Now that enough information has accumulated in the last 20 days, it’s time to do another mock draft. I’ll do one more right before the draft, but the variations likely from what I have below hinge on (1) who Houston takes with the second pick, so I outlined the two paths and (2) players shuffling and deals being cut in the back half of the first round (with regard to which decisions teams are starting to meet now), so I gave a word bank of sorts at the end of this, of other players in the mix.
As I mention below, the #1 pick has gone from toss-up to well over 50% chance that it’ll be Dansby Swanson, but it appears that picks 2-9 will have the same players I have below, jumbled in some order. Since certain teams are only on a few of those players, the possible selections after that aren’t just random, but rather variations of the two scenarios centering around which player Houston takes. Roughly picks 10 to 20 are the same names jumbled, with less certainty about which teams prefer whom, then roughly 21 to 40 is about 30 players for 20 picks, with those left out either getting a little less money at later picks, or striking an overslot deal in a later round.
I’ve seen 23 of the 26 players in the projected first round and our prospect writers have seen the other three, so we have video of all the projected first rounders below from the FanGraphs YouTube page, with a quickly growing 2015 MLB Draft playlist of multi-year compilations of video from dozens of top couple round prospects, with many more coming.
1. Diamondbacks – Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
I wrote about the Diamondbacks casting a wide net 21 days ago, then projected them with Swanson the next day, but noting it was very unsettled. Now, estimates have the D’Backs about 80% likely to take Swanson here, as the industry consensus has pegged him as the top player in the class (he’ll overtake Rodgers in my forthcoming rankings), especially after a scorching finish to the season.
New York prep CF Garrett Whitley is seen as the most likely backup option here, and it would be for a drastically cut rate: Swanson would get a number that starts with 6, of the $8.6 million slot and Whitley would get around $3.5 million or so, as he’d likely slide into the teens if he doesn’t go here. Arizona’s northeast area scout owns a hitting facility and has instructed Whitley since he was in middle school, with some D’Backs officials comparing him to Mike Trout, which you hear more and more with big athletes in the Northeast these days.
Whitley allows the D’Backs to consider going cheap here and spread it to extra picks, but they have almost no control over who they get with those later picks (43 and 76) because, even with a verbal deal for $1 million more than any other team can offer, they can’t stop dozens of teams from taking the player they want anyway. See the notes below on who Arizona is targeting for those picks. Because of the uncertainty of where the savings would go and the belief that Arizona would prefer a college player and a hitter, Swanson looks like the pick here.
Georgia prep C Tyler Stephenson is an even less likely cut-rate prep option they’ve explored and college players RHP Dillon Tate, LHP Tyler Jay and SS Alex Bregman are all getting looks as well, but these five players add up to about a 20% chance of happening, at best.
2. Astros – Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (FL), Florida State commit
Contrary to some buzz I’ve heard from high-ranking scouts in the last few weeks, this pick is protected and the Astros would get the #2 pick next year (in what looks like a much, much better draft) if they didn’t sign this player this year. To answer a common question, no there isn’t a team this year that will intentionally punt their pick this year to get a nice slot in next year’s draft. That said, I talked to a few scouting directors who said that, if their pick quotes them a number and then changes it after they are picked, the strength of the 2016 class will factor into how motivated they are to sign the player at that point.
Scouting directors don’t really pay attention to the next year’s draft until this one ends, but I ran through my list with two of them and we agreed there were at least 15 kids in the 2016 class that would be first rounders right now, if eligible. Players/advisers figured out that they have some power at high picks to hold a whole team’s draft ransom, because all the later picks are tied to the savings from the very top picks. The strength of the 2016 draft and advisers needing to maintain relationships for future drafts will serve to balance that out this year.
Assuming Swanson goes first (he would be the pick here for sure if Arizona passes), Houston’s pick comes down to Rodgers or LSU SS Alex Bregman. There’s still some conflicting information out there, but late word from people that have the best handle on this situation is that Rodgers would be the pick in this scenario. That said, Bregman is still alive here and teams are opening their big meetings around now. Houston is among the most creative teams, so maybe they’ll come up with a way to get the other player they want to slide to their second pick at 5th overall; this is far from a done deal.
I mentioned that this pick will dictate the rest of the top 9, so here’s the most likely outcomes with Rodgers and Bregman scenarios at 2:
2/HOU/Bregman, 3/COL/Rodgers, 4/TEX/Tate, 5/HOU/Tucker, 6/MIN/Cameron, 7/BOS/Benintendi, 8/CHW/Jay, 9/CHC/Fulmer (the players at 5/6 and 7/9 could also flip in this scenario)
2/HOU/Rodgers, 3/COL/Jay, 4/TEX/Bregman, 5/HOU/Tucker, 6/MIN/Tate, 7/BOS/Benintendi, 8/CHW/Fulmer, 9/CHC/Cameron (the players at 7/9 could flip and 4/5/6 could be shuffled in any order in this scenario)
3. Rockies – Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
I’m hesitant to say I have a good feel for what any team is thinking at this point, but sources have indicated the same things about Colorado for weeks. The GM has met with Swanson and the ownership group loves him, so he’s the pipe dream here. I’m told they wouldn’t pass on Rodgers, who would be a great heir apparent to Troy Tulowitzki, especially given the current situation. If those two are gone, I’m told the Rockies love Jay and will take him here. RHP Dillon Tate was tied here at one point but he’s faded a bit down the stretch (for understandable reasons) and industry consensus has moved to Jay and his three plus pitches as the top pitcher in the class, with Colorado leading that charge.
4. Rangers – Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
If I have a good feel for Colorado’s preferences, I have much less idea what Texas is looking to do. There is one school of thought that they will go upside as they’ve tended to in the past and take Tucker, Tate or Cameron. The louder buzz is that GM Jon Daniels is a little more involved this year and would like them to take a college player. I’m told Daniels has met with Bregman and, if the rumors are to be believed, he is the guy they want here. Texas was also tied to some college arms here that have since faded (Harris, Buehler Kaprielian), another (Tate) that makes a lot of sense and if they’re looking for quick impact, you have to believe Fulmer and Jay have been looked at here. Texas was also tied to prep LHP Kolby Allard before his back injury and is still monitoring him, but he’s a longshot to get this high, even if proven healthy before the draft. Daniels was at the Rangers’ Florida workout, which included Tucker and Rodgers, and Rodgers is the dream pick for Texas at 4.
5. Astros – Kyle Tucker, RF, Plant HS (FL), Florida commit
The Astros have been tied to Tucker and Cameron here for months and lately have been tied to Benintendi and Bregman. The strong industry belief is that the Astros want two bats with these two top picks and want huge upside to justify taking a prep bat at 5. There’s been more buzz recently that Tucker has overtaken Cameron (I would take Tucker over Cameron as well), but Bregman would likely be the pick over Tucker if he slides past Texas. Benintendi is a late riser that looks to be the choice behind Tucker, or if they want to save a little more money at this pick. Texas prep LF Trenton Clark has also been tied here, but he fits a little lower and college arms Tate, Fulmer and Jay have all been seen by Houston’s heavy hitters recently, but those seems like backup plans to Tucker and Bregman here.
6. Twins – Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
The Twins are also a little tough to read at this point. I’ve been told this is as far as Bregman will fall and that Minnesota would love to get him here. Whichever of Tucker or Cameron that Houston doesn’t take at 5 is the most common player projected here, but Tate wasn’t thought to be available this low until the last couple weeks. It would be hard for Minnesota to pass on an impact arm like him here, even if they haven’t been formally tied to him this spring, mainly because scouts didn’t think there was any way he’d fall this far. Collegiates 2B/RF Ian Happ and RHP Walker Buehler have both been mentioned here and Allard probably would’ve gone here if healthy, but, contrary to other reports, Allard hasn’t throw at all since his back injury. I would bet the Twins have a heavy hitter at the Lake Elsinore regional to see Tate.
7. Red Sox – Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas
The Red Sox top targets (Swanson, Bregman, Tate, in that order) should all be gone by this pick. They’re been on Cameron and Fulmer all spring, along with Benintendi recently and Funkhouser until he completely fell apart over the last month. Cameron, Fulmer and Benintendi all make it here and it isn’t clear which Boston would prefer, but Benintendi’s combination of up-the-middle fit and high level of play in the SEC have scouts suggesting he’s the most likely pick here in this scenario.
8. White Sox – Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
The White Sox have been tied to hometown kid Jay and Fulmer all spring and odds are they’ll get a chance to pick one of them here. Jay should get here if he doesn’t go 3rd, although that now seems like where he’ll go. Fulmer should go in the 5-9 range and fits the White Sox trend (Carlos Rodon, Tyler Danish, Chris Sale) of taking talented pitchers with less-than-ideal mechanics and making it work as a starter. If both Fulmer and Jay don’t get this far, it isn’t clear who Chicago is looking at, but the assumption is it would be more college pitching, with righties Jon Harris (the presumed third option), Walker Buehler and James Kaprielian next in line.
9. Cubs – Daz Cameron, CF, Eagle’s Landing Christian HS (GA), Florida State commit
The Cubs have been very hard to peg this spring, as they’ve been tied to over a dozen players at this pick and it seems like they are more focused on misinformation than most years. They would take Tucker, Benintendi, Jay or Fulmer if they get here. President Theo Epstein has seen CF Andrew Benintendi, RHP James Kaprielian and RHP Jon Harris in the last few weeks and all performed just okay in his looks. Prep LF Trenton Clark had a lot of buzz here early, but seems to be fading. Collegiates RHP Jon Harris and 2B/RF Ian Happ have both been tied here for awhile and RHP Walker Buehler and Allard have been mentioned a bit as well. I’ve also heard prep CF Garrett Whitley and Juco RHP Phil Bickford here, but those seem unlikely. The Cubs had multiple high level scouts in to see Cameron down the stretch and he’s indicated he wants big money, but that’s an expected show, given his adviser (I’ll let you guess who it is). I think the decision would come down to Cameron, Happ or Harris in this scenario.
10. Phillies – Tyler Stephenson, C, Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA), Georgia Tech commit
GM Ruben Amaro has been seen at a lot of games late this spring and he saw Stephenson, Benintendi and Cornelius Randolph just in Georgia in the last few weeks. They would take Tucker if he gets here, they’ve kicked the tires on the top 3 college arms and Buehler, along with Ian Happ. There’s also some interest in preps C Chris Betts and LF Trenton Clark. Allard is a possible pick here if he throws well before the draft. Stephenson is the heaviest buzz here, by far, and he may be highest on the board of all of the names I mentioned. Amaro was visibly excited when Stephenson hit the homers in the playoff game at the end of the above video.
11. Reds – Ian Happ, 2B, Cincinnati
Unfortunately for Cincinnati, they’ve been tied to basically every player I have going in front of them in this scenario. They would take Tucker, Stephenson, Cameron, Fulmer, Jay or Benintendi, who went to high school in Ohio, if they get here. They’ve also been tied to Happ and Buehler as backup options if the board blows up as it does in this scenario, with Happ another hometown option. I’ve been told by a few scouts with no vested interest that Happ isn’t sliding as some have suggested and will go in the top 12 picks.
12. Marlins – Trenton Clark, LF, Richland HS (TX), Texas Tech commit
The Marlins have also been tied to a number of players that go right in front of them here, like Tucker, Benintendi and Happ. There’s some buzz that ownership isn’t happy about passing on N.C. State lefty Carlos Rodon last summer, who is in the big leagues now and is of Cuban descent. So, it would appear that Miami is focused on college players more than in the past: Benintendi, Happ and Bickford are the college players I’ve heard tied here, with the other college arms (Harris, Kaprielian, Buehler) all reasonable to assume could be in their mix. It isn’t clear if ownership will dictate this pick (never count out Jeffrey Loria to do something crazy), or they’ll just go best available. Miami has a long track record of taking prep players from the Midwest, where many of their decision makers are from, and Clark is a nice value here. There’s also some chance Garrett Whitley could be the pick here.
13. Rays – Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
The Rays appear to be casting a wide net and hoping someone slides to them here. They would take Tucker, Benintendi, Fulmer or Stephenson if they get here and are believed to be targeting Ian Happ if he gets to this pick, with Trenton Clark another player off the board that’s been tied here. With all of those guys off the board, Tampa’s scouting director has seen Walker Buehler pitch well recently and Jon Harris has also been impressive in some outings down the stretch, so this decision would appear to come down to those two, but Tampa also recently worked out prep CF Garrett Whitley, so he could also be an option here.
14. Braves – Cornelius Randolph, 3B, Griffin HS (GA), Clemson commit
The Braves are tied to Georgia prep talent as usual and it’s an especially good year to be doing that. Stephenson and Cameron would both stop here if they slid down the board due to bonus demands. It sounds like Randolph is third in line for the Braves among that group, but there’s some buzz that a college pitcher could be ahead of Randolph on the board, with Vanderbilt righty Walker Buehler the most common name being brought up.
15. Brewers – Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
This would likely be where Buehler’s slide ends, with the Brewers waiting to see which player slides to them. They’ve been tied to Ian Happ, Tyler Stephenson, Andrew Benintendi and Jon Harris.
16. Yankees – Garrett Whitley, CF, Niskayuna HS (NY), Wake Forest commit
I’ve heard both that the Yankees are looking at college pitchers and that they’d like a position player here, but both could be true, as there isn’t a college bat that fits in this range, many teams are wary of prep/injured pitchers in this range and there’s still college pitching leftover. Ian Happ and Trenton Clark would both stop here and Andrew Benintendi was a target until it became clear he’d go a good bit higher. Whitley has 1-1 and Mike Trout buzz, even if both are kinda crazy, along with being from New York, so the PR value and position player aspect fit for the Bombers here. Prep C Chris Betts, Kaprielian and Bickford could all fit here as well.
17. Indians – Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS (CA), Tennessee commit
Cleveland is another team waiting to see which player falls to them, as they don’t take only certain kinds of players and they’re deep enough in the round that its hard to know who gets to them at this point. Betts is a nice value with a long track record at a premium position and he’ll go somewhere in the 15-25 range. Cleveland would be the stopping point for Buehler if he somehow got this far and they may also consider Kaprielian. Newman, Bickford and Funkhouser have all been mentioned here as well.
18. Giants – Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (PA), Alabama commit
The Giants’ board often isn’t the same as the industry as a whole. Like the NFL Draft with running backs, high school righties are the class of player that slides most often in the MLB Draft and that group is especially deep this year. That has some teams waiting on this class of player until their next pick, but the Giants have been in heavy to see Nikorak down the stretch; he fits the kind of pitcher they like and the kind of player they draft. Scouts have said that the Giants don’t seem settled at all on who they are taking at this point, but Nikorak will be in their mix.
They’ve also been tied to basically every college starter in creation (Harris, Kaprielian, Buehler, Funkhouser, Ponce, Fulmer), Georgia prep bats Tyler Stephenson and Cornelius Randolph along with local NorCal prep lefty Justin Hooper. Hooper has put out a big number and has trouble throwing strikes, but the Giants have a good track record with young arms and Hooper’s upside is immense; there’s some buzz he may be the target here, but he should be on the board at their next pick. One last potential target is Indiana prep RHP Nolan Watson, who has tons of helium and likely doesn’t get out of the 30’s, but he makes more sense for the Giants at 31st overall.
Note on injured pitchers: There are some teams that are steering clear of the injured pitchers (Brady Aiken, Michael Matuella, Kolby Allard and Nate Kirby) altogether in the first round. Some teams seem likely to pounce on one of them, like the Dodgers, but none of the medicals are out on these players yet and meetings are just starting, so it’s too early to know landing spots with any certainty. Teams have also said they want to see Bickford’s medical, despite his solid spring, because it’s widely believed that his deal two years ago with Toronto at 10th overall fell apart due to shoulder concerns. Louisville RHP Kyle Funkhouser looked like a top 5-10 pick about a month ago, before he completely fell apart and went from throwing 93-96 to 88-92 mph, which prompted some teams to say they are interested to see if his arm is healthy. Teams won’t be getting medicals on Funkhouser due to his adviser’s stance on that issue; I’ll let you guess who that adviser is.
19. Pirates – James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
The Pirates don’t have a type per se and are in the group of teams waiting to see who slides to them. Cody Ponce, Mike Nikorak, Ian Happ, Jon Harris and Garrett Whitley have all been mentioned here.
20. A’s – Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona
The A’s tend to lean to college bats with gaudy numbers and up the middle profiles and Newman is a nice value here, as well. This is too early for other versions of that type (Blake Trahan, Donnie Dewees, Scott Kingery). Oakland has also been on Cody Ponce, Garrett Whitley, D.J. Stewart, Richie Martin, Phil Bickford and James Kaprielian.
21. Royals – Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada JC (NV)
The Royals likely would’ve taken Bickford two years ago if the Blue Jays didn’t, so this always seemed like the lowest landing spot for Bickford all spring. The Royals have also been on Cornelius Randolph all spring, but I don’t think he’ll get past the middle of the round, despite bonus demands that may scare off some teams.
22. Tigers – Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
The Tigers like Tyler Stephenson, but there’s no way he gets here. Beyond that, and you hear this every year, but the Tigers love them some arm speed. Funkhouser is a nice value with a long track record and other names mentioned here include Beau Burrows, Michael Matuella and Donny Everett. Richie Martin has also been mentioned as a possibility.
23. Cardinals – Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (CA), UCLA commit
The Cardinals have said their type of pitcher is athletic with arm speed and Allard has both of those, a smooth delivery and feel for three pitches already, along with being super young for his class. He would go in the top 10 easily if completely healthy, but is a huge question mark now since he hasn’t thrown at all since his back injury, similar to one he had earlier in his prep career. It’s a gamble, but worth the risk here. Not sure if it’s their type of middle infielder or lazy suggestions from scouts, but Kevin Newman has been mentioned here, along with Donnie Dewees; I’ve only heard St. Louis tied specifically to college players here.
24. Dodgers – Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke
Everyone seems to be tying Allard to this pick since he’s injured, high upside and local, but Matuella makes just as much sense and has an even higher upside, maybe with even more risk. Since the Dodgers have a stud hitter (Seager) and pitcher (Urias) at the top of their system along with lots of big league depth (Hector Olivera), they’re about to sign every international player of consequence this year and have the money to pave over mistakes, the Dodgers are tied to the high upside injured talent with this pick. This assumption makes some sense but also seems a bit lazy/reductive. Aiken could also fit here if the medicals are a little better than expected.
25. Orioles – Nate Kirby, LHP, Virginia
It’s hard to project who gets here for Baltimore, but, being a local product and a good value makes Kirby a common player for this pick. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Donny Everett, Mikey White, D.J. Stewart and Alex Young have all been mentioned here, with scouts thinking it will likely be a college pick. Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor sent a note to scouts yesterday saying that, despite what he suggested earlier in the week, Kirby will not throw in this week’s regional, but he could be appearing in a super regional if the Cavaliers advance.
26. Angels – Blake Trahan, SS, Louisiana Lafayette
The Angels have been tied to Trahan, Donnie Dewees, Scott Kingery and Kevin Newman, all smaller college up-the-middle guys without much pop, along with Chris Betts and Cody Ponce, so odds are this one will be a college player.
There’s plenty of buzz on players that could sneak into the top 26 pick and about the teams targeting them at lower picks.
Of the high school bats, there’s CF Nick Plummer (Video could sneak in back half of round one, some interest from Brewers, Yankees and D’Backs beyond pick 26) and 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes (many spots from 20-35 could be homes, Royals, Blue Jays and Braves are on him). SS Jalen Miller (Braves’ multiple picks among rumored fits) and CF Eric Jenkins (Blue Jays are mentioned the most) are also in the mix, but likely fall a little later. LF Chad Smith has been rumored for months to have a deal with the Rangers at 45th overall and RF Bryce Denton and 1B Josh Naylor should both be gone by the middle of round two. Scouts are split on his talent, but there’s some buzz that 3B Trey Cabbage could go in day one (42 picks), with the Braves mentioned most.
Of the college bats, there’s CF Donnie Dewees (Video multiple of the more analytically-focused are on him in 25-40 range), SS Richie Martin (also has multiple homes in 20’s and 30’s, with rumors that Arizona is trying to float him to 43 and Toronto is also focused on him), SS Mikey White (shouldn’t get out of the 40’s and may sneak in the 20’s with Colorado among the mentioned fits), LF D.J. Stewart (Video track record and OBP skills should help him find a home 25-40) and 2B Scott Kingery (Video Newman’s double play partner fits in the 25-40 range) and SS Kyle Holder (Video should also go in the top 40-45 picks due to his advanced glove).
Of the college pitchers, we have LHP Alex Young (Video safe pick for teams with multiple picks, Braves mentioned as on him), RHP Kyle Cody (Video looked like a mid-first rounder after a great Cape, had an up-and-down season, but finished strong: Yankees, Rangers and Phillies have been on him the most) and RHP Cody Ponce (Video Rockies, A’s and Giants all scouting him down the stretch heavily) and RHP Josh Staumont (Video D2 flamethrower doesn’t throw many strikes, but is rumored to have suitors in the 30’s and 40’s). West Alabama senior RHP Tanner Rainey should come for a nice price, with rumors that the Braves have him targeted in the 2nd round.
And of the prep pitchers, keep an eye on RHP Nolan Watson (Video could sneak in 20’s, probably in 30’s, has slid ahead of Ashe Russell among Indiana prep arms, Giants and D’Backs among the most interested), RHP Austin Smith (Video multiple homes in the 30’s, has been tied to the Pirates, Giants and Royals), RHP Beau Burrows (Video sat 94-95 in the 7th inning of a recent start and may sneak into the 25-35 range, but seems like a candidate to get an over slot deal in the 40’s) and RHP Brady Singer (lots of homes in the 30-45 range). LHP Juan Hillman (hit 95 mph at All-Star Game in Sebring, shouldn’t make it out of the 40’s, Atlanta and Toronto mentioned most), RHP Jake Woodford (teammate of Kyle Tucker has heavy 90-94 heater and big frame, could sneak into the top 50 with Colorado and Atlanta the most interested) and LHP Brady Aiken (Video until his medicals comes out, I can’t project him in the top 26, but no matter what they say, he should go in the top 50).
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