WARD: MLB Draft Analysis, Picks 1-18

In the first of four first-day notebooks, Taylor Blake Ward gives his analysis on the first 15 picks of the 2017 MLB Draft.

1. Minnesota Twins - Royce Lewis, SS/OF, JSerra Catholic HS (CA)

It came down to a last minute decision regarding nickels and dimes. Rumor has it one player considered didn't want to take the discount and Scott Boras got a bit of a bonus in this deal, leading to all future references to Royce Lewis beginning with, "former first overall pick." Lewis brings a nice bag of tools to Minnesota with him, primarily, athleticism at a primary position. Whether he sticks at shortstop or is moved to center field, Lewis should continue to hit and hit for some form of power with his line drive, barrel-to-ball, swing. He comes from an outstanding program led by Brett Kay, and became the 10th California prep player (third in four years) to go first overall.

 

2. Cincinnati Reds - Hunter Greene, RHP, Notre Dame HS (CA)

It came as no surprise that Greene was the second pick in the draft. There's going to be a continued question of why he wasn't the first selection with his athleticism and over powering fastball that sits in the high 90's and touches 102 MPH. I'm still trying to figure out who's throwing the biggest party - the Greene family, the Reds fan base, or the Reds PR department. Greene is a dream influence off the field.

 

3. San Diego Padres - MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC)

A.J. Preller told the San Diego Union Tribune that Gore is the best prep southpaw pitching prospect he'd seen in the last decade. It's hard to argue when a youngster already shows plus with his curve and fastball, that sits 89-94. Along with an above-average slider and changeup, with command of all four pitches to both sides of the plate, and athleticism, it's going to be hard to argue there was a better talent behind Greene.

 

4. Tampa Bay Rays - Brendan McKay, 1B, Louisville

McKay was announced as a first baseman, but it sounds like the organization is going to let him pitch a little too. Arguably one of the best two-way talents in a lengthy amount of time, Tampa was hoping for a miracle that he didn't go first overall, and suddenly, he fell in their lap. McKay has a fluid left-handed swing and has shown more surges of power this past season, all with a sound approach, but will need more development to become the complete hitter to reach the ceiling the Rays expect. On the mound, the Louisville ace sat in the low 90's with a solid curve and good command, showing wear near season's end.

 

5. Atlanta Braves - Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

According to my sources, the Braves were expecting to get Royce Lewis. Obviously, that didn't happen, and rumors were flying they would take a bat here. According to everyone else's sources, they wanted Kyle Wright the entire time. Suppose they were right and I was wrong, and the Braves added to their mass talent pool on the mound with one of the potential aces in the class. Wright has the best overall tools of any pitcher in this class with his fastball (92-96), slider, curve and change all grading out as plus options.

 

6. Oakland Athletics - Austin Beck, OF, North Davidson HS (NC)

Beck had a private workout with the A's last week, that wasn't very private, as reporters in the Bay were all over it the moment he stepped on the field. There were plenty of murmurs they'd go elsewhere, but we all really knew what was going on. Oakland nabbed the toolsy prep outfielder, with no grade falling below above-average across the board. The concerns of how he'd handle a wood bat were quickly dropped after his top of class bat speed hushed any doubters.

 

7. Arizona Diamondbacks - Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia

Arizona and Philadelphia were linked to both Virginia bats, and it just so happened that the new regime in the desert went with the first basemen instead of the outfielder. It didn't show in game often, but the raw power shown in workout batting practice (400+ foot home runs) was the calling card for the seventh pick. The DBacks also began to expose what their future draft strategies may entail following their first pick under a restructured Front Office.

 

8. Philadelphia Phillies - Adam Haseley, OF, Virginia

They would have likely preferred Smith, but no one in Philly is using the word, "settle," when it comes to Haseley. It was a near split in who would get to them. Going from a fringe first-rounder - who was more likely to be drafted as a pitcher at the start of Spring - to a top-10 selection, Haseley is drawing interesting comps to guys who have made nice and lengthy careers without All-Star attachments.

 

9. Milwaukee Brewers - Keston Hiura, 2B/LF, UC-Irvine

Milwaukee has continually drafted the big hit tool. It took until draft day for me to even realize I was ignoring the obvious. The Brewers collected the best bat in the draft, with Hiura showing power to all fields and an advanced feel for hitting, that some say could put him in the Majors within a year-or-two. He may need Tommy John surgery, but even before that rumor spread, his arm was a liability. In the National League, he'll likely be a second baseman with some spurts of athleticism that could allow a shot in left.

 

10. Los Angeles Angels - Jordon Adell, OF, Ballard HS (KY)

Matt Swanson's first draft with the Angels led to him saying, "franchise player," with Adell. The team also expressed that with a through-the-roof ceiling, it was too hard to pass on the raw tools of Adell. Putting on a display of power during the prep season and workouts in Anaheim, Adell's speed and power might not be matched in this draft. Many scouts question the contact abilities, but all stated he was the best athlete in the class.

 

11. Chicago White Sox - Jake Burger, 3B, Missouri State

The White Sox were all over the board on any top-10 pick that would fall to them. Apparently, none of them did, and they opted for the next top college bat. Burger is wildly strong and the power should translate at the top level, but whether or not he'll remain at third base is a big question. J.B. Bukauskas wasn't expected to make it past this spot, but he continued falling, which became a blessing for a team down the road.

 

12. Pittsburgh Pirates - Shane Baz, RHP, Concordia Lutheran HS (TX)

The Pirates love a mixture of items - tall and lanky pitchers, spin rate, and athleticism. Shane Baz checked all those boxes, and will soon be one of the Bucs many prized pitching prospects. He may have gone earlier if not for a strong commitment to Texas Christian, but with loads of money to spend, the Pirates showed little fear in taking the third best prep arm, who possesses a true five-pitch arsenal.

 

13. Miami Marlins - Trevor Rogers, LHP, Carlsbad HS (NM)

It's a wonder how any left-handed prep hitter in New Mexico even saw the ball before it reached the plate when Rogers delivered. Deceptive as can be, Rogers is advanced for a prep arm, which is suitable for Stan Meek and crew, taking their second first-round prep southpaw in two years. He will immediately become the organization's top prospect.

 

14. Kansas City Royals - Nick Pratto, 1B, Huntington Beach HS (CA)

Going from Adrian Gonzalez comps to scouts wondering how his bat will hold up, there was a tear in the industry on whether or not Pratto was actually the best pure prep hitter in this class. George Brett seems to lean in the direction that says, "yes." Something of note, Pratto could one day be a Gold Glove first baseman, which was a large part of the Royals' World Series run a few years back.

 

15. Houston Astros - J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina

A team that could be in the running for a World Series title this year nabbed a guy who could help their bullpen by season's end. Bukauskas fell drastically in the final week, and whether it was his lack of size (six-foot-zero) or poor performance to end the year, Houston was ready to pounce. Some believe he over uses his plus-plus slider - which is arguably the best in the draft - Bukauskas is one of the elite arms in this class, regardless of the relief risk in his delivery and physical profile.

 

16. New York Yankees - Clarke Schmidt, RHP, South Carolina

Schmidt had Tommy John in April, but before was showing a power sinker unlike any other in the draft, registering in the mid 90's regularly. It seems the Yankees primary targets had already fallen off the board, but the big surprise with Schmidt was the fact that Alex Faedo was a remaining character on the board at the time of his draft. Schmidt would have likely been drafted in this range of the draft even with full health on his side, and once he returns to the mound, should be a prime candidate as one of the first in this class to start a game at the Major League level.

 

17. Seattle Mariners - Evan White, 1B, Kentucky

When was the last time you heard about a first baseman having the potential to move full-time to center field? The last time very well could have been Christian Yelich, but the current ascension of White from a potential first-rounder to sure fire teen selection is worth taking a long look at throughout the entire field. He has above-average speed, athleticism and defensive talents to be tested in the outfield. Whether he can be an up-the-middle player or not is yet to be seen, but if so, you'd be forfeiting what multiple scouts called an "80 defender" at first base.

 

18. Detroit Tigers - Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida

Six months ago, if you'd have told any team outside the top five they'd have a possible run at Faedo, they'd have jumped in glee. Three months ago, if you'd have told anyone outside the top 10, they'd have been ecstatic. Well, come draft day, no one claimed suit to the once 1-1 candidate. After a Spring of down velocity while recovering from two knee surgeries in the Fall, Faedo dropped down draft boards. Going into Super Regionals, the Florida ace was back to his mid 90's fastball and still possessed a swing-and-miss wipeout slider. If anyone likes big arms, it's Detroit, and they got one of the best this class had to offer.

 

 


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