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2016 MLB Draft – High School First Basemen

Prep rankings are close to being finalized, but I’m trying to hang on to the last possible second to allow for any last minute pop-up guys ready to crash the party a place on the list. For now, a true follow list only of all the high school first base prospects that have caught my attention for one reason or another this draft cycle.

List is alphabetical, so obviously don’t infer anything from the rankings. It would be pretty cool if the rankings just so happened to be alphabetical, though. That would be some kind of coincidence.

Who am I missing? Did I mess up the spelling of a player’s name and/or botch his high school listing? And how stupid am I for daring to rank the J’s over the L’s? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, or via email. The more the merrier even at this late stage.

*****

DID YOU KNOW that drafting HS first basemen is stupid? Well, stupid is unduly harsh, so let’s say…problematic. Before we go any further, I should point out that I don’t necessarily agree with that conclusion – I’m actively disagreeing with my own conclusion, so, yeah, great start to this piece – because I think every player should be judged individually and historical draft trends aren’t particularly predictive in nature, but, damn, high school first basemen have been a poor investment so far this millennium. Since I started this site in 2009, there have literally been ZERO positive value first basemen drafted and signed out of high school. Only two have made the big leagues: Christian Yelich and Jonathan Singleton. Now obviously the former name has been pretty darn valuable, but that’s a clear cheat. Despite being announced as a first baseman on draft day, everybody knew he was an outfielder. He’s gone on to play exactly zero innings at first so far as a professional. So the only other big league first baseman drafted and signed out of high school is Jonathan Singleton, a negative value player to date by both rWAR and fWAR. Ouch.

The best hopes to reverse that trend are (in whatever order you like) Josh Naylor, Bobby Bradley, Josh Ockimey, Dominic Smith, Cody Bellinger, Jake Bauers, Matt Olson, Dan Vogelbach, and, because I still believe, a Jonathan Singleton rebound. I’d also add Kolton Kendrick to the list, but he’s admittedly a long way off. All in all we have lots of nice prospects, but no one player that you can point to as a future long-term regular at first with a high degree of confidence. Smith is the most likely future regular in my view (best all-around game), Ockimey has been scorching to start 2016, and Vogelbach just needs a place to play because he can really fucking hit. Maybe one or more of these prospects redeems the position. We’ll have to wait and see.

Anyway, if we expand the hunt for high school first basemen all the way back to 2000 — same year I started high school myself, incidentally — the list adds some pretty impressive names. Of course, we’re talking quality over quantity here as there are still very few names considering we’re now covering sixteen drafts. Going from most recent to least, we add Eric Hosmer, Giancarlo Stanton (another cheat with no innings at 1B as a pro), Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Logan Morrison, Mike Carp, Kyle Blanks, Prince Fielder, James Loney, Travis Ishikawa, Casey Kotchman, and Adrian Gonzalez. Those are your positive value drafted and signed high school first basemen since 2000. If we’re being real, the list reads Hosmer, Freeman, Rizzo, Fielder, and Gonzalez. Five stars in sixteen drafts isn’t a great hit rate (obviously), but the magnitude of their stardom is pretty impressive. Maybe that can be our amended conclusion about drafting high school first basemen: odds are very much stacked against you historically, but if you find a winner then you’ve really found a winner. The grand total of positive value professional first basemen drafted and signed out of high school since 2000 is ten, though you can bump that to an even dozen if you want to include both Marlins outfielders. Taking the wide view on high school first basemen helps ease my mind somewhat about the utility of such prospects. I do wonder what’s changed (if anything: this could just be a function of needing more patience with the post-2009 group), but that’s a different post for a different day.

The original intent of this post was to actually talk about the high school first base prospects eligible for the 2016 MLB Draft. I suppose it’s time to actually do that. But before we do, here’s this…

2015: Josh Naylor (1), Corey Zangari (6), Kolton Kendrick (8), Seamus Curran (8), Curtis Terry (13)

2014: Bobby Bradley (3), Josh Ockimey (5), Dash Winningham (8), Justin Bellinger (11), Owen Taylor (27)

2013: Dominic Smith (1), Cody Bellinger (4), Jake Bauers (7), David Denson (15), Randolph Gassaway (16)

2012: Matt Olson (1s), Keon Barnum (1s), Justin Chigbogu (4), Nick Halamandaris (8), Kristian Brito (11)

2011: Dan Vogelbach (2), Kevin Cron (3), Trevor Gretzky (7), Bubba Jones (7), John Alexander (8)

2010: Christian Yelich (1), Travis Flores (11), Tyler Kuresa (11), Juan Rosado (11), Sean Dwyer (15)

2009: Jeff Malm (5), Jon Singleton (8), Geoffrey Baldwin (10), Corey Davis (15), David Washington (15)

Those are the first five high school first basemen (round in parentheses) drafted every year since the site started. I bring this up because I think 2016 has a good chance of having the most impressive top five out of all of those years. 2013 will be hard to beat – again, let’s assume we’re putting Yelich’s contributions from the 2010 group aside for now – and there are names in 2011, 2014, and 2015 that could do big things, but I really like what 2016 could be. Of course, any such high school position ranking low on the defensive totem pole needs to come with the caveat that players at certain spots on the diamond (1B, corner OF, sometimes 2B) are made and not born. Players from other positions eventually become first basemen. As long as we all know that going in, we’re good. There are a lot of reasons not to be excited about high school first base prospects, but that shouldn’t stop us from giving each individual player his own evaluation. It’s a little bit like how one can believe that man is evil while individual men can be good. Or something like that. Anyway, I like these guys. Let’s talk about them.

The first name on the original list was Christian Jones. It’s now just a few weeks away from the draft and I still like Jones as much as I did back then. The only glaring negative that I see with the young lefty from Washington right now is the fact he’s never eaten a hamburger. I can kind of see the hot dog thing – I love them, but get why one might want to avoid them – but the hamburger (cheeseburger, ideally) is one of mankind’s finest culinary achievements. Thankfully, Jones earns points back for his love of seafood…and his excellent athleticism, easy above-average raw power, and consistent ability to square balls up and rocket line drives to all fields. The only trepidation I have with Jones being on this list is the growing likelihood that he can move well enough to handle left field. Everything about his offensive and athletic profile points towards future big league regular.

With all that said, I think Jones would fall just behind a new addition to the first base ranks. 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!)

Ulysses Cantu is Joe Rizzo’s mirror image. Almost everything written above about the lefthanded Rizzo applies to righty swinging Cantu. I’m even less bullish on Cantu sticking anywhere but first base as a professional, so the pressure will be on for him to hit early and often upon signing his first contract. I see a little less hit tool, similar power, and an arguably better (trying to sort this out in limited PA for HS hitters is damn near impossible) approach. I think all that adds up to an overall offensive edge for Rizzo, but it’s really close.

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

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

I know some who prefer TJ Collett to Joe Rizzo. I can see it. I’ve recently become quite enamored with Collett’s offensive game. If you read the site regularly, you know how much I like Zack Collins of Miami. I get a lot of the same positive vibes when watching (and reading/hearing about) Collett. I don’t think a team would be crazy to use a late first round pick on him, but odds are very good that they won’t have to. Getting him at any point past the first hundred picks or so would be great value.

I think my tentative rankings here are a little less tentative than in other spots. The only major changes I can foresee would be based on shuffling guys in and out based on late developing defensive switch information. I’d go Rizzo, Jones, Collett, Cantu, Robbins, Andrew Daschbach, Bryant Packard, Dylan Carlson, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Spencer Brickhouse in the top ten. The first five I feel pretty good about. The next three after that are all really close. I almost put Carlson with the outfielders just to avoid making any kind of decision, tentative or not, on him now; he’s another player like Robbins who has gone the opposite of Wentz (lefthanded pitcher early in the process to first base/outfield prospect now). Then there’s a bit of a drop after the top eight. All in all, a pretty good group worth getting excited about…even in the face of overwhelming odds.

(By the way, further research directed me to this. I now take it all back with Jones and his views on hamburgers and hot dogs. For those unwilling to click a link to learn more about a teenager baseball player’s culinary quirks, the article notes that Jones has avoided both burgers and dogs due to his belief that there is “too much going on” between the buns. That’s amazing. I’m prepared to move him up fifty spots on my board for that alone.)

1B Andru Summerall (Lake Park HS, Florida)
1B Bernard Gilot (The First Academy, Florida)
1B Bryant Packard (DH Conley HS, North Carolina)
1B Cole Zabowski (Lawrenceville HS, Georgia)
1B Cuba Bess (Fruita Monument HS, Colorado)
1B Easton Bents (Grants Pass HS, Oregon)
1B Jaquez Williams (East Coweta HS, Georgia)
1B Lael Lockhart (Friendswood HS, Texas)
1B Spencer Brickhouse (Zebulon HS, North Carolina)
1B Zach Zientarski (Boca Raton Community HS, Florida)
1B/3B Andrew Daschbach (Sacred Heart Prep, California)
1B/3B Joe Rizzo (Oakton HS, Virginia)
1B/C TJ Collett (Terre Haute North Vigo HS, Indiana)
1B/LHP Dylan Carlson (Elk Grove HS, California)
1B/LHP Vinnie Pasquantino (James River HS, Virginia)
1B/LHP Walker Robbins (George County HS, Mississippi)
1B/OF Austin Galindo (University HS, Illinois)
1B/OF Chris Winkel (Amity Regional Senior HS, Connecticut)
1B/OF Christian Jones (Federal Way HS, Washington)
1B/RHP Ulysses Cantu (Boswell HS, Texas)

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2016 MLB Draft Mock Draft – Territorial Rights

The 2016 MLB Draft will be here before we know it, so that can only mean one thing: it’s MOCK DRAFT season. It’s been a few years since I published a mock draft around here, but I figured it was finally time to get back in the game. Of course, since I can’t offer much in the way of insider intel — I’m not BA-era peak Jim Callis over here — putting together a mock would be pretty much pointless. With the proper analysis attached to each pick mock drafts can be fun and interesting reads, not to mention a great way of exposing casual fans — the number of people who Google “2016 mlb mock draft” that find this site is insane, at least relative to the four people who read on their own volition otherwise — to players they might have not yet heard of. I might attempt a mock like that between now and June. Or not. Either way, this ain’t it.

So until then (or not) we’ll have some fun and take the idea of a mock draft to the logical extreme. If “mock” means to make something seem laughably unreal or impossible, let’s make our mock draft as unreal or impossible as we can. Our fourth edition of this 2016 MLB Mock Draft is based on territorial rights. Teams can only draft a player that currently plays amateur ball in within the confines of their state. Easy enough, right? Unfortunately this means no Jay Groome, Nick Senzel, Riley Pint, Delvin Perez, Corey Ray, Alec Hansen, Connor Jones, Josh Lowe, Bryan Reynolds, Matt Krook, Dakota Hudson, Anthony Kay, Joe Rizzo, Jordan Sheffield, Will Craig…and on and on and on and on. It does, however, allow for some fun mid-first round steals and a few interesting decisions when picking players from states both big and small. Let’s do it…

1 – Philadelphia Phillies – Holy Ghost Prep SS/3B Nolan Jones

My home state of Pennsylvania has nine D1 schools with baseball programs covering five different conferences. I’ve seen four of the schools already — Penn, Lafayette, St. Joe’s, Villanova — and have a shot to see all nine by the end of the season if I plan my schedule out creatively. There are some solid prospects at those universities — David Bednar stood out so far — who will most definitely be drafted this June, but the real strength of the 2016 Pennsylvania draft class is in the prep talent. My very preliminary look at this year’s high school class has around a dozen names that could get drafted this year out of the state. The best is Nolan Jones, a prospect good enough to be on the short list of the Phillies in a non-nonsense mock draft (i.e., what we call “real life”). Jones has all the tools to be a plus defender at the hot corner with the raw power and aptitude for hitting that could make him one of the best all-around infielders to come out of this class. He’s a really exciting prospect…and a truer “local” prospect to Philadelphia than a certain Jersey lefty, if you’re into that sort of thing.

2 – Cincinnati Reds – Ohio State OF Ronnie Dawson

Cincinnati had a surprisingly high number of options despite being limited to picking only from Ohio. With eleven D1 schools to choose from — some of which were not instantly recognizable to me as Ohio schools, like Wright State and…fine, just Wright State — there was plenty of college talent to make up for the lack of interesting high school prospects. Ronnie Dawson barely beat out teammate Troy Montgomery, Sean Murphy, and the TBD eventual pick of the Indians below. I cringe a little when I hear some of the terms scouts use to describe players — a far worse practice in football than baseball, admittedly — but one of those terms I hate applies too well to Dawson to ignore: he’s a beast. Big, strong, athletic, powerful, fleet of foot…there’s no other way to put it, he’s a beast.

3 – Atlanta Braves – Mercer OF Kyle Lewis

Turns out Georgia, one of the strongest states for high school draft prospects in recent years, actually has less D1 schools that play ball (seven) than either Pennsylvania or Ohio. Go figure. Josh Lowe, Carter Kieboom, Will Benson, Taylor Trammel, and Alex Speas (among many others) keep that impressive prep tradition alive in 2016, but the Braves, long rumored to covet a college bat early on draft day, can’t pass up the biggest, baddest name in the college game. Locking down a future fixture in the middle of your order isn’t a bad way to accelerate the rebuild. Between those high school players and Lewis, Georgia just might be my favorite prospect state in this year’s class.

4 – Colorado Rockies – Air Force RHP Griffin Jax

I debated on a few high school arms before finally settling on Regis Jesuit RHP Bo Weiss as the pick here. Then I realized I totally blanked on Air Force being right around Colorado Springs. That made the selection a little bit easier and a little bit harder all at once. I’d take either Griffin Jax or Jacob DeVries over any of the admittedly intriguing group of 2016 Colorado prep pitchers (really like Paul Tillotson and Travis Marr is interesting, too), but choosing between the two Air Force co-aces isn’t easy. Jax gives you a little more certainty than DeVries — who might have a little bit of recently acquired Rockies closer Jake McGee in him now that I think about it — with the added benefit of being no slouch in the upside department in his own right. I really think Colorado is building something potentially special. While a rock solid mid- to late-rotation arm might seem like the sexiest pick, Jax is the kind of guy you can take for granted (in a good way) as a useful big league piece without worrying about him stalling out for anything but an injury.

5 – Milwaukee Brewers – Verona Area HS C Ben Rortvedt

Much has been made about this year’s high school class having talented players spring out of traditionally unconventional places. One of the better examples of that is how top-heavy the prep prospects in Wisconsin are this year. There’s depth to be sure, but it’s the top tier guys that really make the state stand out. As I cycled through names I kept finding myself saying “Oh yeah, it’ll be him,” before getting to the next name and reconsidering. Nate Brown and Gavin Lux, in particular, are players that would almost certainly be the best in their class in any other year. Instead, the Brewers attempt to get their catcher of the future in Ben Rortvedt, a wholly impressive defensive player who combines outstanding physical strength with above-average agility behind the dish.

6 – Oakland Athletics – La Costa Canyon HS OF Mickey Moniak

If the draft is held on a day that ends in a Y, then that must mean that California is loaded with pro prospects. This pick came down to Mickey Moniak vs Blake Rutherford, easily the most fascinating prospect head-to-head battle in this class right now. I’d get more enjoyment watching Moniak run down fly balls in Oakland’s big dumb ballpark than Rutherford hit balls out of it, so Moniak takes it.

7 – Miami Marlins – Miami C Zack Collins

I’ll keep banging the drum for Zack Collins as a legitimate top ten pick as long as it takes for somebody to take note. If Kyle Schwarber can go fourth overall, then why not Collins? If anything, I think Collins is the better draft prospect of the two.

8 – San Diego Padres – Chaminade Prep OF Blake Rutherford

The Padres might be best served by these rule changes than any other team in this mock. Their future real life haul should be pretty impressive — holding three picks in the top twenty-five makes them the envy of every scouting department — but the damage they could do just by poaching half of the top half-dozen prospects from California could wind up just as extensive. Whether you love Rutherford or still have reservations about his game (or find yourself gutless riding the fence…like me!), getting him with the eight overall pick is fun.

9 – Detroit Tigers – Michigan 1B/LHP Carmen Benedetti

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.

10 – Chicago White Sox – Illinois RHP Cody Sedlock

I appreciate that of the eleven schools that play D1 baseball in Illinois, eight have Illinois directly in the university name. That made my life a lot easier when searching my database. My mind still kept wanting to give the White Sox Corey Ray, but that would be against our hastily put together yet very important ironclad rules. Future big league starter Cody Sedlock isn’t a bad consolation prize. Bradley, Chicago State, and Northwestern are the three Illinois schools without Illinois in the name…just in case you were wondering.

11 – Seattle Mariners – Federal Way HS 1B/OF Christian Jones

It was a close call between Ian Hamilton and Christian Jones, but the bat trumped the arm in the end. That’s often my personal preference on these things. Jones has been on the radar for me as much for the sound he makes on contact than any visual observation I’ve made. If he can play the outfield professionally, as many are beginning to think, then so much the better.

12 – Boston Red Sox – Boston College RHP Justin Dunn

With apologies to the dynamic duo of Dustin Hunt and Aaron Civale at Northeastern, it’s Justin Dunn and his easy upper-90s heat that finds himself on the fast track to Fenway’s bullpen. If Dunn (or Jesse Adams, John Nicklas, Mike King, or any other Eagle) does get drafted by Boston this June, then he’ll be the first to turn the trick since Jed Rogers in 2001 and only the sixth BC to the Red Sox draft connection fo all-time. How about that? Dunn (and/or the rest) would also attempt to have a pro career that finished with positive bWAR, something that has been done only once (!) in school history so far. Of the six Boston College players to reach the big leagues, five had/have negative career bWAR. Only Tony Sanchez’s 0.4 figure is in the black.

13 – Tampa Bay Rays – Florida LHP AJ Puk

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

14 – Cleveland Indians – Kent State LHP Eric Lauer

I’ll quote myself on Lauer, if you’ll allow it…

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.

15 – Minnesota Twins – Minnesota C Austin Athmann

There’s no young Joe Mauer hiding in the the Gopher State this year, but the Minnesota University battery of Dalton Sawyer to Austin Athmann gives the Twins two intriguing draft options right off the top. Again we go hitter over pitcher when the talent levels appear close from the outside looking in. Athmann has a strong arm and really solid 2016 numbers. Good enough for me.

16 – Los Angeles Angels – Cal RHP Daulton Jefferies

I like this pick because it helps make this feel more like a mock draft than a random assortment of players listed according to arbitrary rules. The Angels would have their pick from a ton of talented California prospects, but here they opt for the relatively safety of Daulton Jefferies. As much fun as going for a home run pick would be — Avery Tuck, one of the many prep arms, and Lucas Erceg all come to mind — the Angels simply can not afford to come away from this draft with a serious early round hit. Jefferies is as close to big league ready as any college starter in this class, so it’s a pretty perfect marriage.

17 – Houston Astros – Rice RHP Jon Duplantier

I’ve typed and deleted a few different variations of how down Texas is this year, but can’t bring myself to go through with it. There are a handful of high school prospects as always — less than usual it seems — and all of the college programs seem down. Those might be too broad generalizations — I’m waiting for a fan of one of the schools in Texas (not Dallas Baptist, though, because they are awesome and everybody should know that) to call me out any second now — but A&M (the best of the bunch), Baylor, Rice, TCU, Tech, and, most egregiously, Texas all seem down relative to the standards we’ve come to expect. None of that should diminish the accomplishments and credentials of Jon Duplantier, who has pitched his tail off all season long. Despite rarely mentioned as a potential first round pick, Duplantier has sneaky top of the rotation upside. The only red flag is the university he pitches for; thankfully, that risk is mitigated some by the fact his history of missing time with relatively minor injuries has prevented his coach from overworking him so far. Smaller injuries might have prevented him from getting overworked to the point of larger injuries. Ironic, right? If Duplantier flops in the pros, I’m out on Rice pitchers forever.

18 – New York Yankees – Shenendehowa HS RHP Ian Anderson

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

19 – New York Mets – Henninger HS LHP Jeff Belge

Jeff Belge would help replenish the Mets pitching pipeline. That’s about all I’ve got. Belge got off to a fast start as a prospect relative to his peers thanks to his imposing size (6-6, 240) and present arm strength (85-92 FB, up to 94-95). Others have caught and exceeded him in this class, but he’s still a talented young lefty capable of using three offspeed pitches and blowing fastballs by the opposition.

20 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Stanford RHP Cal Quantrill

Plus fastball, plus change, plus pitchability, and flashes of two different breaking balls with upside. Get Cal Quantrill back on a mound and watch him fly up boards as we get closer to June. Sight unseen from last spring, I’d still consider taking him just outside the top ten picks or so.

21 – Toronto Blue Jays – York Mills Collegiate Institute C Andy Yerzy

Covering the entire country is one thing, but trying to develop solid contacts in Canada and Puerto Rico gives me that extra degree of difficulty that makes me want to bang my head against the wall at times. I do like what I know about Andy Yerzy and Austin Shields. Are they the top two Canadian prospects for 2016? Beats me. But they are my favorites for now.

22 – Pittsburgh Pirates – Plum HS OF Alex Kirilloff

Pittsburgh opts to stay close to home with the nod going to the local prep star over the local college star. Even with the successful recent return to health of the very talented TJ Zeuch, the potential plus all-around bat of Alex Kirilloff is too tempting to pass up on. Hey, it worked with the Neil Walker pick, so why not go to the Pittsburgh high school baseball well again in the first round? 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.

23 – St. Louis Cardinals – Missouri SS Ryan Howard

The Cardinals can only hope that I still have the patience to do these silly mocks next year. Instead of trying to decide on which prospect to reach on like this, they’d have the luxury of debating between Tanner Houck and Jake Burger. Because it’s 2016 and not 2017, however, Ryan Howard resembles the most sensible pick. I think he probably tops out as a quality utility infielder in the big leagues, but focusing on the “in the big leagues” part rather than the “utility infielder” aspect makes it worthwhile.

24 – San Diego Padres – San Diego SS Bryson Brigman

I’m not sure I have much more to add on Brigman at the moment than what I wrote recently about him…

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.

25 – San Diego Padres – Santa Barbara HS RHP Kevin Gowdy

I haven’t been able to sneak Kevin Gowdy on to one of these mocks just yet, so it’s great that he finally made the cut. It wasn’t easy, what with guys like Matt Manning, Reggie Lawson, Nick Lodolo, Corbin Burnes, and Lucas Erceg all vying for the second to last California spot, but he made it. Since we’re firmly in the quote yourself section of the mock by now, here’s me from the comments section earlier this week on Gowdy: “Love Gowdy. Command, deception, and frame are all really promising. Puts his fastball where he wants it better than most of his college-aged peers. Velocity is good and breaking ball looks legit. And on top of all that, his delivery is a thing of beauty to me. I normally leave mechanics alone — don’t care what it looks long as long as the pitcher can repeat it consistently — but Gowdy’s stand out as being particularly efficient. I’m a big fan. Likely a top five prep pitcher in this class.”

26 – Chicago White Sox – Carmel Catholic HS C Cooper Johnson

I do not know if Cooper Johnson will hit enough to be a viable big league player. I do know that he can defend the heck out of his position. I had him on a Russell Martin (high), Francisco Cervelli (medium), and Austin Hedges (low) spectrum after seeing him over the summer. We’re getting late enough in this draft that even the low outcome for him would give you enough value back. Gambling on a defensive weapon behind the plate figuring things out just enough as a hitter seems like a smart bet to me.

27 – Baltimore Orioles – Maryland RHP Mike Shawaryn

Many words were written about Mike Shawaryn in yesterday’s post, so I’ll refer any new readers to that first and foremost. If you recall, my conclusions about Shawaryn centered on the idea that he has the chance to be one of the draft’s best undervalued assets, assuming his 2016 funk is attributable more to fatigue than anything else. Draft him in the second or third round — late first is pushing it, but so go the rules of the mock — and give him all the time off he needs to feel 100% again. There are lots of health-based assumptions here that I really shouldn’t be making, but I figure the underlying point is that the real Shawaryn is still really good when rested and ready gives me a little bit of moral leeway. Anyway, please don’t let this happen in real life. Shawaryn, a man (maybe) in need of a team with an expert minor league medical staff, should be kept as far a way as possible from whatever it is that’s causing all of Baltimore’s pitching prospects to fall apart.

28 – Washington Nationals – Georgetown RHP David Ellingson

This really isn’t fair to the team in our nation’s capital, but they had the top pick in back-to-back years with a generational talent waiting for them AND somehow got to watch a bunch of teams let a pair of injured stars fall into their laps. It’s only right that they get some bad draft luck for a change. The player pool is all but limited to George Washington, Georgetown, and a very small group of high school players. David Ellingson could give them some middle relief help in a few years. That’s literally better than passing on the pick, right?

29 – Washington Nationals – Georgetown RHP Matt Smith

What’s really messed up about the Nationals being stuck only picking players from DC is how close (yet so far) they are to an absolute hotbed of baseball talent. How nice would Connor Jones look in this spot? Or any one of the good to great high school prospects found in Virginia this year? We’re talking Joe Rizzo, Khalil Lee, Zach Hess, Noah Murdock, Bobby Nicholson…the list goes on. Like his once and future teammate Ellingson, Matt Smith could be a nice middle reliever down the line. That’s good, too!

30 – Texas Rangers – Alamo Heights HS RHP Forrest Whitley

A big Texan with power stuff going to the Rangers. Narratives everywhere! Though I guess he had to be a Texan automatically because that’s the whole point of the draft. And he’s the best of an underwhelming crop from the state. You could argue Nick Banks here, but I’ll go with a pitcher over the hitter to change things up. Can you tell that we’re only a few picks away from the finish line?

31 – New York Mets – Buffalo RHP Mike Kaelin

The Mets have cleaned up in some of the other drafts we’ve done so far, so I don’t feel too bad with them being challenged in our geographical version of things. Thomas Hackimer would be an equally fine pick to Mike Kaelin, but I have too much of a soft spot for the undersized reliever from Buffalo to pass on him now.

32 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Steele Canyon HS OF Avery Tuck

With all the talent in California this year — I named names in the last San Diego pick — some might be surprised to see Avery Tuck emerge as the final pick from the Golden State. I’m an unabashed fan of upside, what can I say?

33 – St. Louis Cardinals – De Smet Jesuit HS LHP Erik Miller

Making the best of being limited only to the great state of Missouri, the Cards nab the state’s best high school prospect in Erik Miller. A three-pitch lefthander with enviable size (6-5, 220), present velocity (88-93), and deception in his delivery isn’t a bad way to spend a first round pick.

34 – St. Louis Cardinals – Missouri RHP Reggie McClain

The Cardinals would have to be so jealous of the Padres in a draft like this. Reggie McClain as a consolation prize isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, I like the redshirt-senior quite a bit as a late single-digit round senior-sign option. Easy to love his changeup, control, and athleticism. It’s just that Howard, Miller and McClain isn’t exactly Rutherford, Brigman, and Gowdy.

2016 MLB Draft Prospect Preview: HS First Basemen

Drawing a line from high school hitter likely to wind up at first base in the pros to actual professional first base prospect isn’t easy. In much the same way second base prospects are made and not born, so too are first base prospects. Corey Zangari, the second HS 1B selected in last year’s draft, was listed on my final pre-draft board as a primary RHP and a potential catcher otherwise. That was only after going unranked (whoops!) on my initial September list. Meanwhile there’s Brandt Stallings, the second HS 1B listed on my original personal board from mid-September, who went undrafted and is now a freshman enrolled at Georgia Tech. Hey, it’s more art than science when you’re trying to guess prospect futures eight months out.

As you can see below, each of the top five names listed play a secondary position in addition to first base. It’s not out of the question that a pro team will decide to Schwarber (that’s a verb now, BTW) TJ Collett into continue playing some behind the plate. Ulysses Cantu’s profile might be problematic enough at first base – there’s not too many 6-0, 225 pound RHH first basemen out there – to keep trying him at third or catcher. Maybe Christian Jones proves himself athletic enough for some to fake it in the outfield for a few years. Looking back on this list at a later date will be as interesting for where these players wind up defensively as much as how high they are drafted.

Whether he can hang as a left fielder or not, I like the bat of Jones enough to have him in the top spot for now. The approach, power upside, and bat speed are all clearly evident, plus he has that impossible to quantify (without the benefit of Trackman, of course) consistent loud bat-to-ball contact that just sounds different than that of his peers. I like the Perfect Game comparison of Jonathan Singleton a lot.

You want some really high praise for Cantu as a hitter? I’ve now heard the name Youkilis mentioned twice in conversations about him. That’s big time. Kevin Millar was another name that came up, as did a fun blast from the past Conor Jackson. I really like the Jackson comp and not just because I really liked him as a player. When was the last time you heard his name mentioned? He was a pretty interesting player for a while there. I liked that guy. Good talk.

Collett got a Josh Naylor comp from Perfect Game. Naylor got a lot of Dan Vogelbach comps from various places last year. If the transitive property holds, Collett is Vogelbach, right? In all seriousness, that’s not a terrible comp for Collett, at least when viewed as a reference point for what style of hitter he could be. Collett has obvious power, but also a better feel for hitting than most oversized teenage sluggers. I don’t think he’s a catcher, but he’s a hitter and that’ll play.

Walker Robbins looms large as a slick-fielding defender who has been described to me by multiple sources as the highest upside stick among this group. I haven’t seen or heard enough about him yet to put him higher than the three guys above him (based on my confidence of the present power of those other hitters), but I’m excited to track him this spring. Joey Wentz has the frame and lefthanded power you see out of big league regulars at first. Works for me.

I’ll slip this in at the end after you’ve presumably read the five hundred or so words about these prospects already. Something to keep in mind when considering high school first base prospects each June: fewer high school first base prospects were selected in last year’s draft than in any since I started this site in 2009. On the bright side, of the eleven HS first basemen drafted in 2015 four were selected within the draft’s top ten rounds; that’s good for a second-place tie for most since 2009.

1B/OF Christian Jones (Federal Way HS, Washington)
1B/RHP Ulysses Cantu (Boswell HS, Texas)
1B/C TJ Collett (Terre Haute North Vigo HS, Indiana)
1B/LHP Walker Robbins (George County HS, Mississippi)
1B/LHP Joey Wentz (Shawnee Mission East HS, Kansas)
1B Spencer Brickhouse (Zebulon HS, North Carolina)
1B Bryant Packard (DH Conley HS, North Carolina)
1B Cole Zabowski (Lawrenceville HS, Georgia)
1B Easton Bents (Grants Pass HS, Oregon)
1B/LHP Vinnie Pasquantino (James River HS, Virginia)
1B/OF Chris Winkel (Amity Regional Senior HS, Connecticut)
1B Jaquez Williams (East Coweta HS, Georgia)
1B Andru Summerall (Lake Park HS, Florida)
1B Zach Zientarski (Boca Raton Community HS, Florida)
1B Cuba Bess (Fruita Monument HS, Colorado)