Or, alternatively and with apologies to David Foster Wallace, my own version of A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again…
Though it put me a little bit behind schedule when it comes to 2017 MLB Draft prep (fresh content there coming soon!), finally accomplishing a goal I’ve had going all the way back to when I first started this site in 2009 (!) was well worth it. Here is the complete list of every team’s 2016 MLB Draft review. Every single player signed to a pro contract out of the 1216 young men drafted this past June is included. I don’t know exactly how many players that wound up being and Google doesn’t seem to have an easy answer, but I can say with a high degree of certainty that it sure felt like a heck of a lot. The final damage by the numbers…
That’s twice as many words as both To Kill a Mockingbird and The Hobbit. More than The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and Brave New World combined. Longer than The Corrections, Jane Eyre, and Great Expectations. Only one of the Harry Potter books (Order of the Phoenix) beats it. It’s a lot of words.
So here they are if you missed any the first time through. Now I’m off to take a nap, catch up on a few non-baseball real life obligations (if anybody has a crib recommendation, I’m all ears), and finish updating my 2017 MLB Draft database. There are only 146 days until the Twins will be making the first pick, after all…
American League East
American League Central
American League West
National League East
National League Central
National League West
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by San Diego in 2016
20 – Cal Quantrill
52 – Eric Lauer
66 – Buddy Reed
83 – Reggie Lawson
134 – Mason Thompson
202 – Lake Bachar
248 – Hudson Sanchez
262 – Tre Carter
302 – Boomer White
417 – Ethan Skender
429 – David Bednar
1.8 – RHP Cal Quantrill
One team needed to be bold and take the chance on Cal Quantrill’s (20) surgically repaired right elbow in the first round. Good for San Diego for being that team. Getting a guy who would have been squarely in the 1-1 mix if healthy with the eighth overall pick is exactly the kind of draft day gamble a team like the Padres ought to be taking. There were safer players to be had when their spot in the first round came up, but they went big. I respect that. On Quantrill from April 2016…
On talent alone, Cal Quantrill deserves to be right there with Jefferies as a potential top ten overall pick contender. Last year’s Tommy John surgery and the subsequent lost time in 2016, however, complicate the matter, though it’s hard to say how much. Quantrill’s 77-81 MPH change-up is one of my favorite pitches in this entire class. Easy velocity (89-95, 96 peak), a pair of interesting breaking balls, all kinds of pitchability, and that change-up…what more could you want? Good health, I suppose. A few late season starts would go a very long way in easing the minds of big league scouting directors charged with making the decision whether or not to cut a multi-million dollar check (or cheque in the case of the Canadian born Quantrill) to the Stanford righthander. I recently wondered aloud about how teams will perceive Quantrill in this his draft year…
The attrition at the top of the college pitching pile has left Cal Quantrill, yet to pitch in 2016 as he recovers from last year’s Tommy John surgery, one of the college game’s most intriguing mound prospects. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? I wonder if the star student out of Stanford knew this and staged the whole elbow injury to allow time for his competition to implode all over the place. That’s a joke. Not a good one, but a joke all the same.
I also have said on the record that I’d consider taking him sight unseen (in 2016) with a pick just outside the draft’s top ten. You might say I’m bullish on Quantrill’s pro prospects.
The Padres went with Quantrill with a pick just inside the draft’s top ten, but otherwise we were on the same page here. Two small things from my pre-draft notes on Quantrill that I think are worth pulling out…
injury and a year’s lost development are factors to consider, but hardly deal-breakers;
This bears repeating as often as tolerated. Quantrill missed a whole damn season and still went eighth overall in the draft. Crazier yet, nobody around the game really batted an eye. I realize part of that was the relative weakness at the top of this year’s draft class pushing anybody who has ever showed any semblance of impact upside up the board, but still. A major injury and a critical year of development lost didn’t slow down the Quantrill hype train one iota. That has to mean something, right? Then there was this…
as much as I love him (easily the top arm in the college class if healthy), many focus on the injury red flag and gloss over his still underseasoned breaking ball
There’s my actual concern with Quantrill and the primary reason I dropped him a little bit lower on my board than I had originally anticipated I might. Quantrill’s fastball is legit: 90-96 MPH, mature command, serious movement. His changeup is, as I said in April, one of my favorite pitches in the entire class. At 77-81 MPH, it has tons of separation from his heater and comes out of his hand in much the same fashion. It’s also a bit of a diver, making it a really difficult pitch to square up if you’re willing and able to pull the trigger on it in the first place. Those two pitches give Quantrill a really high floor from the jump; it’s a tired comp that I use on all plus fastball/changeup righthanders with projection, but a successful career in relief a la Ryan Madson (sub in Joaquin Benoit, Tyler Clippard, or your favorite CU-heavy RP if you’re sick of me using Madson) seems like a more than respectable low-end outcome.
To achieve something more, however, Quantrill will have to do what Madson and so many others like him have failed to accomplish. Quantrill will have to master his breaking ball. For now, it’s a mid-70s curve that has slowly morphed into a harder 80-84 MPH slider. Whatever version you prefer, it’s really no more than an average at best pitch as of now. In Quantrill’s favor is time (especially when factoring in innings lost due to injury and the increased ease of throwing quality breaking balls the more distance is put between the present and a past elbow surgery), athleticism (it’s not an exact science, but better athlete = better delivery = more consistency = more frequent quality opportunities to work in breaking ball = better breaking ball), and makeup (bloodlines, work ethic, smarts, etc.). I’m willing to bet his slider becomes at least an average pitch for him, if not better. With his existing plus fastball/changeup combo, that would make him a potential game one playoff starting caliber pitcher. It’s not a perfect comp for a variety of reasons, but Quantrill’s upside could be just about a half-step down from what Zack Greinke has done in the big leagues so far.
1.24 – SS Hudson Potts
Fairly loud rumors of a pre-draft deal led Hudson Potts (née Sanchez) to going off the board to San Diego in the first round. Money saved with his selection was meant to go to Jay Groome earlier in the round, but Boston foiled those plans by taking the big prep lefty from Jersey with the twelfth overall pick. The Padres pressed on with their guy anyway and could be rewarded for their faith with a really solid all-around ballplayer. “Does so many things well” was the simple yet true line from Hudson Potts’s (248) pre-draft notes on the site. Chance for average hit, average to above-average power, average speed, average arm, well above-average (plus upside) defense at the hot corner…that’s pretty much the definition of a well-rounded prospect. His long-term defensive home will be something to monitor going forward — most thought third base (61.0 innings played there in his debut) for sure, but I know there are some who saw him this summer who think that short (210.2 IP) could work, not to mention a vocal minority who think his arm plays best at second (54.0 IP) — and his offensive game should take some time to mature (having played his entire first pro season at 17, Potts is one of the youngest prospects in this class), but a consistent above-average regular is an upside worth “overdrafting” in the first round.
1.25 – LHP Eric Lauer
On Eric Lauer (52) from February 2016…
As much as I like all three of those pitchers, there’s still a decent-sized gap between Eric Lauer and the field. Lauer, the third lefthander in my MAC top four, combines the best of all of the prospects below him on the rankings. There isn’t a box that he doesn’t check when looking for a potentially quick-moving above-average mid-rotation big league starting pitcher. He’s an athletic (like Plesac) lefthander (like Deeg/Akin), with good size (like Deeg/Plesac), very strong performance indicators (10.78 K/9 and 2.72 BB/9), above-average heat (88-94) that he commands like a pro, and a complete assortment of offspeed pitches (74-77 CB, 78-82 SL, emerging CU) he can throw in any count. One could quibble by noting there’s no singular knockout pitch here – maybe with continued work one of his secondaries can become a consistent plus pitch, but certainly not presently – so maybe Lauer’s best case scenario outcome isn’t quite that of some of his peers across the country, but that’s a nitpick for a still impressive ceiling/high floor starting arm. Maybe you don’t love him – I kind of do, clearly…but maybe you don’t – but he’s still a prospect that’s hard not to at least like.
Very little to quibble with when it comes to Eric Lauer. I guess you could make a strained comparison between Lauer’s lack of a sure strikeout pitch and Hudson Potts’s lack of a clear carrying tool, but the former has two truly outstanding years at Kent State (and one merely very good one) under his belt to help assuage that concern. If a guy doesn’t have that one go-to pitch to sit opposing batters down, then how exactly do you explain 2015 (10.78 K/9, 1.99 ERA), 2016 (10.82 K/9, 0.69 ERA), and his pro debut (10.74 K/9, 2.03 ERA)? Even without premium velocity (88-92, 94 peak), Lauer misses bushels of bats with a full collection of offspeed offerings. His 72-78 curve is at least an average pitch, his 80-86 cut-slider is consistently above-average, and his 83-85 changeup should be at least an average pitch with continued work. That kind of diversity on top of pinpoint fastball command (easy above-average to plus) makes Lauer a damn near ideal candidate for a very long successful career as a mid-rotation starting pitcher. I’d put his ceiling at even higher than that: mid-rotation starting pitcher with flashes of greatness possible in any given season. Part of this enthusiasm stems from the perspective gained from being away from the pre-draft bubble — I can’t prove it, but stands to reason that prospects with flashier skill sets gain the edge on steadier performers in the immediate days before the draft; it’s as true in other sports as it is in baseball, there’s no shame in trying to hit a solid single rather than always swinging from the heels — and part of it comes from the steady stream of positive comments I’ve gotten on Lauer since turning pro. There’s something about Lauer that makes smarter baseball men and women than myself want to compare him to some really excellent big league pitchers. I’ve heard “bigger, badder Wei-Yin Chen,” “better conditioned Hyun-Jin Ryu,” and Jose Quintana (intrigued by this, though Quintana has all but ditched his slider/cutter now). I’ll throw out my own JA Happ comp. I’ll also throw out an almost certainly irresponsible comparison that even the person making didn’t want to tell me at first: Cliff Lee. A ceiling like any of those guys and a reasonable fifth starter/swingman floor (if healthy) make Lauer one of the draft’s most appealing low-risk/high-reward prospects. San Diego got him with a pick far more in line with his talent than my pre-draft ranking suggested.
2.48 – OF Buddy Reed
The evaluation on (66) Buddy Reed is refreshingly straight forward: plus to plus-plus speed, above-average to plus arm, easy plus center field range, and no idea whether or not he’ll hit enough to ever be more than a speed/defense fifth outfielder. I think his non-offensive skills are so impressive that he’ll be a big league player at some point regardless of what he does or doesn’t do at the plate. When you see guys like Tony Gwynn Jr., Sam Fuld, Leonys Martin, Juan Lagares, Kevin Pillar, Jarrod Dyson, Craig Gentry, Nyjer Morgan, and Peter Bourjos all compile over 1,000 plate appearances this decade without a single one of them putting up a wRC+ of 90 in that time span, it becomes pretty clear that center field defense and speed will always be a priority for some teams at the highest level. One contact put his floor as Justin Maxwell: good defender and useful in a platoon and off the bench against LHP (Reed is a switch-hitter). I can dig it.
If, however, Reed figures things out as a hitter, then watch out. An athlete like this with something going for him at the plate could be a potential superstar. Of course, there’s very little evidence in Reed’s scouting background and performance on the field that suggest a breakout is coming. This is where I respectfully bow out of the deep scouting conversation and leave it to those who want to break down his swing plane and pitch recognition and bat speed and bat control and whatever else they claim either held him back when he doesn’t make it or changed drastically if he does. Tossing around nebulous scouting terms is a fantastic way to cover yourself in whatever direction a player’s career takes him. “It wasn’t my evaluation that was wrong, it’s just that the player developed unexpectedly by changing his approach/swing/mechanics/whatever in the pros.” Pretty brilliant way to keep things as “inside baseball” as possible while propping yourself up as one of the few blessed souls capable of watching grown men play a sport with a critical eye. It’s all junk science and anybody who tells you differently is just fighting to protect their own self-interests. It’s the way the world works. You have to sound authoritative enough to keep an audience while being sure to speak the right insider language to keep all the dummies not smart enough to crack the inner-circle at bay. The most infuriating thing of all about this is how quickly an outsider assimilates to the inside. The example would be an internet nobody like me getting hired by a team and suddenly completing changing his position on how much smarter those IN THE INDUSTRY are about the game. Happens all the time. People go from being curious and asking questions and having fun on the internet to super serious bullies who mock those who show the same curiosity and joy for the game they once exhibited. Everybody wants to belong to something bigger, I guess. If that means turning their back on their actual beliefs to parrot the self-preserving company line, then so be it.
Anyway, I’ve used the shrugging emoticon ( ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) one time too many during these draft reviews, so I’ll stay away from it here. But if you asked me whether or not Reed would hit enough to be an above-average all-around contributor in the big leagues, that would be my honest answer. My instincts say probably not — despite some of the snark in the paragraph above the scouting buzz is not meaningless, plus the historical track record of college hitters with career .275/.353/.384 lines (84 BB/156 K) isn’t great — but spending a second round pick to find out feels well worth it, especially if your own scouts have seen something in Reed that others have not. He’s a big league player for me whether he hits or not; now we wait and see what kind of hitter he’ll turn out to be.
2.71 – RHP Reggie Lawson
This is a really cool draft by San Diego. They keep drafting players I like that I didn’t even know I liked as much as I do until thinking about them some more. I like players like that. Players like that tend to be players I’m particularly intrigued in, but would be too chicken to draft as high as necessary to actually land them. Reggie Lawson (83) is exactly like that. Crazy athletic, tremendous fastball movement, burgeoning power breaking ball, and inconsistent yet improved command. That’s a fun prospect.
A really off-the-wall comparison for Lawson that I think works: Tommy Greene. That may not be the most flattering of comps at first glance — on one hand, sure you’d take a guy good enough to start 97 games in the big leagues; on the other, only 97 games and a 93 ERA+ isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire — but peak healthy Tommy Greene was really good. In fact, I’d argue that Greene was legitimately great in 1993 — an admittedly magical year for a 7-year-old fan that has no doubt warped my own baseball worldview including defending Greene against all comers — and could have been on the verge of a major breakout (he was only 26 in 1993) if not for a string of unfortunate arm injuries that wound up ending his career in the big leagues shortly after his 30th birthday. You don’t have to take my word for it, though: “He could have been a great pitcher,’’ former major league advance scout Eddie Lyons told staff writer Chuck Carree. “He could have been another Catfish Hunter.’’ Or this…
“Believe me, it is easy to catch guys like this,” said cather Darren Daulton, who has seen Greene complete his last five games. “He reminds me of Doc Gooden. A power pitcher who’s developed breaking pitches and has command of them. Guys with stuff like that, they’re illegal in seven states.”
A healthy Greene shares that big fastball/power breaking ball starting point with Lawson — 88-94 and up to 96 with his heat; above-average mid-70s breaking ball that flashes plus when thrown with a little extra behind it — not to mention exceptional athleticism and a chance to be a non-zero at the plate. Toss in a usable change with a chance to be average in time and Lawson has the kind of upside that could give him a few seasons that resemble 1993 Tommy Greene.
3.85 – RHP Mason Thompson
From my notes on Mason Thompson (134): “if healthy, look out.” The third round feels like an opportune time for San Diego to bet on the return to full health of Thompson’s right arm. At his best (and healthiest), Thompson sits 88-92 (94 peak) with a quality mid-70s curve and a standout low-80s changeup that flashes plus. Thompson’s upside is high enough that he’s on the short list of players I’m most excited to see for myself in 2017. Between this pick, Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Reggie Lawson, and Lake Bachar, San Diego low-key replenished their starting pitching depth before round five had the chance to wrap up. When you add in potential relief arms like Lucchesi, Stillman, Dallas, Sheckler, Scholtens, Galindo, Zimmerman, and Bednar, you can begin to see an argument for the Padres having one of if not the best pitching drafts in 2016.
4.144 – RHP Joey Lucchesi
Joey Lucchesi likes to throw fastballs. Joey Lucchesi has a really good fastball. Joey Lucchesi is really good at baseball…
12.08 K/9 – 3.00 BB/9 – 2.19 ERA – 111.0 IP
12.00 K/9 – 0.64 BB/9 – 1.29 ERA – 42.0 IP
Top is what he did at Southeast Missouri State as a senior and bottom is what he did in the pros after signing. The man can flat miss bats. Equipped with a quality heater (90-94) and decent curve coming out of a funky delivery, Lucchesi has a long career of big league relief work written all over him.
5.144 – RHP Lake Bachar
ABA: Always Bet on Athleticism. If you follow that rule during the MLB Draft, you’re more than likely to come out ahead, especially as it pertains to pitchers. Lake Bachar (202) is an athlete. He also throws a fastball that can get up to 95 (90-94 typically), a pair of average breaking balls (83-85 slider, mid-70s curve) with more upside than that, and a usable but raw low-80s change. I like this one a lot.
6.174 – RHP Will Stillman
This is not one of my better takes because the two have less in common the more you think about it, but here goes: Will Stillman is like the Eric Lauer of relievers. Ignoring all the obvious differences leaves us with two college pitchers who consistently produced with well-rounded arsenals but still have plenty of doubters in certain circles who think of them as “stat” picks and not “scout” picks. Stillman has long had a good fastball (88-92, 94 peak), but took it up a notch in the pros (more 92-96 than not). He leans on the heat, but can also throw a pair of quality offspeed pitches (curve, change). The 6-4, 180 pound righthander could still have a little more in the tank as he continues to fill out. Even slight improvements in control — Stillman walked 4.99 batters per nine in his senior season at Wofford (his best full season mark) and 4.89 batters per nine in his pro debut — would make him a potential late-inning option for San Diego down the line. I get that I’m repeating myself too often, but, man, I like this pick, too. The Padres big league pitching staff in 2017 might be one of the worst we’ve seen in some time, but the pitching depth they are accumulating in the minors could change that in a hurry.
7.204 – LHP Dan Dallas
Any lefthanded teenager capable of living in the low-90s (87-92, specifically) with his fastball who can also throw a decent low-70s curve is all right in my book. That’s Dan Dallas. There may not be a ton of projection left in his game, but his present stuff is solid enough to justify a seventh round shot.
8.234 – LHP Ben Sheckler
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Cornerstone University’s first ever MLB draft pick, but everything I’ve come to learn about Ben Sheckler since draft day sounds pretty good. The 6-8, 240 pound lefthander couldn’t be built much more differently than the pitching prospect taken just one round earlier (Dan Dallas), but similar relief upside with an outside shot to keep starting seems like a fair forecast for the pair. Sheckler is an ascending talent who gets major sink on a low-90s fastball (90-94), a pitch he used in tandem with an emerging slider to get ground balls on a whopping 71.15% of all batted balls against him in his debut.
Since I knew nothing of Sheckler as of a few weeks ago when I began writing this thing up, I asked around if there were any decent comps for him. I got three fun ones, but all came with qualifiers. Ben Sheckler reminded people of Brett Anderson (“but not quite that good”), Chad Qualls (“but lefthanded”), and Marc Rzepczynski (“but much bigger”). The Anderson career path seems only obtainable if Sheckler can improve either his curve or circle-change enough to give hitters something slower to think about. Landing on a career like Qualls’s or Rzepczynski’s wouldn’t be a bad outcome at all for an eighth round pick.
9.264 – RHP Jesse Scholtens
On Jesse Scholtens from March 2016…
Jesse Scholtens, a transfer from Arizona, can crank it up to the low-90s with his fastball, a pitch complemented nicely with an average or better breaking ball. There’s clear senior-sign reliever potential with him and perhaps a little bit more if his changeup continues to develop.
Sounds about right for Scholtens, a quality senior-sign that has enough stuff (sinking 88-94 FB, average to above-average cut-slider, usable changeup) to potentially remain in the rotation in pro ball. That puts his ceiling somewhere between future fifth starter and quality middle reliever. Could definitely see the whole relief thing working out for him in the long run. Another nice pitching addition here.
10.294 – 2B Boomer White
Boomer White (302) has been one of the tougher evaluations in this draft class for me going back quite some time. The handful of firsthand reports I’ve gotten on him over the years have been uniformly positive. From raves about his hit tool (plus for some!), above-average raw power, and defense at the hot corner, you would think that White would be an easy player to project as a future above-average regular. Add on a really strong track record of hitting with a dominant senior season (.398/.476/.533 with 33 BB/14 K and 10/14 SB) as the cherry on top, and there really shouldn’t have been anything all that tricky about any of this. Boomer White: future regular. Easy, right?
In the high-stakes world of internet draft guessing, nothing’s easy. I’m not a scout, but my own looks at White in 2016 were not quite what I was hoping to see. I think White will hit, so that’s good. Beyond that, I never saw the kind of power projection that I’d feel comfortable getting up to average at his peak and defense at third that bordered on unplayable in the pros. Again, I’m not a scout but seeing these things up close was discouraging enough I had a hard time forgetting them when it came time to finalize a ranking.
Two comps for White that come to mind that may have some utility for you: Hernan Perez (if you believe he can play a few non-OF spots effectively) and Robbie Grossman (without the switch-hitting). I’m partial to the Grossman comp; I could see White grinding for years in the minors like Grossman before finally getting a shot to play in his late-20s on a bad team willing to give him a shot. No telling if he’ll take the opportunity and run with it like Grossman has so far.
11.324 – OF Tre Carter
I’ve called a lot of eleventh round picks perfect fits for the eleventh round, but Trevyne Carter (262) might really be the one true perfect fit. The eleventh round is when you should be rolling the dice on the boom/bust prospect that may have priced himself out of a single-digit round. That may not exactly be what happened to Carter — his $100,000 bonus technically doesn’t make him an overslot signing — but the same logic applies to him as a boom/bust prospect with some of the most impressive athletic bona fides in this class and all kinds of speed on the bases and in center. Carter’s athletic profile and physical projection make him one of the draft’s most intriguing and overlooked outfield prospects. His pro debut — .298/.411/.383 with 9 BB/10 K in 56 PA — came in a small sample, but was chock full of encouraging signs. The intersection of Carter’s physical gifts and small sample on-field polish suddenly makes him one of the most interesting round eleven prospects to follow.
13.384 – RHP Joe Galindo
With a big fastball up to 98 MPH, above-average slider, and a 6-4, 225 pound frame, Joe Galindo is a college relief prospect straight out of central casting. Toss in stellar strikeout numbers (14.59 K/9) and a boatload of walks (7.45 BB/9) that led to the definition of effectively wild (2.48 ERA) in his junior season. A late-season broken hand at New Mexico State will keep him from debuting in the pros until 2017, but his ready-made late-inning stuff should make him a quick riser through the system if he can curb some of his wild ways.
15.444 – OF Jack Suwinski
Jack Suwinski, like Tre Carter another high school outfielder who got a six-figure signing bonus, can hit. That’s about all I’ve got on him, but it’s enough. Suwinski can hit (and throw and defend enough for a corner). He reminds me a little bit of Josh Stephen, eleventh round pick of the Phillies. The comp works both on the field (both are generally unheralded bat first prep outfield prospects) and with the checkbook (Stephen got $600,000 to sign while Suwinski got $550,000).
16.474 – C Chris Mattison
Chris Mattison hit .384/.447/.708 with 18 BB/39 K and 9/12 SB in his draft year at Southeastern. If he can keep catching in the pros — and the Padres internally believe he can — then he’s a reasonably interesting mid-round follow based on his position and power. I’m a bit scared off by his plate discipline, but it’s the sixteenth round so you can’t have it all.
17.504 – SS Chris Baker
The Padres deserve a ton of credit for their pre-draft evaluation on Chris Baker. They saw a sure-handed shortstop with solid pop and an improving approach at the plate that many others didn’t see. This cool article breaks it down…
“Our scouts had seen him play there plenty of times,” said Conner. “We had seen him in high school and some with the Huskies. That is a big thing in our organization, to have multiple looks at guys so we can see their progression or regression and have a more informed idea of the player.”
The whole article is worth a read, but this part also stood out to me as being particularly important…
“For me, I had one at-bat against UCLA when the pitcher threw me a fastball away, and even though I was thinking away, I still fouled it off,” he said on the moment when things began to turn around for him. “And I thought then that if I had so much time that I didn’t need to rush it. It’s strange, but certain things can just click for you.
Pretty neat that one foul ball can be the start of something much bigger. I’ve heard many similar stories like that — one that comes to mind is about a guy who took a close pitch (a strike, as it turned out) he’d normally have swung at and that became his moment of “Hey, I can do this” — and they never cease to bring me joy. My “nine to five” job allows me to be on the front lines of moments like that everyday, so getting to read about them in the sport I love is a pretty nice way to bridge the gap between my “real life” and whatever this site attempts to do.
Anyway, Chris Baker is a really good get this late in the draft. Any time you can nab a legitimate shortstop capable of hitting .299/.384/.432 with 14/18 SB in 264 AB in his pro debut — better marks across the board save a couple points of batting average than what he did as a junior at Washington — then that’s a win. I commend San Diego for sticking with Baker over the years and think they’ll be paid back with a high-level utility player who has a chance for more if his defense keeps progressing at short.
18.534 – 1B Jaquez Williams
There’s no such thing as a bad signed high school draft pick past round ten. Even when that signed high school draft pick strikes out in 40.8% of his first 98 professional turns at the plate. Jaquez Williams is a big lefthanded power bat with a strong track record catching up to velocity. It’s not the prospect archetype one might typically associate with a $100,000 post-tenth round bonus (i.e., I wouldn’t have targeted him specifically), but, hey, it’s only money, right? And, lest we’ve forgotten already, there’s no such thing as a bad signed high school draft pick past round ten.
19.564 – OF AJ Brown
I know nothing about AJ Brown, star two-sport athlete who will continue to do the two sport thing by playing both baseball with the Padres in the summer and football with Ole Miss in the fall. No word at this time on what job will pay better.
20.594 – RHP Dom DiSabatino
I saw Dominic DiSabatino twice in high school, once in a workout setting and again during game action in Delaware. He was a big human with a monster arm and not a ton of foot speed, so my brain automatically tied him to another oversized prep shortstop I once saw a lot of at Bishop Eustace HS in New Jersey. That would be one Billy Rowell, first round pick and pro flop with Baltimore. Rowell’s struggles don’t have anything to do with DiSabatino, not only because one man’s issues have no place handicapping another’s future but also because DiSabatino will start his pro career not at shortstop but on the mound. Fair enough, though DiSabatino’s sophomore season at Harford was a good deal more impressive with the bat (.411/.519/.738 with 48 BB/36 K and 13/19 SB) than as a pitcher (4.2 IP). I still like what the Padres are doing giving DiSabatino a shot pitching
21.624 – OF Taylor Kohlwey
There was lots of positive buzz on Taylor Kohlwey sent this way throughout the spring. He’s got size (6-3, 200), speed (plus), and, most compelling of all, a legit above-average hit tool. That’s not the type of overall tools package you typically see fall to the twenty-first round. There’s definite fourth outfielder upside with Kohlwey. One contact said that he thought Kohlwey could wind up as a similar player to current Padres center fielder Travis Jankowski. That would be a great potential outcome in the twenty-first round.
22.654 – RHP Evan Miller
Nice work by San Diego realizing that Evan Miller was draft-eligible as a sophomore after his second year at Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne. Miller’s two years as a Mastodon generated some fascinating numbers: 9.75 K/9, 6.09 BB/9, and 5.38 ERA in 152.1 IP. Miller also hit 19 batters and threw 37 wild pitches in those 31 career games (29 starts). If you know what to make of him going solely off those numbers, then you are far more attuned to the draft process than I am. Thankfully, we have a bit more than just the numbers to work with. We also know Miller throws hard (up to the mid-90s) with a nasty breaking ball that morphs between a truer hard slider and a variation on the traditional cut-fastball. He’s also been known to drop in a very occasional changeup. Getting locked in to just one key offspeed pitch — maybe the slider, maybe the cutter, maybe a cut-slider hybrid — should help him across the board (command, control, actual quality of stuff, etc.) in pro ball. I’m bullish on getting a pitcher with Miller’s arm talent this late.
23.684 – 2B Nate Easley
Nate Easley hit .403/.485/.655 with 36 BB/37 K and 29/36 SB in his draft year at junior college power and 2016 NJCAA Champion Yavapai College. He followed that up with a strong showing (.261/.385/.340 with 46 BB/59 K and 13/17 SB) in pro ball. Early returns on his conversion from center field to his father’s old position (second base) have been very encouraging. A patient approach, plus speed, and good defense up the middle could take him pretty far.
His dad made over $25 million in the big leagues and he started as a thirtieth round pick. The twenty-third round pick has a nice head start on his old man. My completely made up numbers — 25 million divided by 30 rounds times the difference of 7 rounds — means that Nate will finish his career with just under $31 million in the bank. Don’t argue with me, it’s math.
25.744 – C Luis Anguizola
Wisconsin-Whitewater, Cornerstone, Southeastern, Wisconsin-La Crosse, Chico State, and Baldwin-Wallace are just some of the universities that San Diego found prospects to their liking in the 2016 MLB Draft. That’s pretty badass. They dug particularly deep in finding Luis Anguizola out of Loyola University in New Orleans. Anguizola put up monster numbers (.428/.491/.738 with 26 BB/29 K) on a 22-33 NAIA squad. Context on those numbers matter. Anguizola’s BA was almost 200 points ahead of any other qualifier on the team. No other batter with more than eight at bats hit over .300. His OBP was 100 points better than anybody else. His SLG was almost 300 (!) points better than anybody else. Anguizola had a ridiculous offensive year any way you look at it. Good news about his pro debut: .279/.389/.356 with 17 BB/24 K and a 121 wRC+ may not be .428/.491/.738, but it’s not nothing. The less good news: Anguizola will be 23-years-old entering his first full pro season. That’s not a killer, but it does mean he has to get his rear in gear if he wants to establish himself as a debonair prospect. What’s a debonair prospect, you may be wondering. Well, Google didn’t recognize my original word choice of bonafide (written improperly as one word when it’s really two, so, hey, I’ve learned something new today), and for some reason wants to correct it to debonair. Debonair prospect should be a thing. Anyway, the even less good news: 23 of Anguizola’s 25 pro starts came at first base. He was announced as a catcher on draft day, but that dream seems less likely by the day. As a catcher, Anguizola would be a really REALLY interesting prospect. As a first baseman, he’s merely interesting. Still take that in a twenty-fifth round pick, of course.
27.804 – RHP Chasen Ford
I’ve seen Chasen Ford pitch at Yale. He’s looked good. Fastball ranging from 87 to 92 MPH, quality if still inconsistent breaking ball, good tempo on the mound, reasonably athletic, repeatable mechanics…all positive things. His results in the Ivy League, however…not so positive. Nobody really cares about twenty-seventh round picks as much as I do (or we do, assuming you’re reading this on your own volition), so this isn’t really true…but don’t late-round picks like Ford feel like mini-referendums on the age old scouts vs stats debate. If you only knew about Ford’s scouting report, you’d be on board. Bonus points for making the transition from standout California high schooler to star student-athlete at Yale, too. If you only knew the results of Ford’s time on the mound at Yale (4.65 K/9 and 3.05 BB/9 as a junior), then he’d be squarely in the middle of the UDFA pile. Since the debate isn’t really a debate at all — we all know this, but I’ll say it anyway: it’s not scouts vs stats, but rather scouts AND scouts working in harmony that make a front office tick — I’ll stay on the sidelines by coming down smack dab in the center. Ford’s scouting reports (including what I’ve personally seen) would have been enough for me to put him on my 40-round draft board at first, but his significantly below-average peripherals over the years would have bumped him off by the time I was ready to finalize the preference list. So I get why the Padres took him even if I wouldn’t have done so myself.
28.834 – SS Ethan Skender
I love this pick. Ethan Skender (417) won’t necessarily knock you over with loud tools, but the hoary cliché that I avoid on 99% of these pick reviews — “he’s a ballplayer” — rings true here. Skender can flat hit. That alone should make him interesting. Combine it with sneaky pop for a guy with his build and enough athleticism to stick up the middle (short for now, maybe second in the long run due to an average arm), and you’ve got yourself a keeper. I’m not quite ready to call a twenty-eighth round pick a future regular in the big leagues, but…fine, I’ll call it now. Skender is really good. Starter upside at second with a damn good shot to have a long, fruitful career in a utility role as a fallback.
30.894 – RHP Dalton Erb
Dalton Erb is a big guy (6-8, 250) with underwhelming velocity (but quality fastball movement) who pitched just all right at Chico State (7.68 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) as a junior. He’s also “allergic to bees though his dad is a beekeeper.” Like rain on your wedding day, I guess.
31.924 – 1B GK Young
18 BB/38 K, 19 BB/50 K, and 23 BB/63 K. Those were GK Young’s K/BB ratios in his three years at Coastal Carolina. Not great. He’s got impressive present power and a strong arm, but the days of hoping he’d return to his catching roots have long since passed. That leaves us with an all-or-nothing first base prospect. Interestingly enough, Young’s junior year BB/K ratio (23/63) was almost identical to his professional debut BB/K ratio (23/63). A Chanticleer can’t change his spots.
33.984 – RHP Mark Zimmerman
Very cool pick here. Mark Zimmerman should be on any short list of most accomplished 2016 amateur baseball players. The two-way star at Baldwin-Wallace was second in the team in at bats and first in innings pitched. He made the most of both his time in the batter’s box (.368/.472/.540 with 30 BB/17 K and 17/17 SB) and on the mound (10.83 K/9 and 1.79 BB/9). Two draft rules I’ll always follow: bet big on athletes and, all else being equal, let the two-way guy pitch. Zimmerman’s athleticism is obvious to all who have seen him play up close — admittedly a very small number of people — so allowing him to concentrate full time on the mound could reap serious rewards. He’s already got a low-90s heater and quality slider, so a career in middle relief feels well within reach. Thirty-third round pick or not, I’m buying.
34.1014 – 3B Denzell Gowdy
I’m not an expert on Denzell Gowdy, but universal praise of his athleticism and work ethic make him a pretty interesting thirty-fourth round pick to track. His stellar draft season at Darton JC (.356/.473/.620 with 35 BB/37 K) certainly doesn’t hurt, either. Gowdy’s defensive versatility — he played second, third, and in the outfield in his debut — make him a worthwhile sleeper utility name to know.
35.1044 – RHP David Bednar
David Bednar is a really good looking arm that has the stuff to keep starting in pro ball. Not every team may be sold on his size or delivery as a starter, but he’s got the arm speed, depth of arsenal, and demeanor to stay in the rotation. I saw him throw at Penn and came away particularly impressed with his fastball (88-94, 96peak) and slider (above-average, flashed plus) combination. I’d love to see what kind of damage focusing in on those two pitches could produce coming in short bursts out of the bullpen. It’s silly to project any thirty-fifth round pick as a future big league player — the odds are decidedly stacked against such a prediction — but, in honor of my favorite stand-up comic, let’s get silly. David Bednar: future big league reliever.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jamie Sara (William & Mary), Jared Poche’ (LSU), Hunter Bishop (Arizona State), Grae Kessinger (Mississippi), Collin Sullivan (South Florida), Ariel Burgos Garcia (Keiser), Quinn Hoffman (Harvard), Ryan Rolison (Mississippi), Will Solomon (?), JJ Bleday (Vanderbilt), Chris Burica (Creighton)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Cincinnati in 2016
7 – Nick Senzel
55 – Chris Okey
61 – Taylor Trammel
*115 – TJ Friedl
171 – Nick Hanson
212 – Tyler Mondile
285 – Scott Moss
312 – Ryan Hendrix
1.2 – 3B Nick Senzel
Combing my notes on Nick Senzel (7) reveals one glaring negative about his game. Ready for it? “Little worried about his arm.” Even with that gigantic red flag, Cincinnati took Senzel with the second overall pick. What in the world were they thinking? On Senzel (with updated stats) from April 2016…
Nick Senzel is really good. I’ve compared him to Anthony Rendon in the past – the exact phrasing from my notes is “Rendon lite?” – and I think he’ll have a good long career as an above-average big league player. He also reminds me a little bit of this guy…
.352/.456/.595 – 40 BB/21 K – 25/29 SB – 210 AB
.393/.487/.592 – 45 BB/38 K – 13/14 SB – 262 AB
Top is Senzel, bottom is Kyle Seager. I’ve used the Seager comp a few (too many) times over the years, most recently on Max Schrock last season. Speaking of Schrock, how did he fall as far as he did last year? That one still blows my mind. Anyway, in an attempt to move away from the tired Seager comp, another name popped up…
.352/.456/.595 – 40 BB/21 K – 25/29 SB – 210 AB
.351/.479/.530 – 46 BB/26 K – 11/14 SB – 185 AB
Top is still Senzel. Mystery bottom guy was written up like so by Baseball America after his pro debut…
“He has a short, compact swing and hits the ball to all fields, and he handles breaking pitches well because of strong balance. Though he’s a physical 6-foot-1 and has good strength, [REDACTED] has a line-drive swing that doesn’t produce natural loft, leading some to project him to have below-average power. He earns high marks for his defense, with good feet and hands to go with an above-average arm at third base. He’s also versatile enough to have played second base, shortstop and left field for Team USA. He’s a good athlete and a solid-average runner.”
I would have linked his pre-draft report from BA, but they have the absolute worst log-in page on the entire internet. Anyway, the passage above was typed up from the 2009 Prospect Handbook. We’re talking about a guy who once played infield in the SEC. He had a similar draft year statistically. And he’s really broken out in his late-20s. Any guesses? When I’ve done mystery comps like this in the past I wouldn’t reveal the player. Then I’d search my site about a different player years later, come across the mystery comp post, and have no idea myself who I was talking about. So, yeah, it’s Logan Forsythe. My future self thanks my present self. I like Senzel to hit the big leagues running a bit more easily than Forsythe (i.e., I don’t think Senzel will enter his age-28 season with an OPS+ of 85), so maybe that would bump Senzel up over Forsythe as a guy with a higher floor. A couple of peak years like Forsythe’s seems like a reasonable ceiling projection. That’s a damn fine player. Supports the original claim: Nick Senzel is really good.
In addition to the Rendon, Seager, and Forsythe comparisons, I’ve also likened Senzel to a young Michael Cuddyer. Of all the comps I’ve thrown out this past draft season, Senzel to Cuddyer generated the most feedback from those in the know, especially as the summer pro season dragged on. Here’s part of Baseball America’s scouting report on Cuddyer after his first full pro season…
Strengths: Cuddyer had few problems at the plate in his pro debut, leading Fort Wayne in home runs, RBIs, doubles, triples, runs and walks. He showed excellent power potential and should dramatically increase his home run total as he grows into his 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame. Twins officials save their highest praise for Cuddyer’s approach to the game. He did not let his defensive struggles affect his offense or his leadership role, even early in the season. Where the pressures of pro ball sometimes eat up young prospects, the Twins feel that Cuddyer will thrive on them. Weaknesses: Cuddyer’s defensive struggles at shortstop resulted in 61 errors. The errors weren’t primarily in one area where a correction or extended repetitions could address the problem. The Twins felt that Cuddyer’s above-average arm strength and hands were fine and that his limited range was forcing him to try to make plays he couldn’t. The Twins also realized that they had two premium shortstop prospects in Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman. Cuddyer was switched to third base during instructional league and made an “instantaneous” conversion to the corner.
Talk in pro scouting circles about Senzel potentially putting on more good muscle and bulking up to become an occasional third baseman, corner outfielder, and first baseman at maturation (mid- to late-20s) makes the Cuddyer comparison feel a little more apt than before. Whether that actually happens or not, it doesn’t change the fact that just about everybody agrees that Senzel will hit on a similar level to all those guys he’s been compared to. I’d also add Matt Carpenter’s name in the mix; he was a name that came up with Lucas Erceg was discussed and since I consider Erceg to be a “Senzel-lite” type of prospect, it stands to reason that Carpenter and Senzel would share some similarities.
Senzel is an above-average athlete with explosive bat speed, a veteran’s approach at the plate, and above-average to plus raw power. Despite passing along some of the things I’ve heard, I personally have no worries about him excelling at the hot corner defensively with more than enough in the way of instincts, arm strength, and athleticism to make it work. Heck, I’m the one pushing the idea that he could someday return to second base after all. A plus offensive player with a long track record of hitting capable of playing at least average defense at a key position is a potential big league star. That’s Nick Senzel. Nick Senzel is really good.
(Since I’ve been asked before, a quick fantasy take to close things out: Nick Senzel is the clear best prospect for fantasy purposes in this draft when you account for finding the sweet spot between certainty, proximity to the big leagues, and upside.)
1.35 – OF Taylor Trammel
I have no evidence to back this hunch up, but it feels like there is a prep outfielder in every class that has physical tools on par with the early first round talents but falls well past that point in the draft. If that’s true, then I nominate Taylor Trammel (61) for that position in 2016. If it’s not true, then, well, I still think Taylor Trammel fits the very toolsy potential-laden outfielder player archetype quite nicely. From May 2016…
Trammel can run and defend with the best in his class, but his arm is inconsistent. One thing I really like about him is how real his progression has felt this past calendar year. There’s been no surge in buzz about him throughout the spring; instead, it’s been a slow and steady build, as many scouts have noted that the average grades on his sheet have morphed into above-average to plus marks over the course of his final season.
What’s with the Reds picking really good looking young players with questionable arms? That’s two players in a row where the arm is really the only fair thing to question about their respective tool sets. Guess if you’re going to skimp on one tool doing so with the least important one makes sense. Good players with bad arms is the new Moneyball. To Trammel’s credit, his arm got progressively stronger throughout the spring and summer seasons and is now seen as closer to playable than his below-average status. So his one big weakness is now just a minor weakness. And all his strengths — plus to plus-plus speed, plus range in center, average raw power, absurd athleticism — remain. All of those traits give Trammel a high floor even if his bat doesn’t come around as hoped. If it does, he’s a star.
2.43 – C Chris Okey
On Chris Okey (55) from December 2015…
JR C Chris Okey is in a great position heading into his draft year as an athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit. In today’s game, that’s exactly what big league teams want in a catcher, especially if you throw in the (overrated by the internet in terms of importance, but not altogether unimportant) ability to frame pitches. As I’ve written about countless times before (including the quoted Okey blurb from October you can read below), as the run environment has shifted away from the highest highs of the PED-era so too has the general preference for athleticism and defensive reliability behind the plate. This shift has come largely at the expense of big power and raw arm strength at the position. Mobility, flexibility, and fundamentally sound glovework is what moves the needle now. I’m thinking of recent early picks like Taylor Ward, Max Pentecost, Reese McGuire, and Justin O’Conner as the prototypes for this latest wave. Athletes like Russell Martin, Carlos Ruiz, Jonathan Lucroy, and Buster Posey (the man I remember watching play a decent shortstop once upon a time at Florida State) all represent the best case scenario for this player archetype; not coincidentally, those guys all rank in the top nine in fWAR since 2010 with a lot of their value tied up in excellent defensive numbers.
So what does any of this really have to do with Okey? While it’s great that he ticks off many of the boxes that teams like in a catching prospect, nobody is drafting a theoretical catcher archetype. Okey may be a fine example of the modern catcher, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slam dunk first round catcher. Here’s what I wrote about him a few months back…
Okey doesn’t have quite the same thunder in his bat as [Matt] Thaiss, but his strong hands, agile movements behind the plate, and average or better arm give him enough ammo to be in the mix for first college catching off the board. The days of the big, strong-armed, plus power, and questionable contact catcher seem to be dwindling as more and more teams appear willing to go back to placing athleticism atop their list of desired attributes for young catching prospects. Hard to say that’s wrong based on where today’s speed and defense style of game looks like it’s heading.
That all holds up today (obviously…it’s been two months!), but it should be noted that the nice things said about his game are a step below what many (myself included) were saying about him after his senior season of high school. His defense behind the plate never quite reached the threshold where you’d call any one component of his game consistently plus. He’s shown some plus pop times in the past, sure, but not as often as average to above-average times. I don’t think anybody would have imagined he’d get more athletic past his teenage years — time has a way of catching up to everybody — but there is a little bit more stiffness to him at present than you might think if going off those old scouting reports. He’s still the athletic, above-average all-around defensive catcher who can run a little bit that we mentioned at the top. And if we’re going to call him out some for slipping a bit — or, perhaps more accurately, not developing as hoped — with the glove, then it’s only right to praise him for the maturation of his power. What was once considered promising but far off has turned into displays of average or better present power with the shot at plus raw still out there. I’d err on the side of caution with his future power grade and put him closer to the average to above-average range where it currently plays, but that still means he could be a steady 15-20 home run bat at his peak. One interesting name that I heard as a comparison that makes a little bit of sense: Mike Lieberthal.
I have to be honest, I really like that Lieberthal comp. That’s some of my best work right there. My updated notes on Okey include this line, exclamation point and all: “average glove, average arm, average power, average everything!” That’s Chris Okey. Coincidentally, Mike Lieberthal finished his career with a wRC+ of 100. Can’t get much more average than that. Average is a really good thing, especially if you’re a catcher. Only five qualified catchers posted average or better wRC+ last season. The number only jumps to eleven if you open things way up to include all catchers with at least 250 PA. An average offensive catcher has a really strong shot at finishing in the top five to ten in terms of value at the position. Okey’s average tools all get a little bit of boost for me when you factor in his above-average athleticism and exceptional makeup. There’s plenty to argue about the ultimate utility of even including a note about a prospect’s “makeup” (whatever that means to you) in these draft reviews, so I’ll just say that if you’re going to make it a priority at any one position then let it be catcher. Hard work, leadership, communication skills, ability to take coaching, passion for the game and understanding its place in a larger universe…all particularly important for a catcher. I like Okey so much that projecting about a league average catcher feels fair almost as a floor with a run of above-average years as a ceiling.
(Got a few other interesting comps for Okey that I thought were worth passing along. Some are better than others, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide. I still like Lieberthal, but names like Wellington Castillo, AJ Ellis, and Wilson Ramos have all been floated to me at one point or another. Also got this one…
.336/.438/.598 – 37 BB/47 K – 244 AB
.339/.465/.611 – 51 BB/54 K – 239 AB
.329/.425/.546 – 89 BB/116 K
.301/.392/.504 – 100 BB/136 K
Top is Chris Iannetta, bottom is Okey. From his pre-draft scouting report at Baseball America…
Iannetta could go as high as the third round after a stellar junior season. He reminds scouts of Joe Girardi, though he’s lost some life in his lower half and doesn’t run like Girardi did. Like Girardi, Iannetta has a short, compact stroke and a mature approach to hitting, leading to consistent, hard contact. His other tools are unspectacular, but he’s an average receiver and has an average arm that might play up a bit because of his quick release. His younger brother Matt is a Rhode Island prep player who has signed with North Carolina.
Sounds vaguely Okey-ish, right?)
3.79 – RHP Nick Hanson
I’ve long had a weird affinity for pitchers out of cold weather states like Minnesota — Sam Carlson is next man up for 2017, by the way — so it’s no shock that I liked the solidly built Nick Hanson (171) out of Prior Lake HS. His size, projection, occasional bouts of wildness, and Kentucky commitment had makes it easy to mentally tie him to former Wildcat starters like Alex Meyer and Kyle Cody, but I think the present version of Hanson is ahead of where those eventual college guys were as teenagers. Hanson’s fastball (87-93, 95-96 peak) and curve (average or better now 75-78, above-average to plus eventually) are exciting enough as is, so tossing on an average-ish split-changeup at such a young age is icing on the cake. So much can go wrong with prep pitching prospects and the relatively low ranking of Hanson pre-draft reflects the unpredictability that scares me off players like Hanson every June, but I still find myself liking this pick a lot for Cincinnati even knowing the potential downside.
4.108 – LHP Scott Moss
On Scott Moss (285) from May 2016…
Moss is a wild card as another good yet wild performer with the size (6-5, 215) and stuff (90-94 FB, solid breaking ball and low-80s CU) to make a big impact at the end of games as a professional. The further he gets from his own Tommy John surgery, the better he’s been.
Every day is another day further for Moss, who finished the year striking out 12.13 batters per nine with 3.52 BB/9 and a 1.57 ERA out of the Florida bullpen. His strikeout numbers were sliced almost in half (6.81 K/9) in his 38.1 inning pro debut. The encouraging news is that his run prevention (2.35 ERA) remained strong even when tasked with starting games consistently for the first time since high school. That vote of confidence from the Cincinnati developmental staff combined with the late-season gem of a start Moss threw for the Gators and a highly effective three-pitch mix make the idea of continuing to use Moss in the rotation a very intriguing possibility. I liked Moss as a potential multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen coming out of Florida (still the most likely outcome if I were a betting man), but this new ceiling as a potential mid-rotation starter (assuming his stuff and health allow it) turns this pick from good to great.
A weird but fun subplot to follow from this draft will be which of the three key Gators relievers good enough to start (Moss, Shaun Anderson, Dane Dunning) have the best pro careers.
5.138 – RHP Ryan Hendrix
Two quick blurbs that tell the story of Ryan Hendrix’s (312) 2016 college season and the impact it had on his draft stock. First, from March 2016…
He’s got the heat (mid-90s peak), breaking ball (low- to mid-80s CB flashes plus), and enough of a changeup (83-86) to potentially make the switch to the rotation at the next level. If not, he’s a potential quick-moving reliever with late-inning upside. Win-win!
And then from May 2016…
His teammate Ryan Hendrix hasn’t been quite as good – more whiffs, more walks, and a lot more runs allowed – but remains a good bet to go high in the draft because of his premium stuff (94-98 FB, 83-86 breaking ball that flashes plus) and correctable flaws.
Hendrix’s premium stuff and correctable flaws remain. His pro debut (9.18 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9) looked a lot more like his dominant 2015 season (10.53 K/9 and 3.97 BB/9) than his erratic 2016 (12.81 K/9 and 7.11 BB/9), but one stat from his first 35.1 professional innings jumps out. Hendrix uncorked 11 wild pitches in his debut. That’s good for a 2.80 WP/9. This took me down a weird rabbit hole about wild pitches. Did you know that Felix Hernandez has thrown the most wild pitches this decade with 86? I never would have guessed that, though I guess it makes sense that a “good” pitcher like Hernandez would be near the top of a list of a “bad” counting stat. More sensible guesses like AJ Burnett, Tim Lincecum, Francisco Liriano, and Edwin Jackson round out the top five. I don’t have the patience to look at everybody, but a quick glance reveals that the highest WP/9 among those who rank near the top of the overall list is Garrett Richards. His 0.80 WP/9 (almost a third lower than Hendrix’s, FWIW) is higher than any other starting pitcher I found. If I go deeper and look at qualified relievers as well, then Pedro Stop takes the prize at a whopping 1.06 WP/9. Bartolo Colon has only thrown three wild pitches this decade. That means that in any given nine-inning stretch, you might expect to see Colon throw .025 wild pitches. Baseball Draft Report: come for the baseball draft reporting, stay for the inane statistical minutiae!
First round stuff + tenth round control = fifth round selection. Math don’t lie. Hendrix could be a relatively quick-moving reliever if/when he figures out what was up with his control in 2016 at Texas A&M. As mentioned, the early pro returns were certainly encouraging. I’m buying Hendrix as a future big league asset with a ceiling that likely falls just short of making him a consistent option to close.
6.168 – RHP Tyler Mondile
On Tyler Mondile (212) from May 2016…
Tyler Mondile looked really good. He actually tied Groome for the hottest heater of the night at 94 MPH — I had them both getting there four different times, but saw Mondile up to 95 on a few of the guns around me — and had the more consistent velocity throughout the evening. In a funny twist, Mondile happened to hit 94 with his fastball three straight times in his first head-to-head battle with Groome at the plate. Groome took a fastball in for a strike, a fastball further in for a ball, and a fastball on the outer half to put him in a 1-2 hole before the at bat ended preemptively when Mondile got a little help from his catcher with a stolen base threat eliminated at third base. If there was any doubt that Mondile was pumped for this one — and two seconds of watching him stomp around the field pre-game would push those thoughts aside right quick — then the 94, 94, 94 to start the at bat against the opposing starting pitcher was a clear indicator of how amped up the Gloucester Catholic righthander must have been feeling.
Beyond the strong showing of arm strength, I was impressed with the admittedly few curves Mondile managed to drop in for strikes (76-79 MPH). He used it more as a pitch in and around the strike zone than as a chase pitch, but it had the shape and consistency to worth in both directions with continued use. In time, the pitch looked like it could be a legitimate second weapon. There’s a good bit of effort in Mondile’s delivery and his high level of demonstrative emotion on the mound (something that would make him a fan favorite in many markets) might mean a future in the bullpen could happen sooner rather than later, but reports of his changeup being an average or better offering and his ability to repeat said delivery make him worth trying as a starter as long as possible. I wouldn’t necessarily say his 6-1, 185 pound frame screamed projection, but his upper-half looked like it could stand to put on at least another ten pounds of weight to help even out his stout lower-body. Despite his relatively short stature, Mondile’s legs looked like they’d pass any relevant strength test. In this specific class it would be hard to call him a first rounder, but I could see him making sense for any team anywhere between rounds three and six. I came away believing that he likely made himself some money based on how he looked in front of a crowd with that many influential executives.
Not a bad summation of Mondile’s present stuff and future projection, if I do say so myself. Mondile has all the ingredients (three pitches, repeatable mechanics, solid command) to remain a starter in the pros. As far as upside goes, that’s all you could want in a sixth round teenage pitching prospect. My hunch is that he winds up in the bullpen over the long haul, and I’m not sure that allowing his high-energy self to go 100% in short bursts would be a bad thing. In whatever role he lands, Mondile is a talented arm well worth a six round pick.
7.198 – LHP Andy Cox
The selection of Andy Cox in round seven begins a run of Cincinnati saving some serious cash ($30,000 spent total) on four selected players from round seven to ten. The Reds also effectively ended their draft earlier than most teams with only one pick signed past round twenty-nine. I’m not necessarily faulting Cincinnati here — they did spend almost all of their nearly $14 million in pool money, so it’s not like they went cheap on the whole — but their approach both at the top and bottom of the draft feels a bit off to me. Over 80% of the money they spent on the 2016 MLB Draft paid for their top three picks. That was similar to the one team picking ahead of them in the draft (Philadelphia), but way more than two of the other three (in addition to the Phillies) top draft spenders (69% for Atlanta, 54% for San Diego). My favorite draft so far belongs to the Cardinals, a team that spent 61% of their draft total on their top three picks and managed to bring in seven prospects past the thirtieth round. Comparisons like this are complicated because of the current draft rules in place and I don’t have any grand conclusions, but it’s all at least a little interesting, right?
Anyway, let’s talk about Andy Cox. Here’s a little something on him from April 2015…
His teammate, LHP Andy Cox, is one of my favorite “sleepers,” thanks in part to his well-rounded arsenal (88-91 FB, average or better low-80s SL, average or better CU) that could make him an interesting relief to rotation project in the pro ranks.
I still think he has the stuff to remain a starter, but projecting his command and control for that role seems like a stretch. His repertoire is still strong enough to make him a potential relief option with continued growth. The seventh round seems a little too early for me for a player like Cox, but the allure of saving some cash and landing a decent prospect must have been too strong for the Reds to ignore. I’ve never had to juggle economic and political considerations in a draft room, so I won’t kill a team for taking a money-saving senior that I’m sure they like on merit even if I don’t feel the same way.
8.228 – 2B John Sansone
A .370/.455/.576 offensive year in the ACC is nothing to sneeze at, senior season or not. John Sansome is a classic Florida State style hitter with exemplary plate discipline and more power than you might believe at first look. He’s also a decent runner who can play multiple spots in the infield. If the way he curtailed the strikeouts — the one downside to scouting the classic Florida State style hitter: how much is genuine plate discipline with an innate knowledge of the strike zone and vision to pick up spin/location early…and how much is just taking pitches because that’s how you’ve been coached — in his senior season is real, then Sansome might have enough positive qualities to play regularly at second or third. If not, then he still has a shot to keep advancing as a potential utility infielder capable of playing anywhere on the dirt.
If you really wanted to mislead people by ignoring many important contextual factors (plus the pesky scouting thing), then you could do this…
…and ask which one was the second overall pick in the draft and which one was the eighth round selection. Using this to disparage Nick Senzel would be silly for a variety of reasons, but it’s not a terrible way of saying “Hey, maybe our eighth round pick ain’t so bad!”
9.258 – RHP Alex Webb
Alex Webb saved the Reds a ton of money, but still could wind up as a big league pitcher. That’s good work by them. My favorite of the four consecutive Cincinnati senior-signs, Webb has a quality low-90s fastball with a decent curve and usable change. It’s not a thrilling package, but it looks a little nicer when you account for his cold weather background, plus control, and outstanding track record as a Thunderbird. ERA is not something quoted often around here, but if you can throw 104.1 innings with a 1.38 ERA then you’re doing something right. Webb has all the ingredients to profile as a back of the rotation starter, but could be best served moving to the pen and letting his fastball fly.
10.288 – RHP Lucas Benenati
I was a little intrigued with Lucas Benenati coming into his senior season at Kansas State after a solid junior year (7.31 K/9 and 2.25 BB/9) and reports of decent middle relief style stuff (low-90s fastball, ability to command serviceable breaking ball) filtering through. His final season as a Wildcat was rough enough (6.68 K/9 and 4.45 BB/9) that I opted to leave him out of the 2016 MLB Draft conversation entirely. He was rather good in pro ball including time spent in low-A Dayton, but as a guy who turns 24-years-old in May of his first full pro season that kind of speedy acclimation to pro ball is expected.
11.318 – RHP Joel Kuhnel
On Joel Kuhnel from March 2016…
I’m less in on Joel Kuhnel. The big righty from Texas-Arlington, who incidentally reminds me of one of the many flame-throwing Dallas Baptist relievers from last year, is a favorite of many I’ve spoken to, but, for reasons both on the scouting side and the numbers side, I’m not really feeling it. It’s very likely a reliever profile (to me), so some of his value is cut off at the legs already. I do think he can be a fine bullpen piece with continued refinement — starting with a fastball that touches 96-97 and a hard 86-87 MPH slider doesn’t hurt – so depending on where he falls on draft day he could be a nice value for a team searching for a potential late-inning arm. I’ve gotten a Toddy Coffey comp for him that works in a few different ways (though I’m unclear if Kuhnel’s mound entrance is as entertaining as Coffey’s), but I think that could wind up being a little light in the long run. Not that there’s anything wrong with an eight-year career that earns you just under seven million bucks, of course. I suppose part of my relative lack of love for Kuhnel is anticipating how highly others will value him come June. It’s not ideal logic, but it’s all I’ve got for now.
Kuhnel going in the eleventh round is still a little rich for me, but I can live with it. There was some top five round hype early in the year that made no sense, so this is certainly more palatable by comparison. No matter what round Kuhnel was selected in, he’s a bit of a mystery to project going forward. Maybe that mid-season Todd Coffey comp should have been a clue that he’s be a tricky guy to figure out. I like his fastball (90-95 MPH, 97 peak) and slider (consistently at least average 86-87, flashes plus) combination, but can’t quite put my finger on why he doesn’t miss bats like he should. He kept that trend going in the pros: 4.82 K/9 as a sophomore, 6.35 K/9 as a junior, and 6.00 K/9 in his 21.0 inning pro debut. He also kept his very low walk rate up in the pros: 1.93 BB/9 in 2015 to 1.99 BB/9 in 2016 to a minuscule 0.43 BB/9 in the pros. He rolled his fair share of ground balls in his debut, too. Not a ton of missed bats, very few free passes, and (small sample size alert) promising ground ball tendencies — what to make of that? The formula for Kuhnel to continue to succeed could be to follow the Jim Johnson (6.54 K/9, 2.92 BB/9, 58.0 GB%) model.
12.348 – C Cassidy Brown
The early professional success of Cassidy Brown (.322/.409/.383 with 20 BB/32 K) could be small sample size noise. It could also be the beginning of a nifty little victory for scouting over statistical analysis, as if that battle was ever really a battle worth fighting in the first place. If you humor me and go along with the premise, then Brown, a powerful 6-3, 215 pounder with a big arm, lots of strength in his swing, and well above-average athleticism for a catcher, is merely doing what it looks like a guy like him should have been doing from the start. He may not be exactly what you envision a young catching prospect should look like, but he’s pretty damn close. If that pro debut is a sign of his skills catching up to his tools, then the Reds have landed a legitimate sleeper with real starting upside in the twelfth round.
13.378 – RHP Ryan Olson
What I lack in updated Ryan Olson notes from college, I make up for it in old scouting notes on Ryan Olson from high school…
RHP Ryan Olson (Western Christian HS, California): 88-92 FB with plus sink; good 79-82 SL; iffy 76-78 CB; good 81-82 CU; 6-2, 180 pounds
His last fully healthy season at Cal Poly Pomona saw him put up really good (9.35 K/9 and 2.34 BB/9) numbers. Assuming that his stuff has held up, I’m intrigued. An even more fun assumption would be that the twenty or so pounds he’s put on since his prep days and the usual assortment of physical, mental, and emotional growth that an individual experiences as they transition to teenage kid to young adult equates
14.408 – LHP Jesse Adams
On Jesse Adams from December 2015…
SR LHP Jesse Adams is not particularly big nor does he throw particularly hard, but he’s been consistently effective and figures to remain so as a professional. I think there’s clear matchup lefthanded reliever upside to him with the chance that a team less concerned about his size and more enamored with his three-pitch mix (87-91 FB, above-average mid-70s CB, upper-70s CU) will let him keep starting.
I’m less enamored with Adams now than I was a year ago, but that matchup lefty upside still seems attainable if he can hit the ground running in pro ball. His control slid back a bit in 2016 and he became more fastball/changeup reliant. I’m not particularly hopeful that Adams sees the big leagues, but I’m rooting for him if only because of a new-ish super slow upper-60s curve he introduced into his arsenal this past spring for kicks. It’s not quite the RJ Swindle starter kit (there will never be another RJ Swindle…), but it’s the closest we’ve seen in a while.
15.438 – RHP Jesse Stallings
Back-to-back Jesse’s off the board to the Reds in rounds fourteen and fifteen. I often wonder about things like this. It had to be intentional, at least on some level, right? The odds of them waiting another thirty picks and being able to take Jesse Stallings in the sixteenth round after first taking Jesse Adams in the fourteenth round were really, really good. Maybe they just loved the two Jesse’s so much that they couldn’t risk losing out on one, but I’ll believe until my dying day that somebody in the Reds draft room thought it would be fun to take back-to-back Jesse’s and things progressed from there. Anyway, Stallings has a really good arm (low- to mid-90s fastball up to 96-97, quality splitter) and could work himself into the middle relief prospect mix before too long, but a spotty college track record (strong run prevention, mediocre peripherals) pumps the breaks on that enthusiastic outlook a bit.
16.468 – OF Mauro Conde
I’ve got nothing on Mauro Conde outside of general positive vibes (strong arm, decent runner, bat is promising but still a question mark) from secondary sources that may or may not mean much in the big picture. Still have to give the Reds credit for getting a high school prospect signed past round ten. I’ll repeat it in every draft review if I have to, but any high school player signed in a double-digit round is a good investment in the current draft system.
19.558 – RHP Matt Blandino
I lost track of Matt Blandino after two just all right seasons at Central Connecticut State. Turns out he landed about ninety minutes away from me at Felician University. Small world. Blandino was really good as a junior, so that’s cool. He was also really good in his pro debut with the Reds. That’s also cool. Blandino gets by more on command and pitchability than knockout stuff, so he should carve up hitters for a few years before getting his first real challenge in the upper-minors.
21.618 – LHP Andrew Wright
Having just finished the Giants draft review, this pick makes a lot of sense. Took me a minute to realize that Cincinnati and not San Francisco took the 6-5, 225 pound lefthander from USC with a big fastball (90-94, 95 peak) and little control (10.70 BB/9 in 14.1 junior year innings). I’m willing to give the athletic Wright a bit of a pass for his wild ways due to his two-way background, limited time on the mound, and the adjustments that come when you go from mid-80s in high school to mid-90s in college.
22.648 – RHP Aaron Quillen
The well-traveled Aaron Quillen is coming off two really solid seasons as one of Belmont’s top starters. His size (6-3, 200) and stuff (88-92 FB) paint him as a fairly ordinary mid-round potential middle relief prospect. Everybody thinks that “ordinary,” “generic,” and “pedestrian” are insults, but that’s never the intent. There’s no shame in being familiar. Plus, being an “ordinary” middle relief prospect in professional baseball beats the breaks off of being an extraordinary cubicle dweller, right? No offense to 98% of the working population, of course.
23.678 – SS Manny Cruz
The Reds finally get their man. Manny Cruz was originally a thirty-ninth round pick by Cincinnati out of high school, so it’s only right that they wind up together again three years later after Cruz’s successful (.327/.427/.437) three year run at Southern New Hampshire. Included in that career line is his eye-opening .373/.487/.509 (44 BB/30 K) junior season. Cruz followed that up with a strong pro debut (.272/.355/.400, 118 wRC+) for the AZL Reds. He played almost exclusively at second in said debut, so showing off increased defensive flexibility going forward will likely be what makes or breaks him as a prospect. If he can play on the left side of the infield as well as he can at second, then he gets put in the overflowing “potential utility player” pile that all teams seem to have. There are worse fates than that.
“Fun” fact that I’ll include in lieu of actual Manny Cruz knowledge: of the eleven players drafted out of Southern New Hampshire in the modern era (all but one since 2011), Cruz is only the second position player to come out of the Penman program. SNHU is really Pitcher U, am I right?
24.708 – 1B Bruce Yari
I hate that the Reds went back to British Columbia a second time to select Bruce Yari fifteen rounds after grabbing Alex Webb, but accepting that all teams double-dip with colleges comes with the reality of following the draft so closely. It’s hard to buy the “you can’t criticize a front office since you’re a damn dirty outsider” argument I hear all the time when you see teams taking the convenient route over the best option. That said, there are times when convenience and quality intersect. When you add in the draft value of getting a thumper like Bruce Yari this late in the draft, then you have yourself a real QVC pick*.
* My mom forced my sister and I to go to career camp when we were kids. She was all about free/cheap day camps that got us out of the house and doing stuff. Can’t wait to do the same to my kids someday. Anyway, at career camp we went to day trips to all sorts of local businesses. Two have always stuck out: the trip to the Philadelphia Inquirer offices (where I managed to get my name in the paper by lying about Spam…long story, but the short version is that I was a weird kid) and the trip to QVC headquarters. One of the few things I remember specifically from that visit was learning what QVC stood for. I knew then that one day I’d use that knowledge in something vitally important that may or may not change the world as we know it forever. Today was that day. Now we wait…
25.738 – 2B CJ Wright
Remember that potential utility player pile that every team has that was referenced two rounds earlier? If Colby Wright is the guy at the top of said pile, then you’re doing all right. I really like Wright as a potential big league backup infielder. Between his time at Kansas and with the Reds, he has experience at every infield spot already, so that gives him a leg up on some challengers to his utility throne off the bat. Speaking of the bat, Wright has a good one. If his development threads a very tight needle (i.e., things go perfectly), he could do enough to warrant regular time at second or third one day. That’s the rich projection, so we’ll stick with the more realistic utility future. If he does, then he’ll bring this special skill to the table. From March 2015…
Kansas JR 2B/SS Colby Wright has been a baseball magnet this season (11 HBP in 65 official AB!). I liked his pop, patience, and glove combination coming into the year, and nothing has moved me off that as of yet.
My quick math has him at getting hit once every fourteen times he came to the plate throughout his four years at Kansas. That’s insane. He then got hit nine times in 153 professional plate appearances. That’s right on the Brandon Guyer pace. Wright got plunked once every seventeen trips to the plate while Guyer’s career mark is once per ever sixteen and change. Is Colby Wright the next Brandon Guyer? No, no, he is not. But he does get hit by a lot of pitches like him, so they at least share that potential similarity.
26.768 – RHP Patrick Riehl
A really good read on Patrick Riehl can be found here. A choice excerpt…
After recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Schuler was not surprised to see Riehl begin to throw harder than ever. Schuler likened the recovery to those recovering from Tommy John surgery, where pitchers will have to basically learn how to throw all over again, which will show an improvement in their mechanics, allowing them to throw at a higher velocity than they once thought was their max.
After recovering from surgery, Riehl began to hit the mid-90s.
When Riehl began hitting in the mid-90s, interest in him grew. Scouts began to take notice of him and he ultimately was invited to a Cincinnati Reds tryout.
That mid-90s velocity helped Riehl sit down 12.44 batters per nine in his draft year. The newness of the velocity, however, may have played a part in spotty command and below-average control. In addition to the whiffs, Riehl also walked 5.49 batters per nine (plus eight wild pitches and two bean balls) on the way to a 6.57 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched. It’s not every year you see a Division II pitcher drafted with an ERA that high, but mid-90s heat is mid-90s heat.
For reasons I can’t remember, I made note of Riehl’s last three appearances for Mars Hill. Pitching in relief against Tusculum, Montreat, and Bluefield State, Riehl did the following: 5 IP 2 H 0 ER 3 BB 8 K. I’m not quite sure why past-me thought those last three outings were so noteworthy; if I had to guess, I’d say there was a connection between his recovery from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and the promise of a strong finish. Considering he pitched really well in his debut — 8.45 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9 in 38.1 IP more than qualifies — that would seem to be the most likely reason. Very interesting sleeper.
29.858 – OF Daniel Sweet
I’ve slowed down some with these draft reviews since I first started a few months ago. That’s a bit of a shame for Daniel Sweet, who would have gotten one thousand words minimum if the Reds were one of the first teams profiled rather than one of the last. Still, I like Sweet a ton and am happy to write about him as a draft prospect one last time. The amount of words spend on him over the past four years is admittedly a little silly for a player who turned out to be a twenty-ninth round pick, but it at least backs me up as a charter member of the Sweet fan club. I’m no Sweet-loving-Johnny-come-lately, dammit. Here’s a fun excerpt from March 2016…
Daniel Sweet came into the season as the top Dallas Baptist hitting prospect for me and I don’t want to be reactionary by moving him off because of the hot starts of those around him, but some of his teammates have made things mighty crowded at the top. Sweet’s blend of power, speed, and athleticism have made him a favorite for years. I still believe in his bat enough to think he can make it as a future regular in center and potential big league leadoff hitter. In the event that doesn’t work out, his overall skill set lends itself to quality backup. I’ve compared him to a more powerful Andrew Toles in the past; Toles’s pro career hasn’t quite been all it was expected to be so far, so take that comparison with the requisite block of salt.
If Sweet can continue to tap into his considerable physical gifts as a pro (above-average raw power, above-average or better speed) then he legitimately could have a similar professional impact as Andrew Toles. I loved Toles as a draft prospect, so his resurgence in 2016 emboldens me to continue to tout Sweet as a potential big league regular. Like Toles, he already has the defensive thing down, so it comes down to whether or not he can do enough offensively to warrant steady playing time in center. I obviously think he can. The better bet is quality fourth outfielder who plays good defense and drills righthanded pitching, an outcome that would still represent tremendous value this late in the draft.
36.1068 – 2B Ty Blankmeyer
I saw Ty Blankmeyer play a few different times over his years at St. John’s. Never really gave much thought to him as a pro prospect. High makeup and a lifetime spent around the game mean different things to different people, though.
41.1217 – OF TJ Friedl
The undrafted — or forty-first rounder if you’re feeling cheeky — TJ Friedl got $732,500 to sign after a variety of factors (confusion and cost, mostly) kept him from being selected in the 2016 MLB Draft. He’s got plenty the speed and athleticism to make him a defensive asset in center. His approach at the plate that could make him a potential top of the order hitter if his lack of power doesn’t undercut the rest of his offensive skills. All in all, it’s a nice package made even nicer when the expense is only cash and not a top five round pick. My fake ranking of him would have put him around 115th overall in this class, ahead of Michael Paez and Bryson Brigman (his closest comparison that I can see) but just behind fellow draft-eligible sophomore Charles LeBlanc.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Mitchell Traver (TCU), JC Flowers (Florida State), Todd Lott (Louisiana), Dion Henderson (TCU), Cooper Johnson (Mississippi), Vincent Byrd (?), Austin Langworthy (Florida), Matt Crohan (Winthrop), Nick Derr (Florida State), Ty Weber (Illinois), Walker Whitworth (Missouri Southern), Alec Benavides (Alvin CC), John Wilson (Old Dominion), Otis Statum (Nevada), Michael Bienlien (NC State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Kansas City in 2016
123 – Chris DeVito
170 – Logan Gray
183 – Khalil Lee
201 – AJ Puckett
253 – Nicky Lopez
404 – Jace Vines
455 – Dalton Griffin
2.67 – RHP AJ Puckett
Not having a pick until after sixty-six prospects have already been chosen presents a unique challenge for any drafting team. The Royals opted to approach this conundrum by selecting a college performer with a long track record of success and a high probability of reaching his modest yet plenty useful ceiling. Fair enough. AJ Puckett (201) carved up hitters for three straight seasons at Pepperdine as one of the west coast’s most underappreciated collegiate arms. He’s been really good yet never dominant peripherally — 7.74 K/9, 7.52 K/9, and 8.61 K/9 — though his junior year dip in ERA to 1.27 after two seasons of 3.60 and 4.36 ball could obviously qualify as dominant run prevention in most quarters. Still, his good yet never dominant strikeout numbers dovetail nicely into a discussion about his good yet not dominant stuff. Puckett’s biggest strength is his ability to throw three average or better pitches for consistent strikes. His fastball ranges from 88 to 94 MPH (96 peak) with solid sink. His 73-78 MPH curve is an average pitch, but only in the sense that it sometimes flashes much better (above-average to plus) and sometimes has very little bend and gets hammered. Puckett’s changeup (79-85 MPH) isn’t all the way there yet, but shows signs of being an average to above-average pitch with continued use in the pros. With some projection left in his 6-4, 180 pound frame, a best case scenario could be a career not unlike what we’ve seen out of Alex Cobb to date.
3.103 – OF Khalil Lee
If you’re going to go safe with the first pick, then it only makes sense to swing for the fences with the next one. Highly athletic two-way prep star Khalil Lee (170) certainly qualifies as a big cut from the heels that could either result in a majestic home run or the cooling breeze of a major whiff and miss. Of course, that presupposes that boom/bust prospects result in all-or-nothing players; a swing for the fence can just as easily result in a double high off the wall or a sac fly. Prospect evaluation can mean many things to many people, but one thing it ain’t (or shouldn’t be) is an exercise in projecting binary outcomes. Anyway, Lee’s upside is considerable and the arrow on his likelihood of getting there is pointing up after a tremendous pro debut that saw him turn tools to skills quicker than just about anybody outside of the Kansas City front office could have anticipated.
Lee has the physical ability to be a star if he can remain in center feel as expected. He’d still have above-average regular upside in a corner — we know he has more than enough arm for right field — but the thought of him maintaining enough quickness and flexibility as he fills out to stick up the middle is particularly exciting. Offensively, Lee has the bat speed, swing plane, and muscle to hit for real power, average speed to do a little damage on the bases, and the keen understanding of the strike zone one might expect from a legitimate pitching prospect. There’s a lot to like when the overall package is taken into account.
4.133 – RHP Jace Vines
Draft-eligible sophomore Jace Vines (404) looks like a classic sinker/slider (88-92, 94 peak for the former; 83-86 and flashing plus for the latter) reliever to me with an outside shot at sticking in the rotation depending on how his changeup develops over time. I don’t hate it.
5.163 – SS Nicky Lopez
On Nicky Lopez (253) from March 2016…
Creighton’s best pro prospect for 2016 is Nicky Lopez, a slick fielding shortstop with plus speed and serious athleticism. Like the rest of the names at the top his bat might keep him as more utility player than starter. He’s a fine prospect in his own right, so hopefully this doesn’t come across the wrong way…but Lopez benefits greatly from being draft-eligible in 2016 and not 2015. Last year he might have gotten swept away with all the excellent college shortstop prospects getting popped early and often on draft day; this year, he stands out as one of the better options at the position for no other reason than the fact there’s little doubt he’ll stick there as a professional.
From that point on, Lopez grew on me a little bit with every passing day. Guys who hit .306/.417/.444 with twice as many walks (26) as strikeouts (13) in their draft year tend to do that. Beyond the obvious awesome plate discipline indicators, what I liked about Lopez is the steady increase in functional power (.038 ISO in 2014, .089 ISO in 2015, .138 ISO in 2016) and continued strong base running (83.3% career success rate). Those kind of secondary offensive skills and his longstanding quality defense at short — above-average range, plus arm, soft hands — elevate Lopez’s ceiling to a potential regular at short. If that’s too rich for you, then Lopez’s hot start should at least up the odds of him reaching his existing upside as a high-level utility guy.
6.193 – OF Cal Jones
Cal Jones is a classic, old school Royals draft pick. Take a special athlete with legit plus speed and more than enough range for center, and see if you can coach him up into a viable big league hitter. Great find by the Kansas City scouting staff. Now the really hard part comes for the development staff tasked with guiding Jones through the ups and downs of pro ball. I’m oddly optimistic on this one.
7.223 – RHP Travis Eckert
The Royals may have found themselves a late-bloomer in Travis Eckert, a steady yet unspectacular performer in two years at Oregon State who saw his stuff jump up across the board upon entering pro ball. What was once a fairly standard three-pitch command-oriented repertoire has been elevated to a slightly more interesting all-around profile thanks to a faster fastball (more flashes of mid-90s than his old 88-93 heat) and tighter 77-81 MPH breaking ball. Those two pitches combined with his solid 79-85 MPH changeup give him the requisite mix many teams require for a future in the rotation. I wouldn’t have put that that expectation on him six months ago — his immediate post-draft evaluation would have been something between unlikely middle relief help to minor league depth — but sometimes pro ball just agrees with a guy.
8.253 – 1B Chris DeVito
On Chris DeVito (123), the highest ranked player drafted by the Royals in this class, from March 2016…
I’m not yet sure what to make of Chris DeVito as an all-around prospect, but the confidence that he’ll hit as a pro grows by the week. The improvements he has made as a hitter, especially as he’s found a way to retain his big power while significantly decreasing the length of his swing, are real. One friend of mine affectionately refers to him as the “western Zack Collins.” My prospect love for Collins runs far too deep for me to go there, but I still like it. If DeVito can convince pro teams he can catch professionally, there’s no telling how high he can rise. I’m unsure if that’ll be the case – literally unsure: haven’t heard much in either direction about his glove, so I legitimately do not have an updated opinion on the matter – but I look forward to finding out more about his defense in the coming weeks. He’s a potentially great (top five round?) prospect – though I’d caution taking his offensive production with his offensive environments in mind — if he catch, and a good one (round six to ten?) if he’s forced to first base.
Of course, the Royals drafted DeVito, that same friend said after the fact, they already have his right-handed hitting counterpart in Chase Vallot. DeVito played exclusively first base in his pro debut, a sure sign that his number one job as a Royal will be to hit. Whether or not he’ll do so enough to be an everyday option going forward remains to be seen. I remain bullish on the Red Hercules as a plus power bat with patience and enough feel for contact to make a meaningful offensive impact at the highest level, so count me in on DeVito as a future regular.
9.283 – RHP Walker Sheller
Walker Sheller could be a quick-moving middle relief option for Kansas City as a funky strike-throwing fastball (87-93 MPH, 95 peak) and slider (low-80s, average but flashes better) righthander. It’s not the most explosive stuff or the highest ceiling, but it’s the kind of skill set that should play well in short bursts in the pros.
10.313 – LHP Richard Lovelady
It should be a pretty fun race to the big leagues between Walker Sheller and tenth rounder Richard Lovelady, a lefty reliever who can run it up to the mid-90s (sits 88-92ish) with a quality mid- to upper-70s breaking ball and usable upper-70s change. Good college numbers (10.26 K/9 and 4.93 BB/9) and a strong pro debut (10.80 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9) paint a pretty picture of a potential big league reliever.
11.343 – OF Vance Vizcaino
A big redshirt-sophomore season year at Stetson seemed to set Vance Vizcaino up for stardom at the college level, but his 2016 was a step back in just about every offensive area. That dip in production allowed the Royals to wait it out and and snag Vizcaino in the eleventh round. Getting someone closer to the 2015 version of Vizcaino would be a steal, but I can’t help but think that season will look more and more like an aberration the longer his career goes on. It isn’t that Vizcaino is a bad prospect — he isn’t — but he’s the epitome of an outfield tweener. He’s playable in center, sure, but much better in a corner. His speed is impressive, no doubt, but not quite on the level that I’d call it a clear carrying tool. His power is decent, yes, but not good enough to profile as a regular, especially in an outfield corner. Add it all up and the Tennessee transfer could be a useful backup outfielder in time if everything goes right. There’s no shame in profiling as a bench player, but I’d want a little more in a round that has turned into one where most teams target high upside, overslot gambles. That’s not Vizcaino.
12.373 – RHP Jeremy Gwinn
I was no Jeremy Gwinn expert in the spring and I’m no Jeremy Gwinn expert now. What I do know about him, however, I like. He’s got size at 6-5, 200 pounds. He’s got a good fastball at 90-94 MPH (95 peak). He can reach back and use one of three offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) in any count. His numbers at Colby CC this past year (11.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9 in 79.0 IP) were excellent. There is a lot to like here.
13.403 – 2B Logan Gray
Plate discipline is at or near the top of my list of required skills for any college hitter I’ll champion. It does seem, however, that every year there is a player or two who I can’t help but like in spite of consistently ugly BB/K ratios. One of those guys this year was Logan Gray (170). An optimistic take from April 2016…
All Logan Gray does is hit. There’s no point in me doubting him anymore. I’m sure there are scouts who don’t love every aspect of his swing or his bat speed or the way he circles the bases after hitting yet another home run, but at some point his extended run of hitting, hitting, and hitting some more has to matter. His athleticism and speed should translate to some steals (double-digits upside?) as he climbs the ladder and his power should play.
And a slightly more measured take from June 2016 right before the draft…
Logan Gray’s approach never took the step forward I was hoping to see (his sophomore to junior numbers are eerily similar), but he’s still so tooled up otherwise that he’s more than justified being a long-time FAVORITE. This class is dying for real third base prospects, so a raw yet highly athletic guy like Gray is very much welcomed.
There is so much about Gray’s game to like. He can run, he has power, he’s a great athlete, he’s capable of playing multiple spots…but the elephant in the room has been and figures to continue to be his approach. The downside to his game couldn’t have been made more clear in his 132 plate appearance debut in the Royals organization. Gray struggled to make contact (.187 BA), was unable to get into his plus raw power (.073 ISO), struck out a ton (34.8%), and barely walked at all (4.5 BB%). I’m not hopping off the bandwagon altogether after just 132 lousy plate appearances, but the fact that his struggles were so on the nose with what he’s had issues with in the past is more than a little concerning. Still, players with the kind of natural ability that Gray has shown don’t come around all that often, especially at the low low price of a thirteenth round pick. I had Gray valued at something closer to the fifth round — too early, probably, but defensible in this class when upside is taken into account — so it should go without saying that I love it in round thirteen. Whether or not Gray ever figures things out at the plate and gets past AA won’t make this pick any less clever to me. Process over results forever.
14.433 – RHP David McKay
David McKay joins a big group of relief prospects that could include every pitcher taken by Kansas City past their first overall selection. Competition for innings should be fierce in the early going, so McKay will need to impress as much as possible with his strong fastball (88-93) and breaking ball (once a plus slider, now far more of a curve as he’s adjusted to life post-Tommy John surgery) when called upon. So far, he’s done just that…
8.32 K/9 – 3.05 BB/9 – 44.1 IP – 2.64 ERA
7.96 K/9 – 3.14 BB/9 – 74.2 IP – 3.74 ERA
Top is what McKay did in his pro debut, bottom shows his redshirt-sophomore season at Florida Atlantic. Can’t knock the man for being consistent, that’s for sure. I like this pick a lot.
15.463 – LHP Mike Messier
I know it happened almost three weeks ago, but I still can’t get over Jaromir Jagr passing Mark Messier for second place on the all-time NHL points list. Jagr was old (but awesome) when I had the pleasure of watching him nightly with the Flyers and that was five years ago. This has nothing to do with Mike Messier and I apologize for that. Turning our attention back to baseball, kudos to the Royals for sticking with Messier despite a somewhat rocky junior season (4.75 ERA, highest among the three weekend starters) at Bellarmine. His peripherals remained solid (10.50 K/9 and 2.63 BB/9) and his stuff (88-92 FB) never wavered. Lefthanders with a certain baseline of velocity will always appeal to teams on draft day.
16.493 – OF Nick Heath
The pre-draft take on Nick Heath…
I like rJR OF Nick Heath as a potential high-contact, athletic, plus running center fielder, but the complete lack of power undermines what he does well otherwise. He’s more fun college player than serious pro prospect until he can start driving a few more balls to the gaps. They can’t all be power hitters, but the threat of power is a must in the pro game.
That feels pretty fair to me. Heath does enough well to potentially keep rising and make it as a reserve speed/defense outfielder, but the absence of power keeps his ceiling low. Solid depth piece at this point in the draft.
17.523 – RHP Dillon Drabble
A drabble is a short work of fiction of around one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space. Sounds a little bit like Twitter on a slightly larger scale. I’m much too dumb to write fiction, but let’s try to write a drabble about Dillon Drabble.
Dillon Drabble was drafted in the seventeenth round by Kansas City out of Seminole State JC in Oklahoma. He pitched well as a sophomore (10.45 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9) using a solid fastball (88-92) and cut-slider combination to get more than his fair share of swings and misses and a boatload of ground ball outs. He kept it up in his pro debut, notable mostly for a whopping 65.15 GB% on all batted balls in his 60.1 innings pitched. One contact who saw them both pitch in 2016 said he preferred Drabble to Kansas City’s similarly skilled fourth round pick, Jace Vines.
102 words! So close! I didn’t even get to talk about the comic strip as planned. Can’t win ’em all.
18.553 – LHP Vance Tatum
Two players named Vance in one draft class has to be a record, right? Vance Tatum is a fine find this late in the draft. The big lefty from Mississippi State has always done the job when called upon (7.73 K/9 and 3.45 BB/9 in 96.2 career college IP) thanks to enough velocity (85-91 FB), a true plus changeup, and a usable 76-81 MPH breaking ball. An imperfect comp for him that may have some merit, especially if he picks up a little velocity: Luis Avilan.
19.583 – RHP Tyler Fallwell
No matter what Fangraphs says, it’s Tyler Fallwell and not Falwell. The real Fallwell had a final draft year at Cochise (10.96 K/9 and 3.62 BB/9) and throws three pitches (88-92 MPH fastball, up-and-down slider, decent changeup) for strikes.
20.613 – RHP Anthony Bender
With a 9.94 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, and 1.65 ERA, Anthony Bender made his abbreviated sophomore year (16.1 IP) at Santa Rosa count. Armed with a fastball that could flirt with triple-digits in time (up to 97 already), Bender is exactly what you want in a mid-round quick-moving potential reliever.
21.643 – OF Dalton Griffin
I like a lot of elements in Dalton Griffin’s (455) game. He’s a solid runner with a strong arm, enough range to handle all three outfield spots (not at the same time though, that would be nuts), and a mature approach at the plate. Or, if that one sentence synopsis of Griffin doesn’t do it for you, how about just celebrating the fact that literally any high school prospect signed this late is worth getting at least a little excited about.
22.673 – RHP Cody Nesbit
Sometimes, just knowing a guy’s numbers can be enough. Cody Nesbit dominated this past spring at San Jacinto JC to the tune of a 15.60 K/9 and 2.00 BB/9. Knowing nothing beyond that, I’d still say that’s enough for me.
The Royals gave Nesbit $100,000 to sign. For those new at this, that’s the maximum amount allowed to a draft pick past the tenth round without dipping into the bonus pool allotment. The fact that Nesbit, a dominant junior college arm, got one hundred grand is wholly unremarkable. The fact that Nesbit is the is the twelfth Royal in a row to get a real signing bonus — ten of whom got six-figure bonuses — is pretty damn great. I love that Kansas City threw around that extra cash to get the players they wanted. I also love that the players got some real money upfront to help supplement their meager minor league salaries. I know Major League Baseball isn’t a charity, but if I was in charge of the draft room I’d push hard to give literally every player taken past round ten the full $100,000. There’s no penalty to doing so with the only real cost being a few extra bucks missing from the owner’s bottom line. I know it’s easy to say since it’s not my money, but the amount of good will around the game and potential for positive PR could pay for itself in time. A relatively small investment — the Royals signed 27 guys past round ten, so that would be $2.7 million if they followed my plan to the letter — that opens up the talent pool and could engender good feelings that resonate for years to come? Seems like something you could sell an open-minded owner on to me.
23.703 – OF Kort Peterson
UCLA has a deserved reputation of being a pitching factory in recent years. Everybody knows the big names like Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, but the Bruins have put big league pitchers like Charles Brewer, Erik Goeddel, Matt Grace, Rob Rasmussen, and Adam Plutko in the big leagues since 2009. James Kaprielian will join those guys shortly — he’s far more Cole/Bauer than any of those others — with Griffin Canning, Jake Bird, Justin Hooper, and Kyle Molnar all waiting in the wings. But the Bruins deserve equal credit for recruiting, developing, and sending off a slew of interesting high-contact, well-rounded offensive players to the pro ranks of late.
Maybe the group of Eric Filia, Kevin Kramer, and Tyler Heineman doesn’t have quite the same star power of that Cole/Bauer/Kaprielian trio, but all three are professional hitters who could carve out long pro careers if things fall the right way for them. I’d put Kort Peterson in that same class. Peterson doesn’t have any clear standout tools, but he’s a smart hitter with enough speed, range, and power to make a little noise in pro ball. His biggest selling point is his athleticism, so there’s more growth potential here than his good but not great college track record might suggest. I think my own track record (such as it is) of being bearish on college players who haven’t put up great numbers as amateurs (like Peterson) should indicate that I like the former UCLA outfielder’s overall skill set more than most.
24.733 – C Mike McCann
A torn thumb ligament cut short Mike McCann’s breakout junior season at Seattle, but the Royals made him a twenty-fourth round pick anyway. I heartily approve. McCann’s bat is ahead of his glove for me, but I still think he has the smarts if not the physical gifts to remain a catcher for the foreseeable future. A case could certainly be made that you’d rather have the smart catcher who can think along with your young pitching in the middle rounds than a bigger armed, better all-around defensive player lacking in the baseball IQ department. I’d take the latter guy early — big league tools are big league tools, after all — but, knowing what we know about the realistic success rate of players drafted at this point, getting a guy who will help with the overall development of his teammates makes perfect sense to me. Make no mistake, McCann is no slouch as a prospect in his own right. In a class loaded with college catching, his half-season (.319/.491/.445 with 37 BB/19 K) stands up to almost anybody’s. Great value here.
25.763 – 1B Robby Rinn
Robby Rinn is an older prospect (turned 24 this past October) confined to first base, so he’ll have to hurry up and start hitting if he wants to keep getting steady playing time in pro ball. His pro debut was fine (.280/.341/.386, 109 wRC+), but it was all in the AZL. That’s not Rinn’s fault — you can only play where you’re assigned — but he has to hope now that the Royals move him a lot quicker than that starting next spring. I believe in him as a hitter, but acknowledge that the odds are against him for a whole bunch of reasons.
26.793 – 3B John Brontsema
I don’t really understand this one. John Brontsema was already in my 2017 MLB Draft notes as a potential senior-sign — he has a solid glove and can play multiple spots — because I figured his unexciting junior season (.289/.364/.389 with 16 BB/44 K) would cause him to go undrafted. The Royals saw differently. Brontsema has rewarded that faith so far with a .337/.386/.396 (13 BB/33 K) debut.
27.823 – LHP Rex Hill
Rex Hill fell a little bit further than a three-pitch lefthander with good size (6-3, 200) probably should have. Perhaps it has something to do with Hill’s upper-80s fastball not being what pro teams want. I’d take it when combined with two average or better offspeed pitches (77-81 change, upper-70s breaking ball) and the chance he’ll gain a tick or two of velocity in a more consistent relief role. Worth a shot.
28.853 – C Yordany Salva
Yordany Salva hit .276/.339/.429 with 15 BB/33 K and 12/14 SB in his sophomore season at Broward CC. That’s all I’ve got. Typically those numbers wouldn’t be enough to be on my draft list, but the Royals obviously like him. We’ll see. Early reports on his defense have been positive, so at least there’s that to build on.
1/17 EDIT: As Shaun Newkirk of Royals Review points out, Salva has already been released by the Royals. It was fun while it lasted.
29.883 – RHP Grant Gavin
From 10.29 K/9 and 3.53 BB/9 (2.64 ERA) in 30.2 IP at Central Missouri to 8.57 K/9 and 0.91 BB/9 (2.01 ERA) in 49.1 IP in his pro debut: not a bad spring and summer for Grant Gavin. With a fastball up to 94 MPH, emerging offspeed stuff (CB and CU), and plenty of athleticism, Gavin could wind up one of this draft’s sneakier quick-moving relief prospects.
30.913 – RHP Geoff Bramblett
An established workhorse pitcher from the SEC with solid stuff across the board — 87-93 fastball, good low-70s breaking ball, improving sinking changeup — and plus athleticism still on the board tor the Royals in the thirtieth round? This is a pick you run to the phone to make. Nice work here.
31.943 – RHP Malcolm Van Buren
There’s literally nothing not to like about Kansas City taking a shot on Malcolm Van Buren in the thirty-first round. Athleticism, velocity (low-90s, up to 93), intriguing assortment of offspeed stuff (CB, CU, SL), and a 6-4, 185 pound frame with plenty of growth potential. The only issue here is his recent Tommy John surgery, but teams knew about the heading into the draft. If anything, strictly from a draft value perspective from the Royals point of view, Van Buren’s injury can be considered a positive. A healthy Van Buren goes twenty rounds sooner. As if I didn’t like this pick enough, the selection of Van Buren gives me an excuse to link to the classic clip you see below. When (fine, if) I sit down and try to determine my favorite picks across baseball from this draft, it’ll be hard to leave this one off.
34.1033 – RHP Nathan Webb
Very cool piece from a story on Nathan Webb, a pitcher I pretty much know nothing else about…
Safe to say he is the only member of the draft class who already has been presented with a World Series ring from the team.
That’s right, Webb, a right-handed pitcher, is one of four members of his high school team who works on the Royals’ grounds crew. The crew received rings.
“More than a replica,” said Lee’s Summit North baseball coach Mike Westacott. “They were really nice.”
How great is that? Good for the Royals.
35.1063 – C MJ Sanchez
When I start compiling notes for these draft reviews, I do so by collecting any and all relevant links that can add to the discussion about a given player. For reasons not particularly clear to me now, I found this link and decided it was worth saving. I can only guess that it had something to do with correctly guessing that the Jets would trade up to take Mark Sanchez. From there I linked Mark Sanchez to MJ Sanchez since MJ’s given name is also Mark. This is what passes for analysis in the thirty-fifth round. For what it’s worth, Sanchez hit well (.323/.384/.455 with 13 BB/15 K) in his redshirt-junior season at California Baptist. Have to figure that experience catching Tyson Miller, the highest drafted player in Lancers history, doesn’t hurt, either. It certainly helped Sanchez get multiple looks from scouts when he might have otherwise been given just a passing glance. I love it when a big-time prospect helps draw in scouts and gives exposure to talented teammates. I’m convinced there are way more good players out there than there are scouts on the road capable of seeing everybody. If you’re good they’ll find you, but getting a little serendipitous help along the way makes things a lot easier.
36.1093 – RHP Alex Massey
Alex Massey going all the way back to 2012 (!) at Tulane…
2012: 8.06 K/9 – 2.45 BB/9 – 51.1 IP
2014: 9.92 K/9 – 4.13 BB/9 – 32.2 IP
2015: 7.47 K/9 – 4.70 BB/9 – 88.1 IP
2016: 7.89 K/9 – 3.11 BB/9 – 75.0 IP
Four pretty solid seasons, all in all. Massey did it with a good sinking fastball (88-92 as a starter, but can run it up to 94-95 in shorter outings) and an above-average slider. That’s more than enough to warrant inclusion in the great big future middle relief pile the Royals have assembled through this draft.
37.1123 – RHP Justin Camp
Justin Camp had a weird college career at Auburn. He was basically the same guy in 2013, 2014, and 2016, but something much more in 2015. What do you do with that? I guess if you’re the Royals you take it in the thirty-seventh round and hope for the best. Camp has good stuff — 90-93 FB, low-70s CU, low-80s breaking ball — with decent command. Tough to see him being much more than an organizational arm, but he’s a bit more talented than your typical bottom of the draft selection.
39.1183 – C Chase Livingston
Chase Livingston was drafted by a MLB baseball team — the defending champs no less! — and I was not, so he’s clearly got plenty going for him and doesn’t need my approval in any way whatsoever. That’s why I don’t feel bad in pointing out that he might have the worst body of work of any 2016 MLB Draft pick. Livingston hit .202/.273/.267 with 25 BB/86 K in 337 AB at Rhode Island. His big senior year saw him put up a career-best .309 SLG as he hit .216 with a .275 OBP (11 BB/39 K). Naturally, he turned into a much better hitter (or had a nice run of fortune on balls in play in a small sample) in pro ball as he hit .273/.375/.273 (8 BB/11 K) in 66 PA split between two levels of rookie ball. With college numbers like his, the only way I can begin to rationalize this pick is to assume Livingston is the world’s greatest defensive catcher. It’s basically Nichols’ Law of Catcher Defense come to life.
40.1213 – RHP Taylor Kaczmarek
Some teams end with pointless nepotism picks, others pick players they have developed lasting long-term relationships with — the Royals originally drafted Taylor Kaczmarek out of South Mountain CC in 2012 — battling their way back from beating acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Kaczmarek is a feel-good story to be sure, but he’s not some total charity case selection: the reliever from San Diego has been up to 90 MPH with his fastball in the past.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Luke Bandy (Dallas Baptist), Kam Misner (Missouri), Joey Fregosi (?)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Washington in 2016
14 – Carter Kieboom
40 – Sheldon Neuse
58 – Jesus Luzardo
*100 – Dane Dunning
148 – Nick Banks
193 – Jake Noll
388 – AJ Bogucki
1.28 – SS Carter Kieboom
The rich get richer as the Nationals do it again with an absolute steal with their first round pick. The birth of this site coincided with Washington’s unprecedented draft run beginning in 2009. I’m not sure a team has had better draft luck in any sport over an extended period* than what the Nationals experienced in the four drafts from ’09 to ’12. Being bad at the right time to land Stephen Strasburg (’09) and Bryce Harper (’10) is one thing, but having the number one prospects like Anthony Rendon (’11) and Lucas Giolito (’12) fall to pick six and sixteen in their respective years is otherworldly lucky. All credit to Washington for actually taking the plunge with Rendon and Giolito as they fell, but just being in that position in the first place is nothing short of a draft day miracle.
Getting Carter Kieboom (14) with the 28th overall pick might not qualify as another draft day miracle, but it’s not all that far off the mark, either. Some quick history on Kieboom, starting in April 2016…
Carter Kieboom is listed at third, but recent impressive defensive showings could allow him to remain at shortstop for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, he could jump ten or more spots up these rankings because the bat is legit.
…and then again a month later…
Carter Kieboom was with the third base prospects in my notes up until about a month or so ago. The buzz on him being good enough to stick at shortstop for at least a few years grew too loud to ignore. In fact, said buzz reminds me quite a bit about how the slow yet steady drumbeat for Alex Bregman, Shortstop grew throughout the spring last season. Beyond the defensive comparison, I think there’s actually a little something to looking at Kieboom developing as a potential Bregman type impact bat over the next few seasons. He checks every box you’d want to see out of a high school infielder: hit (above-average), power (above-average raw), bat speed (yes), approach (mature beyond his years), athleticism (well above-average), speed (average), glove (average at short, could be better yet at third), and arm (average to above-average, more than enough for the left side). He’d be neck and neck with Drew Mendoza for third place on my third base list, but he gets the bump to second here with the shortstops. At either spot, he’s a definite first round talent for me.
There you go. Carter Kieboom: the next Alex Bregman. It’s not really that simple because it’s never really that simple, but the two young players share a lot of the same positive traits. Bregman’s incredible start to his pro career makes the direct one-to-one comparison extra scary. I love comps, but recognize they aren’t for everybody. The very nature of player comparisons can create unfair expectations based on misunderstanding the purpose of the enterprise; Kieboom not hitting the ground running quite like Bregman wouldn’t make him a failure, but the optics of linking the two together invites an extra layer of scrutiny that perhaps confuses more than clarifies. Still, I stand by the view that Kieboom has a lot of the same positive qualities in his game that make Bregman so good. I’m comfortable projecting Kieboom as a potential impact player on the same tier as Bregman.
*Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers with an unfair run going back to getting arguably the most important first pick of all-time (LeBron James), the second piece of their Big Three (Kyrie Irving) after only having to suffer one year post-Decision, and the pick that would become the third member (Andrew Wiggins begat Kevin Love) falling into their laps despite just a 1.7% of happening. And that ignores the Anthony Bennett year, which, fine, was a wash, but it still put them in a position where they could have realistically taken somebody useful like Oladipo, Porter, Noel, or McCollum or unrealistically taken a superstar like Antetokounmpo or Gobert instead. The Pittsburgh Penguins could be in the mix with their Marc-Andre Fluery, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby run.
The Colts are a sneaky darkhorse for one of the luckiest draft teams of all-time: going from fourteen seasons of Peyton Manning directly into the Andrew Luck era is pretty damn fortunate any way you look at it. Recent holiday boredom, however, revealed that the Colts are one of only three teams to have only had three quarterbacks (George, Manning, Luck) play all sixteen games in a season in the modern era. The others are the Patriots (Grogan, Bledsoe, Brady) and Jaguars (Brunell, Garrard, Bortles). The Texans have technically had the worst luck at the position (Carr and Schaub), but their history only goes back to 2002 so they get a mulligan for now. Anyway, I feel a little less jealous of the Colts now that I see how ugly things were for the decades that came before Manning/Luck. If you want to go way back, then I’d be willing to hear arguments for the Orlando Magic in the early-90s. If you flip the Strasburg/Harper drafts, then maybe you could flesh out a longform think piece worthy comparison between Orlando getting Shaq (transcendent superstar a la Harper) and Penny (crazy talented but oft-injured) in 1992 and 1993. I’d read that.
1.29 – RHP Dane Dunning
I messed up on Dane Dunning (*100). hence the asterisk next to his “pre-draft ranking.” From draft night…
A copy/paste error this morning kept Dunning off of the top 500 rankings. Now I’m paranoid that he’s not the only name missing since I tend to copy/paste in bunches. Anyway, Dunning has a really good arm. Going off memory, I think he was ranked somewhere just after the 200 mark near the Matt Krook, Matthias Dietz, Greg Veliz, and Tyler Mondile band of pitchers. My inexplicably unpublished notes on him…
JR RHP Dane Dunning: 88-94 FB with plus sink, 96 peak; average or better 81-83 SL; no longer uses good mid-70s CB as much; average 82-87 CU, flashes above-average with plus upside; improved command; good athlete; 6-3, 200 pounds
2014: 11.57 K/9 – 4.71 BB/9 – 21 IP – 5.14 ERA
2015: 8.25 K/9 – 3.45 BB/9 – 60.1 IP – 4.05 ERA
2016: 10.28 K/9 – 1.45 BB/9 – 68.1 IP – 2.50 ERA
For all the completists out there, Dunning finished 2016 at Florida with the following line…
10.08 K/9 – 1.37 BB/9 – 78.2 IP – 2.29 ERA
Anyway, good thing Dunning was just a late first round pick with little fanfare who didn’t make any noise this past offseason or anything. The newest member of the White Sox — or one of the newest members, it’s been a busy offseason on the South Side so far — is really good. I did some digging my own archives and found that the draft day estimate that placed Dunning around 200th overall was off. He was actually closer to the 100 mark in the same group as fellow Gator Shaun Anderson (90th), Ben Bowden (93rd), Mike Shawaryn (98th), and Bailey Clark (102nd). Dunning has a shot to be an impact mid-rotation arm — calling guys “mid-rotation,” as I’m often guilty of doing, is so vague; my attempt to differentiate that a bit with the “impact” adjective isn’t all that I wanted, but hopefully it shows some nuance that separates a damn good potential third starter mid-rotation arm from a innings-eating fourth starter mid-rotation arm — who piles up outs on the ground with an elite sinker/slider mix. He has the changeup, command, athleticism, and delivery to start with the experience in relief as a tantalizing fallback plan.
2.58 – 3B Sheldon Neuse
On Sheldon Neuse (40) from March 2016…
Recently got a Mike Olt draft comparison for Sheldon Neuse. Thought that was a pretty strong comp. Also liked that it was a draft comparison and not necessarily a pro prospect match. Olt’s big league disappointments don’t change the fact that he’s a really talented ballplayer capable of looking really good for long stretches at a time. Players develop in all kinds of different ways, so expecting one guy to follow another’s path is unwise. Maybe Neuse will fulfill his promise professionally in a way that Olt wasn’t able. Maybe he’ll experience similar developmental road blocks and see his game stall in a similar manner. Olt went 49th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft; snagging Neuse at any point after that would be a steal in 2016.
And then again in April 2016 (with a bonus pre-season take from October 2015 embedded within)…
On Sheldon Neuse before the season…
Neuse could still fulfill the promise many (myself included) saw in him during his excellent freshman season back when he looked like a potential Gold Glove defender at third with the kind of bat you’d happily stick in the middle of the order. He could also get more of a look this spring on the mound where he can properly put his mid-90s heat and promising pair of secondary offerings (SL, CU) to use. Or he could have something of a repeat of his 2015 season leaving us unsure how good he really is and thinking of him more of a second to fifth round project (a super talented one, mind you) than a first round prospect.
So far, so good on the whole fulfilling that promise thing: Neuse has hit .383/.483/.692 through 32 games with 23 BB/26 and 8/9 SB. On the mound, he’s been just as good: 16 K in 16.2 IP of 1.62 ERA ball. He’s now firmly back on the first round bubble and one of this draft’s quintessential first round talents that might get squeezed out of the top thirty or so picks because of the impressive depth at the top of this class.
Drafting Neuse any point after pick 49 would be a steal, I said. The Nationals took Neuse with pick 58. If one were to connect the dots, one might see a picture of, I don’t know, Neuse stealing something or the Nationals stealing Neuse or something that makes it clear that Washington did indeed get themselves fine value with their second round pick. Neuse’s plus-plus arm, quality defense at the hot corner, and intriguing power upside remind me a little bit of former Rutgers star Todd Frazier. It’s an imperfect comp — the body types are off — but similar career arcs don’t seem out of the question.
3.94 – LHP Jesus Luzardo
I really, really like the healthy version of Jesus Luzardo (58). The young lefty has about everything you’d want in a pitching prospect. Fastball? Sits anywhere from 87-95 MPH with peaks as high as 97 MPH. Changeup? Such an important pitch for a lefty and Luzardo delivers with an above-average 75-82 MPH version with plus upside. Breaking ball? You get two for the price of one as Luzardo throws a really good 75-82 MPH slider and a decent 73-78 curve. He commands his offspeed stuff well and his fastball exceptionally well. The only knocks on Luzardo are the standard risks that come with any teenage pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery (Luzardo had his in March 2016) and the lack of projection — though it’s arguable how much he needs to grow with his present stuff being so strong — in his 6-1, 200 pound frame. I can’t help but view this pick as less of a 2016 third round selection and more of a bonus 2017 first rounder. Assuming his rehab goes as planned, Luzardo could be in line to start his career almost exactly one year after he would have if healthy from the start. We’re talking a mid- to late-summer rookie ball debut with the goal of having him ready for Low-A by April 2018. Mentioned it before the draft, but Luzardo reminds me a lot of last year’s second round pick by Cleveland — and 59th overall selection, just one spot off of Luzardo’s pre-draft ranking here…hmm — Juan Hillman. I think Luzardo is better, though.
4.124 – OF Nick Banks
On Nick Banks (148) from March 2016…
Hunter Renfroe went thirteenth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, so his 2016 doppelganger Nick Banks going a few spots later seems appropriate. Banks is one of the many hitters with questionable BB/K marks before the season that scouts insisted had more mature approaches at the plate than the raw numbers suggested. The scouts have been redeemed by most of those hitters — Kyle Lewis most famously — but Banks has continued to struggle (5 BB/10 K) out of the gate so far. He could still have a fine pro career without polishing up his approach — he’s a legit five-tool guy with no singular grade falling below average on most scout cards — but plugging that last remaining hole could mean the difference between good and great.
Those scouts could still be be on to something as maybe Banks is just a late-bloomer as it pertains to his approach, but it probably makes more sense to just accept him for the free-swinger that he is. His BB/K as a junior at Texas A&M: 24 BB/47 K. His BB/K in his pro debut: 11 BB/37 K. Just as concerning for Banks is his defense; he’s more than fine in either corner, but stretched in center. Banks may very well be a classic outfielder tweener. His offense feels a half-step behind what you want for a corner player and his defense makes him a less than ideal fourth outfielder candidate. Working in his favor is a history of hitting righthanded pitching particularly well, so a platoon situation could benefit both him and his club if/when he reaches the big leagues. I’d be happy with that outcome at this point if I were in the Washington front office.
5.154 – OF Daniel Johnson
I’m always a bit apprehensive when a player’s best tools are arguably the two least important, but Daniel Johnson’s plus-plus arm strength and plus to plus-plus speed are almost so much better than the norm that I can accept it. His rawness at the plate still makes me a bit uneasy, but I get the appeal. Fifth round still seems way too early, though. Johnson is a great athlete who covers a lot of ground in center and can clearly throw and run with the best of them. If that’s all he is, then there’s some value there as a speed/defense fifth outfielder. If he hits even a little, then you might be able to squint and see a future regular depending on how highly you value what he does well.
Heard two interesting things about Johnson while doing some digging. First, a contact said that his team had Johnson much higher than Buddy Reed, a similar speed/defense type who may or may not hit. Thought that was pretty interesting. I also got an Aaron Brown comparison for Johnson that makes a little sense, especially if you once thought (as I did) that Brown’s most likely path to the big leagues was on the mound. I’m not necessarily saying the same about Johnson — he runs and defends in center better than Brown ever did — but the thought of seeing what his monster arm could do if unleashed as a pitcher is pretty damn intriguing.
6.184 – C Tres Barrera
I’ve always been high on Tres Barrera. He was ranked in the top 500 back in his high school days (356 in 2013, one spot ahead of Mitch Garver) and I continued to champion his abilities into April 2016…
Tres Barrera’s ordinary start – his approach has taken a big step back – knocks him down from his clear perch in the two spot to closer to the middle of the pack. Despite seeing some time at third base this year for the Longhorns, I still like him behind the plate over the long haul. His above-average raw power keeps him in the top ten round mix despite the aforementioned backslide in approach.
For as much as I liked Barrera over the years the weird shift in approach (33 BB/39 K as a sophomore to 28 BB/54 K as a junior) was enough of a red flag to keep him out of my top 500 in this draft class loaded with college coaching. Do I regret it? A little bit, especially after Barrera went back to a more pleasant to the eye BB/K ratio of 15/22 in his pro debut. That performance has me questioning a whole lot of what I knew — or thought I knew — about Barrera as an offensive player, to say nothing of my own process for evaluating talent from afar. Was reading into the 211 at bats Barrera compiled in his final season at Texas nothing more than a classic case of mistakenly sweating a small sample? Is the smaller pro sample (164 AB) more of an aberration that shouldn’t be read into, either? Or could it be that Barrera was just a 21-year-old (22 this past September) catcher going through the ups and downs of playing in a pressurized college environment, shifting between multiple positions on defense, and attempting to make the adjustment to pro ball on the fly, so, hey, maybe we (fine, I) should ease up on judging him as if he was a finished product? Let’s go with that for now. Barrera is talented — average power, average arm, more than athletic enough to make it behind the plate — and versatile, so he’ll get plenty of chances to sink or swim in pro ball. I’ll go high-level backup catcher good enough to play a few different spots defensively in a pinch. Maybe something like a more well-rounded version of Eli Marrero/Tyler Houston depending on how Washington deploys him, though all the smart money is on the Nationals being fully committed to him behind the plate.
7.214 – Jake Noll
I remember thinking that Jake Noll (193) looked a little bit like Ryan Zimmerman after seeing him play for Florida Gulf Coast this past spring. Now he’s in the same organization. Great analysis, right? For more insight like that, here’s me on Noll from March 2016…
One of the better on-the-radar mid-round (or better) middle infield juniors is Jake Noll. Noll is a good hitter with above-average bat speed, above-average foot speed, and enough defensive versatility (2B, 3B, OF) to be a really interesting pro prospect. He’s hit well so far in 2016 despite some uncommon plate discipline struggles (small sample alert!), so his opportunity to rise up boards in a college class in need of more up-the-middle talent remains present. I like Noll more than I love him right now, but he’s earned his spot atop an average at best all-around class of hitting talent.
An outside-the-box name to keep in mind when thinking about Jake Noll in the pros: Odubel Herrera. Both guys can run a little bit, play a few different positions (if Noll doesn’t stick at second, he could be a prime candidate to move to center like Herrera), and, most critically, know how to flat hit the baseball. Like Herrera, Noll can really hit. That ability should serve him well as the rest of his game catches up in the pros. Bonus comparison that also makes a little bit of sense: former Nationals prospect Max Schrock.
8.244 – RHP AJ Bogucki
I’ve seen a lot of AJ Bogucki (388) over the years, first at Boyertown HS (about 30 miles from me) and later at North Carolina, so I can say that his pre-draft ranking is more about what I’ve heard and read than what I’ve seen firsthand. Bogucki has always looked good when I’ve seen him — his results in three years as a Tar Heel back this up — but I’ve almost always walked away thinking he was one of those prospects who had many great individual components that never quite added up to a great prospect. Bogucki has a fine fastball (87-94, 96 peak) that he commands well at times (but not so well at others), plus an above-average breaking ball that flits between both a curve (upper-70s) and slider (low-80s). Going with the sinking fastball/harder slider (a pitch that flashes plus at times) combination could make him a useful reliever if that’s how he and the Nationals decide to take his development. It’s what I would do, at least.
9.274 – C Joey Harris
Defensively, Joey Harris fits in really well in the big leagues. His hands, arm, and athleticism could be his ticket to advancement in the years to come. Offensively, it takes some projection to get to a similar level. I don’t personally see it — not enough power, patience is just all right, contact skills are inconsistent — but I know for a fact (#SOURCES) that there are those in the Washington organization who see things differently. Harris is a guy seen as a future everyday catcher internally. We shall see.
10.304 – SS Paul Panaccione
Flattery will get you everywhere, they say. That may well be true, but I think the same could be said for positional versatility. Being able to play a variety of spots on the diamond as a non-premium prospect entering pro ball is the best way to get the playing time you need to make a meaningful impression on the powers that will ultimately decide your professional fate. Paul Panaccione has that part of the game well taken care of. In his debut, the shortstop from Grand Canyon played shortstop (duh), second, and third. He also mixed in a few innings in both left and right field for good measure. Defensive flexibility like his helped keep his bat in the lineup even as he scuffled to an ugly .205/.254/.250 start in his first 190 plate appearances. There’s no way to sugarcoat those awful numbers, so Panaccione will have to hope that his relative strengths and draft standing are enough to get him another honest shot in 2017. As a fan of his game, I hope that’s the case. Panaccione is a steady glove wherever you put him who uses his average speed well. He makes a lot of quality contact and has a patient approach at the plate. From March 2016…
It’s fairly well-established by now that this year’s college shortstop class isn’t good. I’m about as positive a guy as you’ll find willing to do this for free and even I’ll admit that. That said…there are way more mid-major and small school types that can a) probably stay at shortstop in the pros, and b) hit frozen ropes even when dragged out of bed to do so. Paul Panaccione is one of the best of those types. In drafting Panaccione, you’d be getting a steadying influence in the middle infield, a hitter with a very clear plan with every trip to the plate, and an all-around solid performer with an increasingly intriguing track record of getting it done at the college level.
Rough start or not, Panaccione still looks like one of the draft’s most interesting super-utility prospects. It’s not a super high ceiling and the odds of reaching it obviously took a little bit of hit since draft day, but for a tenth round pick it’s more than fair value.
11.334 – OF Armond Upshaw
I’ve heard from those in the know that there are those within the Washington organization view Armond Upshaw as a potential switch-hitting Michael Taylor. That would be a more than suitable outcome for an eleventh round pick. Upshaw has serious speed, more than enough range for center, and surprising feel as a hitter. Regular readers of the site know I try to stay away from the name game, but Armond Upshaw just sounds too good to fail. Major League Baseball is ready for an Armond Upshaw.
12.364 – LHP Hayden Howard
It’s easy to see the appeal of Hayden Howard, a big (6-4, 190) lefthander with a nice mix of present stuff (87-92 FB, low-80s CU, low-70s CB) and projection to come. The results, however, are enough to pump the breaks on Howard’s upside being much more than a potential matchup lefty out of the pen. Howard’s junior year at Texas Tech (5.66 K/9 and 2.06 BB/9 in 70.0 IP) looks a lot like what he did in his pro debut (5.41 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 23.1 IP). I won’t write off Howard completely as a potential starting pitching option based on a little under one hundred combined college/pro 2016 innings, but the idea that he is what he is in that role has certainly crossed my mind. This doesn’t mean he’s useless, of course; as mentioned, a successful career in relief could very well be on the horizon for Howard.
13.394 – 1B Conner Simonetti
Monster power, quality first base defense, and one glaring potentially fatal flaw. That’s Conner Simonetti, a legit plus raw power bat from Kent State who struck out 126 times in 379 at bats between college and the pros in 2016. That’s a ton of swing-and-miss. I’m good with betting on power at this point in the draft even if the odds of Simonetti being able to make enough contact to make it worth it are low.
14.424 – RHP Kyle Simonds
Kyle Simonds not landing in my top 500 surprises me a little bit now that I have a few months of reflection behind me. Simonds is the kind of college arm that is unexciting on the surface (5.43 K/9 in 2015, 7.22 K/9 in 2016), but with the exact mix of polish (two average or better offspeed pitches), command (consistently above-average), athleticism (plus), and ground ball stuff (52.38%52.38%) to profile as a quick-mover in pro ball. I like Simonds’s three-pitch mix (86-92 sinking fastball, above-average low-80s slider, average or better 78-84 changeup) enough to keep starting, though his age (24 in May) means he’ll have to get moving fast. It may be a little rich, but there are enough similarities with Tanner Roark here that a career path along those lines wouldn’t be a shock. Value like that in round fourteen is excellent.
15.454 – LHP Ryan Williamson
Ryan Williamson is kind of what you get when you combine Hayden Howard and Kyle Simonds. He has the lefthandedness and history of run prevention of Howard while his stuff (87-93 FB, really good 77-83 SL, intriguing CU) more closely mirrors what Simonds throws. That makes him a closer prospect to Simonds in my mind, a good thing for Williamson’s pro prospects. Less good for Williamson’s pro prospects is the fact he’s likely to miss the entire 2017 season after Tommy John surgery in late-May of 2016. A return to full health would put Williamson right back on the prospect map. Lefties with three pitches and size (6-3, 200) coming off three straight seasons of double-digit strikeouts per nine in the ACC tend to get plenty of opportunities to impress in pro ball. I like this one a lot.
16.484 – RHP Phil Morse
The first two seasons for Phil Morse at Shenandoah…
The last two seasons for Phil Morse at Shenandoah…
Interesting, right? The jump in strikeouts and the drastic drop in run prevention coincides with two things: a shift to the bullpen and increased velocity. Morse went from 88-92 MPH as a starter to 92-96 MPH in relief. Part of that was the obvious shift in role, but it was also the culmination of a larger journey. Morse put on good weight, improved his conditioning, tweaked his delivery, and won the genetic lottery that allows some guys to suddenly see major upticks in velocity when others don’t. With his big fastball, cut-slider, and occasional change, Morse has a shot to pitch out of a big league bullpen one day if he can get his control under control.
17.514 – SS Tyler Beckwith
I like what Washington did in targeting potential utility options in this draft. They went alliterative early with Paul Panaccionne and late with Branden Boggetto, and settled on Tyler Beckwith in between. All three guys have proven themselves versatile defensively with intriguing offensive upside to match. Beckwith played third base, shortstop, and second base in his pro debut. He’s a really good athlete with standout speed and an above-average arm who has a chance to hit for solid power if he can keep advancing. What’s not to like there? Toss in Beckwith’s college experience in the outfield and you can see the outline of a true seven position super-sub if everything breaks right.
18.544 – LHP Ben Braymer
Size (6-2, 220) and arm strength (88-92, 94 peak) from the left side will always get you a foot in the door. A quality draft season in the SEC (8.81 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 in 48.0 IP) doesn’t hurt, either. The development of a reliable offspeed pitch, be it the slider or the change, will determine how far Ben Braymer will go as a reliever from here on out. As the first of six consecutive signed college arms, competition figures to be fierce in the years to come.
20.604 – LHP Jake Barnett
Jake Barnett pitched well as a junior (9.84 K/9 and 2.93 BB/9) on a dominant Lewis-Clark pitching staff. Did some digging beyond that and…I’ve got nothing. He relies heavily on a sinker/slider combination, so at least I can share that. Beyond that…nothing.
21.634 – RHP Jacob Howell
Jacob Howell made his one and only season at Delta State worthwhile. His junior year numbers — 11.81 K/9 and 3.94 BB/9 — look good. Like Jake Barnett, his stuff is a bit of a mystery at this point for me. Low-90s fastball is all I’ve got. It’s a start.
22.664 – RHP Sterling Sharp
I lost track of Sterling Sharp, a Drury Panther by way of Eastern Michigan and Darton State who was a pretty big deal as prep prospect once upon a time, so it’s cool to see him reemerge as a legit pro prospect after a good but not great draft season (7.69 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9) in 2016. Sharp managed to follow that success with more of the same in pro ball. He posted a 7.34 K/9 and 1.16 BB/9 in 46.2 debut innings with the Nationals organization this past summer. Getting a really athletic righthander with low-90s heat and limited innings weighing down his arm is a nice move in the twenty-second round.
23.694 – RHP Michael Rishwain
I have nothing against the Nationals per se — Natitude is embarrassing, but can we really hold that against the organization forever? — yet them making things incredibly difficult for a one-man gang to come up with insightful things to say about all of their obscure college pitching prospects has me reconsidering how I feel about the franchise. Michael Rishwain did this at Westmont College in 35.2 innings: 7.84 K/9 , 1.77 BB/9, and 1.51 ERA. That’s all I’ve got.
24.724 – RHP Joseph Baltrip
Joseph Baltrip makes it five consecutive pitchers from non-D1 schools in a row for Washington. I’m not passing judgment, just noting that five in a row starting in a nice round number like twenty feels like more than just a coincidence. Or maybe I’m just a crazy conspiracy theorist. Nice to see Lewis-Clark State, Delta State, Drury University, Westmont College, and Wharton County Junior College get some draft love all the same. Baltrip, the one from Wharton County JC, might have put up the weirdest professional line of any 2016 draft pick. On the surface, things were great: can’t really argue with a 1.38 ERA in 26.0 IP even if it comes with a pedestrian 5.88 K/9, right? What if that 1.38 ERA came with a 7.96 BB/9 and an incomprehensibly high 93.3 LOB%? Of all pitchers with at least twenty innings thrown, only Henry Owens had a higher BB/9 in the big leagues this past season. Only two big league pitchers (Chris Capuano and Andrew Miller) had higher LOB%. Forget what I said earlier: what Baltrip did is the TRUE definition of effectively wild.
For better or worse, said wildness isn’t necessarily a new thing for Baltrip. In his draft year as a Pioneer, he managed a 10.73 K/9 and 5.36 BB/9. Into the mid-round potential middle relief pile he goes. Incidentally, Baltrip’s last name reminds me of the fictional basketball league I created as a kid. I obviously had to make up some killer names to fill the rosters of the 64-team league (because tournaments are awesome, you see), so necessity was the mother of invention as I looked wherever I could to find cool sounding ideas. I distinctly remember being at a baseball game and seeing the out of town scoreboard post the updated totals for the Orioles-Blue Jays game. Something about BAL-TOR sounded good to me, so Josh Baltor was born. He was terrible. Hopefully Joseph Baltrip enjoys more success.
25.754 – SS Branden Boggetto
I like Branden Boggetto as a potential bat-first utility prospect capable of playing any of the four infield spots in a pinch. The college shortstop took to second base in the pros as he continued to hit for solid power with a decent if sometimes overly aggressive approach.
26.784 – OF Jack Sundberg
On Jack Sundberg from March 2015…
Sundberg is held back by a lack of any kind of meaningful pop, but he can run, throw, and defend well enough in center that a team might put up with some growing pains with the stick. He profiles better as a 2016 senior sign to me.
I guess there are worse organizational guys to have around than Sundberg, though it’s hard seeing how a punchless outfielder with no real carrying tool (his glove, speed, and arm are all good, but nothing that bowls you over) who can’t hit lefthanded pitching carves out a role over the long haul.
27.814 – LHP Jeremy McDonald
Jeremy McDonald, all 5-9, 185 pounds of him, did this at California Baptist: 9.43 K/9 and 4.29 BB/9 in 84.0 IP. Then he went out and did this in the pros: 9.23 K/9 and 1.71 BB/9 in 26.1 IP. I’ve heard some quiet hype about McDonald being the next Tim Collins, but I have no idea if there’s real merit to the idea or if it’s just a short lefthander being compared to a short lefthander kind of thing.
28.844 – LHP Jonny Reid
Jonny Reid at Azusa Pacific: 7.33 K/9 and 2.09 BB/9. Jonny Reid in the pros: 6.00 K/9 and 1.75 BB/9. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.
29.874 – RHP Sam Held
On Sam Held from April 2015…
His teammate JR RHP Sam Held is another good athlete with a strong fastball (94 peak) and plenty of projection left who hasn’t performed as hoped so far this season.
If Held’s 2015 was a disappointment (7.80 K/9, 6.00 BB/9, and 8.40 ERA in 15.1 IP), then I’m not quite sure what to call his 2016. His ERA went down to 5.17 and his innings went up to 38.1, so that’s good. He also significantly trimmed his walk rate (2.11 BB/9), so that’s really good. But somehow a long, lean, mid-90s throwing machine managed to get through his senior season only striking out 3.05 batters per nine. Of course then he went out and did this in 29.0 pro innings: 6.83 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, and 1.86 ERA. In short, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
31.934 – C CJ Picerni
Undergraduate universities attended by the four Ozga siblings: Boston University, American University, Pace University, and New York University. The last time a player was drafted from each respective school: 1969 (Nicholas Stipnovich and Joe Lasorsa), 2011 (Stephen Lumpkins), 2016 (Brett Bittiger), and 2016 (CJ Picerni). Figures I’m the only one without a draft pick from my school in the June draft ever. Anyway, Picerni getting selected by Washington is a pretty big deal for NYU. He’s the first NYU baseball player drafted since the school brought back the baseball program in 2015 after a 41-year hiatus. I honestly had no idea they brought baseball back. Shows what I know.
Is Picerni any good? I have no notes on him nor have I seen him, but his senior season stats (.258/.319/.331 with 7 BB/30 K) as a 23-year-old playing Division III ball don’t inspire much confidence. He was much better as a junior (.331/.365/.510 with 13 BB/21 K), so at least there’s that. If nothing else, he can always say he got drafted and played in pro ball. And my brother now has bragging rights on me once again.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jarrett Gonzales (Grayson CC), Tristan Clarke (New Orleans), Garrett Gonzales (Incarnate Word), Ryan Wetzel (Pittsburg State), Morgan Cooper (Texas), Tristan Bayless (Texas A&M), Jordan McFarland (Arkansas), Cory Voss (Arizona), Noah Murdock (Virginia), Matt Mervis (Duke), Sean Cook (Maryland)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Miami in 2016
18 – Braxton Garrett
184 – Thomas Jones
377 – Chad Smith
466 – Jarett Rindfleisch
471 – Sean Reynolds
479 – Eric Gutierrez
1.7 – LHP Braxton Garrett
Time will tell, of course, but the Miami 2016 MLB Draft class looks really thin on paper. Thankfully for fans of the Marlins, the MLB Draft — all drafts, really — can be analyzed until we’re blue in the face, but, more often than not, can ultimately be assessed as no more than a simple first pick pass/fail. If you hit on your first pick, then you’ve passed almost regardless of what transpires later. From this vantage point, it sure as heck looks like the Marlins have hit on their first round pick. Braxton Garrett (18) is a serious talent with true top of the rotation upside. He’s exactly the kind of high impact prospect that can make a draft. Garrett doesn’t have the velocity (87-92, 94 peak) that blows hitters away (yet), but he more than makes up for it with some of the best command you’ll find out of a teenage arm anywhere in the world. Garrett also have above-average control, tons of pitchability, and a pair of stellar offspeed pitches that include a legit plus curveball best in the low-80s and a mid-80s changeup that is already an average pitch with above-average to plus upside. There’s a reason ESPN compared the guy to both Jon Lester and Cole Hamels this past spring. Two additional names that I’ve heard include Rich Hill and Steven Matz. That’s a heck of a list of comps, something that ought to come as no surprise as Garrett is a heck of a prospect.
3.84 – OF Thomas Jones
After getting a deal done with Vanderbilt commit Braxton Garrett in the first round, Miami ensured they’d stay off Tim Corbin’s Christmas card list by by signing Thomas Jones (184) away from the Commodores in round three. Vandy’s loss is the Marlins gain as Jones checks just about every box you’d want to see in a young outfield prospect. He can run (above-average), throw (above-average), and hit for power (plus raw). Like any teenage position player there’s a big gap between what he is and what he could be, but favorable comps ranging from Devon White (Perfect Game), 39th overall pick Anfernee Grier (my own), and Carlos Gomez (heard this from a pro guy over the summer) are certainly intriguing.
4.113 – OF Sean Reynolds
The good news here is that my pre-draft positional designation of RHP/1B for Sean Reynolds undersold his athleticism and arm strength. Despite being a big guy (6-7, 200), he’s good enough in the outfield to project as a solid right fielder going forward. Reynolds is also still just a teenager (19 in April) who is only now focusing on hitting full-time for the first time in his life. He also has a quality fastball (85-90, 92 peak) and that aforementioned size to fall back on as a pitcher if hitting doesn’t work out in the long run. That leads us to the bad news. In his debut, Reynolds hit .155/.262/.196 with 37.0 K% and 12.7 BB% in 173 PA. That’s not the end of the world, but it does highlight some of the red flags I had heard pre-draft about Reynolds as a hitter, mainly the standard long-levers leading to big holes in his swing theory and general power over hit worries.
5.143 – RHP Sam Perez
On Sam Perez from March 2016…
Sam Perez could work as a sinker/slider reliever, but I’m more intrigued at the thought of him as a potential four-pitch starting pitcher capable of piling up outs on the ground.
Perez wound up being one of the rare college sinker/slider types (88-92 two-seam with plus sink/average or better slider) who didn’t produce expected results (45.16 GB% in his debut) after signing. Somewhat curious for a pitcher with “lots of ground balls” in his scouting notes. Still, Perez is a really capable pitcher who is clever on the mound when it comes to mixing that fastball, slider, average low-80s changeup, and average upper-70s curve. He’s a decent bet as a fifth starter type with some swingman upside out of the pen.
6.173 – RHP Remey Reed
The Marlins are known for loving their Oklahoma and Texas prospects, so taking the plunge with Remey Reed in round six is something that makes all the sense in the world. His fastball can get up to 94 MPH and he’ll throw an average or better changeup. That and the possibility of a better breaking ball coming together — he’s thrown both a slider and curve in the past — plus imposing size (6-5, 225), a big junior year as a Cowboy (11.22 K/9), and a name perfectly suited for middle relief all add to the appeal. Though I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, this one feels a bit early to me.
7.203 – OF Corey Bird
Fairly straightforward package here with Corey Bird: above-average to plus speed that plays up, elite center field defense, solid contact skills, patient approach, and literally no power. I won’t say that last part completely invalidates all the good that came before it, but…well, it kind of does. I appreciate what Bird does well and can see him carving out a big league role for himself if literally everything goes right in his development, but what’s his realistic upside? Fifth outfielder?
8.233 – OF Aaron Knapp
On Aaron Knapp from April 2016…
Aaron Knapp fascinates me as an athlete with easy center field range and impact speed, but with such little power that the profile might wind up shorting before he even gets a real chance in pro ball.
Remember what we said about Corey Bird one round earlier? It all applies to Aaron Knapp, too. Love the athleticism, speed, and range, but can’t see a guy with such little pop making serious noise in the pros. Knapp might be a good enough natural hitter to adjust somewhat, but it’s a long shot proposition. Marlins could have some fun backup outfielders soon, though. At least there’s that.
9.263 – C Jarett Rindfleisch
All Jarett Rindfleisch (466) did for three years at Ball State was hit. I like guys like that. He’s a capable defender behind the dish with a strong arm and the athleticism to stick. Likely a backup catcher ceiling, but could be a good one.
10.293 – LHP Dylan Lee
Dylan Lee is a more than acceptable senior-sign in the tenth round. Big lefties with velocity (88-93 FB) will always have a place in pro ball. Again, I’m not sure you’re getting anything more than a bullpen arm (sub in bench piece for the hitters), but that’s better than nothing. If you’re picking up on the fact I just don’t like this draft at all and I’m trying to be as nice as I can about it, you’re on to something.
11.323 – RHP Chad Smith
A draft pick spent on Chad Smith (377) is one made entirely with upside in mind. What Smith is — a one-pitch reliever with control woes — is nowhere near what he could be. The finished product could be a starting pitcher with three quality pitches and decent enough command to make it all work. The big selling point for Smith is his fastball, an explosive 90-95 MPH (97 peak) pitch that hitters can know is coming and still swing through. That pitch alone could get him to the high-minors. Certainly Smith and the Marlins have larger aspirations than that, and it’ll take improving his two present below-average offspeed pitches — an appealing yet inconsistent low-80s breaking ball that presently flashes both plus and minus in seemingly equal turns and a changeup that’s just sort of there — to get there. The gap between now and then is larger for Smith than most prospects coming out of a major college program like Ole Miss, but as far as lumps of clay go he’s a really interesting one to work with.
12.353 – RHP Mike King
Whenever I have something I think is interesting from the past to bring up when discussing a player’s future, I do so. Even when I’m saying dumb stuff like this excerpt from my Boston College preview back in December 2015…
For as much as I personally like [Justin] Dunn, others have JR RHP Mike King as Boston College’s top prospect (pitching or otherwise) heading into 2016. Frankly, it’s hard to argue. I mean, I had planned to do just that in this very space, but have mentally backtracked before I even got the chance to start. King has a solid heater (88-92, 93 peak), above-average low-80s changeup, and outstanding overall command. If one of his two breaking pitches sharpens up, then he’s a threat to crash the top five rounds just like Dunn. If you’re keeping score, I’d give the advantages of command, control, frame, and track record to King. It also shouldn’t be discounted that his name sounds like “viking” when said quickly. Dunn gets the edge in fastball velocity, all-around bat-missing stuff (this is double-counting his fastball some, but I’d say his slider is more of a strikeout pitch than King’s change, even while acknowledging that they are both more or less equally effective pitches) and athleticism. I’ll stick with the claim that both have top five round upside, but hedge some and say it’s more likely they wind up in the six to ten round range, where they’d be potential steals. Bonus prediction: Dunn gets drafted higher this June, but King winds up the (slightly) better long-term professional player.
I’m going to slowly walk away from that “(slightly) better long-term professional player” remark if it’s all the same to you. King might not have had the junior year bump — both in stuff and performance — as Dunn, but he’s still a solid get in the twelfth round. All of the things that made King a potential single-digit round prospect one year ago hold true today. He’s got pinpoint command, a quality sinker, and a fine assortment of offspeed pitches (79-83 CU, 80-85 cut-SL, 72-76 CB) that he can go to in any count. His best bet to make it at this point might be by embracing the sinker/slider/command aspects of his game in relief, though I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope that his well-rounded game could play as a starter.
14.418 – RHP Michael Mertz
I don’t like saying stuff like this because there’s an implication associated with it that I don’t care for (e.g., deficiencies in makeup, intelligence, work ethic), but Michael Mertz feels like one of those players who should be better than he is. It sounds like a bad thing — and, on balance, I suppose it is — but it’s actually a compliment to Mertz as a player. He’s really talented. He could see it all come together one day. It just hasn’t happened just yet.
The talent with Mertz begins with his outstanding mid-70s changeup, one of the best of its kind in this class. He also throws a really good 78-83 slider that can flash plus and a decent fastball at 88-92 (94 peak). What hurts him most is an inability to consistently command his breaking ball and an overall lack of control. If pro instruction can tighten up those two problem spots even a little, then the Marlins might have something with Mertz.
15.443 – SS James Nelson
James Nelson is a fascinating prospect that flew very much under my radar prior to the draft. Off the top, his given name of James is what he’s listed at just about everywhere, but he prefers to go by Ryan, his middle name. So Ryan Nelson it is. Ryan Nelson hit .434/.468/.796 with 14 BB/43 K in his freshman season at Cisco College. That’s really impressive even with the BB/K red flag staring us in the face. Of course, as we always try to remember, context matters: the Cisco team as a whole hit .388/.461/.634 in 2016. That’s incredible. Still, nobody was out there getting those hits for Nelson but Nelson himself, so that has to count for something; I’d rather have a guy hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers than a guy not hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers. Bold take, I know. Nelson’s draft day announcement had him called out as a shortstop, but he played every inning in his pro debut at third. Said pro debut went pretty well: .284/.344/.364 with 14 BB/30 K in 162 AB looks good to me. Remember what we said about how context matters? Those numbers look even better when you consider that Nelson was very young for his class. Even after a full year of college, Nelson played his entire pro debut at just 18-years-old. That makes him a full six months younger than prep to pros 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford.
Put it all together and you’ve got a young infielder capable of playing the left side who has already been drafted twice (18th round by Boston in 2015) coming off a great yet flawed junior college season and a pro debut that showed growth in some of his seemingly weaker offensive areas. Having known little to nothing about Ryan Nelson as of about ten minutes ago, I can now say that he officially has my attention. Any port in the storm that is this year’s Marlins draft class.
16.473 – RHP Dustin Beggs
If you liked Mike King, then you’ll like Dustin Beggs. Both are highly competitive college righthanders from power conferences who get by more on the strength of stellar command, control, and guile than overwhelming stuff. Beggs doesn’t have enough fastball (87-91) to get picked by everybody, but Miami will happily bank on his well-rounded repertoire of offspeed pitches (upper-70s CB, low-80s SL, CU) and pitching acumen carrying him beyond what the grade on his heater would suggest. Only Ryan Nelson has interrupted the Marlins going with a different college pitcher archetype with every other pick here: Smith (intriguing stuff, iffy command), King (huge command, decent stuff), Mertz (intriguing stuff, iffy command), and Beggs (huge command, decent stuff). If the pattern holds then the Marlins will draft an intriguing stuff/iffy command guy next…
17.503 – RHP Brent Wheatley
Brent Wheatley isn’t quite the same type of intriguing stuff/iffy command guy the Marlins drafted in rounds eleven and fourteen, but he’s pretty close. He’s got size (6-4, 210), a long college track record that includes both good (9.71 K/9 as a senior) and bad (5.77 BB/9 and 6.03 ERA that same year), and solid stuff (88-93 FB, 82 cut-SL, 74-75 CB, 80 CU) that plays down due to his inability to throw consistent quality strikes. Unlike Chad Smith and Michael Mertz, I’m not sure the upside with Wheatley is quite high enough to warrant the longer than ideal developmental time likely required to turn him around, but we’ll see.
18.533 – C David Gauntt
Three really great years in a row at Washburn got David Gauntt noticed by Miami in round eighteen in 2016. An awesome senior year (.353/.518/.739 – 44 BB/45 K – 11/12 SB – 184 AB) helped boost his college career stats to an outstanding .304/.452/.611 lifetime mark. Also noteworthy are Gauntt’s career HBP totals (51 in 578 AB) and stolen base rate (21/25). Since I don’t have much on Gauntt beyond the numbers and it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these fun little “Where were you when it happened?” moments…
“I was in the middle of Walmart with my girlfriend, and when they called me we both got really happy and probably turned a couple heads,” Gauntt said. “People in the store probably thought we were crazy.”
Love that stuff.
19.563 – LHP Shane Sawczak
Here’s what Shane Sawczak did at Coastal Carolina in 2015, Palm Beach State in 2016, and his professional debut this past summer…
5.50 K/9 and 3.67 BB/9 in 54.0 IP
9.66 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9 in 59.2 IP
7.02 K/9 and 4.42 BB/9 in 34.2 IP
Nothing particularly interesting about those numbers, but I looked them up from three different places so you can be damn sure I was going to use them. This is what you do when you don’t know much else about a team’s nineteenth round pick.
20.593 – 1B Eric Gutierrez
It’s tough out there for righthanded hitting first base prospects lacking the classic size/strength profile of the position. Eric Gutierrez (479) will continue his attempt at being the exception to the rule in pro ball. From March 2015…
Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June.
A year later and now much changed with Gutierrez. He returned to Lubbock and had a monster senior season .333/.465/.581 with 42 BB/37 K in 234 AB), but questions about his long-term pro utility remain. You can hit and hit and hit, but sometimes being a 5-10, 200 pound righthanded hitting first baseman is too much to overcome. I still like the pick as Gutierrez should at least provide value as an org bat with some lefty-mashing bench upside.
21.623 – SS Luis Pintor
Miami presumably saw fifteenth round pick Ryan Nelson and twenty-first round pick Luis Pintor square off on May 13, 2016 as Nelson’s Cisco College squad squared up against New Mexico JC in the same town (Lubbock, Texas) that twentieth round pick Eric Gutierrez played his college home games at Texas Tech. That all has to mean something, right? Anyway, Pintor hit a single and scored a run in five at bats. Nelson…didn’t play. Probably should have checked that first before writing that opener, huh? Pintor’s 1 for 5 outing dragged down his season line all the way to .389/.484/.730 with 35 BB/26 K and 32/36 SB in 211 AB. His New Mexico JC team as a whole hit .377/.475/.691 on the season, so, you know, context. Still, Pintor hit a bunch in college and hit pretty well in his debut, so my interest is piqued. If you can squeeze out one potential utility player out of him and Nelson, that’s a win.
22.653 – RHP Alex Mateo
I don’t have much on Alex Mateo. Him winding up at Nova Southeastern by way of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a school I don’t recall ever mentioning on this site before, is pretty interesting. Good but not great final year numbers at Nova Southeastern (7.69 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9) are a little less interesting. I got nothing.
23.683 – RHP Hunter Wells
Back-to-back picks where I’m bringing little to no scouting notes to the table. I’m clearly losing my touch. Hunter Wells out of Gonzaga had a decent junior year (9.13 K/9 and 4.63 BB/9 in 68.0 IP) with the Zags. He wasn’t as successful in his limited pro debut (4.50 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9 in 14.0 IP). That’s all I’ve got.
24.713 – SS JJ Gould
JJ Gould is a fun utility prospect with experience at second, short, and third and a nice power/patience blend at the plate. There’s probably too much swing-an-miss in his game to keep climbing the ladder barring a real chance in approach, but what he does well is interesting enough to warrant a twenty-fourth round shot all the same.
25.743 – 2B Mike Garzillo
I’ve seen a good amount of Mike Garzillo over the years. He’s not quite a JJ Gould clone, but the back-to-back college middle infielders share a lot of similar traits. On Garzillo from February 2016…
Garzillo has more tools than you’d expect out of a typical Patriot Leaguer, so it’s expected that his speed, arm strength, and pop should get him drafted as a senior-sign even if he doesn’t clean up his approach this spring.
And then again from May 2016…
We know what Mike Garzillo is by now as a draft prospect: real power, useful speed, a strong arm, and a “grip it and rip it” approach. It’s not my favorite profile, but there’s a place for it in pro ball.
Power and patience for a price (strikeouts) in addition to solid speed and arm strength give Garzillo a shot to make something of himself as a utility player if he can be trusted enough to play on the left side defensively.
26.773 – C Gunner Pollman
Gunner Pollman has outstanding arm strength, well above-average accuracy, a lightning quick release, and nimble footwork behind the plate. He also can’t hit even a little. Feels like a decent fit for an organization that employed Jeff Mathis the past four seasons.
27.803 – RHP Parker Bugg
It’s never quite this simple, but Parker Bugg’s success/failure in the pros always felt like it would come down to his ability to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker/slider combo playing up thanks to his 6-6, 210 pound frame giving him plenty of extension. Very early pro returns (34.74 GB%) are not super encouraging. He still has a long way to go, so we’ll see.
28.833 – 1B Colby Lusignan
Colby Lusignan is pretty much what you’d expect out of a 6-4, 230 pound lefthanded slugger from a Division II school like Lander: lots of power, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts. He mashed as a 23-year-old in the GCL but struggled in his small sample cameo in the slightly more age-appropriate NYPL. It’s an uphill battle for any first base only prospect, but I don’t hate betting on one with Lusignan’s type of power if you’re inclined to try.
29.863 – OF Walker Olis
Seeing a player put up big numbers at Pacific who completely flew under my radar confused me. As much as I like to pretend, I’m not all-knowing…but a guy hitting .415/.544/.711 with 44 BB/22 K and 28/29 SB is not one who typically escapes my attention. Finding out that Walker Olis put up those PlayStation numbers as a Pacific Boxer at a Division III school in Oregon and not as a Tiger in the West Coast Conference makes me feel a bit better for missing, but I’m still plenty intrigued about Olis’s brand of plus speed, advanced plate discipline, and sneaky pop.
31.923 – RHP Preston Guillory
Really nice pickup of a potential quick-moving middle reliever here in the thirty-first round with the selection of Preston Guillory of TCU. There’s no standout velocity or a go-to offspeed pitch here, but Guillory has enough (88-90 MPH heat, quality change, funky delivery) to consistently sit hitters down. I think he’s a big leaguer, thirty-first round pick or not.
32.953 – RHP Chevis Hoover
One of the coolest things about this whole draft review undertaking is getting to dive a little deeper into the backgrounds of prospects chosen in the later rounds. I had never heard of Chevis Hooper before two minutes ago (proof of that comes via the typo: his name is Chevis HOOVER not HOOPER) but now I’m genuinely pumped for his pro future. Chevis Hoover was a certified NAIA superstar in his senior year at Tennessee Wesleyan. He contributed both on the mound (11.87 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, and 3.13 ERA in 54.2 IP) and at the plate (.342/.435/.605 with 13 BB/18 K in 76 AB). With obvious athleticism and a fastball up to 94 MPH, Hoover is a pretty darn intriguing get this late. It’s a little reminiscent of something the Cardinals might have done. Needless to say, I approve.
33.983 – 1B Branden Berry
On Branden Berry from March 2016…
On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Branden Berry, the transfer from Washington. Berry’s early season offensive explosion may just be the case of an older guy picking on younger competition – his first three seasons were remarkably consistent in a good college player kind of way – but in a class thin on big bats, he could have scouts doing a double-take.
As is the case with most proper explosions, Berry’s turned out to be as brief as it was impressive. The Cal State Northridge slugger finished the year with a good but not great (in pro prospect terms; it’s a pretty great college season by any measure) .294/.403/.508 line with 22 BB/36 K. The bar is just so high for a first base prospect like Berry that it’s hard to think of him as much more than an org player at this stage. It is round thirty-three, though, so guess that makes sense.
34.1013 – LHP Trenton Hill
I liked Trenton Hill a bit more as a hitter than a pitcher, but I understand wanting to give a lefthander with size, athleticism, and deception a shot on the mound. If he can curb some of his wild ways, then his stuff (88-92 FB, 77-83 SL with promise) should keep him getting chances for years to come. Heck, as a low-90s lefty he’s got a shot to pitch forever even if he stays wild. Not for nothing, but Chevis Hoover, thirty-second round pick, was teammates with Hill at Lee in 2015.
35.1043 – 2B Matthew Brooks
Matthew Brooks was really good in his two years at Monroe College, assuming you agree that .353/.480/.538 with 58 BB/43 K and 29/39 SB in 275 AB is really good. His first shot at pro ball was a bit tougher, but those two good seasons are enough to give him one more go in 2017.
37.1103 – OF Zach Daly
The Marlins go back to Lander University to take Zach Daly because how else would you finish up a weak draft than driving me crazy with the small school double-dip? Daly comes with some pedigree as a former Tar Heel, but his impressive at first glance (.291/.397/.614 with 7/10 SB) senior season is undermined by a not insignificant plate discipline (24 BB/78 K) red flag.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Nick Eicholtz (Alabama), Garrett Suchey (Alabama), Matt Popowitz (Penn), Dustin Demeter (Hawaii), Caleb Scires (Navarro JC), Evan Douglas (Lewis-Clark)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by San Francisco in 2016
39 – Bryan Reynolds
96 – Heath Quinn
103 – Garrett Williams
191 – Nick Deeg
198 – Ryan Howard
208 – Matt Krook
319 – Gio Brusa
336 – Stephen Woods
344 – Jacob Heyward
348 – Jose Layer
2.59 – OF Brian Reynolds
Draft season comparison between Bryan Reynolds (39) and another famous Vanderbilt product…
.330/.461/.603 – 49 BB/58 K – 8/13 SB – 224 AB
.335/.423/.623 – 43 BB/54 K – 16/18 SB – 281 AB
That would be none other than 2015 first overall selection and 2017 Atlanta Braves starting shortstop Dansby Swanson at the bottom there. Is Reynolds the outfield version of Swanson? Let’s look at some career college numbers…
.329/.413/.508 – 103 BB/174 K – 39/52 SB – 791 AB
.330/.418/.541 – 84 BB/108 K – 39/47 SB – 579 AB
Not a terrible statistical comp, right? There’s clearly a little more swing-and-miss going on with Reynolds and the difference between shortstop and Reynolds’s likely corner outfield landing spot is no small thing, but there’s enough there to make this a conversation worth having. If you buy that the two have similar offensive ceilings, then the Giants getting Reynolds in the second round has to qualify as one of the draft’s easiest to identify sleepers. From October 2015…
Reynolds also reminds me somewhat of Kyle Lewis in the way that both guys have rapidly improved their plate discipline in ways that haven’t yet shown up consistently on the stat sheet. If or when it does, Reynolds could join Lewis as a potential future impact big league outfielder.
Reynolds didn’t quite have that same kind of junior year breakout, but the general point that both players received similar “he has a better approach that shows up in the box score” praise from scouts who saw them day in, day out. I thought that this sentiment would quiet down once pro scouts got their first looks at him, but I heard more of the same throughout the summer. That’s the bullish view on Reynolds: he’s good now as a hitter, but he has it in him to take it up a whole other notch once something in his approach clicks. The less optimistic but still plenty exciting view was laid out back in April 2016…
Bryan Reynolds’s physical tools are all at least average, though there are none that I’d hang a plus on without some serious cajoling first. If we compare him to the guy directly behind him in the rankings, Buddy Reed, he’ll lose any athletic head-to-head battle. Furthermore, his defense in center is a bit of a long-term concern for me, but smarter people than I have said he’s actually better – more instinctual, quicker reads, just more natural all-around – in center than he is in a corner. I haven’t seen enough of him to say either way, but it’s an interesting view to consider. Thankfully, despite those concerns, the man can flat hit. Speed, defense, and arm strength are all important, but the bat will forever be king.
Reynolds’s numbers – again, the ones on the bottom in the two comparisons above – are undeniably excellent. One of the few concerns I have about the Vanderbilt slugger is his propensity to end long at bats with short walks back to the dugout. Strikeouts at the big league level don’t bother me in the least, but they mean something more at the amateur and minor league level. Some of this concern is mitigated by Reynolds’s high walk totals, but the high strikeout/high walk college hitter archetype is one that has seen mixed result at the pro level in recent years. It’s also one that I still don’t know what to do with as an evaluator.
Reynolds looks like one of those hitters who can pile up both walks and strikeouts while also making a ton of good contact and hitting for average or better power. You know what we call guys like that? Well when they can also run, throw, and defend average or better, we tend to call them potential big league all-stars. As a ceiling, that’s exactly what you want out of your first pick. What makes Reynolds even more appealing is his high floor. When I think of high floor players, I think of guys who have clear baseball skills that are desirable to all thirty big league teams. The ability to play all three outfield spots is a clear baseball skill that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. The ability to switch-hit is a clear baseball skills that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. A track record of hammering righthanded pitching when hitting lefty is a clear baseball skill that is desirable to all thirty big league teams. You get the idea. As was written in June, Reynolds “looks like a long time future regular with a chance for flashes of greatness;” if he falls short of that, however, a career as an ace bench bat who wears out righthanded pitching and fourth outfielder who won’t hurt you in spot-duty in center is a fine backup option.
I still can’t believe Reynolds fell this far.
3.95 – OF Heath Quinn
College outfielders ranked ahead of Heath Quinn (96) by me in the 2016 MLB Draft: Lewis, Ray, Fisher, Reynolds, Fraley, Woodman, Grier, Thompson-Williams, Reed, Dawson. College outfielders selected ahead of Heath Quinn in the 2016 MLB Draft: Ray, Lewis, Grier, Reed, Boldt, Woodman, Reynolds, Dawson, Fraley, Call, Hays. I have no deeper point here. Never like to miss an opportunity to highlight this past draft’s crazy outfield depth, though. I stand by my rankings six months later (obviously) and don’t see a name in the second list that was drafted — maybe Boldt, but that’s stretching it some — ahead of Quinn that looks egregious in hindsight. That said, Quinn is an outstanding prospect who had a stellar debut in professional ball. I hope he starts his first full season in 2017 at the same level (A+) he ended 2016. On Quinn from October 2015…
Just what this class needed: another outfielder loaded with tools that comes with some question marks about the utility of his big-time power because he’s still learning how to hit against serious pitching.
Like Reynolds, Quinn’s approach took a step forward in 2016. It may not have been a Kyle Lewis size step, but progress is progress. Quinn improved his approach, upped his power output, and continued to show a well-rounded physical tool set that includes above-average speed underway, an above-average arm, and average or better range in a corner. A prospect who you can confidently project to giving you quality defense, positive value on the base paths, and potential above-average offensive contributions is just about all you can ask for; if Quinn can do all of those things, he has similar upside (“long time future regular with a chance for flashes of greatness”) to Reynolds. I’m bullish on both reaching that level. San Francisco did really well with these first two selections.
Of course, that’s the optimistic view. What happens if both players struggle with high-level pitching? One thing I particularly like about these first two picks is the high floor that I believe comes with them. The absolute worst case scenario for the Giants with their first two picks (barring major injury, naturally) could result in backing into a potentially dominant corner outfield platoon. The switch-hitting Reynolds has a history of killing righthanders while the righthanded hitting Quinn mauls lefthanders. I think the Giants got long-term future left and right fielders (really good ones at that), but even a hater of these picks would have to admit that the possibility of a timeshare between the two would be scary. Maybe using two picks to get one combined corner outfielder is a less than ideal outcome, but if you take a look at the actual success rate of picks past the first round in the draft then you’d take this “worst case scenario” every single time if it comes to it.
4.125 – LHP Matt Krook
The first night of the draft is a bit of a pain, what with the made-for-TV element slowing everything down. I won’t really complain about it too much because that kind of exposure is a really good thing for growing the draft beyond the niche audience that already exists, but, even as an apparently rare soul who enjoys MLB Network’s presentation (more or less) of the event, the first night drags. Day two is fantastic; this year I was able to speed home from work listening to the selections go by on the MLB At Bat app and then settle in with the computer for the rest of the late-afternoon’s selections. Day three is also a ton of fun, but the timing of this past year’s draft killed me. Instead of being at the home base with every electronic device available locked into tracking the draft, I was making the six hour trek to beautiful Cleveland, Ohio. It was tons of fun. You work all year towards a three-day event and you get to spend 75% away from a computer. Fantastic.
Long story short, even as I was driving 80ish MPH west on 76 (or 80, who can remember) it was easy to put together that the Giants were getting weird with their draft. Look at four of the five college pitchers taken by San Francisco in the top ten rounds…
Matt Krook: 6.18 BB/9
Garrett Williams: 7.52 BB/9
Stephen Woods: 7.01 BB/9
Alex Bostic: 8.10 BB/9
Those are college career walk rates. I started by doing just 2016 numbers, but so many of these guys pitched so infrequently in 2016 BECAUSE OF THEIR TERRIBLE CONTROL that using the larger sample felt like a fairer representation of their true abilities. I assumed the walk rates would go down some, but…nope. The Giants also took Reagan Bazar (5.71 BB/9), one of the mid-round poster boys for “big stuff, little control” in the seventeenth. If that’s not a pattern, then I give up. The next logical question is a simple one: why? The Giants clearly prioritized stuff over control in this draft. Do they think they have an organizational-wide coaching magic formula that can fix any young pitcher with control woes? Did they see something specific in each individual pitcher they selected that can turn each respective hurler’s control around? Do they simply not care about control as much as the rest of baseball? Or was this just a simple case of a good team realizing that picking in the late first round every year (or not even that depending on free agency) has limited their opportunities picking pitchers with “big stuff,” so they just went for it when they could with the idea that they’d figure out the “little control” stuff later?
I have no definitive answers. I do know that I’m a little surprised I didn’t give Matt Krook (208) the “first round stuff, tenth round command/control” tag prior to the draft. Here’s a little on Krook from April 2016…
And then there’s Matt Krook! I had him second only to Alec Hansen (whoops) in my overall college pitching rankings before the season and now he’s third in his own conference. You could look at that as me being wishy-washy (not really, but maybe), me not knowing what I was doing in the first place (always a possibility), or this year’s draft class being more talented than some would like you to believe (yes). Whatever the case may be, Krook remains a legitimate first round arm with as much upside as any college pitcher throwing. Here was the pre-season take that accompanied the aforementioned ranking…
This may be a touch more speculative that some of the other names on the list since Krook missed the 2015 season after Tommy John surgery, but I’m buying all the Krook shares I can right now. He came back and impressed on the Cape enough to warrant consideration as a potential 1-1 riser. There’s no squaring up his fastball and there’s more than enough offspeed (CB and CU) to miss bats (12 K/9 in 45 freshman innings). He’s not as physical as AJ Puk, but the more advanced secondaries give him the edge for now.
I stand by that today. His fastball velocity isn’t all the way back yet (more of a steady 88-92 than 90-94), but he still gets incredible movement on the pitch. His curve has morphed into something more like a slider (or something in-between), but remains a true plus offering. Both his command and his control remain works in progress as he pitches himself back into competitive shape. Picking Krook as early as I’d recommend would take a bit of a leap of faith in his command/control woes being remedied largely by the increased passage of time separating him from his surgery. Going Krook would not be for the faint of heart, but, hey, nothing venture nothing gained, right?
Needless to say, I’m on board with this pick. It’s scary, true, but sometimes moving away from what’s safe is what a franchise in need of another wave of high-impact talent needs. I’ll say something irresponsible about Krook that I honestly believe to be true: no amateur player I’ve ever seen pitch has had the kind of consistent natural and unnatural movement on his pitches as Krook. I think once pro scouts begin getting eyes on him and we start to see some internet chatter about him people will begin to realize that Krook is a rare bird. Everything he throws moves like crazy. His fastball, though still not completely back to its pre-injury velocity peaks, is an easy plus pitch even with spotty command. His slider and his curve run together at 78-84 MPH, but it doesn’t really matter what the pitch is called because it’s another offering that flashes plus more often than not. I even like his steadily improving mid-80s diving changeup more than most. Most guys simply don’t have the ability to throw three to four pitches (depending on if you want to give him credit it for an extra breaking ball or just call the pitch a curve) that dance like Krook’s fastball, breaking ball(s), and changeup do. If James Brown was a pitcher, he’d be Matt Krook. It’s special stuff, really. It’s hard to draw a straight line between stuff and stats at the minor league level, but check this out: 91 of the 118 balls in play against Krook this year were on the ground. That’s good for a 76.5% GB rate. If that doesn’t speak to Krook’s ability to get plus movement on damn near everything he throws, I’m not sure what else will. Plus fastball, plus breaking ball(s), and an average yet ascending change? That’s the kind of stuff only aces and $80 million closers possess.
Of course, without even a baseline amount of control the whole thing falls apart. A future without ever reaching the big leagues has to be in play for a college pitcher coming off a draft season where he walked 8.23 batters per nine. Krook is no sure thing, clearly. An honest worst case scenario is never getting his control woes figured out and topping out in AA. A more optimistic worst case would be following the up-and-down career arcs of guys like Jonathan Sanchez and Dontrelle Willis; bullpen, rotation, great years, not so great years, and everything in-between. Those two outcomes represent fair middle-tier paths for Krook if he can remain a starter with well below-average control. Just getting that control to slightly below-average would go a long way to putting Krook on the road to a future as a potential front line starting pitcher. I’ve mentioned more than once that I think Krook has the stuff to project as an ace or a star closer (Zach Britton 2.0?) if the rest of his game comes together. Names that fall just short of being called aces like Francisco Liriano and Matt Moore (but with ground balls) show that pitchers with wild backgrounds can make it. That’s probably where I’d place my bet now that I’ve had time to reflect: flashes of ace-like dominance with occasionally frustrating bouts of wildness that leave you with a pitcher who has defied the odds in a great way yet still disappointed just a touch at the same time.
5.155 – SS Ryan Howard
On Ryan Howard (198) from April 2016…
Ryan Howard is a nice prospect, but not the kind of guy who would crack the top five at short in a major college conference in most years. He does most everything fairly well – solid hitter, average raw power, dependable at short – but nothing so well that you’re pumped to call his name on draft day. Part of my reticence in buying in to Howard comes from what may be a silly place. There is far more to the position than speed, but Howard’s below-average foot speed has always struck me as a potential red flag when assessing his long-term defensive outlook. Maybe that’s being lazy by haphazardly using speed as a proxy for athleticism, but the solid yet unsexy profile that I seem to like at other positions doesn’t grab me the same way at shortstop.
Eight months later and I still feel a little bad about that. I guess I didn’t come right out and say it, but the implication there was that Howard, as a prospect, bored me. Still kind of does. He’s pretty good (arm, approach, instincts) to just all right (power, range, speed) across the board. That gives him a good chance of making it as a quality utility player — fair value in the fifth round if that’s indeed the outcome, by the way — but little shot at much more. I’ve used the comp a few times already over the years (most directly on Mikey White), but Howard could have a career similar to a player he shares a lot of common traits with in Jordy Mercer.
6.185 – OF Gio Brusa
On Gio Brusa (319) from March 2016…
Remember when Gio Brusa was a thing? This was his report from last year…
The appreciation for Brusa, however, is right on point. His above-average to plus raw power will keep him employed for a long time, especially combined with his elite athleticism and playable defensive tools (slightly below-average arm and foot speed, but overall should be fine in left field). Brusa going from good prospect to great prospect will take selling a team on his improved approach as a hitter; early returns are promising but a team that buys into his bat will do so knowing he’ll always be a player who swings and misses a lot. Whether or not he a) makes enough contact, and/or b) demonstrates enough plate discipline (strikeouts are easier to take when paired with an increased walk rate, like he’s shown so far this year) will ultimately decide his fate as a hitter and prospect. Before the season I would have been in the “think he’ll be drafted too high for my tastes, so let me just kick back and watch somebody else try to fix his approach” camp in terms of his draft value, but I’m slowly creeping towards “if he falls just a bit, I’d think about taking a shot on his upside over a few players with more certainty and less ceiling” territory. That’s a big step up for me, even if it doesn’t quite seem like it.
Almost exactly one year to the day, I can say that’s pretty much where I remain on Brusa as a prospect. There’s still upside in a player like him because his natural gifts are obvious – maybe all it will take is the right voice in his ear in pro ball – but the increasingly large sample of below-average plate discipline is getting harder and harder to ignore. I tried my best to do so last year when spinning his early season successes as a potential step in the right direction, but reading between the lines above should reveal what I really thought. Avoiding the urge to flat out say “I just don’t like this prospect” has cost me some credibility among some small pockets of the baseball world in the past, but I sleep a lot better knowing I skew positive publicly on this site. When it comes to writing about young men chasing their dreams in a game we all love, why wouldn’t you make the attempt to be positive if at all possible? Positive doesn’t mean ranking every player in a tie for best prospect, of course. Brusa finished last season as my 144th ranked draft prospect. For a variety of reasons, some because of baseball but most not (i.e., signability past a certain point), he fell to pick 701. I think his ranking this year could split the difference between the two spots…but with a slight edge to being closer to 144 than 701. Have to stay positive, after all.
Pick 422.5 splits the difference between 144 and 701. He wound up going at pick 185 after I ranked him 319th overall. Not sure what it all means, but there you go.
Despite dropping Brusa down the final draft board, I remain intrigued about how his physical abilities will translate to pro ball. From the scouting notes featured on this site back in his high school days…
OF Giovanni Brusa (St. Mary’s HS, California): above-average arm; above-average speed; great athlete; big power upside; raw hit tool; could be league average defender in RF; 6-3, 200 pounds
Sounds about right. Brusa’s power and athleticism are carrying tools that should give him enough chances to buy time while he figures out some of the more skill-based aspects of the game (“raw hit tool” remains relevant here). Interesting to note that he’s a switch-hitter who performed significantly better as a lefthanded hitter in his pro debut. Bryan Reynolds did similar things in his debut. Maybe we can upgrade the “worst case scenario” for those first two picks to include this one: Reynolds in one corner and Brusa/Quinn in the other. Feels a little rich to me — Brusa’s floor is minor league slugger who can’t figure out upper-level breaking balls enough to be counted on for anything but up-and-down duty — but it could happen.
7.215 – LHP Garrett Williams
I have no idea what to make of Garrett Williams (103). Or maybe I do. I don’t know what I don’t know at this point. The short version: above-average fastball (88-94), above-average curve (76-83) that flashes plus to plus-plus, intriguing hard changeup (85-90) that can get too firm for his own good, usable low-80s slider, and no idea where any of them are going. What do you do with a pitching prospect like that? There’s clearly enough there in raw stuff to thrive as a starting pitcher, but we all can agree it takes more than raw stuff to start. Williams’s control is a problem at present. I’d guess the only group that has a firm enough grasp on how correctable his control problems are would be those counted among the player development staff tasked to fix it. The only thing I know for sure here is taking a chance on an arm like this with mid-rotation or late-game reliever upside in the seventh round is worth the downside of getting nothing every single time.
8.245 – RHP Stephen Woods
I feel bad for quoting my past self so often, but these college pitchers are all the same. The same but different, I suppose. There are only so many ways to write “great stuff, not so great control” before thoughts of giving this all up and starting a mozzarella stick review website instead start creeping in. On Stephen Woods (336) from March 2016…
Right off the top, I’m fairly comfortable declaring that Stephen Woods is the most talented 2016 MLB Draft prospect in the America East. That may or may not be enough to make him the best prospect, but it certainly puts him in the mix. Woods has a big-time arm (95-96 peak) with an intriguing curve and an unusually firm yet effective changeup. All of that was enough to make him a sixth round pick out of high school. His biggest issue has always been control: he walked 9.9 batters per nine his freshman year, 7.0 batters per nine last year, and sits at 6.1 in the early going this season. Any team drafting Woods with a single-digit round pick will have to weigh his raw stuff against his wild ways. Look at his early 2016 line: 13.1 IP 16 H 11 ER 9 BB 25 K. What in the world do we make of that? Really good stuff + elite ability to miss bats + well below-average control + inconsistent (at best) track record of run prevention = I have no idea and I’m glad I’m not paid to make a definitive statement about his draft future. A selection anywhere from as high as round five to as low as the twenties wouldn’t surprise me at this point. When it doubt it never hurts to gamble on arm strength guys with pedigree like Woods, but know that his eventual pro future will be dictated far more on development than an accurate scouting report.
Huge arm, little control, and a chance for one of his offspeed pitches (hard curve, mid-80s change, and up-and-down cut-slider) to develop enough to make him a late-inning relief option. You take that all day in the eighth round. Based on little more than a hunch (which, in turn, is based off of doing this draft thing for years), I’m particularly bullish about Woods figuring things out in the pros.
9.275 – LHP Caleb Baragar
The one early-ish San Francisco draft pick that breaks that big stuff/little control mold is Caleb Baragar from Indiana. Baragar doesn’t wow you with stuff — he’s fastball, fastball, and fastball (88-92, mostly) with the occasional quality hybrid-breaking ball mixed in — but he pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball down. The Giants have had more look with players like this than they have had with the big stuff/little control types, so Baragar making it as something more than the middle relief matchup lefthander ceiling I’d put on him wouldn’t surprise me much. I mean, they did draft him in an even year, right? Has to count for something…
10.305 – LHP Alex Bostic
Fastball at 90-94 MPH. Above-average 78-83 MPH slider. Have seen a mid-70s curve and heard about a decent change. His control? Sit down for this one because you’re going to be shocked to hear that it’s not great. That’s Alex Bostic in fifty words or less.
12.365 – 1B Ryan Kirby
I’m not sure Ryan Kirby would have been my first choice when looking for a bat-first college prospect just outside of the top ten rounds, but I get what San Francisco was thinking here. Kirby has always flashed more power than he’s shown in-game — the HS notes on Kirby from this very site call his raw power “big” — so the potential for more than what we’ve seen makes him a fine developmental lottery ticket.
13.395 – OF Jose Layer
I like Jose Layer (348) just about as much as I do any other prep position player at this point in the draft. Nothing about him stands out per se, but I don’t think anybody would be shocked if he winds up as one of the better mid-tier high school outfielders from this class. Once you get past the first three rounds or so, personal preference takes over in an even more profound manner than with those first few thoroughly vetted and frequently cross-checked selections. Layer is a clear plus runner with potential standout ability in center field. That alone gives him some nice athleticism-based value that should prop up his career if his hitting lags behind. His small sample (61 PA) debut is a hopeful step in that not being a necessary fallback plan.
14.425 – LHP Conner Menez
On principle, It don’t enjoy seeing a team using two of its first nineteen selections on teammates from a semi-local (The Master’s College is in California, so, hey, it’s local…but California is a really big state, so semi-local it is) NAIA school. I’ve tried to explain my reasoning for this over the course of these draft reviews — seriously, just click any review and you’re almost certain to find me going into far greater deal about this silliness — so I’ll stick to the very short version here: it’s lazy. I’ve actually moved past the point of being annoyed at pro teams for doubling or tripling up at one school and am now focused on the know-it-alls of the sports media world who hide behind the idea that pro teams 100% absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt always know better than us fans. Pro teams do by and large know more than us, but at the end of the day they are working with finite resources, too. They don’t know everything. The only thing worse than those know-it-alls are the know-it-all draft guys who think they somehow have a better grasp on what teams should be doing on draft day than the teams themselves. Hey, wait a second…
So I shouldn’t like the Conner Menez pick, but, damn, I can’t help it. He’s a keeper. An excellent pro debut that included a whopping 27.1 IP at High-A (!) certainly helps his case. More importantly, it’s his stuff from the left side (low-90s heat, advanced change, solid slider) that make him so appealing. Great find by the Giants in the fourteenth round. Feels a little Cardinals-y to me.
15.455 – RHP DJ Myers
My notes on DJ Myers while at UNLV: “big guy, consistently solid peripherals.” He then went out and had one of the absolute best debuts of any pitcher in the 2016 MLB Draft class: 8.02 K/9, 0.77 BB/9, 1.70 ERA, 58.1 IP. He even got a successful one inning cameo in AAA at the end of the season. Not bad at all.
16.485 – LHP Chris Falwell
Size seems to be a common theme I’m picking up with San Francisco’s mid-round run of college pitchers. Chris Falwell fits that mold at 6-7, 210 pounds. He uses that size to get above-average extension and help his solid fastball (87-92) play up. Add in a quality curve and strong junior year results (9.14 K/9 and 3.01 BB/9), and you’ve got yourself a darn fine sixteenth round pick.
17.515 – RHP Reagan Bazar
I have always liked Reagan Bazar a little too much for my own good. Big guys with monster fastballs (90-96, 98-100 peak), nasty breaking stuff (when on), and little clue where the ball is going are my favorite. I can’t help it. Here’s what I wrote about Bazar back in October 2015…
Bazar is one of the bigger gambles to grace this list. He hasn’t done enough yet at Louisiana to warrant such a placement, but when he’s feeling it his stuff (mid- to upper-90s FB, promising low-80s SL) can suffocate even good hitting. Yes, I realize ranking the 6-7, 250+ pound righthander this high undermines a lot of what I said [about my historical tendency to overrate jumbo-sized pitchers] directly above. I’ll always be a sucker for big velocity and Bazar hitting 100+ certainly qualifies.
Even then I knew I was ranking him way too high and would regret it, but I just couldn’t help myself. One day I’ll learn…but probably not. His pro debut was pretty much perfect Bazar: plenty of strikeouts, walks, and ground balls. If coached up properly, the sky is the limit for Bazar. That much I’ll stand by. It’s just going to take a lot of work to get there. Not everybody makes it in the end.
18.545 – OF Jacob Heyward
Every draft class has one player I drag my feet on and delay writing about until the very end. I’ve gone from Bryan Reynolds to Chris Bono, but still find myself sitting here staring at an unfinished Jacob Heyward (344) section. I don’t know what it is about Heyward that renders me speechless, but here we are. Maybe looking back to last year will help. Here’s some Heyward notes from December 2015…
OF Jacob Heyward does a lot of the good things that his older brother does — defend, throw, run, work deep counts, hit for some pop — but not quite at the $184 hundred million level. He’s still a fine pro prospect and a potential top five round pick.
And here’s some from March 2016…
Steady year-to-year improvement has been the name of Heyward’s game as a Hurricane. It’s more of a fourth outfielder profile than a slam dunk future regular ceiling, but he’s a solid, well-rounded player capable of doing just enough of everything to keep you invested.
A late-season slump torpedoed Heyward’s chances at the top five rounds and negated that “steady year-to-year improvement” line; in fact, Heyward’s season total substantially dipped across the board from his sophomore year to his junior year. He still maintained interesting plate discipline indicators and flashed all the positive tools — above-average raw power, average speed, average or better arm, and quality defense in a corner — that made him a prospect in the first place. It feels like a nifty fourth outfielder package if his offense comes back to something resembling his second year output at Miami.
If the evaluation was that simple, then maybe this would have been written at a more reasonable hour of the night. Maybe I’m overreacting to a 143 PA sample, but Heyward’s professional debut was an offensive explosion that ranks among the very best of any 2016 draftee. In those 143 PA, Heyward hit .330/.483/.560 with 27 BB/33 K and 11/13 SB. If he would have done that as a junior, he would have been an easy top five round pick. Instead, we’re left with a confusing prospect with a future that can be spun any number of ways.
If you’re in on Heyward, then you cite the oft-repeated assertion that Heyward is just one of those guys who will be a better professional than collegiate athlete. His junior year was the real small sample size blip and his offensive growth can be measured more by his improved approach and steady power output (.146 ISO in 2015, .141 ISO in 2016) in the face of larger potentially BABIP-related struggles. He has a really well-rounded tool set and is at least average in just about every area of the game. If he can hang in center, then he could be an everyday asset; if not, then he’s on his way to a long, fruitful career as a well-paid fourth outfielder and spot starter.
If you’re cool on Heyward, then that down junior season is Exhibit A in explaining him being overrated for years. If he was Jacob Jones (or O’Brien or Miller or Ozga) and not Heyward, then he would never have gotten that top five round hype in the first place. He’s a classic tweener with not quite enough range to play center regularly and not enough thump in his bat to ride with him in a corner. He has no carrying tool that would propel him to a certain big league future. His small sample size debut was an aberration that we will look back and have no explanation for as he works himself into an up-and-down fill-in player who spends the majority of his time at AAA.
I try not to overreact to the small sample of a pro debut, but it’s hard not to get a little excited about what Heyward did. I don’t think it’s bad form to up his projection a bit based on a few hot months because only because he’s shown that kind of progress before. I’ll stand by the fourth outfielder projection for now, but the door is opened for more if what he did this summer is closer to the real Heyward than not.
19.575 – SS Brandon Van Horn
Here’s the second of the two prospects from The Master’s College referenced in the Conner Menez pick review five rounds above. I liked Menez quite a bit…maybe the Giants should have stopped there. Brandon Van Horn’s numbers in NAIA ball look fine enough on the surface (.280/.352/.567 with a less fine 17 BB/31 K ratio), but when the team as a whole combined for a .303/.377/.502 line, the luster begins to wear off just a touch. He’s a fine defender at short, so any path to the big leagues will be on the strength of his glove-first style of play appealing to the powers that be.
20.605 – RHP Justin Alleman
Justin Alleman, formerly of Michigan State, had a weird year at Division II Lee in 2016. His peripherals were as good as you’ll find (10.31 K/9 and 1.81 BB/9), but his run prevention (5.29 ERA) was ugly. Part of the reason for that looks to be some home run weirdness — Alleman allowed 12 dingers in 64.2 IP, over 35% of the team’s total in just 16% of the innings — so I’m not sure how much of a concern that should be going forward. Alleman’s stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average breaking ball) suggest that those peripherals were a better reflection on his long-term ability than the ERA suggests. He’ll be 23-years-old to start his first full season, so he’ll need a hot start in pro ball to move as quickly as his scouting reports and track record warrant. I like this pick.
21.635 – C Will Albertson
Very boring trivia about me: for reasons unknown, I always associate Lonnie Chisenhall with Catawba. Seeing as he played at Pitt Community College and not Catawba, I have no idea why I think that. There’s yet to be a positive value player drafted out of Catawba. Jerry Sands has been the best so far. Maybe Will Albertson will be the first. In any event, writing this all out was done with the intent of finally getting the Chisenhall/Catawba out of my brain forever. Seeing it in writing helps me realize how wrong it all is.
Anyway, Will Albertson finished his season season with a disappointing .404/.494/.689 line with only 32 BB/19 K and a mere 7/10 SB. That was nothing compared to his junior season:.467/.531/.865 with 26 BB/21 K and 2/2 SB. Seeing a hugely productive hitter with athleticism capable of playing a premium defensive position like Albertson instantly made me think of the St. Louis draft (again) that I couldn’t write enough nice things about earlier this fall. Then I read this…
“I’m excited,” Albertson said. “They were one of the teams I has been talking to and they expressed a lot of interest. I knew if I team was going to take me, it was going to be them or St. Louis. St. Louis said I had a chance on being taken yesterday, but that didn’t happen.
Makes sense. Albertson is an accomplished Division II hitter with a decent arm (strong, but could use some quickening of his release to help it play up) and average speed. If he can keep developing defensively, then Albertson’s offensive blend of patience and pop could make him a real prospect with legitimate starting upside. I’m more than happy to drive this bandwagon.
22.665 – OF Malique Ziegler
I erroneously had Malique Ziegler in my notes as a 2017 draft-eligible incoming freshman at Northern Illinois earlier in the year. Imagine my surprise seeing him turn up as a signed 2016 draft pick of the Giants. If it helps set the stage, I was sitting at my computer with a slightly confused look on my face. I may or may not have said “Huh” to myself. Feels like you were there in the room with me, right? Ziegler left Northern Illinois to attend North Iowa Area Community College (or NIACC, which is all kinds of catchy) where he hit a robust .395/.490/.726 with 35 BB/43 K and 31/34 SB. He is a great athlete with plus speed who can more than hold his own in center. That sentence and his 2016 stats at NIACC are all I know about Ziegler, but that’s enough to make him a late-round name to watch going forward. I’m still not sure how I feel about the Giants drafting all those wild college pitchers, but just about everything else they’ve done gets an emphatic seal of approval from me.
23.695 – RHP Jacob Greenwalt
I’ll try to be brief here because I can only imagine how fans of 29 other teams are reacting to me loving all of these late-round Giants selections. Jacob Greenwalt is another outstanding find at this stage of the draft. Signing any prep prospect this late is an automatic win, but it becomes an even bigger WIN when the prep prospect in question has a quality fastball (88-92, 94 peak), commands two offspeed pitches (curve and change), is very athletic, and hails from one of my favorite states (Colorado) to unearth undervalued high school pitching. Greenwalt’s signing scout deserves a raise.
24.725 – C Jeffry Parra
I know very little about Jeffry Parra other than the fact that his name is not spelled Jeffery (as most of the internet claims), he’s a prep catcher from New York with a good chance to stick behind the plate, and he signed for the maximum bonus without penalty ($100,000) as a twenty-fourth round pick. You know what? Parra’s signing scout deserves a raise, too. Getting high school players signed past round twenty is a pretty big deal that should be celebrated more by prospect-obsessed fans.
26.785 – OF Nick Hill
Joe Lefebvre, Steve Balboni, and Jim Mecir were all drafted out of Eckerd College. Nick Hill will attempt to join them in the big league fraternity one day. His college draft year production (.391/.457/.590 and 12/15 SB) is strong yet not without red flags (10 BB/34 K). My notes on him that I was supposed to clean up, but it’s late so whatever: “size, decent start, idk.” Analysis like that is why they pay me the big bucks.
27.815 – RHP Pat Ruotolo
Whatever the maximum allowed amount of enjoyment can be derived from a team selecting an undersized college reliever from New England in the twenty-seventh round is, I’m there with Pat Ruotolo going off the board to the Giants here. Ruotolo is short and thick at 5-10, 220 pounds. His stuff is more ordinary (88-92 FB, 94 peak; mid-70s CB; CU) than amazing. His control has been up (2.35 BB/9 as a junior) and down (5.50 BB/9 as a sophomore, 4.70 BB/9 as a freshman). Through it all, Pat Ruotolo has missed bats. From 10.02 K/9 as a freshman to 12.89 K/9 as a sophomore to 10.58 K/9 as a junior, Ruotolo has gotten results out of the pen for the Huskies. In the pros, little changed: Ruotolo set down 15.75 batters per nine while walking 5.25 batters in the same stretch. I’m cool with going with either extreme in the mid- to late-rounds. Go get a guy with fantastic stuff and inconsistent results or a guy with questionable stuff and dominant results, but pick a lane and go hard with it. Ruotolo has been a great reliever for over three years now, and there’s no reason to doubt him going forward. The lack of knockout stuff puts a cap on his ultimate upside, but why can’t Ruotolo keep getting opportunities to impress the powers that be and eventually get his shot at middle relief?
29.875 – SS Mike Bernal
Already 24-years-old, Mike Bernal will have to get moving if he wants to fulfill his late-round utility guy upside. He played mostly second in his pro debut, but also managed to get a few innings in at short and third. I like him as a defender and athlete, so the possibility that he can keep rising as a defense-oriented backup exists. My lack of love for his offensive game has me bearish on him making it to the highest level.
30.905 – LHP Nick Deeg
Nick Deeg (191) has gotten a little bit better every season going back to his days as a Michigan prep star. You have to like that. From February 2016…
He’s third on my list only because of a lost coin flip to Deeg, another lefthander with above-average velocity (86-92, 94 peak) and an average or better breaking ball (his curve took off this summer after firming up from a loopier 71-74 to an improved 79-81 bender). Deeg got the edge over fellow lefty Akin despite the latter’s better peripherals to date because of a more advanced change (a low-80s offering with average or better upside) and an interesting but as yet underdeveloped mid-80s cutter. His size advantage (6-5, 220 for Deeg, 6-1, 200 for Akin) certainly didn’t hurt either.
I really don’t understand how Deeg fell to pick 905. I understand there was a velocity dip during the 2016 season from his usual upper-80s/low-90s down to mid-80s/upper-80s, but he was still effective throughout the year. I’d personally have a hard time knocking a prospect with as strong a track record as Deeg’s down for that unless I had been tipped off on whatever caused his velocity dip being permanent or not. Maybe teams know something I don’t here; 6-5, 220 pound lefthanders who have flashes his kind of stuff at his best don’t typically fall twenty plus rounds past their peak talent level without a decent reason. In the present absence of that missing piece of knowledge that may or may not actually exist, I’ll happily go on record calling Deeg one of the absolute biggest steals in this draft. Did you read all those word on Matt Krook earlier? The two are very different prospects with different degrees of upside and risk, but I ranked Deeg higher pre-draft than Krook. Pre-draft rankings lose a sliver of utility as every day past the end of the draft goes by, but still. This is a crazy steal by the Giants.
32.965 – RHP John Timmins
John Timmins does the power sinker/slider thing almost a little too well judging by how little present control he has on his darting stuff. In two years as a Bellevue Bruin, Timmins struck out 9.47 batters per nine while walking 5.08 batters in the same stretch. It was a small sample (26.2 total innings), but indicative of the kind of pitcher he is. The less said about his pro debut, the better. His arm is too good to dismiss based on 22.1 ugly innings, but it’s clear the big righthander has plenty to work on in pro ball.
34.1025 – RHP CJ Gettman
The Giants grab another big arm (90-94, 96 peak) from somewhat off the beaten path (Central Washington, home of just three MLB draft picks in twenty years) in CJ Gettman, a highly productive if effectively wild (13.85 K/9 and 5.19 BB/9) righthanded reliever with good size (6-5, 220). Feels like a slightly better version of John Timmins to me.
35.1055 – LHP Sidney Duprey
This is a fun one for a few reasons. First, Sidney Duprey is a native of Guayama, Puerto Rico. Didn’t see that one coming. Second, he’s a bonafide two-way prospect: his sophomore season at Kaskaskia CC in Illinois saw him hit .378/.471/.446 with 13 BB/13 K in 87 PA while also putting up outstanding numbers (9.71 K/9 and 1.99 BB/9 in 81.2 IP) on the mound. That leads us to our third fun fact about Sidney Duprey: the man can pitch a little bit. Duprey is typically 87-91 with his fastball and able to consistently command a decent breaking ball. If it all works out, maybe he can make it as a matchup lefty one day. If that’s the case, he’ll be MLB’s first Sidney since Sir Sidney Ponson retired back in 2009.
36.1085 – C Ryan Matranga
Any time you can select a local product coming off a .182/.237/.221 (8 BB/41 K) season, you pretty much have to do it. Matranga is a good defensive catcher, so it’s not like this is the worst pick in the entire draft or anything. I mean, it’s on the short list of worst picks and very much in the running, but it’s not definitively the worst pick. There are others that give it some stiff competition, I can assure you.
37.1115 – OF Chris Bono
I wouldn’t quite put the selection of Chris Bono in the worst draft pick mix, but he’s only about a tier away. Bono hit .183/.335/.266 as a redshirt-senior at UCLA. In his defense, he’s a better all-around prospect than can be summed up with his triple-slash. He’s a good athlete who can run, throw, and more than hold his own in center field. There are worse potential org guys to give opportunities to at this stage, I suppose.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Jason Delay (Vanderbilt), Mike Rescigno (Maryland), Jayden O’Dell (?), Adam Laskey (Duke), Jarrett Montgomery (Northwest Florida State JC), David Lee (Florida), Andrew DiPiazza (?), Nick Bennett (Louisville)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Detroit in 2016
23 – Matt Manning
105 – Kyle Funkhouser
130 – Daniel Pinero
133 – Zac Houston
169 – Brady Policelli
284 – Mark Ecker
318 – Jacob Robson
363 – Will Savage
387 – Bryan Garcia
486 – Austin Athmann
1.9 – RHP Matt Manning
High school prospects are risky. High school pitching prospects are riskier. Righthanded high school pitching prospects are riskiest. That’s about the only mean thing I can say about Detroit taking Matt Manning (23) with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. Manning is really, really good. If you had to draw up the perfect righthanded high school pitching prospect, Manning would be it. I love his athleticism, easily some of the very best of any player at any position in this class. I love the way he pitches off his electric darting fastball, commanding it to all four corners with relative ease. I love the upside his breaking ball has shown even as it runs between a mid-70s curve and an upper-70s to low-80s slider. I love that he’s shown a changeup with promise even when he knows his fastball is all he ever needed against teenage competition. The only thing I don’t love about Manning is the inherent risk that comes with any high school pitching prospect. If you can get over that as I have, then you can fall in love with Manning, too. Love this pick. Detroit only signed three high school prospects, but Manning has a chance to be so good that no other selection in their draft will really matter.
4.115 – RHP Kyle Funkhouser
I’ve been as all over the place trying to figure out Kyle Funkhouser (105) as I have any other prospect in recent memory. I even devoted an entire post to him back in April 2015. Here’s a quick timeline of events from that post to the present day beginning in May 2015…
I’ve written about why Kyle Funkhouser intrigues me the way he does before, though I still will likely remain the low man on him as he enters pro ball. The narrative on him was kind of weird this spring as he was kind of the guy we all thought he was coming into the year, but the spin — and I was guilty of doing some of this myself — was that he was answering some of the pre-season questions about his game. I worried about his command, control, and third pitch coming into the season, and I still have worries about each of those areas today.
You know what, I think that’s a pretty fair summation of Funkhouser. Shut it down, we don’t need to go any further. I mean, we will because that’s just what we do, but this really does sum the big righthander from Louisville well. Command? Not great. Control? Definitely a concern. Unsure about the development of a third pitch? Heck, you could make a case that he needs to develop a more consistent second pitch right now. Let’s see what we saw in Funkhouser a few months later in October 2015…
Much electronic ink was spilled on Funkhouser last season, so I’ll be brief: he’s good. It’s unclear how good — I’d say more mid-rotation than ace, but reasonable minds may disagree — but he’s good. Of the many comps I threw out for him last year my favorite remains Jordan Zimmermann. If he can up his command and control game like Zimmermann, then he could hit that mid-rotation ceiling and keep pushing upwards.
From a stuff standpoint, I don’t think the Zimmermann comp is that bad. The command and control development, however, lag behind what Zimmermann showed at a similar age. This was the specific passage about Zimmermann that I was referring to…
I bring up Zimmermann not as a direct comp per se, but as a potential developmental path that Funkhouser could mirror once he hits the pro ranks. I think Funkhouser’s change should be given room to grow rather than ditched, but Zimmermann’s below average change was once said to have “promising action,” so what do any of us really know?
Predicting improvements in command and control is difficult for even the most seasoned scouts. Lots of time and effort spent breaking down a guy’s mechanics, athletic ability, aptitude for learning, willingness to receive instruction, and where/why he’s currently missing his spots go into it. Good command requires physical and mental strength, and finding an evaluator able to consistently read a young pitcher in both departments is a rare, if not impossible, thing. I’ve read just about everything written on Cliff Lee’s mid-career transformation and I still have no idea why he suddenly found command like he did. It’s a little bit like what I’ve been told about high school hitters: you can scout them as much as humanly possible, but nothing you’ll ever see them do as a teenage amateur can possibly equate to the day-to-day roller coaster ride of pro ball. They’ll either learn to hit in the pros or not. Same thing with a young guy and command: he’ll either learn it or he won’t. That’s what makes scouting more of an art than a science, and that’s what makes the mystic around it so appealing and frustrating all at once.
Anyway, back to Funkhouser. This time we jump to April 2016…
I hold out some hope that he’ll be a better pro than college pitcher because his raw stuff at its best is really that good, but there’s just so much inconsistency to his game that I can’t go all-in on him again. Maybe he’s fulfills the promise he showed last year, maybe he winds up more of a consistently inconsistent fifth starter/swingman type, or maybe he’s destined to a life of relief work. I no longer have any clue where his career is heading. I feel liberated.
I settled on this non-answer, and I think I’m really at peace with it all now. Funkhouser has flashed truly dominant stuff at times: 87-94 MPH (96-97 peak) fastball that moves, above-average 79-84 MPH slider, above-average 75-80 MPH curve, average mid-80s changeup, all commanded well enough in spurts. His biggest problem has been a longstanding inability to get all those pitches going at the same time. Some days he’ll scrap the slider for the curve entirely, other days the reverse will be true. On either day, there’s no guarantee that he can throw whatever breaking ball he’s going with for strikes. His changeup has steadily gotten firmer over the years; when his fastball is closer to the upper edge of his velocity band (90-95, 97 peak) then it can work as a nice timing disruptor, but when he’s more 87-91 (92-93 peak) with his heat then the changeup looks more like a batting practice pitch.
The massive deltas in his stuff on an outing by outing basis makes Funkhouser a really tough pitcher to make any bold predictions about. Instinctually, he feels like the kind of guy who just needs to find the right pitching coach at the right time to have the light bulb go off and become the long-time big league starting pitcher that his peak stuff suggests he could be. Or maybe not. Maybe he remains in the rotation, but has a career built on potential more than production; maybe he turns into an innings-eater who flashes upside but can never put it all together, a career path reminiscent of Brett Tomko’s. Or maybe he winds up in the bullpen and is allowed to focus on his fastball and one breaking ball, and his career takes off as a late-inning star. Or he’s more good than great in relief, but still has a long career pitching the sixth and seventh innings for a half-dozen different teams.
5.145 – RHP Mark Ecker
I love Mark Ecker (284). Every draft I struggle with where to rank college relievers and every year it feels like I get it wrong. Not so much with the individual evaluations, but definitely with where to rank straight relievers within the larger draft prospect landscape. One year I’ll overvalue them, the next year I’ll vow to never do that again and undervalue them, the next year I’ll go right back to overvaluing them, then I’ll overvalue just the top tier guys and ignore the next rung…it’s a mess. I think ranking Ecker as a tenth round prospect (give or take) undersells how good he is right now. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see him in the big leagues this upcoming year if that’s what Detroit needs. To make up for my underrating him in June, let’s write way too much about a fifth round college reliever…
Finding a comparable reliever to Ecker is surprisingly difficult. Did you know there are very few plus fastball/plus control relievers in Major League Baseball? It’s true! I’m using arbitrary standards here — more than 8.00 K/9, less than 2.00 BB/9, average fastball velocity 93+ MPH — and the pool of qualified relievers this decade comes out to just eleven possibilities. Of that eleven, none give me the kind of stuff close enough to Ecker to convince me to throw that comp on him. Liam Hendriks has ditched the change as he’s made the full-time transition to relief, Sean Doolittle is lefthanded and throws almost 90% fastballs, Rafael Betancourt is just short on velocity but not a terrible comp otherwise, and Robert Osuna relies more on his slider than his changeup. Junichi Tazawa might be the closest, but he technically throws a splitter rather than a changeup. The pitch serves a similar purpose, so maybe we should just allow it and call it a day. Mark Melancon would be perfect, but he almost literally never throws his changeup these days. Tony Watson is lefthanded, but fits the mold pretty well otherwise. Kelvin Herrera is a little too small and probably throws too many breaking balls, but he’s a decent facsimile for Ecker’s stuff/control combination otherwise. He might be the closest thing to Ecker that I can think of, though I’d be remiss to not at least mention Ryan Madson, my go-to fastball/changeup/control comp in these situations. Some combination of Herrera, Madson, and Melancon would be one heck of a reliever. That’s the kind of impact I think Ecker can have in the big leagues. In fact, there’s this from May 2016…
With a fastball capable of hitting the upper-90s and a mid-80s changeup with plus upside, he’s an honest big league closer candidate with continued development.
Sounds about right. Getting an arm with closer upside in the fifth round is a win every single time for me. Nice work by Detroit here.
6.175 – RHP Bryan Garcia
The Tigers pretty clearly went into this draft with the idea of adding players who will be ready quickly enough to help prop their present window of contention open a little bit longer. Outside of their first round pick (who happens to be a really good prospect and excellent trade capital if they go that route), every other selection all the way through round twenty-two was a college prospect. No snapshot of their draft better exemplifies their win-now philosophy than the back-to-back selections of Mark Ecker and Bryan Garcia (387). Like Ecker one round earlier, Bryan Garcia has the ability to pitch in the big leagues sooner rather than later. From March 2016…
Garcia has late-game reliever stuff (mid-90s FB, good SL) and pedigree (15.88 K/9 this year) to get himself drafted as one of the first true college relievers in his class.
His K/9 dipped all the way down to 13.03 by the end of the season and his low-80s slider morphed more into a curve, but Garcia finished the year more than holding up his end of the bargain. There’s a chance Garcia could be tried in the rotation — a pro contact who saw him this summer came away far more impressed with his changeup than I would have guessed — but letting him fire away in the bullpen with his mid-90s heat and potential plus breaking ball seems like the way to go. Like Ecker, I think he could pitch in the big leagues in 2017 if that’s how the Tigers want to play it.
7.205 – LHP Austin Sodders
Got a Matt Imhof comp for Austin Sodders late in the spring that I think is pretty fair. I don’t love the pick, but can appreciate the logic behind it. Sodders is a big lefthander with solid velocity (88-92), above-average deception and command, and the chance for two average offspeed pitches (CB, CU). If it all comes together for him, that’s a pretty valuable skill set.
8.235 – OF Jacob Robson
I like this one probably more than I should. Every team I’ve written about the past two weeks or so seems to draft at least two college center fielders known for their speed, defense, and minimal pop. I’ve always liked that profile, but lately am beginning to realize that the power component is even more important than conventional wisdom — which believes it to be very, very important, for the record — suggests. I’m sick of writing it, so I can only assume you’re sick of reading it, but the threat of power is an absolute necessity for any young hitter with the hopes of being an above-average offensive contributor in professional ball. Not everybody has to be a power hitter, but if you can’t hit for at least some power then you’re going to have a bad time in pro ball. The threat of an extra base hit changes the way you’re approached as a hitter.
That in mind, Jacob Robson’s (318) lack of pop is concerning. It limits his ceiling dependent on how you feel about his hit tool playing in the pros; you can talk yourself into him being more than a fifth outfielder if you believe, but he’s close to a “what you see is what you get” otherwise. I happen to like him and this pick a ton. That’s the power of the hit tool, I guess. Some guys just have a knack for consistent hard contact. That’s Robson. I’m not a scout so I lack some (but not all) of the reverence to the 20-80 scale that the pros share for it, but tossing around plus grades on an amateur’s hit tool is something even I don’t take lightly. I think Robson might have it. He might be able to hit enough singles and hustle doubles/triples to overcome his lack of power and become a starting quality player. His athleticism, speed, and center field range will also certainly help in that quest, but it’ll be the hit tool that separates him from so many similar players bouncing around the minor leagues. I’d call many players like Robson low-ceiling/moderate-floor types, but Robson himself gets a moderate-ceiling/moderate-floor tag. That’s not a whole lot better, but it is better.
9.265 – SS Daniel Pinero
There is no version of me in any alternate timeline who doesn’t appreciate a 6-5, 210 pound shortstop prospect. It should be no shock then that I’m an unabashed Daniel Pinero (130) fan. Pinero got better every season at Virginia while flashing big league tools across all areas of the game. I like his defense at shortstop more than anybody I’ve spoken to or read, so take the claim that he can stay at his college position in the pros with that in mind. Even if he has to move off short, he’s got all the skills needed (quick reactions, strong arm, body control) to excel at the hot corner. Offensively, Pinero will always have some swing-and-miss in his game (long levers will do that) and his speed has slowed down to average at best as he’s filled out over the years, but his power is on the rise, his approach is sound, and he goes into every at bat with a plan. I don’t think he’s a future star at the plate, but the chance to be an average offensive player with either average (shortstop) or above-average (third base) defense makes him a really nice prospect.
As far as value goes, it’s worth noting that I ranked Pinero only 54 spots lower than CJ Chatham, Red Sox second round pick who went 214 picks earlier. That may or may not mean something to you, but I look at it as Detroit getting a comparable talent much later in the draft. I think Pinero is a potential regular on the left side of the infield with a very realistic floor as a big league utility guy.
10.295 – OF Sam Machonis
Two years at Polk State (including this sophomore year: .310/.406/.470 with 20 BB/43 K and 14/15 SB in 200 AB) and two years at Florida Southern (combined .365/.443/.607 line with 38 BB/71 K and 26/32 SB in 394 AB) led Sam Machionis to Detroit on draft day 2016. Without being an expert on him from a scouting perspective, I’ll point out that his numbers, while very good on the whole, come with the glaring BB/K red flag that would scare me off using a top ten round pick on him. The scouting notes on him I do have — “strong arm, decent runner, can play all three outfield spots and first base, hits from both sides of the plate, handles velocity” — lean towards a potential bench contributor if he can curb some of his overly aggressive tendencies at the plate.
11.325 – RHP Zac Houston
Zac Houston (133) and his explosive 90-95 FB (97 peak) fastball is a pretty perfect fit in the eleventh round. He’s a live arm with college experience at Mississippi State that has seen ups (11.53 K/9 in 2015, 9.79 K/9 in 2016) and downs (6.47 BB/9 in 2015, 4.43 BB/9 in 2016). He did more of the same in his pro debut (14.90 K/9 and 4.56 BB/9 in 29.2 IP) while dominating on the scoreboard (0.30 ERA). It’s an imperfect comparison, but you can draw a shaky line between Houston and fourth round pick Kyle Funkhouser. Like the former Louisville star, Houston’s future role is as yet undetermined. His fastball will play in any role and his low-80s slider is quickly coming on as a potential second weapon, but the rest of his offspeed spread (cutter, curve, change) remain a work in progress. I think the bullpen is his best bet. If that’s the case, then a long career filled with strikeouts and walks could make him a very fun/frustrating reliever to watch.
With Funkhouser, Ecker, Garcia, Houston, Schreiber, Sittinger, and Schmidt all taken by Detroit in the draft’s top twenty rounds, the Tigers could have just formed the core of a young, electric, and cheap bullpen that will supplement their next contending team. It’s not sexy, but nailing down three or four knockout relievers in one draft class would be a major scouting and development win for a farm system in need of a W or two.
12.355 – OF Daniel Woodrow
Though long a prospect archetype I’ve enjoyed, I’ve grown suspicious of rangy center fielders with plus speed and no power of late. The “no power” thing is just too much of an offensive hurdle to jump; as we often say, it’s not so much the actual lack of power but the lack of power being a credible threat against bigger, smarter, better pitching. Of the many potential backup outfielders that follow the speed/defense/no power pattern in this class, I happen to like Daniel Woodrow of Creighton more than many of the others. There’s such a fine line between no power and very little power, but I think the small difference matters when it comes to how pitchers approach the opposition. Woodrow has just enough pop to continue being an effective table setter in the pros. He makes a ton of contact, has a decent approach, and provides all the aforementioned speed/defense (and arm strength). The upside isn’t huge, but Woodrow has a shot to make it as a fifth outfielder.
13.385 – C Brady Policelli
I’m an absolute sucker for Brady Policelli’s (169) defensive versatility, athleticism, and ability to excel at all of the little things. It’s dangerous territory for me because I’ve fallen in love with prospects like Policelli before with many topping out as fun college players and little more, but I can’t help but appreciate a legitimate defensive catcher with a really strong arm and footwork good enough to play shortstop for his college team in his draft year. I’ll go bold and say that Policelli has a long big league career as a standout defensive catcher with enough thump in his bat to have a few years worthy of being an everyday player.
14.415 – C Austin Athmann
This year’s college class has a chance to be viewed as one of the best of all-time. The talent level at the position . Detroit waited it out and landed a top ten round talent in most years all the way down in round fourteen. Austin Athmann (486) is a lock to stay behind the plate thanks to solid mobility, an average or better arm (more accurate than strong), and pro-level smarts in knowing how to handle a pitching staff. That alone gives him value this late in the draft, but Athmann adds on to it as a more than capable hitter with a chance for topping out as an average hitter with average power. The very optimistic forecast calls for starting catcher upside, but I’m more comfortable calling him a potential quality backup. That’s really nice value this late in the draft.
15.445 – RHP John Schreiber
John Schreiber dominated at Northwestern Ohio as a senior using a nasty fastball (90-95 MPH) and slider one-two punch. Definite middle relief upside here. Is this my shortest prospect breakdown so far? I think it is. Only problem is every word I write now artificially inflates the total. If you just skimmed through this and saw this nice little block of text, you’d have no real idea that the only bit of analysis I had to share on Schreiber this year.
16.475 – 2B Will Savage
As an self-proclaimed Ivy League baseball aficionado, I’ve seen a lot of Will Savage (363) over the years. Without fail, I’ve come away impressed with his game. There’s little flashy about Savage, but he’s got a knack for hard contact, above-average speed, and a chance to be a solid defender at second with more work. The problem with Savage is that he’s likely a second baseman and second baseman only in the pros; his arm and range are both stretched considerably on the left side of the infield. As much as I like him as a college hitter, I’m not sure the bat will be enough to carry him if his only path to the big leagues is as a second baseman. If Detroit can squeeze even a little defensive versatility out of him, then he’ll be in a much better position to climb the ladder.
17.505 – RHP Brandyn Sittinger
Brandyn Sittinger dominated at Ashland as a junior using a low- to mid-90s fastball and little else. He’s a consistent second pitch away from having the same middle relief upside as fellow state of Ohio product John Schreiber.
18.535 – 1B Niko Buentello
Niko Buentello as a lefthanded power bat with a decent approach and a shot to destroy righthanded pitching in the pros is enough for me to buy into him as a viable eighteenth round pick. It’s tough sledding making it as a first base only prospect, but, hey, somebody has to man the position, right?
19.565 – OF Dustin Frailey
I really like Dustin Frailey, a Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunner by way of Mt. San Antonio College who stayed under my radar until fairly late in the draft process. His draft year was outstanding by any measure (.376/.479/.593 with 30 BB/19 K and 23/27 SB) and his offensive game is a well-rounded blend of average power and above-average speed. There’s some sneaky fourth outfielder upside with Frailey.
20.595 – RHP Clate Schmidt
On Clate Schmidt from December 2015…
SR RHP Clate Schmidt has overcome a great deal to get back to position himself to a return to the mound this spring. His athleticism, fastball (90-94, 96 peak), and impressive low-80s slider make him a prospect to watch, and his story of perseverance makes him a player to appreciate. If the return to health in 2016 has him feeling more like himself this spring (i.e., he’s more 2014 than 2015), then his feel-good story should end with a potential top ten round draft selection and honest shot in pro ball.
Schmidt finished his final season at Clemson with the following numbers: 7.15 K/9, 2.21 BB/9, 4.83 ERA, 85.2 IP. I’d say that definitely puts him closer to the 2014 version (7.23 K/9 and 3.82 BB/9) than the 2015 version (5.54 K/9 and 3.98 BB/9), and that’s an encouraging sign for Schmidt’s career going forward. His stuff wasn’t quite back to what he showed at 100% — he was more 86-91 MPH with his fastball in 2016, though his 78-82 MPH changeup remained outstanding and his low-80s slider solidified itself as a solid third offering — but it’s still good enough to make a little noise in the pros. Giving him the ball in shorter outings with the instructions to let it fly (and sink) might prove to be the best move for him and the Tigers. As a reliever, I think Schmidt could pile up ground balls and miss enough bats to be really effective. That upside combined with the hidden value of bringing such a hard worker and positive influence like Schmidt into the organization makes this one of my favorite picks in the whole draft.
21.625 – RHP Joe Navilhon
The first of back-to-back undersized college righthanders taken by Detroit, Joe Navilhon has a decent fastball (88-92) that he dresses up with a highly effective low-80s changeup. Toss in a mid-70s breaking ball and the Tommy John survivor has enough going for him to get his chances as a potential middle relief prospect. I’m bearish on his odds of breaking through compared to some of the other intriguing relief arms stockpiled by Detroit in this class, but you never know.
22.655 – RHP Burris Warner
I’m always happy to see an undersized flame-thrower like Burris Warner get his shot in pro ball. Even if things don’t work out for Warner in the long run, remember that Detroit got an established college reliever capable of hitting the mid-90s (seen him up to 95 personally) with his fastball in the twenty-second round next time one of the national guys refuses to rank more than fifty or so prospects in a given class.
23.685 – C Bryan Torres
The Tigers signed only three high school prospects in this class. Matt Manning is the obvious headliner, but getting deals done with Bryan Torres here and Geraldo Gonzalez later is a nice little bonus. A really rough small sample debut doesn’t change the fact that Torres was a worthwhile gamble here in the twenty-third round.
24.715 – LHP Evan Hill
On any given outing you might see Evan Hill hit just about every single 80-something MPH with his fastball. At his best, Hill is more mid- to upper-80s (up to 92-93 peaks at his bestest best), but the long and lean lefthander could have more in the tank (or at least more consistency in what he’s already flashed) with pro strength training and instruction ahead of him. He could use the extra tick or two on his fastball because of his offspeed stuff is more functional than fabulous. I like what I’ve seen out of a mid- to upper-70s breaking ball that’ll flash above-average at times, but his cutter and changeup are nothing to write home about. A shift to the bullpen could accelerate some of those hopeful velocity gains and potentially sharpen up his breaking ball. That feels like his best shot at an extended pro career.
25.745 – RHP John Hayes
Joe Navilhon and Burris Warner were back-to-back undersized college righthanders taken by Detroit in rounds twenty-one and twenty-two. Now the Tigers go back-to-back with big college righthanders with John Hayes leading off. Hayes missed bats as a redshirt-senior at Wichita State (10.57 K/9), but didn’t quite get the job done when it came to run prevention (7.12 ERA). I’m glad Detroit saw past his struggles to see the good (88-93 FB, quality CU, usable SL) in Hayes.
26.775 – RHP Colyn O’Connell
Colyn O’Connell has the fastball (89-93, 95 peak) and frame (6-5, 215) to excite, but his junior year at Florida Atlantic (6.33 K/9 and 3.33 BB/9) was mostly underwhelming. To his credit, O’Connell did keep runs off the board (2.00 ERA in 27.0 IP). Things took a turn for the better in pro ball (8.40 K/9 and 3.60 BB/9) even as the ERA climbed a bit (3.90 in 30.0 IP). You’ll make that trade-off any day when it comes to projecting a pitcher’s future.
27.805 – SS Chad Sedio
The Tigers gave Chad Sedio an honest shot to play shortstop in pro ball and the early buzz on his defense there — in as much as there can ever be buzz about Chad Sedio’s glove — has been positive. The versatile defender also has experience at second, third (where I listed him pre-draft), and in the outfield, so a future as a bat-first utility player isn’t out of the question.
29.865 – 3B Hunter Swilling
Two big power years in a row at Samford (.324/.415/.622 and .292/.393/.557) were enough to get Hunter Swilling his shot in pro ball. His combined walk to strikeout ratio during that same stretch (60 BB/124 K) probably would have kept me away, but I understand the inclination to buy power when you can. To his credit, Swilling can do more than just swing for the fences. The righthanded power bat is also a pretty solid athlete with a strong arm well-suited for third base. I had him as a first base prospect in my notes (with some upside on the mound), but early returns on his glove at third in the pros have been decent. The overall package is still not really my cup of tea, but in the twenty-ninth round sometimes you have to open your mind to players you might not have considered otherwise.
30.895 – LHP Dalton Lundeen
Dalton Lundeen’s pro debut (6.48 K/9 and 2.52 BB/9) looked a whole heck of a lot like his senior season at Valparaiso (6.65 K/9 and 1.91 BB/9). That should give some indication as to what kind of pitcher he is, but I’ll do my part to paint a fuller picture by noting that Lundeen’s fastball lives mostly in the mid- to upper-80s and his slider is his primary out-pitch.
31.925 – SS Dalton Britt
First time in MLB Draft history a team has drafted back-to-back Dalton’s. Or so I’ll assume, anyway. Dalton Britt joins Dalton Lundeen in the Tigers organization after going off the board in the thirty-first round. Britt has always been one of those guys described to me as a better potential pro hitter than what he ever showed at Liberty. That persistent noise was what had me continuing to push the “strong hit tool” scouting note for Britt even as the college shortstop hovered just below a .300 batting average (.299 in 2014, .294 in 2015, .292 in 2016) during his last three college seasons. Of course there’s more to projecting a hit tool than just looking at past performance, but ignoring what has actually happened on the field isn’t a very sound evaluation strategy, either. Britt hasn’t been so bad that I’d toss out the positive scouting notes, so we’re more in the “wait and see” stage of his larger evaluation as he transitions to pro ball. If the scouting reports prove true, then the Tigers got themselves a really nice potential steal this late. Britt can certainly hold up his end of the bargain defensively (steady work at 2B, 3B, and SS), so even a slightly below-average big league bat would make him an interesting utility option down the line.
34.1015 – SS Gerardo Gonzalez
Finally, we get to the third signed high school prospect. I’ll admit that I was a little bit more excited about this one when I mistyped Gerardo Gonzalez’s first name as Geraldo, the name most of the internet has him listed under. Pro ball could really use a star named Geraldo. Gerardo Gonzalez had a rough debut, but he earned his fair share of walks, played solid defense at second, and finished the season as one of the younger 2016 draftees (not 18 until 12/21/16). There’s no such thing as a bad high school signing past round ten, so no shame in focusing on his modest strengths for now.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Alex Cunningham (Coastal Carolina), Conner O’Neill (Cal State Northridge), Keegan Thompson (Auburn), Jacob White (Weatherford JC), Drew Mendoza (Florida State), David Fleita (Cowley County JC), Josh Smith (LSU), Garrett Milchin (Florida), Dalton Feeney (North Carolina State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Seattle in 2016
4 – Kyle Lewis
54 – Joe Rizzo
119 – Bryson Brigman
256 – Donnie Walton
301 – David Greer
351 – Nick Zammarelli
379 – Reggie McClain
424 – Thomas Burrows
1.11 – OF Kyle Lewis
I like Kyle Lewis (4). I write about guys I like a lot during the draft process. Rather than reprint a whole wall of Kyle Lewis words, I’ll leave this link from last February here. I don’t normally link to myself and recommend you read it, but this is one of those rare times when I think it’s worth it. The paragraph most germane to our present discussion of Lewis…
Kyle Lewis hit .367/.423/.677 last year in a decent college conference. That’s good, clearly. His 19 BB/41 K ratio is less good. So why buy the bat? As a hitter, I like what I’ve seen and heard about his righthanded swing. I like that he seemingly improved his approach (aggressively hunting for “his” pitch showed good self-scouting while getting ahead more frequently late in the year demonstrated a fuller understanding of what it will take to succeed against top-level competition) and started chasing fewer pitchers’s pitches as the season went on. I like his physical projection, public and privately shared intel about his work ethic, bat speed (I’ve seen some “whoa” cuts from him), and how his athleticism allows his upper- and lower-body to work in concern with one another with each swing. Believe me, I understand doubting him now as a potential top ten pick and dark horse to go 1-1 in this draft based on a wait-and-see approach to his plate discipline; if improvements aren’t made in his draft year BB/K ratio, all the positive scouting buzz will matter a lot less to me come June. But part of college scouting early in the season is identifying players set to make the leap as juniors. I think Lewis’s leap as a more mature, thoughtful, and explosive hitter has already begun, and it’ll be reflected on the field this upcoming season. I’ve thrown out a Yasiel Puig comp in the past for his ceiling and I’m sticking with that for now. As an added prospect to prospect bonus, his game reminds me some of Anthony Alford. Your mileage might vary on how in the draft a player like that could go, but it sure sounds like a potential premium pick to me.
Lewis followed that sophomore season up with a .395/.535/.731 junior campaign. His BB/K ratio moved from 19/41 to 66/48. That’s the kind of progress you can only dream about when forecasting a draft year breakout. Lewis delivered and then some, yet some still found reasons to tear him down during the draft process. No player is above being viewed through a critical lens, but I can’t help but feel that Lewis, for whatever reason, was this year’s “yeah, but” prospect for far too many. Positive scouting reports from his sophomore season at Mercer and summer on the Cape…yeah, but his numbers, namely his BB/K, weren’t first round quality. Tremendous turnaround in that exact area as a junior…yeah, but the level of competition puts the degree of actual improvement in question. Electric bat speed, plus to plus-plus raw power, hit tool looking better with every week…yeah, but strikeouts? Can’t play center? Too likable and hard working?
There are clearly some elements of truth in all of the singular bits of criticism of Lewis’s game — no prospect is perfect, after all — but what does well (lots) and how well he does it (very) is far more important to me than his minor flaws. From May 2016…
Arguably the closest comp to Bryant statistically is Kyle Lewis. Most walks, most whiffs, and some degree of a speed component. They also both played slightly lesser conference competition than their peers. I still kind of think that he’s got a lot of Yasiel Puig in his game — both the good and the bad — but that’s admittedly a minority view. Jermaine Dye is a good one put out there by Frankie Piliere. I’ve also heard Derek Bell, a name that I like because I think it fits fairly well and because any excuse to look up Derek Bell again gives the mid-90s sports nostalgia part of my brain a jolt.
Operation Shutdown will never not be funny to me. Anyway, I still like the Puig comp best of all. Comparing anybody to Puig, a player coming off as weird, wild, and unpredictable a first four MLB seasons as anybody in recent memory, might be silly, but I think Lewis lines ups favorably from both a skills and tools standpoint, and could have a similar above-average offensive start to his career with flirtations of stardom mixed in any given year. Burgeoning hit tool, loads of power, at least average speed, arm, and range, young for class, litany of favorable comps, and, most importantly of all, continual improvement in all phases of his game almost every time he steps foot on the diamond. Lewis had a very strong case for going first overall in this class; getting him at eleventh overall is about as big a no-brainer first round pick as you’ll see.
2.50 – 3B Joe Rizzo
I don’t love leading with “old” information, but this bit on Joe Rizzo (54) from May 2016 is one of my favorites…
Joe Rizzo, the man without a position, slides into the top spot here at first base. My strong hunch is that whatever team drafts him early will do so with the idea to play him at a more demanding defensive spot – could be third, could be second, could even be behind the plate – but eventually he’ll settle in as a professional first baseman. Offensively, I’ve gotten a Don Mattingly comp on him that I obviously find intriguing. The better comp, however, is one that takes a little getting used to. If I had to type up an anonymous scout quote to back it up, it might sound like this: “Well, I don’t like the body, but he can really swing it. Some guys just have a knack for hitting it hard every time, and Rizzo is one of ‘em. Pretty swing, above-average to plus power, and more athletic than he looks. Can probably fake it elsewhere on the diamond, but I’d stick him at first and just have him focus on piling up hits. Reminds me of a young John Kruk.” So there you have it. The anonymous scout that I made up has put a young John Kruk comp out there. Nice work, anonymous scout. I like it.
(It’s also worth pointing out that an actual scout – i.e., not one that is actually me in disguise – mentioned Bobby Bradley as a recent draft comp for Rizzo. I don’t hate it!)
John Kruk! I just love that comp so much. I can’t wait to start reading (and getting) firsthand reports about Rizzo, a position-less unconventional-bodied straight baller at the plate, from pro guys. They won’t know what hit ’em. They WILL know (presumably) what Rizzo can do: hit ’em. I adore Rizzo’s hit tool and think he’s going to be an above-average to plus offensive contributor for a long, long time. I’m intrigued about his defensive upside at a couple of different positions (second, catcher, or his current landing spot third), but I really just want to watch him hit and hit and hit. I’m very much into this pick. Kyle Lewis and Joe Rizzo is a hell of a way to start off a draft.
3.87 – SS Bryson Brigman
Obsessing all spring about finding answers about the long-term defensive future of Bryson Brigman (119) — quick version: athletic enough for short with just enough range, but arm feels just a touch light to want him there in anything more than spot-duty — obscured the more pressing Brigman question: will the young middle infielder from San Diego get into enough power to profile as a regular no matter what position he plays? For example, here I am going on and on and on about Brigman’s glove back in March 2016…
Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.
Comparing any young guy to Scott Kingery, a prospect I’ve always liked more than maybe I should, is high praise. I have little doubt about Brigman’s hit tool continuing to play at the big league even as questions about his power exist. Hit tool, plate discipline, athleticism, speed, and defense can take you a long way in pro ball. The glaring lack of power, however, puts a pretty clear potential cap on his ceiling. And I say that before checking the stats from his first professional season: .260/.369/.291. Six doubles and a triple in 318 plate appearances isn’t going to cut it. I still believe the hit tool will play, but it’ll be on Brigman to make the necessary adjustments to pro pitchers who will attack him differently once reports of his below-average power make the rounds.
4.117 – LHP Thomas Burrows
The fourth round felt a little early for a guy like Thomas Burrows (424) based on ceiling, but there’s no arguing with the results the lefty from Alabama has produced on the field to this point. Burrows was great in college from day one, but took things to another level as a junior: 13.04 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, and 0.95 ERA in 28.1 IP. Then he went out and did more or less the same thing in his pro debut: 13.50 K/9, 4.01 BB/9, and 2.55 ERA in 24.2 IP. I’m sure there are other recent comparables to Burrows over the years I could think of if I really sat down and tried, but the two names that immediately came to mind when it comes to reasonable comps are Paco Rodriguez (82nd overall pick in 2012) and Jacob Lindgren (55th overall pick in 2014). By that logic, based solely off of two previous draft examples, Seattle got a steal in snagging Burrows with pick 117! For real, the three guys all have common traits that give them high-floors with reasonable upside. All were lefthanded college relievers with fastballs capable of hitting the mid-90s (Burrows is 88-94), quality sliders, good command, and ample deception. The safety of this profile — both Rodriguez and Lindgren within a year of being drafted — is dinged only slightly by the uncertainty that comes with literally every single pitching prospect in the game (both Rodriguez and Lindgren have had Tommy John surgery, as pitchers do). I’m not saying that Burrows will pitch in the big leagues early in 2017 before eventually being forced to make his way back after his elbow explodes, but if you’re the type to buy into historical precedent and the power of three…
5.147 – SS Donnie Walton
From the high-floor of Thomas Burrows to the high-floor of Donnie Walton (256), the Mariners grab two likely big league role players with back-to-back selections within the draft’s first five rounds. As an avowed fan of going upside early and often, I shouldn’t like it…but I kind of do. I unexpectedly sold myself on Burrows with those Rodriguez/Lindgren comps, and Walton is the perfect example of a the right kind of high-floor prospect to target. If you’re going to go minimal risk with an early pick, get a guy like Walton who makes tons of quality contact, works deep counts, and can play whatever spot on the diamond you want to try him at. A long track record of success, sneaky speed, and an average arm that is stretched on the left side but playable just add to what makes him a rock solid future big league utility option. This echoes what was written back in April 2016…
Walton is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of the son of a coach: there’s nothing flashy to his game, but he ably fields his position, runs well, and can make just about all the throws from short. It might be a utility player profile more so than a future regular ceiling, but it’s relatively safe and well worth a top ten round pick.
The fifth round qualifies as a top ten round pick, right? Then we’re good here. Nice work by Seattle.
6.177 – RHP Brandon Miller
When I saw Brandon Miller pitch this past season for Millersville (3/31/16 against East Stroudsburg), I saw a big (6-4, 210) righthanded starting pitcher with exceptional control, solid command of four pitches (88-93 FB, average 77-83 SL, 82-83 CU flashed average, show-me 72 CB), and a willingness to attack hitters with high fastballs. He wasn’t at his best that day (6 IP 10 H 7 ER 2 BB 4 K), but you could still see future professional starting pitcher traits. Sixth round for Miller seems early to me, but a team like Seattle that valued his brand of control, command, and well-rounded stuff is free to disagree. I’m always in favor of guys I saw play up close going high, so I’m on board for entirely selfish reasons.
7.207 – RHP Matt Festa
When I saw Matt Festa pitch this past season for East Stroudsburg (3/31/16 against Millersville), I saw a short (6-1, 190) righthanded starting pitcher with above-average control, solid command of three pitches (89-95 FB, average CB/SL, CU flashed average), and a propensity for pitching down in the zone. He was pretty sharp that day (7 IP 6 H 2 ER 2 BB 8 K), so it was easy to walk away impressed. I’d love to see him get a shot in relief where he’d really be able to air it out — more mid-90s than low-90s could get him on a much faster track to the big leagues — but he’s good enough to develop as a starter as well. Big thing working against him now is his age; Festa will start his first full pro season at 24-years-old. That could be all the more reason to get him in the pen sooner rather than later.
8.237 – 3B Nick Zammarelli
Seattle’s emphasis on finding productive college players continues with Nick Zammarelli (351) going off the board in round eight. If you’re into versatile defenders who have shown steady growth in all offensive areas (power, patience, contact) over the course of the past three seasons, then Zammarelli is your guy. I can see his pro debut being a template for how he’ll likely be deployed if/when he reaches the big leagues. While with the AquaSox, Zammarelli played all four corner spots (1B/3B/LF/RF). That seems like a reasonably realistic outcome for an eighth rounder, though I wouldn’t put it past the Elon product continuing to impress with the bat enough to find steadier work one day.
9.267 – C Jason Goldstein
On Jason Goldstein from April 2016…
Jason Goldstein is one of those all-around catching prospects that teams should like a lot on draft day, but all indications point towards that being a minority view than a consensus around baseball. I liked Goldstein a lot last year, I still like him this year, and it’s fine that he’ll likely be drafted much later than where he’ll be ranked on my board. He’s a heady defender with enough arm strength to profile as a big league backup at worst.
I really like Jason Goldstein as a potential big league backup catcher. Or at least I thought I did before Seattle took him much earlier than I ever could have imagined heading into the draft. Maybe I was just a year ahead of the curve when I ranked the catcher from Illinois as the second (!) best college backstop and 94th overall prospect (!!!) in the country in 2015. That was one heck of an aggressive ranking. I dropped him all the way down to 37th among college catchers in 2016 and out of the top 500 entirely. That may have been too drastic an overcorrection from 2015 — in fairness, the college catching depth in 2016 was head and shoulders above what we saw in 2015 — so splitting the difference between when he was ranked 94th and when he was ranked 501st (humor me here) probably gives the most accurate depiction of what I think about him as a draft prospect. That would have put him at 297th, not too far off from where Seattle took him (267th) this past June. His scouting notes from way back in his high school days — back when he was ranked 499th among all draft-eligible prospects — are as useful as ever…
C Jason Goldstein (Highland Park HS, Illinois): plus arm strength; highest level defensive tools; accurate arm; strong; fantastic footwork; quick bat; good approach; not a ton of power upside, but a professional hitting approach; 5-11, 190 pounds; R/R
Add a couple inches, about twenty good pounds, and a strengthened reputation as a high baseball IQ leader behind the dish, and you’ve got the 2016 version of Goldstein. His junior season power spike got me a little carried away with his upside, but he’s still a guy who does all the little things well enough to have a long career as a potential high-level backup. Even if that upside isn’t met, the unseen value of having a guy like Goldstein around minor league pitching the next few years is worth a ninth round pick. Good get for a money-saving senior-sign.
10.297 – 3B David Greer
On David Greer (301) from April 2016…
David Greer is one of college baseball’s best, most underrated hitters. I’d put his hit tool on the short list of best in this college class. With that much confidence in him offensively, the only real question that needs to be answered is what position he’ll play as a pro. Right now it appears that a corner outfield spot is the most likely destination, but his prior experience at both second and third will no doubt intrigue teams willing to trade a little defense for some offense at those spots.
David Greer can hit. I think the position he played most often during his debut (RF) is probably his most likely landing spot in the long run. A guy with his kind of hit tool, disciplined approach, and big arm in right field has a shot to profile as a potential regular there. If it doesn’t work out that way, a four-corners future a la Nick Zammarelli could be his path to the big leagues. That kind of future would fit this Seattle draft class really well.
If there’s one consistent theme I’ve heard about the new-ish Mariners front office, it’s that building depth throughout the system matters. Seattle’s attention to the peripheral positions on the roster has come across with decisions both at the big league level and through the draft. Kyle Lewis could be a star. Joe Rizzo has that kind of upside as a hitter. After that, you can see the kind of highly productive potential role player types that Seattle seemingly targeted selected across their draft from round three to forty. A little more upside at certain spots would be nice — a high-upside HS type in the mid-single-digits and another in round eleven would qualify — but I think a draft focused on making solid contact rather than taking big all-or-nothing cuts can make sense in its own way.
11.327 – RHP Michael Koval
Michael Koval is who we thought he was. Junior season at Cal Poly Pomona: 6.80 K/9 and 2.14 BB/9. Pro debut with Seattle: 6.37 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9. You have to appreciate a prospect who delivers exactly what is expected, for better or worse. Koval’s peripherals aren’t those typically associated with a top ten round pick (or eleven, in this case), but the former Division II star’s game is geared more toward getting outs on the ground than via the strikeout. When you do the former at a dominant level (literally two-thirds of batted balls against him in his debut were on the ground) and the latter at a respectable level, you can make the sinker/slider relief profile work.
12.357 – LHP Tim Viehoff
Two picks off the beaten path in a row for Seattle here as they follow up the Michael Koval (Cal Poly Pomona) selection by making Tim Viehoff Southern New Hampshire’s highest drafted player ever in the twelfth round. Viehoff is plenty deserving of the spot thanks to a trio of quality offerings (88-92 FB, SL, CU), a three-year track record of missing bats (11.81 K/9) and limited walks (3.43 BB/9), and imposing size (6-4, 200) from the left side. Sounds good to me. Came across this when checking Viehoff’s numbers…
The Aquasox instituted a policy for their on-field staff to wait 30 days after a player is drafted before tweaking their game, which gives the staff a full view of why a player was drafted. Viehoff’s hope is that Aquasox pitching coach Moises Hernandez, the older brother of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, will help sharpen his change-up and slider, among other things, upon finally getting the opportunity to work together. Whether or not he will gain further development is the furthest concern from Viehoff’s mind.
First, good policy. My initial reaction is that thirty days isn’t long enough; I’m not saying it’s wrong and I’m admittedly nowhere near as knowledgeable about the player development side of things as I pretend to be about prospect evaluation, but my instinct would be to wait until the first fall instructional league to begin to tinker with a player’s game. Anyway, the real reason for pulling out that paragraph is that I had no idea that Felix Hernandez’s brother was a pitching coach in the Mariners organization. I’m sure M’s fans know all about that, but I’m willing to be that a lot of fans of other teams didn’t know, either.
13.387 – RHP Reggie McClain
This felt like the perfect spot to give Reggie McClain (379) of Missouri a shot, especially if you buy into my pre-draft rankings (found in parentheses for every top 500 prospect if you haven’t caught on by now). The redshirt-senior more than held up his end of the bargain after signing (10.24 K/9 K/9 and 0.93 BB/9 in 48.1 IP), though it should be noted that he’s old for his class as a guy who will be 24-years-old heading into his first full pro season in 2017. Still, I can’t help but remain intrigued by a veteran (by amateur standards, McClain has seen and done a lot) college arm with a solid fastball (velocity isn’t great at 85-91, but command and movement prop it up) and an outstanding changeup who has consistently shown over-the-top great control no matter the level of competition. It’s a profile I believe in. When I get players (and profiles) that I like, I tend to go a little overboard bothering friends in the game for comparisons. The first name that came to mind as a contemporary draft comp was Mike Morin, a prospect that I absolutely LOVED during his North Carolina days. Morin is my comp, but I also heard Brandon Kintzler, Deolis Guerra, and, I like this one a lot, Chris Devenski. A Morin/Devenski career path would be a fantastic outcome for a thirteenth round pick like McClain. Incidentally, Morin was a thirteenth round pick in 2012…
14.417 – RHP Kyle Davis
On Kyle Davis from April 2016…
Kyle Davis, a prospect I once thought would wind up better as a catcher than as a pitcher, has compiled strong numbers since almost his first day on campus. As I’ve said a lot in the preceding paragraphs, a big point in his favor is that he has the requisite three to four pitches needed to start. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll continue to hold down a rotation spot in the pros, but it gives him a shot.
Despite the optimism expressed above, I’ve never been a big Kyle Davis supporter. Nice college arm with a well-rounded arsenal (legit CB and average CU/SL), but arm action, build, and numbers (far more effective as a reliever in college) all point to him as a guy with a middle relief ceiling in pro ball. There’s nothing wrong with that in round fourteen if you think he can fulfill that promise, but I’m bearish on Davis as a pro. Worth pointing out that Seattle went with back-to-back-to-back $5,000 senior-signs. In rounds 8-9-10, the money-saving aspect would make some sense. In rounds 12-13-14, it’s a little odd. Not bad or anything — maybe they just happen to love these three pitchers and getting them cheap is a fun bonus for them — but still odd.
15.447 – LHP Danny Garcia
I’m stumped when it comes to Danny Garcia. The overall spread of stuff from the left side — 88-92 FB (93 peak), average or better low-80s split-CU, decent breaking ball — is encouraging even with the lack of a singular knockout pitch. His first two seasons at Miami (8.10 K/9 and 8.67 K/9) looked good. Then things got weird. Garcia remained effective as a junior weekend starter (3.50 ERA in 87.1 IP), but his strikeout rate nearly halved (4.74 K/9) and his walk rate almost doubled (1.84 BB/9 to 3.09 BB/9) from his sophomore season to his draft year. His strikeout rate remained anemic (4.85 K/9) in 42.2 innings as a pro. Could it be something as simple as the increased workload — not so much in total innings, but as a full-time starter rather than an occasional starter/swingman — that explains the decline in strikeouts? Or could it be a level of competition thing? Garcia pitched mainly against non-conference mid-week opponents during his sophomore season before getting challenged with a full ACC weekend slate as a junior. Or is it just the vagaries of small sample sizes rearing their ugly head once again? Whatever it is, Garcia feels like a potential matchup lefty in a best case scenario outcome. Good enough for the fifteenth round, but hard to ignore that junior year K/9 (4.74!) when trying to project him going forward. Not in love with this one.
17.507 – OF Dimas Ojeda
Dimas Ojeda hit .396/.442/.634 with 15 BB/28 K in his sophomore season at McLaren JC. Not bad at all, but a little less impressive when you see the team as a whole hit .342/.439/.579 this past year. Context matters. For what it’s worth, 25 of McLaren’s 33 drafted players since 1998 came on the mound. I honestly don’t know what that’s worth, if anything. Seemed like an interesting tidbit (kind of) worth sharing in lieu of any actual information about Ojeda. Seattle obviously saw something special enough in the big lefty’s stick to give him $100,000. Can’t argue too much with his .264/.343/.455 pro start. Early returns on his defense in left field — a position the lifelong first baseman only started playing this past season as a sophomore — have him as “serviceable” in the role. The offensive bar for a serviceable left fielder is damn high, so the M’s must really believe in him as a hitter. Worth a shot here.
18.537 – RHP Robert Dugger
Seattle has bested me here. I’ve got nothing from a scouting perspective when it comes to Robert Dugger out of Texas Tech. All I have to go on with Dugger are his impressive junior year (7.36 K/9 – 3.08 BB/9 – 52.2 IP – 2.56 ERA) numbers. He kept it up in pro ball with a 8.77 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9 across three levels including a late-season cameo at AAA.
19.567 – OF DeAires Moses
I likely know what you know about DeAires Moses. Or what you could know about DeAires Moses if you were to Google him yourself. He’s a speedy junior college center field prospect without much in the way of a standout offensive tool to project as much more than a fifth outfielder if it all goes right.
20.597 – OF Eric Filia
“Now he was a 24-year-old playing for the AquaSox, but…” is how I’ve started an email or two to friends asking for super-duper deep league fantasy sleepers from this past draft. Eric Filia’s crazy hot start to his pro career (.360/.451/.494 with 40 BB/19 K and 10/15 SB in 247 AB) might be the best of its kind in this draft class. That doesn’t drastically change the pre-draft evaluation of Filia, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Big debut or not, I flat out like Filia and have for a while. From April 2016…
I’ve lumped David Greer and Eric Filia together because both guys can really, really hit. I think both guys can work themselves up the minor league ladder based on the strength of their hit tool (plate discipline included) alone. Defensive questions for each hitter put a cap on their respective ceilings (Greer intrigues me defensively with his plus arm and experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and in the OF; Filia seems like left field or first base all the way), but, man, can they both hit.
If I had been paying closer attention to Seattle’s picks to this point, I probably wouldn’t be as surprised (and delighted!) to see the M’s snag both Greer and Filia in the same draft as I am. As it is, Seattle did really well to get a bat as advanced as Filia this late. All of the caveats that come with bat-first prospects apply here (and then some: Filia has never showed big power, is limited to 1B/corner OF, missed a college season with a bum labrum, missed a second college season due to academics), but in the twentieth round why not bet on a hitter?
21.627 – OF Austin Grebeck
The almost complete lack of power should be a disqualifying red flag, but I just can’t help liking Austin Grebeck. He’s such an annoying (in a good way) hitter that the idea of him going from the twenty-first round on the heels of a .070 junior season ISO all the way to the big leagues one day doesn’t strike me as nearly as crazy as it should. He’s still a super long shot with a limited ceiling (fifth outfielder?), but the things he does well (defend, run, throw, take pitches) should at least give him a chance to hang around in pro ball long enough to get noticed.
22.657 – OF Jansiel Rivera
23.687 – RHP Jack Anderson
It goes without saying that I can’t see every player I write about. That creates an interesting divide between players I think I know what I’m talking about because I’ve seen them (thus placing a higher emphasis on my own evaluation over what has been written and passed along to me otherwise) and players I think I know what I’m talking about because I specifically haven’t seen them (and can then go all-in on the notes that I have from actual talent evaluators without the fear of overrating my own firsthand take). I like detaching my own “scouting” bias from the process as much as I can, but sometimes I can’t help myself. In the case of Jack Anderson, I think it worked out for the best.
As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been anything draft-specific written about Anderson publicly. As a semi-local prospect to me, I had a few decent contacts that had seen him and could give me some quick notes but nothing I had was substantive enough that I felt great about publishing anything about him unless I could see him for myself. So, that’s exactly what I did and I’m thankful for it. Anderson is a ton of fun. His wicked submarine delivery gives him crazy amounts of deception. I was kind of but not quite behind the plate for some of his time on the mound and his delivery had me flinching for a few pitches as a spectator before I got the hang of it. When I saw him his fastball was mostly mid-80s (88 peak), but I’ve heard he hit 90 MPH later in the spring. He used the heater a ton, but managed to mix in a few interesting Frisbee sliders along the way. The swings hitters got on him were really awkward when they made contact at all. It’s easy to say after the fact, but one of the first thoughts I had after seeing him warm-up was there is no way there are 500 better draft prospects in the country than him. I immediately got a strong Chad Bradford vibe; this article cites his college coach’s familiarity with Joe Smith as another point of reference for what Anderson could be. A funky righthanded reliever capable of rolling bowling balls and getting loads of weak contact sounds great to me in round twenty-three. His batted ball breakdown in his pro debut — 46 ground balls, 12 line drives, 4 fly balls, and 3 pop-ups — backs it up. I’m all-in on Jack Anderson, future big league reliever.
24.717 – OF Trey Griffey
I didn’t put two and two together about the round the M’s selected Trey Griffey in until now. That’s actually a nice touch.
Sentimentality aside, this still feels way too early to throw away a pick for me. There are a lot of bigger and more credible reasons as to why the MLB Draft doesn’t attract more casual fans, and I’d be willing to hear arguments that silliness like this brings some much needed levity to the marathon that is day three of the draft, but I think selections like this ultimately hurt the product’s growth potential. If I’m a casual draft fan and hear that the Marines selected Ken Griffey’s son in the twenty-fourth round, my first thought might be “Hey, cool” or something like that. My next thought would likely be “Wait, he never even played in college? So what’s the point of following the draft past this point if a team like Seattle is willing to do this just past the draft’s midway point?” I like the draft at forty rounds because the amateur baseball scene across the country (and beyond) is teeming with talented players who are only one phone call away from getting a chance to show it off, but shenanigans like this back up the commonly held idea that going forty rounds is just too long. I’ve heard numbers floated by industry types ranging from ten to twenty-five as the sweet spot for enough rounds without going overboard; I guess I’d be fine with something on the high end of that range, though I’d really rather not see it dip any lower than thirty.
Anyway, Seattle is free to use their picks in any way they deem appropriate, so I won’t go full old man yells at cloud on this pick. I’ll just say the following and leave it alone: I wouldn’t have done what they did when they did it. Nobody asked me, though. None of this is Griffey’s fault, by the way. Best of luck to him in the upcoming East-West Shrine Game and NFL Draft process.
26.777 – LHP Elliot Surrey
A pick like this shows the downside to the Jack Anderson analysis above. I can’t recall ever seeing Elliott Surrey pitch in person at UC Irvine. On the surface, he’s a fairly similar prospect to Anderson: mid-80s fastball, good offspeed pitch (changeup in this case), some funk in his delivery, long college track record of success. Surrey might even have the objective edge as a lefthander who throws enough useful pitches (cutter, breaking ball) to have a history as a college starter under his belt. Maybe if I had seen Surrey like I did Anderson, I’d be more excited about this pick. As it is, it’s a fine pick in the twenty-sixth round for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m not inspired to write the impassioned review that Anderson got, but that’s not because of anything Surrey did or didn’t do. It’s the downside of seeing certain guys and potentially overvaluing them because it’s human nature to want to see those you “know” succeed more than those you don’t.
27.807 – RHP Paul Covelle
I’ve got next to nothing on Paul Covelle, a senior righthander from Franklin Pierce. His senior season (8.69 K/9 and 1.40 BB/9) was nice. And it was in line with what he’s done over his career as a Raven (8.28 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9). That’s nice to see.
28.837 – RHP Nathan Bannister
A strained forearm kept Nathan Bannister out of action after signing. I couldn’t find anything more recent than that, so it appears that treatment and rest should get him back on the mound next spring without having to undergo any type of surgical procedure. That’s good news for the former Arizona ace who relies heavily on precision command and plus control to help his otherwise unspectacular stuff play up. If Bannister makes it, it’ll be as a sinker/slider middle reliever.
29.867 – RHP Steven Ridings
Steven Ridings (Messiah) and Stephen Ridings (Haverford) played their college ball about one hundred miles apart from one another in Pennsylvania. The former righthanded pitcher was selected twenty-one rounds after the latter. I like Stephen quite a bit as you can read here, but Steven is no slouch, either. The Messiah Ridings can get it up to the mid-90s with the frame and athleticism to suggest a few more ticks to come. Combine that with stellar collegiate results as a senior (10.66 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, and 1.72 ERA in 83.2 IP) and it’s a little surprising to me that he fell this far. Really nice addition for Seattle this late.
34.1017 – RHP David Ellingson
I like David Ellingson probably more than I ought to for a thirty-fourth round pick. There’s nothing special about his profile — 6-1, 200 pound college relievers with decent fastballs (88-92, 93 peak) and above-average 77-79 breaking balls are kind of a dime or dozen in the college game — so let’s chalk up my pro-Ellingson feelings as an odd intuitive feel and move along.
36.1077 – 2B Joseph Venturino
Joe Venturino was a career .363/.432/.457 hitter with 73 BB/48 K and 59 SB in 680 AB at Division III Ramapo College. Pretty standard second base prospect without much pop, but with plenty of contact skills, speed, and patience. No idea about his glove. All in all, works for me in the thirty-sixth round.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Lyle Lin (Arizona State), Ryan Fucci (unsigned as his shoulder was deemed “too risky” by Seattle, but out of college eligibility and the M’s still technically hold his rights), Tyler Duncan (Crowder JC), Lincoln Henzman (Louisville), Kenyon Yovan (Oregon), Morgan McCullough (Oregon), Will Ethridge (Mississippi), Eli Wilson (Minnesota), James Reilly (James Madison), Camryn Williams (Dallas Baptist), Adley Rutschman (Oregon State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Toronto in 2016
30 – TJ Zeuch
46 – Bo Bichette
48 – Zach Jackson
59 – JB Woodman
77 – Cavan Biggio
147 – Josh Palacios
203 – Kyle Weatherly
239 – Travis Hosterman
308 – Bradley Jones
459 – Ridge Smith
1.21 – RHP TJ Zeuch
I really, really, really like TJ Zeuch (30). Even without a slam dunk present offspeed pitch that he can use in times of trouble, Zeuch has managed to consistently mow down whatever competition attempts to get in his way. Strikeouts and ground balls and ground balls and strikeouts. Pretty good recipe for success no matter what. From April 2016…
TJ Zeuch has come back from injury seemingly without missing a beat. I’m a big fan of just about everything he does. He’s got the size (6-7, 225), body control, tempo, and temperament to hold up as a starting pitcher for a long time. He’s also got a legit four-pitch mix that allows him to mix and match in ways that routinely leave even good ACC hitters guessing.
Despite my springtime optimism, I’ve heard from a few smart people since who question Zeuch as a long-term starter. Their reasons, based mostly on concerns about pitch selection and repeating his delivery, tend to make sense. Zeuch can throw a curve, cut-slider, and change, but tends to lean on his power sinker more often than most starting pitching prospects around. I get it. As for his delivery, I don’t know. I respect where they are coming from and I think there’s something to the idea that pros who have watched literally tens of thousands of pitchers have a better idea of what works than what doesn’t, but my non-scout eyes don’t see anything particularly concerning about Zeuch’s mechanics. Still, it’s a legitimate reason why one might not love a pitcher as a starting option even if I don’t necessarily agree with it in this specific instance. The larger point is that these are valid concerns that a reasonable observer can arrive at, so keeping a close eye on how Zeuch holds up to the rigors of pitching every fifth day in the pros is a worthwhile endeavor. I’m confident he’s a starter, but there’s enough noise about him potentially needing to shift roles that you can’t call him the stone cold mortal lock to start you’d want out of your first pick.
He doesn’t quite have the same slider, but Zeuch reminds me a little bit of Tyson Ross coming out of Cal in 2008. Even though his ups and downs over the years, you’d take that outcome (the Padres run specifically) in the mid-first round every time.
2.57 – OF JB Woodman
If you’ve kept up with him as an amateur at all, then you had to have loved JB Woodman’s (59) pro debut. It was nothing if not very JB Woodman-y. Flashes of contact ability, patience, power, and speed with a ton of swing-and-miss to go with it. On the whole, Woodman hit .297/.391/.445 with 85 K and 34 BB in 229 AB. Very Woodman-y. The lefthanded bat from Ole Miss is a fantastic athlete who can run, throw, and defend in center. Those skills alone — he’s at least above-average in each area — should get him to the big leagues eventually a la Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Drew Stubbs before him, but his upside is considerably higher than that. Offensively, what we’ve seen from Woodman so far only scratches the surface. In some respects, he’s the type of tooled-up college performer that can be viewed almost as if he’s a teenager coming out of high school. The upside with Woodman is well above-average regular with potential spurts of star play mixed in, but he has some work to get there yet.
I’ve gone back and forth on a few potential career arcs for Woodman if he hits as hoped. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which one is best. Based on feedback I’ve gotten and my own two cents, I’ll offer up the names Michael Saunders, Colby Rasmus, and Joc Pederson as possible ceilings for Woodman. The common themes are self-evident: athletic, power/speed lefthanded hitters who can play up the middle (more or less) with an inclination to striking out a little more than you’d like. That’s the prospect archetype you’re buying with Woodman in round two, and those guys are examples of it working in the pros. My hunch is that Woodman will join that list of “talented but slightly frustrating yet still really valuable in the grand scheme of things” players before his career is out.
2.66 – SS Bo Bichette
On Bo Bichette (46) from December 2015…
Bo Bichette is a really good prospect. Bo Bichette also makes my head hurt. I was never all that high on his brother (“I’d be lying if I said I felt good about his future from an instinctual standpoint” is a thing I said about him once and I ranked him 103rd on my board when he went 51st), so I admittedly went into my evaluation of him with a little bit of a skeptical predisposition. That’s not fair and not a particularly good way of doing business, but I’m human and therefore susceptible to silly biases with a brain desperate to create formations of patterns when there’s really nothing there. Fortunately, I’m also a fairly reasonable human who is all too aware of his own failings, so I did my best to get over whatever agenda my dumb brain tried to stick me with. Bichette is really good and getting better. I’m a believer in his power, his bat speed is no joke, and he takes at bats (works deep counts, utilizes whole-field approach) like a seasoned professional hitter already. I’m not on board with those who’d like to push his glove to second, but I think he’s athletic enough to hand at third for a bit. A strange and arguably nonsensical comparison that came to me when watching him over the summer: Maikel Franco. You watch him and maybe it shouldn’t all work, but it does.
And again from May 2016…
It’s easy to ignore high school statistics for top draft prospects. There are way too many complicating factors that make relying on performance indicators little more than a waste of time at that level, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with some of the outstanding efforts put forth by some of this country’s best hitters. Take Bo Bichette, for example. All he’s done as a high school ballplayer is hit .545/.650/1.272 in 200 HS PA since his sophomore season. That line includes fifty extra base hits (almost half of which being home runs) with 52 BB and just 18 K. When you’re flirting with an OPS that begins with 2.something, you’re doing something right. It’s hard to put up such monster numbers in a competitive baseball state like Florida without having some pretty intriguing physical abilities to match. Interestingly enough, one of his physical traits that seems to have talked about the most is something that not all agree is a good thing. Bichette’s “weird back elbow thing” has been brought up by multiple contacts as a potential point of concern going forward; others, however, aren’t bothered by it in the least. I suppose like any unique swing setup, it’s only an issue for those who don’t believe in him as a hitter in the first place. If you like him, it’s a fun quirk that will either work as a pro or be smoothed out just enough to keep working after getting in the cage a few dozen times with pro coaching.
If you don’t like him, then it’s hard to get past. This is far from a one-to-one comparison, but the never-ending discussion among scouts about Bichette’s mechanics at the plate reminds me of the internet’s incessant chatter about Maikel Franco’s “arm-bar swing.” Breaking down players’ mechanics to the point that no pro team ever does makes you stand out as super smart on the internet, you see. Less cynically, I’d acknowledge that young hitters are hard to judge, so it’s hard to blame a neutral observer tasked with making a long-term assessment on a prospect’s future for being concerned with a hitter who does something different at the plate. Different can get you fired in this business, after all.
My own stance on hitting/pitching mechanics hasn’t changed much over the years: if it works for the individual and he is comfortable repeating it consistently, let it ride. I get that there are instances where guys can get away with mechanical quirks against lesser competition that need to be noted and potentially tweaked as they advance, but, for the most part, positive results beget positive results. If a kid can hit, let them do what they do until they stop hitting. Then and only then do you swoop in and start making peripheral changes to the approach. Of course, this makes me sound like a caveman: results over process is a terrible way to analyze anything, especially if we’re trying to make any kind of predictive critical assessments. Process is critical, no doubt, but I’m open to all kinds of processes that get results; it should go without saying but just in case, there’s no “right” way to swing a bat. Open-mindedness about the process is as important as any other factor when scouting.
I guess my positive spin on players with unique mechanics is simple: if a guy like Bichette can hit the ball hard consistently with a “wrong” swing, then, as a scout confident in my team’s minor league coaching and development staff, I’d be pretty excited to get him signed to a contract to see what he could do once they “fix” him. Said fix would ideally be a tweak more than a total reconstruction – why completely tear down a productive player’s swing when you don’t have to? – but drafting a player you plan on drastically altering mechanically doesn’t make a ton of sense in the first place anyway.
Draft Bichette for his electric bat speed, above-average to plus raw power, and drastically improved whole-fields approach as a hitter. Draft him because he’s a solid runner who has flashed enough defensive tools to profile at multiple spots (3B, 2B, corner OF) on the diamond. Draft him because you believe that his “weird back elbow thing” can be channeled in a positive direction and turned into a helpful trigger when facing off against high-caliber arms. Don’t draft him to reinvent him as something he’s not.
There’s a lot there, so I’m not sure what more to add after Bichette’s stellar pro debut only confirmed what we already knew: dude can hit. Defensively, the jury is still out on where he’ll eventually land but the general consensus seems to be that it’ll be somewhere worthwhile. Whether that’s second, where Bichette saw time at when not playing shortstop this past summer, third, or in the outfield, his defense should be good enough to provide positive overall value once position is taken into account. With the way he swings the bat, that’ll play. Bichette has clear star upside with a future tied as closely to his bat almost as much as any 2016 draft peer. I’m buying here both because I really like Bichette and because almost everybody I talked to the last few months say that Toronto is the perfect landing spot for a guy like him. Feels like almost too easy a call at this point…
3.102 – RHP Zach Jackson
On Zach Jackson (48) from October 2015…
In addition to teammate AJ Puk, I’ve got three other SEC arms with realistic top ten draft hopes. Jackson’s chance for rising up to the 1-1 discussion depends almost entirely on his delivery and command. If those two things can be smoothed out this spring — they often go hand-in-hand — then his fastball (90-94, 96 peak), curve (deadly), and change (inconsistent but very promising) make him a potential top of the rotation starting pitcher.
I had Zach Jackson really high up in my pre-season rankings last October: eighth overall among college prospects and fifth among college pitchers. If you’ll indulge me with a little self-scouting here, I think the four pitchers I had at the top of my 2016 MLB Draft rankings eight full months ahead of the actual draft is instructive. My list then was Alec Hansen, Matt Krook, AJ Puk, and Jackson. Let’s look at how their college seasons actually played out…
13.08 K/9 – 6.80 BB/9 – 51.2 IP – 5.40 ERA
11.42 K/9 – 8.23 BB/9 – 53.2 IP – 5.03 ERA
12.35 K/9 – 4.52 BB/9 – 73.2 IP – 3.05 ERA
11.21 K/9 – 6.79 BB/9 – 53.0 IP – 5.09 ERA
Certainly seems like I have a type. Maybe this year I’ll chill a little bit on the power stuff/little control types. Eh, probably not. As for Jackson, can we just say that he is a righthanded version of Matt Krook (125th overall pick) and call it a day? Lazy analysis is my favorite kind of analysis, but we really should try to get a little bit deeper. Let’s look back at May 2016…
We’ll go with the pre-season evaluation on Jackson to hammer an old point home…
One of my favorite snippets of my notes comes in the Jackson section: “if he fixes delivery and command, watch out.” Well, duh. I could have said that about just about any upper-echelon arm in this age demographic. With Jackson, however, it reinforces just how special his stuff is when he’s right. I don’t think this college class has a pitch better than his curveball at its best.
I think Jackson’s delivery has made strides in 2016 – if not smoother, then certainly more repeatable – but questions about his command can now be partnered with similar concerns about his control. First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot? I don’t know if the math checks out there, but I think the conclusion might wind up being correct. I also think that the scouting on Jackson can more or less be wrapped up for the season – we know what he is by now – so the attention of anybody assigned to watch him between now and June should be on determining if whatever is getting in the way of his stalled command progress and backwards trending control can be fixed through pro instruction and repetition. Jackson is the kind of maddening talent that can get an area scout promoted or canned, but his success or failure from this point forward is all about how he adapts to the pro development staffers tasked with guiding him along.
“First round stuff + fifth round command/control = ultimate third round landing spot” turned out to play out as guessed. Jackson at his best was probably my favorite college arm in this class to watch. The obvious problem was that he was rarely at his best. Great stuff consistently undermined by below-average command and control isn’t nearly as useful as it should be. Never say never, but I have a hard time seeing Jackson ever developing the kind of command necessary to make it work as a starter. Unleashing his fastball/curveball combination in short bursts against professionals should lead to big things. I’ll go out on a major limb and say that those things will be big enough that Jackson will one day be one of those free agent $10 million/year relief pitchers we’re all talking about during hot stove season.
4.132 – Joshua Palacios
Things to like about Josh Palacios (147): chance for above-average hit tool, above-average speed underway, and average raw power. Things to be concerned about Josh Palacios: average athleticism that doesn’t really play in center, iffy arm strength that doesn’t really play in right. If you’re thinking Palacios is an interesting offensive prospect with the inherent limitations that come with likely being limited to left field in the pros, then you might just be on to something. Of course, this was written before seeing the Jays played Palacios exclusively in center and right in his debut. Probably nothing more than a funny coincidence, but it is possible that Toronto views Palacios differently than we do.
5.162 – 2B Cavan Biggio
Old draft favorites are hard to give up. I’m going down with the Cavan Biggio (77) Future Big League Regular ship if it’s the last thing I do. A quick recent timeline of my Biggio love beginning in October 2015…
Without having seen every Notre Dame game the past two years — I’m good, but not that good — one might be confused as to how a player with Biggio’s pedigree and collection of scouting accolades (“line drive machine; born to hit; great pitch recognition; great approach, patient and aggressive all at once”…and that’s just what has been written here) could hit .250ish through two college seasons. I say we all agree to chalk it up to bad BABIP luck and eagerly anticipate a monster junior season that puts him squarely back in the first round mix where he belongs.
That monster junior season didn’t come to pass, but Biggio still had a solid final season (.311/.473/.454 with 54 BB/32 K and 14/14 SB) for the Irish. That final line (adjusted for competition) feels like the type of player Biggio can be at his peak: solid batting average, plenty of walks, some strikeouts, middling pop, and sneaky speed. More on him including a few comps from January 2016…
Biggio’s hit tool, patience, and ability to play important infield spots at a high level still have him at or near the first round range for me. Not sure if it’s instructive or not, but I like looking back at Biggio’s placement between Tyler O’Neill and Billy McKinney (the two hitters who signed pro deals that sandwiched Biggio in his initial draft year) and using that as a starting point as to what kind of hitter I think he can be as a professional. O’Neill if he sells out some of his patience and contact skills for power and McKinney if he keeps progressing as a hitter as is. McKinney in the infield is a pretty interesting prospect and one that I think can play his way into the first round even in a top-heavy year. Two pros that I’ve heard him compared to so far are Ryan Roberts (realistic floor) and Justin Turner (hopeful ceiling). I can see it.
Justin Turner had another incredible year for the Dodgers, so I think we can toss that comp right on out the window. Still like that (lefthanded) Ryan Roberts floor, though. A new ceiling comp that doesn’t really work but I still like: Derek Dietrich. Here’s Dietrich’s pre-draft report from Baseball America…
He’s a difficult player for scouts to judge because he doesn’t fit an obvious pro profile. His lefthanded bat brings value, as do his strong arm and developing power, and he tied his career high with 14 homers this spring. He plays hard and has been a serviceable college shortstop defensively. Scouts believe he lacks the footwork or athletic ability in his 6-foot-1, 196-pound frame to stay at short, though, and wonder if his footwork can improve enough for him to play at second. Most doubt that and believe third base is his best fit with the glove, and he may not produce enough power to profile as a regular there. He also could prove to be a versatile big leaguer in the mold of Geoff Blum or Scott Spiezio, who both had the advantage of switch-hitting.
Sounds a little Biggio-y to me, though I think Dietrich had a little more power upside whereas Biggio has a better idea at the plate. On to March 2016…
Sometimes I feel as though I’m the last remaining Cavan Biggio fan. I know that’s not literally true, but I do still believe in him as a potential long-time big league regular. Offensively he strikes me as the kind of player who will hit better as a pro than he ever did as a college player. I don’t have much of anything to back that opinion up, but this is a mock draft so unsubstantiated claims are part of the deal.
There you have it. Cavan Biggio: potential long-time big league regular. I think the hit tool (bat speed, pitch recognition, approach) and good enough power/speed are enough for him to profile as an every day contributor offensively while his glove at second should be dependable enough to make him an average or so all-around player. I’m comfortable enough betting on the hit tool that I don’t mind being on an island with that forecast. Now, we wait…
6.192 – DJ Daniels
This marks the fourth player selected by the Blue Jays already with a two-letter first name. They’ve already drafted a TJ, a JB, and a Bo. DJ Daniels is not only the fourth two-letter first namer, but he’s also (probably) the earliest draft pick that I had no pre-draft knowledge of. Without having completed all of the draft reviews yet I can’t say for sure, but I I think Daniels not only takes the crown but he demolishes all comers by at least ten rounds.
Unfortunately, his pro debut was nothing to write home about. An overall line of .100/.176/.125 in 131 PA equaled a wRC+ of 0. I’m fairly certain we’ve seen a few draft prospects with rookie season wRC+ figures in the negatives, so this isn’t the worst start of any 2016 MLB Draft prospect. That’s…something positive to glean from all this, I guess. It could have been worse? Working for Daniels is his outstanding athleticism and steady stream of glowing reports about his work ethic. Sometimes pro developmental staffs can mold these types into players.
7.222 – RHP Andy Ravel
I saw Andy Ravel pitch about an hour from me a few years back at Wilson HS in Reading, PA. I also saw him during his junior season at Kent State. He’s plenty impressive on the mound with a repertoire build more on quantity — 88-92 FB (94 peak), average-ish 79-81 SL, 75-78 CB that flashes average, nascent 78-82 CU with average upside — than quality that could led to a decent career as a crafty reliever if/when he figures out what offspeed he likes best, but I had no idea he was teammates with such a character. When I was looking at Ravel’s player page at Kent State doing some final pre-draft cramming, I couldn’t help but notice a section in his bio with the sentence starter “Is creeped out by ____.” I wondered if this was a standard thing for everybody — Ravel is creeped out by tight spaces, BTW — so I clicked another Kent State player’s name at random to double-check. Sure enough the “Is creeped out by ____” question comes standard in the “getting to know you” section of each player’s bio. Where am I going with this, you may be wondering. Well, the player 100% clicked at random to confirm the original question came standard just so happened to be a young man by the name of Tim Faix. Tim is creeped out by “the Nightman, goblins and ghouls.” Pretty entertaining so far, but there’s more. His “likes” include “the Dayman, karate, friendship and different cheeses.” He’s “interested in bird law.” If ever there was a reason for a team to draft a player based solely on answers from his bio, this is it. The Phillies dropped the ball here.
8.252 – RHP Kyle Weatherly
Kyle Weatherly’s (203) awesome junior college season at Grayson (11.78 K/9 and 2.26 BB/7 in 75.2 IP) confirmed what I thought I knew of him coming into the season: he’s really good. Weatherly’s fastball (90-94, 95 peak) is a weapon with serious sink; even better, unlike many young pitchers with plus movement, the righthander commands the pitch like a seasoned veteran. His slider (78-82) flashes above-average to plus, so a long-term sinker/slider future could very well be in the cards. That profile can work either in relief or as a backend starter. I tend to think he’s equipped to make it as the latter thanks to an already average low-80s changeup with more upside than that. Whether he starts or relieves I can’t say for sure, but I think Weatherly is a big league talent who will provide big league value in some capacity soon.
9.282 – RHP Nick Hartman
I like Nick Hartman quite a bit here in the ninth round. The righthander from Old Dominion was one of those “big stuff, iffy results” guys heading into his draft year, but he took the exact kind of leap you hope to see from a guy with a real chance to pitch in a big league bullpen one day. Even as his ERA remained more or less the same (5.14 to 4.81), his strikeouts went up (6.59 to 9.63) and his walks went down (4.50 to 2.96) all while showing the kind of big stuff (88-94 FB, 96 peak; quality 76-80 breaking ball) needed to avoid iffy results in the pros. You can question the wisdom of going for a college reliever with a fairly limited ceiling with a top ten round pick (I do), but at least the guy they targeted in the spot is good at what he does.
10.312 – LHP Kirby Snead
On a loaded Gators pitching staff (Puk, Dunning, Shore, Anderson, Moss), you’ll be forgiven if the name Kirby Snead doesn’t immediately spring to mind as a legit pro prospect. Heck, Snead is so overlooked that many forget and/or never realized that he was the other guy with AJ Puk on that fateful crane climbing night. But Snead is a dependable lefthanded reliever with decent stuff (87-91 FB, 76-79 SL that flashes above-average, 81-83 CU) and a long track record of success as a Gator. It’s not a sexy profile, but it’s not completely without value. Snead reminds me quite a bit of fellow Gator turned AL East participant Bobby Poyner. Incidentally, the only two men to reach the big leagues with the given first name of Kirby are either in the Hall of Fame (Puckett) or currently pitching in relief for the New York Yankees (Yates). I’d say that augurs good things to come for Snead. If I know anything at all about Kirby’s (and I don’t), then he’s certain to swallow their respective powers and become the HOF reliever he was meant to be.
11.342 – LHP Travis Hosterman
17-years old when drafted. Lefthanded. Upper-80s fastball, peaking at 92. Above-average mid-70s breaking ball. Promising changeup. Good size. That’s Travis Hosterman (239). Sounds good to me.
12.372 – C Ridge Smith
When WordPress notifies me of a rare traffic spike that can be linked back to a different site sending people my way, you’d better believe I’m clicking on the referring site to see what people are saying about me. One common theme I’ve noticed over the years is that many accuse me of using hundreds of words when dozens will do. Can’t say they are wrong, really. Heck, even that opening sentence feels needlessly wordy. Maybe it’s an ego thing and I just like to read my own stuff. Maybe I’m just not a natural at this whole writing business. Whatever the reason, it’s a fair criticism. I do tend to go long far too often when something more concise would do the trick instead. Not so with Ridge Smith (459), one of the most interesting mid-round college catching prospects around. I managed to bring up Ridge three different times over the past ninth months without ever writing more than three sentences at a time about his game.
I’m not sure Ridge Smith is a catcher over the long haul, but he’s got the athleticism to give it a go as a pro. Failing that, he could still put that athleticism (and above-average speed) to good use at either third or an outfield spot.
Ridge Smith is a really nice draft sleeper with experience at a variety of positions and a bat that has produced going on three seasons now.
I like Ridge Smith a lot as a potential Swiss Army knife do-everything defensive prospect at the next level. He can catch, play first and third, and even hang in the outfield.
It was great to see that Toronto played Ridge exclusively at catcher in his pro debut; if he’s going to sneak his way to the big leagues as an everyday player, that’s the position he needs to play. As with most (all?) position player prospects drafted in round twelve or later, his most likely best case scenario is making it as a bench player and spot starter. In that role, your versatility as a defender plays a huge part in your usefulness. I’ve long been a fan of a backup catcher that can play other spots as well, so it should be no shock that I think Ridge has a legit chance of reaching the big leagues in that role.
14.432 – RHP Chris Hall
The fourteenth round is when you start seeing college catchers turned relievers with mid-90s heat, above-average sliders, and inconsistent command go off the board. Hey, there goes Chris Hall.
15.462 – RHP Josh Winckowski
17-years-old when drafted. Righthanded. Upper-80s fastball. Impressive changeup. Usable curve. Good size. That’s Josh Winckowski. I approve.
18.552 – 3B Bradley Jones
I like taking a hearty swing on Bradley Jones (308) in the eighteenth round quite a bit. Though he split his time between only first and third in the pros, the versatile defender played a variety of spots (1B, SS, 3B, OF) as a Cougar. In the same way that twelfth round pick Ridge Smith was praised for his ability to move around the diamond, Jones should be commended for his flexible glove. It probably goes without saying, but the ability to plug multiple holes in a lineup gives any young player a leg up on the many similar hitters vying for eventual big league bench jobs.
20.612 – RHP Angel Alicea
I have a strong affinity for SWAC prospects and Angel Alicea happened to be one of the best in 2016. The athletic righthander followed up his stellar junior season at Alabama State (13.99 K/9 and 3.66 BB/9 in 29.2 IP) with a very similar run in the pros (12.40 K/9 and 2.76 BB/9 in 32.2 IP). That kind of production combined with legitimate pro stuff (90-93 FB, good 80-82 SL) make Alicea a good bit more intriguing than your typical twentieth round pick.
21.642 – RHP Mitch McKown
Nothing on Mitch McKown before the draft, nothing on Mitch McKown after a few minutes of searching the web. All I know is that his abridged sophomore season at Seminole State was a bust (7 H, 11 ER, and 10 BB in 5.0 IP) and his pro debut was somehow arguably worse (9 H, 15 ER, 18 BB, 4 HBP, and 13 WP in 7.2 IP). He was also pretty brutal as a freshman, when a 2.98 K/9 and 4.47 BB/9 turned into a 6.59 ERA in 42.1 IP. I’m rooting hard for McKown to make it because this would be the ultimate “it doesn’t matter how you start” story to encourage all slow starting athletes everywhere. Move over Derek Jeter and your 56 errors in your first full pro season. Step aside Mike Schmidt and his.197 BA through his first two big league seasons. Let me tell you youngsters about Mitch McKown. You may now know him as big league all-star Mitch McKown, but back in the day…
22.672 – RHP Connor Eller
As the most recent of the eight draft picks to come out of Ouachita Baptist in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Connor Eller stands to be the latest and greatest chance for a player from the school to reach the big leagues in the draft era. With an aggressive approach on the hill, quality heater (88-92, 94-95 peak), a variety of offspeed toys he commands nicely, and a deceptive delivery, Eller has a chance to make it as a funky righthanded reliever.
23.702 – OF Dom Abbadessa
I won’t pretend to be an expert on Dom Abbadessa, but early returns on the highly athletic, plus running, easy defender in center have been positive. It’s a true leadoff CF profile if it works out perfectly with a shot to still leverage his speed and defense as a fifth outfielder if it doesn’t.
24.732 – RHP Mike Ellenbest
I’ve called guys “generic righthanded middle relief prospects” in the past. People don’t like that. I’ve had coaches, parents, and even players admonish me in the comments or via email about their dissatisfaction with that characterization. I get why you wouldn’t want your player/son/self called “generic,” but there’s no harm intended with the phrasing. In fact, I don’t even think generic, in the most literal sense, is all that pejorative. And it’s not like guys are being called generic nobodies. They are still being called “prospects,” generic or not. Anyway, 88-92 MPH with the fastball with a trio of decent but hardly world-beating offspeed pitches (CB, CU, SL) is kind of my general definition of a potential “generic righthanded middle relief prospect.” That’s Mike Ellenbest.
27.822 – C Ryan Gold
There’s some temptation to slag Toronto’s draft because they took so many players that I knew little to nothing about prior to the draft. Ryan Gold is the fifth signed player in a row that have left me scrambling to find something interesting to write. Pointing out Gold’s nice debut (.280/.359/.402 in 92 PA) as a lefthanded hitting teenage catcher is a little interesting, right?
29.882 – RHP Andrew Deramo
I’m not so humble to say that sneaking a Division I prospect by me is a rarity, so nice work by Toronto getting Andrew Deramo from Central Florida through in the twenty-ninth round. I had nothing on Deramo in my notes. That’s not super weird considering the junior college transfer played only one year as a Knight after coming over from Northwest Florida JC (home of Anthony Molina and Jarrett Montgomery, among others, for 2017!), but I typically catch pitchers with strikeout rates like Deramo’s 10.13 K/9. If I had to guess, I’d figure that he came up when I was doing my final pre-draft sweep of the nation only to be disqualified due to his 5.40 BB/9. Intrepid reporter that I am, I can pass along this fine article on Deramo’s signing that mentions a fastball up to 94 MPH. Good velocity, good size (6-6, 210), and good strikeout numbers in his one year at Central Florida add up to a good pick in the twenty-ninth round that I completely whiffed on before the draft.
30.912 – LHP Jake Fishman
Probably my biggest regret every draft season is not getting the time to spotlight the many small school and/or lower-division prospects that I have notes on. Within that regret is another layer of regret specific to certain players that I really want to write about, but keep finding reasons to push back behind other bigger named players. I try to be as inclusive as possible — a few larger media outlets that have expressed some interest in what is done here have literally all given me the same feedback that I’ll forever happily ignore: ditch the deep dive nonsense and focus 95% of your writing on potential first round prospects — but as just one guy with a full-time job, part-time job, wife, and kid on the way, sometimes players (and schools) (and entire levels of competition) don’t make the cut.
That’s a long way of saying that I’m super bummed that I never got around to writing up Jake Fishman on the site this past year. It may seem a tad disingenuous to declare that after the fact, so the decision whether or not to trust me is entirely up to you. A pretty easy case could be made for Jake Fishman as college baseball’s best all-around player in 2016. As a pitcher, his track record is tough to top: 11.59 K/9 and 1.50 BB/9 (0.41 ERA) in 66.0 IP. Those 66 innings came in just nine starts. Elementary school math means that Fishman averaged 7.1 IP per start. Six of his nine starts were complete games. Three of those complete games were shutouts. That’s a special kind of dominance. As a hitter, Fishman finished second on the team in BA (.361), first in OBP (.438), and third in SLG (.489). No truth to the rumor that the do-everything Fishman catered the team’s post-game spread and handled all the laundry himself.
Great college players do not necessarily make great pro prospects. Fishman, however, isn’t some overachieving, limited prospect drafted solely due to his achievements as a college athlete. Fishman can play with the big boys. Drafted as a pitcher allows us to focus only on his pro impact on that side of the ball
With a low-90s fastball (up to 92) with incredible sink — something that stunned my one buddy and likely one of the few people on the planet who saw Fishman during his junior season at Union College AND in his first pro season (“Fastball never moved like that when I saw him at Union”) — and an astute ability to self-scout (same buddy from before: “He remind[ed] me of [Trevor] Bauer, in the best ways. Maybe [more] like a lefty Brian Bannister.”], Fishman’s physical gifts line up with his track record of collegiate dominance. He’s good. Don’t let the thirtieth round distinction fool you; Fishman has the stuff and smarts to pitch in the big leagues.
32.972 – 1B David Jacob
I’ve done this gimmick once before, but it’s getting late and I’ve spent too much time playing around with future White Sox lineups after the big Chris Sale/Adam Eaton trades so…here are my unfinished notes on David Jacob that were originally only meant to be a placeholder…
Coming off a .392/.486/.613 senior season at Division II Quincy,
with 32 BB/12 K in 204 AB
tore up GCL
.304/.392/.472 (21 BB/24 K)
young for class (20-years-old when drafted)
sleeper potential who has hit at every stop – why doubt him now
33.1002 – RHP Brayden Bouchey
On Brayden Bouchey (and a few other things) from March 2016…
Bouchey came into the year with lackluster peripherals (3.75 K/9 and 4.00 BB/9 in 36.1 IP last year) despite intriguing stuff. In weighing performance vs projection, I tend to put more weight on the former when compared to “real” scouts. You can’t scout solely off of statistical output, but it’s a really big piece of the puzzle. This is where the internet can be a bit of a bummer. To get heard, you need to go to extremes. Whether that means extolling the virtues of a player who has put up big numbers with neutral or worse scouting reports (and getting blasted for scouting the box score and discounting projection as a factor) or holding on to beliefs formed in one short look at a player despite all statistical evidence to the contrary (and getting ripped by those who believe development is linear and Heisman Trophies equate to pro success), you need to be LOUD to get recognized. Moderate approaches that attempt to balance a multitude of factors are not nearly as fun to read about, I guess. There’s no need to constantly be hedging one’s bets along the way – that’s simply not realistic – but a little patience, humility, and self-awareness on the part of the evaluator can go a long way.
I personally don’t think there’s anything about baseball that’s all that complicated, at least outside of actually playing it well at a high level. Playing is hard, but watching and forming opinions about what you’ve watched is a pretty straightforward endeavor. With few exceptions, if a player has put up impressive numbers at every level of competition along the way, then said player deserves to keep getting chances until he doesn’t. Conversely, if a player have the kind of physical ability that is apparent to a five-year old on his or her first ever day at the park, he’s entitled to a few extra shots even after he’s shown he’s not yet ready to consistently produce. There’s no need to pick a side: the draft goes forty rounds deep every year for a reason, there’s room for all types to get their shot. Some guys produce and produce and produce without it ever looking like they should be able to do the things they do; others can keep it up against a certain level of competition before their fatal flaws are exploited. Some guys take a really long time to go from toolsy athlete to high-performing ballplayer; others never really get past just being bigger, faster, and more athletic than their peers enough to develop the necessary skills they’ll need later on.
With Bouchey you get the best (or worst, if you’re a glass half-empty type) of both worlds. Coming into the season, his numbers left little to get excited about. His scouting reports, however, were uniformly upbeat: his 88-92 fastball with real sink, promising curve, plus command, deception in his delivery, and intriguing size (6-6, 210) had those who had seen him up close encouraged about his future. In his case, projection appears to be winning out over prior production, at least now that the (small sample size!) results (12.15 K/9 and 3.31 BB/9 in 16.1 IP) have caught up to his talent level. It doesn’t always work out quite this well, so we’ll enjoy it for now…and hope that Bouchey has turned the corner as a prospect. As with Hill, I’m in.
Bouchey went from 3.75 K/9 as a sophomore to 9.26 K/9 as a junior to 13.15 K/9 in his 26 inning professional debut. Go figure. His BB/9 has also climbed with every passing year before peaking (for now?) at 5.88 in the pros. All of the positives listed above — sinking fastball, curve with upside, plus command, deception, size — remain, and now there are some nice peripherals to back it all up. If he can curb some of his recent wild ways, then I see a long career in middle relief for a guy picked after 1,001 other players in the class.
35.1062 – RHP Jared Carkuff
Seriously, the MLB Draft is the best. I’m well aware that the odds of any player outside of the first few rounds making a lasting impact on the big leagues aren’t particularly high. I know there are national draft writers who constantly mock readers who ask questions about non-first round picks; it’s not a nice thing to do and I wish that they’d be more into finding players because, you know, it’s THEIR JOB, but, statistically, they aren’t wrong. I get that going this deep with any one draft class isn’t for everybody. But if you really like baseball, amateur scouting, and/or player development, then finding legitimate big league prospects in the thirty-fifth round is exactly what makes the MLB Draft so much fun. There’s talent everywhere if you’re willing to do the work to find it and nurture it.
Jared Carkuff is a really good relief prospect. He pitched well for four seasons at Austin Peay (8.09 K/9 and 3.24 BB/9 in 55.2 IP as a senior), he pitched well in his first pro season (12.52 K/9 and 1.35 BB/9 in 26.2 IP), and I’m willing to bet he keeps pitching well into his second, third, and fourth pro seasons. Carkuff pitches off a low-90s (94 peak) sinking fastball that pairs quite nicely with an above-average 83-84 MPH slider. He keeps balls on the ground, he misses bats, and, though he’s no spring chicken in the context of a 2016 draftee (23 this past August), he could still stand to put on some good weight on his 6-4, 160 pound frame. Solid present stuff with years of positive results and a little bit of physical projection left? What more could you ask for in the thirty-fifth round. Long live the MLB Draft and long live Jared Carkuff.
37.1122 – LHP Luke Gillingham
Lots to get to about Luke Gillingham, one of college ball’s most famous players over the past few seasons. I’m not 100% positive if that’s a true statement or not — the fame part, not the lots to say part…I’m always sure I have a lot to say about thirty-seventh round picks — but I’m pretty sure I got as many questions over the past twenty-four months about Gillingham as all other draft-eligible college prospects combined. Let’s first go back to March 2015…
JR LHP Luke Gillingham, the aforementioned Navy pitcher putting up video game numbers (again: 13 strikeouts per start) to start the season, was originally tenth on my ranking of pitchers in the conference. I’ve said before that I don’t want to alter these “pre-season” rankings based on overreacting to one month’s worth of data, but I feel like I should be forgiven for making Gillingham one of my few exceptions. Gillingham has been one of college baseball’s best stories this winter, but I’m more interested in understanding the professional implications his hot start could lead to. It’s not exactly a performance out of nowhere as he’s been a prospect since high school who was only under the radar back then due to an injury that wiped out his entire senior season. At Navy he’s consistently missed bats (7.13 K/9 in 2013, 7.81 K/9 in 2014) while showing above-average control of good but not overwhelming stuff highlighted by a mid- to upper-80s fastball that he commands really well. Ultimately, Gillingham is a better college story than pro prospect, but that doesn’t mean his talent needs to be outright dismissed, either. If willing and permitted to start a pro career this summer there’s definitely a draft-worthy talent here.
And then a little more recently in February 2016…
This year I’m happy to update Gillingham’s profile to include some specific numbers on the fastball (85-89) and make mention of improvements with both of his offspeed offerings (curve and change, both of which flash average to above-average). I stand by the assertion that he’s a better college story (human interest, really) than pro prospect, but I think we can move his draft grade up a notch or two now that he’s seen a small but meaningful jump in stuff. He’s still a long shot, but the pros outweigh the cons when considering the “risk” of taking him in the mid- to late-rounds. At best he’s a matchup lefty of some value and at worst he’s a fine ambassador for your organization.
And then just a few days before the draft…
There’s so much to like with this year’s Navy team. Luke Gillingham is the big name as the crafty lefty who has carved up opposing hitters for four straight seasons. When his current year (8.87 K/9 and 1.96 ERA) is seen as a “down season,” in some circles, it says something about his overall track record to date. I think he’s got enough going for him (85-89 FB, low-70s CB that flashes above-average, a much improved CU) that his plus command and deception will keep him pitching professionally for as long as he’d like.
Gillingham’s incredible junior season looks like the outlier year of his college career, but that means that the “real” version of him is an almost a strikeout per inning starting pitcher with impeccable control and well above-average run prevention abilities. Being short on stuff will make his potential climb up the professional ladder more challenging than his college track record (and fame) might suggest, but going on record as the guy who doubted Luke Gillingham in pro ball isn’t something I’m fighting to put on my résumé. I’m thrilled Toronto is giving Gillingham a chance. Even with a fastball that can’t quite crack ninety, he has a shot. Bo Bichette feels like the kind of potential star that can make or break this draft class, so maybe all the words on the double-digit round prospects is overkill…but I love what Toronto did later in the draft almost as much as what any team did in the same post-round twenty or so. Gillingham is a part of that late round haul that could give Toronto a few quality role players and relief options. Getting those guys essentially for free for three seasons (and three more cheap years beyond that) is directly related to saving cash that keeps the established stars around. Late rounds matter.
39.1182 – OF Chavez Young
I think my takes are generally on the measured side around here, so forgive me for wanting to sneak in a scorcher down at the bottom of one of these draft reviews. Nobody actually reads these entire things anyway, right? Here we go: Chavez Young to Toronto in the thirty-ninth round is the literal best pick in the draft. I always say that getting any high school prospect signed in a double-digit round is a major victory. Getting a thirty-ninth (!) high school pick signed is incredible. Best yet, Chavez is a really good prospect! The native of the Bahamas is a fantastic athlete with plus speed, center field range, an above-average to plus arm, and enough offensive upside (solid approach, real pop) to make giving him time to catch up to the speed of pro ball worth it. Fantastic work by Toronto nailing down Young’s number needed to sign and getting him into pro ball. Even if the pick itself doesn’t work out, the process is impossible not to love.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Chris Lincoln (UC Santa Barbara), Dominic Taccolini (Arkansas), Clayton Keyes (Washington State), Spencer Van Scoyoc (Arizona State)
Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Pittsburgh in 2016
13 – Will Craig
32 – Braeden Ogle
106 – Max Kranick
155 – Stephen Alemais
220 – Cam Vieaux
260 – Austin Shields
331 – Dylan Prohoroff
473 – Travis MacGregor
1.22 – 3B Will Craig
I like everything about Will Craig (13) minus the position that comes before his name above. My #notascout observations of him over the years has me believing Craig, despite being blessed with a huge right arm, is not a third baseman. He’s a first baseman through and through. That bit of “bad” news out of the way allows to instead focus on what Craig does well. In short, the man can hit. From January 2016…
I think I’m going to keep touting JR 1B/RHP Will Craig as the righthanded AJ Reed until he starts getting some serious national recognition. I cited that name in the college draft preview from October, so might as well keep mentioning it over and over and over…
Do you like power? How about patience? What about a guy with power, patience, and the athleticism to pull off collegiate two-way duty? For everybody who missed on AJ Reed the first time around, Will Craig is here to give you a second chance. I won’t say he’ll be the first base prospect that finally tests how high a first base prospect can go in a post-PED draft landscape, but if he has a big enough junior season…
I love Craig. In past years I might back down some from the love from reasons both fair (positional value, certain scouty quibbles about bat speed and timing) and not (seeing him ignored by all the major media outlets so much that I start to question my own judgment), but I see little way that will be the case with Craig. Sure, he could force my hand by cratering out with a disappointing junior season (a la Ryan Howard back in the day), but that would only shift him from sleeper first round talent to sleeper fifth round value. His is a bat I believe in and I’m willing to ride or die with it.
I still like the righthanded AJ Reed comparison as a baseline for what Craig could be in pro ball. His power, smarts, and underrated athleticism make him the rare bat-first prospect to warrant a first round draft grade. His fit with the organization that drafted him, however, is a bit trickier to figure. Assuming the Pirates don’t keep trying to jam Craig’s round peg defense into the third base square hole, the long-term plan for the Wake Forest star in Pittsburgh seems muddled at best. Josh Bell seems like he has first base on lock for the foreseeable future, so where does that leave Craig? I know, I know…worrying about too much prospect depth at certain positions is a waste of time as these things tend to work themselves out on the diamond sooner rather than later. Still, Bell is really good and, even with the curious decision to have their first round pick avoid full-season ball in his debut, Craig doesn’t figure to be in the minors for long. I don’t think you draft a player with the twenty-second overall pick with the intention of developing him primarily as trade bait, but something has to give. Wherever he lands, I think his upside as a top ten player at first base makes this pick a worthwhile endeavor. I understand the value of accumulating young players on the happy side of the defensive spectrum, but there’s nothing wrong with betting on bats sometimes. Craig is a good one to bet on.
2.68 – RHP Travis MacGregor
I’ve got nothing on Travis MacGregor (473) that you can’t easily find elsewhere on the internet. Young, athletic, projectable righthander with the chance to remain a starter due to flashes of a solid yet unspectacular three-pitch mix. I’m not in love with it this early, but the Pirates are notorious for being of a handful of teams that draft “off the board” with no fear of public backlash. It’s commendable, really. I’m not sure it’ll necessarily work out here, but I still respect the process.
3.105 – SS Stephen Alemais
Stephen Alemais (155) has the look of a consistently above-average defensive shortstop with just enough offensive skill that you don’t feel terrible batting him eighth (NL) or ninth (AL) in the lineup because you know you’re not getting a total zero there. At worst, it’s a glove-first utility profile. It’s not a pick that gets you pumping your fist on draft day as a fan, but it’s fine enough for the third round — I had him as more of a fifth rounder, so it’s not crazy off — that you can’t kill it for being a gross draft day miscalculation. Neither great nor awful, this pick just is, man.
4.135 – LHP Braeden Ogle
It’s admittedly a bit difficult to qualify the pre-draft ranking gulf between Travis MacGregor and Braeden Ogle (32), so I’ll do my best and you can let me know if it makes any sense at all. First, the two prospects are very similar. We should get that out of the way early. The fact that Pittsburgh valued them so similarly on draft day — no matter the rankings of an internet draft guy like me — speaks to that. Both are high school pitching prospects with impressive college commitments, plenty of projection left, quality “now” velocity, and enough feel for their offspeed that staying in the rotation seems like a good bet going forward. Where Ogle wins for me is pretty simple: more heat (90-94 FB, 96 peak), more upside with his breaking ball (75-78 CB, could be above-average to plus in time), better present changeup (80-82), and an edge in handedness (lefty > righty, right or wrong). Are those advantages enough to explain the stark difference in pre-draft evaluation of each young pitcher relative to the rest of the class? Not really, no. Some of the mid-spring helium that floated Ogle as high as it did wound up doing the trick on me and I probably ranked him higher than his skill set warranted.
Long story short: both Ogle and MacGregor are solid prep pitching prospects worth gambling on within the draft’s top ten rounds. I overrated Ogle and underrated MacGregor before the draft, but the two are fairly similar prospects once you cut away all the excess fat. I still prefer Ogle for the reasons stated above — lefties with mid-90s velocity who have the depth of stuff to remain in the rotation aren’t typically around this late — but am open to reasonable arguments opting for MacGregor. Both have mid-rotation upside if it all works out with Ogle having both the higher probability of getting there and the better chance for more.
5.165 – RHP Blake Cederlind
The Pirates really like to make us internet draft guys work. Like many, I didn’t have much on Blake Cederlind prior to the draft. His stuff, namely mid-90s heat that moves, should have been enough to get him a mention on the site, but two years of scary control (9.58 BB/9 and 5.31 BB/9) kept me away. Obviously Pittsburgh was confident that they could fix Cederlind’s control once they got their hands on him, so taking a chance on a good relief prospect with a big arm and decent breaking ball works for me in the fifth round.
6.195 – LHP Cam Vieaux
On Cam Vieaux (220) from April 2016…
Vieaux throws hard, can spin two effective breaking balls, and knows when to drop in his improving low-80s change. I think he can remain in the rotation professionally.
I really like Vieaux as a potential back of the rotation big league starter. He checks all the familiar boxes: solid fastball (86-92, 94 peak), quality assortment of offspeed stuff (he’ll flash an above-average 75-78 CB, above-average 77-81 SL, and average 81-83 CU, though each pitch has seen some ups and downs over the years) that gives him options when one secondary offering is working better than the rest, sturdy frame (6-5, 200 pounds), solid athleticism, good control. Probably the biggest thing working against him — minus the absence of a singular consistent above-average to plus pitch he can rely on every trip to the mound — is his age. Vieaux will be 24-years-old at the onset of his first full pro season. If he is to achieve that fourth starter ceiling I think he’s capable of, then he needs to get moving fast.
7.225 – C Brent Gibbs
I’m not an expert on Brent Gibbs, but everything I know about him I like an awful lot. The Indiana transfer wound up hitting a ton (.396/.497/.590 with 15 BB/22 K) at Central Arizona for his redshirt-sophomore season. He’s got good size, a plus to plus-plus arm, and nothing but favorable reports about his defense behind the plate. Even if you’re not completely sold on the inflated junior college offensive onslaught, Gibbs is the kind of defensive asset at catcher that teams love to push up their system. If he hits, he can be a regular catcher in the big leagues. If not, he’s got enough going for him elsewhere to be a backup for years to come. Nice pick here.
8.255 – RHP Dylan Prohoroff
I had Dylan Prohoroff (311) listed as a high school pitcher to know back in 2013 when he was topping out at 87 MPH. Now he’s hitting 97 regularly. Pretty cool progress by him. Wrote some nice things about him almost three years later in March 2016…
Prohoroff’s game is a little more reliant on his fastball, a pitch that sits in the low-90s with the occasional forays to 95-96-97. His breaking ball isn’t as far along as you’d like, but the arm strength, size, and production all point toward a potential middle reliever future with continued growth.
I got some pretty good reports on his 78-83 hybrid breaking ball past that point, so the ingredients are certainly there for a long career in middle relief for Prohoroff if he can stay healthy and keep throwing strikes. The ceiling may not be all that exciting, but I think the certainty of his floor is a nice way to diversify the draft portfolio.
9.285 – OF Clark Eagan
Clark Eagan could be a lefthanded hitting four-corner (1B-3B-LF-RF) platoon player if he can keep hitting. He reminds me some of Matt Diorio, the Pirates sixteenth round pick profiled below. Eagan’s slight chance of playing some third base ups his value some in the same way that Diorio’s slight shot at catching helps his cause. Both have flashed contact skills, power, and some semblance of an approach in the past, but a lot of pressure will be on their bats going forward if they are to make it or not.
10.315 – RHP Matt Anderson
On Matt Anderson from May 2016…
Matt Anderson is a favorite that proved this year he’s ready for pro ball. With a solid fastball (88-92, 94 peak), plus change, and an average or better breaking ball, I think he can keep starting in the pros. He’s one of the best senior-sign out there from both a stuff and performance perspective.
He is what we thought he was. Matt Anderson by the numbers…
12.41 K/9 and 4.03 BB/9 in 29.0 IP
12.77 K/9 and 4.13 BB/9 in 91.2 IP
Top was Anderson in his debut for West Virginia, bottom was Anderson in his senior season at Morehead State. In a perfect world Anderson wouldn’t walk so many guys, but I can live with his wild ways so long as he keeps missing bats. My pre-draft evaluation pushed for him to remain a starter in the pros, something I still think he can do for the foreseeable future. If he has to make the move to relief, however, then I think his already potent changeup will look even better when paired up with a (hopefully) amped up fastball (88-92, 94 peak as a starter). The Pirates played the senior-sign game perfectly here by getting Anderson to sign for $10,000 here in the tenth round.
11.345 – RHP Max Kranick
I see a lot of local guys over the course of the winter/spring, but the schedule never worked out for me to make the two hour trek north to Valley View HS. If it had, I could have seen Max Kranick (106) up close and personal. I did, however, see him last summer and have plenty of notes on him otherwise, so I don’t feel too bad about the senior season whiff. On the plus side, I saved some money on gas and tolls. Anyway, Kranick is good. His fastball (87-93, 94-95 peak) has a shot to be a plus pitch even without overwhelming velocity (though he could still had a few tickets as he fills out) thanks to his ability to sink it, cut it, run it, and command it. His mid- to upper-70s breaking ball moves between a curve and a slider needs some polish, but flashes above-average enough to give you confidence it’ll be at least a consistent average pitch in time. I like what little I’ve seen out of his low-80s changeup, too. All in all, it’s the kind of three-pitch mix, command, and frame that strongly suggests a future pitching every fifth day. Between Kranick, Braeden Ogle, and Travis MacGregor, the Pirates may have landed two-fifths (pitcher attrition and all) of a future rotation.
12.375 – C Arden Pabst
Arden Pabst making it to the big leagues will be a success of scouting over stats. The scouts see a sure-handed catcher who has shown the ability to handle pro pitching defensively since his days as a teenage prospect at Harvard-Westlake HS. They also see a better hitter, both in terms of contact skills and power upside, than he’s shown thus far in his post-prep career. I get all that, and it wouldn’t surprise me (much…) if he had a long, successful career as a big league backup catcher for those reasons. The stats, however, are a concern. Pabst was a .234/.326/.333 hitter (44 BB/91 K) in 372 AB while at Georgia Tech. The gap between what the scouts see and what he’s done is fairly significant. Even if the former group is on to something, they’d have to REALLY be on to something if Pabst is going to go from .234/.326/.333 in college to the big leagues. I’ve liked him in the past for the scout-y reasons, but can’t vouch for the pick at this point. When a guy’s absolute best case scouting profile paints him as an average offensive player (admittedly at a premium defensive spot where he’s really good, but I’m trying to make a point here so let’s ignore that for now) then I’d really like to see an established, specific offensive skill already on the board before considering using a top 500 pick on him. Pabst didn’t show that in three years as a Yellow Jacket. No contact, no patience, no power. The light bulb could still go on, but I don’t think the eventual upside if it does makes it worth it to find out. If all that makes me a “box score scout,” the worst pejorative a wannabe scout on the internet can be called, then so be it.
13.405 – RHP John Pomeroy
Coincidentally or not, everything written about Arden Pabst above can be applied to John Pomeroy here. The scouts surely see Pomeroy and are intrigued because why wouldn’t a heavy mid-90s fastball (up to 98) and emerging low-80s slider get their attention? That potential late-game stuff has been seriously undermined by Pomeroy’s complete lack of control. In limited innings as a Beaver, Pomeroy has put up BB/9’s of 7.64 (10.2 IP) and 8.57 (6.1 IP). Those parenthetical innings totals are relevant, too: for better (fresh arm, small sample forgiveness) or worse (too wild to trust, needs more in-game experience to fairly assess), Pomeroy simply hasn’t gotten out onto a mound in a competitive environment enough since his senior year of high school. A 12.51 BB/9 in 13.2 IP during his pro debut doesn’t exactly help assuage concerns over his long-term future.
Still, I like this pick more than the one round earlier for a few small reasons. First, and maybe stupidly on my end, Pomeroy’s path to a big league role seems much shorter and simpler than Pabst’s. We’re comparing apples and oranges here (or pitchers and catchers, more accurately), but the market for relief pitching (590 pitchers came out of the bullpen at least once for MLB teams in 2016) is larger than the need for catchers (104 MLB players caught at least one inning in 2016). That’s a fairly obvious point, but sometimes obvious is all right. Second, I think the distance between what Pomeroy is and what he could be is shorter than Pabst’s. Pomeroy pretty clearly has the stuff to miss bats (11.85 K/9 in his small sample debut), but lacks the control. Pabst may or may not have the goods to play in the bigs depending on who you talk to and when. Pro coaching could be the key to unlocking Pomeroy’s upside; the same could be true for Pabst, but it seems less likely from where I’m sitting. Finally, Pomeroy’s track record, while bad, is short. That actually works in his favor here. I’d rather roll the dice on the guy with the bad but shorter track record than on a guy like Pabst, who has a bad but long track record. Pomeroy has the advantage of the unknown on his side. It’s not necessarily fair, but that’s the way life goes sometimes.
Pomeroy pitching to Pabst is a thing that will likely happen so if it hasn’t happened already. That’s cool.
15.465 – RHP Danny Beddes
Letting Danny Beddes loose in a professional bullpen seems like a very good idea to me. The hulking righthander (6-6, 240) has shown power stuff (90-95 FB, 85-87 cutter, 80-82 CB) as a college starter that could play up even more in shorter outings. I’m in on Beddes, pro relief prospect.
16.495 – OF Matt Diorio
On Matt Diorio from January 2016…
Diorio is a pretty straight forward prospect for me right now: he can really hit, but his defensive future is highly uncertain. As a catcher he could rise up as one of the handful of top names in this class, but the “as a catcher” qualifier is something easier said than done. The good news is that many who know Diorio better than I do have insisted to me that he’s athletic enough to play some corner outfield in the event the idea of catching goes belly up. Framed as a potential corner outfielder/first baseman who occasionally can catch, Diorio’s path to the big leagues suddenly gets a little clearer. In a perfect world he’s a backstop all the way, but a super-utility player who can hit is hardly without value.
Diorio didn’t catch in his debut with the Pittsburgh organization, but that won’t stop me from holding out hope that they’ll consider trying him behind the plate again someday. If not, his road to the big leagues could be a tough one to navigate. Diorio is a really interesting offensive player for me because I think he can hit, I think his approach his solid, and I think his power is intriguing. Checking all three of those offensive boxes should make him a slam dunk offensive prospect, but he’s not all that close to being at that level. I guess the easiest way to explain that is to say that he’s kind of a “master of none” type of hitter. He does everything fairly well, but nothing so well that he gives off any certain big league hitter vibes. He’s talented enough to get there in a backup role — especially if a big league team believes in him as a catcher who can do the job once or twice a week — but it’s going to take a whole lot of hitting at every level to get there.
17.525 – RHP Matt Frawley
Young for his class (turned 21 in August) and coming off a season more good than great (7.03 K/9 in 74.1 IP), Matt Frawley seemed more likely to be a potential premium 2017 MLB Draft senior-sign candidate to me than a signable 2016 pick. The Pirates did their homework and scooped up an interesting relief prospect capable of hitting the low-90s (up to 94) with a solid breaking ball for a $60,000 bonus in the seventeenth round. That’s probably more than Frawley would have gotten as a senior-sign, so win-win-win here. The third win goes to fans of the West Virginia Black Bears, who got to see Frawley mow down the competition (10.61 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 in 28.0 IP) in his summer debut.
18.555 – SS Kevin Mahala
Concerns about how his defense and approach (10 BB/34 K) would translate to pro ball caused me to leave Kevin Mahala off my 2016 draft list even after his strong (.286/.326/.461) junior season at George Washington. That looks to be a mistake after his solid debut with the Pirates. I’m still not entirely sold, but I could be talked into Mahala, who played lots of second, some third, and a little bit of short in his debut, having some utility player appeal if he keeps hitting.
20.615 – RHP Adam Oller
On Adam Oller from February 2016…
Oller has really impressive stuff with three pitches profiling as average or better professionally, but the lackluster track record of missed bats (4.75 K/9 in 2015) is worrisome. If the breakout happens in 2016 we’ll know why. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Did the breakout happen? Oller upped his K/9 (5.99) and dropped his ERA (2.58 to 1.23), but still didn’t quite miss enough bats on the whole to qualify for true breakout status. Still, college ERAs of 2.44, 2.58, and 1.23 in three years carrying a heavy load for Northwestern State (92.1 IP, 108.1 IP, 109.2 IP) have to count for something. His pro debut saw his strikeout numbers go up (7.57 K/9) while his ERA did the same (4.45). That’s…confusing. Confused or not, I still like him as a potential relief option down the line for the Pirates. Oller has enough fastball (87-92), two quality offspeed pitches, and above-average command and control.
21.645 – RHP Matt Eckelman
Matt Eckelman is a quality senior-sign relief prospect with a solid fastball (87-92), a decent assortment of offspeed stuff, and good size. He’s actually a lot like the man picked one round ahead of him, Adam Oller. Go figure.
22.675 – RHP Brandon Bingel
I liked Brandon Bingel a little better as a position player (second base) than I did on the mound, so what do I know. The logic in turning out Bingel as a full-time pitcher makes sense, though. He’s an athletic, aggressive strike-thrower with velocity on the rise (88-92, 93 peak) and a hard mid-80s slider that flashes plus. I’m pro-athlete when it comes to pitchers and Bingel is as athletic as they come, so you could say I like this pro athlete. That was terrible and I am sorry.
23.705 – OF Garrett Brown
On Garrett Brown from March 2015…
SR OF Garrett Brown (Western Carolina) gets a spot on these rankings as long as he has college eligibility left. He’s a sensational athlete with plus-plus speed who brings a football mentality to the diamond. I could see the fans of the team that drafts him in June confused at what they are getting if they check the numbers, but if he ever devotes himself to baseball full-time then it’ll all make sense. I’m not prognosticating anything specific when it comes to Brown’s future, but rather pointing out how appealing a late round gamble he’ll be.
Fans would surely have been confused if Brown would have been drafted (he wasn’t) after his 2015 season (.206/.270/.206 with 1 BB/11 K in 34 AB), but I can’t imagine too many Pirates fans are all that puzzled by the team taking a shot on the crazy athletic former wide receiver coming off a .325/.374/.442 (11 BB/28 K) full season at Western Carolina. In terms of recent baseball experience, Brown might as well be considered a high school prospect rather than a redshirt-senior college graduate. He’ll be 23-years-old as he enters his first full pro season, but I don’t see his age being as much of an impediment to his long-term development than others might. Brown has clear big league traits (speed, defense, athleticism) with enough offensive upside to keep him employed for years to come. One contact of mine likened his upside and potential pro impact to that of Andrew Toles, an old draft favorite around here.
25.765 – OF Hunter Owen
Righthanded power will always be valued on draft day more than I anticipate. Hunter Owen delivers in that area. Without much to say beyond that, I’ll note that I found it interesting that Owen played a few innings each at both third base and second base in his debut. Left field was still his primary home, but it bears watching going forward. Could be that the Pirates needed a body in the infield on a few given days. We shall see.
26.795 – RHP Robbie Coursel
Despite two solid years of peripherals at Florida Atlantic, I don’t have much on Robbie Coursel. If I had to guess based on what the Pirates have done so far, I’d go with average velocity, decent offspeed, and above-average command. Add it up and it’s a potential middle relief option if everything breaks just so.
27.825 – SS Tyler Leffler
On Tyler Leffler from March 2016…
I have no idea what to make of Tyler Leffler, a shortstop who looked poised for a breakout draft season last year only to see his batting average drop almost in half from his sophomore season. A year ago I would have considered him a promising bat-first prospect with serious questions about his long-term defensive future. Now his glove seems to have passed his bat – and not just because of his 2015 struggles – and his offensive game is what will determine if he can be a mid- to late-round sleeper future regular or more of a utility prospect at best. I give him a lot of credit for the defensive improvements and I’m anxious to see if a big senior season can get him back on the draft radar for most teams.
Turns out I’ve spent a lot of time over the years pondering the future of a college baseball player from Bradley with a utility infielder perfect world ceiling in pro ball. In fairness, check out Leffler by the numbers during his college run…
2013: .298/.372/.377 – 13 BB/28 K – 4/5 SB – 151 AB
2014: .354/.464/.470 – 16 BB/25 K – 2/6 SB – 181 AB
2015: .193/.308/.255 – 23 BB/35 K – 4/6 SB – 192 AB
2016: .313/.402/.474 – 17 BB/25 K – 1/1 SB – 192 AB
You can see why one might look at those lines and see an ascending hitter ready to break out in a major way heading in his first college draft year (2015), right? He then fell on his face as a junior before going right back to his sophomore year production as a senior. On top of that, the tone of the buzz of Leffler has been comically up-and-down going back to his freshman year. He went from “bat-first prospect destined for the outfield” to “who the heck knows what’s up with him as a hitter, but pretty solid in the infield” in a flash. A friend who has seen a lot of Leffler over the years called him a “college version of Ryan Rua.” Did that mean that he felt Leffler had the upside of Rua or what? Asked to clarify, he said that, no, he meant Leffler was the literal college version of a player like Rua in the pros. I’m not sure if I explained it well, but in any event that’s a vote against Leffler having much of a professional career. I tend to agree. Leffler was still one of the most fascinating college players I can remember following, so at least there’s that.
29.885 – RHP Geoff Hartlieb
Geoff Hartlieb has the hard sinker (up to 95) and impressive slider combination to keep on getting ground ball outs and soft contact as a pro. Between Adam Oller, Brandon Bingel, and Hartlieb, I think the Pirates scooped up at least one future big league reliever past the twentieth round. That’s not super exciting, but there’s value there.
31.945 – LHP Jordan Jess
You can add Jordan Jess to that maybe/maybe not future big league reliever pile. The big (6-3, 240) lefthander has the fastball (88-92) and recent track record of missing bats (8.65 K/9 in 2015, 11.71 K/9 in 2016) to keep getting innings in the pros. He’s taken full advantage of his early opportunities (9.85 K/9, 2.55 BB/9, 2.55 ERA in 24.2 IP), though it should be noted that he’ll have to move quickly as a prospect set to begin his first full season in 2017 at the age of 24.
33.1005 – RHP Austin Shields
LOVE this one for the Pirates. Austin Shields (260) may or may not work out over the long run, but the idea behind this pick makes it a winner in my book no matter the outcome. Shields is a big (6-6, 240) Canadian righthander with a fastball already up to 95 MPH (88-93 usually) and a low-80s slider that flashes. He could be a nice starting pitching prospect if he develops a third pitch and improves his command. He could be a big-bodied reliever with power stuff that nobody likes to face late in games. He could never make it out of Low-A if his progress stalls as a pro. Nothing would really surprise me with a prospect like Shields — and that’s more about the archetype we’ve seen before (big, cold weather, good fastball, inconsistent breaking ball, nothing soft, iffy command) than the specific player — but why not take a chance on a guy already showing you the kind of stuff Shields has flashed way down in the thirty-third round? For only about $100,000 over slot, too. Great gamble by Pittsburgh at this point.
35.1065 – RHP Pasquale Mazzoccoli
The last two seasons for Pasquale Mazzoccoli fascinate me. Maybe they’ll interest you as well. Maybe not. Maybe I needed a hook for the last Pirates prospect to find and decided to go with this. Take a look…
2015: 5.55 K/9 – 4.40 BB/9 – 47.0 IP – 4.02 ERA
2016: 10.64 K/9 – 4.43 BB/9 – 40.2 IP – 4.43 ERA
Same walks, similar innings, similar earned runs allowed…but he almost doubled his strikeout rate. That’s weird, right? Doubling one’s strikeout rate is odd enough (IMO), but doing so while just about everything else in your game remains the same is downright wacky. You’d think the ERA would have dropped some if nothing else. My mother’s maiden name is Paladino, so seeing Pasquale Mazzoccoli, up to 94 MPH with his fastball this past season at Texas State, succeed in the pros would be pretty cool. As one of the draft’s oldest prospects, he’ll have to get busy in a hurry. Mazzoccoli will be 25-years-old (!) when his first full season kicks off. Bryce Harper, big league veteran of 657 games played through five MLB seasons, is seven months younger than Mazzoccoli. Age isn’t everything, but…I don’t know how to finish that in a way that’s all that complimentary to Mazzoccoli’s chances at ever seeing the big leagues.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Nick Lodolo (TCU), Hagen Owenby (East Tennessee State), Pearson McMahan (St. John’s River State JC), Austin Bodrato (Florida), Michael Danielak (Dartmouth), Chris Cook (East Tennessee State), Ben Miller (Nebraska), Craig Dedelow (Nebraska), Dustin Williams (Oklahoma State), Colin Brockhouse (Ball State), Aaron Maher (East Tennessee State), Harrison Wenson (Michigan), Bret Boswell (Texas)
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
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 know 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)
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
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)
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
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…
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.
(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)
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
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 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
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)