See Also: Mock Draft 1.0
See Also: Mock Draft 2.0
College conference tournaments dominate much of the draft world this week, with scouts descending on the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Big Ten and other conferences for long looks at some of the nation’s top college players.
That’s provided some fresh info for this week’s Mock Draft, which is somewhat shorter this week but does contain some changes from last week’s edition. The biggest change is at the top, though not because Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer gave up a season-high three homers and six runs against Texas A&M.
It’s because I had the wrong short college pitcher who’s likely to go first overall. Industry sources continue to insist the Diamondbacks want to take a college pitcher first overall, and for most of the year, the two best college starting pitchers have been UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate and Fulmer.
But scouts have increasing doubts in Tate’s ability to remain a starter, as his stuff has faded with his innings pitched more than double his career total. Tate’s pitching off his fastball less and off his slider more. Wisely, UC Santa Barbara has chosen to skip his turn this weekend to rest him for regional play, though scouting sources indicate the Gauchos will use him in relief this weekend.
That could be his role as a pro, and the same is true of Fulmer. While more area scouts and crosscheckers give Fulmer the benefit of the doubt than they did early in the season, I was too strong in my comments last week about the industry’s belief that Fulmer can start. Some scouts believe so much in Fulmer’s makeup that they don’t put it past him.
But his delivery is his delivery; there’s a head whack, a reliever’s tempo and effort and a high elbow in the back of his arm action, all of which give scouts doubts that Fulmer could start and maintain his elite stuff over a full major league season.
The pitcher more scouts seem to believe in than ever is Illinois lefthander Tyler Jay. It is ironic to say the least that it’s the college closer in Jay—who leads the nation in ERA and ranks fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio—whom most scouts believe can start, and the two starters scouts see as big league impact relievers in Fulmer and Tate.
“If you’re going to take a short college pitcher,” one scouting director said, “and you compare Jay to Fulmer, Jay does it easier, does it cleaner. He throws as hard (92-96 mph), maybe not as firm as Tate but he’s no slouch. He has as good or better breaking ball (a devastating mid-80s slide piece). He’s shown a good changeup. He’s been extended. He’s as athletic. And he’s lefthanded.”
Other college pitchers making sharp moves up draft boards include Cal State Fullertons’ Thomas Eshelman, who may creep into the top of the second round if not the compensation round, and Virginia righthander Josh Sborz, who’s receiving second-round consideration. Louisville righthander Kyle Funkhouser, tagged with a loss against Clemson on Thursday in the ACC Tournament in Durham, continues to lose steam.
In the print edition of Baseball America, I went with Arizona making a deal here and gave it Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson, after having one front-office evaluator compare him to Wil Myers. But we’re sticking with a college pitcher; we’re just changing the pitcher. Jay has had six-inning outings, he’s had weekends with multiple appearances, and he built a strong track record last summer with USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team. He would be an unusual No. 1 overall pick, but this is an unusual draft class.
Selection: Tyler Jay, lhp, Illinois
No real change here. Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson continues to separate himself with his athleticism but also his developing bat. He’s hit three home runs in the SEC tournament, pushing him to 12 on the season.
Selection: Dansby Swanson, ss, Vanderbilt
Colorado is in on Jay, and likely would scoop him up if he falls here. The Rockies have seen Tate good and not as good. It’s not as clear how firm their interest is in the draft’s bats, but we’re sticking with the consensus top prospect on the board in Florida prep infielder Brendan Rodgers. If Swanson is available, the Rockies likely would pounce, having selected him out of high school (38th round, 2012)
Selection: Brendan Rodgers, ss, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
Selection: Dillon Tate, rhp, UC Santa Barbara
Houston is closely tied by industry sources to both Fulmer and Plant (Fla.) High outfielder Kyle Tucker. What the Astros actually will do . . . well, they haven’t decided, and besides, the rest of the industry won’t know until it actually happens. The Astros don’t spread rumors and don’t tip their hand. As one scouting director said, “You find out 30 seconds before they make their pick, at best.”
Selection: Kyle Tucker, of, Plant (Fla.) HS
Minnesota has gone all in on college relievers of late, from Mason Melotakis and J.T Chargois to Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth, Sam Clay and Jake Reed last year. Unless they consider Fulmer a starter, they’d likely pass on him, though if Cameron is gone he could make a fine consolation prize.
Selection: Daz Cameron, of, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga.
Selection: Alex Bregman, ss, LSU
8. White Sox
All the natural selections for the White Sox no longer make sense, because Jay will be off the board and eight is suddenly too high to take Kyle Funkhouser. They have seen Fulmer at his best and are believed to be in on him if he’s available, which he is in this scenario. It would not be a surprise, however, if the White Sox tried to address their glaring need for catching by drafting Stephenson, the consensus top backstop on the board.
Selection: Carson Fulmer, rhp, Vanderbilt
The most volatile player in the draft remains Andrew Benintendi, the Arkansas outfielder who was SEC player of the year in a year of high-end talent in the conference. Benintendi pressed in Hoover, though he homered in his second game, sandwiched around two 0-fer performances. He’s being scrutinized like never before, and while Ohio’s prep hit king has had a monster sophomore-eligible season, he’s an unusual prospect with a short track record who hit .275 with one homer as a freshman.
“Who’s the comp for him?” one director said this week. “There’s no one like him in the major leagues. He didn’t play Team USA, he didn’t go to the Cape (Cod League). I just don’t know that we know what he can be.”
We gave Benintendi to the Cubs last week and they would prefer a strong college performer, which describes the Razorbacks center fielder. But his poor week in Hoover may have cost him some of his previous high stock.
Selection: Jon Harris, rhp, Missouri State
Industry chatter continues to have the Phillies interested in college performers, but last year’s draft was as college-heavy as any in recent memory. Instead, look for the Phillies to go for impact with a prep pick.
Selection: Garrett Whitley, Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS
Benintendi makes sense for the Reds, as he’s a Cincinnati kid that the organization has seen since his prep days. If any organization can dig into his background in a short span of time, it’s Cincinnati. And if there are doubts about his defense in center field, he should be able to handle it in cozy Great American Ballpark.
Selection: Andrew Benintendi, of, Arkansas
Selection: Trenton Clark, of, Richland Hills HS, North Richland Hills, Texas
We’ve connected the Rays with Whitley previously, but the organization’s pitching depth has taken a hit and they could pounce on the right college arm. They’ve been connected to Harris, if he’s available, as well as Funkhouser and Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler, who’s had an erratic spring but is buoyed by his strong Cape Cod League performance.
Selection: Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt
Atlanta would absolutely love for Stephenson to fall this far. He’s another volatile stock, likely in consideration for many teams earlier than this for the right price. He shall not pass this spot.
Selection: Tyler Stephenson, c, Kennesaw (Ga.) Mountain High
The Brewers have had plenty of evaluators in Durham to see Funkhouser and other ACC prospects such as Florida State outfielder DJ Stewart, who had a modest game Thursday with two strikeouts and a weak throw from left field. Funkhouser was worse early in the day. The Brewers have long trusted their Southern California connections (late scouting director Bruce Seid was once their area scout there) and could be tempted by injured prep lefty Kolby Allard, but they’re thought to be leaning more toward college arms.
Selection: Kyle Funkhouser, rhp, Louisville
No change here. The Yankees (a) like Long Beach Wilson High catcher Chris Betts, but (b) have been better at developing pitching than hitting of late. Look for a struggle between taking the polish of UCLA’s James Kaprielian versus the upside of prep arms such as Mike Nikorak, Ashe Russell or Donny Everett.
Selection: James Kaprielian, rhp, UCLA
Seeking impact arms, Cleveland is in on the top prep players, though Allard may prove too risky. This is another potential landing spot for Betts, but more likely the Indians go for an arm. Last Thursday, Russell and Nikorak pitched on the same day, and while Russell consistently pitched at 92 mph, Nikorak’s velocity continued to be somewhat erratic, with reports all over the board. Russell holds his velocity better and has a better present breaking ball; both have more projection than Tennessee prep Everett, but Everett has the best arm of the trio.
Selection: Donny Everett, rhp, Clarksville (Tenn.) HS
San Francisco’s success with drafting prep pitching should be rewarded with several choices this June. Allard lacks the physicality of the Giants’ homegrown arms such as Madison Bumgarner or Matt Cain or the electricity of Tim Lincecum. That’s not true of Nikorak, whose fastball has bowling ball sink.
Selection: Mike Nikorak, rhp, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
It’s a high school pitching run. The Pirates aren’t afraid of risk, just undue risk. Allard is back training, running and now throwing off flat ground, progressing from 60 to 70 feet. It’s possible he could be ready for a pre-draft workout but it’s unclear how much a team would get out of such a workout. He’s a polished prep lefty without great size but with track record, and he’d be a good fit for PNC Park.
Selection: Kolby Allard, lhp, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
Oakland had a sizable contingent in to see the Squat God of Walks, DJ Stewart. That seems to indicate their interest in a college position player such as Stewart, Cincinnati’s Ian Happ or North Florida’s Donnie Dewees, another player with helium, is strong. The value is greater with Happ, particularly if he can play the infield.
Selection: Ian Happ, of/2b, Cincinnati
Selection: Cornelius Randolph, ss, Griffin (Ga.) HS
The Tigers were in heavy in Durham to see Funkhouser, with assistant GM David Chadd in the house Thursday as Funkhouser continued his inconsistent finish. If Funkhouser falls here, the Tigers still likely will take him; the same goes for Everett. (Both pitchers share the same adviser, coincidentally.) We’ll still give them JC of Southern Nevada’s Phil Bickford, who reportedly was throwing 90 percent fastballs for most of his starts this season but still racked up 17.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Selection: Phil Bickford, rhp, JC of Southern Nevada
Selection: Kevin Newman, ss, Arizona
No one really knows who’s going to take any of the injury-plagued players, but the Dodgers are a good guess for lefthander Brady Aiken. They have the resources to ameliorate risk, and as my former colleague Jim Callis of MLB.com pointed out, Aiken played travel ball with fellow 2015 draft prospect Drew Finley, whose father David is a Dodgers scout.
Selection: Brady Aiken, lhp, IMG Academy (post-graduate)
Baltimore is looking for college talent to boost a thin farm system. Virginia has come on late, and the Cavaliers were hoping to get lefthander Nathan Kirby back for regional play. His lat strain is not a long-term issue like Tommy John surgery, so that shouldn’t scare off the O’s.
Selection: Nathan Kirby, lhp, Virginia
The Angels are said to be high on Cal Poly Pomona righty Cody Ponce and Anaheim native Josh Staumont, now at another Division II school, Azusa Pacific. They also like Betts, and while they’ve taken physical power arms atop the draft of late, they’re said to be leaning toward bats such as Betts or Stewart.
Selection: Chris Betts, c, Wilson HS, Long Beach
These teams remain 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.
27. Rockies: This is probably too low on Russell, whose fastball has excellent sink and sat around 92 mph in his last start. Selection: Ashe Russell, rhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, Indianapolis
28. Braves: It’s time for Atlanta to build a wall around Georgia again. Selection: Dakota Chalmers, rhp, North Forsyth HS, Cumming, Ga.
29. Blue Jays: This would be a good spot for Dewees as well, as North Florida coach Smoke Laval previously scouted for Toronto. Selection: Richie Martin, ss, Florida. This
30. Yankees: DJ Stewart, of, Florida State. This would be a re-draft—the Yankees took Stewart in the 28th round in 2012 out of high school.
31. Giants: Nick Plummer, of, Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield, Mich.
32. Pirates: Chris Shaw, 1b/of, Boston College
33. Royals: Alex Young, lhp, Texas Christian
34. Tigers: Michael Matuella, rhp, Duke
35. Dodgers: Cody Ponce, rhp, Cal Poly Pomona
36. Orioles: Donnie Dewees, of, North Florida