Welcome to draft day everybody! This is actually one of my favorite days of the year. The MLB draft isn't niche but it's far less popular than the NFL draft for various reasons. One such may be the lack of coverage among the college ranks. Sure the College World Series gets some ESPN love but you normally don't see Big 12 games on primetime Saturday night. Combine that with the weird schedules you can see in college (Friday night is the marque night) and it's hard to attract a large audience. Also let's try an exercise: Name me the last five Heisman Trophy winners? Now name the past five Golden Spikes winners? How'd you do?
2015 - Derrick Henry
2014 - Marcus Mariota
2013 - Jameis Winston
2012 - Johnny Manziel
2011 - Robert Griffin III
2015 - Andrew Benintendi
2014 - AJ Reed
2013 - Kris Bryant
2012 - Mike Zunino
2011 - Trevor Bauer
I'd imagine you got Manziel, RGIII, and Winston right. You probably got Mariota too, and maybe even all five with Henry. However I bet if you got any of the GS winners it was only Bryant, and I don't blame you. I forgot Bauer won the Golden Spike too.
Regardless of your score in this game of mine you can still enjoy the draft with us later tonight in the open thread. For now though here are some of the most popular names to know, many which you'll hear (if you watch) within the first hour.
Jason Groome - LHP, Barnegat HS, NJ
If you are going to be a prep pitcher taken 1.1 you probably need to be left handed. Also, you probably need to have a fastball and curveball as good as Groome's. Groome transferred to the prestigious IMG Academy in Florida his junior year but returned to NJ his senior year and controversy ensued. He was suspended by the New Jersey high school athletic association because he/his parents forgot to change his address. This violated transfer rules from the state regulation and he had to sit out for 30 days/half of the HS season. To make matters worse, his school's wins/stats from the games he pitched in were wiped out.
Groome might go with the #1 overall pick but college bats are rising and could go before him. Regardless of when he gets picked, he's the best prep pitcher in the draft.
Groome is committed to Vanderbilt
Groome was committed to Vandy, a notoriously hard school to get bought out of, but has instead decided to enroll at Chipola Community College. Chipola isn't a hotbed for future MLB talent (only really Russell Martin and Jose Bautista are good MLB alums) but it is a common destination for prep guys in Florida looking to quickly enter the draft the next year. Mac Marshall and Isiah Gilliam did such after the 2015 draft and were again selected in 2015.
Groome of course is just providing a fail safe for himself. If he doesn't get the bonus money he wants then he'll head off to Chipola and re-enter the draft next year. This may be the reason (not talent) why he falls a bit shorter than 1.1.
A.J. Puk - LHP, Florida
Unlike some years where college pitching may be heavy early on, Puk stands far and away the best college pitcher. However he isn't without flaws himself. Puk entered spring as the likely 1.1 candidate and teams (specifically the Phillies) hoped he'd cement himself as much through performance. Unfortunately for both Puk and Philadelphia, Puk did not. The pure stuff is impressive with potentially three plus pitches (FB/SL/CH), two which are already there (FB/SL). His biggest hurdle this spring is his lack of command. Some outings he'd dominate but then the next week he would walk 5-6 batters.
Despite his hit and miss showing this Spring, he's still in the running to go first overall if only by default of being easily the best college pitcher.
Mickey Moniak - OF, La Costa Canyon HS, CA
Moniak isn't a pop up guy in the classic sense, but he has certainly risen up draft boards a bit. The California prep crop is banner-esque this year and Moniak has been one of the better names since last year. He was in conversation for potentially going in the top 10 but a strong summer/spring has put him potentially in the 1.1 conversation (though it may also be due to playing the signing bonus game).
Moniak does a lot on the field. He's projected to have a potentially 60 grade hit tool, he's already a plus runner, a good arm, and is going to stay in centerfield. The only thing missing is power and given his current size with lack of more physical projection you are probably looking at average power at peak...if that.
Moniak is committed to UCLA
Kyle Lewis - OF, Mercer
Lewis is the epitome of a pop up guy. He went undrafted out of high school in Georgia, and didn't play much at Mercer (an obviously not top tier baseball school) initially. Then he went on to win the triple crown of the Southern Conference, continue to hit in the Cape Cod League, and then kept hitting this year.
I don't think it would be a stretch to call Lewis the best hitter in this draft, with potentially a 60 grade in both hit hit tool and power, though most would bank on the power over the hit tool. He's a sure fire outfielder and could stay in center but a move to right field wouldn't be surprising at all.
One thing that may keep Lewis from going 1.1 or in the first few picks won't be talent. Instead teams may be worried about beating up the weaker competition (compared to other guys in the top half) he's faced in the Southern Conference.
Blake Rutherford - OF, Chaminade HS, CA
If you asked teams/scouts a year or two ago (maybe even three) who the best prep hitter in the 2016 draft will be everyone would have said Rutherford. But being around for so long can cause Gary Sanchez Syndrome (better known as prospect fatigue) and scouts have seen so much of Rutherford for years that they get a bit bored.
That's a disservice to Rutherford because he has excellent tools both offensively and defensively, though he'll likely move to a corner outfield spot. He's likely the best prep position player in the draft...but he's also 19 years old, which brings its own red flags.
Rutherford is committed to UCLA
Riley Pint - RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS, KS
I probably don't need to go too much into local guy Pint. Some of you may have seen him. I've seen him three times the past two years, and even though I haven't been overwhelmed by his profile, he's one of the best prep pitchers in the draft.
A lightning quick arm action, a 70 grade fastball, and a formidable curveball make Pint a potential first overall pick. However he isn't without concerns. Much like Royals draftee Bubba Starling, Pint is obviously from Kansas and faces inferior competition all year round. He also has a very intense delivery with a head whack.
He's one of the hardest throwing prep guys in a very long time but that doesn't always come with success. He doesn't throw strikes consistently now but changing his mechanics could put a hole in his current stuff. The stuff is so good that if it clicks for him he'd be excellent, but there is also a lot of volatility there (more than your average prep arm) and a team more risk averse may go with one of the prep bats instead.
Pint is committed to LSU
Corey Ray - OF, Louisville
If Puk is the lone college top college pitcher then Ray is the hitting equivalent. Some draft boards will surely have Ray at the top or #2. Offensively he's the most advanced college hitter with likely above average grades in both his hit tool and power. Despite his stocky size, he's also a plus runner but there are concerns about where in the outfield he will play. He's also had some trouble with left handed pitchers but as a lefty himself that will be on the short side of the platoon.
If I had the 1st overall pick, I'd go Ray.
Nick Senzel - 3B, Tenneessee
Have you noticed that all the hitters so far have been outfielders? That speaks to the dearth of elite infield prospects in this draft, and Senzel is the best of that group.
That isn't a knock on Senzel though. He's not extremely flashy but instead spreads average grades across the board with an above average hit tool. There are some questions about whether he'll be an asset at 3B or just okay there, but he'll stay at the hot corner.
The Reds have had strong interest in Senzel at #2 overall (which he's a worthwhile pick there) and could sign him under slot and spend the money saved at #35th overall. Atlanta could do the same with their #3 overall pick and grab potentially two fallen talents at #40 and #44.
Braxton Garrett - RHP, Florence HS, AL
Garrett or the next few guys could be the start of a string of prep pitchers selected. He's probably the most advanced of them all and offers that rare combo of polish with some projection (though not a lot). He's got very good command for his age and features one of the best curveballs in the entire draft class. There is a ton of heat to his fastball, but at low-90's it will work as he can spot all of his stuff well.
Garrett is committed to Vanderbilt
Forrest Whitley - RHP, Alamo Heights HS, TX
A big growth spurt turned Whitley into an okay prospect to a potential top ten pick as he's now listed at 6'7" 225lbs. Now he's your classic elite Texan prep pitcher. Big, well built, huge fastball and a big breaking ball. Unlike fellow Texan prep pitcher Tyler Kolek (who went #3 overall in 2014) Whitley has decent command.
There are some more external concerns for teams though. Whitley had a bump in the round because of a thumb injury but the main scare came from elsewhere. The tale goes that Whitley's father sent an email to teams in the spring addressing how Forrest is apparently disinterested in pro ball right now and it would take a lot of money to sign him. He'll likely go high enough that if such concerns are real, they'll be moot.
Whitley is committed to Florida State
Ian Anderson - RHP, Shenendehowa HS, NY
If you're enamored with the flash of Whitley, Pint, and Garrett then boy do I have somebody you don't want. Okay, that's not fair. Anderson doesn't feature all the drooling tools as the above guys but he's got present, solid tools. The delivery is a bit different as he's very over the top but that helps the drop of his curveball and gives good life to his plus fastball.
Despite the quirkiness of it, I really like the smoothness of his delivery and ability to pump 94 MPH without much effort. One detractor today though for his stock will be the lack of views teams have of him. He missed time with an oblique injury, then came down with pneumonia, followed by several rain outs, Anderson made his spring debut just recently so scouts/teams are going off some older looks.
Anderson is committed to Vanderbilt
Delvin Perez - SS, International Baseball Academy, PR
Perez got a lot of top five love this spring and with merit. He's a slam dunk SS who does everything you want out of the position: speed, hands, instincts. At the plate Perez is less of a slam dunk but with very good bat speed and bat to ball ability there's enough there to project an above average hit tool. However the biggest question mark will be his power and he's not a physically big guy to begin with so you are hoping for gains there too.
The big question though is a double edged sword. He's 17 years old and won't be 18 until November, making him one of the youngest in the class. However though that reportedly brings alongside a lack of maturity and work ethic (which isn't uncommon necessarily for any high school draftee). That same concern has been even more in the front as it turns out he just failed the MLB pre-draft drug test too.
Overall such things aren't necessarily a concern. Jon Gray tested positive for adderall but was still taken third overall by the Rockies recently. Expect Perez to still go early on in the first.
Perez is not committed to a college
Matt Manning - RHP, Sheldon HS, CA
Manning has #bloodlines but not of the MLB variety. Instead his father is former NBA player Rich Manning. The younger Manning could be out there selling jeans and I bet he'd be taken in the first round based on his size alone. The stuff ain't bad either. High-90's fastball, power curve, and a changeup that he's had to use often as a California guy. However he was a multi-sport athlete and his basketball team making a deep playoff run delayed him a bit from pitching early in the spring.
Manning might not go ahead of Anderson, Whitley, or Garrett but he's at their talent level.
Manning is committed to Loyola Maramount
Dakota Hudson - RHP, Mississippi State
Hey look! A college arm. Hudson was toolsy enough as a high school senior but didn't go early enough to warrant signing. He went on to school at Miss. State but didn't get much action in the first two years. A summer in the Cape Cod League cemented Hudson on the early draft board and in the Mississippi State rotation where he was absolutely dominant at times with several long streaks without an earned run allowed.
It's perhaps telling of how weak the college pitching crop is this year that Hudson might be the 2nd college pitcher named tonight after Puk. Hudson isn't like most college guys who have a decent or better change up. It's a decidedly below average pitch and probably isn't going to get much better. He does feature a very good fastball in the high-90's and pairs it with a high-80's cutter to get opposite handed hitters out instead of a changeup. There's also a plus slider to use against same handed hitters.
Zack Collins - C, Miami
There are two types of college catchers: those who can catch, and those who cannot. Normally those who can catch might not be able to hit, and those who can't catch can hit. That isn't always the case, but the latter category describes Collins
Zack can hit and is a mastermind at the plate with 21 more walks than strikeouts. Above average power and an average or better hit tool are the only two average or better grades. He is destined for 1B, though teams will probably give him a shot to try to catch. No matter his position, he'll hit.
Nolan Jones - SS, Holy Ghost Prep, PA
Jones had a back injury this spring that kept him out of action for a bit but scouts still have memory of the cold weather kid dominating his warm weather peers in the Area Code Games. Jones is tall and not filled out fully yet so as he gains in size many wonder if he'll have to shift over to third. Hopefully with that size though comes power to match his potentially plus hit tool. Even without a big gain, he'll still have close to average power.
As far as prep hitters go, Jones is up there with Rutherford but gets knocked down a bit being from Pennsylvania.
Jones is committed to Virginia
Joey Wentz - LHP, Shawnee Mission East HS, KS
It's no doubt that Pint is the better pitching prospect, but I think I would take fellow Kansan Wentz over him. Wentz drew raves as a power hitting first baseman before switching over to the mound, moving him from interesting hitting prospect to first round material pitcher.
Obviously the raw stuff isn't as electric as Pint, but the secondaries and command are better. It's not like Wentz is throwing in the high-80's though as he's in the mid-90's. The command is better and Wentz hasn't been able to just pump his fastball by hitters and eschew other pitches.
However these reason Wentz was hitting for a time was due to a dead arm issue he experienced. That's not uncommon for pitchers of any age but it's at least somewhat of a concern for someone you want to throw often over the next 20 potential years.
Given health, I'd bet on Wentz over Pint.
Wentz is committed to Virginia
Bryan Reynolds - OF, Vanderbilt
Reynolds is a switch hitting centerfielder who has hit, hit, and hit everywhere. Literally...everywhere. The College World Series, SEC conference play, non-conference, Team USA, Cape Cod League.
Despite the long track record though Reynolds isn't a flashy pick. He's probably going to max out at average with each tool though maybe the hit tool could have a 55. There is some swing a miss in his game as well, enough to make teams hesitate taking him in the first 5-10 picks.
Whomever takes him though is going to get themselves an everyday outfielder in any of the 3 spots, which I think is an excellent outcome at any spot in the first round.
Will Craig - 1B, Wake Forest
It takes some type of hitter to garner early first round consideration if you are a college first baseman. You have to hit and man Craig has done that. He's projected to hit for both average and power. He makes hard contact and walks often with an eye popping .537 OBP and 20% BB%.
So what's the problem? Yeah you guessed it... he plays first base and first base only. This comes from his poor body size as he weighs 240lbs. He's not obese or Pablo Sandoval-esque but he's filled out and reminds evaluators of Billy Butler (both offensively and in size). Though if Craig turned into Butler, that's not a bad outcome at all.
Alex Kirilloff - OF, Plum HS, PA
There isn't normally a lot of front end talent prep wise from Pennsylvania let alone two possible first half first round picks. Kirilloff though is likely to join fellow keystone stater Nolan Jones.
His potential at the plat will be what gets him drafted as he'll likely move to a corner outfield position, and it's likely left field. However despite that he's got the offensive potential to profile every day there.
Kirilloff is committed to Liberty
Cal Quantrill - RHP, Stanford
Quantrill has #bloodlines as the son of Paul Quantrill who pitched 1200 innings in the majors as a starter and a reliever.
Cal is going to be a bit of a wild card given that he had Tommy John Surgery last year. Teams were excecting to see him back in action this year but alas that was not to be. The Canadian features potentially four average or better pitches and excellent feel/command for those pitches. If he played all of this spring and was at his normal stuff he'd no doubt be in the conversation up front.
Look for a team with multiple early picks to grab him, or even the Nationals who have back-to-back picks at 28/29.
Josh Lowe - 3B, Pope HS, GA
Two way standout but will be taken as a hitter. Georgia Gatorade POTY who has a very strong arm, the skills to stay at 3B, and projected to be decent at the plate with potential 50/50 marks. Committed to Florida State
Jordan Sheffield - Vanderbilt, RHP
Brother to Indians draftee Justus Sheffield, Jordan is smaller sized and comparable a bit to Blue Jays Marcus Stroman. Also there are red flags in his injury history and higher effort delivery.
Anfernee Grier - OF, Auburn
Grier gets called the poor man's Kyle Lewis as an athletic college outfielder who has hit well (albeit instead of course in the toughest league in college - the SEC) and is a solid defender. Despite his college stats there are questions to his approach and mechanics in how they'll play against pro pitching.
Matt Thaiss - C, Virginia
Thaiss is the other main head of the college catching crop alongside Collins and is just as unlikely perhaps to stay behind the dish as well. Thaiss could hit for a solid average or better with potentially average game power, but if he isn't a catcher then that won't be impact material. There's enough though that he could be a platoon hitter who can catch every so often if he mashes righties.
Buddy Reed - OF, Florida
If you look at Reed I think you can pick out his exact skillset.
Switch hitting, toolsy outfielder, near double plus speed, good hit tool, solid defender, great arm...little power.
That's a popular profile among 3rd and 4th outfielders and there isn't much projection left in the power either so it's going to max out around 40-45. However he uses his speed on the bases and in the field, can make solid contact with good batted ball spray, and has enough potential to be worthy of a first round pick.
Will Benson - OF, Westminster School (HS), GA
So when Benson gets drafted you are going to hear a Jason Heyward comp. Both are from the Atlanta area, were toolsy outfielders, similar size/build, left handed, and are assets in the outfield with above average power. Benson doesn't quite have the electric bat speed of Heyward but it's still above average and his power is impressive.
Most impressive though is his size. He's listed at 6'6" 220 lbs which puts his height in the Giancarlo Stanton, Kyle Blanks, Aaron Judge range of outfielders. Easily the biggest specimen of this class, which only adds to his strength and raw power.
The big concerns though are mechanical with him and how much contact he'll ultimately make as a professional. If he had an average or better projection on his hit tool he'd be in the running for first overall, but until he cleans things up it's more along the lines of a 40-45 peak hit tool.
Zack Burdi - RHP, Louisville
If you recognize the name Burdi and reliever it's because his older brother Nick was selected by the Twins in 2014. Both brothers have top of the line fastballs, running into the 100 MPH range and Zack has touched 101 MPH as a Cardinal.
Nick has slightly better stuff, but Zack has better mechanics and could conceivably start. With a huge fastball, wipeout slider, and a not so bad changeup, you could see Zack in a major league bullpen relatively quickly. However he'll need to hone his command to be a late inning high pressure guy.
Justin Dunn - RHP, Boston College
I've seen a few Yordano Ventura comps on Dunn. He used to work out of the bullpen but moved to BC's rotation and has been electric. He has the same undersized build as Ventura but also carries the electric heat in a 99 MPH fastball with a good breaking ball and workable changeup.
For a few more names (particularly those who the Royals might have a shot out) please read my piece from last week. Of course I've only touched on a chunk of players we are likely to hear in the first 15-20 picks but don't be surprised if someone else gets taken (though everyone listed above should be called quickly).
Later tonight we'll have an open thread for the draft, and with the Royals off it's a perfect time to come hang out.