I didn’t have much interest in doing an MLB Mock Draft after last year’s not going very well (and, as a Twins fan, not having much occasion to care what goes on after the first couple picks) but I figured this would be the best way for me to preview the draft without going 100 or so players deep:
Brief note before we get started: while in the previous years I have researched these posts by watching a lot of video on these kids so I could do more than merely regurgitate Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus or whomever, but this year due to prepping for the bar exam I have not had as much time to do so, so while I still have gotten to and will have opinions that differ from some of the aforementioned sources, where there is a difference I would probably lean towards their view. Enough of that crap, let’s talk about some baseball players.
1. Houston Astros: Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma
It is thought to be a two horse race between Gray and Appel (unless Houson opts to save money and take UNC 3B Colin Moran, more on him later) but I think it will be Gray. The Sooner has a higher upside, and sounds like he will be cheaper to sign (especially when considering Appel’s dealings last summer). He has real power stuff, sitting in the mid 90s with his fastball, and a slider that will probably end up a 70 pitch.
Quick note: as first reported by Keith Law, Gray tested positive for adderall in a pre-draft test. In light of this recent news I don’t forsee him going any later than he otherwise would have (in other words, he might end up going as low as 5 or 6, but it won’t be because of the test. At most it will give the team that drafts him some negotiating advantages).
2. Chicago Cubs: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
Appel has the most polish of any starter in the first round. I have never thought he would be any more than a 3 starter in the majors, but he seems like a safe bet to get there and be an average starter. He has a potential plus curve and plus change, however.
3. Colorado Rockies: Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego
This would be the 2nd time in 3 years that college players have gone with the first 3 picks, and it seems like the Rockies’ top 3 has been Bryant plus the two RHPs. Bryant might have to move to 1B but he has the bat to play there and in the thin Colorado air the NCAA home run leader could put up prestigious power numbers.
4. Minnesota Twins: Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X HS (TX)
If you follow me on Twitter, you can see me on Tuesday night sending 50,000 tweets begging the Twins to take North Carolina 3B Colin Moran. Not only do I think he is at worst the 3rd best guy in the draft (and, if he can stick at third, he’s my #1 player in the draft) but he should have a much lower price tag than most of their other options. Stewart, on the other hand, is committed to Texas A&M on a football scholarship and will have to be bought out of that. One interesting note that I doubt will affect anything is Stewart is a Type I diabetic, but more pertinent to the Twins is he is the best high school pitcher in the draft, with a mid 90s fastball, a plus slider, and an emerging curve. His stuff (and delivery) will no doubt improve as he focuses on baseball, which could bump his stuff up even more.
5. Cleveland Indians: Colin Moran, 3B, North Carolina
Moran has hit ever since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and I think he is a pretty safe bet to do so in the majors. The trick with him comes if he has to shift over to 1B as he won’t have the power to play there, but I have only seen one person seriously toss that out as a possibility. Regardless, Moran has the most polished bat in the draft and while teams certainly need stars, Moran will be an above average regular which is nothing to sneeze at when you consider the bust potentials of some of the guys around him.
6. Miami Marlins: Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada
Pretty much everyone is unanimous that Shipley is the guy, so I will fall in line. He sits in the low to mid 90s with his fastball and has one of the best changeups in the draft. He’s also a pretty good athlete. Shipley is only in his second year of pitching full time (he is a converted shortstop) and has had a few games of relatively low strikeout totals. Still, with his already developing arsenal of pitches, he should be in the majors relatively quickly.
7. Boston Red Sox: Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS (GA)
I have wanted to write about Frazier for awhile. He has insane bat speed and thus good power, but he’s not a great hitter and he will probably have to play corner outfield as a pro. He’s really intriguing just because of that bat speed, which Keith Law called among the best he’s ever seen, but the fact that he struggles with good breaking stuff and the fact that he is old for his class are a pair of red flags.
8. Kansas City Royals: Trey Ball, LHP, Newcastle HS (IN)
I would think the Royals would be on Arkansas starter Ryne Stanek, who is from Overland Park, just outside of KC, but people in the industry say they are not. Perhaps they are scared off their 2012 first round pick, fellow college starter Kyle Zimmer, struggling this year. Ball is a tall (6’6”) lefty who throws very hard, and has a ton of upside, so while I think he might be a reach here the Royals need to supplement their struggling pitching depth.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates: Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood HS (WA)
The Pirates have been all over McGuire all spring. It could be a smokescreen given how publicly they are linked, but in case it’s not I’m putting them here. There is talk of McGuire going a lot higher (most notably 4 to the Twins) if a team wants to save some money, but while I hate drafting high school catchers, McGuire has legitimate power and has been a really good catcher and thrower. His biggest problem is that his hit tool is behind his power tool, which leads to some questions about the bat. But if he doesn’t fill out too much his defense should allow him to be a major league catcher.
10. Toronto Blue Jays: JP Crawford, SS, Lakewood HS (CA)
The Jays have been heavily linked to McGuire, so it’s too bad that the Pirates pick one spot ahead of them. Crawford is the nephew of Carl Crawford, and like the Dodgers outfielder, he is very athletic. I don’t think he will stay at short just due to his build, but he has the footspeed and arm for it. His bat has some questions, but I think that is more a function of how raw he is and his age (he’s just 17) than anything else.
11. New York Mets: DJ Peterson, 1B/OF, New Mexico
I always find it interesting when teams draft a guy similar to a young major leaguer they have struggling. Ike Davis has just a .230 wOBA, and now they want to draft a corner OF from a college in the southwest. Peterson plays 3B for New Mexico and is hitting .411/.525/.823 for the Lobos this year. He probably won’t hit for a lot of power as a pro, but should be a good average/on base guy who provides good defense at first base or decent defense in a corner OF spot.
12. Seattle Mariners: Ryne Stanek, RHP, Arkansas
The Mariners drafted Stanek in 2010, so I think they’ll take a second shot at him here. He’s had an inconsistent spring but at the start of the year he was thought to be right up there with Appel and when he is on he is still possibly the third best pitcher in the draft. Assuming his change develops I think he will end up a #2 starter but if not he’s probably a #3 who can show flashes of better.
13. San Diego Padres: Austin Meadows, OF, Grayson HS (GA)
I like Meadows better than the 13th best guy in the draft, and he may end up going to Boston, Toronto or New York, but Meadows slipping to the Padres would be a coup for the team that has struggled a bit in recent drafts. Interestingly their last outfielder they drafted was Donovan Tate, also from a Georgia HS, and he has struggled mightily as a pro. Meadows is a much better hitter than Tate was as a prepster. He runs well as well, and could be a CF in the majors.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates: Hunter Renfroe, OF, Mississippi State
The Pirates are rumored to go with a college bat with the second of their two first rounders, probably to save money, and here Renfroe is the one who falls. He’s no slouch, with an OBP approaching .500, and boasting some of the best power in the NCAA this year. He has improved his approach a lot over this last Spring and also should be a plus defender in right field.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks: Alex Gonzalez, RHP, Oral Roberts
Pitching at a small school (though one that has been pretty good at baseball lately) I don’t know much about Gonzalez. Scouting reports on him indicate he has a repeatable delivery and a fastball that sits in the low 90s, with a plus slider.
16. Philadelphia Phillies: Tim Anderson, SS, East Central Miss. CC
Anderson is one of the better middle infield athletes in a draft short on them, and the Phillies love athletes. Anderson went undrafted last year, but has really good speed and probably ends up in CF. He hasn’t played baseball for too long due to injuries and his skills on the basketball court, so I am a bit wary of his bat, but again due to how much the Phillies love athletes I think Anderson is their guy.
17. Chicago White Sox: Austin Wilson, OF, Stanford
The White Sox also love athletic outfielders, and Wilson is the embodiment of the player who looks like a star when he gets off the bus. He’s probably a right fielder, but certainly has the arm for it. He’s not a great pure hitter but has good power and it should only develop more once he gets away from Stanford.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Ian Clarkin, LHP, James Madison HS (CA)
Clarkin would be the 8th HS pitcher taken by the Dodgers in the last 12 years. His elite pitch is his curveball, and he hides the ball fairly well which makes his low 90s fastball look better. It also helps his still emerging changeup. He looks like a future #2 starter.
19. St. Louis Cardinals, Dominic Smith, 1B, Serra HS (CA)
Smith has some of the best HS power in the draft, which will cause teams to overlook the fact that he is a 1B and that high school 1B don’t have the best recent track record. Fortunately, he’s athletic enough to probably handle a corner OF spot, at least for awhile, and his bat and power are good enough to play at any position.
20. Detroit Tigers: Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State
Judge has a lot of tools, and stands about 6’7”, weighing 250 lbs (not a typo). He could also play center as a pro. He has prodigious power, but, as is to be imagined with his frame, will probably strike out a lot. I hate comps but he could end up as Adam Dunn with better defense, which would be an absolute monster.
21. Tampa Bay Rays: Phil Ervin, OF, Samford
He has a really quick bat and can drive the ball well, and has a chance to play centerfield in the majors. I don’t think he’ll ever have more than 10 (or so) homer power, but he has a good approach and compact swing which should lead to good batting average and on base numbers, meaning he could potentially hit leadoff.
22. Baltimore Orioles: Nick Ciuffo, C, Lexington HS (SC)
Ciuffo is a good (if slightly pull happy) hitting catcher with good power, and he will likely stick behind the plate defensively, as scouts seem to like both his receiving and catch and throw skills.
23. Texas Rangers: Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana State
Talent wise, Manaea would go a lot higher, especially in this draft. But a hip injury has knocked him down boards and with rumors about how much money it would take to sign him it’s anyone’s guess as to when he will get drafted. If he does go in the first round it will probably have to be a team with multiple first rounders, as they will have more money available, and I’m pegging the Rangers, who have drafted very aggressively lately. When healthy he can sit in the low to mid 90s and throw a slider for strikes, and he also has good command. He won’t be ready for an MLB rotation soon, but he does have a lot of upside.
24. Oakland Athletics: Matt Krook, LHP, St. Ignatius HS (CA)
Krook might have the most upside of any arm in the draft. He’s touched 95 this spring and his curveball has shown the makings of a plus pitch. It’s not consistent yet, nor is his velocity, but he has a lot of room to grow and fill out (he’s just 195 lbs despite standing 6’4”) so one has to believe he will add a few MPH to his fastball.
25. San Francisco Giants: Alex Balog, RHP, San Francisco
The Giants could stick close to home here and draft the Dons righty, but while the stuff is there, the results curiously haven’t been. Balog throws in the mid 90s and has great size (6’6”, 225 lbs), but while his ERA isn’t bad (3.69) he has struck out only 63 batters in 85.1 innings pitched this season.
26. New York Yankees: Rob Kaminsky, LHP, St. Joesephs HS (NJ)
It’s anyone’s guess as to what the Yankees will do in the draft (or maybe that’s just me) but I am going to guess Kaminsky here. The lefty doesn’t have a ton of upside, but his fastball gets up to the mid 90s and his curveball should end up a plus pitch.
27. Cincinnati Reds: Chris Anderson, RHP, Jacksonville
Anderson looked like a potential top 10 pick at the start of the year, and probably still has that upside. He has a good frame (6’4”, 225 lbs) and has two potential plus pitches in his fastball and slider.
28. St. Louis Cardinals, Marco Gonzales, LHP, Gonzaga
Gonzales has a high 80s/low 90s fastball, a good change, and good command. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling around but he has a really good delivery and with that changeup he will probably be among the first players from this draft class in the majors.
29. Tampa Bay Rays: Jon Denney, C, Yukon HS (OK)
Because I have the Rays taking a safer type guy with their first pick, I think they’ll go with a bit more of a swing for the fences approach here. I think Denney will end up the best hitting catcher of the first rounders, but the problem with him will be staying there. Baseball America notes that he is pretty aggressive at the plate, which might be a problem when he sees better pitching, but his swing is highly regarded as is his ability to drive the ball to all fields.
30. Texas Rangers: Travis Demeritte, SS, Winder-Barrow HS (GA)
Demeritte has some helium and has been linked to the Rangers, but might not cost as much as a lot of the guys who could go in this area, making him the perfect pick. Despite his plus arm, he’ll probably have to play either third or second in the majors. Demeritte has potential plus power, but his hit tool and approach at the plate lag behind, though if the approach does improve so will his hitting thanks to his tremendous bat speed.
31. Atlanta Braves: Josh Hart, OF, Parkview HS (GA)
Like Demeritte and Frazier, Hart has very good bat speed. He is one of the older guys in the class, which is some cause for concern, but he hits the ball well, should develop good power, and will be able to play centerfield for a few years before moving to a corner.
32. New York Yankees: Billy McKinney, OF, Plano HS (TX)
McKinney isn’t the most athletic guy around, but while he doesn’t have a ton of upside he doesn’t have many holes in his game either. He has a really good, short, line drive swing and good approach that should allow him to hit for average and get on base. I doubt he ever ends up a star, but he should be a guy who can play all three OF positions and contributes on both sides of the ball.
33. New York Yankees: Kyle Serrano, RHP, Farragut HS, (TN)
Rounding out the mock draft I have the Yankees taking Serrano, the son of Tennessee head coach Dave Serrano. Because of the younger Serrano’s commitment to play for his dad, it might mean his price tag is a bit higher, but with three picks in the top 33, the Yankees will have the money to pay it. Serrano stands just 6’1”, but can hit 94 mph and has one of the best breaking balls in the draft, as well as a good changeup. He doesn’t have a ton of upside due to his frame, but with his advanced repertoire that’s OK.