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2015 Draft - Names to Know

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A rundown of the key draft eligible talent

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The MLB draft is way harder to follow, and in turn generates less excitement, than say the NFL or NBA draft. This is likely due to the pool of draft eligible players in the MLB. Take the NFL for example. Some of the most dedicated college football fans know the top 10 or 20 high school recruits in any given year, but the vast majority of college football fans likely only know about the top few guys their favorite school has signed. On a more broad level, college football fans have generally three years to watch these HS recruits turn into top talent picks that play on national television 10+ times a year over that time, while five or so of the best players have a night dedicated to giving them the most prestigious award (Heisman Trophy). ESPN then has several mock drafts, Sportscenter segments, camp workouts, and articles written in the weeks leading up to the draft. Then draft night comes and ESPN broadcasts it to however many tens of millions of viewers.

Contrast that with baseball. There is no Rivals Top 100 baseball recruits. The most prestigious  college baseball award (Golden Spikes Trophy) got a 7 minute segment on SportsCenter last year where at around noon, the three candidates sat in director chairs, where an ESPN anchor presented the winner (AJ Reed) the award. No week long run up, or two hour broadcast. Just three guys in wooden chairs with canvas backing, Kyle Peterson, and a really large trophy. This is of course a byproduct of how developmental baseball proceeds. College baseball doesn't receive nearly the amount of viewership that football does and that's only half the pool of draft eligible players. Meanwhile the MLB draft is presented on the MLB network (it was recently only done over conference call and streamed on MLB.com) rather than ESPN. High School baseball is basically never shown and the pre-draft workouts (which you could consider the Area Code Games, Cape Cod, and PG Showcase) certainly aren't dominating coverage.

I say all that to show perhaps the complexity and scarcity of knowing who the hell your favorite team may draft. You certainly knew who Johnny Manziel was when he won the Heisman in 2012, but did you know who Mike Zunino was when he won the Golden Spikes that same year?

So below you'll find a non-comprehensive list of a few sentences on all the first round or so names, in no defined order, that you'll likely hear called if you are watching the draft ceremony.

First let's get these guys out of the way:

James Kaprielian

Phil Bickford

Kevin Newman

Nick Plummer

Found here

Garrett Whitley

Chris Betts

Ian Happ

Found here

Brendan Rodgers, SS Lake Mary HS (FL)

The consensus best player in the draft, but might not necessarily go #1 overall. He's got two future plus-tools in power and hit. He's not a lock to stay at SS, but he's the closest bet to a five tool player, and he could be doing it at the premium of all positions.

Dillon Tate, RHP UC Santa Barbara

One of the stars on the Team USA club, Tate is perhaps the premier college starter in the draft. With a fastball that touches 98 MPH, and a slider that may be even better than the FB, Tate could be the first pitcher off the board. His command is fringey and his changeup needs work, but he could be the best pitcher in this class.

Jon Harris, RHP Missouri State

Harris has a potential four pitch mix with an above average fastball and curveball. The slider and changeup aren't too far behind and could give him four average or better pitches. Harris is a rare college pitcher who still has some projection left on his size. He missed some of the season due to an ankle injury but has been excellent for the Bears since.

Dansby Swanson, SS Vanderbilt

A sure fire SS despite a fringey arm, Swanson has hit well in the most difficult college conference. He's your classic shortstop offensively: above average to plus hit tool, little to some power, and plus speed. Defensively he's not great, but teams will jump to get a SS who could hit for a .280+ average, hit 5-10 home runs, and steal 20-25 bases with average or so defense.

Alex Bregman, SS LSU

Bregman is strikeout proof, rarely walking back to the bench because of his excellent bat-to-ball skills. In contrast to Swanson above, he's likely not a SS in the major leagues and isn't a plus runner, but might have more power. If he moves to 2B, he could have five average tools or one plus and four average if the power plays.

Kolby Allard, LHP San Clemente HS (CA)

In conversation for the best prep pitcher in the class, and most likely the best lefty. Scouts are a bit weary of his size, but he's also isn't quite 18 years old yet. The command profile projects to be plus and he's got a good fastball/curve combo with a changeup that's still awhile behind. Two plus pitches and good command from a lefty is a nice thing to have, but (as Keith Law said) don't confuse him as being as good as Brady Aiken.

Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt

Teammates of course with Alex Bregman above, Buehler was taken by the Pirates later in the 2012 draft and obviously didn't sign. Scouts are concerned with Buehler's smaller frame holding up over the course of 200-innings (which I hate that myth). Buehler is a "pitchers pitcher" with a four pitch mix, good repeatable delivery and command, and a high game IQ.

Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville

Funkhouser has your classic workhouse size and build. 6'3" 225lbs and no injury history/concerns. Funkhouser has a good fastball/slider mix and a changeup that is close to average, but he really struggles with command of the pitches and consistency. He's riskier than your prototypical mature college pitchers and the upside isn't as high as other consistent first half names from prior rounds (Jon Gray, Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, etc...) but a team that feels they can bring forward his command could have

Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt

Hey! Vanderbilt has a lot of guys so far huh? Fulmer may be the most decisive player in the draft. Some scouts see him as 100% a reliever given his extremely max effort delivery and mechanics while other scouts say...relax bro.

The White Sox are apparently champing at the bit to grab him as they have confidence (as they should) in their pitching development. I'm not gonna go deep into his mechanics or concerns, but just by watching him you should be able to see all the question marks.

Plus fastball and curveball with a changeup that is more than just a junk pitch, Fulmer has some command issues due to his delivery, but he's not Carlos Marmol.

Kiley McDaniel labeled him as his Black Swan for this year (wrongly underrated volatile asset) and any team that takes him will give him innings as a starter.

Kyle Tucker, OF Plant High School (FL)

For some reason, Tucker reminds me of  a left handed Wil Myers in the box as far as looks go (though Myers is more open stanced). It's the same smooth lofty swing that Myers has.

Tucker gets massive love for his hitting mechanics and scouts project a plus hit tool for him, but he doesn't have the power Myers has as Tucker's is more average or so. He's a thinner guy at this point, but his height means he'll continue to fill out and could bring more power (6'4" 175lbs).

Like Myers, Tucker is laid back and low energy, which scouts aren't enthusiastic about. He could turn into a well-rounded left fielder that isn't going destroy the box score, but be an every day contributor who is fun to watch.

Tyler Stephenson, C Kennesaw Mountain High School (GA)

Stephenson has increased his stock drastically over the Spring as he's gotten Matt Wieters-esque praise (though Wieters was a college guy).

Stephenson has a plus power tool that he hits to all fields with and a very strong throwing arm from behind the plate. He's a very big framed guy, listed at 6'4" 215lbs, which some worry about him staying at catcher.

He's a power first, hit tool second player, but when he makes contact it's loud and long (TWSS?).

Andrew Benintendi, OF Arkansas

Perhaps nobody has raised their draft stock as much as Benintendi. He was known, but not on anyone's first or second round boards until he demolished the SEC on the way to POTY.

There's concern about how his highly leveraged swing will translate from aluminum to wood bats, but Benintendi bring potentially average tools across the board while playing in centerfield. If he moves off center the power becomes a bit more questionable, but he's got a better than 50% chance at sticking in CF.

Daz Cameron, OF Eagles Landing High School (GA)

If you want bloodlines, Daz Cameron is about as good as they come unless Barry Bonds has some draft eligible son we don't know about this year (Larry Bonds?). Daz is the son of Mike Cameron the perennial borderline star and 5-win player from the late 90's to early 00's. Mike wasn't Hall of Fame worthy, but he was certainly in the Hall of Very Good.

Daz isn't quite the franchise player that his dad was but still could be an All-Star. The swing and miss isn't as profound as his dad had, but neither is the power. Instead Daz his a higher contact, lower power, plus speed centerfielder who's very athletic and good be average or better there (but not as good as his dad was).

Trenton Clark, OF Richland Hills High School (TX)

Clarke has an old school feel for the game as some have said. He holds the bat loosely at the plate and is calm & relaxed out there. His speed plays up most of his games and he's known for his effort. His plus bat speed and feel for hitting impresses scouts even more.

Some have labeled him more of a tweener profile that's not good enough for center but not powerful enough for left while not having the arm for right, but that's not exactly a glaring negative as he profiles as an everyday player in some capacity. Clark has hit a ton over his high school career so scouts are more concerned on where he's going to play rather than if he's going to hit.

Mike Nikorak, RHP Stroudsburg High School (PA)

Nikorak is another guy who went from some-what known to very known over the summer due to the all important showcase series. Big sized and well framed, Nikorak touched 97 MPH on his fastball and tore batters apart with a plus curveball.

The command profile is nice as well, and if he's throwing 97 MPH with a plus breaking ball and a maybe average changeup one day, he'll be one of the better players in this draft as an innings eater front of the rotation piece. If things don't fully go as hoped though, he's still likely to carve out a mid-rotation role.

Tyler Jay, RHP Illinois

Jay's 2014 has been controversial. Many scouts were excited to watch him in the rotation this spring, but his coach instead put him in the bullpen, in turn potentially costing Jay millions of dollars. Teams shouldn't be putting their best starting pitcher in the bullpen and the decision has been frustrating and puzzling.

When he's in the rotation, Jay is a three pitch left with possibly double-plus command, a near double-plus fasbtall/curve and a changeup that flashes average.

This is a guy who should be going in the top 5 overall picks, but scouts had no opportunity to see him this Spring pitch in meaningful, longer innings. This makes him incredibly hard to scout and thus cuts his draft value down immensely.

Any team that takes Jay is going to use him as a starter, and he's likely to stick there full time, but teams have to be willing to base the pick off limited information, wondering if he can hold up the premium stuff over 6+ innings.

Cody Ponce, RHP Cal Poly Ponoma

Ponce was known for his time in the Cape League rather than against the Division II competition he faces during the spring.

Ponce offers one of the deeper pitch mixes in the draft, but he's marred by inconsistency after every pitch, perhaps being a bit more raw than most college pitchers. He's got a a good fastball/cutter, and a decent mix of curveball, change, and slider. The command is a bit worrisome though which is suppressing his value.

There was some shoulder soreness early in the year and it stinted his offerings in starts, dropping his effectiveness later in games, but now that he's presumed healthy, he's been as good as ever.

Brady Aiken, LHP IMG Academy (FL)

You know Aiken's story. Drafted first overall last year, he and the Astros played money games, revealed he has a smaller than average UCL, went unsigned, caused controversy, enrolled in IMG, and now recently underwent Tommy John.

His stock was excellent last year obviously, and it remained the same for most of 2015 until he had to undergo TJS.

Really good fastball based on velo alone, touching 97, but the added sink, run, and utter command of it bumped it up even further. Then there was the plus curveball and plus changeup. Three 60 pitches with 60 command from the left side... do you see why he went #1 overall?

Tommy John isn't an automatic bounce back (see: Lamb, John), but the success rate is better than it has been and teams could hoping he's Lucas Giolito, Jeff Hoffman, etc...

There is a substantiated rumor out there though that Aiken's injuries are greater than what's fixable via TJS.

Donnie Dewees, OF North Florida

Dewees broke his wrist last year and didn't really get the ball rolling in the spring, but over the summer he was outstanding. He's one of the older draft eligible guys and his injury gave him another season of eligibility so if he's not drafted early enough he could theoretically return to North Florida.

Donnie doesn't need a long winded explanation about him unlike Aiken above. He's a plus runner with an awesome approach/swing and a plus hit tool. The frame is smaller and the power is fringey, but he's a potential top of the order hitter who could rise quickly through a clubs system. Think Brett Gardner, who's one of the most underrated players in the past few years.

No wonder the Athletic's are high on this guy.

Donny Everett, RHP Clarksville High School (TN)

Everett is a first rounder all the way by command issues are his biggest concern. He's got the size and pure arsenal to succeed for a long time as an inning eater pitcher with the ability to mow batters down.

Many scouts though think he's a reliever due to his command problem that is going to need some work to hone in. Velo can't really be taught, and Everett has it, but teams drafting him will hope they can teach him to control his pitches better.

Mike Matuella, RHP Duke

Matuella was in the conversation to go first overall just a few months ago but like so many pitchers today he succumbed to Tommy John surgery.

Matuella offers a plus fastball and curveball with a changeup that isn't far behind and has the command to spot all those pitches. He's arguably the best pitcher in this draft if he were healthy, and some may take him over Aiken given his polish despite being right handed instead of left like Aiken.

Matuella wasn't on consistently though during his college tenure and some people wondered if Matuella was inconsistent or if external factors (playing in cold weather) were the root. Matuella has a bit of an injury history (like Sean Manaea). As a sophomore he had some lat discomfort and alongside TJS he's also suffers from spondylolysis, a vertebra defect (though it's effectively treatable).

Ashe Russell, RHP Cathedral High School (IN)

Some have Russell pegged as a reliever immediately. He's got excellent stuff that would play very well in the rotation, but his delivery/mechanics are worrisome. It's a low 3/4 arm slot and the arm speed is faster than you'd like, creating some spotty command. Keith Law mentioned Chris Sale as a mechanical comparison.

Others are much higher on Russell though, citing his really effective arsenal and room for growth/projection.

He's been able to beat high schoolers based on his fastball and slider alone, so the changeup is still raw, but when used it flashes average.

Nate Kirby, LHP Virginia

Kirby excited scouts in 2014, moving from the bullpen to the Friday night starter that almost won the College World Series, being excellent during the Spring/Early-summer. He entered 2015 as one of the best lefty pitchers in the draft. He's been erratic thus far stock wise. His velocity has bounced around from mid-90's to low-90's and he's been shut down since April from a back strain.

The positives:

Lefty

Plus changeup

Plus slider

Good command

The negatives:

Average velo

Injuries

Inconsistency

He's a first round pick likely, but not likely someone being taken very early or in the mid-first.

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B Concordia Lutheran (TX)

Hayes is likely the best defensive 3B in the early rounds, and for a guy with his size that's saying something. He's 6'1" 210lbs, which isn't large necessarily, but he's not a rail thin defensive player.

Instead Hayes is tagged as an "advanced hitter" which is rare for a high school kid. He has a great idea of what he's doing at the plate, but there's some projection left in the hit and power tool. He's not hit for a ton of power in high school, but his expected body growth and current power stroke is a good indicator that it's coming soon.

He won't be a slugging third baseman, but instead he's a potential plus hit tool, plus defense, and average power (with below average speed).

D.J. Stewart, LF Florida State

Stewart is tough to project. He's in a similar vein to Kyle Schwarber who went early to the Cubs last year. Short, stocky, crouches at the plate but has questions on where he'll play. The comparison doesn't go much further as Schwarber has the better bat due to power.

Stewart is excellent at the plate when it comes to patience. He doesn't chase pitches and when he does swing it's consistent bat-to-ball contact with above average raw power.

In game though the power doesn't play as well given his more line drive orientated swing and set up at the plate. You can tell from his build he isn't meant to be athletic, but he isn't unathletic per say, but certainly wouldn't be classified as athletic. He's just a little more mobile for a guy his size.

It's a bat first profile, and he has some speed (fringe average) but isn't a burner. If left field doesn't work out, then 1B would be the final option.