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Unpredictability Is The Hallmark Of 2016 Draft

SEE ALSO: Mock Draft Archive

SEE ALSO: Draft Order

SEE ALSO: Bonus Pools

Trying to sum up the last week of the leadup to the 2016 MLB Draft—which starts tonight on MLB Network at 6 p.m.—has led scouts and industry executives to fall back to two standards.

First, many scouts love comps—comparisons. And this draft may be comparable to the 2000 draft, which wound up a bad one but had some superstars such as Adam Wainwright, Chase Utey and the No. 1 pick that year, San Diego prep Adrian Gonzalez. This year’s draft may wind up starting with a San Diego prep as well, although McKenzie Moniak—better known as Mickey or “Mickey Mo” for scouts who have a little swag—couldn’t have a more different body type than Gonzalez.

Comments from scouting directors and crosscheckers about the first round of the draft all start with “unpredictable,” but go beyond the normal range. Two national scouts called it the most unpredictable first round they can remember, comparing it to 2000 and contrasting it with 2005, when a strong talent pool led to a more predictable first round.
The other fallback other than comps is the 20-80 scouting scale. When asked to grade the unpredictability, one veteran scout laughed and responded, “It’s at least a 70, and it may be trending higher.”

His peers agree. Here’s why:

• The player who best fits the profile of a No. 1 overall pick, Florida lefthander A.J. Puk, just hasn’t filled the role well enough. To paraphrase one evaluator, Puk had his chances to sew up going No. 1 and just didn’t pitch well enough, or compete well enough every single outing, every single pitch. But now, as he prepares for the Gators’ weekend super regional against rival Florida State, Puk likely will have to deal with sliding in the first round.

How far he slides is a matter of debate, but if Puk does not go first to the Phillies, he could fall as far as No. 6 to the Athletics.

• The other player in line to go first overall, Moniak, does not fit a classic No. 1 pick profile physically, though he checks every other box. He has track record with USA Baseball and in the competitive San Diego area, he earns 70 grades for his hit tool and he has some area scouts grading him as a future 80 defender in center field. But he’s small for a No. 1 pick; he checked in at 6-foot-1, 167 pounds last summer for USA Baseball and doesn’t have a frame that will get much bigger. How much impact he’ll make, how much power is in there, are questions teams at the top of the draft are asking. But the Phillies remain very high on him according to all industry sources.

• The rest of the first round remains unpredictable because, as we’ve written before, teams with large bonus pools and multiple picks are trying to float players down the draft, to take advantage of their pools and get two premium players instead of just one.

There’s virtually no chance of a college player moving down; demand is too high, supply is too low and player leverage is sufficient for close-to-slot bonuses but not enough to refuse a reasonable offer and return to college. If a team in the top 10 wants to draft the hottest college pitcher names—Boston College righty Justin Dunn and Stanford’s Cal Quantrill, coming off Tommy John surgery—they have to take him high. Rumors of a Quantrill deal with San Diego persist but are hard to pin down, while Dunn—also on the eve of a super regional start, against Miami—won’t go outside the top 12.

If teams can’t float a college player, they can float a high school player. Ever since 2012, when the Astros took Carlos Correa first overall, then floated Lance McCullers to the 41st overall pick, teams have tried to pull off such a double, which four years later looks like one of the most brilliant gambits in draft history. The players teams are trying to float down the draft to their second selection this year include:

• Chaminade Prep outfielder Blake Rutherford, who some teams still have higher on their boards than Moniak. Rutherford has some leverage; being 19 works against him in comparison to 17-year-old draftees such as Moniak and Jason Groome, among others. But it gives him some leverage in that he could legitimately turn down, say, $3 million in the hopes of going to UCLA, thriving in the Pac-12 and coming out in the 2018 draft as a sophomore.

• The other hitter falling is Delvin Perez, the Puerto Rican shortstop who failed a pre-draft drug test. He’s still is likely to be drafted Thursday night by a team with its second or third selection. The Reds were closely tied to Perez before the drug test and pick again at 35 and 43 overall; his bonus won’t be in the $3-4 million range, though, like these other players being floated down boards.

• The pitchers include, but are not limited to, righthanders Ian Anderson, Kyle Gowdy and Matt Manning, as well as lefthanders Braxton Garrett, Kyle Muller and Joey Wentz. Garrett has helium as his pitchability, plus secondary stuff and easy delivery contrast well with Groome, as well as his maturity and plus makeup.

Then there’s Groome, whose camp has floated some very big signability numbers (“top three money”) amid a large number of rumors about his makeup. Now some of these rumors may be spread by teams hoping Groome will fall, but the rumors which started last summer have persisted. Asked what the craziest rumor he’d heard about Groome, one scout replied simply, “That he was dead.” It’s been that kind of spring.

Groome no longer is committed to Vanderbilt, unlike Garrett, who is, and is now headed to Chipola (Fla.) JC. He cancelled a meeting with Oakland team president Billy Beane and now appears to be in free-fall in the first round, though other teams could take a player ranked No. 3 on the #BA500 and dare him to go to junior college.

The Reds, Phillies, Padres, Braves and Rockies have the five largest pools, in that order. The Reds, Rockies and Braves have two picks and the Padres three between Philadelphia’s first and second selections.

If the Phillies are confident they can float a player down to their second pick, they are expected to take Moniak No. 1. If not, they are expected to take Puk. Less than seven hours from draft time, that direction remained unclear.
Maybe it is an 80-grade unpredictable draft after all.

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