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 West.
American League West
This was an odd draft for the Rangers in the fact that they selected only one prep player. Yet it was in many ways, it was exactly what Texas normally does which is take risks on high upside talent. Dillon Tate (round 1) faded down-the-stretch, so he wasn’t the slam dunk number one pick but he still has front of the rotation potential. Eric Jenkins (round 2) is a very good athlete who had first-round buzz. Mike Matuella (round 3) was a favorite to go number one before injuries sidetracked him. While I had very serious concerns about his future health, in the third round, it’s worth the risk depending on cost. Jake Lemoine (round 4) was a first-rounder in the fall, ahead of eventual 16th overall selection James Kaprielian. Lemoine missed time thanks to injury but has the potential to be a starter for the Rangers down the road if healthy.
Chad Smith (round 5) had been connected to the Rangers for more than a month, but instead of taking him at 45 they got a real nice value at pick138 for the toolsy prep talent. Tyler Ferguson (round 6) entered the year as a projected starter for Vanderbilt, who could go in the top three rounds but had trouble with inconsistency. It is not often a team might have added four future MLB starting pitchers, then again there is a chance that they added zero, as well, but it’s a very talented haul and one of the deeper ones in this class. The pick I would redo would be Jenkins. I see the talent but not anything that would make an impact. At that point in the second round, I had several players much higher than Jenkins, who did not make my top 75.
The Houston Astros had all of the draft money this year thanks to a pair of top-five picks. Alex Bregman (round 1) was my number three-ranked player which makes him a solid pick at two. I wasn’t as high on Kyle Tucker (round 1) as everyone else. This happened last year. I wasn’t the biggest Alex Jackson fan when he was a consensus special talent. Thomas Eshelman (round 2) was one of my favorites and I think he could pitch in the majors now as a below-average player. Riley Ferrell (round 3) was not as good as a junior as he was a sophomore but was still the top reliever on many boards, and a guy who should be quick the majors.
Michael Freeman (round 7) is interesting as a 6’8” lefty who got his first chance to start at a major college as a senior and excelled. His size allows for deception on his pitches and he has a chance to be a bullpen arm in the majors. The pick I don’t love will surprise most and it’s Daz Cameron (comp round) at 37. It is a great value in terms of the pick. My issue is the rumored $5 million bonus. I would not have selected him at all at that cost. I didn’t have him as a top-15 player and would rather have gotten two blue chippers than Cameron alone. It’s all about the money.
I wrote about on how on Day 1 the A’s appeared to get their future keystone combo in Richie Martin (round 1) and Mikey White (round 2). Both players had rumors of surging before the draft happened and while it was true for Martin, White went a little later than expected. The A’s went for upside with Dakota Chalmers (round 3), a prep righty who hit 98 and has secondary pitches that should be above-average. Fefore a late fade, he was a potential first-rounder. Skye Bolt (round 4) for a time during his freshman year looked like a guy who might end up going in the top-10 picks. He never found that success again but has nice pop for a centerfielder-type. Kevin Duchene (round 5) spent a good portion of the year with the lowest ERA in college baseball. He is a pitchability lefty with a good chance to be a starter down-the-road thanks to excellent command. I was always surprised by how little love he got in spite of continued performance and a good display in the Cape.
Bubba Derby (round 6) is an undersized starter who I think has a chance to start, but his stuff plays up so much in the bullpen. He could move quickly if he is a reliever, and I think that is where he ends up. Derby is a guy who could see time in the majors next year. Kyle Friedrichs (round 7) is a name many don’t know, but I wrote about him this year when he out-dueled Dillon Tate when Tate was at the top of his game. Friedrichs is an undersized five-year senior but his command is plus and his stuff might play up more in a bullpen role.
The pick I couldn’t get on board with was Martin. He is the youngest college bat in his class, a solid defender and he has great wheels but he was not a top-20 bat to me. He fits the A’s perfectly as a college shortstop -- their two favorite things – but I had several players rated higher. I am also not completely sure White can’t play short which means they could have graded someone like Scott Kingery here, who I had rated much higher than Martin. I wanted to give the A’s bonus points for winning the best names contest but it didn’t seem fair.
The Angels had a draft that many will grade-out lower. I liked Taylor Ward (round 1) a lot but he was still a reach at 26 to me. My favorite pick was second-rounder Jahmai Jones, who I think has a chance to play second and is a good athlete with quick strong wrists that should generate surprising pop. Grayson Long (round 3) is huge at 6’5” but doesn’t pitch like a big right-hander, as he peaks at 93. I think he is a backend or bullpen guy longterm. Brendan Sanger (round 4) is an interesting guy with a near 2:1 K:BB, a high BABIP, low strikeout rate, and a ton of doubles this year. He is an undersized outfielder, I get it, but so was Kole Calhoun.
Jared Foster (round 5) is a top athlete who played all over the diamond. He even pitched and was a backup QB for LSU. He is older, turning 23 this year, and the numbers aren’t great, but the athleticism makes him one to watch. Hutton Moyer (round 7) has shown surprising power for second base but I question the hit tool, and yes his dad is Jamie Moyer. The most questionable pick has to be Ward. They celebrated like they won the World Series when they drafted him. I get there was a very good chance he would be gone by their next pick and the general weakness of the class, yet to pass on Jon Harris, Scott Kingery and Donnie Dewees, who were all higher-rated, is something I would not have done.
Seattle was probably doomed to be last among the AL West teams because of the lack of a first rounder. I thought their best pick was their first one. Nick Neidert (round 2) is an undersized right-hander with good athleticism who maintained velocity late in games. After him there was a pair of low-ceiling local college talents. Braden Bishop (round 3) is an all-defense, little bat outfielder from Washington who was one of the top-three defensive centerfielders in the draft and is also a plus runner. Drew Jackson (round 5) played well at shortstop for Stanford and looks like a future utility guy. Ryan Uhl (round 7) is a very intriguing player for Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Uhl was a force at IUPUI. The 6’6”, 230-pound senior first-baseman hit .415 with 29 homeruns and walked more than he struck out, which he did rarely by the way.
The pick I just could not back is Andrew Moore (competitive balance B). I want to support every undersized guy but pitchability righties aren’t a winning bet for a team. If they had drafted any big money guys in Day 2, it would have made more sense but they didn’t. Moore was not a top-2 or 3 round guy on any board I saw and he was taken at 72.