2016 MLB Draft Rankings 1-30, version 1.0

Scout's MLB Draft Expert Jeff Ellis releases his first 2016 MLB Draft prospect ranking of the new year. Find out who he views as the top-30 talents in this draft class.


I can’t help but feel disappointed by this class thus far. I thought it was going to be much stronger, but instead of guys stepping up and making a big leap over the summer or the first month of the season, we have mostly seen players fall. 

This draft is very deep in terms of talent. I think the depth is greater than a year ago, but the top of the class is the worst I have ever seen. There are guys who will go in the top five who would not have gone in the top 15 a year ago.

The overall weaknesses are typically what teams want the most. It is very weak in terms of college bats, shortstops and catchers. When I say these positions are weak, I mean in terms of sure-fire first-round talent.

If the pool money was equal, I would rather have two picks in the 30’s than the first overall pick this year. That all being said, there is still plenty to talk about when it comes to this draft. Below is my current draft prospect ranking for prospects 1-30.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects 1-30, as of March 17

Rank Name Photo School Pos. Comment
1 Jason Groome Barnegat HS (Penn.) LHP In a class that is lacking upper-tier talent, Groome stands alone. He is the only player I feel comfortable saying is a future ace or has the potential to be one of the top 20 pitchers in baseball. There is always inherent risk in high school arms, but Groome is clearly the top talent in this draft.
2 A.J. Puk Florida LHP Puk is very similar to Groome in many ways, as they are both big left-handers with elite velocity. The reason Puk lands behind Groome for me is because there are questions about Puk’s control. Puk has been a big strikeout guy in college with an equally high walk rate. There is front of the line potential, but there should also be concern. Outside of injury, nothing derails a pitcher like issues with control.
3 Blake Rutherford Chaminade College Prep (Calif.) OF When many started doubting high school outfielder Nick Plummer a year ago, I remained high on him and I am not going to jump off the Rutherford bandwagon, no matter what others say. Rutherford has been a consistent top performer on the showcase circuit, often playing well against older competition. I know he is older for a high school senior, but if we look back at past years, he has faced older players and performed. His performance at these showcases are not just a matter of an older kid beating up on younger players. I think his potential future hit tool is the best in this class. He has power and speed and could easily end up the top player in this class.
4 Nick Senzel Tennessee 3B I talked earlier about the lack of players seizing the chance to rise up a weak draft board. Senzel is the exception to this trend. He has the best present hit tool in the class, and it has shown, both in the Cape and in SEC play. I think it is a potential plus hit tool; this goes with above-average power and speed. The reports on his defense have been very positive this year, and defense was the big question about Senzel coming into the year. I think he is the safest bat in this class and combines that with the ceiling of an upper-tier starter in the majors.
5 Delvin Perez International Baseball Academy SS I saw that there has been talk that Perez is not the hardest worker and that people are questioning his desire. I will also say I have zero connections in Puerto Rico, so I can’t confirm any of that. What I know is that he is a sure shortstop with the tools to be the top pick in this class. He is a player who, as he fills out, could add some power thanks to bat speed and size. Perez is a long way from the majors but, in terms of ceiling, he can go head-to-head with anyone in this class. He is the only shortstop I have a first-round grade on in this class.
6 Corey Ray Louisville OF I think there is a legitimate chance that Ray could go number one. I like Ray quite a bit, but he is not a guy I look at and think he could be a great player. I would rate him lower than Andrew Benintedi, who was the seventh overall pick last year. I think Ray’s overall grade will be a little higher than Trent Clark, who went in the teens last year. Ray can do a bit of everything and is a plus athlete, but I have some concerns about his eye at the plate. He has a lot of potential, but a year ago, he would not have made my top-10, which is all I need to say about the top of this draft.
7 Riley Pint St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) RHP Pint is a big right-hander who has hit triple digits, is a good athlete, and hasn’t filled out yet. It is easy to dream on his cathedral ceiling, but the floor is somewhere down by the Marianas Trench. He could be a star or he could never get out of A ball. The mechanics have been inconsistent, so there is a degree of trusting your system to develop his talent. If you are not risk-averse, I could see a case being made for Pint as the top player in the class.
8 Matt Krook Oregon LHP Krook is an athletic lefty who has a legitimate chance to go number one overall. I am not sure I see a future ace in terms of upside, but there is a chance to get a number two type of pitcher who would work as a number one for many teams. If not for injury, which has limited him to just 11 college starts, I think he would be a slam-dunk top three pick.
9 Mickey Moniak La Costa Canyon (Calif.) OF Moniak did more for his value this summer than any other player in this draft. He showed the ability to hit the ball to all fields and looked like a future centerfielder. He also has the advantage of being young for his class. He is actually a year and a day younger than Rutherford. I know most don’t think Moniak will have much pop, but with his size and frame I think he could surprise. One other thing -- people love to gossip and this is especially true in baseball. I hear all sorts of tales and, I can tell you, Moniak is a case where everyone I talk to has nothing negative to say about him. Everyone just goes on and on about how much they like him.
10 Connor Jones Virginia RHP Jones is about as safe a starter as you can get. I would argue the only pitcher in this class that is safer is Logan Shore. Jones has been the Friday night starter for a top program for two years in a row. He projects as a mid-rotation starter down the road. His best pitch is his sinking fastball, but there is nothing really overpowering in his arsenal. He has never had huge strikeout totals in college. If you want a safe, fast-moving arm, Jones is the guy in this class.
11 Joshua Lowe Pope HS (Ga.) 3B/RHP I am listing Lowe as a hitter first, even though many think he would work best as a pitcher. Since this summer, I have said that I prefer him with the bat and nothing has changed there for me. I think he has more upside as a hitter. I see the bat speed and the 6’4” frame and can’t help but think about the power potential. Lowe is also a great athlete which should mean, if needed, he could also move to the outfield and I think the bat would still play. 
12 Nolan Jones Holy Ghost (Penn.) 3B Jones versus Lowe is a bit of a coin flip to me right now, but that is because I think Jones has a chance to play second base. I think he is athletic enough to handle the position. Jones is also a big kid at 6’4”, so I understand why most think he will fill out and move to third. He has the arm to handle third, so that won’t be a concern. I think his power potential is being undersold. The big frame along with bat speed should give him a chance at plus power on the infield. Not many players like that exist right now.
13 Will Craig Wake Forest 1B I will get the negatives out of the way first. Craig is a first baseman all the way. He also had a rough summer in the Cape Cod League. Those are the only issues with Craig. This year alone he has a slash line of .458/.582/1.021 with seven home runs. A year ago, he nearly had a two-to-one walk-to-strikeout ratio. Wake Forest might not be a big-name program, but they still play in the ACC, which is one of the top-three college baseball conferences. He is a complete hitter, with a proven track record, a good eye at the plate, and plus right-handed power. All of this and I failed to mention that Craig has actually been a two-way player for Wake. In a draft lacking college hitters, it boggles my mind that almost no one is talking about Craig as an early pick.
14 Cal Quantrill Stanford RHP If Krook can make my top-10, then Quantrill has to make my top-15. At the start of last year, there was talk that with the way Quantrill was pitching, he could be the top pick in this class. The son of former big leaguer Paul Quantrill managed just three starts before suffering an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery. If he can bounce back health-wise later in the season, I think he will go in the top-20 picks. He has a solid four-pitch mix. His change-up is his best pitch, and, when he is healthy, it is the top change-up in the draft. There is the potential for two plus pitches and an above-average third. It just comes down to health and performance. 
15 Kyle Lewis Mercer OF Lewis is a player whose ranking is going to be heavily based on how much you trust his performance in the Cape Cod League. A small school player, he put up video game numbers last year, winning his conference’s Triple Crown. He then went to the Cape and continued to excel. He has plus bat speed, which generates easy power from the right side. My biggest concern is the high strikeout rate in a weaker conference. I think there are legitimate concerns about what happens when he faces guys throwing 90 every day. There is a lot of risk here, but, then again, if everything breaks right there is a chance he ends up being a star.
16 Heath Quinn Samford OF Quinn actually plays in the same conference as Lewis, so there are multiple reasons to check out the Southern Conference. Quinn has cooled a little after his hot start, but there is still plus power potential in his huge frame. I wrote a capsule on him this month, so you can find more details there about Quinn and his underrated ability.
17 Daulton Jefferies California RHP After years of fighting for undersized pitchers on my draft boards, it warms my heart to see two such players listed on every draft prospect rankings list. I prefer Jefferies to Jordan Sheffield (see 19) because Jefferies has a longer track record as a starter and has had more consistent success. He has three above-average pitches, with a fastball that flashes plus and hits 96. Jefferies’ command has been off the charts in the early going and will be something to watch this year. If the command ends up plus along with his stuff, then he will move up this board.
18 Buddy Reed Florida OF I really don’t know what to make of Reed. A lot of people I trust really like him and his athleticism and size make him an intriguing guy to dream on. His stock went up thanks to great play on Team USA this past summer. Yet, his production at Florida has remained solid but not exciting. I think we all expected more power in his 6’4” frame. This year has seen some positive growth, as he is walking more and striking out less, but drafting Reed, at this point, is still an upside gamble on a college player. If I am going to gamble on upside I prefer to go with a high school player, typically.
19 Jordan Sheffield Vanderbilt RHP Sheffield is the other very highly rated six-foot tall right-hander in this draft. In the past, both of them would have been viewed as likely relievers, and I am sure there will be some rhetoric about this leading up to the draft. Sheffield’s fastball is a plus pitch, sitting in the mid 90’s and hitting 98. This is his first year as a starter and he stepped right into the Friday night role for Vanderbilt. I get all the concerns here about effort to delivery, injury history, and stature. But it is hard to ignore the numbers so far this year-- a seven-to-one strikeout-to-walk rate combined with a strikeout per nine of 13.14. It is clear the floor for Sheffield is that of an elite-level closer.
20 Reggie Lawson Victor Valley HS (Calif.) RHP If you like athletic, projectable arms, then you are probably a big fan of Lawson. He is one of those players who has a lot of volatility with his ranking. A raw player with front of the rotation projection, Lawson’s production as a senior will impact his draft ranking and his perceived value could drastically change this year. He could end up in the top-10 or he could go undrafted. For as deep and well-mined as California is when it comes to prep talent, Lawson has the chance to be the first first-rounder from Victor Valley and the first major leaguer from the area, as well.
21 Will Benson The Westminster School (Ga.) OF Benson is a 6’6” outfielder from Georgia, so, of course, everyone compares him to Jason Heyward. I don’t get that comparison at all. Heyward is a 70-grade defender in left, with a solid bat and average power. Benson is more than likely an average at best defender, with potential plus power. The ceiling here is sky high; plus power and speed in the body of a linebacker. His athleticism is going to see him go in the first round.
22 Robert Tyler Georgia RHP I am staying in the state of Georgia to write about Tyler. You might have read this before in this big board, but Tyler is a player who had Tommy John surgery in college. Now healthy, Tyler can hit the upper 90’s with his fastball. His secondary stuff is behind, thanks to the injury, but those pitches have a chance to both be above average. For being such a big school, Georgia has not produced a first rounder since Gordon Beckham and Josh Fields in 2008. Tyler should break that streak.
23 Logan Shore Florida RHP There is no better pitcher in the college game than Shore. In terms of stuff, he might be the third-best pitcher on his own team, behind Dane Dunning and Puk. In the end, though, it has been Shore, not the other two, in the Friday role for Florida. There is value in a safe arm with good mechanics and command like Shore. Shore, who is already very polished, should be a fast-moving pitcher. He is more than likely a back-end arm, but one that should help a team sooner than any of the names I wrote about so far.
24 Nick Banks Texas A&M OF Banks has shown a little bit of everything while at Texas A&M. He has more power than one would expect in his 6’0’’, 200 lb. frame. He used to be a plus runner, but, as he has filled out, his speed tool has become closer to average. He walks a lot, but also strikes out quite a bit. His current hit tool is one of the best in this class, and some would argue the best of all. Banks is a safe-bet outfielder who does a bit of everything. He won’t be a star, but he should be an above-average regular.
25 Matt Thaiss Virginia C Thaiss might not be the defender that Sean Murphy is, or have the bat of Zach Collins, but he is the best combination of tools at the catcher position in this draft. His best skill is plate discipline, which was on display the last few years at Virginia, along with his time on Team USA this summer. He has shown decent power in college, as well, collecting 28 extra-base hits a year ago. As a defender, he is solid to average, and while he won’t help you, he won’t hurt you either. All in all, the package is a sure catcher with plus plate discipline, average pop, and at least an average hit tool that is an upper-tier starting catcher in baseball. He should probably be higher in these rankings.
26 Zach Jackson Arkansas RHP I feel bad for Jackson, who should have been given a chance to start for Arkansas. The coaching staff there has done him wrong and likely cost him approaching a million dollars in money. The story is similar to Tyler Jay a year ago, but much worse. At least Illinois had seniors who were performing well ahead of Jay. Arkansas has had half of their starts go to freshmen and none of the starters are performing well. Jackson, who has three pitches and many think could start, has been stuck as a closer. He has excelled there, but if Jackson had proven himself as a starter, he had a chance to be a top-five pick. Any team that drafts him should first try him as a starter before they stick him in the bullpen.
27 Alec Hansen Oklahoma RHP I know, I know. Hansen is a top-three player everywhere else. I have to be honest -- I almost dropped him from my board, but there is so much upside in Hansen that this was the lowest I could put him. The reasons I am so low on him are myriad. There are issues and concerns about his health. His command and control are both well below average and I think any team that drafts him is hoping they can become 40/45 graded skills. Other issues include that he has also failed to show much progress the past two years and has been inconsistent with his results. I think he is more than likely a future bullpen arm, but I am keeping him listed because of upside. I just don’t see him hitting it. 
28 Carter Kieboom Walton HS (Ga.) 3B The youngest of the Kiebooms also happens to have the most upside. His brother, Spencer, is a catcher in the Nationals system and Tyler plays for Georgia. The youngest Kieboom has what is often called a mature approach. In other words, he can work a count and rarely swings at a bad pitch. The hit tool projects as plus and, when you factor in his size and bat speed, I think his power should be above-average to plus. An interesting fact to know about Kieboom is that he can throw with either hand and uses a six-finger glove. Kieboom should go early enough to keep him from attending Clemson.
29 Ian Anderson Shenendehowa HS (Ny.) RHP The thing about a draft prospect from New York is that you often hear about them a year or two out. There is typically one guy a year who has the potential to be a first-round pick. I heard about Anderson a little last year as a guy to watch. It is easy to see why I was alerted to check him out. He posts a mid-90’s fastball that could add more velocity as he fills out. His breaking ball flashes plus at points and, while he needs to work on his third pitch, what high school pitcher doesn’t? It is going to be very easy for a team to talk themselves into Anderson. The projection is easy to see and, mixed with the fact he has the upside of being a cold weather arm, I would not shocked to see him go higher than this on draft night.
30 Ben Bowden Vanderbilt LHP Vanderbilt took a pair of relievers and made them both starters this year, with Sheffield and Bowden. Bowden didn’t start a single game his first two years in college before being given the Saturday spot in Vanderbilt’s rotation. While it is a small sample size, it has been interesting to note that while his strikeout rate has remained close to last year’s, his walk rate has drastically decreased. His stock can rise as the season goes on and he continues to perform. He should also build up endurance and start pitching deeper into games, thus proving that his conversion to a starter is something he can continue into his professional career.

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