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.
As much as I wanted to wait until all the free agents with draft compensation signed, I feel that it’s time to make the first mock draft of the year for MinorLeagueMadhouse. While picks are usually done as either Best Player Available, Easiest To Sign, or General Manager’s Draft Philosophy, I’ve decided to go by need in the minors. To be more precise, which position in the top 20 is the weakest, or, if there is a clear cut pick, or if the general manager has a philosophy that they have publicly disclosed (like Jeff Luhnow of the Astros or Sandy Alderson of the Mets,) So without further delay, here is the first mock draft of the year for Minor League Madhouse.
1. Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
Carlos Rodon is the consensus number 1 pick in the draft right now, and nothing short of a Rick Ankiel-type meltdown will change that. The Astros have a strong enough pitching presence in the minor leagues right now, but Luhnow will be hard pressed to give up on the potential that Rodon has. With a major league caliber slider and fastball, as well as a preference to strike out hitters. Rodon, who helped NC State make the College World Series last year, is definitely going to fit in what could be the best future rotation in the league.
2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School, Texas
The Marlins have reaped the benefits of one high school arm that they drafted, why not go for another that looks Major League ready? Kolek is arguably one of the best prep arms in this year’s class. He has a fastball that is better than some collegiate pitchers, in addition to a well rounded arsenal of secondary pitches. Kolek’s only knock is is command and control, which is common for flame throwing prep arms, not to mention he’s behind on his development thanks to an injury he suffered in his sophomore year, but in showcases, he’s looked like the genuine article, and would be a perfect developmental athlete, as he can only get better.
3. White Sox: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo High School, California
Last year, I pointed out that Chicago’s weakest position in the minors was catcher. And they did have the opportunity to grab a catcher early with Nick Ciuffo and Jon Denney on the board. However, they whiffed on both. Now, they have a golden goose in Alex Jackson, who comes from the same high school as Cole Hamels. Jackson is a well rounded high school catcher, although he does need improvement in commanding a game. He has plus power, decent speed, basically, he has the chance to be one of the better prep catchers in the last few draft classes. If Jackson fails behind the plate though, he could make it as an outfielder, where his arm would be his best strength.
4. Cubs, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina
The Cubs have bolstered their position player ranks in the past few drafts, now it’s time to go back to pitching. Hoffman, who pitches for a smaller school in East Carolina, is tall and gangly, but pitches like he’s in prime athletic shape. Hoffman’s fastball is something to behold, and his curveball is almost at the same level. He controls the ball well, but he will need to work on his finesse if he wants to be a high end starter.
5. Twins: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School, California
You can never have enough pitching, especially when it comes to lefties. Brady Aiken is a bit of a reach for the Twins, but given that they don’t have a top ten left handed pitching prospect at the time of this writing, it may be a good idea, both position wise and money wise, to go after him. This isn’t to diminish Aiken’s skill set, the young Southern California hurler is definitely even and well rounded in his skill set. He’s a jack of all trades pitcher, with no set primary pitch, which is good, as it serves as a reminder to the better days of Johan Santana. Aiken’s athleticism is also a plus, although now that his future has been set as a pitcher, he should focus primarily on that. Still, Aiken and 2013 pick Kohl Stewart would headline a young, and powerful pitching class should the Twins decided to pick him.
6. Mariners: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State
The Mariners don’t seem to have a problem with a specific position, what they need, however, is speed. NC State shortstop Trea Turner is the answer to that problem. Turner has major league legs, and while his hitting is developmental right now, he is somewhat respectable in that category. Turner is still fully transitioning from third base to shortstop, which is fine, but if he wants to advance a few levels, he will need to improve on his fielding. Still, Turner profiles as a #1 or #9 hitter in an American League lineup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him.
7. Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville High School, Georgia
Byron Buxton was the star of the 2012 draft class and Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier were the stars of the 2013 prep class, now, Michael Gettys becomes the next high level hitter from the state of Georgia. Gettys’ game is focused now on his legs and his arm, but his hitting, when properly developed, could make him into the next prep hitting star. Given Ryan Howard likely will retire when Gettys comes around, and there really isn’t a power presence to back him up yet, it would be a good idea for the Phillies to capitalize on the Georgia Prep slugger trend.
8. Rockies: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School, California
We got an early peek at Jacob Gatewood last year at Citi Field’s high school home run derby, and he certainly put on a show, but besides that, Gatewood is a well polished athlete who despite his body, has the potential to be one of the better hitting shortstops in history. Tall and lanky, he does have the potential to lead the league in home runs, especially in the thin air of Denver. Given the injury history and likelihood that Troy Tulowitzki may not finish his mega contract extension, taking Gatewood would be a wise insurance policy for the Rockies. He and 2012 first rounder David Dahl could make a lethal power combination for years to come.
9. Blue Jays: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
Surprised that Toronto would try again? You shouldn’t be. Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school as a first rounder in 2011, but he turned down the money to honor his college commitment. Three years later, Beede has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the SEC and after a historic campaign with the Commodores, brought himself into the Golden Spikes conversation. Beede’s offerings, particularly his fastball, are devastating to hitters, but what he needs improvement on is his control. Beede has the chance to continue the legacy of excellent Vandebilt pitchers started with David Price and continued with Sonny Gray this past year. If he can improve his control, he should be in the majors by late 2015-early 2016.
10. Mets: Touki Toussaint, Pitcher, Coral Springs High School, Florida
If what Keith Law speculates from his interview with Sandy Alderson is true, then Alderson must be talking about Touki Toussaint. Here’s a guy who has come out of nowhere, established himself as a truly different pitcher who, with some help, can control and even expand the strike zone with his fastball and major league curve. Touki has the potential to make an impact in any rotation, and his curve should allow him to strike out plenty of batters, provide catchers are able to handle it. The only knock on him is his lack of experience; Toussaint did only start playing his sophomore year of high school, and his international background; while he is from the Caribbean, Haiti isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. Still, his arm is very loose and worth looking at, and having it in the same rotation as Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey would be scary.
So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.
Day One of the Draft is in the books and what an event it was. While not as entertaining as the NFL draft, it certainly had its highlights. From the attendees getting picked, to hearing Clint Frazier sing (something I never want to hear again), to Nick Ciuffo wiggling his ears, to the awkward moment when Ian Clarkin was taken by the Yankees despite the fact that he and his father both hate the team and were very happy when they lost the 2001 World Series, all in all, it was an interesting night. Now, we focus on the winners and losers of the draft:
Winners: Most Teams that had more than one first round choice in the draft.
Most teams that had two or more (in the case of the Yankees) first round draft choices used them on big name talent. The Pirates used their two picks on the consensus top hitter in the draft, and the top catcher in Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire. The Cardinals used their picks to bolster their pitching, specifically their southpaws, with Gonzaga’s Marco Gonzales and Garden State prepster Rob Kaminsky. And the Yankees have begun their transition to the future with the selections of third baseman Eric Jagielo of Notre Dame, expected to take over for Alex Rodriguez, Aaron Judge, the freakishly large and athletic outfielder from Fresno State, and California prepster Ian Clarkin, who apparently had to quickly change his fan allegiance after saying he hated the Yankees. All in all, very solid names came to those who picked more than once. However…
Loser: Texas Rangers
Billy McKinney, a home state product and the second best prep corner infielder, was available at pick 23. The Rangers bypassed him, going for Oral Roberts starter Alex Gonzalez. Jon Denney, the third best prep catcher, was available at pick 30, and the Rangers went with Travis Demerritte, who wasn’t even close to being the best available prep shortstop after JP Crawford was picked. Two stupid decisions in one night. Must be a sign of things to come. The Rangers have generally had good picks in recent years, opting for prep talent which could contribute down the line, but this time, they overvalued their two picks. Will it come back to bite them? Possibly, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Winner: Mark Appel and the Houston Astros
Apparently waiting an extra year did help Appel in his quest to go first overall. The Astros, who bypassed him a year ago for prep shortstop Carlos Correa, decided that he was ready the second time around, and picked him first overall. Appel, a Houston native and soon-to-be Stanford alum, was considered, along with Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray and San Diego infielder Kris Bryant, to be a top pick. Because of his college experience, he should be fast tracked to the major leagues.
Loser: Jon Denney
You know how ESPN focuses on football players waiting to be drafted by showing shots of them in the green room, like they did with Aaron Rodgers, Brady Quinn, and Geno Smith? If they were covering the MLB draft, you can bet that one of the things they’d show more than anything else would be Jon Denney, waiting in the dugout while the names came and went. Denney, who was originally considered the top prep catcher, had a senior slump which dropped his stock. Nobody expected him to fall out of the second round, but unfortunately, he did. What’s worse for Denney is that the remainder of the draft will be done by conference call, instead of live television, No draft hat for him with the team logo on the side, no jersey, no putting his name on the board, no picture with Bud Selig, and no interview with the MLB network “on field” reporter. Sad. However, there are several options for him. He could sign with the team that does draft him, and likely he will be picked in the third round, he could go to a junior college program and resubmit his name for the draft next year, or he could go to college and rise his stock in time for the 2016 draft.
Winner: Billy McKinney
Billy McKinney is a Texan, but his allegiance lies in Oakland. Before the draft, he was asked if he was a Rangers fan, however, he said “No no, I’m an A’s fan” The A’s must have heard this and tabbed him to be their first baseman of the future. With two consecutive high schoolers chosen in the first round, Billy Beane is departing from his moneyball drafting strategy of high floor collegians in favor of high ceiling prepsters. McKinney and 2012 first rounder Addison Russell will be probably the most hyped prep players in Oakland since Todd Van Poppel and Ariel Prieto, but hopefully they won’t fizzle like the other two did.
Loser: Moneyball drafting
Billy Beane went 11 years between drafting prep players in the first round. Starting in 2002 and ending in 2011, the A’s selected collegians in the first round. Some panned out, like Nick Swisher, Jemile Weeks, and Huston Street. Others failed, like Jeremy Brown, John McCurdy, and Corey Brown. It seems that Beane has outgrown this phase, and ventured back into the prep drafting phase. With choices like Addison Russell and Billy McKinney, it has shown that Oakland is ready to ditch the drafting system that made them famous. That doesn’t mean that Moneyball is dead entirely, as Oakland still goes for cheap talent that can get them wins.
Winner: Nick Ciuffo’s ears
When Tampa Bay took their catcher of the future, we all learned that he has an interesting fact about him: He can wiggle his ears. When he was chosen, we got to see first hand, his talent. Although not as awesome as Courtney Hawkins doing a backflip in a suit, Ciuffo wiggling his ears like a mischevious leprechaun certainly was a highlight of the night.
Loser: Clint Frazier’s pipes.
There should be a rule that states that unless athletes have good singing voices, they should avoid singing entirely. Clint Frazier didn’t get the memo, and “graced” the viewers with his half-dead rendition of a certain Taylor Swift song that I absolutely refuse to name. Stick to baseball, Clint.
Winner: Colorado Rockies
Jonathan Gray’s positive Adderall test may have hurt his draft stock, but he still fell into the welcoming arms of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies, who have yet to produce a true franchise pitcher, may have finally found their star. A workhorse with a 102 mile per hour fastball, Gray projects to be the ace of the Rockies staff for years to come.
Loser: San Francisco Giants
Either the Giants are really smart, or really stupid, because their first round pick were not even remotely close to the MLB top 100 prospects. Christian Arroyo, a shortstop, the position which they are set with. With Brandon Crawford in the majors and 2011 first rounder Joe Panik at AA, it made absolutely no sense for them to go after Arroyo. Similarly, the Giants could have picked a catcher in the hopes that when Buster Posey does inevitably have to move to first base, he would be ready to take over. Jon Denney was available. Instead, they bypassed him twice in favor of Arroyo and Ryder Jones, a prep third baseman. If Denney is still available by the time the Giants pick next, then they should seriously consider taking him.
Winner: Harold Reynolds
Harold Reynolds is the consummate professional analyst at the 2013 draft, and is starting to draw comparisons to Mel Kiper in terms of his experience. Reynolds, a former baseball player and fourth round draft pick, has the most insight into the situation, as he’s actually been there and done it. Reynolds will be the face of the MLB draft for years to come.
Loser: Pedro Astacio
I dont’ know which was more painful to watch/hear: Clint Frazier “singing” or Pedro Astacio coming up to the podium to announce who the Rockies picked. Either way, it was awful. Astacio mumbled through his words, couldn’t get the names of the schools correct, and just stumbled in more ways that you can imagine. Even Bud Selig’s annual “with the X pick in the 2000 draft” was more bearable this year. Bring back Garrett Atkins.
Coming up: Draft Grades, steals, and busts.
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.
The MLB Draft is less than two months away. With that in mind, it’s time to put on my Draft Cap, act like Mel Kiper Jr. and make my predictions as to which prospects are going where. But rather than doing an entire mock draft, I’m splitting it into three posts. The first round, which includes the new compensation round and competitive balance lottery picks, is 39 picks long. It begins with the Houston Astros and ends with the Detroit Tigers. It has been said that this year’s class is considered weak compared to previous ones as aside from Stanford ace and former Pirates pick Mark Appel, nobody stands out as a consensus number one selection. Regardless, I relish the challenge and will take a shot at determining who goes where. The general idea here is that the picks will be either best player available or by weakest position in farm system. Here we go.
1. Houston Astros: Mark Appel, Pitcher, Stanford
Mark Appel and first overall draft choice are two phrases that have been used in the same sentence before. Last year, it was almost certain that the Astros were going for the big Stanford ace, but they ultimately decided that prep shortstop Carlos Correa would be a better investment as a top pick. That being said, Appel did not sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team that did draft him, and ultimately returned to Stanford. In a relatively weak class like this one, Appel is a certainty. He has top pick written all over him, especially with the mid 90’s fastball that scouts have continually gushed over. Appel seems to also be a top candidate for the Golden Spikes Award, given annually to college baseball’s best player as well. If the Astros are willing to give Appel the money that he asks for, expect him to be an anchor in an up-and-coming rotation.
2. Chicago Cubs: Sean Manaea, Pitcher, Indiana State
The NFL Draft has Workout Warriors, the NBA Draft has Tournament Stars, and Major League Baseball has Cape Cod Kings. This is the name given to baseball players who play in summer leagues and excel, raising their draft stock for that sole reason. Sean Manaea became the latest CCK when he registered a 5-1 record and a 1.22 ERA. The Indiana State product had previously not garnered much attention, but with the Summer league and a high-90’s velocity on his fastball, the Cubs will likely abandon their latest draft tradition of drafting high ceiling high school position players in favor of Manaea, who draws a comparison to a left handed Matt Harvey.
3. Colorado Rockies: Austin Meadows, Outfield/First Baseman, Grayson High School, Georgia
Last year, the Rockies selected one of the biggest sleeper picks in Oak Mountain High School outfielder David Dahl. Expect them to do something similar this year with Grayson High School’s Austin Meadows. While Meadows’ primary position is outfield, Colorado could move him to first base and have him develop as an infielder throughout his minor league career. Meadows, like Dahl is a plus hitter with some speed. Whereas the humid Georgia air had a dampening effect on Meadows’ power, if drafted by the Rockies, Meadows could become one of the best hitters in baseball.
4. Minnesota Twins: Jon Denney, Catcher, Yukon High School, Oklahoma
The last time the Twins selected a high profile prep catcher in the first round, his name was Joe Mauer, and he soon became one of the best catchers in baseball. Minnesota’s catching depth behind Drew Butera is suspect, and unless the Twins are content with having him or Ryan Doumit serve as Mauer’s successor when he retires or moves to another position, Oklahoma’s Jon Denney will likely be the best choice for the Twins. Denney is like Mauer in a lot of ways. He has power in his bat, and is a defensive asset. He certainly will fit in with Minnesota’s recent philosophy of drafting high ceiling prep products, as evidenced by last year’s selections of Byron Buxton and J.O Berrios.
5. Cleveland Indians: Kris Bryant, Third Baseman, San Diego
College baseball players take less time to develop, and Cleveland has opted to go that route before, especially with last year’s pick of Tyler Naquin. In Bryant, the team not only gets a dependable third baseman but also a legitimate power threat, perfect for Progressive Field’s dimensions. While the team does already have a third baseman in Lonnie Chisenhall and a power threat in Mark Reynolds, Bryant is a better hitter than Chisenhall and doesn’t strike out as much as Reynolds. In addition, Chisenhall would be more valuable as a trade chip anyway. Bryant should be at the top of Cleveland’s board, especially since he is the fourth best player available.
6. Miami Marlins: DJ Peterson, First Baseman, New Mexico
Miami’s biggest weakness in their minor league system is first base, and the draft is relatively weak in that position. Fortunately, there is at least one college first baseman who could fit in the Marlin future. DJ Peterson may be a reach right now, but if he can repeat what he did in the summer leagues and Team USA, his stock should rise exponentially. Peterson also has power, as he was Team USA’s best hitter over the summer. That could translate well in the cavernous Marlins Park. It will certainly be interesting to see him, Christian Yelich, and Giancarlo Stanton in the same lineup.
7. Boston Red Sox: Ryne Stanek, Pitcher, Arkansas
The MLB Draft has its fair share of tumblers, players that are projected to go high but fall down. Usually, its money, sometimes its injury related, sometimes it’s both. Ryne Stanek is a tumbler because of injuries and possible demands of a high contract. Stanek is projected as the top pitcher in some drafts, and in some cases, he could go as high as first overall. While he does have the talent, the teams that do pick before Boston are usually not at a luxury to spend high on draft picks. Boston is an ideal destination as the Red Sox have a top rotation in the making with Matt Barnes and Henry Owens coming up. Expect Stanek to be a solid second or third starter in Boston’s rotation.
8. Kansas City Royals: Jonathan Gray, Pitcher, Oklahoma
Like Sean Manaea, Jonathan Gray has risen quickly up draft boards. Kansas City should take a look at him because of his ability to throw 100+ miles per hour. While the Royals do have a solid cache of pitchers in their arsenal already, Gray could be used in any aspect. Prospects2pros envisions Gray as a closer for the Royals, especially with his speed and his pitch arsenal. In addition, with the Wil Myers trade taking away two of the Royals’ top pitching prospects, Gray could become Kansas City’s first big pitching star since Zach Greinke.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (Compensation for inability to sign Mark Appel): Chris Anderson, Pitcher, Jacksonville University
The Pirates are not big on selecting small school prospects, (see Alvarez, Pedro, Cole, Gerrit, Appel, Mark, Taillon, Jameson) but in Chris Anderson, the team may just have to go around that bias and take a hard look. Anderson compares to fellow draftmate Jonathon Crawford in size, pitch speed, and athletic ability, but unlike the University of Florida ace, Anderson has a lot more to gain, especially after facing stiffer competition. Considering the last small-school Florida college star (Chris Sale) has done a lot for himself since being drafted, getting a guy like Anderson could catapult the Pirates pitching rotation to the top.
10: Toronto Blue Jays: Clint Frazier, Outfield, Loganville High School, Georgia
If Austin Meadows were to lose two inches and ten pounds, curl his hair and dye it orange, learn to bat and throw righthanded, and transfer to Loganville High School, then people would probably say that the two were separated at birth. Frazier is a bit undersized for an outfielder, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in ability. As previously mentioned, Frazier and Meadows are similar talents, and in a hitters park like the Rogers Centre, Frazier could make the most out of Toronto.
11. New York Mets: Phillip Ervin, Outfield, Samford
Even if the Mets’ outfield is performing better than expected, Sandy Alderson should seriously use the 11th pick on a college outfielder with a high ceiling, especially since the team still lacks a true leadoff man. In Phillip Ervin, the Mets are getting some of the fastest legs in the draft, as well as a bat that can hit ten to fifteen home runs in a good year. Like Clint Frazier, however, he is undersized, and like Chris Anderson, he hasn’t had the benefit of playing for a major college program, but in a place like Citi Field, Ervin will certainly thrive for years to come.
12. Seattle Mariners: Colin Moran, Third Baseman, North Carolina
Seattle has made plenty of investments in SEC and ACC players in the past few years, like Josh Fields, Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, and most recently, Mike Zunino. Don’t expect them to buck the trend this year, especially if Colin Moran is still on the board. Moran, the nephew of former first overall pick BJ Surhoff, has the ability to spray hits around the park and his defensive capability make him an ideal candidate to play in Seattle’s infield with fellow Tar Heels alum Ackley. His power would be ideal for the newly shifted Safeco Field, and he would be a solid fast track developer.
13. San Diego Padres: JP Crawford, Shortstop, Lakewood High School, California
San Diego’s recent trend of drafting long term projects could suit them here, especially with a premier talent like JP Crawford still on the board. Crawford is similar to current shortstop Everth Cabrera, but he has more offensive capability. Crawford garnered nation attention in the Under Armour Showcases during the summer, and scouts feel that he will develop into a Jeter-like shortstop. If the Padres get Crawford and he matures correctly, they could have one of the top left infields in baseball by the end of the decade.