Scout's Taylor Blake Ward throws out his predictions for the first 41 picks of the 2016 MLB Draft.
1. Philadelphia Phillies – A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
The Phillies haven’t given us any clues as to who they view as their guy, so you have to slowly decipher what their game plan might be. Most feel the Phillies will take a pitcher with the first pick, and would like to avoid prep pitchers despite the two best talents being high school pitchers. That would leave the top college pitcher with the most upside, and that leaves Puk. With his fastball reaching upwards of 99 from the left-side, and usually sitting in the mid 90’s, mix in a plus slider, and you’ve got a premier arm for the future.
2. Cincinnati Reds – Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
This is based primarily on sources, but is nowhere near a dead lock. The Reds are going for the most talented and most athletic guy. You could put Delvin Perez here due to his athleticism and upside, and the Reds have never shied away from guys from guys with some makeup problems. Perez has been brought up as a potential problem through industry sources, but he is one of the only shortstops at the top of the draft. Ray fits the Reds mold more in my opinion. He’s a top-notch hitter, and incredibly athletic. There aren’t many players in this draft with five-tool potential, but Ray has that possibility being one of the best hitters in the nation, with some pop in his swing from the left-side. He also has enough athleticism to run the bases and outfield well.
3. Atlanta Braves – Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
Another industry source has linked Lewis to the Braves, as has Atlanta Braves' writer Bill Shanks of Scout.com, so Lewis seems to be their guy. He’s a Georgia product, but also a product of a small school and small conference which would tend to drop his draft stock. That is to say, he could be a potential first overall pick if he played in a major conference. He has the best tools at the plate, mixing contact and power, but doesn’t seem to be a lock to be a future star. Jason Groome could also be in the mix here.
4. Colorado Rockies – Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS (NJ)
It’d be incredibly hard for the Rockies to pass up on a pitcher like Groome. He’s most likely the top talent in this draft, with clean mechanics and easy velocity and a wipeout curve. Despite ineligibility issues during his high school season, Groome played long enough this season to impress a multitude of scouts and GMs with a no-hitter where he struck out 19 of 21 batters faced. Some are concerned about his makeup, but according to multiple industry sources, this is more of a case of opposing agents creating problems. As if the Rockies organization didn’t have enough young talent, Groome would just add to the stellar crop.
5. Milwaukee Brewers – Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep (CA)
Rutherford has been linked to the Brewers for some time, as every time you think his stock is falling, it rises again with monster home runs. Although he’ll be a year or two older than most prep talents in the draft when drafted, Rutherford's potential of all five-tools being above-average is too much to leave off the table. He has plenty of athleticism, and has been watched for long enough to see all positives and negatives, and the positives seem to be consistent than the other. This does leave Perez on the board still, and would be my second selection for the Brewers to target.
6. Oakland A's – Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
The A's are the most predictable, yet unpredictable team, in the top 10. They’re always attached to college hitters, but with Billy Beane at the helm, they could go just about anywhere. Senzel has lifted his stock with defensive improvements, not that it matters much with Oakland, and his bat is one of, if not the best bat in college baseball currently. When you mix in his tools at the plate, and the numbers he produces (it matters), he’d be one of those guys Oakland would jump at.
7. Miami Marlins – Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy (PR)
Miami only has two picks in the top hundred, and will have plenty to spend on their first selection. They also like big tools, which is exactly what Perez offers. It’d be a big splash, and could finally be the rewarding piece the Marlins have been looking for. He’d be somewhat local, coming from Puerto Rico, which would bode well for the owners in promoting him as the future. There can be a big risk-reward scenario with picks from outside of the continental US, but the potential could be well worth the risk for the Marlins. Perez and Miami just make too much sense together.
8. San Diego Padres – Forrest Whitley, RHP, Alamo Heights HS (TX)
Things get a little tricky when it comes to the Padres. They’ve got three picks in the first round and plenty of money to spend, but may need to spread it around to tap into the depth of this draft. Whitley has tons of tools in an explosive mid 90’s fastball, a big curve, potentially plus slider, and big pitching frame. San Diego may be reaching a little with Whitley, but not far enough to where it’s an odd ball selection. If not him, someone similar like Ian Anderson or Josh Lowe.
9. Detroit Tigers – Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS)
This may be a homer pick on my part. Pint has the biggest upside of any pitcher in this draft, and leaving him on the board at nine may be a mistake for the teams selecting ahead. The homer part of this comes in Detroit’s desire of taking high-velocity arms, and hardly anyone is near the status of Pint. He’s touched 102 MPH, based on reports, and has a harsh power curve that could make hitters look silly. There’s some safety because of his velocity, and at worst, he could be a back-end reliever with stellar stuff. If it all comes together, here’s your superstar of the future in this draft. The Tigers can also spend big because they are limited to one selection in the top hundred this year.
10. Chicago White Sox – Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)
Chicago is looking for guys that know how to play the game. Although he’s a high schooler, Moniak knows how to play and is going to hit everywhere he goes. He’s athletic and should be a long-term center fielder, making his value go up and up. Scouts like his play, his makeup, and just about everything about who he is. If he’s on the board, he’s the kind of guy the White Sox would target, and he’d fit in well despite their ability to develop arms into special pitchers (see: Sale, Chris; Rodon, Carlos)
11. Seattle Mariners - Bryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt
I've had Reynolds and the Mariners in nearly every mock draft I've put together this spring. New GM Jerry Dipoto has never been one afraid to go under slot, and take a little bit more of an analytical approach as opposed to toolsy route. Reynolds doesn't have much that stands out about his game but he knows how to use everything he has and put it together in games. His playing style would fit well for Seattle, and he seems to be suited for this spot despite having most pundits seeing him go lower in the draft. His style of play paired with new front office members who lean towards college hitters, and I feel it's a good fit.
12. Boston Red Sox - Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
The Red Sox have a stellar system but it primarily revolves around position players, and having more pitchers in never a problem. Boston scouts have been constants at Hudson's games, and he fits the mold of their draft strategy when it comes to pitchers. He has the tools, in a mid 90's fastball with sink, a plus-plus cutter/slider and decent changeup to bring desire, along with his numbers matching up with the best in the nation. I nearly had him as low as four to Colorado, so there's a chance he's nowhere near being on the board at this point of the draft. I also teetered between Hudson and Jordan Sheffield, who the Sox selected in a prior draft.
13. Tampa Bay Rays - Joshua Lowe, 3B, Pope HS (GA)
I was split between two players here, and went with Lowe over Ian Anderson due to industry sources claiming there's a connection between Tampa and the Georgia prep two-way player. Lowe is the best two-way player in this draft and has enough athleticism and arm where he could be tested out at shortstop, but likely will land at third base. The Rays don't have much depth at the position and have never been afraid of going after prep players with upside. Overall, Lowe is a little raw still and should be available on the board at this spot, but not much further.
14. Cleveland Indians - Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt
There's a few things here. The Indians do a fine job of developing raw power arms (excluding Trevor Bauer), and they already have Sheffield's brother, Justus, in their system and familiarity with the family. Also, they've recently shown they aren't afraid of taking pitchers with Tommy John surgery in their past. Sheffield has a bigger frame and throws harder and better stuff than his brother. Jordan Sheffield has registered his fastball upwards of 98 at times, keeps that velocity late in games, and knows how to really spin his slider. His SEC performance is up there with the best and it should be enough to launch him to a high point of the draft.
15. Minnesota Twins - Braxton Garrett, LHP, Florence HS (AL)
Garrett is maybe the most polished arm in this draft, which gives some feel for safety. He's not the most athletic prep pitcher at this point, but he has enough to get the attention of the Twins, mixing in his toolset. He has the best curveball of any prep player in the nation, along with a great feel for his changeup, and a low 90's fastball with movement, which will be the high mark to getting him in this draft. The biggest knock on Garrett is his arm speed, which will be developed and you can see that fastball jump into the 90's with more regularity.
16. Los Angeles Angels - Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS (CA)
For the first time in awhile, the Angels are linked to multiple prep players. One they haven't been as strongly linked to is the California product Manning. They've been known for taking athletic players that have velocity from the mound and baseball IQ. Manning fits, as he has former NBA players in his direct blood line (father), he's a two-sport athlete, and he runs his fastball upwards of 97. He is also someone they don't need to spend large on to take him away from his Loyola Marymount commitment, and can look to go big in the second round. I changed my mind three times while writing the Angels pick, scratching off Alex Kiriloff, Kevin Gowdy and Nolan Jones.
17. Astros - Kyle Muller, LHP, Jesuit College Prep (TX)
When looking at this pick, I asked someone very familiar with the Astros' organization what he thought their game plan would be, and he just shrugged. He did point out to me they had no fear of Daz Cameron, and that brought to me to the mindset they'll go after the best talent on the board at the moment. That leaves me with Muller who has seen his draft stock rise drastically with an increase of velocity to the low 90s with sink. The Astros will likely look to build more pitching depth in this draft, but it will take some big spending to take him away from his commitment from Texas. However, the spending should come with ease due to his athleticism and upside as a hard hurling southpaw.
18. New York Yankees - Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS (NY)
It's not much secret that the Yankees are planning on going with an arm in the first round. Last year, they took a pitcher nearly identical to Logan Shore of Florida with James Kaprielian, who has seen his velocity and overall arsenal sky rocket in the right direction. However, it would take Brian Cashman around three hours to see Anderson in every start, and from what I've heard, scouts have been very impressed with what they've seen. If he's on the board, the New York connection is enough for me to keep Anderson here through the rest of my mocks.
19. New York Mets - Zack Collins, C, Miami
The Mets consistently take the best player available, and it's proven to work out well for them. They've been linked to multiple East Coast prep players like Kiriloff and Jones, but with Collins still on my board, I couldn't pass up that he'd be their best option. Also, to my knowledge, the Mets don't have a lot of catching depth, and even though Collins may not stick behind the plate, some scouts are sold and he'd be a quick riser to the bigs thanks to his advanced approach and hitting abilities.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers - Kevin Gowdy, RHP, Santa Barbara HS (CA)
As if the Dodgers didn't have enough toys to play with in their sandbox... err, farm system, adding Gowdy would add to the pile. He's not as polished at Garrett, but he's pretty close, and comes with enough advanced tools to interest the Dodgers. They took a prep kid similar a few years ago - Grant Holmes - and are beginning to see the results add up in their favor. Rumor mill says Gowdy is a Dodgers fan. Of course, that'll change the moment he's drafted by any other team, but it may be enough to draw him away from his UCLA commitment which industry sources say is something of importance to Gowdy. He'd also be slightly (very slightly) under slot, which would allow them to save some money towards their next pick just 12 selections away.
21. Toronto Blue Jays - Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College
Toronto has been roaming the ACC and linked to all kinds of talent in the conference, particularly Virginia players Connor Jones and Matt Thaiss. Dunn jumped off the page as his velocity (mid 90's, touching 99) in a small frame fits every bit of the mold of past Blue Jays selections. Toronto is going with guys they feel could have a quick impact, and although Dunn is just beginning his career as a starter, he could be a quick riser. Dunn's lack of command is the thing that most scouts fear, but the fit between Dunn and Toronto was just too much for me to ignore, and they'll be able to save money for the next few rounds going under slot.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates - Alex Kirilloff, OF, Plum HS (PA)
The Pirates like a few items when drafting: athletic guys, big arms and upside hitters. Kiriloff is a local product and may come at a hometown discount, since it won't take much to get him out of his commitment to Liberty. Of all the prep bats, his raw power is among tops in the draft, and he fits the mold of the current outfield in Pittsburgh. It'd also be easy to put guys like Robert Tyler and Joey Wentz here.
23. St. Louis Cardinals - Drew Mendoza, 3B, Lake Mineolla HS (FL)
There have been links to Mendoza and the Cards for awhile, and I'm buying in. They love athletes, which is a common thread suddenly, and Mendoza is just that. He has a large frame with a big bat from the left-side, and has plenty of arm to be thrown around and tested at multiple positions. Add another toolsy prep player to the depths of the Cardinals future, not that they have any success in that field... (rolls eyes).
24. San Diego Padres - Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma
The Padres are eventually going to have to go under slot, so might as well make it the pick before taking another toolsy prep player. Most would have laughed at the beginning of the year if anyone said Hansen would be drafted under slot at any point of the draft, but his struggles have dropped his stock drastically. The Padres love tools, and Hansen has the best of the entire draft, minus command. He's been a regular in the mid to high 90's with serious movement on his fastball, with a pair of giant breaking pitches. He'd make a lot of sense here, and could turn into a steal if everything comes together. It's time for the Padres to go wild on upside and Hansen is just that.
25. San Diego Padres - Nolan Jones, 3B, Holy Ghost Prep (PA)
In every showcase he appeared in, Jones impressed, and it is enough to jump him even higher than this selection. He has a lot of athleticism, and organizations could be tempted to try him out at shortstop instead of third. His hit tool is above most in the prep ranks, and could jump into some power potential in the future. Again, the Padres need to go big with upside and Jones fits the mold.
26. Chicago White Sox - Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission East HS (KS)
As mentioned with their first pick, Chicago is fantastic at developing pitchers, particularly southpaws. Wentz is a little more polished already for a prep pitcher, and is already touching the mid 90's with regularity, along with a big diving curve. It's hard to go back-to-back with prep players and talk them out of big school commits, but it'd be worth it for the White Sox as they can go under slot 23 picks away, and still get enough depth talent to get two studs in the first round.
27. Baltimore Orioles - Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia
Anyone will tell you the O's are going to look at college bats, but the crop isn't all that fantastic at this point. They also like big arms, and Tyler is just that. His fastball is probably second best in the draft to Hansen's, being a mid 90's sinker, along with a plus changeup with a similar break. Although they haven't had much success in developing pitchers recently, if the Orioles can reel Tyler's control problems in, this could be one of the better steals of the draft.
28. Washington Nationals - Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia
Once again, I'm a believer that when you go back-to-back, you take the college player first and the pitcher second. Thaiss does not miss while at the plate, almost to the point of being scary good at mixing contact and discipline that he could jump much higher in the draft. His biggest knock is if he'll remain a catcher or not. The Nats could move some things around here and get a college hitter, but there's not a whole lot to offer at this point aside from other catchers, Chris Okey and Sean Murphy.
29. Washington Nationals - Alex Speas, RHP, McEachern HS (GA)
The Nats have always have two picks in the first round, after just two picks in the past four years, and they have the opportunity to go big. They've always been big on toolsy prep arms, and Speas fits that definition. He has a fastball that really jumps at batters in the mid 90's, along with a power curve that matches up well with others in the Washington organization.
30. Texas Rangers - Will Benson, OF, The Westminster Schools (GA)
Prior to any pitches being thrown this spring, I had Benson high on my board and my excitement has fallen off, but only a little. He's very likely to go in the first round, and the Rangers would be pumped to see him on the board at this point. He has flashed power, with other tools that scream upside, which is the Rangers bread-and-butter in finding talent. There's a few others that would fit the mold like Taylor Trammell and Gavin Lux, but Benson's resume put me on board with Texas.
31. New York Mets - Zack Burdi, RHP, Louisville
To be perfectly honest, I didn't see Burdi going anywhere higher than the mid second round until recently. Scouts have been open about possibly testing him out as a starter, which could turn him into one of the top talents in the draft, but for now, he's still just a reliever. The Mets go for the best talent on the board, and Burdi is just that with a fastball that has been upwards of 101 with plenty of life, along with a heavy biting slider, along with a changeup that has progressed steadily year-to-year. I also saw Connor Jones around this section of the draft.
32. Los Angeles Dodgers - Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia
The odds are better that Jones isn't around at this point of the draft, but he'd be a likely fit for the Dodgers. He's the safest bet when it comes to stuff at moving towards the middle of a major league rotation in the future, and being a two-year project to the majors. Mixing a low- to mid-90s sinker with a plus change and slider, with strike throwing abilities, Jones would be a pick that the Dodgers would dig this pick almost as much as whoever they take at 20 (I have Gowdy there at the moment).
33. St. Louis Cardinals - Will Craig, 1B/3B, Wake Forest
If there wasn't as much concern about Craig being able to stick at third base, he'd probably jump into the late teens and early 20's of this draft. He hits the ball with authority and is one of the more well-rounded hitters in this draft. The Cardinals have multiple options to go with between consecutive picks, and Craig would be fitting in potentially saving some cash flow for their first and third picks.
34. St. Louis Cardinals - Jared Horn, RHP, Vintage HS (CA)
The Cardinals have been linked to prep arms in Northern California who are relatively raw. That includes Manning, Dylan Carlson, and, of course, Horn. He's a two-sport athlete which may take some of the rawness away and turn him into a guy who throws in the mid 90's with ease. The Cardinals are some of the best at developing players who are raw anyways, and Horn would be a solid fit.
35. Cincinnati Reds - Buddy Reed, OF, Florida
Once again, the Reds are going to athletic players, and Reed is exactly that. Despite what is considered a down year for Reed offensively, he's still one of the best defensive outfielders in the draft and will be able to stick in center field. He's aggressive and quick, and has some raw power he could tap in to with time.
36. Los Angeles Dodgers - Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford
There was conversation that Quantrill would be the consensus first overall pick if he had not been injured through the course of this year. He's only pitched in three games over the past 15 months, but what's available is fantastic. The Dodgers can go with an upside arm like Quantrill and use him at a steady pace through their system, letting him heal and develop properly. There's a large chance he is taken earlier from a team who's unafraid of not seeing him pitch this season.
37. Oakland A's - Logan Shore, RHP, Florida
Although this wouldn't be a sexy pick, Shore is someone who could rise quickly. He's the safest bet, and has put up outstanding numbers in the best conference in the country. Imagine a mixture of Thomas Eshelman and Kaprielian, and you've got Shore. Beane isn't afraid of upside, but the overall idea is that Oakland will go with safe players who can have a near immediate impact.
38. Colorado Rockies - Heath Quinn, OF, Samford
This may be underslot due to the conference, but Quinn has plenty of tools and a powerful swing that could put him upwards of the end of the first round. I have the Rockies taking Groome in the first, which will cost them plenty, and they have two more picks they'll have to save up for, including one just seven picks away.
39. Arizona Diamondbacks - Carter Kieboom, 3B, Walton HS (GA)
The Dbacks have their first pick at 39, and can go with the best talent on the board with this selection. They've always been drawn to athletic hitters who have plus bat speed, and Kieboom fits that. He's more of a complete hitter than what meets the eye, and he has the ability to switch-hit. He should be available, and could be the guy with the biggest upside at this point.
40. Atlanta Braves - Corbin Burnes, RHP, St. Mary's College (CA)
Braves scouts have been running wild through California the past few years and they tend to like what they see. Burnes has some concerns, but that will be the consensus of most picks at this point of the draft. He has a plus fastball that sits in the low to mid 90's, with some off-speed pitches that could turn into something of the future. If anything, he'd be a safer bet.
41. Pittsburgh Pirates - Jesus Luzardo, LHP, Stoneman Douglas HS (FL)
Upside, upside, upside. Luzardo has been out for the year after Tommy John surgery, but scouts are still high on the kid. He has plus stuff and is very smart on the mound, which would bode well for taking on the risk and turning him into a pro before he lands in Miami - his commitment. Before all analysis for the spring was the key focus, Luzardo was recognized at a potential top 20 pick due to his upside. That's enough to put the Pirates attachment here.
To view our 2016 MLB Draft Central, please click here.