The Draft: Old News, New News and My Top Ten
Draft Day is here.
At a few minutes after 7 PM EST this evening, speculation will be replaced by reality and we’ll begin to know who knows what.
I’ve read more than fifty Mock Drafts in the past few days, and if there is any one thing I’ve learned is, unlike the NBA or the NFL, the MLB draft is a complete guessing game.
Picks can’t be traded, so no pre-arranged selections can be made, unless it’s strictly a financial one. And even those deals can sometimes go bad.
Last year, two first rounders, catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitcher Karsten Whitson, reneged on pre-draft deals with the Kansas City Royals and San Diego Padres, respectively. Grandal changed his mind before the draft, at which point Kansas City passed on him at number four overall in favor of Christian Colon. (A wise choice, IMO).
Whitson, a high school righthander from Florida, upped his demands in the hours following the draft and ended up not signing. Whitson ended up at the University of Florida, and over the weekend helped pitch the Gators into the NCAA Super Regionals.
Other factors are the length of the draft (fifty rounds), and the amount of players who will be selected (close to 1600).
In the history of the draft, just under ten percent of all players selected will make a major league appearance; just a fraction of those will go on to become All-Stars.
It’s difficult, almost impossible, for every team to see every player. The New York Yankees’ first selection comes in the compensation round at number fifty-one. While they’re certainly not spending any money having scouts watch Anthony Rendon, hope is strong they pick up a player who will someday where the pinstripes in the Bronx.
One of the kds on their radar, outfielder Brandon Nimmo, comes from the state of Wyoming and a school without a baseball program. So other than American Legion or AAU sanctioned events, the opportunities to see him and properly assess his skills are few. With Nimmo floating around a three million price tag, it means the Yankee scouting staff has to work harder with less than if they were in the top of the draft.
Most of the mocks I’ve seen, and undoubtedly you as well, are nothing more than educated guess-work. General Managers and Scouting Directors won’t tell their wives or kids who their picks will be, they certainly aren’t going to pick up the phone and call the likes of Keith Law or Jonathan Mayo.
Law, the self-proclaimed draft “guru” at ESPN, has posted three mocks since May 17th, with another set for this morning.
They’re all different.
Not to imply I know more than he does, but if he DID know anything, why change things?
Sometimes reality creates change, which is understandable. Kyle Winkler of TCU, who projected as a possible supplemental pick, left his start yesterday after just two-thirds of an inning with an elbow injury. Winklers’ teammate, lefty Matt Purke, was a potential top five candidate before he, too, went down with an injury shortly after the college season began.
Even Rendon, who many believe to be the consensus number one heading into the season, struggled with a shoulder injury suffered while sliding and spent most of the season at DH.
So, in reality, all we really know is nothing.
For this reason I don’t like mocks, they’re a gigantic waste of time and effort. However, if I’m going to bust on some nut-job for suggesting a fourth or fifth rounder go in the first round, I should put up or shut-up.
I will not, however, bore you (you’re welcome) with a full round (33 picks; 60 if you include comps). With the talent level supposedly having this draft comparable with some of the best ever and with the various “experts” split on who is going where, I figure the top dozen or so to be more than enough.
And since I won’t get home tonight until after the draft has started, I won’t be around until the recording has caught up with the live. I will come by and see how things go and to take my medicine, but any thoughts of live-blogging thoughts of the top dozen picks ain’t happenin’.
Pittsburgh Pirates: While a few names have been mentioned here as a possibility for the first overall pick, the two most prominent have been Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon and UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole. Rendon’s offensive numbers have take a hit this year due in part to a shoulder injury, but there’s another factor in play as well; new bats. Gone are the pure aluminum models, replaced by a composite material designed to reduce the “spring” effect. While Rendon’s numbers are down, so are everyone else’s, but one thing to note; Rendon led the NCAA in walks and OBP.
Cole made news recently when he went through a stretch where he allowed eighteen runs in eighteen and a third innings. Over the weekend, two Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writers; Bill Brink and Dejan Kovacevic, both have written articles claiming the Pirates have settled on Cole. But, as I mentioned earlier, things can change right up until the draft, and Cole getting lit up on Friday night didn’t do anything to help his case.
Fun fact; the Pirates have taken pitchers the last two times they’ve held the first overall pick, going with Bryan Bullington and Kris Benson.
Pick: Anthony Rendon. The Pirates picked up three potential studs last year, Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie and international signee Luis Heredia. So far, the Pedro Alvarez pick hasn’t worked out (told you so), and even if he somehow does become a productive player, it will be as a first baseman. Choosing Rendon will accelerate the move.
Seattle Mariners: What is known for sure is the Mariners will take a position player here; the unknown is who it will be. General Manager Jack Zdurencik is a big fan of Bubba Starling, but there are some in the scouting department who feel otherwise. A name which has come up recently, especially after a solid private workout last Thursday, is Miami high school shortstop Francisco Lindor. A Puerto Rican native, Lindor should remain at shortstop at the ML level and be a solid, top of the order hitter. And, if you remember, the Mariners didn’t do so bad the last time they selected a high school shortstop in the first round. That said, Jack Z. comes from a scouting and development background and if his word is the final one, then Starling will be the pick. Obviously, if Cole does go number one, then Rendon goes here.
Pick: Derek “Bubba” Starling
Arizona Diamondbacks: The DBacks have been strong on University of Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen, but he recently came out with a $13 million contract demand. Hultzen’s major league ceiling is as a number three starter, and with an arm angle eerily similar to Billy Wagner, there’s additional cause for concern. Hultzen didn’t help himself during his last two starts, struggling to reach 90 on the gun and with his command.
UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer came out last week and welcomed the opportunity to pitch in Arizona, so I think they’ll make it happen. Bauer’s outpitched his more well known teammate Cole this year, and while his delivery is also somewhat unorthodox, it’s mechanically sound.
Pick: Trevor Bauer
Baltimore Orioles: If all goes to plan, the Orioles will be holding the ultimate poker hand; four aces. Between Cole, Hultzen, Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley, it will be almost unthinkable they could screw up this pick. But as they’ve shown before, selecting someone strictly on signability isn’t outside the box. Rumors have picked up over the past few days they’re considering Bradley. The top prep pitcher heading into this year, he’s taken a back seat to Bundy, although Bradley did beat him recently in an Oklahoma state tournament game. The concern with Bradley is signability; he has a dual sport committment to Oklahoma to play baseball and quarterback, but the fact his name has come up as a possiblity may mean he’s not as determined to go to college as may have been thought.
With his older brother already in the system, one could believe Dylan may take less to sign with Baltimore. But seeing he’s already floated around a $30 contract offer, then again, maybe not.
Pick: Some have said he is the best player in the draft, regardless of age or position. Hard to see him falling any further. Dylan Bundy.
Kansas City Royals: If things have gone to plan, the Royals will have the choice here of Bradley, Lindor, Cole or Hultzen. The Royals drafted a shortstop last year, and while he may end up moving at some point, the Royals haven’t given up on him yet. So, scratch Lindor. As everyone knows, the Royals are loaded with pitching, especially lefthanders, so, despite losing John Lamb recently to Tommy John surgery, they are still stocked. Scratch Hultzen. Despite his recent struggles, Cole is the closest to the majors pitcher remaining. Certainly not their first choice, but not the worst, either.
Pick: Gerrit Cole.
Washington Nationals: If he’s still on the board, the Bubba stops here. At this point we’re starting to see some separation between the top talent and everyone else, so the Nationals would have options even if Starling is gone. They could go with Lindor or fellow Puerto Rican Javier Baez. Baez is bigger than Lindor and most likely to end up at third, but with Ryan Zimmerman on board for forever, it’s pass on him. If they wanted a center fielder type, they could reach for UCONN’s George Springer. A potential top ten pick at the beginning of the year, Springer had trouble adjusting to the new bats, leading some scouts to play down his power potential. They could also reach for Springer’s teammate Matt Barnes; he’s not in the class of Cole or Bauer, but is considered more signable.
Pick: If there is one weakness in the Washington system, it’s lefthanded pitching. He won’t be their first choice, but the one made out of the biggest need; Danny Hultzen.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Hultzen’s been hot in this spot for a long time. This is an unprotected pick, the result of not signing their sixth rounder from last year, Barrett Loux. If the Dbacks don’t sign here, then they lose it, so signability is a must. Lindor’s name has picked up steam here, especially after he impressed Kevin Towers and the brass in a workout last Wednesday. He showed a little more with the bat than was expected, and with Stephen Drew’s name coming up in trade talks and approaching free agency, it would be nice to have a replacement already in the system. Baez is considered more signable than Lindor, but he probably won’t stay at short.
Pick: Francisco Lindor
Cleveland Indians: Most of the mocks have the Indians taking a pitcher here, but I don’t see it. Don’t ask me why, it’s just a feeling, what with all the turmoil in the Indians lineup the past couple of years, especially from their infielders. They have Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis almost ready, so that takes care of third and second, and Matt LaPorta has been, well, Matt LaPorta. They’d love Lindor here, but Arizona crapped on their parade, so I think the Tribe will roll the dice with Baez and will stick with him as a shortstop as long as they can and hope for the best.
Pick: Javier Baez
Chicago Cubs: Pre-season mocks had the Cubs going with either Starling or Springer here, so they’re obviously looking at an athletic centerfield type. Since then, Starling has played himself up, and Springer down. Springer does have the athleticism (over thirty stolen bases each of the past two years), and while the new bats may have exposed a weakness, it might actually play in his favor. Knowing he won’t be a thirty homer threat in the majors may get him to concentrate on his other skills, driving the ball and using his speed. Defensively there have been no questions or concerns; Springer has gap to gap speed with a solid arm.
Pick: The Cubs have been in on some pitchers here, but Springer fits both the needs and wants the Cubs have. George Springer.
San Diego Padres: Like with Arizona at number seven, this pick is also unprotected for the Padres (Karsten Whitson). The Padres have been all over pitching, with their decision likely coming down to Jungmann, Barnes, Archie Bradley and Georgia Tech lefthander Jed Bradley. Rumors are if Archie is still here they’ll take him, but are concerned with his college situation. Jungmann and Barnes are probably a neck above Jed Bradley and possibly Gray here. Gray appears to be the most signable but also has the lower ceiling. Barnes didn’t pitch well on Friday in his tournament start, so Jungmann would be the likely pick here.
Pick: Taylor Jungmann.
Well, I think that’s enough, I don’t want to write anymore, and I’m pretty sure no one wants to read anymore either.
Watch me go 0-10.