Editor’s Note: It is very hard to grade an MLB draft. The reason is simple: there are a lot players I have not seen or had a chance to scout. In the top-10 rounds, I would say I have familiarity with 50 to 60 percent of players by the time the draft is done. Now before you want to pull my status as your favorite draft personality, if you watched the draft by the 6th round even the guys who do this as their main source of income were searching for stats and information on the players.
The other problem of course is the MLB draft is the most volatile of the three major US sports. While it does not have the hard cap other sports have, it has a fluid one which adds a degree of interest because teams have to figure out how to allocate the money and talent. Plus, the talent is typically years away and even the best picks have busted in the past.
So instead of rating winners and losers, I am going to slot the teams in each division by analyzing how effectively they used their position to add top talent to their system, as well as find sleepers and generally add players I, or others, believe in. I am not a Daz Cameron fan, for instance, but I can’t deny he is a good value in the 30’s. Also I am not going to ding a team for senior signs, as they are a necessary evil early otherwise I could just attack each senior sign for every team.
Without further adieu, the American League East
American League East
The Tampa Bay Rays were a conservative team a year ago, so I expected them to continue this trend. That proved not to be the case at all. Garrett Whitley (round 1) and Chris Betts (round 2) are two players with offensive potential and some big risks. Whitley is very raw and Betts’ position isn’t defined. Whitley was a slight reach for me but Betts’ bat made him an excellent choice. In round three, I loved the Brandon Lowe pick. I think he is a very likely starter down-the-road at second base. He has a bit of Brian Roberts in his game – on-base and doubles pop –but nowhere near the speed of Roberts.
A year ago, Joe McCarthy (round 5) looked like a first rounder, but thanks to back surgery never showed his ability this season. Benton Moss (round 6) was one of the best seniors in the entire class. He has been a steady performer for UNC for four years. He’s a solid pick even if he is likely to end up in the bullpen. The pick I did not like was Jake Cronenworth (round 7) as a second baseman from Michigan. The first issue is he is going to be blocked since they already drafted Lowe earlier. The second is I think he is much better as a pitcher. I am not sure why they decided to make him a position player, but that’s the only thing I can argue with the Rays’ first 10 rounds.Jon Harris at pick 29. I thought he could go in the top-10, but the right-handed college pitchers slid in this draft and the Jays benefited. Brady Singer (round 2) was a guy teams were hot and cold on, but I got mostly positive reports on him when I asked. Count me in as a big fan of Carl Wise (round 4), the third baseman from College of Charleston. When I went to write on his teammate Taylor Clarke, I noticed Wise’s numbers. He had double-digit homeruns but under 40 strikeouts. He had shown some right-handed power along with high contact rates and played very well in the Cape and that made stand out on Day Two of the draft. Travis Bergen (round 7) is a lefty who I bet I discovered the same way the Jays did by scouting Max Pentecost a year ago. Bergen is an undersized command-control lefty, but he showed dominance on the Cape, where he had a 9:1 strikeout to walk ratio. I think his floor is a LOOGY with a chance he can start.
The Red Sox’s transgressions in free agency meant that after their first-round pick, they didn’t get to pick again until the third round. I mentioned before the draft that the last two years the Red Sox had been a very conservative team. Picking Andrew Benintendi (round 1) – the safe college bat – early was an indication that they would remain conservative, as they only drafted two prep players in the top-10 rounds. Anyone who has read any of my stuff knows I was very high early on Benintendi, so of course I am fine with that pick even if I would have preferred Ian Happ at that spot. Austin Rei (round 3) was the 5th best catcher in the class if you count Chris Betts, who I doubt can stick at that position. Rei was the best hitter for Washington this year but thanks to a thumb issue didn’t get to catch a lot. His defense is solid and some like him more than Taylor Ward who went in round one to the Angels.
Travis Lakins (round 6) was the other pick that stood out to me. He is a true sophomore who hit 96 MPH early in the year but faded a bit down-the-stretch. The undersized righty looks like a potential bullpen arm because the secondary stuff is average, but, again, he’s just a sophomore so you can run him out and see what happens. The pick I didn’t love was Tate Matheny (round 4). He is a solid defender who profiles as a fourth outfielder, best case. He played well but I can’t help think that bloodlines, in this case, got him drafted earlier than if he was Tate Henry.
The rumors before the draft were that the Yankees were heavy on prep players and bats, so of course on draft day they spent half of their top-10 round picks on pitchers and drafted only two prep players. One rumor did prove true and that was the interest in Drew Finley (round 3). He was a bit inconsistent but was viewed as a top-five California prep arm and that was a very good group. I had heard rumors of Finley in round one throughout the draft, so to get him in the third round it was a good value and an easy choice.
James Kaprielian (round 1) and Jeff Degano (round 2) are easy guys to like, as I think both have the potential to be future starters for the Yankees. I wrote on both guys extensively. Jeff Hendrix (round 4) put up better numbers than Tate Matheny in one of the top-three baseball conferences yet went a round later than Matheny did. I like the defensive profile. Hendrix is a guy who does a little bit of everything and should make a nice fourth outfielder.
The Yankees went with cheaper signs with almost every pick on Day Two. Jhalan Jackson (round 7) is a small school, senior outfielder but the stats make him intriguing. He hit .417 with 20 homeruns and 13 doubles. He is a big kid at 6’4” and if any of that power can transfer he could be an interesting right-handed bat. The pick I didn’t love was Kyle Holder (round 1). I get that he is a great defender and has excellent athleticism but he struck me as a guy who went a round too early. I know a lot of other people like the pick, but I felt it was not maximizing the value for the spot.
The Baltimore Orioles had a more unusual draft to me. My favorite pick for them was Ryan McKenna (round 4). He is an undersized outfielder from New Hampshire. Not exactly a baseball hotbed, try and name two prep players drafted from there. I think if he had played in a different state he would have been a top-three round guy. He has a lot of tools and could surprise. In general, I liked Day 2 for the Orioles more than Day 1. Seamus Curran (round 8) at 6’6”and 240 was not a guy I knew but the size was intriguing. I then read about him and his bat speed. Needless to say, there is some power there. Gray Fenter (round 7) is an undersized right-hander with some heat. A general baseball rule is if you are shorter than 6’2” and right-handed then you are destined to fail or pitch in the bullpen. Fenter might end up in the bullpen but I think there is a chance he starts. The pick I didn’t like was Jonathan Hughes (round 2). There were just too many other right-handed pitchers on the board for them to take a guy whose velocity slides in game and secondary stuff needs work.