With MLB’s draft pick signing deadline set for 5:00 today, there are obviously several high holdouts that have yet to ink deals. In total, in the first two rounds, competitive balance picks included, there are 7 picks who remain unsigned. Considering the measures taken to limit bonus pool money, the fact that only three first round picks are unsigned indicates that something clearly is working here. Whats even more surprising is the fact that there are no high school first round picks who haven’t signed. But I digress.
This article will focus on the remaining unsigned first and competitive balance round picks in the draft. There are four of them. Without further delay, here they are.
1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks.
The first overall pick becomes the second straight pick to hold off signing at the deadline. But unlike Brady Aiken last season, whose UCL wiped out any chance of him receiving a top level bonus, Swanson is perfectly healthy, and has no incentive to return to school.
Why he will sign:
As the first overall pick, Swanson is perfectly capable of commanding the $8,616,900 recommended bonus that is the league recommendation. The Diamondbacks have a large enough pool to afford the deal, and considering the fact that all but one of their first 10 picks signed for at-slot deals, and their only other remaining major commitment is 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, it seems that the best way to say it is that all that needs to be done is figure out how much money they want to commit to him.
As of now, the top bonus in the draft belongs to #2 pick Alex Bregman, who topped out with $5.9 million. If all goes well in Swanson’s camp, and given the fact that the negotiations between them and the D-Backs camp have been more about evaluating his market, I could see Arizona following their trend and signing him at slot. Should Rodriguez who may elect to recover from Tommy John surgery in college choose not to sign, the D-Backs could afford to sweeten the pot by offering him even more. However, the verdict is this. Swanson will sign, and based on the positive lines of communication, he’ll be rewarded handsomely.
24. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
The first of two remaining unsigned Dodgers, Buehler was a solid starter and piece of the 2014 NCAA champions and 2015 NCAA runners up. Buehler at one point was considered the best of the three Vanderbilt products taken in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 24th pick.
Why he will sign.
This one comes down to two major factors: Who do the Dodgers want to commit their remaining pool money to, and how much can they afford to? In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers do have another first round pick and a 6th rounder who have yet to sign, but the chances that they sign all three are incredibly slim. Buehler had a decent season this year, even if he had to take a 2 and a half week break to rest during the season.
The Dodgers ideally would want to sign Buehler because he would further add to the arsenal of future arms set to take over the Dodger rotation in the coming years. Given that Buehler is a college pitcher, there would be a chance for him to come up as early as late 2016 or early 2017.
Buehler would be the Dodgers’ best chance to sign, and if it means that they have to commit what remaining bonus money under the 5% threshold they have to sign him, then they should, and should let go of their remaining picks.
35, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Dodgers
Kyle Funkhouser at one point in the draft was considered the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft, but a down junior season dropped his stock, and he tumbled all the way down to the 35th pick.
Why he won’t sign:
The way I look at this, Kyle Funkhouser has leverage that former potential top pick Michael Matuella didn’t have. A bad junior season? Fine, go back to school, see if you can rebound, and hope to enter next year’s top pick conversation. Matuella didn’t have that same leverage because of his Tommy John surgery and back issues, which would have prevented him from pitching at all in his senior year.
Funkhouser knows that he’s worth more that whatever the Dodgers can offer him, and given the fact that they spent their top picks on college pitchers, he likely views himself as the odd man out.
Admittedly, the risks of returning to school for a senior season are big. What if Funkhouser doesn’t improve? What if he’s only able to slightly raise his stock from last season? Since compensation for losing a first round draft pick began, only one player who didn’t sign was a collegian, and that was Stanford’s Mark Appel in 2012. Granted, Appel was able to move from being selected by the Pirates at 8th overall to the Astros at first overall, but his decision to return doesn’t indicate a trend.
The only way I see Funkhouser choose to sign is if the Dodgers elect to not sign Edwin Rios, their sixth rounder. If they do that, they could try and split the remaining threshold bonus pool money they have in the hopes of getting both Buehler and Funkhouser. Knowing full well that the Dodgers don’t want to be the first team to lose a draft pick for exceeding their pool, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. In all likelihood, it will come down choosing between Buehler and Funkhouser, and signs indicate Buehler is their first choice.
40. Nathan Kirby, LHP: Brewers
Nathan Kirby was a preseason favorite to be a top pick in the draft, but an ineffective junior season towards the end dropped his stock and pushed him to the CB round, where the Brewers snatched him.
Why he will sign:
An article on the Daily Progress’ UVA sports blog indicates that Kirby has decided to wait until just before the deadline to sign. For Kirby, going pro would be the best decision. The Cavaliers will be fine without him, especially with the emergence of Connor Jones as a staff ace. Plus, as a UVA product, Kirby has a chance to go through the minor league system quickly. The Brewers could use the remainder of the minor league season to shut down Kirby and wait until next season, when he will be fully healthy and ready to go.
Considering the Brewers have made no effort to sign their gamble picks, Justin Hooper, Donny Everett and John India, they could definitely allocate the money they have left towards a higher bonus for Kirby.
Day 1 of the MLB Draft went, and surprisingly, it went with a bang. For a draft that doesn’t allow trades, and whose prospects are not as well known in casual circles as the NFL or the NBA, there was enough buzz for some degree of coverage. From the first three picks to the acknowledgement of South Carolina-Beaufort pitcher Jason Boulais donating marrow all the way to the end of the draft, this was definitely one of the more interesting drafts in recent memory. And of course, with that, I present my list of winners and losers from this year. So without any further delay, here are my winners and losers of the 2015 MLB draft.
Winner: The 2015 Shortstop Class
Let’s start this off by going with the completely obvious. 8 of the 36 first round picks in the draft played shortstop, which accounts for 22% of the first round, a solid statistic. What’s even better for this position is that the first three picks in the draft were shortstops. Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers find themselves as future franchise faces, and all three are considered very advanced players, likely to make a quick run through the minor leagues.
After the big three were picked, the Phillies used their pick on Griffin High School shortstop Cornelius Randolph, arguably one of the better prep power hitters in the draft. The Pirates took Arizona’s Kevin Newman, one of the fastest players in the draft, and the A’s took Richie Martin, one of the better defenders of the draft. In the compensatory part of the first round, the Yankees took Kyle Holder, also a defensive stud, and a solid insurance policy, should Didi Gregorius fail, while the Orioles took Ryan Mountcastle, a developmental project ideally set to inherit the position when JJ Hardy retires.
This year’s shortstop class is valuable, and should most of them pan out, it would be a solid equivalent to the NFL’s famous quarterback class of 1983.
Loser: Michael Matuella
Whether it was the medicals or the possibility that he was commanding a big signing bonus, Duke’s Michael Matuella, once considered the top pick in the 2015 draft, slid all the way out of Day 1. For me, the slide draws some comparisons to Jon Denney’s horrible 2013 Draft day slide, where at one point he was considered the top catching prospect in his class, he ended up being a second day pick for the Boston Red Sox.
Matuella’s medical history was a big red flag, with back trouble and Tommy John surgery really hampering his ability to capitalize on a solid sophomore campaign. There probably was hope that he could be a high risk high reward late first round pick, but something obviously scared off teams enough to have him land here. I would expect Matuella to be picked in the third round, but in the worst case scenario, he falls even lower and decides to go back to school, becoming a top senior prospect in the 2016 draft, like Mark Appel.
Three picks in the first two rounds shows that our neighbors to the north do have some value when it comes to their talent. With the Marlins selecting first baseman Josh Naylor as a future power hitter, the Braves going for Mike Soroka as a potential starter, and the Yankees adding pitching depth in Indiana State’s Jeff Degano, Canada had possibly their best draft in a while. And yet, they’re not finished, as Demi Orimoloye is still on the board, and likely could be picked early in Day 2.
On the other side of the coin, the Blue Jays were able to make a solid first pick, tabbing Missouri State righthander Jonathan Harris in the compensatory first round. Missouri State has provided some value with picks like Ross Detwiler and Shaun Marcum, and Harris could be a legitimate rotation arm behind Marcus Stroman in the coming years.
Give the Cavaliers some credit for having two Day 1 picks, but A, the picks were later than expected, and B, there could have been three, if not for some bad luck.
Like Matuella, Nathan Kirby at one point was considered a top 5 pick in the draft, but as the year went on, it was clear that he didn’t have the stuff he had during his sophomore year. This was even more evident as he suffered from fatigue and an arm issue and had to be shut down towards the end of the season. Kirby’s stock did plummet, and he eventually landed in Milwaukee with their CB lottery pick. Milwaukee’s track record for developing pitchers hasn’t been great, however.
The other Virginia pick, Josh Sborz, had a lights out season for the Cavaliers, pitching as both the team’s closer and occasional spot starter. His performance allowed him to go to the Dodgers in the second CB lottery round. Oddly enough, Sborz had comparable numbers to sixth overall pick Tyler Jay, although not as high of a ceiling.
Left out of Day 1 was outfielder Joe McCarthy, who at one point would have been a solid second round pick. McCarthy however was injured early in the season and he had a down year, effectively dropping him to a Day 2 pick. It’s possible he could find himself going by the fourth or fifth round, though.
Virginia’s a strong program, but this year’s draft class is definitely not as strong as last year’s.
Winner: Rick Honeycutt
Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt is probably one of the happiest coaches in baseball right now, especially given what his team did in the draft. After there was legitimate complaints that the Dodgers had no back of the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, the Dodgers used their first two picks on high ceiling, high floor pitchers Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser. Buehler may need a little more time, but Funkhouser has been considered one of the more Major League ready pitchers in the draft, despite inconsistency in his junior season.
Although it is unprecedented to have players make such a quick jump to the major leagues, the Dodgers have had some degree of success doing it with former second rounder Paco Rodriguez. I wouldn’t be surprised if Funkhouser is in the majors by 2016.
Loser: Jose Altuve
The writing is on the wall. Jose Altuve, once considered the face of the Houston Astros, is likely on his way out of the Space City. It became especially evident when the Astros drafted Alex Bregman, a shortstop whom experts believed would play second base in the big leagues.
In a way, it almost makes sense. Altuve is going to be expensive, and as the Astros retool for success, with all the young and cheap talent they have, he’ll likely be the odd man out. Granted, Altuve’s contact extension he signed back in 2013 is paltry given the extensions that many players have signed, but he’s already halfway through it, not including the options. Although I have mentioned that Bregman could make a quick run through the minors, I doubt it will be quick enough for him to play alongside Altuve. In my opinion, Altuve will play on borrowed time, but he could be shipped out early for more prospects should the Astros feel that Bregman is ready.
Winner: Chicago White Sox
Two straight seasons of getting possibly the consensus top pitching talent definitely gives you a “winner” label. The Sox were able to get Carson Fulmer, a battle tested ace whose height adds to his deceptiveness when he pitches.
Fulmer joins Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon as college aces whom the Sox have drafted, and although he is considered the highest risk, at worst, he could still be a solid closer for the team.
If Fulmer is put on accelerated development like Sale and Rodon, it’s possible he could make his debut next season, depending on if the team still has Jeff Samardzjia.
Loser: Chicago Cubs
I could only face palm as the Cubs used their first two picks on Ian Happ and Donnie Dewees. Considering the amount of offensive talent in the minors, it seemed impractical for them to make the investments they did, especially when there were pitchers available.
Ian Happ, who has no set position, would be in a logjam with the Chicago Cubs infielders and outfielders; the same goes for Donnie Dewees.
The Cubs could have gone for San Clemente pitcher Kolby Allard, or Park Vista’s Austin Smith. Instead, they added more offensive talent they didn’t need. Unless the team is planning on acquiring pitchers with the offensive prospects they have, I find it very difficult to justify what the Cubs have done.
Winner: The Kolby Allard-Lucas Herbert Battery
It’s not often that high school teammates, particularly high level talent high school teammates, are available in the same draft. However, in some cases, it does happen. The Braves may have made a risky pick with Kolby Allard when they took him 15th overall despite constant back problems, but they really helped optimize his environment when they used their second rounder on his battery mate, Lucas Herbert. Herbert may be far from the best catcher in his class, but he is a defensive asset, and in the world of catching, there is nothing more important than carrying a defensive expert behind the plate, at the very least as a backup. Allard and Herbert will definitely generate solid chemistry and hopefully progress through the Braves minor league system at the same time.
Loser: The Kevin Newman-Scott Kingery Middle Infield
Let me start this off by saying that the Pirates had a solid first day, especially with their first two picks. I like Kevin Newman and I love KeBryan Hayes going to Pittsburgh. However, through no fault of their own, they missed out on possibly one of the best middle infields in college baseball when Scott Kingery was drafted by the Phillies. Chemistry is key in baseball, and having Kingery and Newman would have been a big boon for the Pirates.
Winner: Rob Manfred Acknowledging Jason Boulais
The decision that South Carolina-Beaufort pitcher Jason Boulais made, to donate bone marrow to a child in another country was probably the biggest, and hardest decision he ever made. And while it could have gone unnoticed, the fact that he gave up playing baseball in order to save a child’s life was compelling enough for people to take notice. Public relations boon or not, inviting Boulais to watch the MLB draft was a great move on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s part. Listening to Manfred’s speech about what Boulais did was inspiring. All in all, it was touching. In some ways, it does draw parallels to last year’s NBA draft, when Adam Silver stepped up to the podium and announced that the NBA would select Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who had been diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome shortly before the draft. And while Manfred could have done something similar, saying something along the lines of “Major League Baseball will draft Jason Boulais” or have him announce the Red Sox pick (He is a Red Sox fan), the decision to acknowledge what he did is definitely a solid pat on the back to those who sacrifice what they want for the betterment of others.
Loser: Rob Manfred completely botching Andrew Benintendi’s name
Of course, right after acknowledging Boulais, Manfred did announce the Red Sox’ pick. And with the seventh pick in that draft, the Red Sox selected Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi, or as Manfred said, the Baud, Boston Red Sox selected Anrew Benintenitendi. I get it, some names are harder to pronounce than others, but wow, that was a botch if there ever was one. Maybe it would have been a good idea to have Boulais try his luck at that name?
Winner: Ashe Russell’s fashion sense
I was originally going to put this one as a loser, but then I realized something. This is actually the first time that we have a unique outfit at the MLB draft. The NFL has done it for a few years, see Dante Fowler and Danny Shelton for reference, and the NBA has made it an annual tradition since Jalen Rose pulled out the red pinstriped suit from Beetlejuice’s closet. Ashe Russell’s outfit was both awesomely good and awesomely bad at the same time, It was the Anaconda of draft suits. While he wasn’t exactly as flamboyant as Fowler and Rose, his bright orange shirt with white collar and tie was definitely a wonder to behold. Considering how the draft is starting to gain some popularity, there should be an Ashe Russell rule, where at least one player must dress up in the most ridiculous outfit imaginable. Players get points for looking like a giant traffic cone.
Loser: Those of us who had to hear Alex Bregman’s “Naked” story
A good story makes a great prospect; we all remember when Ian Clarkin was drafted by the Yankees and the spotlight revealed that he hated them growing up. playing up the awkwardness. However, that’s nothing compared to Alex Bregman’s three story tangent after he was picked.
First we learn that in his first game, he turned an unassisted triple play. Okay, considering how uncoordinated kids are when they start playing, it’s not the hardest thing to do.
Then we learn that he’s not an instagram poster or a big picture guy, for that matter. Okay, great, neither am I.
And then we get to the story about how when he was “little little” he ran naked around his house naked. (those were his words, not mine) and he started riding a toy horse, to the embarrassment of his parents.
Three words, Bregman, Too. Much. Information. While we’re on the subject, why don’t we hear the story about the one time at band camp with the flute? Or how about that one about the infamous Fourth of Ju-Luau?
Thankfully, Bregman was able to save his spotlight from ending in awkward crickets by asking the cameraman if he could make him look “jacked”. Still, while we like to know about our prospects, we don’t need to delve that deep.
Coming up, a recap of the draft with a division by division look at some notable prospects.
The 2015 MLB Draft Order has officially been set, thanks to the San Diego Padres electing to sign James Shields. With their forfeiture of the 13th overall pick, the start of the college baseball season, and of course, pitchers and catchers reporting for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it seems appropriate to do yet another mock draft.
You all know how this works by now, the selections are done based on organizational (as in top 20 prospects) need, the draft will be split up so as to not have this take all day, after the draft is complete, I’ll release the full results, etc. etc. etc.
So without further delay, here are the first seven picks for the 2014 MLB Mock Draft
1. Arizona Diamondbacks
Like the center in basketball, the quarterback in football, and the goalie in hockey, shortstop is often considered one of the most important positions. While one is mainly valued for his defensive abilities, a shortstop that can hit is considered a major boon, and for the Diamondbacks, who have the likes of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings piloting the position now, it couldn’t be a better time for them to have the number one pick.
Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School is arguably the best prep player in the country. I’ve used the term HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop to describe players like him, prep shortstops with advanced tools and the ability to go through a minor league system quickly. His bat alone could have him in the majors in three years, and his defense while currently decent enough to allow him to stay at his current position, will only improve with time in the minors.
Rodgers would be the perfect complement to Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, who would be 31 and 27, respectively. Having three potent bats with power potential would certainly allow Arizona to complement what is likely going to be a solid up-and-coming rotation, allowing them to compete in the NL West.
2. Houston Astros
The Astros have managed to build a system that many teams would kill to have, especially with the high floor college talent they’ve acquired in the past draft. While they have a solid foundation of righthanded pitching, thanks in part to Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, their lack of a future impact left-handed pitcher is what holds the team from having a solid system.
Virginia’s Nathan Kirby may not have the upside that 2014 draft pick Brady Aiken had, but he also doesn’t have the history that Aiken has with the Astros. This isn’t to say that Kirby is your prototypical safe pick, rather, he has the potential to be a staff anchor. In his opening start, Kirby only allowed three hits in seven innings of work against East Carolina, which is one of the American Athletic Conference’s toughest teams.
Kirby has a solid three pitch mix, a fastball, slider, and changeup which will only get better due to his commitment to filling out his frame during the summer. He has solid command, and will play the zone in order
The Astros would also benefit from drafting Kirby, as his old college teammate, Derek Fisher, is already in their system, and building upon that preexisting chemistry will do them a world of good in developing confidence in their starter.
3. Colorado Rockies
I mentioned it in my last mock, but I think it bears repeating: By developing their own starters instead of buying them, the Colorado Rockies will have an advantage that no NL club has: pitchers who are used to throwing in the thin air of Denver. And it doesn’t matter if the pitcher is left or right-handed, the idea is that in developing their own arms, they form a pitching staff that allows them to compete in the NL West. Having Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland starting the staff is good, but what they need is another bona fide arm.
The past five years have been kind to teams who have had the number three pick in the draft, and 2015 will be no exception. Brady Aiken’s decision to forgo his UCLA commitment has catapulted him to the top of what is already a vaunted arms class, and significantly improves the talent level of a limited left-handed class.
Whether or not he does have an issue with his throwing arm will be negligible, given his upside as a pitcher. His fastball-curveball-changeup combination are incredibly advanced for his age, and his build is similar to that of top right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser.
Aiken will complement fellow southpaw Kyle Freeland quite well, and will allow the Rockies to develop variety in their rotation with Gray and Butler as righthanded starters.
4. Texas Rangers
You can make as many jokes as you like about the state of the Rangers rotation, because currently, aside from Yu Darvish, there is little upside. Sure, getting Anthony Ranaudo from Boston may offer some hope, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could turn out to be a better draft choice then I thought, but truth be told, even if the Rangers had a lineup of players that possessed Joey Gallo’s attributes, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the rotation will need to be fixed in the future.
Sometimes the stars align, however, and an advanced college arm will fall into your lap. Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser is that arm. While I had a feeling that he could be one of the best arms in the draft, but was wary of whether or not his ability and potential demand for a big contract could drop him a few picks, his 12 strikeout performance against Alabama State is pretty much him saying to me, “Give me some credit and put me in the top 5 already!”
Funkhouser certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as he was Team USA’s top prospect last summer, but what really makes him attractive to teams is his pitch arsenal, which currently would grade as league average, but has the potential to improve to ace levels.
While Alabama State isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, should Funkhouser continue pitching the way he does even if he drops his strikeout totals, there’s no doubt he could be in conversation to be the top pick.
5. Houston Astros
Legacy prospects are as much of a gamble as any other prospects. Some turn out to be as good, if not better than their fathers, while others fail in that regard. There’s no doubt that Delino Deshields could have been a solid prospect, but the Astros organization was running out of patience and understandably, with plenty of talent and few 40 man roster spots open, left him unprotected for the Texas Rangers to take. Of course, Deshields was known mainly for his speed; Houston’s hypothetical pick here has more dimension to his game.
Daz Cameron, of Eagles Landing Christian Academy, is the son of Mike Cameron, who was probably one of the most underrated players of his generation. Cameron the younger, at one point was viewed as a top pick, but a drop off in his junior year has him somewhere between top ten and top fifteen. However, Cameron’s current ability affords him the opportunity of improving his draft stock.
A solid contact hitter now, he has the potential to add power to his swing, and while he has average speed for the basepaths, he does have the ability to cover his position well enough to compensate defensively.
Cameron is a prodigy, however, as he is part of the very exclusive club of players who have played in the All-American Game twice His talent will be hard to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, should he improve, the Astros end up taking him second overall.
6. Minnesota Twins
Minnesota’s future will be bright for as long as Byron Buxton continues to prove he is a top prospect, and the Twins will have a solid staff to look forward to with the impending arrivals of Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi. However, how do you repopulate the system? Who becomes the next top pitching prospect?
Kolby Allard of San Clemente High School has taken a meteoric rise from where I originally slotted him, 16th, to where he stands now, as a top ten prospect with the potential to be top five. He has similar attributes to Brady Aiken, but the stigma of his height drops his value.
What he lacks in height, Allard compensates for in the ability to pitch in big games; he made it out of the summer as USA Baseball’s top prep pitcher.
Pairing him up with Kohl Stewart will do nothing but good, as two young and lively arms anchoring the Twins rotation will give them a solid future hold in the AL Central.
7. Boston Red Sox
Rarely does a team have a plethora of Major League ready left-handed pitching like the Boston Red Sox. Guys like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson make up 2/5 of their top ten prospects. However, the point here is that these pitchers are practically Major League ready, and when they graduate, Boston’s system will need to adjust. Given the amount of prep options, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox opt to go for a long term project in the hopes of replenishing their pitching stores.
Cathedral High School righty Ashe Russell has seen his draft position rise, mainly because he has that much growth potential. Even though Indiana is starting to develop a reputation as a northern prospect pipeline, it’s still in its developing stages, and as a result, Russell has plenty of potential to grow. A two pitch man now with a solid fastball and up-and-coming slider, Russell does have a changeup, but it probably will suit him better once the talent level adjusts.
Russell does have the build to be a pitcher, but he’s still raw, and should he be taken by Boston, he probably will start out as a reliever and be developed into a spot starter or closer. Still, his potential is too great to pass on, and Boston has developed some solid pitchers as of late.