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 National League West.
National League West
It is always a good draft to me when you land the top player at the third pick. Brendan Rodgers (round 1) offers potential plus right-handed power that has not been seen at shortstop since Troy Tulowitzki debuted. I think Rodgers should have plus hit and power tools, which is what makes him a rare talent for the position. Next the Rockies swung for the fences again with Mike Nikorak (round 1), a big right-hander who added 25 pounds of muscle before this season and was hitting 98 MPH. It was a short spring for him and that made it troubling when he had command problems and his velocity faded a bit. It is for those reasons that he fell to 27, yet it is not a bad pick here in terms of upside. Peter Lambert (round 2) is one of the safest prep arms in the draft. He has developed secondary stuff and while he might not have top of the rotation potential, he should be a quick moving prep arm. David Hill (round 4) was 73 on my big board and the Rockies got him at pick 107. His twin was also drafted but David is the better talent. He was over-used at points at USD, but I see a potential back-end starter.
Trey Killian (round 9) had a very good sophomore year for Arkansas and then really struggled as a junior. He is a rebound candidate who could end up being a good value in the ninth round. Chris Keck (18th round) caught my attention. He was a senior this year, and he had a 29 combined extra base hits and walked more than he struck out. He was a hard man to strike out in general. He was a guy who I liked and knew others who did, as well. The hit tool is the question but as a late-round, senior sign, I liked that pick. Tyler Nevin (competitive balance A) had been linked to the Rockies for weeks. I don't know why I didn't mock him there in my last mock, as I mentioned this connection in the previous one. He has a chance for plus right-handed power but not another skill looks to be plus and I think there is a good chance he ends up at first base. I get the appeal: this was his first season back from Tommy John surgery and he could take a step forward in a year. While none of his other skills are plus, if makeup was a skill his would be plus. I just did not see a first round talent there, and he was drafted before the second round began so that makes it a first round pick to me no matter the label.
It is almost unfair to have as much money as the Dodgers have and then have the talent fall to them the way it did. Walker Buehler (round 1) is undersized with injury concerns but seems a likely MLB starter who sits in the mid 90's. He was still in my top-10 at the end of the year and most thought his floor was 17. The Dodgers got him at 24. Kyle Funkhouser (round 1) had some trouble in May and then his advisor refused to allow his medicals to be shared. These issues combined to see him drop all the way to the sandwich round where the Dodgers pounced. Mitchell Hansen (round 2) had a commitment to Stanford that was viewed as a harder commitment. He has the potential to be a five-tool guy and they landed him in round two. Philip Pfeifer (round 3) was a starter for Vanderbilt who profiles best as a left-handed reliever to me.
Willie Calhoun (round 4) is a small guy at 5'8" but that didn't stop him from hitting 30 home runs for Yavapai Junior College this year. He is an all-bat type of prospect but when you see that kind of home run power, it is easy to understand why they liked the potential. The one pick I am not sure of is Josh Sborz (competitive balance B) at pick 74. First it is a reliever in the top-three rounds. Second they bought this pick from the Orioles and cut an OK reliever in the process. Sborz has velocity and he could possibly start but an early reliever will always earn a little ire from me. Still they had several early picks and nailed the majority of them adding more top-level talent. I bet they added at least three top-10 prospects for their system in this draft.
The Giants are a team that often has a draft board that is very different from the industry’s board. They have gone very off-board with their picks in years past. This year was the exception. They went with name value for their first five picks. Phil Bickford (round 1) is a player who could help the Giants bullpen this year if needed. He has some questions marks but he is a big kid with big velocity and a slider which flashes plus. Andrew Suarez (round 2) was drafted for the third time this week and taken in the second round for the second year in a row. He profiles as a backend left-handed starter for the Giants. Jalen Miller (round 3) is a prep player I think can stay at shortstop. Most thought Miller would go on the first day. He does everything well but nothing great and I think that hurt his value a little as teams looked for plus skills. Mac Marshall (round 4) is a college freshman who was the pitcher the Astros tried to sign last year when the Brady Aiken situation arose. He is a command-control lefty who is a plus athlete with a clean, easy delivery. I think he has mid-rotation upside. C.J. Hinojosa (11th round) is an interesting get. He was talked about as a possible first-rounder back in the fall and then had his worst season for Texas. The problem is his best year was his freshman year and there has been a decline every year since. A well-known name, he is likely to sign but might be a player who would benefit from going to school and proving his detractors wrong.
My favorite pick was Steven Duggar (6th round). He really flashed his tools at the Cape and entered the year with first-round buzz. I was impressed that he went from a guy who struck out and rarely walked to a guy who walked as much as he struck out. Others saw the improvement and stated he was too passive. Sometimes it feels like scouts get upset when a player does not become what they hoped or expected and that guy gets stuck in the dog house. I feel like it happened with Duggar who can play center, has a plus arm, and had a solid season this year. I was not as crazy about the Chris Shaw (round 1) pick. I was very surprised he went as early as he did after his injury. He has one skill I rated at plus and that is his power. Power is always going to go earlier than it should because it is so expensive to acquire it any other way. Shaw was having a strong year before breaking his hamate bone. It seems the injury itself didn't affect his stock. A good player, just not one of my top-three college bats left at that point in the draft. While I felt like they reached a little with their first two picks in general, this was a draft I really liked.
The San Diego Padres seemed to go out of their way to get out of this draft. They gave up a high pick to sign James Shields and then traded their early competitive balance pick to Atlanta in the Craig Kimbrel deal. It is hard to fault this approach in a draft that everyone judged as a bit weaker at the top. I am not going to fault a team for trying to win now when they have a legitimate chance to do so. I really liked the Jacob Nix (round 3) pick. I thought he was a top-75 talent who would go late first or early second. The big-bodied right-hander is basically a college freshman, so he needs time to develop but he has the mix to be a 2/3 in the future to me. Trevor Megill (round 7) was a third pick of the Cardinals a year ago. The 6'8" right-hander had missed all of last year after Tommy John surgery. He averaged a strikeout an inning but also showed some command issues, which is not uncommon for guys in their first year back from surgery.
Austin Smith (round 2) is a big upside gamble that fits perfectly with what Padres’ GM A.J. Preller would have done with Texas. He is a good athlete with easy plus velocity. The secondary stuff needs work and he is going to take some time, which means Smith is more likely trade bait then a future Padre. I don't have any big issues with their picks. I might not take Smith if was drafting but value-wise he was a solid selection there to others. It was an interesting draft as the Padres seemed to target bats under six feet up the middle and pitchers over 6'6". They only wanted the extremes. I would love to talk to them and hear the rational. Preller is a very smart man and I bet he had very good reasons and data for this.
I am not sure I have ever seen a team do what the diamondbacks did over the draft weekend. They did not take a prep player until the 12th round. They waited 346 picks before adding any high school talent. They spent several picks on quick to the majors bullpen arms as well, which is confusing for a team in the middle of a rebuild, or should be in the middle of a rebuild. Dansby Swanson (round 1) was number two on my board and I can't fault a team for taking the safer bat at the top. Alex Young (round 2) was a good value in the second round as a fast-moving left-hander. Taylor Clarke (round 3) I did a capsule on but did not expect him to go that early. He also profiles as a back-end starter. Austin Byler (round 11) was the top senior on many boards and has shown above-average power in college.
The top prep player selected was Wesley Rodriguez (round 12), a 5'10", 210 pound kid with velocity who, thanks to his stature and size, has been compared to Bartolo Colon. Ryan Burr (round 5) was not a bad value in the 5th round as a bullpen arm. He had some command trouble but the stuff is that of a back-end type. I guess my issue is not with a single player. It was just the entire draft. They consistently went with low-upside and quick movement. If I were running the team, I would not have taken a single selection when they did outside of maybe Burr and Byler. It was a draft that led to frustration for the Dbacks’ fanbase as well. It was such an odd turn for a team that was linked to high-risk prep bats at the top of the draft to then ignore that type of player entirely.