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Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Seattle in 2016
4 – Kyle Lewis
54 – Joe Rizzo
119 – Bryson Brigman
256 – Donnie Walton
301 – David Greer
351 – Nick Zammarelli
379 – Reggie McClain
424 – Thomas Burrows
1.11 – OF Kyle Lewis
I like Kyle Lewis (4). I write about guys I like a lot during the draft process. Rather than reprint a whole wall of Kyle Lewis words, I’ll leave this link from last February here. I don’t normally link to myself and recommend you read it, but this is one of those rare times when I think it’s worth it. The paragraph most germane to our present discussion of Lewis…
Kyle Lewis hit .367/.423/.677 last year in a decent college conference. That’s good, clearly. His 19 BB/41 K ratio is less good. So why buy the bat? As a hitter, I like what I’ve seen and heard about his righthanded swing. I like that he seemingly improved his approach (aggressively hunting for “his” pitch showed good self-scouting while getting ahead more frequently late in the year demonstrated a fuller understanding of what it will take to succeed against top-level competition) and started chasing fewer pitchers’s pitches as the season went on. I like his physical projection, public and privately shared intel about his work ethic, bat speed (I’ve seen some “whoa” cuts from him), and how his athleticism allows his upper- and lower-body to work in concern with one another with each swing. Believe me, I understand doubting him now as a potential top ten pick and dark horse to go 1-1 in this draft based on a wait-and-see approach to his plate discipline; if improvements aren’t made in his draft year BB/K ratio, all the positive scouting buzz will matter a lot less to me come June. But part of college scouting early in the season is identifying players set to make the leap as juniors. I think Lewis’s leap as a more mature, thoughtful, and explosive hitter has already begun, and it’ll be reflected on the field this upcoming season. I’ve thrown out a Yasiel Puig comp in the past for his ceiling and I’m sticking with that for now. As an added prospect to prospect bonus, his game reminds me some of Anthony Alford. Your mileage might vary on how in the draft a player like that could go, but it sure sounds like a potential premium pick to me.
Lewis followed that sophomore season up with a .395/.535/.731 junior campaign. His BB/K ratio moved from 19/41 to 66/48. That’s the kind of progress you can only dream about when forecasting a draft year breakout. Lewis delivered and then some, yet some still found reasons to tear him down during the draft process. No player is above being viewed through a critical lens, but I can’t help but feel that Lewis, for whatever reason, was this year’s “yeah, but” prospect for far too many. Positive scouting reports from his sophomore season at Mercer and summer on the Cape…yeah, but his numbers, namely his BB/K, weren’t first round quality. Tremendous turnaround in that exact area as a junior…yeah, but the level of competition puts the degree of actual improvement in question. Electric bat speed, plus to plus-plus raw power, hit tool looking better with every week…yeah, but strikeouts? Can’t play center? Too likable and hard working?
There are clearly some elements of truth in all of the singular bits of criticism of Lewis’s game — no prospect is perfect, after all — but what does well (lots) and how well he does it (very) is far more important to me than his minor flaws. From May 2016…
Arguably the closest comp to Bryant statistically is Kyle Lewis. Most walks, most whiffs, and some degree of a speed component. They also both played slightly lesser conference competition than their peers. I still kind of think that he’s got a lot of Yasiel Puig in his game — both the good and the bad — but that’s admittedly a minority view. Jermaine Dye is a good one put out there by Frankie Piliere. I’ve also heard Derek Bell, a name that I like because I think it fits fairly well and because any excuse to look up Derek Bell again gives the mid-90s sports nostalgia part of my brain a jolt.
Operation Shutdown will never not be funny to me. Anyway, I still like the Puig comp best of all. Comparing anybody to Puig, a player coming off as weird, wild, and unpredictable a first four MLB seasons as anybody in recent memory, might be silly, but I think Lewis lines ups favorably from both a skills and tools standpoint, and could have a similar above-average offensive start to his career with flirtations of stardom mixed in any given year. Burgeoning hit tool, loads of power, at least average speed, arm, and range, young for class, litany of favorable comps, and, most importantly of all, continual improvement in all phases of his game almost every time he steps foot on the diamond. Lewis had a very strong case for going first overall in this class; getting him at eleventh overall is about as big a no-brainer first round pick as you’ll see.
2.50 – 3B Joe Rizzo
I don’t love leading with “old” information, but this bit on Joe Rizzo (54) from May 2016 is one of my favorites…
Joe Rizzo, the man without a position, slides into the top spot here at first base. My strong hunch is that whatever team drafts him early will do so with the idea to play him at a more demanding defensive spot – could be third, could be second, could even be behind the plate – but eventually he’ll settle in as a professional first baseman. Offensively, I’ve gotten a Don Mattingly comp on him that I obviously find intriguing. The better comp, however, is one that takes a little getting used to. If I had to type up an anonymous scout quote to back it up, it might sound like this: “Well, I don’t like the body, but he can really swing it. Some guys just have a knack for hitting it hard every time, and Rizzo is one of ‘em. Pretty swing, above-average to plus power, and more athletic than he looks. Can probably fake it elsewhere on the diamond, but I’d stick him at first and just have him focus on piling up hits. Reminds me of a young John Kruk.” So there you have it. The anonymous scout that I made up has put a young John Kruk comp out there. Nice work, anonymous scout. I like it.
(It’s also worth pointing out that an actual scout – i.e., not one that is actually me in disguise – mentioned Bobby Bradley as a recent draft comp for Rizzo. I don’t hate it!)
John Kruk! I just love that comp so much. I can’t wait to start reading (and getting) firsthand reports about Rizzo, a position-less unconventional-bodied straight baller at the plate, from pro guys. They won’t know what hit ’em. They WILL know (presumably) what Rizzo can do: hit ’em. I adore Rizzo’s hit tool and think he’s going to be an above-average to plus offensive contributor for a long, long time. I’m intrigued about his defensive upside at a couple of different positions (second, catcher, or his current landing spot third), but I really just want to watch him hit and hit and hit. I’m very much into this pick. Kyle Lewis and Joe Rizzo is a hell of a way to start off a draft.
3.87 – SS Bryson Brigman
Obsessing all spring about finding answers about the long-term defensive future of Bryson Brigman (119) — quick version: athletic enough for short with just enough range, but arm feels just a touch light to want him there in anything more than spot-duty — obscured the more pressing Brigman question: will the young middle infielder from San Diego get into enough power to profile as a regular no matter what position he plays? For example, here I am going on and on and on about Brigman’s glove back in March 2016…
Doing so would allow me to regularly see Bryson Brigman, a prospect that has begun to remind me a lot of Arizona’s Scott Kingery from last year’s draft. Kingery was a second round pick (48th overall) and I could see Brigman rising to a similar level by June. Like Kingery last year, Brigman’s defensive future remains a question for scouts. Fortunately for both, the question is framed more around trying him in challenging spots than worrying about having to hide him elsewhere on the diamond. Brigman has an above-average to plus defensive future at second back in his back pocket already, so his playing a solid shortstop in 2016 is doing so with house money. In much the same way that former second baseman Alex Bregman wore everybody down with consistent above-average play at short last college season, Brigman has proved to many that he has what it takes to stick at shortstop in pro ball. Brigman’s appeal at this point is pretty clear: tons of defensive potential in the middle infield, contact abilities that elicit the classic “he could find a hole rolling out of bed” remarks from onlookers, and enough of the sneaky pop/mature approach offensive extras needed to be an impactful regular in the big leagues. I’ll stick with the Kingery – who smart people told me here could play shortstop if needed, a position since corroborated by those who have seen him in the pros (I’ll be seeing him for myself on Saturday, FWIW) – comparison for now, but I wouldn’t object to somebody who offered up a mix of the best of both Kingery and his old double play partner Kevin Newman. That would obviously be some kind of special player, but Brigman doesn’t seem too far off. I’ve said before I hate when people throw around terms like “first round player” so loosely that you could count 100 first rounders in their eyes in the months leading up to June, but I’ll be guilty of it here and call Brigman a first round player as of now. I’ve really come to appreciate his game since the start of the season.
Comparing any young guy to Scott Kingery, a prospect I’ve always liked more than maybe I should, is high praise. I have little doubt about Brigman’s hit tool continuing to play at the big league even as questions about his power exist. Hit tool, plate discipline, athleticism, speed, and defense can take you a long way in pro ball. The glaring lack of power, however, puts a pretty clear potential cap on his ceiling. And I say that before checking the stats from his first professional season: .260/.369/.291. Six doubles and a triple in 318 plate appearances isn’t going to cut it. I still believe the hit tool will play, but it’ll be on Brigman to make the necessary adjustments to pro pitchers who will attack him differently once reports of his below-average power make the rounds.
4.117 – LHP Thomas Burrows
The fourth round felt a little early for a guy like Thomas Burrows (424) based on ceiling, but there’s no arguing with the results the lefty from Alabama has produced on the field to this point. Burrows was great in college from day one, but took things to another level as a junior: 13.04 K/9, 2.86 BB/9, and 0.95 ERA in 28.1 IP. Then he went out and did more or less the same thing in his pro debut: 13.50 K/9, 4.01 BB/9, and 2.55 ERA in 24.2 IP. I’m sure there are other recent comparables to Burrows over the years I could think of if I really sat down and tried, but the two names that immediately came to mind when it comes to reasonable comps are Paco Rodriguez (82nd overall pick in 2012) and Jacob Lindgren (55th overall pick in 2014). By that logic, based solely off of two previous draft examples, Seattle got a steal in snagging Burrows with pick 117! For real, the three guys all have common traits that give them high-floors with reasonable upside. All were lefthanded college relievers with fastballs capable of hitting the mid-90s (Burrows is 88-94), quality sliders, good command, and ample deception. The safety of this profile — both Rodriguez and Lindgren within a year of being drafted — is dinged only slightly by the uncertainty that comes with literally every single pitching prospect in the game (both Rodriguez and Lindgren have had Tommy John surgery, as pitchers do). I’m not saying that Burrows will pitch in the big leagues early in 2017 before eventually being forced to make his way back after his elbow explodes, but if you’re the type to buy into historical precedent and the power of three…
5.147 – SS Donnie Walton
From the high-floor of Thomas Burrows to the high-floor of Donnie Walton (256), the Mariners grab two likely big league role players with back-to-back selections within the draft’s first five rounds. As an avowed fan of going upside early and often, I shouldn’t like it…but I kind of do. I unexpectedly sold myself on Burrows with those Rodriguez/Lindgren comps, and Walton is the perfect example of a the right kind of high-floor prospect to target. If you’re going to go minimal risk with an early pick, get a guy like Walton who makes tons of quality contact, works deep counts, and can play whatever spot on the diamond you want to try him at. A long track record of success, sneaky speed, and an average arm that is stretched on the left side but playable just add to what makes him a rock solid future big league utility option. This echoes what was written back in April 2016…
Walton is pretty much exactly what you’d expect out of the son of a coach: there’s nothing flashy to his game, but he ably fields his position, runs well, and can make just about all the throws from short. It might be a utility player profile more so than a future regular ceiling, but it’s relatively safe and well worth a top ten round pick.
The fifth round qualifies as a top ten round pick, right? Then we’re good here. Nice work by Seattle.
6.177 – RHP Brandon Miller
When I saw Brandon Miller pitch this past season for Millersville (3/31/16 against East Stroudsburg), I saw a big (6-4, 210) righthanded starting pitcher with exceptional control, solid command of four pitches (88-93 FB, average 77-83 SL, 82-83 CU flashed average, show-me 72 CB), and a willingness to attack hitters with high fastballs. He wasn’t at his best that day (6 IP 10 H 7 ER 2 BB 4 K), but you could still see future professional starting pitcher traits. Sixth round for Miller seems early to me, but a team like Seattle that valued his brand of control, command, and well-rounded stuff is free to disagree. I’m always in favor of guys I saw play up close going high, so I’m on board for entirely selfish reasons.
7.207 – RHP Matt Festa
When I saw Matt Festa pitch this past season for East Stroudsburg (3/31/16 against Millersville), I saw a short (6-1, 190) righthanded starting pitcher with above-average control, solid command of three pitches (89-95 FB, average CB/SL, CU flashed average), and a propensity for pitching down in the zone. He was pretty sharp that day (7 IP 6 H 2 ER 2 BB 8 K), so it was easy to walk away impressed. I’d love to see him get a shot in relief where he’d really be able to air it out — more mid-90s than low-90s could get him on a much faster track to the big leagues — but he’s good enough to develop as a starter as well. Big thing working against him now is his age; Festa will start his first full pro season at 24-years-old. That could be all the more reason to get him in the pen sooner rather than later.
8.237 – 3B Nick Zammarelli
Seattle’s emphasis on finding productive college players continues with Nick Zammarelli (351) going off the board in round eight. If you’re into versatile defenders who have shown steady growth in all offensive areas (power, patience, contact) over the course of the past three seasons, then Zammarelli is your guy. I can see his pro debut being a template for how he’ll likely be deployed if/when he reaches the big leagues. While with the AquaSox, Zammarelli played all four corner spots (1B/3B/LF/RF). That seems like a reasonably realistic outcome for an eighth rounder, though I wouldn’t put it past the Elon product continuing to impress with the bat enough to find steadier work one day.
9.267 – C Jason Goldstein
On Jason Goldstein from April 2016…
Jason Goldstein is one of those all-around catching prospects that teams should like a lot on draft day, but all indications point towards that being a minority view than a consensus around baseball. I liked Goldstein a lot last year, I still like him this year, and it’s fine that he’ll likely be drafted much later than where he’ll be ranked on my board. He’s a heady defender with enough arm strength to profile as a big league backup at worst.
I really like Jason Goldstein as a potential big league backup catcher. Or at least I thought I did before Seattle took him much earlier than I ever could have imagined heading into the draft. Maybe I was just a year ahead of the curve when I ranked the catcher from Illinois as the second (!) best college backstop and 94th overall prospect (!!!) in the country in 2015. That was one heck of an aggressive ranking. I dropped him all the way down to 37th among college catchers in 2016 and out of the top 500 entirely. That may have been too drastic an overcorrection from 2015 — in fairness, the college catching depth in 2016 was head and shoulders above what we saw in 2015 — so splitting the difference between when he was ranked 94th and when he was ranked 501st (humor me here) probably gives the most accurate depiction of what I think about him as a draft prospect. That would have put him at 297th, not too far off from where Seattle took him (267th) this past June. His scouting notes from way back in his high school days — back when he was ranked 499th among all draft-eligible prospects — are as useful as ever…
C Jason Goldstein (Highland Park HS, Illinois): plus arm strength; highest level defensive tools; accurate arm; strong; fantastic footwork; quick bat; good approach; not a ton of power upside, but a professional hitting approach; 5-11, 190 pounds; R/R
Add a couple inches, about twenty good pounds, and a strengthened reputation as a high baseball IQ leader behind the dish, and you’ve got the 2016 version of Goldstein. His junior season power spike got me a little carried away with his upside, but he’s still a guy who does all the little things well enough to have a long career as a potential high-level backup. Even if that upside isn’t met, the unseen value of having a guy like Goldstein around minor league pitching the next few years is worth a ninth round pick. Good get for a money-saving senior-sign.
10.297 – 3B David Greer
On David Greer (301) from April 2016…
David Greer is one of college baseball’s best, most underrated hitters. I’d put his hit tool on the short list of best in this college class. With that much confidence in him offensively, the only real question that needs to be answered is what position he’ll play as a pro. Right now it appears that a corner outfield spot is the most likely destination, but his prior experience at both second and third will no doubt intrigue teams willing to trade a little defense for some offense at those spots.
David Greer can hit. I think the position he played most often during his debut (RF) is probably his most likely landing spot in the long run. A guy with his kind of hit tool, disciplined approach, and big arm in right field has a shot to profile as a potential regular there. If it doesn’t work out that way, a four-corners future a la Nick Zammarelli could be his path to the big leagues. That kind of future would fit this Seattle draft class really well.
If there’s one consistent theme I’ve heard about the new-ish Mariners front office, it’s that building depth throughout the system matters. Seattle’s attention to the peripheral positions on the roster has come across with decisions both at the big league level and through the draft. Kyle Lewis could be a star. Joe Rizzo has that kind of upside as a hitter. After that, you can see the kind of highly productive potential role player types that Seattle seemingly targeted selected across their draft from round three to forty. A little more upside at certain spots would be nice — a high-upside HS type in the mid-single-digits and another in round eleven would qualify — but I think a draft focused on making solid contact rather than taking big all-or-nothing cuts can make sense in its own way.
11.327 – RHP Michael Koval
Michael Koval is who we thought he was. Junior season at Cal Poly Pomona: 6.80 K/9 and 2.14 BB/9. Pro debut with Seattle: 6.37 K/9 and 2.55 BB/9. You have to appreciate a prospect who delivers exactly what is expected, for better or worse. Koval’s peripherals aren’t those typically associated with a top ten round pick (or eleven, in this case), but the former Division II star’s game is geared more toward getting outs on the ground than via the strikeout. When you do the former at a dominant level (literally two-thirds of batted balls against him in his debut were on the ground) and the latter at a respectable level, you can make the sinker/slider relief profile work.
12.357 – LHP Tim Viehoff
Two picks off the beaten path in a row for Seattle here as they follow up the Michael Koval (Cal Poly Pomona) selection by making Tim Viehoff Southern New Hampshire’s highest drafted player ever in the twelfth round. Viehoff is plenty deserving of the spot thanks to a trio of quality offerings (88-92 FB, SL, CU), a three-year track record of missing bats (11.81 K/9) and limited walks (3.43 BB/9), and imposing size (6-4, 200) from the left side. Sounds good to me. Came across this when checking Viehoff’s numbers…
The Aquasox instituted a policy for their on-field staff to wait 30 days after a player is drafted before tweaking their game, which gives the staff a full view of why a player was drafted. Viehoff’s hope is that Aquasox pitching coach Moises Hernandez, the older brother of Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, will help sharpen his change-up and slider, among other things, upon finally getting the opportunity to work together. Whether or not he will gain further development is the furthest concern from Viehoff’s mind.
First, good policy. My initial reaction is that thirty days isn’t long enough; I’m not saying it’s wrong and I’m admittedly nowhere near as knowledgeable about the player development side of things as I pretend to be about prospect evaluation, but my instinct would be to wait until the first fall instructional league to begin to tinker with a player’s game. Anyway, the real reason for pulling out that paragraph is that I had no idea that Felix Hernandez’s brother was a pitching coach in the Mariners organization. I’m sure M’s fans know all about that, but I’m willing to be that a lot of fans of other teams didn’t know, either.
13.387 – RHP Reggie McClain
This felt like the perfect spot to give Reggie McClain (379) of Missouri a shot, especially if you buy into my pre-draft rankings (found in parentheses for every top 500 prospect if you haven’t caught on by now). The redshirt-senior more than held up his end of the bargain after signing (10.24 K/9 K/9 and 0.93 BB/9 in 48.1 IP), though it should be noted that he’s old for his class as a guy who will be 24-years-old heading into his first full pro season in 2017. Still, I can’t help but remain intrigued by a veteran (by amateur standards, McClain has seen and done a lot) college arm with a solid fastball (velocity isn’t great at 85-91, but command and movement prop it up) and an outstanding changeup who has consistently shown over-the-top great control no matter the level of competition. It’s a profile I believe in. When I get players (and profiles) that I like, I tend to go a little overboard bothering friends in the game for comparisons. The first name that came to mind as a contemporary draft comp was Mike Morin, a prospect that I absolutely LOVED during his North Carolina days. Morin is my comp, but I also heard Brandon Kintzler, Deolis Guerra, and, I like this one a lot, Chris Devenski. A Morin/Devenski career path would be a fantastic outcome for a thirteenth round pick like McClain. Incidentally, Morin was a thirteenth round pick in 2012…
14.417 – RHP Kyle Davis
On Kyle Davis from April 2016…
Kyle Davis, a prospect I once thought would wind up better as a catcher than as a pitcher, has compiled strong numbers since almost his first day on campus. As I’ve said a lot in the preceding paragraphs, a big point in his favor is that he has the requisite three to four pitches needed to start. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll continue to hold down a rotation spot in the pros, but it gives him a shot.
Despite the optimism expressed above, I’ve never been a big Kyle Davis supporter. Nice college arm with a well-rounded arsenal (legit CB and average CU/SL), but arm action, build, and numbers (far more effective as a reliever in college) all point to him as a guy with a middle relief ceiling in pro ball. There’s nothing wrong with that in round fourteen if you think he can fulfill that promise, but I’m bearish on Davis as a pro. Worth pointing out that Seattle went with back-to-back-to-back $5,000 senior-signs. In rounds 8-9-10, the money-saving aspect would make some sense. In rounds 12-13-14, it’s a little odd. Not bad or anything — maybe they just happen to love these three pitchers and getting them cheap is a fun bonus for them — but still odd.
15.447 – LHP Danny Garcia
I’m stumped when it comes to Danny Garcia. The overall spread of stuff from the left side — 88-92 FB (93 peak), average or better low-80s split-CU, decent breaking ball — is encouraging even with the lack of a singular knockout pitch. His first two seasons at Miami (8.10 K/9 and 8.67 K/9) looked good. Then things got weird. Garcia remained effective as a junior weekend starter (3.50 ERA in 87.1 IP), but his strikeout rate nearly halved (4.74 K/9) and his walk rate almost doubled (1.84 BB/9 to 3.09 BB/9) from his sophomore season to his draft year. His strikeout rate remained anemic (4.85 K/9) in 42.2 innings as a pro. Could it be something as simple as the increased workload — not so much in total innings, but as a full-time starter rather than an occasional starter/swingman — that explains the decline in strikeouts? Or could it be a level of competition thing? Garcia pitched mainly against non-conference mid-week opponents during his sophomore season before getting challenged with a full ACC weekend slate as a junior. Or is it just the vagaries of small sample sizes rearing their ugly head once again? Whatever it is, Garcia feels like a potential matchup lefty in a best case scenario outcome. Good enough for the fifteenth round, but hard to ignore that junior year K/9 (4.74!) when trying to project him going forward. Not in love with this one.
17.507 – OF Dimas Ojeda
Dimas Ojeda hit .396/.442/.634 with 15 BB/28 K in his sophomore season at McLaren JC. Not bad at all, but a little less impressive when you see the team as a whole hit .342/.439/.579 this past year. Context matters. For what it’s worth, 25 of McLaren’s 33 drafted players since 1998 came on the mound. I honestly don’t know what that’s worth, if anything. Seemed like an interesting tidbit (kind of) worth sharing in lieu of any actual information about Ojeda. Seattle obviously saw something special enough in the big lefty’s stick to give him $100,000. Can’t argue too much with his .264/.343/.455 pro start. Early returns on his defense in left field — a position the lifelong first baseman only started playing this past season as a sophomore — have him as “serviceable” in the role. The offensive bar for a serviceable left fielder is damn high, so the M’s must really believe in him as a hitter. Worth a shot here.
18.537 – RHP Robert Dugger
Seattle has bested me here. I’ve got nothing from a scouting perspective when it comes to Robert Dugger out of Texas Tech. All I have to go on with Dugger are his impressive junior year (7.36 K/9 – 3.08 BB/9 – 52.2 IP – 2.56 ERA) numbers. He kept it up in pro ball with a 8.77 K/9 and 2.54 BB/9 across three levels including a late-season cameo at AAA.
19.567 – OF DeAires Moses
I likely know what you know about DeAires Moses. Or what you could know about DeAires Moses if you were to Google him yourself. He’s a speedy junior college center field prospect without much in the way of a standout offensive tool to project as much more than a fifth outfielder if it all goes right.
20.597 – OF Eric Filia
“Now he was a 24-year-old playing for the AquaSox, but…” is how I’ve started an email or two to friends asking for super-duper deep league fantasy sleepers from this past draft. Eric Filia’s crazy hot start to his pro career (.360/.451/.494 with 40 BB/19 K and 10/15 SB in 247 AB) might be the best of its kind in this draft class. That doesn’t drastically change the pre-draft evaluation of Filia, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Big debut or not, I flat out like Filia and have for a while. From April 2016…
I’ve lumped David Greer and Eric Filia together because both guys can really, really hit. I think both guys can work themselves up the minor league ladder based on the strength of their hit tool (plate discipline included) alone. Defensive questions for each hitter put a cap on their respective ceilings (Greer intrigues me defensively with his plus arm and experience at 1B, 2B, 3B, and in the OF; Filia seems like left field or first base all the way), but, man, can they both hit.
If I had been paying closer attention to Seattle’s picks to this point, I probably wouldn’t be as surprised (and delighted!) to see the M’s snag both Greer and Filia in the same draft as I am. As it is, Seattle did really well to get a bat as advanced as Filia this late. All of the caveats that come with bat-first prospects apply here (and then some: Filia has never showed big power, is limited to 1B/corner OF, missed a college season with a bum labrum, missed a second college season due to academics), but in the twentieth round why not bet on a hitter?
21.627 – OF Austin Grebeck
The almost complete lack of power should be a disqualifying red flag, but I just can’t help liking Austin Grebeck. He’s such an annoying (in a good way) hitter that the idea of him going from the twenty-first round on the heels of a .070 junior season ISO all the way to the big leagues one day doesn’t strike me as nearly as crazy as it should. He’s still a super long shot with a limited ceiling (fifth outfielder?), but the things he does well (defend, run, throw, take pitches) should at least give him a chance to hang around in pro ball long enough to get noticed.
22.657 – OF Jansiel Rivera
23.687 – RHP Jack Anderson
It goes without saying that I can’t see every player I write about. That creates an interesting divide between players I think I know what I’m talking about because I’ve seen them (thus placing a higher emphasis on my own evaluation over what has been written and passed along to me otherwise) and players I think I know what I’m talking about because I specifically haven’t seen them (and can then go all-in on the notes that I have from actual talent evaluators without the fear of overrating my own firsthand take). I like detaching my own “scouting” bias from the process as much as I can, but sometimes I can’t help myself. In the case of Jack Anderson, I think it worked out for the best.
As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been anything draft-specific written about Anderson publicly. As a semi-local prospect to me, I had a few decent contacts that had seen him and could give me some quick notes but nothing I had was substantive enough that I felt great about publishing anything about him unless I could see him for myself. So, that’s exactly what I did and I’m thankful for it. Anderson is a ton of fun. His wicked submarine delivery gives him crazy amounts of deception. I was kind of but not quite behind the plate for some of his time on the mound and his delivery had me flinching for a few pitches as a spectator before I got the hang of it. When I saw him his fastball was mostly mid-80s (88 peak), but I’ve heard he hit 90 MPH later in the spring. He used the heater a ton, but managed to mix in a few interesting Frisbee sliders along the way. The swings hitters got on him were really awkward when they made contact at all. It’s easy to say after the fact, but one of the first thoughts I had after seeing him warm-up was there is no way there are 500 better draft prospects in the country than him. I immediately got a strong Chad Bradford vibe; this article cites his college coach’s familiarity with Joe Smith as another point of reference for what Anderson could be. A funky righthanded reliever capable of rolling bowling balls and getting loads of weak contact sounds great to me in round twenty-three. His batted ball breakdown in his pro debut — 46 ground balls, 12 line drives, 4 fly balls, and 3 pop-ups — backs it up. I’m all-in on Jack Anderson, future big league reliever.
24.717 – OF Trey Griffey
I didn’t put two and two together about the round the M’s selected Trey Griffey in until now. That’s actually a nice touch.
Sentimentality aside, this still feels way too early to throw away a pick for me. There are a lot of bigger and more credible reasons as to why the MLB Draft doesn’t attract more casual fans, and I’d be willing to hear arguments that silliness like this brings some much needed levity to the marathon that is day three of the draft, but I think selections like this ultimately hurt the product’s growth potential. If I’m a casual draft fan and hear that the Marines selected Ken Griffey’s son in the twenty-fourth round, my first thought might be “Hey, cool” or something like that. My next thought would likely be “Wait, he never even played in college? So what’s the point of following the draft past this point if a team like Seattle is willing to do this just past the draft’s midway point?” I like the draft at forty rounds because the amateur baseball scene across the country (and beyond) is teeming with talented players who are only one phone call away from getting a chance to show it off, but shenanigans like this back up the commonly held idea that going forty rounds is just too long. I’ve heard numbers floated by industry types ranging from ten to twenty-five as the sweet spot for enough rounds without going overboard; I guess I’d be fine with something on the high end of that range, though I’d really rather not see it dip any lower than thirty.
Anyway, Seattle is free to use their picks in any way they deem appropriate, so I won’t go full old man yells at cloud on this pick. I’ll just say the following and leave it alone: I wouldn’t have done what they did when they did it. Nobody asked me, though. None of this is Griffey’s fault, by the way. Best of luck to him in the upcoming East-West Shrine Game and NFL Draft process.
26.777 – LHP Elliot Surrey
A pick like this shows the downside to the Jack Anderson analysis above. I can’t recall ever seeing Elliott Surrey pitch in person at UC Irvine. On the surface, he’s a fairly similar prospect to Anderson: mid-80s fastball, good offspeed pitch (changeup in this case), some funk in his delivery, long college track record of success. Surrey might even have the objective edge as a lefthander who throws enough useful pitches (cutter, breaking ball) to have a history as a college starter under his belt. Maybe if I had seen Surrey like I did Anderson, I’d be more excited about this pick. As it is, it’s a fine pick in the twenty-sixth round for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m not inspired to write the impassioned review that Anderson got, but that’s not because of anything Surrey did or didn’t do. It’s the downside of seeing certain guys and potentially overvaluing them because it’s human nature to want to see those you “know” succeed more than those you don’t.
27.807 – RHP Paul Covelle
I’ve got next to nothing on Paul Covelle, a senior righthander from Franklin Pierce. His senior season (8.69 K/9 and 1.40 BB/9) was nice. And it was in line with what he’s done over his career as a Raven (8.28 K/9 and 2.68 BB/9). That’s nice to see.
28.837 – RHP Nathan Bannister
A strained forearm kept Nathan Bannister out of action after signing. I couldn’t find anything more recent than that, so it appears that treatment and rest should get him back on the mound next spring without having to undergo any type of surgical procedure. That’s good news for the former Arizona ace who relies heavily on precision command and plus control to help his otherwise unspectacular stuff play up. If Bannister makes it, it’ll be as a sinker/slider middle reliever.
29.867 – RHP Steven Ridings
Steven Ridings (Messiah) and Stephen Ridings (Haverford) played their college ball about one hundred miles apart from one another in Pennsylvania. The former righthanded pitcher was selected twenty-one rounds after the latter. I like Stephen quite a bit as you can read here, but Steven is no slouch, either. The Messiah Ridings can get it up to the mid-90s with the frame and athleticism to suggest a few more ticks to come. Combine that with stellar collegiate results as a senior (10.66 K/9, 2.26 BB/9, and 1.72 ERA in 83.2 IP) and it’s a little surprising to me that he fell this far. Really nice addition for Seattle this late.
34.1017 – RHP David Ellingson
I like David Ellingson probably more than I ought to for a thirty-fourth round pick. There’s nothing special about his profile — 6-1, 200 pound college relievers with decent fastballs (88-92, 93 peak) and above-average 77-79 breaking balls are kind of a dime or dozen in the college game — so let’s chalk up my pro-Ellingson feelings as an odd intuitive feel and move along.
36.1077 – 2B Joseph Venturino
Joe Venturino was a career .363/.432/.457 hitter with 73 BB/48 K and 59 SB in 680 AB at Division III Ramapo College. Pretty standard second base prospect without much pop, but with plenty of contact skills, speed, and patience. No idea about his glove. All in all, works for me in the thirty-sixth round.
Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017
Lyle Lin (Arizona State), Ryan Fucci (unsigned as his shoulder was deemed “too risky” by Seattle, but out of college eligibility and the M’s still technically hold his rights), Tyler Duncan (Crowder JC), Lincoln Henzman (Louisville), Kenyon Yovan (Oregon), Morgan McCullough (Oregon), Will Ethridge (Mississippi), Eli Wilson (Minnesota), James Reilly (James Madison), Camryn Williams (Dallas Baptist), Adley Rutschman (Oregon State)
Prep rankings are close to being finalized, but I’m trying to hang on to the last possible second to allow for any last minute pop-up guys ready to crash the party a place on the list. For now, a true follow list only of all the high school first base prospects that have caught my attention for one reason or another this draft cycle.
List is alphabetical, so obviously don’t infer anything from the rankings. It would be pretty cool if the rankings just so happened to be alphabetical, though. That would be some kind of coincidence.
Who am I missing? Did I mess up the spelling of a player’s name and/or botch his high school listing? And how stupid am I for daring to rank the J’s over the L’s? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, or via email. The more the merrier even at this late stage.
DID YOU KNOW that drafting HS first basemen is stupid? Well, stupid is unduly harsh, so let’s say…problematic. Before we go any further, I should point out that I don’t necessarily agree with that conclusion – I’m actively disagreeing with my own conclusion, so, yeah, great start to this piece – because I think every player should be judged individually and historical draft trends aren’t particularly predictive in nature, but, damn, high school first basemen have been a poor investment so far this millennium. Since I started this site in 2009, there have literally been ZERO positive value first basemen drafted and signed out of high school. Only two have made the big leagues: Christian Yelich and Jonathan Singleton. Now obviously the former name has been pretty darn valuable, but that’s a clear cheat. Despite being announced as a first baseman on draft day, everybody knew he was an outfielder. He’s gone on to play exactly zero innings at first so far as a professional. So the only other big league first baseman drafted and signed out of high school is Jonathan Singleton, a negative value player to date by both rWAR and fWAR. Ouch.
The best hopes to reverse that trend are (in whatever order you like) Josh Naylor, Bobby Bradley, Josh Ockimey, Dominic Smith, Cody Bellinger, Jake Bauers, Matt Olson, Dan Vogelbach, and, because I still believe, a Jonathan Singleton rebound. I’d also add Kolton Kendrick to the list, but he’s admittedly a long way off. All in all we have lots of nice prospects, but no one player that you can point to as a future long-term regular at first with a high degree of confidence. Smith is the most likely future regular in my view (best all-around game), Ockimey has been scorching to start 2016, and Vogelbach just needs a place to play because he can really fucking hit. Maybe one or more of these prospects redeems the position. We’ll have to wait and see.
Anyway, if we expand the hunt for high school first basemen all the way back to 2000 — same year I started high school myself, incidentally — the list adds some pretty impressive names. Of course, we’re talking quality over quantity here as there are still very few names considering we’re now covering sixteen drafts. Going from most recent to least, we add Eric Hosmer, Giancarlo Stanton (another cheat with no innings at 1B as a pro), Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Logan Morrison, Mike Carp, Kyle Blanks, Prince Fielder, James Loney, Travis Ishikawa, Casey Kotchman, and Adrian Gonzalez. Those are your positive value drafted and signed high school first basemen since 2000. If we’re being real, the list reads Hosmer, Freeman, Rizzo, Fielder, and Gonzalez. Five stars in sixteen drafts isn’t a great hit rate (obviously), but the magnitude of their stardom is pretty impressive. Maybe that can be our amended conclusion about drafting high school first basemen: odds are very much stacked against you historically, but if you find a winner then you’ve really found a winner. The grand total of positive value professional first basemen drafted and signed out of high school since 2000 is ten, though you can bump that to an even dozen if you want to include both Marlins outfielders. Taking the wide view on high school first basemen helps ease my mind somewhat about the utility of such prospects. I do wonder what’s changed (if anything: this could just be a function of needing more patience with the post-2009 group), but that’s a different post for a different day.
The original intent of this post was to actually talk about the high school first base prospects eligible for the 2016 MLB Draft. I suppose it’s time to actually do that. But before we do, here’s this…
2015: Josh Naylor (1), Corey Zangari (6), Kolton Kendrick (8), Seamus Curran (8), Curtis Terry (13)
2014: Bobby Bradley (3), Josh Ockimey (5), Dash Winningham (8), Justin Bellinger (11), Owen Taylor (27)
2013: Dominic Smith (1), Cody Bellinger (4), Jake Bauers (7), David Denson (15), Randolph Gassaway (16)
2012: Matt Olson (1s), Keon Barnum (1s), Justin Chigbogu (4), Nick Halamandaris (8), Kristian Brito (11)
2011: Dan Vogelbach (2), Kevin Cron (3), Trevor Gretzky (7), Bubba Jones (7), John Alexander (8)
2010: Christian Yelich (1), Travis Flores (11), Tyler Kuresa (11), Juan Rosado (11), Sean Dwyer (15)
2009: Jeff Malm (5), Jon Singleton (8), Geoffrey Baldwin (10), Corey Davis (15), David Washington (15)
Those are the first five high school first basemen (round in parentheses) drafted every year since the site started. I bring this up because I think 2016 has a good chance of having the most impressive top five out of all of those years. 2013 will be hard to beat – again, let’s assume we’re putting Yelich’s contributions from the 2010 group aside for now – and there are names in 2011, 2014, and 2015 that could do big things, but I really like what 2016 could be. Of course, any such high school position ranking low on the defensive totem pole needs to come with the caveat that players at certain spots on the diamond (1B, corner OF, sometimes 2B) are made and not born. Players from other positions eventually become first basemen. As long as we all know that going in, we’re good. There are a lot of reasons not to be excited about high school first base prospects, but that shouldn’t stop us from giving each individual player his own evaluation. It’s a little bit like how one can believe that man is evil while individual men can be good. Or something like that. Anyway, I like these guys. Let’s talk about them.
The first name on the original list was Christian Jones. It’s now just a few weeks away from the draft and I still like Jones as much as I did back then. The only glaring negative that I see with the young lefty from Washington right now is the fact he’s never eaten a hamburger. I can kind of see the hot dog thing – I love them, but get why one might want to avoid them – but the hamburger (cheeseburger, ideally) is one of mankind’s finest culinary achievements. Thankfully, Jones earns points back for his love of seafood…and his excellent athleticism, easy above-average raw power, and consistent ability to square balls up and rocket line drives to all fields. The only trepidation I have with Jones being on this list is the growing likelihood that he can move well enough to handle left field. Everything about his offensive and athletic profile points towards future big league regular.
With all that said, I think Jones would fall just behind a new addition to the first base ranks. Joe Rizzo, the man without a position, slides into the top spot here at first base. My strong hunch is that whatever team drafts him early will do so with the idea to play him at a more demanding defensive spot – could be third, could be second, could even be behind the plate – but eventually he’ll settle in as a professional first baseman. Offensively, I’ve gotten a Don Mattingly comp on him that I obviously find intriguing. The better comp, however, is one that takes a little getting used to. If I had to type up an anonymous scout quote to back it up, it might sound like this: “Well, I don’t like the body, but he can really swing it. Some guys just have a knack for hitting it hard every time, and Rizzo is one of ‘em. Pretty swing, above-average to plus power, and more athletic than he looks. Can probably fake it elsewhere on the diamond, but I’d stick him at first and just have him focus on piling up hits. Reminds me of a young John Kruk.” So there you have it. The anonymous scout that I made up has put a young John Kruk comp out there. Nice work, anonymous scout. I like it.
(It’s also worth pointing out that an actual scout – i.e., not one that is actually me in disguise – mentioned Bobby Bradley as a recent draft comp for Rizzo. I don’t hate it!)
Ulysses Cantu is Joe Rizzo’s mirror image. Almost everything written above about the lefthanded Rizzo applies to righty swinging Cantu. I’m even less bullish on Cantu sticking anywhere but first base as a professional, so the pressure will be on for him to hit early and often upon signing his first contract. I see a little less hit tool, similar power, and an arguably better (trying to sort this out in limited PA for HS hitters is damn near impossible) approach. I think all that adds up to an overall offensive edge for Rizzo, but it’s really close.
If we’re going to pair Rizzo and Cantu together, then why not do the same for Christian Jones and Walker Robbins? The two lefthanded bats have very similar offensive ceilings. In a fun twist, Robbins, a legitimate pitching prospect with a fastball that ranges from 87-92 MPH, takes the place of Joey Wentz in this updated top five. Wentz, as many know, is a lefthanded pitching prospect all the way, but that wasn’t always the case. There were some fools (e.g., me) who thought his pro future would come as a slugging first baseman. Maybe there are some out there that think of Robbins more as a pitcher – I haven’t talked to any, but I’ve learned not to make assumptions with low-90s lefties – but at this point I’m pretty comfortable with him as a single-digit round hitting prospect. That’s some nice prospect symmetry right there.
Anyway, much like Jones, Robbins can hit. His power is real, he’s an excellent athlete, and he’s right around average with most of his run times. Also like Jones, the only real question I have with Robbins being where he is on this list is whether or not a pro team will challenge him with some outfield work after signing. I’d be fine with that, obviously – he can run, he can throw, and it’s not my money – but it would be kind of a shame to not have him play first base at the next level. I haven’t personally seen all of the players listed below, but of the ones I have, he’s easily the most impressive defender at first. It’s not the same as being a plus defender at catcher, center, or short, but it’s not nothing.
I know some who prefer TJ Collett to Joe Rizzo. I can see it. I’ve recently become quite enamored with Collett’s offensive game. If you read the site regularly, you know how much I like Zack Collins of Miami. I get a lot of the same positive vibes when watching (and reading/hearing about) Collett. I don’t think a team would be crazy to use a late first round pick on him, but odds are very good that they won’t have to. Getting him at any point past the first hundred picks or so would be great value.
I think my tentative rankings here are a little less tentative than in other spots. The only major changes I can foresee would be based on shuffling guys in and out based on late developing defensive switch information. I’d go Rizzo, Jones, Collett, Cantu, Robbins, Andrew Daschbach, Bryant Packard, Dylan Carlson, Vinnie Pasquantino, and Spencer Brickhouse in the top ten. The first five I feel pretty good about. The next three after that are all really close. I almost put Carlson with the outfielders just to avoid making any kind of decision, tentative or not, on him now; he’s another player like Robbins who has gone the opposite of Wentz (lefthanded pitcher early in the process to first base/outfield prospect now). Then there’s a bit of a drop after the top eight. All in all, a pretty good group worth getting excited about…even in the face of overwhelming odds.
(By the way, further research directed me to this. I now take it all back with Jones and his views on hamburgers and hot dogs. For those unwilling to click a link to learn more about a teenager baseball player’s culinary quirks, the article notes that Jones has avoided both burgers and dogs due to his belief that there is “too much going on” between the buns. That’s amazing. I’m prepared to move him up fifty spots on my board for that alone.)
1B Andru Summerall (Lake Park HS, Florida)
1B Bernard Gilot (The First Academy, Florida)
1B Bryant Packard (DH Conley HS, North Carolina)
1B Cole Zabowski (Lawrenceville HS, Georgia)
1B Cuba Bess (Fruita Monument HS, Colorado)
1B Easton Bents (Grants Pass HS, Oregon)
1B Jaquez Williams (East Coweta HS, Georgia)
1B Lael Lockhart (Friendswood HS, Texas)
1B Spencer Brickhouse (Zebulon HS, North Carolina)
1B Zach Zientarski (Boca Raton Community HS, Florida)
1B/3B Andrew Daschbach (Sacred Heart Prep, California)
1B/3B Joe Rizzo (Oakton HS, Virginia)
1B/C TJ Collett (Terre Haute North Vigo HS, Indiana)
1B/LHP Dylan Carlson (Elk Grove HS, California)
1B/LHP Vinnie Pasquantino (James River HS, Virginia)
1B/LHP Walker Robbins (George County HS, Mississippi)
1B/OF Austin Galindo (University HS, Illinois)
1B/OF Chris Winkel (Amity Regional Senior HS, Connecticut)
1B/OF Christian Jones (Federal Way HS, Washington)
1B/RHP Ulysses Cantu (Boswell HS, Texas)