Top 50 Draft Prospects: April Update

Two months out from the draft, scouts and club officials are just glad they still have two months to evaluate players.

Between poor weather that has scrambled schedules and injuries that have scrambled the top of the draft class, scouts and front-office officials have had a hard time figuring this class out.

However, several trends have emerged:

• Deals will be cut—even more than usual. This is just a fact of the current CBA rules and capped bonus pools. Teams can't just spend what they want but have to find players willing to sign at their price, who fit into their budget.

“I don’t envy your job,” a National League scouting director said. “It’s not going to be easy doing mock drafts and trying to predict what we’re going to do. This is going to be a very unpredictable spring.”

This class, so far, has presented few players who would command the $6 million bonuses typically handed out at the top of the draft since the capped system began with the 2012 draft. Since then, five players have signed for $6 million or more, even with the failure of Brady Aiken to sign with the No. 1 overall pick last year.

This class has presented few players scouts consider talented enough to be considered No. 1 overall picks in a typical draft year, and the candidates to go No. 1 keep dwindling. Three of them—lefthanders Aiken (IMG Academy, Bradenton Fla., via San Diego) and Kolby Allard (San Clemente (Calif.) High) and Duke righthander Michael Matuella—got hurt within a three-week span in March and April.

Allard's injury is the least serious; he has a stress reaction in a vertebra in his back. He is likely to miss the rest of the season, but scouts have seen plenty of Allard on the prep showcase circuit.

Aiken and Matuella both had Tommy John surgery and present two major wild cards in the draft. Club officials contacted for this story agree they will have to find the right deal and the right fit with the right organization come June 8, the first day of the draft.

Matuella has the complicating factor of his previous back condition and a track record that includes just 141 innings in three seasons with the Blue Devils. Evaluations of both players will come down to their medical records and how their future health affects their current earning power.

• The rest of the class has failed to fill the void at the top, with few exceptions. "We keep waiting for someone to step forward," one national crosschecker with an American League organization said. "To this point, the only ones doing that really are (Brendan) Rogers and (Dillon) Tate."

Rogers, the physical shortstop out of Lake Mary (Fla.) High, began the spring at the head of the class and hasn't fallen back in a solid if unspectacular spring. He already has tweeted that he has accepted his invitation to attend the draft at MLB Network studios.

Tate entered the spring with 46 innings of experience at UC Santa Barbara, and the righthander also threw 11 outings (and 11 innings) with USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. In his first year in the Gauchos rotation, though, he has emerged more than any other college starter, getting off to a 4-3, 1.34 start with a .164 opponents average and 67-16 strikeout-walk ratio. The industry was awash with buzz that the Diamondbacks, who select first, and especially new GM Dave Stewart, are enamored with Tate, making him a potential No. 1 overall pick.

"The stuff is top-of-the-draft stuff," a National League crosschecker said, citing Tate's mid-90s fastball, slider and changeup, all of which scouts grade as at least plus, "it's just not the typical track record of a No. 1 overall pick."

An NL scouting director added, "Tate's done a really good job. He's shown he can start."

• Injuries have affected several other potential first-rounders. Houston righthander Jake Lemoine had missed nearly a month with a shoulder impingement, and fellow Texan Kyler Murray, the draft's top two-sport talent, was limited to DH duty due to a shoulder injury. Murray, a quarterback committed to Texas A&M, already was one of the more complicated cases of the draft due to his football commitment and lack of summer showcase track record.

Outfielder Nick Plummer, the Michigan prep who is part of a deep crew of high school outfielders, also was set back early this spring from a bout of mononucleosis, but he’s come back physically and has not lost much ground.

However, some players were starting to make their move up boards, such as the group of college shortstops detailed last issue (BA, April 10-24), and college arms who were performing. That group includes Texas Christian lefthander Alex Young and righthanders James Kaprielian of UCLA, Phil Bickford of JC of Southern Nevada and Missouri State's Jon Harris, who has thrown well since returning from an early ankle injury.

Kaprielian has the longest track record of the group and the best secondary stuff as well, and could continue to move up if he maintains a velocity jump from an early April start that saw his fastball reach 93-94 mph instead of its usual 88-91 mph range.

TOP 50 DRAFT PROSPECTS
April 17
April 9
Preseason Rank Player Pos Hometown/School
1 1 1 Brendan Rodgers ss Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
2 2 33 Dillon Tate rhp UC Santa Barbara
3 3 6 Dansby Swanson 2b/ss Vanderbilt
4 4 13 Alex Bregman ss Louisiana State
5 5 4 Kyle Funkhouser rhp Louisville
6 7 15 Carson Fulmer rhp Vanderbilt
7 6 10 Nathan Kirby lhp Virginia
8 8 5 Walker Buehler rhp Vanderbilt
9 9 9 Trenton Clark of Richland HS, North Richland Hills, Texas
10 14 28 Kyle Tucker of Plant HS, Tampa
11 22 36 Mike Nikorak rhp Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
12 12 11 Nick Plummer of Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
13 13 12 Ashe Russell rhp Cathedral Catholic HS, Indianapolis
14 10 2 Brady Aiken lhp IMG Academy
15 15 8 Kolby Allard lhp San Clemente (Calif.) HS
16 16 14 Daz Cameron of Eagle's Landing HS, McDonough, Ga.
17 17 16 Ian Happ of Cincinnati
18 18 18 Chris Betts c Wilson HS, Long Beach, Calif.
19 19 22 James Kaprielian rhp UCLA
20 20 20 Phil Bickford rhp JC of Southern Nevada
21 21 21 DJ Stewart of Florida State
22 24 50 Jon Harris rhp Missouri State
23 32 39 Demi Orimoloye of St. Matthew HS, Orleans, Ontario, Canada
24 11 7 Justin Hooper lhp De La Salle, Concord, Calif.
25 23 19 Kyle Cody rhp Kentucky
26 26 3 Michael Matuella rhp Duke
27 35 35 Donny Everett rhp Clarksville (Tenn.)
28 36 NR Kevin Newman ss Arizona
29 27 32 Tyler Jay lhp Illinois
30 31 30 Beau Burrows rhp Weatherford (Texas) HS
31 44 NR Ke’Bryan Hayes 3b Concoria Luthern HS, Tomball, Texas
32 46 NR Dakota Chalmers rhp North Forsyth HS, Cumming, Ga.
33 NR 49 Bryce Denton of/3b Ravenwood HS, Brentwood, Tenn.
34 25 24 Cody Ponce rhp Cal Poly Pomona
35 28 17 Riley Ferrell rhp Texas Christian
36 29 27 Chandler Day of Watkins Memorial HS, Pataskala, Ohio
37 30 29 Garrett Whitley of Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS
38 38 31 Richie Martin ss Florida
39 34 44 Austin Smith rhp Park Vista Community HS, Boynton Beach, Fla.
40 39 40 Cornelius Randolph 3b/1b Griffin (Ga.) HS
41 40 41 Alonzo Jones mif/of Columbus (Ga.) HS
42 41 42 Triston McKenzie rhp Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) HS
43 42 NR Kyle Holder ss San Diego
44 43 NR Juan Hillman lhp Olympia HS, Orlando
45 45 NR Mikey White ss Alabama
46 47 47 Kyle Molnar rhp Aliso Niguel HS, Aliso Viejo, Calif.
47 48 NR David Thompson 3b Miami
48 33 34 Alex Young lhp Texas Christian
49 NR NR Eric Jenkins of West Columbus HS, Cerro Gordo, NC
50 49 NR Blake Hickman rhp Iowa

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