As always, the first two days (Top 10 rounds) of the Major League Baseball Draft were exciting and filled with surprises. Despite being billed as a weaker draft than most years, lots of projectable and polished talent were taken over the first ten rounds, though it’s quite possible that there are no superstars. It was a good day for a number of players and teams, as listed below.
Top Draft Class
The Colorado Rockies had a chance to make a splash with the #3 overall pick, and with Alex Bregman and Dansby Swanson off the board, they had their choice of any pitcher in the draft. Instead, the Rockies chose Florida high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers, widely considered the best prospect in the draft. Rodgers is a no-doubt shortstop with instincts at the position and an above-average bat to match.
While Rodgers was an easy choice at #3, the Rockies made use of their later selections. With their next four picks, Colorado ventured into the high school ranks, starting with Mike Nikorak, a right-handed pitcher from northeastern Pennsylvania. Some see him having the highest ceiling of any prep arm in the draft, but weather limited chances to see him this spring. Tyler Nevin is the son of former #1 overall pick Phil Nevin, and is a third baseman who had Tommy John surgery in 2013 but can really hit. Peter Lambert (Round 2) and Javier Medina (3) are high school arms from the West with similar frames and similar stuff, with upside of mid to back-of-the-rotation starters.
Possibly the best part of the Rockies’ Day Two haul was a number of proven college arms who should sign cheap and move quickly. David Hill from San Diego, Parker French from Texas, Jack Wynkoop from South Carolina, Colin Welmon from Loyola Marymount, and Trey Killian from Arkansas all have track records as college starters and could pitch in the major leagues soon.
The Reds went with some projectable high schoolers such as Tyler Stephenson, the top catcher in the draft, Antonio Santillian, Canadian Miles Gordon and Hawaiian Ian Kahaloa. In addition, Cincinnati snagged an intriguing D2 arm in Tanner Rainey and a pair of college performers in Blake Trahan and Jimmy Herget.
The other Ohio team, the Indians made good work of their picks. Brady Aiken at #17 overall is incredibly risky, as a former #1 overall pick who recently underwent Tommy John surgery, but the payoff could be huge. The Indians took risks with their next two picks, high school arms Triston McKenzie and Juan Hillman, but the additions of college performers such as Mark Mathias, Ka’Ai Tom, and Justin Garza should help strengthen the depth of the class.
Most Questionable Draft Class
The Los Angeles Angels have one of the worst farm systems in baseball, and needed a strong draft to inject talent into the system. Unfortunately, they came back with possibly the worst first two days of any team, thanks in part to a number of questionable reaches. The best value the Angels may have gotten is sixth-rounder David Fletcher, an all-glove infielder who may not hit.
Taylor Ward at #26 overall was a reach. A polished defensive catcher, Ward’s offensive game lags far behind his defense, and he is raw for a college player. Jahmai Jones is a speedster with no true position (but the ability to play several), while Grayson Long could be a future reliever. Outside of those four, the Angels went with several college players, who may not have much more upside than bench pieces or low-leverage bullpen arms.
Perhaps if the Angels make a run at an over-slot high school player on Day Three, it will help strengthen this draft, but so far, a poor showing for Los Angeles.
After the first five rounds, it appeared as if the Marlins were going with under-slot bonus players in an attempt to go after a sliding high school player later in the draft. After ten rounds, however, it doesn’t appear that is the case. Josh Naylor is a good player, but as a power hitting first baseman that fits better as a DH, he is a reach at #12 overall. Brett Lilek, Cody Poteet, and Justin Jacome are all starters from major college programs who may end up in the bullpen.
The Cubs scored a very good player in Ian Happ at #9 overall, but he doesn’t really have a consensus position and is joining a stacked group of position player prospects in Chicago (ditto second rounder Donnie Dewees, who is most likely limited to left field). Bryan Hudson and DJ Wilson are high upside high schoolers, but the rest of the draft consisted mainly of college relievers (or college starters who will move to the bullpen in pro ball).
Riskiest Draft Class
When seven of your top ten picks are high schoolers, there’s bound to be some risk involved. That’s exactly what the Baltimore Orioles did over the first two days, and in a system lacking of impact talent, it may be needed. Ryan Mountcastle was probably a reach at #36 overall, but he has a good profile as a hitter but will need to move off of shortstop. Jonathan Hughes has been on the radar since his freshman year of high school, but his star faded as he got older and he is more of a project now.
Jason Heinrich was one of the biggest breakout stars at the WWBA championships in Florida last fall, but is a risky pick in terms of floor. Gray Fenter is a very old high schooler at nearly 19 ½ years old, but he has a good, three pitch profile. Ryan McKenna and Seamus Curran are huge risks as New England high schoolers, but both profile as potential everyday players.
Even the O’s first college pick might be described as risky, as DJ Stewart knows how to hit but has been inconsistent since last summer with the USA Collegiate National Team and this spring at Florida State. He also lacks a true position. Garrett Cleavinger and Reid Love are college relievers, and Jay Flaa is a performer from North Dakota State.
Also out on a limb:
The Astros had two top-five picks and a massive bonus pool, and they look to be making the most of it. Alex Bregman was a no-brainer at #2 overall, a safe college pick. Kyle Tucker is a projectable Florida prep outfielder at #5, but Daz Cameron is a real steal at #37 overall after sliding due to bonus demands.
This draft class is not risky in the same way that Baltimore’s is. Rather, it is risky in the fact that a lot of money will be spent on a number of prep players that slid down the draft.
Safest Draft Class
With any player in the draft available to them with the first overall pick, the Arizona Diamondbacks had to make a good selection. Dansby Swanson out of Vanderbilt is as good as any, a safe bet to be at least a major league regular with an All-Star ceiling. Beyond Swanson, Arizona went entirely with college players, with many close to ready to breaking into the big leagues.
Alex Young, Taylor Clarke, and Breckin Williams all come from major college programs (TCU, Charleston, and Missouri respectively), and each have the chance to start at the next level. Clarke, who had Tommy John surgery in 2013, is the riskiest of three despite a strong 2015 season, due to his injury and otherwise lack of track record.
Ryan Burr was one of college baseball’s top closers and should be an effective reliever at the big league level in some capacity.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are usually fans of projectable high school arms, and they were connected with a number of them leading up to the draft. Instead, Pittsburgh went of course and used nine of their ten selections on college players. Evaluators and prospect writers have varying opinions on Kevin Newman, with some seeing him as a top-five talent and others in the second round, but the general consensus is that he can hit the baseball.
Ke’Bryan Hayes and Kevin Kramer, the other Day 1 picks, are also left side infielders. Hayes appears one of the safest high school bats, with a chance to stick at third and really hit. Casey Hughston and Brandon Waddell are college performers with the potential to be contributors, and Jacob Taylor and Logan Sendelbach are small school guys with upside.
Best Value Pick
Dakota Chalmers was considered one of the top prep arms in the class, but he inexplicably fell to the A’s at #97 overall, in the third round. Oakland, not usually known for grabbing high-end prep arms, must be thrilled, as Chalmers has touched 98 MPH before and has three other off-speed pitches. Despite some command and delivery issues, Chalmers has the upside of a #2 starter.
In a draft short on power, Kolton Kendrick, a fast rising Louisiana prep product, may have the most raw power in the draft. Some even label his power as 80 grade, so the Twins must have been excited to watch him fall into their laps in the 8th round. Questions about his pure hit tool remain, and he is limited to first, but potential 30 home run power at #230 overall is tough to pass up.
Nigerian-born Demi Orimoloye was widely considered the top Canadian prospect in this year’s draft, but he slid to Milwaukee in the first round behind Naylor and second round arm Mike Soroka. Orimoloye is super athletic with more room to grow, and is a plus runner with plus raw power. Questions about the hit tool remain, as well as position.