MLB Mock Draft 2015: Version 5.1
The final mock draft is a short version, heavy on names. The short version of the late trends:
• The unsettled nature of the pitching class continues to define the first round of the draft. For example: lefthander Justin Hooper of De La Salle High in Northern California, who entered the spring as the No. 2 pitcher in the prep ranks, had been getting buzz that he could have a deal done in the first round when he skipped his final start of the season, in the area finals against Joe DeMers and College Park (Calif.) High.
Instead, Hooper announced on Twitter that he would be honoring his commitment to UCLA. That's been the story of this draft class--top-level arms taking themselves out of contention, either via injury, poor performance or now unwillingness to sign. Hooper is still eligible to be drafted.
• As a result, hitters are moving up. We'll update this Monday afternoon if possible, but the names moving up boards are bats, of the high school and college variety. The latest include Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who has led his team to the College World Series, and Georgia prep infielder Cornelius Randolph, who ranked as the draft's best pure hitter in BA's Best Tools.
Many of the last-minute deals will be made Monday, in the hours leading up to the draft, but this is our best guess as to what could transpire in the first half of the proceedings on MLB Network. I'm privileged to be part of the broadcast, which starts at 6 p.m., with draft proper starting at 7 p.m., going through the first two rounds.
Arizona is down to Vanderbilt's Dansby Swanson, favored by scouting director Deric Ladnier; a college arm, either Illinois' Tyler Jay or Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer, favored by general manager Dave Stewart; or Georgia prep catcher Tyler Stephenson, who assistant GM DeJon Watson is said to prefer. If Arizona cuts a deal with Stephenson, are there enough players left for them to spend all of the savings on later in the draft? That might be the determining factor. The other may be who really makes this decision. Ladnier is the one with the most experience in the draft; he, and Swanson, should carry the day.
Selection: Dansby Swanson, ss, Vanderbilt
Alex Bregman has one of the longest track records in this draft as he’s been a top performer fir three years at Louisiana State. They have also been tied to Arkansas center fielder Andrew Benintendi, a center fielder with better performance this year but a shorter track record. They could take Benintendi here and see if Bregman falls to pick five, but there’s more chance that Benintendi will slip than Bregman.
Selection: Alex Bregman, ss, LSU
Selection: Brendan Rodgers, ss, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
The rumors are strong that Daz Cameron has set a very high price tag, up to $5 million. If you don't ask for $5 million, you probably won't get $4 million, and Cameron has worked out for the Rangers, who have hit Georgia very hard in recent years. Texas also has been linked to UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate.
Selection: Daz Cameron, of, Eagle's Landing Christian School, McDonough, Ga.
The organization generally likes longer track records, but it also like college performers, and Andrew Benintendi has performed in a way that impresses any team’s analytics department. He hit .443 in Southeastern Conference play and has above-average tools, from his bat to his speed to his power potential. Houston has also been tied to outfielder Daz Cameron. With two picks in the top five, Houston can get creative, cutting a deal and trying to clean up at picks 37 and 46.
Selection: Andrew Benintendi, of, Arkansas
In this scenario, with five hitters gone ahead of them, the Twins would go for an arm. With Minnesota in first place in the American League Central, Jay could give them relief innings in the big leagues in 2015 if needed, then return to to the minors to be developed as a starter. The Twins have tried to develop lesser athletes who relieved in college as starters in recent years, and would not hesitate to do so with Jay, an impressive athlete who many believe has starting ability.
Selection: Tyler Jay, lhp, Illinois
This isn't a doomsday scenario for Boston, but it's not its favorite one either, as the Red Sox would like to snag Benintendi or Bregman or a college bat in general. There's an outside chance they opt for Ian Happ here, as the Cincinnati outfielder has worked out for a number of clubs in the first 12 picks. If they don't force one up their board, they're expected to audible to a college arm such as Fulmer or Tate.
Selection: Carson Fulmer, rhp, Vanderbilt
Chicago sticks with what it does well--developing power arms. They saw Tate late and early, and would opt for him over Fulmer. There's an outside chance they go for Missouri State's Jon Harris here as well.
Selection: Dillon Tate, rhp, UC Santa Barbara
Every year, we write about the Cubs needing pitching. Every year, we should figure out that teams run by Theo Epstein take a hitter with their first pick. The Cubs have taken a hitter with their first pick of Epstein’s three drafts and 10 out of 12 first picks between his time with the Red Sox and Cubs. Benintendi would be the bonanza here, but he's not going to last this long. Chicago has thrived with college position picks with strong performance track records, so Happ is the best bet on the board.
Selection: Ian Happ, of/2b, Cincinnati
No team in the top 10 has been tougher to pin down than Philadelphia, a compliment to new scouting director Johnny Almaraz. The Phillies have been linked to Georgia prep infielder Cornelius Randolph, but we're sticking with a more traditional pick here.
Selection: Kyle Tucker, of, Plant HS, Tampa
Selection: Tyler Stephenson, c, Kennesaw (Ga.) Mountain HS
Miami's intentions also remain shrouded in mystery. We're sticking with chalk here.
Selection: Trenton Clark, of, Richland Hills HS, North Richland Hills, Texas
Tampa's recent draft struggles will lead them to go more conservatively here. The Rays have been linked to New York State prep outfielder Garrett Whitley, but Vanderbilt righty Walker Buehler makes more sense.
Selection: Walker Buehler, rhp, Vanderbilt
Atlanta doesn't just like to draft kids from Georgia. The Braves have had success in SoCal, from junior college picks like Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen to prep selections such as Freddie Freeman. They have extra picks and are constantly tied to high-risk prep players by other clubs, usually the deep class of high school pitching.
Selection: Kolby Allard, lhp, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
Milwaukee is tied to conservative college pitcher selections; the Brewers have been in on Cody Ponce of Division II Cal Poly Pomona and may go there if he's available well below the slot. Louisville's Kyle Funkhouser is perceived to have a higher ceiling and more durable body.
Selection: Kyle Funkhouser, rhp, Louisville
Selection: James Kaprielian, rhp, UCLA
BA has Whitley No. 7 on the BA 500, but the uncertainty of his bat and lack of track record remains significant for some. He's been volatile in our mock drafts this spring, but he's back into the middle of the first round this time.
Selection: Garrett Whitley, of, Niyuska (N.Y.) HS
San Francisco was probably the team most saddened by Hooper's announcement that he was heading to UCLA, as they were said to be in on the NorCal southpaw. Instead, they'll stick with a prep arm from the East Coast. When Hooper skipped his start, it was rumored that he was Hooper is still eligible to be drafted, and there are examples of players professing their desire to go to college only to sign quickly when they landed a big bonus.
Selection: Mike Nikorak, rhp, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
Selection: Ashe Russell, rhp, Cathedral Catholic HS, Indianapolis
Oakland has imported some of the decision-making process of the Cardinals with the addition of Dan Kantrovitz as assistant GM. Oakland's scouts also were in heavy on the ACC Tournament, and the A's continue to be linked to college performers. Oakland could also take one of the remaining college shortstops, either Arizona’s Kevin Newman or Florida’s Richie Martin.
Selection: D.J. Stewart, of, Florida State
We haven't found a home for Randolph yet, so we're sticking with him here, understanding he has some late buzz. The Royals are said to be looking for a bat with their first pick, but this draft has had a run on them.
Selection: Cornelius Randolph, ss, Griffin (Ga.) HS
The latest Phil Bickford news has included more than a failed drug test; it also has included rumblings of troubling medical information. The Tigers are still said to be on arms and would be very pleased if Harris, who had a chance to go as high as nine, fell here.
Selection: Jon Harris, rhp, Missouri State
Again, a college performer makes sense, but the run on college performers puts a crimp in those plans. St. Louis would take Newman if available here, and North Florida's Donnie Dewees also makes sense for the club from an analytics perspective, but he might be available with the club's second pick at No. 39.
Selection: Kevin Newman, ss, Arizona
Selection: Brady Aiken, lhp, Dodgers
Selection: Richie Martin, ss, Florida
The Blake Trahan rumors won't go away. The shortstop led Louisiana-Lafayette to a super regional berth and has improved defensively this spring since being a utility infielder last summer for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. However, we're still hearing the Angels on a polished arm that could move quickly.
Selection: Thomas Eshelman, rhp, Cal State Fullerton
27. Rockies: Bickford may have issues, but he has bowling-ball sink to his fastball that would play at Coors field. His medical issues and drug test may open the door to a deal.
Selection: Phil Bickford, rhp, JC of Southern Nevada
28. Braves: Still tied to prep arms.
Selection: Tristan Beck, rhp, Corona (Calif.) HS
29. Blue Jays: There isn't as much separation on many boards between Nick Plummer, No. 11 on the BA500 after a great summer last year, and some of the other prep outfielders. Plummer's stock is lower than the BA500 has it. North Carolina prep Eric Jenkins has impact speed and defense that is in some ways reminiscent of Dalton Pompey. If the Blue Jays go prep arm, they've been tied to Brady Singer of Eustis (Fla.) HS.
Selection: Eric Jenkins, of, West Columbus HS, Cerro Gordo, N.C.
30. Yankees: College arms still make sense for a club that develops pitching well and is loaded with position players from Latin America in the lower levels.
Selection: Cody Ponce, rhp, Cal Poly Pomona
31. Giants: San Francisco values performance in the East Coast Pro event heavily. No one performed there like Plummer.
Selection: Nick Plummer, of, Brother Rice HS, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
32. Pirates: The son of Charlie Hayes, Texas prep infielder Ke'Bryan Hayes had some late helium.
Selection: Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3b, Concordia Luthern HS, Tomball, Texas
33. Royals: Kansas City values lefthanded pitching fairly heavily toward the top of the draft in recent years, from Sean Manaea (2012) to juco lefty Cody Reed (2013) to top picks in 2014 Brandon Finnegan and Foster Griffin.
Selection: Nathan Kirby, lhp, Virginia
34. Tigers: Ian Kinsler's current team drafts a player who gets Kinsler comps.
Selection: Scott Kingery, 2b/of, Arizona
35. Dodgers: We're going a bit more conservative here after taking Aiken at 24.
Selection: Alex Young, lhp, Texas Christian
36. Orioles: There's going to be a prep pitcher run sooner than later. This is a good spot for it.
Selection: Nolan Watson, rhp, Lawrence North HS, Indianapolis