Archive for 2015 MLB Draft

FanGraphs Audio: Kiley McDaniel Naturally Analyzes the Draft

Episode 572
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect analyst for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses some early-round selections in baseball’s amateur draft, the particular futures of some collegiate second baseman, and also baseball-player makeup versus regular-person makeup.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 1 hr 1 min play time.)

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Thoughts on Last Night’s Draft Proceedings

I already chatted for nearly six hours during last night’s picks, wrote a bunch of mock drafts and, with the help of David Appelman, made a Sortable Draft Board full of the top players with tools, reports, video and where they were taken last night, but I thought I should drop in and give some thoughts on last night’s first two rounds of the draft.

The top-11 picks went pretty much as expected, with those players all projected there in some order. Husky Canadian prep 1B Josh Naylor crashed the party, jumping from late first-round expectations to 12th overall, which was the first big surprise of the night, similar to what Kodi Medeiros did last year with the Brewers. Often, what fans will term a “reach” or “overdraft” is a team deciding they want a player and realizing he won’t be at the next pick. I support this idea from the team’s side, especially if you can save some money, because when we look back at the draft in 10 years, we won’t say “this guy wasn’t a good value here,” we’ll either say he was good or he wasn’t. Don’t forget that rankings and mock drafts are a guide, not the correct answer. When you can’t trade picks, you take the guy you want and sometimes it’ll look like this.

The rest of the first round was composed of names I had projected in that range or ranked within my top 50-60 players, except for the Orioles at pick 36 with Ryan Mountcastle, whom I heard last week had some people looking at him in the second round. Mountcastle is a unique player with above-average bat speed, bat control, raw power and speed to go with a projectable frame and a long track record of hitting, so he clearly checks a lot of boxes. His swing is a little awkward, he didn’t hit for power in games this spring and scouts think he might be a left fielder, but you can clearly see why teams would be on him with a high pick and I’m betting the Orioles wouldn’t have gotten him with their next pick.

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KATOH’s Thoughts on the First-Round Picks

In an attempt to better quantify the meaningfulness of college baseball stats, I recently applied my KATOH methodology to college baseball players. You can read about the details of my methodology, my findings and some of my projections over at The Hardball Times. My piece on college hitters went up on Friday, while I dropped my analysis of college pitchers on Monday.

Now, using the KATOH models I developed, let’s take a closer look at the 13 college players who were selected in the first round of yesterday’s draft. I stopped short of including the players taken in the compensation or competitive balance rounds, but I’ll address many of these players — along with those taken in the next few rounds — in the next week or so.

Please note that my KATOH forecasts for hitters tend to run a bit higher than the ones for pitchers. For this reason, I recommend you compare hitters’ projections to only hitters, and pitchers’ projections to only pitchers.

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The Fringe Five: Major-League Draft Edition

The Fringe Five is a weekly regular-season exercise, introduced a couple years ago by the present author, wherein that same author utilizes regressed stats, scouting reports, and also his own fallible intuition to identify and/or continue monitoring the most compelling fringe prospects in all of baseball.

What follows is not that usual weekly exercise, but rather a version of it designed to identify the most compelling fringe prospects in the draft. As that same draft enters its second day, the discussion of fringe-type prospects is relevant: while the first round is generally populated by players who will develop into useful major leaugers, even the 100th-overall selection in a typical draft is expected to produce only 1-2 WAR over the entirety of his career. A club that’s able to find a Matt Carpenter (13th round, 2009) or Ben Zobrist (6th round, 2004) out of this interval of the draft is adding considerable value to its franchise where little or none is typically available.

As with the weekly editions of this exercise, central to this one is a definition of the word fringe. For the purposes of this post, a fringe prospect is any draft-eligible player absent from the April edition of Kiley McDaniel’s draft rankings — which document contains roughly 300, or about 10 rounds’ worth, of names.

In addition to McDaniel’s own work, I’ve benefited from that published recently by Chris Mitchell at the Hardball Times in which he examines predictive elements both for hitters and pitchers at the college level.

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Kiley McDaniel’s Superlative 2015 MLB Draft Chat

Kiley McDaniel: I’m here! I’ll be in and out since this will be open most of the draft (all of it?) and I have to eat and pee and all that stuff.

Comment From The Ghost of Dayn Perry
*raggaeton horn* *raggaeton horn* *raggaeton horn* *raggaeton horn* *raggaeton horn*

Comment From Straw Man
Rangers #4 pick: most enigmatic in first 10? I see you have Trenton Clark there. Anything to add to your prospect report on him? Curious about his speed especially. Have seen between 55 and 70.

Kiley McDaniel: It’s 55 or 60. It’s a maybe CF that would play LF if he can’t stick there but more and more guys telling me they think he can.

Comment From Josh
Lots of chatter on Aiken, but what about Matuella? Where do you hear his name being called?

Kiley McDaniel: Sounds like his range starts at DET/22 and LA/24 but he should get money from the 20’s wherever he lands

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The Final Mock Draft

The normal caveats apply. What follows represents a series of educated guesses. Crazy rumors were flying all over the board last night and early today. This may or may not prove I’m an idiot and/or this whole process is stupid. I opted to leave the embedded videos out of this mock, but for video on every player mentioned, tool grades and all kinds of other info, see the Sortable Draft Board.

1. D’Backs – Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt

I’m told this will be the pick, but there was discussion of Tyler Stephenson, Garrett Whitley and Tyler Jay as recently as yesterday.

2. Astros – Alex Bregman, SS, LSU

This one is still a toss-up between Bregman and Rodgers, with an outside shot of a target from 5 going here to save money to pay Daz Cameron at 37.

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FanGraphs Audio: Kiley McDaniel Analyzes All Draft Boards

Episode 569
Kiley McDaniel is both (a) the lead prospect analyst for FanGraphs and also (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio — during which edition he discusses draft boards of both the virtual and also all-too-real variety.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 57 min play time.)

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FanGraphs Audio: Jim Callis on the Draft

Episode 568
Jim Callis is both (a) a writer for and (b) the guest on this particular edition of FanGraphs Audio, during which he discusses Monday’s MLB Draft with guest host Kiley McDaniel and his bag of infuriating audio tricks.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 54 min play time.)

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The Mock Draft Replacement Post

I haven’t been one to do too many mock drafts if the information doesn’t support it. I won’t just brazenly move around names with little justification in a bid for clicks every few days. I have enough info to change enough picks now for a worthwhile read, but I’m going to do a full mock draft on Monday with the supplemental rounds and the back half of the first round, as things will be much easier to project then (although still not easy).

Clubs have told me they aren’t even discussing medical and signability info openly in their rooms until later today or this weekend and some teams in the back half of the first round haven’t even started stacking the board for their first-round pick yet, instead focusing on lower picks and positional rankings. I’ll have a much better feel for the picks beyond the top dozen on Monday, so it would be foolish to throw darts for those picks now only to reorder everything in a few days. If you’re desperate for what I think about those picks now, combine the notes below with my previous mock draft and the sortable draft board, that I updated just moments ago with the information below.

Since teams aren’t talking medical and signability info and the consensus is that the reasonably predictable part of the draft is the top 10-12 picks, that means some certainty about the injured pitchers could help shed some light on those later picks.

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Enigmatic Skye Bolt Leads UNC’s Draft Crop

It’s a pretty average year for draft-eligible talent in North Carolina, with Duke right hander Michael Matuella leading the way as a possible first-round pick, despite undergoing Tommy John surgery after just a few starts. West Columbus High School center fielder Eric Jenkins is the state’s second-best prospect, a 70-grade runner with projectable hitting tools who should go inside the top two rounds.

After those two come a sheaf (the correct collective noun for prospects) of players who grade similarly talent-wise after the third round. Among them are UNC center fielder Skye Bolt, Charlotte Christian HS right-hander Jackson Kowar, Marvin Ridge HS left-hander Max Wotell, Southpoint HS left-hander Garrett Davila and Greenfield HS outfielder Isaiah White.

UNC, the state’s top exporter of pro prospects, once again runs deep with draft talent, even if it won’t produce a first-rounder as it has five times in the last six years. Of the potentially seven Tar Heels who could be signing pro contracts in the coming weeks, Bolt is the most interesting (and mercurial), and there are a few more who show enough promise to justify clogging up the FanGraphs servers with the following words and moving pictures.

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Introducing the Sortable Draft Board

The Sortable Draft Board features draft-prospect ranks, tool ratings, and likely selection range — and costs zero dollars.

In my continuing quest to increase transparency and reduce the amount of information that I know and do not communicate, today FanGraphs has rolled out a thing that I think is most appropriately described as the Sortable Draft Board. There is lots of information I wanted to include, so we made three tabs to include all the stuff I think you want to see while also separating the information by type. The general idea behind this is to:

1. Give you the tools to re-rank these players to your preferences, as you now have all the information necessary to have some reasonable amount of confidence about doing such.

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Brady Aiken’s Medicals Are Out, Situation Is Still Cloudy

Last year’s first-overall draft pick, left-hander Brady Aiken, didn’t come to terms with the Astros because of a difference regarding what the physical showed about the condition of his elbow, despite being healthy at the time. Aiken went to IMG’s Post-Grad team this spring, but only threw a handful of pitches before he left his first game with an elbow injury, eventually leading to Tommy John surgery weeks later.

Since the failure of Aiken and Houston to reach an agreement, there’s been lots of buzz as to what the latter saw in that physical, since they’re the only team to have seen it. The most common rumors are unusual situations with the size of Aiken’s UCL, the blood flow to that area and the bone structure around the elbow.  His draft stock for next week’s draft ranges anywhere from the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round, depending on how much truth there is to these rumors.

A few days ago, the Aiken camp made his medical information available to teams, but with a very rare set of conditions about who can see it. Sources indicate the information is available only to GM-level personnel or higher (who can then distribute it to other decision-makers within the team) and the GM has to make a specific request with Aiken’s camp to see it, which the Aiken camp then has accept.

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FanGraphs Audio: Draft Prospect Michael Matuella

Episode 566
Michael Matuella is both (a) a junior right-hander at Duke and also (b) among the upcoming amateur draft’s likely first-round selections. Lead prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel spoke with him — regarding his recovery from a recent Tommy John procedure, among other topics — for this edition of FanGraphs Audio.

Don’t hesitate to direct pod-related correspondence to @cistulli on Twitter.

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or other feeder things.

Audio after the jump. (Approximately 31 min play time.)

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Cal Poly Pomona’s Cody Ponce Still in Play for First Round

Cody Ponce entered the spring as a potential first-round pick following a breakout summer in the Cape Cod League. That’s still the case now just two weeks before the draft, and I saw why during his Sunday start against Tampa in the Division II World Series, which was played at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in Cary, N.C.

In the Cape, the Cal Poly Pomona right-hander sat 92-94 mph, touching 97, and combined his fastball with a hard cutter, curveball and changeup. That’s the same four-pitch mix he’s working with now, although the stuff wasn’t as sharp in my look compared to the reports from the summer. Still, he’s logged 62.1 innings this spring on his way to a 1.44 ERA with 54 hits allowed, 14 walks and 67 strikeouts so far this season, albeit against inferior competition.

At no point over the last 10 years has Cal Poly Ponoma produced a player that was drafted inside of the top-10 rounds. Ponce, who ranks No. 23 on Kiley’s latest draft board, will certainly end that streak and likely become the program’s highest-drafted player since 1983, when the Dodgers selected left-hander Mike Munoz in the third round.

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2015 MLB Mock Draft v2.0

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.

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LSU’s Alex Bregman Firmly Among the Top-10 Draft Prospects

I’m not usually compelled to make a seven-hour round trip to scout one player, but that’s what I did last weekend when I drove from my home in Raleigh, N.C., to Columbia, where South Carolina hosted Louisiana State in both teams’ final regular season series before the SEC tournament. The featured attraction was LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, who ranks No. 4 on Kiley’s draft board and went sixth in his mock draft at the time of this writing.

A 29th-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2012, Bregman has been hitting from the moment he stepped onto campus in Baton Rouge, winning the Brooks Wallace Award as the nation’s best shortstop in his freshman year. Offensively, he took a step backwards in his sophomore campaign, but seems to have added a bigger power element to his game as a junior this season, slashing .329/.417/.577 with nine home runs and 29 stolen bases through 55 games.

A native of Albuquerque, N.M., he grew up playing travel ball with Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart. Because of that friendship and the fact that the organization drafted him three years ago, it’s hard to see Bregman falling past Boston at seventh overall. But as Kiley noted in his most recent mock draft, teams ahead of Boston have eyes for him as well.

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The Black Swan Theory of Drafting Pitchers

I wrote yesterday about the how the shelf life of draft rankings affects the finished product, using my “guy” from this year’s draft, Vanderbilt righty Carson Fulmer, as an example of a guy typically under-appreciated by this process. My history of scouting Fulmer goes back four years to his high school days, but my history of zeroing in on this type of pitcher goes back eight years.

Taking a Page from Wall Street

Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan came out in 2007 and I read it toward the end of that year. Taleb made a lot of money during the stock market crash in 1987 and again during the financial crisis that started in 2007, a crisis he predicted in The Black Swan. The way he made his money is the underpinning of the book: better understanding how very rare events happen.

The human brain simplifies complex situations, which can often help us and conserve energy, but also makes us vulnerable when a seemingly unimportant piece of information is smoothed over by many individuals. Taleb names the unlikely event that few see coming a Black Swan, referring to the collective surprise exhibited when a black version of the (presumed exclusively) white bird was found in another part of the world.

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Carson Fulmer, Time Horizons, and the Aim of Prospect Lists

I scouted Vanderbilt righty Carson Fulmer (video) last Thursday and walked away from that game with more thoughts about prospect lists than about Fulmer himself.

First some background on Fulmer: he’s listed at 6’0/195, but scouts and I estimate he’s actually 5’11/205. He’s pitched at 93-95 mph with an above-average to plus curveball and above-average changeup for all three years at Vanderbilt and all the way back to his high school days, as well. His delivery in high school included a significant head whack, which is much less pronounced now, along with a more up-tempo delivery. Fulmer has never been hurt, even after shifting midseason in 2014 from the bullpen to the rotation, regularly going over 100 pitches in his starts (126 last weekend) and throwing last summer for Team USA.

While some scouts question his delivery and command, he has 132 strikeouts and 37 walks along with 61 hits allowed in 95.2 innings this year, en route to setting school records in multiple categories. He’s a physical and possibly genetic freak, as this delivery, stuff, usage and velocity would’ve broken most other pitchers already, but he’s never been hurt.

Now that you have some background on Fulmer, you’ve probably figured out that he is one of “my guys” in this draft and I’ll be writing more about him before the draft. I’m higher on him than the many in the industry and I will write an extended pre-draft scouting report/rant wondering why this is the case. For reference, here’s what I wrote about last year’s case, 35th overall pick last summer, Rockies 2B Forrest Wall.

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A Far-Too-Early 2015 MLB Mock Draft

I wrote yesterday about the uncertainty surrounding the #1 overall pick, but that doesn’t keep scouts from trying to figure out who will go in the subsequent picks. It’s way too early to have any real idea what’s going to happen beyond the top 10-15 picks, but the buzz is growing in the scouting community about how things will play out and you people are sustained by lists, predictions and mock drafts. You’re welcome.

I’d bet it’s more telling on draft day to make judgments using the buzz and all the names I mention, rather than the one name I project to be picked, but you guys already don’t read the introduction, so I’ll shut up. For reports, video and more on these players, check out my latest 2015 MLB Draft rankings, or, if your team doesn’t pick high this year, look ahead with my 2016 & 2017 MLB Draft rankings.

UPDATE 5/11/15: Notes from this weekend’s college games: Dillon Tate was solid in front of GM’s from Arizona, Houston and Colorado. Dansby Swanson was even better, in front of decision makers from all the top teams, including Houston, who may still be debating whether they’d take Swanson or Rodgers if given the choice (Rodgers’ season is over). Carson Fulmer did what he usually does and probably has a home from picks 7-17 depending on how things fall on draft day, with an evaluation similar to Marcus Stroman and Sonny Gray as previous undersized righties with stellar track records and plus stuff.

Andrew Benintendi went nuts at the plate again (I’ll see him and Fulmer this weekend). And, finally, Jon Harris was excellent, rebounding from a not-so-great start, so, at this point, I would make Harris the 9th pick to the Cubs and slide Trenton Clark down a few picks, but still comfortably in the top 20. I also updated the 2016 MLB Draft Rankings as a few top prospects came off the DL and impressed, further strengthening the top of that draft, which is far and away better than this year’s draft.

1. Diamondbacks – Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
I wrote about this more in depth yesterday, where I wrote it’s down to CF Garrett Whitley, C Tyler Stephenson and CF Daz Cameron with some chance RHP Dillon Tate is still in the mix and SS Dansby Swanson possibly involved. After writing that, I heard that Arizona is definitely considering those prep players, but teams don’t think they’ll pull the trigger on a way-below-slot prep option and they are leaning college, with Tate and Swanson the targets and SS Alex Bregman also getting some consideration as a long shot.

I’ve heard Arizona wants a hitter here and GM Dave Stewart was in to see Vanderbilt last night. I had heard they were laying in the weeds on Swanson, so, for now, I’ll go with Swanson here. To be clear, Arizona hasn’t made any decisions yet, so this group could still grow or they could change course. One scouting director told me yesterday when asked what he thought Arizona would do that “it sounds like they are going to do something crazy.” Until a few hours before this published, I had Arizona taking Whitley, so this is still very much in flux. There’s also some thought that Tate or Swanson were the targets all along and the rumors of cut-rate high school options have just been a ploy to get the price down–you can pick your own theory at this point.

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D’Backs Plans For the First Overall Pick Come Into Focus

I’ve written many times in the past eight months that this draft class is pretty weak and that, combined with the bonus pools that limit each team’s draft spending, will make for an unpredictable draft day filled with below-slot deals. That talk has continued here and in other places but, in the last few weeks, teams’ plans have come into better focus and the question marks now start at the very top.

I called Orlando-area prep SS Brendan Rodgers the best prep player in the 2015 class a full two years ago and he’s held serve since then, standing today as the consensus top player in the whole draft for the industry and in my recent rankings.  The assumption for most of the spring was that the Diamondbacks would take Rodgers #1 as the consensus top player in a down class. Another reason this made sense is the embattled first seven months of the Dave Stewart/Tony La Russa regime in Arizona, which have gone about as bad as possible so far, so they don’t need another off-the-board, bucking-industry-consensus decision that could draw more bad PR.

I had heard in the last few weeks that Rodgers was out of the mix for the D’Backs at #1, but until I had heard who the target was, I didn’t feel comfortable reporting that, since it could just be misdirection for negotiating purposes. I had also heard the D’Backs weren’t at many of Rodgers’ games this spring, so that put more momentum behind that buzz being real.  hen, in the last few weeks, D’Backs GM Dave Stewart and VP of Baseball Ops DeJon Watson have been seen all over the country scouting amateur players, but not Rodgers.

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