This year, I am running a monthly MLB Draft mailbag. I will be taking questions via twitter @jeffmlbdraft. For each question, I am including the handle of the person who asked the question and then I will answer the question below.
Do you have a comparison to Nolan Jones?
As I always do when I want to find a comp, I went digging using Baseball-Reference's player index tool. This is not an ad for it, I pay for it like everyone else, but I find it very useful. So, I went looking for a 6’3” or bigger, left-handed hitting third baseman. I then added that the player had to have a batting average of .270 or better, because I think Jones hit tool is average to above-average. I thought .270 was fair for his projection. I also included 15 or more home runs because, with his size, I expect above-average pop. Since 1990, this yielded just six seasons. They were by Jim Thome twice, Aubrey Huff, Corey Koskie, Mark Teahen, and Matt Carpenter.
Of these players, I would lean towards Carpenter as a fair comp for Jones. One reason, which I have talked about previously, is because I think there is a chance that Jones could play second. Outside of three games by Teahen, none of the others played second. I have heard a Ben Zobrist comp for Jones and, while it makes sense, I am going to lean towards Carpenter. The mix of athleticism and power as Carpenter matured could be duplicated by Jones, if everything works out.
Could Riley Pint be the best starting pitcher in this draft?
Absolutely! Not sure anyone, even A.J. Puk, can match the upside. Pint has the velocity and frame to be incredibly special. There are few pitchers in the majors now – if any – that can match his reported velocity. Unlike 2014 number two pick Tyler Kolek, Pint is more athletic, less raw, and not as thick. If everything goes well, Pint projects as the top pitcher in this class and one of the best pitchers in the entire league. There are a lot of chances for an arm like this to go wrong, but, if it goes right, then you have a Cy Young type of pitcher.
Who is Braxton Garrett?
Braxton Garrett is a player I had much too low in my last mock. We have seen a lot of teams that have had great success recently by going for more polished guys who have developed secondary stuff. This is exactly what Garrett Is -- a pitcher, not a thrower. I see the potential for three plus pitches from the left side. It is harder to find a safer prep arm in this class and, right now, he is my third-rated prep arm, who I think has a chance to go in the top-10.
Who are your favorite prospects on Ole Miss’s team and how high do you have them going?
J.B. Woodman should go in the first five rounds. I would think more in the three to five range, but would not be shocked to see him go earlier. A centerfielder who should stay there, he has shown some pop this year. He has always had bat speed and athleticism to spare. He strikes out a lot, but also walks a lot. There is a lot to like here and I think he is Ole Miss’s top prospect by a large margin.
Brady Bramlett was actually drafted last year by the A’s. He has put up excellent numbers this year. For stat heads, like myself, seeing a 5.36 strikeout to walk ratio makes me stop and do a double take. He is doing everything well this year statistically, showing significant improvements across multiple areas. He has size, as well, at 6’4” and 245 pounds. He has the frame of an innings eater and I think that there is a chance for a backend starter here. As a redshirt junior, I am not sure how strong his bargaining position is, though. He is a day-two player, but one I will be keeping my eyes open for as an interesting get by some organization.
At the start of the year, Errol Robinson was widely considered not just the top player from Ole Miss in this draft, but the top college shortstop, as well. He is an excellent defender and a great athlete, but his bat, which has always been in question, has been even worse this year. He has been a below average college bat and, statistically, has regressed in every way except ISO. The best outcome for Robinson, at this point, is a utility bat who plays multiple positions and brings value with his legs as a base runner. Shortstops always have value and, in a weak class, someone is going to take the risk on the tools and defense Robinson brings. Yet, among the three names I mentioned, he is the only one I think is a sure backup.
1. Where do you see Logan Ice going? Chatter getting stronger? 2. Same with Will Craig? And if you have time for other drafts: Christian Robertson (HS; 2017) and Deacon Liput (Fr, Florida). Liput's line.... Thnx!
The chatter is getting a lot stronger, but the problem for Ice is that it is a relatively deep class of catchers with a similar grade type. The high school class does not bring much to the class, but with Ice, Sean Murphy, Matt Thaiss, Jake Rogers, Chris Okey, and I am sure others I am forgetting, there is a lot of competition for those picks. For the record, my order is Okey, Thaiss, Murphy, Ice, and Rogers.
Ice has been known for his defense, which is solid but not plus. This year, he has put it together offensively. He has been an incredibly hard guy to strike out-- four times this year-- and has gone from part-time player to cleanup hitter for Oregon State. Oregon State was the favorite to win the Pac-12 this year, before the injury to their Friday night starter Drew Rasmussen. Ice has done a lot for his value, but just because of the depth of college catchers, I don’t expect to see Ice off the board before the fourth round.
As for Craig, now that he is back and performing at the level he is, I expect to see him go in the top-40 picks. If he could play any position other than first, I would bet on the top 20. His position will cost him, but, at some point, production will win out over other concerns.
I will be honest, I don’t start the deep dive on high school players until July. I am focused on this season until the draft is done. As for Liput, he has done a great job playing second base everyday on a stacked Florida team, as a freshman. I assume he will be given a chance to handle shortstop once Dalton Guthrie leaves. Or, he would, if not for the fact that he will be a draft-eligible sophomore in a year. There is a lot to like in the numbers -- high on-base and some pop, though mostly doubles power. He is not a big guy, but if he got a chance to play short, he would be a guy to watch for next year.
Due to the Cubs not drafting till 3rd round, do you believe that will give them an advantage on hitting on later round picks? IE, their scouts will not have to spend so much time scouting the top 50 or so players, spending their time elsewhere.
I don’t think it really changes anything. I am sure your area scout won’t go out of his way to see Riley Pint or another high school player, like an Ian Anderson, who is isolated in a region. Yet, you still have area scouts for a reason. These guys traverse these areas all year. I don’t think this suddenly means they will grab the best third rounder just because they don’t have to worry about higher players. The Cubs have drafted incredibly well the past few years. I doubt the lack of early picks really changes any approach. It just means the GM and scouting director either won’t be making the trips they normally do, or just will be hitting lesser players they think can fall. Basically, this is my long-winded way of saying it gives them no advantage and changes nothing. Scouts are gonna scout; it's why teams have a lot of them.
I have Alec Hansen, Buddy Reed, and Bryan Reynolds as trending down, and Dakota Hudson, Will Craig, and Heath Quinn trending up. Fair assessment?
I think Reynolds is staying pretty even. Either you're a fan and see an above-average hit tool with some pop in centerfield, or you see a left fielder who doesn’t do enough to be a starter. I think Reed was overrated during the summer; his tools overshadowed what we have seen performance-wise. While Hansen is the hardest faller right now, the biggest fall might be Kyle Funkhouser, who has cost himself over a million dollars with his performance. Right now, I am not sure if he goes in the top three rounds just a year after he was taken 35th overall.
As for trending up, I think Quinn is a bit neutral after his hot start; he has played well, but has not been putting on the show he did at the start. He needed to put up huge numbers playing in a weaker conference. I think Craig is steady, as well; his injury has hurt his momentum. Hudson, though, has turned himself into a likely top-10 pick. I think the top gainers of late have been prep players, but among the college ranks, I would bring up Braden Webb, a draft-eligible frosh who most are just getting hip to now. I think the batter who has helped himself the most is Nick Senzel, who went from a likely first rounder to a top ten pick and made himself a lot of money in the process.