See Also: Mock Draft 1.0
See Also: Mock Draft 2.0
See Also: Mock Draft 3.0
See Also: Mock Draft 4.0
We’re closing in on the actual draft, which begins Monday night. That means the end of the weekly Mock Drafts. But just because we’re winding down doesn’t mean we’ve stopped having fun with doing these.
The point of baseball mock drafts always is to inform readers about the draft class, try to suss out what clubs are planning to do and entertain. Frankly, I get more feedback on what might happen in the first round after I write a mock draft than I do before I write one.
But baseball is the sport where doing Mock Drafts makes the most sense. None of these picks will be traded. (I’m against trading of draft picks; other sports don’t have minor leaguers, so they trade draft picks. It’s just unnecessary in baseball.) And with the draft taking place while some amateurs are still playing, the class is taking shape right before our eyes. It’s not easy to do—I’ve had many scouts say they don’t envy what we do because of the uncertainty of this year’s class—but it IS fun to do. I hope that shows. If it doesn’t, that’s my mistake.
The consensus remains that three pitchers, three shortstops and two prep outfielders will all go inside the first 10 picks. The pitchers include, in some order, Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer, Illinois’ Tyler Jay and UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate. The shortstops: LSU’s Alex Bregman, Lake Mary (Fla.) High’s Brendan Rodgers and Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson. And the outfielders include Georgia prep Daz Cameron and Tampa’s Kyle Tucker.
Who goes No. 1 overall, though, will help shape that top 10.
Last week, our information had Arizona focused on three players: Jay, Swanson and Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson. One source says GM Dave Stewart prefers Fulmer, whom we had going No. 1 three weeks ago, to Jay, but he has not won over the rest of the Diamondbacks’ decision-makers, such as Tony La Russa. But more and more sources indicate Swanson is the fall-back plan here, with Stephenson, on a deal that would save the Diamondbacks more money for laster selections, more likely to go first overall. He’d be the first prep catcher to go that high since Joe Mauer in 2001.
Selection: Tyler Stephenson, c, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) HS
The Astros are linked heavily to Swanson if he gets past Arizona. However, if they cut a deal, it might make sense for Tate to go here; Houston has seen him a lot, especially early when he was at his best. He’s lost momentum, pitching off his slider too often, and could slide as far as 10 if he doesn’t go here. Tate could sign at what would be a discount for Houston but a solid deal for him—more than he would get if he fell to No. 8 or No. 10.
Selection: Dansby Swanson, ss, Vanderbilt
Selection: Tyler Jay, lhp, Illinois
This would be quite the coup for Texas, getting the draft’s top prospect at No. 4. If Rodgers is gone at 3 to the Rockies, the Rangers would audible to Bregman, which would pain the Red Sox significantly.
Selection: Brendan Rodgers, ss, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
Industry sources continue to tie Houston to Cameron. If we’re going with Swanson at No. 2, as we did this week, he makes more sense here than Alex Bregman, whom the Astros have been strongly linked to by other clubs.
Selection: Daz Cameron, of, Eagle’s Landing Christian School, McDonough, Ga.
Minnesota has been linked to the high school outfielders all spring. That hasn’t stopped.
Selection: Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa
7. Red Sox
Boston likely would take Fulmer if Bregman doesn’t fall, but they aren’t passing on another chance to get some more “Albuquerque Swagger” to Boston.
Selection: Alex Bregman, ss, Louisiana State
8. White Sox
These Sox would have an interesting choice to make here between Fulmer if he’s available, and Tate. They’ve done their due diligence on Tate of late. Tate’s stock has fallen, and it seems like his floor is at No. 9 with the Cubs. If he falls past the Phillies—which seems very unlikely—then he could slide for a bit, because teams after pick 10 stopped checking in on Tate long ago.
Selection: Carson Fulmer, rhp, Vanderbilt
The Cubs have surprised the last couple of drafts, taking hitters over pitchers, but industry chatter is that they will go for an arm this year. The latest chatter is for Jon Harris of Missouri State, but they have checked in on Tate late and could be in on him here as well. Harris, though, is a better bet to start.
Selection: Jon Harris, rhp, Missouri State
Philadelphia changed scouting directors but didn’t change much of the rest of its decision-making structure. So most of the rest of the industry sees the Phillies going for a college player here, and they’ve been linked to hitters. But if Tate falls, it’s an easy choice to make for an embattled GM.
Selection: Dillon Tate, rhp, UC Santa Barbara
If Tucker or Benintendi fall to them, Cincinnati will gladly take either one. They’re also comfortable with Fulmer if he’s around. As we’ve written, Benintendi is a Cincinnati prep product whom the Reds worked out in high school.
Selection: Andrew Benintendi, of, Arkansas
Selection: Trenton Clark, of, Richland HS, North Richland Hills, Texas
When the Rays have a chance, they go with a West Coast option. Scouting director R.J. Harrison is an Arizona guy, and West Coast crosschecker Fred Repke is one of Harrison’s key lieutenants and decision-makers. That could lead Tampa in the direction of JC of Southern Nevada righty Phil Bickford or UCLA righthander James Kaprielian.
Selection: James Kaprielian, rhp, UCLA
Atlanta has been tied to multiple players such as Stephenson, though our sources indicate the Braves won’t take a prep catcher with their first pick. Expect a run on Georgia players for Atlanta starting either in round two or round three, but the Braves aren’t limited to the Peach State early. Instead, they have been tied recently to prep arms, such as Indianapolis’ Ashe Russell, whose fastball has bowling ball sink. If Atlanta really wants to shake things up, they could go with 2014 No. 1 overall pick Brady Aiken. With their number of picks and $10 million plus in pool money, plus decision-makers such as Chad MacDonald and Roy Clark who love prep arms, they are as likely a landing spot for Aiken as anyone.
Selection: Ashe Russell, rhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, Indianapolis
After last year’s high-risk draft, Milwaukee will go more conservative on the college tip. They’re tied closely to college righties such as Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser and Cal Poly Pomona’s Cody Ponce. Funkhouser’s strong regional start may have saved his draft stock; he could use another strong outing this weekend against Cal State Fullerton and ace Thomas Eshelman, who continues to have draft helium. They had a good workout with SoCal prep catcher Chris Betts, but he may still be there for them at 40, their next selection.
Selection: Kyle Funkhouser, rhp, Louisville
New York has been linked to upstate New York outfielder Garrett Whitley, but the Yankees’ draft successes in the Damon Oppenheimer era have come on the mound, not at the plate. Some Yankee fans will find this a conservative choice, but Ponce has real helium. He’s athletic, has a plus breaking ball and a durable 6-foot-5, 235-pound frame, plus he has a strong Cape Cod League track record. In a tough draft for college starters, Ponce fits well in the middle of the first round.
Selection: Cody Ponce, rhp, Cal Poly Pomona
Cleveland has been tied to prep arms, but there’s not much separation among the prep arms. With picks at 42 and 59, Cleveland can re-visit high school pitching after a secure opener.
Selection: Ian Happ, of/2b, Cincinnati
We’re still hearing high school pitcher on the Giants, but we’re going back to our first impression in the group, Pennsylvania prep Mike Nikorak, who is the kind of raw material “The Ninja” Dick Tidrow loves to work with. If he’s off the board, they are still said to have a strong liking for Indiana’s other prep righty, Nolan Watson, who likely will still be there for their second pick at No. 31.
Selection: Mike Nikorak, rhp, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
The buzz around the Pirates continues to be the prep class. The best of the prep class, when healthy, remains lefthander Kolby Allard, even with a back injury.
Selection: Kolby Allard, lhp, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
Oakland has had success with Vanderbilt pitchers before (Sonny Gray) and could go this route again. They are the ceiling for Eshelman, whose plus-plus command has made him a potential first-rounder.
Selection: Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt
Kansas City continues to be tied to Georgia prep infielder Cornelius Randolph, the draft’s best bat. But they’ve also been linked strongly to Phil Bickford, whom they nearly selected in 2013, and he’s on the board in this scenario.
Selection: Phil Bickford,rhp, JC of Southern Nevada
Detroit doesn’t mind tough signs. Randolph might be one but he’s a similar player in some ways to Nick Castellanos, who has turned out nicely for the Tigers. Randolph, like Castellanos, needs defensive work to stay even at third base and may wind up in left field, but he has tremendous hitting feel and good power potential to go with it.
Selection: Cornelius Randolph, ss, Griffin (Ga.) HS
If Funkhouser is here, St. Louis will take him, but this appears to be the floor for Newman. He fits St. Louis’ profile with his hitting track record and good but not great defense up the middle. Jon Jay and Matt Carpenter are/were up-the-middle defenders in St. Louis, you know? Newman is an average defender, if not a tick above, with a 55 arm for many scouts. He’s like Pete Kozma if Kozma could hit.
Selection: Kevin Newman, ss, Arizona
A couple of scouting directors said they thought Aiken had a better chance to go in the top 15-20 picks than he does of falling to 24, with the Giants at 18 another possibility other than Atlanta. But we’re sticking with this selection.
Selection: Brady Aiken, lhp, IMG Academy (post-graduate)
With last year’s second selection, righthander Pat Connaughton, saying he’s devoting himself to basketball to see if he can fulfill that dream, Baltimore needs close-to-the-majors talent. There’s no risk of the 6-foot D.J. Stewart ditching baseball for the NBA.
Selection: D.J. Stewart, of, Florida State
Still tied to college bats, the Angels find themselves in a draft without many left on the board. That could lead them to Eshelman, whose 70 present fastball command could move him to the majors quickly as a Matt Shoemaker-like No. 4 starter.
Selection: Thomas Eshelman, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
27. Rockies: Here’s where the prep outfielder and pitcher run starts.
Selection: Garrett Whitley, of, Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS
28. Braves: A Stanford signee, Beck has helium coming off a 10-inning CIF playoffs start in which he pitched efficiently, hit 95 mph and struck out 14.
Selection: Tristan Beck, rhp, Corona, Calif.
29. Blue Jays: The Jays have to wonder what happens if they don’t get a Canadian in a strong draft for Canadians, and Josh Naylor has put on a recent power display for the Canadian Junior National team in its tour of the Dominican Republic. They also have to think they had no chance at Nathan Kirby before the season, and now he’s at 29, so don’t overthink it.
Selection: Nathan Kirby, lhp, Virginia
30. Yankees: With an extra pick, the Yankees can be aggressive with a tough sign such as Donnie Everett, the Tennessee righty who ranks among the hardest throwers in the prep class.
Selection: Donnie Everett, rhp, Clarksville (Tenn.) HS
31. Giants: This hunch hasn’t changed the last three weeks.
Selection: Nick Plummer, of, Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
32. Pirates: Projectable prep arms don’t scare this organization.
Selection: Triston McKenzie, rhp, Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) HS
33. Royals: We’re sticking with a portfolio approach here, but it has to shift to a bat after taking Bickford first this week.
Selection: Richie Martin, ss, Florida
34. Tigers: Let’s stick with a college performer here.
Selection: Scott Kingery, 2b, Arizona
35. Dodgers: Hard to find college bats to trust in this range. Rather than forcing it, LA takes the top power arm on its board.
Selection: Jacob Nix, rhp, IMG Academy (post-graduate)
36. Orioles: With Kirby gone in this scenario, look for the O’s to find a college pitcher that has performed.
Selection: Alex Young, lhp, Texas Christian