The Baseball Draft Report

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Tampa Bay Rays

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Tampa in 2016

9 – Josh Lowe
47 – Jake Fraley
136 – Zack Trageton
157 – Easton McGee
206 – JD Busfield
234 – Ryan Boldt
251 – Nathaniel Lowe
338 – Dalton Moats
401 – Austin Franklin

Complete List of 2016 Tampa Draftees

1.13 – 3B Joshua Lowe

I love Josh Lowe (9). There’s really no other way to put it. His collection of tools is unlike any other prospect in this year’s draft class. The power, speed, arm strength, and athleticism are all top shelf. That little (9) next to his name doesn’t do his upside justice; sifting through the top tier of this draft was a challenge, but that doesn’t mean I don’t already regret not ranking Lowe even higher than I did. Honestly, a few months of reflection on this draft’s top tier has me questioning if Lowe shouldn’t have been picked first overall. With so much confusion at the top, maybe pure straight unadulterated upside should have won out. That’s Lowe. More on him from May 2016 featuring some of my patented pre-draft hedging and a rather lofty comp…

He’s a little bit of a higher variance prospect than Jones – more upside if it all clicks, but less certainty he turns into a solid professional than I’d put on Jones – so if I was a real scouting director with real future earnings on the line, I’m not sure I’d take him quite as high as he could wind up on my final rankings. The possibility, however, that he winds up as the best player to come out of this class is very real. He reminds me just a little bit of an opposite-hand version of this guy

Bryant entered the summer with lofty expectations, but he often looked overmatched at the plate during the showcase circuit last summer. When he’s on, he’s a treat to watch. He has a lean, 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame and light-tower power that draws comparisons to a young Troy Glaus. The power, however, mostly shows up during batting practice or when he has a metal bat in his hands. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing and he has trouble barreling balls up with wood, so how much usable power he ends up having is a big question. He has a long, loopy swing and he never changes his approach when he’s struggling. He’s athletic for a big guy and may be able to handle third base. He has the arm for it, and some scouts said they wouldn’t be shocked if he eventually ended up on the mound. Some scouts love Bryant’s power enough to take him in the back half of the first round, while others turned him in as a token gesture and have little interest in him–especially for the price it will take to lure him away from his San Diego commitment.

I really, really like Josh Lowe, if that’s not already clear. I mean, I did once kind of compare him to Babe Ruth. I think a team would be justified taking either Lowe or Jones in the top ten…and quite possibly the top five…or maybe even top three. Let me stop now before I really get too far ahead of myself.

Give Lowe three years at Florida State and I have to believe he’d come out the other side as a draft prospect in the same 1-1 mix that Bryant was a few years back. Getting him at pick thirteen before he truly blows up as a prospect makes this pick as good as it gets. Whether he sticks at the hot corner or makes the predicted move to center, I think Lowe’s career trajectory will take him on a path to stardom. He’s the kind of talent who will compete for MVPs at the highest level. I really can’t say enough about how much I love this pick.

2.53 – OF Ryan Boldt

On Ryan Boldt (234) from October 2015…

World Wide Wes said it best: “You can’t chase the night.” Of course that doesn’t stop me from trying to chase missed players from previous draft classes. Nobody was talking about Andrew Benintendi last year at this time — in part because of the confusion that comes with draft-eligible true sophomores, but still — so attempting to get a head-start on the “next Benintendi” seems like a thing to do. As a well-rounded center fielder with a sweet swing and impressive plate coverage, Boldt could be that guy.

I should have listened! Why didn’t I listen? World Wide Wes is never wrong. Ryan Boldt is fine. He’s a good runner with legitimate center field range, so the speed/defense thing automatically gives him a long leash in the pro game. I genuinely believe in his hit tool — lots of line drives, advanced approach despite disappointing junior season BB/K, impressive plate coverage — playing at the highest level, but his lack of present functional power could keep him from being an above-average offensive contributor. Barring a breakthrough I’m no longer willing to predict for him, Boldt’s best case scenario outcome looks like an average regular in center with the more likely outcome being a high-level fourth outfielder and spot starter. It’s a reasonable enough floor with as yet untapped upside that I don’t hate it in the abstract, but there were plenty of college outfielders available here (Woodman, Reynolds, Dawson, Quinn, Fisher) that I would have personally preferred.

Oddly enough, the pro player comp I’ve used on Boldt over the years happens to be long-time (Devil) Ray Randy Winn. Maybe it was meant to be.

2.77 – OF Jake Fraley

In the pick analysis above, I mentioned a bunch of college outfielders I liked more than Ryan Boldt. One such outfielder is none other than the man Tampa took later that very same round, Jake Fraley (47). Nice little bit of redemption for the Rays, as if they cared. A very enthusiastic Fraley take from January 2016…

JR OF Jake Fraley is an outstanding prospect. I may have actually underrated him despite ranking him twentieth overall in the college class back in October. Here’s what was written then…

In a class with potential superstars like Lewis, Reed, and Ray roaming outfields at the top, it would be easy to overlook Fraley, a tooled-up center fielder with lightning in his wrists, an unusually balanced swing, and the patient approach of a future leadoff hitter. Do so at your own discretion. Since I started the site in 2009 there’s been at least one LSU outfielder drafted every year. That includes five top-three round picks (Mitchell, Landry, Mahtook, Jones, and Stevenson) in seven classes. Outfielder U seems poised to keep the overall streak alive and make the top three round run a cool six out of eight in 2016.

That fact about the outfielders still blows my mind. Six out of eight years with a top three round outfielder is one heck of a run for any university. Anyway, peers ranked over Fraley this year (according to me back in October) included names like Lewis, Reed, Ray, Boldt, and Reynolds. Banks, Wrenn, Quinn, Abreu, Brooks, and Dawson came next. I think if I had to do it again today with a few more months of research and thought under my belt, I would have Fraley behind only Lewis, Reed, and Ray, and in as close to a tie as humanly possible with Reynolds. He’s really good. In what is surely an unfair thing to say based on the sheer awesomeness of this guy’s numbers last year, I can see some opportunity for a Benintendi-like breakout for Fraley in 2016.

As it turned out, the only college outfielders who finished above Fraley on my final rankings were Lewis, Ray, Fisher, and Reynolds. I stand by that, of course, but not without a little uneasiness. What Fraley does well, he does really well: hit, run, defend. Like Boldt (and any speed/defense type), those attributes will keep him gainfully employed — in as much as the pittance minor league players make can be called this — for as long as he’s willing to chase the big league dream. I prefer Fraley’s hit/run/defend tools all over Boldt’s, and think his clear edge in plate discipline makes him a much better option offensively going forward. The aforementioned uneasiness comes when looking at a problem all too common with players like Fraley: power, or, more specifically, a lack thereof. It isn’t so much Fraley’s lack of present power that troubles me, but the fact his power potential doesn’t figure to make him much of an extra base threat (speed-assisted gappers excepted) could alter how pro pitching approaches him. I still think Fraley’s strengths are strong enough to make him a big league regular in center, but the lack of thunder in his bat limits the likelihood just enough that I won’t call him the stone cold mortal lock future big league starting center fielder I’d like to. Going super obvious and comparing Fraley to former LSU teammate Andrew Stevenson doesn’t bother me at all. Sometimes obvious comps are obvious for a reason.

3.90 – RHP Austin Franklin

Due to a rumored strong to VERY strong Stanford commitment, I didn’t spend nearly as much time digging around for information on Austin Franklin (401) before the draft as I should have. As such, some of my pre-draft information on him (86-92 FB, 93 peak) was a little dated by June (similar sitting velocity, but more consistent mid-90s peaks). That fastball combined with his really good 78 MPH curve give him a really nice one-two punch to handle young pro hitters. Definitely get a mid-rotation starting pitching vibe from Franklin based on everybody I’ve checked in with these past few months. Nice work by Tampa getting him signed for a good price in the third round.

4.120 – RHP Easton McGee

Easton McGee (157) could very well be the poster prospect for my “big guy who pitches like a little guy before filling out and getting the best of both worlds at maturity” prep pitching archetype. McGee’s present stuff — 85-90 FB, 93 peak; pair of offspeed pitches (SL and CU) that flash above-average; usable low-70s CB — doesn’t blow you away, but the way he uses it shows an appreciation for his craft well beyond his years. You walk away thinking how impressive the 6-6, 200 pound high school prospect will look once his body more completely fills out, his fastball bumps up a few ticks, and his offspeed stuff sharpens. Well, the pros have him listed at 6-7, 220 pounds, so we’re on our way to finding out. I’m bullish on McGee’s future.

5.150 – RHP Mikey York

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but Mikey York makes it three consecutive young righthanded pitchers selected by Tampa in a row that I can’t help but like. York is an athletic, quick-armed (89-93, 94-95 peak) Tommy John survivor coming off a monster year (11.28 K/9 and 2.96 BB/9 in 48.2 IP) at the College of Southern Nevada. His change is a solid present pitch already and his 72-75 MPH curve flashes plus. I could see him either being developed as a three-pitch starter or getting fast-tracked in relief depending on what the Rays prefer. Either option is a viable one, so I’d let York keep starting until he shows he can’t. Like Franklin and McGee, there’s mid-rotation upside if it keeps clicking.

6.180 – RHP Zack Trageton

Why not make it four straight quality righthanders in a row? Tampa stayed in Nevada but moved from the junior college ranks to high school to find Zack Trageton (136) from Faith Lutheran HS in Las Vegas. There’s a ton to like about Trageton’s game. As one of the youngest prospects in his class (only 18 as of September 2), Trageton brings a steadily improving fastball (88-92, 94 peak) with room to grow, a potentially above-average upper-70s breaking ball, and all kinds of athleticism to the mound. His changeup is behind the three righthanders picked directly in front of him, but that’s about the only thing you can ding him on at the moment. I think a clear case can be made that Trageton has the most upside of any pitcher taken by Tampa in this class.

7.210 – RHP JD Busfield

On JD Busfield (206) from March 2016…

JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on.

How do 71 ground balls compared to 40 combined fly balls, line drives, and pop ups sound? I don’t know about you, but it’s music to my ears. Busfield’s early ground ball tendencies (64%) line up perfectly with his plus sinker, above-average slider, and exceptional extension off the mound. If it all works out, then maybe Busfield can follow a path similar to Doug Fister’s and become a bowling bowl tossing rotation fixture. A more reasonable outcome could be something like what Jared Hughes has done out of the Pittsburgh bullpen. Either way, it’s the kind of profile that’s worth a shot in round seven.

8.240 – LHP Kenny Rosenberg

On Kenny Rosenberg from March 2016…

For Kenny Rosenberg, however, the simple phrase “VIDEO GAME” felt appropriate. He’s whiffed 57 guys with only 10 walks in 41.1 innings of 1.96 ERA ball. It’s the best strikeout rate of any pitcher on the team and his ERA is third among qualifiers (first among starters). He’s not doing it with junk, either: Rosenberg lives 87-92 and has shown above-average command of three offspeed pitches. I don’t know how high his upside is, but I’m willing to keep watching him sit hitters down until we figure it out.

Rosenberg kept on missing bats as a pro, going from 10.84 at Cal State Northridge to 10.49 across two levels in his debut. Solid heat (87-92 FB, 93 peak) and command of three offspeed pitches (curve, change, cutter) give him a shot to do a little damage in relief.

9.270 – RHP Peter Bayer

An outstanding pro debut (12.40 K/9, 0.83 BB/9, 0.83 ERA) has thrust Peter Bayer back into the prospect spotlight after a surprising (to me) transfer from Richmond to Cal Poly Pomona took him out of it. I honestly lost track of him after he left the Spiders. My last real notes on Bayer from the site commented on his strong freshman season at Richmond and a promising frame you could dream on. His bonkers senior season (14.13 K/9 and 5.63 BB/9) as a Bronco and increased fastball velocity — something he credits to his work with Kyle Boddy and the Driveline guys — got him a shot in pro ball, and so far he’s run with it. I’m intrigued. With that heat now into the mid-90s and projection left in his 6-4, 200 pound frame (to say nothing of what else he might be able to accomplish using the damn intriguing methods at Driveline Baseball), Bayer is one of the sneakier high ceiling draft prospects around.

10.300 – RHP Spencer Jones

Spencer Jones is not entirely different from the pitcher selected just one round ahead of him, Peter Bayer. Jones has size (6-5, 200), an improving heater, a plus change, and a strong recent college track record all working in his favor.

12.360 – RHP Brandon Lawson

Brandon Lawson’s jump from 2015 (9.40 K/9, 4.60 BB/9, 6.40 ERA) to 2016 (9.89 K/9, 2.67 BB/9, 2.50 ERA) was one of college ball’s most pleasant surprises. That performance boost was enough to get Lawson on my personal draft radar (and clearly more than enough to get the attention of Tampa’s front office), but his solid but unspectacular righthanded relief profile (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average SL) didn’t move the needle for me much beyond that.

13.390 – 1B Nathaniel Lowe

I jump around from player to player when writing these draft reviews, often saving the guys I have either little to say about or too much to say about until the end. It didn’t occur to me until this very moment that the last two Tampa prospects that I need to write about are the Lowe brothers. My problem with both Josh and Nathaniel is that there is there is too much to say about them both, almost all of it positive. Who wants to read about sunshine and lollipops and future baseball stars? No snark, no edge, no style. What a snooze. Anyway, here’s some words on Nathaniel Lowe (251) from April 2016…

Nathaniel Lowe is a legitimate FAVORITE who has exceeded my lofty hopes for his 2016 re-entry to major college ball. Lowe and the aforementioned Jack Kruger might just be brothers from different mothers. Lowe, like Kruger, spent a year at a D1 program (Mercer), transferred to a well-regarded junior college (St. Johns River), and then hit the ground running back in D1 at Mississippi State. I know I just published these rankings a few days ago, but he’s too low already. Lowe is an exciting power bat in a class that needs them.

I don’t know what else to add. Sometimes a guy can just hit. Lowe can hit. Being locked into first base makes breaking through at the big league level a challenge, but I truly believe Lowe can be enough of an offensive force to make it work. Nobody I talked to throughout the spring was nearly as high on Lowe as I was; the “positive” reports tended to be centered around forecasting a lefty bench bat future if he makes it at all. I never really saw that and am pleased the very early returns (63 AB) on Lowe as a bat in need of protection against lefthanded pitching seem misguided. Again, we’re talking just 63 AB, but the big lefty from Mississippi State hit .365/.488/.619 against same-sided pitching in his debut. Maybe that doesn’t mean as much as I think it does, but I think the ongoing adjustments that Lowe seems to make as a hitter speak well to his ability to grow as an all-around bat in the professional ranks. It’s a stretch for a variety of reasons, but I dream of a Lowe, Lowe, and (Brandon) Lowe infield one day in Tampa.

14.420 – 2B Miles Mastrobuoni

I like this one for both Tampa and Miles Mastrobuoni. The Rays get an interesting prospect in the fourteenth round and Mastrobuoni gets to go to an open-minded organization more likely to value his skill set than most. It’ll still be a tough climb for a prospect likely locked into second with below-average power, but Mastrobuoni’s approach, speed, and steadying defensive influence at the keystone make him more interesting than his any right to be. Bonus points for being one of the younger college prospects in this class.

15.450 – LHP Dalton Moats

The Rays potentially landed another major steal in the fifteenth round with Dalton Moats (338). It’s a bit of a leap of faith considering Moats’s one year at Coastal Carolina was an abject failure (2.77 K/9 and 6.46 ERA in 39.0 IP) and present upper-80s fastball, but two solid seasons at Delta State and intriguing offspeed stuff including a curve that flashes plus and a change with promise makes it a risk worth taking. Early pro returns have been encouraging both in terms of results (8.70 K/9 and 1.50 BB/9 in 30.0 IP) and an uptick in velocity (more frequent 92-93 peaks).

18.540 – LHP Sam Long

Have to like a live-armed lefthander with decent college results and enough stuff (86-92 FB, above-average CU) and command (above-average to plus) to keep starting in the pros. That’s what Tampa got when they paid Sam Long in the eighteenth round.

19.570 – 3B Jim Haley

Jim Haley has an odd profile at the hot corner — solid speed, minimal power — but he’s been a consistent producer at the college level with a history of making lots of quality contact. If he can prove to be a little more versatile defensively, then he’s got an outside shot to keep climbing the ladder and make it as a utility guy.

20.600 – SS Kevin Santiago

Kevin Santiago hit .303/.415/.504 with 19 BB/30 K in 149 PA as a freshman at Miami-Dade JC, where the Puerto Rico native wound up after turning down both Cincinnati (39th round pick) and the University of Miami (his original college commitment) after the 2015 MLB Draft. The tools are there, so polishing up some of the rough edges around his game (including a generally impatient approach at the dish) will be the developmental challenge of the Rays on-field staff.

23.690 – OF Isaac Benard

A better internet sleuth than I might find more on Isaac Benard. All I have are what I assume are incomplete numbers (.395/.484/.526 with 13 BB/6 K in 94 PA) from his most recent season at Mt. Hood JC in Oregon. Seems reasonably promising.

24.720 – RHP Joe Serrapica

Joe Serrapica has a good fastball (90-94) and a history of missing bats (9.86 K/9 in 84.0 IP as a senior) that has stayed true as a pro. That’ll work.

25.750 – RHP Matthew Vogel

After a blink and you’d miss it career at South Carolina, Matt Vogel will take his shot in the pros. So far, so good: the 28.0 innings Vogel threw in his debut were almost as many (38.1 IP) as he pitched in his three years at South Carolina. Combine that inexperience with his prep background as a cold-weather (New York) state prospect and some of his college wildness (41 career walks) begins to look a little more forgivable. Also working in his favor are below-average but not outright terrible summer league numbers (5.63 BB/9 in the Coastal Plains League). His wild ways are also easier to take when you see a guy flashing plus velocity (90-95, 97 peak) and a nasty breaking ball (when he can command it). The twenty-fifth round is the perfect time to roll the dice on a live arm with control issues, and I have a weird instinctual hunch that this one could work out for the Rays down the line.

27.810 – 2B Robbie Tenerowicz

“He’s way better than his numbers show” was a familiar refrain from scouts who saw Robbie Tenerowicz play this past spring. This came up for two reasons, one obvious and one unexpected. The obvious reason is that Tenerowicz has plenty of as yet unseen upside as a ballplayer. He’s a really good defender at second (with enough arm to potentially get some time on the left side of the infield and/or the outfield if needed), he’s an average or slightly above-average runner, and he’s got very real above-average raw power, a rarity for a second base prospect at any level. Tenerowicz was also one of those guys that I had contacts repeatedly tell me had a much better approach at the plate than was reflected in his numbers (12 BB/31 K).

The other reason why I had so many people warn me not to sleep on Tenerowicz was because of his personality. Every single contact I talked to mentioned how fascinating a guy he was. There’s a whole lot of love out there for Robbie Tenerowicz the person; if you think that doesn’t matter late in the draft, you’re badly mistaken. High makeup guys are important for what it means to their own careers, but also for how their personalities rub off on the clubhouse and other perhaps more talented prospects in the organization. This whole article is well worth a click, but I’ll highlight my two favorite parts. First, Tenerowicz on why he was leaning towards turning pro…

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to go,” Tenerowicz said. “It’s a good opportunity. You never know what happens. It’s probably — well, not probably — it’s the best job offer I’ll ever get, so I feel like I have to take it, and I want to take it, and I like the Rays. I like [area scout] Allen Hall. I talk to him a good amount before the draft, and I really like him, and I think I look good in their colors, too. It’ll make my eyes pop.”

And then on his likely replacement at Cal (Ripken Reyes) with a very much appreciated take on how he views the game…

“He’s good,” Tenerowicz said. “He’s the opposite of me. I look really lazy sometimes, and I’m not, and he looks like he’s moving at 100 miles an hour, and once he tones that down, he might be better than me. I tell him every day he’s never going to be better than me — jokingly — but I think keeping it loose like that, showing him that it’s not boot camp; we’re still playing baseball, that helped him a little bit. He’s going to be really good, though. I’ll tell you that.”

All in all, I don’t really know what to make of Tenerowicz. I’m rooting for him, clearly, but beyond that I don’t know what kind of player he’ll be. The tools and makeup are damn intriguing, but the overly aggressive approach at the plate has always been the deepest shade of offensive red flag for me. Some guys are talented enough to hit with an approach like that while others improve as they mature, but the vast majority of 21-year-old college hitters who come out of school with career marks of 36 BB to 92 K don’t make it all that far in the pro game. I wouldn’t bet on anybody with those odds, but I wouldn’t bet against Tenerowicz, either.

28.840 – C Jean Ramirez

I don’t have much love for a good but not great college catcher who will be 24-years-old going into his first full pro season, but I’m willing to acknowledge the Rays, who have actually seen Jean Ramirez play multiple times up close and personal (I have not), likely more about the catcher from Illinois State than I do.

29.870 – 2B Trek Stemp

Much of the same logic applied towards my lukewarm feeling about the Jean Ramirez pick one round earlier applies to Trek Stemp as well. Tough for me to get too excited about a 23-year-old outfielder with underwhelming college numbers. Been wrong before, though.

31.930 – C Joey Roach

This class and college catching, man. So many quality options from round one all the way down to round forty. In this case, the Rays find a dependable college catcher with four legit years of big production for Georgia State in round thirty-one. Joey Roach may not be a star, but he’s an offensive backstop with power, a strong approach at the plate, and a steadying presence behind it. If he can hang on long enough and keep hitting, he’s got a shot to play in the big leagues. I like this one.

32.960 – SS Deion Tansel

I like this one, too. Deion Tansel is another dependable glove at an up-the-middle defensive spot with enough offensive upside to maybe carve out a big league role someday. If he does make it, it’ll be on the strength of his above-average to plus speed, outstanding approach (64 BB/42 K in his career at Toledo), and defensive versatility.

34.1020 – 1B Bobby Melley

All right, now this is just getting weird. First Joey Roach, then Deion Tansel, and now Bobby Melley. That’s three of my favorite college senior bats taken in a four-round stretch by Tampa. Really nice turnaround from the Jean Ramirez/Trek Stemp back-to-back. Here’s some love for Melley from March 2016…

Bobby Melley has his so far this year, too. Combine that with a consistent track record of patience (88 BB/80 K coming into the season) and flashes of power (his 2014 was legit) and you’ve got yourself a really underrated senior-sign slugging first base prospect. His strong glove and good size are nice perks, too.

Sounds about right. Like Roach and Tansel, Melley entered pro ball with a legitimate four-year track record of hitting at the college level. Worth noting that all three hitters had big senior seasons that included at least as many walks as strikeouts. In Massey’s case, he walked 12 more times than he whiffed (42 to 30) while piling up a .313/.436/.518 final season at Connecticut. At some point I think Melley’s hitting is going to be too much for the experts to ignore. I’m not an expert, but I do think Massey is a damn good ballplayer and a potential big leaguer.

35.1050 – LHP Alex Estrella

I don’t think Alex Estrella will be a star — see what I did there??? — but a low-90s lefty with a good changeup in the thirty-fifth round is nice value all the same. Matchup reliever upside.

36.1080 – RHP Anthony Parente

Can’t say I see the logic in picking Anthony Parente after his shaky sophomore season at Fullerton JC (5.54 K/9, 5.81 BB/9, 2.16 HBP/9), but the Rays must have seen something they liked. I can dig it.

38.1140 – RHP Brian McAfee

I’ll bury a quick rant against Baseball America here where nobody will likely ever read it. I like Baseball America a lot. Even with the brain drain of the last half-decade or so (countless good people lost to competing sites and MLB scouting staffs), the site remains a tremendous resource for anybody (such as myself) into amateur and minor league baseball. I use their publicly available information — mostly via their writers on Twitter — to help round out opinions on players I might not otherwise have a ton of my own notes for and make the full attempt to credit and link them whenever appropriate. I don’t steal from them and I certainly don’t copy their rankings; in fact, I literally haven’t looked at their pre-draft rankings in years.

HOWEVER, a friend of mine recently alerted me to Baseball America’s pre-draft ranking of Brian McAfee. BA ranked McAfee, a fine pitcher to be sure who is probably better at baseball than I am at any one thing, as the 355th best prospect in the 2016 MLB Draft class. In a word, that ranking is laughable. What kills me is the complete absence of evidence in McAfee’s “scouting report” that supports the ranking. That report literally contains this line: “he could be a fine organizational solider with the makeup to be more.” If organizational solider with a chance for more is what you are getting with the 355th best prospect in the draft, then there’s really no point in ranking 145 players past that point. So why was McAfee ranked where he was? The easy answer would be the North Carolina connection. BA may be staffed with plenty of Tar Heels, but the love for all local universities (BA’s offices are in Durham) is fairly easy to spot in their coverage. Proximity bias is real, and, honestly, it’s not that big a deal to me. You see a guy enough and you’re going to put him higher on your rankings, consciously or not, than a similarly talented player who is just a name on a page. Or maybe you throw some local coaches and contacts a bone by giving their guy a little extra love in the rankings if it means getting better information in the future. I get it. That’s not why I think McAfee was ranked where he was, though. McAfee was a Blue Devil for only one season. Prior to that, he was at Cornell. One of Baseball America’s draft writers just so happens to be a Cornell grad and unabashed homer for his alma mater. Sometimes 2 + 2 = 4 and that’s that. It’s a bummer for any fan of the draft that relies on Baseball America’s rankings and doesn’t have the time to sort out one draft writer’s weird, unprofessional desire to prop up one of his own, but something something state of modern journalism something something.

(I’m not a scout nor do I write for Baseball America, but I saw Brian McAfee when he was pitching for Cornell. I liked him as a potential sinker/slider middle relief prospect then. I still do today. Early returns on that sinker/slider combination are really encouraging: MLB Farm has his batted ball data at 72.41% ground balls through his first 28.2 pro innings. I don’t think he’ll ever miss enough bats to be much of a threat to ever pitch in the big leagues [his 6.36 K/9 at Duke was a college career high], but there’s a place in pro ball for a reliever with extreme ground ball tendencies. I love high GB% pitchers, so I’ll be rooting for him.)

(I should also add that Ben Badler is the best. He’s not a draft guy, but he’s still a must-read and easily the best thing the site has to offer. That’s not a knock on any of the other guys there, but rather a testament to his industry-leading excellence. If you’re here you probably know all this already, but had to add get this out there just in case.)

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Zach Thompson (Kentucky), Dominic Miroglio (San Francisco), Wyatt Mills (Gonzaga), John McMillon (Texas Tech), Freddy Villarreal (Houston), Justin Glover (Georgia), KV Edwards (Coastal Carolina), Ryan Zeferjahn (Kansas), Joshua Martinez (?), Andrew Daschbach (Stanford)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Houston Astros

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Houston in 2016

26 – Forrest Whitley
82 – Ronnie Dawson
88 – Jake Rogers
200 – Carmen Benedetti
230 – Ryne Birk
265 – Stephen Wrenn
327 – Dustin Hunt
478 – Taylor Jones
488 – Brett Adcock
498 – Chad Donato

Complete List of 2016 Houston Draftees

1.17 – RHP Forrest Whitley

On Forrest Whitley (26) from April 2016…

You really shouldn’t have a first round mock draft that doesn’t include at least one big prep righthander from Texas. It just doesn’t feel right. Whitley, standing in at a strapping 6-7, 240 pounds, has the requisite fastball velocity (88-94, 96 peak) to pair with a cadre of power offspeed stuff. We’re talking a devastating when on upper-80s cut-slider and an average or better mid-80s split-change that has been clocked as high as 90 MPH. I’m not sure how power on power on power would work against pro hitters — this is NOT a comp, but I guess Jake Arrieta has found a way to do it — but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Honestly, not a whole lot has changed from the pre-draft evaluation on Whitley to now. There’s a ton to like with him: big fastball that went on to hit 97 MPH later in the spring (his weight was down to 225 by then, too), nasty hard cut-slider, power split-change that is lethal when on, and a truer breaker that lives somewhere between a curve and a slider at around 76-81 MPH. Whitley carries all the risk that big teenage pitchers bring to the table, but the upside here is immense. He has the kind of talent that makes you think putting a ceiling on what he can do is a waste of time. I’ll do it anyway and say that Whitley’s upside looks a lot like what we’ve seen so far out of Gerrit Cole.

2.61 – OF Ronnie Dawson

On Ronnie Dawson (82) from October 2015…

You could say this about almost any of this year’s upper-echelon of college outfielders, but I saved it specifically for Ronnie Dawson: he’s a big-time prospect from the minute you spot him getting off the bus. He looks more like a baseball destroying cyborg sent from the past to right the wrongs of his fallen brothers who fell victim to offspeed pitches and high fastballs on the regular. Few of his peers can quite match him when it comes to his athleticism, hand-eye coordination, and sheer physical strength. As a member of this year’s college outfield class, however, he’s not immune from having to deal with the open question as to whether or not he can curb his overly aggressive approach at the plate enough to best utilize his raw talents.

A final spring at Ohio State didn’t quite answer the question about Dawson’s approach, but the incremental improvements he’s made in that area of his game over the years gives hope that he’s a young hitter who gets it. I think Dawson is a long-term regular in an outfield corner with flashes of all-star season upside. His improved approach combined with the existing physical tool set (above-average power, speed, arm, and range in a corner) should get him where he wants to go. It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but there are a lot of similarities between Dawson and future Houston teammate George Springer when the latter was coming out of Connecticut.

3.97 – C Jake Rogers

Jake Rogers (88) to Houston makes so much sense. A team that values defense behind the plate, especially the previously “hidden” (i.e., not publicized) advantages of such things as pitch-framing, taking one of the amateur rank’s best defensive catchers to enter pro ball in years. It would be terrible for his own development, but I wonder what kind of defensive numbers Rogers could put up jumping straight to the big leagues in year one. Just tell him to hit .200 and play the kind of defense that impressed me so much that I compared his all-around game behind the plate to the Florida State version of Buster Posey. It’ll never happen (thankfully), but it would be kind of fun.

With Rogers being a stone cold mortal lock to provide tremendous defensive value going forward (top five defensive catcher in baseball by the end of his rookie year?), the question then moves to how much you’ll get out of him as a hitter. There are a few different ways we can approach Rogers as a hitter, but, for the sake of brevity, let’s hone in on his power upside. Rogers has more raw power (average to above-average) than he’s shown, which can be looked at either as a positive (it’s in there, we just have to find a way to unlock it!) or a negative (raw power is great, but if he hasn’t figured out how to tap into it by now then it doesn’t do us any good). I tend to side with the positive thinkers there if only because the day-to-day hands-on teaching that goes on in pro ball (especially in an organization like Houston that takes the long view with player development) is so different than what amateur prospects get in college, high school, or on the showcase circuit (LOL). Dedicated time, effort, and energy of pro instruction needs to at least be given a chance before writing off any particular amateur’s odds of improvement. Rogers getting into a little more power would hardly qualify as a shocker, and the overall bump of such a development would make him more of a complete prospect. I think 2016 Russell Martin (.231/.335/.398, 99 wRC+) is probably Rogers’s ceiling as a hitter, though I could be talked into bumping that up to Martin’s current career mark (.254/.350/.404, 106 wRC+) if we wanted to keep these optimistic vibes going. Approaching that kind of offensive output with his brand of defensive brilliance would make Rogers a very valuable player and a very rich man. Consider former Astros catcher and current Twin Jason Castro (.232/.309/.390, 94 wRC+) and his recent three-year contract worth $24.5 million. No reason that Rogers can’t have a similar career or better.

4.127 – LHP Brett Adcock

On Brett Adcock (488) from April 2016…

Brett Adcock doesn’t have the size as Vieaux, Sawyer, or his teammate Hill, but his stuff is no less impressive. Lefties that can throw four pitches for strikes with his kind of track record of success, both peripherally (10.29 K/9 in 2014, 9.50 K/9 in 2015) and traditionally (2.87 ERA in 2014, 3.10 ERA in 2015), have a tendency to get noticed even when coming in a 6-0, 215 package. I had somebody describe him to me as “Anthony Kay without the killer change,” an odd comparison that kind of works the less you think about it. Adcock has a good fastball (88-92, 94 peak) and two average or better breaking balls (77-81 SL is fine, but his 75-78 CB could be a big league put away pitch) in addition to an upper-70s changeup that is plenty usable yet hardly on par with Kay’s dominant offering. If Kay is a borderline first round talent (he is), then surely Adcock could find his way into the draft’s top five or so rounds. That might be too aggressive to some, so I’ll agree to knocking down expectations to single-digit rounds and calling it even.

From about the time of that writing on, Adock’s control went from iffy to downright scary. That leaves us with a short lefthander that can really only command two pitches (fastball and 75-82 spike-curve) who will need a lot of work in pro ball. I don’t love it. If his delivery can be tweaked enough to see a return to his freshman year control (3.38 BB/9), then we can get back to thinking about him as a potential fifth starter candidate. If not, then effectively wild lefthanded reliever it is.

5.157 – 3B Abraham Toro-Hernandez

The Astros must have been cussing out the Royals in their draft room when Kansas City stole Seminole State RHP Dillon Drabble away from them in the seventeenth round. The lousy Royals foiled Houston’s plan of drafting not one, not two, not three, but four prospects from one junior college in Oklahoma. I’ve discussed my distaste for loading up on players from one school too many times to count during these draft reviews, so we’ll instead focus on the actual player drafted by Houston here. That would be Abraham Toro-Hernandez, a third baseman coming off a season so good (.439/.545/.849 with 38 BB/18 K and 8/9 SB in 205 AB) that I literally had to check his state page multiple time to be sure I didn’t mess up somehow. Pro ball was slightly more challenging (.254/.301/.322 with 10 BB/31 K in 193 PA) for the 19-year-old, but I’m still liking Houston’s willingness to put real stock in players coming off of exceptional amateur careers. Toro-Hernandez is a solid athlete who has already shown elite plate discipline and power potential. That’s a great starting point to build from.

6.187 – OF Stephen Wrenn

I’ve been writing about the MLB Draft on the internet for long enough now to develop enough of a core audience that I feel comfortable sharing my inner-most secrets with you. Ready for this one? I’m not sure I’ve ever really realized that Stephen Wrenn (265) and Steven Duggar, former Clemson star and Giants draft pick from 2015, were actually different people. I mean, sure, I knew there were not the same literal person, but the two prospects were so similar to me that my brain just melded them into one player and I think that thought may have bled into some of the analysis for both guys. Making matters more confusing (and validating my apparent stupidity), Wrenn went off the board to Houston in the sixth round with the 187th overall pick. San Francisco took Duggar last year in the sixth round with the 186th overall pick. I swear I didn’t realize that before writing the first four sentences of this intro. Life is weird, man.

Whatever similarity the two players once shared went by the wayside in 2016, draft position oddity aside. Duggar really began to click as a hitter during his junior year at Clemson; Wrenn went backwards in his final season at Georgia. The fact that the latter still got picked in the same spot as the former should speak to Wrenn’s upside. Unfortunately, said upside has only ever manifested itself in flashes. His speed, glove, and baseball instincts should all help keep him employed a long time, but his approach at the plate keeps him from being the star (or at least slam dunk potential regular) that he should be. I’ve gotten comps on him that range from Leonys Martin to Kevin Pillar to Adam Jones. That’s a fairly broad spectrum, but certain traits (CF range, athleticism, evidence of more physical gifts than baseball skills at times) are fairly consistent throughout. Personally, I see him as a potential (more naturally gifted) Juan Lagares type at the next level: plus defender, intermittent power, positive on the base paths. Peak Lagares (2014) with the most recent version’s power (2016) would give you around a .280/.320/.420 hitter. That seems like a reasonable offensive ceiling for Wrenn. Even getting near that with his glove would make for a really useful player. If you’re picking up on some similarities between the questionable bat/standout defensive up-the-middle profiles of Wrenn and Jake Rogers, then we’re on the same wavelength.

8.247 – RHP Nick Hernandez

One outstanding year at Houston (11.75 K/9 and 1.93 BB/9 in 43.2 IP) was more than enough evidence to convince the Astros to pluck Nick Hernandez out of their own backyard. The power-armed righthander (88-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s SL) kept right on rolling in pro ball after signing (10.38 K/9 and 3.12 BB/9 in 26.0 IP). Curiously, Hernandez finished his (small sample) debut with one of the lowest GB rates (28.6%) out of any pitcher I’ve come across in organized ball. No idea if that’s an aberration or part of a larger trend, but it’s something to keep in mind going forward.

9.277 – LHP Ryan Hartman

NAIA competition or not, a 0.64 ERA in 98 innings pitched with standout peripherals (11.85 K/9 and 1.10 BB/9) is something special. Ryan Hartman put up those awesome senior year stats thanks to a solid heater (87-91, up to 93) and a really good changeup he’s not afraid to double up on when needed. An improving curve could give him a shot to remain in the rotation as a professional, but for now his clearest path to the big leagues looks to come as a fast-tracked reliever. I like it.

10.307 – RHP Dustin Hunt

Dustin Hunt (327) is a fine project to take on at this stage in the draft. His size (6-5, 200), fastball (87-93, 94-95 peak), and track record (the three-year rotation mainstay put up a 9.04 K/9 and 3.02 BB/9 in almost 250 total college innings) stack up against just about any college pitching prospect you’ll find past the first few rounds of the draft. I’m less enamored with his offspeed stuff than most, but the good outweighs the bad and time is still on his side anyway. Nice pick.

11.337 – RHP Chad Donato

Chad Donato’s (498) future remains somewhat cloudy after being red flagged by many teams after being diagnosed with a strained UCL just a few days before the draft. Donato wound up needing Tommy John surgery; he underwent the procedure on July 1, the same day as three other professional pitchers according to this wonderful resource that I can’t believe I’m only now seeing for the first time. If Donato can return to 100% health, then the Astros may have stolen a future quality big league reliever in the eleventh round. With a fastball up to 94 (88-92 typically), an above-average to plus curve, and standout control, Donato was able to dominate (10.37 K/9 and 1.87 BB/9) college competition in his junior year in Morgantown.

There are too many cool anecdotes in this story on Donato’s draft day experience that I couldn’t pick just one to share. Read it yourself and see. I’m such a sucker for these types of stories.

And for the millionth time this draft review season, THIS is what the eleventh round is all about. Well, kind of. Even though Donato’s $100,000 bonus wasn’t technically an overslot deal that counted against Houston’s allotted bonus pool, the eleventh round was still the perfect time to give a talented but risky guy like Donato six-figures. Use the last few single-digit rounds for cheaper senior-signs — like Houston did with Ryan Hartman in round nine — to give yourself flexibility elsewhere.

12.367 – LHP Carmen Benedetti

Though announced as a pitcher on draft day, Carmen Benedetti (200) played almost every inning of his rookie pro season in right field. This decision pleases me greatly. If you’re a regular reader, you know why. If not, you’ll learn. On Benedetti from April 2016…

Carmen Benedetti is such a favorite of mine that I didn’t even bother with dropping the FAVORITE designation in my notes on him; it’s just assumed. He’s not the best prospect in this class, but he has a case for being one of the best players. I’ve compared him to Florida’s Brian Johnson (now with the Boston Red Sox) in the past and I think he’s legitimately good enough both as a pitcher and a hitter to have a pro future no matter what his drafting team prefers. As with Johnson, I prefer Benedetti getting his shot as a position player first. I’m a sucker for smooth fielding first basemen with bat speed, above-average raw power, and the kind of disciplined approach one might expect from a part-time pitcher who can fill up the strike zone with the best of them. If he does wind up on the mound, I won’t object. He’s good enough to transition to the rotation professionally thanks to a fine fastball (90-94), above-average 77-80 change, a usable curve, and heaps of athleticism. I get that I like Benedetti and this draft class more than most, but the fact that a prospect of his caliber isn’t likely to even approach Johnson’s draft position (31st overall) says something about the quality and depth of the 2016 MLB Draft.

And again later that same month…

Search for “Carmen Benedetti” on this site. I’ve written a lot about him lately. Assuming you don’t — and good for you not being bossed around by some baseball nerd on the internet — the quick version is he’s really good at baseball, both the hitting/fielding part and the pitching part. I’ve likened him to Brian Johnson more than once, and I think he’s shown enough as a position player to get a shot in the field first. The raw power might not scream slam dunk future big league regular at first base, but the overall offensive and defensive profile could make him an above-average regular for a long time.

I really like Benedetti. I think I’ve made that clear. Now let me pump the breaks a little bit. Here’s a topical comparison to consider…

.323/.410/.485 (56 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR) with 83 BB/76 K in 549 AB
.327/.444/.446 (45 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR) with 127 BB/100 K in 626 AB

Top was Benedetti in his three years at Michigan, bottom was what Houston prospect Conrad Gregor did in his three years at Vanderbilt. Gregor was a FAVORITE who I thought would up his offensive game to another level in the pros. Hasn’t happened. So many of the notes I have on Benedetti match up with what I once had on Gregor. Here’s a sampling of some older Gregor notes: “plus defender at first, pretty good in outfield; average speed once he gets a full head of steam; good arm, but slow release; very strong hit tool; great approach; physically strong; smart hitter, but still chases too many bad balls; plus bat speed; can get pull happy; pretty swing; that raw power is still there, but has been slow to manifest.” Every player is different and should be assessed independent of whatever his peer has done, but there’s no harm in attempting to find patterns in player archetypes that work or don’t work within your own organization. Gregor hasn’t worked out to date; that can be attributed to him, the Astros, or (most likely) the nature of the challenge that is professional ball. Hopefully Benedetti can avoid the pitfalls that have ensnared Gregor to this point. If not, hey, there’s always the option of moving back to the mound.

I should close with that rare snappy line, but I can’t help myself; I’m pulling a reverse Costanza here. The college stat comparison game is one I enjoy even though I freely admit that stats can sometimes be used to create false equivalencies and lead to faulty conclusions. I mean, I don’t do that — or at least I try not to — but it can be done. For example, maybe you really like Benedetti and you take exception to the Gregor comparison above. You might pull this guy’s numbers to use as a basis of comparison instead…

.323/.410/.485 (56 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR) with 83 BB/76 K in 549 AB
.341/.410/.466 (42 2B, 4 3B, 12 HR) with 62 BB/68 K in 689 AB

Top is still Benedetti at Michigan, but the bottom is now Cardinals standout Stephen Piscotty’s career numbers at Stanford. Pretty damn similar, right? So maybe Benedetti is Gregor or maybe he’s Piscotty. Or maybe he’s just Benedetti. I keep looking up at his college numbers and thinking that some slightly scaling back — about 50 points of everything, give or take — could represent a reasonable pro ceiling for him. So that would be something like .280/.360/.430 at his peak. Those numbers would make him almost an exact duplicate of 2016 Odubel Herrera. That’s…unexpected but great. Other 2016 outfielders with a similar line include Adam Eaton, Kole Calhoun, and Stephen Piscotty (!). The closest 2016 first base facsimiles are Adrian Gonzalez and Eric Hosmer. You’d take the 2016 version of any of those hitters out of a plus defender at first or a strong-armed right fielder. Maybe Benedetti won’t have to hop back on the mound after all…

13.397 – 2B Ryne Birk

Ryne Birk (230) has always hit, so it wasn’t a huge shock to many long-time observers of his game that he kept right on hitting in pro ball after signing. Even better than the hitting (for me) was the apparent commitment by Houston to give Birk an honest shot to stick in the dirt going forward. From March 2016…

Birk has worked his tail off to become a competent defender at the keystone, so selecting him this early is a vote of confidence in his glove passing the professional barrier of quality in the eyes of his first wave of pro coaches. I think he’s more than good enough at second with an intriguing enough upside as a hitter to make a top five round pick worth it. Offensively he’s shown average power, above-average speed, and good feel for contact. Sorting out his approach will be the difference between fun utility option or solid starter once he hits pro ball. He reminds me a good bit of Trever Morrison as a prospect, right down to the slightly off spellings of their respective first names.

And then again in April 2016…

A lot of what was written about Shelby could apply to Ryne Birk, at least in a poor man’s version kind of way. Birk might be a little ahead in terms of power and approach, but Shelby beats him everywhere else. I’ve gotten positive reviews on his glove at second this year, but there are still a few who maintain that his speed (good not great) and arm (neither good nor great) will force him to left field in the pros. For those reasons and more, I’ve gotten a fun and somewhat obscure Andrew Pullin comp for him this spring.

As much as I like Birk’s bat independent of where he plays, even I have to admit that the offensive bar in left field would be tough for him to clear enough to be considered a legitimate prospect at the position. At second, a position where I’ll go down believing he can play until he’s long retired, he’s instantly one of the most interesting prospects of his kind in baseball. I mentioned comps to both Trever Morrison and Andrew Pullin in the months leading up to the draft, but it now occurs to me that Birk could be a little bit like this draft’s version of Max Schrock. Coincidentally (I swear!), both Birk and Schrock fell to the thirteenth round in their respective drafts. Hmm.

14.427 – RHP Carson LaRue

A 11.28 K/9 and 2.79 BB/9 for Carson LaRue at Cowley County CC looks pretty good from where I’m sitting. The former Oklahoma State pitcher has the low-90s fastball/weaponized slider one-two punch to get a potential look in relief down the line.

15.457 – SS Alex DeGoti

Alex DeGoti could be another one of Houston’s patented non-D1 college finds. The middle infielder hit .404/.492/.694 with 27 BB/22 K in 193 AB at Barry after three lackluster years at Long Beach State. He then followed it up with a .228/.320/.329 (99 wRC+) pro debut. Not too shabby.

16.487 – OF Spencer Johnson

Spencer Johnson has been a consistently impressive power/speed threat going back to his high school days. I’ve always been surprised at the lack of hype the 6-4, 215 pound physical specimen has received over the years. Of course, I’m guilty of this as well if you want to check the archives. There’s no time like the present to talk a guy up, so that’s what we’ll do with Johnson now. Houston got themselves a really interesting player in the draft’s sixteenth round. From a strictly physical standpoint, Johnson is one of the draft’s best looking prospects. He has huge raw power, decent speed (admittedly not quite as much as he had in his younger days), and is unafraid to grip it and rip it in any count. That aggressive style works for him more often than not, but an avalanche of strikeouts is never that far away. If he can limit the empty swings in pro ball, he’s got a chance to do some damage in a bench role.

18.547 – RHP Colin McKee

Colin McKee dominated at Mercyhurst in his redshirt-junior season to the tune of a 13.50 K/9 and 1.82 ERA in 94.0 IP. His first 8.1 IP as a pro weren’t quite as magical unless you consider 7 BB, 2 HBP, 7 WP, and an ERA of 11.88 a good time. At least his FIP was just 8.58. Those 8.1 innings were obviously a less than ideal way to make a first impression, but McKee still has plenty going for him. He’s got the track record, stuff (88-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-81 SL), and build (6-3, 225) to pitch his way back into the future middle relief mix for Houston.

19.577 – 1B Taylor Jones

I like this one. On Taylor Jones (478) from March 2016…

Taylor Jones is a risky pick behind Brigman as guys with long levers bring that boom/bust aspect to hitting. The boom of Jones’s power currently outweighs any bust I feel about his long-term ability to make consistent contact as a pro. The fact that he’s more than just a slugger helps give some wiggle room. Jones is an average runner who fields his position really well. He’s also capable of moonlighting on the mound thanks to an upper-80s fastball and up-and-down curve. Broken record alert, but he’s one of my favorite senior-sign hitters in this class. That makes about four dozen favorite senior-sign hitters; thankfully, nobody keeps track.

One day I’ll stop getting sucked into believing that the next giant hitter — Jones is 6-7, 225 pounds — will find a way to make enough contact to be a star in the pros. One day…

(Jones hit really well in his pro debut, BTW. Still a huge fan of him as a potential big league contributor. Super pick. Just when I think I’m out…)

20.607 – 2B LP Pelletier

The LP in LP Pelletier’s name stands for Louis-Phillippe. That seems like good information to have in the back pocket going forward for some reason. Also good information: Pelletier hit .445/.504/.873 with 18 BB/18 K and 16/19 SB in 229 AB for Seminole State JC this past spring. The team hit .380/.469/.684, so this is similar to the Raymond Henderson deal you’ll read about two rounds below. As with Henderson, Pelletier still gets credit from me for going out and hitting. The advantages are all well known, but you still have to do your job. Pelletier did that and then some this past spring. It didn’t quite work as well for him in a small sample over the summer, but time is on his side.

21.637 – C Chuckie Robinson

You’re getting power, a big arm, and sheer physical strength with Chuckie Robinson. He can get a little too aggressive at the plate for his own good at times and not everybody you talk to is convinced he’s a catcher long-term, but the righthanded power should be enough to keep him employed for the foreseeable future.

22.667 – C Raymond Henderson

In his two years at Grayson County CC, Raymond Henderson did this…

.374/.451/.663 – 30 BB/26 K – 190 AB
.452/.541/.782 – 40 BB/17 K – 188 AB

Damn. Some of those offensive numbers should be taken with a grain of salt — the team as a whole hit .354/.445/.551 in 2016, so, yeah, but there are still many positives to be gleaned from his time as a Viking. Even with an inflated scoring environment, questionable competition, and juggernaut lineup accounted for you still have to go out there and actually do the hitting. Henderson certainly did that, and he did it while also showing off a stellar approach at the plate. Pro ball was a bit more challenging (.223/.292/.394 with 9 BB/24 K in 106 PA), but I’d be willing to give a guy who has shown that kind of college production a bit more time to make his adjustments to pro ball. I’ll be watching Henderson closely. There’s some sneaky forward-thinking (catcher/second base/third base) utility guy upside here.

23.697 – RHP Tyler Britton

A 13.83 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9 in 41.0 IP puts Tyler Britton near the top of the hill when it comes to 2016 MLB Draft pro pitching debuts. The undersized (5-11, 190) righthander from High Point (9.60 K/9 and 1.63 BB/9 in 55.1 IP as a senior) isn’t flashy, but there’s little doubt he’ll keep getting chances as long as he can keep missing bats.

24.727 – 1B Troy Sieber

Even though plenty of quality articles on the subject have been written, I’m still baffled how the Astros identified Tyler White, the fifty-first best college first base prospect in 2013 according to some internet hack, as a potential big league player after a really good but not mind-blowing (.361/.420/.630 with 17 BB/25 K) final season at Western Carolina. That’s why I’m absolutely taking notice of Troy Sieber, Houston’s twenty-fourth round pick out of St. Leo College down in Florida. Sieber entered pro ball sporting a .381/.489/.738 (64 BB/60 K) career college line that included a .457/.553/.873 (31 BB/26 K) junior season. That’ll work. He kept right on mashing in the GCL (.289/.449/.474 in 49 PA) before running into his first challenge at Greeneville (.242/.356/.339 in 146 PA, down across the board but still good for a 102 wRC+). Like White, Sieber will have to keep hitting at every level to get his shot. Like White, he’s got a chance to do just that.

25.757 – RHP Kevin Hill

On Kevin Hill from March 2016…

Hill is the consummate college senior tearing up younger hitters with pinpoint command and stellar sequencing. He’s capable of tossing one of his three offspeed pitches in any count, and there’s now enough fastball (up to 88-92 this year, peaking at 93) to keep hitters from sitting on it. Smarts, plus command, and solid stuff make Hill a really good senior-sign, but it’s his fantastic athleticism that helps set him apart. The entire package makes him arguably one of the best potential senior-signs in the country. One scout referred to him as “store brand Aaron Nola.” I’m in.

I’m sure it’s just because I finished writing their draft review recently, but it’s shocking to me that Hill wasn’t drafted by Cleveland this year. He’s the embodiment of the command/athleticism aesthetic they seem to be going for of late. Houston snapped him up in the twenty-fifth round and could get a big league pitcher for their trouble. Working strongly against Hill is his age (already 24!) and lack of projection, but his present ability could be enough to challenge him with an aggressive AA assignment to start his first full season. Whether he starts there or elsewhere (High-A, most likely), the goal for all involved should be to get Hill to AAA by the end of the season. If he can do that, then he’s got a shot to fulfill his fifth starter/middle relief destiny.

27.817 – LHP Nathan Thompson

I’m not sure if this is noteworthy or not, but eight pitchers handled 454 innings in 56 games for the Bison in 2016. Seems like they kept that staff busy. I like it. One of those eight pitchers was Nathan Thompson. The lefthander leaned on an upper-80s fastball (90 peak) to strike out 11.81 batters per nine in his final season at Oklahoma Baptist. There’s some matchup relief upside here if it works.

30.907 – 3B Brody Westmoreland

It’s impossible for me to mention Brody Westmoreland without also mentioning his awesome high school. Before a quick stop at San Diego State and a year at the College of Southern Nevada, Westmoreland played ball for the ThunderRidge HS Grizzles. ThunderRidge! Anyway, Westmoreland is a reasonably interesting four-corners (1B/3B/LF/RF) utility prospect with a strong arm, solid athleticism, and legit power. There’s probably too much swing-and-miss in his game to do a whole lot, but it’s a reasonable gamble here all the same.

31.937 – LHP Howie Brey

As a semi-local prospect (Rutgers!) to me, I’ve seen a fair amount of Howie Brey over the past four college seasons. I can’t lie and say that I ever came away from watching him thinking he had a future in pro ball, but I’ve been wrong plenty before. Rooting for him.

34.1027 – SS Stijn van der Meer

Pre-draft take on Stijn van der Meer…

SS Stijn van derMeer can field his position and do enough with the bat to rank as one of my favorite senior shortstops in this class. Fair or not, I can’t help but think of him as a potential Die Hard villain whenever I read his name.

I’ve seen his name spelled just about every way imaginable, so we’ll go with the Baseball-Reference approved Stijn van der Meer for now. Speaking of B-R, this is well worth a read. I would have loved to sum it up, but I didn’t know where to begin. Stijn van der Meer has already had a damn fascinating baseball existence and he’s only a few months into minor league career. At least this pre-draft report on him sums up his skills on the diamond nicely…

Lamar SR SS Stijn van derMeer: really strong glove; very little power; patient, pesky hitter; adept at working long counts, hitting with two strikes, and fouling tough pitches off; fun comp from his college coach: Ozzie Guillen; 6-3, 170 pounds

Pretty simple package here: defense, patience, and no power. The defensive aspect won’t take a hit in pro ball, so it’ll be worth watching to see if he can still play his style of offensive game against pro pitching more adept at exploiting punchless hitters’ weaknesses. Early pro returns were encouraging (.301/.386/.370 with 8.2 BB% and 14.1 K%), but he has a long way to go. Best case scenario could see him following a fairly similar career arc as a player I haven’t yet given up on. Look at these draft year numbers…

.376/.471/.441 – 38 BB/15 K – 7/12 SB – 213 AB
.309/.429/.512 – 43 BB/21 K – 12/12 SB – 207 AB

Top is what van der Meer did his last year at Lamar, bottom is what Nolan Fontana did his final season at Florida. Not exactly the same — note the significantly higher ISO for Fontana — but not completely out of line. Even with that difference in mind, I think you’d take your chance on van der Meer looking even a little bit like Fontana considering the former prospect was selected 966 picks after the latter.

36.1087 – RHP Ian Hardman

I knew I hadn’t written about Ian Hardman without even checking because I’m 100% certain his is a name I would have remembered. He’s definitely my favorite Mega Man villain ever drafted. I typically shy away from name-related “humor,” but it’s actually relevant in the case of Hardman. Or Harman, as the official National Junior College Athletic Association page would have you believe. Whoops. Hardman had a very eventful year for Seminole State: 15.12 K/9 and 6.33 BB/9 in 25.2 IP. Knowing nothing of his stuff, I’m intrigued. Previously unknown (to me) junior college guys with cool names, tons of strikeouts, and lots of walks always rank among my favorites.

38.1147 – OF Chaz Pal

Chaz Paul hit .363/.438/.583 with 49 BB/65 K in 424 AB over two seasons as a USC-Aiken Pacer. That’s all I’ve got. It does occur to me that Houston drafted both a Chuckie (Robinson) and a Chaz (Pal).

39.1177 – INF Tyler Wolfe

Tyler Wolfe, long a reliable defender at multiple infield spots, hit just enough as a senior to hear his name called on draft day. He then went on to split his time in the pros between second, third, and short with the vast majority of his work during his debut coming at the hot corner. He also managed to get two innings in on the mound. Considering they were good innings — two hits, one walk, and three whiffs — maybe the Astros ought to think about letting him give it a shot full-time.

40.1207 – RHP Lucas Williams

This is such a good story. Since I know about one in a hundred people actually click these links, here’s my favorite part…

“I was umping a 9-year-old game on the day of the draft, when my friend Brad Wilson (a former University of Central Missouri All-American baseball player) got my attention,” said Williams, a 2012 graduate of Grain Valley High School who starred on the mound for the Mules Division II World Series team this past season.

“He said my phone was buzzing and going crazy and I looked at it and found out I’d been drafted by the Houston Astros.”

So, what did Williams do?

“I had four more innings to ump in that game and another game after that – so I didn’t get to do a lot of celebrating.”

Don’t know much about Williams (8.40 K/9 and 2.80 BB/9 in 45.0 IP at Central Missouri) otherwise, but I’m rooting for him now. As a one-time terrible work-study intramural referee in college, we’ve got to stick together.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Tyler Buffett (Oklahoma State), Brian Howard (TCU), Avery Tuck (San Diego State), Johnny Ruiz (Miami), Elliott Barzilli (TCU), Darius Vines (?), Toby Handley (Stony Brook), Nick Slaughter (Houston)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – New York Mets

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by New York in 2016

35 – Justin Dunn
53 – Pete Alonso
62 – Blake Tiberi
69 – Anthony Kay
118 – Michael Paez
131 – Colby Woodmansee
199 – Gene Cone
210 – Colin Holderman
267 – Cameron Planck
325 – Matt Cleveland

Complete List of 2016 New York Draftees

1.19 – RHP Justin Dunn

With the way New York has identified and developed young pitching of late, Justin Dunn (35) going to the Mets has to be a little scary to the other four teams in the National League East. A weekend series against Syndergaard, deGrom, and (healthy) Harvey (or Wheeler/Matz/Gsellman) isn’t enough of a challenge, so let’s add a first round arm into the mix to add an extra layer of fun. MLB awards extra wins based on degree of difficulty, right? A quick timeline of Dunn notes starting way back in December 2014…

There are some interesting pitchers to monitor including strong senior sign candidate RHP John Gorman and statistical favorite JR LHP Jesse Adams, but the best two arms on the staff from where I’m sitting are both 2016 prospects (SO RHPs Justin Dunn [huge fan of his] and Mike King).

Then a year later from December 2015…

JR RHP Justin Dunn has the chance to have the kind of big junior season that puts him in the top five round conversation this June. Like Adams and Nicklas, Dunn’s size might be a turn-off for some teams. Unlike those guys, it figures to be easier to overlook because of a potent fastball/breaking ball one-two punch. Though he’s matured as a pitcher in many ways since enrolling at BC, he’s still a little rough around the edges with respect to both his command and control. His arm speed (consistently 90-94, up to 96) and that aforementioned low-80s slider are what put him in the early round mix. If he can continue to make strides with his command and control and gain a little consistency with a third pitch (he’s shown both a CB and a CU already, but both need work), then he’ll really rise.

And finally a couple months before the big day from April 2016…

I came very close to putting Justin Dunn in the top spot [in the ACC]. If he continues to show that he can hold up as a starting pitcher, then there’s a chance he winds up as the best pitching prospect in this conference by June. I’d love to see a better changeup between now and then as well.

We may not have quite gotten that consistent changeup, but Dunn’s electric fastball and wipeout slider were more than enough to overlook the present lack of a still potentially average third pitch. Eventually, it’s easy to envision him figuring out something soft — probably that change, though I can’t quite give up on his curve — because he’s just too damn athletic, too damn smart, and too damn hard working not to. Sonny Gray may be a bit of a tired comp in general (check my archives for a bunch of comparison to Gray if so inclined), but it’s not one I’ve heard connected to Dunn specifically. I think it fits.

1.31 – LHP Anthony Kay

On Anthony Kay (69) from March 2016…

Much as I like him, I don’t necessarily view Anthony Kay as a first round arm. However, the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value for whatever team gives him a shot. He’s a relatively high-floor future big league starter who can throw four pitches for strikes but lacks that one true put-away offering. Maybe continued refinement of his low-80s changeup or his 78-84 slider gets him there, but for now it’s more of a steady yet unspectacular back of the rotation. Nathan Kirby (pick 40 last year) seems like a reasonable draft ceiling for him, though there are some similarities in Kay’s profile to Marco Gonzales, who went 19th in his draft year. I like Kay for his relative certainty depending on what a team does before selecting him; his high-floor makes him an interesting way to diversity the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.

Apparently the Mets took me literally when I said that “the second he falls past the first thirty or so picks he’ll represent immediate value” as they took Kay with the thirty-first pick in the draft. Or maybe not considering I mentioned Kay as a potential hedge pick that would allow his drafting team the opportunity to “diversify the draft portfolio of a team that otherwise likes to gamble on boom/bust upside plays.” New York going with college guys with every pick in the top ten rounds — though, to be fair, their overslot high school pitching picks in rounds eleven and twelve were pretty slick — hardly makes them one of the draft’s most daring teams.

As for Kay the prospect, the Mets got a potential mid-rotation arm if everything works out just right. So far, everything hasn’t worked just right. Kay underwent Tommy John surgery in early October and figures to miss the entire 2017 season as he recovers. That delay to start his career will make him 23-years-old before ever throwing a professional pitch. That’s less than ideal, but hardly a deal-breaker for him as a prospect. He was a bit ahead of my time so I can’t really speak to the specifics of the comp, but I’ve heard Kay compared to a shorter version of Frank Viola. The very same Viola who is the Mets AAA pitching coach. That’s fun. I’m not saying Kay will get healthy, see his stuff return to 2016 levels (90-95 FB, above-average to plus 82-86 CU, vastly improved 77-81 CB), and start 420 games in the big leagues (and win a Cy Young and go to three All-Star games and average 189 IP/season and go on to successful post-playing coaching career and…), but, hey, you never know, right?

2.64 – 1B Pete Alonso

On Pete Alonso (53) from April 2016…

All the guy does is hit. Working against him is his handedness: nobody gets excited for a righthanded hitting prospect limited to first base, fair or not. Working for him is everybody’s desire – think it peaked last year, but I still hear about it from time to time – to find the next Paul Goldschmidt. Alonso isn’t the runner or athlete that Goldschmidt has proven to be nor is it likely he’ll ever hit like the Arizona superstar. It’s still nice that we now live in a baseball universe where Goldschmidt has made it cool to be a righthanded hitting power bat again.

Seriously, that Goldschmidt thing is real. I don’t talk to everybody and my scene is typically lower-level baseball types when I do, but so many have told me that they’ve been told that the “next Goldschmidt is out there” and that it’s their job to find him. They don’t say (as far as I know) the next Trout or Harper or Kershaw or Machado or Lindor or Bryant or Votto or any other player; it’s always the next Goldschmidt. I figure it’s 98% because Goldschmidt, eighth round pick in 2009, has become the current poster boy for later round draft success with maybe a little bit of that righthanded power making him a unicorn of sorts. Whatever the case is, it never fails to crack me up. I keep picturing this guy…

…demanding BRING ME GOLDSCHMIDT.

Ready to get weird?

.334/.408/.638 with 22.4 K% and 10.9 BB% (165 wRC+)
.321/.382/.587 with 17.9 K% and 8.9 BB% (184 wRC+)

Top was Goldschmidt’s debut, bottom was Alonso’s. This means nothing, but it’s fun. Goldschmidt then went to A+ for his first full season and then split his second full year between AA and the big leagues. That puts Alonso’s MLB ETA at mid-2018. This also means nothing, but it’s fun. What means something (to me, the Mets, and presumably you since you’re reading this) is that Alonso is a really good looking hitting prospect. The silly comparison to Goldschmidt does him no favors, but if it helps Alonso get a little more deserved attention as a prospect then it serves a purpose. Again, Alonso is a really good looking hitting prospect. He’s got big league regular upside at first base, a ceiling not to be taken lightly considering the offensive bar at the position. The Mets could have themselves a great problem to figure out sooner rather than later with Alonso joining Dominic Smith on the short list of best first base prospects in all of baseball.

3.100 – 3B Blake Tiberi

Seeing Blake Tiberi (62) struggle in his pro debut turned my world upside down. If there was one thing I was sure about in this draft class — fine, this is crazy hyperbole: the truth is I wasn’t sure about anything, but that doesn’t pack the same narrative punch — it was that Blake Tiberi could hit. In terms of straight hit tool, I’d put his up against any college hitter in this class. That top tier for me would include guys like Jameson Fisher, Cavan Biggio, and Boomer White. On the high school side, top hit tools would go to names like Moniak, Jones, Rutherford, Rizzo, and unsigned Mets twentieth rounder Cortes. Not a bad group of hitters to be a part of if you’re Tiberi.

The young infielder from Louisville’s ability to make consistent hard contact on pitches thrown up, down, in, and out excited me every time I saw him play. I stand by the plus hit tool, an opinion I came to with information beyond my own eye test, even after his disappointing pro debut. Tiberi can flat hit. I also like his athleticism far more than most and think his long-term defensive home at the hot corner isn’t really a question. My one concern is the potential for Tiberi to be a little one-dimensional as an offensive player. Guys who have to rely on hitting for a high average aren’t typically the safest prospect bets. You need to see some plate discipline, some power, and some speed in addition to a high-contact approach. Thankfully, Tiberi has always been a patient hitter, but his power and speed are both average at best. I can live with a big contact/good approach bat even without all the power/speed typically found at the third base spot, but your mileage might vary. Everybody has their own preferred player archetypes, and Tiberi’s strengths are enough for me to forgive some of his weaknesses.

One interesting name that came up as a possible comp for Tiberi was Danny Valencia. It’s not perfect — what comp is? — but I don’t hate it.

4.130 – SS Michael Paez

I wrote about Michael Paez (118) quite a bit over the past year, but we’ll try the rare short and sweet approach and just focus on this particularly salient passage from February 2016…

Paez was my preferred First Team All-Prospect college player from two weeks ago for a reason. My indirect comp for him — more about how I perceive him as a prospect than a tools/physical comparison — was Blake Trahan, a third round pick of Cincinnati last season. I don’t know that he’ll rise that high in the eyes of the teams doing the picking in June, but there’s nothing in his prospect profile to suggest he doesn’t have a chance to finish around the same range (early second round) on my final big board. In a draft severely lacking in two-way college shortstops, he’s as good as it gets.

Upon further review, the Coastal Carolina middle infielder fits in best as a second baseman in pro ball if he’s good enough offensively to project for regularly duty down the line. If he doesn’t hack it with the bat to play everyday, then a utility future that includes plenty of time at shortstop seems within reach. That’s a sneaky way of saying pro guys all said he’s a definite second baseman going forward while still hedging my bets that the amateur evaluation — including what I’ve seen with my own eyes — can keep him at short some. At the plate, there’s no real sugarcoating his rocky debut. Still, the hitter who tore it up as a sophomore at Coastal Carolina (.326/.436/.526 with 29 BB/23 K and 19/23 SB) is in there somewhere. I believe in Paez as a hitter and think we’ll see the “good” version of him in 2017 and beyond. I can’t say I’m quite as excited about Paez as I was back in February, but I’m still pretty pumped about his pro future.

5.160 – SS Colby Woodmansee

On Colby Woodmansee (131) from April 2016…

Those who prefer Colby Woodmansee to Ice as the Pac-12’s best position player prospect have an equally strong case. Like Ice, Woodmansee is a near-lock to remain at a premium defensive position in the pros with enough offensive upside to profile as a potential impact player at maturation. Early on the process there were some who questioned Woodmansee’s long-term defensive outlook – shortstops who are 6-3, 200 pounds tend to unfairly get mentally moved off the position to third, a weird bit of biased thinking that I’ve been guilty of in the past – but his arm strength, hands, and first-step quickness all should allow him to remain at his college spot for the foreseeable future. Offensively there may not be one particular thing he does great, but what he does well is more than enough. Woodmansee has average to above-average raw power and speed, lots of bat speed and athleticism, and solid plate discipline. For the exact opposite reason why I think Ice and others like him might slip some on draft day, the all-around average to above-average skill set of Woodmansee at shortstop, a position as shallow as any in this draft, should help him go off the board earlier than most might think.

I may not be in love with Woodmansee as a prospect, but I like the idea of him and the idea of taking a player like him in the fifth round a whole heck of a lot. Does that make sense? As a prospect, my instincts are pointing me away from Woodmansee. Questions about his approach and functional power loom large. Still, the idea of him is intriguing. Woodmansee is an experienced college bat from a major program coming off back-to-back strong offensive seasons. On top of that, his defense at short has steadily improved to the point of no longer being much of a concern at all. Sounds pretty good, right? Then you think about getting a prospect like that with the safety net of a toolsy utility infielder with strong defensive skills at every infield spot in the fifth round, and the whole thing really begins to sound good. I could see Woodmansee underperforming in the strictest sense of the term based on his raw ability and tool set, but still having a long, successful career where he does good things in a variety of roles (starter, backup, something in between) over the years. Does that make sense? I have no idea.

It’s fun to imagine a future Mets infield filled entirely with top five round 2016 draft prospects: 1B Pete Alonso, 2B Michael Paez, 3B Blake Tiberi, and SS Colby Woodmansee. Apologies to Dominic Smith, Gavin Cecchini, David Thompson, and, most of all, Amed Rosario. Hey, that’s not a bad infield, either. Look at the Mets building some depth in a hurry here.

6.190 – RHP Chris Viall

On Chris Viall from April 2016…

Chris Viall seems like another reliever all the way. With lots of heat (up to 96-97) and intimidating size (6-9, 230 pounds), he could be a good one.

Jury is still out on Viall ever being able to find a way to command his awesome stuff. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, his control is more than a little spotty as well. Check his 2016 numbers…

11.35 K/9 – 7.43 BB/9 – 23.1 IP – 5.09 ERA
12.15 K/9 – 7.65 BB/9 – 20.0 IP – 6.75 ERA

Top was Viall at Stanford in the spring, bottom was Viall at Kingsport in the summer. If big, scary, hard-thrower with no real idea where the ball is going is what Viall is going for, then he’s absolutely nailing it. This felt early to me, but if the Mets and their pitching brain trust deemed Viall “fixable” then…

7.220 – RHP Austin McGeorge

One round after Chris Viall comes Austin McGeorge, a pitcher who couldn’t be more different than the wild 6-9, 230 pounder from Stanford. Despite sharing a California college past and a more relevant appreciation from the New York front office, the Long Beach State product McGeorge does thing very differently than Viall. From a few weeks ahead of the draft…

Austin McGeorge is one of the better arms that nobody seems to be talking about. He’s got enough stuff – not great, but enough at 88-92 with an average or better low-80s slider – that a team that emphasizes performance (13.89 K/9) should take him sooner than the majority might expect.

McGeorge’s sinker/slider combination should allow him to keep missing bats and getting ground ball outs as he climbs the ladder. I’m bullish on McGeorge as a long-term big league reliever. Slick pick here by the Mets brass.

8.250 – LHP Placido Torres

A 23-year-old from Tusculum College? That was my first reaction to this one. Can’t say I knew much about Placido Torres before the Mets took the plunge here in the eighth round, but something about his age and college struck me as odd. Of course, a tiny bit of digging shows the strong NYC connection between Torres and the Mets. Torres played ball both at North Brunswick Township HS in New Jersey and ASA College in New York City before finding his way to D-II Tusculum College in Greenville, Tennessee. Local ties weren’t all that drew the Mets to Torres; the diminutive lefthander’s dominant two years at Tusculum (12.16 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, and 1.43 ERA in 201.1 IP) probably had a little something to do with his selection. His senior year was particularly impressive, especially in how Torres ripped through innings in his final season as a Pioneer. Check this out: 14 GS, 7 CG, 116.0 IP. Quick math on that says that Torres pitched just a hair under 8.1 IP per start. I don’t care about the level of competition, that’s unheard of in 2016.

Of course, local ties and crazy D-II numbers weren’t all that drew the Mets to Torres. I mean, that would have been enough for me, but there’s a reason I’m not in a draft room. On top of the cool story and workhorse stats, Torres has a good fastball/slider combo that should keep him hanging around pro ball long enough to potentially pitch his way to the big leagues. His stuff isn’t so loud that he’ll get any special treatment, so it stands to reason he’ll always have to be a guy who puts up really big numbers to keep getting noticed. I wouldn’t put it past him to keep doing just that.

9.280 – RHP Colin Holderman

“Great athlete, two-way star, love him” were the quick post-draft notes I jotted down after New York’s selection of Colin Holderman (210) in the ninth round. His pro debut wasn’t all that (6.27 K/9 and 5.30 BB/9 in 18.2 IP at Kingsport), but I still believe. Holderman has great size (6-6, 220), awesome athleticism, and a big fastball (88-94, 95 peak) with flashes of really promising secondary stuff (low-80s SL and CU). I’m in way too deep with this draft stuff to call any top 500 prospect and/or top ten round pick a sleeper, but Holderman is a definite name to know as a future breakout prospect in an increasingly impressive minor league system. In the words of one brilliant internet prospect guy, Holderman is a “great athlete, two-way star, love him” or something like that.

10.310 – OF Gene Cone

The fatal flaw of Gene Cone’s (199) offensive game (lack of pop) was far too easily ignored during the 2016 college season by the draft expert currently writing this sentence you are now in turn currently reading. I like so much about Cone’s overall profile — tons of contact and patience that makes him a natural future leadoff hitter, good athleticism, solid speed — that his power deficiency was overlooked when putting together the pre-draft rankings. There’s still some backup outfielder upside here thanks to his aforementioned strengths — though it’s worth noting he’s not a defensive standout in center — but that’s about it.

11.340 – RHP Cameron Planck

This is making the system work for you. Quibble if you must about some of the specific players selected by the Mets in the top ten rounds, but the clear plan of saving money to spend big on overslot falling prep talent in the immediate rounds that followed is exactly how the modern draft game should be played. I mean, you could argue that the surprising surplus in bonus cash directly tied to damaged goods Anthony Kay’s artificially lowered bonus saved the Mets from gambling wrong on Cameron Planck (267) signing for less than the figure he floated pre-draft (maybe he would have eventually caved, who knows), but everything worked out in the end. Better to be lucky than good, I guess.

Planck wound up getting $1,000,001 to sign. That extra dollar intrigues me far more than it should. My admittedly limited amount of research turns up on stated reason for the extra dollar. If anybody else out there knows and is willing to help a guy sleep better at night, please share. Anyway, the bonus was large but it matches Planck’s upside on the mound. I can’t say with great certainty how he’ll turn out as a pro pitcher, but I will say a lot of the feedback I got on him this past spring (when many thought he was good, but not worth top three round money) was that three seasons at Louisville would have gotten him in the first round mix come 2019. Whenever you can get a future potential first round pick in the eleventh round, you do it. Planck’s current best offspeed pitch (inconsistent low-80s SL, flashes average or better at times), mechanics (inconsistent), and command (inconsistent…noticing a trend?) all paint a picture of a young pitcher with a lot to learn. You can’t teach his kind of size (6-4, 220) and velocity (90-94, 96 peak), so it’s easy to show a willingness to work with him on those inconsistencies all things considered. I think the upside here is more late-inning reliever than big league starting pitcher, but no matter the result of the pick, the process here deserves appreciation.

12.370 – RHP Matt Cleveland

All of the positive vibes from what the Mets did in round eleven carry over to their twelfth round selection, Matt Cleveland (325). How can you not like an overslot, athletic 6-5, 200 pound teenage righthander with a big sinking fastball (88-92, 94-95 peak) and some feel for a mid-70s breaking ball and low-80s changeup? It’s a very similar profile to Cam Planck’s right down to both prospects having similar on-field upside and little to no big picture draft downside.

13.400 – C Dan Rizzie

My shorthand notes on Dan Rizzie’s pro debut that were originally mean to be a placeholder only, but it’s the day before Thanksgiving as I write this so whatever let’s just get this thing done…

good: walks
bad: everything else

Sounds about right! I’ve liked Rizzie’s defense behind the plate for a long time now. From March 2015…

Xavier JR C Dan Rizzie is a pro-level defensive player with enough bat speed, patience, and pop to work himself into a really good backup catcher/workable starting catcher profile.

The “workable starting catcher” thing might have oversold Rizzie’s upside a tad, but I still think he can be a decent defense-first backup catcher in the big leagues if it all works out. Not the worst pick you can land in the thirteenth round.

14.430 – RHP Christian James

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Big bonus, good size, teenager, righthanded, quality velocity (88-93 in this case), underdeveloped secondary stuff…and on and on. First we had Planck, then we had Cleveland, and now the Mets grab Christian James for $100,000 in the fourteenth round. I’m into it. Not for nothing, but James had the best (small sample!) pro debut of any of the prep arms selected by the Mets in 2016. It may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it gives him a nice head start on his new teammates (and organizational competition) heading into his first minor league spring training.

15.460 – OF Jacob Zanon

Nothing here pre-draft on Jacob Zanon, but his .395/.463/.670 season at Lewis-Clark with 20 BB/18 K and 26/26 SB in 200 AB has got my attention. He kept controlling the zone as a pro (21 BB/25 K) and remained a very efficient base stealer (20/22 SB), but also showed off what has been said to be his fatal flaw as a hitter: a serious deficiency of power. That puts some pressure on his glove to continue to impress in center. If viewed as a legit up-the-middle defender (and I don’t see why that wouldn’t be the case as a plus runner with experience at the position), Zanon has a shot to keep moving through the system as a potential backup outfielder. Though his bat might be a little light, it’s worth remembering that defense, speed, and patience are skills valued by all thirty teams. I have a nice instinctual feeling about Zanon making a little noise in pro ball.

16.490 – RHP Trent Johnson

I like this pick a lot. You’ll read plenty below about how much value I put on on any high school draft pick signed after round ten. The principle remains the same for Johnson. The big righthander isn’t a high school prospect, but the sophomore junior college righthander still has plenty of projection left in his 6-5, 185 pound frame. His time at Santa Fe JC went well (8.15 K/9 and 1.92 BB/9), so you’re getting a little bit more of an established hurler than your typical prep arm. Feels like a win-win for the Mets here. Johnson was the first of three Santa Fe JC pitchers drafted this past year and the only one to sign with a pro club. Troy Bacon is sticking around another year and David Lee is off to Florida. Should be fun to track how the three former teammates on distinctly different paths do in the seasons to come.

17.520 – 3B Jay Jabs

It’s a big jump from Franklin Pierce to pro ball, apparently. Jabs went from straight mashing against the likes of Southern New Hampshire, Central Missouri, and Nova Southeastern before getting the reality check that is professional baseball in Brooklyn. Rough debut or not, Jabs is still a talented guy (decent pop, big arm, plus speed) with a track record of hitting (.352/.466/.638 with 43 BB/32 K and 16/21 SB in 213 AB at Franklin Pierce) and some defensive versatility. On that last point, it’s worth noting that he played almost exclusively in the outfield rather than his college position of third base in the pros.

18.550 – RHP Adam Atkins

Love this one. Anytime you can land a college reliever coming off a season as dominant as what Adam Atkins did in his senior year, you have to do it. The Louisiana Tech grad outclassed the competition as a senior to the tune of a 1.10 ERA in 41.0 IP. Even better, he struck out 11.63 batters per nine while limiting free passes (2.20 BB/9). The 6-3, 210 pound righthander did it all with a really good fastball (88-92, 93 peak) that looked even faster than that due to his funky sidearm deceptive delivery. Hitters can know the fastball is coming and still swing through it thanks to how sneaky his mechanics. Toss in an impressive slider on top of that and you’ve got a high-probability mid-round future big league reliever.

19.580 – RHP Gary Cornish

Gary Cornish in Brooklyn: 15.84 K/9 and 1.08 BB/9 in 25.0 IP (2.16 ERA) with 56.9 GB%. Not too shabby. I’ve liked him as a senior-sign for quite some time…

Gary Cornish’s reputation for being a ground ball machine puts him on that very same list. His sinker, breaking ball, plus command, and track record of missing bats all up to a fine senior-sign candidate.

That sinker is typically an upper-80s MPH pitch, but Cornish was getting his fastball up to the low-90s (including rare 93-94 peaks) later in the spring. He’s a fastball-dependent arm, but when you’re able to command his brand of movement then you can make that work. So far I’d say he’s done just that. I like what the Mets like when it comes to college relievers.

21.640 – RHP Max Kuhns

Pro baseball now has a Max Kuhns to go along with the existing Max Kuhn. Fantastic. That won’t get confusing at all. Kuhns had a solid junior season at Santa Clara (8.19 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9) after two middling ones. That’s all I’ve got.

22.670 – OF Ian Strom

I thought Ian Strom was an ascending player in line for a huge junior season that could propel him into the top ten round draft conversation. Didn’t work out. Still, the good that led to such a feeling in the first place remains inside of Strom, so taking a chance on him even after the down year makes sense. I’m no longer feeling an offensive breakout, but his speed, arm, and center field defense could be enough to keep him employed for many a year. Zanon, Jabs, and Strom all strike me as similar players the Mets seemed to target in the mid-rounds. If you hit on one and get a cheap backup outfielder (or better if you’re a dreamer) for a few years, then that’s a win at this stage in the draft.

23.700 – 2B Nick Sergakis

One sentence about Nick Sergakis from April 2016 leads us into a tale of two prospect outlooks…

Nothing about Sergakis’s profile makes sense, but he deserves a load of credit for going from decent college player to actual draft prospect seemingly overnight.

(1) I stand by it. Sergakis has a shot to be one of those “out of nowhere” types who does just enough of all the little things well to scrap by level to level. I love this pick in the twenty-third round. Sergakis will never be a star (or even a starter), but a long career as a patient, pesky hitter off the bench known first and foremost for his outstanding glove work at multiple spots is very much on the table. Sure, he’s older but that just means he’s closer to the big leagues, right? A good year spanning a few different levels in 2017 (start in A+, move quickly to AA, then who knows) could put him on the short list of utility options for the Mets heading into the 2018 season. Not bad for a twenty-third round pick.

OR

(2) I just don’t see it. Sergakis was a great story and really does deserve credit for his great redshirt-senior season, but a big part of his recent successes can be traced back to him being a man (23-years-old) among boys. Just look at his three years at Ohio State…

2014: .318/.366/.404 – 8 BB/25 K – 3/7 SB – 151 AB
2015: .250/.352/.330 – 18 BB/44 K – 6/6 SB – 176 AB
2016: .332/.451/.542 – 36 BB/34 K – 15/17 SB – 238 AB

…and tell me which one is the wacky outlier based largely on being more experienced and physically mature than his competition? To go from a two year total of 26 BB/69 K to 36 BB/34 K as a senior is almost as surprising as bumping one’s ISO from .080 to .210. And Sergakis, for all the defensive praise, hasn’t really been tested at shortstop. How valuable is a potential utility infielder who can’t play short? No harm in taking a shot on a guy like this in a round like this, but also no need to get all excited, either.

Obviously, the Mets weighed all of the above when they made the decision to take Sergakis where they did. Is he as good a player as he looked as a 23-year-old at Ohio State? Probably not. Does that mean he’s not worth getting a closer look if the cost is only a mid-round pick? Apparently not.

24.730 – RHP Dariel Rivera

As I’ve said before and I’ll surely say again, any high school prospect you can sign past the tenth round is a good get in my book. Dariel Rivera is a righthander from Puerto Rico with plenty of projection left in his 6-3, 160 pound frame. He’s also starting off at a pretty good place with a fastball up to 90 MPH and an intriguing upper-70s breaking ball. Why not?

30.910 – RHP Eric Villanueva

The Mets stayed in Puerto Rico with the selection and signing of Eric Villanueva six rounds after getting Dariel Rivera’s name on the dotted line. There’s maybe a touch less projection and present velocity with Villanueva than Rivera, but it’s yet another worthy gamble at this stage in the draft. Remember, any high school prospect you can sign past the tenth round is a good get in my book. If you’ve read more than one draft review this offseason, I know you’re sick of hearing that by now. It’s true, though!

31.940 – OF Jeremy Wolf

Jeremy Wolf hit .408/.508/.741 with 35 BB/19 K in 201 AB as a senior at Division III Trinity. That’s clearly awesome, but it should be kept in mind he did so on a D-III championship team that hit .353/.429/.549 on the season. For his career, Wolf hit .367/.455/.577 with 105 BB/87 K in 679 AB. He also had three years of summer league wood bat action for teams to get a better feel for him as a hitter. The Mets clearly saw something they liked somewhere along the line and Wolf has made his signing scout look pretty smart so far. The sturdily built lefthanded bat has kept hitting in the pros (.290/.359/.448, 124 wRC+), so maybe there’s something here.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Wolfe played 99.3% of his debut innings at first base rather than the left field he was announced at on draft day. He does have experience roaming the outfield corners, so maybe he’ll return there at some point in the pros. It goes without saying, but being able to hang in left and right as well as first would greatly up his chances of maybe carving out a big league role down the line. I’ve heard from one Mets source who expressed some degree of confidence that Wolf could hit his way up the ladder with the end result being a quality lefthanded bench bat that can spot start against righthanded pitching.

36.1090 – RHP Garrison Bryant

Bonus points for the Mets getting Garrison Bryant drafted and signed out from under the nose of National League East division rival Philadelphia. Bryant, the best prospect out of Clearwater HS in quite some time, played his home games just two miles from Philadelphia’s spring training and instructional minor league complex. The Phillies loss is the Mets gain as Bryant is yet another prep righthander with projection left for the New York minor league staff to work their magic with. Incidentally, the best player to ever be drafted out of Clearwater HS is none other than Mets great Howard Johnson. That has to be a good sign for Bryant and the Mets, right?

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Rylan Thomas (Central Florida), Michael Chambers (Grayson CC), Carlos Cortes (South Carolina), Jaylon McLaughlin (Nevada), Branden Fryman (Samford), Duncan Pence (Tennessee), Joel Urena (?), Andrew Harbin (Kennesaw State), George Kirby (Elon), Alex Haynes (Walters State CC), William Sierra (?), Jordan Hand (Dallas Baptist), Anthony Herron (Missouri State), Cody Beckman (NC State)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Milwaukee Brewers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Milwaukee in 2016

8 – Corey Ray
16 – Lucas Erceg
31 – Braden Webb
44 – Corbin Burnes
140 – Mario Feliciano
180 – Zack Brown
249 – Francisco Thomas
257 – Trever Morrison
311 – Zach Clark
313 – Daniel Brown
397 – Chad McClanahan
465 – Payton Henry
470 – Trey York

Complete List of 2016 Milwaukee Brewers Draftees

1.5 – OF Corey Ray

I remember checking the early pro progress of Corey Ray (8) and being surprised both at his aggressive assignment (surprised AND delighted) and his struggles transitioning to pro ball (just surprised, maybe a little bummed). Checking back in at the end of the season gave me another surprise, but this one was once again on the positive side of the ledger: Ray’s season line (.247/.307/.385) might not look like much, but from where he started and within the context of the league (101 wRC+) it’s a pretty nice start to a pro career. The fleet-footed outfielder is now in line to start his first full season at AA with the chance for a big league cameo at some point during the 2017 season. What kind of player might he be when he does make that MLB debut? So glad you asked. From April 2016 (with updated college stat lines for Ray included)…

I really do like Corey Ray: he can run, he has pop, his approach has taken a major step forward, and he should be able to stick in center for at least the first few years of club control. I mean, you’d be a fool not to like him at this point. But liking him as a potential top ten pick and loving him as a legit 1-1 candidate are two very different things.

I don’t have much to add about all of the good that Ray brings to the field each game. If you’ve made your way here, you already know. Instead of rehashing Ray’s positives, let’s focus on some of his potential weaknesses. In all honesty, the knocks on Ray are fairly benign. His body is closer to maxed-out than most top amateur prospects. His base running success and long-term utility in center field may not always be there as said body thickens up and loses some athleticism. Earlier in the season Andrew Krause of Perfect Game (who is excellent, by the way) noted an unwillingness or inability to pull the ball with authority as often as some might like to see. Some might disagree that a young hitter can be too open to hitting it to all fields – my take: it’s generally a good thing, but, as we’ve all been taught at a young age, all things in moderation – but easy pull-side power will always be something scouts want to see. At times, it appeared Ray was almost fighting it. Finally, Ray’s improved plate discipline, while part of a larger trend in the right direction, could be a sample size and/or physical advantage thing more than a learned skill that can be expected each year going forward. Is he really the player who has drastically upped his BB% while knocking his K%? Or is just a hot hitter using his experience and intimidating presence – everybody knows and fears Corey Ray at the college level – to help goose the numbers? It should also pointed out that Ray’s gaudy start only ranks him seventh on the Louisville team in batting average, fourth in slugging, and ninth in on-base percentage. I’m not sure what that means, but it’s worth noting.

(I mentioned weaknesses I’ve heard, so I think it’s only fair to share my thoughts on what they mean for him going forward. I think he’s a center fielder at least until he hits thirty, so that’s a non-issue for me. The swing thing is interesting, but it’s not something I’m qualified to comment on at this time. And I think the truth about his plate discipline likely falls in between those two theories: I’d lean more towards the changes being real, though maybe not quite as real as they’ve looked on the stat sheet so far this year.)

So what do we have with Ray as we head into June? He’s the rare prospect to get the same comp from two separate sources this spring. Both D1Baseball and Baseball America have dropped a Ray Lankford comp on him. I’ve tried to top that, but I think it’s tough to beat, especially if you look at Lankford’s 162 game average: .272/.364/.477 with 23 HR, 25 SB, and 79 BB/148 K. Diamond Minds has some really cool old scouting reports on Lankford including a few gems from none other than Mike Rizzo if you are under thirty and don’t have as clear a picture of what type of player we’re talking about when we talk about a young Ray Lankford. One non-Lankford comparison that came to mind – besides the old BA comp of Jackie Bradley and alternatives at D1 that include Carlos Gonzalez and Curtis Granderson – was Charlie Blackmon. It’s not perfect and I admittedly went there in part because I saw Blackmon multiple teams at Georgia Tech, but Ray was a harder player than anticipated to find a good comparison for (must-haves: pop, speed, CF defense; bonus points: lefthanded hitter, similar short maxed-out athletic physique, past production similarities) than I initially thought. I think Blackmon hits a lot of the targets with the most notable difference being body type. Here’s a quick draft year comparison…

.396/.469/.564 – 20 BB/21 K – 25/30 SB – 250 AB
.319/.396/.562 – 35 BB/39 K – 44/52 SB – 260 AB

Top is Blackmon’s last year at Georgia Tech, bottom is Corey Ray (so far) in 2016. Here is Blackmon’s 162 game average to date: .287/.334/.435 with 16 HR, 29 SB, and 32 BB/98 K. Something in between Lankford (great physical comp) and Blackmon (better tools comp) could look like this: .280/.350/.450 with 18 HR, 27 SB, and 50 BB/120 K. That could be AJ Pollock at maturity. From his pre-draft report at Baseball America (I’d link to it but BA’s site is so bad that I have to log in and log out almost a half-dozen times any time I want to see old draft reports like this)…

Pollock stands out most for his athleticism and pure hitting ability from the right side. He has a simple approach, a quick bat and strong hands. Scouts do say he’ll have to stop cheating out on his front side and stay back more on pitches in pro ball…He projects as a 30 doubles/15 homers threat in the majors, and he’s a slightly above-average runner who has plus speed once he gets going. Pollock also has good instincts and a solid arm in center field.

Minus the part about the right side, that could easily fit for Ray. For good measure, here’s the Pollock (top) and Ray (bottom) draft year comparison…

.365/.445/.610 – 30 BB/24 K – 21/25 SB – 241 AB
.319/.396/.562 – 35 BB/39 K – 44/52 SB – 260 AB

Not too far off the mark. I’m coming around on Pollock as a potential big league peak comp for Ray. I think there are a lot of shared traits, assuming you’re as open to looking past the difference in handedness as I am. A friend offered Starling Marte, another righthanded bat, as an additional point of reference. I can dig it. Blackmon, Pollock, and Marte have each had above-average offensive seasons while showing the physical ability to man center field and swipe a bunch of bags. I also keep coming back to Odubel Herrera as a comparable talent, but I’m not sure I’m ready to go there just yet. He fits that overall profile, though. A well-rounded up-the-middle defender with above-average upside at the plate and on the bases who has the raw talent to put up a few star seasons in his peak: that’s the hope with Ray. The few red flags laid out above are enough to make that best case scenario less than a certainty than I’d want in a potential 1-1 pick, but his flaws aren’t so damning that the top ten (possibly top five) should be off the table.

I’d like to think that was a fairly comprehensive look at what kind of player I think Ray can be, but I’d still like to address two quick things before we move on. First, it’s worth acknowledging that there was some degree of pre-draft chatter about Ray’s ability to consistently hold his own against lefthanded pitching. Those in favor admit that it’ll take time while those opposed think he’ll always struggle against same-siders. So far, both look more right than wrong. Ray had his issues with lefthanded arms in his debut. An optimist might argue that this is just the opening serve in the “it’ll take time” long game. A pessimist might be ready to bust out the “told you so’s” already. We’ll see.

Second, much has been made about Ray’s long-term defensive home. I still think he’s too athletic, too fast, and too hard working to not wind up at least an average defender in center field. I’m intrigued at the thought that the ability to play center isn’t totally something that can be taught — you’re either born with the instincts or not, so all it takes is five minutes of watching a guy out there to know — and can admit that maybe Ray isn’t hard-wired to play the position, but, like the aforementioned issues with southpaws, we’re in “wait and see” mode until we know more. In fairness, concerns about Ray’s defense weren’t new. From his HS blurb on this very site: “plus range in corner, solid in CF.” You can quibble with the exact qualifiers, but the larger point that he’s long been viewed as more of a natural corner outfielder remains. Still, a guy with his quicks should really be able to make it work in center. Anyway, the reason I bring up his defense at all comes back to this maybe being one of the last times we can talk about it with any on-field relevance for a while. The Brewers acquisition of Lewis Brinson, a glider in center often described as a “natural” at the position (if having instincts is an either/or proposition that can’t be taught, Brinson is well taken care of), this past season should push Ray to a corner by the time he’s ready to make his mark on the big leagues. Funny how that has worked out so far.

I’m 100% ready for an outfield of Braun, Brinson, and Ray. Or, in the event of a trade, something like Ray, Brinson, and Trent Clark would be pretty damn nice too. Hard to say quite how that outfield would stack up in terms of on-field value a few years down the road, but in terms of sheer entertainment value it would be really tough to top.

2.46 – 3B Lucas Erceg

In many ways, Lucas Erceg (16) reminds me of the of second overall pick Nick Senzel. Maybe not Senzel exactly, but the store brand version of him. And not just any old store brand, either; maybe something like the Kirkland Signature version. We’re talking really high-quality stuff that’s almost as good as the real thing and only costs a fraction of the price. Connecting a line between Senzel and Erceg leads to my own speculation that the Brewers may have liked the Tennessee star with their first pick, but managed to fall into Senzel-Lite in the second round as Erceg slipped down the board. Can’t imagine too many front office staffers in Milwaukee were all that upset with the one-two punch of Corey Ray and Erceg at the top of their draft.

As for Erceg the draft prospect, well, he can really play. I had him as a mid-first round talent going into June and even that might wind up underselling his ceiling. The fact that I got lefthanded Josh Donaldson and Nolan Arenado comparison for him this spring should tell you something. Whether that’s DAMN this Erceg kid could be one special player or DAMN this Baseball Draft Reporter guy needs to stop listening to the voices in his head is entirely up to you. I obviously think Erceg can and will be a star — if you hate my comps, I’ll point you in the direction of Sam Monroy’s Matt Carpenter comp that I liked a lot as well — due to his impressive athleticism (enough to play short in a pinch), plus raw power, monster right arm, and ever-improving defense at the hot corner. A mature approach to hitting (love his two-strike approach specifically) is the cherry on top of that delicious toolsy sundae. With a recommitted focus on the game and a seriousness to putting in the work to be the best player he can be, the sky is the limit for Erceg. I’m all in.

2.75 – C Mario Feliciano

I went with a risk-averse ranking of Mario Feliciano (140) before the draft. Why? I don’t know. The track record of high school catchers doing anything in pro ball is fairly pitiful, so maybe that subconsciously seeped into my brain. In any event, I had a lot of nice things to say about Feliciano, the young man from Puerto Rico who one mealy-mouthed draft writer (me) said “might be the highest upside catcher in the HS class,” back in May 2016…

Mario Feliciano has huge power, a cannon for an arm, and legitimate questions about his ability to stick behind the plate. I err on the side of positivity when it comes to teenagers, but that’s a philosophy admittedly grounded more on silly youthful ideals than empirical evidence. In Feliciano’s case, there’s enough positive buzz that he can work his way to an average defensive future than not. His issues right now stem largely from inexperience at the position rather than inability to do the job. The fact that youth is firmly on his side – he’ll play his entire first full season at 18-years-old next year, assuming he signs – only adds to his appeal. Writing and then re-reading this paragraph alone has kind of sold me on Feliciano as a potential top three to five prep catcher in this class…and even that might be underselling him.

If any dynasty fantasy types happen to stumble across this, I’d recommend buying up all possible shares of Feliciano available. He has the power (plus raw), he has the arm (above-average to plus, plays down at times due to footwork slowing down his release), he has the makeup, he has the athleticism, he even has the speed (average-ish)…we could keep going if you want. On top of that, Feliciano has the time to get better. As of this writing, Feliciano has only been 18-years-old for three days. He held his own in his pro debut at just 17-years-old with a .265/.307/.359 (90 wRC+) line in the AZL.

Generally speaking, high school catching prospects are a terrible investment. There’s more than enough recent data on this site that demonstrates that idea. There’s a reason that only six prep catchers (two by the Brewers!) were selected in the draft’s first 450 picks. Teams are getting wise to the difficulties of moving a teenage catcher from crawling to sprinting. But draft trends, while helpful to a point, shouldn’t dictate the terms of a singular prospect’s evaluation. Factoring in the risk of a certain prospect demographic should be part of the big picture view of projecting an individual prospect’s future, not the basis for eliminating a player from the board altogether. In other words, long live Mario Feliciano, the great young hope for high school catchers everywhere.

3.82 – RHP Braden Webb

In my pre-draft notes on Braden Webb (31), I mention that his already strong low- to mid-80s changeup is a pitch that “keeps improving.” That simple phrase stood out to me as a fine way of describing Webb’s game as a whole. From May 2016…

Braden Webb doesn’t have the track record of many of his SEC peers, but the man does not lack for arm talent. Explosive heat (90-94, up to 96-97), an easy above-average to plus 73-79 curve, and a rapidly improving 80-85 change. All of the ingredients of a big league starting pitcher are here. Grabbing Webb at any point past round one would be a major coup for whatever team is lucky/smart enough to do so.

Webb is a really difficult guy to fairly rank considering his age (22 in April) and lack of a college track record (93.1 IP in just one year at South Carolina), but the three-pitch upside he shows at his best is really exciting. I think Milwaukee got themselves a steal here. Future mid-rotation arm with a chance for more; failing that, a potential shutdown closer.

4.111 – RHP Corbin Burnes

Though it wouldn’t have been my exact pick, it’s difficult to rightfully complain about Milwaukee getting Corey Ray with the fifth overall pick. Getting a mid-first round hitter like Lucas Erceg in the second round was nothing short of brilliant. I had Braden Webb as a late-first round talent. The Brewers got him in the third. And here we have Corbin Burnes (44), an early- to mid-second round prospect, on my board, available to the Brew Crew all the way down in round four. Toss in the super high upside of Mario Feliciano (also in round two), and you’ve got yourself one of, if not THE best first five picks by any one team in this year’s draft. I’m really digging the direction of this franchise.

On Burnes from March 2016…

The arms are the story in the West Coast Conference this year. What’s especially nice about the 2016 draft class is the variety: whether you like velocity, size, or polish, it’s all here. Of course, the best of the best seem to have a little bit of everything working for them. That would be Corbin Burnes. Velocity? How does a sinking 90-96 MPH fastball that has touched 98 sound? Size? A highly athletic 6-3, 200 pound frame ought to do it. Polish? Burnes, who just so happens to be one of the most adept pitchers at fielding his position in his class, can throw any of his four pitches for strikes including an average 80-86 slider (currently flashes better with above-average upside in time), an average or better 81-86 changeup, and a 76-78 curve that also will flash above-average. What Burnes lacks is consistent with what the rest of the pitchers at the top of this conference’s class seem to lack as well: a clear plus offspeed pitch. Missing one of those guys isn’t all that unusual at the amateur level, so it’s not wrong to weigh the overall package of secondary pitches instead. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I start to think Burnes has the all-around scouting profile to crack the draft’s first day.

As with Webb, the upside with Burnes is a damn fine mid-rotation arm that will show you flashes of better at times. Burnes is an excellent athlete with Gold Glove potential as a defender. Everything he throws moves — sinker/slider/splitter/bender — and he should continue to pile up ground ball outs as he progresses through the minor leagues. The Brewers were wonderfully aggressive with Burnes, giving him 28.2 innings in Low-A after a quick three game stint in rookie ball. I don’t know how aggressive the overarching plan for Burnes will be — or if Burnes will follow the timeline as he has so far — but the bold early decision by the Milwaukee front office should allow the big righthander from St. Mary’s a chance to see AA at some point in his first full pro season. That in turn could give him a shot at the big leagues as soon as 2018. That excites me.

5.141 – RHP Zack Brown

On Zack Brown (180) from March 2016…

Brown is a college righty with the three pitches to keep starting but questionable command that could necessitate a move to relief down the line. There are a lot of guys like him in every class, but I like Brown’s steady improvement across the board over the years as the tie-breaker.

Betting on Brown is a bet on a great athlete with a great arm figuring out a way to miss enough bats to start getting great results. For all his stuff — 90-94 sinking FB, up to 96; average or better low-80s CB; average mid-80s CU with upside — Brown’s best K/9 at Kentucky came in his sophomore season when he put up a pedestrian 6.87 figure. So far, the bet looks to be paying off for Milwaukee. Both Brown’s strikeout rate (7.99) and walk rate (2.35) were better than anything he had ever shown at Kentucky in his 38.1 inning pro debut. This makes Brown less of an outlier than maybe he ought to be; I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but from doing a lot of these draft reviews the past few months it sure seems that there a lot more college players putting up better results in the pros than at school than ever before. Maybe it shouldn’t come as such a surprise considering we know we’re dealing with unfinished talents who see their entire lifestyle change upon signing a pro contract, but it still weirds me out a little bit. It’s neither good nor bad; it’s just weird.

Anyway, a large part (33.0 IP) of Brown’s successful first season in the pros came in Low-A. All of my logic about Corbin Burnes’s timeline moving up ever so slightly due to the head start Milwaukee wisely gave their early round college players this year applies to Brown as well. He’s a little more likely to have to transition to the bullpen than his fellow college draftees Braden Webb and Burnes, though with three quality pitches and the uptick in pro peripherals so far, such a move is hardly a sure thing. I loved the mix of position player talent in the Milwaukee system heading into the draft (and loved it ever more after), but felt that the pitching, both in terms of star power and depth, was a little lacking. They may have to wait another draft or two to find those future stars, but with additions like Webb, Burnes, and Brown all in the first five rounds (to say nothing of what the Brewers have done over the past year or so via trade) there’s a whole lot more quality depth to be found scattered from top to bottom across the organization’s pitching depth chart.

6.171 – C Payton Henry

I’m still a little surprised that Payton Henry (465) signed, but BYU’s loss is Milwaukee’s gain. The burly catcher from Pleasant Grove HS in Utah has above-average raw power and a really strong arm capable of hitting the low-90s from the mound. Big picture, Milwaukee went bold to double-dip with high school catching this early. It’ll be interesting to see how it pays off for them in the long run. Like Mario Feliciano earlier, Henry held his own at the plate in the AZL (.256/.333/.341 and 98 wRC+ in 93 PA) as a teenager. Unlike Feliciano, Henry is old for his class (turned 19 just a few weeks after the draft) so time is slightly less on his side. It’s a relatively minor thing in the grand scheme of it all, but something worth considering as the two will likely be compared side-by-side as peers when Feliciano is really almost a full year and a half younger than Henry. The potential age and physical maturity gap could also play a role in separating the two as they both rise through the system. The pair managed to split starts behind the plate almost exactly evenly this year, but doing the same thing going forward would be a less than ideal course of development for all involved. Should be really fascinating to see how Milwaukee handles their dynamic catching duo in the years to come.

7.201 – LHP Daniel Brown

As a 5-10, 180 pound college reliever (signing a pro contract actually caused him to drop an inch down to 5-9), Daniel Brown (313) is what he’ll be. Chances are that’s a handy middle reliever or matchup lefty. That’s what lefthanders with solid heat (88-92, 94 peak) and consistent above-average cut-sliders (78-84) tend to be. I’ve also seen Brown mix in an impressive low-80s changeup and a softer curve, but both could go the wayside in pro ball; I’d personally keep the change, but that’s just me.

8.231 – SS Francisco Thomas

A rough 88 PA debut for Francisco Thomas (249) doesn’t change the evaluation on him; in fact, if anything, I think it makes more sense to at least try to find some of the positives out of his first season in pro ball rather than dwell on the negatives. A 14.8 BB% is nothing to sneeze at. And…well, that’s it. But seriously, the evaluation remains the same: good approach (which we’ve seen some of already), interesting righthanded power, average runner, and more than enough athleticism to stick on the left side for a long time to come.

9.261 – 2B Trey York

On Trey York (470) from March 2015…

JR 2B Trey York (East Tennessee State) got the nod as the top second baseman on the this list because of his game-changing speed and above-average or better glove work. I had no idea that the guy who hit .231/.305/.349 last season would start this year hitting .469/.532/.922. It’s only 64 AB, but I’d take hot hitting over cold hitting in any sample. I have a hunch he won’t keep slugging .900+ the rest of the way, though he’s been praised for being stronger with a swing built for more power than most college middle infield prospects in the past. Once the power surge ends you’ll still have a capable defender with plus to plus-plus speed and good size. There’s something work watching in York.

“There’s something work watching” is a thing I wrote. The perils of literally never proofreading this thing. York cooled down somewhat after that scorching start to his junior year to finish the season at .355/.437/.611. Then he did more of the same as a senior by hitting .348/.431/.648. The nicest difference between the two seasons were the improvements made to his approach: York went from 25 BB/44 K to 30 BB/35 K in that time. Then he hit .289/.393/.407 with 33 BB/42 K in 194 minor league at bats split between the AZL and the Florida State League. A more fair and balanced site might point that he only spent about 10% of his season in the FSL, but I’m clearly on Team York here so pretend you didn’t just read that part. Before my stupid “work watching” typo way back in early 2015, I said this: “Once the power surge ends you’ll still have a capable defender with plus to plus-plus speed and good size.” Add on an increasingly interesting approach and mounting evidence that supports the idea that some of his power is real (if nothing else, he’s got enough pop to keep pitchers honest), and you’ve got yourself a legit pro prospect. Not bad for a money-saving ninth round senior-sign from East Tennessee State.

10.291 – LHP Blake Fox

On Blake Fox from March 2016…

His teammate, the veteran Blake Fox, has been effective over the years despite not missing a ton of bats. The chance that he’ll begin to do so after making the switch to relief in the pros makes him an enticing mid- to late-round gamble.

Fox saw his K/9 leap from 5.59, 5.91, and 5.81 in his first three seasons at Rice all the way up to 8.11 as a senior. I could see him staying around that mark as a pro assuming he does in fact make the full-time switch to the bullpen. That would make him a unique four-pitch reliever with command and size. I could get behind rooting for a pitcher like that. If he sticks in the rotation, then we’re looking at a fifth starter/swingman at best. I’m all for letting him start as long as he proves capable, but sometimes fast-tracking a guy in the bullpen just makes the most sense. I think that’s the case with Fox.

11.321 – 3B Chad McClanahan

Chad McClanahan (397) is a no doubt about it (for the next few seasons anyway) third baseman defensively with solid power and decent wheels. Lefthanded thump from a 6-5, 200 pound physical specimen is always worth taking a shot on.

12.351 – SS Trever Morrison

Doing these draft reviews gives me a little perspective about my own ranking tendencies (or biases if you’d prefer). This year I was generally hard on shortstops, a sentiment that may have been rooted in an overall dissatisfaction with the talent level of the position group as a whole. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the site, I probably went too far downgrading the few up-the-middle infielders projected to a) actually stick defensively, and b) hit enough to be potential big league contributors.

For those precise reasons, I was expecting to see a much lower ranking for Trever Morrison (257) than what you see in the parentheses besides his name. That ranking puts him in the eighth/ninth/tenth round mix, a spot not too far off from his eventual twelfth round landing spot with Milwaukee; as such, I like the value Milwaukee got here quite a bit. Morrison’s hands, range, arm, foot speed, and reactions all more than qualify him for a shot to play above-average defense at shortstop going forward. That takes care of the first criterion (actually stick defensively up the middle) above. The second qualifier (bat) is where I have my doubts. Enough so, in fact, that my pre-draft ranking still feels a little higher than expected. A quick look back on some Morrison takes before the draft, first from March 2016…

Morrison came into the year known more for his glove than his bat, but the junior’s hot start had many upgrading his ceiling from utility guy to potential regular. He’s cooled off a bit since then, but his glove, arm, and speed all remain intriguing above-average tools. I think really good utility guy is a more appropriate ceiling for him at the moment, but there’s still a lot of season left to play. Morrison is a surprisingly divisive prospect among those I’ve talked to, so any guesses about his draft range would be nothing more than guesses.

And then from April 2016…

I like Morrison’s glove at short a lot and his physical gifts (above-average arm and speed) are impressive. I’m less sure about him hitting enough to profile as a regular than most.

Morrison is unique in that he’s a non-elite (by draft position) legitimate shortstop prospect who may not hit enough to play regularly. In this class, I’d peg the majority of the non-elite shortstop prospects as being more advanced offensively than defensively; their questions tend to be more about whether or not they have the goods to stick at short full-time than whether or not they can meaningfully contribute with the bat. I understand the bar is low for big league offense at shortstop, so maybe Morrison can get there. Questions about his approach and in-game power have me more bearish on that outcome than most. Still, a glove-first utility option with even a slight chance of starting — and I admit that Morrison’s is higher than that — is still excellent value at any point past the draft’s first handful of rounds.

13.381 – RHP Thomas Jankins

The pre-draft view on Thomas Jankins…

Thomas Jankins doesn’t have that velocity (he’s 88-90), but the confidence he has in his three offspeed pitches makes him a damn fine mid-round prospect.

Getting a guy with such an advanced idea on how to pitch, with a decent heater (Jankins upped his velo to the 88-92 range by the end of the season), and a history of getting outs on the ground in the thirteenth round qualifies as a win for me. I was surprised to see there have been only eight players named “Jenkins” in big league history. I was not surprised to see that we’ve yet to have our first “Jankins.” I think Thomas will be our first.

14.411 – C Gabriel Garcia

Pro ball is hard. I’m not sure anybody would argue that point, but the statement has almost become the punchline of a running joke here during these draft reviews. For every player who follows the Zack Brown path (see above), a dozen guys follow this pattern. Player tears up college ball, often at a lower level of competition. Player then struggles in his pro debut. Small samples are noted, conversation shifts to the prospect’s still promising future (tools!), and we all move on with our lives. It’s a decent bit, all in all.

Well, Gabriel Garcia has very rudely set out to ruin it. Garcia laughed at the notion that pro ball would be a challenge as he seamlessly went from .263/.387/.537 (31 BB/47 K) in junior college to .300/.393/.500 (17 BB/34 K) in the pros. That’s one heck of a transition; the man didn’t miss a darn beat. Garcia is young for his class, reasonably athletic, and a strong 6-3, 185 pound presence in the batter’s box. Some of the “scouty” things I’ve heard on him since the draft are mixed — love it when a fourteenth round pick can generate such divisive opinions — so I’ll be honest and say I really don’t know what to make of him just yet. Encouraging start is nice, though.

15.441 – RHP Scott Serigstad

Typical heat (88-92), above-average low- to mid-80s breaking ball, and stellar junior year production (10.03 K/9 and 1.09 ERA in 49.1 IP) was enough to get Scott Serigstad his shot in pro ball. He’s now one of hundreds of minor league relievers hoping to pitch well enough to keep surviving and advancing through the system. It may be hard to love this kind of profile, but it’s equally difficult for me to dislike it. Serigstad has a chance.

17.501 – 3B Weston Wilson

You wait and you wait and you wait and you wait for a player who has flashed big tools to finally put it together as a draft prospect only to roll into June of his junior season without ever having seen it happen. I won’t lie: it’s a bummer. But why? Why does a player not living up to expectations — expectations often created by outside observers (fans, media, internet draft dorks) disassociated with the deeply personal ebbs and flows of attempting to break into a high-profile profession in the public eye felt by the player — bum us out? The unfortunate answer is that it will make us look bad. We talk up a player and he disappoints, and we look like we don’t know what we were talking about in the first place. The in-between answer is that we are disappointed (sort of selfishly…and sort of not) in the loss for our game. Baseball is a great sport full of great players. We were hoping to see one more great player join our great sport, and are sad that it didn’t work out. Since we all share in our love of baseball, there’s some small degree of selflessness in wanting to improve the greater good at play here. So that one isn’t all bad. The best answer is the simplest: we’re all human beings. As human beings, seeing any individual fall short of achieving what has amounted to their life’s work to date isn’t a whole lot of fun.

I’ve waited a long time for Weston Wilson, a guy I thought had close to first round talent once upon a time, to break out as a draft prospect. There was this when he was back in high school…

3B/SS Weston Wilson (Wesleyan Christian Academy, North Carolina): really good defender; average speed; really intrigued by bat; easy frame to dream on, if he grows into it as hoped he could be a monster; FAVORITE; 6-4, 180 pounds

Every season I thought the big Wilson breakout was coming. Never really happened. Don’t get me wrong; Wilson was a really good college player who did a lot of positive things during his time with the Tigers. It’s just that we (fine, I) wanted more from a guy who had flashed such intriguing tools (above-average power, bat speed, athleticism) and defensive versatility (any infield spot in a pinch) at times. Part of this came from my usual brand of internet draft writer information accumulation, but my affection for Wilson ran deeper than that due to seeing him play in person more than a few times over the years. As an internet draft guy who prides himself on utilizing as many public and private sources as possible to paint the picture of what a player might be, I try my best not to let my amateur eye play too strong a role in my evaluations. Sometimes, as was the case with Wilson, my own eye (and ego) are too much to ignore. I loved Wilson and never really stopped believing, but…well, after a good but not great career at Clemson, I could understand why we’d arrived at a point where giving up on Wilson as a serious future big league player started to make sense. He fell off the top 500 and that was that. In my heart, however, he was the unofficial 501st prospect.

Then a funny thing happened in pro ball. Remember what I wrote about Gabriel Garcia three rounds ago? Weston Wilson managed to pull the same trick off. His junior year at Clemson was good (.279/.343/.434 with 26 BB/42 K), but not as impressive as his first 269 PA in pro ball (.318/.390/.498 with 23 BB/33 K). Maybe all it took for Wilson to break out was signing his name on a pro contract. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he could keep it up to some extent as he rises through the system. He’s a really talented guy. I’m thrilled that he can keep his dream alive for at least another couple seasons.

I should also point out that multiple players improving upon their college stats is a really good sign for both the decision-makers doing the drafting for Milwaukee and the on-field developmental staff. Players with tools beyond what the numbers had shown were identified and coaches worked their tails off to help the new hires maximize their abilities. This mini-trend would give me a lot of optimism if I was a fan of the Brewers.

18.531 – C Cooper Hummel

Cooper Hummel was the first of two Portland players drafted by the Brewers in 2016. Nice bat, nice glove, nice athlete. Nice player. This draft was packed with college catching.

19.561 – OF Zach Clark

Any mention of Zach Clark (311) has to start with the hobbies he listed on his bio page at Pearl River. Clark is a fan of kayak fishing, video games, music, hibachi, and coolin’. All apologies to ZWR, but I think I’d rather Go Coolin’ with Zach Clark. Anyway, Clark is one of the most fun boom/bust prospects in this draft. Or is he? As I’ve stated in a few draft reviews already, the traditional idea of a boom/bust type being the ultra-toolsy raw athletic prospect seems out of date to me. Clark’s speed, athleticism, and defensive value (the Brewers wisely made him a full-time outfielder this summer) put a reasonable floor as a speedy, athletic, valuable defensive backup. Funny how that works out. What makes Clark so exciting is the upside he’s flashed at the plate. It’s difficult to overstate how much development he’ll need to turn into an effective offensive force, but patience with him could lead to serious rewards. Here’s an incomplete list of top 2016 draft prospects that can match Clark’s power/speed mix: Delvin Perez, Josh Lowe, Will Benson, Buddy Reed, JB Woodman, Ronnie Dawson, Heath Quinn, Brandon Marsh, and Taylor Trammel. That’s not everybody, but it’s not a very long list. Finding a player with that kind of physical ability in the nineteenth round doesn’t happen every draft. Plus-plus speed, plus raw power, and a better feel for contact than many of the names on the list above give him close to a limitless ceiling. That sounds way more dramatic than intended, so take it more to mean that I personally do not know how to put a ceiling on Clark’s game. I’m sure somebody out there is more comfortable doing so than I am, but if everything works out for Clark then he would have a chance to be one of the better players in all of baseball. Maybe that’s his ceiling. I don’t know. There’s still a massive delta between Clark’s ceiling (superstar) and his realistic hopeful floor (fifth outfielder/pinch-runner), but I think there are more positive outcomes in-between to outweigh the chances he doesn’t make it. This may be my favorite singular pick in the entire draft.

21.621 – C Nathan Rodriguez

My only notes on Nathan Rodriguez go back to his high school days at El Dorado. He was a helium guy that year, as his once-questionable bat seemed to get better with every trip to the plate. That solidified him as a legit draft prospect, though his quality arm, above-average defensive tools, and solid power were probably enough for some teams already. His prep pre-draft ranking on this site put him between a pair of good looking 2017 catching prospects in Riley Adams (San Diego) and Handsome Monica (Louisiana). A .311/.395/.402 (24 BB/11 K) redshirt-freshman year line at Cypress College is just icing on the cake at this point. Rodriguez has many of the traits teams look for in long-time backup catchers with enough offensive promise (especially if his power starts showing up again) to maybe turn into a little more.

22.651 – LHP Cam Roegner

Cam Roegner is a lot of things. He’s a big (6-6, 210) lefthander from Bradley University. He’s a Tommy John surgery survivor. He’s a quality college pitcher (2.56 ERA as a redshirt-senior) with underwhelming peripherals (6.94 K/9 in 2014, 5.40 K/9 in 2015, 6.70 K/9 in 2016). He’s also capable of hitting 92 MPH (88-90 typically) with his fastball, so he’ll get his shot.

23.681 – 1B Ronnie Gideon

Ronnie Gideon had more extra base hits (17 HR and 20 2B) than singles (35) in his pro debut in Helena. That’s pretty good. It’s also good that his scouting reports — plus raw power — match the results so far. Nobody expects him to keep mashing as he did, but it’s more than just a small sample mirage. Gideon has serious power. From April 2016…

Gideon has the massive raw power and arm strength befitting a man his size (6-3, 240 pounds) who once made his bones as a catching prospect. I know next to nothing about his glove at third other than some scout rumblings that indicate he’s better than you’d think for a guy his size. That doesn’t mean he’s good (or bad) at third, just more nimble than one might expect.

It’s up to you whether you want to keep some of those notes about his defense stored away in the back of your head just in case or just throw it all away. I couldn’t fault you for either approach as Gideon played exclusively at first base in his debut. That doesn’t he’ll be a first baseman forever and always, but it’s a really strong hint about what the Brewers think about his long-term defensive home. Crazy as it might be, I think it could still work for Gideon. His power is no joke, he has a history of destroying lefthanded pitching, and he’s a quality defender at first. There’s tons of pressure on his bat, but I still think he could mash his way to a big league role one day.

24.711 – RHP Michael Gonzalez

“He’s probably looking at, I would say, anywhere between the 15th to 30th round,” said Mike Porzio, a scout with the Milwaukee Brewers and owner of The Clubhouse, Gonzalez’s current travel club in Fairfield. “He’s very appealing. One of his biggest assets is youth, so this is an exciting opportunity for Mike. He’s very projectable.”

And wouldn’t you know it, but Michael Gonzalez went almost perfectly smack dab in the middle of that 15th to 30th round “guess.” Porizio’s familiarity with Gonzalez could really pay off for Milwaukee. The young righthander from Connecticut can crank it up to 95 (88-93 typically). That boosted velocity is nice, but it has come at the cost of some control. If Gonzalez can continue to evolve as a pitcher, then the Brewers might be on to something with him. Time is certainly on his side.

25.741 – LHP Blake Lillis

Whatever you feel about the particular players picked, you have to love Milwaukee identifying two signable high school pitchers in back-to-back rounds at this point in the draft. Blake Lillis, a lefty best known for a nice changeup, joins Michael Gonzalez as another prep pitcher who should give the system some nice depth on the mound in the low-minors.

26.771 – SS Nick Roscetti

Nick Roscetti played both shortstop and third base in his professional debut. That makes sense as the infielder from Iowa has a legitimate plus arm — up to 92 MPH off the mound — and a steady glove wherever you put him. His defense will have to carry him, however, as I don’t see him hitting enough in the long run.

27.801 – OF Nick Cain

Nick Cain’s selection in the twenty-seventh round this year made him the first of three prospects from Faulkner to be drafted in 2016. That ups the total to 11 drafted Eagles since this site started in 2009. Pretty damn impressive for a NAIA school. Undrafted this past year was David Palenzuela, an infielder who hit .352/.455/.546 with 41 BB/18 K this past spring. BRB adding that name to my database ASAP.

Not to be outdone, Cain hit .351/.443/.722 with 33 BB/52 K and 20/20 SB in 205 AB. He’s got size, pop, and speed, all things that come in handy if you want to be a professional ballplayer. I think his ultra-aggressive approach could be his undoing, but we shall see. I can respect taking a shot on a power/speed 6-4, 215 pound outfielder even with some red flags.

28.831 – RHP Andrew Vernon

I’ve talked up Andrew Vernon multiple times since early 2015. The most recent example came a few days ahead of this past draft…

Andrew Vernon is legit. Good fastball, good slider, and great results. Love him as a mid- to late-round reliever.

Vernon kept missing bat (11.72 K/9) in the pros. It’s what he does. Future big league reliever. Great pick.

30.891 – RHP Dalton Brown

Dalton Brown is a large human with a low-90s fastball (up to 95) and quality breaking ball. He hasn’t pitched a whole lot over the years at Texas Tech, but he’s been pretty effective when on the mound. More relevant: 95 is 95. Velocity is king, don’t you forget it.

31.921 – 1B Ryan Aguilar

As a college senior first base prospect lacking big power selected in the thirty-first round, Ryan Aguilar shouldn’t register as much of a prospect. You see the name, you see his college stats (damn solid, but not otherworldly), and you move on. Or do you…

(Imagine a Lee Corso NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND photo that wouldn’t load here)

Aguilar spent most of his debut season split between the three outfield spots, but also saw time at his senior year position of first base. That presents an interesting conundrum for Milwaukee going forward. Aguilar is a fine defensive outfielder, especially in a corner, but his glove at first has a chance to be special. Choosing one spot for him now is probably a moot point as his future is as a utility player who will need reps at all four positions anyway, but it does raise the question: knowing what we think we know about positional adjustments, would you rather have a plus defender at first or a solid defender in an outfield corner? I’m sure we could make reasonable guesses as to what the better option would be using publicly available information (feels like something Fangraphs has well taken care of), but I like it better as one of those “unknowable” baseball questions of my youth. I think you can make a case for it as “unknowable” if you want to add in the potential offensive boost a player like Aquilar might get from playing a less physically stressful position. Fangraphs is great, but I have no idea how you’d even attempt to quantify that. Was it a coincidence that Aguilar broke out as a hitter in the very same college year he began playing first base consistently for the first time in his life? I have no idea!

So what does Aguilar have going for him besides his defensive value? Well, he showed some promise with the stick in 2016, he’s a solid runner, and a good all-around athlete. And, really, “besides his defensive value” downplays how important that element of his game truly is. Versatility is the key to getting playing time in the low-minors for many late-round picks. Playing time in the low-minors is the best way to eventually get playing time in the upper-minors. And playing time in the upper-minors can lead to…you know. I’m not calling Aguilar a future big league bench player — the odds are long, clearly — but he’s a better bet than many of the other players drafted this late.

32.951 – RHP Wilson Adams

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (cool name for a school, IMO) is still looking for its first big league player. Maybe it’ll be Wilson Adams. I mean, probably not but maybe! A 9.79 K/9 and 3.63 BB/9 in two years as a Charger — I was really hoping the school nickname was the Cerulean Tide or something, but alas — certainly help his case. Even better numbers in his pro debut (8.28 K/9 and 0.36 BB/9) don’t hurt. His stuff doesn’t scream future big league pitcher, but you never know.

33.981 – RHP Emerson Gibbs

I recently finished the Cleveland draft review. Maybe it’s recency bias or maybe it’s real, but Emerson Gibbs feels like a player who should have been picked by Cleveland. David Stearns only worked in Cleveland for eleven months and surely didn’t have any direct input into the selection of a thirty-third round pick, but I’m still going to stick with my newly created “Stearns’s Cleveland influence rubbing off on his new organization” narrative to explain this pick. If true, that’s a great thing for Milwaukee as Cleveland is one of my favorite drafting teams in all of baseball. And Gibbs is one of my favorite late-round college arms. Getting an experienced pitcher with legitimate plus control AND plus command this late is a major coup. Gibbs’s stuff won’t blow you away — 88-92 fastball with sink, average 77-82 knuckle-curve that will flash better, occasional change — but it is undeniably solid. Paired with his exquisite command/control and encouraging ground ball tendencies and you’ve really got something. I’m not sure what exactly — fifth starter maybe, middle reliever more likely — but it’s a big league something for me.

34.1011 – RHP Matt Smith

Like Emerson Gibbs one round earlier, Matt Smith is a low-90s command guy. He’s not as exciting as Gibbs, so he gets less words. I feel kind of bad about that, but I’m sure Matt Smith will be fine. My approval is not something he likely seeks.

35.1041 – RHP Chase Williams

And now for something totally different. After two command-oriented college righthanders, the Brewers take a stab on the live arm of Chase Williams from Wichita State. During the season this was written about the Shocker pitcher…

Chase Williams has a big arm (90-95 FB) with a good breaking ball and intriguing size. If he can show some measure of control, he could rise this spring.

A 7.05 BB/9 in 38.1 IP equated neither to a measure of control nor a rise during the spring. But a hard fastball, hard breaking ball, and plenty of size (6-5, 225) give Williams obvious appeal. He’s a project worth trying to fix in the low-minors.

36.1071 – RHP Parker Bean

Out with the command trend, in with the big guys with big stuff and small control phase of the Brewers draft. The selection of Parker Bean one round after Chase Williams makes this an official run — two picks in a row is a run, right? — on that size (X), stuff (X), and control (_) type. We speak a lot about diversifying your assets during the draft, and, despite taking the seemingly boring route of going with five straight college seniors (all righthanded, too!) in a row, Milwaukee deserves credit here for doing just that. Take enough command guys, maybe one shows enough stuff to make it work. Take enough stuff guys, maybe one shows enough control to make it work. That one could be Bean, though his BB/9 of 11.47 makes Williams look like Bart Colon. A 6-5, 225 pound righthander with athleticism, a fastball up to 95 (88-94 typically), and a pair of promising secondaries (77-83 cut-slider, changeup) and questionable control is a fine investment here. It’s worth noting that Bean’s BB/9 as a college player hasn’t always been a disaster. Going back from his junior year, it’s come in at 11.47, 6.38, and 2.42. If the Brewers can figure out whatever mojo Bean had going in his freshman season at Liberty (9.17 K/9 and 2.42 BB/9 in 52.0 IP), then this could be a major steal. This is one of my favorite picks of the entire draft for any team.

37.1101 – SS Jomar Cortes

Jomar Cortes is young for his class. He now plays baseball for a living. That’s all I’ve got.

38.1131 – OF Caleb Whalen

Caleb Whalen might be the son of a Brewers scout, but that alone wasn’t the reason why he was drafted this year. Nepotism certainly didn’t hurt, obviously, but neither does hitting .309/.399/.551 in your senior season. I don’t think the approach is enough for him to make it as an outfielder, his primary position in pro ball to date. I can’t love every late pick, right?

39.1161 – OF Jose Gomez

It’s not my business who you root for, but you should probably make some room in your heart to root for Jose Gomez. How couldn’t you pull for a 5-3, 184 pound NAIA outfielder taken in the second-to-last round? Gomez hit .383/.481/.523 with 29 BB/29 K and 17/21 SB in his junior season at St. Thomas. He then more than held his own in rookie ball (.280/.372/.348, 113 wRC+), though he was admittedly older than most of the competition. To my knowledge, there has never been a big league player with the name “Jose Gomez.” That’s shocking to me. And did I mention he’s listed at 5-3, 184 pounds?

I’ll sneak a future lineup for the Brewers in here just because I can. Milwaukee could have this core coming together within the next three years…

C – Susac
1B –
2B – Villar
SS – Arcia
3B – Erceg
LF – Braun
CF – Brinson
RF – Ray

With offensive players and prospects like Nottingham, Feliciano, Henry, Diaz, Thomas, Morrison, York, McClanahan, Gatewood, Santana, Broxton, Cordell, Phillips, T. Clark, Harrison, Walker, Coulter, Taylor, and Z. Clark almost all at AA or higher by then. Three year forecasts are bogus, I know, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun. Dream big, Brewers fans.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Kyle Serrano (Tennessee), Brennan Price (Felician), Jared Horn (California), Louis Crow (San Diego)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Colorado Rockies

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Colorado in 2016

2 – Riley Pint
49 – Robert Tyler
91 – Colton Welker
93 – Ben Bowden
163 – Brian Serven
254 – Garrett Hampson
310 – Willie Abreu
314 – Justin Calomeni
320 – Reid Humphreys
355 – Matt Dennis

Complete List of 2016 Colorado Rockies Draftees

1.4 – RHP Riley Pint

On Riley Pint (2) from April 2016…

There have been a lot of challengers to his throne this spring, but Pint’s raw stuff is still the most impressive of any high school arm in this class. He’s the only prep prospect that I’m confident in putting future plus grades on three different pitches. Jay Groome, Ian Anderson, Alex Speas, Austin Bergner, and Forrest Whitley all could get there, but Pint’s already convinced me. He’s the singular most talented pitching prospect in the country. So why is listed as a mid-first round pick and not a slam dunk 1-1 here? If you’re reading this on your own volition — and I certainly hope there’s no crazed lunatic out there forcing random people to visit my site; that’s my job! — then you already know. Pint’s delivery has many of the smarter public talent evaluators concerned about how he’ll hold up pitching every fifth day. I’m less concerned about that because I’m fairly stubborn in my belief that there’s no such thing as “bad mechanics” since the mere act of throwing a baseball is bad and unnatural by definition. I’m just looking for a guy with athleticism who can repeat whatever he is doing on the mound consistently with an open-mindedness to receiving instruction and a willingness to adjust aspects of his craft as needed. I think Pint fits that bill. The one knock on the fire-balling righthander that I think could have some merit is the concern over his risk of injury going forward. Again, this isn’t something that I’m crazy with concern about — pitchers get hurt, so you have to be ready for that inevitability with any pitching prospect — but the idea that Pint’s most obvious selling point (100 MPH!) could also be his biggest red flag (too much velocity too soon) intrigues the heck out of me. That’s straight out of Shakespeare or The Twilight Zone or something. Red flags or not, Pint’s arm talent is unmistakable. He’s well worth a shot here and likely a whole heck of a lot higher. He’d be on my shortlist at 1-1 if I had a say.

This from his pre-draft scouting blurb sums up my enthusiasm for Pint pretty well: “a high school righthander who throws 102 MPH is a terrifying investment, but what separates Pint from failed teenage flame throwers from the past is his present ability to throw two well above-average offspeed pitches fairly consistently and elite athleticism across the board.” Pint is extra exciting to me because he doesn’t need to throw triple-digit fastballs to be a premier pitching prospect and potential ace. Pint living in the mid- to upper-90s with his kind of offspeed stuff (tremendous spike-curve and downright filthy change) with his kind of athleticism is more than enough. I got a little (entirely imagined) heat for having high school pitchers as my top two draft prospects this year, but Jay Groome and Pint aren’t typical high school pitchers. Groome and Pint are crazy talented outliers with the chance to be long-term fixtures atop big league rotations for a long time. If Pint even approaches his ceiling, then the Rockies, an organization quietly building something pretty special, will find themselves in outstanding shape. I know projecting any team three seasons down the line is an exercise in futility, but it’s fun so whatever let’s do it…

C –
1B – McMahon
2B – Story
SS – Rodgers
3B – Arenado
LF – Dahl
CF –
RF – Tapia

SP – Gray
SP – Hoffman
SP – Freeland
SP – Bowden
SP – Marquez

Prospects like Serven, Murphy, Mundell, Wall, Welker, Nevin, Hampson, Abreu, Castellani, Castro, Tyler, and Nikorak can help fill in the gaps. There are potential assets in the meantime like Gonzalez, McGee, Blackmon, LeMahieu, and Ottavino that could bring in reinforcements along the way via trade or potentially be extended and become part of the new core. And then top it all off with a pitcher with arguably the highest upside of any teenager in organized ball as the potential ace tying it all together. I’m bullish on the Rockies and I’m bullish on Pint. That’s a potential World Series club core with a potential World Series Game One starter in the system ready to head up the rotation.

1.38 – RHP Robert Tyler

On Robert Tyler (49) from May 2016…

I didn’t intend for this to be an all comp all the time post, but I can’t get the Ryan Madson comparison (first noted by Keith Law) out of my head whenever I think about Tyler. I really want to believe in his breaking ball being good enough to let him be the starting pitcher that Madson never could be, but nobody I’ve spoken to seems to think he can stay in the rotation as a big leaguer. That won’t stop me from stubbornly continuing to believe Tyler, one of the youngest players in his class, won’t find a way to harness his spike-curve more effectively more often. He has the size, command, ability to hold his velocity, and smarts to make it as a starter. I’d be willing to spend a second round pick – maybe a late first depending on how the board breaks – to get him signed, sealed, delivered, and working with my pro staff (coaching and medical) to see firsthand whether or not a more consistent breaker is in that electric right arm of his.

Even after a disaster of a professional beginning (16 walks and 9 wild pitches in 7.0 innings), I think the obvious play is to continue to develop Tyler as a starter with the hope that pro instruction and repetition will lead to some improvement in his spike-curve and control. When that inevitably doesn’t work, then you can guide Tyler’s full-time transition to potential relief ace and speed up his big league timeline. His fastball/changeup combination in short bursts would be lethal. Tyler is a much higher variance college pitcher than one might expect to be picked in the draft’s top two rounds. Him being selected where he was despite his flaws is a testament to how good he’s looked when everything is clicking.

2.45 – LHP Ben Bowden

It could just be that I just wrote about the guy last Friday, but in my mind new Rockies farmhand Ben Bowden (93) will forever be linked to Florida reliever turned Boston maybe starter/maybe reliever Shaun Anderson. Both were SEC relievers on insanely deep college pitching staffs with the pure stuff to start, but no clear opportunity to do so consistently. The opportunity will be there for both in the pros, so it’ll be up to each as individuals to do what they can with their respective shots. Bowden has the requisite three (or four, depending on your view of his breaking ball[s]) pitches to give hitters multiple looks over the course of a single outing with the frame (6-4, 220), athleticism, and pedigree to make the conversion a smooth one. As with Anderson (and fellow SEC guy Robert Tyler), I think trying to make it work in the rotation makes the most short-term sense for Bowden. Also like those guys, I think there should be a relatively short leash with a clear understanding that winding up as a relief ace isn’t a demotion of any sort. Some pitchers see such a significant bump in stuff when able to go full-tilt for shorter outings that it makes sense to allow them to do what they are best at even if there’s more “value” (a tricky thing to truly assess when factors like leverage, strategical freedom, and good old fashioned peace of mind are brought into play) in having them throw more innings as a starter. If Bowden is mid-90s in relief and more 88-92ish as a starter, then there’s no shame in sticking him in the pen and giving yourself another option to deploy each night as needed. A young, cheap, dynamic bullpen filled with guys like Bowden, Tyler, Justin Calomeni, Reid Humphreys, and Matt Dennis would eliminate a lot of the managerial stress that comes with playing 81 games a year at Coors.

3.81 – SS Garrett Hampson

A whole bushel of words on Garrett Hampson (254) from March 2016…

Comparing almost any amateur prospect to [Kevin] Newman is tough (and possibly useless) because the crazy high hit tool bar set by the former Arizona star after a pair of otherworldly summers on the Cape should not be ignored. That should be reason enough not to use him as a comp two days in a row, but…we’ve now hit sentence number two where I don’t know how to finish. I’m stubborn, I guess. I liked but didn’t love Newman last year – ranked him 31st, drafted 19th – but his track record with wood makes him a bit of a prospect unicorn and, no matter your opinion about his long-term future, a comparison that really ought not to be thrown around lightly. I wouldn’t put Hampson’s straight hit tool up against Newman’s, but even at a notch below there are enough other general similarities that make the comparison work. Contextual comps for life. The closest match between the respective games of Hampson and Newman comes down to instincts in all phases. “Special” is the word most often used to describe the way Hampson’s instincts allow him to do things that his raw physical abilities might otherwise not. Like Newman, his arm might be a little light for the left side of the infield; also like Newman, his arm plays up thanks to his skill in turning a quick transfer from glove to throwing motion (hot baseball fan take: a quick release can make up for a lesser arm easier than the other way around) and general aptitude for being in the right place at the right time to get off any number of throws from funky angles that don’t always look pretty but find a way to first base.

Attempts at getting a consensus view on Hampson’s foot speed has me completely turned around. I’ve gotten plus-plus, plus, and average, and the split between plus and average is just about even. My hunch here is that we’re seeing the difference between when and where he’s being timed. On his own batted balls, I could see his times playing closer to average because that’s more representative of his raw ability. However on first to thirds, the combination of his reads, jumps, and hustle helps bump his times up just enough to hit closer to the plus range. This is all just a theory, mind you, and it still likely doesn’t explain the disparity between an average time and plus-plus (easiest explanation for that: scouts are human) spread of times, but the fact we see another example of one his tools playing up thanks to his feel for the game is noteworthy. Stuff like this is representative of the kind of player you’ll get with Hampson. He’s got a good looking swing geared for a lot of contact (my not a scout observation is that he’s one of those guys who can manipulate the bat so that the fat part stays in the zone a long time), playable speed and arm strength that you can round up due to his instincts, and impressive overall athleticism. I’d call him a high-floor/low-ceiling prospect, but I think that mischaracterizes the value of a starting big league shortstop; perhaps it goes without saying, but a utility player floor (best case) and average or so regular (again, best case) ceiling means something different at different positions on the diamond. Hampson won’t be a star, but the simple fact his ceiling could be a regular at short (or even second) gives him more value than his tools suggest.

As for the downside, we’ll refer back to old friend Kevin Newman. This is where I finished with him last year offensively…

Newman’s feel for hitting is special, but, as a guy who will always believe the hit tool is king, it pains me to admit a hit tool alone is not enough to equate to future impact regular. Pro pitchers attack hitters with minimal power differently than amateurs. In no way should all hitters be expected to come into pro ball with 20+ HR/season ability, but the threat of extra base power is needed to get the pitches and favorable hitting counts that lead to good things. It’s considerably more difficult to hit .300 with minimal power at the highest level than it is in college and in the lower-minors. I’m not bold enough to unequivocally say that Newman can’t do it, but the odds are stacked against him.

and this was the final amateur defensive verdict…

Though his superior instincts, first step quickness, and quick release all give him a shot to stick at the six-spot, his lackluster arm strength and limited range make him a better long-term fit at second base. Part of my thought process changing had to do with seeing more of him on the field (with two caveats: I’m a fan, not a scout, and it was video, not live), part of it had to do with hearing from trusted contacts who did see him up close a lot more than I could have hoped to, and part of it was my own evolving view of how important arm strength is for a shortstop. We’ve become so accustomed to thinking that third base is the infield position where the biggest arm is needed, but after focusing more closely on some of the throws that big league shortstops are asked to make deep into the hole as their momentum carries them away from their target, I’d argue that shortstop is where ideally your strongest arm would go. That’s not Newman, and I think that the rest of the industry will realize that sooner rather than later.

The question then becomes whether or not I think Hampson can succeed in the same way I think Newman will (solid regular at second) even with a lesser hit tool. I think I do, but no so strongly that I’d use a top hundred pick to see it through. Of course, there are also the additional questions about how closely remaining abilities – namely range, arm, and speed – compare to Newman’s. It’s my belief that he’s at least as strong in each of those areas as Newman, but reasonable minds can differ. Those tools added up give him a slightly better chance to succeed at shortstop in the pros, but the safest outcome is still average or so regular at second. Kind of like Kevin Newman.

There you have it. A lot of words to say that Hampson, who had a fantastic debut, is a fine player with a shot to be a good regular shortstop (early returns from both the scouting world and the attempts at minor league fielding metrics have been positive), an arguably clearer shot to be a good regular second baseman, but a clearest yet path to a long career as a sneaky high value utility infielder.

4.110 – 3B Colton Welker

I really like how Colorado diversified their draft portfolio early on. Their first five picks: high school pitcher, college pitcher, college pitcher, college infielder, and high school infielder. Said high school infielder is none other than Colton Welker (91), one of my pre-draft FAVORITES now in a fantastic position to flourish as a pro hitter. I think Welker is a good enough all-around hitter — real power, fine swing, mature approach — with impressive left side of the infield defensive tools to be an above-average potential regular at the hot corner. He reminds me a little bit of another old draft FAVORITE and fellow Miami commit David Thompson. I like this pick a lot.

5.140 – C Brian Serven

On Brian Serven (163) from April 2016…

Blessed with an arm both strong and accurate, Serven’s strong hands and plus mobility behind the plate make him a defensive weapon. Whether or not he’ll keep hitting enough to play regularly remains an open question for me – all I have on him offensively are his numbers and that he’s got average or better raw power – but the present defensive value is enough to last a long time in pro ball.

Serven is a fine example of what makes the draft process and talent evaluation as a whole so much darn fun. You can read elsewhere on the internet all about Serven being a potential bat-first catcher with serious defensive questions. Is that right? Is what I have right? All I can write about is what I personally see and hear firsthand. The truest way to know for sure if I’m right or wrong is to get out there and see Serven up close yourself. Or wait until a trusted pro prospect writer comes out with a report that makes sense to you. My quick evaluation of Serven is “backup catcher with a chance to add value defensively, but not a good enough hitter in any phase to play regularly.” That’s not a ceiling projection that knocks your socks off in the fifth round, but it fits when you look at position scarcity and the importance of getting your guy before it is too late. My top twelve college catchers and when they went off the board in parentheses…

Collins (1) – Thaiss (2) – Murphy (7) – Smith (3) – Ice (5) – Okey (4) – Martinez (9) – Lawrence (😢) – Cumberland (6) – Rogers (8) – Tinsley (13) – Serven (10)

In other words, Serven was just about the last man standing out of that group. The only other options that the Rockies had at that point from my top twelve were Lawrence (😢) and Tinsley. You could definitely argue that Colorado should have tried to get a different catcher earlier, but that’s the kind of draft butterfly effect type stuff that will drive you crazy if you let it. I lumped Serven in with names like Smith (high end of that spectrum), Rogers (middle), and Tinsley (middle-ish) as highly athletic catchers with strong defensive upside, and I think getting one such player like that was critical for Colorado in a draft they praised such a premium on collecting high upside yet volatile young pitching. I gently criticized the Braves for drafting a bat-first catcher in Cumberland in the same draft they also went with loads of pitching early, so it’s only right to give the Rockies credit for getting a potentially stabilizing force behind the dish in a similar situation. I may not love the player, but the thought process is there.

6.170 – OF Willie Abreu

I’m still concerned about Willie Abreu’s (310) propensity for swinging and missing, but his physical profile is top notch. How can you not see what the Rockies saw in him? One watch of Abreu and you see a guy who stands out physically from the rest. From October 2015…

Nick Banks gets a lot of deserved attention for being a potential early first round pick — somebody even once called him the “right field prototype,” if you can believe it — but Willie Abreu’s tool set is on the same shelf. There’s power, mobility, arm strength, and athleticism to profile as a damn fine regular if it all clicks.

And then again in December 2015…

I recently had a conversation with somebody (note: this chat may or may not have been with myself in the car while stuck in traffic one day) about OF Willie Abreu and his prodigious raw power. We went back and forth a bit about how he ranks in the power department judged against his collegiate peers before settling on the top ten with a case for top five. Of course, one of the names that is ahead of him on any list of amateur power is his teammate Zack Collins. I can’t imagine how it would feel to have easy plus raw lefthanded power and still come in second on your own team. I’m sure he doesn’t mind being teammates with a slugger equally feared — protection may be a myth, but it’s a fun one — and on a squad with designs on playing deep into June.

For all the talk about Abreu’s raw power, there is still some question about how much he’ll ever be able to utilize it in game action. His power numbers through two years are much closer to good than great and there’s the predictable swing-and-miss aspect to his game present, so there’s some pressure on him to put turn some of his raw ability into tangible skills in 2016. I’m bullish on him doing just that, but your mileage might vary.

Abreu hit for more power than ever in 2016, but kept on piling up the strikeouts. He’s still young enough to improve — a not so minor point that can and should be remembered about ALL of these prospects profiled in these draft reviews — but the track record suggests the style of hitter he is ain’t changing any time soon. You can still be a pretty good player even while striking out a ton, so the toolsy Abreu bears close watching going forward. For both scouting reasons and the strength of following an instinctual hunch, I’m cautiously optimistic that Abreu, despite being the antithesis of what I typically look for in a young hitter n terms of approach, puts it all together as a pro by maximizing his strengths and getting by with his weaknesses.

7.200 – RHP Reid Humphreys

I preferred Reid Humphreys (320) as a hitter, so feel free to disregard just about everything you’ll read ahead. As a pitcher, Humphreys is a good looking potential big league reliever. On his best days, his mid-90s fastball and above-average breaking ball combination give him the look of a future late-inning option. When he doesn’t have it clicking on the mound, he’s more of a low-90s type with an average at best breaker. His junior year peripherals at Mississippi State (11.83 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9) and increased time away from HS Tommy John surgery give some hope that the best of Humphreys on the mound is yet to come.

8.230 – LHP Ty Culbreth

I get needing to save some dough with a senior-sign here, but not sure I’ve seen what Colorado evidently sees in Ty Culbreth. The little lefthander from Texas was a really good college pitcher and a legitimate late-round draft prospect, but the absolutely best case scenario here is last man in the bullpen matchup lefty. There’s really not a ton of room in pro ball for upper-80s pitchers with solid but not spectacular offspeed stuff.

9.260 – RHP Justin Calomeni

On Justin Calomeni (314) from March 2016…

Calomeni complements his heater with an impressive sinking changeup and a low- to mid-80s slider with plus upside. His track record through two and a half college seasons is unimpeachable. I like him a lot as one of those mid-round relievers who winds up “coming out of nowhere” developmentally to pitch in the big leagues for ten years.

Love this pick for Colorado. Calomeni has a big fastball (up to 97) to go with that aforementioned slider and changeup. I think he can ride the fastball and slider all the way to a late-inning big league role.

10.290 – OF Vince Fernandez

On Vince Fernandez (and a larger attempted point about scouting a hitter’s approach) from March 2016…

On the other hand, Vince Fernandez has long been a FAVORITE despite a questionable at best approach. That’s begun to catch up with him some on these rankings – no shame in being ranked tenth, but if we were talking sheer physical ability he’d be top three – and it’s officially fair to wonder if he’s ever going to be the kind of hitter I once thought he could be. That alone obviously wouldn’t disqualify him from a long, prosperous professional career, though his stalled development has to be a cause for concern even for those who are more willing than myself to believe he’ll figure things out as a hitter. For what it’s worth, Fernandez has gotten a steady stream of compliments about his approach over the years; it’s exactly that type of positive feedback (combined with average to above-average raw power, above-average speed, and considerable bat speed, all of which are no small things) that made him a FAVORITE in the first place. We’ve seen the scouts – we’ll pretend that my presentation here of THE SCOUTS somehow equates to a monolithic being with one set opinion on each player across the country with no room for dissenting opinions – hit big on many of the position players in this class with notes that read “good approach” and BB/K ratios coming into the year that would have you believe scouting is a big old waste of time. The most famous example of this is Kyle Lewis. Fernandez hasn’t been able to join the “hey these scouts might know what they are talking about after all and sometimes a player can improve in incremental ways that aren’t really reflected in the numbers until BOOM one day it clicks and they are” group just yet, but the overarching success of players like him gives me some hope it could still happen. Kyle Lewis being able to do this really ought to have no impact on whether or not Vince Fernandez can do something similar, but the fact that it can and does happen is enough to keep hope alive for him. There’s still a lot of season left…and potentially a senior season if it comes to it.

Fernandez did wind up improving his plate discipline indicators somewhat from 2015 (23 BB/63 K) to 2016 (30 BB/58 K), but the drastic jump in walks and decline in whiffs that a guy like Kyle Lewis experienced didn’t quite work out for Fernandez. That doesn’t mean the former UC Riverside star isn’t a good prospect. Success comes in many shapes and sizes, and Fernandez has a well-rounded corner outfield profile (average to above-average power, speed, and arm strength) that makes him an interesting prospect even if he’s going to be a hacker in the pros.

11.320 – RHP Bryan Baker

Bryan Baker brings a big body (6-6, 225) and a potent fastball (88-94, 96-97 peak) to the mound. I’ll be long dead before teams stop overdrafting size and velocity. Still, Baker is a decent relief gamble here.

12.350 – RHP Brandon Gold

On Brandon Gold from December 2015…

My favorite Georgia Tech arm is attached to the body of JR RHP/3B Brandon Gold. Gold is a good athlete — no surprise coming from a two-way talent who might be seen as a primary third baseman by some teams — with the kind of stuff that you wonder if it might play up once asked to focus on pitching full-time. He’s been up to the low-90s with a nice changeup and average or better command, so there’s a good base to work with here.

Gold further refined his stuff in 2016 with the Yellow Jackets. His breaking ball (76-84, more slider than curve but a little of both at times) and sinking change (80-85) give him a pair of offspeed weapons that can get him both swings and misses and outs on the ground. I’d keep him in the rotation for as long as possible and bank on the continued full-time dedication to pitching making him one of the draft’s better college sleepers. I like this pick a ton.

13.380 – SS Taylor Snyder

Colorado stayed close to home by selecting Taylor Snyder from the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves in the thirteenth round. Snyder hit a robust .345/.398/.684 with 16 BB/30 K and 9/10 SB as a junior, though those numbers were rolled up as part of a team that hit a combined .331/.404/.513. Still, the power is real (based on what I’ve been told) and he’s athletic enough to play any spot in the infield, so the possibility of a fun bat-first utility player is very much in play here.

14.410 – RHP Matt Dennis

I really like Matt Dennis (355). Here’s the praise from March 2016 to prove it…

He’s got enough fastball (88-92, 94 peak), a damn fine changeup (plus upside), and a solid low-70s curve. His command is good, he’s kept runs off the board (1.50 ERA last year), and his peripherals have always been where you want them. It’s not the kind of profile that blows you away at first look, but all of the individual components work well together. I’m a fan.

I think Dennis pitches in the big leagues for a long time, likely in a relief role.

Lots of guys with good changeups being drafted by Colorado in this class. Coincidence or internal data informing decision making? The collective wisdom of the internet says using the change at elevation leads to inconclusive results (slider > curve seems like the one legit conclusion so far), but anecdotally I think a good changeup would make sense as a potential out-pitch at Coors.

15.440 – RHP Justin Valdespina

Justin Valdespina followed teammate Tim Viehoff (Seattle) as the second of three Southern New Hampshire prospects to be drafted in 2016. He’s also the eighth Penman pitcher to be drafted since I started the site up in 2009. That’s a pretty impressive run of producing draft-quality arms for a Division II program located in New England. Were it not for Viehoff going off the board eighty-three picks earlier, Valdespina would have gone down in history as the highest drafted Penman to date. Alas, he’ll have to settle for second from the top for now. I’m not particularly bullish on his decent fastball/better curveball approach playing all that well at Coors, but it’s a decent enough context-neutral middle relief skill set all the same.

16.470 – C Will Haynie

Will Haynie is the first of three college bats taken in the next four picks by Colorado that follow a fairly simple pattern: huge raw power, silly amounts of swing-and-miss, uncertain long-term defensive fit. That’s not the player profile I’d personally load up on, but Colorado never asked me. From April 2015…

Alabama SO C Will Haynie has obvious upside in his 6-5, 230 pound frame. Catchers built like that with plus raw power and plus arm strength get chances even when the overall package – Haynie struggled badly last season and has only made modest improvements in 2015 — doesn’t amount to what you’d expect. A team might bet on his tools higher than expected, but I think the most realistic outcome would be a return to Tuscaloosa in 2016. No need to rush Haynie just because he’s a draft-eligible sophomore, though I suppose the question as to whether or not his development would be better served in college or in the pros going forward is one worth asking. I typically side with the pro side on matters like these, but Haynie needs the kind of at bats that playing every day in the SEC would give him. He’s almost too raw a player to take on the pros right now; I’d worry that he’d get lost in the shuffle of pro ball as even the best player development staffs can only take on so many projects at any one time.

Eighteen months later and I’m still not a big fan of Haynie’s pro prospects. Nothing about his junior season at Alabama (.225/.291/.423 with 12 BB/55 K) changed his long-term outlook for me. I remain intrigued by his power and arm strength, but scared off by his outrageous swing-and-miss potential. Maybe he can carve out a role in the big leagues down the line as an old school plus power/plus arm strength backup catcher, but I’m not seeing it.

17.500 – RHP Mike Bunal

Mike Bunal could be an athletic sinker/slider reliever if he keeps moving his game in the right direction. That’s not a profile that lights the world on fire, but there could be some value there.

18.530 – 1B Hunter Melton

Part Two of the Rockies big power/too much swing-and-miss/questionable defender grab bag brings Hunter Melton to the Colorado organization in the eighteenth round. From April 2016…

Turns out I don’t have a hook for Hunter Melton, so we’ll focus on his interesting power, positional versatility (some think he could still play some 3B if need be), and intriguing track record with wood. In the late rounds, it all could be worth investigating.

Lots of power, lots of strikeouts, and likely locked into first base going forward. If he can convince the Rockies that he can move around the diamond a little (third base, maybe an outfield corner) then he has a sliver of a chance of making it as a bat-first utility type. As a first baseman only, I think the approach holds him back too much.

19.560 – 1B Jacob Bosiokovic

First Will Haynie, then Hunter Melton, and finally Jacob Bosiokovic. Of the three, I think I like the Ohio State slugger best of all. That said, while I understand the intrigue that comes with a big guy (6-6, 240 pounds) with his kind of tools, I think there’s just too much swing-and-miss to Bosiokovic’s offensive game to make a lasting impact in pro ball. He’s an excellent athlete with big-time strength who can run, defend multiple spots, and work deep counts. Curbing some of his strikeouts will be key, but the upside here for a four-corners (1B, 3B, LF, RF) utility bat exists. His brand of power and Coors Field is as close to a perfect prospect/team marriage that exists in this draft. I hope it works out for him because watching his BP in Denver 81 times a year would be more than worth the price of admission.

20.590 – LHP Kyle Cedotal

I don’t quite know how I feel about the Colorado draft as a whole just yet, but this run of low-probability/low-ceiling prospects is bumming me out. Kyle Cedotal is an upper-80s lefthander who throws a whole lot of junk (in a good way) and relies on changing speeds above all else. From June 2016…

LHP Kyle Cedotal has the crafty college lefty thing down to a science, so spending a late pick on him and watching him move quickly as he mows down low-minors hitting out of the bullpen could be fun.

That’s about right, I think. Cedotal has a chance to eventually rise up as a funky matchup lefty. Whether or not that gets you going is something I’ll leave up to you.

21.620 – OF Tyler Bugner

Hit .439/.522/.620 with 29 BB/14 K and 20/21 SB in 187 AB during your junior season and you’ve got my attention. Tyler Bugner followed up that ridiculous year at Newman with an impressive in its own right professional debut. I don’t have much in the way of scouting notes on Bugner, but one contact told me that “if intangibles matter, Bugner’s a future big leaguer.” I’m on the bandwagon.

22.650 – OF Steven Linkous

The first of back-to-back draftees from UNC Wilmington, Steven Linkous is a plus runner, outstanding athlete, and quality defender in center. A lack of power limits his overall upside, but there are enough secondary skills and defensive versatility in his game to merit some long-term utility player consideration.

23.680 – RHP Jared Gesell

I thought Jared Gesell had a shot to sneak into the tenth round as a money-saving senior-sign. In fact, here you go from March 2016…

Also, not for nothing, but Jared Gesell is another FAVORITE who will make a drafting team extremely happy as a high value senior-sign. I think he’s a future big leaguer.

Future big leaguer is a bold take, but I stand by it with Gesell. Size (6-4, 200), fastball (88-94, 95 peak), above-average changeup (78-83, flashes plus), emerging breaking ball (77-80 slider), deception, and a long track record of missing bats all add up to a really nice mid-round relief prospect by any standard. The only bugaboo with Gesell is his control. Check his senior year college numbers (top) against stats from his professional debut (bottom)…

12.18 K/9 and 5.35 BB/9 in 30.1 IP
13.16 K/9 and 4.39 BB/9 in 26.2 IP

I’m not saying he’ll be a 12ish K/9 and 4.5ish BB/9 guy in perpetuity, but the consistency of his output gives a pretty clear idea of what kind of pitcher you’re getting with Gesell. The stuff and strikeouts are enough for me to overlook the control for now. Twenty-third round pick Jared Gesell: future big leaguer.

24.710 – RHP JD Hammer

JD Hammer doesn’t throw a curve (to my knowledge), so that’s a little disappointing. He does throw a fastball up to 94 with an average or better slider, so big league middle reliever isn’t a crazy potential outcome for him. Hammer is a quality arm to land in the twenty-fourth round.

25.740 – RHP Heath Holder

Only in the MLB Draft can you find a solid performer (10.01 K/9 and 3.68 ERA in 71.0 IP) from the SEC with size (6-6, 210 pounds), a decent fastball (88-92), and a quality breaking ball all the way down in the twenty-fifth round. I suppose that makes sense since none of the other drafts go this many rounds. And pro teams drafting in their respective drafts might not value a righthanded pitcher in quite the same way a baseball team might. I am kind of curious now about Heath Holder’s skating ability.

26.770 – RHP Austin Moore

Doesn’t West Texas A&M have that perfect just real enough quality to it that it could be used on TV and in movies as a stock university without having to worry about copyright infringement? Turns out not only is it a real school, but it now has it’s first every MLB draftee in Austin Moore. Pretty cool. All I have on him are his numbers. Thankfully, they are good ones: 11.65 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9.

27.800 – RHP George Thanopolous

On George Thanopolous from March 2016…

George Thanopoulos is a classic sinker/slider guy who could soak up enough low-minors innings to buy the time needed to earn fans in high organizational places. There are hundreds of pitchers like him between amateur ball and the minor leagues and predicting which ones can take their sinker/slider blend to big league bullpens is anybody’s guess.

I should really just copy and paste that for about 50% of all of the college righthanders drafted past the twentieth round or so. Minus Thanopolous’s misspelled name. Well, minus his name altogether actually. Things would get really confusing if I copied and pasted that specific passage for multiple players not named George Thanopolous. But the sinker/slider stuff is relevant for many.

28.830 – RHP Ryan Luna

Ryan Luna’s two seasons at Sonoma State saw him strike out 8.88 batters per nine and walk 3.86 batters per nine. That’s all I’ve got. Luna means moon. You probably knew that already, but any attempt to stretch these out is a good one. I get paid by the word, after all.

29.860 – RHP Josh Shelley

Josh Shelley is a sinker/slider relief prospect out of Mobile. He didn’t pitch in his first year with the Rockies organization. Him not pitching ruined my plans of checking his GB%. Can’t win ’em all, I suppose.

30.890 – RHP Rico Garcia

Rico Garcia likely benefited at least a little from scouts expensing trips to Honolulu to see eventual thirteenth round pick Brandon Bonilla (among other reasons), but his thirtieth round selection was one clearly made on merit. Garcia’s senior stats (6.90 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9 in 77.0 IP) won’t blow you away, but he’s shown consistent command of a quality three-pitch mix (low-90s FB, CU, breaking ball) for years now. The undersized righthander has middle relief upside if it all works out in the pros.

31.920 – RHP Kenny Oakley

Kenny Oakley has always had solid stuff (88-92 FB, average or better CU), but could never quite seem to put it all together for an extended period of time during his senior season (5.89 K/9 and 3.56 BB/9) at UNLV. His quality first three seasons and that aforementioned solid stuff were enough to get him popped by Colorado despite his senior year blues. Because baseball is a funny game, Oakley then went out and dominated (peripherally, at least) rookie ball. His debut line included a 13.66 K/9 and 2.86 BB/9 in 28.1 IP.

33.980 – SS Tyler Orris

When I started this site before the 2009 MLB Draft, Millersville had three draftees in school history. Since then, they’ve had six. Of that six, three came in 2016 alone. One of those three is Tyler Orris. The Millersville shortstop hit .337/.421/.427 (110 BB/78 K) with 101 SB in his 224 career games as a Marauder. As a senior he hit .354/.459/.467 with 40 BB/19 K. The athletic, sure-handed Orris can certainly field his spot(s), so sticking him at either short or second in the low-minors will at least give your organization confidence he’ll make all the needed plays behind your young pitching. His approach at the plate is a thing of beauty (he even kept piling up walks as a pro with a 20 BB/20 K ratio for Boise), but the lack of power is his offensive undoing. Still, speed, defense, and a good approach are about all you can ask in a thirty-third round org guy like Orris. Small school prospects coming off highly productive college careers are some of my favorite types to root for in pro ball.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

John Hendry (Indianapolis), Wyatt Featherston (Western Kentucky), Michael Toglia (UCLA), Trevor Edior (?), Troy Bacon (Santa Fe JC), Quin Cotton (Grand Canyon), Cuba Bess (Grand Canyon), Luca Dalatri (North Carolina)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Boston Red Sox

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Boston in 2016

1 – Jay Groome
76 – CJ Chatham
90 – Shaun Anderson
98 – Mike Shawaryn
213 – Bobby Dalbec
324 – Stephen Nogosek
416 – Santiago Espinal

Complete List of 2016 Boston Red Sox Draftees

1.12 – LHP Jay Groome

Jay Groome (1)

That link takes care of a lot of my thoughts on Groome, the draft’s best long-term prospect for my money. For those less inclined to click a link, the most relevant excerpt…

Groome came out firing in the first with a string of low-90s fastballs (93, 94, 92, 93) before dropping a picture perfect 78 MPH curveball that made the Gloucester Catholic’s leadoff man’s knees buckle and the crowd of scouts and execs behind home plate (as well as a few thousand of their closest friends) audibly “oooh.” Incredibly, that was just the first of five different “oooh” curves he’d throw all night: there were two more in the fifth inning and two more after that in his sixth and final frame. I had that pitch ranging from 74-78 on the evening. Everything about the pitch is plus to plus-plus, though I think you could quibble some with a slightly slowed arm speed on the offering that tips it just enough for HS hitters to notice, but not nearly enough for them to react. The pitch is so good that there’s a chance he can get away with the slight pause in pro ball for a while; obvious point is obvious, but that’s really high praise. Groome’s curve is special and that alone makes him a top ten prospect in this class.

After going 93, 94, 92, 93, and 78 on the first batter, Groome went 93, 77, 92, 94, and 93 to the second hitter. That basic pattern — work off the fastball, mix in one curve per plate appearance — was followed by Groome for much of the game. I won’t say my notes were perfect — my focus on the fast-paced, well-pitched (though admittedly not particularly crisply played otherwise) game was a solid 98% throughout, but taking in the atmosphere occasionally led to a missed radar reading or two — but I only had Groome dropping two curves to the same batter on four occasions. This strategy obviously worked (14 strikeouts is 14 strikeouts) with the threat of a bigger fastball than he wound up showing, average fastball command that flashed better in certain at bats, and that devastating curve ranking as the reasons why in ascending order of importance.

Everything you’ve already seen, read, or heard about Groome’s mechanics held up. They are close to picture perfect. I’ve long been on the record of only caring about mechanical extremes, and I’d say with great confidence that Groome’s arm action and delivery are on that happy tail of the bell curve. With his frame, bulked up from a boy late last summer to a rock solid man by now (though I’d argue with some loss of athleticism), his age, and those textbook mechanics, it’s easy to imagine a day in the not so distant future where Groome is a consistent mid-90s arm if he wants to be. Of course, that’s all projection at this point: Groome’s velocity on this day fluctuated from those early game low-90s peaks to a strange middle inning dip to the mid- to upper-80s. I was almost positive while watching live that he wasn’t working in his changeup — some around me thought otherwise, for what it’s worth* — but I had him with an 85, 86, 87, and four 89’s between innings three and five. After thinking about it some more I could buy the mid-80s pitches being his attempt at the change to give the scouts a little taste of his third pitch; if so, I’ve seen it look better, but the arm action sure looked like the fastball, so at least there was that. Still, the 89’s for a well-rested teenage arm on a nice night weren’t exactly typical of what we’ve come to expect out of a potential first overall pick. He rebounded some in his final inning, sitting 90-91 with his fastball while relying more on the curve than in any other part of the game to that point. His final pitch of the night was a 92 MPH fastball that was swung through for eighth strikeout in a row to end the game and fourteenth overall.

(* Groome himself identified the pitch as a change: “As far as my command goes, I think that’s pretty good, but I need to show a little more depth to my changeup. I’m not really getting out in front of it and left a couple up high today. They fouled it off, they didn’t really make me pay. Later on down the road, I have to get that good depth on it.”)

This is the point in the report where I’m supposed to make a grand conclusion about what I saw out of Groome on the night. Well, I’ve got nothing. I selfishly wanted to see Groome at his very best — again, it’s worth pointing out that the man had fourteen strikeouts in six innings and that’s not his best — so that I could walk away ready to declare the race for 1-1 and top spot on my board over. The obvious good news is the confirmation that his curve and mechanics are both 1-1 caliber. His fastball has been in the past, but wasn’t on this night. I’m not terribly concerned about one good but not great velocity night — the fastball was still commanded fairly well (average to above-average), had such obvious late life that even my old eyes could see it, and came out of a deceptive enough slot that it had hitters taking bad swings all evening long — but I think the summer showcase version of Groome’s heater is (unsurprisingly) less the real thing than what we’ve seen out of him this spring. His changeup remains an open question, but that’s not atypical for a big-time high school arm with Groome’s brand of one-two punch locked and loaded for bear most starts. The development of his physique continues to surprise me — it’s as if he finds a way to pack on a pound or three of good weight every time I see him — but I do worry some that he’s getting close to the danger zone of sacrificing some looseness and athleticism, both facets of his game that excited me so much about him last summer, for strength. Add it all up (above-average fastball with plus upside, clear plus curve, changeup with a chance to be average, elegant mechanics, and a pro-ready body) and it’s clear that Jay Groome is a really, really good pitching prospect. What isn’t clear, however, is whether or not he’s the best amateur prospect in the country. For some, not yet knowing is knowing; when the risk of taking a teenage arm gets factored in, Groome not being a slam dunk pick above the rest means the risk is too great to pass on similarly valued peers (Puk, Lewis, Moniak, Rutherford, Perez, Ray, whomever) with more certainty. I think that’s where the Phillies are currently at in their evaluation. Between Groome’s staggering perfect world ceiling and moderate (for a HS arm) floor (less projection in his body than most, plus his mechanics portend good things to come) and the less than thrilling options that surround him at the top of the class, I’d have a hard time removing his name from 1-1 consideration if I was in charge of such a pick.

I’m not saying that’s the definitive Jay Groome take. Everything written above came from a game report from one Groome start. That outing was only one of five different times (once last summer, once in the winter, three times in the spring) that I saw Groome pitch in person. I’m not a scout so take all of the above with the usual grain of salt that comes with a fan’s observations of the game — though I’ll rudely point out for the millionth time here that watching baseball isn’t exactly rocket science no matter what those with a vested interest in creating that precise mythology within the industry would like for us all to believe — but I generally feel confident in my overall evaluation of Groome based on the combination of having seen him at multiple stages of his teenage development, having traded firsthand accounts for games and showcases that I’ve missed with others in the game, and absorbing all possible public published information on him.

In short, Groome is the truth. Sky high expectations caused some draft fans (and evaluators) to turn on him as the spring dragged on, but even at his “worst” he was still flashing easy first round stuff. There was some grumbling in the stands during a game where he struck out fourteen batters in six innings. I know scouting isn’t a performance-based thing, but, come on, that should at least tell you something about the guy.

I can’t get behind the Clayton Kershaw comparisons for Groome because Kershaw is in a different stratosphere altogether from the rest of the big leagues right now, but I’ll still throw out a very lofty comparison for Groome that I don’t think I’ve shared on the site before. Watching the young lefthander from Jersey’s evolution over the past eighteen months reminds me a lot of a young Andy Pettitte. We can’t help but think of Pettitte now and go right to his dominant cutter, but he didn’t start to throw the cutter consistently until the 2004 season (when he was 32-years-old) and he didn’t technically swap it out for his slider until 2008 (when he was 36-years-old). The 18-year-old Groome has plenty of time to reinvent himself a half-dozen times or so before he gets to the late-career portion of his big league run. Groome reminds me more of the early-career version of Pettitte, the one with a consistently above-average heater that could hit the mid-90s, plus curve, and above-average change. That’s the Pettitte that was written up as a soon-to-be 23-year-old back in 1995 courtesy of the always excellent Diamond Minds scouting database…

andy-pettitte-scouting-report

So much about Groome reminded me of Pettitte after his last start against Gloucester Catholic that I was kicking myself (not literally, I’m not that flexible) on the whole ride home for not putting it together sooner. Their mechanics, the use of a knuckle-curve, the body types…watching Groome was like going back in time and seeing a young Pettitte for the first time. The scary part here is that I think Groome has a chance to be a better version of Pettitte. Call him Pettitte 2.0. That’s Hall of Fame upside. That’s what I think Jay Groome can accomplish.

(Self-indulgent post-script to the Groome/Pettitte comparison. I, like many others I’d imagine, have a hard time remembering what young versions of established stars looked like. The days before MLB.TV made watching the over-the-top amount of baseball we all do today a lot harder back then. I do, however, remember what a young Andy Pettitte looked like. Of course, entirely selfish reasons brought me to him in my own early teenage years. Pettitte, having just turned 27-years-old, was very much on the trade block in 1999. The Yankees had a deal in place with my hometown Philadelphia Phillies contingent on a few other dominoes falling that same deadline. The return for Pettitte would have been rather bleak in hindsight: Reggie Taylor, Adam Eaton, and Anthony Shumaker. New York didn’t get the reliever they wanted elsewhere, so they pulled out of the deal at the last minute.

2.51 – SS CJ Chatham

On CJ Chatham (76) from March 2016…

CJ Chatham is an intriguing modern shortstop who has opened eyes throughout the game with his huge start to 2016. In no means is it a direct comparison, but what he’s doing so far is similar to what Kyle Lewis has done at Mercer. Chatham, like Lewis, has done everything possible to turn a perceived weakness (approach) into a strength. Going from a 8 BB/39 K as a freshman and 10 BB/28 K as a sophomore to his draft year 10 BB/7 K ratio is something worth getting excited about. With Chatham’s seemingly improved approach, scouts can now freely focus on the other positives in his game (above-average range, above-average to plus arm, a 6-4, 185 pound frame to dream on) and begin forecasting a big league regular out of the overall package. In a class with a serious talent void at the top of the college shortstop rankings, Chatham has emerged as a legit contender to be the very first off the board and a top hundred pick. He’s that good.

Chatham’s patient start at the plate didn’t quite foreshadow a true shift in approach — he walked 13 times with 27 strikeouts from the time of that original writing forward to bring his totals on the season to 23 BB/34 K — but that didn’t stop the Red Sox (and many other teams) from being hot on his trail on draft day. I’m sure part of that had to do with the scarcity of true shortstops in this class, but plenty also had to do with Chatham’s dreamy 6-4, 185 pound frame, above-average to plus raw power, and outstanding defensive tools that could make him an above-average glove at short or a true plus defender at the hot corner.

It’s probably silly to make too much out of any player’s professional debut, but something about Chatham’s .259/.319/.426 line at Lowell to begin his career stands out to me. Call it an attempt at informed prospect projection or a wild ass hunch, but Chatham’s most realistic upside with the bat falling around .260/.320/.425 just feels right to me. Those marks would put him 13th (BA), 13th (OBP), and 14th (SLG) among qualified shortstops in 2016. Slap some above-average defense on him and that’s a top ten player at the position. For what it’s worth, that .260/.320/.425 ballpark projection gets us pretty close to what Troy Tulowitzki (.254/.318/.443) did this past year on his way to a just ahead of league average (102 wRC+) offensive showing. That line would also put him close to the career averages of guys like Jimmy Rollins (career .264/.324/.418 hitter), Jhonny Peralta, and Rich Aurilia. I highlighted the Rollins career stat line not only because it’s as close as you can find to that hypothetical .260/.320/.425 shortstop we’ve created, but also to reiterate the limits of performance-based expectation comparisons. Chatham and Rollins are too very different players from a scouting perspective; ten seconds of watching them makes that obvious to even the most casual of baseball fan. Thankfully, that’s not the intent of a performance comp. Different types of players can still bring about similar long-term value. A career like what Rollins, Peralta, or Aurilia did (or are in the process of doing) seems within reach for the Red Sox second round selection.

3.88 – RHP Shaun Anderson

I’m really excited to see what direction the career of Shaun Anderson (90) goes in pro ball. It’s really easy to see Anderson remaining in the bullpen and being one of this year’s quickest moving draftees. He’s got the plus to plus-plus fastball that is a good enough pitch for him to use it an entire inning at time. There’s velocity (88-94, 96 peak), movement (tons), and the ability to command it (all the more impressive when you factor in that crazy movement); in short, his heater checks off everything you’d want in the pitch. Anderson also throws an above-average to plus cut-slider that can also turn into a truer slider with a bit more bend when it takes a little off of it. In the bullpen, that fastball/cutter mix could be enough to mow down batters at a similar clip that he did at Florida.

As a starter, all bets are off. One of the easiest and most difficult things to do is to project a college reliever with all the attributes of a starting pitcher to a pro rotation spot. It’s easy because it just makes sense. If a guy has the body, delivery, temperament, and stuff to start, but circumstances as a college athlete forced him in the bullpen then dreaming on him in his “natural” role makes sense. Easy, right? What’s difficult about the whole thing is how challenging the actual transition really is. A plus fastball in short outings may just be above-average (if that) as a starter. A lesser fastball then allows hitters to more easily prepare for the premium offspeed stuff, and even that assumes said offspeed stuff remains as good as it was in fewer innings. There’s also the simple issue that some bodies, no matter how they look, are better equipped for one role over the other. Conventional wisdom be damned, there are big guys who tire more easily as starters and little guys who seem to get better the more innings they throw. I’m not saying there’s no way of telling how a player will react until actually put into the new role, but…actually, I guess that is what I’m saying. Projecting is what we do, but to call it an inexact science is an insult to actual science.

I’d like to think Anderson can maintain all of the stuff he’s shown in his three years (worth noting here he pitched 43.0 innings his junior year after just 39.0 IP his first two seasons) at Florida, but I really have no idea. If he can, then he’s a potential mid-rotation starter with the chance for a little more than that. If he’s destined to the bullpen (my personal hunch), then he could become a major relief weapon for the Red Sox sooner rather than later. With a legit four-pitch mix (emphasizing fastballs and cutters), above-average command, ample deception in his delivery, and plus control, Anderson could potentially be deployed in any number of ways out of the pen. A bullpen with both him and Stephen Nogosek capable of putting out fires and going multiple innings at a time could be a ton of fun.

4.118 – 3B Bobby Dalbec

Where to begin with Bobby Dalbec (213)? Let’s start with a flashback to March 2016…

Dalbec deserves a lot of credit for battling back from a slow start to now have a more than respectable 2016 overall batting line. He also deserves respect for being one of the realest 2016 MLB Draft prospects out there. What you see is what you get with Dalbec: massive power, lots of whiffs, and a fair amount of walks. His arm and athleticism help make up for a lack of easy lateral quickness at the hot corner, so sticking at third should remain an option for the foreseeable future. The older, popular, and common comp for him has been Troy Glaus; on the flip side, I’ve heard Chris Dominguez as a possible outcome. The Glaus ship appears to have sailed, so something in between that and Dominguez would be a fine professional result.

And then again from April 2016…

Bobby Dalbec continues to confound. More and more people I’ve spoken to are becoming open to the idea of sending him out as a pitcher in pro ball. As frustrating as he can be at the plate, I don’t think I could throw his kind of power away that easily, even if only on a temporary basis. I also don’t think I’d touch him in the first five rounds. The comparison shared with me before the season to Chris Dominguez feels more and more prescient by the day.

I had Dominguez ranked 41st on my final board back in 2009 before he was drafted 86th overall by the Giants. I’m not sure what it says (if anything) about my own evolving view on prospecting or how the industry itself has changed or how the game has shifted, but I can say with 100% certainty that Dalbec won’t rank anywhere close to where Dominguez once landed on my personal ranks. I can also say with about 95% certainty that he won’t be drafted as high as Dominguez was in 2009. Of course, a player’s draft ranking ultimately is not about where he falls on the average of all teams’ boards but rather where he eventually falls on the board of the one team that drafts him. That’s where that 5% uncertainty comes in: all it takes is one team to look at Dalbec’s two clear plus tools (raw power, arm strength) and believe they can tweak his swing to make enough contact to allow his natural ability to shine through. His upside is very real, as is the possibility he tops out as an all-or-nothing AA power hitter. I’m out on him for now, but I understand the appeal. Chicks dig the long ball.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Dalbec, a prospect who has been in the spotlight since his senior year at Legend HS. Any conversation about Dalbec tends to center around four different things, two positive and two negative. Working for the big slugger from Arizona has always been and will always be his prodigious raw power and cannon for a right arm. If you like Dalbec, you like his power upside and enormous arm enough to override any of the negatives to come. If you’re not as into Dalbec, then the power isn’t enough to distract from the massive amount of swing-and-miss in his game (career 81 BB/179 K as a Wildcat) and the arm strength isn’t enough to look past the defensive questions (many of which have been answered positively, to be fair) that have followed him for years. Best case scenario you’re getting a power-hitting third baseman. Worst case scenario you’re left with a first baseman with a long Swiss cheese swing unable to make enough contact to allow the power to play.

If we go back to my pre-draft comparisons, I’d say his future will probably result in a player not nearly as good as Glaus yet not quite as disappointing as Dominguez. I think that outcome would be fine value for a fourth round pick like Dalbec. Upside to be a lineup fixture and home run champion threat, downside that sees him flaming out in AA (and potentially making a return to the mound…), and most realistic middle ground as a four-corners power bat that will always rack up strikeouts but can be a positive value player for years if deployed properly. The approach scares me off enough that the downside makes this a slight reach, but, as mentioned earlier, it’s not so crazy a reach that it can’t also be considered fine value. All depends on how you weigh the possibilities of his potential outcomes.

(We’re about to get a little weird here based on a curiosity I had about Dalbec’s pro start. Feel free to skip this if you’re not about small sample size outputs and whether or not they can tell us anything.)

To Dalbec’s credit, the big righthanded bat went out after a long college two-way season and hit bomb after bomb in his pro debut. Dalbec’s awesome start to his pro career got me wondering just how many players have slugged .674 (as he did) in short-season rookie ball and failed to reach the big leagues. Small sample noise and misleading levels of competition often point towards early career success not being particularly predictive. I get that. But this isn’t run-of-the-mill early career success. This is leading the league in slugging (if he had qualified) by over 150 points over the top qualifier. That’s destroying the league. Does that mean anything? Let’s find out…

As mentioned, Dalbec signed too late to get a full season in and therefore didn’t qualify for the league leaderboard — Darick Hall and his .518 SLG led the league in his stead — but that slugging percentage would have been out all but one qualified hitter in the past dozen years. Dalbec’s .674 SLG is second only to Roman Wick and his silly .378/.475/.815 line in 141 PA for State College in 2014. If you can tell me anything about Roman Wick beyond the fact I just shared, then you’re probably related to him. For the sake of science, I went back and found every player in the New York-Penn League to slug .550 or better. These guys managed to do it over the past twelve seasons: Stone Garrett (.581), Roman Wick (.815), Travis Taijeron (.557), Cory Vaughn (.557), Marcell Ozuna (.556), Neil Medchill (.551), Miguel Fermin (.628), Ryan Patterson (.595), Michael Hollimon (.557). Cory Patton (.555), and Nolan Reimold (.550). That’s not a particularly encouraging list. If we expand the search for guys over .500 SLG, then we have the following…

Darick Hall, Garrett, Wick, Chris Breen, Conor Bierfeldt, Jesus Solorzano, David Washington, Taijeron, Dean Green, Danny Muno, Vaughn, Ozuna, Rylan Sandoval, Ryan Fisher, David Anderson, Darrell Cecillani, Jonathan Rodriguez, Medchill, JD Martinez, Sebastian Valle, Sean Ochinko, Deangelo Mack, Leandro Castro, Fermin, Luis Sumoa, Phil Disher, Ben Lasater, Todd Martin, Damon Sublett, Casper Wells, Patterson, Hollimon, Patton, Reimold, Neil Sellers, Francisco Plasencia

Some of those guys are too early in their careers to label and others were at least good enough to hang in the big leagues for a bit, but I don’t think it’s all that controversial a take to say that the track record of .500+ SLG players in the NYPL ain’t great. Of the 36 players listed above, there are only two (Ozuna and Martinez) that I would consider to be developmental success stories. Two out of thirty-six. This quick look back doesn’t mean that Bobby Dalbec will join the failed prospect crew or that he’s any more likely to struggle than his lesser-slugging peers (though you could probably float a theory about hitters who show big power early in their career as being free-swinging outliers and that such an approach leads to early power success but no long-term sustainability); it only means that early power success in the NYPL does not guarantee anything beyond that.

5.148 – RHP Mike Shawaryn

On Mike Shawaryn (98) from April 2016…

Shawaryn’s big 2015 (10.71 K/9 and 1.71 ERA in 116.0 IP) set him up as a potential first round pick coming into the year, but a slight dip in production and stuff has many cooler on him now than before. He’s always been in that ten to fifteen range for him as a 2016 college arm, so the recent downtick in stuff isn’t something I’m too worked up about. At his best, he’s got enough fastball (87-94, 95 peak), a changeup with big upside, and a breaking ball that seemingly improves every time out (even as he’s had some rocky starts this year). Breaking down his individual pitches is obviously important, but the main selling point with Shawaryn was always going to be his above-average to plus command, standout control, and deceptive motion. Assuming his decline is more fatigue – he’s approaching almost 250 college innings in his career; for context’s sake, that’s about a hundred more than AJ Puk and over twice as many as Alec Hansen – than injury (though separating the two can be tricky without proper pre-draft medical screening), Shawaryn might be the perfect candidate for a team in round two (or three if they are lucky) willing to draft a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher with the intent not to pitch him competitively the summer after signing. Draft him, sign him, get him working with your top player development staffers, and focus more about 2017 rather than getting onto the field immediately. If it turns out he’s feeling good and looking good sooner rather than later, so be it. But he’s the type of smart young pitcher that could begin his first professional season at High-A without much concern. That’s the path I’d consider taking with him, but maybe I’m making more out of a few good rather than great starts than I really ought to.

I think that holds up really well today. If you want the short version, we could go back to this from October 2015…

A long draft season could change this, but Shawaryn looks all the world to be a rock solid bet to wind up a mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. Never a star, but consistently useful for years going forward.

I think that’s on target as well: “never a star, but consistently useful.” Shawaryn is going to have a long career as a mid-rotation starting pitching in the big leagues. That’s excellent value in round five. Love this pick.

6.178 – RHP Stephen Nogosek

On Stephen Nogosek (324) from March 2016…

Another college reliever! Stephen Nogosek is one of the most interesting of his kind in this year’s class. He’s not the two-pitch fire-balling righthander with the plus breaking ball that teams view as a classic late-inning type. Nogosek commands four pitches for strikes, relying more on the overall depth of his repertoire than any one singular go-to offering. Many speculate that his delivery lends itself to shorter outings, but I’m not convinced that a pro team won’t at least consider using him in the rotation at some point.

And again from April 2016…

If it’s a true college reliever you want, then Stephen Nogosek out of Oregon is your best bet. He’s a little bit like [Ian] Hamilton in that he’s got the raw stuff to start – an honest four-pitch mix seems wasted some in relief – but his command would make longer outings untenable at this time. As a reliever, however, he’s effectively wild. Pitching out of the pen also puts him on the short list of fastest potential movers.

The sixth round feels like a great spot to land a high-probability/reasonable-ceiling potential quick-mover in Nogosek. The funky, undersized righthander can use any one of his three offspeed offerings — upper-70s SL that flashes plus, solid mid-80s CU, average or better upper-70s CB — while also commanding a quality 88-94 MPH (up to 95) fastball. I don’t think there’s closer upside here, but it shouldn’t take much for Nogosek to have a long career as a dependable seventh inning reliever.

7.208 – OF Ryan Scott

Hitting .435/.516/.713 at the D-I level should get you drafted in the top ten rounds, right? Tuns out that’s exactly what it does. I didn’t have anything on Scott besides the easy to Google knowledge of his awesome senior year performance, so let’s just go ahead and repeat that: .435/.516/.713. That’s ridiculous. The stat-inclined portion of my brain is really rooting for Scott to have a long, successful pro career.

8.238 – C Alan Marrero

Alan Marrero walked or struck out in 62.9% of his 70 plate appearances in his debut with the Red Sox. That’s nuts. I have a feeling that number will go just a touch in his first full pro season next year. I’m sure the Red Sox are counting on it even though they likely are more excited about Marrero’s athleticism, arm strength, and standout defense behind the plate than anything he’ll do as a hitter. Like a few other catchers in the 2016 MLB Draft class — both Jake Rogers and Cooper Johnson spring to mind — Marrero’s defense could very well be so good that the baseline offensive standard for his bat will be almost so low he can’t help but reach it. In other words, Marrero’s defense is just about big league quality already. Expecting anything special at the plate is just getting greedy.

9.268 – OF Matt McLean

Here’s a little bit on Matt McLean from March 2016 with a bonus Granger Studdard (twenty-second round pick) reference thrown in for good measure…

On (kind of) the other end of the spectrum is Matt McLean of Texas-Arlington. McLean is a good runner and savvy all-around ballplayer who (to my knowledge) isn’t being talked up by anybody as a serious draft prospect. I’m not sure whether he is or isn’t, but the way he commands the strike zone has my respect. McLean is off to a similar start as Studdard (12 BB/4 K), but differs in that it’s part of a longer track record of doing so (40 BB/19 K last year). When looking to fill out rosters late during the draft, I’d recommend McLean to my scouting director every time. I’m high on the McLean’s on the world not only for what they could become in their own right – solid org guys can occasionally turn into useful pieces over time – but also because of the unseen positives that bringing players like this into an organization can provide. I don’t think McLean possesses any magic plate discipline dust that would rub off on his teammates, but having my young guys exposed to his consistent professional approach to the game, calculated plan of attack as a hitter, aggressive yet smart style of play in all phases, and determination to succeed no matter what couldn’t hurt.

Everything written about McLean there holds up today, I think. He went earlier than I had anticipated back in March, but did so as a $10,000 bonus senior-sign. McLean’s last two seasons at Texas-Arlington produced a cumulative mark of 76 BB/41 K. He’s still only a fifth outfielder if literally everything breaks right for him developmentally, but damn if I don’t think there’s a larger value to bringing players like this into the system. Maybe I’m nuts.

Also, I’m probably just a touch too young to get this in a more meaningful way but I’m up enough on nostalgic pop culture references to think of this every single time I read McLean’s name.

10.298 – SS Santiago Espinal

I’m buying Santiago Espinal (416) as a potential big league utility player even with his glaring lack of pop. He makes a ton of quality contact, works deep counts, defends his spot well at both second and short, and can put up above-average run times. One thing worth noting with Espinal is his age: despite playing only one college season, the former Miami-Dade shortstop is already 22-years-old. It puts his outstanding freshman season (.432/.492/.562 with 20 BB/11 K and 15/20 SB) at the junior college level in a different light. Liking Espinal, however, is liking what you’ve got already with him. His brand of on-base ability and reliable defense up the middle isn’t something that needs much projecting past what he can already do.

12.358 – RHP Matthew Gorst

Matthew Gorst had a good year. He did this at Georgia Tech as a junior: 10.10 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 and 0.55 ERA in 49.0 IP. He then followed that up with this pro debut: 9.00 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9 and 2.67 ERA in 27.0 IP. I’m still personally wary of a college reliever without premium stuff (88-93 FB, 84-87 cutter, 77-81 SL) with a limited track record of success, but Boston clearly must believe Gorst turned a corner in 2016. Pro results are certainly backing that up for now.

14.418 – LHP Robby Sexton

The Red Sox signed only three lefthanded pitchers in this draft class. You know about Jay Groome. You might not know quite as much about the two college lefties Boston scooped up from the Midwest. We’ll cover Kyle Hart from Indiana shortly, so let’s take a closer look at Robby Sexton from Wright State now. In brief, I like Robby Sexton more than I do most mid-round college pitchers with good but not great track records at non-power conference universities. Lefthanders who can pull off the sinker/slider combo are some of my favorite relief prospects to follow. That’s what you’re getting with the athletic Sexton.

16.478 – C Alberto Schmidt

My public notes on Alberto Schmidt were sparse — “good athlete; strong arm; older for class” — but I heard lots of nice things about him (both as a person and prospect) behind the scenes leading up to the draft. If you heard such nice things then you probably should have ranked him higher then, you might be thinking. Not a bad point, I’d counter. Maybe I should have ranked him higher (or, you know, at all). Yeah, you’d repeat, maybe you should have. Yeah, I’d say. Yeah, you’d say.

17.508 – C Nick Sciortino

The seventeenth round feels just a little too early for me to take a local product org player, but the Red Sox went out and took Boston College catcher Nick Sciortino anyway. His defense is good and his arm is solid, but I’m not sure he’ll ever do enough offensively to be anything but a handy catcher to shuffle around affiliates as needed.

19.568 – LHP Kyle Hart

A buddy of mine was insistent this spring that Kyle Hart could get big league lefthanders out right now. I’m not sure if that’s was said in part because of Hart’s present old man game — mid-80s fastball, advanced change, lots of slow curves, impeccable control — rather than a literal ability to get big league hitters out. Sometimes players with such limited physical projection wind up being a touch overrated because of a general assumption that they are better than they really are since they’re already likely as good as they’ll get. I just read that back and I have no idea if it’ll make sense to anybody but myself. Confusing attempt at a larger point aside, I still like the crafty, athletic Hart. Him getting big league lefties out at some point next year wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

20.598 – SS Nick Lovullo

On Nick Lovullo from February 2016…

Lovullo has the bloodlines, athleticism, and steadying infield presence to be a really solid org guy with the chance for more. His bat has improved each year at Holy Cross, so a big senior season is well within range. Nobody is asking for my seal of approval, but having seen Lovullo play on a few different occasions, I can certainly vouch for him as a player that does all the little things beautifully.

And then again right before the draft…

Nick Lovullo had an odd season. He only hit .225, but bolstered his OBP with a whopping 40 walks. I’ve always liked his approach, athleticism, and reliable defense up the middle, so I’ll overlook that .225 (and the dismal 6/15 SB success rate) and keep him on my draft board. He’ll make a fine future Red Sox minor leaguer.

I’m not going to go too crazy patting on my back for connecting the obvious dots here, but, hey, it is nice to win one every now and then. I think “solid org guy with the chance for more” remains a fair assessment of Lovullo’s upside. Like the Sciortino pick in the seventeenth round, this felt a bit early to me — I predicted Lovullo to Boston in the fortieth round, a spot more commensurate to his prospect value for me — but what do I know. Fair to wonder now if we see a quiet “Lovullo to Arizona for future considerations” type deal in the not too distant future…

22.658 – OF Granger Studdard

On Granger Studdard from March 2016…

Granger Studdard is another personal favorite of mine out of the Sun Belt due to his power upside, athleticism, arm strength, and speed. The last three facets of his game are far stronger than you see out of a typical first base prospect, so it’s not shock that the majority of those I spoke to who like him as well prefer him as a corner outfielder. That defensive versatility only boosts his stock. The most interesting thing about Studdard to me is how scouts have raved about his approach since his first year at Texas State. Much like what has been said about Kyle Lewis at Mercer, the buzz surrounding Studdard has been about how he really knows how to hit and approaches every plate appearance like a seasoned veteran. Like Mercer, however, the results didn’t seem to back it up: Studdard hit well in both of his college seasons, but did so while putting up BB/K ratios of 19/42 and 20/62. The disconnect between the scouting take and the on-field indicators figured to come to a head in his draft season, and, so far, the scouts look like they know a thing or two about the game. SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, but Studdard has walked twelve times in 2016 with only five strikeouts to his name. If that’s real, then you can put his standing as one of the best under-the-radar mid-major bats in the county in ink.

So was it real? Technically, yes. Studdard finished his junior year with 37 walks to 26 strikeouts. The more patient approach seemingly came at a cost of some power, however: his .285/.389/.380 line more closely resembled his freshman season (.270/.364/.385) than his sophomore year (.281/.345/.485). It’s how to deduce why that is without having seen Studdard multiple times throughout his final season at Texas State. Was he being pitched around? Is this just a small sample aberration? Was his sophomore year power spike the real outlier? Is there something in Studdard’s scouting dossier (swing, approach, pitch recognition, etc.) that explains it better? Anything I’d offer would just be a guess at this point. In any event, the reasons for liking Studdard are still reasons that explain why I currently like Studdard. He struggled in his debut at the plate, but 38 of his innings in the field came in either left or right. That’s a good sign for his prospect stock going forward.

23.688 – OF Juan Carlos Abreu

As an older high school talent (he’ll be 20 next May) with a game built on speed and a strong arm — two nice tools, to be sure, but arguably fourth and fifth in terms of importance if you were to rank them — Juan Carlos Abreu was more of a peripheral prospect on the radar for me this spring. Worth a shot as a twenty-third round pick, I guess.

24.718 – RHP Hunter Smith

Maybe some teams were turned off by Hunter Smith’s ugly 6.19 ERA in his draft year at North Carolina Greensboro. That’s about all I’ve got by way of explanation for Smith’s drop to the twenty-fourth round in this year’s draft. He’s got the size (6-3, 200), fastball (87-93, 95 peak), and offspeed stuff (above-average slider that flashes plus and an average or better change) to get stretched back out as a starter next year if that’s something Boston is willing to try. If not, I think he’s got a bright future in relief. Big fan of Hunter Smith.

25.748 – RHP Francisco Soto

Now I’m no Nancy Drew, but I consider my internet sleuthing abilities to be at least above-average. Francisco Soto is the first player drafted this year that I’m not sure actually exists. I mean, fine, he exists: he pitched twelve innings for the GCL Red Sox after signing after all. But my quick research on Soto’s time at Allen CC in Kansas has yielded nothing meaningful to date. He’s listed at 6-5, 220 pounds, so he’s got good size. That’s literally all I’ve got.

26.778 – RHP Jared Oliver

Mid-90s velocity (up to 97) is never a bad thing, so I get where the Red Sox are coming from when taking a chance on Jared Oliver. It’s just that he’s got a lot of work to do (7.12 BB/9 at Truett-McConnell) and not a whole of time to do it (24-years-old to start next season).

33.988 – OF Chad Hardy

Underwhelming junior college numbers? How does .297/.358/.513 with 13 BB/29 K sound? Brutal first 90 PA of pro ball? A hard to look at .163/.191/.233 with 3 BB/32 K. A 60-game suspension for testing positive for Tamoxifen? Why not add it to the pile at this point, right? I’m not here to bust on Chad Hardy’s disastrous first year with the Red Sox; if anything, I can empathize with a young man’s desperation when faced with a pressure-packed situation filled with “do-or-die” feelings of urgency. Hardy making it to AA — let alone the big leagues — would be a success I’m not prepared to see with this pick. Hope it works out all the same.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Carter Henry (Houston), Jake Wilson (Bowling Green), Austin Bergner (North Carolina), Carter Aldrete (Arizona State), Jordan Wren (Georgia Southern), John Rave (Illinois State), Aaron McGarity (Virginia Tech), Jeff Belge (St. John’s), Christian Jones (Washington), Tyler Fitzgerald (Louisville), Cam Shepherd (Georgia), Jordan Scheftz (Central Florida), Vince Arobio (Pacific), Beau Capanna (New Mexico), Trevor Stephan (Arkansas), Michael Wilson (Stony Brook), Nick Quintana (Arizona)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Texas Rangers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Texas in 2016

21 – Alex Speas
86 – Cole Ragans
111 – Charles Leblanc
121 – Kyle Cody
218 – Kobie Taylor
287 – Kyle Roberts
433 – Sam Huff
443 – Kenny Mendoza
485 – Jonah McReynolds

Complete List of 2016 Texas Rangers Draftees

1.30 – LHP Cole Ragans

I didn’t pick up on it at the time but after talking with some friends in the game who know these sort of things, it became pretty clear to me that Cole Ragans (86) entered this past June as one of the most surprisingly divisive prospects in the 2016 MLB Draft. Discussion on Ragans basically split into three different camps. There were those who absolutely loved him as a mid-first round talent and long-term asset, those who liked his upside just fine but would rather another team try to get the best out of him, and those who took him off their board completely on the basis of his seemingly too strong to sign for a fair price commitment to Florida State. Those who love him rave about his athleticism, size, deception, and projection. Goes without saying that all of those are very good things for an 18-year-old pitcher to bring to the table. The belief of the pro-Ragans side is that his athleticism will help him eventually iron out his inconsistent mechanics, his size (6-4, 185) and deception will help all of his stuff play up and lead to lots of ground ball outs in the pros, and his physical projection will lead to far more low-90s fastballs (and eventually mid-90s peaks) than his current 86-92 MPH (93 peak) heat might have you believe. Those less keen on Ragans highlight his present command and control issues, up-and-down present velocity with no guarantee of long-term growth and staying power, and a lack of a clear future knockout offspeed pitch. The best case scenario outcome on the positive side seems to be a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher (or better) while those lower on Ragans seem him more as a pitcher who will top out as one of those quality arms that always seems to struggle with throwing enough strikes and winds up bouncing from team to team and from the rotation to the bullpen.

Because I’m boring and predictable it shouldn’t come as a big shock that I think he’ll likely fall somewhere in between those two potential ceilings. Ragans can be an athletic lefty with size and promising if untested offspeed stuff while also being a teenager with unanswered questions about his control and pitchability. I lean towards the pro-Ragans crowd (“always bet on athletes” is considered a truism around my household) coming out ahead over the long run, but both positions are reasonable. Either way, Ragans is a major talent that will have a fascinating developmental path from where he is to where he’ll wind up.

2.63 – RHP Alex Speas

I have a few friends in baseball that I can rely on for a decent quote every now and then, but even the prospect of anonymity has some of them unwilling to be quoted directly if I can help it. I don’t mind paraphrasing or aggregating multiple different views (see above), but there’s something about a direct quote, anonymous or not, that gets the blood pumping just a little faster. Thankfully when it came to the Rangers draft this year, I had more than one volunteer step up to give their quick view on what Texas did. My favorite: “Nobody thinks of them this way nationally, but of all the teams in the league that get this rep it’s really those guys who think they are smarter than everybody else. They invented baseball and know scouting better than everybody else, so going off the board is treated as a genius thing there rather than a red flag. It’s a nice place to work because being wrong is being right. They just want athletes and live arms and then put it all on the field staff to make it work.”

Lots to take away from there, right? I try to stay away from the HOT TAKES on this site when I can, but I think that one certainly qualifies. The overarching takeaway for me is that the Rangers simply do things different when it comes to the draft. Hey, if that means walking away with Cole Ragans and Alex Speas (21) with your first two picks, then maybe different is the way to go. Speas is great. Normally I’d like to think my takes are a little more nuanced than that, but I really, really like what I’ve seen out of the 6-4, 180 pound righthander. Explosive fastball (88-94, 96-98 peak), ultra-firm but effective change (mid-80s, up to 90 in some looks this past spring), average or better slider (83-86) that flashes plus, and a quality mid- to upper-70s curve that he’ll drop in as his “in case of emergency” pitch. Like Ragans, there’s a lot of dreaming that goes into Speas’s long-term projection with plenty of hoping that his athleticism will translate to a more consistent delivery (and then that will lead to more consistent command and control), but the upside is undeniably immense. There’s a huge gap between what Speas is and what he could be, but I think it’s fair to throw a future ace ceiling on him based on his raw stuff, athleticism, and amateur track record. This could look like a ridiculous second round steal sooner rather than later.

(Didn’t know where to shoehorn this in, but one contact said he thought Speas’s future is as a top five reliever in baseball. He likened him to former Rangers farmhand Carl Edwards. So there you go.)

3.99 – 3B Kole Enright

No getting around it, I completely whiffed on Kole Enright before the draft. I can’t offer much, but I did manage to get get a few names from smarter people that I can pass along to my adoring public. One contact said this pick reminded him of when the Rangers grabbed Josh Morgan earlier than many expected a few years ago. He may or may not have been the same guy who ranted about the Rangers thinking they are smarter than everybody else above. I told him he was just jealous that Texas trusts their area scouts to mine for lesser known gems and he just nodded sadly in agreement. Or at least that’s what I assume he did; tough to pick up on physical cues like that over email.

I’ve also heard a comparison between Enright and surprise 2014 first round pick of the Pirates Cole Tucker. I like that one a lot. Could be because that’s the comparison I thought of when reading up on and asking around about Enright’s skill set. I did run it by somebody who has seen both guys play (Tucker as a pro, Enright as an amateur) and he said it wasn’t crazy. Putting that one on my next (first) business card. Rob Ozga: Not Crazy!

4.129 – SS Charles Leblanc

I’ve probably said this too often that it doesn’t quite carry quite the same meaning as it would otherwise, but, man, Charles Leblanc (111) to Texas in the fourth round might be my favorite pick in the draft. This is in part because I saw Leblanc this past spring and was incredibly impressed in my short three game view, but I think my love of the big infielder from Pittsburgh goes beyond the small sample size eye test. Leblanc checks every box for me: ultra-productive draft year (.405/.494/.513 with 30 BB/29 K), great size and strength (6-4, 200 pounds), clear carrying tools (power and arm), no obvious weaknesses (solid athlete with decent wheels), young for his class (won’t be 21-years-old until next June)…the list goes on and on. His eventual defensive transition to third base will be one to watch closely as the college shortstop has the ability to man the hot corner but not yet the experience. If that goes off without a hitch, I think Leblanc could be the above-average regular at third that so many (myself included) thought Mike Olt could once be. I’m all-in on Leblanc.

(For the record, a quick check of published draft reviews so far for the terms “favorite pick” and “best pick” only turned up two names so far. Those are far from the most conclusive search terms I could use, but my hyperbole still wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. Jake Elliott and Jon Duplantier were the recipients of that praise, FWIW. I didn’t come right out and say it, but Alex Speas in the second round is another one of my favorite picks. Nice work by Texas here.)

5.159 – LHP Kyle Roberts

I won’t pretend to be the foremost expert on Kyle Roberts (287), the Rangers fifth round pick out of Henry Ford CC, but what little information I do have on the big lefthander skews positive. Roberts is a hard-thrower (up to the mid-90s) with a really promising upper-70s to low-80s slider (plus upside) and enough feel for some slower stuff (curve, change) that you can dream on the 6-6, 210 pounder as a potential starter if he keeps moving in the right direction. The fallback is pretty nice as well as I’ve heard that teams value lefties with size, velocity, and nasty sliders in the bullpen quite a bit these days. As an extremely raw prospect, it’s no big shock that one of Roberts’s biggest concerns at this stage is a lack of present control. His awesome K/9 at Henry Ford (14.28) was matched only by the (almost) equal yet opposite ugliness of his BB/9 (8.41). Considering I see the bullpen as Roberts most likely long-term home, getting his control up to an acceptable range is a far more pressing concern than developing a deeper starter’s arsenal of offspeed pitches. Get him firing fastballs and sliders with some clue where they are headed and reap the rewards.

6.189 – RHP Kyle Cody

Wondered about Kyle Cody (121) back in May 2016…

Kyle Cody’s stuff has always outstripped his results on the field. Is he destined to forever be a consistently inconsistent professional in the mold of fellow Wildcat Alex Meyer or is there something more in his game that can be unlocked with the right coaching?

Still wondering about that even after Cody’s really strong (10.08 K/9 and 2.47 BB/9 in 47.1 IP) pro debut. The comparison to Meyer continues when you look at what the one-time Nationals first round pick did (9.70 K/9 and 3.14 BB/9) as a 22-year-old splitting his time between low-A and high-A in his first full pro season. Of course, Meyer’s pro struggles should not be held against Cody as a prospect; as it turns out, I actually like Cody quite a bit as a potential mid-rotation arm (if the changeup comes on) or late-inning relief weapon (a far more likely outcome in my view). He’s athletic for a big man with a potentially lethal power sinker/slider combination that should continue to get him plenty of ground ball outs as he climbs the ladder.

7.219 – C Sam Huff

It would be easy to write off the 6-4, 200 pound Sam Huff (433) as a prime candidate to move out from behind the plate sooner rather than later, but the big guy from Arizona is a far more advanced and natural defender than his size might otherwise suggest. He’s not a total slam dunk to remain a catcher over the long haul — few teenager catchers are, after all — but he’s got a better than 50/50 shot to remain a backstop going forward. If that’s the case, then the upside for a potentially above-average regular is very clearly here. Huff’s calling card is his average to above-average raw power, but he’s also shown impressive plate coverage and disciplined approach as a hitter. Much of the feedback I’ve gotten on Huff this past offseason has been of the “pump the breaks” variety (equal parts concern about his ability to make enough contact and his defense holding up long-term), but my instinctual lean here has me ignoring that and going all-in on Huff as a future big leaguer.

8.249 – RHP Tai Tiedemann

The lack of pre-draft notes on Tai Tiedemann quickly outs me as a recent member of his bandwagon, but better late than never, right? Tiedemann, completely off my radar this past spring, would have likely been a pre-draft FAVORITE if I had known he existed. His numbers at Long Beach CC don’t jump off the page (6.98 K/9 and 3.04 BB/9 in 80.0 IP), but everything else about his scouting profile looks good to me. Tiedemann is an exceptional athlete with great size (6-6, 200), a low-mileage arm, good velocity (90-94 and climbing), feel for offspeed, and a proclivity for getting outs on the ground. Despite being two seasons past his high school graduation, his relative inexperience on the diamond makes him closer to a prep prospect than an established college guy. As long as his development is viewed through that lens (i.e., it’s going to take some time), I think Tiedemann is a keeper. It’s not a direct one-to-one comparison, but there are some distinct similarities between the earlier pick of Kyle Roberts to the Tiedemann selection three rounds later.

9.279 – RHP Hever Bueno

For as much as I can appreciate a three-pitch college righthander like Hever Bueno, the lack of any semblance of a track record (16.0 IP in both 2014 and 2015) kept me from buying in heading into his draft year. I was hoping that would change during his junior season, but, alas, his final college season (as it turned out) was cut short after only 6.1 innings due to a bum UCL that necessitated Tommy John surgery. If you’re into Bueno, you see a potential back-end starter or late-inning reliever with far more stuff (90-94 FB, 97 peak; average to above-average 81-83 CB/SL; average to above-average 84-88 CU) than results to date. I like that optimistic prognostication; it’s not a stretch at all to see better days ahead for Bueno, assuming his rehabilitation goes as planned. I’m still not really buying a pitcher who, depending on that rehab timeline, may not get back on the mound for steady pro innings until he’s a 23-years-old with only 38.1 post-HS innings to his name. The 7.28 BB/9 in said innings doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, either. That’s closer to the résumé of a guy you sign out of indy ball than a ninth round pick you pay a six-figure bonus. Of course, if I was a fan of the Rangers (or a more informed firsthand observer who had seen Bueno at his best) then I’d be all over this pick as a high reward/minimal risk gamble worth taking. It’s easy to like a pick like this because everybody involved will look really smart if it hits. If Bueno never comes all the way back from Tommy John (or the healthy version of Bueno turns out to be the wild, underdeveloped pitcher his track record suggests), then it’s just another forgotten ninth round pick.

10.309 – OF Josh Merrigan

I like to bust out the old “well-traveled” chestnut every now and then (read: too often), but it really, really applies to Josh Merrigan. The lefthanded outfielder’s path to the draft included stops at Georgia State, Chipola JC, and North Carolina before finally finding a home playing for an absolutely dominant (57-6!) Georgia Gwinnett squad. Merrigan more than did his part by hitting .423/.468/.562 with 23 BB/25 K and 44 SB in 201 AB. Lauded for his speed, arm strength, and overall athleticism, Merrigan’s maturation as a hitter makes him one to watch very closely as he climbs the minor league ladder. If it all works out, there’s some fourth outfielder upside here.

11.339 – RHP Joe Barlow

With a sophomore season split fairly evenly between starting (7 starts) and relieving (6 relief appearances, including 2 saves), Joe Barlow gives the Rangers some flexibility in how he’ll be used in the low-minors. The bullpen seems like the more sensible long-term spot for the effectively wild (9.85 K/9 and 5.79 BB/9 as a sophomore) converted catcher with the expected arm strength (low-90s heat) and rawness that comes with a young man relatively new to pitching.

12.369 – C Alex Kowalczyk

Strong arm, powerful build, and plenty of pop. That’s the short version of Alex Kowalczyk’s game. Maybe not my preferred college catcher at this point, but I still like it all right.

13.399 – SS Jonah McReynolds

Jonah McReynolds (485) is a sensible bet on tools at this stage in the draft. Athletically, he checks every box. He’s graceful and coordinated around the bag with quick hands, a plus arm, and above-average foot speed. I’m bearish on him ever hitting enough to play regularly, but it’s hard to bet an athlete like this making some noise as a potential utility guy somewhere along the way.

14.429 – RHP Derek Heffel

Asking around about Derek Heffel after the draft elicited this response: “SEC quality arm.” High praise for the native Southerner after two seasons putting up solid numbers (including 8.05 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9 as a sophomore) at decidedly “un-southern” Madison JC. Continued improvement on both his curve and chance will only help his low-90s sinker become more effective in the pros. The vibe I got around this pick from talking to those in the know was that the Rangers nabbed Heffel one year before he was going to blow out and become a top five round prospect at Middle Tennessee State. We’ll see if that’s how it really plays out, but you have to like the size and stuff in the meantime.

15.459 – OF Kobie Taylor

Easy center field range. Above-average to plus speed. Impressive (albeit not super long) track record of squaring up velocity, showing big bat speed, and making lots of hard contact. Strong arm. Solid athleticism. And the Vanderbilt seal of approval that you just love to see with any (signable) high school prospect. I like a lot about Kobie Taylor’s (218) game. Excited to see him back on the field next year after his busted thumb is all healed up. Major steal here.

16.489 – RHP Scott Engler

13.94 K/9 and 4.41 BB/9 in 51 innings as a freshman at Cowley County CC is enough for me to get on the Scott Engler bandwagon.

17.519 – RHP Reid Anderson

I commend the Rangers for taking a substantial leap of faith on their area guy with the selection of Reid Anderson here in round seventeen. Anderson, a low-mileage arm relatively new to pitching after converting from the outfield, put up career marks of 6.57 K/9 and 3.84 BB/9 at Millersville. That right there is not what you want to see out of a Division II draft prospect. Texas went a little deeper and dug what they saw with Anderson’s potential plus fastball (low-90s already with reason to believe that can trend upward with room to grow physically and mechanically) and plus slider (personally seen it flash now, though it’s still as inconsistent as one might expect for a guy with only around 80 college innings under his belt). The numbers guy in me remains dubious, but the wannabe scout keeps trying to look past the lackluster results. Odds are against him as a seventeenth round pick either way, but Anderson should be one of the more interesting mid- to late-round picks to track these next few years. It’s a fun low-stakes spin on the tired scouts vs stats narrative.

18.549 – OF Marcus Mack

Marcus Mack can really run. That’s one thing I know about him. I also know that his plus wheels help him more than hold his own defensively in center. Those are two very good things working in Mack’s favor. A third good thing will be the weight lifted off his shoulders after he records his first pro hit next season. The lefthanded hitting overslot ($175,000) speedster from Texas went an unfortunate 0-20 in his pro debut. An 0-20 stretch during the middle of the season feels bad, but ultimately gets lost in the shuffle of the day-to-day grind of pro ball. Going 0-20 to start a career and then having to put it on ice for six plus months…damn, that’s just no fun at all.

19.579 – RHP Alex Daniele

All I have on Alex Daniele: ideal size (6-5, 225), older for class (23 in April), and has shown strikeout ability (12.44 K/9 in small sample final year at Oklahoma) to go along with potential control red flags (8.05 BB/9 in same small sample). He’s done more of the same in stints at New Jersey Tech (9.90 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9) and in his brief pro debut (7.85 K/9 and 5.77 BB/9). Without any scouting notes on him it’s hard to say what his future may hold, but the patterns in his results across multiple spots can certainly give us a hint.

20.609 – 3B Stephen Lohr

Stephen Lohr had a monster junior season at Cal Baptist that included a.403/.496/.665 batting line with 36 BB/22 K in 206 AB. Good enough for me to start paying attention, I’d say.

21.639 – RHP Kaleb Fontenot

I like Kaleb Fontenot just about as much as any potential big league reliever drafted past the twentieth round. His age (24 in June of his first pro season) and size (6-1, 180) work against him, but his stuff is good enough (88-92 FB, pair of average or so offspeed pitches) to get good hitters out. Probably nothing more than last man out of the bullpen type ceiling — and I don’t mean last man in terms of the guy you use in the last inning, clearly — but at least that’s something to hang your hat on in the twenty-first round.

22.669 – C Clay Middleton

Two weeks before the draft on Clay Middleton…

Clay Middleton is a steady defender behind the plate and a useful contributor at it; in a class awash with college catching, I think he fits in the mid-rounds for a team willing to do a deep dive into the MEAC.

The Rangers wisely took the plunge with Middleton, a solid defensive player with a sound offensive approach. There’s backup catcher upside here if everything works out. Can’t hate that in the twenty-second round.

23.699 – RHP Dylan Bice

As I’ve said in a few other draft reviews, any high school prospect signed past the tenth round is automatically a good pick. Dylan Bice is a good pick for that reason. Athleticism, size, velocity (low-90s fastball, peaks a little higher than that), and feel for offspeed (change, slider) make him a really good pick.

24.729 – LHP Kenny Mendoza

Kenny Mendoza’s (443) velocity climbed as the weather warmed up this spring. Proof of that comes in my embarrassing pre-draft mix-up…

LHP Ken Mendoza (Clearview HS, New Jersey): 86-89 FB; 6-4, 215 pounds

LHP Kenneth Mendoza (Clearview Regional HS, New Jersey): 88-92 FB, 93 peak; 6-4, 215 pounds

So if you search for “Mendoza” on my site, these two gentleman will pop up. Ken is the late-summer/fall version of Mendoza while Kenneth (or Kenny) is the spring version the Rangers drafted in the twenty-fourth round. That’s a Jimbo. Mendoza is a lefthander with size, appealing velocity, and a strong aptitude for the art of pitching. By any name, it’s a really nice pick by Texas this late.

26.789 – RHP Tyree Thompson

Tyree Thompson, older for his class as a 19-year-old when drafted, is another win for Texas as we institute the “any high school prospect signed past the tenth round is a good pick” rule yet again. Tons of athleticism, physical projection (6-4, 165 feels like a frame that could put on some good weight), and present fastball velocity (88-92, 93 peak) make it a really good pick. Feels like we’ve done this before…

27.819 – LHP Lucas Jacobsen

Lucas Jacobsen shares many superficial similarities (height, whiffs, walks) to Alex Daniele. Jacobsen has a little bit of youth, a little more projection, and his lefthandeness on his side.

28.849 – RHP Marc Iseneker

A sidearming reliever from St. John Fisher College? Sure! That’s what the twenty-eighth round is all about. The rubber-armed Marc Iseneker had a nice run (8.49 K/9 and 3.55 BB/9) during his time as a Cardinal.

30.909 – LHP Christian Torres

Christian Torres (8.17 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9 at Faulker this past season) showed Texas enough to get a shot at Low-A after a few rookie ball innings. He took that opportunity and ran with it to the tune of a 8.80 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, and 1.47 ERA in 30.2 IP. Pretty impressive way to start a pro career, especially if you look past that earned run per inning clip he was on while with Spokane. Have you picked up on my trick of talking about a guy’s debut when I don’t have any worthwhile scouting notes to share?

32.969 – OF Travis Bolin

Travis Bolin makes four 2016 MLB Draft picks out of Davenport University that I’ve now written about in these draft reviews. Bolin’s 2016 season there (.412/.472/.819 with 19 BB/30 K and 17/24 SB in 226 AB) makes him as deserving as any of the three Panthers pitchers to be drafted ahead of him. He was productive albeit prone to swings and misses in his debut. I’m into it as a super late round sleeper to store away. For what it’s worth, the next few Davenport teams should have some players up for draft consideration as well. I’ve already got 1B/OF Brian Sobieski (2017) and Central Michigan transfer LHP Grant Wolfram (2018) in my sights.

33.999 – RHP Mark Vasquez

This one leaves me conflicted. On one hand, teams drafting multiple players from NAIA schools — even great ones like Faulkner — remains a sore subject. Sure there’s a chance that the Rangers organically came to the conclusion that two of the top thirty-three players in their draft pool both happened to attend Faulkner, but it sure as heck doesn’t seem statistically likely to me. Convenience scouting is a thing and while I understand the pros that come with it (all of this has been talked to death in other draft reviews by now, BTW), it will always set me off just a little bit. If nothing else, I think examples like Texas going with Christian Torres and Mark Vasquez, both out of a NAIA school with around 3000 students enrolled, show that that big league teams have finite resources they can and will spend on amateur scouting. Don’t listen to those who constantly throw the “appeal to authority” logical fallacy at you when it comes to pro teams knowing so much more than we could ever possibly imagine as outsiders.

On the other hand (took a while but we got here), the actual player selected (Vasquez) looks pretty interesting. Definitely can’t hate a team getting a workhorse pitcher coming off a senior year with peripherals (11.26 K/9 and 2.10 BB/9) like his. He’s older for his class (25 in May) and highly unlikely to reach the big leagues (as anybody picked in the thirty-third round would be), but it’s far from a throwaway pick. I don’t know what to think about this one. All I know is that I’ve spent more time on pick 999 than about 99.9% of the population and I’m all right with that.

34.1029 – OF Preston Scott

From 2012…

3B Preston Scott (Hanford HS, California): really quick bat; big power upside; promising defender

Four years later, Preston Scott got himself drafted and signed to pro ball after a .339/.418/.579 (22 BB/20 K) season at Fresno Pacific. That line is made all the more impressive when viewed through the prism of his team’s .265/.350/.348 overall line. Scott’s power plays and his athleticism helps him both in the field defensively and on the base paths. I like this pick. The only downside is that it makes me thing of an old friend of mine named Scott Preston who I’ve lost touch with over the years. Haven’t seen him since middle school…that’s almost twenty years ago now. Wonder how he’s doing…

35.1059 – RHP Jean Casanova

Jean Casanova, who grew up in the Dominican Republic, is yet another high school pitcher signed by Texas late in the draft. Really nice work by their area guys in gauging signability this year. For his part, Casanova has a solid heater (88-92) and a full assortment of secondary offerings (none stand out just yet, maybe the change if you had to pick one). Worth a shot.

37.1119 – OF Austin O’Banion

Austin O’Banion hit .335/.429/.588 with 24 BB/40 K in 170 AB at Fullerton JC. This March 3, 2016 article offered a fine bit of foreshadowing…

Last week, Fuscardo said a good friend of his who scouts for the Texas Rangers recently left the field wowed by O’Banion’s fielding chops and raw power.

38.1149 – RHP Reilly Peltier

An easy to spot Texas 2016 MLB Draft trend that I probably should have mentioned sooner: pitchers with size. Just about every pitcher the Rangers drafted this past year is a physical monster. Coming in at 6-5, 215 pounds, Reilly Peltier, fresh off a fine season McHenry County JC (12.73 K/9 and 4.20 BB/9 in 68.2 IP), is no different.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Brent Burgess (Spartanburg Methodist), Tyler Walsh (Belmont), Herbie Good (Santa Barbara CC), Blair Calvo (Pittsburgh), Robert Harris (?), Tra’Mayne Holmes (Alabama State)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Atlanta Braves

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Atlanta in 2016

17 – Ian Anderson
25 – Joey Wentz
87 – Brett Cumberland
92 – Kyle Muller
275 – Bryse Wilson
376 – Drew Harrington

Complete List of 2016 Atlanta Braves Draftees

1.3 – RHP Ian Anderson

Ian Anderson (17) is a better prospect than the number in parentheses next to his name indicates. A general fear of high school pitching caused him to move down my final board — a board with Groome/Pint in the top two spots, go figure — but I like the Braves going bold (and underslot) with Anderson at three. The logic behind the pick feels sound (in a draft with no sure-things, spread that bonus around to take as many stabs at early round talent as you can) and the player they actually landed is as good a bet as any first round pick to make a difference over the long haul. Feels like a win-win to me. A few older notes on Anderson from April 2016…

Fans of twenty-nine other teams would not like this one bit. Ian Anderson, a dark-horse 1-1 candidate, has everything you’d want to see in a high school righthander with worlds of projection left. He also helps my pet theory that there’s an easy shortcut to amateur scouting: just follow the recruits. If a player is committed to Vanderbilt, like Ian Anderson is, move him up ___ spots on your board. Let the college teams do the hard work for you! Vanderbilt, Florida, UCLA, LSU…if a guy has a commitment to a school on that level, then you should want to draft him. I loved Anderson as much as anybody as he began to put his name on the national map, but once he had that Vandy commit in his back pocket he started looking better than ever.

You can ignore the college commitment thing if you want, but the “dark-horse 1-1 candidate” bit is worth keeping in mind. I saw some kill Atlanta for reaching badly for Anderson here, but it’s hard to call a pitcher identified as a dark-horse 1-1 candidate two months before the draft all that much of a reach at three. From April 2016 as well…

A pre-season FAVORITE who has only gone on to bigger and better things in the interim, Ian Anderson can make a case for being the top prep righthander in this class. He’s one of the handful of young arms with the potential for three plus pitches — 88-94 fastball (95 peak), 77-80 breaking ball, and a 80-85 change — but what truly separates him from the pack is his ten years in the big league veteran command. Fantasy owners rightfully scared off by high school pitchers — so far from the big leagues with so much time to get hurt! — not named Groome and Pint would be wise to include Anderson in that big three on draft day. One scout friend of mine called Anderson a “more explosive Aaron Nola.” A little bit of upside (or a lot), a little bit of certainty (very little, but still more than most HS arms)…where do I sign up?

“More explosive Aaron Nola” is exceedingly high praise, I’d say. Anderson has a legit claim to three future plus pitches (88-94 sinking FB, 96 peak; 75-80 CB, 80-85 CU) with plus command and plenty of projection left in his 6-3, 170 pound frame. I’m literally not sure what more you could want in a high school pitching prospect. Atlanta’s system is loaded with both high-end (albeit risky) talent and crazy depth, so offseason prospect rankings of the team’s farm will be some of the most interesting we’ve seen in years. There’s so much top-heavy talent that there’s really no wrong way to organize the team’s cream of the crop (or at least I hope not…); hopefully my kind of out there take that the two best prospects in the system right now are Anderson and Kolby Allard in some order (with mystery man Kevin Maitan on the same tier but too hard for me to place just yet) isn’t seen as too nuts. On second thought, who really cares if it is?

1.40 – LHP Joey Wentz

You’re free to ignore my Joey Wentz (25) take considering I initially liked him better as a hitter than a pitcher after seeing him for the first time last summer. That’s when I first starting thinking of him as a bigger Pavin Smith, a comp that feels outdated now that we know Wentz is a pro pitcher and Smith will soon be a pro hitter. Probably wasn’t a great comp to begin with considering the two guys throw with opposite hands, but what’s done is done. Moving past that, we’re free to talk about Wentz and how fantastic he looked on the mound for scouts all spring. With a big fastball (89-94, 96 peak), a 69-76 curve with above-average to plus promise, and a 79-85 change that looks a little better with every chance he has to throw it, Wentz has the kind of stuff to pitch near the front of a rotation. His command is far better than you’d expect out of two-way performer, but his control remains a bit of a work in progress. The all-around package is very enticing, and his athleticism (plus whatever you get out of him as a hitter, assuming our little non-DH league survives) and physical strength (“very well put together” was a familiar post-draft refrain) are cherries on top.

Interestingly enough (to me), I have no comps for Wentz. Asked around — hence the “very well put together” bit — and nobody could offer nothing. Closest I got was the “not a real comp” comp of the high school version of Madison Bumgarner (pre-slider) based on very general shared traits like size, strength, athleticism, ability at the plate, and fastball velocity. Again, that’s not a direct comparison by any stretch — and, as mentioned a few times lately around here, Bumgarner’s development makes him a tough guy to comp any young pitcher to — but it’s the closest I got all spring/summer for the “uncompable” Wentz.

2.44 – LHP Kyle Muller

Apparently Atlanta liked Joey Wentz so much that they decided to grab him again just four picks later. Fine, Kyle Muller (92) isn’t an exact clone of Wentz, but the two are close. Both had dominant springs in competitive high school environments. Both have seen considerable velocity jumps over the past twelve months. Both were seen by some as better hitters (hey, even if I was the only one who liked Wentz’s bat that much, it still counts!) at one point or another during their amateur careers. And both are lefthanders with intimidating size. Their differences, however, help explain the roughly half-million dollar difference paid out to the two on draft day. Honestly, I assumed it would have been a larger difference before I started typing that sentence. Let’s use this one instead: Their differences, however, explain why one guy (Wentz) was ranked 25th on the pre-draft board while the other (Muller) came in at 92nd. Little self-serving, but better.

The point either way is that Wentz is the better prospect than Muller. That doesn’t mean Muller is a bad prospect, obviously; it simply means that Wentz is better. Muller’s present fastball (85-92, 94 peak) isn’t quite on the same level as Wentz’s and his offspeed stuff (73-78 CB, 77 CU) tops out as average for now unlike Wentz’s potential plus breaker. When Wentz can look like a potential game one or two playoff starter at his best, Muller’s ceiling feels closer to the middle of the rotation than the top. He’s still a really good prospect with as much a chance to become a great one than to fade away.

2.76 – C Brett Cumberland

On Brett Cumberland (87) from April 2016…

Brett Cumberland primary claim to fame is and will be his bat. His hit tool is legit and his power is really appealing. He’s also been described to me as a guy who can be pitched to while also being the kind of smart, naturally gifted hitter who can then make adjustments on the fly. His glove is more “good enough” than good, but there’s enough there that you can work with him to make it work.

I’ve since heard two things about Cumberland’s defense behind the plate. First, Atlanta is going to do whatever it takes to work with him to make it work as a catcher. Second, he’s not a catcher. Those two bits of information could not possibly make less sense when lumped together as one, yet they 100% could both be true. I believe in Cumberland enough as a hitter to think he could carve out a big league role for himself even if he can’t catch regularly. I also believe that said role (bat-first 1B/C platoon and/or bench option?) would not quite justify his second round pedigree. It’s not quite so simple to say that Cumberland has to catch to make this pick worth it, but…he kind of has to catch to make this pick worth it. That is, unless you really believe in him as a hitter. I qualified my earlier belief in his bat with “enough” and “could,” so that should tell you something about where I stand there. I still like the pick because, as an upside junkie, getting a potential impact offensive catcher this late in the draft is a rare and beautiful thing. If you have any confidence at all you can squeeze out an average-ish defender out of him behind the plate, then this is worth a shot. I’d personally lean towards wanting a better defensive catcher (Sean Murphy and Jeremy Martinez were two of the next three catchers off the board, FWIW) to grow and work with the bevy of young pitchers coming up through the system.

3.80 – LHP Drew Harrington

Drew Harrington (376) breaks my longstanding rule of exhausting a pitcher out as a starter before moving him to the bullpen as a last resort. I’d still have Harrington pitch in a minor league rotation as long as possible, but I think a future in a big league bullpen as a two-pitch reliever (88-93 fastball with plenty of movement, above-average to plus 76-82 breaking ball he leans on heavily) suits him better than trying to get through a lineup multiple times as a potential fifth starter. Harrington as a reliever at Louisville missed bats like crazy. I’d take more of the 2015 version of Harrington (12.19 K/9 and 0.29 ERA in 31.0 relief innings) than the 2016 starting pitching version (6.95 K/9 and 2.08 ERA in 103.2 IP). I get the value of a starter over a reliever, and I think Atlanta would be wise to keep him starting as long as he can handle it. HOWEVER, Harrington looks like a future reliever to me any way you slice it. Getting him accustomed to that role sooner rather than later seems like good business to me. It also doesn’t hurt that Atlanta has a much-discussed starting pitching surplus throughout the system. Get Harrington in the bullpen and I think he could pitch his way into the relief mix by 2018.

To add fuel to my Harrington as reliever fire, Frankie Pilliere dropped one of my all-time favorite comps on the young lefty from Louisville this spring. Ready for this one? Pilliere said that Harrington reminded him of Ron Villone. How great is that? I love that the MLB Draft allows us to discuss a player compared to Ron Villone. And it’s a really good comp, too!

4.109 – RHP Bryse Wilson

The internet is a big place, so I’m quite sure that somebody else has already done this. Just in case…

26.2 IP 29 K 8 BB 2 ER
27.2 IP 38 K 12 BB 2 ER
39.2 IP 36 K 12 BB 9 ER
44.0 IP 53 K 25 BB 18 ER

Those are the debut lines for the four high school pitchers selected by Atlanta within their first six picks. That comes out to a 2.02 ERA in 138 IP with 10.17 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9. If we take out the “worst” (relative term!) of the quartet (sorry, Joey Wentz), then the numbers look like this: 9.86 K/9, 3.06 BB/9, and 1.24 ERA in 94 IP. That’s insane. I don’t love what Atlanta did once we get past the first few rounds, but it may not matter if these prep pitchers pan out as hoped. Bryse Wilson (275), the latest prep pitcher in question, looks like a keeper. He shares many of the same traits as the three high school pitchers to come before him — dominant spring performance, athletic, good fastballs — with a little less size and physical projection left than his peers. That’s not much of a problem when a) you’re already hitting the mid-90s with your fastball, and b) you’re no longer talking about a player being taken in the first hundred picks. Wilson’s big arm (88-94, 96 peak), intriguing 77-80 slider, and deceptive if sometimes unruly delivery give him a solid relief floor even if starting doesn’t work out.

5.139 – RHP Jeremy Walker

Jeremy Walker is pretty close to the ascending college pitcher prototype. He’s been good in the past, sure, but his best days look to be ahead of him. I was impressed with his jump in strikeouts from his sophomore season (6.86 K/9) to his junior year (8.88 K/9), and he kept that up in his pro debut (8.39 K/9). I’ve long looked at his as a future reliever because I could see his fastball eventually living in the mid- to upper-90s with a wipeout hard slider, but he’s got the size, athleticism, and third pitch (not a change, but a softer curve) to get through the order multiple times. I like this pick a lot. So often I’ll go fifth starter/middle reliever on a college guy’s upside, but Walker is a clear cut above that for me. I think he’s either a mid-rotation arm or a late-inning reliever. He’s good.

6.169 – 2B Matt Gonzalez

I’ve really, really liked Atlanta’s draft to this point. This, however, is where the wheels begin to come off a little bit for me. Fortunately (because my opinion is all that matters, naturally), Atlanta came back around with some later picks like Rowland, White (x2), Howell, Benson, Crowley, Clouse, and Pokorney. Until then, we get a little bit of a lull. Now back to your regularly scheduled pick-by-pick analysis…

We probably should have seen this coming. Matt Gonzalez went from a Georgia HS (Harrison) to Georgia Tech to Atlanta, Georgia. He looks the part and has many of the physical skills needed to reach the big leagues, but his approach at the plate has long limited his overall value as a hitter. His prospect status gets a slight bump thanks to his defensive versatility — he played second, third, and left field in his debut — and there’s always some hope that a player as talented as he looked to be entering Georgia Tech will figure things out in the pros. I have a hard time getting on board with a college prospect without overwhelming tools who enters pro ball with a 63 BB/191 K college mark, but Atlanta did not consult me before making the pick.

7.199 – OF JB Moss

I love that the Braves went aggressive in promoting JB Moss to High-A Carolina after just about 100 or so impressive plate appearances in rookie ball. That promotion didn’t go all that well, but if you’re drafting a 23-year-old in the seventh round then you should expect him to be able to handle a full-season assignment as soon as possible. If the experience helps Moss start strong at High-A next season, it’ll have been worth it. For as much as I love the aggressive promotion, I’m not quite as in love with the prospect. Moss has clear big league skills in his speed, center field range, and throwing arm, but offensively he’s too much of a hacker to justify his below-average pop. I suppose taking players like Moss is just the cost of doing business when you go overslot early in the draft. Still, there are other senior-signs that could offer more than his fifth outfielder upside.

8.229 – LHP Taylor Hyssong

A jump in velocity from the upper-80s to the low-90s (94 peak) helped Tyler Hyssong get drafted in the eighth round. He might not have been my preferred senior-sign in this case, but I suppose there’s some logic in getting a low-mileage lefthander with that kind of velocity when you can.

9.259 – OF Tyler Neslony

On Tyler Neslony from April 2016…

Tyler Neslony, the top returning position player prospect in the conference per this very site (he peaked at third behind CJ Hinojosa and Ben Johnson last year), is hurt by the strong likelihood that he’ll be confined to the corners as a pro. I still like his power and plate discipline combination as a mid- to late-round senior sign. Scouts who saw a lot of him during his awesome sophomore season will likely give him more of the benefit of the doubt than those in the national media who consider going fifty deep with a draft list an exhausting task.

As alluded to above, Neslony looked like a contender to eventually crash the top first few rounds after his humongous sophomore season (.375/.454/.600 with 20 BB/16 K), but never quite reached the same peaks over his next two seasons at Texas Tech. I think the barrier to entry as a corner outfielder is likely too high for Neslony, but I can get behind him as a potential platoon and/or bench bat if he can keep hitting.

10.289 – SS Marcus Mooney

Marcus Mooney is about as straightforward an evaluation you’re going to get. Defensively, he’s reliable with good hands and a strong arm without exceptional range. Offensively, he has a knack for making lots of contact but his overall upside is limited due to a lack of pop and merely average foot speed. His work ethic and demeanor in the clubhouse make him exactly the kind of player you want other prospects in the organization to learn from. The fact he can play multiple spots — he saw time at short, second, and third in his debut — makes him a perpetually useful plug-and-play option. If he hangs on long enough there’s at least a glimmer of hope he can one day be a big league utility guy, but that’s a long shot at this point. There’s still some real overarching developmental value with having a guy like him on your side, but I get that this isn’t a pick that will excited the masses.

11.319 – RHP Matt Rowland

I like Matt Rowland a lot more today than I did a few months ago and that’s without the benefit of having thrown a single professional pitch yet in his career. The one-man operation I’ve got going here means that occasionally my information will be dated enough to render it more or less useless. Between that and the fact that some teenagers simply refuse to stop growing and getting stronger, I can miss on certain players due to bad or old information. My notes on Rowland paint a picture of a 6-3, 180 pound kid with some projection left, a present 86-91 fastball, and a pair of inconsistent breaking balls that often run into each other. The current version of Rowland is listed at 6-5, 175 pounds with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s and a much sharper breaking ball thrown with far more consistent power.

12.349 – RHP Brandon White

Born 12/21/1994. Outstanding pro debut. Good size. Went to school at Lander. Got $100,000 to sign. Put up these numbers –13.40 K/9 and 3.13 BB/9 in 40.1 IP — as the Bearcats closer. Leans on a solid cut-slider he’ll throw in any count. Not a ton of upside, but relatively high floor as a potential quick-moving reliever with a long track record of missing bats. Nice pick.

13.379 – RHP Brandon White

Born 12/6/1992. Decent pro debut. Good size. Went to school at Davenport. Got $85,000 to sign. Did this — 9.44 K/9 and 1.77 BB/9 in 61.0 IP — in the Panthers rotation. College teammates with Corbin Clouse, Atlanta’s twenty-seventh round pick (see below). Athletic delivery with a fast arm capable of running it up to the mid- to upper-90s (97 peak) gives him more upside than most thirteenth round picks, but he’ll have to move quick as a 23-year-old rookie. With his heat that’s certainly possible assuming he is shifted full-time to the bullpen. Nice pick.

14.409 – 1B Ramon Osuna

When I reached out to a few different contacts for information on Ramon Osuna the first thing out of each guy’s mouth was about the kind of person and worker he is. Talk about his baseball ability came second, but everybody (two people, fine) wanted to share how good a guy he was first and foremost. How much that matters to you is a personal call, but, if nothing else, I think it makes rooting for Atlanta’s fourteenth round pick a lot easier from the outside looking in. Osuna, of course, is more than just a nice fellow, snappy dresser, and good tipper.. His final year at Walters State saw him hit a robust .389/.513/.755 with 54 BB/45 K and 12/12 SB in 208 AB. The big (6-3, 240) lefty moves well enough for his size to have played some outfield for the Senators, though first base was the only position he spent time at in his pro debut. Curtailing some of the swing-and-miss in his game would go a long way to moving him from “intriguing” to “hey, this guy is legit and more people need to pay attention” as a prospect, but his power and underrated athleticism are enough to get him on the radar for now.

15.439 – RHP Zach Becherer

I write draft reviews across the league in a scattershot way, jumping from team to team depending on my current mood. One hour I might be working on the Rockies, the next hour I might come back to Atlanta. It’s all about my motivation in that given moment as well as the flow of information I’m getting at that time about that team. Sometimes that produces some odd looking results. I walked away from Atlanta’s draft for about a month to finish other team reports (and, you know, real life stuff), so when I finally came back to this one week ago things looked a little…chaotic. Here are my unedited notes on Zach Becherer, Braves fifteenth round pick…

Cool video can be found on Zach Becherer here.

14.33 K/9 in 27.0 IP

same school as unsigned Dayton Tripp, who is off to Lipscomb.

only 5 starts

88-92 (93), 76-81 BB

95, reports of rumored higher peaks

April 13th TJ surgery

17.499 – RHP Devan Watts

Devan Watts struck out 11.31 batters per nine innings in his junior season at Tusculum. That figure helped up his two-year mark to 10.93 with a 2.26 BB/9 and 2.44 ERA to go with it. He’s part of a larger draft trend of emphasizing track record and not worrying about level of competition or size. The converted infielder’s reputation as a hard sinker/slider ground ball roller didn’t quite hold up in a pro debut he actually allowed more fly balls than ground balls, but everything else about his start in pro ball (9.89 K/9 and 0.76 ER in 23.2 IP) looks good from the outside looking in.

18.569 – LHP Zach Rice

Much respect to Atlanta’s area guy down in North Carolina if this one works out. Zach Rice has always been regarded as a live-armed lefty (87-92 FB, 94 peak; 82-84 SL) with considerable natural talent, but getting him the innings needed to show off his ability has been a persistent challenge. His ugly pro debut was certainly less than both he and Atlanta could have hoped for, but at least he was out on a mound for an extended period of time. The 17.2 IP he threw Danville almost matched his innings total (36.1) achieved in three seasons as a Tar Heel. Some of the sting of that rough start can also be taken away when Rice’s age (20-years-old all season, young for his class) is taken into account. The Braves seemed to bet big on many small school prospects who put up big numbers later in the draft. This pick is the complete opposite of that. I like the diversification of their draft portfolio in that way.

19.599 – LHP Tucker Davidson

Tucker Davidson used his good stuff (everybody raves about his slider) to get off to a great start in pro ball. He’s well worth watching going forward. Davidson also gets high marks from the numbers side of my brain for doing this at Midland JC: 9.47 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, and 2.27 ERA in 71.1 IP. Those numbers look good without context, but consider that the cumulative staff ERA at Midland this past year was 5.49. Without Davidson, the staff ERA would have jumped to 6.10.

20.589 – 2B Gabe Howell

I say it a lot, but any high school prospect signed after the completion of the top ten rounds is a gamble worth taking. Gabe Howell, twentieth round pick of Atlanta, is no exception. Howell is an exceptional athlete with legit plus speed and burgeoning power. There’s some uncertainty about where he’ll wind up defensively — the prep shortstop played third in his debut, but could also be tried at second or center to see what sticks — but he’s a skilled enough player to make it work somewhere. Great pick.

21.619 – RHP Dalton Carroll

Dalton Carroll’s career K/9’s by season as a Ute: 4.81 in 2013, 5.76 in 2014, 5.42 K/9 in 2015, and 5.15 in 2016. Once he signed his first pro contract and put on a Danville Brave jersey, his K/9 spiked to 8.46. Stuff like that really reinforces the pointlessness of trying to guess what direction 18- to 22-year-old ballplayers’ careers will go. That doesn’t mean we’ll quit trying, of course. Carroll has decent stuff — 88-92 FB (94 peak) with two average or so offspeed pitches (change and slider) — and solid command, so he should continue to pitch well in the low-minors. His big test will come around AA or so. It’s a fifth starter skill set if it all works out, but middle relief seems his most likely realistic destination if he is to make it in the big leagues.

22.649 – 1B Alex Lee

Alex Lee finished up his final year at Samford as one of college baseball’s most productive senior bats. The lefthander hit .335/.421/.523 with 35 BB/28 K in 239 AB. That alone makes him a nice pick in my book. The most likely outcome is probably organizational hitter with a slim chance at being an up-and-down bench bat, but the process (find enough highly productive amateur bats) is more important to me here than the probable result.

23.679 – 1B Griffin Benson

Griffin Benson was being pulled over by a police offer when he found out the Braves had drafted him. That’s great. It’s also all I have on him. The earlier rule about there being no such thing as a bad high school pick after round ten applies to Benson. He’s big (6-5, 210), he’s a switch-hitter, and he’s from Texas. Works for me.

24.709 – OF Matt Hearn

Turns out that Atlanta really love their California Community College Baseball players. One such player is Matt Hearn, an outfielder who hit .383/.458/.467 with 22 BB/11 K in 193 PA at Mission JC this past spring. He didn’t hit nearly that well in his pro debut and the quick notes I had on him weren’t particularly encouraging (good approach, but not quite enough power/speed to make an impact), but I can’t get too mad at a team taking a shot on a guy with twice as many walks as whiffs in his draft year.

25.739 – 3B Ryan O’Malley

Ryan O’Malley hit .335/.442/.557 with 34 BB/34 K in 176 AB for Sonoma State in 2016. I don’t mean to oversimplify the Braves approach — and keep in mind I’m only guessing as best an outsider can — but it appears that performance matters and level of competition isn’t all that much a concern. I can dig it. Feels a little Cardinals-y.

26.769 – C Alan Crowley

Forgive me for having to double-check if it’s Alan Crowley from Reedley or Alan Reedley from Crowley. Either way, it appears the Braves have done it again. Crowley hit .363/.463/.525 with 24 BB/18 K in 190 PA at Reedley this past year. The power spike was new for him, but the plus approach has always been a part of his game. All I know beyond that is that he’s good enough defensively to stick behind the plate. Works for me.

27.799 – LHP Corbin Clouse

75 strikeouts and 25 walks in 50 innings. That’s a very pretty line. And it’s exactly what Corbin Clouse did as a redshirt-sophomore at Davenport. His numbers were even better in the pros, though slightly less pretty to look at. In 30.1 IP (damn that third of an inning), Clouse struck out 53 batters and walked 15. That’s good for a 15.74 K/9 and a 4.46 BB/9 with the majority of his innings taking place in Low-A. I can dig it. His stuff fits the standard sinker/slider middle relief prototype with the added benefit of coming from the left side. He can also mix in a curve that flashes average or better and a nascent change, but both pitches have largely been phased out in lieu that one-two low-90s sinker/low-80s slider punch better suited to relief work. Fantastic work by the Braves zeroing in on this guy. It wouldn’t shock me to see him contribute to a big league bullpen as early as the middle of next season.

28.829 – 2B Nick Shumpert

A little bit of data can mean a lot to me. I don’t know if that makes me a “box score scout” or what, but the one-eighty spin I did on Nick Shumpert from 2015 to 2016 was based far more on performance informing an opinion than projection influencing judgment. I can live with whatever that makes me. Here’s some of what was written about the high school version of Shumpert…

Nick Shumpert (Highlands Ranch HS, Colorado) is another high-level easy to like middle infield prospect. On straight tools alone, he might rank second only to Rodgers in this year’s high school shortstop class. If power upside is what you want, I’d say he’s pretty clearly second only to Rodgers. That average or better raw power combined with a fascinating mixture of athleticism, arm strength (average, maybe more), speed (above-average, plays up), defensive upside (love him at second, but think he could also excel at short in time), and bat speed (so hard to measure objectively, but whatever it is he has it) make him a pretty large personal favorite. He’s even got the big league bloodlines thing going for him, if you’re into that sort of thing. If there’s a player in this class I’d compare to [Brandon] Phillips, it would be Shumpert and his explosive hands at the plate.

And here’s something written about Kyle Lewis and scouting hitting in general that applies…

It goes back to something I mentioned in the comments section a few weeks back: guys either learn to hit or they don’t. That’s my paraphrased take from this scout’s quote talking about the likelihood of Jahlil Okafor improving his outside shot as a professional: “He needs to become a better shooter and free throw shooter. He either will or he won’t.” Scouts work very hard evaluating amateur and minor league talent across the country, so their collective insight into projecting a young hitter’s future is not to be dismissed. But…can we ever really know how a guy is going to react when thrown into the professional environment? A 95 MPH fastball with movement is a 95 MPH fastball with movement at any level. Plus speed, outstanding glove work, and the ability to miss bats are all translatable skills when honed properly. Hitting is an entirely different animal.

The possibility that Shumpert won’t hit enough to tap into his big raw power feels a lot more real now after a year of underwhelming junior college stats (.284/.348/.420 with 15 BB/51 K) than it did when his future as a hitter was, like all high school prospects, a larger unknown. Having written all this and dropped Shumpert way down on my personal rankings, I should be clear that I don’t think he’s a bad prospect nor do I believe the Braves made a bad move here. If anything, Atlanta getting him in the twenty-eighth round is a serious coup. What made Shumpert so appealing in the first place remains; his considerable physical gifts as outlined above remain present. We know more about his bat — or we think we know more, at least — and that has changed his overall future value, but that hardly makes investing in his development not worth it. It could just be that Shumpert will take time. Most twenty-eighth round picks aren’t afforded that luxury, but Shumpert is a talented enough guy that he should get what he needs in pro ball.

29.859 – OF Jackson Pokorney

Prospects like Jackson Pokorney are right at home in the twenty-ninth round. Athletic, speedy, physical, and still a bit raw, Pokorney was a star at Mater Dei HS (the Indiana one, not the California one…I had to check and recheck that myself a few times) in both baseball and football. The switch-hitter makes a lot more contact than you’d expect from such a late pick, so consider me bullish on his future as a hitter. I like this one.

30.889 – RHP Cameron Stanton

Cameron Stanton had a good year for St. Edward’s baseball: 8.07 K/9, 1.75 BB/9, 3.16 ERA. All fine marks on the surface. Unfortunately, two of those three stats were actually worse than the overall team performance on the year. As a pitching staff, Hilltopper pitchers (including Stanton) did this: 8.74 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, and 2.63 ERA. That doesn’t negate the nice work done by Stanton, but a little context never hurt anybody. When it comes to contextual production, consider Stanton the anti-Tucker Davidson.

32.949 – RHP Ryan Schlosser

I’m wasn’t happy I didn’t have anything on Ryan Schlosser in my notes. Then I realized he attended a junior college that I’ve literally never heard of and felt a tiny bit better. Schlosser, the pride of Century College (located in beautiful White Bear Lake, Minnesota) put up really good sophomore numbers for the Wood Ducks: 11.91 K/9 and 3.57 BB/9 in 68.0 IP. Schlosser is the first player from Century College drafted since 2013. The Braves selected Jared Dettmann that year. Hmm. It’s also worth noting (or not) that the Wood Ducks best hitter (arguably) was named Wes Anderson. Neat.

34.1009 – OF Jared James

Long Beach State transfer Jared James hit .312/.411/.494 with 32 BB/24 K and 14/18 SB in his senior season at Division II Cal Poly Pomona. He kept right on hitting as a pro. In a debut highlighted by a sensational 101 PA in Low-A, James hit a combined .300/.379/.420 with 21 BB/30 K in 207 AB. Can’t speak to anything but the production you see before you, but that’s impressive enough to at least get on the deepest depths of the prospect radar heading into 2017.

39.1159 – LHP Parker Danciu

Decent stuff (87-90 from the left side) with good size (6-3, 220) turned into pretty terrible junior year numbers (4.57 K/9 and 5.74 ERA in 84.2 IP) at Marshall. Then he signed a pro contract and got not terrible again: 7.89 K/9 and 2.43 ERA in 29.2 IP. Baseball is a funny game, they say. Parker Danciu is living proof.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Dylan Beasley (Berry), Dayton Tripp (Lipscomb), Zac Kristofak (Georgia), Andres Perez (North Georgia), Michael Gizzi (?), Handsome Monica (Louisiana), Cameron Jabara (Oregon), Josh Anthony (Auburn)

I can’t for the life of me figure out why this Josh Anthony story wasn’t picked up by any of the national draft/prospect writers…

Anthony confirmed to the Montgomery Advertiser that Atlanta executives called him Friday morning to say they could no longer honor their offer. Anthony said Braves officials informed his father that if they signed Anthony to the agreed upon amount that would put them over Major League Baseball’s bonus pool cap and force them to potentially lose a future draft pick.

“They told me that if they honored the deal then that would put them in the tax and so they couldn’t do it,” Anthony said. “I was ready to sign and they revoked the offer.”

I get that offers can be pulled at any time. I get that the draft rules put teams in crummy situations like this far too often. Still feels like a low thing for Atlanta to do. Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a lot more to it than I know. Optics look bad from here, though.

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – St. Louis Cardinals

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by St. Louis in 2016

5 – Delvin Perez
19 – Dakota Hudson
70 – Connor Jones
79 – Jeremy Martinez
151 – Dylan Carlson
160 – Zac Gallen
165 – Walker Robbins
179 – John Kilichowski
245 – Tyler Lancaster
347 – Vincent Jackson
386 – Austin Sexton
419 – Spencer Trayner
467 – Andrew Knizner

Complete List of 2016 St. Louis Cardinals Draftees

This is the twelfth published draft review. Beyond that, I’ve more or less finished about half of the league’s draft reviews that should see the light of day sooner rather than later. In other words, while I don’t have a complete in-depth idea of what every team in baseball did this past draft, I think we’re now far enough along this process to start making some overarching observations about the 2016 MLB Draft as a whole. That in mind, it’s safe to now point out that the gap between what the Cardinals managed to do with their 2016 draft and what the rest of the league did is substantial. There are a lot of “it” teams in baseball these days — many of which are plenty deserving of the mantle, the most recent World Series champions being at or near the top of the list for most observers — but I still think that the Cards deserve the top spot as the best run team in the sport. All other candidates have enough advantages (terrible seasons that have led to high picks, crazy international spending and financial freedom to make personnel mistakes, big dollar free agents to supplement their core), but the Cardinals track record over the past decade plus is pristine. They just keep chugging along without little to no dip in overall output along the way.

This high praise got me thinking about how I’d go about justifying that claim to a neutral third party who loves baseball but doesn’t much care for the draft or long-term player development minutiae. To test how strongly I felt about the Cardinals’s recent track record of excellence, I fired off a quick email to a big baseball fan friend who literally knows nothing about the MLB Draft. My attempt to sum up what the Cardinals did as succinctly as possible…

Their first two picks were high school hitters who won’t turn 18-years-old until October and November respectively. Both hit really well in the GCL. Then they took a pair of college pitchers. I love one and like the other, but the important thing here is the plan they clearly had: combined the two got 56 ground balls, 9 line drives, and 6 fly balls in their debuts. That’s a 79% GB-rate on batted balls. They took up-the-middle college hitters in the fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Let me throw some lines at you. First, there’s a .325/.419/.433 with 32 BB/16 K in 235 PA. Then we have a .286/.400/.427 with 48 BB/29 K in 310 PA. Finally we get a .319/.423/.492 with 21 BB/21 K in 222 PA. Those ain’t college numbers, those are the pro debuts of those three picks. Their eighth round selection was a Tommy John recovery gamble that could pay off big.

They took a college hitter with this career line: .374/.446/.600 with 64 BB/32 K. They took a college player who did this in his draft year: .444/.502/.639 with 25 BB/15 K and 30/32 SB. Their tenth and eleventh round picks look like rock solid long-time big league contributors. They went with intriguing upside guys in the twelfth (HS), fourteenth (college), and sixteenth (JUCO) rounds, and did so by getting talent from everywhere.

And on and on and on I could have gone. This is a great draft. Don’t believe me? Read on…

1.23 – SS Delvin Perez

I love Delvin Perez (5). A few words from May 2016…

The MLB Draft: go big on upside or go home, especially early on day one. And if you’ve got the smarts/guts enough to do just that, then make it a shortstop when possible. And if you’re going to gamble on a high risk/high reward shortstop, make it as young a shortstop as you can find. And if that young shortstop also happens to have game-changing speed, an above-average to plus arm, plus raw power, and a frame to dream on, then…well, maybe Delvin Perez should be talked more about as the potential top overall prospect in this class then he is. I know there’s some chatter, but maybe it should be louder. What stands out most to me about Perez is how much better he’s gotten over the past few months. That, combined with his youth, has his arrow pointed up in a major way.

The Perez supporters – myself included, naturally – obviously believe in his bat, but also believe that he won’t necessarily have to hit a ton to be a damn fine player when you factor in his defensive gifts and plus to plus-plus speed. That’s part of what makes drafting a highly athletic shortstop prospect with tons of youth on his side so appealing. Even if the bat doesn’t fulfill all your hopes and dreams, the chances you walk away with at least something is high…or at least higher than at any other position. It gives players like Perez a deceptively high floor.

I like his scouting capsule quite a bit…

SS Delvin Perez (International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico): plus bat speed; plus range; plus raw power; easy plus to plus-plus speed; above-average to plus arm; good athlete; good approach; lots of tools, lots of skills, lots of question marks developmentally and off-field; RHH; 6-3, 165 pounds

That’s a lot of pluses. A sampling of names I’ve personally heard when asking around about Perez over the past few months…

Jonathan Villar, Elvis Andrus, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Crawford

Comps are hardly the be-all-end-all, but, hey, not a bad outcome among the group. Probably my favorite comp — and one I’m kicking myself for not thinking of pre-draft — is Jose Reyes minus the switch-hitting. I think Perez is a superstar in the making. Writing about him is difficult at this point because he’s so talented and so young that coming up with any kind of concrete analysis would feel like little more than guesswork as of now, especially in light of his pre-draft PED issues. My short version — “superstar in the making” — is about all I can come up with based on what I’ve seen, heard, read, and intuitively feel. The rare bit of brevity here will be more than made up for with some longer reads below…

1.33 – OF Dylan Carlson

This may change by the time you read this, but if you Google Dylan Carlson (151) then you get the list of Dylan Carlson information one might expect when you Google Dylan Carlson along with a surprise Wikipedia link for Michael Ohlman on the sidebar. I guess technically if you click that link it isn’t really about Ohlman, but it’s still funny to me. One day Carlson will take back over his sidebar. That’s the kind of fearless prediction you can only get on this website. Cherish it.

That preemptive diversion was meant largely to distract from the fact that I don’t have a whole lot to say at this point about Dylan Carlson than you probably already know. Carlson is a really easy player to fall in love with and the Cardinals picking him earlier than many (like me!) expected — he signed an underslot bonus, to be fair — has many (like me!) falling into the “well, if a smart team like the Cardinals liked him then he must be better than we thought…” trap that can often infiltrate post-draft analysis. I can admit that I’m a little bit guilty of that here, but St. Louis putting a first round stamp of approval on the “second round version of Kirilloff” (my pre-draft note from a team official) was far from the only reason this pick looks like a winner as we sit back and reflect on November 7th.

Carlson is a hitter first and foremost, but his well-rounded skill set gives him a chance to be a major asset both offensively (average speed, solid athleticism) and defensively (average arm, impressive instincts and first-step quickness) beyond what he should hopefully do in the batter’s box. Carlson as a first base prospect is plenty interesting, but, like Alex Kirilloff, his value as an all-around ballplayer jumps way up if he can play an average or better left or right field. The fact that the Cardinals have aggressively pushed him as a center fielder at the onset of his pro career seems to be a good sign about his early defensive progress as an outfielder. All of this non-bat talk is just icing on the cake. It’s Carlson’s ability as a hitter that will make or break him in the pros. St. Louis clearly believes it’ll make him and I’m in no position to disagree. Carlson is one of those young guys that gives off the simultaneous vibe that, yes, he was put on this planet to hit and doing so comes natural to him in a way that teammates are secretly jealous of while ALSO being one of those clearly dedicated athletes that will work both hard and smart to accomplish seemingly any goal set before him. Carlson is both a natural and a grinder. That’s a heck of a combination. I didn’t poll enough people to make this a scientifically significant study, but the next person I talk to that doesn’t think Carlson will hit his way to a starting big league role will be the first. Kid can hit.

Of course, the kid isn’t really a kid; in fact, Carlson is the old man of the Cardinals first two high school picks. The Cardinals first first round pick Delvin Perez won’t be 18-years-old until the end of November; Grandpa Carlson just turned the big one-eight last week (10/23). Sometimes a team drafting super young for their class early round prospects means something and sometimes it’s a coincidence. I have a strong hunch that the former is true in the case of the St. Louis front office knowing what’s up, but can’t say that for sure just yet. A trend of two isn’t really a trend at all, especially when you look at last year’s Cardinals first round pick, Nick Plummer, and his slightly older than his peer group age. But then there’s Bryce Denton, another early round high school pick from last year, who becomes yet another point in favor of the young for his class trend being an actual trend. Inconclusive, is the only real conclusion I have right now. Makes me wonder why this paragraph is even seeing the light of day…

1.34 – RHP Dakota Hudson

Asked a fairly simple Dakota Hudson (19) question back in April 2016…

Are we sure he isn’t the best college pitching prospect in the country?

Ask a simple question, get a simple answer. College pitchers ranked ahead of Hudson come draft day: one. Only AJ Puk stood in the way of Hudson finishing his junior season as the best college pitching prospect in the country. That might not seem that interesting or impressive, but consider where Hudson started the year. From October 2015…

Hudson is the biggest mystery man out of the SEC Four Horsemen (TM pending…with apologies to all the Vandy guys and Kyle Serrano) because buying on him is buying a largely untested college reliever (so far) with control red flags and a limited overall track record. Those are all fair reasons to doubt him right now, but when Hudson has it working there are few pitchers who look more dominant. His easy plus 86-92 cut-slider is right up there with Jackson’s curve as one of the best breaking balls in the entire class.

The strapping righthander from Mississippi State came into his junior year coming off a sophomore season spent exclusively in the bullpen and with a grand total of 33.0 college innings under his belt. My point here isn’t to highlight the fact that Hudson was some out-of-nowhere unknown nobody (he wasn’t), but rather the kind of precocious talent who survived and then thrived the as he learned how to be a major college starting pitcher in the SEC on the fly. As such, I think we’ve only scratched the surface as to how good he can really be. Check out this man’s stuff: explosive fastball (90-96, 98 peak), breaking ball with legit plus upside, a hard 86-92 cut-slider that’s already a plus pitch, and a nascent mid-80s changeup with the chance to be a fine pitch in its own right. His current flaws (fastball command, occasionally wonky mechanics, some inconsistency with the breaking ball) are all likely fixable with some clever coaching, something he’s sure to get with the Cardinals. I don’t say this lightly, but it’s ace upside. How many pitchers in this class can you really say that about?

On top of that, Hudson’s batted ball profile is a thing of beauty to fans of democracy. MLB Farm has him giving up 21 ground balls, 3 fly balls, and 2 line drives in his first 13.1 innings of professional baseball. That’s incredible. I put him on the Jeff Samardzija/Taijuan Walker/Jake Arrieta spectrum before the draft (FWIW heard absolute worst case scenario Blake Treinen after the draft), and I don’t see why he can’t at least achieve the minimum outcome (competent big league starting pitcher like Walker, who I still very much believe in as something more than that) as of now. If that’s the “downside,” then what’s the upside? I’ll stand by the Cy Young kind of upside that Arrieta has shown as being a very real potential outcome for Hudson. If we look at that comparison more literally, that would put Hudson in High-A (like Arrieta in 2008) to start his first full pro season next year. Considering that’s the same level that Hudson finished his 2016 season, I think that’s a very safe bet. The bar at A+ is 113.0 innings worth of 9.56 K/9, 4.06 BB/9, and 2.87 ERA ball. I’d say that’s very doable as well. Arrieta’s career has taken its fair share of twists and turns — development is nonlinear, development is nonlinear, development is nonlinear — so the literal career path comparison thing we’re doing here isn’t ideal, but it’s baseball and prospects and it’s supposed to be fun. Imagine Hudson as the next Arrieta (minus the Baltimore drama) is a lot of fun. I think he reaches those peaks and becomes the biggest steal of the draft.

2.70 – RHP Connor Jones

If you liked Dakota Hudson’s batted ball profile, then you’ll probably also get a kick out of what Connor Jones (70) did in his debut. How does a mix of 35 ground balls, 7 line drives, and 3 fly balls sound? Think the Cardinals might have a type? As if Cardinals fans needed another reason to like the picks of Dakota Hudson and Jones, one could very easily imagine a Chicago Cubs draft room filled with front office types milling about anxiously hoping, wishing, and praying for either guy to fall to them with their first pick. Neither guy made it to the third round, so the ground ball loving Cubs had to settle for Thomas Hatch instead. Interestingly enough (to me at least), my quick math had the junior season version of Jones (68.90%) and Hudson (68.57%) as two of the three (along with TJ Zeuch) most ground ball-y (I wanted to say “groundballingest,” but it just doesn’t look right) pitching prospects in the 2016 college class. If I had expanded that list to include more top pitching prospects, I surely would have thrown Hatch’s name into the mix. As it happens, I did the math on Hatch’s college GB% after the draft when I did the Cubs draft review. Wouldn’t you know it was almost identical (68.3%) to Jones and Hudson? Not only are the Cubs and Cardinals heated rivals on the field, but they also seem to be in direct competition for the same type of pitchers on the amateur market. Pretty cool.

The above gets at Connor Jones as an idea. What about Connor Jones the actual real life living, breathing pitcher? Since the Virginia righthander has been a pretty big deal for a long time now, we’ve got a pretty long history with the Cavaliers star to draw from. Let’s start way back in high school with his quick scouting capsule. From June 2013…

RHP Connor Jones (Great Bridge HS, Virginia): 88-92 FB with true plus sink, 93-95 peak; average 77-82 SL flashes plus; above-average upside with 78-82 CU; everything sinks; ground ball machine; plus command; 2013: 90-94; FAVORITE; 6-3, 190 pounds

If we fast-forward all the way to the present day, we can compare the Jones of three years ago to the Jones the Cardinals selected this past June. Here is the decluttered version of his most recent scouting snapshot…

Virginia JR RHP Connor Jones: 87-94 FB with crazy movement and plus sink, 96 peak; above-average 82-86 cut-SL, flashes plus; average 76-82 CB, doesn’t throw it often; 83-88 split-CU, flashes plus; complete four-pitch mix; good athlete; holds velocity well; 6-3, 200 pounds

The evolution of Jones was impressive, even when accounting for his already physically and emotionally mature start. Fastball ticked up a bit, but retained the same insane movement. Slider firmed up some as well and added some cutter action. Change morphed into a truer splitter, but continued to serve the same purpose. Added a curve that he rarely used as much more than a show-me pitch. Command, pitchability, and athleticism remained strong points. What’s not to like about this guy? Let’s keep digging. Next step, March 2015…

Connor Jones might now be the front-runner for me. Jones can get it up to the mid-90s with some of the craziest movement you’ll see, plus he can mix in three offspeed pitches (slider flashes plus, solid curve, and a hard splitter that acts as a potential plus changeup) with the know-how and ability to command everything effectively. Comps I’ve heard run the gamut from Jeff Samardzija to Dan Haren to Homer Bailey, but I’m partial to one that hit me when viewing his second start this season: Masahiro Tanaka.

Very optimistic! And such generous comps, too. Things are rolling now. How were things in October 2015…

Jones, the number one guy on a list designed to serve the same purpose as the one created over seven months ago, hasn’t actually done anything to slip this far down the board; competition at the top this year is just that fierce. I like guys with fastballs that move every which way but straight, so Jones’s future looks bright from here. His mid-80s splitter has looked so good at times that he’s gotten one of my all-time favorite cross-culture comps: Masahiro Tanaka.

Some acknowledgment that the college pitching class was crowded at the top with a lot of good but not great options, but still generally positive about Jones’s outlook. Who wants to bet I keep pounding that Masahiro Tanaka comp into the ground in February 2016…

I’m 100% buying what Connor Jones — the Virginia one, not Tyler’s lefthanded Georgia teammate — is selling. I’ve mentioned it before, but I get an unusually high number of comps on him from enthusiastic scouts. My hunch is that it has something to do with his exciting mix of ceiling (number two starter?) and certainty (very polished, very professional) that gets those guys going. I still love the cross-cultural Masahiro Tanaka comp for him.

I’m so predictable. More of the same in April 2016…

Connor Jones represents the best cross-section of upside and safety in this year’s college pitching class. Assuming non-catastrophic injury, I’d be stunned if he doesn’t wind up at least somewhere around a big league starter. That’s about where I’d put his reasonable upside as well: solid big league starting pitcher. There’s a chance for more, of course, due in large part to his dynamic one-two offspeed combo of an upper-80s splitter and a low- to mid-80s slider. I’ve comped him to Masahiro Tanaka at the highest of high ceiling projections, so, yeah, I like him. Future mid-rotation arms are tremendous real life assets, but fairly boring in fantasy land.

At least past-me gets more to the point about Jones’s value being tied heavily to his unique blend of upside and safety. It was hard at this point in the process to see Jones as anything but a useful big league starter down the line with the upside being a mid-rotation or better type. Some, however, were starting to get a little stuck on the first part there: “anything but a useful big league starter.” Everybody loves (or should love) a useful big league starter, but there’s plenty of room for those of us who want more than useful. Depending on your contextual expectations, useful can either be a compliment or an insult. It’s meant as a compliment here, but could very easily be spun as a negative by those who question Jones’s upside. In fact, later in the month we kind of went there…

I’ve gone back and forth on Jones a few times throughout the draft process. For as much as I like him, there’s something about his game doesn’t quite add up just yet. He checks every box you’d want in a near-ML ready starting pitching prospect, but it’s hard to get too excited about a pitcher who has never truly dominated at the college level. My big question about Jones is whether or not he has that second gear that will allow him to consistently put away big league hitters in times of trouble. His stuff is perfectly suited to killing worms; in fact, his sinker, slider, and splitter combination has resulted in an impressive 65.25 GB% in 2016. But he’ll have to miss more bats to be more than a back of the rotation starter at the highest level. His K/9 year-by-year at Virginia: 6.55, 8.77, and 6.79. Those aren’t the kinds of numbers you’d expect out of a guy being talked up in some circles as a potential top ten pick and first college pitcher selected in the draft. This evaluation of Jones is a little bit like the scattered thoughts on Corey Ray shared above in that it highlights how tough it can be when you’re one of the top prospects in the country. Potential top half of the first round prospects get nitpicked in a way that mid-round players never will. Jones, like Ray, is an excellent prospect, but because a) everybody already knows the top two dozen or so “name” draft prospects are excellent and continuously talking about how great they are is tired, and b) the greater investment in top prospects necessitates a more thorough examination of their total game, getting picked apart more than most comes with the territory.

There it is. The K/9 bomb was finally dropped. I’m way too lazy to do the work myself and far too unimportant to crowdsource the information otherwise, but I have a pretty strong hunch from doing this for years that not too many college starter pitchers who enter pro ball coming off a full (103.2 IP) junior season with a K/9 as low as 6.25 have had much sustained success in big league rotations. Strikeouts aren’t everything and Jones’s ability to generate ground ball outs by the bushel need not be ignored, but it’s hardly controversial to suggest that good big league starting pitchers universally share the ability to consistently get swings and misses in key situations. If Jones wants to be a “good” big league starting pitcher (i.e., more than an up-and-down four or five), then he’s almost certainly going to have to miss more bats. We’re admittedly setting a high bar to illustrate a point, but of the top twenty starting pitchers (by FIP) with at least 50 IP in 2016, only six did it without striking out a batter per inning. The lowest K/9 of any pitcher in the top thirty was Matt Harvey at 7.38. Second lowest? Masahiro Tanaka at 7.44. Hmm…

I don’t doubt that a guy with Jones’s stuff, smarts, and work ethic can keep improving as a professional and reach the modest version of his ceiling (back-end starter) sooner rather than later. I also wouldn’t dare shut the door on him fulfilling the higher end of those earliest projections (number two, maybe a three) with continued progress. Real upside with a very high floor. That’s a heck of a pick late in the second round.

3.106 – RHP Zac Gallen

Zac Gallen (160), sick of all the attention paid to Hudson and Jones by certain batted ball enthusiasts who shall remain nameless, went out in his pro debut and struck out 15 batters in 9.2 innings pitched. Who needs ground balls when you’re sitting people down at that clip, right? Gallen isn’t quite that kind of pitcher — to be fair, THAT kind of pitcher doesn’t really exist outside of Aroldis Chapman — but he did see his K/9 increase every season while in Chapel Hill. From 6.54 to 7.93 to 9.44, Gallen’s steady improvement as a strikeout pitcher was reflected by his improved out-pitch (cut-slider) and consistently awesome command. Gallen is pretty much the low-upside/high-floor college starting pitcher straight out of Central Casting. His fastball won’t wow anybody velocity-wise at 88-92 MPH (though I swear I’ve personally seen it up to 94 as a starter and even higher than that as a reliever…can’t confirm either peak and my exact notes have turned to dust), but he commands it exceptionally well. Between the fastball, cut-slider (a deadly offering that can hit any number on the radar beginning with 8), and a pair of average softer pitches (mid-70s curve, low-80s change), Gallen can roll through even the toughest lineups multiple times when he’s hitting his spots. A few older notes on Gallen, first from March 2016…

It’ll be really interesting to see how high Gallen will rise in the real draft come June. He’s the kind of relatively safe, high-floor starting pitching prospect who either sticks in the rotation for a decade or tops out as a sixth starter better served moving to the bullpen to see if his stuff plays up there. This aggressive (pretend) pick by Boston should point to what side of that debate I side with. Gallen doesn’t do any one thing particularly well — stellar fastball command and a willingness to keep pounding in cutters stand out — but he throws five (FB, cutter, truer SL, CB, CU) pitches for strikes and competes deep into just about every start. There’s serious value in that.

And then from April 2016…

Gallen’s profile seems like the type who gets overlooked during the draft, overlooked in the minors, and overlooked until he’s run through a few big league lineups before people begin to get wise. That’s all entirely anecdotal, but sometimes you’ve got to run with a hunch.

One thing that strikes me as potentially notable — though I suppose technically this is actually notable and not potentially notable since here I am noting it — is St. Louis’s tendency to gravitate to pitchers who have shown consistent depth of offspeed stuff in addition to their proclivity to target ground ball arms like Dakota Hudson and Connor Jones. “Legit four-pitch mix” is a phrase that comes up in both Jones’s and Gallen’s scouting profiles. Jones and Gallen — especially Gallen — are pitchers who get results based more on the sum of their stuff than any individual component. Stylistically, pitchers like Gallen bring me back to the age-old (probably) question that I’ve personally struggled with for years: do you like Pitcher A with his two knockout pitches and a fringey (or nonexistent) third pitch OR do you prefer Pitcher B with his four average-ish pitches? Neither Jones nor Gallen quite fit that Player B archetype as perfectly as I’d like to really hammer home this point — Gallen is the closer of the two, but I think his cutter is too good to call it simply “average-ish” — but you get the general idea of what the Cardinals like to target on draft day.

4.136 – C Jeremy Martinez

On Jeremy Martinez (79) from April 2016…

Jeremy Martinez is another catcher who has been described to me as “good enough” defensively, but that’s an opinion my admittedly non-scout eyes don’t see. I wrote about him briefly last month…

I’ve long thought that Jeremy Martinez has been underrated as a college player, so I’m happy to get a few sentences off about how much I like him here. Martinez was born to catch with a reliable glove and accurate arm. His offensive game is equally well-rounded with the chance for an average hit tool and average raw power to go along with his standout approach. His ceiling may not be high enough for all teams to fall in love, but he’s as good a bet as any of the college catchers in this class to have a long big league career in some capacity or another.

Then he went out and hit .325/.419/.433 with 32 BB/16 K in 235 PA for State College. Defensively, the man threw out 17 of 37 (46%) potential base stealers. That’s after hitting .376/.460/.563 with 19 BB/12 K in 213 AB at USC in his junior season. It might be time to accept the fact that Martinez can really play. I think it could be a 50 bat, 55 power, and 55/60 overall defender. That’s really enticing by itself, but when you add in his exceptional track record as a disciplined hitter (71 BB/43 K at USC) equally skilled with both getting ahead early in counts and hitting with two strikes, then you’ve really got something worth getting excited about. Between Carson Kelly, Martinez, and Andrew Knizner, the Cardinals don’t have to worry about life after Yadier Molina one iota going forward. Must be nice.

5.166 – OF Walker Robbins

On Walker Robbins (165) from May 2016…

If we’re going to pair Rizzo and Cantu together, then why not do the same for Christian Jones and Walker Robbins? The two lefthanded bats have very similar offensive ceilings. In a fun twist, Robbins, a legitimate pitching prospect with a fastball that ranges from 87-92 MPH, takes the place of Joey Wentz in this updated top five. Wentz, as many know, is a lefthanded pitching prospect all the way, but that wasn’t always the case. There were some fools (e.g., me) who thought his pro future would come as a slugging first baseman. Maybe there are some out there that think of Robbins more as a pitcher – I haven’t talked to any, but I’ve learned not to make assumptions with low-90s lefties – but at this point I’m pretty comfortable with him as a single-digit round hitting prospect. That’s some nice prospect symmetry right there.

Anyway, much like Jones, Robbins can hit. His power is real, he’s an excellent athlete, and he’s right around average with most of his run times. Also like Jones, the only real question I have with Robbins being where he is on this list is whether or not a pro team will challenge him with some outfield work after signing. I’d be fine with that, obviously – he can run, he can throw, and it’s not my money – but it would be kind of a shame to not have him play first base at the next level. I haven’t personally seen all of the players listed below, but of the ones I have, he’s easily the most impressive defender at first. It’s not the same as being a plus defender at catcher, center, or short, but it’s not nothing.

It’ll take time, but I believe in Walker Robbins as a power bat, defender at first, and athlete. Will he make enough contact to make all those good things matter? You got me, but that’s why he fell to the fifth round. That said, there’s not a 133 pick difference between his upside and Dylan Carlson’s. Getting both within the draft’s first five rounds (in addition to a potential star SS, two rock solid big league pitching prospects, and an advanced college catcher who is a clear potential successor to Yadier Molina behind the plate) is a major win for the Cards. Fans of twenty-nine other teams should be jealous.

6.196 – SS Tommy Edman

On Tommy Edman from April 2016…

Edman’s bat is more my speed thanks to his strong hit tool, good understanding of the strike zone, and ability to make consistent contact even when down in the count. I’ve given in to those who have long tried to convince me he’s more second baseman than shortstop, but there’s still a part of me who thinks he’s good enough to play short. For a guy with realistic ceiling of big league utility man, I can more than live with that kind of defensive future. If I really stuck to my guns here then you’d see Edman over Morrison, but for now I’ll defer to the overwhelming consensus of smarter people out there who let me know (nicely, mostly) that I was nuts for considering it. I guess the big takeaway here for me is that either player would be great value at any point after the first five rounds.

All’s I know is a sixth round pick hit .286/.400/.427 with 48 BB/29 K in 310 PA for State College, and that ain’t not bad.

The Stanford middle infielder turned Cardinals prospect’s strong debut was undeniably impressive, but not altogether unfamiliar. Drew Jackson had a similarly thrilling debut last year after being picked in the fifth round last year by Seattle (.358/.432/.447 with 30 BB/35 K and 47/51 SB) before coming back to Earth in 2016, so, you know, these things can happen when we’re dealing with relatively small samples. The pre-draft evaluation on Edman (“realistic ceiling of big league utility man”) shouldn’t be changed much just because of his hot professional start. Still, I’d rather see a fast start than a slow one, so if you’d like to feel a little extra enthusiastic about Edman as a ballplayer going forward based on those 310 stellar plate appearances, then far be it from me to rain on your parade. I will say that the pairing of Edman and the Cardinals feels like a perfect marriage. Envisioning him as a pesky hitting utility infielder (already annoying enough to the opposition in that role) who takes the opponent’s fan base frustration up a million notches when he inevitably gets called upon to start for stretches due to injuries elsewhere at various points over the next decade without missing a beat offensively for whatever star he’s replacing (Delvin Perez, maybe?) is just too easy. Easier than parsing the meaning of that monster of a sentence, I’ll bet.

7.226 – C Andrew Knizner

On Andrew Knizner (467) in December 2015…

JR C Andrew Knizner is a fascinating prospect who doesn’t quite fit the mold of what one might think of a potential top five round college catcher. Defensively, he’s still very much out of sorts as a relatively new catcher but his athleticism and willingness to make it work could be enough for teams willing to take the long view on his pro future. Offensively, he’s a high contact hitter with excellent plate coverage and power that has a chance to be average or better as he continues to add strength. I tend to give players new to a demanding defensive position the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible, so I’m fine with riding out another half-season or so of shaky defense behind the plate before beginning to ask the question whether or not Knizner has what it takes to be a catcher full-time in the pros. Almost no matter what transpires on the field this year, I can’t see a team drafting Knizner high enough that he’s signable with the intention of at least continuing to try him as a catcher for the foreseeable future. He’s good enough in other areas that it’s not quite a catcher or bust proposition for him, but that depends on how high one’s expectations are for him at this point.

Knizner split his time pretty evenly between first base and catcher at Johnson City in his debut. He also went out and hit .319/.423/.492 with 21 BB/21 K in 222 PA. I’ve had many people who have seen Knizner play in short looks come back completely unsold on his defense behind the plate. I appreciate firsthand accounts like that, but I find it telling that so many of these observations are the quick-hitter type. For whatever reason, Knizner’s defense is particularly difficult to judge when viewed only through the prism of a single game or series. The newness of playing the position is too often dismissed by those who are already convinced he can’t do the job, and the incremental progress he’s made defensively — the definition of slow and steady, emphasis on slow — is worth keeping in mind. I think Knizner has shown enough already to warrant serious consideration as a long-term catcher defensively, a personal view reinforced by his athleticism and arm strength. As an average or better defender behind the plate, Knizner has a chance to be an above-average all-around player. This is the type of college catcher (i.e., one with clear starter upside) worth taking a chance on here.

8.256 – RHP Sam Tewes

On Sam Tewes in mid-March 2016 before news of his announced TJ surgery was official…

Tewes’s arm (up to 95, good CB) and size (6-5, 200) is too good to pass up even with the rocky start. Even if his recent elbow discomfort ends in something unfortunate, he’s still the most talented player on this roster and best pro bet going forward.

And then later in March 2016 when we knew it was coming…

I always make a point to say that these are conceived as pre-season rankings that attempt to reflect the larger body of work rather than recent performances. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. Sam Tewes is a walking, talking exception as he was dropped a whopping one whole spot after news broke that he’ll be undergoing Tommy John surgery on Wednesday (March 31, 2016). His immediate draft future is obviously in doubt as he’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of rehabbing as a professional versus doing so as a redshirt-junior next season at Wichita State. I wouldn’t consider him signable as of now – guys with multiple years of eligible left are challenges from the start and the injury clouds up his future even more – but I’d sure as heck be on him this spring trying to figure out if there’s a reasonable number he’d agree to. His ability is undeniable. Tewes feels like the kind of guy the Red Sox pick late and convince to sign an overslot deal on while fans of all other teams slap their heads thinking “Why couldn’t we have thought of that?”

It says something both about Tewes and the rest of the Missouri Valley 2016 collection of pitching that I’d still take him second out of the group even with the bum elbow. Tommy John surgery should really drop you more than one spot, right? Maybe I’m overrating Tewes, underrating the rest of the Missouri Valley pitching crop, or making too many assumptions about the simplicity of Tommy John surgery; I’d accept any arguments against his placement, but will hold firm on his ranking just off the top spot for now.

Tewes went under the knife on March 31, 2016. That didn’t stop the Cardinals from taking a shot on the big (6-5, 200) righthander’s big (88-94, 96 peak) fastball and big bending curve. Add in a hard slider with promise and a nascent changeup, and you can see why St. Louis would be willing to get Tewes into their organization even with the injury. I love this pick. Tremendous upside — could see Tewes continuing to start in the pros, but the fallback as a dominant late-inning reliever isn’t so bad either — if it works out with minimal risk (an eighth round pick and only $100,000) if it doesn’t. Really can’t say enough about how much I like this one.

9.286 – OF Matt Fiedler

So much of post-draft analysis (in all sports) boils down to “well, they drafted a lot of the guys I ranked highly, so GREAT DRAFT!” or “they are clueless because their picks don’t correlate to my own board at all.” Neither of these responses are wrong per se (if you took the time to create a board you value, then you shouldn’t throw it out just because it didn’t line up with the reality of the actual draft), but, at best, I think we can call that kind of analysis incomplete. Judging a draft should be done in a more curious way. Approaching selections with the attitude of “I wonder why they did this” rather than viewing picks only through a singular (maybe right, maybe wrong) pre-draft valuation results in a far more interesting and useful overall thought exercise for writer and reader alike.

St. Louis took Minnesota RHP/OF Matt Fiedler in the ninth round. Fiedler was on my radar as a promising mid-round relief type (88-92 FB, good mid-70s CB, low-80s sinking CU), but, as an offensive prospect, I didn’t think the Gophers star was much more than a solid college bat. The Cardinals saw things differently. Without overreacting too much to his fantastic 220 PA pro debut, I can admit that I may have overlooked Fiedler’s power/speed upside (.166 ISO as a junior/31 for 36 SB his last two seasons in college) while also failing to give the two-way player enough of a break when it came to his solid but unspectacular (41 BB/48 K career) plate discipline (wholly anecdotal, but this is something that a lot of two-way guys see a positive bounce in the pros). Fiedler remains in a position where he’ll have to hit his way to the big leagues, but he’s off to a better start than most of his 2016 draft peers.

10.316 – 3B Danny Hudzina

On Danny Hudzina from March 2016…

Hudzina is a similarly talented hitter – more hit than power if we’re comparing him head-to-head with Lynch – who gets the edge because of his fascinating defensive versatility. I asked a few smart people about his long-term defensive home and each response gave me a new position to consider. Most preferred him at his present position of third base, a spot where he is really good already. Others thought he was athletic enough to handle short in a pinch, thus making his future position “utility infielder” more so than any one permanent spot. I also heard second base more than once, which made sense considering he has prior experience there. He also has experience behind the plate, so speculation that he’ll one day return to the catcher position will always be there. That was the most intriguing response, not only because of the idea itself (hardly a novel thought) but because of the conviction the friend who suggested it presented the thought (i.e., it wasn’t like he said that’s what should happen with him, he was saying that a switch to catcher will happen to him in the pros). Despite the certainty of that one friend, I’m still on the third base bandwagon with the idea of him being athletic enough to handle any infield spot (including third catcher duties) in play. All in all, offensively and defensively (wherever he may wind up), I think Hudzina has a big league skill set.

And then Hudzina went out and hit .408/.470/.564 with 26 BB/12 K. His combined junior and senior season walk to strikeout ratio: 40 BB/28 K. Hudzina is such a Cardinal it’s not even funny. Productive, patient hitter? Check. Multi-position defensive versatility? You know it. High marks in makeup, work ethic, and coachability? Like you really had to ask. As I said in March, Hudzina has a clear big league skill set. I think it’s more of a matter of “when” and not “if” he gets that far. For a $3,000 tenth round pick, that’s pretty awesome. Love this selection.

11.346 – LHP John Kilichowski

John Kilichowski (179) has a long history here on the site. Let’s dive in beginning in April 2015…

Ferguson’s stumble this season has opened the door for draft-eligible sophomore (he’ll be 21 in May) LHP John Kilichowski to slide in as Vanderbilt’s third best 2015 pro pitching prospect. He was great as a freshman last year (8.61 K/9 and 1.57 ERA in 23 IP) and has continued to do good things in 2015 (44 K/11 BB in 37.2 IP). His fastball isn’t an overpowering pitch (86-92), so he wisely leans on a pair of average or better offspeed offerings (mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) to help him miss bats. Good stuff, solid track record, relatively fresh arm, and plenty of size (6-5, 210) all coming in from the left side? Nice. Statistically he’s had a very similar season to teammate rJR LHP Philip Pfeifer, yet another potential early pick off the Commodores staff. Pfeifer can’t match Kilichowski’s size or track record as a starter, but his fastball is a tick faster (94 peak) and his curve a bit sharper. How much of that can be attributed to his fastball/curveball combo playing up in shorter outings – in fairness, though he’s pitched out of the bullpen exclusively this season he almost always goes multiple innings at a time – or just having flat better stuff is up for the smarter area guys to decide. I give Kilichowski the edge for now based on what I know, but I can see it being a coin flip for many.

We actually could have started even further back in time. Here was Kilichowski’s HS scouting notes…

LHP John Kilichowski (Tampa Jesuit HS, Florida): 86-88 FB, 90 peak; solid CU; 73-76 CB with plus upside; 6-5, 185 pounds

He added thirty pounds, a few ticks to his fastball (86-92, 94 peak), and continued to refine his offspeed stuff in his three years as a Commodore. Not too shabby. Let’s check in on what we said about him in October 2015…

Vanderbilt pumps out so much quality pitching that it’s almost boring to discuss their latest and greatest. Kilichowski (and Sheffield and Bowden and Stone) find themselves sandwiched between last year’s special group of arms and a freshman class that includes Donny Everett and Chandler Day. The big lefty has impeccable control, easy velocity (86-92, 94 peak), and the exact assortment of offspeed pitches (CB, SL, and CU, all average or better) needed to keep hitters off-balance in any count. It’s not ace-type stuff, but it’s the kind of overall package that can do damage in the middle of a rotation for a long time.

And then again in May 2016…

Kilichowski excelled last season with nearly a strikeout per inning thanks to a legit four-pitch mix, above-average command, and impressive size on the mound. He’s only pitched 11.0 innings so far in 2016, so evaluating him will necessitate taking the long view of his development over the past few seasons.

It would be easy to look at Kilichowski’s injured-marred junior season as the reason why St. Louis could land a potential mid-rotation big league starting pitcher in the eleventh round for a reasonable ($200,000) price. It would also be correct. This is a heck of a pick by the Cardinals. Is ending each pick’s section with a variation on that theme getting tiresome yet? Too bad!

12.376 – SS Brady Whalen

All else equal, I root for just about every player to sign a pro contract. I say that because a) money is good, b) playing pro ball can open up lots of doors later in life even if actually playing the game doesn’t work out, and c) both the NCAA and the American college system in general are scammy at best and criminal at worst. This robs me of three years worth of evaluation time, so the pro leaning comes from a rare unselfish place. Still, there are certain players in every draft class that you can’t help but wonder “what if” about. Between the increased scouting exposure, risk mitigation, and personal growth one could expect a prospect to make over three calendar years, Brady Whalen could have come out of Oregon as a first day pick in 2019. Instead, the Cardinals took a chance on the toolsy 6-4, 185 pound prep shortstop from Washington in the twelfth round and managed to get him signed for about the same bonus they paid their fifth rounder. Whalen wound up playing a lot of second, a little bit of third, and a teeny tiny bit of shortstop in his debut. My notes on him before the draft were pretty straightforward: “steady glove, accurate arm, plus frame.” It’s pretty to envision a best case scenario of Whalen continuing to fill out and becoming a true power threat (the swing is there) while maintaining enough athleticism to play regularly at either second (a terrifying sight for incoming base runners), third (if his arm can handle it), or an outfield corner.

13.406 – OF Shane Billings

Shane Billings was a pre-draft FAVORITE for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, let’s go to his 2016 numbers at Wingate: .444/.502/.639 with 25 BB/15 K and 30/32 SB. That’ll play. Beyond that, he’s a plus runner with enough instincts to stick in center, decent pop (maybe a double-digit homer guy at his peak), and an average arm. It’s a rock solid fourth outfielder package with a slim shot at more if he keeps hitting.

14.436 – OF Vincent Jackson

Vincent Jackson’s (347) pro debut strikes me as pretty much the perfect kind of Vincent Jackson line: .233/.318/.357 (19.0 K% and 8.5 BB%) with 16/23 SB. You get a little bit of everything that makes Jackson such a fun prospect (power, walks, speed) and some of what caused him to slip to the fourteenth round (hit tool, strikeouts, general unrefined skill set). I’ve been bullish on the Tennessee senior for quite some time as you can see from these January 2015 notes…

The current number two to the top ranked Stewart is Vincent Jackson. Jackson is an outstanding athlete with considerable tools — in particular, his power stacks up quite well with Stewart’s and his plus speed blows him away — who has yet to blow scouts away at Tennessee. Inconsistent performance or not, his size and skill set evoke comparisons to two-time All-Star Alex Rios, a lofty comp at first blush but a little more palatable when you remember Rios’ earliest scouting reports and slow to manifest power as a young professional. Jackson’s blend of size, speed, raw power, athleticism, and defensive upside (above-average arm and range at present) combine to make a pretty enticing prospect. In other words, he’s also pretty good.

Of course, if that’s not far back enough for you we can always go way back to his Luella HS days when I called him a “big personal favorite as hitter” with “average speed,” a “strong arm,” and the chance to “hit velocity.” Those were the days. Jackson is a funky player to project because, while still plenty athletic and a fine runner, he’s a bit too big at 6-4, 200 pounds to fit the classic center field mold. If he’s a corner guy (he is), then the pressure on the bat goes up substantially. In what may be a cop-out, Jackson seems like one of those players who will either have the light bulb go off in a big way in the pros (potential regular in left or right) or top out as a AAAA player.

15.466 – 2B JR Davis

On JR Davis from way way way back in February 2014

Zach Alvord, formerly of Auburn and Tampa, is still well-regarded by many, but don’t sleep on JR Davis, a redshirt freshman ready to make his mark.

I guess I’m guilty of sleeping on him some as the steady hitting of Davis over the years (including junior season marks of .347/.422/.438 with 24 BB/24 K) got lost in the shuffle in the two and a half years since that initial mention. There’s clearly enough with Davis offensively to work with, so my mental line of questioning of him now moves to the defensive side of the game. As a second base prospect, Davis will have to keep on hitting as he did in his debut (.333/.362/.457 in 196 PA) to remain a realistic future big league option. If he can slide around the infield some, then his path to a long career as a utility player gets that much clearer. For what it’s worth, I’ve been told that his arm and present actions might limit it to second base as an infielder, but center field remains an intriguing viable option down the line. The name Cesar Hernandez has come up as a potential comp to his overall skill set. Now let’s go full circle in what I promise is 100% a coincidence. Turns out I’ve thrown out Hernandez as a comp on my site once before. Wouldn’t you know it was in the exact same post AND the exact same paragraph that I pulled that opening quote from? Keith Curcio got the comp then — still kind of like that one, to be honest — and Davis gets it now. Full circle.

16.496 – C Tyler Lancaster

You have to have some really impressive secondary offensive skills to hit .148 in 64 PA in your debut and still wind up with a non-disastrous 84 wRC+. That’s what a 12.5 BB% and a .185 ISO did for Tyler Lancaster (245) in his first taste of pro ball in 2016. Lancaster’s success as a hitter in pro ball will be contingent on him continuing to pile up walks and extra base hits. Insight like that is why I get paid the big bucks, folks. There was about a 50/50 split on his long-term defense prospects behind the plate based on those I’ve checked with; needless to say, if he can stick behind the plate AND hit as hoped, he’s a potential monster. Have to love that kind of upside in the sixteenth round. Even if it doesn’t work out — or if it works out to a lesser degree: maybe Lancaster catches but the bat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be or maybe he shows up as a hitter but has to move to first — it’s a great gamble. For what it’s worth, while I don’t know which of those three positive outcomes Lancaster will take, I’m bullish on him following one of those paths to the big leagues. I think he’s a regular at either first or behind the plate eventually.

18.556 – RHP Austin Sexton

There are tons of pitching prospects on the fifth starter/middle relief bubble drafted every June — see the very next pick if you don’t believe me — so an interesting study that I’ll never personally get to would be to find a way to isolate what variables keep a guy starting and what pushes a pitcher to relief. We all know there are certain barriers of entry that some teams look for in future starters — the requisite three-pitch-mix, ability to command said mix, specific height/weight benchmarks and the supposed stamina associated with them — but there are still certain x-factors beyond those that separate starters from relievers. I only have theories to offer at this point, but one that I often come back to is weighing more heavily the importance of a difference-making pitch. This is hardly a revolutionary thought, but I needed a way to introduce Austin Sexton’s (386) outstanding changeup as a potential difference-making pitch. Sexton’s change is a consistent above-average offering. It’s the biggest reason why I think he could stick in the rotation for a long time to come. The fastball is fine (88-92, 93 peak) and his breaking ball (78-80) flashes, but it’s the changeup that could carry him to a long-term role pitching every fifth day in the big leagues.

19.586 – LHP Daniel Castano

Daniel Castano did enough over his three years at Baylor to warrant this comment along the way (or, more specifically, from April 2016)…

Daniel Castano is a lefthander with size, some present velocity (87-92), and a pair of offspeed pitches (78-83 CU and 72-76 CB) that could be average or better pitches at the pro level.

Add some encouraging GB% tendencies to that profile and it’s a decent looking fifth starter, um, starter kit. Like any pitcher with that profile, the bullpen looms as a potential better (and more likely) option. I think that’s probably where Castano winds up unless he starts missing more bats as a starter. Still solid value in the nineteenth round.

20.616 – 1B Stefan Trosclair

Stefan Trosclair is an interesting potential utility player depending on how viable an option St. Louis sees him at infield spots other than first base. He spent the vast majority of his debut for the Cardinals organization at first, but also saw a few innings at both second and third. I think he’s probably a good enough athlete to pull it off, but that’s admittedly a far easier position to take as an outsider with no skin in the game. Any prospect can theoretically play anywhere until you see the ugliness that is, from personal experience, Cody Asche at second base or Ryan Howard in left field up close and personal. If Trosclair can make it work at any spot other than first base in a part-time role, he could hit himself into a big league bench job. If not, well, we all know how high the offensive bar is at first base.

22.676 – OF Mick Fennell

Mike O’Neill 2.0 was the description I got when asking around about Mick Fennell. That’s a lot of fun right off the top. Further elaboration led to a “Mike O’Neill with actual power” upside comp. That’s even better! O’Neill, long a favorite of the analytics crowd (guilty!), has never been able to turn the corner from minor league fascination to useful big league player due largely to a lack of consistent in-game power. I’m not in a position to speculate on whether or not Fennell has the power to break that big league glass ceiling — not that a lack of insight has ever stopped me before! — but, hey, I’ve heard good things. That has to count for something, right? And that .374/.446/.600 college career line (with 64 BB/32 K in 597 AB) certainly doesn’t hurt. For entertainment purposes only, here are the respective pro debuts of O’Neill and Fennell…

.283/.387/.380 with 15.2 BB% and 11.6 K% and 112 PA
.256/.366/.331 with 12.2 BB% and 8.8 K% and 147 PA

O’Neill had a .098 ISO, Fennell had a .074 ISO. Hmm. We’re talking minuscule samples in the grand scheme of things, but a (flawed) data point is still a (flawed) data point. Fennell is such an easy prospect to root for. The man’s K% in his college career is 4.6%. That’s just incredible. I’ve done no studies linking low college K-rates and professional success, but I’d have to think that overall numbers like Fennell’s AND the low K-rate have to mean something, level of competition be damned. I’d draft a guy out of any level but Little League who has hit .374/.446/.600 with 64 BB/32 K in his career in the twenty-second round every single time. Even though this was Randy Flores first draft as the man in charge, this is such a classic Cardinals pick.

This has nothing to do with anything, but, despite living almost all my life in the great state of Pennsylvania, I never knew that the California University of Pennsylvania’s nickname was the Vulcans. That’s awesome. I’m getting a t-shirt.

Oh yeah, we can’t forget the back flips.

24.736 – LHP Anthony Ciavarella

Anthony Ciavarella is an undersized lefty with a solid fastball (87-92) and a quality curve. He’s been decent when it comes to missing bats in his career (7.99 K/9 in his senior year at Monmouth) and his control has always been a strength, so maybe you get a matchup lefty down the line here.

25.766 – RHP Spencer Trayner

I think Spencer Trayner (419) has a future in a big league bullpen. He’s got a low-90s fastball (95 peak), average or better breaking ball, and a split-change that can get him loads of swings and misses when he’s feeling it. Toss in three solid years pitching out of the Tar Heels bullpen and the athleticism you’d expect from a former middle infielder, and you’ve got yourself a good looking relief prospect.

26.796 – RHP Eric Carter

Eric Carter is too old. Eric Carter is undersized. Eric Carter is too reliant on his fastball. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Eric Carter keeps sitting people down. As a senior at Louisiana, he had a 12.07 K/9 and 1.84 BB/9 in 44.0 IP. In his pro debut, Carter did this: 10.32 K/9 and 1.59 BB/9 in 22.2 IP. There are reasons to temper that enthusiasm some — add on his fly ball tendencies to that list of red flags — but I’ve always been bullish on guys who can just plain miss bats. It doesn’t hurt that Carter has a low-90s fastball (up to 94) and an inconsistent, underutilized curve that is nasty when on. Those positives outweighs the negatives, especially in the twenty-sixth round.

27.826 – RHP Mike O’Reilly

Mike O’Reilly pitched really well (9.83 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9) in his draft year at Flagler. Mike O’Reilly pitched really well (8.55 K/9 and 1.13 BB/9) in his first year as a professional. Can’t ask for much more than that.

29.866 – RHP Noel Gonzalez

One could probably ascertain that the Cardinals have been on Noel Gonzalez for a while now. That’s a safe assumption with just about any draft pick, but Gonzalez’s path from Bellevue (same school as Leland Tilley, thirty-second round pick) to Lewis-Clark (NAIA school that is always loaded) surely kept many Cardinal eyes on him over the past few seasons. That’s all I’ve got.

31.946 – 2B JD Murders

I don’t have much on JD Murders that isn’t already out there. He’s a fairly sure-handed defensive middle infielder with above-average wheels, sneaky pop, and some feel for contact. Any high school prospect signed after the tenth round is a good get in my book.

32.976 – RHP Leland Tilley

Leland Tilley went 10-1 with 9 saves in just 25 appearances for the Bellevue Bruins in 2016. That’s crazy, right? A closer with ten wins? Definitely not something you see everyday. That fits a pitcher like Tilley, a funky righthander with a delivery unlike anything most opposing hitters have ever seen. He used that delivery, a low-90s fastball, and a pair of usable breaking balls to put up the kind of numbers (9.53 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9) to get noticed by the pros. I like taking shots on relievers with unorthodox windups at this point in the draft.

33.1006 – 2B Caleb Lopes

When a guy hits .427/.521/.641 with 30 BB/10 K and 9/10 SB in 206 AB, you pay attention. In fact, Caleb Lopes inspired me to shoot off a quick email to a pal about how great his debut. It may or may not have sounded a little something like this…

You want an absurdly deep sleeper? No? TOO BAD. Get to know Caleb Lopes. Cardinals took him with the last pick in the 33rd round. That was pick 1006 overall. College shortstop who split his time in the pros at second (where the Cards announced him on draft day) and third. He hit .427/.521/.641 with 30 BB/10 K and 9/10 SB in 206 AB at West Georgia. Young for his class, too. Only turned 21-years-old this past July. Then he hit .336/.488/.420 with 30 BB/24 K and 2/2 SB in 175 PA in his debut at Johnson City.

This is what I email friends about. Unrelated, I don’t have many friends. Also unrelated, want to be friends?

34.1036 – RHP Jonathan Mulford

Adelphi University has had a player drafted in five of the eight drafts that I’ve covered since starting the site in 2009. That’s pretty impressive and something I never would have guessed in a million years. Jonathan Mulford is the latest Panther to get his shot in the pros. He had a solid senior year (8.47 K/9 and 1.72 BB/9), a fastball up to 93 MPH, and a nice curve. All in all, he’s worth a follow.

36.1096 – RHP Robbie Gordon

Pretty good year for Robbie Gordon. First no-hitter in Maryville history. First perfect game in Maryville history. First ever draft pick to come out of Maryville. First ever player from Maryville to play affiliated professional ball. And, if all that wasn’t enough, Gordon was actually pretty damn good in his debut. I mean, he was a 23-year-old with a solid low-90s heater and advanced changeup doing his thing against teenagers in the GCL, but it still counts for something. I can’t say I expect a whole lot out of a Division II pick with fine but hardly overwhelming career numbers (8.37 K/9 and 3.11 BB/9), but they can never take away 2016 from him.

37.1126 – 3B Andy Young

Andy Young made a mockery of the GCL in his admittedly short stay there: .323/.500/.452 with 7 BB/3 K in 43 PA. He then went to State College and hit comfortably above-average (.261/.322/.398 and 115 wRC+ in 182 PA) the rest of the way. Not a bad debut at all for the potential utility guy, especially when you factor in positive notes on his glove at 2B, SS, 3B, LF, and RF. I’m comfortable with putting a big league ceiling on Young based on that defensive versatility and a rapidly improving bat. The latter began in his senior season at Indiana State. His overall numbers stayed similar on the surface, but Young managed to almost completely flip his BB/K ratio into something far more palatable (30 BB/27 K) as a senior. The small sample pro debut stats quoted above give some credence that Young’s offensive bump is real and can be sustained. If that’s the case, then maybe the Cardinals really did turn a thirty-seventh round pick into a future useful big league player. Not bad.

38.1156 – RHP Robert Calvano

Robert Calvano didn’t pitch enough (6.2 innings in 2016, 5.2 innings in 2015) to get on my radar, but obviously the Cardinals saw enough in him over the years to take a late-round shot.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Jeremy Ydens (UCLA), Aaron Bond (San Jacinto JC), Jackson Lamb (Michigan), Josh Burgmann (Washington), Pat Krall (Clemson), JC Crowe (?), Cade Cabbiness (Seminole State), Matthew Ellis (UC Riverside)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Arizona Diamondbacks

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Arizona in 2016

42 – RHP Jon Duplantier
60 – OF Anfernee Grier
194 – C Gavin Stupienski
227 – RHP Curtis Taylor
255 – 2B Manny Jefferson
279 – C Andy Yerzy
366 – C Ryan January
392 – OF Connor Owings
410 – LHP Colin Poche

Complete List of 2016 Arizona Diamondbacks Draftees

1.39 – OF Anfernee Grier

You’d think three years of SEC experience would have me reevaluating my original high school comp for Anfernee Grier (60), but I keep coming back to Devon White every time I see him play. Maybe the body types are a bit off — Grier is plenty graceful, but doesn’t quite give off the same gazelle-like movements of a young White — but I think they two share plenty of traits that could translate to a similar professional upside. Even his doubters would have to admit that Grier has star upside if it all comes together as a pro. It might be rich for some in certain areas, but I think putting above-average future grades on all five of his tools isn’t crazy. Even if you knock a few tools down to average (hit, power, arm), he’s still got a chance to be an outstanding regular and long-term fixture in center field.

If you didn’t know much about Grier until now, then I can imagine you sitting there wondering how a guy with tools like his fell to the thirty-ninth overall pick. Here you go: the aforementioned high school evaluation on this site contained this line — “questionable approach biggest current impediment to success as pro” — which remains as true now as it did then. Grier is such a naturally gifted talented young hitter — his “lightning quick wrists” were also mentioned in that report — that at times his approach at the plate looks like what one might expect out of a hitter unfamiliar with not being able to hit everything even remotely near the plate hard and far. I’m not sure this is a mainstream enough topic to qualify it as a #hottake, but I’ve wondered at times when watching Grier if he was too gifted a hitter for his own good. The confidence he has as a hitter made him a great amateur, but could keep him from being a great pro. Grier will have to learn that just because he can hit almost any pitch in any count it doesn’t necessarily mean that he should. More so than most early-round college draftees, Grier’s pro development is going to hinge greatly on his receptiveness to pro instruction, to say nothing of the quality and patience of those doing the instructing.

Of course, any attempt to change Grier too much could move him away from what made his approach work for him in the first place. The real challenge for Grier and the Diamondbacks going forward will be finding a happy medium between his natural inclination to swing at anything close and a more patient, nuanced approach at the plate. If that can be achieved, Grier is a star. If not, I think there’s still enough in the way of physical talent here to suggest Grier will have a long, fruitful career as a speed/defense backup outfielder. With a high ceiling and reasonable floor, Grier is a quality prospect and deserving first round pick.

2.52 – C Andy Yerzy

I believe in Andy Yerzy (279) as a hitter. I don’t believe in him as a catcher. That puts him in a really tough spot as the former belief isn’t nearly as strong as the latter. Yerzy will hit, sure, but will it be enough for first base? The most honest answer is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, but that’s not what you come here for. Forced to give a definitive answer on the long-term future of an 18-year-old hitter from York Mills Collegiate Institute in beautiful Ontario …I guess I’d take the easy way out and say he’s not likely to hit enough to hold down a job at first base at the highest level. That’s playing the percentages, after all. The honest answer remains the silly shrug. I don’t have nearly enough feel for Yerzy as a hitter — what I’ve seen and heard and read, I like — to give a more solid take on his future. I clearly love going on and on and on about players I think I have a good feel for — somebody on the internet recently dissed me as being “too wordy and authoritative,” so I guess that reputation as a know-it-all yakker precedes me — but I’d like to think I also know when to shut up about a guy I don’t have enough information on to give a meaningful opinion about. So I’m going to shut up now.

3.89 – RHP Jon Duplantier

“If Duplantier flops in the pros, I’m out on Rice pitchers forever,” was a thing written here back in April. It’s true. If Jon Duplantier (42) doesn’t make it due to either injury or reduced stuff caused from injury, then I’m swearing off Rice pitchers…until next June. If Duplantier does make it, however, then me calling this one of the best picks in the draft and arguably the best value of any drafted college arm will look pretty smart. On Duplantier from March 2016…

The good news for Rice is that their ace is very clearly the best pitching prospect in the conference. Jon Duplantier is awesome. There are only so many college baseball and draft writers out there and there are a ton of quality players to write about, but it still surprises me that Duplantier has managed to go (kind of) under the radar this spring. I mean, of course Duplantier has been written about plenty and he’s regarded by almost anybody who matters as one of the top college arms in this class – not to mention I’m guilty of not writing about him until now myself – but it still feels like we could all be doing more to spread the word about how good he really is. Here’s what I wrote about him in his draft capsule last year…

175. Rice SO RHP Jon Duplantier: 87-94 FB, 95 peak; good CU; good 73-75 CB; average 82-85 SL, flashes above-average when harder; good command; great athlete; fascinating draft case study as a hugely overlooked injured arm that one scout described to me as “every bit as good as Dillon Tate when on” and another said his injury was a “blessing in disguise” because it saved him from further abuse at the hands of Coach Graham; 6-4, 210 pounds

His fastball has since topped out as high as 97-98 and more consistently sits in the mid- to upper-band of that velocity range (90-94). His command has continued to improve and his breaking balls are both showing more consistency. I’ve heard his change has backed up some – more of a future average pitch at 82-84 than anything – but seeing as that’s just one of three usable offspeed pitches, it’s not the end of the world. Duplantier is big, athletic, and getting better by the day. I don’t know if that all adds up to a first round selection in this class, but it is damn close if not.

Duplantier finished his college season ranked 42nd on my board. The draft’s first round went 41 picks. Damn close to a first round pick indeed. I’m still hopeful that his history of nagging injuries turns out to be more of a blessing in disguise we all look back on and laugh about rather than an ongoing issue that plagues him in pro ball. Get him healthy, get him working on refining his offspeed stuff (average 82-84 CU, average 82-85 SL, average mid-70s CB), get him the reps he’ll need to bump that fastball (87-95, 98 peak) command up a grade, and watch him work. I called it “sneaky top of the rotation upside” back in April, and I think some of that is still there with Duplantier. It’s aggressive, I know, but I believe. There’s just something about pitchers from Rice that I like…

4.119 – RHP Curtis Taylor

I’m really excited to watch Curtis Taylor (227) pitch in the pros. If ninth round pick Tommy Eveld (we’ll get to him) is my Platonic Ideal of what a ninth round pick college pitcher should look like, then Taylor fits the bill for the fourth round. More accurately, he’s what I want in any college pitcher outside of the first few picks in the draft. Size (6-5, 210), projection (cold weather factor), present velocity (90-94, 96 peak), offspeed with promise (slider and splitter), results (11.10 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9 in 91.2 IP at the University of British Columbia), and ground balls (around 60% in his debut)…the guy checks every box. There’s number two starter upside here with Taylor.

5.149 – 3B Joey Rose

I heard really good college player and potential 2019 first day pick when asking around about Joey Rose for much of the spring. There’s plenty to like such as his easy above-average righthanded power and above-average arm strength at the hot corner, but he’s a long way away from what he could be. I still like Arizona taking a shot on him here in the fifth round. If you think he could be a first round pick in 2019, then why not grab him well before that in a much lower round? Why let college ball have all the fun developing him when you can do it yourself? Got a Matt Rose (Cubs) comp on him after signing, which amuses me because it wasn’t until I wrote it down right this very second that I realized the players had the same last name. They even each have four-letter first names. Could some subconscious association between the two young players be the root of that comparison? Maybe!

6.179 – LHP Mack Lemieux

LHP Mack Lemieux (Jupiter HS, Florida): 84-86 FB; 75-76 CU; 72-74 CB; good command; 6-3, 185 pounds

Those were my high school notes on Mack Lemieux from 2015. Baseball America (among others) have him peaking at 94 MPH after a season at Palm Beach State JC. Between that, his youth (just turned 20), his great pro debut (on the heels of a fine junior college season), significant athleticism, and a cool name, he’s one to watch closely.

7.209 – LHP Jordan Watson

Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing in life until you’ve found it. I love this Jordan Watson guy. NAIA or not, striking out 176 batters in 104.2 innings is straight up awesome. And then to follow up that 15.14 K/9 with a 16.43 K/9 in his first 12.2 innings pitched as a pro? I’m firmly on the bandwagon.

Incidentally, Watson’s Science and Arts of Oklahoma baseball team also had a hitter named Yariel Gonzalez who did this as a senior: 457/.508/.796 with 24 BB/9 K and 12/14 SB. He latched on with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent where he kept hitting as a pro. I like this guy, too. We’ll get to the Cardinals draft next Monday, so I won’t drone on and on and on about how well they identify quality amateur talent, but…man, they have a knack for this. Apologies to any Diamondbacks fan who feels slighted by St. Louis co-opting their draft review. You guys drafted well, too!

8.239 – C Ryan January

Recently got a text from a friend who saw Ryan January (366) for Missoula this summer that called him a “lefthanded Alex Jackson, but good.” I’m not necessarily throwing in the towel on the Mariners 20-year-old prep catcher to pro outfielder (and, for the record, neither was my friend), but that still made me laugh. Comparison to the currently stalled Jackson aside, the real takeaway here is that January can play. There are certainly some rough edges surrounding his bat and his overall approach as a hitter remains a work in progress, but there’s no doubting his bat speed, surprisingly deft feel for contact, and the special sound he’s capable of making on impact when he gets a hold of one.

The Alex Jackson mention was serendipitous (retroactively so since it’s been about two months since I got the text, but just go with it) as I’ve actually been thinking about him a lot as I type up these draft reviews. This is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but I’ll share it anyway. I champion future bench players and middle relievers on this site all the time. I think there’s tons of hidden value there, both on the field (duh) and on the margins of the payroll sheets (save money on those homegrown guys, spend savings on bigger stars). You can find these players all over the draft if you look hard enough. However, I don’t like when teams move a questionable defender off a tough defensive spot to an easier one when the player in question doesn’t have special upside with the bat. You’re more likely to get a good player that way, but far less likely to get a great player. That was my dilemma with Alex Jackson back when he was a draft prospect. As a catcher, sign me up. Even if the bat suffers some and he never becomes a great defensive player, it would have been worth it to me to see it through with him behind the plate. As an outfielder, conventional wisdom says that he can focus more clearly on his hitting and his overall offensive game will be the best that it can be. When the best that it can be is truly great, I get it. Bryce Harper is an all too obvious example of this. But a guy like Jackson was never Harper. A guy like Jackson was never all that likely (in my view) to ever be a top ten or so offensive player (at the position) as a corner outfielder. You’ve effectively downgraded the upside from a should-be major potential asset into just another interesting potential regular. You’ve gone from admittedly longer odds of maybe great to slightly better odds of maybe good. Jackson’s bat is good, but is it good enough to give up such a huge chunk of his potential defensive value to find out?

There are way more complicating factors than those stated above. Every player should be judged on his own specific strengths and weaknesses. And Alex Jackson the individual isn’t really the point here; I don’t know enough about him to say the M’s were wrong to move him or not, and I’m willing to defer judgment on their player development staff on that call. For me, moving him wasn’t the issue, but picking him where they did in the draft knowing that moving him was the likely plan was. I’m not saying never move a player from a position that you don’t think he can handle. That would obviously be ridiculous. Not everybody is a catcher or a center fielder or a shortstop. The previously mentioned Bryce Harper is just one of many times it does make sense to make such a switch. Maybe I’m just greedy. I don’t know. “Perfect is the enemy of the good,” they said. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” they said. Who knows what to think these days…

All of this somehow brings us back to Ryan January. As a catcher, he’d instantly be on the short list of highest upside players at the position in all of baseball. If forced to shift to the outfield, his odds of reaching the big leagues would go up — yes, there would be more pressure on the bat, but I think that would be counterbalanced (and then some) by the easier day-to-day existence of a corner outfielder versus a catcher — but the odds of him being a difference-making overall player would go down. I really can’t say for sure if a full-time move to the outfield is worth it in January’s specific case, but it does appear that the Diamondbacks are committed to doing what they can to exhaust all possibilities to find out what it takes to keep him behind the plate for as long as possible. I’m thankful for that. January as a catcher could be a star.

9.269 – RHP Tommy Eveld

I don’t know why I didn’t rank Tommy Eveld in the top 500 of this draft class. Arizona clearly did and they were very smart to do so. So much time and energy on this site has been spent preaching about the advantages athleticism gives young pitching prospects. Somehow Eveld, arguably the most athletic pitcher in this entire class, fell through the cracks. This is what I had on him in March…

Tommy Eveld’s question marks fall more on me than him right now. He’s got a great frame, fantastic athleticism, and legitimate low-90s heat, but beyond that I don’t know a ton about him.

Time marched on and I never got around to filling in my Eveld knowledge gaps along the way. Extreme athleticism, a big-time arm (90-94) with plenty of bullets left in the chamber, a frame to dream on (6-5, 190), offspeed stuff that seemingly got better with every trip to the mound, and tons of missed bats (11.38 K/9 in 53.0 IP) along the way…I’m not really sure what more you could want. Fantastic pick by Arizona here. Eveld is worth getting excited about.

10.299 – OF Stephen Smith

What you see is what you get with Stephen Smith. There’s power, strength, and some athleticism. It’s a potential platoon bat in a corner if it really works and a 4A slugger if it doesn’t. If that worst case scenario comes to fruition, there’s always Japan.

11.329 – RHP Jake Polancic

Not too pleased that I whiffed so badly on Jake Polancic, a good looking Canadian arm up to 88-92 with his fastball with a promising curve to match. Few teams scout Canada as aggressively as Arizona and Tim Wilken’s arrival only upped the ante on getting as many eyes on prospects from the Great White North as possible.

12.359 – C Gavin Stupienski

Wrote this in March about Gavin Stupienski (194)…

Every June I kick myself for not writing more about unheralded players that I like more before the rest of the world catches on. There’s never enough time once the college season gets going and I always feel guilty about doing quick posts off the top of my head that would better suit the daily “hey, this guy is REALLY good” thoughts that have a habit of coming up about certain prospects. The premise of this post is goofy, but I’d like to think the content stands up enough to be taken seriously. That makes this the perfect platform to express again how much I like Gavin Stupienski. He’s hit during his summers, he hit as a redshirt-sophomore, he’s hitting so far this year…he can hit. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate and he’s a leader on one of the nation’s best mid-major teams. I’m not sure what more you could want. I’m all-in on Stupienski. Add him to the increasingly impressive top ten round catcher pile.

Getting a potential regular catcher (or high-level backup) with pick three hundred fifty-nine is a major win for the Diamondbacks. This really was a great year for college catching. Arizona got themselves a good one.

13.389 – 2B Manny Jefferson

I’m surprised more hasn’t been written about Manny Jefferson (255) on this site considering how much I like him. As a college hitter coming off a breakthrough draft season in spite of an ugly 25 BB/50 K ratio, Jefferson is not exactly my usual cup of tea. One line from my notes on him stands out: “best is yet to come as a hitter.” That’s always some cognitive dissonance when it comes to such claims. For high school players, sure why not. For college prospects carrying years of meaningful data, it’s tough to really buy into the persistent scout chatter about how close a guy is to flicking the switch. Too many smart people were in on Jefferson this spring, so I pushed him up the board here even with the scary BB/K ratio. We’ll see how it all turns out. The difference between real improvement there (long-time big league regular), moderate improvement (see below), and little improvement (AA washout) will make or break his career.

With that moderate improvement in approach, I could see Jefferson settling nicely into a bat-first (power-first, really) utility player role capable of holding his own at literally any spot on the diamond save catcher and probably center. I have a player in mind I really want to comp him too, but for some reason the name keeps escaping me. In lieu of that perfect comp, I’ll throw out a pretty good one instead. I’m thinking Jefferson’s upside is something not unlike former Brewer do-everything Bill Hall.

14.419 – LHP Colin Poche

Old comps die hard, so when Perfect Game busted out an Andy Pettitte comp for Colin Poche (410) many years ago it really stuck with me. Poche is very clearly not Pettitte — few are — but he’s still a solid prospect and a great get here in the fourteenth round. What works for Poche is really good command of a slew of decent to slightly better pitches he can throw in any count or game situation. His low-90s fastball hasn’t yet returned from the Tommy John surgery that knocked him out of the 2015 college season, but he can still be effective living in the upper-80s and occasionally touching 90. Deception, extension, and athleticism are all pretty big points in his favor as well. He’s a prospect teetering on that fifth starter/middle relief line with a chance for a little more if some of his pre-injury stuff ever comes back.

15.449 – RHP Tyler Keele

Tyler Keele is the first of three straight college relievers taken by Arizona known best by their propensity for sinking fastballs and generating ground balls. I have Keele’s breaking ball as more of an in-between slider/curve, but it serves a similar purpose as the slider thrown by both Nick Blackburn and Jake Winston. Keele has a chance to be the best of the trio thanks in part to a usable split-change. The limited batted ball pro data on the three is interesting. Keele did not get many ground ball outs in his debut. Blackburn didn’t pitch enough for it to matter. And Winston got a ton of ground ball outs. Small sample size caveats apply, but so far advantage Winston.

16.479 – RHP Nick Blackburn

These are written out of order, so the Jake Winston thing you’ll read below was actually finished before whatever it is I’m about to write about Nick Blackburn. You can skip to that to get some of my feelings on Blackburn, but the short version is this: sinker/slider college reliever with a chance to be a sinker/slider big league reliever with continued work.

17.509 – RHP Jake Winston

“Better stuff than he’s shown” was a common refrain from those who have seen Jake Winston do his thing over the years for Southern Mississippi. The sinker/slider reliever has solid stuff across the board (87-92, 94 peak with the sinker; above-average slider; good command of both pitches), but lacks that singular put-away pitch to make him much more than a potential mid-relief ground ball guy. There’s nothing wrong with that in the seventeenth round, of course. Winston leaves us wanting more, and that’s something that probably says more about us than it does him.

19.569 – SS Mark Karaviotis

It’s really easy to say you love a pick after said pick goes out and hits a combined .347/.491/.485 in 217 across two levels in his pro debut. Still, I really do love this pick. Mark Karaviotis is a really good prospect who suffered from “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome in his draft year at Oregon. You would think more teams would have been on a true shortstop who kicked off his college career with two seasons of fine on-base showings (.369 OBP in 2014, .407 OBP in 2015), but injuries kept him off the field enough in 2016 that he slipped through the cracks more than his talent should have allowed. He’s not a tools monster in any way — good arm, solid range, average speed, decent pop — but he’s shown a knack for getting on base, coming up with big hits when needed, and playing mistake-free ball. He won’t keep hitting as he did in his debut, but he could very well hit enough to wind up a big league utility guy with the chance to earn some run as a starter depending on his timing. Kudos to Arizona for staying with him and being willing to give him $100,000 to sign. The young college junior (20-years-old all season) had plenty of leverage if he wanted to go back to school.

20.599 – RHP Connor Grey

No reports here on Connor Grey’s stuff while at St. Bonaventure, but he did get a mention on the site for his standout senior year performance: 9.29 K/9 – 3.23 BB/9 – 92.0 IP – 2.84 ERA. He added an even 60.0 innings on quality pitching as a pro on top of that. That kind of workhorse behavior is doubly impressive when you consider Grey’s a compactly built 6-0, 180 pound guy who gets by more on guile than big raw stuff.

22.659 – RHP Kevin Ginkel

Kevin Ginkel has impressive size (6-5, 215) and a slider with serious upside. His pro start was better than his draft year at Arizona. Funny how that works sometimes. I didn’t have any reports on his velocity as an amateur, but apparently he was up to the mid- to upper-90s in his pro debut. Putting that and his slider together adds up to one serious late-round relief steal.

23.689 – C Luke Van Rycheghem

I know very little of Luke Van Rycheghem. The Canadian does have a name very well-suited for hockey. I could see it really working as a defenseman. Maybe I’m thinking of Luke Richardson (who, incidentally, I hadn’t thought of in at least a decade before now) combined with James van Reimsdyk. Anyway, Van Rycheghem is a big (6-3, 210) and strong former catcher now being asked to worry first and foremost about hitting it long and far as a first baseman.

24.719 – RHP Riley Smith

On Riley Smith from January 2016…

JR RHP Riley Smith is the biggest wild card on the staff. His raw ability suggests he could be the highest drafted arm off of this staff in 2016, but there’s always some risk in projecting a college arm who hasn’t done it at this level that high. I’ve always preferred talent to experience, so count me very much in on Smith heading into his draft year.

The former LSU Tiger remains a big old wild card to me. His draft season was an unmitigated disaster (4.59 K/9 and 5.05 BB/9 in 19.2 IP), but the arm talent (89-93 FB, 95 peak; pair of interesting low-80s offspeed pitches) was obviously enough for Arizona to look past his struggles. So far, so good for Smith in the pros: 8.35 K/9 and 1.11 BB/9 in 32.1 IP (2.51 ERA).

25.749 – OF Myles Babitt

I love the MLB Draft. Where else do you see a player drafted from Cal State East Bay by way of the Academy of Art? Myles Babitt is a fascinating guy who has put up tons of weird, fun numbers over the years. His draft season saw him hit .308/.410/.400 with 22 BB and 5 K. That’s an insane BB/K ratio. He followed it up by hitting .300/.406/.322 with 16 BB/14 K in his pro debut. I don’t know what’s crazier there: is it the still great BB/K ratio or the comically small ISO? There’s no way that Babitt’s golden approach and whatever the opposite of golden (rusty? dull? Yahoo Answers says purple is the opposite color to gold, so maybe that?) power output can continue to coexist in pro ball, right? Or are we looking at the Willians Astudillo of the outfield? Either way, I’m excited to find out. Worth pointing out that Myles is the son of Shooty Babitt, a former Arizona and current New York Mets scout.

26.779 – 1B Tanner Hill

A friend of mine really likes Tanner Hill. He called him the next Tyler White. I don’t personally see it, but there you go.

27.809 – RHP Gabe Gonzalez

Gabe Gonzalez checks a lot of boxes: size (6-5, 220), fastball (90-94 FB, 95-96 peak), breaking ball (above-average yet inconsistent SL), and a track record of missing bats (8.11 K/9 in 2015, 10.41 K/9 in 2016). He’s still searching for a consistent slower third pitch to use — he’s used both a splitter and a forkball as a means of changing up speeds in the past — and his control remains spotty at best (4.77 BB/9 in 2015, 5.89 BB/9 in 2016), but there’s a lot to work with.

31.929 – RHP Williams Durruthy

Williams Durruthy has top ten round arm talent and undrafted free agent levels of control. The Diamondbacks split the difference with his thirty-first round selection. At his best, Durruthy is spotting a low-90s heater and a legitimate plus cutter. At his worst, he’s walking every hitter in sight. A phrase I heard more than once about Durruthy this spring: “too much movement for his own good.” If Arizona’s pro coaching can help him harness his stuff, he’s got real late-inning reliever upside. That’s a hefty “if,” admittedly, but betting on talent that can’t be taught in the latter stages of the draft is just good sense.

32.959 – RHP Trevor Simms

The highly athletic and well-traveled Trevor Simms has a good (90-95 MPH) yet wild right arm that should get him his share of chances over the next few seasons. He’ll need to act fast, however, as he’ll enter his first full year as a 25-year-old in A-ball.

33.989 – SS Paxton De La Garza

A very impressive debut for Paxton De La Garza has put the righthanded middle infielder from Angelo State on the deep sleeper map. His numbers as a Ram were good, so you can see what Arizona must have seen in him. I approve.

34.1019 – OF Connor Owings

Wow. A highly productive player from the national champions who can play multiple positions and run a little bit falling to the thirty-fourth round? Nice grab by Arizona here taking Connor Owings (392) this late. There’s a chance they only pulled the trigger because of the family ties at play — brother Chris is a 2B/SS/OF for the big club — but whatever the reason for taking Owens was, the fact remains he’s now part of the Diamondbacks organization and that’s a good thing for them.

35.1049 – OF Billy Endris

On Billy Endris from March 2016…

Further down the list is another Florida Atlantic product, Billy Endris. Endris is a good college player who has built a decent case over the last year plus that he’s got enough to warrant a late look in the draft.

His senior year was lackluster enough that I’m surprised that prediction came true. Still cool for him to be drafted. They can never take that away from him.

36.1079 – LHP Rob Galligan

Maybe a matchup lefty. Have him as a mid-80s guy with a nice curve and good size in my notes. Senior year numbers were wild (6.57 BB/9), but not really indicative of his decent overall control.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Jordan Wiley (San Jacinto), Nelson Mompierre (Missouri), Welby Malczewski (Auburn), Brandon Martorano (North Carolina), Hunter Kiel (LSU), Edmond Americaan (Chipola JC), Cameron Cannon (Arizona), Bowden Francis (Chipola JC), Jacob Olson (West Georgia Tech)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – New York Yankees

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by New York in 2016

11 – Blake Rutherford
37 – Nick Solak
65 – Dominic Thompson-Williams
117 – Nolan Martinez
214 – Mandy Alvarez
295 – Tim Lynch
371 – Joe Burton
375 – Connor Jones
384 – Taylor Widener
449 – Keith Skinner

Complete List of 2016 New York Yankees Draftees

1.18 – OF Blake Rutherford

Delvin Perez and Nolan Jones were the only players on my board that I would have considered over Blake Rutherford (11) where the Yankees selected him. That makes this a slam dunk pick for New York. Whatever trepidation there was before the draft about staying away from anointing Rutherford a real deal 1-1 candidate ceased to matter the moment he started falling past the first handful of picks. Rutherford at 1-1 (or the surrounding area) was justifiable, but admittedly tough to swallow. Rutherford at 1-18 is flat robbery. A quick look at the timeline that got us here beginning in December 2015…

Despite some internet comparisons that paint him as the Meadows, I think the better proxy for Rutherford is Frazier. Issues with handedness, height, and hair hue aside, Frazier as a starting point for Rutherford (offensively only as Frazier’s arm strength blows the average-ish arm of Rutherford away) can be used because the two both have really good looking well-balanced swings, tons of bat speed, and significant raw power. The parallel gets a little bit of extra juice when you consider Frazier and Rutherford were/are also both a little bit older than their draft counterparts.

Pretty cool that Rutherford is now teammates with Clint Frazier with the Yankees. Well, I guess they aren’t technically teammates yet but rather organization-mates. You get the idea. Here are their respective professional debuts with Frazier on top and Rutherford on the bottom…

.297/.362/.506 – 31.1 K% and 8.7 BB% – 196 PA
.351/.415/.570 – 23.1 K% and 10.0 BB% – 130 PA

Not a bad start for the Yankees latest potential star prospect. We’ll jump now to April 2016 to see what was said about Rutherford then…

At some point it’s prudent to move away from the safety of college hitters and roll the dice on one of the best high school athletes in the country. Blake Rutherford is just that. Him being older than ideal for a high school senior gives real MLB teams drafting in the top five something extra to consider, but it could work to his advantage developmentally in terms of fantasy. He’s a little bit older, a little bit more filled-out, and a little bit more equipped to deal with the daily rigors of professional ball than your typical high school prospect. That’s some extreme spin about one of Rutherford’s bigger red flags — admittedly one that is easily resolved within a scouting department: either his age matters or not since it’s not like it’s changing (except up by one day like us all) any time soon — but talking oneself into glossing over a weakness is exactly what fantasy drafting is all about. I like Rutherford more in this range (ed. note: For the sake of context, this was originally written in a mock that had Rutherford going 11th) in the real draft than in the mix at 1-1.

There’s a bit of a fantasy spin to that, but the larger point about Rutherford being better equipped to deal with the minor league grind straight away better than many of his high school class peers held up in his debut. When Rutherford starts next season in Charleston as a 19-year-old (20 in May, but still), nobody will be talking about his age relative to the competition anymore. That doesn’t change the pre-draft evaluation where his age most certainly should have been factored in as he was doing his thing against younger pitchers, but that’s all old news by now. Outside of the potential desire to track certain developmental progress indicators, those pre-draft evaluations can more or less be thrown out now that he’s 130 plate appearances into his pro career.

It took me until May 2016 before I managed to succinctly describe how I viewed Rutherford as a prospect…

His upside is that of a consistently above-average offensive regular outfielder while defensively being capable of either hanging in center for a bit (a few years of average glove work out there would be nice) or excelling in an outfield corner (making this switch early could take a tiny bit of pressure off him as he adjusts to pro pitching). His floor, like almost all high school hitters, is AA bat with holes in his swing that are exploited by savvier arms.

I’d update that now to raise Rutherford’s ceiling (above-average regular, sure, but some years of star quality output seem well within reach) and more or less nix the idea of him playing center much longer (pro guys were a lot harder on his defense than the amateur evaluators) while keeping the floor basically the same (maybe bump him up to AAA, but the difference there is minute). No player in this class save AJ Puk has been picked apart in quite the same way as Rutherford. I’m not absolving myself from guilt as I know I’ve done the same over the past year or so. So much time and energy have been spent trying to talk ourselves out of him being the type of prospect that could go first overall that his combination of polished skills and toolsy upside, a blend of talent unique to him in this entire class of hitters, has gone underappreciated. This pick really is as good as it gets in the draft’s first round.

2.62 – 2B Nick Solak

Nick Solak (37) in three quotes…

October 23, 2015

The day you find me unwilling to champion a natural born hitter with a preternatural sense of the strike zone is the day I hang up the keyboard. Solak is a tough guy to project because so much of his value is tied up in his bat, but if he build on an already impressive first two seasons at Louisville in 2016 then he might just hit his way into the draft’s top two rounds.

April 4, 2016

Nick Solak can flat hit. I’d take him on my team anytime. He’s likely locked in at second in the infield, so I don’t know how high that profile can rise but I have a hunch he’ll be higher on my rankings than he winds up getting drafted in June. I’m more than all right with that.

April 21, 2016

Nick Solak is an outstanding hitter. He can hit any pitch in any count and has shown himself plenty capable of crushing mistakes. His approach is impeccable, his speed above-average, and his defense dependable. I think he’s the best college second baseman in this class.

If you’re getting the impression that I think Nick Solak is a good hitter, then you’re on the right track. I straight up LOVE this pick for New York. I got a recent DJ LeMahieu (shorter version) comparison for Solak that I think is pretty smart. Yankees would surely be thrilled with getting that kind of hitter in the second round.

3.98 – RHP Nolan Martinez

I loved the Blake Rutherford pick. I loved the Nick Solak pick. I love the Nolan Martinez (117) pick. Three for three for the Yankees so far. Martinez is all about projection at this point. The 6-2, 165 pound righthander has a fastball (87-94, 96 peak) with crazy movement and a low- to mid-70s breaking ball with above-average upside. Those two pitches alone could be enough for him to get pro hitters out right now. It’s a lot of fun to imagine what they could do with a few years of growth behind them. Further development of a low- to mid-80s changeup could make Martinez a long-term fixture in a big league rotation. It’s not hard to imagine some good weight being added to his frame, a few extra ticks added to his fastball (could see him sitting mid-90s by the time he’s in his early-20s), a little more power added to his slider, and overarching improvements in command as the highly athletic two-way high school star begins to devote himself full-time to pitching. Martinez is a really tough player to put a ceiling on right now. I’m honestly not sure how good he can be. I’m not even sure he even realizes just yet how good he can be. Tremendous pick by New York.

4.128 – RHP Nick Nelson

I didn’t necessarily love the Nick Nelson pick, but that doesn’t stop me from loving this quote from his 2015 player page at Gulf Coast State JC. His answer to”Best Sports advice given to you” was “To be the best…you have to be the best!” Could be wrong, but I think something got lost in translation there. Typo or not, I think I actually like this version better. Sometimes direct and literal is the way to go. All advice should be so pointed. Maybe if somebody had given me this advice as a younger man, I’d be the best. Maybe…

As for Nelson the ballplayer, I wasn’t as up on him before the draft as I could have been. I can see what the Yankees liked about him: he’s an athletic, sturdily built guy coming from a two-way background with plenty of arm strength. If you’re buying him, you’re thinking that some of his issues — control and underdeveloped offspeed stuff — can be ironed out with full-time dedication to working out on the mound. I’m not quite there, but it’s easy to be incredulous without having seen him. On paper, it sure seems like he has a long ways to go before he’ll provide the value I’d want from a fourth round pick.

I can’t prove it, but players like Nelson strike me as the type that area scouts are willing to pound the table on. The pieces are there, but he hasn’t come all that close to putting it together yet. I think many scouts actually prefer guys like this. I sounds mean even though it’s not the intent, but I think players like this make some scouts feel more important in their role. It’s “easy” to point to a finished product and say “yeah, get him” because anybody who has seen a ballgame or two can likely do the same. Players like Nelson are the hidden gems of the industry that separate the “real” scouts from the wannabes. Hitting on an established name is never a bad thing, but getting a player like Nelson right is a true notch on the belt worth bragging about. I don’t know, maybe I’m projecting too much. Just a theory.

5.158 – OF Dominic Thompson-Williams

The college outfielders ranked third through ninth on my final board all came out of the SEC. That is some seriously useless trivia. It is somewhat topical here, however, in that Dominic Thompson-Williams (65), the man ranked eighth on said list, had this written about him at the time of said ranking: “lost some in the SEC shuffle, but raw tools stack up with anybody here.” Nothing has changed over the summer, so consider that statement a true testament to Thompson-Williams’s obvious physical gifts. His athleticism, speed, and center field range are enough to get him to the big leagues, and his burgeoning pop and approach at the plate give him a chance at a future much greater than that. As my pre-draft ranking can attest, I’m a believer in Thompson-Williams finding a way to continually get better as he figures out how good he can really be. Tremendous value pick here by the Yankees.

6.188 – RHP Brooks Kriske

Brooks Kriske has the goods to pitch out of a big league bullpen one day. His fastball (88-94, 96 peak) and slider (low-80s) both have the chance to be above-average offerings and his mid-80s changeup could be serviceable assuming he doesn’t scrap it completely in the pros. A good frame (6-3, 190) and strong senior season (10.71 K/9 in 35.1 IP) bolster his case. The sixth round feels a bit early to me for these kind of guys, but a quick look at league-wide drafting trends shows that rounds five to ten are the college reliever sweet spot. Fair enough.

7.218 – C Keith Skinner

Nobody cares, but Keith Skinner (449) going in the top ten rounds helped me win a bet. He’s now one of my favorite players in pro ball. Those two things may or may not be related. Skinner’s glove behind the plate leaves some to be desired, but his power and approach at it make a seventh round pick worth it. I’m not that complicated a guy sometimes; if you hit .382/.466/.486 with 36 BB/14 K in a college season, you get noticed.

8.248 – 1B Dalton Blaser

Dalton Blaser, a highly productive college performer known best for a measured approach at the plate, went one pick before a similarly productive college performer known best for a measured approach at the plate. I’m less enthused about the Yankees eighth round pick than the guy who comes next, but can respect the rationale behind the pick.

9.278 – 1B Tim Lynch

Here he is! Tim Lynch (295) was a damn fine pick in the ninth round. He’s got a disciplined approach with legitimate big league thunder in his bat. The first base only profile makes the road to the highest level predictably challenging, but his brand of lefty power could help get him there. I think he’s got a very realistic shot to be at least a productive platoon bat with a real chance for more than that. For the cost of a ninth round pick and ten grand, that’s a steal.

10.308 – LHP Trevor Lane

Effectively wild and athletic. Those were the three pertinent words most often used to describe Trevor Lane to me. His pro debut also pointed to something else interesting about his profile: ground balls everywhere. So an effectively wild, athletic, ground ball inducing lefthanded reliever. That’s Trevor Lane.

11.338 – LHP Connor Jones

Connor Jones (375) was the man behind this should have been bold prediction that didn’t quite get there because I wimped out with all kinds of qualifying language…

It may be a little out there, but a case could be made that the other Connor Jones actually has more long-term upside than the righthanded Virginia ace. This Jones has gotten good yet wild results on the strength of an above-average or better fastball from the left side and a particularly intriguing splitter.

There’s a lot to like when it comes to Jones’s raw stuff. His fastball flirts with plus from the left side (88-94, 95 peak), his breaking ball (78-81 CB) flashes average or better, and a newly refined splitter could act as a needed strikeout pitch at the pro level. He’s also a really good athlete coming off a nice season at Georgia and a very nice trial in the GCL.

12.368 – RHP Taylor Widener

If a fast-moving reliever drafted outside of the top ten rounds is your thing, look no further than Taylor Widener (384). Check what the former Gamecock did in his pro debut: 13.86 K/9, 1.64 BB/9, 0.47 ERA in 38.1 IP. Those numbers aren’t all that out of line with what he did in his final year at South Carolina: 10.94 K/9, 2.12 BB/9, 4.06 ERA in 51.0 IP. His fastball/cut-slider combination is obviously good enough to miss bats, and his athleticism and command are on point. I like getting Widener here a heck of a lot more than I do getting Nelson and Kriske where they did. Heck, draft position aside, I just plain like Widener better. Great pick.

13.398 – RHP Brian Trieglaff

Armed with a fastball that’s been up to 96 and an above-average low-80s slider, Brian Trieglaff has the stuff to move relatively quickly in relief. His control has been inconsistent over the years and his 6-1, 190 pound frame is far from the classic intimidating late-game mound presence, but the good outweighs the bad for this thirteenth rounder. I’ll take this Widener/Trieglaff back-to-back over Nelson (fourth round) and Kriske (sixth round).

14.428 – OF Jordan Scott

There are two Jordan Scott’s on the Minor League Players section of Fangraphs when you search the name. One was born in 1991, the other in 1997. Knowing that this Jordan Scott had the latter birthday instantly gave me a dozen more gray hairs. I also got a gray hair — the disappointment kind, not the old man variety — when I realized that the only Jordan Scott I’ve written about on the site was a different Jordan Scott altogether. Decent righthanded pitcher from Liberty aside, this Jordan Scott had a solid debut in the Gulf Coast League, a not unfamiliar theme shared by many of the younger 2016 Yankees draftees. His would-be college coach seemed to offer high praise for the one who got away…

“Jordan may be the best athlete in this class,” Mountaineers head coach Randy Mazey said after Scott signed a letter of intent with WVU in November. “He can play multiple positions, hit home runs, steal bases and is also a great defender.”

Jordan Scott is now officially on my radar.

15.458 – LHP Tony Hernandez

I’ve got next to nothing on Tony Hernandez, fifteenth round pick of the Yankees. “Big fastball from the left side” is all I’ve got. I can at least note that his two junior college teams both have ties to the organization. Hernandez was first at Lackawanna College in Scranton, home of the Yankees AAA affiliate. He was most recently at Monroe College in Rochester. I do realize New York is a big state and that Rochester is over five hours away from Yankee Stadium, but when you’ve got no pre-draft notes on a guy you have to find a way to make connections when you can. Turns out a few extra seconds of exhaustive investigating reporting (some might call it Googling), makes this connection get a little better. Hernandez apparently attended the New Rochelle campus at Monroe (about thirty minutes from the Stadium), so all’s well that ends well. Here’s a quick piece from the Monroe website that caught my eye…

Hernandez, who idolized former Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and Red Sox ace Jon Lester, was a member of this season’s Mustangs baseball team that went 38-16 overall and won a Regional Championship before being eliminated in the Eastern District final.

Either they know something we don’t or they meant Alex Fernandez, who retired from baseball when Hernandez was four-years-old. I really like to think that somebody at Monroe has a time machine or something and just broke a major offseason scoop. Probably not, though. Stupid boring reality.

(Damn. I do these draft reviews in stops and starts, so this particular player capsule was written in early September. Puts the Fernandez mistake “joke” in a totally different light. Stupid boring reality? More like stupid awful reality. Wild how the death of somebody you’ve never met can still make you feel physically ill just thinking about it a month after the fact.)

17.518 – 3B Mandy Alvarez

The Yankees challenged seventeenth round pick Mandy Alvarez (214) with an aggressive assignment to Low-A Charleston shortly after signing and he responded with a solid run in the South Atlantic League. Such a run wasn’t totally unexpected for the mature . I think he’s just good enough in all other phases of the game to stick at third base; if that’s the case, I believe in Alvarez’s bat enough to think he could be right around a league average big league player in time. I’ll even go a step further and say that I think his realistic floor is that of a quality bat-first utility guy. Getting a player with that kind of range of outcomes with pick 518 is nothing short of tremendous value for the Yankees.

Tangential thought alert! Drafting can be as hard as you make it sometimes. The Yankees made it look pretty easy in 2016. Look at their college position player picks in the top ten rounds: Solak, Thompson-Williams, Keith Skinner, Blaser, and Lynch. The combined collegiate BB to K ratio for those players (at the time of the draft) was 167 to 114. Think they have a type? In the interest of full disclosure, all but the ultra-athletic rangy in center Thompson-Williams from this group can be called bat-first prospects, so, yeah, there could be some defensive growing pains along the way, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Yankees clearly went out of their way to target prospects with above-average feel for hitting, average or better pop for their respective positions, and highly advanced plate discipline. Kudos to them for that. If you’re curious like I was, that 167 to 114 combined walk to strikeout ratio turned into a still solid 109 to 142 mark in the pros. I’d put the over/under of future big league players out of that group at 2.5 and still be inclined to bet the over with little hesitation.

18.548 – RHP Greg Weissert

On Greg Weissert from February 2016…

Greg Weissert can throw three pitches for strikes – 88-93 FB, 78-79 CU, mid-70s CB – and has missed bats at the kind of clip (10.45 K/9) to warrant his spot at the top [of the Atlantic 10].

Sounds about right. And he’s a local product (Fordham!) to boot. Weissert will attempt to be the best modern Fordham alum since Pete Harnisch. I didn’t know that Pete Harnisch was a Ram. How about that? Don’t ever let it be said that this site doesn’t teach you something new every now and then. If you knew that already then at least this site taught me something.

19.578 – OF Evan Alexander

Evan Alexander got $100,000 to sign as a nineteenth round pick. That alone makes him a name worth watching. Beyond that, all I know is that the Yankees have liked him for a long time going back to seeing him up close and personal in Jupiter of last season. That’s all I’ve got.

20.608 – RHP Miles Chambers

Miles Chambers is one of a handful of Yankees draftees with nice peripherals and ugly run prevention stats in their debuts. The righthander from Cal State Fullerton has fairly generic potential middle relief stuff (88-92 FB, SL that comes and goes). Could be better, could be worse.

21.638 – OF Timmy Robinson

I don’t always quote myself in these things, but I liked the Timmy Robinson passage from April 2016…

Timmy Robinson‘s tools are really impressive: above-average to plus raw power, average to above-average speed, above-average to plus arm, above-average to plus range, and all kinds of physical strength. That player sounds incredible, so it should be noted that getting all of his raw ability going at the same time and translating it to usable on-field skills has been a challenge. He’s gotten a little bit better every season and now looks to be one of the draft’s most intriguing senior-signs.

There’s no telling if Robinson will amount to anything more than a slightly too aggressive tooled-up just-missed ballplayer, but his physical gifts more than warrant a gamble in the twenty-first round. I like this pick.

23.698 – RHP Braden Bristo

For whatever reason I had Braden Bristo as a lefthander in my notes. Don’t let that stupid inaccuracy on my part obscure the real deal part of his quick scouting blurb. Bristo has a really fast arm that has been up to 96 in the past (90-94 generally). Both his command and control have seen ups and downs, but getting a fastball like that — lefthanded, righthanded, anyhanded — in the twenty-third round is a pretty good deal. I also had an honest to goodness dream the night after finishing this that I can’t really remember anything from except for stopping in the Braden Bristo Bistro for a glass of water. Guess the “joke” popped into my head when seeing his name (boo), I forgot about it (thankfully), and then recovered it (noooo) from deep down in the stupidest recesses of my brain while sleeping. That’s how dreams work, right?

24.728 – OF Joe Burton

Having already picked off my tenth ranked college first baseman, the Yankees go back and grab number twelve in big Joe Burton (371). Burton, the rare junior college player that I got a chance to see in person (albeit in a workout session and not a real game), is a mountain of a man with underrated athleticism, a quick bat, and a chance to hang in left field professionally. That’s exactly where he played exclusively in his debut run with the Yankees, so maybe they’ll find a way to make it work. There’s still considerable swing-and-miss to his game, but Burton’s encouraging start in pro ball reinforces his standing on the prospect map.

25.758 – OF Edel Luaces

I had nothing on Edel Luaces prior to the draft. I have nothing on Edel Luaces now. I can tell you he’s now one of four players with the given name Edel to have played professional baseball. There’s also been an Edelano (Long), Edelkis (Reyes), and Edelyn (Carrasco). No idea if any of those gentlemen went by Edel. Anyway, here’s a nice interview with Luaces via Robert M. Pimpsner.

27.818 – LHP Phillip Diehl

Thanks to above-average control and an average or better slider, Phillip Diehl is a better version of Tyler Honahan, another college lefty taken nine rounds later by New York. Both guys have enough fastball — 88-91 in the case of Diehl — to make it as a lefty specialist if the chips fall in their favor.

28.848 – RHP Will Jones

I’ve got nothing on Will Jones. Good peripherals in his debut. Not so much in the runs allowed department. Points for being an athletic two-way standout at Lander University with a low-90s heater and rapidly improving cutter. An athletic Yankee reliever known best for sawing off bats with nasty cutters? You don’t think? Nahhh…

30.908 – OF Ben Ruta

I’ve long been in favor of going with what you know in later rounds. I assume the Yankees know the prospects at Wagner College, a school that plays their home games in the very same park as the Staten Island Yankees. Ruta has pro size, a strong arm, and solid speed. He also has the exact kind of approach (college career 77 BB to 83 K) that seemingly all Yankees draftees must have to warrant draft consideration. You could do a lot worse in the thirtieth round.

36.1088 – LHP Tyler Honahan

Here’s another example of going what you know. Tyler Honahan played his collegiate home games just ninety minutes east of Yankee Stadium at Joe Nathan Field. In this case, going with what they know could result in a useful lefty reliever down the road. Honahan has always had solid stuff from the left side — 88-93 FB, 77-83 CU with upside — and his track record of missing bats is strong, so it was no shock to see him pitch effectively in his first shot at pro ball. The odds are against any thirty-sixth round pick, but Honahan can at least point to clearly defined big league skills to help his cause.

39.1178 – RHP Brian Keller

An excellent senior season (8.91 K/9, 1.80 BB/9 and 2.88 ERA in 100.0 IP), above-average command, and a fastball up to 93 were enough to get Brian Keller drafted. I would have guessed that combination would have been enough to get him drafted ahead of the thirty-ninth round (“mid-rounds” was my prediction during the season), but that’s neither here nor there at this point. It was enough to get him his chance at pro ball and he is more than making the most of it so far. Improving on all of your impressive senior season stats is good, right? Because Keller’s debut did just that: 11.20 K/9, 1.54 BB/9, and 0.88 ERA in 41.0 IP. Keller has a chance to be Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s first big league player. Very easy player to root for.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Miles Sandum (San Diego), Nate Brown (Florida), Zack Hess (LSU), Juan Cabrera (?), Bo Weiss (North Carolina), Blair Henley (Texas), Zach Linginfelter (Tennessee), Sam Ferri (Arizona State), David Clawson (BYU), Corey Dempster (USC), Bryson Bowman (Western Carolina), Gage Burland (Gonzaga)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Minnesota Twins

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Minnesota in 2016

15 – Alex Kirilloff
108 – Akil Baddoo
120 – Ben Rortvedt
146 – Matt Albanese
154 – Jose Miranda
189 – Griffin Jax
244 – Jordan Balazovic
381 – Thomas Hackimer
436 – Brandon Lopez
476 – Tyler Benninghoff

Complete List of 2016 Minnesota Twins Draftees

1.15 – OF Alex Kirilloff

I don’t know if Alex Kirilloff (15) has a lucky number or not, but, if he didn’t before, he might have one now. His pre-draft ranking on this site? Fifteen. His ranking at Baseball America? Fifteen. And, of course, what pick did the Twins take him with in the 2016 MLB Draft? Doesn’t take a genius to figure out where I’m going with this. On Kirilloff from December 2015…

Alex Kirilloff is a clear step down athletically from the rest of the top tier, but, man, can he hit. If I would have kept him at first base on these rankings then there’s no question he would have finished atop that position list. He’s behind potential stars like Moniak, Rutherford, McIlwain, Benson, and Tuck for now, but that’s for reasons of defensive upside and athleticism more than anything. By June, Kirilloff’s bat might be too loud to be behind a few of those names.

Then again in April 2016…

As a hitter, Kirilloff can really do it all: big raw power, plus bat speed, a mature approach, and a hit tool so promising that almost every scout has agreed that he’s an advanced hitter who happens to hit for power rather than the other way around. He’s the rare high school prospect who could hit enough to have confidence in him as a pro even if eventually confined to first base.

A finally the longest look from about two weeks before the draft…

Another potential angle with this year’s prep outfielders is one that has been generally underplayed by the experts so far this spring. My sources, such as they are, have led me to believe that there is serious internal debate among many scouting staffs about the respective merits of Rutherford and Kirilloff. The idea that there’s a consensus favorite between the two among big league scouting departments is apparently way off the mark. This may surprise many draft fans who have read about 100x more on Rutherford this spring than Kirilloff, but I think the confusion at the top of the high school outfield class is real. I’d guess that most teams have either Moniak or Rutherford in the first spot; the teams that Moniak first, however, might not necessarily have Rutherford behind him at second. Kirilloff is far more liked by teams than many of the expert boards I’ve seen this spring.

It’s really hard to break down two different high school hitters from two different coasts, but I’ll do my best with what I have to compare Rutherford and Kirilloff. This is hardly a definitive take because, like just about any of my evaluations, I’m just one guy making one final call based on various inputs unique to the information I have on hand. I’m not a scout; I’m just a guy who pretends to know things on the internet. I give Kirilloff the slight edge in raw power, a definite arm strength advantage, and a very narrow lead in bat speed. Rutherford has the better swing (very close call), defensive upside (his decent chance to stay in center for a few years trumps Kirilloff’s average corner outfield/plus first base grades), and hit tool. The two are very close when it comes to approach (both plate discipline and ability to drive it to all fields), athleticism (another slight lean Rutherford, but Kirilloff is underrated here), and foot speed. I actually had Kirilloff ahead by a hair going into the NHSI, but Rutherford’s run of fantastic plate appearances on day two were too much to ignore. Both are great prospects and very much worth top half of the first round selections. I can’t wait to see how high they wind up on my final board.

It’s an imperfect comp, but I can see Kirilloff turning into a prospect on the same level (offensively) as Josh Bell. Great approach, big power upside, and as consistent a young hitter when it comes to hitting frozen ropes all over the field as you’ll see. Kirilloff is also an outstanding defender at first with enough speed (average) and plenty of arm (plus, but plays down for now) to roam the outfield for the foreseeable future. There’s very little reason to doubt Kirilloff as a hitter, so I won’t. He’s going to hit and he’s going to hit a lot. I think Kirilloff will be an excellent big league player for a long time. The Twins did quite well here, both for the player they drafted (clearly) and the overarching draft philosophy they seemed to kick into action.

2.56 – C Ben Rortvedt

On Ben Rortvedt (120) about a month ahead of the draft…

Ben Rortvedt has first round catcher tools; his defensive upside isn’t quite as high as Cooper Johnson’s – it’s close, but Johnson is in a league of his own – but his offensive edge more than makes up the difference. I’d say Rortvedt is the best bet of this group to be first off the board.

Not exactly a bold prediction at the end there as Rortvedt was at or near the top of any list of prep catchers the internet has to offer, but still interesting to see him go in the mid-second just a few picks after the first high school catcher (Andy Yerzy, who probably isn’t a catcher for long). In other words, I (and everybody) figured Rortvedt would go high, but he still managed to go higher (at least to me) than expected. That surprise isn’t so much about what Rortvedt can or can not do on the diamond, but rather a reflection on how risky I view high school catchers. I’m too lazy to link to my ramblings on the subject, but trust me (or not, it’s a free country) when I say that high school catchers are the highest risk of any level/position in recent history.

Of course, as I’ve also mentioned frequently in the past, draft trends can only tell us so much; it’s far more important to focus on individual player skill sets than historical precedent. Rortvedt’s skill set is that of a big league regular behind the plate. He’s a quality defender with both agility and sheer physical strength. As a hitter, he’s equal parts natural hitter and power threat with optimistic forecasts giving him a shot at being above-average in both areas. There just so happen to be loads of developmental landmines that could undermine Rortvedt between now and his hopeful big league debut that it’s really difficult to project any teenage catcher as a regular unless the tools are truly special. Rortvedt falls just short of that, but he’s close enough that you can see what the Twins were thinking here. The boom/bust prospect archetype is so often mischaracterized as a toolsy teenage center fielder/shortstop or a physically immature high school pitcher with an electric fastball, but I think a prep catcher like Rortvedt is the boom/bust poster child. If he can survive the minor league gauntlet, he could be an above-average regular at one of the most critically important positions on the diamond for a decade. If he can’t, then he’ll join the almost inconceivably long list of early round high school catchers who came up short.

2.73 – SS Jose Miranda

Jose Miranda (154) is on par with Ben Rortvedt as a talented natural hitter with average or better raw power that just so happens to come with the added bonus of being almost a year younger than his catching counterpart. Perhaps as impressive is Miranda’s mature approach at the plate that belies his age. He’s also shown enough arm to stick on the left side of the infield giving him a shot to potentially play a little bit of shortstop even as his body fills out. Still, it seems most likely that he’ll wind up at third base over the long haul, which is fine with me since I think he’s got a chance to be an impact defender. Miranda is also a little bit like Rortvedt in that he’s a bit of a boom/bust type at the hot corner (though there’s a shot he could be a bat-first utility infielder if he doesn’t make it as a regular), but if it works out then the Twins will have another talented infielder to add to the stable. Three for three in adding teenagers with advanced bats, too. Hmm…

2.74 – OF Akil Baddoo

You could point to a lot of fun things in Akil Baddoo’s (108) scouting report that explain his selection in the second round by Minnesota, but “chance for plus hit tool” is the line that I keep coming back to. Kirilloff to Rortvedt to Miranda to Baddoo: you can really see the emphasis Minnesota placed on advanced hit tools out of their early round high school position players. If this works out for them — and I’d consider hitting on two of the four as a big win — then this draft will be looked back with great fondness by those in the scouting over stats war. Is that even still a thing? Feel like we’ve moved past it (finally), but I’m not nearly as active on such things anymore. Anyway, I respect the heck out of Minnesota for going so high school heavy here. Whether it works out or not obviously remains to be seen, but the trust that the Twins showed in their scouting staff is admirable. The selection of Baddoo is a fine example of that trust in action. Natural hitting ability combined with above-average or better speed and athleticism earned Baddoo one of my favorite comps (Rondell White) from David Rawnsley of Perfect Game. I’m into it.

3.93 – RHP Griffin Jax

On Griffin Jax (189) from March 2016…

I’ve followed Jax with a little more interest than I might have otherwise due to the fact that he was originally drafted by my hometown team. The Phillies selected a pair of high school pitchers that they were prepared to go overslot with in 2013: the recently released Denton Keys and Jax. It’s easy to say with the benefit of hindsight that Philadelphia made the wrong call in going with Key, but that assumes that they were ever in a position to truly make said decision; after all, it takes two to sign a contract and talking a young man out of a commitment to Air Force can’t be easy. He’s strong, he throws hard (86-94, 96 peak), and he command both his curve and change for quality strikes. It’s a relatively safe mid- to late-rotation starter package with the added upside going forward of a) not having to worry about playing both ways at all (admittedly less of an issue this year, but last year he played some first on non-pitching days), b) shifting towards a pro future that makes baseball your number one priority professionally (for better or worse), and c) being viewed as a still ascending player figuring out just how good he can be on the mound full-time.

I’m still of two minds when it comes to Jax. He’s still the “relatively safe mid- to late-rotation starter” that I thought he could be back in March while also still somehow being an “ascending player figuring out how good he can be on the mound full-time.” How can that even be? Is it possible to be both? How much do I love asking rhetoretical questions?

As for Jax’s future, I’d lean more towards the former possibility — a fine outcome, no doubt — due to his current lack of a knockout offspeed pitch. That said, it wouldn’t be a shock if something clicked for him as a pro and he took off as a prospect sooner rather than later. That’s vague enough that you could probably say that about any prospect, but I think Jax’s unique set of extenuating circumstances make pointing out the wider range of potential outcomes for him more meaningful than it might for others. There’s such a fine line between back-end starter and something much more with Jax. Minnesota’s player development staff is going to really earn their keep here.

4.123 – RHP Thomas Hackimer

Wouldn’t it be something if Thomas Hackimer (381), the funky sinker/slider righthander out of St. John’s, winds up beating the cadre of fire-balling college relievers drafted by the Twins in recent years to the big leagues? They’ve got a head start, but it’s not totally inconceivable. Hackimer can flat pitch. Here are some words on him from March 2016…

The most famous pitcher in the Big East is Thomas Hackimer of St. John’s. The sub six-foot righthander (5-11, 200) has a long track record of missing bats coming out of the pen (9.84 K/9 in 2014, 9.52 K/9 last season) with all kinds of funky stuff (above-average low- to mid-80s SL and average CU) coming at you from an even funkier delivery. He clearly doesn’t fit the classic closer mold, but a recent uptick in velocity (92-93 peak this year, up from his usual 85-90 MPH range) could raise his prospect profile from generic college mid-round righty reliever to potential late-inning option if things keep clicking. I like guys like this a lot on draft day, so consider me a big Hackimer fan…as long as the price remains reasonable. At this rate, he could pitch his way right out of the “undervalued draft steal” category and into “fair value” territory.

The “bad” thing about this pick is the timing as I think the fourth round was about five rounds too early to be called “fair value,” but if the aim of the Twins was to take one of college ball’s “sure things” (scare quotes necessary because we all know there are no sure things in the draft) in order to mitigate some of the risk of their first four picks then mission accomplished. I won’t try to guess what the Twins have planned for Hackimer going forward, but I think he can be ready for the big leagues by the end of the upcoming season if that’s what they want to see. It’s what I want to see, but nobody has asked me.

5.153 – RHP Jordan Balazovic

It’s a strained comparison, but I’ll go there anyway: Jordan Balazovic (244) is the Jose Miranda of pitching prospects. Both guys are young for their class, possess enviable size for their positions (Miranda is 6-2, 180 and Balazovic is 6-4, 180), offer advanced skills (Miranda’s approach: Balazovic’s changeup), and come from elsewhere on the continent (Ontario for Balazovic and Puerto Rico for Miranda…though I guess PR isn’t “on the continent” but it’s late as I write this and you get what I’m saying). Strong present change aside, projection really is the name of the game for Balazovic. His fastball is good enough (88-92, 93 peak) for now (but not great) and his curve still needs work, but he has the size, athleticism, and work ethic to hit that three pitch threshold to be a ground ball heavy mid-rotation arm if it all clicks.

6.183 – RHP Alex Schick

Alex Schick had a really weird career at Cal. Take a look…

2014: 5.29 K/9 – 8.47 BB/9 – 17 IP – 3.18 ERA
2015: 11.50 K/9 – 5.25 BB/9 – 36.1 IP – 4.25 ERA
2016: 6.09 K/9 – 2.71 BB/9 – 13.1 IP – 2.03 ERA

8.47 BB/9 and a 3.18 ERA as a freshman? Weird. Then doubling that K/9 in his sophomore season? Promising! Then cutting it back in half but doing the same for walks in an abbreviated draft year? That’s just confusing. I’m not sure what we can read in to any of that, if anything at all. Maybe it’s best to instead focus on his stuff. At his best, Schick can throw low-90s (95 peak) darts with a power breaking ball capable of getting swings and misses in bunches. Between that and his imposing size (6-7, 210), I get the appeal even with the spotty college track record. It’s still a stunner to me to see him off the board in round six, but I get it. Minnesota likes to keep you on your toes with their early picks. The more I think about it, the weirder the Twins draft looks. I liked so many of their high school picks, but am less enamored with their college preferences. For a known college prospect lover like me, that’s a tough trick to pull off. Minnesota, I do not understand you. But I’m pretty intrigued at what you’ve done…

7.213 – OF Matt Albanese

The biggest selfish reason for doing these draft reviews is the enjoyment I get when looking up a temporarily forgotten draft favorite’s pro numbers. I loved Matt Albanese (146) at Bryant. See this pre-draft bullishness for proof…

Matt Albanese has average or better big league regular upside and should be in the conversation with the second tier of college outfielders with a chance to sneak into the draft’s top two or three rounds.

Falling to the seventh round makes him one of my favorite steals in the entire draft. I was excited to check back in with him and see how he handled the transition to the pro game. Then I remembered he broke his arm late in the college season. That injury kept him out of action after being drafted. Damn. Guess I’ll have to wait until next year to see how he takes to the pros. With his above-average speed, average raw power, strong arm, outstanding approach, and capable center field range, I think he has a chance to hit the ground running.

8.243 – OF Shane Carrier

Didn’t have anything on Shane Carrier before the draft, so you get his numbers at Fullerton CC: .387/.436/.694 with 15 BB/21 K in 204 PA. Not bad. He hit well in his pro debut, especially in the power department. Worth being a little intrigued about, I think.

9.273 – C Mitchell Kranson

Mitchell Kranson, a player I dubbed the “West Coast version of Gavin Collins” before the draft, split his time pretty evenly between catcher and third base in his pro debut. If he keeps getting time behind the plate, I could see him working his way into the backup catcher mix down the line. I think he’s got the glove, arm, and temperament to do just that with a high-contact approach at the plate that could make him a frustrating out for opposing pitchers.

10.303 – SS Brandon Lopez

On Brandon Lopez (436) from December 2015…

I thought that SR SS Brandon Lopez was a likely senior-sign at this time last year, so it’s not entirely shocking to see him back at Miami for one final year. Still, after the improvement he showed offensively in 2015 (.303/.417/.382 with 29 BB/26 K) it is a little bit surprising that a team wouldn’t be intrigued by the steady fielding, plus-armed, non-zero offensive shortstop. He’ll make whatever pro team drafts him this year very happy.

As you can read above, I had a hunch that Lopez would make his first pro team happy…and that was before he went out and hit like gangbusters his senior year at Miami. Still, even the most optimistic parts of my brain didn’t think it would happen this quickly for him in pro ball. Lopez’s debut was one of the best out of this entire 2016 class: .315/.438/.377 with 32 BB/35 K and 4/4 SB in 162 combined AB between rookie ball and Low-A. The lack of pop could keep him from ever being an everyday contributor, but between his glove, arm, and approach as a hitter, he could very well wind up as a ten-year big league utility infielder. Nabbing a money-saving senior-sign like this — you know, one who can actually play — is exactly why the tenth round exists.

11.333 – RHP Tyler Benninghoff

If injury had kept Tyler Benninghoff (476) from signing, he would have been a sure-fire projected first round pick down the line for me. So, in a way, the Twins nabbed themselves the equivalent of a potential first round pick with their overslot eleventh round selection. Nice work, Minnesota. A healthy Benninghoff is a low-90s fastball guy with a damn fine upper-70s hook and enough of a present changeup to think he might be on to something with the pitch down the line. He’s also got the ideal prep pitching build to dream on (6-4, 180) with all kinds of athleticism to tie the whole package together. Landing a high-ceiling overslot prep prospect like this is exactly why the eleventh round exists.

12.363 – OF Zach Featherstone

Zach Featherstone left NC State and never looked back. Or maybe he did, I don’t know him personally. What I do know is that he hit .320/.450/.563 with 70 BB/63 K and 5/7 SB across two seasons (300 AB) at Tallahassee CC. That would qualify as not looking back in a baseball-sense, I’d say. Solid runner, decent pop, and an impressive approach? I don’t hate it.

13.393 – RHP Ryan Mason

On Ryan Mason from April 2016…

Fellow senior Ryan Mason’s scouting dossier has always looked better than his peripherals: upper-80s heat (92 peak) with plus sink, a deceptive delivery, and lots of extension thanks to a 6-6, 215 pound frame should have resulted in better than a 3.69 K/9 last season. Of course, the ugliness of his peripherals was overshadowed by his consistently strong run prevention skills (2.97 ERA last season). It’s a really weird profile, but everything seems to have caught up this year: stuff, peripherals, and run prevention all are where you’d want them to be. I remain intrigued.

The weird profile followed Mason from his final months at Cal straight to the professional ranks. He feels like he should be better than he is, so you keep on thinking that maybe one day he will be. It’s probably time to accept him for what he is: a good arm capable of getting enough ground ball outs to be effective but without the necessary two-strike pitch to consistently miss bats. Into the middle relief battle royal he goes.

14.423 – SS Andre Jernigan

Andre Jernigan didn’t get a ton of ink on the main page of the site, but I wrote a good bit about him in the comments back in March 2016…

I love Jernigan as a college player, but I’m not sure his ultra-aggressive approach as a hitter will translate to the pro game. He can get away with it for now, but advanced pitching is a different animal. He’s defied the odds so far, so I’m not necessarily doubting him…but my hunch is that it’ll catch up to him in the pros. That doesn’t mean that he won’t get drafted, but rather I’m personally less high on him than others. Still probably a better bet than some of the guys in the same area of the hitting list even with the swing at everything approach.

The scouting buzz on him is probably stuff you already know: unusually physical (in a good way) for a middle infielder, very strong, solid athlete, and better defensively than he might look after a quick first impression (i.e., he grows on you). I know some have questioned his long-term future at short, but I wonder if that’s more on how he looks rather than how he plays, which isn’t particularly fair. One friend of mine affectionately calls him the Juan Uribe of college baseball. It’s not a pro comp per se, but still pretty fitting.

Jernigan stayed true to himself in his pro debut by staying the same low-average, solid pop, and lots of swing-and-miss kind of hitter he’s shown himself to be the past two seasons at Xavier. I’d write him off as an org guy, but for the tiny sliver of hope for his defense helping him climb the ladder going forward. The college shortstop played almost all of his innings at second base in his debut with the very notable exception being the one game he started behind the plate. As a catcher — or even a utility type capable of serving as a real honest to goodness catcher in a pinch — he has just a bit more of a shot than I would have thought a few months ago.

15.453 – RHP Tyler Wells

Tyler Wells, the big righthander (6-8, 265) out of Cal State San Bernardino, managed to do enough (8.71 K/9 and 3.72 BB/9) in his junior season to get himself on the draft map. Then he went out and kicked major tail in the pros to the tune of a 11.22 K/9 and 3.23 BB/9. Armed with imposing size, improved fastball command, a clear strikeout pitch (slider), and the momentum from a great debut, Wells is one to watch going forward.

16.483 – RHP Tyler Beardsley

Tyler Beardsley, owner of an explosive fastball that can hit the mid-90s, showed the Twins enough in rookie ball to get an audition in Low-A in his debut season in the organization. Not bad for a sixteenth round pick.

17.513 – C Kidany Salva

I’m stumped on Kidany Salva. I know nothing about him that you couldn’t also easily Google yourself.

19.573 – RHP Sean Poppen

Like Tyler Beardsley above, Sean Poppen showed enough in Elizabethton to warrant a closer look in Low-A before the close of his first season with the Twins. I love aggressive promotions like that. Whereas I see Beardsley as a definite reliever going forward, Poppen’s stuff (good slider, improved change) is well-rounded enough to keep him starting if that’s how the Twins want to use him.

21.633 – LHP Domenick Carlini

Domenick Carlini: 85-91 FB (93 peak), average or better SL, usable soft CB. That’s what I’ve got. That’s what you get.

22.663 – OF Hank Morrison

It’s a long way from Mercyhurst to the big leagues, but Hank Morrison has the power to give him an extended look in pro ball. He’ll look to become the fifth big league player in school history. If he makes it that far, he can then set his sights on matching David Lough’s career 3.6 fWAR, the best all-time of any Mercyhurst alum.

23.693 – SS Caleb Hamilton

Like Andre Jernigan, Caleb Hamilton was announced as a shortstop during the draft. Also like Jernigan, Hamilton played pretty much everywhere but shortstop in his debut. In the 45 games to kick off his pro career, Hamilton started games at 2B (6), 3B (12), LF (6), CF (13), RF (2), and SS (1). That kind of versatility speaks to his outstanding athleticism and sure-handedness. I don’t see enough offense coming from him to make it past the handy minor league do-everything type, but forecasting potential utility players is a tricky thing.

25.753 – RHP Colton Davis

The twenty-fifth round is the perfect spot to take a chance on a low- to mid-90s reliever with an extended track record of missing bats (10.09 K/9 in 2014, 10.93 K/9 in 2015, 12.05 K/9 in 2016) and iffy control (5.45 BB/9 in 2014, 8.04 BB/9 in 2015, 5.12 BB/9 in 2016) like Colton Davis.

28.843 – LHP Matt Jones

As one of the younger players in his class, Matt Jones, all of 18-years-old as of October 16, has plenty of time to make his mark on pro ball. He barely pitched in his debut, but that didn’t stop some the generating of some positive buzz About Jones’s stuff. He can presently pump up his fastball to the low-90s and has shown some early signs of command of both a curve and a circle-change. In one of the draft’s weirder coincidences (or was it…), Jones had a scholarship offer to play at Montevallo before opting to sign with Minnesota. The very next player selected by the Twins hailed from, you guessed it, Montevallo. Hmm…

29.873 – SS Dane Hutcheon

Dane Hutcheon hit pretty well — .365/.424/.468 with 24 BB/27 K and 16/17 SB — in his draft year at Montevallo. That’s where Rusty Greer went to school. He was pretty good. Turns out that he’s the only big league player to ever come out of Montevallo. Pretty interesting that their only big league player was a pretty darn good player. Wonder if he’s the best player to ever come out of a school that has only produced one big league player? That would be a fun research project…for somebody else. Anyway, Hutcheon will try to mess up that fact for Greer by becoming the second ever big league player to come out of Montevallo. He has a tough road ahead — drafted as a shortstop, he’s already been moved to second in the pros — but, hey, stranger things have happened, right?

30.903 – RHP Quin Grogan

Quin Grogan at Lewis-Clark: 9.14 K/9 and 4.36 BB/9. Quin Grogan in rookie ball: 9.73 K/9 and 4.26 BB/9 in rookie ball. If nothing else, you’ve got to respect the consistency. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.

31.933 – C Juan Gamez

One can only assume Juan Gamez was amateur baseball’s best defensive catcher in 2016. That’s about the only way we can explain away a .197/.287/.268 (12 BB/28 K) hitter getting drafted and signed in the thirty-first round.

33.993 – RHP Clark Beeker

I didn’t have much on Clark Beeker before the draft, but he sure sounds like a typical effective college starter (decent heater, leans on offspeed) who has a chance of sneaking in some innings in middle relief one day if the stuff plays up in shorter outings as hoped.

34.1023 – SS Joe Cronin

Drafted as a shortstop, Joe Cronin played just about everywhere but short in his pro debut. The 3B/2B/1B/LF has proven himself to be a reliable defender at the hot corner, his primary position at Boston College, but I don’t see him having the bat to make it past “useful for his versatility” org player status.

35.1053 – LHP Austin Tribby

All I have on Austin Tribby are general “lefty with good size and numbers” platitudes. He’s been able to get by with heavy doses of offspeed stuff — curve and change, mostly — rather than an underwhelming upper-80s fastball.

36.1083 – RHP Patrick McGuff

Improved control has made Patrick McGuff, the sturdily built righthander from Morehead State, an interesting prospect. His fastball (88-92), changeup, and breaking ball work well together to miss bats (9.23 K/9 as a junior). He’s worth watching in as much a way as any thirty-sixth round pick is worth watching.

39.1173 – Casey Scoggins

Pushing a thirty-ninth round pick all the way to Low-A Cedar Rapids after signing is really cool. Good for the Twins for being aggressive with Casey Scoggins. And good for Scoggins for holding his own when faced with the challenge. His .243/.323/.282 line didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but just treading water for the season is some measure of an accomplishment. Scoggins is better than your typical second-to-last round pick, too. He is a good runner with center field instincts and a leadoff approach at the plate. He’s a long shot like any player drafted so late, but there are some usable tools to work with here.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

TJ Collett (Kentucky), Dan Mayer (Pacific), Brent Rooker (Mississippi State), Greg Deichmann (LSU), Matt Wallner (Southern Mississippi), Scott Ogrin (Cal Poly), Matt Byars (Michigan State), Timmy Richards (Cal State Fullerton), Shamoy Christopher (Roane State CC)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Oakland Athletics

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Oakland in 2016

12 – LHP AJ Puk
36 – C Sean Murphy
63 – RHP Daulton Jefferies
122 – RHP Logan Shore
159 – RHP Brandon Bailey
190 – RHP Mitchell Jordan
215 – OF Tyler Ramirez
222 – RHP Skylar Szynski
229 – 3B JaVon Shelby
283 – LHP Dalton Sawyer
304 – OF Kyle Nowlin
346 – OF Luke Persico
393 – 2B Nate Mondou
499 – OF Cole Gruber

Complete List of 2016 Oakland Athletics Draftees

1.6 – LHP AJ Puk

I vaguely remember writing a little bit about AJ Puk (12) somewhere along the line. Let’s check.

Ah, here’s something way back from June 2013…

LHP AJ Puk (Washington HS, Iowa): 85-90 FB, 91-92 peak; uses two-seam a lot; good 72-76 CB; shows 79-81 CU, pitch has improved some; hides ball well; emulates Sean Marshall; 6-6, 220 pounds

So young! And then again about a year ago from October 2015…

Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.

I’ve stressed it plenty since then, but couldn’t hurt to do it again here: prospect version of Madison Bumgarner. Prospect version. Bumgarner the prospect turning Bumgarner the big league ace was an absolute best-case scenario outcome. Could it happen for Puk? It’s not an impossibility, no. Is it likely? Also no. Let’s move forward to February 2016…

My non-scout view on Puk hasn’t changed much since he’s debuted as a Gator: he’s an excellent prospect who has always left me wanting after seeing him pitch up close. I wasn’t up close this past weekend, but I did check out his start against Florida Gulf Coast via the magic of the internet. Again, for all of Puk’s strengths he’s still not the kind of college prospect that gives off that 1-1 vibe when watching him. Even when he was cruising — 11 pitch first inning, 19 total pitches through two (15 strikes), and a 1-2-3 swinging strikeout to end the second that went slider, fastball, change — it was still on a very fastball-heavy approach with little evident feel for his offspeed stuff. His slider picked up from there and he mixed in a few nice changeups, but neither offering looked like a potential big league out-pitch.

In the third inning his defense let him down — literally and figuratively, as he made one of the two errors in the inning — but what really hurt him was his command falling apart. These are all players learning on the job so I don’t want to sound too negative, but he failed to locate an 0-2 pitch and that was what really led to his undoing. On the plus side, his velocity was good for a first start (90-94, 96 peak), his delivery looks better, the aforementioned handful of nice changeups were encouraging, and he responded really well in the fourth inning after losing his way in the third. I still struggle with his underdeveloped offspeed stuff, inconsistent command, and puzzling lack of athleticism (where did it go from HS?), but 6-7, 225 pound lefthanders who can hit 96 (98 at times last year) are worth being patient with.

That was early in the season, but it sounds more or less like the Puk that we currently know and love. Another overview on Puk from April 2016…

The Rays take advantage of our draft rules to land arguably this draft’s top college pitching prospect. Even coming off an aborted start due to a balky back, AJ Puk is currently trending up as he rides the roller coaster that has taken him from underrated (this time last year) to overrated (much of the offseason) to potentially a tad underrated once again. He probably never should have been pushed so heavily as a potential 1-1 guy — in the mix, sure, but not as the favorite/co-favorite — but his value settling even just a few picks after feels about right. It sounds a bit superficial because maybe it is, but 1-1 guys get picked apart in a way that even potential top five candidates do not. The focus has been on Puk’s inconsistent slider, underwhelming change, and spotty command. That’s what he can’t do. What he does well — pitch off an explosive mid-90s fastball, flash a dominant mid-80s slider, and use his 6-7, 225 pound frame to every advantage possible — he does really darn well. Needless to say he’d be a steal at thirteen.

Is a steal at thirteen also a steal at six? With so little separation between prospects at the top of this class, I buy it. In fact, I think Puk’s placement on my final pre-draft ranking (12th) created that first giant tier of “elite” prospects, at least by the standards of this class. The dozen at the top included Groome, Pint, Moniak, Lewis, Perez, Collins, Senzel, Ray, Lowe, Jones, Rutherford, and Puk. Most were rumored as potential 1-1 considerations at one point or another, and all would have been justifiable picks by the Phillies, in my view. The drop began right after Puk with the second tier of prospects that included Craig, Kieboom, Kirilloff, Erceg, Anderson, and Garrett. So, does that make Puk a steal at six? Sure!

Next stop takes us to the early days of May 2016 when it was time to really hone in on Puk and offer some possible comps and career paths for the big lefty…

I’ve long been in the “like but not love” camp when it comes to Puk, partly because of my belief there were superior talents ahead of him in this class and partly because of the handful of red flags that dot his dossier. The three biggest knocks on Puk coming into the season were, in some order, 1) command, 2) inconsistent quality of offspeed offerings, and 3) good but not great athleticism. It says a lot about what he does well that he’s risen as a prospect in my mind despite not really answering any of the questions we had for him coming into the season. All of this has held up so far…

Extension, deception, and power would be three words that come immediately to mind when describing Puk. He’s every bit of 6-7, 225 with a delivery that hides the ball damn well. His power comes both with his left arm (92-96, 98 peak) and at the plate (he’d quickly be among the better hitting pitchers in the game), so it’s no big shock that some guy on the internet (that’s me) sees some similarities between him and the prospect version of Madison Bumgarner.

I’ll be quick to point out again that it says “prospect version of Madison Bumgarner” without speaking to what the San Francisco ace grew into as a finished product in the big leagues. Bumgarner is a kind of special player who just kept adding on and getting better as he progressed up the chain. That’s not something that you can predict for any other prospect, though you can’t really rule it out either. You don’t know either way, is the point. Putting Bumgarner aside for now, I think there are two recent-ish draft lefthanders that can help create a basis for what to expect out of AJ Puk in the early stages of his pro career. In terms of a realistic prospect upside, Puk reminds me a great deal of recently promoted big league pitcher Sean Manaea.

Their deliveries are hardly identical – Puk is more over the top while Manaea slings it from more of an angle, plus Puk has a more pronounced step-back with his right foot at the onset and a longer stride, both aspects of his delivery that I personally like as it gives him better balance throughout – but they aren’t so different that you’d point to mechanics as a reason for tossing the comparison aside. They have similar stuff starting with fastballs close in velocity and movement (Puk has been 90-94 this year, up to 97), inconsistent yet promising low- to mid-80s sliders that flash above-average to plus (82-86 and more frequently showing above-average this year for Puk), and changeups still in need of development that clearly would be classified as distant third pitches (Puk’s has been 82-88 so far). Both have missed a lot of bats while also having their ups and downs in the control department with Puk being better at the former while Manaea maintained a slight edge at the latter. Both are also very well-proportioned, physical lefthanders with intimidating size with which they know how to use to their advantage.

A cautionary comparison for Puk might be current Mariners minor leaguer James Paxton. Paxton and Puk are closer mechanically – more similar with the height of their leg kick and overall arm action, though Paxton is more deliberate across the board — than Manaea and Puk, but the big difference between the former SEC lefthander and the current SEC lefthander is the breaking ball. Paxton’s bread and butter is a big overhand curve, a pitch that remains unhittable to this day when he can command it. Puk’s slider has its moments and it’s fair to expect it to develop into a true big league out-pitch (I do), but it’s not quite on that level yet. Paxton’s career has stalled for many of the same reasons some weren’t particularly high on Puk coming into the season: up and down fastball velocity partly attributable to a series of nagging injuries (also a problem of Manaea’s at times), an underdeveloped changeup, and consistently inconsistent command. I think Puk is ahead of where Paxton was at similar points in their development and prefer his ceiling to what we’ve seen out of Paxton to date, but the realistic floor comp remains in play.

One additional notable (or not) similarity between Puk, Manaea, Paxton, and Sean Newcomb, a fourth player often thrown into the mix as a potential Puk point of reference (it’s not bad, but Newcomb’s control issues are greater than anything Puk has dealt with), comes via each player’s respective hometown. We’ve got Cedar Rapids (IA), Valparaiso (IN), Ladner (BC), and Brockton (MA). That’s two raised in the Midwest, one in Canada, and one in New England. When you start to piece everything together, the similar career trajectories for each young pitcher (so far) begin to make some sense. All come from cold weather locales, all are large men with long limbs (thus making coordinating said limbs more of a challenge), and all are lefthanders, a fact that may or may not matter to you depending on your view of whether or not lefties really do develop later than their righthanded counterparts.

Put me down for a realistic Sean Manaea type of upside, a James Paxton floor, and the crazy pipe dream where literally everything works out developmentally ceiling of Madison Bumgarner. Do those potential career paths add up to a 1-1 draft pick? I’m not sure I have a good answer for that yet.

There’s more to judging a pitcher than K/9 and BB/9, but look at how similar Manaea (7.71 and 2.30) and Paxton (7.88 and 2.63) were in the respective age-24 seasons. That barely has anything to do with what we’re talking about, but I still think it’s cool. As for Puk, I’m sticking with those there names (plus a fourth to come) as possible career arcs for him to follow. He could come out and establish himself as a big league starter right away like Manaea seems to have done. He could have a few up-and-down seasons before settling in as a rotation fixture like Paxton. Or he could hit that 1% outcome (or whatever number you want to give it, this isn’t scientific), have some things click for him in the pros, and go full Bumgarner on the league. Or he could follow the path of this fourth guy we touched on later in May 2016…

I’m cheating and tacking Puk back on at the end here even after he got his own post last week. Like many draft-obsessed individuals, I watched his most recent start against South Carolina with great interest. I’ve seen Puk a few times in person and tons of times on the tube, but it wasn’t until Saturday night that the comparison between him and Andrew Miller really hit me. I saw about a dozen Miller starts in person back in his Tar Heel days (in a very different time in my life) and watching Puk throw brings back all kinds of memories, good and bad. The frustrating thing about this comp is that it doesn’t really tell us much. Maybe we can use it as a baseline floor for what Puk could become – though Miller’s dominance out of the pen is a tough expectation to put on anybody as a realistic worst case scenario – but pointing out the similarities between the two (size, length, extension, delivery, mound demeanor, fastball, slider, underdeveloped change…even similar facially minus Miller’s draft year mustache) hardly means that Puk is destined to the same failed starter fate. I mean, sure, maybe it does, but there’s so much more that goes into being a successful big league starter than what gets put down on a scouting card. I love comps, but they are meant to serve as a starting point to the conversation, not to be the parting shot. Every player is unique and whatever extra reasons are out there for Miller not making it in the rotation should not be held against Puk. Maybe that’s obvious, but it doesn’t hurt to say it again. I do think that Puk, barring injury, has a pretty clear big league skill set in some capacity (maybe not -0.15 FIP out of the bullpen good, but still good) even if he doesn’t reach his ultimate ceiling. In that way he is similar to Miller, so at least there’s that to fall back on. The odds that you get nothing out of Puk, again barring injury, are slim to none. For the risk-averse out there, that’s a comforting thought.

I’m 100% sure that nobody copied that thought from me, but the Puk/Miller comps started popping up left and right in the last few weeks heading into the draft in June. It was a weird coincidence (truly); that comp seemed to come together for a lot of the internet almost exactly at the same time. For good reason, too: Puk and Miller share a lot of similarities, as I attempted to outline above. There are certainly worse names to be compared to than Bumgarner, Miller, Manaea, and Paxton. Speaking of which, let’s see what Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota thinks

AF: So looking at this group of pitchers, is there anyone you might compare Puk to?

EK: For Puk, as a starting pitcher, I would say James Paxton, although physically he may be more Andrew Miller-ish. But his stuff I think is similar to Paxton.

Would you look at that? Turns out this Eric Kubota character is a pretty smart guy. I have a hunch he’s got a front office future if he’s interested.

1.37 – RHP Daulton Jefferies

If you follow the above link, you’ll see one of the best draft traditions the internet has to offer. Bill Moriarity of Athletics Farm has talked with A’s scouting director Eric Kubota about Oakland’s most recent draft for years now. His interview can also be found on Athletics Nation, my preferred landing spot due to the lively comment section that follows the piece. It’s a really well done interview (as always) and it gets the highest possible recommendation from me. Even if you’re not an A’s fan, you should check it out. If you did, you’d already know that Kupota compared Daulton Jefferies (63) to Mike Leake. That comparison was floating around pre-draft (via Perfect Game), as were comps to Walker Buehler (D1 Baseball) and Sonny Gray (PG again). Depending on how you feel about each guy, that could be a potential spectrum of outcomes for the young righthander out of Cal. In an odd coincidence, I actually gave Jefferies to Oakland in one of my weird mocks that wasn’t really a mock that everybody was confused by and/or hated…

A high performing college player who defies conventional scouting wisdom going to Oakland? That’ll work. Jefferies is really, really good.

Clearly, I’m a fan of Jefferies’s work. Before the season even began, I wrote this about him…

To have Jefferies, maybe my favorite draft-eligible college pitcher to watch, this low says way more about the quality at the top of this year’s class then his long-term pro ability. Jefferies brings three potential above-average to plus pitches to the mound on any given night. I like the D1 Baseball comparison to Walker Buehler, last year’s 24th overall pick. Getting Jefferies in a similar spot this year would be something to be excited about.

And finally from April 2016…

Jefferies is a rock-solid future big league starting pitcher. I love Daulton Jefferies. An overly enthusiastic but well-meaning friend comped Jefferies to Chris Archer after seeing him this past summer. That’s…rich. It’s not entirely crazy, though. Velocity-wise, at his best, Jefferies can sit 90-94 and touch 97. He’s been more frequently in the 88-92 band this spring (94 peak). He’s also focused far more on his low- to mid-80s slider than his mid- to upper-70s curve. I thought both had the potential to be above-average breaking balls at the big league level, but I can’t blame him for going all-in on his potentially devastating slider. Then there’s the compact, athletic delivery and plus fastball command and above-average mid-80s change-up that flashes plus and…well, you can see why he’d get such a lofty comp. Lack of size or not, Jefferies has the kind of stuff that could make him a number two starter if everything goes his way developmentally. That’s big time. High ceiling + high floor = premium pitching prospect. I think Jefferies draft floor is where Walker Buehler, a player that D1 Baseball comped to him earlier this year, landed last year. That would be pick 24 in the first round for those of you who haven’t committed Walker Buehler’s draft position to memory yet. A case could be made (and it kind of has above, right?) that slipping any further than that would be ridiculous value for his new pro team. I think he’s worth considering in the top ten depending on how the rest of the board shakes out.

I wimped out on my final ranking of Jefferies because I was spooked by the combination of his slight build (I know, I know…), velocity loss, and reported shoulder soreness, so consider all the praise above valid even in the face of what could look to be a dumb ranking in time. If healthy, Jefferies is a big league starting pitcher. Done deal in my mind. The only question then becomes how high up the rotation he can rise. Can he be a two? I don’t see why not. Three potential plus pitches and standout control seem to help support that case. I agree with those who see some of the prospect version of Mike Leake in Jefferies right now, but I think the finished product will wind up a better all-around pitcher than the $85 million man. If that’s enough to be a two for you, then he’s a future two.

2.47 – RHP Logan Shore

Living in Philadelphia, I happen to know more than a few Phillies fans who were hoping to grab AJ Puk and Logan Shore (122) with their first two picks. I think most fans were fine landing Mickey Moniak and Kevin Gowdy instead, but there has to be some lingering jealousy that Oakland got to live the Puk/Shore dream from a few spots lower on the draft board. Some words on the “other” Florida ace from May 2016…

Logan Shore has made similar progress over the last few seasons: 6.37 K/9 to 6.75 K/9 to 9.05 K/9. He’s always had solid fastball velocity and a devastating changeup. This year he’s found a few more ticks with the heater (more so in how he maintains it rather than a peak velocity jump), gained a little more consistency with his breaking ball, and arguably improved that already potent circle-change into something even scarier to opposing hitters. He’s gotten stronger, smarter, and better. I mentally wrote him off as one of the draft’s most overrated arms coming into the spring – thankfully I never wrote that on the site, but I’m man enough to admit I’ve had those thoughts on more than one occasion – but now I see the error in my ways. When a young arm has big-time stuff and command beyond his years, be patient with his development and don’t rely on one metric to make an ultimate judgment on his future. Shore is good and quite possibly still getting better.

Love the changeup, question the rest. That’s where I eventually landed on Shore before the draft. He commands his fastball as well as anybody, but was too often upper-80s (87-91, 93 peak) rather than low-90s (89-93, 95 peak) this past season. I think I’ve come around to valuing fastball command and movement (he’s got that, too) so much (and rightfully so), that velocity gets taken for granted a little bit. Shore’s fastball is still at least an average pitch if not slightly better at the lower velocity, but every little bit less heat you throw with pushes the degree you can get away with mistakes down a notch. I’ll put on my own personal “not a scout” scout hat and question Shore’s breaking ball outright. I know some like it just fine, but I’ve never seen it as anything much more than flashing average on his best days. It’s a fifth starter or so profile as is, but with significant room to improve if he can get back to that low-90s range more consistently and/or he figures out how to tighten up that slider. Assigning starter number designations isn’t a perfect science (and I say that knowing I just threw a “number two starter” ceiling on Daulton Jefferies), but I think we can all understand the gap in value between a fifth starter type (Shore now) and a potential third starter (if he can fill in the gaps in his game).

For what it’s worth, Eric Kubota said that Shore “reminds [him] of Jake Peavy a little bit.” Young, San Diego Peavy? No way. Mid- to late-career White Sox/Red Sox/Giants Peavy? I can see it.

3.83 – C Sean Murphy

If Logan Shore might have gone a little high for my personal tastes, then Oakland made up for it and then some by getting a borderline first round talent all the way down in the third round. Sean Murphy (36) is really good. His defense alone should carry him to the upper-minors (if not the big leagues) and his offense has a chance to make him an all-around above-average impact player. I’ll throw out Jonathan Lucroy as a best-case scenario and Max Pentecost — a former first round pick, it should be noted — as a comparable prospect contemporary. The love of Murphy isn’t new, of course. Here we are from March 2016 (with an embedded quote from October 2015 thrown in for good measure)…

I think I was pretty optimistic about Sean Murphy in the pre-season…

Watching Murphy do his thing behind the plate is worth the price of admission alone. We’re talking “Queen Bee” level arm strength, ample lateral quicks on balls in the dirt, and dependable hands with an ever-improving ability to frame borderline pitches. He’s second in the class behind Jake Rogers defensively — not just as a catcher, but arguably at any position — but with enough bat (unlike Rogers) to project as a potential above-average all-around regular in time. I expect the battle for top college catching prospect to be closely contested all year with Thaiss, Okey, and Murphy all taking turns atop team-specific draft boards all spring long.

…but there’s a chance that even the praise and his lofty ranking (22nd among college prospects, top three college catcher) undersold how good a player he is. Murphy has a chance to be a game-changing talent defensively as well as a significant contributor offensively. If you ever sat down and counted up all of the players that various experts considered first rounders you’d wind up with a first round approaching triple-digit selections; for that reason, I hesitate to call Murphy a future first round pick. I think it’s much easier to identify him instead as a first round talent, a minor distinction that speaks more about his ability as a player than an attempt to explain the vagaries of how teams draft. I have no idea if Murphy will be a first round pick in June. I don’t even know if he’ll wind up as one of the top thirty or so (“first round”) players on my final big board before the draft. What I do know is that he’s talented enough to warrant a first round pick, so fans of any team picking him then should be pleased. I also know that college players I like in that late-first to mid-second round range have had a tendency of slipping some on draft day, what with there being so many talented players that sorting through the top 100 can produce lists with all kinds of different orders. Brandon Lowe (ranked him 24/drafted in the third), Scott Kingery (25/second), David Thompson (35/fourth), and Harrison Bader (42/third) are all examples of this kind of player from last year. Those were all serious value picks in my mind, and I can see Murphy’s (late-first to third round) selection being written about in much the same way in a few months.

I’ll say this about more than a few guys before June 9th, but Sean Murphy will become one of the draft’s best values the moment he falls out of the first round. I think he’s going to be a really good big league starting catcher for a long time.

There you go. A’s scouting director Eric Kubota called Murphy a “Mike Matheny type.” Matheny had a career .239/.293/.344 line, good for a wRC+ of 62. That’s…not good. My memory and the numbers at least back up the oft-held assertion that his defense was pretty darn great. Maybe that’s where Kubota was coming from. The one red flag with Murphy’s game is how much power he’ll be able to produce as a professional hitter. I think there’s enough here for double-digit homers and plenty of gappers, but the possibility that his power plays lighter than expected is out there. The fact that he hit for more power than ever as a junior recovering from a broken hamate is a good (if not confusing) point in his favor. A slightly less offensive Lucroy feels like a reasonable ceiling with a solid floor of useful backup (and future manager?) a la Matheny.

4.112 – RHP Skylar Szynski

I like Skylar Szynski (222) just fine. Good fastball (88-94, 95 peak), potential above-average 76-80 breaking ball, and a hard 84-86 changeup, all boosted some thanks to advanced command from a teenager. It’s a nice package. A future in the pen could be in the cards unless Szynski can introduce something a little softer into his repertoire, but time is very much on his side there. I also liked Eric Kubota’s honest answer when asked about a comp for Szynski: “I honestly didn’t have a great one, but one of my scouts said Collin McHugh.” Honesty AND trusting a comp a scout passed on? Nice.

5.142 – 3B JaVon Shelby

A year ago I was banging the JaVon Shelby (229) as the next Ian Happ drum. A mere 67 strikeouts in 198 junior year at bats later and I think that call might have been off just a bit. It was never a direct one-to-one comp, but it’s still not a good look today. My bad. Delusional Happ optimism aside, I remain a fan of Shelby’s game. Here was an April 2016 take on him…

JaVon Shelby is a good prospect who might suffer some from the expectation that he’d finish the year as a great prospect. His physical gifts – above-average to plus speed, ample bat speed, impressive arm strength, athleticism that has allowed him to play third, the outfield, and improve every game at second – and scorching junior year start were great, but now he’s settled more into a good range. Good is still good, of course…it just isn’t great. Maybe the heightened expectations and failure to live up to them says more about us – me, specifically – than him. I still like Shelby quite a bit, but the red flag that is his approach remains. He checks every other box, so I’d still give him a chance sooner rather than later on draft day to see if the pro staff could work with him to figure things out.

Figuring out a way to improve Shelby’s approach at the plate and minimize a hole or two in his swing will probably be the difference between him being a regular and potential star at third base or him trying to make it as a power over hit, free swinging super-sub.

6.172 – RHP Brandon Bailey

Daulton Jefferies to Logan Shore to Brandon Bailey (159) to Mitchell Jordan to Seth Martinez…the A’s have a type when it comes to college starting pitchers. The heavy emphasis on command and offspeed-heavy repertoires makes the AJ Puk look even funnier (though not in a bad way) as this draft drags on. Time will tell if Oakland’s overarching approach will pay off, but I know for sure that I like the singular selection of Bailey here a lot. The righthander from Gonzaga has everything you’d want in a pitching prospect. He has a solid fastball (88-94), above-average 78-81 changeup, a mid-70s curve that flashes above-average, and a usable low- to mid-80s slider. He commands all of those pitches beautifully and sets up opposing hitters with what looks like relative ease. The whole package reads like a potential first round pick, but two factors have held Bailey’s prospect stock back. When I said he had everything you’d want in a pitching prospect that also included a few red flags you don’t: an injury history (he’s a Tommy John survivor) and an underwhelming physical profile (listed at 5-10, 175). First round command + fifth round stuff + tenth round red flags = a rough average of around a fifth round selection. That’s about where I ranked him (159th is a late-fifth rounder) and about where the A’s took him in the early-sixth round. I think he’s a future big league starter and potentially a damn good one, height be damned.

7.202 – OF Tyler Ramirez

Sometimes it kind of sort of maybe feels like I know a little bit about what I’m talking about. On Tyler Ramirez (215) from March 2016…

Ramirez doesn’t have a carrying tool that makes him an obvious future big league player, but he does a lot of things well (power, speed, glove) and leverages an ultra-patient approach to put himself in consistently positive hitter’s counts. His profile is a little bit similar to his teammate Zac Gallen’s in that both are relatively high-floor prospects without the kind of massive ceilings one would expect in a first day pick. Gallen is the better prospect, but I think many of the national guys are sleeping on Ramirez. I’ve been guilty of overrating Tar Heels hitters in the past, but Ramirez looks like the real deal. Former Carolina outfielder Tim Fedroff, a seventh round pick in 2008, seems like a reasonable draft day expectation in terms of round selected. I’d happily snap up a guy like Ramirez in that range.

Boom! Seventh round! Lucky guess aside, I think the point that the seventh round would be a great time to take a chance on a bat like Ramirez’s is the more pertinent one. A few weeks before the draft I actually compared Ramirez’s production as a junior to that of Bryan Reynolds from Vanderbilt. At that point they were really close — Ramirez’s power started to sag down the stretch — and they finished with relatively similar final years. It probably means nothing — even a numbers guy like me knows there’s more to this whole player projection thing than that — but it still creates a fun comparison to track going forward. An actual comparison I’ve gotten for Ramirez since signing is Randy Winn. Checked my archives and it turns out that I’ve used that once before on Ryan Boldt. Since I was curious, it turns out that Ramirez finished 215th on my draft rankings and Boldt came in 234th. Stands to reason that both should have long, successful careers with sustained runs of above-average play as everyday guys before eventually being traded for an over-the-hill mentally checked out manager.

8.232 – LHP Will Gilbert

Every system needs a few potential matchup lefthanders. That’s my attempt at an explanation for the A’s going with Will Gilbert in the eighth round. That and him being a money-saving senior-sign, of course. Gilbert has always gotten results despite ordinary stuff (87-90 FB, average or better 80-84 SL) and size (5-11, 170 pounds). Not much of an upside play, but can’t argue with #results.

9.262 – LHP Dalton Sawyer

On Dalton Sawyer (283) from April 2016…

Sawyer seems destined for the bullpen, a spot where his fastball (up to 94), mid-70s breaker, and effectively wild ways could get him to the big leagues sooner rather than later.

Six months later and that still sounds about right to me. Wish I had something more insightful to add, but think past-me nailed it. Or, you know, not at all. This was Eric Kubota on Sawyer after the draft…

Well, he’s another tall lefty. We’ve seen him up to 93-94 mph. He definitely had a good year as a starter this year and he’s going to go out as a starter. He’s a left-handed pitcher who’s physically imposing with velocity and a good changeup, so we’ll see where that takes him. One of my scouts said Sawyer reminded him of Jim Kaat. So if any of your readers remember Jim Kaat…

So maybe he will remain a starter. I suppose this Kubota guy might know better than an internet nobody like me, though I at least have the benefit of not having to worry about being strategic about setting player expectations. And, whoa, a Jim Kaat reference! That’s pretty cool. We’ll see if Sawyer has a Gold Glove or sixteen in his future, too.

10.292 – RHP Mitchell Jordan

On Mitchell Jordan (190) from March 2016…

I can’t get enough of Mitchell Jordan. His command, control, pitchability, and willingness to throw any pitch in any count make him a lot of fun to watch at this level. There will be understandable questions about how his slightly below-average fastball velocity (upper-80s, though it can sit low-90s and hit 93 on his best days) will translate to the pro game, but put me down as a believer that his command of the pitch coupled with the unpredictability of his pitch selection (happy to go CB, SL, or CU in plus or minus counts) will make him a viable long-term big league starting pitcher with continued development. He reminds me some of Kyle Hendricks, an eighth round pick out of Dartmouth in 2011. Feedback on Jordan has returned a wide range of potential draft outcomes with some saying as high as the third and others insisting his ceiling as fifth starter/swingman puts him closer to the bottom of the single-digit rounds than the top. Hendricks lasting until the eighth round has turned out to be a great value, so we’ll see if teams learned their lesson and pop Jordan sooner in 2016.

Jordan didn’t quite match Hendricks’s eighth round outcome, but he didn’t quite match his draft year excellence, either. Fair enough, I figure. Jordan was still very good from both a peripheral and stuff standpoint, so that fifth starter/swingman ceiling remains. Anecdotally, Jordan feels like the kind of pitching prospect that Oakland seems to get the most out of. I’m far more bullish on Jordan seeing success in the big leagues than I probably should be for a tenth round pick.

11.322 – SS Eli White

On Eli White from August 2015…

A fourth college shortstop, draft-eligible sophomore Eli White, understandably couldn’t agree to terms as a 37th round pick and will head back to Clemson to try again this year. I’d be surprised if his stock didn’t jump thirty or so rounds before next June rolls around.

Round 37 to round 11 isn’t quite a thirty round jump, but it’s close. White’s athleticism, speed, range at short, and flashes of offensive promise give him a shot to play regularly at short. All those positives ticked off in the previous sentence are exactly what teams look for in utility guys, too. I think White is a big league player based on that alone. Just for fun, let’s go back again in the archives to December 2015…

White is a good athlete who can really run with tons of bat speed and a high probability of sticking at shortstop. I compared him to Daniel Pinero last year and think he could have a similar impact in 2016.

They came by it differently, but White and Pinero wound up having very similar offensive debuts if you’re willing to lean on wRC+ as the best all-encompassing offensive stat out there. Check it out…

.261/.371/.317 – 16.0 K% and 13.7 BB% – 114 wRC+ – 175 PA
.279/.348/.361 – 24.3 K% and 9.7 BB% – 115 wRC+ – 267 PA

Top is Pinero (ninth round pick), bottom is White (eleventh round pick). There’s really no point to this other than I thought it was cool. I guess we could stretch a little and say that both guys are maybe regulars on the left side of the infield, but certainly toolsy enough to have long careers as backups otherwise.

12.352 – OF Luke Persico

Despite piling up well over 700 PA during his three years at UCLA, Luke Persico (346) is almost closer to a high school position player prospect than a college guy. That’s both a good and bad thing, though I tend to lean to the positive with the former Bruin. Despite a rough debut with Vermont, I have little personal doubt that Persico will hit as a pro. His kind of polish at the plate is what you want when drafting a major college guy this early in the draft. The big offensive question for Persico has long been and will continue to be whether or not he can ever find a way to consistently tap into his huge raw power during game situations. The gap between his brand of raw power and what he’s shown to date is one more often seen in teenager hitters who haven’t yet faced consistent big-time competition. Persico is at least an average runner with an arm to match, so it’ll be interesting to see if Oakland decides to play around with him defensively in the coming years. He played exclusively in the outfield in his debut, but his experience in the infield (1B, 2B, 3B) make him an intriguing potential Swiss Army knife defender if the A’s deem him playable at those spots. That kind of defensive intrigue is something we see more often with high school prospects than established three-year college starters. You see where I’m getting the college prospect with high school questions narrative from now? My hunch here is that Oakland looks at Persico, one of the younger players in this year’s college class, as a hitter with enough upside to be a potential regular in the outfield — or at least a high-level reserve — that they’ll opt to keep him focused on hitting as his primary developmental task rather than try to force him back in the dirt.

13.382 – 2B Nate Mondou

On Nate Mondou (393) in January 2016…

I wanted to mention the Daniel Murphy comparison I got for JR 2B/OF Nate Mondou that I heard recently, but I couldn’t remember the major media outlet that had it first. I could have missed it elsewhere, but I think mentioning it again would be one of those instances where I plagiarize myself. I hit thirty a few months back and my memory has gone up in flames since. In addition to Murphy, I’ve also heard Todd Walker as a reference point for Mondou’s bat. Lefty bats who love to attack early in the count, provide average or better power, and can hang in at the keystone spot are always going to be valued highly by pro clubs. Or at least they should.

I first tossed that Daniel Murphy comp out for Mondou in October of last year. Safe to say that a lot has changed out Murphy’s perceived value in the last twelve months or so. Timing really is everything. Mondou’s 2016 season saw an uptick in plate discipline — few more walks, few less whiffs — at the expense of some power. It’ll be interesting if we see more of the same as a professional. So far, that’s exactly what he’s done at Vermont.

14.412 – RHP Nolan Blackwood

On Nolan Blackwood from January 2016…

JR RHP Nolan Blackwood intrigues the heck out of me as a big (6-6) lanky (175 pounds) submariner with a legit fastball (88-91) and sustained success keeping runs off the board. His peripherals aren’t anything to write home about (4.11 K/9 last year), but the shiny ERA (0.52) is fun. A few more whiffs and continued success doing whatever he’s doing to get guys out (I’d love to see the batted ball data on him as I suspect he’s getting his fair share of ground ball outs and weak contact) would help him move way up the rankings.

That last line issued a challenge to Blackwood (in a pretend universe where he read it, of course) and he rose to the occasion. Blackwood bumped that K/9 from 4.11 as a sophomore to 7.54 as a junior. He gave up a few more runs (3.76 ERA), but that’s forgivable as that shiny 2015 ERA looked unsustainable from the outside looking in. Even better, that high GB% suspicion seemed to be on the money as Blackwood’s batted ball breakdown at MLB Farm had him at a 62.7 GB% in his debut. On top of all that, his velocity bumped just a bit to a more consistent 88-92 with an increasing number of 93’s sprinkled in as the year went on. I think we’ve got a future big league reliever here. If that’s the case, Blackwood would attempt to be only the third positive value player to come out of Memphis since 1981. He’ll have a long way to go to top Memphis’s best ever alum, Dan Uggla. I had no idea that he went to Memphis. Learned something new today.

15.442 – LHP Ty Damron

I have Ty Damron as a potential back of the rotation arm lefthander with the chance for three average or better pitches in his 88-93 fastball, upper-70s breaking ball, and a workable change. Ultimately, it looks like underwhelming command and below-average control could push him to the pen. That might be a blessing in disguise assuming his stuff plays up in shorter bursts the way it does for most pitchers. Now we’ve got a power lefty coming out of the bullpen all of a sudden. Cool. Maybe not as cool as the guy I now always think of when I read his name, but cool nonetheless.

16.472 – OF Anthony Churlin

I have absolutely nothing on Anthony Churlin. He plays baseball. That’s all I know.

17.502 – RHP Seth Martinez

Seth Martinez is the quintessential undersized athletic college workhorse with limited pro projection. There’s a chance he can keep doing his four-pitch mix thing with above-average overall command in a professional rotation, but I think he might be best served shifting to relief. Martinez as a starter is the kind of up-and-down arm you have stashed in AAA as the unofficial seventh or eighth member of a rotation. Martinez doing the sinker/slider thing with the occasional change added in for good measure out of the bullpen could be a long-term bullpen fixture.

18.532 – C Skyler Weber

Skyler Weber is one of the many highly athletic, average or better running catchers that I’ve profiled from this draft class so far. Starting to sense a trend here. I don’t see him hitting enough to be a big leaguer, but I’m never opposed to betting on an athletic backstop.

19.562 – RHP Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert, a righthanded reliever coming off of two lackluster seasons with Kansas, is a prime example of the limits of this site. I do my best to cover as much as I can but, alas, I’m only one man (with a wife, a full-time job, a part-time job, etc.), so liberties — I won’t call them shortcuts, but you can if you want — have to be made at times. Seeing a 6-0, 185 pound college reliever from Kansas with a 5.84 K/9 (2015) and 6.12 K/9 (2016) is pretty close to an insta-skip. Well, maybe he has elite control, I think. Nah: 4.86 BB/9 (2015) and 4.81 BB/9 (2016). Fine, his peripherals are ugly but might he have magic run prevention skills? He might…not: 4.62 ERA (2015) and 6.10 ERA (2016). So what in the world was Oakland thinking here? Sam Gilbert is an outstanding athlete with a two-way background who is still relatively new to pitching. His fastball climbed from upper-80s to low-90s to mid-90s as his time in Lawrence rolled on. Mediocre numbers or not, you take a chance on a highly athletic fresh-armed mid-90s throwing righthander in the nineteenth round every single time. Sometimes I catch guys like this, sometimes I don’t.

(Gilbert didn’t pitch this year for Oakland and I couldn’t pin down an exact reason why. If anybody knows anything, I’m all ears.)

21.622 – OF Kyle Nowlin

Wrote about Kyle Nowlin (304) last June after the Phillies selected him in the thirtieth round in 2015…

The second player selected from the Ohio Valley after Bosheers, Nowlin is an honest five-tool outfielder with real power (.690 SLG), speed (18/24 SB), athleticism, and, keeping up with one of the new scouting director’s first rules, an average or better hit tool. Asking around after the draft resulted in a surprise admission from a contact who said he preferred the all-around offensive game of the 31st round pick Nowlin over that of Kyle Martin, the fourth round pick. He said that if he came back for a senior season he would have the chance to jump up twenty or more rounds and potentially get into the single-digit round range as a high-priority 2016 senior-sign.

Like the player taken a round after him (stay tuned for that!), I thought Nowlin had sneaky eighth/ninth/tenth round upside as a money-saving senior-sign. Baseball did not agree with me. During Nowlin’s senior season, I wrote this: “I’m fascinated to see how Nowlin’s high BB% and K% will translate to pro ball; maybe it’s a cop-out, but I think he’s either going to be a really good player or a total washout with little middle ground.” With the benefit of a little more time and reflection, I think there’s definitely more of an opportunity for some middle-ground outcomes for Nowlin. I think a “really good player” could mean a bench bat/platoon option, but, if you disagree with that verbiage, then there’s a potential middle-ground outcome that is neither “really good” nor a “total washout.” It might take some hanging around as a supposed AAAA hitter to reach those heights, so there’s another potential middle-ground outcome that makes sense to me. A perfect world outcome for Nowlin that became all the more fitting after we found out what team had drafted him: righthanded Matt Stairs.

22.652 – C Roger Gonzalez

On Roger Gonzalez from February 2016…

I’m intrigued by Roger Gonzalez, a plus defender behind the plate and a potential contributor at it. The Miami transfer had a fine junior season and now rates as one of this class’s better senior-signs at the position.

As one might infer from the pre-draft take above, I thought Gonzalez could creep into the back of the top ten round mix as a money-saving senior-sign. He obviously didn’t, so getting him in the twenty-second round is a big win for Oakland. I’m a little surprised that he didn’t crack my top 500 heading into the draft. I think Gonzalez has a realistic big league backup backstop floor. He’s a legit defender, switch-hitter, and a good athlete with a history of taking good at bats and doing damage to pitches he can handle. Not sure what more you could want in a mid-round college catching prospect.

24.712 – OF Rob Bennie

Rob Bennie is an interesting power/speed guy with a good bit less in the way of plate discipline (22 BB/41 K as a redshirt-junior at East Stroudsburg) than one might expect from an Oakland draftee. The former Virginia Cavalier has a brother, Joe, who was drafted by Oakland in 2013. Joe has slowly but surely climbed the ladder, but has hit (or not hit, in a manner of speaking) a road block in his late-season promotion to AA. Rob should be so fortunate; hit your way to AA and then anything can happen.

25.742 – OF Jeramiah McCray

Listed as both Jeramiah McCray and Jeremiah McCray, but I’m pretty sure the former spelling is correct. That’s all I’ve got. Where’s Eric Kubota with a comp when you need him?

26.772 – 1B Charley Gould

Charley Gould can flat swing it. He was a far more interesting prospect as a catcher back in the day, but still should be a solid organizational masher at first base in the short-term. Whether or not he plays long enough to see that destiny through, however, remains to be seen. Turns out Gould is listed as being on the “voluntarily retired list” on his MiLB player page. Two minutes of searching couldn’t find anything out beyond that. If this is it for him in pro ball, we wish him luck on all future professional endeavors.

27.802 – OF Cole Gruber

I was 17-years-old when Moneyball came out. To say that Michael Lewis’s book shaped my baseball worldview would be an understatement. Still, I can admit that drawing a clear line between Oakland’s drafting in 2016 to those Moneyball days is a major stretch. But even with all the changes the last thirteen years have brought, the A’s seem to land a few personal favorite prospects of mine every draft. I can’t help that it makes me think we’re more on the same page than we probably are. Maybe I just want to believe. Anyway, Cole Gruber (499) joins Roger Gonzalez and Josh Vidales (below) as big-time favorites that Oakland managed to snag past round twenty. Here’s what was said about Gruber in March 2016…

Cole Gruber joins Taylor in what may be the country’s best pair of senior-sign hitters in one lineup. Gruber has always hit and has the bat speed to give confidence that he’ll keep doing so going forward, but his true calling card is his combination of speed and range in CF. When the first word out of one’s mouth after watching a prospect patrol center is “easy,” then you know you’ve got a keeper. Count me in as a big fan of his game, both aesthetically in the here and now and how it will translate to the pros.

And then in May 2016…

Cole Gruber will enter pro ball with two clear big league tools with his speed (43/50 SB this year) and CF range. I think he’s a solid mid- to late-round target.

Gruber finished his college career swiping 99 of 116 bases, good for an 85% success rate. He then went out and stole 28 of 30 bases (93%) in just 35 games in his debut. The guy knows how to steal a base. Between that skill and his range in the outfield, I think he can carve out a big league role down the line. And his name always makes me think of this.

28.832 – 2B Josh Vidales

Josh Vidales and this site go way back. Let’s take a quick tour through the years starting in December 2014…

I wish JR 2B Josh Vidales had even a little bit of power (.327 and .306 slugging the past two seasons) because his approach (88 BB/51 K career), defense (plus) and speed (26/34 SB career, not a burner but picks his spots really well) all rate high enough to be an entertaining prospect to follow professionally. The fact that he’s currently seen as a second base or bust (though, again, he’s fantastic there) defensive prospect works against him, though I wonder — I honestly don’t know — if that’s something he can change minds about this spring. If he could be trusted on the left side of the infield, then we’re talking a strong potential utility future, even without the power. For all his flaws, I’d still want him to be a member of my organization.

Then again in January 2016…

I’m all about SR 2B Josh Vidales. I can’t help it. He upped his SLG to .387 last year. That’s not great, but it’s an improvement. It also gave him his best ISO (.087) in his career. He kept getting on base with a .397 consistent to what he’s done in the past (now up to 123 BB/74 K career), swiped a few more bags (32/43 SB career), and played his usual brand of excellent defense at second. It’s not unusual to see spikes in production during a player’s senior season — far too often draft outlets overrate players on this basis, something I’ve been guilty of in the past — so hopefully Vidales enjoys the same fate this spring. If that’s the case, I think his consistent year-to-year output should get him drafted; this indirectly yet directly contradicts my previous point about overrating seniors, but this would be the case of a steady player having a better than usual senior year and not a guy having a breakout senior season out of nowhere. Consider the bigger than expected senior season prediction my attempt at wish-casting that others begin to see Vidales as I do. He’s an excellent college player and an honest pro prospect.

And finally in March 2016…

Vidales has been my guy for a while: he’s small (5-8, 160), he can defend the heck out of second base, and he’s an on-base machine. It’s a scary profile to project to pro ball, but I’d still take him late in the draft as an org second baseman and let the chips fall where they may.

I should have known that a team like Oakland would love Vidales as a player as I do. And, damn, did he go out and reward them (and me) for that love: how does .345/.437/.507 with 20 BB/16 K and 5/6 SB in 175 PA sound? Yes, he was a 22-year-old (he actually turned 23 in August) dominating teenagers in the AZL. But he still dominated! That has to count for something. Even if this is the peak of his pro career, I’ll take it. If he keeps hitting, well, that’s even better. There are few active players I root harder for than Vidales.

29.862 – RHP Matt Milburn

All I had on Matt Milburn before the draft were his consistently stellar numbers piled up over the years at Wofford. The guy got better every season before putting it all together for an outstanding (in terms of peripherals) senior season (9.40 K/9 and 2.65 BB/9 in 98.2 IP) with the Terriers. He then followed that up with a 10.82 K/9 and 0.49 BB/9 in 36.2 innings as a pro. The short-season competition wasn’t quite what it could have been for the 23-year-old, but standout peripherals are standout peripherals. I’ve made a point so far to mention that it’s his peripherals that are impressive…now why could that be? For whatever reason — and I honestly don’t know — his run prevention stats have always been pedestrian. His ERA as a senior with those great peripherals? 4.47. His awesome pro debut? 4.66 ERA. Weird, right?

30.892 – RHP Nick Highberger

Nick Highberger was always one of those “better stuff than results” guys while at Creighton. He has enough of the sinker/slider thing going to be an effective reliever, but he’s never been able to miss enough bats to have you feel really good about making that kind of actual prediction. I’m still on the fence because he still doesn’t miss those bats, but, man, can Highberger’s stuff kill some worms. His GB% could be so high that it wouldn’t surprise me if he became a bit of a cult favorite on certain corners of the internet who are into that sort of thing.

31.922 – RHP Sam Sheehan

Sam Sheehan (14.26 K/9, 5.35 BB/9, 1.48 ERA, 30.3 IP) was the closer this past spring for NAIA power Westmont. Solid, Still, I find the odds that the Oakland brass truly believes that two of the forty best amateur players available to them in the country came from Westmont to be quite long, but I’m just a guy on the internet. What do I know?

32.952 – C Colin Theroux

(Major copy/paste foul here. I have no idea how it happened. Only the second half of poor Colin Theroux’s draft profile was salvaged. Sorry, buddy. We join the second half already in progress…)

in his only year of D-1 ball (minus that one AB he had for Nevada as a freshman) will work out for the A’s. Maybe. In fairness, Collin Theroux did hit .273/.430/.500 with 39 BB/43 K in 202 PA at San Joaquin Delta in 2015 (with a successful run with the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League to boot), so maybe there’s some hope after all. It would be a Disney-worthy story if he made it, I know that much.

33.982 – C Jarrett Costa

Jarrett Costa hit .333/.441/.492 with 27 BB/28 K in 183 AB for NAIA power Westmont this past spring. Solid. Still, I find the odds that the Oakland brass truly believes that two of the forty best amateur players available to them in the country came from Westmont to be quite long, but I’m just a guy on the internet. What do I know?

34.1012 – SS Casey Thomas

I’m sure Casey Thomas is a nice guy, but I’m not feeling this one. ISO in 2015: .046. ISO in 2016: .072. ISO in his pro debut: .017. Next!

40.1192 – 2B Brett Bittiger

Son of an A’s scout. Been around enough to have once been a forty-first (!) round pick of Oakland back in 2011. Hit .204/.252/.253 in his career at Division II Pace. I’m no fan of nepotism picks, but Pace is my sister’s alma mater so we’ll let it slide here.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Shane Martinez (Arizona), Matthew Fraizer (Arizona), Brady Schanuel (Mississippi), Michael Farley (San Jose State), Danny Rafferty (Bucknell), Christian Young (Niagara County CC), Brigham Hill (Texas A&M)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Chicago Cubs

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Chicago in 2016

102 – Bailey Clark
104 – Thomas Hatch
158 – Michael Rucker
236 – Tyson Miller
326 – Duncan Robinson
332 – Chad Hockin
374 – Dakota Mekkes
415 – Delvin Zinn
435 – Zack Short
448 – Michael Cruz

Complete List of 2016 Chicago Cubs Draftees

3.104 – RHP Thomas Hatch

That check from Chicago should be coming in the mail any day now as the Cubs first overall pick, Thomas Hatch (104), was selected in the exact same spot one clever, handsome internet draft writer ranked him on his final board. Good work, Cubs. Took me a while, but now I get why you’re the National League Champions. Needless to say, I like this pick. Hatch is a live arm (88-94 FB, 96 peak) with an effective 78-82 circle-change that drops like a splitter, and a pair of above-average sliders (a cut-slider in the mid- to upper-80s and a truer slider anywhere from 77-85).

His college coach has compared him to Tim Hudson; I’ve heard another former name with Oakland ties evoked in Bob Welch, a pitcher who came and went before my baseball watching time. Hearing that name caused me to dig out the old Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, a task once as simple as going to a nearby bookshelf but, after moving over the summer, now a twenty minute odyssey deep into the three giant storage bins filled with books now in my basement. Worth it. Welch is listed as having thrown a fastball, cutter, curve, change, and a forkball. Most modern pitching coaches will flat out refuse to teach a young arm a forkball these days, but Hatch’s funky circle-change/splitter hybrid is as close a proxy as we’re likely to find in this draft class. The genesis for that comp is realized. I feel better now.

The Cubs would have to be thrilled with getting a Hudson or a Welch or even just a best-case Thomas Hatch out of their third round pick. If his elbow stays intact, Hatch has a bright future on the mound. Even if he does need surgery sooner rather than later, I like the gamble here. Getting an extreme ground ball pitcher like Hatch* to play on one of the few teams that properly values defense (in practice, not just in theory) seems like as good a marriage as any pick to player in this draft.

* I went and did the math on Hatch’s ground ball ways while a Cowboy. The OK State ace had more ground ball outs than fly ball outs in 17 of his 19 starts this past season. Add it all up and his GB% was a robust 68.3%. Ground ball suspicions confirmed.

4.134 – RHP Tyson Miller

Tyson Miller (236) confuses me. His stuff is wholly impressive — 87-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average 77-84 SL; usable 82-86 CU — but his performance (7.74 K/9) at the Division II level didn’t quite match the arm talent. That may seem unduly harsh for a righthander with supposed ground ball stuff and impressive control (1.93 BB/9) coming off a 2.27 ERA stretch in 107.0 IP, but, hey, the bar is high for prospects taken in the draft’s top handful of rounds. Miller kept up his confusing ways in his brief pro debut by striking out only 5.34 batters per nine in his first 28.2 inning as a Cub. That would be far more forgivable if his batted ball data matched the ground ball praise he seems to get in every scouting report, but MLB Farm only had him 43.96% ground balls in his overall batted ball profile. See what I mean by Miller being a confusing prospect? Thankfully, confusing or not, the big righthander’s stuff remains strong and his future projection as a potential back-end starting pitcher remains in reach. I’m less bullish on him than most, but I can see the appeal if he can ever put it all together and become the power sinker/slider ground ball guy that many allege he already is.

5.164 – RHP Bailey Clark

Bailey Clark (102) is what many think Tyson Miller is. The big righthander who misses bats (9.71 K/9 as a junior at Duke), gets ground balls (60.61% in his debut), and flashes elite stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; nasty mid-80s cut-slider; hard upper-80s split-change) was the best prospect drafted by the Cubs in 2016. I’ll go bold on Clark and say that if it doesn’t work out as a starter for him, then he has honest to goodness Andrew Miller upside in relief. A righthanded Andrew Miller as the Chicago’s next relief ace? That’s not even fair. A quick timeline on how we got to this point. We’ll start a fully calendar year ago in October 2015…

Poised for a big potential rise in 2016, Clark has the kind of stuff that blows you away on his best days and leaves you wanting more on his not so best days. I think he puts it all together this year and makes this ranking [47th among college prospects] look foolish by June.

And now let’s jump ahead to December 2015…

…and obviously not much has changed in the two months since. Clark pitched really well last year (2.95 ERA in 58 IP), but fell just short in terms of peripherals (7.60 K/9 and 3.26 BB/9) where many of the recent first day college starting pitchers have finished in recent years. That’s a very simplistic, surface-level analysis of his 2015 performance, but it runs parallel with the scouting reports from many who saw him this past spring. Clark is really good, but still leaves you wanting more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — being a finished product at 20-years-old is more of a negative than a positive in the eyes of many in the scouting world — but it speaks to the developmental challenges facing Clark if he wants to jump up into the first round mix. The fastball (88-94, 96 peak) is there, the size (6-5, 210) is there, and the athleticism is there, so it’ll come down to gaining more command and consistency on his mid-80s cut-SL (a knockout pitch when on) and trusting his nascent changeup in game action enough to give scouts an honest opportunity to assess it. Even if little changes with Clark between now and June, we’re still talking a top five round lock with the high-floor possibility of future late-inning reliever. If he makes the expected leap in 2016, then the first round will have to make room for one more college arm.

Here was an update from March 2016…

On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Bailey Clark. Clark has dynamite stuff: 90-96 FB (98 peak), mid-80s cut-SL that flashes plus, and an extra firm 87-90 split-CU with some promise. The fastball alone is a serious weapon capable of getting big league hitters out thanks the combination of velocity and natural movement. What continues to hold Clark back is pedestrian command: having great stuff is key, but falling behind every hitter undercuts that advantage. Questions about his delivery — I personally don’t stress about that so much, but it’s worth noting — and that inconsistent command could force him into the bullpen sooner rather than later. He’d be a knockout reliever if that winds up being the case, but the prospect of pro development keeping him as a starter is too tantalizing to give up on just yet.

The final breakdown from April 2016…

Bailey Clark could keep starting, but most of the smarter folk I talk to seem to think he’ll fit best as a closer in the pros. At his best his stuff rivals the best Jones has to offer, but the Virginia righthander’s command edge and less stressful delivery make him the better bet to remain in the rotation. I personally wouldn’t rule out Clark having a long and fruitful career as a starting pitcher, but I’ll concede that the thought of him unleashing his plus to plus-plus fastball (90-96, 98 peak and impossible to square up consistently) over and over again in shorter outings is mighty appealing.

You can see the pretty clear “maybe he can start, but, damn, he’d be something special in relief” narrative play out as the year went on. In either role, Clark is an exciting talent with some of the best raw stuff of any college pitcher in this class. I’ll close with thinking relief is the most likely option. Any one of his issues — iffy command, questionable mechanics, and the lack of a necessary soft pitch to keep hitters consistently off the hard stuff — could be sorted out independently if that was all he had to worry about as he made his transition to pro ball, but when you combine all three…relief just feels like the safest projection. It bears repeating that Clark in the bullpen would not be seen as a negative outcome here; as a reliever, he has a chance to flat out dominate in a way not too many pitchers in baseball can. I’m all-in on Clark.

6.194 – RHP Chad Hockin

It took four picks to get a dummy like me to see it, but we’ve officially got a Cubs draft trend going here. Chad Hockin (332) makes it four straight college righthanded pitchers lauded for power sinkers and ground ball tendencies. Specifically, Hockin can crank in anywhere from 92-97 in relief with an above-average mid-80s cut-slider (83-87) that flashes plus. Depending on how aggressive the Cubs want to be with him, Hockin could be ready to see some big league action by next September. That’s what you get when you take one of college ball’s nastiest relievers. Of course, Chicago could surprise us all and opt to give Hockin a shot as a starter. I mentioned this possibility back in March…

Then there’s Hockin, the Fullerton arm who really is deserving of all the attention he’s gotten so far this spring. The sturdy righthander was seen by some I talked to back in day as having an impressive enough overall repertoire to get consideration as a starting pitching conversion project in the pros. While that talk has died down – maybe he could pull it off, but Hockin’s stuff plays way up in short bursts – the fact that it was mentioned to me in the first place speaks to his well-rounded offspeed arsenal and craftiness on the mound. Hockin leans on his mid-90s fastball (87-93 in longer outings turned into 94-96 with every pitch as a reliever) and a power 83-87 cut-slider that frequently comes in above-average. Those two pitchers alone make him a legitimate late-inning prospect, but the promise he once displayed with both a low-80s change and an upper-70s curve could give him that softer little something extra. I’ve heard he’s ditched both during games, but still toys with them in practice. It bears repeating that he’s a fine prospect pumping fastballs and sliders all day, but knowing he could mix in a third pitch in time is a nice perk.

It wouldn’t be crazy to give it a go — wild postseason aside, starters > relievers — but Hockin has demonstratively shown a major uptick in stuff while in relief already. The starters > relievers math changes a bit when it moves towards fifth starter/swingman vs late-inning, high-leverage reliever. The latter is what you hope Hockin will be when you take him in the sixth round.

7.224 – C Michael Cruz

I thought I liked Michael Cruz (448), but turns out the Cubs really liked him. I obviously get the appeal: Cruz is crazy young for his class (not 21-years-old until January), has flashed some defensive upside (still a long way to go, to be fair), and was once called a “certified hitting machine” by one draft writer (me). What’s not to like here? The Cubs went very light on position player talent in the 2016 MLB Draft — far too light, in my view, even understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses in their organization — but they at least get my stamp of approval with their first 2016 foray into the offensive side of the diamond. The lefthanded hitting Cruz could make a fine backup and complementary player to righthanded hitting Willson Contreras one day.

8.254 – RHP Stephen Ridings

Haverford College is about thirty minutes from my old apartment. Haverford College is also about a fifteen minute walk from Tired Hands Brewery. Coincidentally, I really, really like it when Haverford College has a prospect worth checking out. I was limited with what I could say about Stephen Ridings, the second straight eighth round pick out of baseball hotbed Haverford after Tommy Bergjans was selected by the Dodgers last year, this past spring for, you know, #reasons, but my quick scouting report on him is fair game now. Really, it’s simple: huge arm (low-90s typically, with 96’s, 97’s, and even a 98 at his peak), inconsistent secondary stuff (CB, SL, CU), and a delivery that managed to somehow come across as both rushed and too deliberate that pretty clearly hindered both his command and control. So we’ve got the good (velocity!), the bad (my amateur eye didn’t see an offspeed pitch good enough to get pro hitters out just yet, especially with his two breaking balls running into each other as often as they did), and the uncertain (mechanics). That uncertain is what intrigues me the most about Ridings. My “not a scout” observations saw his wonky mechanics as workable in the pros; in all honesty, his mechanics weren’t particularly “bad” but more the kind of inconsistent slightly awkward kind of mechanics that appeared to be the byproduct of what happens when a young pitcher attempts to figure out his growing body on the fly. That’s something I think time and quality coaching can improve, but we’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t expect Ridings to go off the board when he did, but I probably should have guessed: after all, you can’t teach 98 and 6-8, 220.

Spencer Sohmer and Justin Herring are my Haverford guys to watch next year, BTW.

9.284 – RHP Duncan Robinson

Back to back players I’ve seen multiple times. OK, Cubs. I see you. I really like Duncan Robinson (326). Let’s go back and see how much. We can start in March 2015…

Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson isn’t just a good pitching prospect for the Ivy League; he’s a good pitching prospect full stop. Guys with his size (6-6, 220 pounds), fastball (consistently low-90s), and breaking ball (have it listed as an in-between pitch in my notes; I’d call it a slider, but think folks at Dartmouth call it a curve) are easy to get excited about. The mechanics and control both check out for me, so his chance at crashing the draft’s top tier of pitching prospects will largely come down to the development of a softer offspeed pitch that will keep hitters off his fastball/breaking ball combo and enable him to start as a pro.

And jump a year into the future to March 2016…

Forget the Ivy League, Duncan Robinson is one of the best senior-sign pitchers in all of college ball. He’s a power righthander with size (6-6, 220) capable of beating you with a low-90s fastball and average or better slider. As his changeup develops he’ll become an even more attractive prospect, what with the standard starter ceiling that typically comes with three usable pitches, size, clean mechanics, and a good track record of amateur success. If the change lags, then he’s still got the solid middle relief starter pack to fall back on.

Finally, the pre-draft one line summary…

I’m 100% all-in on Duncan Robinson. He’s a big-time talent who seems to get better with every start. Definitely one of this class’s top senior-signs.

Love this pick. I think Duncan Robinson can pitch in the big leagues. I think he can even pitch in the big leagues as a starter. I won’t go the super obvious Kyle Hendricks (same school, one round off, both Cubs eventually) comparison here (in part because I used it already on Oakland sixth rounder Mitchell Jordan), but…I mean it’s sitting right there.

10.314 – RHP Dakota Mekkes

Dakota Mekkes (374) is the truth. Striking out 15.16 batters per nine as a redshirt-sophomore was only beginning for the 6-7, 250 pound righthander. His first 20 pro innings: 12.15 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9. How does he do? I have no idea! Or, more honestly, I can only make guesses on what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Mekkes’s stuff is what you’ll see out of literally dozens of mid-round college relievers (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average 82-84 SL), but the results point very strongly to their being more to the story. That’s where we start to see what separates Mekkes from the rest. Before we get to that, some earlier praise beginning with this from March 2016…

If you read this site and/or follow college ball closely, this might be the first pick to surprise in some way, shape, or form. Mekkes wasn’t a pitcher mentioned in many 2016 draft preview pieces before the start of the season, but the 6-7, 250 pound righty has opened plenty of eyes in getting off to a dominant (16.36 K/9) albeit wild (7.16 BB/9) start to 2016. His stuff backs it up (FB up to 94, interesting SL, deceptive delivery), so he’s more than just a large college man mowing down overmatched amateurs. He’s a top ten round possibility now.

Hey, he went in the tenth round! Neat. We got a little bit bolder by April 2016…

Any pre-draft list of “fastest moving” potential draftees that doesn’t include Dakota Mekkes is one I’ll look at with a suspicious eye. Mekkes may not be one of the biggest names in college relief, but he’s one of the best. I’ll go closer upside with him while acknowledging his most likely outcome could be a long career of very effective, very well-compensated middle relief. Either way, I think he’s as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class.

With Mekkes, it’s really about how how he maximizes his size and delivery to create all kinds of extension and deception. As he continues to figure out how to repeat that delivery, his command will only keep getting better. I think Mekkes can pitch in a big league bullpen in 2017 if that’s how the Cubs decide that’s what’s best for his development. I stand by that “as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class” comment.

11.344 – RHP Michael Rucker

On Michael Rucker (158) in March 2016…

Michael Rucker checks two of our three boxes pretty easily: he’s 88-94 (96 peak) with his fastball while commanding three offspeed pitches (low-80s SL, low- to mid-80s CU, mid-70s CB) with a veteran’s mindset on the mound. He’s not particularly big (6-1, 185) nor does he have that plus offspeed pitch (slider comes closest), but it’s still a potential big league starter skill set.

That sounds about right to me. Rucker is on that fifth starter/middle reliever line that could still go either way for him. If he can get one of those offspeed pitches to creep to average or slightly above-average, then he might have the all-around package (adding in his fastball, command, and control) to keep starting. His pre-draft ranking feels a little rich in hindsight, though that’s far less about Rucker than it is about the realization that there are A LOT of pitchers like him in this class.

13.404 – LHP Wyatt Short

To the WABAC machine to talk about Wyatt Short from January 2015…

I’m particularly looking forward to talking more about the aptly named Short, as any discussion about a 5-8, 160 pound lefthander capable of hitting the low- to mid-90s is all right in my book.

As it turned out, we never really got around to talking more about Short. Life just got in the way, I guess. We got older, got jobs, met that special someone, and next thing we knew we woke up one morning with a serious lack of Wyatt Short in our lives. It’s a pity, really. Thankfully, the show went on for Short, who followed up his good freshman season with a great sophomore season (10.15 K/9 and 1.38 ERA in 39.0 IP) before coming back to earth some in his junior season. The Cubs still thought enough of the diminutive lefty to pop him in the thirteenth round. Can’t argue with that based on his overall body of work, 88-94 MPH fastball, and low-80s slider he can both consistently get over and use as a chase pitch.

15.464 – RHP Jed Carter

I’ll hide my lack of Jed Carter knowledge by pointing out his crazy debut stats instead. In 9.2 innings of work, Carter struck out 17 batters. That’s great. He also walked 6 guys and threw 3 wild pitches. That’s less great. 60% ground balls, too. That’s so Cubs.

16.494 – RHP Holden Cammack

I like taking a shot on a catcher turned reliever type in Holden Cammack here. What he lacks in refinement he makes up for with arm strength.

17.524 – SS Zack Short

On Zack Short (435) from February 2016…

Short should be on any short list (no pun intended) of best college shortstop prospects in this class. He’s really, really good. Offensively he’s a high-contact hitter with an above-average blend of patience and pop. As a defender, he’s capable of making all the plays at short with range that should have him stick at the spot for years to come. There simply aren’t many two-way shortstops as good as him in this class. He’s an easy top ten round player for me with the chance to rise as high as around the fifth round (reminiscent of Blake Allemand last year) and a realistic draft floor of where Dylan Bosheers (round fifteen) eventually fell.

Short didn’t quite land in that five to fifteen round range, but the seventeenth isn’t that far off. I love this pick. Everything from February stands today, even after Short’s down junior season forced me to swallow hard and drop him lower on my final draft list than I would have liked. I think he’s a future big league player. My one note of caution with Short comes from the name drop of Dylan Bosheers in the pre-season paragraph above. Short and Bosheers aren’t the same guy and the disappointing pro career of the latter shouldn’t be put on the former, but the two players are cut from a similar prospect cloth. Something to consider. If Short busts, it’ll be time for me to reconsider how much I personally value these types of players. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

18.554 – LHP Marc Huberman

Marc Huberman was described to me as the perfect guy to watch if you want to see a “good command, bad control” pitcher in action. Huberman can spot his solid for a lefthander stuff (86-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-82 CU; usable 75-78 CB) in the zone to keep hitters guessing, but can’t consistently find the strike zone enough to keep from issuing hitters who would struggle squaring him up otherwise off base via the free pass. In other words, many of Huberman’s strikes are quality strikes, but he just doesn’t throw enough of them right now to be considered anything other than effectively wild, for better or worse.

19.584 – RHP Matt Swarmer

You can’t say that Matt Swarmer didn’t get results in his career at Kutztown. His senior year K/9: 13.12. His career K/9: 11.79. Good numbers, good size, and a good enough head on his shoulders to bank a fine education to fall back on just in case — my mom has literally never read this site, but I’ll still shout out her alma mater — make him a worthy pick here.

20.614 – LHP Colton Freeman

If deep cuts are your thing, then hop on the Colton Freeman bandwagon while you can. The 6-1, 200 pound lefthander has a good fastball (up to 93), above-average slider, and impressive athleticism. He also pitched just 9.2 innings at Alabama in 2016. In those 9.2 innings, Freeman struck out 18 batters (16.88 K/9) while walking only 3 (2.81 BB/9) and keeping the opposition entirely off the board (0.00 ERA). Fun guy to follow professionally if you’re into the deepest of draft sleepers. Or if you’re just a generally obsessed baseball fan. Know anybody like that? Me neither.

21.644 – C Sam Tidaback

Sam Tidaback is a lifelong Cubs fan who grew up an hour from Wrigley Field. That’s enough to get you drafted by Chicago these days. And in the twenty-first round, no less.

25.764 – 2B Trent Giambrone

Trent Giambrone was off my radar in June, but looks like a nice value pick at this point in the draft. My only pre-draft notes on him were “good but not earth shattering numbers” and first-hand source who told me flatly that Giambrone “can’t play shortstop except in a pinch, but good anywhere else you stick him.” Those two things more or less disqualified him from any additional research (time and energy are finite, after all), but his intriguing pro debut at the plate has me feeling some regret. Cubs could have something with Giambrone. If it all keeps working, maybe you’ve turned a twenty-fifth round pick into a bat-first utility guy.

23.704 – SS Delvin Zinn

Few players from the entire 2016 MLB Draft class intrigue me quite as much as Delvin Zinn (415). I have no idea what to make of him. He’s as good an athlete as you’ll now find in pro ball with a big arm and enough range to hang at short (he split his time at SS and 2B evenly in his debut) for the foreseeable future. He’s also a smart hitter who makes a ton of contact with enough patience to put himself into favorable counts more often than not. His current issues are about the kind of contact he makes and what he does when he’s up in the count. At present, Zinn has true 20 power. He could grow into some as he puts on some good weight and tweaks his swing, but he’s currently a long way from being an extra base threat in the professional ranks. Thankfully, he has a long way before he’ll have to be a finished product. The 19-year-old infielder has enough positives on his side that he should get plenty of opportunities over the next few years to sink or swim in pro ball. A player with that kind of unpredictable but intriguing future is exactly who you should target when still available in the twenty-third round.

27.824 – OF Connor Myers

Connor Myers is way more talented than your typical twenty-seventh round senior-sign. His approach at the plate needs a good bit of tightening up if he wants to advance past AA, but his physical gifts (speed, arm, athleticism) are enough to keep him employed long enough to potentially figure things out as a hitter.

29.884 – RHP Tyler Peyton

Tyler Peyton has long frustrated me as a pitcher with the kind of stuff (88-94 FB, intriguing SL, average CU that flashes better) to be a true impact college performer who never quite got there. That doesn’t give me a ton of hope he’ll suddenly start missing more bats in the pros (his junior year 7.01 K/9 was a college career high), but you never know with two-way players like him. Maybe complete dedication to pitching will help him unlock the secret to getting more whiffs. It’s worth a twenty-ninth round pick to find out.

32.974 – OF Zach Davis

I don’t know what to make of the Zach Davis pick. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but if you’re stumping me with a power conference D1 prospect then you’re really digging deep for a player. Chicago must have seen more out of his 30 AB in 2014, 98 AB in 2015, and 39 AB in 2016 than most.

33.1004 – RHP Nathan Sweeney

A six-figure bonus ($100,000) for a low-90s (92-93 in my notes) righthander with size (6-4, 185) out of a state with an unusually high success rate (same HS as Brad Lidge!) of producing successful amateur pitchers? I’m in on Nathan Sweeney. Nice pick by Chicago here.

38.1154 – OF Tolly Filotei

The Cubs drafted and signed a player coming off a .268/.373/.338 season (71 AB) at Faulkner State. Could there possibly be more to the story than that? Probably not. In totally unrelated news, Tolly is the son of Cubs regional crosschecker Bobby Filotei. In fairness, Filotei was drafted out of high school by Colorado in 2014. I don’t believe that Bobby was employed by Colorado at that time (or ever), so, at least there’s that.

All in all, the Cubs drafted 38 guys. Only 11 were hitters. Of that 11, only 8 signed. Their college hitters came from these schools: Chipola, Delta State, North Georgia, Bethune-Cookman, Faulkner State, Texas Tech, Old Dominion, Itawamba, and Sacred Heart. Throw out North Georgia and Texas Tech, and I’d put the “guess what state the school is in” over/under for the casual fan at 1.5. Drafting players from all over isn’t a bad thing. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to draft.

Still, something seems off to me about Chicago’s draft. I don’t think they drafted well just because they are the Cubs and can do no wrong. I also don’t think they drafted poorly because I have different opinions about the players they selected. They clearly went all-in on pitching, but did so with a hyper-focused attention to pitchers with ground ball statistics and/or stuff. I don’t hate that one bit, especially when you see how all the ground ball pitching fits with their emphasis on building an outstanding defensive infield. One thing I didn’t like about their draft was the lack of offense. I know the big league team is loaded with young hitting. I know the strength of the system tilts overwhelmingly towards bats. An important draft rule, however, is that you don’t just draft for yourself but rather for each of the twenty-nine other teams in baseball. Mixing in a few quality bats with the bushel of relatively high-floor pitchers would have at least given Chicago a chance to replenish the (admittedly still stacked) lower-levels with potential easier to identify and develop trade assets. Or maybe the Cubs just had more confidence in their ability to identify and develop pitching than I do.

Either way, I went from not understanding this draft at all, to understanding it and not particularly liking it, to understanding it and talking myself into it. I still don’t love it, but if you can get one or two of Hatch, Miller, Robinson, or Rucker to stay in the rotation (either in Chicago or elsewhere if dealt) and then get valuable quick-moving bullpen pieces like Clark, Hockin, and Mekkes up for a team very much in win-now mode, you’re on to something. It was too conservative an approach for a team with as good a present and future as the Cubs seem to have — swing for the fences at least once, Cubbies! What do you have to lose? — but it was an approach and that matters. I mean, say what you want about the conservative approach the Cubs took, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. Or maybe a logos? I don’t know. This wasn’t my best work.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Reynaldo Rivera (Chipola), Montana Parsons (Baylor), Austin Jones (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Rian Bassett (?), Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest), Trey Cobb (Oklahoma State), Ryan Kreidler (UCLA), Jake Slaughter (LSU), DJ Roberts (South Florida), Davis Moore (Fresno State), AJ Block (Washington State), Davis Daniel (Auburn), Brenden Heiss (Arkansas), Dante Biasi (Penn State)

2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Cleveland

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Cleveland in 2016

10 – Nolan Jones
43 – Logan Ice
51 – Aaron Civale
57 – Will Benson
95 – Ulysses Cantu
138 – Michael Tinsley
149 – Conner Capel
176 – Andrew Lantrip
195 – Trenton Brooks
226 – Shane Bieber
250 – Gavin Collins
356 – Zach Plesac

Complete List of 2016 Cleveland Draftees

1.14 – OF Will Benson

The draft works in funny ways. Will Benson (57) going in the first round (pick 14) seemed like a bit of a reach to me on draft day. Not a bad pick by any stretch and easily justifiable (huge raw power, electric bat speed, solid runner, built like a tank, huge arm…yeah, I get it), but not a pick I might have made when Cleveland made it. I probably would have gone with a different high school hitter with that first round pick. Maybe somebody like Nolan Jones, a prospect I ranked tenth overall yet inexplicably (well, money explains some of it) fell all the way to pick 55…when Cleveland snapped him up with their second rounder. If I knew nothing of how draft day played out and you told me that Cleveland landed both Jones and Benson at the conclusion of the first two rounds, it would be cause for major celebration. Choosing to look at their first two picks that way makes me feel better about Cleveland’s draft — and I already really, really like this draft — so that’s exactly what I’ll do. I’ll also look at what Benson and Jones did in their pro debuts…

.209/.321/.424 – 12.0 BB% and 32.6 K% – 184 PA – 112 wRC+
.257/.388/.339 – 17.2 BB% and 36.6 K% – 134 PA – 118 wRC+

…to note the similarities between the two teenagers. They aren’t twins, but there’s no denying certain commonalities. No overarching attempt at a point here, just thought it was neat. Neat is a fine word to describe a bunch of words about Benson from this past spring. First, from April 2016…

The name Will Benson brings about all kinds of colorful opinions from those paid to watch him regularly. To call him a divisive prospect at this point would be an understatement. If you love him, then you love his power upside, defensive aptitude, and overwhelming physicality. If you’re cool on him, then he’s more of a future first baseman with a questionable hit tool, inconsistent approach, and overrated athleticism. I’m closer to the love side than not, but I think both the lovers and the haters can at least agree that his bat speed is explosive, his frame is intriguing, and his sheer strength as a human being should beget some monstrous BP performances. He’d be the rare type of hitter who could make Petco look small.

Then again from May 2016…

I never really got the Jason Heyward comp for Benson – the most Heyward thing about Heyward is his plus defense, something that Benson is a long way from, if he ever gets there at all – but I like the connection between him and Kyle Lewis. I don’t think he lasts until the second, but he would make for an excellent consolation prize for a team picking at the top of the first round that misses out on the Mercer star with their first pick. Or just grab them both and begin hoping that you’ve just taken care of your outfield corners for the next decade.

I’ll toot my own horn on the Kyle Lewis/Will Benson connection. I think that’s a good one. A riskier Lewis with considerable upside and a very real bust factor. In isolation, that’s probably too risky a pick for me in the mid-first; thankfully, drafts run longer than one round and all subsequent selections are connected thanks to the current (stupid) draft bonus system. Underslot deals in round one (Benson!), two (supplemental), three, four, seven, eight, nine, and ten helped pay the overslot bonus second round pick Jones required. Beyond just dollars and cents, drafts have to be viewed as complete entities because (smart) teams draft with talent diversification (position, level of competition, age, etc.) in mind. Cleveland went relatively safe with their pitching (college-heavy, emphasis on command over stuff) while taking bigger swings on offensive guys (lots of high variance prep and juco talent). The overall portfolio is one of my favorites across the league and that’s with a first round pick I didn’t love. The draft works in funny ways.

2.55 – 3B Nolan Jones

I saw a lot of Nolan Jones (10) over the last eighteen months or so. I’ve written about Jones a lot in that same time span. I’m not sure what else I have to add, so I’ll let the pre-evaluation stand on its own…

First off, I’m incredibly biased when it comes to Jones. I’m pleased to admit that out front because said admission of bias was well worth getting to watch him play a bunch this spring at Holy Ghost Prep. Getting the chance to see a young man with his kind of talent thirty minutes play his home games thirty minutes from the office was an incredible experience. Jones is an electrifying player who really can do it all as a prospect. In about twenty minutes of game time in his most recent appearance, he was able to hit a homer (one of two on the day), swipe a bag, and turn a slick double play at short. That run was topped only by an earlier game when he smoked the ball every time up before ending the game in extras with an opposite field rocket that cleared the fence in left. He’s outstanding. I think the sky is the limit for him as a professional ballplayer. I’ve seen him more frequently than any other top prospect in this class, which gives me a little more insight to his strengths and weaknesses as a player (whether or not said insight should be trusted is up to the reader) but also presents a challenge in fighting human nature. It’s only natural to want to see a player you’ve come to watch and appreciate throughout the past year succeed going forward. My assessment of him as a player won’t help him or hurt him in any conceivable way, but there’s definitely some subconscious work going on that pushes players we’re more familiar with up the board.

Of course, all of those firsthand observations can be a double-edged sword when it comes down to doing what I attempt to accomplish with this site. My process for evaluating players here includes all kinds of inputs, the least critical of which being what I see with my own two eyes. It’s not that I lack confidence my own personal evaluations; quite the opposite, really, so realizing that my ego needs to be in check brings me to not wanting to fall into the trap that has led to more botched first round picks than any other singular mistake. The easiest way to ruin all the hard work of so many is to have one supposed “expert” come in and make decisions with little regard to the opinions of the group. When a general manager overrules the collective decision of the scouting staff to select a first round player that he has fallen in love with after just a few short views, the resulting pick is almost always a disaster. It’s admittedly a rare occurrence – there’s a reason real analysis of a team’s drafting record gets pinned on the scouting director and not the general manager – but it does happen. Whether it’s ego, pressure to find a quick-mover to potentially save jobs (including his own), or actual conviction in the prospect (the most palatable option for sure, but still tough to stomach when dealing with small firsthand scouting samples), it happens.

Long story short: I don’t want to be like one of those GM’s. I like trusting what I read and hear, both publicly and privately, because those are the closest analogues to a “scouting staff” that any one outsider like me can hope to assemble. That will never stop me from going to games and showcases to form my own opinions, but I’d prefer to use those to supplement the larger scouting dossier assembled than to make up the basis of it. In many ways I consider what I see up close as a tie-breaker and not much more.

It is, however, quite nice when what I’ve heard is backed up by what I’ve seen. That’s exactly what has happened with Jones this spring. The total package is awfully enticing: chance for a legit plus hit tool (lightning fast hands, advanced pitch recognition, consistent hard contact), plus arm strength (confirmed via the eye and the low-90s fastballs on the gun) that is also uncannily accurate, average or better run times, prodigious raw power (have seen him go deep to all fields this spring), and loads of athleticism. I’d even go so far as to suggest he’s shown enough in the way of shortstop actions to at least get certain teams thinking about letting him try to stay up the middle for a bit, but that might be pushing it. Recent big shortstops like Carlos Correa and Corey Seager have reversed the trend somewhat, but I still think Jones would be best served getting third base down pat as a pro.

Finding reasonable comps for a lefthanded hitting third baseman – which, naturally, just so happens to be what our top three prospects here happen to be – is unreasonably challenging. I’ll start with the WHOA (not to be confused with wOBA, BTW) comp and work backwards.

One older fan – not a scout, not a Holy Ghost Prep booster, but just a fan of the game – was at frequent games this spring. I got friendly enough with the gentleman, around the same age (late-60s) as my father if I had to guess, over the course of the spring that he felt good about dropping an Eddie Mathews comp on Jones as an all-around player. Now that’s a name that gets your attention. My dad raves about Mathews’s physical tools to this day. All of the numbers suggest that he’s on the very short list of best lefthanded third basemen ever to play the game, so that’s not a comparison to be taken lightly. I’ll repeat that it was coming from a fan – though, again, not one with a vested interest in the team or the player, only the sport – and I’m nowhere near qualified to say whether or not he was on the right path with such a lofty comp, but, hey, Hall of Fame comps are fun, so there you go.

Two additional names that came up that I think fit the lefthanded hitting third base profile pretty well were Hank Blalock (strictly as a hitter, though I think the raw power difference between the two makes this one questionable) and Corey Koskie. The Koskie comparison is one I find particularly intriguing. Koskie, a criminally underrated player during his time, was good for a career 162 game average of .275/.367/.458 with 20 HR, 12 SB, and 75 BB/130 K. We’re totally pulling numbers out of thin air with any amateur prospect projection – doubly so with teenagers – but that seems like a reasonable hope based on what I’ve seen out of Jones. Offense like that combined with plus defense at third would make one heck of a player in today’s game. For reference’s sake, that’s almost like a better version of late-career Adrian Beltre. Of course, the mention of Beltre is not meant to serve as a direct comparison but rather a potential production comp.

Now if I wanted to drop a righthanded hitting third baseman comparison on Jones that wasn’t Beltre, I think I’d go with a young Ryan Zimmerman. His 162 game average to date: .282/.347/.473 with 25 HR, 5 SB, and 64 BB/124 K. Not entirely dissimilar to Koskie, right? A young Zimmerman/Koskie type is a tremendously valuable player, with those two each clocking in right around 4.0 fWAR average (Zimmerman a bit more, Koskie a hair less) during years of club control. Going back to our lefthanded third base comp in Koskie brings us to this final “hey, maybe Jones should be a top five pick in this class” moment of the day. Koskie, the 715th overall pick in 1994, finished his career with 24.6 rWAR. That total would have placed him fourth behind only Javier Vazquez (46.0), Nomar Garciaparra (44.2), and Paul Konerko (27.6) in his draft class. He’s just ahead of Jason Varitek (24.3) and AJ Pierzynski (24.0). My non-comprehensive look on the Fangraphs leaderboards has him ahead of all but Vazquez and Garciaparra. We live in a world where Corey Koskie ranked in the top three (or four) in a given draft class, so why not Nolan Jones?

Why not Nolan Jones, indeed.

2.72 – C Logan Ice

On Logan Ice (43) back in April 2016…

.365/.460/.533 – 22 BB/5 K
.360/.483/.697 – 20 BB/5 K

Top is Matt Thaiss this year, bottom is Logan Ice so far. It’s no wonder that a friend of mine regularly refers to Ice as “Pacific NW Thaiss.” That sounds so made up, but it’s not. Anyway, Ice is a really good prospect. He’s received some national acclaim this season, yet still strikes me as one of the draft’s most underrated college bats. There are no questions about his defense behind the plate – coming into the year many considered him to be a catch-and-throw prospect with a bat that might relegate him to backup work – and his power, while maybe not .700 SLG real, is real. I don’t think a late-first round selection is unrealistic, but I’ll hedge and call him a potential huge value pick at any point after the draft’s first day. I can’t wait to start stacking the college catching board; my hunch is that prospect who comes in tenth or so would be a top three player in most classes. My only concern for Ice – a stretch, admittedly – is that teams will put off drafting college catchers early because of the belief that they can wait and still get a good one later.

Let’s update that Thaiss/Ice comparison with their final junior year stats…

.375/.473/.578 – 39 BB/16 K – 232 AB
.310/.432/.563 – 37 BB/25 K – 174 AB

Pretty close! Thaiss went sixteenth overall and was transitioned immediately to first base in the pros. Ice fell to the seventy-second pick and remains a catcher. I still think Thaiss is the better hitter and the better all-around prospect by a hair — and I think he should continue to catch, but nobody asked me — but the non-theoretical defensive differences between the two certainly gives fans of Ice a legitimate claim that he’s the more valuable asset going forward. Being better than Matt Thaiss isn’t what will make or break Ice’s career (obviously), but it’s a fun benchmark to come back to as the two young men embark on what should be long, successful pro careers.

3.92 – RHP Aaron Civale

As a world-renowned internet draft writer, I’d like to think my credibility is such that any and all accusations of bias can easily be refuted by my sterling track record of good old fashioned tellin’-it-like-it-is-ness. I’m practically perfect, really. One teeny tiny dark spot on my record is a strange affinity for pitchers out of Northeastern. It’s the baseball life debt I owe former Husky Adam Ottavino that I pledged to him — unbeknownst to him, naturally — after witnessing my first and only live no-hitter above the high school level. Maybe that explains why I liked Aaron Civale (51) as much as I do. Or maybe it’s because he’s an outstanding young pitcher who can throw four pitches for strikes with the kind of pitchability more typically seen in ten-year big league veterans. Civale’s assortment of hard stuff (upper-80s two-seam, low-90s four-seam up to 95, and above-average to plus upper-80s cutter/slider hybrid) beautifully complements his slightly softer stuff (above-average 78-82 curve with plus upside, occasional changeup, and he has a long track record of sterling command and control (1.93 BB/9 in 2015, 1.18 BB/9 in 2016). Civale is what you get when you combine a traditional Cleveland amateur draft pitching prospect (command! control!) with the big-time stuff the 29 other teams seemingly prioritize.

4.122 – RHP Shane Bieber

Consistency is a good thing when you’re consistently good. That’s a saying I heard once that I thought was kind of stupid, but it seems applicable here. Look at these numbers…

7.57 K/9 – 1.04 BB/9 – 112.2 IP – 2.23 ERA
7.22 K/9 – 1.13 BB/9 – 119.2 IP – 2.86 ERA
7.88 K/9 – 0.75 BB/9 – 24.0 IP – 0.38 ERA

That’s Shane Bieber (226) as a sophomore, Shane Bieber as a junior, and Shane Bieber in his pro debut. I’d say consistently good is an apt qualifying remark. If you knew nothing of his stuff, I think you’d get some idea of what kind of pitcher he was just by looking at that line and knowing that Cleveland, the most command loving drafting team around, identified him as a pitcher of interest. Thankfully, we don’t have to sit around and guess at his stuff. Here’s some Bieber chatter from March 2016…

This post would have been lengthier, but a way too long love letter to Justin Bieber’s latest album has been deleted. After a few drinks I might share my working theory on how Bieber is the evolutionary Justin Timberlake, but we’ll table that for now. We’ll actually go a step further and declare this site a NO BIEBER joke zone henceforth. That’s the first last time I’ll connect Justin to Shane Bieber all spring. Shane is a fascinating enough prospect to talk about even without the musical interludes.

He was a pre-season FAVORITE who hasn’t yet missed a ton of bats at the college level, but I’ll continue to tout his 85-90 (92 peak) sinking fastball, above-average yet still frustratingly inconsistent 79-85 changeup, and true hybrid 78-81 breaking ball as the right type of mix of a big league starting pitcher. We’ve seen college righthanders with below-average fastball velocity, intriguing offspeed stuff, plus command, and above-average athleticism and deception go high on draft day before, and Bieber could follow suit. I’d feel a lot more comfortable if he was missing more bats, but the overall package is still enticing. It’s the Thomas Eshelman starter kit.

First, I kept my word and avoided any and all Justin Bieber mentions from that point on. Feel good about that. Second, I stand by Bieber being on the Thomas Eshelman path. If anything, I’m encouraged that a smart front office like Cleveland’s would place the same kind of premium on Bieber’s strengths as I do. I’d like to think it’s pretty clear I’m cool doing my own thing here in this tiny corner of the internet, but a little validation never hurts every now and then. Cleveland clearly targeted a certain type of pitcher this year in prioritizing command/control over gun-popping velocity. Aaron Civale, Bieber, and Andrew Lantrip all fit that mold. Maybe that’s two-fifths of a rotation one day. Maybe it’s one starter and one reliever. Maybe you really hit the jackpot and all three are quality big leaguers. That’s clearly the preferred option, but even getting hitting on one of the three would be a win. It goes back to the idea of doubling (or, in this case, tripling) down on a position or archetype of interest. If you keep trying, eventually you’ll get it right.

5.152 – OF Conner Capel

I didn’t remember that Baseball America had compared Conner Capel (149) to Tyler Naquin before the draft before I wrote the Trenton Brooks pick review below. I’ll save you the trouble of scrolling down. This is what I wrote about Brooks, Cleveland’s seventeenth round pick: “I’ll throw out a maybe irresponsible (depending on how “real” you think his rookie season was…) comparison to Tyler Naquin with a bit less power upside.” So does that make Brooks a reasonable comp for Conner Capel? Sure, why not! The lefty from Texas is an excellent athlete with a well-rounded skill set (above-average arm and speed) and an advanced hit tool. He’s a bit of a tweener as only a “maybe” center fielder with average at best power for a corner, but I like Cleveland betting on a guy who has shown he can make consistent hard contact against quality prep pitching.

Two more Capel facts before we call it a day. First, I just noticed I had him ranked one spot behind Nick Banks on my overall pre-draft list. That’s not particularly noteworthy but for the fact that D1 Baseball had compared Banks to Tyler Naquin at some point during the season. I didn’t really see that one personally — I went with Hunter Renfroe, for what it’s worth — but still funny to see Naquin’s name popping up everywhere. Secondly, I had Conner Capel listed as Connor Capel in my notes. I hate messing up names. Not only is it disrespectful to the player (if you write about a guy, you should have the right name), but it also makes searching for him years later a chore. Sorry, Conner.

6.182 – 3B Ulysses Cantu

A quick timeline of Ulysses Cantu (95) thoughts over the past year. First, from December 2015…

You want some really high praise for Cantu as a hitter? I’ve now heard the name Youkilis mentioned twice in conversations about him. That’s big time. Kevin Millar was another name that came up, as did a fun blast from the past Conor Jackson. I really like the Jackson comp and not just because I really liked him as a player. When was the last time you heard his name mentioned? He was a pretty interesting player for a while there. I liked that guy. Good talk.

And then from May 2016…

Ulysses Cantu is Joe Rizzo’s mirror image. Almost everything written above about the lefthanded Rizzo applies to righty swinging Cantu. I’m even less bullish on Cantu sticking anywhere but first base as a professional, so the pressure will be on for him to hit early and often upon signing his first contract. I see a little less hit tool, similar power, and an arguably better (trying to sort this out in limited PA for HS hitters is damn near impossible) approach. I think all that adds up to an overall offensive edge for Rizzo, but it’s really close.

After much industry chatter about Cantu playing just about anywhere but first base in the pros, he debuted with Cleveland at…first base. His strong arm is wasted a bit there, but it’s still probably the best fit for him in the long run. Playing first base should also have the added bonus of allowing more time for him to focus on his hitting, his once and future meal ticket to the big leagues. His pro debut saw him struggle at the plate for what I have to imagine was the first time ever. I think his natural gifts take over next spring and he emerges as one of the minors most interesting righthanded hitting first base prospects.

7.212 – C Michael Tinsley

Cleveland signed three college catchers. I love the idea of teams loading up on one spot in the draft. There’s a certain organizational piece of mind that comes with solidifying depth at one position over the course of one weekend’s worth of work. But trying to do that with three similarly aged catching prospects is better in theory than in practice. Where are these guys all going to play? Cleveland answered that by keeping Logan Ice behind the dish (duh) and moving both Michael Tinsley (138) and Gavin Collins to other defensive spots. Collins playing third is hardly a surprise — it’s where he played the majority of his draft year, after all — but Tinsley starting his pro career as a left fielder came out of, well, left field. Time will tell if this is part of a larger plan by Cleveland or merely a short-term fit to get everybody their rookie ball plate appearances. In any event, Tinsley certainly has the athleticism to thrive in a corner outfield spot. That same athleticism is what made him such an intriguing catching prospect to me. The lefthanded hitting Tinsley is a great athlete with average or better speed, arm strength, and mobility behind the plate. His approach as a hitter has long been a strength (63 BB/44 K in his three years at Kansas). He’s a keeper at any position, though it goes without saying that a return to catching would make Tinsley that much more appealing as a prospect.

8.242 – RHP Andrew Lantrip

On Andrew Lantrip (176) from March 2016…

Kay is a lot more famous among college fans, but Andrew Lantrip in many ways resembles a righthanded alternative. Kay’s changeup is ahead and he has the added bonus of mixing in a curve every now and then, but Lantrip can really command his fastball (like Kay’s, 87-92 MPH peaking at 94) and his delivery gives him that little extra pop of deception that makes everything he throws play up. Needless to say, I’m a fan. Lantrip will surely be dinged for being a slight college righthander without premium fastball velocity, but, again like Kay, the combination of a deep enough reservoir of offspeed stuff and a long track record of missing bats makes him an interesting high-floor back-end starting pitching option.

Andrew Lantrip walked 1.28 batters per nine in his 246.2 innings at Houston. That’s 35 walks in 246.2 innings. That’s good. A 1.28 BB/9 would have put him second in baseball this past year among qualified pitchers. The one pitcher with a better BB/9? Josh Tomlin. Hmm. I understand plus control not being something that seems all that exciting, but Lantrip’s never-ending story of strike after strike after strike is fun to watch. And it’s not just his expert control, either: Lantrip’s command of his fastball, a pitch he leans on heavily (and wisely), is exceptional. Watching him do this thing on the mound is a lot of fun. Will that fun translate in pro ball? Cleveland sure seems to think so. And I’d agree.

My “not a scout” observations on Lantrip showed me a quality breaking ball — not sure what it was exactly, but he threw it mostly 77-81 and when ahead in the count — and a usable change as at least a “show-me” pitch. That’s not anything to write home about, but, as we’ve covered, fastball command is so damn important and Lantrip has it in spades. Honestly, his profile would otherwise be pretty ordinary — fringe fifth starter type, maybe a middle reliever — were it not for his fastball command. It’s good enough I’ll bump everything up one step on the projection ladder: Lantrip could be a mid-rotation starter (closer to a fifth than a third, but still) with a pretty safe mid-relief floor. Barring another injury setback, I think he’s a sure-fire big leaguer. Josh Tomlin 2.0.

9.272 – OF Hosea Nelson

Huge raw power, good runner, great athleticism, and tons of swing-and-miss. Now you know what I know about Hosea Nelson. At Clarendon JC, Nelson hit .531/.606/1.020 with 27 BB/30 K and 17/21 SB in 237 PA. That 1.020 slugging isn’t a typo. It is, however, such a crazy number that my fingers don’t know how to type it. Muscle memory keeps getting in the way of putting the decimal where it should be. Nelson hit 20 homers in 196 AB, an impressive enough feat on its own made all the better when you realize his teammates combined for 14 total home runs in their aggregate 1630 AB. I have no idea how to project a guy like this, but I’m damn sure going to move heaven and earth to find a way to see him play in person in 2017.

10.302 – SS Samad Taylor

I had nothing on Samad Taylor before the draft, but everything I’ve heard and read since then has been fantastic. The only knock that I’ve heard was about his arm making him a more likely second baseman than a shortstop, something that played out as predicted in his debut season. Beyond that, his game is incredibly well-rounded for the mature beyond his years 17-year-old draftee with a chance for average (hit, power, arm) or better (speed, glove) tools across the board. Some might say TINSTAA2BP and maybe they are right, but, if you’re part of the 2B prospects are people too crowd (as I am), then Taylor should instantly move near the top of the list of most interesting second base prospects in the game.

11.332 – OF Andrew Calica

Andrew Calica’s .382/.474/.556 in 178 AB to start his pro career puts him on the short list of best 2016 debuts across baseball. Add in stealing 15 of 19 bags for good measure and Calica’s case as having the very best debut grows. The genius you’re reading right now didn’t rank him in the pre-draft top 500 despite going on and on and on about him back in March…

Of all the non-obvious (say, those unlikely to be first day selections) prospects in this class, Calica might be the guy closest to the Platonic ideal of what it means to be a FAVORITE on this site. Calica’s impressive hit tool, easy center field range, above-average to plus speed, and solid arm strength all give him the look of at least a potential quality backup at the pro level. I’d go a step further: Calica has consistently shown every tool save power throughout his career, and even his weakest area isn’t all that weak. He’s able to put himself into enough advantageous hitting counts to allow his sneaky pop (“burgeoning” is how it was recently described to me) to make him some degree of a threat to opposing pitchers who think they can sneak good fastballs by him. Center field tools, an advanced approach, and just enough pop all add up to a pretty intriguing talent.

I’m hopeful that not ranking Calica was an oversight — like my Dane Dunning omission that drives me nuts — but considering Calica was included on the “Draft Note Resource” pages I published meant to catch all the non-top 500 guys, I’d say it was just a major whiff. Is this an overreaction to a small (but undeniably awesome) sample to start his pro career? Maybe a little, I can admit that much. But Calica is legit. It’s a very strong backup outfielder profile with the chance for more if his recent power bump is real.

12.362 – RHP Zach Plesac

On Zach Plesac (356) back in February 2016…

Plesac has the obvious bloodlines working in his favor, but it’s his unusual athleticism and deep reservoir of offspeed pitches that make him a favorite of mine.

For whatever reason, Plesac never seemed to get the kind of credit he deserved for his outstanding junior season. He struck out more batters than ever (9.07 K/9), walked fewer guys (2.96 BB/9), and saw an uptick in stuff across the board. Assuming a return to full health after this past May’s Tommy John surgery, I think Plesac could move quickly as a potential mid-rotation starting pitcher. That’s typically what I see when I see an exceptionally athletic righthander with projection left who is already capable of throwing three pitches (86-92 FB, 94 peak; above-average low-80s CU; 75-77 CB, average upside) for strikes.

13.392 – C Gavin Collins

The vote of confidence in Gavin Collins (250) before the draft from me was predicated on the idea that his drafting team would move him back behind the plate. Here’s what I wrote about that in April 2016…

Gavin Collins has played third base the bulk of the season – very well, I should note – but still profiles best as a potential above-average defender as a professional catcher. My notes on him include one of the better lines I’ve gotten this year: “big arm, loves to show it off.” How can you not like a catcher like that?

Well, 41 of his 42 starts in the field in his debut with the Cleveland organization were at third base. I don’t know if that’s indicative of the long-term defensive plan for Collins or what, but it’s certainly a strong hint that they believe his best fit in the pros is at the hot corner. It’s also possible that he was playing third only in deference to second round pick Logan Ice, though that theory is cloudy at best when you factor in the two prospects having similar timetables going forward. I think he has the chance to be an average hit/average power type of bat (.250ish hitter with 15 homers?) with solid defense at either third or catcher. Depending on how offense continues to climb, that could be a potential regular. Falling short of that ceiling could still produce a useful bench asset. One name that comes to mind there is Adam Rosales without the middle infield versatility.

14.422 – OF Mitch Longo

The pre-season take on Mitch Longo back in February 2016…

Longo has some “scouty” questions to answer this spring, but I’m sold on the bat.

And how can you not be sold on Longo as a hitter? Seriously, all the guy does is hit. I don’t often do this, but, come on, look at the college production…

2014: .346/.416/.474 – 13 BB/13 K – 7/12 SB – 133 AB
2015: .357/.421/.498 – 22 BB/16 K – 10/13 SB – 241 AB
2016: .360/.438/.467 – 25 BB/19 K – 12/17 SB – 214 AB

That’s really good stuff right there. I got some answers on those “scouty” questions during his junior season — namely he’s a legit above-average runner who knows how to pick his spots and his arm can now be upgraded to “good enough,” which is, you know, good enough — but there were still some I talked to who think he’s a great college player who will be in over his head in pro ball. Too dependent on the admittedly solid hit tool with questionable power, speed, and defensive value, they say. Maybe, though I’d at least counter with pointing out that maybe those were fair reasons why he fell to the the fourteenth round but now that he’s actually in pro ball — and off to a fine start, I should add — anything you get from him is gravy. I don’t personally see why he can’t hit his way to the big leagues, fourteenth rounder or not.

16.482 – LHP Ben Krauth

Just about all I had on Ben Krauth heading into the draft were his numbers. That’s not entirely a bad thing for him as those numbers were really damn impressive: 10.08 K/9, 2.93 BB/9, 3.33 ERA in 92.0 IP. The notes portion for Krause was a bit less kind: “backwards pitching junk-thrower.” Pretty good debut for a backwards pitching junk-thrower, I’d say: 10.89 K/9, 1.66 BB/9, 1.66 ERA in 38.0 IP. I enjoy rooting for non-traditional players to succeed, and Krauth’s steady diet of offspeed stuff would certainly qualify him for that mantle.

17.512 – OF Trenton Brooks

On Trenton Brooks (195) from March 2016…

Trenton Brooks has gotten off to a relatively slow start at the plate so far, but I remain firmly on his bandwagon heading into June. His athleticism, defensive upside (CF range and a strong arm befitting a two-way player), and flashes of offensive promise make him a really intriguing future pro, especially if you believe (as I do) that focusing solely on one side of the ball will help take his game to the next level professionally. Between that belief and the possibility he could always be shifted back to the mound down the line if need be – two points that are almost but not quite contradictory – Brooks has a chance to be a better pro than what he’s shown at Nevada.

I’m still very much a believer in Trenton Brooks, future big league player. The ceiling may now be more fourth outfielder/spot starter than potential regular, but that’s still some serious value down in the seventeenth round. I’ll throw out a maybe irresponsible (depending on how “real” you think his rookie season was…) comparison to Tyler Naquin with a bit less power upside.

18.542 – LHP Raymond Burgos

Really nice work by Cleveland here in getting Raymond Burgos signed and on board in the eighteenth round. I write that knowing very little about Burgos as a pitcher. What I do know, I like: his pre-draft notes here had him up to 89 MPH with his fastball and in the mid-70s with his breaking stuff. He’s also listed at 6-5, 175 pounds, lefthanded, athletic, and, by all accounts, a hard worker. Toss in the fact that he’s really young for his class — he won’t turn 18 until the end of November — and all the ingredients here are for a major draft sleeper. It would be completely irresponsible (again) to compare him to a lefty version of Triston McKenzie in any way other than their relative youth and frames to dream on, so I won’t.

19.572 – RHP Dakody Clemmer

I really like this one. Dakody Clemmer is a potential surprise quick-moving reliever. Armed with a power sinker/slider mix, the strong righthander has a chance to shoot through the Cleveland system in a hurry if allowed to focus on keeping the ball down with his low-90s heat and above-average slider. The only thing that could slow him down is needing some time to find a way to more consistently harness his stuff; plus movement can be a blessing and a curse for young pitchers sometimes.

23.692 – RHP Mike Letkewicz

Mike Letkewicz had himself an interesting senior season at Augustana. His final year stats (7.76 K/9 and 3.59 BB/9) dropped his career strikeout mark to 9.46 (boo) but came with the added benefit of dropping his career walks to 4.62 (progress!). He’s a middling middle relief prospect unafraid to throw back-to-back changeups when needed. That’s all I’ve got.

24.722 – LHP Skylar Arias

Searched “Skylar Arias” on my site not expecting to find anything (name wasn’t ringing a bell and it’s the kind of name that ought to, right?), but, lo and behold, some notes on him from his HS days…

LHP Skylar Arias (Oakleaf HS, Florida): 86-88 FB; CB; CU; 6-3, 165 pounds

His year at Tallahassee CC was a successful one with the young lefty sitting down 10.82 batters per nine. There’s some funk to his delivery that is either appealing or not (I’m into it) and the projection left in his 6-3, 190 pound frame (note the positive weight gain since his time at Oakleaf) suggest even more velocity to come. The only negative on his ledger for now is the 56-game suspension handed to him after testing positive to Nandrolone in August. That’s a bummer.

25.752 – 3B Jonathan Laureano

Jonathan Laureano had about as bad a debut as you can have after putting up a -14 wRC+ in his first 86 PA. Fortunately, that small sample nightmare came on the heels of an excellent freshman season at Connors State: .347/.472/.595 with 39 BB/33 K in 218 PA. I don’t have anything on him beyond that other than to say that somebody out there has his last name wrong. He’s listed as Laureno as Baseball Reference, but Laureano at both MiLB.com and his Connors State player page. I tend to think that the latter spelling is likely correct, but admitting that means I’m saying B-R is wrong and that makes me sad. Love you, Baseball Reference.

26.782 – LHP Tanner Tully

By law, Cleveland is required to draft at least one Ohio State player every year. Ignore the fact that they haven’t drafted anybody from the Buckeyes since 2004; can’t let that get in the way of a good narrative. Tanner Tully is a solid pick on merit, Ohio State connection aside. I like Tully even though I can’t quite figure him out. His stuff is solid — 88-92 FB, 93 peak; nice low-80s SL — and both his command and control are exceptional, but he’s never been able to miss bats even as he puts up sterling run prevention numbers. He kept up his confusing ways as a pro: 5.09 K/9 and a 1.17 ERA in 46.0 IP. Years of watching the numbers have me convinced he can’t keep this up forever, but strike-throwing lefties with decent stuff and good athleticism are tough guys to figure.

28.842 – SS Jamal Rutledge

I take it back. Jonathan Laureno is off the hook. Turns out you can have an ever worse debut as Jamal Rutledge managed a -18 wRC+ in the 48 PA to begin his pro career. This came after hitting .267/.295/.336 with 5 BB/27 K in 126 PA at Contra Costa as a freshman. The small sample size pro debut isn’t that big a deal — more of a “fun fact” than anything, and one I hope becomes but a footnote in his long, successful pro career — but that junior college line has me scratching my head a bit. If Rutledge makes it, I think we could chalk this up as one of the bigger mid-round scouting over stats wins of all-time.

30.902 – RHP Ryder Ryan

As an age-eligible two-way prospect with virtually no competitive innings played the last two seasons, Ryder Ryan ranked as one of the draft’s bigger mysteries heading into June. Older scouting reports were favorable — most notably those citing a big-time arm capable of living 90-94 MPH and touching 96 — and his obvious athleticism as a legit power-hitting prospect make this a chance well worth taking by Cleveland. Ryder is as strong a candidate of any as becoming one of this year’s “where did HE come from” thirtieth round picks.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Austin Shenton (Washington), Spencer Steer (Oregon), Mike Amditis (Miami), Blake Sabol (USC), Zack Smith (Charlotte), Pedro Alfonseca (Black Hawk CC), Armani Smith (UC Santa Barbara), Dan Sinatro (Washington State), Ben Baird (Washington), Andrew Baker (Florida), Nelson Alvarez (Miami-Dade CC), Mason Studstill (Miami), Kramer Robertson (LSU), Jacob DeVries (Air Force), Chris Farish (Wake Forest), Wil Crowe (South Carolina)

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