1) Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade HS
I get it, Rutherford is soon going to be 19. Yet, when this is the only knock on a guy, it seems rather silly. If he was a year younger at this point, he would be a slam dunk candidate for the top pick. There is five-tool ability in Rutherford, with an outside chance for him to stick in centerfield. Rutherford is a known performer, who I think has the best projected hit tool in this class. I think it would be one thing if we only had a record of performance against younger competition, but he has performed in years past on the showcase circuit when facing older competition. He has played well against older players before.
2) Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS
Groome, to most, is the top player in this class. He has a clean delivery, but I don’t feel he is as well developed as 2015 pick Kolby Allard, nor is he the athlete that 2014 top pick Brady Aiken was. Groome doesn’t have the velocity of either. He sits in the low 90s, but the mechanics are clean and he should be able to add more velocity on a regular basis. His curve might be his best pitch and his secondary stuff is well developed. There is front of the rotation potential here, but I think the overall package is being a bit overrated because of the lack of depth at the top. A clear top-five player in any class, but Groome has a lot of hype because of weakness at the top.
3) Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy Puerto Rico
Perez will get compared to Carlos Correa because they went to the same academy in Puerto Rico and Perez has power potential. I think the better comp is Ian Desmond. His defense is clearly his top current tool, but there’s a legitimate chance for him to become a 20/20 guy. Positional value, plus defense, and top of the lineup potential will push him up boards. I do have some concerns with the hit tool; if I trusted it more, it takes his ceiling and moves it from Ian Desmond to Francisco Lindor.
4) Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
A likely centerfielder who does a bit of everything and is a plus athlete, Ray is a safe, solid player who I think is the odds on favorite to go number one. I think this says a lot about this draft class. While I like Ray, I don’t know anyone who projects him as a middle of the order hitter. I see a good, but not great, player who is likely to go top-three. This is where we typically see players who have star upside.
5) Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
Senzel is the safest early pick in this class. All he does is hit and get on base. He has been an excellent defender this year at Tennessee and looks like he should have no trouble handling third. Senzel has the size and frame where one could see power growth. He is about as safe as they get. His hit tool, along with his ability to defend on the infield, should make him a quick to the majors type with a high floor.
6) Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
Lewis has the upside of a star. The mix of tools and the potential to stick in centerfield are hard to look past. I know there is a lot going on with the swing, but the plus power potential and overall ability is just too hard to look past. I love the improvements he has made this year and think the bat will play anywhere. The more people I talk to, the more positive reports I hear about him. There are some risks because of said swing issues and being a small school player, but the ceiling is what puts him here.
7) Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS
I think if you believe Moniak is going to develop power, then he would enter the top five. A sure defender who is an advanced high school hitter, Moniak is just 17. As a matter of fact, he is nearly a year younger than Rutherford. The chance for power is possible, as his frame is big and he could add more muscle. He already has plus speed, but it might be reduced as he gets bigger. It is easy to see why many people are big fans of Moniak. He is a possible five-tool player who is young for his draft class.
8) Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS
Pint is what teams look for in a pitcher. He is a big guy who has hit at least 101. The early reports on him have been glowing, and I think he has the best chance to be a legit front of the line top 20 type of arm in this class. He is the classic draft and dream type. There is significant risk there, but the payoff makes it worth it. There are more to pitchers than velocity, though. I think there is a danger in falling in love with a guy just because of high velocity and looking past the entire package.
9) A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
Puk has an electric arm, big velocity for a lefthander, and size that teams love. I worry about the command present and future for him. He could end up top of the rotation or he could end up in the pen. I would believe either outcome possible, and that is why he has dropped so far down this list. If we were discussing the top 20 or so college arms this year in terms of performance, Puk would not make the cut, and while maybe it should not bother me, it does. With his stuff, he should be easily dominating competition. Instead, he is averaging just four innings a start over seven starts, which concerns me. He has also had an injury issue, which is always a concern.
10) Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt
Sheffield, by and large, has excelled this year as a Friday starter. It is his second year back from Tommy John surgery, and he has shown improved control. He moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Normally, you would expect his walk rate to rise, not drop, over two runners a game by the move from the bullpen. Then you add in that he has one of the highest strikeout rates in college baseball and it is easy to get excited. The natural comparison is going to be Marcus Stroman, as he’s an undersized, big velocity right-hander. He is my top college right hander this year. I love the high floor mixed with a high ceiling. Worst case here is elite backend bullpen arm.
11) Braxton Garrett, RHP, Florence HS
Garrett is the biggest breakout player from the National High School Invitational (NHSI). Garrett is not your traditional high-pick prep arm. He doesn't throw very hard and he mostly sits low 90s. He is, however, about as safe a prep arm as one can get. He features clean mechanics that he repeats with ease. Garrett’s secondary stuff is advanced for a prep arm and look like future plus pitches. We see a lot of throwers from the prep ranks. Garrett is a pitcher. I would not be shocked if he was a top-five pick by the time June comes.
12) Nolan Jones, 3B, Holy Ghost HS
This is a cause where I am in the minority. I am a bigger fan of Jones than Joshua Lowe as an athletic, toolsy prep infielder. He has so many natural tools and plus makeup. I think as people see him more now that the high school baseball season has begun, Jones will be rising significantly. I still think there is an outside chance he can stick at short for a few years before moving to third. In a class devoid of shortstops, I think the potential for one in Jones, even if it's just for a few years, will help push him up boards.
13) Will Craig, 1B, Wake Forest
Craig is the complete offensive package in this draft. He hits for average, power, and shows excellent plate discipline. On top of that, he has been a pitcher for Wake Forest the past three years. Only two things have slowed him down during his career, injury and overuse. Last year, he had 44 innings pitched and 191 at-bats, which is why I am not concerned about a weak Cape Cod League showing. First basemen always lack relative value in the draft, but Craig’s offensive ability with the bat is unrivaled to me among the college ranks. He has a strong enough arm to play third or outfield, but I’m just not sure if he moves well enough to handle either position.
14) Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
In terms of numbers, one could make a solid case that Hudson is the best college pitcher this year. His change from erratic bullpen arm to dominant starter has been one of the most unexpected things I have seen covering the draft. Hudson is going deep in every start and holding his velocity. Opposing hitters struggle to make solid contact all year. For his college career, he has given up only three home runs; hitters just seem unable to make solid contact. Hudson is going in the top-10 this year and, with his production this season, it is easy to see why. I do have some concerns that, over the last 12 months, he has pitched three times as many innings as he had the previous two years. There is a chance for fatigue and a slide in performance to end the year.
15) Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS
Manning has about as much upside as any pitcher in this draft. He is new to the position, the son of a former NBA player, and is hitting mid-90s. A plus athlete with bloodlines, size, and velocity, he basically has a front of the rotation starter kit. Manning is raw, but he is exactly the type of arm that I would gamble on. The bonus of him being a multi-sport guy is that he doesn’t have the innings or overuse we often see in high school arms. He is clearly one of the top-five prep arms in this class
16) Anfernee Grier, OF, Auburn
I will be honest, Grier was not on my radar to start the year. I tend to focus on certain players and, more specifically, teams with multiple players early on. Grier just kept hitting, though, and when you combine this with the obvious tools, it is easy to see a first-round pick. He plays a strong centerfield and has plus speed. His dad was a sixth-round pick by Cardinals in 1987 and Grier himself was a 39th round pick out of high school by the Tigers. Grier would be higher, but his 19% strikeout rate in college is worrisome. This year, the power is up, walks are up, and strikeouts have remained the same. I have to comment on his .509 BABIP, which often shows at lower levels as a positive evaluative trait for hitters. I don’t think I have seen one over .500 before this late in the year. Grier’s tools alone would have made him interesting, but, combined with the breakout numbers, he now looks like a first-round lock. There is a chance for plus power and speed in centerfield, some real Mike Cameron-type potential here.
17) Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS
What is there not to like about Anderson? That might be the best question here. He won’t turn 18 for another month, has size, velocity, and developing secondary pitches. He is raw, and the fact that he is a cold weather arm who faces weaker competition will be an issue for some. The struggles of the last two high drafted New York players, Garrett Whitley and Scott Blewett, won’t help him either. Anderson needs to go to the right team, ideally one with a history of developing raw arms.
18) Alex Kirilloff, OF, Plum High HS
I was not as high on Kirilloff at the start of the process, because he was considered a future first baseman. However, a strong spring and positive reports of his defense in the outfield have raised his value. He easily has the arm and athleticism for the outfield. His home run display at Petco Park, during a PG event home run derby, quickly became legendary. Kirilloff is a better than you would think athlete, who has a chance for both plus hit and power tools. I could easily see this cold weather bat surging up boards.
19) Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford
At this point, Quantrill’s stock is pointed down, mostly because he is out of sight, out of mind. I know this might seem silly, but I have seen it happen more than once. I, like many, hope that Quantrill will get to pitch a few games in May, but it is unlikely that those games will be able to provide that much information. You're betting on what you saw a year ago before the Tommy John surgery, when he was talked about as a possible top-five pick. I don’t think two or three starts will change that.
20) Zack Collins, C/1B, Miami
If I thought Collins could actually play catcher at the big league level, he would be 10 spots higher. However, I really think it is unlikely. I know more than a few people who think he can, however, so I am still listing it for his position. Collins’ bat is his carrying skill. He is going to be compared to Craig in this draft, as both are more than likely first basemen whose main skill is their bat. Much like Craig, Collins is a complete hitter with power, patience, and approach. He has taken it up a step this year statistically and made it so that, even if all he can play is first, he is still worth a high pick.
21) Corbin Burnes, RHP, St. Mary’s (Calif.)
Burnes is an athletic right hander who has shown four pitches and dominated the WCC. I do have some concerns, however, because he struggled in the Cape Cod League. Those concerns have been balanced out somewhat by the reports of him hitting 97 as a starter this year. Burnes is an athletic kid with four pitches and velocity from a small school. There is a lot to work with and, in a draft like this, I am intrigued enough with the overall package to think he could go in the first.
22) Joshua Lowe, 3B, Pope
During the summer, I was in the minority, it felt like, when I thought Lowe’s future was as a hitter. I see more and more people warming to this idea. His profile is very similar to Jones. Lowe is another plus athlete, though I think Lowe has more power potential in his swing. I think that, with the depth of prep arms in this class, Lowe stands out more for his potential as a hitter than a pitcher right now.
23) Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
Sedlock might not be the sexiest pitcher in this class, but he’s a pretty safe bet to be a major leaguer. He comes from Illinois which, in the past few years, has started to put a few high pick pitchers into the MLB draft, notably Tyler Jay and Kevin Duchene a year ago. Last year, Sedlock worked out of the bullpen for Illinois because of pitcher depth. His velocity in the bullpen peaked at 96, but he is more a low 90’s thrower. His hit and strikeout rates are both much improved as he has become a starter. As one would expect, he needs some work, as he has just been starting for a year.
24) Sean Murphy, C, Wright State
Murphy is the most impressive player I have seen in person this year. I feel his arm might be the best non speed tool in this draft. He is a complete defender with quick hands and feet, who I think in the right system could be a great pitch framer. A natural athlete, he runs well and hit the ball to all fields when I saw him. Murphy is a big kid with power potential; if not for injury, I think he could be a lot higher on this board.
25) Carter Kieboom, 3B, Walton HS
Kieboom is such a mature hitter for a high school player. He uses all fields and has a patient approach at the plate. He has played short in high school and looked good there for the NHSI. I am alone on an island with this, but I think he has a chance to stick at short. He isn't a huge kid, at 6’2”, and plays the position well. I would give him every chance to stay, because his value would be so much higher there. He is about as safe a high school bat as you will find. The tools might not be exciting or mind-blowing, but I would be surprised if he did not make the majors.
26) Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College
Over the past month, one of the biggest surging names is Dunn. The ACC has a lot of draft-eligible big names. Kyle Funkhouser, Connor Jones, T.J. Zeuch, Bailey Clark, and Zac Gallen have all gotten some run this year. Yet, at the moment, the first arm to be selected out of the ACC could be Dunn. He started the year in the bullpen, but over his last three starts he has really turned heads. He is undersized, at 6’1”, and that will cause an issue for some, but not me. He is sitting 93-96 and touches 97, and it's all easy velocity. This might be a conservative placement, but, right now, I don’t think there is a player in the college ranks doing more to help his value. There are issues with rawness and a need to develop a third pitch, but in a weak class, Dunn has been a nice revelation.
27) Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia
Tyler has velocity and a plus change. The question is, does he have anything else? His command and control have both looked below average this year and his third pitch is what one would nicely call a work-in-progress. There is a lot of potential here, because of the two potential plus pitches. His hit rate in college is very low, which is a sign to me that the stuff is good and, even in the SEC, hitters are struggling to pick up his stuff. If the third pitch doesn’t develop, then Tyler is a bullpen arm. I think this is a high possibility, which is why I have him here.
28) Heath Quinn, OF, Samford
I am not giving up my position on Quinn, even if he has evened off a bit after his hot start. He has matched his home run total from a year ago in 111 fewer at-bats. The power is a plus tool. He is a strong guy who has really good bat speed. When you combine size, strength, bat speed, and an upper cut swing, you can see why Quinn’s power potential is so tantalizing. He was a plus runner in high school, but as he has gotten bigger, his speed is closer to average now. He’s a small school player, but his top performance on the Cape gives me faith in his ability to perform. I also like the increase in all the indicator stats I typically look for which, even against lesser competition, is a positive sign.
29) Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia
At one point, I had Thaiss about five spots lower. Then I thought, why would he drop? Thaiss is a solid catcher, nothing plus, but likely to stick there. His bat is also equally solid, though not spectacular. He has one amazing skill, which is that he almost never strikes out. He has struck out just 8% of the time during his career and is down to just 3% as a junior. There is a lot of value in a league average bat and a league average defender at catcher. There were only four players who were able to provide this value to teams last year.
30) Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California
Jefferies is undersized and, unlike the typical early right hander, he does not have big velocity. A safe arm who should move quickly, the obvious comparison is Mike Leake. I looked to see how many seasons a six foot tall pitcher has produced since 2000. The answer is 200 seasons, which is an average of 13.333 seasons a year. So, for all the talk about small pitchers and lack of performance, is this really as big an issue as it is made out to be? There are concerns that his recent reported “calf” injury could be more than has been stated.
31) Jon Duplantier, RHP, Rice
Duplantier is someone I don’t hear a lot about, but I really don’t understand why. It is hardly a surprise to see an arm from Rice who has injury issues, though it might actually be a bonus in this case. He lost a year by redshirting, because of injury issues as a sophomore. Rice is a program well known for its abuse of arms, to the point where some players seemed to never recover. A very smart player who could have gone to Yale, Duplantier is an excellent athlete who also excelled at football. He sits in the low 90s and touches 95. He has excelled this year and hitters are not able to make hard contact. As a matter of fact, in his college career, he has never given up a single home run over 115 innings. Here is a smart, big kid, who is excelling and yet there’s not much chatter. I don’t get it.
32) Logan Shore, RHP, Florida
If you want a safe, middle- to back-end arm who should be in the majors in two years, Shore is the guy. It is harder for me to find a safer pitcher. His strikeout rate has jumped up this year and his walk rate has stayed extremely low. His control is an above-average skill and, right now, his advanced skills as a pitcher are letting him rip through the college ranks. He is a likely backend starter, but I would bet on him being the first starter to the majors.
33) Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia
I know this slot might seem very low to many, but my concern here is more with the program than the player. The program at Virginia has been very successful, but has failed to produce even an up-and-down starter in the majors. Jones seems like a safe back-end arm, but I have said that too many times about Virginia players only to see them fail to develop. I can’t put Jones any higher than this, and actually debated putting him lower.
34) Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission HS
It is a very good year in the state of Kansas. A state that is often forgotten on draft day appears to have a pair of first round arms. Wentz is the king of finishing second this year. In a normal year, he would be far-and-away the best player in the state of Kansas. In most years, he would be the most talked about 6’4” Wentz in any draft, as well. Sadly, he can’t even be that this year. Wentz is a big lefty who has hit 95, but his secondary stuff is very much a work-in-progress. He’s an upside gamble for sure, but one that could pay off with a mid-rotation starter. A good athlete who is very raw, he’s another player where you will have to have confidence in your ability to develop pitchers to draft him. At the start of the process, he was viewed as a first baseman with some power potential. It’s amazing how much things have changed.
35) Reggie Lawson, RHP, Victor Valley HS
Lawson is a big old bucket of tools. The word ‘big’ is key here, as he is a big kid with easy velocity and great athleticism. I know his reports have not been super positive in the early going this year. I am still a fan of the upside and what Lawson could become once he gets coached up. He is one of the biggest gambles in this draft, but the payoff could make us look back in a few years and wonder why he didn’t go earlier.
36) Joe Rizzo, 3B/OF, Oakton HS
Rizzo, in some respects, is a safer third baseman than Jones or Lowe. I think his hit tool likely projects out as the best of the group. He lacks either of those players’ size or athleticism, though, which is why he is lower on the board. I think there is a legitimate chance for 55 hit and power tools. I think he can stick at third, but there are some doubters. I would be curious to see if he could catch. I think he is the type of kid who has the work ethic to make such a conversion. Needless to say, if he could convert to catcher his stock would be significantly higher.
37) Kevin Gowdy, RHP, Santa Barbara HS
Gowdy is a pitcher. He is not the typically high draft pick with big velocity. Instead, he relies on pitch ability and developed secondary stuff. There have been some inconsistencies from start to start. I saw one report where everything plays down and another where he sounds like a top-20 pick. He has benefited from the University of Santa Barbara being nearby and scouts being able to double dip when they come to see the Gauchos. A developed high school arm, I fully expect him to go somewhere in the first 50 picks.
38) Chris Okey, C, Clemson
I remember following Okey leading up to the 2013 draft, but his commitment to Clemson scared off teams and he slid to the Padres in the 31st round. He has excelled at Clemson. This season, his walk rate is up but his power is down, which I think has hurt his stock. In terms of the catchers in this class, I don’t think he has the bat of Collins or the defense of Murphy. What he does bring is the happy medium. He is skilled at everything but a master of nothing.
39) Will Benson, OF, Westminster Schools HS
This pick is all about upside. Benson is a big, athletic kid, who, with his size and tools, should have plus power down the road. He has been compared to Jason Heyward, which makes no sense to me. He actually reminds me a lot of Kyle Lewis in this draft, but with a lot more risk. The swing-and-miss questions and plus right-handed power are there for both. If you want a high ceiling and don’t care about a basement floor, then Benson is your bat.
40) Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State
I have seen Lauer in person more than anyone else on this list. He pitches in my backyard, which has made him very easy to see. There is not a player I know better. He is a superb athlete with three average pitches. I think his slider is his best pitch and should be a weapon against left handers. I don’t think he will have any plus pitches down the road. He should be a backend type of starter. Kent State has a history of developing pitchers and I would rather bet on the athletic lefty with the high floor at this point.
41) Bryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt
I know I am the low man, by a lot, on Reynolds. His power has improved this year and his ISO is nearly double a year ago. His walk rate has also nearly doubled this year. When you add in his above-average speed, I know I seems insane to put him this low. Here are my concerns, though. I think Reynolds is strictly a left fielder. He doesn’t have the arm for right or the instincts for center. My other issue is his strikeout rate is very high. He strikes out nearly 22% of the time this year which is very slightly up from a year ago and very high. Reynolds has hit well in college, but, with that strikeout rate, I worry about what will happen when he gets drafted. His value is tied highly to his hit tool and I am not as bullish as everyone else.
42) Nick Solak, 2B, Louisville
This is about production over reports. All Solak does is hit. It doesn’t matter where he is or who he faces. I know in most places he is a second or third rounder, but much like with Scott Kingery last year, I am going to be high on a second baseman who produces in a top conference. In terms of indicator stats, he has high BABIP and a low strikeout rate. All three years at Louisville and at the Cape, all he has done is get on base. The offensive profile, based on numbers, would be plus for the position. I think he is a great value in the supplemental round to early second round.
Braden Webb, RHP, South Carolina; Forrest Whitley, RHP, Alamo Heights HS; Nick Banks, OF, Texas A&M; Bryson Brigman, SS, University of San Diego; Jesus Lazardo, LHP, Douglas HS; Buddy Reed, OF, Florida; T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Pittsburgh; Alex Speas, RHP, McEachern HS