It is time for my second mock draft and things are as clear as mud. I can’t recall ever seeing a draft this weak at the top or a draft where so many pitchers have missed at least some time with injury. If one were to go back to October and look at my original top-five players in this draft, one would see that three of my top-five players have missed extended amounts of time with injury.
While it is not a great year to be picking in to-10 in many respects, it’s not a bad year to be picking from 11-35. There is some depth in this class with high school position players. The prep arm class is not as strong as last year, but it still solid.
I can say without being hyperbolic this is the worst draft class I have covered. The previous worst was 2013, which ended up being much better than I think any of us had expected. So who knows how things might look in two years once these players are coached by professionals. I don’t say this to be mean or insult those in the class but few have stepped up this year and many have fallen.
Again no Kyler Murray in this draft, as I still think he wants to play football more than baseball and will not sign. I would not be shocked if he did play baseball or, at the very least, if a team did try and sign him. But for now I do not expect it.
And now for the mock draft…
1. Arizona Diamondbacks – Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Tate was number one last time and he has done nothing to change that. If anything, there is less competition now then there was a month ago. This pick would appear to be down to Tate or Rodgers. There is an outside chance with the Diamondbacks could go off board and decide to try and spread out their large bonus over multiple picks.
2. Houston Astros – Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (FL)
This draft has a clear top-two. I know a few people will point out the Astros have little need for Rodgers with Correa in the system. It doesn’t work that way with baseball. You always draft the best player available. Besides there are worse things for a team than to have a pair of right-handed shortstops with plus power potential. I have read rumbling the Astros really like Rodgers and would be a lock here.
3. Colorado Rockies – Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
The Rockies are a team that tends to lean towards college players and often safer college players. They also like to target left-handed arms. Kirby is the safest starting pitcher in this draft. He has been utterly dominant this season for Virginia. His stock has improved thanks to steady, excellent production while many other top players have slipped. This is also were we could start seeing teams cut deals well under slot to spread bonus money around. The drop-off after the top two is BIG. A lot of the following players would not have gone top-10 a year ago.
4. Texas Rangers – Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS (CA)
Fun fact: the Rangers have not had a top-10 pick since 2003. They have been a model franchise for nearly a decade before last season. They consistently draft high school players with high ceilings and low floors. There is not a player who better fits this model early on than Justin Hooper. It is not often one can find a 6’7” left-hander who hits 97 and has a chance at two above-average secondary pitches.
5. Houston Astros – Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (IN)
The Astros have leaned towards prep players. When they have had multiple picks, they tend to go one arm and one bat. Russell is one of the upper tier prep arms in this class. Thanks to the injury issues with Kolby Allard, I have Russell moving up the board. Russell works low to mid 90’s and complements it with one of the best sliders in the entire high school class. Russell will end up going in the top-10. He has remained healthy so far, while many of the class have had issues.
6. Minnesota Twins – Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy
The Twins have gone for upside early, often targeting high school players. Aiken is not a high school arm but is just a year removed and clearly the top talent on the board. Aiken was always viewed as an arm that should move quickly, and that will minimize the lost year of development this season because of his elbow injury. He would be another all-star ceiling player for what is already one of the deepest minors in all of baseball.
7. Boston Red Sox – Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (CA)
Until the last two years, the Red Sox had been sticking to college players but they went prep early in 2013 and 2014. They have grabbed a high-upside prep arm the last two years. Allard has the back injury, which causes him to slide some. At this point, however, he is clearly the top prep arm left and there is a bit of a gap between him and the next tier.
8. Chicago White Sox – Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
The White Sox over the past 15 years have spent their top pick on a prep player only three times. The last one was Courtney Hawkins, which is a pick that has not worked out so far. Looking at last year, the Sox were targeting shortstops and while they drafted an interesting one in Tim Anderson in 2013, that should not stop them from taking Swanson. The best value would be any of the college bats here. Swanson is the safest bet thanks to his defined position. They could go Ian Happ if they want to take the top bat or Alex Bregman if they trust the college production.
9. Chicago Cubs – Ian Happ, CF, Cincinnati
Finally another pick that stays the same. The Cubs have been targeting fast-moving college bats with plus hit tools. Happ has the best present hit tool in this class. He should be given every chance to play 2B or CF but the bat will play anywhere. He brings above-average skills to every offensive skill. This landing spot for Happ feels low to me, and he could easily end up top-5, but there are a lot of teams early that tend to target upside over a sure bet.
10. Philadelphia Phillies – Alex Bregman, 2B, LSU
I heard a few reports that the Phillies are a team that likes Bregman. It makes sense, as he should be a safe, fast-moving middle infielder that could be paired with J.P. Crawford for the next decade. I don’t want to throw the Chase Utley label on him, as Utley was an elite talent in his prime. Yet it would be hard to not see Crawford and Bregman as the heirs to the Jimmy Rollins and Utley combo for the Phillies. In my opinion, Bregman has been scouted too much, and he is undervalued in this draft. Teams are seeing what he can’t do and ignoring what he can do. All he has done is hit and be a top player for three straight years at LSU.
11. Cincinnati Reds – Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
I have noticed a new trend for the Reds. They have taken a reliever the last two years that has been a lights-out, closer type but with the pitches to work as a starter. Once in the system, the Reds transitioned those pitchers to the rotation. Jay was a beast for Team USA as a reliever, giving up no earned runs and averaging over a strikeout an inning. He doesn’t walk anyone and is death on lefties. Illinois, for his sake and theirs, should have given him a chance to start. If he had, there is a good chance he would have been the number two college arm in this class. He has two projected plus pitches and an average third with his change. Only knock is his height, which is 6’1”. It’s a gamble but one I think would be very smart for a team in this draft.
12. Miami Marlins – Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
I had Kyle Cody here for a while, but after a hot start he has been beat up a bit in the SEC. The Marlins often like high velocity pitchers, and that is something Fulmer would bring. They also do not have a major issue with size, spending a pair of first-round picks on guys below the 6’3” threshold. Fulmer is one of the guys who has helped himself this year. He could end up helping a team out of the bullpen at the major league level this year in August, and then spend next year in the minors working as a starter. His size and mechanics will scare off some teams but in a weaker class, a guy with a floor of a very good closer has a lot of value.
13. Tampa Bay Rays – Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
Funkhouser is exactly the same pitcher everyone thought he would be. He has a nice three-pitch mix but has command issues. He is a real eye-of-the-beholder player and could easily go in the top-10, especially depending on salary demands. Some see a guy who should be a 2/3 type at the front of a rotation who should move quickly. Others see a guy with two strong pitches and a questionable third who might have to move to the bullpen. He is in exactly the same spot as before, as I feel like his value has not changed much and the teams picking high tend to be more swing for the fences types.
14. Atlanta Braves – Dakota Chalmers, RHP, North Forsyth (GA)
Chalmers is one of the hottest names around right now. Some are saying that he is better than Spencer Adams, who went in the second round last year and then proceeded to make several top-100 prospect lists. Chalmers is 6’3” but only 170 pounds. He is very thin and will get stronger, which allows scouts to think he could add some velocity. Atlanta GM John Hart loved drafting upside high school pitchers when he was in Cleveland. Chalmers upside rivals anyone left.
15. Milwaukee Brewers – Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke
The Brewers went for risk picks with all three of their early picks last season. There is no bigger risk in this draft than Matuella. I like Dillon Tate, but if Matuella had been healthy and shown up this year as the pitcher he was as a sophomore, he would be the first pick in this draft. I have little doubt in that. Matuella has not been that pitcher and then was sidelined with an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery. What team is willing to roll the dice on a potential ace with a lot of red flags? The Brewers have multiple first round picks and the lack of fear to gamble. It feels like the Brewers have been searching for a true ace for a long time now. This pick has the potential to land them one.
16. New York Yankees - Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
The Yankees had no first rounder last year, so they only had nine picks in the first ten rounds. They grabbed one high school player in their entire draft. The last time they had multiple first round picks, they went back-to-back with college players then took a prep arm. Buehler started the year as a top-five talent and has come back to pitch well for Vandy. The issue for him is height and elbow problems. Not sure anything on the body will scare more teams than the elbow. Buehler, no matter how well he pitches, seems destined to fall outside the top-10 because of the two red flags. For a team like the Yankees that has multiple first round picks and can gamble getting a top five-to-10 talent at 16, this pick seems like a smart choice.
17. Cleveland Indians – Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS (MI)
This is another pick that stays the same. The Indians like up-the-middle players with bat speed and the potential for plus hit tools. They also target undersized players that other teams tend to avoid. Plummer is only 5’11” and is more than likely a future left fielder because his arm is his worst tool. He could stick in center but I would bet on left. In terms of what he brings in the batter’s box, he is a top-five prep player in this class. I know the Indians are loaded with outfield prospects, but few, if any, can rival the complete package Plummer could provide as a hitter in the future.
18. San Francisco Giants – Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing HS (GA)
Two years ago, Cameron was the top player in this draft by almost every measure. He just hasn’t improved as teams had hoped since then. The comparison then was Justin Upton, but now his ceiling might be more in the range of his father Mike Cameron. His father was a very good player, so that is far from a bad thing. I think the Giants would be willing to take the high school kid here. They seem to value intangible factors often when they make picks. Cameron having been around the game his whole life might be a bonus to them.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates – Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (PA)
Over the summer, Nikorak was below 200 pounds. Reports on him say he is closer to 225 now. He is a guy who knows that he is going to be a first-rounder and is already putting in the time and effort to go high. Nikorak is big 6’5” right-hander who fits what the Pirates like to do with their picks early, which is go for upside. Being a Pennsylvania kid would just be a nice bonus for the Pirates.
20. Oakland A’s – Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona
The A’s have targeted shortstops early in the draft in recent years. They also have leaned heavily towards college players, specifically college bats. The top college bat on most boards here would be D.J. Stewart, but Newman makes more sense as an A’s pick. Newman can hit; of this there is little doubt. This year he is hitting .426 and for his college career his on-base percentage is .399 in 562 at-bats. He doesn’t have any power, and he is not a great athlete, but I think he can stick at shortstop and be an average defender. The potential plus hit tool at shortstop should see Newman go on day one. The A’s have remade their team by developing shortstops and trading them, realizing no position has more value in the league.
21. Kansas City Royals – Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada
The Royals have zero issues in taking an arm that might be viewed as undersized. They also target pitchers with high velocity. Bickford is 6’0’’ and that will cause a few teams to not even consider him in round one. Bickford has intrigued teams since he was in high school and was hitting 98. The Blue Jays drafted him at 10th during his senior season. The issue for Bickford is the lack of size and the lack of development on his third pitch might make him a reliever down the road. Another guy with a lot of divided opinions, all it takes is one team to see front of the rotation potential to see Bickford go much higher.
22. Detroit Tigers – Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU
Last year I was convinced the Tigers would take Nick Burdi in round one, since he was the top bullpen arm and could help in the majors by August. I was wrong and instead they took one of the best players on the board in Derek Hill. This year I think the Tigers realize this might be their last year to try and win the World Series with their current group of players. The team’s biggest weakness is the bullpen and Ferrell could be ready to help by August. Spending a first rounder on bullpen help would be a cheaper cost than the Tigers paid to acquire Joakim Soria a year ago.
23. St. Louis Cardinals – D.J. Stewart, OF, FSU
I was unsure if Stewart would go this high early this year, then he started to show more power this season. The negatives on Stewart are known. He is undersized, can only play left field, and had yet to show the power some thought he should have coming into this season. The positives were all tied to his ability to get on-base. He has an above-average hit tool with a plus eye for the strike zone. I realized to a small degree this was a similar profile to Stephen Piscotty, who the Cards drafted late in day one in 2012. Both were left fielders whose best traits were their hit tools. The Cardinals tend to lean college early. Stewart, to me, is clearly the top college bat available by this point.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers – Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS (CA)
Dodgers’ President Andrew Friedman has been trying to land an elite-level catcher for as long as he has been a general manger. Betts is the top catcher in this draft. His bat is more advanced than his defense and there is a chance he might have to move off the position. If he does, the bat will play at first. His power potential is some of the best in this draft. If he can stick at catcher, he brings a middle of the order bat to the position.
25. Baltimore Orioles – Chandler Day, RHP, Watkins HS (OH)
The Orioles have frequently gone with power arms early. Day is a cold-weather arm who has already touched 95. His change is a legit future plus offering and his slider is looks like more than just a show-me type of third pitch. Day has good mechanics and in many respects despite being a cold weather arm, he might have a higher floor than many of the high school arms taken in front of him. I think there is a bit of a drop off after this point for the prep arms.
26. Los Angeles Angels – Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky
The Angels last had a first round pick in 2011. The constant signing of free agents has taken a toll on their minor league system. Cody here would be an interesting value pick. There are those who think he is still one of the top-10 talents in the draft. He looks like what most teams want their pitchers to look like at 6’7” and 245 pounds. He is an over-powering presence. He can hit 97 and his fastball is far-and-away his best pitch. His secondary offerings are average, at best. Cody has not just been hit, but hit hard this year. He might be better-served long term in the bullpen, that is where I think he ends up.
27. Colorado Rockies – Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS (TX)
The Rockies need to send the New York Mets a thank you card for this pick. I talked to one scout who thinks Clark is a top-10 prospect in this draft. I had the Rockies going safe earlier so they could use some saved money and take a risk on Clark. I think Clark will stick in centerfield long-term. I wonder if whatever team drafts Clark will mess with his swing, which is very loud. He has a lot of moving parts but he has found success with it.
28. Atlanta Braves – Austin Smith, RHP, Park Vista HS (FL)
At this point in the draft, Austin Smith would be the pitcher with the biggest boom or bust potential to me. He can reach back and hit 97. I have seen more than one person say he has the easiest velocity in this draft. He sits more 92-94 but is one of the players that I would bet on picking up some velocity. His secondary stuff needs a lot of work. It is hard for me to project what those pitches can even end up being. His change and curve need work before you can project. Smith is a big kid with some nice athleticism, and he would give the Braves a second high upside arm in this draft.
29. Toronto Blue Jays – Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (NY)
I nearly had Whitley going 17 to the Indians, and then again at 22 to the Tigers. His mix of bat speed and athleticism gives him ceiling as good as any prep player I have talked about. New York is often one of the weaker draft states and Whitley is drawing a lot of scouts his way. He looks like a future centerfielder with the potential to be plus in every offensive skill. This feels too low for Whitley, who I am certain will be higher in my next mock.
30. New York Yankees – Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College
The strength of the draft at this point would be with prep bats. If the Yankees wanted to stick to the college ranks then the top bat to most would be Shaw. The biggest knock on Shaw is that he is a first baseman. This position in the baseball draft is typically viewed like how a guard is viewed in the NFL draft. Shaw tried outfield this year but he was below-average there. Shaw is big, strong and aggressive. He has potential plus power but you worry that more advanced pitchers will take advantage of that aggression.
31. San Francisco Giants – Alex Young, LHP, TCU
After having the Giants draft a high school player earlier, Young would make a lot of sense with this pick. He is a safe, left-handed pitcher that would fit with what the Giants often look for early in the draft. Young is the typical crafty lefty who has dominated the college ranks with command more than stuff. He has four legit pitches and all look to be above-average. Young is a safe, fast moving lefty who should be able to help out a team in less than two years.
32. Pittsburgh Pirates – Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS (FL)
Tucker is a player that causes a lot of divisive opinions. Most agree that he should go in the first two rounds, but beyond that is where the debate occurs. The comps out there on him have ranged all the way to Ted Williams when talking about his swing. There is a lot going on in that swing and it generates plus bat speed and could produce plus power. His brother is a top prospect for the Astros and I think Kyle has a higher ceiling. He doesn’t show a single tool that projects to be below-average and would be a nice pick up here.
33. Kansas City Royals – Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly-Pomona
Ponce has taken a hit to his stock. I have heard some talk about coachability issues with him. I can’t say if that’s fair or not. I’m simply reporting that it is being said. Ponce missed some time with injury. He really jumped out on the Cape when he worked out of the bullpen. He has the potential to be a mid-rotation starter but in the end I think he is more likely to end up a bullpen or back of the rotation arm. His change really played up in the bullpen and flashed plus there. He has the size and pitches to start and should be given the chance with the knowledge that he should be a nice fall back in the bullpen.
34. Detroit Tigers – Luken Baker, OF/RHP, Oak Ridge HS (TX)
Baker is the top two-way player in this draft. He is one of the top arms in the state of Texas and can reach 95 MPH. Baker is 6’4”, 240 pounds, so there is not a lot of projection left. The fastball projects as a plus pitch but his secondary offering are average. I like Baker more as a bat, though. He might end up at first base but has a chance to stick in the outfield since he is a solid athlete. His power potential is the best in this draft with some grading it at a future 70. His hit tool is questionable and it might hold him back. The potential as a hitter or pitcher should see Baker going in the first round.
35. Los Angeles Dodgers – James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
Kaprielian is a bit of a cautionary tale for everyone out there. He would have been a high pick out of high school but had the commitment to UCLA. He was expected to go there and develop as many arms have before him and then go in the upper half of the first round. He did turn into an ace for UCLA but never gained the velocity many expected. We often just expect pitchers to gain more velocity but it often does not happen. Kaprielian is a safe pitcher who projects as a back-end guy. He might not be exciting but he should be effective and a guy who can quickly help a team.
36. Baltimore Orioles – Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthews HS (Canada)
The Orioles target high upside and Orimoloye is nothing but upside. The Nigerian-born Canadian outfielder possesses plus speed and projects to have plus power, as well. His power from the right side and his speed will get him drafted earlier. The trouble is he is very raw and a very free swinger. He has the upside of an All-Star and floor of never making it to Double-A.
37. Houston Astros – Andrew Suarez, LHP, U Miami
Saurez was a second-round pick last year as a draft-eligible sophomore. He has pitched well for Miami and should go a bit higher since this is a weaker draft class and because Saurez does not have as much leverage this year. I have the Astros taking a pair of prep players early so here they grab a safer left handed arm.
38. Colorado Rockies – Beau Burrows, RHP, Weatherford HS (TX)
This is the Rockies third pick, which is the most of any team in the first 40 picks. Burrows might be the best arm in the state of Texas. He is undersized at 6’1” and maxed out in terms of build. He sits low 90’s but really commands his pitches well. His secondary offerings should be average to above-average. Not your typical Texas fireballer, but a safer bet in terms of the prep arms.
39. St. Louis Cardinals – Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS (FL)
Hillman fits what the Cardinals look for when they add a prep arm. Hillman is an athletic lefty who has nice secondary pitches. He is a player who I could see rise by June. Hillman is a big kid who doesn’t throw super hard but has some projection. The Cardinals lean college with their top picks, but have taken more than a few prep players with their compensation picks.
30. Milwaukee Brewers – Cadyn Griener, SS, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)
Griener would be another upside pick for the Brewers. A general rule for the draft is that shortstops always rise, especially those who seem likely to stick there. Griener is the top defensive prep shortstop this year. I have zero doubt in his ability to stay there. His offensive skills all look average to above-average, which at the shortstop position would easily make him a starter in the future.
41. San Diego Padres – Nick Shumpert, SS, Highlands Ranch HS (CO)
San Diego GM A.J. Preller comes from the Rangers organization, which took risks on high-upside talent earlier, especially up-the-middle talent. Shumpert is the son of long time major leaguer Terry Shumpert. Shumpert is a guy who some love and others hate. He has above-average power and plus bat speed. There is a chance for plus power and speed at shortstop with Shumpert for those who love him. For those who aren’t fans, they see pitch recognition issues and a very pull-happy, free-swinging approach. The hit tool is the question but a chance for shortstop with right-handed power will entice someone in the top-two rounds.
42. Cleveland Indians – Joe DeMers, RHP, College Park HS (CA)
Demers fits the Cleveland mold for an earlier pick. The Indians don’t look for high upside earlier. They look for safer arms that are maxed out. Demers has some nice sink to his fastball which is something else the Indians typically look for. There are some control issues but Demers recently looked very good at the NHSI, reportedly hitting 94. He has hit 97 in the past and many think that he might end up in the bullpen, where the fastball plays up. Demers is the mid to back of the rotation arm the Indians look for with a prep arm in the top three rounds.