1. Philadelphia Phillies – A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
Everyone is hearing that the Phillies are really looking for any reason to draft Puk. The three names I hear here are Puk, Corey Ray, and Jason Groome. I think if the draft was today, it would be Puk, but really so much is going to come down to performance over the last month. The month of May is the most important in the draft season and, if Puk can excel, he will be the top pick. If he can’t, I honestly think that it would be Ray. I would be surprised if Groome is here.
2. Cincinnati Reds - Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy (PR)
The Reds are another team that I am told are off Groome. They would prefer athletes and the names here seem to be Ray, Perez, and Kyle Lewis. I have Perez here because the Reds went with a swing-for-the-fences high school player at a value position a year ago. I also know they have heavily scouted Perez, and he has a chance to be the best player in this class. Ray here was tempting, but recent history has the Reds as a team who takes chances on more risk-averse talent.
3. Atlanta Braves - Corey Ray, OF, Louisville
This feels likes Ray’s floor, as he is in play for every pick ahead of here. He might not be a superstar or top-10 MVP player, but he has a very good chance to be an above-average regular. It is really hard to find a player like Ray over the last 15 years. When I went looking for a sub six-foot, left-handed, LF/CF with 30 or more SB and 15 or more HR, the only name to appear more than once was Corey Patterson. I think Ray should be a better player than Patterson ultimately, but I do have my concerns.
4. Colorado Rockies - Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)
I have decided to change this pick back to what I had in February. I took a lot of flak over having Moniak this high and now, here we are, months later, without issue. He might be the prep bat who has the most heat right now. He’s a player who is young for his draft class, with above-average tools everywhere across the board except for power. Everyone who sees him comes off impressed. I have yet to receive a negative report on Moniak.
5. Milwaukee Brewers - Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade HS (CA)
The Brewers, I know, have spent time with Rutherford and scouted him heavily. I think they will take the best player available, with a preference towards upside. This would mean that Riley Pint and Moniak are also in play here. I am a believer in Rutherford and think there is a chance for a plus, plus hit tool and I believe I am not alone in this thought, which is why I have Rutherford at five over the other two prep players of note.
6. Oakland A’s - Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
This feels like a near lock pick. The A’s almost always go with college bats early. They have preferred up-the-middle bats in the past and, while Senzel is not an up-the-middle player, he should be able to stick at third and provide above-average production for the position. If Senzel is there, and I expect he will be, then I would be shocked if he is not the pick.
7. Miami Marlins - Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS (NJ)
Groome has been sliding a bit on boards. He has not been the dominant force that other high school kids have been. I think the time off has hurt him, which I had not expected. Groome is in play from four down, it feels like right now. The Marlins have loved big arms with velocity. Even though Pint better fits what the Marlins typically go for, Groome is a better talent overall. On a side note, this marks the third straight year the top prep lefty in the draft has had some kind of concern that ends up affecting his value: Brady Aiken, Kolby Allard, and now Groome.
8. San Diego Padres - Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS)
Pint is big and throws hard, but, as always, of late now there is some concern he throws too hard. The Texas Rangers approach, where Padres’ GM A.J. Prellar came from, is to go for upside early and often. While the Texas model often leans bats first, Pint has too much value to pass on. He has been top five on many boards. The top prep players on the board are mostly arms here, but Pint is clearly the one with the highest ceiling.
9. Detroit Tigers - Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
Lewis is too good of a value here; most mocks have him in the top five. I would be surprised to see the Tigers pass on Lewis, who fits the toolsy type of player the old Detroit front office liked; most of the people in charge now were part of the old front office, after all. Lewis has star potential, but there are concerns about his swing-and-miss which, along with level of competition, could cause him to slide a bit. I think there is a pretty clear top nine guys, which works out well for the Tigers.
10. Chicago White Sox - Zack Collins, C/1B, Miami
This pick was one I greatly debated. I think the difference between the top arms and who the White Sox could get with their next pick at 26 is not as great at the difference in bats. I think Collins has risen (thanks to his consistent production in a top conference) to the next college bat on most boards, passing Bryan Reynolds. If he was a sure catcher, he would go even higher, but the chance he can catch with the bat, which will play anywhere, is enough to see him go here. Plus, there have been rumors connecting him to the White Sox.
11. Seattle Mariners - Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi St.
When he was with the Angels, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto was a rather conservative GM. When he took a risk, it was on a small school college player, so I would be surprised if he did not go with a college player here. I put Hudson here, as he has had top-10 talk and would be a quick moving player to go with what is an older core in Seattle. He would be a good value, as well, since, before a streak of a few bad starts, he had some top-five talk.
12. Boston Red Sox - Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS (CA)
Manning is a big (literally) bundle of upside. He is the 6’6” son of a former NBA player, who has only been pitching for a few years, but has shown mid 90’s velocity. In the past, Boston GM Dave Dombrowski has shown a preference for upside and either velocity, power, or athleticism. Here is a player with the athleticism and velocity that fit the mold of what we have seen Dombrowski draft in the past.
13. Tampa Bay Rays - Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission East (KS)
Last year, the first with a new GM after the loss of Andrew Friedman, we saw the Rays go with big upside with their first two selections. Wentz would represent a similar such selection. The big lefty was more known as a hitter before the spring began, but has been flying up the boards as a lefty starter, hitting mid 90’s. He didn’t pitch all summer, so, when he popped up, it certainly caught everyone's attention. He was not out of nowhere, though, as he had a chance to go in the top five rounds as a bat, thanks to his power potential. There is a clear top five group of prep arms and Wentz, to some, is the third-best prep arm in this class.
14. Cleveland Indians - Nolan Jones, 3B, Holy Ghost HS (PA)
I doubt there is anyone outside of the Indians organization who knows more or has spent more time researching the Indians than I have. This is not arrogance as much as a fact. I have written on every pick they have made since 2011; that's 210 players. Last year was the first since 2012 where I was surprised by an Indians choice. Jones checks a lot of boxes for what the Indians have done during the last five years. He is a cold weather, left-handed bat, who plays up the middle, but might have to move to a corner. He is also a polished hitter, which has been something else the Indians have gone for. If you look at their top picks since 2011, all but one was a bat, and three of the five were high school players. Jones makes too much sense for me, knowing the Indians history and tendencies over the past half-decade. I have few ties to the organization, so this is just gut and history, not inside knowledge.
15. Minnesota Twins - Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt
I feel like this is the floor for Sheffield. A year ago, the Twins took an undersized pitcher, who some projected to the bullpen (Tyler Jay), and made him a starter. Two years ago, after drafting Nick Gordon, the Twins then spent their next four picks on relievers, so they are also an organization that places a premium on relievers, which is the floor for Sheffield. The Twins have taken players with bloodlines, shown little concern with size, and have gone for pitchers early and often. This all makes Sheffield a very good fit at 15.
16. Los Angeles Angels - Bryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt
I was talking to someone I respect, who knows a lot about the Angels, and has ties to the organization. He has been adamant that the Angels are looking into bats early, and would then look to see what arm would be there later. Reynolds was viewed as a possible top-10 pick as well, and is still in many top 20’s. He does a lot of things well and could be a quick mover. If the Angels are looking for a college bat early, Reynolds makes the most sense here for one of the most conservative drafting teams in the league. Buddy Reed could also go here, if they want a bit more upside.
17. Houston Astros - Braxton Garrett, RHP, Florence HS (AL)
The Astros have gone for upside with a majority of their recent picks, and have typically had more success with such picks. Garrett would be the top arm and player left on the many boards. He is a pitcher with an advanced feel and good secondary offerings. He should move quickly through the minors for a high school kid and, on top of this, he fills an organizational need for the Astros, who have a lot of prospects but few impact left-handed pitchers.
18. New York Yankees - Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
The Yankees, for the past few years, have been the most conservative drafting team in the draft. I know they haven’t usually been connected to prep players, but they were last year and the year before. Instead, Sedlock makes sense in the same way Yankees’ top pick James Kaprielian did a year ago. Both are solid starters, who have shown that there could be a little more growth down-the-line. For a conservative team, there are limited choices at this point in the draft and, of these players, Sedlock would be one of the top arms.
19. New York Mets - Alex Kirilloff, OF, Plum High HS (PA)
The Mets have gone with athletic upside the past few years. They have favored the prep ranks as well, and have gone with a bat for their top pick the last five years in a row. Since Sandy Alderson has taken over, the Mets have had six first-rounders and the only pitcher taken was Michael Fulmer. So, when I went looking for a prep bat with upside, I would lean here towards Kirilloff. It would come down to him and Joshua Lowe and, in the end, I think Kirilloff just better fits the profile that the Mets have presented.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers - T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Pittsburgh
Zeuch is one of the hottest names right now on boards. I am not sure if anyone else has more helium. I had him at 37 to start on my last big board and let myself be talked out of it; this was dumb. I have been writing about Zeuch since he was a 6’7” kid in Mason, Ohio. He was part of a great, under-the-radar 2013 Ohio draft class, which also has two other players in this mock, Sean Murphy and Eric Lauer, along with Andrew Benintendi, who would be the top pick in this draft if he had not been draft-eligible a year ago. Zeuch kind of reminds me of what we had hoped Kyle Funkhouser would become, a big innings eater with a sinking fastball that causes weak contact. A year after Funkhouser failed to sign, the Dodgers can get a player who looks like the plus version, thanks to better command and control.
21. Toronto Blue Jays - Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia
There was a time, back when current Jays’ team President Mark Shapiro was with the Indians, where they took a player from Virginia in five out of six drafts, and every one of them signed. In addition to this, during Shapiro’s time as GM, the Indians took a prep player with their top pick only one time. So, when you combine these bits of information, then Jones makes the most sense for this pick. One could also argue this would be a value pick. Jones is a solid back-end starter but, for me personally, if I were to draft a safe arm here, I would look at Logan Shore, not Jones.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates - Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS (NY)
We have entered the range here where, relative to draft position, there is a ton of value. I think the relative value from nine-to-25 is pretty equal, which means that a lot of great players should slide here, to the benefit of two of the best drafting teams in baseball. The Pirates have been upside focused the past few years and Anderson is just too good a value to pass up. There is so much potential in Anderson that, when you put him in that Pirates system, he could be another Tyler Glasnow in a few years. If not for an injury and the always late start for New York high school seasons, I think he would be long gone.
23. St. Louis Cardinals - Joshua Lowe, 3B, Pope (GA)
The past two years have seen the Cardinals switch from a hyper conservative team to one that is more malleable and willing to go for upside. The biggest bonuses they have given out the past two years have gone to prep players. Two years ago, they took Jack Flaherty, who was the opposite of Lowe--a two way prep player who, at first, most preferred as a third baseman, and then ended up being viewed as a pitcher. Lowe could be in play from the 11th pick on, so here is just a case of grabbing a top sliding prep player, like they did a year ago with Nick Plummer.
24. San Diego Padres - Will Benson, OF, Westminster Schools HS (TX)
Benson is a 6’6” right-handed bat with power potential, who fits right in with the Texas model. He has been linked to both the Rangers and the Padres. There has also been some talk about Cal Quantrill here, and that he has a first-round promise. While that might make sense, so does Benson. So, I went with the player who fit past history and had some talk about him here.
25. San Diego Padres - Drew Mendoza, SS/3B, Lake Minneola (FL)
I know I have harped on the Rangers approach, but last year we saw Preller use this same approach. I doubt we see him grab college players, even though they might be closer, because, while Preller is on the hot seat, even most college players are two years out from helping any major league team. Mendoza as shortstop does fit the mold and, after having taken an outfielder and a starting pitcher, getting a possible shortstop here makes sense, just knowing the approach we have seen in Texas.
26. Chicago White Sox - Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State
If the White Sox had taken an arm earlier and were looking to land a bat here, they would be looking at Will Craig or Max Thaiss, who I both like, so there would still be value here. So, if the White Sox took Hudson or Sheffield earlier, it could still work out well. By waiting to grab a pitcher, though, they get the starting pitcher with the lowest era (0.90) in all of the NCAA. I have seen him multiple times and there is a lot to like with Lauer, who is a safe mid- to back-end left-handed arm.
27. Baltimore Orioles - Will Craig, 1B/3B, Wake Forest
After years of struggles with prep players and, more specifically, prep arms, last year saw the Orioles go with a stats/performance combo in the first round by taking D.J. Stewart. I know Stewart has not performed well since he was drafted, but I would not think one year is going to cause them to change. Craig is almost undoubtedly a first-baseman, and there are some concerns after a weak Cape and diminished production this year, once he got into the tough part of the schedule. Yet, the right-handed power potential, and general ability with his bat, will play anywhere.
28. Washington Nationals - Matt Thaiss, C, Virginia
The Nationals are one of the most conservative drafting teams, not having taken a prep player in round one since Lucas Giolito in 2012. Since they have back-to-back picks here, I expect them to take a bat and an arm. Thaiss is the last of the consensus first-round bats. I know some might put Reed on that list but, I don’t think he is a consensus and, on top of that, Thaiss brings more value as a catcher. He is a rare player today, because he has such a microscopic strikeout rate. Thaiss doesn’t have plus skills anywhere, but a league-average defender with a league-average bat at catcher would be a top-10 in catcher in all of baseball, if not top-five.
29. Washington Nationals - Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford
Remember how I said the Nats are very conservative? I hope you do, as it was just one paragraph ago, after all. One way they are not conservative, though, is in terms of drafting injured players. A year ago at this time, Quantrill had some number one overall talk, so getting him at 30 as a roll the dice player would fit what the Nationals have done, while also giving them a top talent.
30. Texas Rangers - Taylor Trammell, OF, Mount Paran Christian (GA)
Trammell is a big time athlete from Georgia. He is exactly the type of player the MLB needs to find success and promote -- a top shelf African American athlete, who turned down football because he loves baseball. There has been a lot of swing-and-miss in his game, but it should be no surprise that this former running back has speed to spare. He is very raw, but the payoff could be big down the line, which is exactly what the Rangers often look for on draft day.
31. New York Mets - Sean Murphy, C, Wright State
As I mentioned before, the Mets tend to go with bats early. I have written at length about Murphy and what he brings as a catcher. He’s a plus defender at catcher, who has size and swing that should generate power. He is a safe player with a floor of a solid backup, but there is a chance for a special player, when you combine the tools with his defense. If not for a hamate injury early this season, I think he is long gone by this point.
32. Los Angeles Dodgers - Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College
So far, I am entirely recreating the Dodgers draft from a year ago. I have flipped the top two picks, though. Instead of leading off with the undersized pitcher, I have them first taking the innings eater. A year ago, the Dodgers showed no issues taking Walker Buehler, who was dinged for injuries and size. So, Dunn makes sense here. He has been one of the hotter names of late, after showing plus, easy velocity, hitting 97 but often sitting mid 90’s. This has been his first chance to start, so the chance for growth is there. He is a bit of a poor man’s Dillon Tate, from a year ago.
33. St. Louis Cardinals - Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia
I would be surprised if the Cards didn’t take at least one college player with their top three picks. I know they have started to lean a lot more towards top prep players, but Tyler would represent a value at this pick. He is pretty much a two-pitch guy right now, but both of those two pitches flash plus and are solidly above-average. If he can add a show-me third pitch, he will be a solid mid-rotation starter. If not, then he is more than likely a very good back-end bullpen arm. Either way, it is a win for the Cards.
34. St. Louis Cardinals - Joe Rizzo, 3B/1B, Oakton HS (VA)
This might seem like an odd pick, after having the Cardinals go with a 3B/OF for their top pick, but Rizzo is such a Cardinals type of player. I know he is small, but all he does is hit and he shows a little pop, as well. There are going to be issues about size and position. Yet the Cardinals spent their first overall pick on Nick Plummer, a player with the same questions and fewer developed tools, a year ago. Rizzo fits the mold of a Cards pick on so many levels.
35. Cincinnati Reds - Jared Horn, RHP, Vintage HS (CA)
Last year, the Reds went with the riskiest first round pick in high upside prep catcher Tyler Stephenson. There is no greater risk than a prep catcher, although if it pays off, you have a massive positional advantage over most teams. After the toolsy prep player, the Reds then went with a big velocity prep player, hence Horn here. Horn has been a player getting a lot of late run. A Northern California kid often doesn't get as much attention as his SoCal brethren. Horn is a big kid, with big velocity, who fits the profile of what we have seen the Reds target when they go early with arms. The Reds love velocity, so Alec Hansen could also be in play here.
36. Los Angeles Dodgers - Brandon Marsh, OF, Buford HS (GA)
There has been a lot of late talk on the athletic Marsh. He is another football player who has been very successful playing multiple sports, but is also a bit raw because of it. This former wide receiver has both plus bat and foot speed. He is a big kid, at 6’4”, so there is the hope for power growth down the line. After a pair of conservative picks, it makes sense for the Dodgers to go with an upside bat. Marsh can play center and, thanks to his speed and power potential, could end up a steal of a player down the road.
37. Oakland A's - Heath Quinn, OF, Samford
Repeat after me: the A’s love three things--college bats, shortstops, and power potential. Quinn fits two of the three, and the A’s are also an organization which has not had a problem taking a player high from a smaller conference. I have been the high man on the Quinn train for a while. I know there is a significant risk with him. Yet, when I combine the power potential along with the big time performance in the Cape, this pick feels like a steal.
38. Colorado Rockies - Forrest Whitley, RHP, Alamo Heights (TX)
This is a pure value pick, but also fits both what type of pitcher works well in Colorado and that they have targeted in the past. There will be many who say this is way too low for Whitley. Every year, right-handed pitchers slide, and I could not find a great fit for him earlier, to the benefit of the Rockies. I think the fact that he turns 19 this summer will hurt his value a bit, and puts him behind the names that are higher on this mock. Still, as a big-bodied pitcher whose fastball has some nice downward movement, he reminds me a bit of Mike Nikorak, who the Rockies took at 27 last year.
39. Arizona Diamondbacks - Buddy Reed, OF, Florida
Reed is such a hard player for me to place. I actually like Anfernee Grier of Auburn more but, again, I know few agree. Reed got a lot of hype this summer, thanks to his performance with Team USA. At the time, there was a debate about who was the better prospect, Ray or Reed. I said Ray, because of numbers, but many said Reed, due to size and ceiling. Reed hasn’t been bad this year, just the same player he was last year. The lack of growth has caused him to slide. The Diamondbacks are going to take a college player. They spent every pick in the pool round on a college player a year ago. I have to be honest, I would not be shocked to see whoever is drafted here traded within three months, considering how little the new front office has valued first-round picks. I would not even be shocked if a team called and offered them a player in return for the D-backs taking a certain player and signing him to a set amount. This is an organization which doesn’t understand or use the draft properly, as shown by sitting on over a million in pool money a year ago, or trading recent picks for a fraction of their value.
40. Atlanta Braves - Logan Shore, RHP, Florida
The Braves could go a lot of ways here, but I am always drawn to the fact that we know what the early board looked like for one of the higher ups in their organization. Kiley McDaniel (now in the Braves front office) was one of, if not the best, draft writers around a year ago, before he joined the Braves. He had Shore right around the top-10 then. So, what has Shore done since then? He has only been one of the top pitchers in college baseball. I guarantee Shore is going to have a better career than most of the players taken in front of him. He has fallen on boards, due to no other reason than over-familiarity. He is the exact same guy he was this time a year ago. He will not be more than a good backend arm, but he could help a major league team next season. He is developed so, at this point, the ceiling and floor virtually touch. At 40 he is a great value for the Braves and a guy I know someone in the organization liked a lot just a few months ago.
41. Pittsburgh Pirates - Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma
I was trying to think of a way to phrase this pick without being crass. This would be the Pirates just sitting there grabbing a massive talent and saying, you know what? We can fix him. We can fix anyone. Hansen has always had his issues. It is not like he has ever put forth a season where he didn’t have some major issues with command. Yet, if the Pirates take Hansen, would anyone say anything other than great pick? They have built up so much capital with player development and, specifically, pitcher development, that I think people would be more surprised if they were unable to fix Hansen. For Hansen, the money loss stinks, but is there a better situation for him to find himself in?