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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Minnesota Twins

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Minnesota in 2016

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

Complete List of 2016 Minnesota Twins Draftees

1.15 – OF Alex Kirilloff

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

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

Then again in April 2016…

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

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

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

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

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

2.56 – C Ben Rortvedt

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

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

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

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

2.73 – SS Jose Miranda

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

2.74 – OF Akil Baddoo

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

3.93 – RHP Griffin Jax

On Griffin Jax (189) from March 2016…

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

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

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

4.123 – RHP Thomas Hackimer

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

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

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

5.153 – RHP Jordan Balazovic

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

6.183 – RHP Alex Schick

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

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

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

7.213 – OF Matt Albanese

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

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

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

8.243 – OF Shane Carrier

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

9.273 – C Mitchell Kranson

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

10.303 – SS Brandon Lopez

On Brandon Lopez (436) from December 2015…

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

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

11.333 – RHP Tyler Benninghoff

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

12.363 – OF Zach Featherstone

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

13.393 – RHP Ryan Mason

On Ryan Mason from April 2016…

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

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

14.423 – SS Andre Jernigan

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

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

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

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

15.453 – RHP Tyler Wells

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

16.483 – RHP Tyler Beardsley

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

17.513 – C Kidany Salva

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

19.573 – RHP Sean Poppen

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

21.633 – LHP Domenick Carlini

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

22.663 – OF Hank Morrison

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

23.693 – SS Caleb Hamilton

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

25.753 – RHP Colton Davis

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

28.843 – LHP Matt Jones

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

29.873 – SS Dane Hutcheon

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

30.903 – RHP Quin Grogan

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

31.933 – C Juan Gamez

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

33.993 – RHP Clark Beeker

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

34.1023 – SS Joe Cronin

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

35.1053 – LHP Austin Tribby

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

36.1083 – RHP Patrick McGuff

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

39.1173 – Casey Scoggins

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

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

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

2016 MLB Draft – High School Outfielders

I don’t have a particularly compelling angle for how to discuss this year’s group of high school outfielders, so I’ll throw a few different ideas out to see what sticks. Hey, I suppose that’s an angle in and of itself. Love it when things work out like that.

Our first attempted angle focuses on the consensus top two high school outfielders in this class. There are some shades of the Austin Meadows/Clint Frazier dynamic from a few years back with Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford battling back and forth at the top this year (bonus points for close geographic proximity between the two prospects in each draft), but neither player fits the mold well enough to push the comp much further than that. Of course, as always, it turns out I’m plagiarizing myself here after writing this back in December

In 2013, we had Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier battle down to the wire to see which prep outfielder from the state of Georgia would wind up the first off the board. In 2016, we’re set to have Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford, both from California, go back and forth until June to see who goes higher. Forced narrative or something more? I’m inclined to say it’s more than former than the latter –considering it’s a narrative I personally made up mere minutes ago, that should make some sense – but suggesting that the two head-to-head battles run parallel in some ways isn’t crazy. Despite some internet comparisons that paint him as the Meadows, I think the better proxy for Rutherford is Frazier. Issues with handedness, height, and hair hue aside, Frazier as a starting point for Rutherford (offensively only as Frazier’s arm strength blows the average-ish arm of Rutherford away) can be used because the two both have really good looking well-balanced swings, tons of bat speed, and significant raw power. The parallel gets a little bit of extra juice when you consider Frazier and Rutherford were/are also both a little bit older than their draft counterparts.

The extra bit of youth isn’t what gives Moniak the edge for me, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. What separates Moniak at this present moment is his ability to hit the ball hard everywhere. Sometimes simplistic analysis works. The manner in which Moniak sprays line drives and deep flies to all fields resembles something a ten-year veteran who flirts with batting titles season after season does during BP. Trading off a little bit of Rutherford’s power for Moniak’s hit tool and approach (both in his mindfulness as a hitter and his plate discipline) are worth it for me. Of course, check back with me in a few months…I had Meadows ahead of Frazier for a long time before giving in to the latter’s arm, power, and approach (as a whole-fields power hitter, not necessarily as an OBP machine). History may yet repeat itself, but I’ll take Moniak for now.

I seriously thought the Meadows/Frazier comparison was an original thought, and only realized it wasn’t when I went back to my site to look up what I had written about Meadows back in 2013. Then the post with that excerpt popped up and I realized that thinking about baseball draft prospects as much as I do is driving me slowly insane. People don’t believe me when I say that I forget everything I’ve written as soon as I hit “Publish,” but it’s true. I have no memory of what I write. Drugs, alcohol, marriage? Nope, it’s been baseball that has ruined my brain. Definitely worth it.

Anyway, if we want to keep trying to force a “ghost of draft year’s past” narrative on this year’s group of high school outfielders, then we can add Billy McKinney as the Alex Kirilloff doppelganger and get a little closer to that 2013 trio at the top. I mean, it’s still not great but it is closer, right? Last year’s trio of Kyle Tucker (Rutherford), Nick Plummer (Kirilloff), and Trenton Clark (Mickey Moniak) kind of works, but there are problems with each attempted head-to-head comparison; Moniak as Clark has been mentioned elsewhere (ESPN, I believe) and that’s a good one, Kirilloff as Plummer is problematic in multiple ways, and Rutherford as Tucker just plain doesn’t work. A fun trio that matches up well (kind of) comes if we’re cool with going back to 2011: Bubba Starling (Rutherford), Brandon Nimmo (Moniak), and Josh Bell (Kirilloff). We’ve got the tooled-up overaged guy, the plus approach with a sweet swing guy, and the big strong corner outfielder/first baseman defensive tweener best known for his bat…guy. I suppose that’s the worst case scenario for almost all the 2016 prospects, but there are notable differences for each. Rutherford doesn’t share Starling’s rawness in any way, Moniak has a ton more experience (and scout exposure) than Nimmo against high-level pitching, and Kirilloff and Bell…well, they are actually kind of similar in a lot of ways. Actually, the Moniak and Nimmo parallels aren’t too far off besides the level of competition discrepancy. Check Baseball America’s pre-draft notes on Nimmo…

He’s an above-average runner when he’s healthy, which helps him on the basepaths and in center field, and there’s more to his game than just speed. Nimmo has a pretty, efficient lefthanded swing. He’s short to the ball and has outstanding barrel awareness, consistently squaring balls up and shooting line drives to all fields. He has a good eye at the plate and should be an above-average hitter. As he gets stronger, he could add loft to his swing to turn doubles into home runs.

I still believe in Nimmo as being a useful big league player, but perhaps the scouting profile similarities between the two ought to serve as a little bit of a warning for those already all-in on Moniak. Same could be said for the Starling/Rutherford tie-in, though that’s significantly less worrisome because of the latter being far more of a ballplayer than the former ever was; Starling’s issues weren’t simply because he was older for his class but rather because he was older and underdeveloped from a skills standpoint. Making up for lost time while learning the finer points of the game is hard work, but Rutherford’s actual on-field abilities should make the curve much shorter than Starling’s.

(Incidentally, I learned that we’re taken what a steep learning curve should be and flipped it to mean the opposite of the original intent. We talk about steep learning curves as if they note a difficult initial learning process, but a steep increase translates to a quick increment of skill. Wikipedia notes that the error is likely because of how we’ve taken to interpret the idea as climbing a hill. Climbing a steep hill is more difficult than attempting the same on a less steep version, so we assume a steep learning curve means learning something new will be tricky. Maybe this is all common knowledge, but I’ve been using steep learning curve wrong my whole life. If you’re like me, then you can at least walk away from this post learning something new…even if you think all my baseball takes are nonsense.)

Or maybe all of these forced comps are no more than false flags since, you know, comparing distinct individuals to other distinct individuals may not always tell us what we think (hope?) it does. I do, however, think there’s something to identifying players with similar physical traits, skills, and tools, and analyzing their respective career paths, at least on a very general, very preliminary level. I think we can all (mostly) agree that certain player types seem to succeed while others don’t, so there’s value in using historical data to see what has worked and what hasn’t. Besides Trenton Clark, Moniak has also been compared to Christian Yelich (source: everybody) and Steve Finley (Baseball America); I see a little Adam Eaton in his game, but Moniak is far more physical (bigger, too) at the same stage. One other recent draft name that reminded me of Moniak was this guy

He tied Hinch’s USA Baseball record by playing on his sixth national team, and scouts love his grinder approach and in-game savvy. What’s more, Almora has outstanding tools. The Miami signee, in one scout’s words, “has no issues. He’s got above-average tools everywhere, and they all play. He has tools and he uses them.” He doesn’t turn in blazing times when he runs in showcases (generally he’s a 6.8-second runner in the 60), but his game instincts help him steal bases and cover plenty of ground in center field. Scouts consider his defense major league-ready right now, with plus grades for his accurate throwing arm. With natural hitting rhythm and plenty of bat speed, [he] is a line-drive machine with a loose swing who stays inside the ball, relishes velocity and handles spin. He should have 20-homer power down the line, sufficient if he slows down and can’t play center, and a definite bonus if (as expected) he stays in the middle garden. He plays the game with both ease and energy and may have some projection left in his athletic 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame. The Miami signee is considered one of the draft’s safer picks and could sneak into the first 10 selections.

No comp is perfect, but as far as draft prospect parallels go, that’s not half-bad. If I’m alone on this so be it, but I believe thinking of Moniak as a lefthanded version of Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in 2012, kind of works. Because we’re already up to five comps, what’s one more? A contact I trust dropped Ender Inciarte as a possible career path and production point of comparison for Moniak, assuming the power never really comes around. I see Moniak as a hitter just a tweak or three away from tapping into some of his average raw power more consistently, so anything in that 45/50 scouting grade band (12-18 HR) feels within reach for him at maturity. For all the comps thrown Moniak’s way this spring, it’s really hard to top the Yelich one. I think that’s one of the better comps of any prospect in recent years. I really like Yelich. I really like Moniak.

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

We already ran down a number of the popular comps for Moniak, so we might as well give in to the same temptation with Rutherford. This has surely been a very painful read for the anti-comps crowd out there. My bad. As for Rutherford, the list of comps out there is impressive: Grady Sizemore (Fangraphs), Jim Edmonds (Baseball America), David Justice (swing only from Perfect Game), and Trot Nixon (I forget) are just a few of the big names tossed around this spring. I’ve likened Rutherford to a remixed version of both Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier in the past, and I think there’s a chance that he might wind up as a player who has the best qualities of both of his soon-to-be fellow minor league outfield prospects. One fun outside the box comp that I heard recently was a young, lefthanded version of Moises Alou. It’s not totally crazy. Here are some of the old Alou scouting reports I could dig up…

1990: “All tools above. Good hitting approach – with power. Not good base stealer – as yet. Great body for speed and power. Good stroke – stays inside ball. Very strong arm. Confident young man…plus tools. Good outfielder. Future All Star…perhaps not in CF but in RF. Would exhaust CF first.”

1992: 7 hit, 6 power, 6 speed, 5 arm, 7 glove, 6 range “Good young player. Live body, All Star potential. Good contact type. 10-15 HR. SB potential 20-25. Everyday OF.”

Funny that 6 power meant 10-15 home runs to that one scout (doubly so when we remember the offensive environment at the time), but grades aren’t as easily translated as the bigger publications who push grading every prospect in every tool because that’s the only way to cover minor league prospects would have you think. Did that get a little ranty? Whoops. Anyway, I think a lot of those grades and notes on Alou could be very easily be lifted instead from a report on Rutherford. His upside is that of a consistently above-average offensive regular outfielder while defensively being capable of either hanging in center for a bit (a few years of average glove work out there would be nice) or excelling in an outfield corner (making this switch early could take a tiny bit of pressure off him as he adjusts to pro pitching). His floor, like almost all high school hitters, is AA bat with holes in his swing that are exploited by savvier arms.

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

Another solid hook here could have been the rise of the ultra-athletic late-first round helium outfield prospect. We’re talking Brandon Marsh, Taylor Trammel, Connor Capel, Hunter Bishop, John Flowers, Khalil Lee, and Thomas Jones are all outstanding athletes who should begin getting interest from teams beginning around pick twenty to twenty-five. There’s a decent chance that all of those guys are off the board by the end of the second round. Ten prep outfielders were taken in the first two rounds last year (the average is around 8.5 HS OF taken in the top two rounds since 2009), so expecting something similar (the seven I named plus the big three at the top) is well within the realm of possibility. Will Benson (who some still think of as the third member of the prep OF Big Three over Kirilloff), Akil Baddoo (all he does is hit), Jared Shelby (very little buzz about him this spring, but I like him), Avery Tuck (it only takes one team to still believe…), Chase Creek (burner who probably deserves to be on the athlete list), and Josh Stephen (solid all over, especially at the plate) all are candidates to crash the top two round party as well. This leaves out players like Garrett Hodges (love the hit tool), Dylan Carlson (fast-rising bat I’ve heard called a “second round version of Kirilloff”), Francisco Del Valle (big power), Dean Looney (more big power), and Trevyne Carter (another great athlete), not to mention the usual handful of high school athletes at other spots who get called as outfielders on draft day right off the bat.

If we stick with the idea that Moniak, Rutherford, and Kirilloff (in whatever order you like) are the Big Three this year, then that opens the door to all kinds of fun names to lay claim to the fourth spot. My current lean is Brandon Marsh, the highly athletic plus to plus-plus runner out of Georgia. We know he’s got four average or better tools (you can add a plus arm, average or better raw power, and easy center field range to his hot wheels), but, like many prospects of his ilk, we don’t know how his bat will play against professional pitching. Between the swing, the bat speed, and his approach to date, there are lots of encouraging signs, so gambling you at least get an average-ish hit tool out of him seems more than fair. Combined with his other tools, that player is a potential monster. Everything said about Marsh can also be said about Taylor Trammel, minus the arm strength accolades. Trammel can run and defend with the best in his class, but his arm is inconsistent at best. 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. Yet another Georgia high school prospect, Will Benson, is currently sandwiched between the two on my rankings. I never really got the Jason Heyward comp for Benson – the most Heyward thing about Heyward is his plus defense, something that Benson is a long way from, if he ever gets there at all – but I like the connection between him and Kyle Lewis. I don’t think he lasts until the second, but he would make for an excellent consolation prize for a team picking at the top of the first round that misses out on the Mercer star with their first pick. Or just grab them both and begin hoping that you’ve just taken care of your outfield corners for the next decade.

You know what? We could have just made this whole thing about California and Georgia. We’ve covered the two big California guys at the top and the preceding paragraph is all about three Georgia boys in a row. And now here I am ready to spend a little time with Akil Baddoo and Garrett Hodges. My list isn’t finalized just yet, but the first draft has six of the first seven and ten of the first fourteen high school outfielders in this class being from either CA or GA. I firmly believe in Baddoo’s bat. I also believe in Baddo because of a David Rawnsley (Perfect Game) comp from earlier this spring. He dropped a Rondell White on Baddo’s game. White was the first prospect that I ever truly loved. Seven-year-old me saw him play during the summer of 1993 for the Harrisburg Senators. His presence on the field was so striking that I instantly became hooked on the fun behind following prospects, tracking player development, and cheering teams on who were committed to building through the farm system. White gave me hope as a baseball fan that the next big thing was always just around the corner. As for Hodges, well, I don’t know if I’m out on an island with him at this point or what, but I firmly believe that he’ll hit. Bat-first prep prospects are tough to love, but I really, really like Hodges.

*****

OF Akil Baddoo (Salem HS, Georgia)
OF Aldrich De Jongh (Trinity Christian Academy, Florida)
OF Alvaro Valdez (Westminster Christian HS, Florida)
OF Andre Nnebe (St. Mary’s HS, California)
OF Avery Tuck (Steele Canyon HS, California)
OF Bailin Markridge (O’Connor HS, Arizona)
OF Ben Lewis (Horizon HS, Arizona)
OF Blake Rutherford (Chaminade Prep HS, California)
OF Brad Demco (Lake Travis HS, Texas)
OF Brandon Marsh (Buford HS, Georgia)
OF Brock Anderson (Sparkman HS, Alabama)
OF Brock Howard (Harmony HS, Florida)
OF Caleb Green (Metter HS, Georgia)
OF Cameron Blake (Round Rock HS, Texas)
OF Chase Cheek (Phillips HS, Florida)
OF Chase Murray (Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, Ohio)
OF Chavez Young (Faith Baptist Academy, Florida)
OF Christian Long (Westside HS, Texas)
OF Christian Moya (South Hills HS, California)
OF Clayton Keyes (Bishop Carroll HS, Alberta)
OF Colin Brophy (Notre Dame HS, California)
OF Connor Capel (Seven Lakes HS, Texas)
OF Dalton Griffin (South Effingham HS, Georgia)
OF Dante Baldelli (Bishop Hendricken HS, Rhode Island)
OF Dean Looney (Butler HS, North Carolina)
OF Denilson Elligson (Graceville HS, Florida)
OF Dominic Clementi (Arrowhead HS, Wisconsin)
OF Dominic Fletcher (Cypress HS, California)
OF Donnie Gleneski (Bishop Kenny HS, Florida)
OF Dylan Hirsch (El Camino Real HS, California)
OF EP Reese (North Davidson HS, North Carolina)
OF Eric Rivera (Flanagan HS, Florida)
OF Francisco Del Valle (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
OF Gabe Simons (Ada HS, Oklahoma
OF Garrett Hodges (South Effingham HS, Georgia)
OF Hunter Bishop (Serra HS, California)
OF Hunter Judd (Knoxville Catholic HS, Tennessee)
OF Jack Suwinski (Taft HS, Illinois)
OF Jacob Hirsh (O’Dea HS, Washington)
OF Jake Suddleson (Harvard-Westlake HS, California)
OF Jalen Harrison (St. Anne’s-Belfield HS, Virginia)
OF Jaren Shelby (Tates Creek HS, Kentucky)
OF Jarrett Finger (Grandview HS, Colorado)
OF Jeremy Ydens (St. Francis HS, California)
OF Jerrette Lee (Columbus HS, Georgia)
OF Joe Acker (Marquette University HS, Wisconsin)
OF Joe Faulkner (Cumberland Gap HS, Tennessee)
OF Jordan McFarland (Waterloo HS, Illinois)
OF Jordan Wiley (Richland HS, Texas)
OF Jose Layer (Colegio Angel David, Puerto Rico)
OF Josh Stephen (Mater Dei HS, California)
OF Juan Carlos Abreu (Winter Springs HS, Florida
OF Kace Massner (Burlington Community HS, Iowa)
OF Kameron Misner (Poplar Bluff HS, Missouri
OF Keegan Snowbarger (St. Xavier HS, Kentucky)
OF Keenan Bell (Episcopal HS, Florida)
OF Kingsley Ballao (Maui HS, Hawaii)
OF Kobi Owen (Episcopal HS, Texas)
OF Kobie Taylor (Portsmouth HS, New Hampshire)
OF Landon Silver (Huntington Beach HS, California)
OF Langston Watkins (Louisville Male HS, Kentucky)
OF Luke Lalumia (Grand Ledge HS, Michigan)
OF Marcus Mack (Bellaire HS, Texas)
OF Mason Nadeau (North Penn HS, Pennsylvania)
OF Matthew Fraizer (Clovis North HS, California)
OF Michael Farley (Chico HS, California)
OF Michael Wilson (Colonia HS, New Jersey)
OF Mickey Moniak (La Costa Canyon HS, California)
OF Nick Howie (Garth Webb SS, Ontario)
OF Nick Neville (IMG Academy, Florida)
OF Nick Wilhite (Buford HS, Georgia)
OF Nikolas Dague (Sickles HS, Florida)
OF Otis Statum (Bishop O’Dowd HS, California)
OF Preston Jones (Mountain View HS, Washington)
OF Quin Cotton (Regis Jesuit HS, Colorado)
OF Raymond Hernandez (Fernando Ledesma Continuation, Puerto Rico)
OF Raymond Salaman (Luis Hernaiz Verone HS, Puerto Rico)
OF Robert Bullard (Thurgood Marshall HS, Texas)
OF Ronald Washington (Ridge Point HS, Texas)
OF Ryan Brown (St. James HS, Maryland)
OF Ryan Mejia (Alonso HS, Florida)
OF Ryan Novis (Corona Del Sol HS, Arizona)
OF Spencer Taylor (Trinity Christian Academy, Florida)
OF Taylor Trammel (Mount Paran Christian HS, Georgia)
OF Ted Sabato (Brunswick HS, New York)
OF Terence Norman (Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia)
OF Thomas Jones (Laurens District 55 HS, South Carolina)
OF Todd Lott (Trinity Christian Academy, Florida)
OF Tony Schultz (Saints Peter and Paul HS, Maryland)
OF Trace Bucey (Carroll HS, Texas)
OF Tre Turner (Holy Cross HS, Louisiana)
OF Tremaine Spears (Tioga HS, Louisiana)
OF Trevyne Carter (Soddy Daisy HS, Tennessee)
OF Troy Johnston (Rogers HS, Washington)
OF Wyatt Featherston (Green Mountain HS, Colorado)
OF/1B Alex Kirilloff (Plum HS, Pennsylvania)
OF/1B Dylan Carlson (Elk Grove HS, California)
OF/1B Will Benson (The Westminster Schools, Georgia)
OF/3B Armani Smith (De La Salle HS, California)
OF/3B Matthew Gorski (Hamilton Southeastern HS, Indiana)
OF/LHP Austin Langworthy (Williston HS, Florida)
OF/LHP Carter Nelson (Jenks HS, Oklahoma)
OF/LHP Khalil Lee (Flint Hill HS, Virginia)
OF/LHP Kyle Stowers (Christian HS, California)
OF/RHP Brandon Fraley (Caravel Academy, Delaware)
OF/RHP Connor Kimple (Marquette HS, Wisconsin)
OF/RHP John Flowers (Trinity Christian Academy, Florida)
OF/RHP Michael Toglia (Gig Harbor HS, Washington)
OF/RHP Trevor Boone (Tulsa Memorial HS, Oklahoma)