In just 26 picks, a lot can happen, especially when it’s the first round. For the first time in history, three shortstops were taken with the first three selections.
There were no real surprises until the Chicago Cubs took Ian Happ; a player who could become the best hitter in the draft, which the Cubs saw, despite a low projected value. Many believed Jon Harris was going to be drafted by the Cubs, but with Happ drafted, Harris didn’t really fit anywhere and consequently dropped to #29. From there, we saw the Miami Marlins save money with Josh Naylor, which was an “interesting” idea. To the surprise of many, the Atlanta Braves went with injured Kolby Allard and the Cleveland Indians took former first overall pick Brady Aiken. Unlike other injured players, these two guys were able to hang on to some draft value this spring. The Los Angeles Dodgers made out like bandits getting a steal at #24 with Walker Buehler. Another surprise was the Los Angeles Angels selecting Taylor Ward. To say the least, I’m not very high on Ward becoming a successful major league player.
Each player’s ceiling is based on how well he would perform if he developed to the best of his ability. Realistically, only about three or four players from the first round will reach their full potential, so some may look like a stretch.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks: SS – Dansby Swanson (Vanderbilt)
For the last few weeks Swanson seemed to be the consensus 1st overall pick. This is a great pick up by the D-Backs as it seems that Swanson is the best bet to make the Majors and has franchise altering upside/leadership qualities. I personally like Swanson a lot and think Dave Stewart and the D-Backs front office did a wonderful job navigating the 1st overall pick.
Ceiling: multiple time All-Star, .290, 15- 20 HRs, 10SBs (162-game projection)
2. Houston Astros: SS – Alex Bregman (LSU)
This was a fitting selection for the Astros who could develop Bregman as a shortstop and shift Correa over to third, if Bregman can stay at short. The intangibles on Bregman, whether it be his work ethic or his knowledge of baseball, is off the charts. He is sort of a throwback player, maybe a Pete Rose type “leave it all on the field” player. This, in my eyes, makes him a first round pick. He will lead the Astros in a few years and they look to be a very competitive team.
Ceiling: Ian Kinsler makeup .280, 15 HRs, 20SBs
3. Colorado Rockies: SS – Brendan Rodgers (Prep FL)
Rodgers was the perfect fit for the Rockies and they knew it so they had an agreed upon deal before draft day. In a few years he may be able to replace Troy Tulowitzki as the Rockies next great shortstop. This franchise is very lucky to be able to draft such talented players at a premium position. Teams such as the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres have been trying to find a long term shortstop for years. Rodgers is a quiet guy who will show up and put in the work every day.
Ceiling: A better J.J. Hardy .290, 20-25 HRs, 90-100 RBIs, All-Star
4. Texas Rangers: RHP – Dillon Tate (UC Santa Barbra)
Texas went for the best player available at their pick and they got him, with the former UC Santa Barbra ace. In the past they have done a decent job when it comes to developing pitching and now they have a pitcher with all the tools to be develop as a workhorse in the rotation. Tate has a plus slider and the best fastball for a starter in the draft. Towards the end of the year he ran out of gas, but through more professional conditioning he should be able to iron that out.
Ceiling: Number 1 starter
5. Houston Astros: OF – Kyle Tucker (Prep FL)
With two out of the first five picks the Astros saved money between Bregman and Tucker so they could select Daz Cameron in the second round. Excellent bat speed with potential plus power and hitting ability. He probably won’t stick in center, but there’s no shame in moving him to a corner outfield spot.
Ceiling: Wil Myers
6. Minnesota Twins: LHP – Tyler Jay (Illinois)
Jay is a perfect fit for Minnesota as it has a pitchers ballpark and he will do well as temperatures drop as he’s used to Illinois. His fastball is solid, ranging from 92-94 with a “wipeout” slider. His changeup complements those two pitches as well. This season Jay was a long reliever for an Illionis team that won 25 straight games at one point. He started his last game of the season against Vanderbilt and took the loss. It seems that he will be able to start professionally, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Ceiling: Not as good, but comparable to Madison Bumgarner
7. Boston Red Sox: OF – Andrew Benintendi (Arkansas)
Seeming to have come out of nowhere Benintendi and shot up a lot of boards and found himself here at 7th overall. He led Arkansas in almost every offensive category with 7hrs .320avg and .423OBP. Benintendi was also a draft eligible sophomore so the Red Sox’s are getting very good value from this pick. They can wait a little while when they don’t have a ton of outfield options and then slide Benintendi in. It is believed that he can stick in center because of his plus speed.
Ceiling: Jacoby Ellsbury level production
8. Chicago White Sox: RHP – Carson Fulmer (Vanderbilt)
Just like Jay and Tate, Fulmer has electric stuff, but there’s a possibility that he won’t be able to start long term. His motion is very violent and that could eventually lead to arm trouble. Also, during his delivery he whips his head which is one thing that starters aren’t considered able to do and be successful long term. Assuming he takes the same route as every other Chicago pitcher draftee, he will be in the majors this year or early next year. The White Sox have had trouble holding down the back of the bullpen so there’s a chance he could close and then move into the rotation
Ceiling: Number 2 starter or elite closer
9. Chicago Cubs: 2B/OF – Ian Happ (Cincinnati)
Again we see the Cubs take a position player with their first section in the draft. I wouldn’t go against them just because of the success of their picks as becoming top prospects within that year. To me, Happ was greatly undervalued. Happ is a switch hitter who has possibly the best swing in the draft class. His real value lies with the fact that he can play either 2B or an outfield position. Happ’s production plays better at second base. As we all know the Cubs have enough elite second basemen to share with the world. I think soon there will have to be a trade in which the Cubs trade a position player for pitching. This would free up someone for them to develop as their primary second base option.
Ceiling: A better Daniel Murphy .300, 15 HRs, 10 SB
10. Philadelphia Phillies: SS – Cornelius Randolph (Prep GA)
The Phillies have hit big on their last two draft taking JP Crawford in 2013 and Aaron Nola in 2014. We have to give credit where credit is deserved as they didn’t shy away, even though Randolph was considered to have a high price tag. I think he will to move to second as JP Crawford is the shortstop of the future. There is huge upside here with the potential for Randolph to be the best pure hitter in the draft.
Ceiling: .285, 20 HRs
11. Cincinnati Reds: C – Tyler Stephenson (Prep GA)
Cincinnati must have been thrilled to be able to get the best catcher in the draft. Though Devin Mesoraco has finally panned out, Stephenson is just too good to pass on. Everything reminds me of Wieters from his power potential to his catching abilities.
Ceiling: Matt Wieters
12. Miami Marlins: 1B – Josh Naylor (Prep CA)
The biggest surprise of the entire draft was to see the Marlins take Naylor. Firstly, Naylor is a high school first baseman, meaning he isn’t athletic enough to play any other position. Usually you see a third baseman move to first base or maybe a big corner outfielder. Secondy, Naylor is a Canadian prep player, an extremely raw player that will take a long time to develop. Lastly, there was plenty of talent that was ripe for the picking at 12th overall. This was just a way to save money.
Ceiling: The Marlins are saying Prince Fielder
13. Tampa Bay Rays: OF – Garret Whitley (Prep NY)
New York was thrilled to see one of it best products in a long time graduate to the lime light. Everyone has been saying Whitley will be the next Mike Trout, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Whitley is a great North Eastern talent that has the ability to be an All-Star. The Rays are very good at getting players who are great athletes and know the game of baseball. I can’t rave enough about the make up of Whitley as he is a lead-by-example type player. His future is a plus hitter with potentially high average to a tick above average power. Being an amazing athlete he could patrol center field and steal a few bags.
Ceiling: .290, 20hrs, 20SB
14. Atlanta Braves: LHP-Kolby Allard (Prep CA)
A former top ten talent going into this year, Allard had a stress fracture in his back ruin a potential first overall pick. As he gets healthy again the Braves will have themselves a future ace of the staff. He possess a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball. Allard also has plus command/control that helps him dominate hitters throughout a game.
Ceiling: Solid number 2 starter
15. Milwaukee Brewers: OF – Trenton Clark (Prep TX)
This multi-tooled Texas outfielder has been considered a top player for a while now because of his leadership qualities and consistent hitting throughout his prep career. Speed is his greatest asset right now, but he does have the potential to have a plus hitting ability. His plus arm will keep him in center and he takes excellent routes to the ball. The plus speed that he has will make him an extremely good outfielder and as long as his ankle problems are over, he will be a successful big leaguer.
Ceiling: Christian Yelich
16. New York Yankees: RHP – James Kapriellian (UCLA)
Kapriellian is by far the most experienced pitcher drafted up until this point and has been UCLA’s ace for the past two seasons. Long considered to have a weak fastball that wasn’t thrown with enough velocity, Kapriellian wasn’t very high on teams’ draft boards. This year he saw a spike to his usually 89-90 fastball velocity to 91-94 for most of the game. His plus curveball is his best pitch that has the making of a superior strikeout pitch. The Yankees drafted a player who won’t change the dynamic of their roster, but will be a formidable pitcher.
Ceiling: Number 3 starter
17. Cleveland Indians: LHP – Brady Aiken (IMG Academy)
After last year’s mess and then Tommy John surgery this year, I’m sure Aiken is ready to start his professional career. Aiken is the biggest risk of the draft, but the Indians must know more than I do otherwise they wouldn’t risk this much at #17. If he returns to his former self he is a future ace. A mid 90’s fastball combined with a plus plus curve makes him a possible stabilizer for the Indians rotation.
Ceiling: Number 1
18. San Francisco Giants: RHP – Phil Bickford (Southern Nevada JC)
I think that if Bickford could go back and sign when he was drafted 10th overall (Blue Jays, 2013 Draft), he would. Though he only fell 8 spots it could have been worse for him. Going to a Juco could have hurt his value, then he tested positive for marijuana. He lucked out and the Giants’ looked past all the problems and made him the 18th overall pick. This marks back-to-back years where the Giants have taken a player that was previously drafted in the first round, but went to college instead. They took a player this year that has a fastball in the 92-96 range and a devastating slider. A cool calm relaxed guy, will fit perfect with the San Francisco Giants.
Ceiling: Number 2 starter
19. Pittsburgh Pirates: SS-Kevin Newman (Arizona)
In a year where shortstops dominated, we see another couple of capstones go at 19th and 20th overall. I think the consensus is that Newman is better and I agree with that. His hit tool can vary from who you talk to. Most say that he will be an above average hitter and play a tick above average shortstop. He could become a player that makes teams regret not taking him, but only time will tell.
Ceiling: .290, 20SBs
20. Oakland Athletics: SS-Richie Martin (Florida)
Oakland took a player who was defensive first for most of his college career, but started to put up some nice offensive numbers this year. Martin is a player that the A’s can plug in at short and wait for his bat to develop a little more.
Ceiling: Not quite Erick Aybar, offensively
21. Kansas City Royals: RHP-Ashe Russell (Prep IN)
Russell was a pitcher whose value jumped up and down despite having a solid year. His fastball sits at 92 or 93 with good sink to it. I still think he is going to become a relief pitcher because his arm action is one of a reliever. His changeup needs work and his control needs to improve. Russell is a lanky guy so there’s still a chance that his velocity and arm slot will improve as he matures.
Ceiling: Low Number 2
22. Detroit Tigers: RHP-Beau Burrows (Prep TX)
Detriot went with another prep player this year, but has taken a pitcher instead. Considered the best pitcher by a lot of people, Burrows owns a fastball that sits between 92-96. His curve and changeup seem to be polished and he could be a fast moving prep pitcher. The only downside is his size. Reports have him at 6’3, but it’s said that he is actually 6’0.
Ceiling: Number 3
23. St. Louis Cardinals: OF-Nick Plummer (Prep MI)
News Flash! The Cardinals didn’t take an undervalued pitcher with their first pick. Plummer is a player who has the chance to be a lot better than he is currently perceived because he plays in a cold weather state (Michigan). He has a chance to hit for plus hit ability and about average power. He’s a solid athlete who can stay at centerfield.
Ceiling: .285, 15HRs, 13-15SBs
24. Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP-Walker Buehler (Vanderbilt)
I’m still wondering how the Dodgers get lucky every year with a special player falling to them every time. Buehler was rated a top 10 player until he had a sort of inconsistent year. He has four plus pitches with a low 90’s fastball and potentially plus curveball, changeup, and slider. Buehler’s plus control is yet another great feature. His doubters are because of his 6’2″ frame. I can’t imagine if he fills out exactly what type of pitcher he will become!
Ceiling: Number 2
25. Baltimore Orioles: OF-DJ Stewart (FSU)
Baltimore was in need of a hitter who could advance quickly through their ranks and help the major league club. They strayed away from the usual power pitching they pursue and got that hitter. Stewart was long considered the best college bat in the draft, despite other teams who had passed on him. He uses a crotched stance that helps him lace balls all over the field. Stewart does have plus power, but some say because of his stance he will not be able to tap into that power against professionals.
Ceiling: Nick Markakis type production
26. Los Angeles Angels: C-Taylor Ward (Fresno State)
This made a lot of people wonder if the Angels really know what they’re doing when it comes to drafting. I think at the point the Angels are at with a veteran winning team, they would want a young player with a lot of projected upside to him. They should have taken the best prep hitter available to restock their farm. Ward is a good defensive player, but may never really amount to anything that isn’t average offensively.
Ceiling: Chris Stewart