Editor’s Note: In any sport, someone who grades a draft the week after it happens is bound to look like a fool down the road. One can judge the value of the players taken relative to expected position, but even this is fraught with issues. I mean, who cares if a team grabs a player sooner than expected if they blossom into a star? I will also admit I enjoy reading draft reviews. They are interesting and help you to get a good overview on what a team did, so there is a place for them for sure.
Instead of grades, I am going to rank teams in each division top to bottom in order of the drafts I liked best to least. Just because a team is at the bottom does not mean I hated their draft; last year, for instance, I loved just about every draft in the NL Central. This is just my opinion and, of course, I am only one person, so I can easily miss on players. Still, having seen a few hundred players this year, I do have some strong opinions on who excelled and who did not.
I am sticking to the top 12 rounds mostly, as I think most teams come out and try and sign those first 12. The first 10 are more of a guarantee, but, more and more, we see teams not start to gamble more till close to 15. If I see anyone I really like later who has a chance of signing, I will comment.
The NL West is the last division in my series of post draft pieces; with this piece I will put the 2016 draft to rest and move on to 2017. It might be an end, but it is also the beginning. Right now, hope springs eternal for 2017 with several big name players. Of course, this time last year the feeling was the same, but 2016 ended up being a disappointing year in terms of performance by top prospects. Without overstating it, next year is shaping up to have a bevy of big name college performers, along with some top shelf high school talent. That should be good news for teams like the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds.
As for the NL West, this was another fairly strong division for the 2016 draft. There were two teams that sacrificed top picks to sign free agents and two teams that had multiple first rounders, thanks to free agent compensation. One of those teams I thought did very well, and the other wasn't as impressive. In fact, one team that didn’t have a first-round pick did a better job than a team that had two first-rounders.
It was a fairly strong division on the whole, however, even if the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had three picks in the top-40, almost ended up at the bottom.
1) San Diego Padres
The Padres took five college pitchers that are worth talking about in detail. Two were lefties with strike-out stuff: Eric Lauer (round 1) and Joey Lucchesi (round 4). Lauer led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts last summer and had the lowest ERA by an NCAA pitcher in over 30 years this spring. Lauer is a plus athlete, who should move quickly through the Padres system. Lucchesi led the NCAA in strikeouts, besting Jon Duplantier by one. Although he is a senior, Lucchesi still received a $100,000 signing bonus, which shows his potential as a starter. He has chance to be a backend starter, with a safe floor as a reliever.
Cal Quantrill (round 1) was the Padres' top selection and, at one point, had some talk as a potential number one overall pick. Quantrill had Tommy John surgery last year and didn't pitch this season for Stanford. He could have come back late in the spring, but instead should start his pro career soon, after signing a deal for nearly $4 million. That bonus will make him one of the highest paid players in this draft. Lake Bachar (round 5) won national championships in Division III as a kicker and punter on the football team. He is more than likely a reliever down-the-road, but there is growth potential because of the lack of experience and coaching, as well as his obvious athletic abilities. The Padres may have gotten a steal in Jesse Scholtens (9), who started his college career at Arizona and ended up at Wright State. I expected him to get more than the $1,000 bonus he received to sign. There was some pre-draft talk of Scholtens being a preferred senior sign candidate, as a potential swing 4A depth arm down the road. Instead, he got one of the lowest bonuses in the top-10 rounds.
The Padres took just three position players in the top 10 rounds, in which they had a total of 13 selections. They did not take a fourth position player until the 15th round. The third hitter they took was Boomer White (round 10), who just signed with the Padres this week. The Padres' other two position players selected in the top-10 rounds were Buddy Reed (round 2) and Hudson Sanchez (round 1). I reversed the draft order, because I expect Reed will end up with the bigger bonus. Reed had a big summer for Team USA last year, so much so that he was projected as a top-10 pick at certain points leading up to the draft. A 6’4” switch-hitter with plus athleticism, Reed has hasn't produced as one would expect him to during his career with the Gators. He has not been a bad player, just not as good a one as he should be with his natural ability. He was coached by an excellent staff at Florida, so anyone trying to unlock his potential has to take that into consideration.
Sanchez was a pretty massive under slot deal. He saved the Padres nearly $1.2 million. One of the youngest players in this class, Sanchez’s bonus was in-line with the 64th pick in the draft, not 24th. He’s a second round talent, but the Padres took him a round early so they could save on his bonus and use that money on several later picks.
There are a pair of high school arms the Padres took who, much like Quantrill and Reed, were once talked about as much higher selections. Reggie Lawson (comp round B) has some of the easiest velocity and top athleticism of any pitcher in this class, high school or college. Lawson changed his delivery this year and he suffered an injury, which caused him to miss a good chunk of the season. I expect him to get a very good bonus and would not be shocked if he ends up as the best pitcher the Padres took in this draft. Mason Thompson (round 3) ranked alongside Forrest Whitley as the top high school arm in Texas until he blew out his elbow. He didn’t pitch this year, just played as a hitter. Despite the injury, it is easy to see what the Padres like in Thompson. He is a 6’6” right-hander who was sitting in the low 90’s as a junior in high school. Once he is healthy, he could sit mid-90s and touch higher.
My favorite pick post the top-10 rounds was Joe Galindo (round 13), a right-handed pitcher from New Mexico State. He has pitched just 28 innings in 2016, which was his first season for New Mexico State. He struck out 45, for a phenomenal strikeout per nine of 14.46. His command was a mess, but with a strikeout per nine that high, combined with the growth potential because of his lack of experience, he has potential as a reliever.
2) Colorado Rockies
Any talk of the Rockies draft has to start with the pitchers they selected with their top three picks. They started out with Riley Pint (round 1), who signed for a little under slot at $4.8 million. Pint has some of the biggest velocity that has ever been seen in a prep player. A player on top of many boards, Pint is going to look like a great value early on, compared to the bonuses the players in front of him will get. The difference between him and second overall pick Nick Senzel was $1.7 million, which is the slot equivalent of the 38th-overall pick. The funny thing about that is the Rockies next pick was actually at 38, and they took Robert Tyler (comp round A). The right-hander from Georgia has two plus pitches, but serious control issues and lacks a third pitch. As of right now, he is likely a reliever, but if his control can rebound in his second year back pitching from Tommy John surgery, then this pick could be a steal for the Rockies. The third selection was Ben Bowden (round 2), who I think has a better chance to start than Tyler. He is a big lefty, who mostly worked out of the bullpen for Vanderbilt. I think he would have been in the rotation for most teams. He is built like a starter, but was inconsistent working as a starter, which is why he ended up going in the second round.
After starting their draft with three pitchers, the Rockies took four straight position players. Garrett Hampson (round 3) follows in the long tradition of great Long Beach State shortstops. The Rockies had some success with Troy Tulowitzki, who was a shortstop from Long Beach. Obviously Hampson does not have Tulowitzki's skills, or he would have gone number one overall. Hampson is a future utility player, with some speed and little-to-no power. In the fourth round, the Rockies selected Colton Welker, a high school third baseman who is a bit undersized, but has a chance at an above-average hit tool. After that, the Rockies took Brian Serven (round 5), one of the many great catchers from the PAC-12 this year. He has the arm to play catcher, but I had mixed reports on his defense. There is a chance for him to develop an average bat at catcher, but more than likely he profiles as an offensive backup down the line. Willie Abreu (round 6) has been on the draft radar since high school. When I did my first mock draft of the year, I had Abreu in the first round. He has potential plus right-handed power and was also thought to be a good athlete. The power never emerged quite like I had hoped, and his athleticism seemed to decline. The tools are there for a good player, I just have a hard time expecting them to click.
My favorite pick after the 10th round was Jacob Bosiokovic (round 19). I saw him twice in person this year. He played multiple positions, but I still think his best position is DH. He might be able to play first down the road, and he is a good athlete in terms of foot speed, especially for his size. He did not look awkward when I saw him play first base. Bosiokovic has way too much swing and miss, as well, but I can’t help but be intrigued by the big power potential and what he could do in Colorado. He has legit 35 to 40 home run potential in his 6’6” frame. The problem is, no one thinks he will hit enough to use it, which is why he went so late in the draft.
3) San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants had one of the most interesting drafts. They didn’t pick until 59, but the Giants grabbed a player there that many had in the top-30. The Giants did not take a high school player until the 13th round, but they grabbed a lot of interesting names, many of whom have more growth potential than typical college players.
The Giants took three interesting college position players: Bryan Reynolds (round 2), Heath Quinn (round 3) and Gio Brusa (round 6). Reynolds does a bit of everything, but none of his tools rate as above-average outside of his speed. I think he will have to play left field, but most think he could play center. Quinn played in the Southern Conference, which hurt his value, just like it did for Kyle Lewis. He has right-handed power potential and is a better athlete than most give him credit for. He performed very well in the Cape Cod League last summer, as well. Brusa had first round talk in high school. He chose Pacific University instead, and struggled to perform and stay healthy. His best performances during college were on the Cape, although this year he finally showed the power that most expected. He still has too much swing-and-miss in his game and will turn 23 this July, making him one of the older players in this class.
The Giants drafted a trio of left handers, but I expect only two will sign. The biggest name from the lefties the Giants took in the top-10 rounds was Matt Krook (round 4). I had Krook as a top-10 player last summer, but, in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, he struggled mightily with his command and control. This is a common issue, and command and control had not been a concern for Krook before his injury. Garrett Williams (round 7), on the other hand, has had control issues since day one. A 6’3” lefty with massive strikeout ability, Williams' command issues meant that he was stuck in the bullpen at Oklahoma State. He had the best stuff on the team, but I don’t think his control will ever be good enough to allow him to be effective. I also want to mention Nick Deeg (round 30). After a big month on the Cape last summer, he was talked about as the number two arm in the MAC, ahead of Keegan Akin. He struggled all year and his stuff was down, so I expect he will go back to Central Michigan, with hopes of his stock rebounding.
My favorite late pick was Reagan Bazar (round 17). He threw just 54 innings in school and showed some control issues, but nowhere near as pronounced as Krook this year, or Williams over his career. The interesting thing with Bazar is that he has touched 100 MPH in the past and sits in the high 90s out of the bullpen. When you can get velocity like that for a player with workable control numbers after the 10th round, it's a win.
4) Los Angeles Dodgers
Despite having three picks among the first 40 in the draft, the Dodgers didn’t end up with a draft I loved. Will Smith (round 1), the catcher from Louisville, should have made my top-102. I used the wrong numbers when I looked him up, which is on me, or he would have made the cut. That being said, I would not have rated him in the top-32, or been willing to pay the bonus the Dodgers did to sign him. There is a chance that Smith will be a starting catcher down-the-road, but it was a pick that reminded me of the Los Angeles Angels’ selection of Taylor Ward a year ago. Smith and Ward are both good players, but the valuation seemed off to me. One place I did like the valuation was with Jordan Sheffield (comp round A). I know he struggled near the end of the year, but it was his first year as a regular starter since high school. He had Tommy John surgery in high school, missed all of his freshman year, and then he worked out of the bullpen almost exclusively last year. He has the floor of a very good reliever, but I think he can start.
It was a shortstop heavy draft for the Dodgers, who took three in the top-10 rounds. All three of the shortstops the Dodgers took have a chance to stay at shortstop. The first pick they made was Gavin Lux (round 1). Lux is a Wisconsin high school player, whose name had a lot of heat before the draft. He doesn’t present a single plus offensive tool, but has a chance to be an above-average player at short. Errol Robinson (round 6) had some first round talk before the year started. He had a miserable season, although he showed signs of improvement towards the end of the year. He is a very good athlete and profiles as a utility player down the road. Kevin LaChance (round 10) is a speed-first player who put up very good numbers as a senior in a small conference.
The Dodgers did grab a few interesting pitchers of note, as well. I didn't know much about Mitchell White (round 2), who pitched for Santa Clara. Once his name was called drafted, I looked him up and the numbers were sterling: a walk rate under three per nine and a strikeout rate over 11. The scouting reports were equally positive, when I inquired. He is older, turning 23 this year, even though he’s technically a sophomore. White needs to be fast tracked or he will end up a reliever rather quickly. Dustin May (round 3) is a 6’6” Texas high school player, who is an upside bet. The Dodgers have to expect him to add velocity as he fills out.
My favorite late pick was Brock Carpenter (round 20), a third baseman from Seattle College. He played at a small school, had a lot of swing-and-miss in his game and did not produce double digit home runs. But he walks a lot, had a high BABIP, and posted a good ISO, which are all strong indicators of future success. I think he can stick at third and the bat has potential, as he just turned 21 at the start of the month.
5) Arizona Diamondbacks
I want to say I don’t hate the Diamondbacks draft. I actually loved a few of their picks. I was surprised to see them take a pair of high school players in the top-10 rounds. But, all things considered, the DBacks were still mostly a conservative drafting team. One of the interesting draft approaches for the Diamondbacks was that they took several current or former Canadian players. They seemed to have a real focus on finding talent up north. Mack Lemieux (round 6) may have a Canadian-sounding name, but he's actually from Florida. Lemieux is a lefty who went in the 14th round last year out of high school, before jumping up this year after one season of JUCO ball. He signed for slot, which should not be a surprise because, as of this writing, half the players who the Diamondbacks have signed, have signed for exactly slot. The one player significantly over slot has been Ryan January (round 8). The JUCO catcher is an all-bat player right now, with power potential. Arizona paid January $350,000, which was almost twice the slot valuation.
I will start with the Canadians, then dive into my favorite picks. In round two, they took Andy Yerzy, the first player in the draft who made me dive into my notes and reports. The Toronto native was committed to Notre Dame, but I am sure he will not only sign, but sign under slot, to help pay for January. Yerzy has a similar profile to January, as both have defensive questions, but both have shown some power from the catcher position. In the fourth round, the DBacks took Curtis Taylor, a right-handed pitcher from the University of British Columbia, which is an NAIA school. A 6’6” right-hander, Taylor had 113 strikeouts to just 22 walks in 91.2 innings. In other words, he averaged more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings while walking a little over two per nine. He has the tools and size to be a starter, but it will take time. The last of the Canadians was Jacob Polancic, a right-hander from Yale Secondary School. I can’t tell you much more than that about him. I am sorry that my Canada high school game is weak this year, as always.
I mocked Buddy Reed to the Diamondbacks, and heard that they did like the athletic outfielder. In the end, they took a different athletic outfielder, Anfernee Grier (comp round A), who I thought was a strong selection. If you wanted a college bat from a big name conference, Grier was the best left on my board when he was selected. He has always been more tools than production, but he started to put things together this year. Grier faded a bit down-the-stretch and is going to post high strikeout totals, but he should also be a plus defender in center with plus speed, who can hit for a little power while posting low on base totals. The tools and chance for growth here make this a strong pick at 39.
In the third round, Arizona selected one of my favorite selections in the draft, Jon Duplantier, the right-hander from Rice. I know he was overworked (what Rice pitcher isn’t?), didn't face the best competition, and had injury concerns in the past. Yet I see a smart, athletic kid, who has a fastball which should be plus down the road and two other at least average pitches. When I see a pitcher this athletic and smart, I think they have better chance to succeed than most. I thought he was one of the top-40 players in this draft, so landing him at 89 for the full slot value was a great value.
Tommy Eveld (round 9) profiles as a reliever, thanks to age and rawness. He turns 23 this year and has pitched just two years at South Florida. The reason was that he came to South Florida was to play football. He is built like a quarterback, at 6’5” and nearly 200 pounds. After a serious knee injury, he gave up football to focus on baseball, a sport he hadn't played seriously since high school. Eveld had last pitched competitively in the 10th grade, which would have been spring 2010. He is a fresh arm, with just 81 innings the last two years after five years off. The knee is a concern and has been operated on twice, but there is no arm in this entire draft that has had less mileage and experience then Eveld’s arm.
My favorite post 10th round selection was Manny Jefferson (round 13). Jefferson was able to get a lot more eyes on him this year, as teams came to see A.J. Puckett at Pepperdine. I always like to see a player who goes from a walk-on to being drafted. He hit 12 homeruns this year and had a total of 23 extra-base hits, which was just one less than his last two years combined. Jefferson played well all year, so when teams came out to see Puckett, they could not help but pay attention to the 6’3” shortstop. There is a decent chance he could turn into a future utility bat for the Diamondbacks.