Last year, on the day after the regular season ended, I did a mock just for those teams who were eliminated. I figured if your team had made the postseason then that was better than a silly mock.
For the most part, this piece was really something people enjoyed, and 99% of all the comments were positive. There was some negativity and I want to address that real quick at the top here.
This is not a mock in the traditional sense where I am expecting to get these picks correct. I am not talking to anyone, because there is no one to talk to right now. This is less about getting any pick right than it is a chance to talk about 20 players. I released a top 11 a few weeks ago. In case you missed it look HERE. This is the next natural step up from there.
Yes, it's ridiculously early, hence the title, but instead of viewing this as an attempt to predict, view it for what it really is. This is a chance to profile 20 players and to point out team tendencies over the past few years.
At the end of the day people love mocks and I enjoy writing them, so I will continue doing them but just remember until June that these are personal guesses based entirely off team tendencies and something I am not trying to actively get correct. I mean, at this point teams haven’t even done 5% of the work they will end up doing on next year’s draft. More than a few of the front offices listed won’t still be there next June as well.
One more thing before I dive in, there is a hidden value in me doing mocks around this time of year. It means every few months I spend hours looking at team tendencies. Scouts lie and sources lie, but tendencies don’t lie. I remember sitting in Washington Square Park after my wife’s PHD graduation. They were taking what felt like a few thousand pictures. So I hopped on Twitter and responded to a person who asked if I believed the hype that the White Sox where going to draft a prep player at #10. There had been a rumor at the time. I said no chance as it isn’t how they do things. The person responded there isn't enough information to let me know tendencies. After a few back and forth statements, they unfollowed me and we both moved on. On draft day the White Sox took one high school player in their first 26 picks.
Another example is I had Nolan Jones mocked to the Indians in more than half of my mocks. While he did not end up going to them in the first they landed him in the second paying him the 25th highest bonus in the draft. They paid him just $250K less than Will Benson their first rounder. I had studied tendencies enough to peg Jones as a player who checked every box for the Indians. They offered him a big bonus amount and this in turn I am sure led to his slide.
Teams can surprise you, but more often than not they end up doing what they always do. Looking over all this information can only help.
So read, enjoy and know not one of these picks will end up remotely correct.
1. Minnesota Twins: Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame HS
The Twins last year started out hot and ended up finishing second in the AL Central. This year they cratered to the worst record in baseball. They have hired Derek Falvey from the Indians, and if we assume he continues the Indians approach in Minnesota it would be to look for youth and ceiling. Greene fits both of these profiles. For players like Greene I have talked about recently I won’t go in depth instead look HERE for my take on those players.
2. Cincinnati Reds: Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt
For the second year in a row the Reds will be second. A year ago they took the best college hitter in the class, and outside of 2015 have been rather college heavy with their picks in general. Kendall has all the tools to be the top player in this class. The only knocks on him are his size and the swing and miss in his game. He is an exciting talent who could be a five tool player down the road. The Reds recent history has been college players and athletes; Kendall fits both of those bills as well as being one of the top players in this class.
3. San Diego Padres: Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Padres are a team that could have massive changes this offseason. If they do not then I would expect them to stick to the high ceiling model they have shown. They did draft a college arm early last year, but one could argue that was a high upside pick as Quantrill had not pitched all year and had significant risk. Here I think they lean towards upside talent again even if it’s not the highest ceiling player. Wright is a very talented arm who is expected to be the next great Vandy pitcher. Wright’s upside is the highest of the college arms in this class which is why I have the Padres taking him here.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: Jordon Adell, OF, Ballard HS
The Rays have gone high ceiling prep talent the last two years. I would expect that to continue. Adell looks like a linebacker, hits 90 on the mound, and has the speed to handle center. One could see his ceiling as Jeren Kendall with a full grade better power tool maybe two grades better. If Tampa wants to go for a prep bat Adell is pretty clearly the top one in this class.
5. Atlanta Braves: Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida
This is just a clear case of the top player on the board being there. I know the Braves have drafted arm after arm after arm. As they showed this year arms can be flipped for multiple bats down the line so you can never have too many. Faedo’s recent injury could be an issue but with a strong spring I expect he will be one of the first five players off the board. This is a deep class for arms, but in terms of top ten talent it's a bit lite on bats.
6. Oakland Athletics: JB Bukauskas, RHP, UNC
The A’s are about as college heavy a team as one can get in the draft. Bukauskas if he had four more inches would be a likely candidate to go number one overall. He hits 98 with his fastball. His slider gives him two dominant pitches. The only knock here is size. The A’s have not had an issue with taking smaller players. They have also been very focused in the past year on adding pitchers and past history also shows an interest velocity. This year alone they added Holmes and Jefferies - too smaller arms - so Bukauskas makes a lot of sense here.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks: Tanner Houck, RHP, University of Missouri
So this pick will be wrong as that front office won’t be around for this pick, or so it seems, but if it was then one would expect a college player to be taken here. The pick came down to Beck and Houck and I am slightly higher on Houck. I also think the current people running the Diamondbacks would prefer the junior over the redshirt sophomore. I think they would want to avoid the trouble in negotiating with such a player who has extra leverage. Houck is a guy to watch, a breakout and he will be in contention for the first pick.
8. Philadelphia Phillies: Alex Scherff, RHP, Prestonwood Christian Academy HS
The Phillies last year went prep player early and often. They did not take a player from a four year college until the fifth round. This pick came down to two players Brady McConnell and Alex Scherff. I had them taking the prep right-hander mostly due to system alignment than anything else. Both of these players could see serious hits to value due to their advanced age as the draft gets closer. Scherff turns 19 in February and McConnell does the same in May. As of now there is a cache to Texas pitchers. Scherff is the best and as one would expect with his age he is well developed. Scherff is a big kid who could add velocity and already has a feel for his offspeed stuff. I expect him to go in the first round unless his age becomes a big issue. He is the first player in this mock who was not in my top 11. I will acknowledge I am lower on him than most.
9. Milwaukee Brewers: Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
The Brewers tend to take sliding talent and the best player on the board to me is Beck. They have not grabbed a pitcher with any of their high picks so far so this could be very off base. Yet we have seen them take college arms at the end of round one. Beck is hard to peg as we have just one season of college data. He was a possible first rounder out of high school, but told teams he would not sign. As a sophomore at a top institution he has so much volatility because he has so much leverage. At this point to me at least, there is a bit of a drop off in talent so Beck would be too good to pass on.
10. Los Angeles Angels: JJ Schwarz, C, Florida
A good test of a person who writes about the draft right now is to see how high they are on Schwarz. There has been significant souring with most people I talk to on Schwarz. I have heard people question the bat and his position. As a freshman he got a lot of talk but the struggles as a sophomore have caused significant cooling. He is a player who needs to really step up this year or he could be in for a slide. My logic here is the last two years the Angels have drafted a college catcher with their top pick. I am sorry if you wanted more insight than that. It's not the best college hitter crop which is a pretty common refrain anymore for the draft. Schwarz is arguably the biggest name at this point and the bat who has shown the most. The rest of the other players who had some hype heading into last year also kind of fizzled out. So it's a group where a player could really leap out with a strong performance.
11. Colorado Rockies: Hans Crouse, RHP, Dana Hills HS
The Rockies have shown a tendency to go for big arms with big velocity. While Crouse doesn’t throw hard right now with his size and arm speed it is easy to project added velocity. We talk about the depth of this class, but the prep arm group does not look as strong as last year. As a matter of fact when we say depth it might be fairer to say the depth of college arms. Crouse fits what the Rockies have looked for earlier with arms if they went for a bat I could also see Brady McConnell here as they don’t have an issue with age. Either way I would expect a prep player based on recent trends.
12. Chicago White Sox: Brandon McKay, LHP, Louisville
I didn’t really have to think here. In my mind I was focused entirely on college players for the White Sox. I realized the strength here would be arms, so then I picked the arm with the most college success that also happened to be left handed. A two way player in college most think his future is on the mound. I have talked to a few who think he might be better as a hitter, but so far in college he has not shown enough power in game to be projected as a first baseman. One of the best pitchers in terms of numbers over the last two years in college baseball, most see a mid to back end arm. He is a guy who is fairly safe and should move quickly. He doesn’t have the upside of the previous mentioned arms, but has a track record as good as anyone in this class.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates: Alex Lange, RHP, LSU
The Pirates are a hard team to peg. The majority of the time with their top pick they have gone the college route. They are a team which often has multiple early picks thanks to the competitive balance lottery and often use those later picks for prep talent. The last two years they have taken college hitters, guys whose college performances were off the charts. They have also been known to like Pennsylvania kids which would have made McKay tempting here. I went with Lange here, because I could not project out Pavin Smith or KJ Harrison this high. Lange was viewed as having a disappointing sophomore year but is a player who could rebound and see his value rise significantly. If I am looking strictly at college players Lange is one of the last players I have heard with top five talk during stretches of his career.
14. Miami Marlins: Conner Uselton, OF, Southmoore HS
So if you read anything I write about the Marlins you should know two things. They dig loud tools, and they like Oklahoma talent. Uselton is a big, athletic outfielder from Oklahoma. As long as Stan Meek is in charge I can’t see anyone but Uselton here. He fits the profile to a T. The tools and where he lives just makes him an ideal fit. Uselton could have plus plus power down the road from the right hand side. His right handed power is what gets scouts excited but there is a chance for a five tool guy and his arm is a weapon in right.
15. Kansas City Royals: Brady McConnel, SS, Merritt Island HS
The Royals can sit back and just grab a steal of a talent in McConnell. They are not a team who gets too obsessed with age or height. They take an old school approach with scouting then take a new approach about looking past traditional bias. McConnell is the last hitter left from my top 10. A sure shortstop with strong bat speed, he has a chance to be a special player down the line. My only knock right now is the age. As I mention in my previous work on him, we saw with Blake Rutherford age can cause a player to slide well age along with big bonus demands.
16. Houston Astros: DL Hall, LHP, Houston County HS
Now before you get excited Houston County is actually in Georgia. A year ago we saw the Astros grab a prep arm, and outside of Bregman in 2015 the Astros have been a very prep leaning team. Hall is 6’1” which is why he is still here. I am pretty high on him thanks to the fact he has hit 96 and has two well developed secondary pitches. He is a name to watch and someone I think could easily end up in the top ten of this draft. Especially in a draft that is lacking at the top in terms of left handed arms Hall has a lot of room to rise.
17. New York Yankees: Alex Toral, 1B, Archbishop McCarthy HS
The Yankees historically have been a very college heavy team. They are one of the five most conservative drafting teams since I started writing on the draft about five years ago. Last year was a high water mark with three prep players in their top 15 picks. Toral has some big negatives in terms of his position and size. What he also has is one of the best left handed swings in this class. The Yanks took a prep player last year early who had the potential to be the top hitter in the class, in spite of his position issues (Rutherford is a likely LF). I could see the same with Toral who some have as a top ten talent.
18. Seattle Mariners: Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia
Jerry Dipoto as a GM has been about as conservative as they come. Last year he was lucky enough to have Kyle Lewis fall into his lap. I had been told they badly wanted Zach Collins, but were very happy when Lewis was there. So after missing out on Collins I have them grabbing the top hitter in the ACC this year in Smith. Now I have been on record with my concerns about how many Virginia players on both sides of the ball struggle once they leave the program. I mean Brandon Guyer is a top five player by WAR from Virginia all time. Smith has not shown the big power totals of a Collins either, but Virginia’s home park is notoriously hard on hitters. Smith walks more than he strikes out and has smooth swing which should see him go in the first round. For me the biggest knock on Smith is the program he plays in.
19. St. Louis Cardinals: Royce Lewis, OF, JSerra Catholic HS
The Cardinals have seen a change in recent years going from a college heavy drafting team to one who looks for upside in the draft and leans towards prep talent. Lewis is a very twitchy athlete whose natural tools and bat speed should see his name called early. He has played all over the diamond but most think he ends up in the outfielder with a best outcome of playing centerfield. He is young for his class which is also something that gives him a bit more upside. He excelled this summer on a few big stages. The question is will he take a step forward or will he be like Avery Tuck a year ago who burst out over the summer and ended up going to college after a so-so senior year.
20. Detroit Tigers: Hagen Danner, RHP/C, Huntington Beach HS
If Lewis was on the board I would have put him here with the Tigers love of athletes. After the Tigers took a different approach to the draft in 2015, one that has looked quite good, they went back to their old ways in 2016. They are a team which often looks for tools and velocity among the prep ranks first and foremost. Danner doesn’t really fit that profile but was a name I wanted to touch on. Danner has been around forever it feels like. He is a name that has been talked about so often I wonder if it hurts or helps him. He isn’t the biggest guy at 6’1” which will hurt him as a RHP. He doesn’t throw very hard either. Instead he is a well-developed safe right hander with a good feel for his off-speed stuff. I think with his size there might be more upside as a catcher. His arm would be a weapon and he is a good enough athlete to pull it off. I feel like right now he is a known guy in this class, who in eight months could slip off the radar. There are good tools but nothing to really excite. I don’t see the top ten talent that is listed in some places. This pick is a good example of why this is a mock that isn’t a mock. Danner doesn’t make the most sense here. Frankly Cole Turnery OF, Mark Vientos 3B, or the pick that makes the most sense would have been Trevor Rodgers LHP. Yet I needed to talk on Danner so I put him here. For those wondering why it would have been Rodgers 6’5” lefty hitting 95 with high ceiling.
I hope you enjoyed this mock, which was more about the players than any attempt at accuracy and if your team is not mentioned well don’t complain because that means they are still playing.
One more thing, since this will run first on an Indians site I have to address them. Not mocking them anyone would require looking at the teams in front. Just saying keep an eye on Mark Vientos. The Indians love youth and bat speed, and he has both in spades. Click the link at the top for a longer profile.