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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Milwaukee Brewers

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Milwaukee in 2016

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

Complete List of 2016 Milwaukee Brewers Draftees

1.5 – OF Corey Ray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2.46 – 3B Lucas Erceg

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

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

2.75 – C Mario Feliciano

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

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

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

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

3.82 – RHP Braden Webb

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

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

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

4.111 – RHP Corbin Burnes

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

On Burnes from March 2016…

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

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

5.141 – RHP Zack Brown

On Zack Brown (180) from March 2016…

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

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

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

6.171 – C Payton Henry

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

7.201 – LHP Daniel Brown

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

8.231 – SS Francisco Thomas

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

9.261 – 2B Trey York

On Trey York (470) from March 2015…

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

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

10.291 – LHP Blake Fox

On Blake Fox from March 2016…

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

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

11.321 – 3B Chad McClanahan

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

12.351 – SS Trever Morrison

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

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

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

And then from April 2016…

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

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

13.381 – RHP Thomas Jankins

The pre-draft view on Thomas Jankins…

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

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

14.411 – C Gabriel Garcia

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

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

15.441 – RHP Scott Serigstad

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

17.501 – 3B Weston Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

18.531 – C Cooper Hummel

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

19.561 – OF Zach Clark

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

21.621 – C Nathan Rodriguez

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

22.651 – LHP Cam Roegner

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

23.681 – 1B Ronnie Gideon

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

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

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

24.711 – RHP Michael Gonzalez

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

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

25.741 – LHP Blake Lillis

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

26.771 – SS Nick Roscetti

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

27.801 – OF Nick Cain

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

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

28.831 – RHP Andrew Vernon

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

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

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

30.891 – RHP Dalton Brown

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

31.921 – 1B Ryan Aguilar

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

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

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

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

32.951 – RHP Wilson Adams

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

33.981 – RHP Emerson Gibbs

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

34.1011 – RHP Matt Smith

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

35.1041 – RHP Chase Williams

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

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

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

36.1071 – RHP Parker Bean

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

37.1101 – SS Jomar Cortes

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

38.1131 – OF Caleb Whalen

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

39.1161 – OF Jose Gomez

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

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

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

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

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

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

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2016 MLB Draft – High School Shortstops

A brief history of the top high school shortstops selected and their respective ages in their draft year…

2015: Brendan Rodgers – turned 19 that August
2014: Nick Gordon – turned 19 that October
2013: JP Crawford – turned 19 that next January
2012: Carlos Correa – turned 18 that September
2011: Francisco Lindor – turned 18 that November
2010: Manny Machado – turned 18 that July
2009: Jiovanni Mier – turned 19 that August

Delvin Perez, set to turn 18-years-old this November, will join that club in a few weeks. He’ll be younger than everybody on that list, though Lindor, the player I used as the best case scenario comp for Perez at the start of the draft process, was only ten days older than Perez when comparing their respective draft years. We’ll come back to him shortly.

If we deem the past few seasons as too recent to make fairly assess, then we’re left with a ton of quick-moving impact big league talent at the position. There’s are many reasons why Major League Baseball is in the midst of yet another shortstop renaissance, and the recent influx of talented prep prospects has a lot to do with it. Take a look at this stretch of big league players (guys with * were drafted as shortstops but moved off sooner rather than later)…

2012: Correa, Addison Russell, Corey Seager
2011: Lindor, Javier Baez, Trevor Story, Mookie Betts*
2010: Machado, Ryan Brett*, Garin Cecchini*, JT Realmuto*
2009: Nick Franklin, Chris Owings, Billy Hamilton*, Enrique Hernandez*, Scooter Gennett*

You also have Gavin Cecchini, Daniel Robertson, and Roman Quinn on the way, though there’s a chance that all of the above will have asterisks by their name eventually if they don’t have one already. Then there’s also clear asterisks Michael Taylor (a negative value player to date, but there’s plenty of time to change that) and Mychal Givens, who really should have been on the mound in the first place. We’re just using that 2009-2012 draft band here; if we include the past three classes, we’ve got Crawford, Gordon, and Rodgers, among others, on the way. That’s a healthy group of high school shortstops drafted this decade.

If so inclined to use recent history as a guide, then the point here is pretty simple: when in doubt, draft a prep shortstop. We’ve seen how high school catchers, first basemen, and second basemen have proven to be questionable investments over the years. High school shortstops, on the other hand, have had a great deal of success. Nothing here is conclusive, nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Let’s talk about high school shortstops.

One of the fun things about having a site like this for so long is having a long track record, good and bad, to look back on. I find looking back at the bad to be particularly illuminating. A crucial element to evaluation, in any walk of life, is the willingness and ability to self-scout. My own track record with the top high school shortstops of recent years is spotty at best. I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things along the way, but that can be a tough thing to see when you’re still in the middle of the seemingly never-ending year-to-year draft game. My evolution can be seen somewhat when looking at my experiences with Manny Machado in 2010, Francisco Lindor in 2011, Carlos Correa in 2012, and eventually Brendan Rodgers in 2015…and hopefully Delvin Perez in 2016.

This quick, admittedly self-indulgent journey begins with both Machado and Correa as I explained the latter’s high ranking at one point using the former’s far too low ranking as the learning experience that it was…

Correa represents my mea culpa for underrating Manny Machado in 2010. Their scouting reports read very, very similar, and are best summed up by the abundance of “above-average” and “plus” sprinkled throughout. Correa can throw with the best of them, and his foot speed, bat speed, approach, and range are all well above-average. He’ll need plenty of at bats against quality pitching, so his drafting team will have to be patient, but his experience against high velocity arms is encouraging.

I had Machado thirteenth on my final 2010 board. That means he was behind AJ Cole, Karsten Whitson, Stetson Allie (perhaps there’s a lesson there about HS arms…), Brandon Workman, Deck McGuire (or low-ceiling college arms…), and Justin O’Conner (think I’ve learned my lesson about non-elite HS catchers by now). Austin Wilson (ranked fifth) also stands out as a bad miss this year; there’s maybe some Will Benson or Blake Rutherford parallels with him, depending on how you look at things. As far as Machado, I just flat missed on his physical tools. Missing on aptitude or work ethic or willingness to take instruction or even projection of physical growth is one thing, but what I saw and heard of Machado was drastically different than how he really played the game. You could say I underrated his tools, but I’d go a step further and say I just flat didn’t appreciate him for what he was and could be. There could have been some contrarian bias in me then that I hope has gotten beaten out of me by now; sometimes guys are hyped for good reason, so going against the grain to be different is just flat stupid. If he’s good, say he’s good. If that means you have the same top five as everybody else, so be it. That exact contrarian streak kept bubbling up here as I had assumed most of the spring that Carter Kieboom would overtake Delvin Perez on this rankings one he showed everybody he could hang at shortstop. I LOVE Kieboom, as I hope I’ll clearly explain below. Perez just has that extra gear of athleticism, speed, and range that puts him in the same class as too many of the recent shortstop hits to ignore. One such hit is Francisco Lindor.

My take on Lindor after his limited debut season (20 PA) showed just enough personal growth that I’ll give myself a tiny gold star for the day…

Without repeating myself pre-draft too much (check all the bold below for that take), here’s where I stand on Monteverde Academy (FL) SS Francisco Lindor. Of all the positives he brings to the field, the two biggest positives I can currently give him credit for are his defense and time/age. Lindor’s defensive skills really are exemplary and there is no doubt that he’ll stick at shortstop through his first big league contract (at least). As for time/age, well, consider this a preemptive plea in the event Lindor struggles at the plate next season: the guy will be playing his entire first full pro season at just eighteen years old. For reference’s sake, Jimmy Rollins, the player I compared Lindor’s upside to leading up to the draft, played his entire Age-18 season at Low-A in the South Atlantic League and hit .270/.330/.370 in 624 plate appearances. A year like that wouldn’t be a shocker unless he goes all Jurickson Profar, a name Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks recently evoked after watching Lindor, on the low minors. Either way, I’m much happier with this pick now than I would have been a few months ago. Cleveland saw the opportunity to land a superstar talent at a premium defensive position and went for it, high risk and all.

That last line is where there’s some progress shown: “Cleveland saw the opportunity to land a superstar talent at a premium defensive position and went for it, high risk and all.” I think that belief informs where I’m at with Perez right now. There’s almost no denying the enormity of his ceiling, but the risk factor is very real. The list of successful prep shortstops who no longer play shortstop above helps mitigate some of those concerns as it seems that importance of being able to slide down the defensive spectrum can’t be overstated enough. Draft for stardom, hope for the best, and be willing and ready pivot developmentally to another defensive spot if necessary. Of course, if you get the stardom part wrong as I did with Machado, then your evaluation is doomed from the start. I at least allowed for that stardom with Lindor, so, yeah, some growth there. Not a ton, but some. I’ll take it.

I think I had mostly learned my lesson by the time it came to rank the aforementioned Carlos Correa first overall in 2012. That lesson was applied, more or less, last year when discussing Brendan Rodgers…

That’s a player worthy of going 1-1 if it all clicks, but there’s enough risk in the overall package that I’m not willing to call him the best player in this class. Second best, maybe. Third best, likely. The difference in ranking opinion is minute, but for a decision-maker picking within those first few selections it can mean the difference between job security for years to come (and, perhaps eventually, a ring…) or an outright dismissal even before getting to see this whole thing through.

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

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard from a few different independent sources that are steadfast in their belief that Perez will be the clear best player from this class within three years or less. To say that said reports have helped push me in the recent direction of Perez as a serious candidate to finish in the top spot on my own board would be more than fair. When I think of Perez, I can’t help but draw parallels to Brandon Ingram, freshman star at Duke and sure-fire top two pick in next month’s NBA Draft; more specifically, I think of Perez as the baseball draft version of Ingram (young, indicative of where the game is headed, and the next evolutionary step that can be traced back to a long line of similar yet steadily improving players over the years) when stacked up to Blake Rutherford’s Ben Simmons (both excellent yet perhaps slightly overhyped prospects getting too much love due to physical advantages that won’t always be there). I’m not sure even I buy all of that to the letter (and I lean towards Simmons as the better NBA prospect, so the thing falls apart quickly), but there are certain characteristics that make it fit…and it’s a fun hook.

Also for what it’s worth, I’ve heard from a few friends who are far from sold on Perez the hitter. That’s obviously a fair counterpoint to all of the enthusiasm found in the preceding avalanche of words. Will Perez hit enough to make the kind of impact worthy of the first overall selection? This takes me back to something tangentially related to Kyle Mercer, another potential 1-1 candidate, back in February

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

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

That’s a player worthy of going 1-1 if it all clicks, but there’s enough risk in the overall package that I’m not willing to call him the best player in this class. Second best, maybe. Third best, likely.

That’s what I said last year about Rodgers before eventually ranking him third overall in his class. I have similar thoughts about Perez, but now I’m reconsidering the logic in hedging on putting him anywhere but first overall. A sky high ceiling if he hits and a reasonably realistic useful big league floor if he doesn’t makes him hard to pass on, especially in a class with so few potential stars at the top. He’s blown past Oscar Mercado and Jalen Miller, and now shares a lot of the same traits that have made Francisco Lindor a future star. I don’t see Perez as the type of player you get fired for taking high, but rather the kind of player that has ownership looking at you funny for passing up after he makes it big. All that for a guy who nobody can say with compelling certainty will ever hit. I love the draft.

Carter Kieboom was with the third base prospects in my notes up until about a month or so ago. The buzz on him being good enough to stick at shortstop for at least a few years grew too loud to ignore. In fact, said buzz reminds me quite a bit about how the slow yet steady drumbeat for Alex Bregman, Shortstop grew throughout the spring last season. Beyond the defensive comparison, I think there’s actually a little something to looking at Kieboom developing as a potential Bregman type impact bat over the next few seasons. He checks every box you’d want to see out of a high school infielder: hit (above-average), power (above-average raw), bat speed (yes), approach (mature beyond his years), athleticism (well above-average), speed (average), glove (average at short, could be better yet at third), and arm (average to above-average, more than enough for the left side). He’d be neck and neck with Drew Mendoza for third place on my third base list, but he gets the bump to second here with the shortstops. At either spot, he’s a definite first round talent for me.

Falling behind Perez and Kieboom are names like Gavin Lux, Grae Kessinger, Nonie Williams, and Nicholas Quintana. I’m not sure there’s a bad way to rank those guys at this point. Lux is a really intriguing young hitter with the chance to come out of this draft as arguably the best all-around hitter (contact, pop, patience) in this high school class. That may be a bit rich, but I’d at least say his straight hit tool ranks only below Mickey Moniak, Carlos Cortes, and Joe Rizzo. If his bat plays above-average in all three phases – he could/should be there with contact and approach while his raw power floats somewhere in that average to above-average range – then he’d certainly be in the mix. A fun name that I’ve heard on Lux that may or may not have been influenced by geography: a bigger, stronger Scooter Gennett. Here’s some of what Baseball America had on Gennett in his draft year…

He profiles as an offensive second baseman, while Florida State intends for him to start at shortstop as a freshman. He’s a grinder with surprising power and bat speed for his size (a listed 5-foot-10, 170 pounds), and though he can be streaky, his bat is his best tool. He’s a better runner on the field than in showcase events, but he’s closer to average than above-average in that department. Defensively he gets the most of his ability, with his range and arm better suited for the right side of the infield than the left. He’s agile, though, and a solid athlete. Gennett would be a crucial get for Florida State, if he gets there. Most scouts consider him a third-to-fifth round talent.

A bigger, stronger, and arguably better (especially when likelihood to stick at short is factored in) Gennett feels about right, both in terms of draft stock (second to fourth round talent, maybe with a shot to sneak into the late first) and potential pro outcome. It should be noted that Lux’s defensive future is somewhat in flux. I think he’s athletic enough with enough arm to stick at short for a while, but there are many others who think he’s got second base written all over him. A lot of that likely has to do with his arm – it’s looked strong to me with a really quick release, but there’s debate on that – so I’d bet that there’s little consensus from team to team about his long-term position. Teams that like him to pick him high in the draft will like him best as a shortstop, so it’s my hunch that he’ll at least get a shot to play in the six-spot as a pro to begin his career.

I really like Kessinger’s hands, range, and first step actions at short. He’s just a half-step behind Perez – if that – defensively. Offensively he’s more athlete with bat speed than finished product, but you could do a lot worse than what he gives you as a starting point. Williams matches Kessinger’s athleticism, speed (both of the bat and foot variety), and defensive upside, but the latter area is where Kessinger’s present value trumps where Williams is currently at. Williams could get there, but Kessinger has the head start. Many have slid Williams to center field on their boards, but he’s come on fast as an infielder since his inconsistent showing in the dirt this past summer. The defensive gap between Kessinger and Williams is potentially made up by the advantage that Williams has shown in the power department. He’s currently more physical than Kessinger with a swing geared toward more natural pop. Two similarly talented players with just enough differences to keep things interesting; I like Kessinger by a hair, but that could flip by June.

I’m running out of time, but I’m still not quite sure what to feel about Quintana as a prospect. I like him a lot, but I’m not quite sure yet how high “a lot” will get him on the board. Though most I talked to saw him moving off of shortstop sooner rather than later – second, third, and even catcher were mentioned as long-term spots for him – I kind of like the strong armed righthander to stick at short for the foreseeable future. Offensively, I believe. Quintana can hit and hit for power. If his approach comes around, then defensive questions won’t loom quite as large.

Jose Miranda is a particularly well-rounded shortstop with a strong hit tool, solid approach, and reliable hands. Grant Bodison is a little older than his peers, but with a plus arm, plus speed, and an average or better shot to stick at shortstop, he’s a fine prospect. His approach as a hitter has always stood out as particularly intriguing, so I’m more willing to overlook the extra few month lead he has on much of his current competition than I might be otherwise. Hudson Sanchez, a righthanded bat with some thump out of Texas, is on the opposite side of the age spectrum as one of this class’s youngest prospects. Though not quite the same prospect, it’s worth keeping in mind that Sanchez is just a few weeks behind Perez. Only one team will get Perez in the first round, so the value of nabbing players like Kieboom (second if you’re very lucky), Lux (same), and then one or more of Kessinger, Williams, Quintana, Jaxon Williams, Miranda, Bodison, Hamilton, Sanchez, Francisco Thomas, Cam Shepherd, and Alexis Torres (all third round or later) will certainly be on the forefront of twenty-nine other teams’ minds in this upcoming draft.

*****

SS Anthony Prato (Poly Prep Country Day School, New York)
SS Austin Masel (Belmont Hill HS, Massachusetts)
SS Austyn Tengan (Cypress HS, California)
SS Brady Whalen (Union HS, Washington)
SS Branden Fryman (Tate HS, Florida)
SS Brandon Chinea (Florida Christian HS, Florida)
SS Brandon Hauswald (University School of Jackson, Tennessee)
SS Brian Rey (Deltona HS, Florida)
SS Cameron Cannon (Mountain Ridge HS, Arizona)
SS Camryn Williams (Gaither HS, Florida)
SS Carter Aldrete (Montery HS, California)
SS Cayman Richardson (Hanover HS, Virginia)
SS David Hamilton (San Marcos HS, Texas)
SS Delvin Perez (International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS Duncan Pence (Farragut HS, Tennessee)
SS Francisco Thomas (Osceloa HS, Puerto Rico)
SS Grae Kessinger (Oxford HS, Mississippi)
SS Grant Bodison (Mauldin HS, South Carolina)
SS Grant Little (Midland Christian HS, Texas)
SS Hunter Lessard (Sunrise Mountain HS, Arizona)
SS Jeremy Houston (Mt Carmel HS, Illinois)
SS Kevin Rolon (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS Kevin Welsh (Northern Burlington HS, New Jersey)
SS Logan Davidson (Providence HS, North Carolina)
SS Matthew Rule (Kearney HS, Missouri)
SS Mitchell Golden (Marietta HS, Georgia)
SS Nicholas Novak (Stillwater HS, Minnesota)
SS Nick Derr (Sarasota Community HS, Florida)
SS Nonie Williams (Turner HS, Kansas)
SS Palmer Ford (Virgil Grissom HS, Alabama)
SS Peter Hutzal (Ernest Manning SS, Alberta)
SS Ryan Layne (West Jessamine HS, Kentucky)
SS Sal Gozzo (Sheehan HS, Connecticut)
SS Samad Taylor (Corona HS, California)
SS Tyler Roeder (Jefferson HS, Iowa)
SS Zachary Watson (West Ouachita HS, Louisiana)
SS/2B Alexis Torres (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS/2B Cam Shepherd (Peachtree Ridge HS, Georgia)
SS/2B Gavin Lux (Indian Trail Academy, Wisconsin)
SS/2B Jakob Newton (Oakville Trafalgar SS, Ontario)
SS/2B Nicholas Quintana (Arbor View HS, Nevada)
SS/2B Will Brooks (Madison Central HS, Mississippi)
SS/3B Carter Kieboom (Walton HS, Georgia)
SS/3B Hudson Sanchez (Southlake Carroll HS, Texas)
SS/3B Jose Miranda (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS/3B Josh Hollifield (Weddington HS, North Carolina)
SS/CF Jaxon Williams (BF Terry HS, Texas)
SS/OF DeShawn Lookout (Westmoore HS, Oklahoma)
SS/OF Jaylon McLaughlin (Santa Monica HS, California)
SS/RHP Quincy McAfee (Westside HS, Texas)
SS/RHP Will Proctor (Mira Costa HS, California)

2016 MLB Draft Prospect Preview: HS Shortstops

I have less of a feel for this shortstop group than I do any other collection of position players. Delvin Perez has separated himself from the rest, but I’m not sure any other infielder has a definitive claim on the second spot right now. This puts us right around where we were last June when Brendan Rodgers was a clear number one with the field left to duke it out for second.

One of the few things I’m sure about with this is class is that it’s loaded with prospects who have the glove to stick at short. Perez leads the way as a no-doubt shortstop who might just be able to hit his way into the top half of the first round. I’d like to see (and hear) more about his bat, but the glove (range, footwork, release, instincts, everything), arm strength, athleticism, and speed add up a potential first round prospect. If that feels like me hedging a bit, you’re exactly right. Teams have and will continue to fall in love with his glove, but the all-mighty bat still lords above every other tool. In some ways, he reminds me of a bigger version of Jalen Miller from last year. He won’t fall as far as Miller (95th overall pick), but if we could all agree that mid-third is his draft floor then I’d feel a lot better about myself.

The Miller half-comp splits the difference (as a prospect, not as a pro) between two other recent comps for Perez that I see: Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado. Long-time readers might remember that I was driving the Mercado bandwagon back in the November before his draft year…

I’m on board with the Mercado as Elvis Andrus 2.0 comps and was out ahead of the “hey, he’s ahead of where Francisco Lindor was at the same stage just a few years ago” talk, so, yeah, you could say I’m a pretty big fan. That came out way smarmier than I would have liked – I’m sorry. The big thing to watch with Mercado this spring will be how he physically looks at the plate; with added strength he could be a serious contender for the top five or so picks, but many of the veteran evaluators who have seen him question whether or not he has the frame to support any additional bulk. Everything else about his game is above-average or better: swing, arm strength, speed, range, hands, release, pitch recognition, instincts.

I bet big on his bat coming around and lost. Mercado went from fifth on my very first board (ten months ahead of the draft, but it still counts) to 81st on the final version to the 57th overall pick of the draft in June. He’s the cautionary tale (for now) of what a young plus glove at shortstop with a questionable bat can turn out to be. On the flip side, there’s Francisco Lindor…

Lindor’s defensive skills really are exemplary and there is no doubt that he’ll stick at shortstop through his first big league contract (at least). As for time/age, well, consider this a preemptive plea in the event Lindor struggles at the plate next season: the guy will be playing his entire first full pro season at just eighteen years old. For reference’s sake, Jimmy Rollins, the player I compared Lindor’s upside to leading up to the draft, played his entire Age-18 season at Low-A in the South Atlantic League and hit .270/.330/.370 in 624 plate appearances. A year like that wouldn’t be a shocker unless he goes all Jurickson Profar, a name Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks recently evoked after watching Lindor, on the low minors. Either way, I’m much happier with this pick now than I would have been a few months ago. Cleveland saw the opportunity to land a superstar talent at a premium defensive position and went for it, high risk and all.

That pick (and I really shouldn’t say just the pick itself: all of the subsequent development credited to both the individual player and the team should be noted as well) has obviously gone about as well as humanly possible. It’s like the total opposite of what happened to Mercado! Lindor is already a star and looks to be one of the game’s best shortstops for years to come. I’m not ready to hang that kind of outcome on Perez, but I think it’s at least within the realm of realistic paths. I’d say not quite Lindor (15th ranked prospect by me), not quite Mercado (81st), and something more like Miller (46th) is my most honest take on how I generally view Perez at this precise point in time. As the Mercado example shows, drastic change can never be ruled out.

Now we’re back to figuring out who falls behind Perez on the shortstop pecking order. It only makes sense to look first to guys who appear to be safe bets to remain shortstops for the foreseeable future. Grant Bodison might have a claim for most talented all-around shortstop in this class. He’s a little bit older than his peers, so some teams might ding him (fairly, I’d say) for that. Still, he’s a big talent who can really run, throw, and work deep counts. He joins guys like Grae Kessinger, Nolan Williams, and David Hamilton as sure-fire shortstops defensively. I’d put those three in a pile of prospects that I look forward to learning more about this spring. All have been really divisive prospects in my talks with smarter people around the game. You might have one that you really, really like and one that you don’t see as an everyday player, but few I’ve checked in with have said that they are on the fence about many of these guys just yet. It’s love or hate right now, though always with the caveat that “it’s too early.” Kessinger and Hamilton in particular have stood out as being players who elicit strong opinions, good and not so good, from those who have seen them often.

Of course, for all I said about these shortstops being so good because they’ll stick at shortstop, here are a few guys I really like that are far from locks to stick at the six-spot professionally.

I probably like Jaxon Williams more than most. He gets my annual Roman Quinn comp (Alonzo Jones got the honor last year) for his intriguing defensive tools (love him in CF, optimistic about him at short), plus athleticism, and sneaky pop packed into a 5-9, 160 pound frame.

Nicholas Quintana is another prospect who might be better off playing anywhere in the infield (2B, 3B, maybe even C) away from shortstop over the long haul. For now I’ll be stubborn and stick with him as a legitimate shortstop prospect. I understand the concerns about how his average at best foot speed and good but not great athleticism, so I’m banking on superior instincts, positioning, and an arm that allows him to play a bit deeper than most to let me stick for a while. In other words, I’m going into the spring thinking of him as a shortstop and will have to be convinced otherwise by his play to make the switch. The bat plays just about anywhere for me right now, so the further to the right of the defensive spectrum he can handle, the better. Yes, I had to look up if the spectrum goes left to right or right to left.

Lightning round because this has already run longer than any piece on high school players has any right to in December. I’m a huge fan of Gavin Lux and think he could wind up in the first round conversation come June. The fact that he might wind up going behind both Ben Rortvedt and Nate Brown (all Wisconsin prep players) is a beautiful thing for the future of baseball in this country. Hudson Sanchez is another favorite and I’m intrigued to see if he’s still got any significant growing left in him; if so, he might be one of those players who can hang at short, but winds up so close to what we envision the ideal third baseman to be that there’s really no other option but to play him at the hot corner in pro ball. Have to appease the Baseball Gods, after all. Francisco Thomas looks great from what I’ve seen, but don’t sleep on fellow Puerto Rican prospect Jose Miranda. Miranda’s slighter with a bit more projection, but both are really good. Those two guys and Perez and Alexis Torres…love this class out of Puerto Rico this year.

The list begins to break down the further you go – it’s just a collection of talented players at that point with little to no ranking logic behind it – so don’t take the placement of Cayman Richardson, Carter Aldrete, Will Brooks, DeShawn Lookout, and Tyler Fitzgerald as anything but placeholders as we all find out more about each guy this spring. The fact that I could see any of those names ending up as a top five shortstop in this class by June should tell you all you need to know about the depth and quality of this year’s class.

SS Delvin Perez (International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS/2B Gavin Lux (Indian Trail Academy, Wisconsin)
SS/CF Jaxon Williams (BF Terry HS, Texas)
SS/2B Nicholas Quintana (Arbor View HS, Nevada)
SS Grant Bodison (Mauldin HS, South Carolina)
SS Grae Kessinger (Oxford HS, Mississippi)
SS Nolan Williams (Home School, Kansas)
SS David Hamilton (San Marcos HS, Texas)
SS/3B Hudson Sanchez (Southlake Carroll HS, Texas)
SS Jose Miranda (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS Francisco Thomas (Osceloa HS, Puerto Rico)
SS Hunter Lessard (Sunrise Mountain HS, Arizona)
SS Cam Shepherd (Peachtree Ridge HS, Georgia)
SS Zachary Watson (West Ouachita HS, Louisiana)
SS Jeremy Houston (Mt Carmel HS, Illinois)
SS/2B Alexis Torres (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)
SS Cayman Richardson (Hanover HS, Virginia)
SS Austyn Tengan (Cypress HS, California)
SS Carter Aldrete (Montery HS, California)
SS Branden Fryman (Tate HS, Florida)
SS/RHP Daniel Martinez (Kennedy HS, California)
SS Aaron Schunk (The Lovett School, Georgia)
SS Brady Whalen (Union HS, Washington)
SS Cameron Cannon (Mountain Ridge HS, Arizona)
SS Austin Masel (Belmont Hill HS, Massachusetts)
SS/2B Will Brooks (Madison Central HS, Mississippi)
SS/OF DeShawn Lookout (Westmoore HS, Oklahoma)
SS Brandon Chinea (Florida Christian HS, Florida)
SS/2B Jakob Newton (Oakville Trafalgar SS, Ontario)
SS Brian Rey (Deltona HS, Florida)
SS Kevin Welsh (Northern Burlington HS, New Jersey)
SS Tyler Fitzgerald (Rochester HS, Illinois)
SS/RHP Quincy McAfee (Westside HS, Texas)
SS Duncan Pence (Farragut HS, Tennessee)
SS Samad Taylor (Corona HS, California)
SS/3B Josh Hollifield (Weddington HS, North Carolina)
SS Nicholas Novak (Stillwater HS, Minnesota)
SS/OF Jaylon McLaughlin (Santa Monica HS, California)
SS Mitchell Golden (Marietta HS, Georgia)
SS Nick Derr (Sarasota Community HS, Florida)
SS Sal Gozzo (Sheehan HS, Connecticut)
SS Matthew Rule (Kearney HS, Missouri)
SS Brandon Hauswald (University School of Jackson, Tennessee)
SS Ryan Layne (West Jessamine HS, Kentucky)
SS Kevin Rolon (PR Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico)