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As we’ve written before, as the draft draws closer, college players move up draft boards and high school players go down.
With teams finishing their meetings and sending scouts in packs to evaluate players at college conference tournaments, some of the names in this week’s mock draft are changing as the college class takes more shape. The college pitching class remains particularly lacking in consensus, so much of the order of how that class of player goes out will come down to clubs’ personal preference, from arm action to how they saw them to what kind of deal can be struck.
The top college arm on the board, Florida’s A.J. Puk, threw Wednesday night at the Southeastern Conference tournament against Louisiana State and threw well, still reaching 95 mph regularly deep into the game (including pitch 102) before tiring in the eighth inning. He remains the big, physical lefty with plus stuff, a relatively fresh arm, USA Baseball national team experience and major conference experience.
Puk has warts, but he still fits the No. 1 overall pick profile best in the class, and industry sources say the Phillies have narrowed their pool of potential No. 1 players to just two, Puk and San Diego-area prep outfielder Mickey Moniak. The Steve Finley comparisons continue to come for Moniak, who has run better of late, including some reports of 3.9-second times to first base. Scouts saw an extra gear from Moniak in April’s Boras Classic matchup against Blake Rutherford and Chaminade Prep. His speed and defense earn some 7 grades from scouts to go with a plus bat. His power may not be typical of No. 1 overall picks, and at a listed 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Moniak is small for a potential top selection.
1. PHILLIES: Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz was part of scouting departments in Atlanta (international) and Cincinnati that had success with prep outfielders drafted highly such as Adam Dunn (he was the signing scout), Jay Bruce and Jason Heyward. Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick, who has hit the scouting circuit hard all spring, also is said to favor Moniak.
If he’s picked No. 1 overall, the La Costa Canyon High senior would be the fifth San Diego-area No. 1 pick since 2000, joining Adrian Gonzalez (2000), Matt Bush (2004), Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Brady Aiken (2014). PICK: Mickey Moniak, of | Video
2. REDS: The Reds have been tied to Puk if he’s available, even with their farm system tilting to the pitching side. Scouting director Chris Buckley is very familiar both with Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan and the Gators program and is expected to pounce on Puk. PICK: A.J. Puk, lhp | Video
3. BRAVES: The closer the draft approaches, the more the talk shifts to college players, even though the Braves want upside and this draft offers two impact preps in Riley Pint and Jason Groome, both of whom the Braves have scouted extensively. Instead, they are said to be headed for a signable college bat such as Louisville’s Corey Ray, who has plenty of impact potential. PICK: Corey Ray, of | Video
4. ROCKIES: Colorado wants Moniak but won’t get him here in that scenario. They’d be a natural for a college pitcher after going heavy on the high school side in last year’s draft. In this scenario, that leaves them with Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, who hit a 460-foot homer Wednesday in the Southern Conference tournament. PICK: Kyle Lewis, of
5. BREWERS: Milwaukee continues to be linked to high-upside toolsy prep players. They’re the first team that could take a shot at the prep pitching duo, Riley Pint or Jason Groome; in their search for upside, they’re also linked to Puerto Rican shortstop Delvin Perez. PICK: Riley Pint, rhp | Video
6. ATHLETICS: Oakland has been linked to Nick Senzel much of the spring, but they also likely would be sorely tempted, like Milwaukee, by the prep pitchers. It’s hard to find too many teams explicitly linked to Groome, but teams below this pick are doing significant research into why the prep lefty’s stock seems to be falling. PICK: Jason Groome, lhp | Video
7. MARLINS: The Marlins surprised the industry last year with Canadian first baseman Josh Naylor at No. 12 overall, and he’s worked out well so far. Other than Jose Fernandez, the organization’s track record with hitters early in the draft is much stronger than it is with pitchers, and that likely will play into the decision here. PICK: Delvin Perez, ss | Video
8. PADRES: San Diego GM A.J. Preller has been out seeing the country as much as most scouting directors, as has his own scouting director Mark Conner. The Padres rolled very, very deep into the SEC tournament with at least five evaluators on hand, but there’s probably not an SEC fit at eight unless San Diego cuts a below-slot deal for righthanders Jordan Sheffield (Vanderbilt) or Dakota Hudson (Mississippi State). San Diego does have the money to meet the rumored $4-5 million price tag of NorCal prep righty Matt Manning. The Padres have also been linked strongly to Stanford’s Cal Quantrill, with word of a private bullpen session in recent weeks. PICK: Cal Quantrill, rhp
9. TIGERS: Detroit’s believed to want a bat, and has not shied away from Scott Boras Corporation clients. Nick Senzel also checks the team’s Southeastern Conference box. PICK: Nick Senzel, 3b/ss | Video
10. WHITE SOX: Scouts continue to ding Zack Collins for his athleticism (modest) and catch-and-throw skills (improved but still fringy). They also saw him hit an opposite-field homer Wednesday on a fastball down and away at the ACC tournament, but his receiving wasn’t very quiet. The Sox have a need and like how Collins’ bat would fit at U.S. Cellular Field. PICK: Zack Collins, c | Video
11. MARINERS: The college pitcher class remains unsettled in terms of order, but Boston College righthander Justin Dunn has as much helium as anyone. If the Eagles get an at-large bid, his final start will be heavily scrutinized by teams in this range of he draft, and the Mariners have the most interest in the quick-armed former closer who’s as loose, free and easy as any pitcher in the class. PICK: Justin Dunn, rhp
12. RED SOX: Boston would like to continue its bent toward college players in the first round, and local kid Dunn would be a neat deal too. They’d like Collins as well. In this scenario, a contending big league team could lead the Sox to jump up for Louisville’s Zack Burdi, who could go virtually straight to Boston to set up Craig Kimbrel for the pennant drive. Rutherford also would be a significant temptation here. PICK: Zack Burdi, rhp
13. RAYS: There’s no way the Rays thought so many of the top preps would be available here, from SoCal outfielder Blake Rutherford to Alabama lefty Braxton Garrett to righthanders Matt Manning (NorCal) and Ian Anderson (New York). The better value is in the bat. PICK: Blake Rutherford, of | Video
14. INDIANS: The board is falling the Indians way in this scenario, as they’ve been aggressive with prep players in recent years and could have several prep options here. Manning has as much upside as any NorCal prep pitcher since 1997 Indians first-rounder CC Sabathia but also has a reported $4-5 million price tag. Anderson also is considered a tough sign but has a lower price tag than Manning. PICK: Ian Anderson, rhp | Video
15. TWINS: If Dunn gets this far, the Twins would be in. Their need for power arms pushes them toward a choice between Pittsburgh’s T.J. Zeuch and Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson, who scuffled a bit Thursday in the SEC tournament but still has big stuff, and he throws a lot of strikes. PICK: Dakota Hudson, rhp | Video
16. ANGELS: While the Angels desperately need players that could help soon in Anaheim, especially on the mound, they’ve been tied to high school hitters for the last month, with numerous reports of GM Billy Eppler hitting the trail to get extra eyes on prep hitters in Georgia and the Southeast, but sticking with the Northeast makes sense for a team that struck gold with Mike Trout seven years ago. PICK: Alex Kirilloff, of
17. ASTROS: GM Jeff Luhnow dropped in on the ACC tournament Wednesday as the Astros continued to show interest in Burdi, who would likely be popped here if he is available. They’re also in on other college arms such as Midwest starters Eric Lauer (Kent State) and Cody Sedlock (Illinois). PICK: T.J. Zeuch, rhp
18. YANKEES: New York’s success with pitchers has been well-documented. We’ve always tied them in with pitchers this spring, but word this week is that was inaccurate, and the focus has been on finding a college bat such as Virginia’s Matt Thaiss or Wake Forest’s Will Craig. Thaiss’ defense is shy but teams are very comfortable with his bat in the middle of the first round, and his game-tying homer Thursday at the ACC tournament showed his easy power again. PICK: Matt Thaiss, c
19. METS: College catchers are the flavor of the draft, as we reported earlier this spring, and the Mets are in on Collins and Thaiss if they fall this far. They and the Yankees both have put plenty of eyes on Craig, who has some similarities to current Mets first baseman Lucas Duda, except that Craig hits from the right side. PICK: Will Craig, 3b/1b
20. DODGERS: After not getting anything (yet) out of their two first-rounders last year due to injury (Walker Buehler) and the failure to sign (Kyle Funkhouser), the Dodgers aim for more in their second draft of the Andrew Friedman administration. If they stick college, they could take Jordan Sheffield despite his shaky breaking ball thanks to his explosive 92-96 mph fastball. PICK: Jordan Sheffield, rhp
21. BLUE JAYS: The Jays are in the market for college players with their first pick, and this is likely Burdi’s floor in the first round. Their search for a college bat likely takes them to the two SEC center fielders in Florida’s Buddy Reed and Vanderbilt’s Bryan Reynolds. The power-speed-patience combination of Reynolds should move quickly through the minors. PICK: Bryan Reynolds, of
22. PIRATES: The Pirates have local options such as Kirilloff and Zeuch who would fit at 22 if available; both are gone in this scenario. The value at 22 will be in the high school class, such as signable prep bats Josh Lowe and Taylor Trammell or are such as Forrest Whitley or Kyle Muller, as college players get pushed up. PICK: Taylor Trammell, of
23. CARDINALS: St. Louis hasn’t minded being aggressive with prep arms and could take advantage of some falling toward the back-half of the first round, such as righty Matt Manning if they could meet his price tag, Whitley or Muller. If they take Manning, they’ll have to save money with picks 33 and 34. PICK: Matt Manning, rhp | Video
24 & 25. PADRES: After taking Quantrill early, the Padres are expected to go the prep route, as GM A.J. Preller has been out as much as many scouting directors to see high school hitters. PICKS: Josh Lowe, 3b/of | Video and Forrest Whitley, rhp
26. WHITE SOX: The industry expects the White Sox to stick with college performers in the first round, and they were in heavy at the Mid-American Conference tournament to see two of the draft’s top lefties, Lauer and fast-rising Western Michigan’s Keegan Akin, who’s trending up toward the second round. PICK: Eric Lauer, lhp | Video
27. ORIOLES: Baltimore is thought to be in on the prep bats and has local options such as eastern Pennsylvania’s Nolan Jones and Virginia’s Joe Rizzo. This pick could help kick off a run of high school hitters. PICK: Nolan Jones, ss
28 & 29. NATIONALS: Washington has had success with players who fall for various reasons (injury, signability, etc.) in past drafts, and prioritize physicality and velocity in their pitchers. PICKS: Robert Tyler, rhp, and Braxton Garrett, lhp | Video
30. RANGERS: Texas has many options with which to continue its decade-long trend of aggressively pursuing toolsy prep hitters. PICK: Will Benson, of | Video
31. METS: The high school hitter run could continue here, but the Mets aren’t always running with the pack and have been closely linked to Wisconsin shortstop Gavin Lux. PICK: Gavin Lux, ss
32. DODGERS: The prep two-way lefthanded pitcher/hitter with helium a month ago was Kansas’ Joey Wentz, who’s now considered to be a very tough sign away from Virginia and who has backed up a bit in May. Texas’ Kyle Muller, though, has maintained his first-round momentum. PICK: Kyle Muller, lhp
33 & 34. CARDINALS: If St. Louis gets aggressive with Manning at 23, they’d need to save some money here. Illinois’ Sedlock was jumping into the first 40 picks, and another player trending up is Louisville catcher Will Smith, who has had a big year on a team that has been heavily scouted. Smith made himself some money with a pair of home runs Wednesday while displaying greater athleticism and catch-and-throw skills than fellow ACC catchers Collins, Thaiss and Clemson’s Chris Okey. An athletic college performer who would sign below slot would be a good fit here. PICKS: Cody Sedlock, rhp | Video and Will Smith, c