With seven and a half weeks to go until the draft, there’s still a lot of shaking out to do at the top, middle and back of the first round, but the order is starting to gain a little bit of clarity. Here’s a snapshot of where the draft stands as of April 20.
Rumors of the Twins floating deals with several players are circulating, with players as disparate as Southern California prep Royce Lewis to Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith. But the least controversial player on the board is Louisville’s two-way star Brendan McKay, whom the Twins would pick as a pitcher.
Pick: Brendan McKay, 1b/lhp, Louisville |
Hunter Greene, the top prep player on the board and owner of a 100 mph fastball, has had an up-and-down spring, and the rumors of he and his family attempting to maneuver his way to the No. 3 pick with the Padres are a poorly kept secret. The Padres’ throwing program is more in line with Greene’s program, and it’s on the West Coast, among other advantages. Greene isn’t pitching this week in the Boras Classic and is widely believed to be shutting down as a pitcher in another attempt to move down to the third pick. But the Reds, who covet McKay, also aren’t afraid to call Greene’s bluff.
Pick: Hunter Greene, rhp, Notre Dame High, Sherman Oaks, Calif. |
If McKay and Greene are off the board, the Padres likely would cut a deal elsewhere. Lewis is not a deal-cutter, but with no clear word on whom the Padres would cut a deal with, we’re sticking with Lewis here, despite reports consistently knocking him for a down spring, particularly a questionable feel for hitting. It’s worth remembering that Lewis has the athleticism to play up the middle, either at shortstop or center field, and dominated with the 18U national team.
Pick: Royce Lewis, if/of, JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. |
The Rays are undecided on their pick, as many teams are, but have had poor early results from prep hitters they’ve selected in the past 15 years. Only Delmon Young and Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall picks, reached the major leagues among prep position players they selected, and both were mild disappointments. Meanwhile, the six other preps the Rays have picked in the first round either have struggled or have yet to reach the majors, with 2011 first-rounder Jake Hager in Triple-A. If the Rays want to mix it up a bit, a college pitcher makes sense in a draft fairly deep in them, with Vanderbilt’s Kyle Wright moving back to the top of the crop. Wright, long regarded as having the best arm action and body of the top group of college arms, had a slow start but used his slider more and threw more fastball strikes at 93-95 mph last week in a shutout win against Florida.
Pick: Kyle Wright, rhp, Vanderbilt |
Atlanta’s strong pitching depth in the minors won’t keep them from drafting another pitcher with their first pick. They’re expected to be evaluating North Carolina preps McKenzie Gore and Austin Beck down to the last minute as well as top college arms such as Wright and Florida’s Alex Faedo. Don’t rule them out on Lewis, though, if he’s available at 5.
Pick: Austin Beck, of, North Davidson High, Lexington, N.C. |
The thin college hitter crop may drive the A’s back to the prep ranks, but they haven’t selected a prep pitcher with their top pick since Jeremy Bonderman in 2001. They have a second pick at No. 33 where they could slake their prep pitcher thirst. That’s why we went for North Carolina ace J.B. Bukauskas here, who’s similar in many ways to current A’s starter Sonny Gray.
Pick: J.B. Bukauskas, rhp, North Carolina |
Arizona has Amiel Sawdaye over from the Red Sox running its scouting and player development groups now, but it also still have veteran scouts in the Carolinas with deep ties and history with players such as lefty MacKenzie Gore, who is ahead of Greene as the top prep arm on many boards. He’s a supremely athletic pitcher with impressive polish for a prep.
Pick: MacKenzie Gore, lhp, Whiteville (N.C.) High |
Philadelphia was cagey about its top pick last year, not closing on Mickey Moniak until late in the process. The Phillies’ focus has been on polished hitters with top picks in recent years, and no hitter has more polish than Pavin Smith, with twice as many home runs (10) as strikeouts (five).
Pick: Pavin Smith, 1b, Virginia |
The Brewers took an athletic college outfielder last year in Corey Ray, and in many ways Kendall has better tools. He’s not as polished a hitter as Ray, but he’s a Wisconsin prep whose talent comfortably fits in the top 10, which makes him too good to pass up.
Pick: Jeren Kendall, of, Vanderbilt |
GM Billy Eppler started out as an area scout and has hit the road himself, seeing many of the top college arms on Friday nights, leading many to believe he and first-year scouting director Matt Swanson will go the college route with their first pick.
Pick: Alex Faedo, rhp, Florida |
11. White Sox
The White Sox would snap up Gore if he fell this far, but that’s unlikely. An infusion of pitching talent in offseason trades gives the Sox the flexibility to go back to one of their favored phyla of talent, toolsy prep outfielders such as Louisville prep toolshed Jordan Adell.
Pick: Jordon Adell, of, Ballard HS, Louisville |
The hottest college performer now is Haseley, even though many scouts remain skeptical of his power and ability to play center field. Haseley’s premium makeup shouldn’t be minimized, as few players have his track record for winning. He led The First Academy to the 2014 NHSI title as the only Florida team to win the event, then helped lead Virginia to the 2015 College World Series title, making it the first ACC team to win the national title since 1955.
Pick: Adam Haseley, of, Virginia
The Marlins have a long history of minimizing off-field makeup, focusing on competitive makeup on the diamond. The twice-suspended Seth Romero of Houston fits that description, and he may have been headed for the top 10 before his suspension, as he was leading the nation with 15.43 strikeouts per nine innings.
Pick: Seth Romero, lhp, Houston
Two-way talent and TCU signee Shane Baz has surged to the top of the list in the race for second-best prep pitcher in the class after Hunter Greene. Other challengers include Huntington Beach (Calif.) two-way talent Hagen Danner, who shined at this week’s Boras Classic; Dana Hills (Calif.) High’s Hans Crouse; and Decatur (Ala.) righty Tanner Burns. Expect a run on prep arms in the supplemental and second rounds.
Pick: Shane Baz, rhp, Concordia Lutheran HS, Tomball, Texas |
South Carolina’s Clarke Schmidt has a high floor as a potential No. 4 starter with a hard sinker up to 96 mph. At this point, with Romero gone, he looks like the best college arm on the board.
Pick: Clarke Schmidt, rhp, South Carolina |
Fresh off Blake Rutherford’s strong start, the Yankees could go to the SoCal hitter well again with Pratto, who also has a fallback as a lefthanded pitcher. While the Yankees have had confidence in their ability to draft and develop pitching, the injuries to James Kaprielian and success of homegrown hitters such as Aaron Judge could nudge them back in the hitter direction. Pratto runs well enough to give the outfield corners a shot rather than just being limited to first base.
Pick: Nick Pratto, 1b/of, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS |
Jerry DiPoto’s track record strongly favors college players at the top from his time with the Diamondbacks, Angels and now the Mariners. LSU’s Alex Lange has had ups and downs this spring, but he would give Seattle a potential fast mover who has a high floor as a potential closer with his aggressive demeanor and plus curveball.
Pick: Alex Lange, rhp, Louisiana State |
UCLA ace Griffin Canning has moved up boards steadily all spring, with four pitches that he throws for strikes. Whereas last year most scouts graded his stuff as average or above-average at best, now reports have all four pitches flashing plus at times, and he ranks second in the Pacific-12 Conference with 78 strikeouts in just 61.2 innings (11.38 K/9).
Pick: Griffin Canning, rhp, UCLA |
D.L. Hall was the top prep lefty on the showcase circuit last summer and fall, but his name doesn’t come up with teams in the first 10-12 picks. Either teams are laying in the weeds, or his stock is slipping a bit, with scouting reports on his stuff being inconsistent all spring. Still, clubs do not expect him to get to the 20s. If he’s gone, Brian Miller might be a fit for the Giants with his Cape Cod League track record and center-field profile.
Pick: D.L. Hall, lhp, Valdosta (Ga.) HS |
The most divisive college bat on the board remains UC Irvine’s Keston Hiura, who won’t play in the field this spring but has one of the class’ most potent bats. Hitting .423/.535/.748 with 17 doubles and seven homers—he ranks in the top 10 nationally in batting (fourth), OBP (third) and doubles (seventh)—Hiura will require a team to take a leap of faith that he can be an offensive second baseman or left fielder.
Pick: Keston Hiura, 2b/of, UC Irvine |
Baltimore has plenty of needs and has favored college players with its first pick in recent years. A dearth of middle infielders both in their farm system and in the draft could lead them toward North Carolina’s Logan Warmoth, a high-floor player who may have a chance to stick at shortstop.
Pick: Logan Warmoth, ss, North Carolina
22. Blue Jays
Warmoth is actually the Jays’ kind of player, but the analytically inclined club has other choices for college performers, such as Missouri State slugger Jake Burger, Warmoth’s teammate outfielder Brian Miller and South Carolina righty Wil Crowe.
Pick: Jake Burger, 3b, Missouri State |
The Dodgers are looking for upside, not safety, in the first round. That makes them more likely than other clubs so far to dip into the prep class, which means in an April mock, we’ll give them the top prep available in Puerto Rican toolshed Heliot Ramos, who at 17 is one of the youngest players in the class.
Pick: Heliot Ramos, of, Leadership Christian Academy, Guaynabo, P.R. |
24. Red Sox
The Best Player Available pot features many preps at this point, and the Red Sox have not shied away from them recently, with Andrew Benintendi their only college first-round pick since 2012. Danner is moving up boards after his strong Boras Classic performance.
Pick: Hagen Danner, rhp, Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS |
Washington wouldn’t be scared off by Hiura’s injury considering the success they’ve had with such prospects in recent years. The Nationals also love using middle infielders and power arms as future trade chips in their push to maximize their Bryce Harper window.
Pick: Brady McConnell, ss, Merritt Island (Fla.) HS |
Texas and the Cubs have four of the last five picks of the first round, and having multiple picks means the Rangers can gamble on valuable prep players with the second of their two selections. Lefthander David Peterson of Oregon has pitched his way into the first round, leading the Pac-12 in strikeouts and rivaling Romero as the top college lefty on the board.
Pick: David Peterson, lhp, Oregon |
Chicago’s draft leaned heavily toward pitching last year, when it didn’t pick in the first two rounds, and is expected to again at least at the top to supplement a young, dynamic big league lineup. Righty Tanner Houck was expected to be a top 10 pick coming into the season but his stock has fallen with his fastball velocity, which now sits 90-92 mph. According to scouts, his arm action and delivery have changed for the worse since his freshman year, when he projected as the top pitcher in this draft class with a lightning-quick arm and 97 mph heater.
Pick: Tanner Houck, rhp, Missouri
28. Blue Jays
Even in BPA mode, the Jays would still likely lean college in the first round.
Pick: Wil Crowe, rhp, South Carolina
A lefthander in Peterson with the first pick would allow the Rangers to go after a prep bat with their second pick.
Pick: Mark Vientos, ss, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla. |
Looking for fastball velocity? Try Florida juco Nate Pearson, whose fastball has hit triple digits. Rival Florida juco Brendon Little, whom Pearson squared off against in February, also could be a fit here.
Pick: Nate Pearson, rhp, Central Florida JC |