SEE ALSO: Draft Order
SEE ALSO: Bonus Pools
So what would you do?
Two of the top talents in the 2016 draft class are high school pitchers, New Jersey lefty Jason Groome and Kansas righty Riley Pint. Groome offers physicality and a potentially premium breaking ball, is just 17 and already is a beast at a listed 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. Pint has one of the fastest arms scouts have seen in years, has hit a reported 102 mph and has four pitches to go with excellent athleticism.
Of course, just two years ago, we were all excited about prep arms at the top of the draft, too. Brady Aiken, who went No. 1 overall in 2014, and Tyler Kolek, who went second, both already have had Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, college players from that class such as Carlos Rodon, Aaron Nola, Kyle Schwarber and Michael Conforto, among others, already are key big league pieces (when healthy).
Scouting directors and front-office executives reached for this mock draft know the risks. Some are more willing to accept them than others, and that will shape a draft with no consensus pick for the second college starting pitcher, after Florida lefty A.J. Puk, and a total lack of the college midfielders who wound up dominating the first round last year.
“There’s a lot of risk in this draft,” as one scouting director said. “It’s not a bad draft, but there’s not a lot of safe bets.”
1. Phillies: Pat Gillick has been out on the road actively this spring helping the Phillies prepare for this pick, but industry sources have seen tons of club scouts and executives reviewing top prospects and believe the Phillies will make a collective decision. Interestingly, Gillick has been involved in every draft since the first one in 1965 (he was the Astros’ assistant farm director and was in the draft room that year), but this is the first time he’s been involved in the No. 1 pick.
The Phillies haven’t tipped their hand at the top, but most sources have them leaning to a pitcher and favoring either local boy Groome or Florida’s Puk. Groome’s makeup issues (mostly dealing with immaturity, according to industry sources) worry most teams picking in the top 10, and that could weigh down Groome’s draft stock.
Puk also has an arrest on his record last spring but appears to have answered questions about his makeup as well as his stuff by coming on strong in the Southeastern Conference. PICK: A.J. Puk, lhp | Video
2. Reds: With a new general manager and a full rebuild under construction, the Reds have the largest bonus pool for 2016 (just under $14 million) and extra picks, with selections at Nos. 35 and 43 as well. Cincinnati is expected to try to cut a deal at No. 2 and is tied to college bats such as Tennessee’s Nick Senzel and Louisville’s Corey Ray. The Reds also could work a deal with Puerto Rican shortstop Delvin Perez; he’ll participate in Puerto Rico’s Excellence Games this weekend, and scouting director Chris Buckley and veteran lieutenant Tony Arias have plenty of experience in the region. The choice there at this point, though, would be Mercer’s Kyle Lewis, who hit quality pitching in the Cape Cod League last summer and has dominated in the offense-minded Southern Conference this spring (.426/.559/.775, 15 HR). PICK: Kyle Lewis, of
3. Braves: With their overhauled farm system bursting with pitching, many industry sources don’t see Atlanta in the mix for an arm this year. But that’s where the upside is in this class, and don’t forget the Braves came away with the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft after trading for Dansby Swanson. It’s early, but it’s going to be difficult for the Braves to pass on Groome or Pint. Pint is the one throwing 100 mph and is the most unique talent in the draft. PICK: Riley Pint, rhp | Video
4. Rockies: Colorado took four high school players to start last year’s draft and would like to go back to the college ranks, but there might not be a fit. Prep outfielders Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford are truer center fielders and more consistent hitters than Louisville’s Corey Ray, and they’d like more upside at fourth overall than Senzel offers. They could reach a bit for Miami catcher Zach Collins, who has helium. Moniak’s athleticism and speed would play anywhere, but especially in spacious Coors Field. PICK: Mickey Moniak, of | Video
5. Brewers: Like the Reds, the Brewers are in full rebuild mode, and while their farm system has made strides, it still needs help, particularly on the mound. Mississippi State righty Dakota Hudson has had some ups and downs but seems to be emerging as the No. 2 college pitcher in the class, over the likes of Virginia’s Connor Jones, and is in play here. But passing on Groome’s talent seems like too much to expect here. PICK: Jason Groome, lhp | Video
6. Athletics: Oakland has been strongly linked to hitters in the class and could cut a deal with a prep bat here, one of the draft’s stronger demographics. However, Tennessee’s Nick Senzel makes plenty of sense here, particularly after he’s shown steady defensive improvement all spring, even moving from third base to shortstop in recent weeks. PICK: Nick Senzel, 3b/ss, Tennessee | Video
7. Marlins: Miami stunned most by taking Canadian slugger Josh Naylor 12th overall last year and is still smarting from its decision to pass on Miami-born Cuban-American Rodon for Kolek in ’14. However, the best tools in the draft might belong to Delvin Perez, the Puerto Rican shortstop with a cannon arm and twitchy athleticism. PICK: Delvin Perez, ss | Video
8. Padres: San Diego has three first-rounders—as it drafts again at Nos. 24 and 25—and the third-largest pool in the draft. The Padres are linked to every toolsy prep player in the draft but may push one up its board for a deal here to stretch its dollars with subsequent picks. Two candidates are Florida slugging infielder Drew Mendoza, a true split-camp player, and athletic Kansas two-way talent Joey Wentz. While Wentz has loft power similar to Mendoza, he’s a better athlete with a clean arm, 6-foot-5 frame and a fastball that has reached 96 mph in short bursts. PICK: Joey Wentz, lhp
9. Tigers: If Pint somehow falls here, assistant GM David Chadd will make it happen with his deep ties to the Wichita area. Barring that, expect Detroit to stick to its SEC bias if Senzel or, more likely, Hudson is available, though Hudson’s 11-strikeout performance against Missouri on Thursday night might make Detroit sweat him falling this far. PICK: Dakota Hudson, rhp
10. White Sox: Chicago is expected to go more for skills than raw tools in this year’s draft in general as Nick Hostetler takes over as scouting director, though his predecessor Doug Laumann is still hitting the road himself. However, if Ray is available here, the White Sox will pounce on the Chicago prep product who played in their Amateur City Elite (ACE) program. Wherever he goes, Ray will break Kyle Funkhouser’s record as the highest pick in Louisville history. PICK: Corey Ray, of
11. Mariners: Tom McNamara has been joined by Tom Allison in the scouting department, with Allison in charge of pro and amateur scouting for Seattle. Allison drafted successful college bats such as Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock on his watch in Arizona, but in this scenario the top options there are off the board by 11. Rutherford, who turned 19 this week, offers Southern California polish and is older than the usual prep pick. PICK: Blake Rutherford, of | Video
12. Red Sox: Boston has been burned in recent years by prep first-rounders (Trey Ball) and is reaping dividends already from taking Arkansas’ Andrew Benintendi last season. Any analytical approach would point toward Collins, who has improved his catch-and-throw tools to passable and who leads the nation in OBP with a .417/.580/.713 line that includes nine homers. PICK: Zack Collins, c | Video
13. Rays: Tampa picked in this spot last season and went with a prep outfielder, Garrett Whitley, so it’s relieved to see Moniak and Rutherford come off the board. They’re said to be in on prep bats such as Pennsylvania’s Alex Kirilloff and Georgia’s Josh Lowe, who could end up in the outfield but has a shot to stay in the dirt. The club’s track record developing prep pitchers is fairly sound, and Alabama prep lefty Braxton Garrett fits, as he has one of the best breaking balls in the entire class. PICK: Braxton Garrett, lhp | Video
14. Indians: Cleveland was aggressive with preps last season and has had some success going that route in recent years, most notably with Francisco Lindor. One of its top pitching prospects, Justus Sheffield, is the younger brother of Vanderbilt righty Jordan Sheffield, who’s fast rising up draft boards as the latest Commodores ace. He was up to 98 mph against Texas A&M and has secondary pitches developing well in his changeup and curve. PICK: Jordan Sheffield, rhp
15. Twins: The Twins will take the best player available with a premium on athleticism. Scouting director Deron Johnson has strong ties to the Sacramento region (he lives there now) and will be tempted by 6-foot-6 two-spot righty Matt Manning, whose father played in the NBA, as well as other prep power arms such as New York’s Ian Anderson and Texas’ Forrest Whitley, or Wentz if he were available. PICK: Matt Manning, rhp | Video
16. Angels: What do you get the farm system that needs everything? The best player available, but the Angels have tried to go college with their top selection under scouting director Ric Wilson. “Willy” loves velocity, which could lead him to Sheffield if he’s still available. For a quicker fix, though, Jones fits the bill, though scouts repeatedly say the modest track record of Virginia pitchers in pro ball hurts Jones’ stock. Jones has pitched the Virginia Way since high school and it has worked very well for him (and Virginia; check his national championship ring). So the team that drafts him has to accept the squat and all that comes with the way the Cavaliers do it. The Angels have also been connected to northeast high school bats Alex Kirilloff and Nolan Jones. PICK: Connor Jones, rhp | Video
17. Astros: Houston hasn’t picked this low with its first selection since 2009, when it selected Jio Mier 19th overall but struck gold in the seventh round with Dallas Keuchel (and 20th round with J.D. Martinez in a what-if kind of way). The Astros took hitters with their top three selections last year as well as their top three signees in the ’14 draft. They likely would be open to Jones if he’s still here but have the pitching depth to accept some risk with one of the high-ceiling prep arms on the board. Texas prep Whitley has helium among the prep pitcher phylum. PICK: Forrest Whitley, rhp
18. Yankees: New York re-enforced its belief in its acumen of evaluating pitchers by getting strong early results from last year’s first-rounder James Kaprielian, even with him landing on the disabled list at high Class A this year. Look for them to stick with arms at the top, even in a year shy with good college arms. PICK: Ian Anderson, rhp | Video
19. Mets: The Mets and Yankees haven’t picked back-to-back (and belly-to-belly for you John Sterling enthusiasts) since 1972. That year, the Yankees took Scott McGregor 14th overall, one pick after the Mets selected prep catcher Richard Bengston. This time, it’s the defending NL champion Mets who are riding high, and they have been linked to prep bats in a good year to be linked to prep bats. PICK: Alex Kirilloff, of
20. Dodgers: The Dodgers are in best-player mode and would be pleased to find Lowe this far down, as he has power tools both at the plate and on the mound. Questions about Lowe’s ability to stay in the infield have hurt his stock a bit this spring. PICK: Josh Lowe, 3b | Video
21. Blue Jays: The Jays are expected to take a much more conservative approach in this year’s draft and are said to be looking for a safer college package. They could jump at Pitt righthander T.J. Zeuch, who has helium, but the lefthanded bat of Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss fits better considering his track record and selectivity (32-8 BB-SO ratio in 183 ABs). PICK: Matt Thaiss, c
22. Pirates: Zeuch’s ascent—he pitches off his fastball more than most college starters and has a good body and arm action—fits perfectly for the Pirates. He has the starter traits and size they like in a pitcher and gives them a legit talent to draft from their hometown college. PICK: T.J. Zeuch, rhp
23. Cardinals: Thaiss will be in the mix here if he’s available, but St. Louis and Wake Forest’s Will Craig are made for each other. Craig could be the first two-time ACC player of the year since 1982-83, as he controls the strike zone and would provide plus power to an organization currently lacking power in the minors. Craig’s a 30-grade athlete at best but has plus arm strength, and if anyone can make him stick at third base, it’s the Cardinals. PICK: Will Craig, 3b
24-25. Padres: In this scenario, San Diego will get what it wants—prep athlete overload as A.J. Preller tries to repeat Texas’ 2012 draft that featured the likes of Joey Gallo, Lewis Brinson and Nick Williams. Picks: Nolan Jones, ss, and Will Benson, of | Video
26. White Sox: The White Sox have had such success with lefthanders, and the best one available fits well here. If his velocity picks up as the weather heats up, that could be Kent State’s Eric Lauer, although Texas prep Kyle Mueller, who has helium, could also fit in a strong year for high school southpaws. PICK: Eric Lauer, lhp
27. Orioles: Georgia righthander Robert Tyler could be in play here; the Orioles drafted him out of high school in 2013 in the 28th round. However, Baltimore has had success when it has focused on the hit tool of late with players such as Trey Mancini and Chance Sisco. It also has had success bucking the industry consensus, which could lead them to a split-camp player. PICK: Drew Mendoza, ss/3b
28-29. Nationals: The Nats aren’t afraid of Scott Boras Corporation clients or players with some injury issues. Reggie Lawson checks both boxes; the Nats also have had success as a franchise with college closers such as Chad Cordero and Drew Storen. PICKS: Reggie Lawson, rhp | Video | Zack Burdi, rhp
30. Rangers: Texas has plenty of recent history in Georgia and success with athletic prep outfielder, of which Georgia has many in 2016. PICK: Taylor Trammell, of
31. Mets: New York has had too much success with arms in recent drafts not go that route again with an extra pick, and an improved curveball has boosted Georgia’s physical ace, Tyler. PICK: Robert Tyler, rhp
32. Dodgers: Teams that think he can start will be hot in pursuit of undersized but athletic Justin Dunn, who has had a strong year (34.1 IP, 1.31 ERA, 36 SO) for Boston College. PICK: Justin Dunn, rhp
33-34. Cardinals: With a big bonus pool and three picks, the Cardinals could get creative with first-year scouting director Randy Flores. That would mean being aggressive with Cal Quantrill, who was a potential 1/1 pick prior to having Tommy John surgery last year. He still hasn’t pitched for Stanford this year. Physical California prep Jared Horn has athleticism and present strength and has pitched his way into the back of the first round. PICKS: Cal Quantrill, rhp, and Jared Horn, rhp