See Also: Mock Draft 1.0
Kyle Funkhouser helped his team win.
The Louisville righthander has had a rough stretch, but on this Thursday night, with his start and the series pushed up a day, he fought through spotty fastball command, an iffy breaking ball and mechanical issues to still give his team a quality start. Six innings, seven hits and four walks but just two runs, and seven strikeouts—a solid, unspectacular line.
For the scouts on hand, including at least three scouting directors from teams in the first 20 selections, it wasn’t good enough to keep Funkhouser and his slide down the first round from being one of the stories of the draft.
Funkhouser has given the draft class just what it did not need—another enigma to figure out. This class is ripe for college pitchers to perform well and consistently; those players would be rewarded with millions of dollars and a high draft position.
“It’s a tough draft to handicap,” one scouting director said, “as a matter of fact the toughest one I’ve been a part of.”
Other than Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer, no college starter is doing that. The Commodores junior righty did it again Thursday night, tying his career high with 14 strikeouts, tossing his second straight complete game and showing the aggressive use of his plus fastball and curve to pitch a two-hitter—none coming after the first inning.
The other players in the draft moving up the first-round mock this week significantly include Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson, Illinois lefthander Tyler Jay and Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi.
Arizona is believed to be trying to lower its profile a bit, but it’s tough when the general manager, Dave Stewart, remains highly recognizable from his all-star big league career. Stew can’t exactly slip in and slip out of ballparks like other scouts. His presence is why the Dbacks have been linked to prep hitters such as Georgia catcher Tyler Stephenson and New York outfielder Garrett Whitley, and Stewart has seen UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate and Fulmer in the past two weeks.
Most of the rest of the industry believes those players are headed in opposite directions. Tate remains a strong contender for the No. 1 overall pick, but his stock seems to be sliding a bit. He’s in uncharted waters innings-wise; he’s up to 88 innings, even after missing one start three weeks ago, and scouts and opposing Big West coaches report he’s working less and less off his fastball and relying more and more on his slider. Is that a sign that he’s not able to handle a starter’s workload? It’s his first attempt, and his finish might affect whether the D-backs pop him here.
Fulmer is the surest big leaguer on the board, with a floor of elite closer. His makeup, competitiveness and athleticism are starting to out-weight the doubts scouts have about the head whack in his delivery and lack of ideal size.
The industry consensus right now appears to be shifting to Fulmer over Tate, if you want a college starter, and that’s what we hear the Diamondbacks want.
Selection: Carson Fulmer, rhp, Vanderbilt
Arizona taking Fulmer would dash the Astros’ plans to take two Commodores with their first two picks, as industry rumors continue to swirl that GM Jeff Luhnow is high on both Dansby Swanson, Vanderbilt’s shortstop, and Fulmer. If the draft unfolds like this, it would be the first time one school produced the first two picks of the draft, topping UCLA in 2011 with Gerrit Cole (1) and Trevor Bauer (3).
Selection: Dansby Swanson, ss, Vanderbilt
Presenting the Rockies with the choice of Tate and Jay would be fascinating to watch. All the buzz, though, is that Colorado loves the Illini lefty, who ranks second in the nation in ERA (0.70) and first in WHIP (0.62). However, the No. 1 player on BA’s board, Florida prep shortstop Brendan Rodgers, is still available and a better profile at No. 3 overall than a potential reliever.
Selection: Brendan Rodgers, ss, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
Texas continues to play close to the vest, but other clubs are starting to wonder if the Rangers actually would take one of the many college shortstops available, despite their strong track record of getting middle infielders from Latin America. Jurickson Profar is hurt; Rougned Odor was just sent back to the minors. Players the Rangers have traded such as Luis Sardinas and Leury Garcia, among others, have not come back to bite them. Texas is said to be bearing down on Louisiana State’s Alex Bregman. But if Tate is falling, his slide stops here.
Selection: Dillon Tate, rhp, UC Santa Barbara
Houston’s second pick could still be a Vandy boy, as Sunday starter Walker Buehler, who remains an enigma, is said to be in its mix as well. The Astros are also in on the strong prep outfield class, having been linked to Georgia’s Daz Cameron, New York prep Garrett Whitley, Florida’s Kyle Tucker and Dallas-area toolshed Trenton Clark.
Selection: Kyle Tucker, of, Plant (Fla.) HS
If Tate keeps falling, he’ll stop here. Minnesota remains linked to Cameron, but if the Twins want a college pitcher, they’re said to be intrigued by Buehler, who throws harder than UCLA’s James Karpielian and Missouri State’s Jon Harris. The Twins also will scrutinize Jay here.
Selection: Daz Cameron, of, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga.
7. Red Sox
It’s starting to get tricky for Boston, which has recently lamented its inability to develop homegrown arms. Sox scouts were at Funkhouser’s start Thursday, but it wasn’t a strong one. They’re likely to be tempted here by Buehler, who provides a chance for more impact than the fairly vanilla Funkhouser, but questions about his durability likely make this a bridge too far. Albuquerque was good to the Sox with catcher Blake Swihart, so they’ll try to grab Swihart’s friend Bregman here, breaking the hearts of several teams behind them.
Selection: Alex Bregman, ss, LSU
8. White Sox
The White Sox have been bearing down on college arms as well, an area they’ve had success with over the years. They’ve taken hard looks at Fulmer and Funkhouser, who we had in this spot last week. But the hometown allure of Jay, who could give the Sox another power lefty to go with Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon, could be too much to pass on.
Selection: Tyler Jay, lhp, Illinois
While the Cubs again would like a pitcher, the value historically at the top of the draft is in bats. So this is the high spot, for now, of Arkansas’ high-riser Benintendi, who has shot up boards ahead of many of the high school outfielders on the board. He lacks size (he’s listed at 5-foot-10, 180 pounds) and track record; he stayed on campus last summer, and as one scout said, “It’s not clear everybody knew he was eligible as a sophomore. Combine that with (Trey) Killian being hurt early, and teams didn’t really come in on Arkansas early, and I think he kind of snuck up on people.”
Benintendi entered the weekend leading the nation in slugging (.780) and was leading the Southeastern Conference in batting (.405) and home runs (17) while going 20-for-23 on stolen bases. A college performer who’s a plus runner and can play center field, in this draft class, trumps his relatively short track record.
Selection: Andrew Benintendi, of, Arkansas
A new scouting director in Johnny Almaraz might make it tough for the Phillies to be too bold, such as taking the relatively hometown pick of the draft’s top prep righty, Pennsylvania prep Mike Nikorak, or fast-rising Tennessee righty Donny Everett, who has some helium as the hardest thrower in the prep class. The bounce-back of Vanderbilt’s Buehler, though, gives the Phillies a hard-throwing college arm option.
Selection: Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt
Cincinnati is said to be bearing down on Benintendi, who is from a Porkopolis high school. (Seriously, Porkopolis was Cincinnati’s 19th Century nickname. You can look it up.) Harris and Cincinnati’s hard-hitting Ian Happ are other logical options. The Reds struck gold the last time they took a prep catcher in the first round (Devin Mesoraco, 2007), and are the best fit here for Stephenson, much to the Braves’ dismay.
Selection: Tyler Stephenson, c, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) HS
Jay and Nikorak are said to remain in the Marlins’ mix, as they were last week. But Miami also is said to have strong interest in UCLA righthander James Kaprielian, though he likely won’t come cheap. But toolsy prep outfielders have proved difficult for scouting director Stan Meek and Co. to avoid.
Selection: Trenton Clark, of, Richland Hills HS, North Richland Hills, Texas
We sent Whitley here last week, but support for the Albany area outfielder often described as “George Springer Lite” appears to be waning. The Rays have spent a lot of money on high school catchers of late, too many to go for Stephenson if he’s here. This is a better spot for one of the best, and affordable, college arms available.
Selection: Jon Harris, rhp, Missouri State
The Braves would love Stephenson to fall here, but if he’s gone, their options shift to the prep arms, which should make the most sense for a team with extra picks such as Atlanta. Even with the Scott Boras Corp. factoring into the equation, the prep arm with helium is Tennessee’s Everett, who one scout called the Tyler Kolek of this draft thanks to his ability to touch 100 mph.
Selection: Donny Everett, rhp, Clarksville (Tenn.) HS
The manager already has been fired in Milwaukee, and there are rumblings about more changes. That’s the kind of situation that leads a team to play it safe with a college arm. Scouting director Ray Montgomery was on hand Friday to see Funkhouser, who wasn’t great but whose track record is good enough. That might scare them away from the prep outfielder class.
Selection: Kyle Funkhouser, rhp, Louisville
Funkhouser might have pitched his way out of New York’s mix, and it’s just not the time for New York to take a high school arm, not with their highest pick since 2005. New York is in on Chris Betts, the SoCal catcher who fits the Yankees’ bat-first catcher profile. But Oppenheimer and his staff has drafted well, for the most part, with college arms, and that’s what makes the most sense for them in a muddled class.
Selection: James Kaprielian, rhp, UCLA
Preps with impact tools remain in Cleveland’s mix. High school catchers are a risky phylum, but Betts has enough offensive potential to be a regular even if he max to move to first base. The other choice is one of the top high school arms. They’re also said to be in on Georgia prep infielder Cornelius Randolph, who seems to be in play everywhere from 14-21.
Selection: Mike Nikorak, rhp, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
The Giants would love a shot at Everett or Nikorak, a pair of impact arms that would revive a pitching pipeline that appears to be drying up. But they, like the rest of the industry, saw Michigan prep outfielder Nick Plummer tear up the East Coast Pro event and have conviction in his lefthanded bat.
Selection: Nick Plummer, of, Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Pittsburgh isn’t afraid of high schoolers with tools and have their pick among falling prep arms such as Russell and outfielders such as Whitley. The analytics, however, keep pointing at Happ, who hit in the Cape and has raked all season in the tough American Athletic Conference. Pittsburgh will stick him at second and see him as Neil Walker’s successor.
Selection: Ian Happ, of/2b, Cincinnati
Oakland reportedly is the high spot for another rising college performer, North Florida’s Donnie Dewees, who ranks second in the country in batting at .438 and runs well enough to have a shot to stick in center field. Count the A’s in if Funkhouser continues to fall, but in this scenario, he’s gone. The best value on the board likely will be Whitley, who has lost a bit of steam.
Selection: Garrett Whitley, of, Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS
Selection: Cornelius Randolph, ss, Griffin (Ga.) HS
Detroit likely was looming here for Benintendi, but his helium has zoomed the SEC performer well past this spot. Florida shortstop Richie Martin could be an option, but the Tigers’ interest in power arms steers them to Phil Bickford, who had a ridiculous 17.2 strikeouts per nine innings against wood-bat junior-college competition. Detroit also is said to be in on Cal Poly Pomona’s Cody Ponce.
Selection: Phil Bickford, rhp, JC of Southern Nevada
Two comparables scouts have thrown on Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman include two old Tigers shortstops—Alan Trammell, certainly the high-end comp on Newman and not one that is the industry consensus, and Chris Gomez, whom the Tigers drafted in 1992 and who became Trammell’s replacement. Newman fits closer to Gomez for most, but if any team can get him closer to Trammell, it’s the Cardinals, who love college performers.
Selection: Kevin Newman, ss, Arizona
Selection: Brady Aiken, lhp, IMG Academy
Baltimore is into college bats and is into analytics. Florida State’s D.J. Stewart leads the nation in walks and has corner-profile power. Manager Buck Showalter could lean on the insight of old friend Rick Down, his former hitting coach in his Yankees days, as Down was a special instructor last summer for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and got to work up close and personal with Stewart.
Selection: D.J. Stewart, of, Florida State
The Angels have leaned heavily toward arms this year but this first round has more depth of hitters than pitchers. Bickford, an Orange County kid, would be an option if available, but they’re said to be leaning more toward Betts if they go for a hometown player.
Selection: Chris Betts, c, Wilson HS, Long Beach
These teams are the most likely landing spots for injured pitchers because they have multiple picks, with the exception of the Blue Jays, who have their first pick at 29, and the Yankees, whose recent run of bad luck with injured players will take the likes of Michael Matuella, Aiken and Kolby Allard off their boards. There is some buzz on Allard and Kirby, less so on Aiken and Matuella.
27. Rockies: Donnie Dewees, of, North Florida
28. Braves: Kolby Allard, lhp, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
29. Blue Jays: Richie Martin, ss, Florida
30. Yankees: Cody Ponce, rhp, Cal Poly Pomona
31. Giants: Ashe Russell, rhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, Indianapolis
32. Pirates: Beau Burrows, rhp, Weatherford (Texas) HS
33. Royals: Scott Kingery, 2b/of, Arizona
34. Tigers: Michael Matuella, rhp, Duke
35. Dodgers: Justin Hooper, lhp, De La Salle HS, Concord, Calif.
36. Orioles: Nathan Kirby, lhp, Virginia