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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Chicago Cubs

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Chicago in 2016

102 – Bailey Clark
104 – Thomas Hatch
158 – Michael Rucker
236 – Tyson Miller
326 – Duncan Robinson
332 – Chad Hockin
374 – Dakota Mekkes
415 – Delvin Zinn
435 – Zack Short
448 – Michael Cruz

Complete List of 2016 Chicago Cubs Draftees

3.104 – RHP Thomas Hatch

That check from Chicago should be coming in the mail any day now as the Cubs first overall pick, Thomas Hatch (104), was selected in the exact same spot one clever, handsome internet draft writer ranked him on his final board. Good work, Cubs. Took me a while, but now I get why you’re the National League Champions. Needless to say, I like this pick. Hatch is a live arm (88-94 FB, 96 peak) with an effective 78-82 circle-change that drops like a splitter, and a pair of above-average sliders (a cut-slider in the mid- to upper-80s and a truer slider anywhere from 77-85).

His college coach has compared him to Tim Hudson; I’ve heard another former name with Oakland ties evoked in Bob Welch, a pitcher who came and went before my baseball watching time. Hearing that name caused me to dig out the old Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, a task once as simple as going to a nearby bookshelf but, after moving over the summer, now a twenty minute odyssey deep into the three giant storage bins filled with books now in my basement. Worth it. Welch is listed as having thrown a fastball, cutter, curve, change, and a forkball. Most modern pitching coaches will flat out refuse to teach a young arm a forkball these days, but Hatch’s funky circle-change/splitter hybrid is as close a proxy as we’re likely to find in this draft class. The genesis for that comp is realized. I feel better now.

The Cubs would have to be thrilled with getting a Hudson or a Welch or even just a best-case Thomas Hatch out of their third round pick. If his elbow stays intact, Hatch has a bright future on the mound. Even if he does need surgery sooner rather than later, I like the gamble here. Getting an extreme ground ball pitcher like Hatch* to play on one of the few teams that properly values defense (in practice, not just in theory) seems like as good a marriage as any pick to player in this draft.

* I went and did the math on Hatch’s ground ball ways while a Cowboy. The OK State ace had more ground ball outs than fly ball outs in 17 of his 19 starts this past season. Add it all up and his GB% was a robust 68.3%. Ground ball suspicions confirmed.

4.134 – RHP Tyson Miller

Tyson Miller (236) confuses me. His stuff is wholly impressive — 87-94 FB, 96 peak; above-average 77-84 SL; usable 82-86 CU — but his performance (7.74 K/9) at the Division II level didn’t quite match the arm talent. That may seem unduly harsh for a righthander with supposed ground ball stuff and impressive control (1.93 BB/9) coming off a 2.27 ERA stretch in 107.0 IP, but, hey, the bar is high for prospects taken in the draft’s top handful of rounds. Miller kept up his confusing ways in his brief pro debut by striking out only 5.34 batters per nine in his first 28.2 inning as a Cub. That would be far more forgivable if his batted ball data matched the ground ball praise he seems to get in every scouting report, but MLB Farm only had him 43.96% ground balls in his overall batted ball profile. See what I mean by Miller being a confusing prospect? Thankfully, confusing or not, the big righthander’s stuff remains strong and his future projection as a potential back-end starting pitcher remains in reach. I’m less bullish on him than most, but I can see the appeal if he can ever put it all together and become the power sinker/slider ground ball guy that many allege he already is.

5.164 – RHP Bailey Clark

Bailey Clark (102) is what many think Tyson Miller is. The big righthander who misses bats (9.71 K/9 as a junior at Duke), gets ground balls (60.61% in his debut), and flashes elite stuff (90-94 FB, 96 peak; nasty mid-80s cut-slider; hard upper-80s split-change) was the best prospect drafted by the Cubs in 2016. I’ll go bold on Clark and say that if it doesn’t work out as a starter for him, then he has honest to goodness Andrew Miller upside in relief. A righthanded Andrew Miller as the Chicago’s next relief ace? That’s not even fair. A quick timeline on how we got to this point. We’ll start a fully calendar year ago in October 2015…

Poised for a big potential rise in 2016, Clark has the kind of stuff that blows you away on his best days and leaves you wanting more on his not so best days. I think he puts it all together this year and makes this ranking [47th among college prospects] look foolish by June.

And now let’s jump ahead to December 2015…

…and obviously not much has changed in the two months since. Clark pitched really well last year (2.95 ERA in 58 IP), but fell just short in terms of peripherals (7.60 K/9 and 3.26 BB/9) where many of the recent first day college starting pitchers have finished in recent years. That’s a very simplistic, surface-level analysis of his 2015 performance, but it runs parallel with the scouting reports from many who saw him this past spring. Clark is really good, but still leaves you wanting more. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — being a finished product at 20-years-old is more of a negative than a positive in the eyes of many in the scouting world — but it speaks to the developmental challenges facing Clark if he wants to jump up into the first round mix. The fastball (88-94, 96 peak) is there, the size (6-5, 210) is there, and the athleticism is there, so it’ll come down to gaining more command and consistency on his mid-80s cut-SL (a knockout pitch when on) and trusting his nascent changeup in game action enough to give scouts an honest opportunity to assess it. Even if little changes with Clark between now and June, we’re still talking a top five round lock with the high-floor possibility of future late-inning reliever. If he makes the expected leap in 2016, then the first round will have to make room for one more college arm.

Here was an update from March 2016…

On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Bailey Clark. Clark has dynamite stuff: 90-96 FB (98 peak), mid-80s cut-SL that flashes plus, and an extra firm 87-90 split-CU with some promise. The fastball alone is a serious weapon capable of getting big league hitters out thanks the combination of velocity and natural movement. What continues to hold Clark back is pedestrian command: having great stuff is key, but falling behind every hitter undercuts that advantage. Questions about his delivery — I personally don’t stress about that so much, but it’s worth noting — and that inconsistent command could force him into the bullpen sooner rather than later. He’d be a knockout reliever if that winds up being the case, but the prospect of pro development keeping him as a starter is too tantalizing to give up on just yet.

The final breakdown from April 2016…

Bailey Clark could keep starting, but most of the smarter folk I talk to seem to think he’ll fit best as a closer in the pros. At his best his stuff rivals the best Jones has to offer, but the Virginia righthander’s command edge and less stressful delivery make him the better bet to remain in the rotation. I personally wouldn’t rule out Clark having a long and fruitful career as a starting pitcher, but I’ll concede that the thought of him unleashing his plus to plus-plus fastball (90-96, 98 peak and impossible to square up consistently) over and over again in shorter outings is mighty appealing.

You can see the pretty clear “maybe he can start, but, damn, he’d be something special in relief” narrative play out as the year went on. In either role, Clark is an exciting talent with some of the best raw stuff of any college pitcher in this class. I’ll close with thinking relief is the most likely option. Any one of his issues — iffy command, questionable mechanics, and the lack of a necessary soft pitch to keep hitters consistently off the hard stuff — could be sorted out independently if that was all he had to worry about as he made his transition to pro ball, but when you combine all three…relief just feels like the safest projection. It bears repeating that Clark in the bullpen would not be seen as a negative outcome here; as a reliever, he has a chance to flat out dominate in a way not too many pitchers in baseball can. I’m all-in on Clark.

6.194 – RHP Chad Hockin

It took four picks to get a dummy like me to see it, but we’ve officially got a Cubs draft trend going here. Chad Hockin (332) makes it four straight college righthanded pitchers lauded for power sinkers and ground ball tendencies. Specifically, Hockin can crank in anywhere from 92-97 in relief with an above-average mid-80s cut-slider (83-87) that flashes plus. Depending on how aggressive the Cubs want to be with him, Hockin could be ready to see some big league action by next September. That’s what you get when you take one of college ball’s nastiest relievers. Of course, Chicago could surprise us all and opt to give Hockin a shot as a starter. I mentioned this possibility back in March…

Then there’s Hockin, the Fullerton arm who really is deserving of all the attention he’s gotten so far this spring. The sturdy righthander was seen by some I talked to back in day as having an impressive enough overall repertoire to get consideration as a starting pitching conversion project in the pros. While that talk has died down – maybe he could pull it off, but Hockin’s stuff plays way up in short bursts – the fact that it was mentioned to me in the first place speaks to his well-rounded offspeed arsenal and craftiness on the mound. Hockin leans on his mid-90s fastball (87-93 in longer outings turned into 94-96 with every pitch as a reliever) and a power 83-87 cut-slider that frequently comes in above-average. Those two pitchers alone make him a legitimate late-inning prospect, but the promise he once displayed with both a low-80s change and an upper-70s curve could give him that softer little something extra. I’ve heard he’s ditched both during games, but still toys with them in practice. It bears repeating that he’s a fine prospect pumping fastballs and sliders all day, but knowing he could mix in a third pitch in time is a nice perk.

It wouldn’t be crazy to give it a go — wild postseason aside, starters > relievers — but Hockin has demonstratively shown a major uptick in stuff while in relief already. The starters > relievers math changes a bit when it moves towards fifth starter/swingman vs late-inning, high-leverage reliever. The latter is what you hope Hockin will be when you take him in the sixth round.

7.224 – C Michael Cruz

I thought I liked Michael Cruz (448), but turns out the Cubs really liked him. I obviously get the appeal: Cruz is crazy young for his class (not 21-years-old until January), has flashed some defensive upside (still a long way to go, to be fair), and was once called a “certified hitting machine” by one draft writer (me). What’s not to like here? The Cubs went very light on position player talent in the 2016 MLB Draft — far too light, in my view, even understanding the relative strengths and weaknesses in their organization — but they at least get my stamp of approval with their first 2016 foray into the offensive side of the diamond. The lefthanded hitting Cruz could make a fine backup and complementary player to righthanded hitting Willson Contreras one day.

8.254 – RHP Stephen Ridings

Haverford College is about thirty minutes from my old apartment. Haverford College is also about a fifteen minute walk from Tired Hands Brewery. Coincidentally, I really, really like it when Haverford College has a prospect worth checking out. I was limited with what I could say about Stephen Ridings, the second straight eighth round pick out of baseball hotbed Haverford after Tommy Bergjans was selected by the Dodgers last year, this past spring for, you know, #reasons, but my quick scouting report on him is fair game now. Really, it’s simple: huge arm (low-90s typically, with 96’s, 97’s, and even a 98 at his peak), inconsistent secondary stuff (CB, SL, CU), and a delivery that managed to somehow come across as both rushed and too deliberate that pretty clearly hindered both his command and control. So we’ve got the good (velocity!), the bad (my amateur eye didn’t see an offspeed pitch good enough to get pro hitters out just yet, especially with his two breaking balls running into each other as often as they did), and the uncertain (mechanics). That uncertain is what intrigues me the most about Ridings. My “not a scout” observations saw his wonky mechanics as workable in the pros; in all honesty, his mechanics weren’t particularly “bad” but more the kind of inconsistent slightly awkward kind of mechanics that appeared to be the byproduct of what happens when a young pitcher attempts to figure out his growing body on the fly. That’s something I think time and quality coaching can improve, but we’ll have to wait and see. I didn’t expect Ridings to go off the board when he did, but I probably should have guessed: after all, you can’t teach 98 and 6-8, 220.

Spencer Sohmer and Justin Herring are my Haverford guys to watch next year, BTW.

9.284 – RHP Duncan Robinson

Back to back players I’ve seen multiple times. OK, Cubs. I see you. I really like Duncan Robinson (326). Let’s go back and see how much. We can start in March 2015…

Dartmouth JR RHP Duncan Robinson isn’t just a good pitching prospect for the Ivy League; he’s a good pitching prospect full stop. Guys with his size (6-6, 220 pounds), fastball (consistently low-90s), and breaking ball (have it listed as an in-between pitch in my notes; I’d call it a slider, but think folks at Dartmouth call it a curve) are easy to get excited about. The mechanics and control both check out for me, so his chance at crashing the draft’s top tier of pitching prospects will largely come down to the development of a softer offspeed pitch that will keep hitters off his fastball/breaking ball combo and enable him to start as a pro.

And jump a year into the future to March 2016…

Forget the Ivy League, Duncan Robinson is one of the best senior-sign pitchers in all of college ball. He’s a power righthander with size (6-6, 220) capable of beating you with a low-90s fastball and average or better slider. As his changeup develops he’ll become an even more attractive prospect, what with the standard starter ceiling that typically comes with three usable pitches, size, clean mechanics, and a good track record of amateur success. If the change lags, then he’s still got the solid middle relief starter pack to fall back on.

Finally, the pre-draft one line summary…

I’m 100% all-in on Duncan Robinson. He’s a big-time talent who seems to get better with every start. Definitely one of this class’s top senior-signs.

Love this pick. I think Duncan Robinson can pitch in the big leagues. I think he can even pitch in the big leagues as a starter. I won’t go the super obvious Kyle Hendricks (same school, one round off, both Cubs eventually) comparison here (in part because I used it already on Oakland sixth rounder Mitchell Jordan), but…I mean it’s sitting right there.

10.314 – RHP Dakota Mekkes

Dakota Mekkes (374) is the truth. Striking out 15.16 batters per nine as a redshirt-sophomore was only beginning for the 6-7, 250 pound righthander. His first 20 pro innings: 12.15 K/9 and 1.80 BB/9. How does he do? I have no idea! Or, more honestly, I can only make guesses on what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Mekkes’s stuff is what you’ll see out of literally dozens of mid-round college relievers (88-92 FB, 94 peak; average 82-84 SL), but the results point very strongly to their being more to the story. That’s where we start to see what separates Mekkes from the rest. Before we get to that, some earlier praise beginning with this from March 2016…

If you read this site and/or follow college ball closely, this might be the first pick to surprise in some way, shape, or form. Mekkes wasn’t a pitcher mentioned in many 2016 draft preview pieces before the start of the season, but the 6-7, 250 pound righty has opened plenty of eyes in getting off to a dominant (16.36 K/9) albeit wild (7.16 BB/9) start to 2016. His stuff backs it up (FB up to 94, interesting SL, deceptive delivery), so he’s more than just a large college man mowing down overmatched amateurs. He’s a top ten round possibility now.

Hey, he went in the tenth round! Neat. We got a little bit bolder by April 2016…

Any pre-draft list of “fastest moving” potential draftees that doesn’t include Dakota Mekkes is one I’ll look at with a suspicious eye. Mekkes may not be one of the biggest names in college relief, but he’s one of the best. I’ll go closer upside with him while acknowledging his most likely outcome could be a long career of very effective, very well-compensated middle relief. Either way, I think he’s as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class.

With Mekkes, it’s really about how how he maximizes his size and delivery to create all kinds of extension and deception. As he continues to figure out how to repeat that delivery, his command will only keep getting better. I think Mekkes can pitch in a big league bullpen in 2017 if that’s how the Cubs decide that’s what’s best for his development. I stand by that “as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class” comment.

11.344 – RHP Michael Rucker

On Michael Rucker (158) in March 2016…

Michael Rucker checks two of our three boxes pretty easily: he’s 88-94 (96 peak) with his fastball while commanding three offspeed pitches (low-80s SL, low- to mid-80s CU, mid-70s CB) with a veteran’s mindset on the mound. He’s not particularly big (6-1, 185) nor does he have that plus offspeed pitch (slider comes closest), but it’s still a potential big league starter skill set.

That sounds about right to me. Rucker is on that fifth starter/middle reliever line that could still go either way for him. If he can get one of those offspeed pitches to creep to average or slightly above-average, then he might have the all-around package (adding in his fastball, command, and control) to keep starting. His pre-draft ranking feels a little rich in hindsight, though that’s far less about Rucker than it is about the realization that there are A LOT of pitchers like him in this class.

13.404 – LHP Wyatt Short

To the WABAC machine to talk about Wyatt Short from January 2015…

I’m particularly looking forward to talking more about the aptly named Short, as any discussion about a 5-8, 160 pound lefthander capable of hitting the low- to mid-90s is all right in my book.

As it turned out, we never really got around to talking more about Short. Life just got in the way, I guess. We got older, got jobs, met that special someone, and next thing we knew we woke up one morning with a serious lack of Wyatt Short in our lives. It’s a pity, really. Thankfully, the show went on for Short, who followed up his good freshman season with a great sophomore season (10.15 K/9 and 1.38 ERA in 39.0 IP) before coming back to earth some in his junior season. The Cubs still thought enough of the diminutive lefty to pop him in the thirteenth round. Can’t argue with that based on his overall body of work, 88-94 MPH fastball, and low-80s slider he can both consistently get over and use as a chase pitch.

15.464 – RHP Jed Carter

I’ll hide my lack of Jed Carter knowledge by pointing out his crazy debut stats instead. In 9.2 innings of work, Carter struck out 17 batters. That’s great. He also walked 6 guys and threw 3 wild pitches. That’s less great. 60% ground balls, too. That’s so Cubs.

16.494 – RHP Holden Cammack

I like taking a shot on a catcher turned reliever type in Holden Cammack here. What he lacks in refinement he makes up for with arm strength.

17.524 – SS Zack Short

On Zack Short (435) from February 2016…

Short should be on any short list (no pun intended) of best college shortstop prospects in this class. He’s really, really good. Offensively he’s a high-contact hitter with an above-average blend of patience and pop. As a defender, he’s capable of making all the plays at short with range that should have him stick at the spot for years to come. There simply aren’t many two-way shortstops as good as him in this class. He’s an easy top ten round player for me with the chance to rise as high as around the fifth round (reminiscent of Blake Allemand last year) and a realistic draft floor of where Dylan Bosheers (round fifteen) eventually fell.

Short didn’t quite land in that five to fifteen round range, but the seventeenth isn’t that far off. I love this pick. Everything from February stands today, even after Short’s down junior season forced me to swallow hard and drop him lower on my final draft list than I would have liked. I think he’s a future big league player. My one note of caution with Short comes from the name drop of Dylan Bosheers in the pre-season paragraph above. Short and Bosheers aren’t the same guy and the disappointing pro career of the latter shouldn’t be put on the former, but the two players are cut from a similar prospect cloth. Something to consider. If Short busts, it’ll be time for me to reconsider how much I personally value these types of players. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

18.554 – LHP Marc Huberman

Marc Huberman was described to me as the perfect guy to watch if you want to see a “good command, bad control” pitcher in action. Huberman can spot his solid for a lefthander stuff (86-92 FB, 94 peak; good 76-82 CU; usable 75-78 CB) in the zone to keep hitters guessing, but can’t consistently find the strike zone enough to keep from issuing hitters who would struggle squaring him up otherwise off base via the free pass. In other words, many of Huberman’s strikes are quality strikes, but he just doesn’t throw enough of them right now to be considered anything other than effectively wild, for better or worse.

19.584 – RHP Matt Swarmer

You can’t say that Matt Swarmer didn’t get results in his career at Kutztown. His senior year K/9: 13.12. His career K/9: 11.79. Good numbers, good size, and a good enough head on his shoulders to bank a fine education to fall back on just in case — my mom has literally never read this site, but I’ll still shout out her alma mater — make him a worthy pick here.

20.614 – LHP Colton Freeman

If deep cuts are your thing, then hop on the Colton Freeman bandwagon while you can. The 6-1, 200 pound lefthander has a good fastball (up to 93), above-average slider, and impressive athleticism. He also pitched just 9.2 innings at Alabama in 2016. In those 9.2 innings, Freeman struck out 18 batters (16.88 K/9) while walking only 3 (2.81 BB/9) and keeping the opposition entirely off the board (0.00 ERA). Fun guy to follow professionally if you’re into the deepest of draft sleepers. Or if you’re just a generally obsessed baseball fan. Know anybody like that? Me neither.

21.644 – C Sam Tidaback

Sam Tidaback is a lifelong Cubs fan who grew up an hour from Wrigley Field. That’s enough to get you drafted by Chicago these days. And in the twenty-first round, no less.

25.764 – 2B Trent Giambrone

Trent Giambrone was off my radar in June, but looks like a nice value pick at this point in the draft. My only pre-draft notes on him were “good but not earth shattering numbers” and first-hand source who told me flatly that Giambrone “can’t play shortstop except in a pinch, but good anywhere else you stick him.” Those two things more or less disqualified him from any additional research (time and energy are finite, after all), but his intriguing pro debut at the plate has me feeling some regret. Cubs could have something with Giambrone. If it all keeps working, maybe you’ve turned a twenty-fifth round pick into a bat-first utility guy.

23.704 – SS Delvin Zinn

Few players from the entire 2016 MLB Draft class intrigue me quite as much as Delvin Zinn (415). I have no idea what to make of him. He’s as good an athlete as you’ll now find in pro ball with a big arm and enough range to hang at short (he split his time at SS and 2B evenly in his debut) for the foreseeable future. He’s also a smart hitter who makes a ton of contact with enough patience to put himself into favorable counts more often than not. His current issues are about the kind of contact he makes and what he does when he’s up in the count. At present, Zinn has true 20 power. He could grow into some as he puts on some good weight and tweaks his swing, but he’s currently a long way from being an extra base threat in the professional ranks. Thankfully, he has a long way before he’ll have to be a finished product. The 19-year-old infielder has enough positives on his side that he should get plenty of opportunities over the next few years to sink or swim in pro ball. A player with that kind of unpredictable but intriguing future is exactly who you should target when still available in the twenty-third round.

27.824 – OF Connor Myers

Connor Myers is way more talented than your typical twenty-seventh round senior-sign. His approach at the plate needs a good bit of tightening up if he wants to advance past AA, but his physical gifts (speed, arm, athleticism) are enough to keep him employed long enough to potentially figure things out as a hitter.

29.884 – RHP Tyler Peyton

Tyler Peyton has long frustrated me as a pitcher with the kind of stuff (88-94 FB, intriguing SL, average CU that flashes better) to be a true impact college performer who never quite got there. That doesn’t give me a ton of hope he’ll suddenly start missing more bats in the pros (his junior year 7.01 K/9 was a college career high), but you never know with two-way players like him. Maybe complete dedication to pitching will help him unlock the secret to getting more whiffs. It’s worth a twenty-ninth round pick to find out.

32.974 – OF Zach Davis

I don’t know what to make of the Zach Davis pick. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but if you’re stumping me with a power conference D1 prospect then you’re really digging deep for a player. Chicago must have seen more out of his 30 AB in 2014, 98 AB in 2015, and 39 AB in 2016 than most.

33.1004 – RHP Nathan Sweeney

A six-figure bonus ($100,000) for a low-90s (92-93 in my notes) righthander with size (6-4, 185) out of a state with an unusually high success rate (same HS as Brad Lidge!) of producing successful amateur pitchers? I’m in on Nathan Sweeney. Nice pick by Chicago here.

38.1154 – OF Tolly Filotei

The Cubs drafted and signed a player coming off a .268/.373/.338 season (71 AB) at Faulkner State. Could there possibly be more to the story than that? Probably not. In totally unrelated news, Tolly is the son of Cubs regional crosschecker Bobby Filotei. In fairness, Filotei was drafted out of high school by Colorado in 2014. I don’t believe that Bobby was employed by Colorado at that time (or ever), so, at least there’s that.

All in all, the Cubs drafted 38 guys. Only 11 were hitters. Of that 11, only 8 signed. Their college hitters came from these schools: Chipola, Delta State, North Georgia, Bethune-Cookman, Faulkner State, Texas Tech, Old Dominion, Itawamba, and Sacred Heart. Throw out North Georgia and Texas Tech, and I’d put the “guess what state the school is in” over/under for the casual fan at 1.5. Drafting players from all over isn’t a bad thing. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to draft.

Still, something seems off to me about Chicago’s draft. I don’t think they drafted well just because they are the Cubs and can do no wrong. I also don’t think they drafted poorly because I have different opinions about the players they selected. They clearly went all-in on pitching, but did so with a hyper-focused attention to pitchers with ground ball statistics and/or stuff. I don’t hate that one bit, especially when you see how all the ground ball pitching fits with their emphasis on building an outstanding defensive infield. One thing I didn’t like about their draft was the lack of offense. I know the big league team is loaded with young hitting. I know the strength of the system tilts overwhelmingly towards bats. An important draft rule, however, is that you don’t just draft for yourself but rather for each of the twenty-nine other teams in baseball. Mixing in a few quality bats with the bushel of relatively high-floor pitchers would have at least given Chicago a chance to replenish the (admittedly still stacked) lower-levels with potential easier to identify and develop trade assets. Or maybe the Cubs just had more confidence in their ability to identify and develop pitching than I do.

Either way, I went from not understanding this draft at all, to understanding it and not particularly liking it, to understanding it and talking myself into it. I still don’t love it, but if you can get one or two of Hatch, Miller, Robinson, or Rucker to stay in the rotation (either in Chicago or elsewhere if dealt) and then get valuable quick-moving bullpen pieces like Clark, Hockin, and Mekkes up for a team very much in win-now mode, you’re on to something. It was too conservative an approach for a team with as good a present and future as the Cubs seem to have — swing for the fences at least once, Cubbies! What do you have to lose? — but it was an approach and that matters. I mean, say what you want about the conservative approach the Cubs took, Dude, at least it’s an ethos. Or maybe a logos? I don’t know. This wasn’t my best work.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Reynaldo Rivera (Chipola), Montana Parsons (Baylor), Austin Jones (Wisconsin-Whitewater), Rian Bassett (?), Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest), Trey Cobb (Oklahoma State), Ryan Kreidler (UCLA), Jake Slaughter (LSU), DJ Roberts (South Florida), Davis Moore (Fresno State), AJ Block (Washington State), Davis Daniel (Auburn), Brenden Heiss (Arkansas), Dante Biasi (Penn State)

2016 MLB Draft Follow Lists – Big Ten

I see tiers that have developed in the Big 10 that put a fairly clear delineation between prospect groups. The big four hitters at the top — Ryan Boldt, Carmen Benedetti, Ronnie Dawson, Troy Montgomery — appear close to impenetrable in terms of holding on to their rankings through the end of the season. The order of that four may shift, but the names seem pretty safely ensconced at the top. At the very top is Boldt, still. Despite hitting well over .300 and controlling the strike zone as a college player, Boldt’s bandwagon has emptied some over the years. The biggest knock on him has always been about the utility of his average to above-average raw power; scouts saw it in him, but rarely was he able to put it use in game action. I can’t speak to that directly having not seen him in a few years now, but it certainly sounds like there have been signs of him slowly yet surely getting closer to being able to consistently tap into his natural power lately. That edge helps bump his stock up from top three round player to potential first round talent (again). We already know he’s an excellent athlete with above-average to plus speed, easy center field range, and a pretty, balanced, and efficient swing that allows for lots of hard contact. All of that and an above-average hit tool add up to a potential quality regular. If you throw in the possibility of power, he’s even more appealing; better yet is the realization of that power, something that some scouts have seen and now swear by while others remain unconvinced it’s more than a hot streak. I’m cautiously optimistic about his power gains being real, but that’s hardly going out on a ledge with a prospect that has Boldt’s type of plate coverage and aptitude to make adjustments (e.g., his newfound aggressiveness in hitter’s counts [fastball hunting early, finally] and tweaks to his swing). I stand by my older comps to him: as a prospect he reminds me of David Dahl and I can see his career path going a similar way as Randy Winn’s. Seeing a really good prospect and an underrated everyday player as comps should make clear what I think about Boldt.

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

Interestingly enough, I found this from four years ago when looking back at what was written about Brian Johnson on this site…

I tend to err on the side of “pitch first, hit second,” but Brian Johnson is a better position player prospect for me right now so that’s where he sits. I believe in the power enough that I think his bat could be enough to hold down an everyday job at first in the big leagues someday. Check a first base minor league prospect ranking to see how rare that is these days.

My position on two-way players has done a 180 since then. Now I’d rather start a 50/50 prospect out as a hitter first because of my belief that it’s easier to get back into pitching later on. I have nothing to back that up other than anecdotal evidence, so feel free to call me out on it if it seems nuts. I’ve tried to get a few smart baseball people on the record with their thoughts on the debate, but almost every single response is some variation of “well, it depends on the circumstances since every case is different.” That’s true! But that’s also exactly what I’m getting at with the question: if we were to eliminate all other variables, which would you choose then? Still can’t get an answer. Maybe I’m asking it wrong. Whatever.

Both Ohio State outfielders are excellent prospects who haven’t received their proper due nationally. I don’t think there’s any malicious intent behind them being still below the radar – there are only so many hours in a day to write about all the wonderful amateur players across the country – but it’s still a shame that the pair are often ignored whenever conversations about top college outfielders do come up. Dawson is a man among boys with big league strength and prodigious raw power. He’s an aggressive hitter, but more selective and controlled than his reputation might have you think. Montgomery is built just a little differently – he stands in at 5-10, 180 pounds, giving the OSU faithful a fun visual contrast to Dawson’s stacked 6-2, 225 pound frame – but is an area scout favorite for his smart, relentless style of play. Every single one of his tools play up because of how he approaches the game, and said tools aren’t too shabby to begin with. Montgomery can hit, run, and field at a high level, and his lack smaller frame belies power good enough to help him profile as a regular with continued overall development. I’m bullish on both Buckeyes.

The next tier down is filled with catching prospects. This really wasn’t intentional, though the obvious observation that up-the-middle defenders tend to rank higher than corner bats (at least non-transcendent types) as a matter of fact isn’t lost on me. Stop me if you’ve heard this out of me before: I don’t know much about _____, but what I do know I like. In this case, that’s Austin Athmann. Notes on him are limited (“strong arm, promising bat”), but his performance this year has made getting to know him better a high priority.

I’m in on Nick Cieri’s bat, but his defense is clearly behind the other catchers mentioned. I think Harrison Wenson has passed him as a similarly talented offensive player who has made real strides defensively in the last year. Both players will be hurt some by the tremendous college catching class that surrounds them – teams won’t have to settle for defensive question marks who can hit this year, at least in the top five or so rounds – but pro-caliber bats like theirs won’t last long on draft day all the same. Jason Goldstein is one of those all-around catching prospects that teams should like a lot on draft day, but all indications point towards that being a minority view than a consensus around baseball. I liked Goldstein a lot last year, I still like him this year, and it’s fine that he’ll likely be drafted much later than where he’ll be ranked on my board. He’s a heady defender with enough arm strength to profile as a big league backup at worst.

The one non-catcher in the group is Jordan Zimmerman. The offseason buzz on Zimmerman was that he was a good runner with an above-average arm and a chance to hit right away. All true so far. The only issue I have with Zimmerman as a prospect is where he’ll play defensively as a professional. I had him as a second baseman in my notes throughout the offseason, but he’s played a ton of first base so far for the Spartans. If he’s athletic enough to make the switch to second as a pro, then he’s a prospect of note. If not, then all the standard disclaimers about his bat needing to play big to keep finding work as a first baseman apply. I believe in the bat and skew positive that he can handle a non-first infield spot (again, likely second), but those beliefs don’t change the fact that I need to find out more about him.

After these first two tiers, things are extremely muddled. I like Craig Dedelow as an underrated hitter with playable center field range and interesting size. Adam Walton and Joel Booker are strong enough defenders to stick in pro ball for a long time. Same could be said for Nick Sergakis, one of college ball’s biggest surprises so far this season. Nothing about Sergakis’s profile makes sense, but he deserves a load of credit for going from decent college player to actual draft prospect seemingly overnight.

It’s not a straight line comparison, but if you squint you can see some parallels between the Big 10’s top hitting prospect (Boldt) and top pitching prospect (Mike Shawaryn). Both were graced with high expectations – Boldt out of high school, Shawaryn coming into the year – and have stumbled some to quite live up to them. Boldt started as a big-time prospect, hit more good than great for the better part of two years (I’d argue that point, but it’s the narrative), and is now arguably on the precipice of a return to draft prospect glory. Shawaryn’s national breakout wasn’t fully realized until a few weeks into his sophomore season (though, for the sake of clarity and/or ego, he was a FAVORITE on this site as a HS senior coming out of Gloucester Catholic in Jersey), so the hype train on him has been more sudden and less the slow burn of Boldt’s rise and fall (and rise).

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

Despite all the words and attention spent on Shawaryn, I gave very serious consideration to putting Cody Sedlock in the top spot. Properly rated by many of the experts yet likely underrated by the more casual amateur draft fans, Sedlock is a four-pitch guy – there is a weirdly awesome high number of these pitchers in the Big 10 this year — with the ability to command three intriguing offspeed pitches (SL, CB, CU) well enough for mid-rotation big league potential. I try not to throw mid-rotation starter upside around lightly; Sedlock is really good. Jake Kelzer is an incredible athlete who just so happens to be 6-8, 235 pounds. Those two things alone are cool, but together are really damn exciting. Enough of a fastball (88-92, 94 peak…but could play up in shorter bursts) and a nasty hard slider (87-88) give him a chance to be a quick-moving reliever, but the overall package could be worth trying as a starter first.

A pair of fourth-year lefthanders has flown a little bit under the radar this season despite being relatively famous prospects prior to 2016. Cameron Vieaux and Dalton Sawyer are both big (6-5, 200 pounds and 6-5, 215 pounds, respectively) men with big league stuff. Vieaux throws hard, can spin two effective breaking balls, and knows when to drop in his improving low-80s change. I think he can remain in the rotation professionally. Sawyer seems destined for the bullpen, a spot where his fastball (up to 94), mid-70s breaker, and effectively wild ways could get him to the big leagues sooner rather than later. Evan Hill (6-5, 190) doesn’t immediately come to mind when thinking of the many long and lean lefties in the conference (for proof of that just look at the start of this paragraph: there was clearly no intent to include him at the onset, so I’m calling an audible to wedge him in without deleting or rewriting any of my exhausting two minutes of previous work), but he’s a prospect good enough to make the Vieaux/Sawyer pairing a trio. I didn’t know I had such a thing for tall lefties until now, but here we are.

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

Any pre-draft list of “fastest moving” potential draftees that doesn’t include Dakota Mekkes is one I’ll look at with a suspicious eye. Mekkes may not be one of the biggest names in college relief, but he’s one of the best. I’ll go closer upside with him while acknowledging his most likely outcome could be a long career of very effective, very well-compensated middle relief. Either way, I think he’s as close to a lock to be a useful big league pitcher as any reliever in this class.

Hitters

  1. Nebraska JR OF Ryan Boldt
  2. Michigan JR 1B/LHP Carmen Benedetti
  3. Ohio State JR OF Ronnie Dawson
  4. Ohio State JR OF Troy Montgomery
  5. Illinois SR C Jason Goldstein
  6. Michigan JR C Harrison Wenson
  7. Michigan State JR 2B Jordan Zimmerman
  8. Maryland JR C/1B Nick Cieri
  9. Minnesota JR C Austin Athmann
  10. Indiana JR OF Craig Dedelow
  11. Illinois rJR SS/2B Adam Walton
  12. Iowa SR OF Joel Booker
  13. Ohio State rSR 3B Nick Sergakis
  14. Michigan JR OF Johnny Slater
  15. Michigan rSR OF Matt Ramsay
  16. Nebraska SR 2B/SS Jake Placzek
  17. Indiana SR 3B Brian Wilhite
  18. Ohio State JR C Jalen Washington
  19. Maryland JR OF Madison Nickens
  20. Purdue SR OF/RHP Kyle Johnson
  21. Maryland SR OF Anthony Papio
  22. Ohio State rJR OF/1B Jake Bosiokovic
  23. Purdue rSR 1B/LHP Kyle Wood
  24. Nebraska JR 1B/LHP Ben Miller
  25. Rutgers JR OF Mike Carter
  26. Iowa JR 2B/3B Mason McCoy
  27. Iowa SR C Daniel Aaron Moriel
  28. Penn State JR OF Nick Riotto
  29. Minnesota SR OF Dan Motl
  30. Penn State rSR OF Greg Guers
  31. Rutgers JR OF Tom Marcinczyk
  32. Ohio State SR 1B/OF Zach Ratcliff
  33. Ohio State SR OF/LHP Daulton Mosbarger
  34. Rutgers rSR 3B/1B Chris Suseck
  35. Illinois JR OF/1B Pat McInerney
  36. Indiana JR OF Alex Krupa
  37. Indiana JR 2B Tony Butler
  38. Minnesota rJR OF/C Matt Stemper
  39. Nebraska SR C Taylor Fish
  40. Northwestern SR 1B/OF Zach Jones
  41. Ohio State SR 3B/1B Troy Kuhn
  42. Iowa SR SS/RHP Nick Roscetti
  43. Minnesota SR 2B/SS Connor Schaefbauer
  44. Michigan State SR 3B/SS Justin Hovis
  45. Penn State SR OF James Coates
  46. Penn State rJR 3B Christian Helsel
  47. Nebraska JR 2B Jake Schleppenbach
  48. Michigan JR SS Michael Brdar
  49. Indiana SR SS/2B Nick Ramos

Pitchers

  1. Maryland JR RHP Mike Shawaryn
  2. Illinois JR RHP Cody Sedlock
  3. Michigan State rJR LHP Cameron Vieaux
  4. Indiana rJR RHP Jake Kelzer
  5. Michigan JR LHP Brett Adcock
  6. Minnesota SR LHP Dalton Sawyer
  7. Iowa SR RHP/1B Tyler Peyton
  8. Michigan SR LHP Evan Hill
  9. Illinois SR RHP Nick Blackburn
  10. Michigan State rSO RHP Dakota Mekkes
  11. Maryland SR RHP Jared Price
  12. Indiana JR RHP Luke Stephenson
  13. Indiana rJR RHP Thomas Belcher
  14. Maryland JR LHP Tayler Stiles
  15. Maryland rSO RHP Ryan Selmer
  16. Indiana SR RHP Evan Bell
  17. Indiana SR LHP Caleb Baragar
  18. Michigan JR RHP Mac Lozer
  19. Illinois SR LHP JD Nielsen
  20. Michigan State JR RHP Walter Borkovich
  21. Michigan State JR LHP Joe Mockbee
  22. Maryland SR LHP Robert Galligan
  23. Indiana rSR LHP Kyle Hart
  24. Michigan State rSO RHP Ethan Landon
  25. Iowa SR RHP Tyler Radtke
  26. Minnesota JR RHP Toby Anderson
  27. Michigan State rSO RHP Jake Lowery
  28. Nebraska SR RHP Colton Howell
  29. Nebraska JR RHP Derek Burkamper
  30. Ohio State rJR RHP Shea Murray
  31. Nebraska JR LHP Max Knutson
  32. Minnesota JR RHP/OF Matt Fiedler
  33. Nebraska JR RHP Jake Hohensee
  34. Purdue JR RHP Matt Frawley
  35. Ohio State JR LHP/OF Tanner Tully
  36. Iowa rJR LHP Ryan Erickson
  37. Nebraska SR RHP Jeff Chesnut
  38. Indiana rSO LHP Austin Foote
  39. Iowa SR RHP Calvin Mathews
  40. Indiana JR LHP Sullivan Stadler
  41. Iowa rSO RHP CJ Eldred
  42. Minnesota rSR LHP Jordan Jess
  43. Maryland JR RHP Mike Rescigno
  44. Indiana rJR RHP Kent Williams
  45. Indiana SR LHP Will Coursen-Carr
  46. Minnesota JR RHP Cody Campbell
  47. Michigan JR RHP Keith Lehmann
  48. Michigan JR RHP/OF Jackson Lamb
  49. Ohio State SR RHP Jake Post
  50. Penn State SR LHP Nick Hedge
  51. Purdue rSR RHP Gavin Downs
  52. Michigan JR RHP/SS Hector Gutierrez
  53. Northwestern SR LHP Jake Stolley
  54. Ohio State rSO RHP Adam Niemeyer
  55. Ohio State rSR LHP Michael Horejsei
  56. Ohio State SR LHP John Havird
  57. Purdue JR RHP Alex Lyons
  58. Northwestern JR RHP Josh Davis
  59. Northwestern SR LHP Reed Mason
  60. Purdue rSR RHP Shane Bryant

Illinois

SR RHP Nick Blackburn (2016)
JR RHP Cody Sedlock (2016)
SR LHP JD Nielsen (2016)
rSR RHP Andrew Mamlic (2016)
rSR RHP Charlie Naso (2016)
SR C Jason Goldstein (2016)
rJR SS/2B Adam Walton (2016)
JR OF/1B Pat McInerney (2016)
JR 1B/OF Matthew James (2016)
SR 2B Michael Hurwitz (2016)
FR RHP/1B Luke Shilling (2018)
FR RHP Brendan Meissner (2018)
FR 3B/OF Brenden Spillane (2018)
FR OF Doran Turchin (2018)
FR INF Jalin McMillan (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Blackburn, Cody Sedlock, JD Nielsen, Andrew Mamlic, Charlie Naso, Jason Goldstein, Adam Walton, Pat McInerney, Matthew James

Indiana

rJR RHP Jake Kelzer (2016)
rSR LHP Kyle Hart (2016)
rJR RHP Thomas Belcher (2016)
SR RHP Evan Bell (2016)
SR LHP Caleb Baragar (2016)
SR LHP Will Coursen-Carr (2016)
rJR RHP Kent Williams (2016)
JR LHP Sullivan Stadler (2016)
rSO LHP Austin Foote (2016)
JR RHP Luke Stephenson (2016)
JR OF Craig Dedelow (2016)
SR SS/2B Nick Ramos (2016)
JR OF Alex Krupa (2016)
JR 2B Tony Butler (2016)
JR 1B/SS Austin Cangelosi (2016)
SR 3B Brian Wilhite (2016)
SO RHP Brian Hobbie (2017)
SO OF Logan Sowers (2017)
SO 3B Isaiah Pasteur (2017)
SO OF Laren Eustace (2017)
FR RHP Jonathan Stiever (2018)
FR RHP Chandler Sedat (2018)
FR INF Luke Miller (2018)
FR C Ryan Fineman (2018)

High Priority Follows: Jake Kelzer, Kyle Hart, Thomas Belcher, Evan Bell, Caleb Baragar, Will Cousen-Carr, Kent Williams, Sullivan Stadler, Austin Foote, Luke Stephenson, Craig Dedelow, Nick Ramos, Alex Krupa, Tony Butler, Austin Cangelosi, Brian Wilhite

Iowa

SR RHP/1B Tyler Peyton (2016)
SR RHP Calvin Mathews (2016)
rJR LHP Ryan Erickson (2016)
rSO RHP CJ Eldred (2016)
SR RHP Tyler Radtke (2016)
SR RHP Luke Vandermaten (2016)
rJR RHP/SS Josh Martsching (2016)
SR OF Joel Booker (2016)
JR 2B/3B Mason McCoy (2016)
SR SS/RHP Nick Roscetti (2016)
SR C Jimmy Frankos (2016)
SR C Daniel Aaron Moriel (2016)
SO RHP Nick Gallagher (2017)
SO 1B/3B Grant Klenovich (2017)
FR RHP Cole McDonald (2018)
FR RHP Shane Ritter (2018)
FR RHP Sammy Lizarraga (2018)
FR RHP/SS Daniel Perry (2018)
FR RHP/2B Zach Daniels (2018)
FR OF Robert Neustrom (2018)
FR OF Luke Farley (2018)
FR 2B Mitch Boe (2018)

High Priority Follows: Tyler Peyton, Calvin Mathews, Ryan Erickson, CJ Eldred, Tyler Radtke, Joel Booker, Mason McCoy, Nick Roscetti, Daniel Aaron Moriel

Maryland

JR RHP Mike Shawaryn (2016)
JR LHP Tayler Stiles (2016)
SR LHP Robert Galligan (2016)
SR RHP Jared Price (2016)
JR RHP Mike Rescigno (2016)
rSO RHP Ryan Selmer (2016)
JR C/1B Nick Cieri (2016)
SR OF Anthony Papio (2016)
JR OF Madison Nickens (2016)
SO RHP Brian Shaffer (2017)
SO RHP Taylor Bloom (2017)
rFR RHP Tyler Brandon (2017)
SO SS Kevin Smith (2017)
SO C Justin Morris (2017)
SO OF Zach Jancarski (2017)
SO OF Kengo Kawahara (2017)
SO OF Jamal Wade (2017)
rFR 2B/SS Andrew Bechtold (2017)
FR RHP John Murphy (2018)
FR LHP Andrew Miller (2018)
FR RHP Hunter Parsons (2018)
FR RHP Cameron Enck (2018)
FR LHP Zach Guth (2018)
FR RHP Truman Thomas (2018)
FR OF Marty Costes (2018)
FR 2B/OF Nick Dunn (2018)
FR SS AJ Lee (2018)
FR OF/1B Nick Browne (2018)

High Priority Follows: Mike Shawaryn, Tayler Stiles, Robert Galligan, Jared Price, Mike Rescigno, Ryan Selmer, Nick Cieri, Anthony Papio, Madison Nickens

Michigan

JR LHP Brett Adcock (2016)
SR LHP Evan Hill (2016)
JR RHP Mac Lozer (2016)
JR RHP Keith Lehmann (2016)
JR RHP/SS Hector Gutierrez (2016)
JR RHP/OF Jackson Lamb (2016)
JR LHP/1B Carmen Benedetti (2016)
JR OF Johnny Slater (2016)
JR C Harrison Wenson (2016)
JR SS Michael Brdar (2016)
rSR OF Matt Ramsay (2016)
SR OF Cody Bruder (2016)
SO RHP Ryan Nutof (2017)
SO RHP Bryan Pall (2017)
SO LHP Oliver Jaskie (2017)
SO RHP Jayce Vancena (2017)
rFR LHP Grant Reuss (2017)
SO LHP Michael Hendrickson (2017)
SO C/3B Drew Lugbauer (2017)
SO SS/2B Jake Bivens (2017)
FR LHP/OF William Tribucher (2018)
FR RHP Troy Miller (2018)
FR OF Jonathan Engelmann (2018)
FR 2B Ako Thomas (2018)

High Priority Follows: Brett Adcock, Evan Hill, Mac Lozer, Keith Lehmann, Hector Gutierrez, Jackson Lamb, Carmen Benedetti, Johnny Slater, Harrison Wenson, Michael Brdar, Matt Ramsay

Michigan State

rJR LHP Cameron Vieaux (2016)
rSO RHP Dakota Mekkes (2016)
rSO RHP Ethan Landon (2016)
JR RHP Walter Borkovich (2016)
JR LHP Joe Mockbee (2016)
rSO RHP Jake Lowery (2016)
SR OF/2B Kris Simonton (2016)
JR 2B Jordan Zimmerman (2016)
SR 3B/SS Justin Hovis (2016)
rSO C Chad Roskelly (2016)
SO LHP Keegan Baar (2017)
SO RHP Andrew Gonzalez (2017)
SO LHP/1B Alex Troop (2017)
SO OF/LHP Brandon Hughes (2017)
SO 1B Zack McGuire (2017)
FR SS Royce Ando (2018)
FR 3B Marty Bechina (2018)

High Priority Follows: Cameron Vieaux, Dakota Mekkes, Ethan Landon, Walter Borkovich, Joe Mockbee, Jake Lowery, Kris Simonton, Jordan Zimmerman, Justin Hovis

Minnesota

SR LHP Dalton Sawyer (2016)
JR RHP Toby Anderson (2016)
rSR LHP Jordan Jess (2016)
rSR RHP Ty McDevitt (2016)
JR RHP Cody Campbell (2016)
JR RHP Brian Glowicki (2016)
rJR RHP Tim Shannon (2016)
JR RHP/1B Tyler Hanson (2016)
JR RHP/OF Matt Fiedler (2016)
JR C Austin Athmann (2016)
SR 2B/SS Connor Schaefbauer (2016)
SR OF Dan Motl (2016)
rJR OF/C Matt Stemper (2016)
rJR C/OF Troy Traxler (2016)
rJR OF Jordan Smith (2016)
SO LHP Lucas Gilbreath (2017)
SO RHP Reggie Meyer (2017)
SO OF Alex Boxwell (2017)
SO 1B/C Toby Hanson (2017)
SO 3B Micah Coffey (2017)
FR RHP Ben Humbert (2018)
FR INF Terrin Vavra (2018)

High Priority Follows: Dalton Sawyer, Toby Anderson, Jordan Jess, Cody Campbell, Matt Fiedler, Austin Athmann, Connor Schaefbauer, Dan Motl, Matt Stemper

Nebraska

JR LHP Max Knutson (2016)
SR RHP Colton Howell (2016)
SR RHP Jeff Chesnut (2016)
JR RHP Derek Burkamper (2016)
JR RHP Jake Hohensee (2016)
JR 1B/LHP Ben Miller (2016)
JR OF Ryan Boldt (2016)
SR 2B/SS Jake Placzek (2016)
SR C Taylor Fish (2016)
JR 2B Jake Schleppenbach (2016)
rSR SS Steven Reveles (2016)
SO RHP Zack Engelken (2017)
SO RHP Garett King (2017)
SO LHP/OF Jake Meyers (2017)
SO 1B/3B Scott Schreiber (2017)
SO OF Elijah Dilday (2017)
SO OF/3B Luis Alvarado (2017)
FR RHP Chad Luensmann (2018)
FR RHP Sean Chandler (2018)
FR RHP Matt Waldron (2018)
FR LHP Ryan Connolly (2018)
FR INF Alex Henwood (2018)
FR C Jesse Wilkening (2018)

High Priority Follows: Max Knutson, Colton Howell, Jeff Chesnut, Derek Burkamper, Jake Hohensee, Ben Miller, Ryan Boldt, Jake Placzek, Taylor Fish, Jake Schleppenbach

Northwestern

JR RHP Josh Davis (2016)
SR LHP Reed Mason (2016)
SR LHP Jake Stolley (2016)
JR RHP Joe Schindler (2016)
JR RHP Pete Hofman (2016)
JR OF/LHP Matt Hopfner (2016)
SR 1B/OF Zach Jones (2016)
SR 3B/OF Jake Schieber (2016)
JR OF/C Joe Hoscheit (2016)
rJR OF RJ Watters (2016)
SO RHP Justin Yoss (2017)
SO RHP Tommy Bordignon (2017)
FR 1B Willie Bourbon (2018)
FR SS Jack Dunn (2018)

High Priority Follows: Josh Davis, Reed Mason, Jake Stolley, Joe Schindler, Zach Jones

Ohio State

rJR RHP Shea Murray (2016)
SR RHP Jake Post (2016)
SR LHP John Havird (2016)
rSR LHP Michael Horejsei (2016)
rSO RHP Adam Niemeyer (2016)
rSO RHP Kyle Michalik (2016)
JR LHP/OF Tanner Tully (2016)
rSO RHP/1B Curtiss Irving (2016)
SR OF/LHP Daulton Mosbarger (2016)
JR OF Ronnie Dawson (2016)
JR OF Troy Montgomery (2016)
SR 1B/OF Zach Ratcliff (2016)
rJR OF/1B Jake Bosiokovic (2016)
SR 3B/1B Troy Kuhn (2016)
SR 3B Craig Nennig (2016)
rSR 3B Nick Sergakis (2016)
rSR 1B/3B Ryan Leffel (2016)
SR 2B L Grant Davis (2016)
JR C Jalen Washington (2016)
SO RHP Seth Kinker (2017)
SO C Jordan McDonough (2017)
SO OF Tre’ Gantt (2017)
FR 3B Brady Cherry (2018)
FR RHP Ryan Feltner (2018)

High Priority Follows: Shea Murray, Jake Post, John Havird, Michael Horejsei, Adam Niemeyer, Tanner Tully, Daulton Mosbarger, Ronnie Dawson, Troy Montgomery, Zach Ratcliff, Jake Bosiokovic, Troy Kuhn, Craig Nennig, Nick Sergakis, Jalen Washington

Penn State

SR RHP Jack Anderson (2016)
SR LHP Nick Hedge (2016)
JR RHP Tom Mullin (2016)
SR RHP Jared Fagnano (2016)
JR OF Nick Riotto (2016)
rSR OF Greg Guers (2016)
SR OF James Coates (2016)
rJR 3B Christian Helsel (2016)
JR SS Jim Haley (2016)
SR 1B/3B Tyler Kendall (2016)
SO RHP Nick Distasio (2017)
SO RHP Sal Biasi (2017)
SO LHP Taylor Lehman (2017)
FR RHP Justin Hagenman (2018)
FR RHP Eli Nabholz (2018)
FR LHP Blake Hodgens (2018)
FR C Ryan Sloniger (2018)
FR 3B/SS Conlin Hughes (2018)
FR 2B Connor Klemann (2018)
FR OF Austin Riggins (2018)
FR 3B Willie Burger (2018)

High Priority Follows: Nick Hedge, Tom Mullin, Nick Riotto, Greg Guers, Christian Helsel

Purdue

rSR RHP Gavin Downs (2016)
rSR RHP Shane Bryant (2016)
JR RHP Matt Frawley (2016)
JR RHP Alex Lyons (2016)
rSR 1B/LHP Kyle Wood (2016)
SR OF/RHP Kyle Johnson (2016)
JR 2B/C Cody Strong (2016)
SR C/OF Jack Picchiotti (2016)
rSR OF/2B Brett Carlson (2016)
SO RHP Tanner Andrews (2017)
SO SS/2B Harry Shipley (2017)
SO OF Alec Olund (2017)
FR LHP Kyle Ostrowski (2018)
FR 3B Jackson McGowan (2018)
FR C/OF Nick Dalesandro (2018)

High Priority Follows: Gavin Downs, Shane Bryant, Matt Frawley, Alex Lyons, Kyle Wood, Kyle Johnson, Jack Picchiotti

Rutgers

SR LHP Howie Brey (2016)
rJR LHP Max Herrmann (2016)
rJR RHP Kevin Baxter (2016)
JR LHP Ryan Fleming (2016)
rJR RHP Kyle Driscoll (2016)
JR RHP Colin Bohnert (2016)
JR RHP/2B Gaby Rosa (2016)
JR SS/RHP Christian Campbell (2016)
rSR 3B/1B Chris Suseck (2016)
SR 3B/C RJ Devish (2016)
JR C/1B Chris Folinusz (2016)
JR OF Mike Carter (2016)
JR OF Tom Marcinczyk (2016)
rSR 2B/SS John Jennings (2016)
SO RHP John O’Reilly (2017)
SO RHP Ryan Wares (2017)
SO INF Kyle Walker (2017)
SO 3B Milo Freeman (2017)
FR OF Jawuan Harris (2018)
FR 3B Serafino Brito (2018)

High Priority Follows: Max Herrmann, Chris Suseck, Mike Carter, Tom Marcinczyk, John Jennings

2016 MLB Draft Mock Draft – March Madness 2.0

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 second edition of this 2016 MLB Mock Draft is based on the top 34 teams (by pre-tournament seeding) in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The top 34 schools (listed below) are the only universities that teams were allowed to draft from in this mock. Unlike last week’s, however, there is no limit to how many players can be drafted off of any one school. That means some teams get nobody selected while others have multiple picks to celebrate. It’s not fair, but it’s life. Here were the universities eligible for this mock listed in descending order based on their pre-tournament seeding…

34. Butler
33. Providence
32. St. Joseph’s
31. USC
30. Colorado
29. Texas Tech
28. Oregon State
27. Iowa
26. Dayton
25. Wisconsin
24. Seton Hall
23. Arizona
22. Notre Dame
21. Texas
20. Baylor
19. Maryland
18. Purdue
17. Indiana
16. Iowa State
15. Kentucky
14. California
13. Duke
12. Texas A&M
11. Utah
10. Miami (FL)
9. West Virginia
8. Xavier
7. Villanova
6. Oklahoma
5. Michigan State
4. Oregon
3. Virginia
2. North Carolina
1. Kansas

Any 2016 MLB draft-eligible player from any of those schools is up for grabs. Let’s get mocking…

*****

1 – Philadelphia Phillies – Miami C Zack Collins

The Phillies would be tasked from picking from an impressive group of college talent if forced to comply with these ridiculous rules. Three of the arms rumored to be in the 1-1 mix in the real world — Matt Krook, Alec Hansen, and Connor Jones — would all be available to them thanks to the impressive basketball being played at Oregon, Oklahoma, and Virginia, respectively. Interestingly enough, all three are plagued with the same general concern: wildness. Jones has the most complete résumé and the least overall concern about his control (4.03 BB/9 last year, down to 2.11 BB/9 so far this year). Much has been made about Hansen’s consistently inconsistent start (6.99 BB/9) while Krook’s wild ways (7.92 BB/9) have largely been glossed over. Part of that is likely due to giving Krook an early season mulligan as he makes his way back from last year’s Tommy John surgery and part is probably due to Hansen being the higher profile player nationally, but the fact that some of the most talented arms in this college class come with major control (and command and consistency and changeup) questions can’t be ignored. The risk with either at 1-1 is just too high. As mentioned, Jones is the less risky play, but, as so often happens, comes with a little less upside. Much as I like Jones, if I’m going with a college arm with the first overall pick in a draft I want a guy I can confidently project as a potential ace. He may show enough to reach that point in the coming months, but as of today I can’t do it.

With the top pitchers out of the running, Collins becomes the clear pick. His bat is too special to pass up. The pick is made easier when you factor in the Phillies being particularly deep as an organization behind the plate. With Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro set to begin the year at AAA and AA respectively, there would be little pressure for the Phils to play Collins as a catcher if they deemed him unlikely to remain there over the long haul. Ideally he’d impress as a catcher and they’d have the great eventual problem of having too many catchers — a predicted problem for hundreds of teams throughout the history of the game that has not once come to fruition — but shifting him to first and letting him know his job is to hit, hit, and hit some more isn’t the worst idea in the world. Knapp/Alfaro, Collins, Kingery, Crawford, Franco, Randolph, Herrera/Quinn, and Williams may not quite rival the Cubs young core, but it’s not half-bad either.

(I have this very underdeveloped idea about how taking Collins at 1-1 in a real draft wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world based on a comparison of using a top ten pick in the NFL Draft on a running back like Ezekiel Elliott. New conventional wisdom says you don’t draft a 1B or a HB early in the draft because you can find good ones later on, but if it’s a guy who projects to be well above-average at the position and a long-term fixture for you that you don’t have to worry about replacing otherwise…then you have to at least consider it, right? I say this as a dumb Eagles fan who has convinced himself that Elliott with the eighth pick is an attractive option depending on who else is there. With no clear cut college player emerging at 1-1 besides Corey Ray and Kyle Lewis, maybe Collins isn’t the worst idea in the world. I know I’m out on an island with that one, but so be it.)

2 – Cincinnati Reds – Oregon LHP Matt Krook

Everything written about Krook above still applies. He’s been very wild, his command still isn’t back to his pre-injury self, and his velocity (topping at 92, down from his younger peak of 95) remains a work in progress. But he’s still a lefty with a devastating slider, good size (6-3, 200), and a history of missing bats (12.00 K/9 in 2014, 13.33 K/9 this year). When part of the reason for the walks can be explained by throwing a ball that just moves so damn much naturally, it’s a little bit easier to take. At his best (healthiest), Krook features three clearly above-average pitches and the wise beyond his year’s mound savvy to allow you to dream on him heading a rotation for a long time. Adding him to Stephenson, Reed (who Krook shares some similar traits with), and Garrett (among others) would be a lot of fun.

3 – Atlanta Braves – Virginia RHP Connor Jones

Krook to the Braves would have made more sense, what with MLB’s secret mandate that Atlanta collect as many Tommy John reclamation projects as possible. Maybe having Hansen fall past them is a blessing for his formerly tight right forearm. As it is, Jones gets the call. A consistent performer like Jones with a ready-made big league out-pitch (mid-80s cut-slider) would serve as a nice balance to the mix of boom/bust pitching prospects acquired by Atlanta over the past year or two.

4 – Colorado Rockies – Oklahoma RHP Alec Hansen

Because taking just one top-four righthander from Oklahoma within a five year stretch just isn’t enough. Hansen’s fastball is an explosive enough pitch that maybe he’d be a good fit for Coors Field.

5 – Milwaukee Brewers – Virginia C Matt Thaiss

Not everybody is convinced that Thaiss is the real deal, but I am. His one big remaining question heading into the year (defense) has been answered in a decidedly positive manner this spring. He showed enough in high school to garner Brian McCann comps from Baseball America, he hit as a sophomore, and he’s off to a blistering start (including a nifty 15 BB/2 K ratio) in 2016. He’s going early in this draft due in part to our odd rules, but he’s a first round selection on merit. The Brewers have done an excellent job in the early stages of their rebuild and adding a backstop like Thaiss to push Jacob Nottingham (and perhaps make trading Jonathan Lucroy easier to sell to the fans) gives them even more options going forward.

6 – Oakland Athletics – California RHP Daulton Jefferies

A high performing college player who defies conventional scouting wisdom going to Oakland? That’ll work. Jefferies is really, really good.

7 – Miami Marlins – Kentucky 2B JaVon Shelby

I’ve mentioned the comparison before, but Shelby’s prospect profile reads similarly to me to Ian Happ’s. Happ went ninth overall last year, so Shelby going seventh in our weird little mock seems fair. Shelby is also really, really good.

8 – San Diego Padres – Notre Dame 2B Cavan Biggio

Sometimes I feel as though I’m the last remaining Cavan Biggio fan. I know that’s not literally true, but I do still believe in him as a potential long-time big league regular. Offensively he strikes me as the kind of player who will hit better as a pro than he ever did as a college player. I don’t have much of anything to back that opinion up, but this is a mock draft so unsubstantiated claims are part of the deal.

9 – Detroit Tigers – Oregon State C Logan Ice

This pick works on multiple levels for me. Most obviously, Ice’s fast start at the plate and well-established reputation behind it warrants a top ten pick in this draft over some other higher profile college peers. It also works because Detroit seems to have a thing for college catchers. As somebody with a similar thing, I get it. In recent years they’ve plucked James McCann, Bryan Holaday, Kade Scivicque, Grayson Greiner, and Shane Zeile from the college ranks, aggressively promoting many of them along the way. Holaday, a sixth rounder back in 2010, was the only one of that bunch not picked within the draft’s first five rounds. That’s where Ice was expected to land coming into the year, but he could rise up to McCann draft levels (second round) if he keeps mashing.

10 – Chicago White Sox – Oklahoma 3B Sheldon Neuse

Recently got a Mike Olt draft comparison for Sheldon Neuse. Thought that was a pretty strong comp. Also liked that it was a draft comparison and not necessarily a pro prospect match. Olt’s big league disappointments don’t change the fact that he’s a really talented ballplayer capable of looking really good for long stretches at a time. Players develop in all kinds of different ways, so expecting one guy to follow another’s path is unwise. Maybe Neuse will fulfill his promise professionally in a way that Olt wasn’t able. Maybe he’ll experience similar developmental road blocks and see his game stall in a similar manner. Olt went 49th overall in the 2010 MLB Draft; snagging Neuse at any point after that would be a steal in 2016.

11 – Seattle Mariners – Arizona 3B Bobby Dalbec

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

12 – Boston Red Sox – North Carolina RHP Zac Gallen

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

13 – Tampa Bay Rays – Duke RHP Bailey Clark

On the other end of the spectrum is a guy like Bailey Clark. Clark has dynamite stuff: 90-96 FB (98 peak), mid-80s cut-SL that flashes plus, and an extra firm 87-90 split-CU with some promise. The fastball alone is a serious weapon capable of getting big league hitters out thanks the combination of velocity and natural movement. What continues to hold Clark back is pedestrian command: having great stuff is key, but falling behind every hitter undercuts that advantage. Questions about his delivery — I personally don’t stress about that so much, but it’s worth noting — and that inconsistent command could force him into the bullpen sooner rather than later. He’d be a knockout reliever if that winds up being the case, but the prospect of pro development keeping him as a starter is too tantalizing to give up on just yet.

14 – Cleveland Indians – Kentucky RHP Kyle Cody

There’s a reason Clark and Cody are back-to-back here. Just about everything written about Clark above can apply to Cody here. The big righthander from Kentucky also has the natural comparison to fellow big righthander from Kentucky Alex Meyer looming over him. I did the Twins a favor by having him go off the board one pick before they could get tempted all over again.

15 – Minnesota Twins – Kentucky RHP Zack Brown

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

16 – Los Angeles Angels – Oregon LHP Cole Irvin

Irvin is living proof that the second full year back from Tommy John surgery is when a pitcher really starts to get it all back. I can only hope that teammate Matt Krook is noticing. I guess it would be weird if he wasn’t, right? Irvin has his velocity back (88-92), his changeup remains a weapon, and the results (5.01 K/9 last year up to 9.10 K/9 this year) are trending in the right (healthy) direction.

17 – Houston Astros – USC C Jeremy Martinez

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

18 – New York Yankees – Texas A&M OF Nick Banks

Hunter Renfroe went thirteenth overall in the 2013 MLB Draft, so his 2016 doppelganger Nick Banks going a few spots later seems appropriate. Banks is one of the many hitters with questionable BB/K marks before the season that scouts insisted had more mature approaches at the plate than the raw numbers suggested. The scouts have been redeemed by most of those hitters — Kyle Lewis most famously — but Banks has continued to struggle (5 BB/10 K) out of the gate so far. He could still have a fine pro career without polishing up his approach — he’s a legit five-tool guy with no singular grade falling below average on most scout cards — but plugging that last remaining hole could mean the difference between good and great. Apologies here to Boomer White and JB Moss, two excellent senior-sign outfield prospects out of A&M that have decidedly outperformed Banks so far in the early going. Both guys may have hit their way into top ten round money saving pick consideration.

19 – New York Mets – Texas A&M Ryan Hendrix

Zach Jackson out of Arkansas has consistently been mentioned as my favorite college reliever who might just be able to start in the pros, but Ryan Hendrix is coming on really fast. He’s got the heat (mid-90s peak), breaking ball (low- to mid-80s CB flashes plus), and enough of a changeup (83-86) to potentially make the switch to the rotation at the next level. If not, he’s a potential quick-moving reliever with late-inning upside. Win-win!

20 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Maryland RHP Mike Shawaryn

Few players have seen their stock dip as much as Shawaryn has so far this spring. Considered by many (or just me, who can remember…) to be on the same tier as the Daulton Jefferies’ of the world coming into the season, Shawaryn has struggled with pitching effectively while dealing with a decrease in fastball velocity and flattened out offspeed stuff. He’s still a top five round prospect with big league starter upside, but no longer the potential first day pick many were hoping to see coming into the year. The positive spin is that it’s entirely possible he’s just going through a bit of a dead arm period brought about by general fatigue right now and that a little bit of rest after the draft in June will bring back the kind of stuff that looked more mid-rotation caliber than fifth starter. If that’s the case, the moment he slips out of the top two rounds would represent major value for whatever team takes a shot on him.

21 – Toronto Blue Jays – Oregon RHP Stephen Nogosek

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

22 – Pittsburgh Pirates – Oregon State SS Trever Morrison

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

23 – St. Louis Cardinals – Miami OF Willie Abreu

The Cardinals throw caution to the wind and bet big on tools by selecting Abreu and his ugly 7 BB/25 K ratio here in the first round. With three picks in the first, you can take a gamble like this. Abreu’s raw power is at or near the top of this class, so the logic in such a pick is easy to see.

24 – San Diego Padres – California C Brett Cumberland

I’m not sure too many casual prospect fans realize that true sophomore Cumberland, set to turn 21 on June 25, is eligible for this year’s draft. I know I have a lot less scouting notes on him than I’d typically have for a draft-eligible prospect in the midst of one of the best seasons of any position player in college baseball. The steady receiver hit really well as a freshman last year (.429 SLG with 33 BB/41 K), but has taken it to the next level so far in 2016. Good defense, very real power, and success at the college level from day one? Just what this class needs, one more top five round college catcher.

25 – San Diego Padres – Indiana RHP Jake Kelzer

The real draft will no doubt be much kinder to the Padres, but grabbing Biggio, Cumberland, and Kelzer in this universe’s draft isn’t anything to be disappointed in. Two mature bats at up-the-middle defensive positions would help San Diego continue their stated goal of building that way (the return for trade backs that up) and Kelzer, a highly athletic 6-8, 235 pound righthander with a nasty hard slider, would be a fine addition to their growing collection of arms.

26 – Chicago White Sox – Texas Tech RHP Ryan Moseley

Much like the Willie Abreu pick above, taking Moseley this high is gambling on tools over performance. I’ve long been a fan of the sinker/slider archetype and Moseley does it about as well as any pitcher in this class. When I start digging into batted ball data to find GB% in the coming weeks, he’ll be the first name I look up. On physical ability, a case could be made that Moseley deserves this first round spot. If we’re talking early season production…not so much. As we mentioned before, some young pitchers throw with so much natural movement that they are unable to effectively harness the raw stuff with which they’ve been blessed. Moseley’s track record suggests just that. Taking him this high would be a gamble that the developmental side of your organization can straighten him out. There are too many teams besides the White Sox that I’d be so confident they could pull off the trick.

27 – Baltimore Orioles – Baylor LHP Daniel Castano

I haven’t heard Daniel Castano’s name mentioned as a top ten round pick much this spring, but I don’t see why he wouldn’t be in the mix. He’s a big lefty with three average or better pitches who has made the long-awaited leap (8.51 K/9 this year, up from the 5 or so K/9 of his first two seasons). I’m in.

28 – Washington Nationals – Michigan State LHP Cameron Vieaux

Everything written about Castano above applies to Vieaux here. The only notable difference is that Vieaux’s jump in performance is a little less pronounced (8.61 K/9 this year, up from the 7 or so K/9 the two previous seasons) yet no less impressive. Vieaux also have the chance to be a four-pitch lefty in the pros, so I guess that makes two differences.

29 – Washington Nationals – Texas A&M 2B Ryne Birk

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

30 – Texas Rangers – North Carolina OF Tyler Ramirez

Ramirez doesn’t have a carrying tool that makes him an obvious future big league player, but he does a lot of things well (power, speed, glove) and leverages an ultra-patient approach to put himself in consistently positive hitter’s counts. His profile is a little bit similar to his teammate Zac Gallen’s in that both are relatively high-floor prospects without the kind of massive ceilings one would expect in a first day pick. Gallen is the better prospect, but I think many of the national guys are sleeping on Ramirez. I’ve been guilty of overrating Tar Heels hitters in the past, but Ramirez looks like the real deal. Former Carolina outfielder Tim Fedroff, a seventh round pick in 2008, seems like a reasonable draft day expectation in terms of round selected. I’d happily snap up a guy like Ramirez in that range.

31 – New York Mets – Miami OF Jacob Heyward

Steady year-to-year improvement has been the name of Heyward’s game as a Hurricane. It’s more of a fourth outfielder profile than a slam dunk future regular ceiling, but he’s a solid, well-rounded player capable of doing just enough of everything to keep you invested.

32 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Miami RHP Bryan Garcia

Garcia has late-game reliever stuff (mid-90s FB, good SL) and pedigree (15.88 K/9 this year) to get himself drafted as one of the first true college relievers in his class.

33 – St. Louis Cardinals – Michigan State RHP Dakota Mekkes

If you read this site and/or follow college ball closely, this might be the first pick to surprise in some way, shape, or form. Mekkes wasn’t a pitcher mentioned in many 2016 draft preview pieces before the start of the season, but the 6-7, 250 pound righty has opened plenty of eyes in getting off to a dominant (16.36 K/9) albeit wild (7.16 BB/9) start to 2016. His stuff backs it up (FB up to 94, interesting SL, deceptive delivery), so he’s more than just a large college man mowing down overmatched amateurs. He’s a top ten round possibility now.

34 – St. Louis Cardinals – Duke LHP Jim Ziemba

A 6-10, 230 pound lefthander who goes after hitters from a funky sidearm delivery is a great way to cap this weird mock off. The obvious Michael Freeman comp is too good to ignore here.