Least Surprising Pick
The Washington Nationals selecting Bryce Harper with the number one overall pick was the least shocking thing to happen on Monday night. Harper has been the top player in this draft since the minute he became eligible, and there was little doubt the Nationals were going to take him. It was mildly surprising that the organization announced him as an outfielder from the opening bell, but that opens the window for Harper's bat to push him to the big leagues much quicker than if he was a catcher. He's not going to sign quickly, so it may be a while before we see him on the field again, but he's going to be really, really good when he does sign.
Several picks raised eyebrows in the first round, but the Chicago Cubs selection of Division II right-hander Hayden Simpson was probably the biggest. Most scouts didn't rate Simpson much better than a 4th or 5th rounder, though some felt he could go as high as the third round if a team fell in love with him. There is some upside here, as he is a righty that can get into the low-90s and he has some pitchability. The Cubs have often gone off the board, but this one may top many of their shocking picks of recent years.
The selection of Harper is the easy choice for the best pick, since he has the chance to be the best player in this draft. However, the Cardinals may have lucked their way into the best pick of the first day, by picking up Arkansas third baseman Zach Cox. Throughout the spring, Cox was a consensus top ten pick and arguably the best college bat in the draft. Cox falling all the way to St. Louis at #25 is a steal, even if he doesn't stick at third base long term. He could move quickly and be another quality bat to help the lineup around Albert Pujols.
I am really not a fan of the Cubs' selection of Simpson, and one AL Scout even texted me with his shock over that pick, saying "You absolutely have to be kidding me!?" That surprise aside, I am actually a little more disappointed in the Astros' first pick at number eight. Selecting Delino DeShields, Jr. would have been a fine pick at #19, but in the top ten, there was so much talent on the table. With such a poor system right now, the Astros needed to go best player available with some surety of being able to sign them, and I don't feel they did that with this pick.
Toughest to Sign
Prep right-hander Zach Lee has had some lofty bonus numbers floating around with his name over the last few months, and that has scared many teams off. Despite his elite talent, the combination of those bonus demands and rumors of his serious intent on playing football at LSU, Lee was expected to drop like a rock on day one. The Dodgers – a team that has appeared to be in a cost cutting mode of late – were a surprise entrant into the Lee derby, and they may have a very hard time inking him before the August deadline.
It isn't often one would say that a Scott Boras client is considered a good value, but in the supplemental round, even with a first round price tag, the Red Sox selection of Anthony Ranaudo has a chance to be fantastic. Ranaudo was considered one of the draft's top three or four talents entering the spring, and a bum elbow slowed him significantly; dropping him out of the first round. If the Red Sox can get his signature on the dotted line, they will have gotten one of the top talents at #39. The Red Sox other supplemental pick, outfielder Bryce Brentz is also a good value pick, as a guy many thought could go as high as the mid-first round.
Most Overrated Pick
There was a lot of talk leading up to the start of the draft that Mississippi lefty Drew Pomeranz was falling, and falling hard, but he ended up going fifth overall to the Indians. Pomeranz does have a great power arm, but he still must refine his command, has what one scouting director described to me as a "just painful" arm action, and very little in the way of a change-up. At that point in the first round, I personally would like a guy that offers a bit more than just the big fastball, and that leaves me thinking this pick may be a bit overrated.
Most Underrated Pick
Two picks stand out as underrated to me on the first day of the draft. The Red Sox selection of Ball State's Kolbrin Vitek and Tampa's selection of outfielder Josh Sale could both be premium talents without a lot of hype surrounding their selection. Vitek may move to the outfield for the Red Sox, but he has average tools across the board and they play up a bit with his style of play and baseball IQ. Sale gives the Rays yet another high ceiling talent to plug into their extremely talented system. His power ceiling is absolutely outstanding, and whether he stays in the outfield or moves behind the plate, the bat is likely to play anywhere. Neither pick is a flashy one for these two AL East clubs, but they are both quality picks that could yield real big league talent.
Best Available on Day Two
The way the draft has fallen this year, a litany of extremely talented players are still sitting on the board as we head into day two. The top talent on my board is Ohio prep right-hander Stetson Allie. Allie has as much raw stuff as nearly any high school pitcher in the draft, but his bonus demands have caused him to slide completely out of the first day. Two college pitchers that also merit consideration as some of the top players available are Texas righty Brandon Workman and Arkansas righty Brett Eibner. Workman has been a horse for the Longhorns this year, but he doesn't project as much more than a number three starter in the big leagues. Eibner is a two-way player that has some potential as an outfielder, but most teams like him on the mound where he can reach the mid-90s with regularity. A few other names to keep an eye on early on day two are Florida prepsters Yordy Cabrera (SS) and AJ Cole (RHP), along with University of Michigan outfielder Ryan LaMarre, and former Kentucky ace James Paxton. All four players have flashed first round skills at times, but have now slid to at least the second round.
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