the draft to a ballroom and set it up like Studio 42? Or even better? Have the draft at an actual MLB Ballpark, like Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Wrigley Field or Fenway Park? If the NBA can have their draft at the Barclays Center every year, and the NHL can move their draft to whatever NHL Arena it is in every year, why restrict the MLB Draft to Secaucus, New Jersey? And speaking of invites…
3. Invite more college players.
This one is admittedly tricky and relies on a few scenarios to break the right way, but in my opinion, the MLB draft would get even more viewership if more college players were able to attend. Ever since the draft has been televised, very few college players have been able to attend. To prove my point, here are all the players that have attended the MLB draft in person since it started being televised in 2007:
2007: Josh Vitters (HS), Philippe Aumont (HS), Ross Detweiler (HS)
2008: Aaron Hicks (HS)
2009: Mike Trout (HS)
2011: Larry Greene (HS)
2012: Carlos Correa (HS), Andrew Heaney (NCAA), Gavin Cecchini (HS), Courtney Hawkins (HS), Clint Coulter (HS)
2013: Clint Frazier (HS), Dominic Smith (HS), Tim Anderson (JUCO), Nick Ciuffo (HS), Billy McKinney (HS), JP Crawford (HS), Aaron Judge (NCAA), Ian Clarkin (HS), Jon Denney (HS)
2014: Nick Gordon (HS), Michael Chavis (HS), Jake Gatewood (HS), Monte Harrison (HS), Derek Hill (HS), Grant Holmes (HS), Kodi Medeiros (HS)
2015: Brendan Rodgers (HS), Ashe Russell (HS), Garrett Whitley (HS), Mike Nikorak (HS)
So out of 31 players that have attended, two have come out of college, or a little over six percent. Now of course, there is a logical reason, considering the fact that the draft and the NCAA tournament conflict with each other, and the best chance to be at the draft is if your team does not qualify for the tournament. So going back to those factors that break, in the best case scenario, what could happen is that if the draft is moved, more collegians could be invited. In the worst case, that is, the draft isn’t moved, the collegians from the smaller schools, like Kyle Lewis or Matt Crohan, would get the invite.
If more collegians are invited, there is a possibility that more fans will be willing to watch, as these are the players that have the best chance to be seen. The question is which collegians would be able to come?
4. Let teams trade picks.
The MLB draft is the only draft of the Big 4 sports leagues that doesn’t allow trading of draft picks. Well, technically they do, but the picks that can be traded are only competitive balance lottery picks. The lack of trading means there’s almost no reason to be excited for the draft, especially if a team has no first round pick at all. And in some cases, it can be a real disadvantage. A team with a terrible minor league system who is this close to contention would greatly benefit if they were allowed to trade draft picks, and the draft would be even more interesting if, say, the Yankees were allowed to trade up.
While only a couple trades have been made with CB picks involved, the opportunity to expand that to, say, maybe the first 5 rounds of draft picks would make for a more interesting show. Imagine if a team is willing to offer a major league caliber star prospect in exchange for a high pick, or if teams trade picks in order to move up or down. Instead of just waiting for players to be picked, it would be a lot more fun to watch.
While these changes aren’t going to come around that quickly, if at all, it still should send a message. The future of baseball is just as important as the past and present. If the draft is given the exposure that it should get, then more fans will be willing to watch it and see what the future holds for their team.
*Publisher’s note: You can also find this article on my blogging colleague Steven Inman’s Mets-centric blog www.Brokemets.com. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are a Mets fan. My heartiest congratulations to Steven for graduating from St. John’s University.
With a week remaining before the 2014 MLB Draft kicks off, the Mets have a very big decision to make. Armed with the tenth pick, which was protected from being lost to a team that let go of a big money free agent, the Mets have myriad options for their next big prospect.
Before going into who the Mets should take, let’s take a look at the first round strategy of GM Sandy Alderson.
Ever since Alderson took over as the Mets’ GM, he’s opted to take high ceiling talent out of high school; in fact, of the five first round picks he’s had (this includes the compensatory picks he’s gotten from losing Pedro Feliciano and Jose Reyes), only one, catcher Kevin Plawecki of Purdue University, came out of college. The players he’s taken in the first (and compensatory) rounds are as follows:
2013: Dominic Smith, first baseman, Serra High School, Los Angeles, CA.
Smith, who was viewed as one of the top hitters in his class, was valued for his stroke as well as his fielding ability. He’s been compared to Adrian Gonzalez, and in a particularly weak year for first base prospects in MLB, he’s ranked second, although he’s made strides to justify that ranking after a slow start in Low-A Savannah. Given the team’s unsurprising trade of former top pick Ike Davis and commitment to Lucas Duda (who will be 31 or 32 by the time Smith makes his MLB debut) it’s almost a certainty that Smith will be playing first base at Citi Field in the latter half of the 2010’s.
2012: Gavin Cecchini, Shortstop, Alfred M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, LA
Cecchini is a big time hit or miss prospect who was taken for his value as a defensive star. Although he’s had a slow start to his career due to injury, the fact that he’s only 20 years old serves as a reminder that high school talent often takes more time to develop, meaning he could conceivably be held in the minors until 2017, much like Smith. Cecchini seems to be destined to make up half of a double play combo with one of two top international prospects: Dilson Herrera, who was acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade, or Amed Rosario. Whomever is the odd man out in that group is either going to be traded or coerced into playing third base. Should Cecchini lose out on the shortstop battle, he could be tried out as a third baseman, in fact, his older brother Garin is a top third base prospect for the Boston Red Sox.
Kevin Plawecki, Catcher, Purdue University
When Kevin Plawecki was drafted, one of the big things that stood out about him was the fact that he’s a guy who constantly gets on base. A guy who also rarely strikes out, Plawecki reminds some Mets people of Daniel Murphy, except he’s slower and plays a more challenging position. As I’ve made mention before, teams are starting to understand the importance of carrying two starting level catchers on the big league club, and Plawecki with Travis d’Arnaud could actually prove to be a solid combination. Should the Mets opt to deal him, he may have some value for a team that could use a starting catcher, as evidenced by the Mets’ discussions during the offseason between the Diamondbacks.
2011: Brandon Nimmo: Outfield, Cheyenne East High School, Cheyenne, WY
Alderson’s first pick as a Mets GM is either going to be one of the biggest gem finds or a major novelty gone bad. Nimmo, who gained fame for not playing high school ball (Wyoming doesn’t sanction baseball as a sport in interscholastic competition), was valued for his athletic upside. Nimmo has overcome a predictably slow start in the minors and is currently tearing the cover off the ball in High A St. Lucie, enough to land him in the top 100 prospect list at the final spot. Should he continue that pace, expect him to make a return appearance to the Futures Game in Minnesota.
Michael Fulmer, Pitcher, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek, OK
Fulmer is the only pitcher that Alderson has drafted in the first round, and for good reason. 2011 was a great year for Oklahoma prep pitchers, and Fulmer has followed Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley’s success pattern. Although he suffered a setback from his development after injuring his leg, he should be with the major league club by 2017, likely as a long reliever/spot starter.
Sandy Alderson’s strategy deviated from his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who drafted low ceiling/high floor talent. Although most of Minaya’s choices were destined to be average (or in the case of 2007 and 2008 first rounders Nate Vineyard, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, marred with injury and unfulfilled promise) Minaya does have the claim to fame that his final first round pick, Matt Harvey, is one of the best young pitchers in baseball.
Moving on, the question remains: Who should Alderson select with the tenth overall pick?
Generally, given the amount of time prospects take to develop, coupled with the choice between high school, JUCO and college talent, general managers go with the Best Player Available. Although Alderson didn’t necessarily need a first baseman, and many experts thought he would have gone after a college outfielder like Fresno State’s Aaron Judge, Smith was the best player available.
If we went by the best player available based on Baseball America and MLB.com’s top 200 and 100 prospect lists, then the Mets would have two different choices: Baseball America’s #10 player in their top 200 is LSU ace Aaron Nola, who’s bounced up and down the draft board, going as low as the 20’s and as high as top ten. MLB.com has University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer as their ten pick. Zimmer has stayed pretty consistent, getting picked in the top 15 in most mocks.
Looking at the Mets’ top 20 prospects, which is what I use as a basis for my mock drafts, it’s clear that once Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut, the Mets will not have a legitimate top ten right handed pitching prospect. With Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom likely up for good, and Syndergaard coming up, Alderson, unless he invests his pick in a bona fide arm, will not have a top pitching prospect to advance through the system and excite and distract the fan base. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options that Alderson has:
First, let’s get one thing abundantly clear: Carlos Rodon will not fall out of the top three. Despite his struggles this year at NC State, Rodon’s still got an impressive resumé, as well as covetable attributes that will make him a top pick. The same goes for Brady Aiken, the prep star from Cathedral Catholic. His stock has risen to the point where he’s in the conversation to be the top pick as well. That, and they are also left-handed pitchers. Tyler Kolek, the consensus top right handed pitching prospect, will also not fall out of the top five.
Let’s take a look at the pitchers that are in range, and that’s 5th best player to 15th best player on Baseball America’s and MLB.com’s lists:
Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina (6)
Erick Fedde, UNLV (8)
Aaron Nola, LSU (10)
Touki Toussaint, Coral Springs Christian High School, Florida (13)
Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (15)
And now MLB.com’s list:
Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)
In my two mock drafts, I had the Mets taking a right handed pitcher for the reason stated above: They will need to add a right handed pitching stud in order to balance out their top ten prospects. In the first mock, I picked Touki Toussaint: a high school arm whose raw talent, coupled with his loose arm could make him a deadly young pitcher with #2 starter potential. However, given Alderson’s Moneyball background, which actively discourages the drafting of prep arms in the first round, the chances of Toussaint wearing a Mets jersey seem slim.
In the second mock, I had the Mets taking Tyler Beede. Beede is a familiar name, as he was a first round pick three years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Beede decided against going pro and went to play for Vanderbilt. Beede’s game is great, but some mechanical fine tuning could make it better. He’s been consistently challenging both Nola and Rodon as the top college pitcher this year, and his Golden Spikes nomination last year indicates he has high level pro potential.
If I were Alderson, I’d want a battle tested pitcher, a pitcher that has faced top flight competition. Right off the bat, that eliminates Toussaint and Grant Holmes, a big pitcher from Conway High School. Because high school baseball talent is relative to the state that it’s played in, even if Toussaint and Holmes were among the best talents that year, keep in mind they were facing typical prep talent. Not every South Carolina and Florida prepster is going to play division one ball in college, and even if they did, they wouldn’t all play in the power conferences like the SEC or the ACC.
The second aspect of a battle tested pitcher is the college conference they play in. The Mountain West and Conference USA, once upon a time, were college hotbeds, but now they’re essentially a tick below the real power conferences. Sure, pitchers like Hoffman and Fedde may get the opportunity to play a power conference team here and there, but ultimately, unless it was consistent, it’s a waste of time for Alderson to even think about Fedde and Hoffman.
This leaves it to two pitchers: Nola, and Beede.
Nola, the ace at LSU, is a pitcher who, while he isn’t going to blow you away with any special pitch, has great command and control of his offerings. He won’t be an ace at the major league level, but his dependability will be an asset to any team that needs a pitcher who can go deep into innings.
Beede, on the other hand, is an anti-Nola. His fastball is his best major league offering, going from the low to mid 90’s, and his ceiling is a front-end starter, possibly as high as #2. What Beede lacks in his game is pitch consistency. While Beede does have devastating offerings, like his fastball, curve and change up, they are only effective if he can consistently locate the strike zone.
So who should Sandy pick if it comes down to Nola and Beede?
In a perfect world, Nola will fall to the tenth spot where Alderson can nab him. His consistency and even strength in his offerings mean that either he’s going to be an above average hurler with little to no need to tinker, or, if there is room for improvement, establish a dominant pitch or make each pitch better. Nola’s mechanics are excellent and he is battle tested against the highest possible level of competition in college baseball. It seems that Nola is one of the very few high ceiling/high floor talents, and although Alderson isn’t the type of general manager who goes for safe picks, getting that combination will pay off rather quickly.
We continue our post-draft coverage by grading each team’s draft, going division by division, starting off with the NL East. Each team’s first pick will be highlighted, as well as four other prospects that have caught my eye. I will analyze, then offer a final statement and grade on each team’s draft.
First Pick: Jason Hursh, Pitcher, Oklahoma State (pick 31)
Other Notable Picks:
Victor Caratini, Catcher, Miami Dade CC (65)
Kyle Wren, CF, Georgia Tech (253)
Stephen Wrenn, OF, Walton High School, Georgia (853)
Jacob Heyward, RF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Georgia (1153)
Atlanta’s decision to add a collegiate pitcher in Jason Hursh is a make-or-break pick here. While Hursh is armed with a mid 90’s fastball, he did come off of Tommy John surgery, which is common among this batch of Atlanta Braves hurlers. Still, Oklahoma State is starting to shy away from its hitter image in favor of becoming a pitching farm.
Victor Caratini, the JuCo catcher, could be a solid defensive asset who can play many positions. While his primary position is catcher, he can play third base, a position that is being temporarily held by Chris Johnson.
The Braves did find an intriguing trio of outfielders from Georgia, in Kyle Wren, who is GM Frank Wren’s son, Stephen Wrenn, who came from the same Georgia prep system as Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, and Jacob Heyward, the brother of current Braves star Jason Heyward. While it is unlikely that Wrenn and Heyward will sign, Wren could find himself as a solid backup in the Braves organization.
Overall, Atlanta’s draft wasn’t exactly littered with high profile talent, and with the team giving up their first round pick to sign the slumbering giant that is BJ Upton, it doesn’t look like this draft will pay off for them. Hursh may find himself on the Braves’ pitching staff as early as 2015, but aside from that, nothing special
First Pick: Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina (6)
Other Notable Picks:
Matt Krook, Pitcher, St. Ignatius College Prep, California (35)
Trevor Williams, Pitcher, Arizona State (44)
Colby Suggs, Pitcher, Arkansas (73)
Chad Wallach, Catcher, Cal State Fullerton (142)
Nobody expected Colin Moran to go to Miami at #6, especially with New Mexico first baseman DJ Peterson on the board, but Miami pulled it off. Moran, the nephew of BJ Surhoff, a former first overall pick, has the bat and the glove to be a solid contributor, if not a superstar, for the Marlins once they reach pinnacle mode again.
Matt Krook is an intriguing high school arm. A lefty with low to mid 90’s speed, he’s not exactly a big stamina guy, but his size and arm slot have drawn favorable reviews from scouts. Krook will take years to develop, provided he signs, but if he makes it through the system, he could be the next big Marlins pitcher, after Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, and Jose Fernandez.
The Marlins grabbed some relief pitching that could contribute early in Trevor Williams and Colby Suggs. Williams profiles as a contact pitcher who will miss a few bats occasionally, while Suggs, who served as Arkansas’ closer, could do some major damage in terms of his pitches. Suggs could end up as a September call-up, while waiting maybe three years to become the permanent closer.
Tim Wallach, a former All-American, first round pick, Gold Glove winner, and Silver Slugger, must have been proud when his son Chad was drafted. The younger Wallach has some hitting ability combined with solid defensive skills. He may not be a starter like his dad, but could find himself as a dependable backup in the future, especially if Rob Brantly goes and Kyle Skipworth still hasn’t panned out.
Miami’s draft was littered with big names and possible contributors. Moran’s ceiling indicates that he could be another Dustin Ackley or David Wright, while his floor indicates he could be like his uncle. Pitching was a must-need in Miami and most of their picks were used to bolster a system that could use a few more good arms. Judging by the talent that is coming in, this could serve to be one of the best drafts the Marlins have in a long time.
New York Mets
First Pick: Dominic Smith, 1B, Serra High School, California (11)
Other Notable picks:
Andrew Church, Pitcher, Basic High School, Nevada (48)
Ivan Wilson, OF, Ruston High School, Louisiana (76)
LJ Mazzilli, 2B, Uconn, (116)
Jared King, OF, Kansas State (146)
In the weeks leading up to the draft, the speculation was that Sandy Alderson was finally going to address the outfield problem with the first pick he had. Turns out that was not it at all, as first baseman Dominic Smith was picked instead. Smith, while not an outfielder, was regarded as one of the best prep hitters in the draft, some would say better than the two Georgia outfielders that were taken before him. Smith, who was drafted because he was the best player available, will not be ready until 2017, but when he is, Ike Davis, who has yet to show that he is over his disastrous 2012 start, will likely be moved.
Alderson pulled another shocker when he took Nevada prepster Andrew Church in the second round. The pick was clearly based on potential, as Church hasn’t played a full season of baseball since his freshman season, and spent his high school career on three different teams, including one where he had an argument with his team’s coach. Church’s potential should be monitored, as he has the tools to be a mid-rotation arm, but he may honor his commitment to the University of San Diego in order to build up his resume and be picked three years later.
The outfield help came in the third round, as the Mets used their compensation pick from the loss of Teddy Stankiewicz to draft Ruston High School outfielder Ivan Wilson. Wilson has projectable power, but is somewhat raw and still needs to develop more if he wants to be part of the Mets outfield in the future.
A familiar name came to the Mets in the fourth round when the team drafted former first rounder Lee Mazzilli’s son, LJ. LJ is a mold of Daniel Murphy, as a hitter with little power but able to spray to all fields. He could probably find himself in a Justin Turner type role as early as 2014, but he won’t get as much playing time as his father, as long as Murphy holds his own at second base.
Probably the fastest player in the Mets 2013 draft class to make the majors could be Kansas State outfielder Jared King. King won’t be joining the team until Kansas State is finished with their season, and with the Wildcats on the verge of making the journey to Omaha, that will be a while. Still, King was drafted as a hitter as his ability as a contact and power hitter have shown, and given the team’s horrendous outfield situation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he makes the Mets as early as 2014.
In conclusion, the Mets made some curious choices in Smith and Church, but afterwards, the team started making choices that made some degree of sense. Smith may become another Darryl Strawberry, and King may be a name to be considered in the future. Sandy used his draft to remedy some situations that needed to be fixed. Hopefully it will turn out that he once again has made solid picks.
First Pick: JP Crawford, Shortstop, Lakewood High School, California (16)
Other Notable Picks:
Andrew Knapp, Catcher, California (53)
Cord Sandberg OF, Manatee High School, Florida (89)
Trey Williams, 3B, College Of the Canyons (211)
Cavan Biggio, Utility, St. Thomas High School, Texas (871)
It’s about time the Phillies took a shortstop to replace Jimmy Rollins. The second oldest starting shortstop in the big leagues, (oldest if you don’t count Jeter on the disabled list) will be 35 in November. Thankfully, JP Crawford stood out in a weak middle infield class and should take the reigns as soon as Rollins retires. Crawford is a defensive standout who has some hitting ability and speed. His athleticism was constantly dissected, even months before the draft. Crawford has the chance to continue the tradition of all-star caliber Phillies infielders.
Though there were several other options in terms of prep catchers, Andrew Knapp, the California backstop intrigued Philly the most. While Carlos Ruiz still has plenty of time, Knapp is a solid hitter, but an excellent defender. It will be interesting to see if he could find himself fighting for the backup, and then possibly the starting role in the future.
Trey Williams stands out as a highly touted infielder who had first round potential.While not drafted as high as he wanted, the CotC third baseman still has talent that could land him in the big leagues in the future, namely his hitting ability.
One of the biggest day 3 surprises in the draft was seeing Cavan Biggio, son of Craig, not go to Houston, like his father did, but rather to Philadelphia. Biggio, who has no set position, yet can hit and run like his father, however, will not sign with the Phillies, instead going to Notre Dame. He could be a future first round pick if it turns out that he finds his position.
The Phillies had their share of surprises, but what I liked about their draft the most was their addressing of a potential future weakness at shortstop. This could help restart the farm system that was once considered the worst in baseball.
First Pick: Jake Johansen, Pitcher, Dallas Baptist (68)
Other Notable Picks:
Austin Voth, Pitcher, Washington (166)
Andrew Dunlap, Pitcher, No school, (1006)
Lukas Schiraldi, Pitcher, Navarro College (1066)
Karsten Whitson, Pitcher, Florida (1126)
Jake Johansen comes from the ever present Underdog university that is Dallas Baptist, most famously known for its 2011 Super Regional loss against California, a team that had just been saved from budget cuts. Johansen has the build to be a good pitcher, but still needs a lot of development in order to justify his second round pick label.
Austin Voth may be the best pick the Nationals have made this year, as he carved out a decent resume in the Pac 12. Finishing behind first overall pick Mark Appel in strikeouts, he has a possibly future in Washington’s staff, especially if certain free agent acquisitions fail to work out.
Andrew Dunlap is an anomaly. He did not pitch high school ball last year despite needing the eligibility in order to get a college scholarship, so he spent the season pitching at the same academy that Trevor Bauer used. He has a mid to high 90’s fastball, but if anything, he probably should consider going to college instead of signing with the team.
Lukas Schiraldi is the son of former Mets and Red Sox pitcher Calvin Schiraldi. The younger Schiraldi spent two seasons as a JuCo pitcher where he developed an arsenal of pitches, many of which still need development. It is unlikely that he signs, considering he can improve his draft position at his dad’s alma mater, the University of Texas.
Karsten Whitson’s name is familiar because he was a former first round pick of the San Diego Padres. Whitson has had an up-and -down career at Florida, where he pitched in the College World Series, but this year, he was sidelined due to injury. I doubt that Whitson will accept being drafted this low, so we should see him reenter the draft for the final time, in hopes that he can be a first round pick again.
Washington’s draft was unimpressive from the beginning. First the team gave up their first round pick for Rafael Soriano, a terrible move in and of itself. Second, tabbing a collegiate project in the second round is a major no-no. Third, there were other big names out there who could contribute. Ultimately, this draft is a failure.
Coming up, the NL Central.
The 2013 MLB Draft starts tomorrow at 7 PM at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus, New Jersey. Studio 42 will once again be used for Bud Selig and the team representatives. The MLB Draft crew will be on the first base side of Studio 42, while all draftees that are in attendance will sit in the third base dugout.
This year marks the third consecutive year that prospects will be in attendance, and the fifth year overall that prospects have attended the draft. What started off as Phillippe Aumont, Josh Vitters, and Ross Detweiler in 2007, became Mike Trout in 2009, shortstop Larry Greene in 2011, and last year, a record five attendees: Astros shortstop Carlos Correa, Marlins pitcher, and the first collegian to attend the draft in person, Andrew Heaney, Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, White Sox outfielder Courtney Hawkins, and Brewers catcher Clint Coulter. All were selected in the first round, and all were given major recognition. This year, the number of draftees increases to eight who will be in attendance. They include six high schoolers, one Junior Collegian, and a collegian.
First off, the high schoolers:
Nick Ciuffo is one of the top three high school catchers that this draft has to offer. Ciuffo, who was the South Carolina player of the year, hit .468 with 5 homers and 33 RBI. I projected Ciuffo to be a late first round pick, going to the Tampa Bay Rays, whose catching system was decimated earlier this year.
JP Crawford is the best shortstop in one of the weakest middle infield classes in recent memory. Scouted as a contact hitter with an excellent glove, my belief is that he was going to be a top 15 pick, playing in his home state for the San Diego Padres.
Jon Denney is one of the three top high school catchers in this year’s draft. His stock took a hit this year after I originally mocked him to Minnesota. This time, I picked Denney to fall to Pittsburgh, where they will use their 13th pick on him.
The second of the two hyped Georgia outfielders, Clint Frazier has made a name for himself this year as his hit a triple crown line of .521/13/34 to end regular season play. Frazier’s friend and rival, Austin Meadows however, chose not to attend. Frazier was originally mocked to the Blue Jays by me before he moved up to Boston.
Billy McKinney may be the most underrated high school first baseman in the draft. A Texan, McKinney hit well in his home state and excelled in showcases. I mocked him to his home state Rangers twice, as the Rangers are prone to drafting home staters more than anything else.
Dominic Smith is another high school first baseman who has an interesting pedigree in terms of his school. it is common knowledge that Serra high school is one of the best hitters mills in the nation, producing alums like Barry Bonds, Jim Fregosi and Gregg Jeffries. I had originally mocked Smith to his home state Dodgers, but changed his choice to the White Sox.
Next, the Junior Collegian:
Tim Anderson has the benefit of a monster season and a weak middle infield class. Originally just an afterthought, Anderson shot up draft boards at an accelerated pace, to the point where he could be picked in the bottom half of the first round. I mocked him to the Cincinnati Reds with the final pick in the first round.
Lastly, the lone collegian
Aaron Judge is a physical specimen. 6’7 and an outfielder, Judge is a raw power hitter with defensive ability. He has drawn comparisons to Richie Sexon, and has proven that he can hit top flight pitchers (Mark Appel, for example). I had mocked him to hte Rangers with a compensatory selection, but ultimately moved him to the top 15, where the Mets took him at number 11.
Stay tuned for the draft, starting tomorrow night at seven, when the first and second round will be broadcasted.
This is a continuation of the new version of my MLB mock draft. The general rule of thumb in this is that teams draft best player available, although in some cases they will draft based on what is the cheapest option. We start off the second part of the draft with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and end with the New York Yankees.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates select Jon Denney, Catcher, Yukon High School, Oklahoma
(Prev. Trey Ball, Pitcher, New Castle High School, Indiana)
The Pirates have a pretty stacked minor league system in terms of most positions, so their pick will likely be a cheap one here. Jon Denney has plummeted on most draft boards, some would say that he barely stays in the first round. If the Pirates do select Denney, it shows that Boston College’s Tony Sanchez was not the right choice four years ago. Denney is classified as probably the second best catching prospect this year, behind McGuire, and his grades suggest that potential-wise, he could be one of the best draft choices, especially at a bargain. Look for the Pirates to at least try to lowball him, but rig him in at the end with a deal that will steer him away from his University of Arkansas commitment.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks select Braden Shipley, Pitcher, Nevada
(Prev. Kohl Stewart, Pitcher, St. Pius X High School, Texas)
A lot of MLB draft site have Shipley and the Diamondbacks pairing up, perhaps because Shipley’s fastball is one of the best in the draft, or maybe because Shipley has pitched in the dry climate of Nevada, which is quite similar to Arizona. Beyond Shipley’s fastball is a good mix of pitches that will serve as a developmental toolbox for the Nevada ace. Shipley could be the next big homegrown pitcher in Arizona, though, following in the footsteps of Brandon Webb and Josh Collmenter. His stock will probably go higher after the Tournament.
16. Philadelphia Phillies select Trey Ball, Pitcher/Outfielder, New Castle High School, Indiana
(Prev. Austin Wilson, Stanford)
It’s no secret that the Phillies have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Considering most of that system went to Houston for a season and a half of Roy Oswalt, the Phillies are more of a win-now team. This year, they do have two prospects in the top 100, both former high school aces, Jesse Biddle and Ethan Martin. Expect a third to come along. Trey Ball is not only a high school pitching ace, he also plays the outfield, so if pitching doesn’t work out, he can go there. Like Lance McCullers and Casey Kelly, he can go either way, so the team that drafts him may find themselves with either a solid rotation guy, or a decent high school outfielder, depending on which need is more pressing.
17. Chicago White Sox select Dominic Smith, 1B, Serra High School, California
(Prev. Reese McGuire, Catcher, Kentwood High School, Washington)
The only minor league system worse than Chicago’s right now is the Los Angeles Angels. Chicago has only one top 100 prospect in last year’s first round pick, Courtney Hawkins. That being said, the old Sox, mainly Paul Konerko, are starting to grind down or leave. When Konerko inevitably retires, it is highly likely that a homegrown first baseman will take over. That being said, with DJ Peterson already hypothetically being taken by the Mariners, Dominic Smith is the only logical choice left. Smith has the benefit of being a high machine in the high profile climate of Southern California baseball, in fact, he’s a 14 minute drive away from Dodger Stadium. Still, Smith’s bat is a high school equivalent to Paul Konerko, and while he’s still developing a home run swing, his defense is also tops.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers select Jonathon Crawford, Pitcher, Florida
(Prev. Dominic Smith, 1B, Serra High School, California)
Los Angeles is not known for patience, in fact, last year, they promoted second round pick Steven Rodriguez a mere two months after drafting him out of Florida. With the Dodgers underperforming, the team may have to start looking at college players to replace some of their aging and/or ineffective cogs. Jonathon Crawford is a pitcher who has a terrific fastball, a potentially powerful slider, and two good tertiary pitches. He’ll likely rise through the system quickly, and if the Dodgers are in contention by September, will likely be called in to make a spot start.
19. St. Louis Cardinals select Chris Anderson, Pitcher, Jacksonville University
(Prev. Marco Gonzales, Pitcher, Gonzaga)
St. Louis may need a revamped bullpen in a year or two, and Anderson, a small school product, may be a big help in retooling that bullpen. The Dolphins pitcher has a solid array of pitches, and a good amount of durability, but with the emergence of Michael Wacha in all likelihood taking Chris Carpenter’s vacant rotation spot, Anderson may find himself in a reliable bullpen role with Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte behind him.
20. Detroit Tigers select Hunter Renfroe, Outfielder, Mississippi State
(Prev. Oscar Mercado, Shortstop, Gaither High School, Florida)
Detroit’s outfield, once highly praised for its youth in Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch, is starting to lose its sense of wonder. Torii Hunter is obviously here for temporary relief, and with Jackson hurt, and players like Avisail Garcia and Don Kelly holding the fort until Nick Castellanos comes up, Detroit may want to upgrade the outfield quickly. Hunter Renfroe has risen up draft boards to possibly a top ten pick, but in my mock, he falls to Detroit. Renfroe is raw, but his potential could outweigh his risk. While still developing a contact swing, he does have power, speed, and a big league outfield arm, which is perfectly suited for Comerica Park.
21. Tampa Bay Rays select Nick Ciuffo, Catcher, Lexington High School, South Carolina
Tampa Bay’s catcher depth was seriously compromised over the offseason, Stephen Vogt and Robinson Chirinos were traded, and with Jose Lobaton, Jose Molina, and Chris Gimenez as holders of the fort, it wouldn’t hurt to draft one of the many high school catchers in this year’s draft. Ciuffo is the ideal player, with good power and a great arm. He’s still devloping, but has the potential to become one of the better catchers in the American League if drafted there.
22. Baltimore Orioles select Marco Gonzales, Pitcher, Gonzaga
(Prev. Jonathon Crawford, Pitcher, Florida)
You can never have enough lefthanded pitching talent, and with the Orioles having a potentially solid rotation down the line, getting a small-school prospect like Gonzales would be a solid gamble. In addition to being a lefty, Gonzales has great command, with the changeup being his best weapon. Gonzales improved his stock the previous summer while pitching for Team USA. Gonzales could find himself as a back of the rotation option behind Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy.
23. Texas Rangers select Billy McKinney, Outfield, Plano West High School, Texas
Home state favorites are big for ballclubs. Billy McKinney is no exception to this rule. Though still developing, Mckinney has the chance to become the third best bat in this draft. He can’t run, and everything else is still developing, but the added benefit of playing in familiar territory will help him out plenty as he rises to the big leagues.
24. Oakland Athletics select Ian Clarkin, Pitcher, James Madison High School, California
I like Clarkin as Oakland’s pick not only because he has the potential to be the best prep lefty in the draft if Trey Ball converts to outfield, but because Clarkin is an In-state product. The one caveat here is that Billy Beane altered his draft strategy last year when he took prep shortstop Addison Russell, but if he’s content on dropping the established collegian strategy in favor of developing high schoolers, then it’s a major hit or miss. Still, Clarkin wows with his fastball, and had a decent Area Code games, which led to his stock rise to the first round.
25. San Francisco Giants select Austin Wilson, Outfield, Stanford
(Prev. Ryan Boldt, Outfield, Red Wing High School, Minnesota)
You don’t see a lot of Stanford outfielders in the big leagues, for reasons unknown, but sometimes, one just happens to slip through and make the majors. Austin Wilson didn’t sign out of high school and led a productive, if injury prone college career. San Francisco likes to draft collegians, especially after losing Zack Wheeler for a one year rental of Carlos Beltran. The Giants will want a toolsy guy to complement future Giants leadoff man Gary Brown, so there is a good chance that he will not go past this spot.
26. New York Yankees select Rob Kaminsky, Pitcher, St. Joseph Regional High School, New Jersey
(prev. Ryan Eades, Pitcher, LSU)
There’s something special about New Jersey prep baseball players, as they usually have solid to hall-of-fame careers.Rick Porcello and Mike Trout can attest to that. If the Yankees want the next big prep arm, then Kaminsky is their guy. He’s well developed for a high school pitcher with a college-level fastball and a good toolbox of pitches. Normally, northeastern prep baseball players are avoided until late in the draft, but Kaminsky is apparently one to be considered.
27. Cincinnati Reds select Tim Anderson, Shortstop, East Central Community College
(Prev. Cavan Biggio, Utility, St. Thomas High School, Texas)
JuCo players are like Stanford outfielders. Most don’t make it, but those who do generally are solid. This is evidenced by Craig Kimbrel and Bryce Harper, who have gone on to have good starts to their careers. The Reds are a team that are full of depth. They have plenty of pitching talent, decent catchers, a solid enough infield, and an outfield that will carry them this year, then next year, new pieces will take their place. It’s difficult to really pinpoint what the Reds would do with their first pick, but in all likelihood, they will take a shortstop, as they have none in their top 20 prospect rankings. Anderson did not get picked two years ago, but at ECCC, he’s really risen his draft stock to first round levels. Anderson is a throwback to the fast, defensive wizard shortstops with marginal hitting ability, which is good, as the power shortstop is beginning to decline. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Anderson to develop, but he should be a solid prospect for years.
Coming soon: The compensation and CB lottery picks, as well as top draftees by draft position.