Tagged: Mark Appel

2016 MLB Mock Draft 3.0

As the offseason continues to take shape, so does the 2016 draft order. In the month since I last produced a mock, the Nationals lost their first round pick for signing Daniel Murphy, and the Dodgers gained their pick back after backing out of the Hisashi Iwakuma deal Additionally, the Royals lost their first round pick for Ian Kennedy, and the Detroit Tigers lost yet another draft pick for signing Justin Upton. As of now, if the draft were to start today, there would be 25 first round selections and 9 compensatory selections. Anything can happen, so I will avoid the comp picks for now, and focus on the first round proper, although when the season starts, that will change. Without further delay, here is the third edition of the 2016 mock draft. This mock will simply focus on who goes where, any scouting reports are reserved for new entrants.

Philadelphia Phillies:

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Matt Klentak is a genius.

After taking the position as Philly’s GM, he trades their best asset, closer Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for 2013 first overall pick Mark Appel and starter Tom Eshelman, as well as lefty starter Brett Oberholtzer. For a closer on a bad team, especially one that had only inherited the position after Jon Papelbon was traded, you have to admit that he made out like a bandit.

The Phillies may have added on to their system, but they still could use another dynamic lefty starter, even if Oberholtzer and Matt Harrison are part of the rotation. What may be considered one of the best pitching classes of all time boils down to three lefties and one righty, but in this case, I believe Jason Groome may have already won. The Barnegat HS southpaw has already proven he can step into a big role through pitching at IMG Academy, and although he may be a prep arm, he could be a quick riser through the system.

Previous: Groome

Cincinnati Reds:

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The last time a highly coveted shortstop prospect from Puerto Rico was eligible for the MLB draft, he surprised enough people and rose to the top of the draft board, where he would displace the top consensus draft prospect. Carlos Correa, as I mentioned last time, inspired a generation of young shortstops to make themselves into stars.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Delvin Perez, the International Baseball Academy shortstop. He may not be as good a hitter as Correa was, but his defense makes him one of those slick fielding assets that are almost impossible to ignore. Additionally, his speed makes him a threat when he gets on the base paths. Perez could grow into the hitter that Billy Hamilton never could be, if developed properly.

The Reds have been known to grow their shortstop prospects, and Perez would be the next in a long line of Gold-Glove-caliber defenders to play in the Queen City.

Previous: Corey Ray, OF, Louisville

Atlanta Braves:

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It’s hard to sell a rebuild to a fanbase, but it gets easier as the future pieces come in through trades of incumbent stars. What was Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller became Sean Newcomb and Dansby Swanson, as well as a few other assets. The Braves are in a good position to sell off more major league talent for prospects, but even if they don’t, they still have the little matter of whom they will select with the third pick.

I find it hard to believe Ender Inciarte will be a career Brave, and to be completely honest, I’m surprised he hasn’t already been shipped off. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Braves go outfield, considering Corey Ray would likely be on the board.

Not since Jason Heyward have the Braves been in such a position to grab a top positional talent, and if they  do get Ray, there’s a solid chance that he becomes Heyward 2.o. Ray is a 5 tool player, and his game changing ability makes him an almost Major-league ready outfielder. It’s entirely possible that Ray could be the fastest 2016 draftee to the big leagues.

Previous: Buddy Reed, OF, Florida

Colorado Rockies:

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One of my biggest biases is small college prospects and their adjustment to the pros, hence why I’ve never been keen on Kyle Freeland. Still, he does deserve a chance to prove that he can make it through the system, and even if he only grades out as a bullpen pitcher, it will still be a success for a Rockies team that has never been known for developing pitchers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Rockies shouldn’t continue building up a future rotation, and when the consensus top college left-handed pitcher falls into your lap, you take it. AJ Puk is an advanced lefty prospect, and he definitely fits the bill of a tall ace pitcher. Comparisons to Chris Sale have been floated, and his delivery does seem to have a bit of the trademark sidearm action made famous by Sale and Randy Johnson.

Puk, Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray would make a formidable trio in Denver, and it could be possible that the Rockies finally are able to make the leap out of the NL West basement with those three in the rotation.

Previous: Puk

Milwaukee Brewers:

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Whether or not the Brewers are fully committed to a rebuild is entirely up to their new GM, and frankly, considering how the system has been reconstructed after years of lackluster prospects, things could be looking up. The question that remains is who they take with the fifth overall pick.

Considering the consensus top college right-handed pitcher is still available, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers decide to go for him instead of the top high school right-handed pitcher. Alec Hansen is a more complete product, is better tested against competition, and is a lot more imposing and menacing than Riley Pint.

The one cause for concern I have has to do with Hansen’s body language when he pitches, as he always looks like he’s screaming or in pain when he winds up and throws.

Having Hansen join Taylor Jungmann in the Brewer rotation would definitely be something worth watching, especially since both are big battling right handers.

Previous: Riley Pint, RHP: St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Kansas

Oakland Athletics:

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The Oakland A’s are a team in transition, Clearly their roster is screaming rebuild, but the problem there is that a lot of their future pieces are older than your typical prospect. Trading Sonny Gray would net them a king’s ransom of players, and Josh Reddick probably would give them at least one more. The question is whether the GM is willing to pull this off.

In the interim, the team has two big organizational deficiencies in the minors: outfield, and right-handed starter. While it’s entirely possible they could go with Riley Pint, I think I’d rather see them grab Chaminade’s Blake Rutherford. Rutherford is an older high school senior, meaning that if he doesn’t sign, he’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore.

His advanced skill set, even for a high schooler could be good for him and could possibly allow him to move at a faster pace in the minor leagues. Give him three years and he could be part of the future youth movement for the A’s.

Previous: Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma

Miami Marlins:

HOOVER, AL - MAY 20, 2014 - Infielder Nick Senzel #13 of the Tennessee Volunteers shows emotion during the postseason SEC Tournament game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Vanderbilt Commodores at Hoover Met Stadium in Hoover, AL. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Part of me expects the Marlins to make yet another surprising selection after Josh Naylor, the question is how surprising? Considering how rich this year’s class is pitching wise, it almost seems foolish for the Marlins to pass on the opportunity to grab Riley Pint as a complement to Tyler Kolek, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

For me, I feel that the Marlins could revisit third base, especially after dealing away Colin Moran. They could go with Drew Mendoza, the home-state product, but I feel that Nick Senzel would better fit in as a Marlin. While he may be defensively ambiguous, his value as a hitter makes him impossible to ignore, and could prove to be strategic for Don Mattingly.

Senzel’s offensive approach, while not powerful, allows him to make the most of any pitch he gets, and he could really play Marlins Park to his advantage. I could imagine him as a possible table setter in the Miami lineup in about two years.

Previous: Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico

San Diego Padres:

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Usually when a team sells the farm for a shot at winning now, the damage to the farm is bad enough that it’s a multi-year rebuild. The Padres, however, were able to kickstart the farm rebuild thanks to the Craig Kimbrel trade, will get a compensatory pick for Ian Kennedy signing with the Royals, and have a good chance at adding more if Justin Upton signs somewhere before June.

Initially, I believed that the Padres lacked offense, but as the offseason has taken shape, I’ve come to realize the Padres need to rebuild what was once a promising future rotation. That starts with grabbing the consensus top right-handed prep pitcher, Riley Pint. Pint’s plus offerings, height, and deceptiveness on the mound make him the ideal future ace the Padres have been looking to grow since the days of Jake Peavy.

Pint’s biggest concern though is his level of competition. He’s a Kansas boy, and Kansas isn’t exactly what you would call a baseball powerhouse. If Pint doesn’t sign and opts to play at LSU, expect him to beef his resume up to being a top pick by 2019. Otherwise, his potential drafting will boost one of baseball’s worst farm systems.

Previous: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Arizona

Detroit Tigers:

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The Tigers had a very frustrating sell-off at last year’s deadline. On the one hand, they were able to beef up their future rotation with the additions of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, but on the other, those were their biggest additions. In the offseason, however, the Tigers went a completely different direction, signing Jordan Zimmermann to boost the rotation. Additionally, they have been mentioned as one of the teams still in on Yoenis Cespedes.

Are they in the middle of a rebuild, or are they planning on starting as a contender again? My guess is that it’s the latter, but that doesn’t mean that they should completely forget about the draft. With pitching set for the foreseeable future, I still believe they could grab the consensus top defensive catcher in the draft: Chris Okey. 

Okey’s been compared to Yadier Molina, and while he isn’t as offensively skilled as Molina, he does seem to look like he’d grow into the type of player the former was, a well-rounded catcher who can be an anchor in any lineup. Okey’s been on the biggest stage before, playing catcher for two Collegiate National Teams. While there is a considerable debate as to how high he could go, it’s possible his stock rises high enough for him to make it into the top ten.

Previous: Okey

Chicago White Sox:

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I remember reading an article on MLBTradeRumors a month ago about the White Sox and their 2016 draft strategy, and one of the things that was mentioned was that the Sox would be looking very closely at members of the 2015 USA Collegiate National Team. At what position, we don’t know, but if it were up to me, I’d assume the Sox would pick an outfielder.

Complementing Courtney Hawkins with the speed of Buddy Reed would definitely give the White Sox a very balanced outfield, but from an athleticism standpoint, we could see one of the better young outfields in the game. Reed’s speed would definitely make him a solid candidate for a leadoff position, but if he does develop his other skills, he could be a dangerous middle-of-the-order hitter.

Previous: Nick Banks, OF, Texas A&M

Seattle Mariners:

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Anybody know what’s happened to Danny Hultzen? The former second overall pick, once considered a future integral part of the Mariners rotation capped off a disappointing minor league season by being outrighted to AAA after being pulled off the 40 man roster. Considering the alternatives that the Mariners could have had, like Anthony Rendon and Trevor Bauer, this has to hurt for them. But we aren’t here to dwell on the past but rather the future. The Mariners rotation at the present may be set for a while, but as they grow older, it may be possible that Seattle looks at the pitching-rich 2016 class to draft a future rotation star. While prep pitching will experience a major drop-off from the first to the second tier of hurlers, the college crop is especially strong this year,

I really like Jordan Sheffield. He has a pedigree, he pitches for one of baseball’s best arms factories, and as I’ve mentioned, he’s one of the few players on this mock draft that I have seen pitch live. Without even looking at the Fueled By Sports scouting report, I can tell that he has the makings to be a Marcus Stroman 2.0 (they think so as well), and considering the recent rise in short pitchers, it’s possible his drafting could validate the short pitcher as a viable starting option.

Previous: Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep, California

Boston Red Sox:

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The NFL, NBA, and NHL all have workout warriors, players that significantly boost their stock en route to being drafted high in the first round. and usually, the aftermath is a mixed bag of success and disappointment. Baseball doesn’t have a combine, but they do have a way for players to gain exposure: summer ball.

It’s been a while since I’ve used this term in my mocks, but it looks like the Cape Cod King will be legitimized. This year’s Cape Cod King is Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, whose summer in Orleans was instrumental in helping raise his draft stock. Lewis profiles as a corner outfielder, another well-built model of athletic outfielder that reminds people of the Heywards and the Uptons of now. Combine Lewis with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, and you have perhaps one of the more athletic outfields in baseball.

Previous: Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia

Tampa Bay Rays:

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In high school, it always seems like the big hitters are asked to play one of two positions: first base, or outfield. Some don’t end up doing much defensively and get relocated to a corner outfield spot, others prove that they can be something and move to first base permanently. This year’s draft isn’t particularly overwhelming on prep hitting talent, but it doesn’t mean the talent cupboard is barren.

Yet another Georgia prep star gets taken here, Westminster Schools’ Will Benson. Benson has the look of a power hitter, think Lucas Duda, but actually plays more like an athletic first baseman, like Freddie Freeman. While Benson has the athleticism and speed atypical of a first baseman, what he needs to do is improve his tendencies, because he’s considered to be a pull hitter.

Having Benson play in Tampa will not only allow the Rays to develop one of the more interesting prospects of this year’s draft, and will allow them to transition from one athletic corner infielder to another.

Previous: Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee

Baltimore Orioles:

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When you play in one of the most homer-friendly parks in baseball, it’s both a blessing and a curse. For one, your offense is going to look like world beaters 81 times a year, but on the other side, your pitching has to be top notch in order to make sure that the offense doesn’t need to go long ball crazy. The Orioles have two dynamic young pitching prospects, even if they are coming off of injury, but could they add another to bolster their rotation for the future?

Matt Krook is the only tier 2 collegiate lefty, and although he will be a year removed from Tommy John surgery, chances are he’s ready to live up to the expectations set for him when he came to Oregon. If he can show that he’s got his low to mid 90’s fastball as well as his secondary offerings, he could boost his stock considerably. If Hunter Harvey and Dylan Bundy can recover from their injuries to possibly join Krook, then the Orioles could finally have a decent homegrown rotation.

Previous: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer

Cleveland Indians:

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The Indians’ recent gamble on Brady Aiken is either going to turn out to be a boom or a bust for them, depending on how the young lefty progresses through his rehab. Considering the rate of success the Indians have had in rehabilitating young arms, it’s possible that they could make another gamble on a former high end pitching prospect.

At the beginning of the 2015 college campaign, Cal Quantrill‘s name was up there alongside Puk and Hansen as Tier 1 collegiate pitchers.  Tommy John surgery wiped out his sophomore season and put him on the shelf for the summer collegiate season. This year, he has everything to prove. The son of Blue Jays closer Paul Quantrill, Cal is expected to be a much better pitcher than his dad was, and could conceivably anchor an up-and-coming Indians rotation in the future.

Previous: Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

Minnesota Twins: 

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Let’s be honest, while versatility is always an excellent strategic move in baseball, sometimes there are less than favorable outcomes, case and point, the possibility of Miguel Sano in right field. Sano is definitely a third baseman by trade, and even though he may be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, I highly doubt that converting to the outfield will be a successful endeavor for him.

The Twins would be lucky then to grab Nick Banks, the Collegiate National team’s leader in batting average last summer. Banks fits the profile of a typical Twins outfielder, good speed, at least above average defense, and solid contact. Plus, in regards to his versatility, he could potentially spell Byron Buxton a few games in centerfield. Overall, I feel the Twins are getting massive value here if they make this pick.

Previous: Herbert Iser, C, Osceloa HS, Florida

Los Angeles Angels:

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There are teams that have an embarrassment of riches in the farm system, and then there are teams that have an embarrassing farm system. Ever since Mike Trout graduated and Randal Grichuk was traded to the Cardinals, the Angels have constantly fielded a bottom 5 farm system. Clearly something must be done.

While college prospects provide short term gratification that drastically improves a system, a prep prospect is a long term investment that leads to more long term projects which overall can improve a farm system dramatically in the long run. I like La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak here because he has the potential to be a solid run producer in a non power context. Moniak has the speed to stretch singles into doubles, and his baseball IQ is enviable. Moniak has the outfield defense to play anywhere needed, even center field.

If Moniak does develop at his anticipated rate, he will be an excellent top of the order hitter that could really use Angel Stadium to his advantage offensively.

Previous: Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia

Houston Astros:

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We move from a team with an awful farm system to a team with an amazing farm system. The Astros are an example of a team that has parlayed three embarrassing rebuild years into a wealth of prospect riches that can either be used to improve the team internally or be dealt for external help. It was so good that the Astros felt that they could afford to deal former number 1 pick Mark Appel to Philadelphia for their closer.

Trading Appel and a few other pitching prospects however does have its drawbacks, as the Astros now lack a top 3 pitching prospect. However they need not look far for a dynamic option as former PG Freshman of the Year Logan Shore could fall into their lap. The right-handed punch of the Gators’ power rotation, Shore’s arsenal includes a low to mid 90’s fastball, and a pro-grade changeup that serves as an “out” pitch. His third offering, a slider, will need some professional work, but if he can make it into a pro pitch, it’s possible Shore’s stock as a pitcher could improve greatly. Houston has shown that they can produce pitching prospects at the prep level, now’s the chance to prove it with a college pitcher.

Previous: Matt Krook, LHP, Oregon

New York Yankees:

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The Yankees are like the US Economy, they seem to operate on a 20 year cycle. This year’s cycle seems to place an emphasis on building instead of buying, and justifiably so, considering the potential for many of their big contracts to become albatrosses. With A-Rod limited to DH, Mark Teixeira reaching the point of his contract where he’s more dead weight than anything else, and the rotation starting to age, where do the Yankees go?

I had Zack Collins go to the Yankees last time, and I’m sticking with it unless something happens. Collins by far is the best power hitter in the class, and given Miami’s track record for producing power hitters, it’s not like the Yankees would be going into uncharted territory. Collins can play either catcher or third base, but pro scouts feel that his bat will transition more to a Billy Butler-type DH role. Still, his power can’t be ignored, and I would be hard pressed to see the Yankees not going after him, especially with the influx of youth coming up.

Previous: Collins

Texas Rangers:

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I mentioned before that there was a huge gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 prep pitchers in this draft, and I’m not kidding, as it’s taken 13 picks to get from the second best to the third best, but in the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t matter because the draft is a big gamble in the first place. Still, the Rangers could go after a southpaw, and although the best route is to go BPA, it’s possible they could reach for a guy here.

Braxton Garrett was left off my mock last time, so I do believe he deserves a scouting report. Considered one of the more pro-ready prep pitchers, Garrett’s pitches seem to be more in line to develop rather than peak as he goes through the minors. His fastball tops out in the low 90’s, and he has a curveball that, when managed effectively, could make him a threat. If he can use his changeup more, it’s possible he’ll be ahead of the development curve. The one caveat is that he, like Groome, is a Vanderbilt commit, so teams will exercise caution when signing him. Still, having him complement the speed of Dillon Tate and Mike Matuella, and the ability of Luis Ortiz, the Rangers could have a complete rotation in the future.

Previous: Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS, California

New York Mets

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Much like the Yankees, the Mets are in the building phase of a cycle, with the only exception that their cycles last about 5-10 years. The Mets have managed to turn one of their biggest weaknesses in previous years into a strength, and were able to parlay some of their pieces into players that played a key role in the 2015 NL championship team.

The Mets’ most glaring organizational deficiency right now is at third base, and with David Wright having to manage spinal stenosis, I highly doubt he’s going to be able to play past the end of his extension. That being said, there’s really nobody behind him. David Thompson may or may not develop into a major leaguer, and unless Gavin Cecchini can learn how to handle the hot corner, I highly doubt he’s the answer.

Bobby Dalbec may not be the defensive answer for Wright, but offensively, he could be a threat. He’s your classic all-or-nothing power hitter, he can mash, but he also can strike out. While there is definite room for improvement in his game, as-is, he still has value, and could provide future protection for Michael Conforto. Incidentally, Dalbec could take a few pointers from Conforto on improving defense and contact.

Previous: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

Los Angeles Dodgers:

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We all remember when Yasiel Puig took baseball by storm, when the fans and ESPN almost led a successful campaign to get the Cuban star to start in the All-Star game. Oh how those days have gone, and now we have yet another underperforming international import. Additionally, Joc Pederson has shown his flashes, he’s either a power hitting outfielder who inexplicably has low contact, or he’s just looking lost in the batters box. And don’t even get me started on Andre Ethier. The point is, the average shelf life of a Dodgers outfielder these days is about the same as an organic salad at a Los Angeles health food store.

Last year, the Dodgers drafted 2014 College World Series hero Walker Buehler, but this year, they could grab his teammate and possible runner up for College World Series Most Outstanding Player Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds is considered one of the more raw players in this years class as he doesn’t have a particular stand out skill, however he is able to slow down the game to his speed and ability to poke balls into the gaps. Reynolds is not a standout defender either, but he can man left field and not be a liability.

On a personal note, I almost had the chance to see Reynolds play in the NECBL for the Plymouth Pilgrims in 2014, but his performance in the CWS earned him a spot on the collegiate national team that summer.

*Note: At the time of the release of Mock Draft 2.0, the Dodgers had agreed to a contract with Hisashi Iwakuma. As a result, I had not given them a selection. Since Iwakuma did not sign with the Dodgers, they have their first round pick back unless they sign one of the QO free agents. 

Toronto Blue Jays:

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Toronto is definitely one of the more challenging places to play in, especially if you’re an infielder. Consider the fact that you’re on field turf, which is going to do a number on your body as the years go by. Additionally, the culture is different, and travel is most likely a nightmare. However, the Blue Jays have managed to stay competitive by becoming buyers and parlaying that into an appearance in the 2015 ALCS. The question is whether they will be able to retain the same level of performance from the talent they reaped.

Before Delvin Perez came to our collective attention, I was prepared to put the H.A.P.S (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop, for the unenlightened) label on Drew Mendoza. Mendoza is perhaps one of the more gifted players in terms of his defense, but that mainly has to do with his arm strength. Mendoza also can hit, and while his frame is more suited for hitting doubles, he could bulk up and add some power to his swing in the future.

Mendoza almost certainly will move to the corner at the pro level, and as a result, could easily become the heir apparent to Josh Donaldson when he decides to make the move to DH.

Previous: Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford

Pittsburgh Pirates:

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Much like the Baltimore Orioles, the Pirates have two dynamic pitchers that are considered to be the future of the staff. Righties Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon’s debuts however have been delayed due to injury and development issues. Still, they project to be a major part of the rotation in the future, and when they graduate, the Pirates will probably look to develop their next pitcher.

A peculiar idea came to me long before I decided on Pittsburgh’s draft pick: Can Ray Searage help develop a UVA pitcher? Considering the struggles of the past UVA starters as they acclimated to the pro game, is it possible that Connor Jones, given the right coaching, can break the trend? Jones has ranged in mock drafts from being a top 10 pick to being a low first round draft choice, and part of it has to do with the reputation of those who preceded him. Still, that shouldn’t detract from Jones, who in my opinion, could be the next Aaron Nola, depending on how he develops, especially if he builds on his already advanced, if not outstanding tools.

Previous: Matt Crohan, LHP, Winthrop

St. Louis Cardinals: 

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When it comes to drafting, I’m fairly conservative in terms of rankings, and my reach picks usually are within 10 spots. However, every so often, I’m inclined to make a huge gamble. Last year, for instance I dogged hard for David Thompson as a first round pick, and looked silly as he ended up going in the fourth round. This year, I’m sticking to my guns on a personal favorite prospect.

Herbert Iser is nothing special offensively, in fact, scouts will be the first to tell you he’s going to become an average hitter when he goes pro with some pop in his game. However, defensively, Iser is one of the best. He has an arm that will get runners out, and you be hard pressed to find a better prep defender. If the Cardinals do draft Iser, he could definitely be ready in time to take over the position from Yadier Molina. Overall, I feel that Iser could end up being the next Tyler Stevenson, an overlooked prep prospect that will shoot up the draft boards and make a convincing case to be taken on Day 1.

Previous: Brad Debo, C, Orange HS, North Carolina

And that’s it for Mock Draft 3.0. Stay tuned for Version 4.0, which is likely to be released towards the end of February. Until then, let’s hope this is a short winter.

 

 

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft: Pitchers and Catchers Edition, Part 1

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: Part 4 of 4

It’s time for the last quartile of the second MinorLeagueMadhouse 2015 MLB Mock Draft. Nothing has changed in the draft order since then, making this mock still somewhat relevant, but again, there’s still work to be done, especially with James Shields and Max Scherzer still on the market. Anyway, here comes the next batch of picks.

22. Kansas City Royals

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Everyone loves a good human interest angle, and in sports, when that human interest angle is a good side note for a really good player, then not only are there good results on the field, but the publicity is great as well. The Royals may not need any human interest angles for the foreseeable future, especially after all the stories from their AL championship season, but they could use another injection of youth, especially into their pitching.

After selecting Brandon Finnegan, their quick-to-the-Majors bullpen arm from TCU, they may want to double dip, going after his teammate, Riley Ferrell. And yes, I know I mocked him here last time for precisely the same reason.

Ferrell may have one of the best fastballs in the class, a mid to high 90’s offering with minimal contact. Although he’s been used more out of the bullpen since he started pitching for the Frogs, Ferrell’s fastball and secondary pitch, a slider, have made it impossible for the coaching staff to not move him into the rotation.

Ferrell’s weaknesses as a starter are his strengths as a closer, a developing third pitch, a rough delivery, and a lack of height, and while two of the three can be fixed, unless Ferrell is absolutely dominant as a starter, his ceiling at the major league level is most certainly a closer role in a major league bullpen. For Kansas City, finding the perfect future complement to Greg Holland would further strengthen what is seen as a solid rotation in a tight division.

23. Detroit Tigers

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College seniors are a double edged sword when it comes to Major League Baseball. On the one hand, they have the leadership and the skills that allow them to kickstart their careers in an advanced minor league level, but on the other, their clock ticks faster than a college junior. It isn’t often that a college senior is drafted in the first round; the most recent exception was Mark Appel, the number one pick of the Houston Astros back in 2013. While Appel has taken his collective lumps at the minor league level, he should be ready to pitch in the majors as early as late 2015, especially if he continues to rebound from his disastrous 2014 start.

This little detour was made possible thanks to 2014’s elephant in the room, University of Miami pitcher Andrew Suarez. Considered by many to be one of the more majors-ready pitchers, especially as a starter, Suarez is still a potential first round pick, despite his decision to stay another year in school.

Injury history aside, the former Blue Jays and Nationals pick is advanced enough to have confidence in his pitches. a low to mid 90’s fastball,  and a good arsenal of secondary pitches that are accentuated by above average command.

Suarez may be somewhat of a reach, but should he have a season that justifies a high selection in the draft, I don’t think any team will care that he’s a senior.

24. St. Louis Cardinals

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Back in 2012, when the Cardinals took James Ramsey ahead of such guys as Rickie Shaffer and Victor Roache, I blasted the team for going with a too-safe selection. Two years later, after running through the system faster than Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible III, Ramsey was the centerpiece of the Justin Masterson trade. Lesson learned, never underestimate the Cardinals scouting department.

Ramsey wasn’t the only loss for the Cardinals this past year, Oscar Taveras was tragically killed in a car accident, leaving Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk as the future of the Cardinals outfield, if you don’t include Jason Heyward.

I hate using BPA as the reasoning for a selection, but in a class that’s weak in the Cardinals organizational positions of need, BPA may be the best option, in this case, it’s Richland High School outfielder Trent Clark.

Clark isn’t a power hitter, not that he needs to be, rather, he profiles as a 2 or 6 hitter in a lineup. His best weapons are his contact and his speed. In a way, he reminds me of Brandon Nimmo, a guy who had similar tools in his senior year. The difference between Clark and Nimmo is that Clark has more opportunities for visibility, as he actually plays high school ball.

Clark’s biggest weakness is his arm, and while there is some belief that he can play a big league center field, he might provide more value in left.

Clark’s development may be somewhat protracted, but if he is drafted by the Cardinals, he’ll have the opportunity to be the next high level prospect going through their system.

25. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Every sports generation has their defined superstar, and every draft has their fair share of prospects who are supposed to be the next version of said star. This generation will be headlined by such stars as Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, and Clayton Kershaw, and while it may be somewhat early to call someone the “Next Stanton” or the “Next Kershaw,” in some cases, it’s justified. Canada, for instance has what many believe is the “Next Giancarlo Stanton”, and I swear, I’ve heard those words attached to this kid before.

St. Matthew’s (Ontario) High School outfielder Demi Orimoloye may not have a name like an athlete, but he does have the body and the athletic attributes which have made him incredibly attractive to teams. Late to baseball on account of a switch from football, the Nigerian born Orimoloye has a frame similar to Minnesota Twins prospect Miguel Sano. Orimoloye has undeniable power, there’s footage of him hitting a 400 foot home run in a showcase game on Youtube, not to mention solid speed and a strong arm.

Orimoloye may have the tools, but his late start means his abilities are raw. Should he continue to impress the way he did for Team Canada and the showcase circuit, there’s no doubt he will be a highly sought after commodity.

26. Baltimore Orioles

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JJ Hardy will go down as one of the more underrated shortstops of all time, and when his career is finished, the Orioles will have him to thank for building a strong defensive foundation on the left side of their infield. Having just signed a five year deal at the age of 32, it wouldn’t surprise me if midway through that contract, he begins to decline. So who would the Orioles groom as Hardy’s successor?

Richie Martin, the University of Florida shortstop, is a late bloomer in the hitting department, but defensively, he’s a college version of Hardy, provided he doesn’t try too hard. Having spent the first two years of his college career learning to regain his hitting stroke, he finally found it in the Cape, playing for Bourne this past summer.

Martin’s high defense and low hitting reminds me of 2012 draft pick Deven Marrero, a similar product at the time, who since then has somewhat regained his hitting stroke as he’s progressed through the Red Sox system.

The key to Martin’s stock rising is how he can handle SEC pitching in his junior year. Should he be able to hit the way he did up in Bourne, then there’s a good possibility he could actually go higher than Baltimore.

27. Washington Nationals

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In baseball, teams don’t usually draft pitchers high for them to be relievers, unless they have the stuff that justifies a future in the big league bullpen. Granted, there are exceptions, see Gregg Olsen and Nick Burdi as examples. Drafting and developing a future closer is often viewed as unnecessary and a waste of resources, especially in the age of the free agent closer. Then again, if there’s a lively left handed college arm that projects to the bullpen, sometimes the best thing to do is to grab it.

Illinois southpaw Tyler Jay may be from nearly uncharted territory, but that hasn’t stopped him from impressing at the collegiate level. During the summer, while pitching for Team USA, Jay managed to allow no runs in almost 17 innings of work.Jay’s best pitch is his fastball, an offering that ranges from low to mid 90’s, with an occasional touch at 97. He also uses a solid curve and is developing a changeup. Jay isn’t an effort pitcher, he uses his athleticism to throw.

While Jay does have the ability to pitch in a rotation, he’ll likely succeed more as a relief pitcher.

Update: Washington is expected to sign Max Scherzer, effectively forfeiting this pick and putting Tyler Jay back in the draft pool. 

27. Los Angeles Angels

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In today’s successful major league system, it’s almost a requirement that teams carry two catchers. One catcher is a defensive presence, usually a bottom of the order bat but an outstanding glove. He’s not going to win a game with an impressive hitting display, but he’ll keep the pitcher in check. The other catcher is a more offensive presence. He may have good defense, but it’s not Gold Glove material. He’s a middle of the order presence, usually there to provide key hits and keep the inning alive.

The Angels have set the groundwork for their future catching corps by acquiring their defensive presence, Carlos Perez from the Astros. Perez will have a good four or five years to work with current catcher Chris Iannetta before this year’s top catcher rises through the ranks.

Wilson High School’s Chris Betts may not be as defensively strong as Perez, and he may be one of the slowest hitters in this year’s class, but he makes up for his deficiencies with a solid power stroke and good arm strength.

Betts may be a slow runner, but he has had the capability to stretch singles into doubles with his power. This was especially evident during the summer.

Betts is also a local product, being half an hour away from Anaheim, so the Angels probably have gotten a good look at him through the past year. It’ll be interesting to see if they opt for the local product.

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And so there is the first round of the second mock draft.   Stay tuned for updates, especially with the last two QO free agents looking to sign.

 

 

Who Is This Year’s Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop?

 

For the past four years, there has been one common occurrence in the MLB draft: That occurrence is the Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop (or HAPS, for short). The common characteristics is that the shortstop in question is (obviously) a high schooler, has the potential to make the majors in three years instead of the traditional four or five years, is a top prospect usually by the end of his first year or the middle of his second, and garners a lot of praise from opposing scouts.

The past four years of HAPS are as follows:

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2013: JP Crawford, Phillies

While it’s still too early to be determined, Crawford had been highly visible throughout his high school career, and when he was drafted, it was to a team that was looking to replace a legendary shortstop with a newer model. Crawford’s first minor league season saw him completely own the Gulf Coast League and skip entirely over short ball in favor of the more advanced Low A. Crawford also ended the season as the #4 prospect in Philly’s system, behind only Roman Quinn, a fellow prep shortstop drafted in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft, as well as 3B Maikel Franco and P Jesse Biddle, who have made the 2014 top 100 list on MLB.com. Even though Crawford effectively was a HAPS by default, as last year’s middle infield class was very weak, Crawford has at least proven that he is still a very solid lock to follow the progression that fellow HAPS have gone through.

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2012: Carlos Correa, Astros, and Addison Russell, Athletics.

Thanks to what could have been regarded as one of the best prep shortstop draft classes in baseball history, 2012 had not one, but two HAPS propects. Carlos Correa, who was the first overall pick, drew some attention at the end of his debut year, but in his second year, he justified why he was a first overall pick. After having a monster season for the Quad Cities River Bandits, Correa was rewarded by being voted in to the 2013 Futures game World Roster, as well as being named the Astros’ top prospect by the end of the season. At the start of the 2014 season Correa was named the top prospect in the Astros’ system again, ahead of such players as Mark Appel, Jonathan Singleton, and Lance McCullers, and was also named the #8 prospect in all of baseball.

Russell, who I’ve consistently noted was the catalyst for the death of Moneyball drafting in Oakland, has done nothing but impress in his first two years. Named the best prospect in Oakland’s system immediately after the 2012 season, Russell again went on a tear at Single-A Stockton, and was also selected for the Futures game as a member of Team USA. Russell ended the season in AAA Sacramento, completely jumping over AA, and although he obviously had issues handling the rapid increase in competition level, the prevailing theory is that Russell could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.

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2011: Francisco Lindor, Indians

The Indians have repeatedly stated that they do not intend to rush Lindor to the major leagues, to which I call bull. Lindor has been nothing short of amazing ever since he stepped on the field. At the end of the 2012 season, his first full season in minor league ball, Lindor had established himself as a #1 shortstop prospect, the #1 Indians prospect, and the #13 prospect in baseball. This included an invite to the Futures game in Kansas City, where he played for the World Team. Lindor followed up his great 2012 with an even better 2013 where he went through two levels of ball, topping out in Double-A, and once again being invited to the Futures Game in New York. He once again ended the season as the top shortstop prospect, the top Indians prospect, but increased his overall prospect ranking to #5. At the beginning of this season, Lindor has already established himself as a top ten prospect yet again, however, he dropped his shortstop ranking to #4, perfectly reasonable given his competition was Xander Bogaerts, Correa, and Javier Baez, who has started to put himself in the HAPS conversation, especially after showing a dominant power swing in Spring Training. The reason why Baez isn’t in it right now is that while he’s advanced at the same rate as Lindor, he hasn’t had Lindor’s wow factor. Still, if Baez can be as consistently impressive as Lindor has been, he could put himself in the HAPS conversation.

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2010: Manny Machado, Orioles

The man who started it all, Machado blazed through the minors, made his major league debut a mere two years after being drafted, and made his first All-star team in 2013. While Machado’s best season ended on a sour note after he broke his leg, he has definitely entered his name into the elite infielder category. I know that Machado technically is a third baseman now, but in truth I’m grading him as a shortstop because of his A-Rod like conversion to third. And to continue, Machado was a shortstop when he was drafted, and only played a few games at third base in the minors, in Double-A Bowie, which incidentally was his last minor league stop before he made his debut. Will Machado ever move back to shortstop? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless, Machado is still one of the best young players right now.

The 2014 draft isn’t until June, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for early speculation. In what is considered yet another meh prep middle infield class, there are only two definitive first round prep shortstop talents, one of which has equal value as a pitcher. The two shortstops in question are Clovis High School’s Jacob Gatewood, and Olympia High School’s Nick Gordon.

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Gatewood, like Crawford before him, has had eyes on him since last year. A well rounded guy with an emphasis on power who draws comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro, Gatewood, barring a bad senior season has the projectability to be a top ten pick, and could raise his stock to top five, maybe even top three if he continues to play at the level he has. In my initial mock, I had him going to Colorado as a potential replacement for Troy Tulowitzski, whom I feel will leave Colorado before 2020. In the thin air of Colorado, Gatewood would thrive despite the humidor baseballs, and he would have the potential to be a Machado-like talent.

Gordon has a baseball pedigree thanks to his father and brother, Tom and Dee. He has project ability as both a pitcher and a shortstop, but scouts have said that Gordon will stick to shortstop. While not as dominant at Gatewood, Gordon is still a top 20 prospect who could actually outperform his brother. I had Gordon going to San Diego. In theory, if Everth Cabrera can’t get back to his pre-Biogenesis self, it’s a possibility that the Padres will try and look for a replacement in the coming years. Gordon would benefit from the expansive park in San Diego, as he thrives on being a slap hitter with speed, much like Cabrera was.

Between Gatewood and Gordon, my belief  is that the former makes the best case for the HAPS of 2014. He certainly has made a name for himself starting last year, and he has a legitimate shot to become one of the best shortstops in the post-Jeter and Rollins shortstop era. His power is not to be ignored, and if he signs early and tears it up in rookie or short ball, he could find himself in the top 100, maybe even top 25 very early in his career.

The Case of Ben Wetzler vs. the Phillies and the NCAA

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The NCAA is often criticized for its Draconian measures against student athletes who try and prepare for a professional career, as well as its nonstandard punishments for apparent rules violations, see University of Oklahoma’s “Pastagate” as an example of such ludicrousness. But the case of Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler, who was turned in by the Philadelphia Phillies for hiring a financial advisor and ultimately electing to return for his senior season at Oregon State University, this has to be one of the most absurd, if not the most absurd case of the NCAA going on its “As you go” rules policy.

For those who are uninformed, Wetzler was a 5th round draft choice of the Phillies. Had he signed with them, he would have earned a $400,000 signing bonus. Obviously, Wetzler felt that he wasn’t ready, and wanted to be sure he was making the right choice, so he hired a financial advisor. When it became apparent that it would be better if he stayed in school, he did. In a plot that draws loose similarities to the 2006 Academy Award winning foreign film Das Leben Der Anderen, the Phillies, likely upset at having been jilted by the young starter, reported that Wetzler had hired an agent for the negotiations. The NCAA came down on this, and suspended Wetzler “indefinitely”. Incidentally, Wetzler wasn’t the only player that the Phillies tried to blackball, as Washington State outfielder and first baseman Jason Monda  was also reported, yet was cleared by the Cougars and the NCAA to play this year.

What’s even more remarkable is that this is the first time that this has happened. Never before has a player been reported by a major league team. Granted, a player has been suspended and his eligibility has been revoked before, see Aaron Crow, Luke Hochevar, and James Paxton, but the teams that drafted them, the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Toronto Blue Jays never did report them.

This is undoubtedly low on Philadelphia’s part. A player should not be stabbed behind the back like that just because they chose to return to school, money or otherwise. It unfairly disqualifies a player, and ruins a team’s reputation. Agents who represent collegiate talent are now likely going to advise their clients to avoid signing with Philadelphia because of this. Similarly, the NCAA should be ashamed. There have been far worse examples of the same thing happening. Mark Appel for instance.

Appel, who had been chosen by the Pirates with the 8th overall pick out of Stanford, elected to return to school under the advice of Scott Boras, who wanted first overall pick money for his client. Incidentally, Appel also wanted to return because he wasn’t a first overall pick. A year later, Appel, who wasn’t suspended by the NCAA because the Pirates didn’t rat him out despite his being a more blatant transgression of the rules, was drafted first overall by the Astros. It amazes me that something this blatant wasn’t addressed, yet a fifth round pick deciding to return to school was. It’s hypocritical.

It’s likely that the Phillies will have a very severely damaged reputation now that Wetzler has decided to hire an attorney. This attorney is the same attorney that dealt with Houston based college football booster Willie Lyles. in the case of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk. The fallout likely could mean that the Phillies would be banned from drafting Oregon State, or by extension, Pac-12 baseball players. This would be a big loss, especially considering one of Philadelphia’s alleged biggest targets could be Oregon State star Michael Conforto.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a team was banned from recruiting certain players. The Baltimore Orioles cannot attend Korea Baseball Association* sponsored baseball camps in South Korea after signing then-high-school pitcher Kim-Seong Min before he graduated.

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*Recently signed Orioles pitcher Suk-Min Yoon is a product of the Korea Baseball Organization, which governs the professional leagues in South Korea. The Orioles are allowed to attend KBO games and sign KBO players.

Could Wetzler have a legitimate case against the NCAA and the Phillies by extension? It’s possible. This is the first time that such an incident has happened, and usually the ruling in the first case will set a precent. If the Appel case can be cited, it is likely that Wetzler could have his suspension overturned, thus allowing him the opportunity to pitch his senior season.  For now, we will wait and see what happens.

 

Was Ubaldo Jimenez worth forfeiting the 17th overall pick?

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Ubaldo Jimenez became the next player with draft compensation to leave free agent purgatory, signing a multiyear deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez, who rejected a qualifying offer from his old team, the Cleveland Indians, cost the Orioles not only the money, but also the 17th overall pick in the draft.

Ever since the new free agent draft compensation rules have come into effect last year, it seems as if teams are intentionally lowballing these players so that they can get the draft pick. We saw how bad it was last year with Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, who waited until the middle of Spring Training to sign with teams. And ultimately, those teams forfeited draft picks.

Bourn went from Atlanta to Cleveland, who used the pick that they obtained in the deal to draft Oklahoma State starter Jason Hursh, Cleveland, however, didn’t lose their first round pick, as they had a top ten draft pick. Incidentally, the Bourn case drew a lot of controversy, as the New York Mets who had the 11th pick, which wasn’t protected, wanted to sign him, but felt that they would be unfairly losing a draft pick because the Pittsburgh Pirates had gotten a top ten pick for allowing Mark Appel to return to Stanford for his senior season, pushing the Mets one spot out of the top ten. Cleveland ended up signing Bourn, but instead of losing a first rounder to the Braves, they lost a second rounder.

Lohse was signed by the Brewers, who forfeited their first round draft choice. The Cardinals used that pick to select Rob Kaminsky, a New Jersey prep pitcher.

Going back to Jimenez and the free agents that remain, the common theme for these remaining free agents is the draft pick. Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales haven’t gotten offers because teams are afraid to lose a pick for them. It’s essentially a simpler form of restricted free agency.

There is no doubt that these players do deserve deals. Santana resurrected his career in Kansas City, Cruz, pre-Biogenesis was viewed as a deadly middle-of-the-order bat. Drew could hit and adequately defend, and helped Boston win a championship, and Morales resurrected his career in Seattle after a couple years of injury trouble in Anaheim.

But herein lies the problem, it’s not just the draft pick, it’s the money and the risky investment too.

Santana is demanding ace money after reestablishing himself in KANSAS CITY. Kansas City is in no way a place to brag about reestablishing yourself, even if the Royals did manage to get out of the cellar thanks in part to a bizarro season by the White Sox and another really bad season by the Twins.

The problem with Cruz is that nobody knows if he’ll be as good after being caught in the Biogenesis probe. Maybe he’ll be another Ryan Braun, maybe he becomes Melky Cabrera. Either way, it’s a big risk for a PED user.

The problem with Drew is that 2013 could have been a fluke year for him. Drew was protected by a lineup that seemed to envelop his deficiencies, couple that with the fact that he’s getting into the “wrong side of 30” territory. While this is okay for maybe an outfielder or a first baseman, a “wrong side of 30” middle infielder is a bit of a problem, especially on the defensive side of things.

And of course, there’s Morales. While he did have a respectable offensive season, there are still concerns about his health and defensive ability. People are more inclined to take a look at him as a designated hitter than as a first baseman. Had Morales not gotten hurt, in all likelihood, he would be one of the first players off the board instead of the last.

But going back to Ubaldo. Was the deal worth it?

Jimenez is certainly long removed from his days of dominance in Denver. In Cleveland, he really was just a mid rotation starter, nothing special, basically the baseball equivalent of a one hit wonder. Baltimore however knew that in order to compete in the AL East again, which once again was strengthened by yet another Yankee spending spree, as well as the continuing growth of the other four teams in the division, they needed to add pitching. Getting Jimenez meant the forfeiture of a draft pick, but they went through with it anyway.

Was it worth it though?

From a money perspective, no. Jimenez was not worth that type of money or amount of years. From the pick perspective, certainly.

17th overall picks in the MLB Draft haven’t traditionally fared well. To provide an example of how they fared in the past ten years:

2013-2010: Tim Anderson, White Sox, DJ Davis, Blue Jays, CJ Cron, Angels, and Josh Sale, Rays. While Anderson and Davis are a long way from determining if they’re good or not, Cron may or may not need another year in the minors, and Sale has been nothing short of a bust.

2009: AJ Pollock of the Diamondbacks has managed to put himself in the Arizona lineup. A leadoff hitter, Pollock may stand as the best bet to break the bad 17th overall pick

2008: David Cooper, who was projected to be the next big slugging first baseman/DH, was a major disappointment in Toronto. Basically a AAAA player, he recently signed a deal with the Indians.

2007: Blake Beaven is another one of those forgettable rotation pieces. His biggest claim to fame was being included in the Cliff Lee deal which sent the former ace to the Texas Rangers for their 2011 World Series run.

2006: Matt Antonelli was supposed to be one of the big middle infield talents for the Padres, almost what Stephen Drew would have been had he not been injured. However failure to be consistent coupled with lack of opportunity led his only major league experience to be a September call up. Afterwards, he bounced around other teams’ minor league systems, but failed to latch on and retired last summer.

2005: CJ Henry was the first of Derek Jeter’s potential successors, but he just couldn’t hit. He was packaged in a deal for the late Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu for the Yankees’ 2006 postseason run, but failed further to establish himself in Philadelphia. He quit baseball and played basketball for the University of Kansas with his more famous brother, Xavier, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Henry’s back to playing baseball now, albeit it’s independent ball in Evansville, Illinois.

2004: Scott Elbert was drafted by the Dodgers as a pitcher. Injuries derailed his effectiveness and turned him into a two pitch reliever. While he’s not the best reliever on the Dodgers, he is an okay option out of the bullpen.

So in a sense it probably was a somewhat good idea. Losing the pick means that another team, the Royals, will be saddled with the bad pick, while the Orioles will maybe get immediate contribution from Jimenez.

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition (Part 3 of 3)

And now for the final part of MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2014 mock draft.

21. Rays: Dylan Cease, LHP, Milton High School, Georgia

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The Rays do not have a shortage of prep arms, that’s for certain, but given the weak corner infield talent in the draft, which is something the Rays system could use, it’d be better for them to stick to something they know how to develop. Dylan Cease is a fastball pitcher with other options, but they need to be smoothed out. For instance, his curveball is clocked at 70 MPH, which is a couple ticks faster than an average curveball. Cease is deceptive, his body doesn’t look like it can take the rigors of pitching, so Cease has a sort of natural deception when he throws. However, like TCU’s Brandon Finnegan, he is conscious of his delivery, but because he’s young, he does have time to determine if he’ll be a better starter or reliever.

22. Indians: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU

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Every year, a highly rated college pitcher takes a tumble. Two years ago, it was Mark Appel, last year, Arkansas’ Ryne Stanek and Indiana State’s Sean Manaea, and this year, it could be Aaron Nola. Avoiding the possible reasons why he could fall, Nola’s game isn’t reliant on strength, but rather, craft. His command is superb, and his pitching arsenal is very effective. However, his big knock is that he doesn’t really have a standout pitch. Now, in the high school ranks, that would work, as the development of a high school pitcher allows for the selection of a dominant pitch, but in Nola’s case, because of his potential accelerated development, he doesn’t have as much time. Still in comparison to Indians top young pitcher Trevor Bauer, who does rely on strength, Nola does seem to have durability on his side.

23. Dodgers: Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State

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The Dodgers system is stronger than you think, despite the big free agency and trade splurges over the past two years. But there’s still the question of who will take over for Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier when they go? Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig are good bets, but the third outfield spot remains unclear. Enter Michael Conforto. Conforto may not have Pederson’s baseball pedigree, or Puig’s range, but he does have the athletic pedigree. Conforto’s father was a linebacker for Penn State, and his mother was a gold medalist in synchronized swimming in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Conforto does have power that matches Matt Kemp’s pre-injury potential, and he could fit in the 3 or 4 spot in the Dodger lineup. Conforto does have a natural swing as well, which is good for a power hitter. If Conforto can improve his defense, expect his stock to rise, as Sporting News feels that he could be the top college hitter in 2014.

24. Tigers: Nick Burdi, RHP, Louisville

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Detroit has an affinity for flame throwing relievers, see Joel Zumaya, Jose Valverde and Bruce Rondon for reference), but they still can’t seem to get a quality closer. Nick Burdi may be the answer. Consistently clocked in the high 90’s with the potential to reach triple digits, Burdi’s ceiling is as a closer. What Burdi does lack, however, is a good tertiary pitch behind his fastball/slider combination. Sure, he’s working on a change up, but it’s still in the development stages as of the beginning of the college baseball season. Still, Burdi has the potential to be an Aroldis Chapman-type closer if he can hone the lesser parts of his game.

25. Pirates: Matt Chapman, 3B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton

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There are two ways that this pick can go. If Chapman isn’t used on the mound at all this year, he’ll make a solid infield prospect, however, if he is used on the mound more, scouts may see him the same way they saw former Fullerton teammate Michael Lorenzen. Matt Chapman has been used his entire college career as an infielder, but in summer leagues, especially Team USA, he was tried on the mound as a closer, and surprised people with his fastball. Chapman does have a strong arm and is a top defender, which should give him a few gold gloves, but his hitting needs to improve if he wants to succeed at the Major League level.

26. Athletics: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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The A’s are weak in terms of southpaw prospects. Although Billy Beane has shifted away from the moneyball philosophy of drafting collegiate talent in the past two years, Kyle Freeland may have enough upside for Beane to take a look at him. Like Sean Manaea last year, Freeland started getting attention while pitching for Hyannis of the Cape Cod League. His fastball does have movement on it which causes batters to overcompensate, and his slider often takes on the personality of a cutter. His body does have an effect on his mechanics, and scouts are wary of him being in the rotation, but in all likelihood, his effort to compensate could provide him with some leeway on certain evaluators. Freeland’s stock can only rise more if he can figure out how to pitch to win at Evansville.

27. Braves: Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit West High School, Missouri

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If there were any prospect that could be judged as a hard sign, it would be Missouri prep product Monte Harrison. Harrison has plenty of tools, he’s a great hitter, an even better fielder, not to mention he has a strong commitment to the University of Nebraska for baseball and football (as a wide receiver). Given Atlanta’s track record with high school outfielders, (see Jeff Francoueur and Jason Heyward), they could be one of the teams that would be willing to incur penalties and future pick forfeiture so that they can get this young man signed. The big flaw in his game, however, is his patience. If he can curb his strikeout numbers, he could rise to a top 15 pick riding on his athleticism alone.

28. Red Sox: JD Davis, 1B/RHP, Cal State Fullerton

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NC State isn’t the only school with two potential first round talents. JD Davis’ right handed power as a first baseman and fastball as a pitcher could intrigue Boston to go after a second straight two way player after Trey Ball. Davis is kind of like Mike Napoli, but he’s young and doesn’t have the durability issues the former has. He has an excellent fielding arm, and already has a feel for wood bats, as evidenced by his second place finish in the Cape Cod League Home Run Derby. Davis could rise through the minors quickly and when Napoli is eventually named a designated hitter, could take his spot.

29. Cardinals: Kodi Medeiros, LHP, Waikeka High School, Hawaii

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Kodi Medeiros is an enigma. His small stature, lack of control on his secondary pitches, and windup, not to mention he’s in uncharted territory as a prep player from Hawaii should have teams backing away, but the Cardinals could actually use a prep lefty like him for their rotation down the road. Medeiros’ biggest redeeming quality is his fastball, which while normally a low 90’s offering, can go up to the mid 90’s on occasion. Although his command is an issue, the movement on his secondary pitches has led to him acquiring the strikeout pitcher label. Medeiros would have some familiarity if he was drafted by the Cardinals, as he was teammates with second baseman Kolten Wong’s brother Kean, an infielder in the Rays organization.

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The order of the compensatory picks has not been released, and until they are, this will serve as the conclusion of the 2014 mock draft. Stay tuned for version two, which will be released by the start of the College World Series.