MLB Mock Draft 2015: Version 4.0
College tournaments have come and gone, as has Florida’s high school all-star game in Sebring. Most major league organizations have had their pre-draft meetings, with scouting directors and crosscheckers meeting with area scouts, going over their lists and lining up their draft boards.
Now the hard work assessing what it will take to sign the players these clubs want really comes to the forefront. This week’s mock may wind up being very, very different from what happens on June 8. But this is an attempt to reflect the way team draft boards are lining up presently. What number agents may put out for the clients they are advising and what teams are willing to pay for those players largely will shape up over the next 10 days.
A couple of quick overview points before Mock proper: (1) The college pitcher class continues to shift, with Louisville’s Kyle Funkhouser in relative free-fall while West Coast starters such as UCLA’s James Kaprielian and Cal State Fullerton’s Thomas Eshelman are moving up draft boards, Kaprielian step by step and Eshelman in leaps and bounds. (2) The prep pitching class remains a chaotic mess. There’s just no consensus, but the hottest name is Indiana prep Nolan Watson, who has vaulted to the top of some boards in this demographic.
Industry sources indicate Arizona whittled its list down to three players in the last week: Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, Illinois lefthander Tyler Jay and Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson. After his SEC tournament performance, Swanson has separated himself from the college-hitter pack and is the safest bet of the group, but I continue to hear persistent talk the D-backs prefer a college starter. If that holds, they’ll take Jay, but right now the talk is stronger that they’ll take Swanson.
Selection: Dansby Swanson, ss, Vanderbilt
Selection: Alex Bregman, ss, LSU
Some sources continue to wonder if the Rockies are focused so heavily on Jay, whom they like as a future starter, and believe they will take Lake Mary (Fla.) High shortstop Brendan Rodgers. The Rockies passed on Evan Longoria in 2006 to take a pitcher (Stanford’s Greg Reynolds), and the organization may not want to make the same mistake. Some believe Rodgers has that kind of offensive upside, and he has a similar setup with his hands. But the bottom line is the Rockies need pitching and they can’t acquire arms like Jay’s on the free-agent market.
Selection: Tyler Jay, lhp, Illinois
Selection: Brendan Rodgers, ss, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
Here’s where the top 10 starts getting interesting, as the prep outfielders start going off the board with a domino effect. While scouts aren’t 100 percent sure of Daz Cameron as a hitter, he has the best chance of this year’s prep class to stay in center field.
Selection: Daz Cameron, of, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Ga.
Minnesota continues to give the college arms (such as UCLA’s James Karpielian) a look but industry sources still tie the organization to prep outfielders. They’re working out Kyle Tucker this week as it looks increasingly likely that Cameron, their chosen target, will be unavailable.
Selection: Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa
The toughest call in the first 10 picks remains a close call. Boston is said to be mulling three to four candidates, including Bregman and Cameron (both gone in this mock) as well as Vanderbilt ace Carson Fulmer and Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi. Neither performed well in the Southeastern Conference tournament, and neither has a great big league analogue. Fulmer’s high floor and track record are the separating factors.
Selection: Carson Fulmer, rhp, Vanderbilt
The White Sox’s choice may come down to the wire as well. They’re interested in Fulmer, as they remain in strong consideration for college arms, but the best bets here will wind up being a choice between UC Santa Barbara’s Dillon Tate and Harris. Tate’s stock has tumbled some in recent weeks as his velocity and location on his fastball have backed up, but he has better present stuff than Harris, who is a safer bet to start but has a lower ceiling.
Selection: Dillon Tate, rhp, UC Santa Barbara
The Cubs have traveled in packs--who do they think they are, the Blue Jays?--to see many of their top targets at No. 9, with large groups of scouts and executives going in to see Garrett Whitley, the top SEC tournament targets such as Benintendi and Kaprielian. We’ve written for weeks that Kaprielian may offer the best bet among the college starters, but that his at times pedestrian velocity holds him back for some clubs, as does his perceived price tag. Kaprielian wasn’t as good against Oregon as he had been in recent weeks. His fastball had maintained 92 mph deep into starts in recent weeks (including the no-hitter), but in his last outing his fastball dipped to 88-90 by the fifth inning, but he has a track record of performance and a strong feel for using his above-average secondary stuff.
Selection: James Kaprielian, rhp, UCLA
The Phillies could take Kaprielian if he’s there but are said not to favor Harris, who lacks present physicality. Instead they’re tied more to upside prep bats such as the outfield class and Stephenson.
Selection: Tyler Stephenson, c, Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.) HS
Cincinnati has a shot at hometown bat Benintendi, who is Ohio’s career hits leader for high school players. If there were a college pitcher who had stepped forward and available here, the Reds would pounce, and Harris may fit the bill. But at this spot, in this class, Benintendi appears to be a better fit.
Selection: Andrew Benintendi, of, Arkansas
Miami’s scouts have gone down the Missouri State road before, and Brett Sinkbeil didn’t work out. If they can shake that memory, they can go Harris again, but this organization has had more success with prep outfielders such as Texas’ Trenton Clark and New York state’s Garrett Whitley.
Selection: Trenton Clark, of, Richland HS, North Richland Hills, Texas
Selection: Garrett Whitley, of, Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS
With multiple selections, the Braves have been tied to plenty of players, especially in the high school class. The prep pitching and hitting classes are so muddled, though, that Atlanta won’t have to reach up for one at 14. The Braves can wait, let the crowd sort itself out a bit and strike with players they have conviction on (and deals with) at 28 and 41, and 54 and 75, and get players of very comparable value. Few organizations have had as much success with junior-college players in the last 15 years as Atlanta.
Selection: Phil Bickford, rhp, JC of Southern Nevada
Last year’s high-risk draft is off to a slow start, particularly toolshed bats Monte Harrison and Jacob Gatewood. Milwaukee would like to go with a higher-floor pick, and if Harris is available, he’s the selection over the falling Funkhouser, whom the organization’s top scouts saw throw poorly the last two weekends.
Selection: Jon Harris, rhp, Missouri State
New York wants an arm, but most of its preferred picks would be gone here. They don’t mind dealing with tough signability, but they remain unlikely to gamble with difficult medical issues, steering them away from Kolby Allard (back) and Nathan Kirby (lat muscle strain; he’s not pitching for Virginia in its regional this weekend), not to mention Tommy John surgery victims Brad Aiken and Michael Matuella. They’re said to be the high-water mark for Cal Poly Pomona righty Cody Ponce, whom they prefer over Funkhouser.
Selection: Cody Ponce, rhp, Cal Poly Pomona
Cleveland has been tied to prep arms, but none has stood out enough for this high of a selection, unless there’s a discount deal to be had. If there isn’t, look for Cleveland to go college bat, and the best on the board happens to be an Ohio guy. If Jason Kipnis can play second base, maybe Ian Happ can too.
Selection: Ian Happ, of/2b, Cincinnati
The Giants don’t go by the consensus and still are tied to arms. They are in on Funkhouser but like the late rise of Nolan Watson, who has passed up the other high school arms on several draft boards. He won’t come cheap as he’s a Vanderbilt signee, but San Francisco may have to go get him at No. 18 rather than waiting for its compensation round pick at No. 31. He’s unlikely to last that long out of the same high school that produced NBA players such as Mike Conley, Greg Oden and personal fave Eric Montross.
Selection: Nolan Watson, rhp, Lawrence North HS, Indianapolis
Playing it close to the vest remains a Pittsburgh trademark, but they’re tied to the high school pitching class. Looking for value? Allard was the top-rated pitcher on the high school board coming into the year, and pre-back injury, Pittsburgh had no shot at him. He’s building up to throwing up to 100 feet and gaining strength but isn’t likely to throw a real bullpen before the draft. His high school year doesn’t end until June 20, so he’s not leaving California before then anyway.
Selection: Kolby Allard, lhp, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
The A’s are tied to the college side with the top pick, and Oakland is said to be in on Eshelman, who is a better version of their 2007 first-round pick, James Simmons, with a better breaking ball and command than Simmons but less consistent velocity. Eshelman feels like a reach at 20, though; Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler, a volatile college arm who pitched poorly in the SEC tournament, makes more sense with more consistently plus stuff.
Selection: Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt
The Royals have not shied away from Boras Corp. clients in the past (Luke Hochevar, Mike Moutakas, Eric Hosmer, etc.), and would have several to choose from here. They’re most consistently tied to Georgia prep infielder Cornelius Randolph, as long as a team ahead of them isn’t lying in the weeds on the talented hitter.
Selection: Cornelius Randolph, ss, Griffin (Ga.) HS
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The Tigers were in heavy at the ACC tournament after not thinking Funkhouser would fall this far. Detroit likes college performers with their top selections, but Funkhouser’s not performing or throwing as hard as a usual Tigers first-round selection. He’s pitching more like one of his better comparables, 2013 Diamondbacks supplemental first-rounder Aaron Blair of Marshall, and Funkhouser appears to be falling into that range of this year’s draft.
Selection: Donny Everett, rhp, Clarksville (Tenn.) HS
St. Louis continues to be tied to college performers, and no organization has had more success in this demographic. Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman, though, cannot be said to fall into that demo; despite his Cape Cod League dominance, Newman posted a .675 OPS in Pacific-12 Conference play. Instead, St. Louis will try to see if it can strike gold with Funkhouser, who once ranked as high as No. 4 on BA’s draft board, as it did when Michael Wacha fell in the 2012 draft. Funkhouser is no Wacha, but he’s value at No. 23.
Selection: Kyle Funkhouser, rhp, Louisville
Selection: Brady Aiken, lhp, IMG Academy (post-graduate)
Selection: D.J. Stewart, of, Florida State
With a thin farm system, the Angels remain tied to quick-fix college talents, and the rumors tying them to Louisiana-Lafayette’s Blake Trahan are strong. Newman, a SoCal kid who went to San Diego’s Poway High, makes more sense and has a stronger hit tool, though much less power. They’re also tied to Ponce and Eshelman.
Selection: Kevin Newman, ss, Arizona
27. Rockies: GM Jeff Bridich was in to see Mike Nikorak early in the year as the Rockies evaluated him for the No. 3 overall pick. He should still be around at No. 27. Expect there to be a rush of prep arms in this area of the draft including projection picks such as Florida prep Triston McKenzie and California’s Tristan Beck. A Stanford signee, Beck has helium, striking out 15 in a recent playoff start and hitting 95 mph.
Selection: Mike Nikorak, rhp, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
28. Braves: This is where Atlanta could get creative with prep arms such as Nikorak, Indiana’s Ashe Russell, Beck, McKenzie or Georgia’s Dakota Chalmers.
Selection: Ashe Russell, rhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, Indianapolis
29. Blue Jays: Toronto is not going to run away from the right prep arm. Nikorak and Russell are in their mix but out in this permutation, so we’re sticking with a high-floor college shortstop.
Selection: Richie Martin, ss, Florida
30. Yankees: New York has been tied to SoCal prep catcher Chris Betts all spring, and he’s available with their second selection. Betts has been shut down from throwing of late with a sore elbow, which could affect his stock.
Selection: Chris Betts, c, Wilson HS, Long Beach
31. Giants: The Giants can load up on college players later . . . two early picks gives them a chance to gamble a bit.
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: Kansas City likely won’t get much of a discount with Randolph at 21, so a college signee here makes more sense.
Selection: Alex Young, lhp, Texas Christian
34. Tigers: Kingery has some late helium for a strong finish as the Pac-12 player of the year.
Selection: Scott Kingery, 2b/of, Arizona
35. Dodgers: If L.A. takes Aiken at 24, it will want to go portfolio at 35 with a safer college pick.
Selection: Blake Trahan, ss, Louisiana-Lafayette
36. Orioles: Kirby won’t throw in regional play but he’s shown enough over the course of his career to stay in the mix in the first 36 picks. The lat strain should not be a long-term hinderance.
Selection: Nathan Kirby, lhp, Virginia