Draft Chat With John Manuel And Nathan Rode

    Jenny (From the block): This draft seems to lack something what do you guys think it is?

Nathan Rode: Let's get this thing started shall we? I'll take your questions for about 45 minutes and then hand it off to Sir John Manuel. Anything draft is fair game. I'll probably focus mostly on high school stuff, but try to touch on some college guys as well. As for "Jenny's" question...this draft does feel light. Putting it up against last year's is unfair, but it's natural because of proximity. I think this year is lacking a clear top guy (right now at least) and depth. When we were hashing out the midseason Top 60 we had a couple spots to fill. Usually, there's a guy or two for each staff member that they're fighting to get in. For me, there wasn't that guy this year. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of guys I like in that mix and in the Top 200, but none that really got me excited that I felt I had to be emphatic about. There are cycles to a lot of things and the draft isn't exempt, but I think injuries have obviously played a big role in things being so muddled.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Glad to read Giolito has been cleared to begin a throwing program. Assuming he's back to form, would you consider him to be a top 5 pick?

Nathan Rode: We're glad to hear it to. Lucas is an exceptional talent and you hate to see any kid go through something like that. There isn't a timetable for his full return yet so it's hard to say how things will shake out since we're looking at a four week window right. With that being said, a healthy Giolito is a Top 5 pick for me. His ceiling is so high that if he shows me a bullpen with crisp stuff before June 4, I'd strongly consider him in that mix.

    Ben (Miamisburg, OH): Is Courtney Hawkins worthy of a top 15 pick, and can he stick at 3B or is he destined for a corner OF spot?

Nathan Rode: Hawkins is an outfielder all the way. Not sure where you got 3B from, but that was never an option. Since I've seen him, going back two years, he's been an OF. On that note, I think he can stick in CF. He's a plus runner and has a plus arm. If he has to move to a corner, I think he profiles fine in right. I could see him going anywhere from 15-30, though Top 15 wouldn't shock me. He's a good athlete with awesome strength.

    Brayden (PA): Phillies like toolsy athletes. Who are some of the players they could target?

Nathan Rode: Outfielders Lewis Brinson, Nick Williams and DJ Davis, and third baseman Trey Williams could fit in that discussion. But it's debatable who, if any, would be available for their first pick.

    John (CT): I know his career is just beginning and he will fill out, but as a teenager who does Byron Buxton remind you of...Desmond Jennings, Alfonso Soriano, the Upton bros, someone else?

Nathan Rode: We've heard comparisons to a blend of the Upton brothers, among others, though I haven't heard Jennings or Soriano.

    John (Washington, DC): Lots of buzz being generated about NC State freshman pitcher Carlos Rodon. Are you bullish on his potential to be a Top Five or better pick when the 2014 draft rolls around?

Nathan Rode: Obviously, it's early, but he has that potential. I'm definitely bullish. I liked him quite a bit out of high school, but I don't think anyone knew he'd be this good this quick.

    junior (san diego): would you rather have gavin cecchini or deven marrero?

Nathan Rode: Not sure where others in the office stand on this, but I'd take Gavin Cecchini. I bet they wouldn't be shocked by that. I think he has a good chance to stay at SS and is a better bet to hit than Marrero. Marrero might be a better bet to stick there defensively, but looking at the overall package, I'd take Cecchini. I'm a huge fan of that kid.

    Pablo (Bronx, NY): Any leads yet on amateurs the Mets might be favoring with their first pick at #12? If Almora, Trahan or Max Fried are available at that spot who would you take?

Nathan Rode: Still early to peg players to teams. That's a tough choice between those three. I think I would take Fried, but ask me tomorrow and I might take Trahan. Almora on Friday. There's a ton to like about all three obviously.

    Mike (Ithaca, NY): Who are the best New England high school prospects besides Rhett Wiseman?

Nathan Rode: Wiseman is really it. Outside of the guys in New York and Pat Light in New Jersey, it's a pretty thin year in the Northeast. Chris Shaw and Max Tishman in Massachusetts are interesting guys, but with the new CBA they're not the kind of guy that's going to go high enough to get a bonus that would sway them from going to school. Keep an eye on them tough. Could be interesting after three years of college. Tishman is a lefty and Shaw is a 1B with power.

    Brett (Lexington NC): What your thoughts on Dukes Marcus Stroman draft stock and is he a starter in pro ball?

Nathan Rode: I love watching Stroman, especially since his home starts are 10 minutes from my house. His stock is up from the preseason. I've seen him hold his velocity deep into games and he has the makings of at least two plus pitches so I do think he can start in pro ball. I bet he's given the chance to, but even if he's a reliever, it's a very good one with at least a plus fastball and slider. The changeup is pretty awesome too. If he does move to the pen, he'll move quickly.

    Glen (San Jose): Could Addison Russell be a top 15 pick? What kind of upside do you see from him, what's his risk level, and can he stick at SS in pro ball?

Nathan Rode: I think Top 15 is too high, but I could see him going anywhere from 15-30. Last year it seemed inevitable that he moved to third, but he's transformed his body to a leaner frame that has helped his quickness. It sounds like scouts still think he moves to third base, but there's a better chance to stick at SS than if you asked that question 8 months ago. He's a very good athlete even though it doesn't always look pretty. He has good power and a good arm so he would fit fine at third. He's no more or less risky than your typical high school infielder for me.

    Jeff Sullivan (Belchertown MA): Zach Eflin or Walker Weickel who gets Drafted higher? Both 1st round?

Nathan Rode: I'm a Weickel apologist, but it sounds like he's dipped this spring and Eflin is probably the guy that would go first right now. I like to think Weickel is still a first rounder, but I haven't had detailed conversations in that regard recently. John might have a better sense since he's doing the Southeast for our Draft Preview.

    Gerry Seff (Baltimore,Maryland): The Orioles have few legitimate outfielders in their farm system,do you believe they will have the opportunity to draft Bryan Buxton?

Nathan Rode: A small chance, but still a chance. I can't imagine him getting past the Mariners, but crazier things have happened as we all know. Ok, I have to jump on some calls so I'm going to turn it over to John. Thanks everybody!

    Ryan (Abingdon, MD): Allen Webster has been a great story as a late round steal - you have to love rooting for the underdog. But he's really getting hit around this season. Are there any obvious reasons for his struggles, like a decline in the quality of his stuff?

John Manuel: Thanks for the baton here Nathan. I just happened to talk to a scout about Webster this week who saw one of the outings you're referencing, in the "got hit around" department. If I recall correctly, he thought the arm action almost was too clean, no deception, and hitters were getting great looks at Webster's fastball. He was concerned because he'd seen Webster better in the past; doesn't sound like it's a matter of his pure stuff being down. David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press just wrote about pitching coach Chuck Crim wanting to speed up his tempo and improve his mound presence. I know the Dodgers think highly of Crim, so I'd trust Chuck to pull him out of it.

    Pablo (Bronx, NY): Where do you see Addison Russell being picked in the draft? And do you think he can stick at SS? His throwing motion looks really awkward. And thats putting it nicely.

John Manuel: Not sure what video you watched but if you didn't see him from this spring, you saw a different dude. Russell has dropped between 20-25 pounds this spring. I haven't had complaints about his arm strength or stroke; one scout called it average, another called it a tick above-average, just glancing through my notes. Everyone believes he can stay on the left side of the infield. Scouts are definitely mixed on whether he's a SS or 3B, and even mixed on whether he's a glove-first guy or a bat-first guy. He's not getting out of the supplemental round, and I'd be surprised if he got out of the first.

    Blake (St Louis): Very impressed by Pierce Johnson so far. Do you see him getting popped in the 1st?

John Manuel: I'm impressed by Johnson as well, and the Bears' program has a nice track record for producing big league arms, from Matt Palmer to Brad Ziegler and Jeff Gray and of course Shaun Marcum and more recently Ross Detwiler. Johnson doesn't quite have Detwiler's upside as a hard-throwing LHP but he was very good in his first outing back from when he missed two weeks with an arm strain. He wasn't as sharp his next time out against So. Illinois, so we'll see how he finishes, but if he pitches like he did two weeks ago, he could pitch himself into the back of the first round or the supplemental.

    Tim (Tennessee): Who do you see getting drafted from the Vols?

John Manuel: Not a lot of guys; Drew Steckenrider is the best bet to go out in a single-digit round, considering he has hit 96 mph somewhat regularly as a reliever.

    John (Richmond, VA): Andrew Heaney or Chris Stratton for the Nats at 16?

John Manuel: I have not heard Heaney up as high as 16, but that is definitely in Stratton's 'danger zone."

John Manuel: Sorry, got a call, will be back soon.

    Josh (Lake Charles, LA): With one month left before the draft, how much stock do you think Giolito will be able to regain? Will a team draft him high enough to keep him UCLA or does he seem destined to be a Bruin?

John Manuel: Sorry for delay. I don't know what to think of Giolito's stock, just because the more experience we have with high school pitchers throwing that hard, the less I think high school pitchers are meant to throw that hard. It just doesn't seem like it's healthy to throw 98-plus as a teenager. That said, I don't think he's a cinch to be a Bruin; there is a month of evaluation in between the draft and the signing period. Teams that don't mind evaluating guy in a workout (the Jack Z tree springs to mind) could decide he's worth the investment if he works out healthy, but it's going to be very tight to see him healthy before the draft. I can't argue with the Bruins experience; it worked well for Gerrit Cole. Push comes to shove, I see Giolito signing.

    John (Richmond, VA): Thanks for the chat. If Nolan Fontana is there at #80, would he be a good pick for the Nats? It seems like a middle infielder with top of the order potential would have great value for them.

John Manuel: I doubt he gets to 80 but yes, he's good value there. He's steady, unspectacular, no real plus tool but a good baseball player. I got a Mike Fontenot comp on him the other day that was more of a career comparison than a tools comparison. Fontana will get to the big leagues quicker than Fontenot, this college coach told me, but he thought his LH-hitting profile and middle-infield ability would keep him in the majors a long time like Fontenot.

    Brian (Lacey, WA): Looking beyond the 2012 MLB Draft, who are your Top 5 college sophomores for the 2013 Draft and Top 5 college freshmen for the 2014 Draft?

John Manuel: Our Top 50 by Class from January are part of our Early Draft Preview: http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/early-draft-preview/ That said, among sophomores, Karsten Whitson has been injured much of this spring for Florida; I talked to Kevin O'Sullivan this a.m., and he said Whitson is scheduled to start this weekend. He probably is still No. 1 on that list. Colin Moran remains the top sophomore hitter for me, but San Diego's Kris Bryant is right on his heels if he's not ahead of him. Stanford's Austin Wilson is really coming on strong of late and has 8 HRs to lead the Cardinal. Among freshmen, to me NC State LHP Carlos Rodon is the best pitcher in the country period, not just the best freshman. Hard to see there's a better pitcher out there than a 6-3, 235-pound lefty who hits 96 in the first and the seventh, has a devastating slider like him and feel to pitch. He's a beast. Nathan might have beaten me to the bandwagon but I'm driving that deal now. The rest of our top freshman list holds up well; Vandy's Tyler Beede has come on in the second half, and you could add in NC State's other fine freshman, speedy 3B Trae Turner. He's at least a 70 runner if not an 80 guy and it plays.

    Joel (KCK): It's starting to look more and more like Gausman will be the first college pitcher taken this year. Do you think he ends up going 1.1 to the Astros if they decide against Buxton?

John Manuel: If I were drafting — and Astros fans should be glad I'm not — and I wanted a college RHP this year, I'd go for Gausman. Nothing against Appel or Zimmer or Wacha, but I think Gausman has the best combination of size, stuff, projection ... the breaking ball has been there in the past, it should be at least an average pitch, and his fastball and change could both be plus down the line. I do believe, though, that the gap between Buxton and the rest of the class is significant enough that the Astros are going to wind up going Buxton unless one of those college RHPs separates himself from the pack in the next month.

    Terry (Concord, CA): As low as the Giants are drafting, do you see them going for the "best player available" or their greatest need, starting pitching? Who do you see them taking with their first pick?

John Manuel: All the teams are going to do some sort of "best player available who will sign" approach in the first round, and probably subsequent rounds. This is a signability draft as new rules create uncertainty, combined with a weak college class and a fairly strong group of high school hitters. I'm focused on the Southeast so it feels strong to me.

    Scott (Pittsburgh): What bats to you hear the Pirates are on with the 8th pick? I saw Correa in Puerto Rico last year and I believe the write ups he is getting lately, and hope he is around at 8. Thanks

John Manuel: Correa was No. 8 on our Midseason Top 60. He's in the Excellence Games in Puerto Rico this weekend, where our Conor Glassey is, so we'll have a report and a feature on him shortly.

    Josh (Lake Charles, LA): Thanks for the chat. If Houston has $7.2M slotted for the first pick, but none of the players appear close to that level of talent (esp. if Buxton is out of the picture), how likely is a scenario where they get two guys w/ ~$4M pricetags at #1 and #41? That would give both guys money comparable to 1/4 where no team after 1/4 will be able to offer that large of a contract without cutting corners elsewhere.

John Manuel: I'm sure teams are running through a lot of such scenarios. To play devil's advocate, what agent would allow a player to sign for $4 million knowing there are a few other teams that can sign him for similar money, and knowing that the max is much higher than that? Lots of pieces to the puzzle this year; I don't think it's as cut and dried as you presented it. I do think that the Astros or Twins at 2 (they have the largest pool but more picks) could hold firm to a higher number that fewer teams could match.

    Rick (Heartland): Top Division III draft pick is ______________

John Manuel: We don't focus on the guys by class but preseason the top guys were Kevin Heller at Amherst, an ex-football guy who's hitting .402, and Brian Rauh at Chapman, where he's striking out a ton of guys again — 115 K's in 81 IP. Rauh had an arm injury in last year's D-III CWS, but he's showing he's healthy this year, and he's an 88-91 mph guy who touches higher. Those guys both seem like solid drafts.

    Maggie (Sierra Madre, CA): We watched a great young shortstop over the weekend in Pasadena named Tanner Rahier and saw so many scouts at the game. Is he going to be a high choice in the upcoming MLB draft?

John Manuel: We wrote quite a bit on Rahier recently. He is going to go out in the first two rounds because of his physicality and ability to stay in the dirt. He's been on our Top 60 and our HS Top 100 all year.

    Joel (KCK): The Royals pretty much have to take a college pitcher, right? If you play out the picks in your head, who falls to them?

John Manuel: Sounds like they wanted to last year but Starling fell in their lap. It's a strong possibility this year, with the usual suspects (Appel, Gausman, Zimmer, Wacha, Marcus Stroman) all possibilities.

    Mick (Chicago): I know it's the usual dearth of true shortstops for this years draft, but could you give us a couple sleeper prospects?

John Manuel: It's actually not. Some scouts think Carlos Correa can stay there, or Corey Seager, or Russell. Cecchini can stay there. Marrero can stay there (in fact has to if he's a prospect); and Rahier has a chance to stay there. That's a decent amount. There are no college SS guys to speak of really aside from Marrero and I suppose Nolan Fontana, though I think of Fontana more as a 2B or utility guy at the major league level. For other shortstops, Georgia prep SS Dansby Swanson is a second-to-fourth round talent, depending on who you talk to. He can play short, there are some questions on the bat in terms of just how much upside is there, and he's a Vanderbilt signee, which makes signability a big question. He'd be in the next tier of prospects. If you like college SSs, Darnell Sweeney has his backers in a single-digit range, if you believe he can hit.

John Manuel: Sorry, gonna have to sign off. Too many phone calls to do but I really appreciate all the questions. We'll try to do better next time. Thanks.