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2016 MLB Draft Reviews – Miami Marlins

Top 500 Prospects Drafted by Miami in 2016

18 – Braxton Garrett
184 – Thomas Jones
377 – Chad Smith
466 – Jarett Rindfleisch
471 – Sean Reynolds
479 – Eric Gutierrez

Complete List of 2016 Miami Draftees

1.7 – LHP Braxton Garrett

Time will tell, of course, but the Miami 2016 MLB Draft class looks really thin on paper. Thankfully for fans of the Marlins, the MLB Draft — all drafts, really — can be analyzed until we’re blue in the face, but, more often than not, can ultimately be assessed as no more than a simple first pick pass/fail. If you hit on your first pick, then you’ve passed almost regardless of what transpires later. From this vantage point, it sure as heck looks like the Marlins have hit on their first round pick. Braxton Garrett (18) is a serious talent with true top of the rotation upside. He’s exactly the kind of high impact prospect that can make a draft. Garrett doesn’t have the velocity (87-92, 94 peak) that blows hitters away (yet), but he more than makes up for it with some of the best command you’ll find out of a teenage arm anywhere in the world. Garrett also have above-average control, tons of pitchability, and a pair of stellar offspeed pitches that include a legit plus curveball best in the low-80s and a mid-80s changeup that is already an average pitch with above-average to plus upside. There’s a reason ESPN compared the guy to both Jon Lester and Cole Hamels this past spring. Two additional names that I’ve heard include Rich Hill and Steven Matz. That’s a heck of a list of comps, something that ought to come as no surprise as Garrett is a heck of a prospect.

3.84 – OF Thomas Jones

After getting a deal done with Vanderbilt commit Braxton Garrett in the first round, Miami ensured they’d stay off Tim Corbin’s Christmas card list by by signing Thomas Jones (184) away from the Commodores in round three. Vandy’s loss is the Marlins gain as Jones checks just about every box you’d want to see in a young outfield prospect. He can run (above-average), throw (above-average), and hit for power (plus raw). Like any teenage position player there’s a big gap between what he is and what he could be, but favorable comps ranging from Devon White (Perfect Game), 39th overall pick Anfernee Grier (my own), and Carlos Gomez (heard this from a pro guy over the summer) are certainly intriguing.

4.113 – OF Sean Reynolds

The good news here is that my pre-draft positional designation of RHP/1B for Sean Reynolds undersold his athleticism and arm strength. Despite being a big guy (6-7, 200), he’s good enough in the outfield to project as a solid right fielder going forward. Reynolds is also still just a teenager (19 in April) who is only now focusing on hitting full-time for the first time in his life. He also has a quality fastball (85-90, 92 peak) and that aforementioned size to fall back on as a pitcher if hitting doesn’t work out in the long run. That leads us to the bad news. In his debut, Reynolds hit .155/.262/.196 with 37.0 K% and 12.7 BB% in 173 PA. That’s not the end of the world, but it does highlight some of the red flags I had heard pre-draft about Reynolds as a hitter, mainly the standard long-levers leading to big holes in his swing theory and general power over hit worries.

5.143 – RHP Sam Perez

On Sam Perez from March 2016…

Sam Perez could work as a sinker/slider reliever, but I’m more intrigued at the thought of him as a potential four-pitch starting pitcher capable of piling up outs on the ground.

Perez wound up being one of the rare college sinker/slider types (88-92 two-seam with plus sink/average or better slider) who didn’t produce expected results (45.16 GB% in his debut) after signing. Somewhat curious for a pitcher with “lots of ground balls” in his scouting notes. Still, Perez is a really capable pitcher who is clever on the mound when it comes to mixing that fastball, slider, average low-80s changeup, and average upper-70s curve. He’s a decent bet as a fifth starter type with some swingman upside out of the pen.

6.173 – RHP Remey Reed

The Marlins are known for loving their Oklahoma and Texas prospects, so taking the plunge with Remey Reed in round six is something that makes all the sense in the world. His fastball can get up to 94 MPH and he’ll throw an average or better changeup. That and the possibility of a better breaking ball coming together — he’s thrown both a slider and curve in the past — plus imposing size (6-5, 225), a big junior year as a Cowboy (11.22 K/9), and a name perfectly suited for middle relief all add to the appeal. Though I realize I’m starting to sound like a broken record, this one feels a bit early to me.

7.203 – OF Corey Bird

Fairly straightforward package here with Corey Bird: above-average to plus speed that plays up, elite center field defense, solid contact skills, patient approach, and literally no power. I won’t say that last part completely invalidates all the good that came before it, but…well, it kind of does. I appreciate what Bird does well and can see him carving out a big league role for himself if literally everything goes right in his development, but what’s his realistic upside? Fifth outfielder?

8.233 – OF Aaron Knapp

On Aaron Knapp from April 2016…

Aaron Knapp fascinates me as an athlete with easy center field range and impact speed, but with such little power that the profile might wind up shorting before he even gets a real chance in pro ball.

Remember what we said about Corey Bird one round earlier? It all applies to Aaron Knapp, too. Love the athleticism, speed, and range, but can’t see a guy with such little pop making serious noise in the pros. Knapp might be a good enough natural hitter to adjust somewhat, but it’s a long shot proposition. Marlins could have some fun backup outfielders soon, though. At least there’s that.

9.263 – C Jarett Rindfleisch

All Jarett Rindfleisch (466) did for three years at Ball State was hit. I like guys like that. He’s a capable defender behind the dish with a strong arm and the athleticism to stick. Likely a backup catcher ceiling, but could be a good one.

10.293 – LHP Dylan Lee

Dylan Lee is a more than acceptable senior-sign in the tenth round. Big lefties with velocity (88-93 FB) will always have a place in pro ball. Again, I’m not sure you’re getting anything more than a bullpen arm (sub in bench piece for the hitters), but that’s better than nothing. If you’re picking up on the fact I just don’t like this draft at all and I’m trying to be as nice as I can about it, you’re on to something.

11.323 – RHP Chad Smith

A draft pick spent on Chad Smith (377) is one made entirely with upside in mind. What Smith is — a one-pitch reliever with control woes — is nowhere near what he could be. The finished product could be a starting pitcher with three quality pitches and decent enough command to make it all work. The big selling point for Smith is his fastball, an explosive 90-95 MPH (97 peak) pitch that hitters can know is coming and still swing through. That pitch alone could get him to the high-minors. Certainly Smith and the Marlins have larger aspirations than that, and it’ll take improving his two present below-average offspeed pitches — an appealing yet inconsistent low-80s breaking ball that presently flashes both plus and minus in seemingly equal turns and a changeup that’s just sort of there — to get there. The gap between now and then is larger for Smith than most prospects coming out of a major college program like Ole Miss, but as far as lumps of clay go he’s a really interesting one to work with.

12.353 – RHP Mike King

Whenever I have something I think is interesting from the past to bring up when discussing a player’s future, I do so. Even when I’m saying dumb stuff like this excerpt from my Boston College preview back in December 2015…

For as much as I personally like [Justin] Dunn, others have JR RHP Mike King as Boston College’s top prospect (pitching or otherwise) heading into 2016. Frankly, it’s hard to argue. I mean, I had planned to do just that in this very space, but have mentally backtracked before I even got the chance to start. King has a solid heater (88-92, 93 peak), above-average low-80s changeup, and outstanding overall command. If one of his two breaking pitches sharpens up, then he’s a threat to crash the top five rounds just like Dunn. If you’re keeping score, I’d give the advantages of command, control, frame, and track record to King. It also shouldn’t be discounted that his name sounds like “viking” when said quickly. Dunn gets the edge in fastball velocity, all-around bat-missing stuff (this is double-counting his fastball some, but I’d say his slider is more of a strikeout pitch than King’s change, even while acknowledging that they are both more or less equally effective pitches) and athleticism. I’ll stick with the claim that both have top five round upside, but hedge some and say it’s more likely they wind up in the six to ten round range, where they’d be potential steals. Bonus prediction: Dunn gets drafted higher this June, but King winds up the (slightly) better long-term professional player.

I’m going to slowly walk away from that “(slightly) better long-term professional player” remark if it’s all the same to you. King might not have had the junior year bump — both in stuff and performance — as Dunn, but he’s still a solid get in the twelfth round. All of the things that made King a potential single-digit round prospect one year ago hold true today. He’s got pinpoint command, a quality sinker, and a fine assortment of offspeed pitches (79-83 CU, 80-85 cut-SL, 72-76 CB) that he can go to in any count. His best bet to make it at this point might be by embracing the sinker/slider/command aspects of his game in relief, though I still hold out a tiny sliver of hope that his well-rounded game could play as a starter.

14.418 – RHP Michael Mertz

I don’t like saying stuff like this because there’s an implication associated with it that I don’t care for (e.g., deficiencies in makeup, intelligence, work ethic), but Michael Mertz feels like one of those players who should be better than he is. It sounds like a bad thing — and, on balance, I suppose it is — but it’s actually a compliment to Mertz as a player. He’s really talented. He could see it all come together one day. It just hasn’t happened just yet.

The talent with Mertz begins with his outstanding mid-70s changeup, one of the best of its kind in this class. He also throws a really good 78-83 slider that can flash plus and a decent fastball at 88-92 (94 peak). What hurts him most is an inability to consistently command his breaking ball and an overall lack of control. If pro instruction can tighten up those two problem spots even a little, then the Marlins might have something with Mertz.

15.443 – SS James Nelson

James Nelson is a fascinating prospect that flew very much under my radar prior to the draft. Off the top, his given name of James is what he’s listed at just about everywhere, but he prefers to go by Ryan, his middle name. So Ryan Nelson it is. Ryan Nelson hit .434/.468/.796 with 14 BB/43 K in his freshman season at Cisco College. That’s really impressive even with the BB/K red flag staring us in the face. Of course, as we always try to remember, context matters: the Cisco team as a whole hit .388/.461/.634 in 2016. That’s incredible. Still, nobody was out there getting those hits for Nelson but Nelson himself, so that has to count for something; I’d rather have a guy hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers than a guy not hit big on a team with inflated offensive numbers. Bold take, I know. Nelson’s draft day announcement had him called out as a shortstop, but he played every inning in his pro debut at third. Said pro debut went pretty well: .284/.344/.364 with 14 BB/30 K in 162 AB looks good to me. Remember what we said about how context matters? Those numbers look even better when you consider that Nelson was very young for his class. Even after a full year of college, Nelson played his entire pro debut at just 18-years-old. That makes him a full six months younger than prep to pros 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford.

Put it all together and you’ve got a young infielder capable of playing the left side who has already been drafted twice (18th round by Boston in 2015) coming off a great yet flawed junior college season and a pro debut that showed growth in some of his seemingly weaker offensive areas. Having known little to nothing about Ryan Nelson as of about ten minutes ago, I can now say that he officially has my attention. Any port in the storm that is this year’s Marlins draft class.

16.473 – RHP Dustin Beggs

If you liked Mike King, then you’ll like Dustin Beggs. Both are highly competitive college righthanders from power conferences who get by more on the strength of stellar command, control, and guile than overwhelming stuff. Beggs doesn’t have enough fastball (87-91) to get picked by everybody, but Miami will happily bank on his well-rounded repertoire of offspeed pitches (upper-70s CB, low-80s SL, CU) and pitching acumen carrying him beyond what the grade on his heater would suggest. Only Ryan Nelson has interrupted the Marlins going with a different college pitcher archetype with every other pick here: Smith (intriguing stuff, iffy command), King (huge command, decent stuff), Mertz (intriguing stuff, iffy command), and Beggs (huge command, decent stuff). If the pattern holds then the Marlins will draft an intriguing stuff/iffy command guy next…

17.503 – RHP Brent Wheatley

Brent Wheatley isn’t quite the same type of intriguing stuff/iffy command guy the Marlins drafted in rounds eleven and fourteen, but he’s pretty close. He’s got size (6-4, 210), a long college track record that includes both good (9.71 K/9 as a senior) and bad (5.77 BB/9 and 6.03 ERA that same year), and solid stuff (88-93 FB, 82 cut-SL, 74-75 CB, 80 CU) that plays down due to his inability to throw consistent quality strikes. Unlike Chad Smith and Michael Mertz, I’m not sure the upside with Wheatley is quite high enough to warrant the longer than ideal developmental time likely required to turn him around, but we’ll see.

18.533 – C David Gauntt

Three really great years in a row at Washburn got David Gauntt noticed by Miami in round eighteen in 2016. An awesome senior year (.353/.518/.739 – 44 BB/45 K – 11/12 SB – 184 AB) helped boost his college career stats to an outstanding .304/.452/.611 lifetime mark. Also noteworthy are Gauntt’s career HBP totals (51 in 578 AB) and stolen base rate (21/25). Since I don’t have much on Gauntt beyond the numbers and it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these fun little “Where were you when it happened?” moments…

“I was in the middle of Walmart with my girlfriend, and when they called me we both got really happy and probably turned a couple heads,” Gauntt said. “People in the store probably thought we were crazy.”

Love that stuff.

19.563 – LHP Shane Sawczak

Here’s what Shane Sawczak did at Coastal Carolina in 2015, Palm Beach State in 2016, and his professional debut this past summer…

5.50 K/9 and 3.67 BB/9 in 54.0 IP
9.66 K/9 and 3.47 BB/9 in 59.2 IP
7.02 K/9 and 4.42 BB/9 in 34.2 IP

Nothing particularly interesting about those numbers, but I looked them up from three different places so you can be damn sure I was going to use them. This is what you do when you don’t know much else about a team’s nineteenth round pick.

20.593 – 1B Eric Gutierrez

It’s tough out there for righthanded hitting first base prospects lacking the classic size/strength profile of the position. Eric Gutierrez (479) will continue his attempt at being the exception to the rule in pro ball. From March 2015…

Texas Tech JR 1B/LHP Eric Gutierrez is one of my favorite power hitters in a class desperately in need of some good ones. Some teams might be turned off than his less than ideal frame (5-10, 205), but so long as he keeps mashing he has a better than average shot to hear his name called in a signable range this June.

A year later and now much changed with Gutierrez. He returned to Lubbock and had a monster senior season .333/.465/.581 with 42 BB/37 K in 234 AB), but questions about his long-term pro utility remain. You can hit and hit and hit, but sometimes being a 5-10, 200 pound righthanded hitting first baseman is too much to overcome. I still like the pick as Gutierrez should at least provide value as an org bat with some lefty-mashing bench upside.

21.623 – SS Luis Pintor

Miami presumably saw fifteenth round pick Ryan Nelson and twenty-first round pick Luis Pintor square off on May 13, 2016 as Nelson’s Cisco College squad squared up against New Mexico JC in the same town (Lubbock, Texas) that twentieth round pick Eric Gutierrez played his college home games at Texas Tech. That all has to mean something, right? Anyway, Pintor hit a single and scored a run in five at bats. Nelson…didn’t play. Probably should have checked that first before writing that opener, huh? Pintor’s 1 for 5 outing dragged down his season line all the way to .389/.484/.730 with 35 BB/26 K and 32/36 SB in 211 AB. His New Mexico JC team as a whole hit .377/.475/.691 on the season, so, you know, context. Still, Pintor hit a bunch in college and hit pretty well in his debut, so my interest is piqued. If you can squeeze out one potential utility player out of him and Nelson, that’s a win.

22.653 – RHP Alex Mateo

I don’t have much on Alex Mateo. Him winding up at Nova Southeastern by way of Point Park University in Pittsburgh, a school I don’t recall ever mentioning on this site before, is pretty interesting. Good but not great final year numbers at Nova Southeastern (7.69 K/9 and 2.16 BB/9) are a little less interesting. I got nothing.

23.683 – RHP Hunter Wells

Back-to-back picks where I’m bringing little to no scouting notes to the table. I’m clearly losing my touch. Hunter Wells out of Gonzaga had a decent junior year (9.13 K/9 and 4.63 BB/9 in 68.0 IP) with the Zags. He wasn’t as successful in his limited pro debut (4.50 K/9 and 3.21 BB/9 in 14.0 IP). That’s all I’ve got.

24.713 – SS JJ Gould

JJ Gould is a fun utility prospect with experience at second, short, and third and a nice power/patience blend at the plate. There’s probably too much swing-an-miss in his game to keep climbing the ladder barring a real chance in approach, but what he does well is interesting enough to warrant a twenty-fourth round shot all the same.

25.743 – 2B Mike Garzillo

I’ve seen a good amount of Mike Garzillo over the years. He’s not quite a JJ Gould clone, but the back-to-back college middle infielders share a lot of similar traits. On Garzillo from February 2016…

Garzillo has more tools than you’d expect out of a typical Patriot Leaguer, so it’s expected that his speed, arm strength, and pop should get him drafted as a senior-sign even if he doesn’t clean up his approach this spring.

And then again from May 2016…

We know what Mike Garzillo is by now as a draft prospect: real power, useful speed, a strong arm, and a “grip it and rip it” approach. It’s not my favorite profile, but there’s a place for it in pro ball.

Power and patience for a price (strikeouts) in addition to solid speed and arm strength give Garzillo a shot to make something of himself as a utility player if he can be trusted enough to play on the left side defensively.

26.773 – C Gunner Pollman

Gunner Pollman has outstanding arm strength, well above-average accuracy, a lightning quick release, and nimble footwork behind the plate. He also can’t hit even a little. Feels like a decent fit for an organization that employed Jeff Mathis the past four seasons.

27.803 – RHP Parker Bugg

It’s never quite this simple, but Parker Bugg’s success/failure in the pros always felt like it would come down to his ability to keep the ball on the ground with his sinker/slider combo playing up thanks to his 6-6, 210 pound frame giving him plenty of extension. Very early pro returns (34.74 GB%) are not super encouraging. He still has a long way to go, so we’ll see.

28.833 – 1B Colby Lusignan

Colby Lusignan is pretty much what you’d expect out of a 6-4, 230 pound lefthanded slugger from a Division II school like Lander: lots of power, lots of walks, lots of strikeouts. He mashed as a 23-year-old in the GCL but struggled in his small sample cameo in the slightly more age-appropriate NYPL. It’s an uphill battle for any first base only prospect, but I don’t hate betting on one with Lusignan’s type of power if you’re inclined to try.

29.863 – OF Walker Olis

Seeing a player put up big numbers at Pacific who completely flew under my radar confused me. As much as I like to pretend, I’m not all-knowing…but a guy hitting .415/.544/.711 with 44 BB/22 K and 28/29 SB is not one who typically escapes my attention. Finding out that Walker Olis put up those PlayStation numbers as a Pacific Boxer at a Division III school in Oregon and not as a Tiger in the West Coast Conference makes me feel a bit better for missing, but I’m still plenty intrigued about Olis’s brand of plus speed, advanced plate discipline, and sneaky pop.

31.923 – RHP Preston Guillory

Really nice pickup of a potential quick-moving middle reliever here in the thirty-first round with the selection of Preston Guillory of TCU. There’s no standout velocity or a go-to offspeed pitch here, but Guillory has enough (88-90 MPH heat, quality change, funky delivery) to consistently sit hitters down. I think he’s a big leaguer, thirty-first round pick or not.

32.953 – RHP Chevis Hoover

One of the coolest things about this whole draft review undertaking is getting to dive a little deeper into the backgrounds of prospects chosen in the later rounds. I had never heard of Chevis Hooper before two minutes ago (proof of that comes via the typo: his name is Chevis HOOVER not HOOPER) but now I’m genuinely pumped for his pro future. Chevis Hoover was a certified NAIA superstar in his senior year at Tennessee Wesleyan. He contributed both on the mound (11.87 K/9, 3.30 BB/9, and 3.13 ERA in 54.2 IP) and at the plate (.342/.435/.605 with 13 BB/18 K in 76 AB). With obvious athleticism and a fastball up to 94 MPH, Hoover is a pretty darn intriguing get this late. It’s a little reminiscent of something the Cardinals might have done. Needless to say, I approve.

33.983 – 1B Branden Berry

On Branden Berry from March 2016…

On the other end of the defensive spectrum is Branden Berry, the transfer from Washington. Berry’s early season offensive explosion may just be the case of an older guy picking on younger competition – his first three seasons were remarkably consistent in a good college player kind of way – but in a class thin on big bats, he could have scouts doing a double-take.

As is the case with most proper explosions, Berry’s turned out to be as brief as it was impressive. The Cal State Northridge slugger finished the year with a good but not great (in pro prospect terms; it’s a pretty great college season by any measure) .294/.403/.508 line with 22 BB/36 K. The bar is just so high for a first base prospect like Berry that it’s hard to think of him as much more than an org player at this stage. It is round thirty-three, though, so guess that makes sense.

34.1013 – LHP Trenton Hill

I liked Trenton Hill a bit more as a hitter than a pitcher, but I understand wanting to give a lefthander with size, athleticism, and deception a shot on the mound. If he can curb some of his wild ways, then his stuff (88-92 FB, 77-83 SL with promise) should keep him getting chances for years to come. Heck, as a low-90s lefty he’s got a shot to pitch forever even if he stays wild. Not for nothing, but Chevis Hoover, thirty-second round pick, was teammates with Hill at Lee in 2015.

35.1043 – 2B Matthew Brooks

Matthew Brooks was really good in his two years at Monroe College, assuming you agree that .353/.480/.538 with 58 BB/43 K and 29/39 SB in 275 AB is really good. His first shot at pro ball was a bit tougher, but those two good seasons are enough to give him one more go in 2017.

37.1103 – OF Zach Daly

The Marlins go back to Lander University to take Zach Daly because how else would you finish up a weak draft than driving me crazy with the small school double-dip? Daly comes with some pedigree as a former Tar Heel, but his impressive at first glance (.291/.397/.614 with 7/10 SB) senior season is undermined by a not insignificant plate discipline (24 BB/78 K) red flag.

Unsigned Prospects and Where You Can Find Them in 2017

Nick Eicholtz (Alabama), Garrett Suchey (Alabama), Matt Popowitz (Penn), Dustin Demeter (Hawaii), Caleb Scires (Navarro JC), Evan Douglas (Lewis-Clark)

2016 MLB Draft – High School Outfielders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we stick with the idea that Moniak, Rutherford, and Kirilloff (in whatever order you like) are the Big Three this year, then that opens the door to all kinds of fun names to lay claim to the fourth spot. My current lean is Brandon Marsh, the highly athletic plus to plus-plus runner out of Georgia. We know he’s got four average or better tools (you can add a plus arm, average or better raw power, and easy center field range to his hot wheels), but, like many prospects of his ilk, we don’t know how his bat will play against professional pitching. Between the swing, the bat speed, and his approach to date, there are lots of encouraging signs, so gambling you at least get an average-ish hit tool out of him seems more than fair. Combined with his other tools, that player is a potential monster. Everything said about Marsh can also be said about Taylor Trammel, minus the arm strength accolades. Trammel can run and defend with the best in his class, but his arm is inconsistent at best. One thing I really like about him is how real his progression has felt this past calendar year. There’s been no surge in buzz about him throughout the spring; instead, it’s been a slow and steady build, as many scouts have noted that the average grades on his sheet have morphed into above-average to plus marks over the course of his final season. Yet another Georgia high school prospect, Will Benson, is currently sandwiched between the two on my rankings. I never really got the Jason Heyward comp for Benson – the most Heyward thing about Heyward is his plus defense, something that Benson is a long way from, if he ever gets there at all – but I like the connection between him and Kyle Lewis. I don’t think he lasts until the second, but he would make for an excellent consolation prize for a team picking at the top of the first round that misses out on the Mercer star with their first pick. Or just grab them both and begin hoping that you’ve just taken care of your outfield corners for the next decade.

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

*****

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