Who will sign at the deadline?

With MLB’s draft pick signing deadline set for 5:00 today, there are obviously several high holdouts that have yet to ink deals. In total, in the first two rounds, competitive balance picks included, there are 7 picks who remain unsigned. Considering the measures taken to limit bonus pool money, the fact that only three first round picks are unsigned indicates that something clearly is working here. Whats even more surprising is the fact that there are no high school first round picks who haven’t signed. But I digress.

This article will focus on the remaining unsigned first and competitive balance round picks in the draft. There are four of them. Without further delay, here they are.

1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks. 

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The first overall pick becomes the second straight pick to hold off signing at the deadline. But unlike Brady Aiken last season, whose UCL wiped out any chance of him receiving a top level bonus, Swanson is perfectly healthy, and has no incentive to return to school.

Why he will sign: 

As the first overall pick, Swanson is perfectly capable of commanding the $8,616,900 recommended bonus that is the league recommendation. The Diamondbacks have a large enough pool to afford the deal, and considering the fact that all but one of their first 10 picks signed for at-slot deals, and their only other remaining major commitment is 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, it seems that the best way to say it is that all that needs to be done is figure out how much money they want to commit to him.

As of now, the top bonus in the draft belongs to #2 pick Alex Bregman, who topped out with $5.9 million. If all goes well in Swanson’s camp, and given the fact that the negotiations between them and the D-Backs camp have been more about evaluating his market, I could see Arizona following their trend and signing him at slot. Should Rodriguez who may elect to recover from Tommy John surgery in college choose not to sign, the D-Backs could afford to sweeten the pot by offering him even more. However, the verdict is this. Swanson will sign, and based on the positive lines of communication, he’ll be rewarded handsomely.

 

24. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers

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The first of two remaining unsigned Dodgers, Buehler was a solid starter and piece of the 2014 NCAA champions and 2015 NCAA runners up. Buehler at one point was considered the best of the three Vanderbilt products taken in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 24th pick.

Why he will sign.

This one comes down to two major factors: Who do the Dodgers want to commit their remaining pool money to, and how much can they afford to? In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers do have another first round pick and a 6th rounder who have yet to sign, but the chances that they sign all three are incredibly slim. Buehler had a decent season this year, even if he had to take a 2 and a half week break to rest during the season.

The Dodgers ideally would want to sign Buehler because he would further add to the arsenal of future arms set to take over the Dodger rotation in the coming years. Given that Buehler is a college pitcher, there would be a chance for him to come up as early as late 2016 or early 2017.

Buehler would be the Dodgers’ best chance to sign, and if it means that they have to commit what remaining bonus money under the 5% threshold they have to sign him, then they should, and should let go of their remaining picks.

35, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Dodgers

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Kyle Funkhouser at one point in the draft was considered the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft, but a down junior season dropped his stock, and he tumbled all the way down to the 35th pick.

Why he won’t sign:

The way I look at this, Kyle Funkhouser has leverage that former potential top pick Michael Matuella didn’t have. A bad junior season? Fine, go back to school, see if you can rebound, and hope to enter next year’s top pick conversation. Matuella didn’t have that same leverage because of his Tommy John surgery and back issues, which would have prevented him from pitching at all in his senior year.

Funkhouser knows that he’s worth more that whatever the Dodgers can offer him, and given the fact that they spent their top picks on college pitchers, he likely views himself as the odd man out.

Admittedly, the risks of returning to school for a senior season are big. What if Funkhouser doesn’t improve? What if he’s only able to slightly raise his stock from last season? Since compensation for losing a first round draft pick began, only one player who didn’t sign was a collegian, and that was Stanford’s Mark Appel in 2012. Granted, Appel was able to move from being selected by the Pirates at 8th overall to the Astros at first overall, but his decision to return doesn’t indicate a trend.

The only way I see Funkhouser choose to sign is if the Dodgers elect to not sign Edwin Rios, their sixth rounder. If they do that, they could try and split the remaining threshold bonus pool money they have in the hopes of getting both Buehler and Funkhouser. Knowing full well that the Dodgers don’t want to be the first team to lose a draft pick for exceeding their pool, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. In all likelihood, it will come down choosing between Buehler and Funkhouser, and signs indicate Buehler is their first choice.

40. Nathan Kirby, LHP: Brewers

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Nathan Kirby was a preseason favorite to be a top pick in the draft, but an ineffective junior season towards the end dropped his stock and pushed him to the CB round, where the Brewers snatched him.

Why he will sign:

An article on the Daily Progress’ UVA sports blog indicates that Kirby has decided to wait until just before the deadline to sign. For Kirby, going pro would be the best decision. The Cavaliers will be fine without him, especially with the emergence of Connor Jones as a staff ace. Plus, as a UVA product, Kirby has a chance to go through the minor league system quickly. The Brewers could use the remainder of the minor league season to shut down Kirby and wait until next season, when he will be fully healthy and ready to go.

Considering the Brewers have made no effort to sign their gamble picks, Justin Hooper, Donny Everett and John India, they could definitely allocate the money they have left towards a higher bonus for Kirby.

 

MLB Draft Winners and Losers

Day 1 of the MLB Draft went, and surprisingly, it went with a bang. For a draft that doesn’t allow trades, and whose prospects are not as well known in casual circles as the NFL or the NBA, there was enough buzz for some degree of coverage. From the first three picks to the acknowledgement of South Carolina-Beaufort pitcher Jason Boulais donating marrow all the way to the end of the draft, this was definitely one of the more interesting drafts in recent memory. And of course, with that, I present my list of winners and losers from this year. So without any further delay, here are my winners and losers of the 2015 MLB draft.

Winner: The 2015 Shortstop Class

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Let’s start this off by going with the completely obvious. 8 of the 36 first round picks in the draft played shortstop, which accounts for 22% of the first round, a solid statistic. What’s even better for this position is that the first three picks in the draft were shortstops. Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers find themselves as future franchise faces, and all three are considered very advanced players, likely to make a quick run through the minor leagues.

After the big three were picked, the Phillies used their pick on Griffin High School shortstop Cornelius Randolph, arguably one of the better prep power hitters in the draft. The Pirates took Arizona’s Kevin Newman, one of the fastest players in the draft, and the A’s took Richie Martin, one of the better defenders of the draft. In the compensatory part of the first round, the Yankees took Kyle Holder, also a defensive stud, and a solid insurance policy, should Didi Gregorius fail, while the Orioles took Ryan Mountcastle, a developmental project ideally set to inherit the position when JJ Hardy retires.

This year’s shortstop class is valuable, and should most of them pan out, it would be a solid equivalent to the NFL’s famous quarterback class of 1983.

Loser: Michael Matuella

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Whether it was the medicals or the possibility that he was commanding a big signing bonus, Duke’s Michael Matuella, once considered the top pick in the 2015 draft, slid all the way out of Day 1. For me, the slide draws some comparisons to Jon Denney’s horrible 2013 Draft day slide, where at one point he was considered the top catching prospect in his class, he ended up being a second day pick for the Boston Red Sox.

Matuella’s medical history was a big red flag, with back trouble and Tommy John surgery really hampering his ability to capitalize on a solid sophomore campaign. There probably was hope that he could be a high risk high reward late first round pick, but something obviously scared off teams enough to have him land here. I would expect Matuella to be picked in the third round, but in the worst case scenario, he falls even lower and decides to go back to school, becoming a top senior prospect in the 2016 draft, like Mark Appel.

Winner: Canada

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Three picks in the first two rounds shows that our neighbors to the north do have some value when it comes to their talent. With the Marlins selecting first baseman Josh Naylor as a future power hitter, the Braves going for Mike Soroka as a potential starter, and the Yankees adding pitching depth in Indiana State’s Jeff Degano, Canada had possibly their best draft in a while. And yet, they’re not finished, as Demi Orimoloye is still on the board, and likely could be picked early in Day 2.

On the other side of the coin, the Blue Jays were able to make a solid first pick, tabbing Missouri State righthander Jonathan Harris in the compensatory first round. Missouri State has provided some value with picks like Ross Detwiler and Shaun Marcum, and Harris could be a legitimate rotation arm behind Marcus Stroman in the coming years.

Loser: Virginia

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Give the Cavaliers some credit for having two Day 1 picks, but A, the picks were later than expected, and B, there could have been three, if not for some bad luck.

Like Matuella, Nathan Kirby at one point was considered a top 5 pick in the draft, but as the year went on, it was clear that he didn’t have the stuff he had during his sophomore year. This was even more evident as he suffered from fatigue and an arm issue and had to be shut down towards the end of the season. Kirby’s stock did plummet, and he eventually landed in Milwaukee with their CB lottery pick. Milwaukee’s track record for developing pitchers hasn’t been great, however.

The other Virginia pick, Josh Sborz, had a lights out season for the Cavaliers, pitching as both the team’s closer and occasional spot starter. His performance allowed him to go to the Dodgers in the second CB lottery round. Oddly enough, Sborz had comparable numbers to sixth overall pick Tyler Jay, although not as high of a ceiling.

Left out of Day 1 was outfielder Joe McCarthy, who at one point would have been a solid second round pick. McCarthy however was injured early in the season and he had a down year, effectively dropping him to a Day 2 pick. It’s possible he could find himself going by the fourth or fifth round, though.

Virginia’s a strong program, but this year’s draft class is definitely not as strong as last year’s.

Winner: Rick Honeycutt

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Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt is probably one of the happiest coaches in baseball right now, especially given what his team did in the draft. After there was legitimate complaints that the Dodgers had no back of the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, the Dodgers used their first two picks on high ceiling, high floor pitchers Walker Buehler and Kyle Funkhouser. Buehler may need a little more time, but Funkhouser has been considered one of the more Major League ready pitchers in the draft, despite inconsistency in his junior season.

Although it is unprecedented to have players make such a quick jump to the major leagues, the Dodgers have had some degree of success doing it with former second rounder Paco Rodriguez. I wouldn’t be surprised if Funkhouser is in the majors by 2016.

Loser: Jose Altuve

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The writing is on the wall. Jose Altuve, once considered the face of the Houston Astros, is likely on his way out of the Space City. It became especially evident when the Astros drafted Alex Bregman, a shortstop whom experts believed would play second base in the big leagues.

In a way, it almost makes sense. Altuve is going to be expensive, and as the Astros retool for success, with all the young and cheap talent they have, he’ll likely be the odd man out. Granted, Altuve’s contact extension he signed back in 2013 is paltry given the extensions that many players have signed, but he’s already halfway through it, not including the options. Although I have mentioned that Bregman could make a quick run through the minors, I doubt it will be quick enough for him to play alongside Altuve. In my opinion, Altuve will play on borrowed time, but he could be shipped out early for more prospects should the Astros feel that Bregman is ready.

Winner: Chicago White Sox

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Two straight seasons of getting possibly the consensus top pitching talent definitely gives you a “winner” label. The Sox were able to get Carson Fulmer, a battle tested ace whose height adds to his deceptiveness when he pitches.

Fulmer joins Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon as college aces whom the Sox have drafted, and although he is considered the highest risk, at worst, he could still be a solid closer for the team.

If Fulmer is put on accelerated development like Sale and Rodon, it’s possible he could make his debut next season, depending on if the team still has Jeff Samardzjia.

Loser: Chicago Cubs

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I could only face palm as the Cubs used their first two picks on Ian Happ and Donnie Dewees. Considering the amount of offensive talent in the minors, it seemed impractical for them to make the investments they did, especially when there were pitchers available.

Ian Happ, who has no set position, would be in a logjam with the Chicago Cubs infielders and outfielders; the same goes for Donnie Dewees.

The Cubs could have gone for San Clemente pitcher Kolby Allard, or Park Vista’s Austin Smith. Instead, they added more offensive talent they didn’t need. Unless the team is planning on acquiring pitchers with the offensive prospects they have, I find it very difficult to justify what the Cubs have done.

Winner: The Kolby Allard-Lucas Herbert Battery

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It’s not often that high school teammates, particularly high level talent high school teammates, are available in the same draft. However, in some cases, it does happen. The Braves may have made a risky pick with Kolby Allard when they took him 15th overall despite constant back problems, but they really helped optimize his environment when they used their second rounder on his battery mate, Lucas Herbert. Herbert may be far from the best catcher in his class, but he is a defensive asset, and in the world of catching, there is nothing more important than carrying a defensive expert behind the plate, at the very least as a backup. Allard and Herbert will definitely generate solid chemistry and hopefully progress through the Braves minor league system at the same time.

Loser: The Kevin Newman-Scott Kingery Middle Infield

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Let me start this off by saying that the Pirates had a solid first day, especially with their first two picks. I like Kevin Newman and I love KeBryan Hayes going to Pittsburgh. However, through no fault of their own, they missed out on possibly one of the best middle infields in college baseball when Scott Kingery was drafted by the Phillies. Chemistry is key in baseball, and having Kingery and Newman would have been a big boon for the Pirates.

Winner: Rob Manfred Acknowledging Jason Boulais

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The decision that South Carolina-Beaufort pitcher Jason Boulais made, to donate bone marrow to a child in another country was probably the biggest, and hardest decision he ever made. And while it could have gone unnoticed, the fact that he gave up playing baseball in order to save a child’s life was compelling enough for people to take notice. Public relations boon or not, inviting Boulais to watch the MLB draft was a great move on Commissioner Rob Manfred’s part. Listening to Manfred’s speech about what Boulais did was inspiring. All in all, it was touching. In some ways, it does draw parallels to last year’s NBA draft, when Adam Silver stepped up to the podium and announced that the NBA would select Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who had been diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome shortly before the draft. And while Manfred could have done something similar, saying something along the lines of “Major League Baseball will draft Jason Boulais” or have him announce the Red Sox pick (He is a Red Sox fan), the decision to acknowledge what he did is definitely a solid pat on the back to those who sacrifice what they want for the betterment of others.

Loser: Rob Manfred completely botching Andrew Benintendi’s name

Of course, right after acknowledging Boulais, Manfred did announce the Red Sox’ pick. And with the seventh pick in that draft, the Red Sox selected Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi, or as Manfred said, the Baud, Boston Red Sox selected Anrew Benintenitendi. I get it, some names are harder to pronounce than others, but wow, that was a botch if there ever was one. Maybe it would have been a good idea to have Boulais try his luck at that name?

Winner: Ashe Russell’s fashion sense

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I was originally going to put this one as a loser, but then I realized something. This is actually the first time that we have a unique outfit at the MLB draft. The NFL has done it for a few years, see Dante Fowler and Danny Shelton for reference, and the NBA has made it an annual tradition since Jalen Rose pulled out the red pinstriped suit from Beetlejuice’s closet. Ashe Russell’s outfit was both awesomely good and awesomely bad at the same time, It was the Anaconda of draft suits. While he wasn’t exactly as flamboyant as Fowler and Rose, his bright orange shirt with white collar and tie was definitely a wonder to behold. Considering how the draft is starting to gain some popularity, there should be an Ashe Russell rule, where at least one player must dress up in the most ridiculous outfit imaginable. Players get points for looking like a giant traffic cone.

Loser: Those of us who had to hear Alex Bregman’s “Naked” story

A good story makes a great prospect; we all remember when Ian Clarkin was drafted by the Yankees and the spotlight revealed that he hated them growing up. playing up the awkwardness. However, that’s nothing compared to Alex Bregman’s three story tangent after he was picked.

First we learn that in his first game, he turned an unassisted triple play. Okay, considering how uncoordinated kids are when they start playing, it’s not the hardest thing to do.

Then we learn that he’s not an instagram poster or a big picture guy, for that matter. Okay, great, neither am I.

And then we get to the story about how when he was “little little” he ran naked around his house naked. (those were his words, not mine) and he started riding a toy horse, to the embarrassment of his parents.

Three words, Bregman, Too. Much. Information. While we’re on the subject, why don’t we hear the story about the one time at band camp with the flute? Or how about that one about the infamous Fourth of Ju-Luau?

Thankfully, Bregman was able to save his spotlight from ending in awkward crickets by asking the cameraman if he could make him look “jacked”. Still, while we like to know about our prospects, we don’t need to delve that deep.

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Coming up, a recap of the draft with a division by division look at some notable prospects.

2015 MLB Mock Draft: Final Edition

As usual, MinorLeagueMadhouse will be taking its annual summer hiatus barring any major prospect news, because the blog’s proprietor has accepted an internship, this time in Sacred Heart University’s Athletic Department however, the readers will not be left empty handed. After much deliberation, there will be one last mock draft published before the actual draft. The mock will stick to the first round, as well as the compensatory selections. It will be a one post mock, rather than a split, and the analysis will be more on how the player fits with the team, unless the pick in question has not been on the mock draft list before.

Without further delay:

Arizona Diamondbacks:

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Part of me really thinks that the recent rumors that Arizona is staying as far away from Brendan Rodgers are just a distracting tactic meant to drive down his price tag, but as draft day continues to make its approach, and rumors that the team is considering options like Garrett Whitley and Tyler Stephenson continue to gain steam, it’s become increasingly clear that Rodgers isn’t going to Arizona.

The rule of the first overall pick is that the player is the best player available, unless you’re the Padres, in which case it’s the guy who costs the least amount of money. Thankfully for the D-Backs, there are plenty of candidates for BPA.

Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson has to be arguably the most high profile College World Series MOP since Pat Burrell in 1996, and his follow-up season has been nothing short of impressive, as he led the team in most offensive categories and was ranked in the top 10 in the country in runs. Swanson’s offensive output completely overshadows the fact that he’s played out of position all year. A second baseman, he’s moved to shortstop, but the expectation is that he’ll stay there when he turns pro.

Swanson’s ability as a hitter and a defender makes him a valued commodity; not since Stephen Drew played for Florida State has there been a more high visibility college shortstop. Considering how well he’s adapted to his position change, not to mention the fact that he plays in arguably the toughest college baseball conference in the country, I’d expect his time in the minor leagues would be pretty quick, probably a year and a half.

Swanson would be an immediate upgrade over the current shortstop Nick Ahmed, at least on the offensive side, and given the model of having a primarily offensive shortstop and a defensive shortstop on the roster, he’d be the perfect complement to the offensive output from Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas.

2. Houston Astros

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The two players that I have the Astros picking in the first round could chance in terms of slot, but it would be crucial if they were the two picks they made. We’ll get to the other one in due time, but let’s focus on Illinois lefty Tyler Jay right now.

At the beginning of the year, Jay was considered a first round candidate, maybe top 15, but definitely not a legitimate number one, especially given the competition for top left handed pitcher, especially with Brady Aiken and Nathan Kirby.

As the year progressed and the aforementioned Aiken and Kirby both fell due to injury, Jay continued to rise, and was a key contributor during Illinois’ 25 game win streak which saw them winning the Big Ten regular season title. Granted, Jay’s work this season has been mostly (read: all but one appearance) in relief, but his potential has led some to believe he could be a legitimate starter, especially since he’s worked long relief and had a solid summer pitching for Team USA last year. Not only that, but he is a potential Golden Spikes Award finalist.

Given Jay’s limited experience as a starter now, I could see the Astros playing this to their advantage, offering a safe deal so they can guarantee that their other pick signs. Granted, the Astros tactics in the past three years have been questionable, but they have been right when it’s come to talent in the past three drafts, so whatever works for them shouldn’t be questioned until it completely fails.

At worst, Jay is strictly a closer or a bullpen member, at best, he becomes a part of a strong rotation. We’ll see what his drafting team has in store for him.

3. Colorado Rockies

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The worst kept secret in baseball is that Troy Tulowitzki will definitely not be a career Colorado Rockie, and given the advantageous position the Rockies are in with two or three available shortstops in this year’s draft, I’d be surprised if they went a completely different direction.

Arizona’s hesitance to draft Lake Mary shortstop Brendan Rodgers opens the door for the Rockies to take him. As this year’s Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop, there is no doubt that he has the ability to make the big leagues faster than any high school talent in this year’s class. After all, Addison Russell and Manny Machado did it before him, what’s to say he won’t continue the trend?

As the consensus top talent in this year’s draft, it’s possible that he would command a high bonus, but if the Rockies play their cards right and draft a low level college senior with their next pick, they could save a lot of money and utilize it to sign Rodgers, a Florida State commit.

Rodgers’ hitting ability and defensive capability make him a well-rounded athlete. While he’s no Trout or Harper, his ceiling has him as a potential star for whatever team takes him. Should the Rockies take him, he would fit well in a future lineup alongside future outfielder David Dahl, forming a lethal combination which would be the spiritual successor to the CarGo-Tulo days.

4. Texas Rangers

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The Astros have been lucky enough to find enough diamonds in the rough to establish a solid rotation. The Rangers have bought enough high level offensive talent, but their rotation is putrid without Yu Darvish. Is it time then to build a rotation through the draft?

The Rangers have the benefit of having the 4th pick in a rich college right-handed pitching class, and should the predictions in this mock hold, they’d have first dibs at the righties.

Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer is the latest evidence that height is only a number, as he’s virtually dominated the SEC despite his effort-filled grunty delivery. Fulmer finished second in the NCAA in strikeouts and fourth in wins. Fulmer is also big-game tested, and would boost any rotation.

He’d probably go higher if he worked on his delivery, which may concern teams, but as a potential top 5 pick, he’d more than justify his value here.

5. Houston Astros

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Legacy picks are often a big part of the MLB draft, but it’s not often that those picks are good enough to go in the first round. The Astros are in the unique position to potentially have brothers play on their team, which while we’ve seen it with the Upton brothers on the Padres this year, it’s not as common as we are led to believe.

While Brendan Rodgers may be the best prep player in the class ,Gulf Coast HS outfielder Kyle Tucker, brother of Preston, is potentially the best prep hitter, partially because his mechanics, especially with his swing, are so fluid.

While Tucker’s swing is smooth and effortless, and his potential is that of a middle of the order hitter, the big question mark is his attitude, which many scouts have considered is too lackadaisical and a potential turn-off, although some have said it may help him adjust to the minors better than other prep prospects.

The idea of having Preston and Kyle on the same team would definitely be a major chemistry boost, and would definitely be intriguing, especially if Preston is able to keep his spot on the team,

6. Minnesota Twins

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I used the same justification in my last mock when i sent Chris Betts to the Cardinals, and I could probably justify the Minnesota Twins taking Kennesaw Mountain HS catcher Tyler Stephenson for the same reason: the incumbent catcher is getting old, and by the time Stephenson would be ready, Kurt Suzuki would likely be retired or playing DH.

Stephenson has been one of the fastest rising prep players in this year’s class. Some scouts have compared his baseball IQ to that of former Georgia Tech star Matt Wieters, and his defense is considered the best among his position, even better than Betts’.

Stephenson may need work on his bat, however, as while he does have power potential, he has the risk of being an all or nothing hitter due to his swing.

At worst, Stephenson is a value pick, as previously mentioned, he was considered a possibility as the number 1 pick, but at best, he’s a project who could emerge as a potential valuable backstop, aiding in the development of the Twins’ pitching surplus.

 

7. Boston Red Sox

Alex Bregman, SS, LSU

 

Four years ago, the Red Sox took a New Mexico prep catcher by the name of Blake Swihart with one of their first round selections. Swihart was considered one of the top prep catchers in his class. A year later, the team opted to take a New Mexico prep shortstop in the 29th round. He didn’t sign, and went to LSU where he established himself as possibly one of the best collegiate talents.

LSU shortstop Alex Bregman is a friend of Swihart, and there have been rumors that the Sox want them to play together again. And to be honest, the idea is actually very appealing. Bregman can hit; in his three seasons at Baton Rouge, he’s never hit below .316. He does have home run power, enough to justify hitting him at least 5th in the order. He’s also a big hustler on defense, which while some scouts feel may hinder him in the future, the effort shows that he’s willing to try hard.

I believe I’ve mentioned this several times, but Bregman could theoretically become the heir to Dustin Pedroia’s position. With Xander Bogaerts currently at the shortstop position and Bregman considered a better second base prospect, it seems more likely that he will slide over to the right side of the infield.

8. Chicago White Sox

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Players falling in this draft is not an indication of their stock, but rather of the fact that there is plenty of variety in this year’s class. Granted, it’s not as strong as the previous two classes, but still there are plenty of interesting names.

The White Sox may be lucky enough to have one of the consensus top talents fall into their lap, in this case it’s UCSB righty Dillon Tate, who’s enjoyed quite the season since moving from the Gaucho bullpen to the rotation.

Tate has the ability to throw premium gas, and his arsenal of pitches guarantees him a ceiling of a mid rotation starter. Should he fail there, he does have experience as a closer; last year, he finished in the top 25 in saves.

Though the Sox have one of the weaker farm systems due in part to the rise of several prospects to the big league team, Tate, like Carlos Rodon before him, would give them a big boost.

9. Chicago Cubs

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The Cubs are definitely set on offense for the foreseeable future, to the point where they have the enviable problem of trying to figure out who to get rid of. What they lack in their organization is a homegrown pitcher, set to take over when Hammel, Arrieta and Lester are done.

The prep pitching in this year’s class isn’t as strong as it was in previous years, but there are a few names who could conceivably jump into the top ten given the right circumstances. Among them is Pennsylvania prep righty Mike Nikorak. Nikorak, whose season just ended, may not have gone far in games, and his walk total may be slightly concerning, but his value as a low contact pitcher could have some teams considering him as a possibility.

Nikorak could be a part of a troika that consists of 2014 draftees Carson Sands and Dylan Cease. His stature and his pitches almost ensure that he’ll be contributing in the rotation in the future.

10. Philadelphia Phillies

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I have to give credit where it’s due, and it’s that the Phillies are somewhat prepared for the inevitable fire sale that will dismantle their roster. Even if Cole Hamels doesn’t fetch the price the Phillies are asking, the selections of JP Crawford and Aaron Nola, not to mention the signings of Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera have been somewhat smart.

That being said, baseball is the ultimate example of the Law of Averages, and given the Phillies’ draft history, it wouldn’t surprise me if they fall in love with a player that might be a reach here. No offense to Cincinnati outfielder/second baseman Ian Happ. Happ’s calling card is his unique positional versatility; not many baseball players can play first base, second base, and outfield. With that being said, he may find himself in the outfield, but the Phillies would be wise to try him out in each position, given the players that are likely to depart.

Happ has power, he was ranked in the top 25 in home runs this year, and he can hit, he was ranked in the top 50 in average. I see him as a potential successor to Chase Utley.

Having Happ and Crawford in the same infield would be interesting given their ability to hit and defend. It almost brings back the glory days of Rollins and Utley.

11. Cincinnati Reds

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Gut feelings usually aren’t meant to have good connotations attached, but there are exceptions to the rule. In this case, my gut feeling here is that the Reds will use their first round pick on one of the two Cincinnati collegians.

If it isn’t Ian Happ, then they certainly will go after local boy and Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi. A rare draft eligible sophomore, Benintendi has been very impressive this year, running away with the SEC Player of the Year after finishing second in the nation in home runs and in the top ten in other major offensive statistics.

Benintendi would fit somewhere in a future outfield consisting of a speedster (Phil Erwin) and a contact guy (Jesse Winker). He has the potential to be a future star, and it’s not often that a local boy gets the chance to star for his home team.

12. Miami Marlins

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Another team that seems to be set for the future is the Miami Marlins. Not only are their two top outfielders locked up until the mid 2020s, but they have a young and up and coming rotation, a solid middle infield and a future franchise catcher. What they lack in their future plan are solid corner infielders.

The Marlins could use this pick to go for Griffin HS infielder Cornelius Randolph. Randolph may be listed as a shortstop, but he definitely will move to third in the future. He, like fellow Georgia prep product Daz Cameron, will likely bulk up and be a better power hitter when he turns pro. His reflexes do need work, but as of now, he’s not a defensive liability.

Interestingly enough, Randolph comes from the same high school as current Tampa Bay Rays shortstop and former first overall pick Tim Beckham.

13. Tampa Bay Rays

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The beauty of this year’s draft is that there are so many good talents, if one is taken another good one will show up. This is especially good for the Rays, who could be in the market for their next dynamite starter in this year’s class.

Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser has fluctuated between the top 5 and the top 15. in this year’s draft, mainly because of the emergence of high ceiling arms. While I would love to put Funkhouser above the likes of Dillon Tate, Tyler Jay and Mike Nikorak, I feel that the most comfortable spot for him is somewhere in the middle of the first round proper.

Funkhouser had a pretty average year this year, but his potential and his build suggests that he is bound to be a high value pick. Even though he doesn’t have the zip that most scouts would like, his durability indicates he could be a solid workhorse starter in the middle of a good rotation.

14. Atlanta Braves

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Atlanta’s outfield reads like a who’s who of players that were one at the pinnacle of their game. In a few years’ time, they will be replaced by younger and more impressive guys. Thankfully for the Braves, there are plenty of options in this year’s draft for them to consider.

ELCA outfielder Daz Cameron stands ahead of guys like Nick Plummer, Trenton Clark and Garrett Whitley because of his pedigree, and being the son of former Gold Glover and All-Star Mike Cameron is going to get you somewhere. Take that away, and you have a guy who at one time was considered the top talent in the draft. While Cameron failed to live up to his potential in his last year, his stock has rebounded enough for him to possibly be a legitimate early to mid first round pick.

Like Cornelius Randolph, Cameron has a lot of growing to do in order to be a true pro, but once he does, he could potentially surpass his dad as one of the better outfielders of his era. His bat alone carries him to the middle of any order and his speed, arm and glove are strong enough for him to play in center.

Not since Jason Heyward left have the Braves had a legitimate home grown All-Star outfielder, and this could very well be the guy they draft to be their future franchise face.

15. Milwaukee Brewers

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The specters of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley are clearly in the rearview mirror for the Brewers. Gone are the days of making sense and going for the tried and the tested. Last year’s selection of Hawaii prep product Kodi Medeiros was pretty clear about that. So who do they go after now?

Given their weakness in organizational pitching depth, the ideal pick would be a pitcher, and no enigma stands out more than Missouri State’s Jonathan Harris. 

Harris was a virtual unknown until recently, in fact, when I went to research him, there was nothing on the NCAA’s career stats page. Still, his stats weren’t eye popping, although he did have a solid Cape League.

Harris is a four pitch pitcher with low to mid level speed pitches which compensate with movement. He’s built tall, but is about ten pounds thinner than expected.

Missouri State has had a first rounder before in current Rangers starter Ross Detwiler, it wouldn’t be impossible to believe that Harris could be another strong possibility.

16. New York Yankees 

As much as I would have loved to have kept Kyler Murray here, his decision to go to college and withdraw his name from draft consideration has forced me to change course. Furthermore, the Yankees have failed considerably in developing Derek Jeter’s replacement (see CJ Henry and Cito Culver for reference) and it’s possible that in this pitching rich class, they may want to look for CC Sabathia’s replacement.

The Yankees like winners, and nothing says winner like a College World Series hero. Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler completes the Vandy troika, and while he tailed off from his sophomore year, he still was a strong part of the Commodore staff.

Buehler is not sized to be an ace, but a back end rotation arm, he could be. A year younger than former first rounder Ty Hensley, Buehler’s accelerated development ensures that at least one arm could join Ian Clarkin as a potential future 1-2 punch.

17. Cleveland Indians

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Another example of a team that seems to be primed for future offensive domination but would do well to add some future pitchers is the Indians. Granted, they did just sign Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco to megadeals, but it’s always good to have a sustainability or contingency plan when their run of dominance is up.

Back in January, I mocked Cathedral High School pitcher Ashe Russell to Cleveland, and I think it’s possible that he returns to this spot. Russell has been considered the top prep pitcher, although my gut tells me he could be a tough sign, potentially dropping him a bit.

Baseball America’s most recent mock pointed out that Russell has been more consistent than Mike Nikorak in terms of his velocity, but he is smaller by an inch and ten pounds. Additionally, he does need to fine tune his delivery in order to stay in a rotation. Still, he could make a strong case to be a back end starter in about 4-5 years, with a possibility of going higher.

18. San Francisco Giants

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Looking at the Giants’ top 20 prospects, you can tell that there’s a major emphasis on pitching, and that’s a good thing, considering the ballpark they play in. However, in baseball, it doesn’t hurt to develop hitting to complement pitching.

There are four big prep outfielders in this year’s draft, but none have experienced a rise as big as Niskayuna outfielder Garrett Whitley. Considered one of the major sleepers of the draft, Whitley was even debated as a top pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Whitley’s speed and contact hitting makes him look like a raw version of Hunter Pence, except in this case, he could be an asset in centerfield.

The one red flag for Whitley is that he’s from uncharted territory. Niskayuna is not what you would call a baseball hotbed, in fact, Whitley is the first potential MLB draft pick from the school. Still, his ability to play in all weather will give him somewhat of an advantage to his southern counterparts.

Incidentally, the Giants have had experience drafting talent from New York, taking Joe Panik from St. John’s four years ago. Although there hasn’t been enough time to properly evaluate him, it’s a possibility that the Giants could use him as motivation to grab Whitley here.

19. Pittsburgh Pirates

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The Pirates love big names, as their recent draft history would indicate. and they’re not averse to taking big risks, see Josh Bell and Mark Appel for reference. Their system could use a left handed pitching project, and there are two big names here that were, at one time, considered top 5 talents.

IMG’s Brady Aiken is probably the biggest celebrity of this draft. He’s an ideal starter who has solid stuff, and his ability and potential allowed him to catapult above players like Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon to be the top pick. The one killer to his stock was the UCL issue which eventually forced him to get Tommy John surgery. In fact, there are concerns that he may not reach the level he did last year.

One thing is for certain; Much like Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde last year, whomever drafts Aiken this year will have to wait a year to see how he throws. It’s obvious he’ll be handled with kid gloves, something the Pirates are used to doing, see Jameson Taillon for reference, but should Aiken bounce back, he’ll be a worthwhile risk to take.

Incidentally, as a fun side note, it would be fun to see the Pirates draft a former Astros first round pick after the Astros drafted the Pirates’ first round pick last year.

20. Oakland Athletics

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Oakland’s purge of offensive talent with little to no star prospect power has left them grasping for straws, and while they may have some bright spots adequately filling in, there is no clearer signal that Billy Beane is going to lean back on his old Moneyball crutch.

Every year, there is an ideal moneyball candidate, and this year’s example just happens to fall into the A’s lap: DJ Stewart, the hulking Florida State outfielder, has a body built for power, but a mind more oriented to getting on base. Stewart may have a talent for drawing walks, but he isn’t a liability on the basepaths.

Stewart may have had a bit of a slump this year, but he still managed to hit .above .315. He also managed to finish in the top 5 in on base percentage, the top 40 in home runs, and be the national leader in walks.

If Stewart can tap into his power, he has the potential to be Josh Donaldson’s spiritual successor, potentially bringing excitement back to the Bay.

21. Kansas City Royals

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The Royals have enough good pitching and enough young Major League offensive talent for them to do whatever they want with this pick, as well as the one they have in the compensatory round. That being said, this could be where the picks become less obvious and more “what am I losing if I go for this option?”

In an ideal world, the Royals go for a developmental player, one who takes enough time to mature for him to come up as another player goes. In this case, it’s Plano High School outfielder Mitch Hansen. Hansen is like a hitter’s version of Aaron Nola, a jack of all trades but a master of none. He has good contact, good power, good speed and good defense. What he needs is to improve them.

Hansen has been compared to swiss army knife players like Michael Saunders and Brandon Nimmo. In an American League lineup, he’d probably land in the 6 hole. Still, his potential for growth definitely could lead to his stock rising further in this draft.

22. Detroit Tigers

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As I have pointed out several times in this mock draft, the amount of pitching in this year’s class almost ensures that a team picking later gets an above average arm. Heck, some teams might even get a pitcher who at one point was considered a top 10 pick.

I could see the Tigers drafting a future replacement for either Justin Verlander or David Price here, and depending on how much time they want to invest, they could definitely take a lefty.

Between Duke’s Michael Matuella and UVA’s Nathan Kirby, I feel the Tigers will go for the latter. Kirby is the latest in a long line of UVA pitchers that goes back to Danny Hultzen. Kirby may not have improved as much on his excellent sophomore season, mainly due to fatigue, but he’s not as much of a risk as Matuella, Kolby Allard or Brady Aiken.

Kirby could run through the system quickly, and be ready in time to take the reins from Verlander. He definitely has ace material and could be a late gem.

23. St. Louis Cardinals

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The catcher class in this year’s draft is a major dropoff from year’s past. While we were fortunate enough to have Max Pentecost and Kyle Schwarber (since moved to outfield) last year, and the decent class of 2013 and the super class of 2012, this year, there are two definitive first round talents. A team looking to grab a catcher who’s out of range may have to wait until 2016 when guys like Chris Okey and Jeremy Martinez are available.

The Cardinals would be in a position, however to get a catcher now, thanks to Chris Betts of Wilson High School. Maybe it’s because of Tyler Stephenson’s rising stock, but Betts has gone from being the consensus number 1 to a very certain number 2. Still, Betts is a good catcher in his own right.

He fits the mold of a slow runner, but amazing defensive star. Furthermore, his bat is great, allowing him to be a middle of the order run producer.

Betts’ development easily coincides with Yadier Molina’s twilight years, and in all likelihood, he’ll be up by the time Molina is ready to call it quits. Learning from one of the greatest catchers in our era will definitely do Betts some good though.

24. Los Angeles Dodgers

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The Dodgers would love to have a pitcher who can contribute almost immediately, and while it’s inadvisable for players to make that type of jump after being drafted, it’s not unprecedented.  

Yet another known first rounder in this year’s class, Phil Bickford felt that he was ready to go pro after a year at Fullerton. Bickford’s transfer to College of Southern Nevada, while controversial, has certainly produced no ill effects, as he’s won 9 games and kept a sub 2.00 ERA.

Bickford’s run through college has been impressive enough that I feel he could make a case for an early debut in the Majors. His stuff has high velocity and he can control it.

Bickford, like Aiken, could be seen as a hard sign, but a team willing to fork over money will definitely be doing themselves a service.

25. Baltimore Orioles

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Another strength in this draft is that of the shortstop class. Whether it’s prep shortstops or college shortstops, there’s definitely a good amount of talent. Baltimore may be chugging along with Everth Cabrera holding the fort for JJ Hardy, but the clear indication should be that they should develop a future successor, not a band-aid.

This college season, I have grown to like Kevin Newman. He’s a fast athlete, he’s gutsy, he can hit for a high average, and he’s tough to strike out, qualities that fit a solid leadoff hitter.

While Newman’s bat probably would be a better fit in a bigger stadium, I think that he could still make Camden Yards work. As a defensive player, he compensates for his range deficiency with hustle and leadership, also admirable qualities.

Newman would be a fine asset for the Orioles to develop, and I hope that he can make himself known in the minors.

26. Los Angeles Angels

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If there’s anything the Angels could use in their future plans, it’s hitters to replace their aging stars. Albert Pujols may be on a mega contract, but I doubt he stays for the duration of the deal. In this case, the Angels could go for a power bat to transition in the future.

Although this may be a bit of a reach, I think Chris Shaw of BC could definitely make a solid case as a late first round pick. After a slow start that was further complicated by injury, Shaw rebounded to hit .319 with 11 home runs. numbers that were somewhat expected of him.

Shaw’s power combined with Angel Stadium’s dimensions make him an ideal candidate. He’s a smaller Lucas Duda a capable defender who has the potential to provide offensive protection for Mike Trout. If Shaw can avoid injury and play to his full potential, he definitely will be worth the reach.

27. Colorado Rockies

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Although the Rockies drafted a lefty a year before, I feel that they could double dip and go after a guy whose stock has slipped here.

Kolby Allard is definitely better than his position suggests, it’s just back issues have dropped his stock. Though he’s not built as big as your typical pitcher, he still can pitch like one, and given the Rockies’ assets, he would fit well in the back end of the rotation.

It does take time for pitchers to get a feel for throwing in thin air, but Allard has the benefit of time, given his injury and prep status.

28. Atlanta Braves

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A young outfield will go far for the Braves, and with Braxton Davidson and Daz Cameron hypothetically in the fold, it’s possible the team could go for one of the high value prep bats.

Nick Plummer fits here because of his contact and his speed. He’ll make a strong case for a corner outfield spot and his bat will offer good protection in a future Braves lineup.

29. Toronto Blue Jays

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Demi Orimoloye may be one of the more interesting prospects partially because he’s essentially an in-province product. Even if he has that going for him, he also is a strong hitter and a physical specimen with solid defense.

The Jays’ attempts to “go Canadian” have been well-received by fans, and in a class where there are 3 top Canadian prospects, it would be a disappointment if the Jays missed out on all three.

30. New York Yankees

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If a guy like Slade Heathcott can have his top prospect status resurrected, who’s to say that a guy like Michael Matuella can’t have his? Matuella may have an injury history and he may have to wait a year before he gets back on the mound, but the Yankees have somehow managed to make lemonade out of young, injured hurlers before.

31. San Francisco Giants

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Justin Hooper is a tall, weird bodied lefty, but his pitches are intriguing and his ceiling as a possible future ace make him hard to ignore. San Francisco is also a 50 minute drive from De La Salle High School, so they must have good intel on him. Assuming most of the power bats are gone by this time, I’d expect them to invest in another southpaw.

32. Pittsburgh Pirates

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I like the idea of Ke’Bryan Hayes in Pittsburgh because his power, effortless swing and fielding ability allow him to eventually replace Pedro Alvarez. If he can bulk up, he’d definitely be a middle of the order producer. Hayes is also one of the youngest players in this year’s draft, giving the team ample time to develop him.

33. Kansas City Royals

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One of the more underrated prospects despite leading the nation in home runs, David Thompson continues to be my favorite player in this draft. The Royals could use him at first base or DH where he could fill the Billy Butler role, although his defense is still good. In my opinion, Thompson is possibly one of the most underrated players in the draft.

34. Detroit Tigers

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The Tigers could recoup a lot of the pitching they lost in the offseason by getting both a college and a prep arm. Donny Everett of Clarksville has popped up on draft boards as a late first rounder. While I’ve ignored him as of late, I think now would be a good time to acknowledge his arm and admit that he could be an anchor in any rotation. He’d definitely slide in in 4-5 years time.

35. Los Angeles Dodgers

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If the Dodgers go best player available, then they’ll probably invest highly in Richland’s Trent Clark. I feel that Clark could be a tough sign as he has major potential and could command a high bonus. Still, his athleticism is hard to ignore and I think he’d make a strong case as a future replacement for Andre Ethier.

36. Baltimore Orioles

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If the Orioles can grab both Kevin Newman and Scott Kingery in the same draft, they could have the benefit of a double play combo that has three years of experience together, forming an exceptionally cohesive unit. Kingery’s bat also has him as a lower end run producer, but there is potential for growth.

The Geno Experiment

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Jets fans have spent most of this offseason celebrating: New GM Mike Maccagnan, using the salary cap space that John Idzik left in his wake, rebuilt the defense to its 2010 glory by getting Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie back, acquired a new offensive weapons in Brandon Marshall and Stevan Ridley, and used the draft to beef up areas of need and making the defensive line an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, new head coach Todd Bowles has established himself as completely different from his predecessors, being more loose than Eric Mangini and more disciplined than Rex Ryan. Not only that, but he completely moved on from the old regime’s coaching staff. Among those new hires is Chan Gailey, an offensive guru that has a reputation for getting the most out of mediocre quarterbacks.

So why is the fanbase still grumbling?

The answer is whom is playing quarterback.

Ever since Chan Gailey announced that Geno Smith would be starting and that there would be no competition, despite having a quarterback who knows his system as well as an already popular draft pick, the reaction has been mixed. Message boards have been either 50/50 or overwhelmingly against Geno being named the starter, the reason being that he had a meh freshman year, another mediocre sophomore year which was accentuated by alarmingly bad performances which led to stretches of riding the bench, and, to put it in the most politically correct way, concern with Smith’s supposed lack of maturity and ability to handle the rigors of a pro offense. And in a lot of cases, these concerns are warranted. We all remember Smith leaving Radio City Music Hall after falling entirely out of the first round and being coaxed to come back in. We remember him firing his old agency the day after he was drafted and signing with Jay-Z’s then fledgling Roc Nation Sports. We remember him being escorted off a plane, and being late for a team meeting. Yes, Smith may still have maturity issues adjusting to the NFL.

We also realize that Smith did have a problem with the offenses that he played in in his first two years. However, we have to admit that not every issue in that case was his. Perhaps the best cases for this argument fell on three very key games: Jets-Packers, Bills-Jets, and Dolphins-Jets.

The Packers game is probably where we can pinpoint Geno’s descent. He had had a decent game, going 16 for 32 with 176 yards, a passing and a rushing touchdown, and one interception. However, Aaron Rodgers, unhindered by the ghosts of Revis and Cromartie, went hog-wild, throwing to Jordy Nelson like it was a game of backyard catch. Geno actually had the opportunity to tie the game up at the end, and would have too. He threw a crucial 4th down touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley, however, it was negated by offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg calling a timeout.

Why did Mornhinweg call the timeout?

Well, if you saw the highlight, it was because Geno called an audible, which Mornhinweg didn’t agree with. He ran to call timeout, despite the rule stating that only the head coach can call timeout, and despite knowing that the call didn’t come from Rex Ryan, the refs called timeout. From a psychological analysis, one could assume that it contributed to Geno’s loss of confidence. Imagine that, you throw the game tying touchdown, only to have it negated because your coordinator went full panic mode and called timeout. That sequence of actions alone would crush anyone’s confidence and make them second guess themselves.

In the second game, the Jets-Bills contest, Geno was pulled early in the game because he had been picked off three times trying to throw to newly acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin. Later on in the season, we found out why: Jets coaches, namely Mornhinweg, effectively forced Geno to throw to Harvin by making predetermined reads for him. Mornhinweg’s handling of Geno in those two games bordered on that of a horrible foster family, a combination of Judge Claude Frollo and Norma Bates. It’s almost a miracle that Geno didn’t snap due to his mishandling and poor nurturing, compounded with the frustration of millions of Jets fans and the media.

The final game was effectively the kiss of death for Smith. In a game where Rex Ryan and Mornhinweg ran the ball against the Dolphins for almost every play of the game, the ultimate middle finger to GM John Idzik for his disaster of an offseason and betrayal of Ryan, we saw an abandonment of Smith’s development. Mornhinweg no longer cared. In what little time he had, he had automatically determined that Smith wasn’t worth his salt despite there being time left in the season.

In a way, Geno’s story borders on tragic, the fact that fans have abandoned him after two seasons, that a coaching staff all but called him worthless to his face. And yet amazingly, Smith actually slightly improved despite the bad record. While his yardage went down, obviously because he was benched for two games, his touchdowns went up and his interceptions went down. His passer rating also improved.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Fans do have a reason to not be happy with Smith, but they can’t blame everything on him.

Last year was an unmitigated disaster. The hope was that the Jets could somehow be relevant in the East despite not having a secondary or a true number 1 wide receiver. However, because the quarterback deals with the brunt of the media due to his status on the team, Smith was effectively dealt a bad hand and had to endure plenty of criticism. And like I said, there were some reasonable gripes.

However, to call the Geno experiment a failure after two years will further solidify a reputation that the Jets are a quarterback graveyard.

Gailey has said in interviews that he will tailor an offense around Geno Smith, rather than forcing a square peg in a round hole and having him learn an offense, which is what Mornhinweg did. By endorsing Geno from Day 1, he’s giving him some confidence and showing him that at least someone believes in him. This is an excellent move and a step in the right direction. And here’s the thing, Gailey didn’t have to do this. He had a quarterback that already knew his system; he could have easily waited until his leg healed and then named him the starter.

Smith not only could have his confidence back, but he also finally has a full cabinet of weapons at his disposal, a true number 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, who has decided to take the young quarterback under his wing, as well as Eric Decker who could be a valuable #2 in his second year in New York, as well as a deep threat in Devin Smith. Given Geno’s ability to throw the deep ball, Smith actually could be more valuable that he looks right now.

Furthermore, he has a solid glut of running back talent behind him in Chris Ivory, Stevan Ridley, Zac Stacy and Bilal Powell. While none of these backs are speed runners, they do possess value as power backs, runners who will fight for yardage.

Lastly, he has his tight ends. Jace Amaro actually was the best tight end in his class last year, and as a mismatch against defenders, it’d be like having an extra receiver out there on every down. Jeff Cumberland and Zach Sudfeld also provide solid depth.

If Gailey can work the same magic he did with Thigpen and Fitzpatrick, he could make Geno into an at-least league average quarterback. Furthermore, he can take the pressure off Geno now, because there is a good team surrounding him.

However, Geno knows that this is his last shot, and while the previous regime screwed him over, he’ll have no excuses with what’s been set out for him now. Should he falter or be injured, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gailey’s original protege, will take the reigns, and he won’t last longer than maybe another year. The organization will not be beholden to Geno anymore and could use the interim period to develop Petty behind Fitzpatrick, all while getting rid of Smith.

This is a crucial season for the third year quarterback. He has the opportunity to redeem himself after two rough years. If only the fanbase felt the same way.

 

 

Were the DeflateGate Sanctions appropriate?

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DeflateGate has been nothing short of a firestorm of controversy over the past month. From the initial accusations by the Indianapolis Colts that the balls were under-inflated to the constant late night jokes about soft balls to the 300 page novel known as the Wells Report, down to the sanctions, the media has played this story to every angle.

The Wells report indicated that it was “more probable than not” Patriots staff members Jim McNally and John Jastremski tampered with the PSI of the game balls for the Patriots-Colts game after they went through initial inspection, and that Tom Brady was “at least generally aware” of this. The wording of the report obviously struck a chord with Patriots fans, who have since complained that the report essentially is making broad and biased accusations. Furthermore, they feel that Tom Brady is being unfairly targeted. The fact that many current and former NFL quarterbacks have corroborated the fact that they like to have their game balls prepared for their liking seems to indicate that Patriots fans are right, right?

Wrong.

Let’s begin by explaining how the Patriots were punished for DeflateGate.

* A fine of $1 Million

* Forfeiture of draft picks (a first rounder in 2016, and a fourth rounder in 2017.)

* A four game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady

* In addition McNally and Jastremski were both suspended without pay indefinitely by the Patriots, although this wasn’t league mandated, it seems as though it’s a byproduct of the scandal.

As we go through the sanctions, depending on your view, they are either reasonable or Draconian. with some in the fringe category believing they are too lenient. However, were the punishments appropriate?

Starting off with the fine, the punishment is appropriate. Seven years prior to this, there was “Spygate”, where the Patriots were accused of videotaping opposing players’ signals. The sanctions for that were as follows: a combined $750,000 in fines for the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick and the loss of the 2008 first round pick, (their own). The sanctions were meant to deter the cheating.

Looking at the fine, it’s obvious that this is essentially an extension of the league’s stance on cheating, and the fact that the Patriots have gone from $750,000 in fines between Belichick and the organization to $1 Million to the team as a whole indicates that the fine is meant to be a second warning. Even though videotaping signals and adjusting air pressure in footballs are two completely different offenses, they still fall under the general category of cheating. Cheating violates the integrity of fair play and sportsmanship of the sport, not the league. The league is an organization surrounding the sport. So it makes sense that the league will fine the Patriots as the actions of their employees indicate that they have cheated.

Patriots fans may complain that there is a bias, that other controversies like Noisegate yielded less severe punishment, and in truth they did, however, in the instance of Noisegate, the team as a whole cooperated in the investigation, whereas members of the Patriots involved in DeflateGate were not as cooperative with turning over evidence.

Moving on from this, the punishment that gets many Patriots fans riled up is the fact that Tom Brady will be suspended four games, depending on if he successfully appeals.

One of the major themes I have noticed about commentary of the DeflateGate suspension is the resounding “Tom is getting punished for a few PSI”. I’ve also noticed that commenters on Patriots related websites have essentially read the Wells report in the hopes that they can find a legal loophole which proves Brady’s innocence. I’ve heard news bytes where Patriots fans have equivocated the punishment to a PED suspension.  Let me make something perfectly clear. The punishment isn’t about the footballs or the lack of air in them, it’s about Brady’s conduct during the investigative process.

I think that Patriots fans, for the most part believe the NFL is punishing Brady for deflating the balls, as if he personally went into the bathroom at Gillette Stadium in the AFC championship game and stuck a needle in them. The fact that they bring up scientific study after scientific study which attempts to corroborate their belief that Brady is completely innocent is almost admirable, but completely misinformed. Again, it’s not the balls, it’s his conduct after the fact.

Brady may have sat through the meetings with the NFL’s investigators, but when asked to turn over cell phone and email records which would have aided the investigation, he refused. That is legally obstructive. When faced with an investigation, a person is expected to cooperate fully. You can’t say, “I’ll answer the questions, but you can’t have my phone records”. I’m not saying that Tom Brady is a criminal, but to act as if the investigation is below him and that he has any wiggle room indicates that he thinks that he is above discipline, And this is yet another problem. Brady may be one of the league’s biggest stars, but at the end of the day, he is still an employee of the Patriots, and by extension, the NFL, and all employees, regardless of status, are held to the same standard.

What makes it worse for Brady is that he not only didn’t fully cooperate, but when asked, he openly lied. At the DeflateGate press confererence , (you can read the transcript here) Brady repeatedly said that he had no knowledge of the deflated footballs, that he didn’t know about the football handling procedure that he and Peyton Manning had lobbied for eight years prior, and that he couldn’t tell the difference between the inflation level of the two footballs.

Brady deserves his suspension, not for PSI, but for pulling a Clinton, lying and acting as if he is above the law. Those who are close to him need to realize what his suspension is about, not the footballs, but his conduct. Even though he is allowed to appeal his suspension, the NFL would be hypocritical in approving a reduction from four to two games. In fact, when Brady appeals, the NFL should send him a packet containing a file which shows his hypocrisy, the lobbying for the rule change, the texts that Jastremski and McNally sent, and a transcript of the press conference in which he stood on the podium and lied to the media.

The fact is, the suspensions are appropriate. The fine is appropriate, the loss of draft picks will be difficult, and losing Tom Brady for four games will be difficult. Given the NFL wants to level the playing field, making an example of those who cheat to win is definitely the right way to go.

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft: April Edition

1. Arizona Diamondbacks: Brendan Rodgers, SS Lake Mary HS, Florida

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The one constant in an ever changing landscape of potential number one picks, Brendan Rodgers has the ability to be one of the best Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstops in the history of the draft. Blessed with a solid arm and an excellent bat, Rodgers is a player who could run through Arizona’s system in three years rather than the standard five for prep prospects. His leadership at the prep level will also translate well to the pro game. I project him as a potential 2-4 hitter in the Arizona lineup, likely ahead of Paul Goldschmidt.

2. Houston Astros: Dansby Swanson, SS/2B Vanderbilt

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It’s hard to imagine that Dansby is only seven months older than Astros super prospect Carlos Correa, but the dates never lie. The former College World Series Most Outstanding Player has the bat to be a solid middle of the order producer. Defensively, Swanson profiles higher as a second baseman, which works out a lot better for him, as he and Correa could form a potentially lethal future double play tandem, assuming Jose Altuve isn’t blocking him.

3. Colorado Rockies: Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt

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Size isn’t everything, at least that’s what Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer would like you to believe. After seeing a similarly sized Marcus Stroman succeed as a starter for the Toronto Blue Jays, Fulmer has done everything possible to justify the possibility of being the first pitcher off the board. Yes, his delivery is awkward, and he does show a lot of effort when pitching, but Fulmer’s sinking action is deadly, and something the Rockies would love to add (based on their previous forays into collegiate pitching) Fulmer also has one of the best fastballs in the class, and should he not work out as a starter, he’d be a more than impressive closer.

4. Texas Rangers: Dillon Tate, RHP California-Santa Barbara

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The Rangers were fortuitous enough to have a bad season right around now, especially considering the rise of certain collegiate pitchers to take the place of others. Among those pitchers is UCSB’s Dillon Tate, a young man who has a blazing fastball. While most of his college work has been in relief, Tate’s transition to the starting rotation has been nothing short of amazing, to the point where he’s been considered a top three, even the top pick in the draft. Tate’s versatility as a pitcher will help upgrade a woeful corps that has had to rely on the likes of Logan Verrett, Anthony Ranaudo, and Ross Detwiler for stability, no offense to them. His presence will almost immediately help a rotation in search of protection for their ace, Yu Darvish.

5. Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker, OF Gulf Coast HS, Florida

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The younger brother of Astros farmhand Preston Tucker, Kyle has one of the best pure swings in this year’s class. While he does need some work in the defensive department, his above average speed will definitely ensure that he’s at least a 6 hitter in the big leagues. Psychologically, Tucker’s supposed devil-may-care attitude may push some teams away, but on the flip side of the coin, he’s blessed with the confidence and poise that should help him mentally adjust to the rigors of professional ball

6. Minnesota Twins: Ian Happ, 2B/OF Cincinnati

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Positional versatility is a valuable asset, and for Cincinnati’s Ian Happ, it may be his biggest ally before the draft. Happ has played first base, second base, shortstop, third base and outfield, and while his current projection is in the corner, his swiss army knife capability, coupled with his solid bat could make him even more valuable than he is now. While the Twins do seem to have their infield determined for the future, figuring out who plays alongside Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia could be solved easily with this selection.

7. Boston Red Sox: Alex Bregman, SS LSU

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Four years ago, the Red Sox used their second first round selection on a young New Mexico prep catcher named Blake Swihart. Swihart has since become the Sox’s top positional prospect. This year, they could have the opportunity of a lifetime if Swihart’s friend Alex Bregman is still on the board with the 7th pick. Bregman has an unorthodox approach to defense that many in the scouting industry feel will warrant a position change to second base. Admittedly, I see this as a possibility, with Bregman potentially inheriting Dustin Pedroia’s job when he can’t play the position. Bregman’s bat is also approaching its freshman levels; he has adjusted well to the new flat seam baseballs.

8. Chicago White Sox: Tyler Jay, LHP Illinois

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There’s nothing more fun than seeing a team draft a home state product, and while Urbana-Champaign is a hike from Chicago, I’m certain that both Chicago teams have had their eyes on the Illini southpaw. Jay’s ceiling isn’t high, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong here, as he does have the makings of at least a dominant, if small reliever, thanks in part to his deceptive fastball.

9. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville

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While missing out on Jonathan Gray was pardonable, given the consolation prize was Kris Bryant, missing out on pitchers like Aaron Nola and Kyle Freeland in favor of Kyle Schwarber was definitely not a popular move with the fans. This year, the Cubs are going to have to use their pick on a pitcher, given the state of their offensive prospects, it seems the most obvious way to go. Kyle Funkhouser may look like the safest pick at the end of the day, but truthfully, he does have the potential to be a top half starter, provided he tinkers with his control. He is a workhorse as well, a trait that many a team would desire.

10. Philadelphia Phillies: Cornelius Randolph, 3B Griffin HS, Georgia

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A draft isn’t a draft without teams reaching for players, otherwise, what fun would there be? Cornelius Randolph is a reach, but his potential as a power hitting replacement for Ryan Howard in the distant future may be enticing enough for the Phillies to go after him. Randolph comes from the same high school as former first overall pick Tim Beckham, and judging by his ability, he could conceivably be the school’s second first rounder. Griffin best fits as a third baseman, which could mean that Maikel Franco would have to move across the diamond, not that that would be much of an issue. Griffin could conceivably also play second base or the outfield, meaning that wherever he goes, he would definitely be an upgrade over whomever leaves.

11. Cincinnati Reds: Nathan Kirby, LHP Virginia

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Nathan Kirby is one of my favorites, and I do have a list of favorites in this draft, but unfortunately, his performance as of late has dropped him from an unquestionable top five to a potential top 15. While he still has the velocity and the mechanics that would make him a solid starter, there’s concern that Kirby has gotten too predictable, and could possibly drop more unless he has a turnaround in the last two months of the season. Still, he has the ceiling to be a number two pitcher in a staff, and for the Reds, who may be remodeling their rotation in the coming years, Kirby may be one excellent young mainstay.

12. Miami Marlins: Kevin Newman, SS Arizona

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Stock often rises as a result of visibility, and there is no better evidence from an offensive perspective than Kevin Newman stealing home against Rice back in February. Newman’s gutsiness, or as I referred to it in a tweet, his balls of steal, definitely set the stage for him to climb up in the rankings. While Newman is probably a slap hitter at best, his defensive ability and his legs are considered valuable assets, and in a year or two, he could replace Dee Gordon as the starting second baseman. Newman’s a solid hitter for average, he won the batting title twice in summer ball, so expect him to play a key role in the top of any lineup.

13. Tampa Bay Rays: Kolby Allard, LHP San Clemente HS, California

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Three of the next five picks in this draft are what I would deem high risk-high reward. At one point, they would have been top ten picks, but injuries have dropped their stock to the point where other teams just as easily can pick them up. First up is Allard, who at one point was considered the top prep pitcher in the class. While he still is the first one off the board in this mock, going 13th overall is probably indicative of how unpredictable this year’s prep pitching class is. Allard still has the height, the liveliness, and the workhorse ability as a starter, but back trouble has knocked him out of commission. Of course, he still has some time to raise his stock back to preseason levels, and should he impress, he could definitely jump back into the top ten.

14. Atlanta Braves: Daz Cameron, OF Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Georgia

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I probably forgot to mention this with Cornelius Randolph, but I can definitely say it now. Georgia is a hotbed for prep baseball talent. Since 2007, there has been at least one first round pick from a Georgia high school. This year’s top prospect is arguably its most famous. Daz Cameron may be playing a weaker schedule this year, and his junior year may have been a down year, but his potential as a five tool player, despite what he has now shouldn’t be that concerning, especially if the right team moulds him into a Jason Hayward type star.

15. Milwaukee Brewers: Brady Aiken, LHP IMG Academy

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Brady Aiken will likely be the biggest risk of the draft, and whether or not teams are willing to take him especially after the findings on his physical turned out to be legitimate, it could potentially spell a lot of trouble for the young man in the future. I could see the Brewers, who have yet to find the next Ben Sheets, potentially taking a look at him, especially given their recent forays into high ceiling prep arms. Even though he’ll likely be on the shelf until next March, and will be limited for the next year, the potential for him to bounce back from this major setback, especially since he’s only 19 years old, would be worth the year of waiting.

16. New York Yankees: Kyler Murray, SS Allen HS, Texas

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Kyler Murray is a celebrity draft pick, in the sense that his presence on this board will definitely cause a lot of controversy. Yes, he’s also the consensus top high school quarterback recruit, and yes, he’s committed to Texas A&M, where he’s expected to step into the long vacated shoes of Johnny Manziel, bur given the history of dual sport athletes who have been taken high in the MLB draft, it’s likely that Murray, who reminds me of Everth Cabrera with a higher ceiling, could sign with the Yankees for the right price. Assuming the Didi Gregorius experiment doesn’t work out as planned, it’s safe to assume the Yankees will want to look for their next homegrown shortstop star.

17. Cleveland Indians: Michael Matuella, RHP Duke

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Two years ago, it was Ryne Stanek and Sean Manaea. Last year, it was Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde. This year, it’s Brady Aiken and Michael Matuella. Long plagued with health issues related to a back problem, Matuella’s potential to throw a major league fastball has been his longstanding support, and even with Tommy John surgery, I’d be surprised if he falls completely out of the first round. Certainly, he is going to fall out of the top ten, which is where I had him before, but a team looking to strengthen their rotation would definitely be inclined to overlook the health problems in the hopes that they can get him back in working order. And just imagine the quartet of Cory Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Michael Matuella. That would instantly upgrade the team’s rotation from scary to dangerous.

18. San Francisco Giants: DJ Stewart, OF Florida State

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Drafting for need is a rare thing in the MLB draft, but in the case of the Giants, the team needs power. DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, and he has the capability to be one, but like any young power hitter, he needs consistency. Considering the successful developments of guys like Brandon Belt and Crawford into top hitters, making DJ Stewart into a consistent power hitter shouldn’t be a major challenge for the Giants.

19. Pittsburgh Pirates: Justin Hooper, LHP De La Salle HS

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Justin Hooper is probably the biggest enigma of the draft. He’s got the height and the tools to be a frontline starter, but the consistency and the signability are the biggest issues. Considering Pittsburgh’s history with overpaying for quality talent, it wouldn’t surprise me if they really make Hooper an offer he can’t refuse. Having Hooper in the same staff as Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham and Jameson Taillon is what elevates the Pirates from contenders to champion picks.

20. Oakland A’s: Walker Buehler, RHP Vanderbilt

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The A’s may have a glut of pitching now, but knowing how unpredictable their GM is, it’s possible that that pitching could be gone soon. In this case, it’s time to go with safe pick number 2, Walker Buehler has the stuff to be a solid number two, and despite the fact that he’s not your typical starter build, he’s managed to hold his own for the past three seasons. If Buehler can put away the durability concerns, he could jump back into the top 15.

21. Kansas City Royals: Beau Burrows, RHP Weatherford HS, Texas

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Consistency is a wonderful thing to have if you’re a prep pitcher, and if you’re consistently throwing mid 90’s heat, that’s even better. Admittedly, I’ve not been as high on Burrows as I should have been, but seeing the reports on him, I could conceivably see him making an impact on a rotation by 2020. Burrows’ mechanics however are what drop him, as he has a bit of a kink in his torso which has some concerned is a tell. The Royals would still do well to draft and develop him into the young arm they’ve been looking for for years.

22. Detroit Tigers: Mike Nikorak, RHP Stroudsburg HS, Pennsylvania

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He has the body, the speed, and the mechanics to be a starter in the majors. What he lacks is a track record, which is why he’s fallen to pick 22 in this mock. Unknown until last year, Nikorak’s saving grace was an excellent junior season which put him on the map. The Tigers could possibly use him as a successful transition from Justin Verlander. Nikorak however could be a tough sign, since he has a strong commitment to Alabama, but the opportunity to play for the Tigers could sway him a bit.

23. St. Louis Cardinals: Chris Betts, C Wilson HS, California

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Did you know that Yadier Molina is going to be 33 years old this year? And that he’s been catching for 11 seasons? The Cardinals would have incredible foresight if they start looking for Yadier’s heir now, especially given the weakness of this year’s catching class. However, Chris Betts does stand out, especially considering his hose for an arm and the fact that he’s a left-handed power hitter. Betts also has a more athletic body this year, which bodes well for his chances to stay behind the plate. He’ll likely be ready for the Majors by the time Molina is 37, by then he’ll likely have retired.

24. Los Angeles Dodgers: Trent Clark, OF Richland HS, Texas

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Having a guy who consistently hits and hits is a major plus, especially if that player is a prep athlete. Trent Clark has yet to show if he’s more contact or power oriented, and his defense puts him in a corner outfield, but to have him in a Dodgers outfield that consists of Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson is enough to make any Dodger fan excited. Clark could conceivably be the next pre-slump Andre Ethier,

25. Baltimore Orioles: Richie Martin, SS Florida

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Richie Martin’s defense is what makes him such an attractive asset, and while he had some initial difficulties as a hitter, it’s started to come around for him. The Orioles would be smart to tab him as their successor for JJ Hardy.

26. Los Angeles Angels: Phil Bickford, RHP College of Southern Nevada

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Phil Bickford’s decision to leave Cal State Fullerton may have rubbed some teams the wrong way, but he has shown that he can be a dominant pitcher when possible. If he could show some consistency, then he’d be much higher on the list, but his pure stuff keeps him at least at the tail end of the first round of the draft. The Angels were nine minutes away from him when he was in college, so they must have gotten good enough info on him. I could see Bickford and Sean Newcomb forming a dominant 1-2 punch for the Angels.

Compensatory Picks:

27. Colorado Rockies: Nick Plummer, OF Brother Rice HS

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Plummer’s speed would definitely complement David Dahl’s power. Having players with similar attributes to Tulo and CarGo will ease the transition.

28. Atlanta Braves: Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College

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The Braves will soon figure out that power hitting is key. Shaw’s season may have been less than stellar, but the potential to replace Gattis’ power could have the Braves taking a long hard look.

29. Toronto Blue Jays: Demi Orimoloye, OF St. Matthew’s HS, Ontario

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Orimoloye is a tank. A potential five tool Canadian star, he could find himself playing for his home province team should his stock stay where it is now.

30. New York Yankees: Garrett Whitley, OF Niskayuna HS

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Whitley’s defense and speed make him an already decent centerfielder, his bat makes him Niskayuna’s first legitimate MLB prospect. Expect his home state Yankees to be looking hard at him.

31. San Francisco Giants: David Thompson, 1B/3B Miami

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I have been high on Thompson since I saw his Cape League tape, and my faith has been rewarded as he’s hit 10 home runs so far this year. The Giants could completely revamp their power hitting with Thompson behind DJ Stewart in the batting order

32. Pittsburgh Pirates: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B Concordia Lutheran HS, Texas

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Charlie’s boy has the bat and the arm to stay at third base. He’d be a solid successor to Alvarez, who’ll likely be at first when Ke’Bryan comes up.

33. Kansas City Royals: Gio Brusa, OF Pacific

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Though he hasn’t broken out the way he was expected to, Brusa has the hitting ability and the power to be a long term DH, potentially taking over for Kendrys Morales when he’s done.

34. Detroit Tigers: Tyler Stephenson, C Kennesaw Mountain HS, Georgia

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A guy who’s considered a prep version of Matt Wieters could definitely find himself playing for a team in need of an answer when Alex Avila finally leaves.

35. Los Angeles Dodgers: James Kaprielian, RHP UCLA

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Kaprielian would likely be an arm our of the bullpen for the Dodgers, but once properly developed, his fastball and curveball would make him a solid closer.

36. Baltimore Orioles: Alonzo Jones, 2B/OF Columbus HS, Georgia

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His speed makes him a candidate to play outfield in the future, but what really matters is his ability to be the leadoff hitter that the Orioles can use to add dimension to their future offense.

 

The Little Guys: Analyzing the 2014 Rule 5 Class

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Picture this: You’re recruited for a month long internship with a top company, and should you succeed at that internship, the company will offer you a job. However, at the end of the internship, you find out you didn’t make the cut. However, another top company happened to notice you, and offers you a full time position there, no questions asked.

Admittedly, while not the best way, this is still a good way to describe what happened to Texas Rangers pitcher Logan Verrett. A former Mets draft pick and projected fringe major leaguer, Verrett was given the opportunity for a fresh start when he was plucked out of their system by the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft. Verrett had a decent spring, but given the lack of space on the Orioles’ roster, especially in the relief corps, the team tried to keep him by sneaking him through the waiver wire. The Rangers, who have been dealing with several injuries this spring, pounced, and flew him out to Arlington where he was given the opportunity to pitch against his old team, the Mets, in an exhibition tuneup.

The Rule 5 Draft is mutually beneficial for teams and players. On the players side, it allows certain prospects who have languished in the minor leagues for years to showcase their stuff for teams who need, and are looking for cheap talent. On the teams’ side, it’s a very cheap way to try out a player who may or may not have major league potential. Should the player succeed, he has the opportunity to stay on the roster, provided it’s for a full year. Should he not, the team offers the player back to his old team for half the money it cost to draft him.

The Rule 5 Draft has been especially beneficial for teams looking for relief help, as it has yielded plenty of decent pitchers; among the more recent examples, Josh Fields, who went from being a failed first round pick in the Red Sox system to being a key member of the Astros bullpen, and TJ McFarland, an Indians minor leaguer who went to the Orioles and became a solid reliever/starter hybrid.

This year’s class, while it’s still a bit early to make determinations, has the best shot of being one of the more valuable Rule 5 classes in the draft’s history. Usually during Spring Training, about half of the picks made are returned to their original teams, but as of today, only one, Astros pitcher Jandel Gustave has been returned, while all those left still have shots at, or have already made the major league roster.

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Oscar Hernandez was all but given a shot at being Arizona’s backup catcher as the team opted not to upgrade the position following the Miguel Montero trade. With Tuffy Gosewisch expected to start until top prospect Peter O’Brien was ready, Hernandez seemed primed for the important role of backup catcher. However, Hernandez injured his wrist while batting back in early march, and underwent surgery. He is currently in his third week of recovery; usually this type of surgery takes up to 5 weeks to recover. While his roster status is murky, his competition for the backup spot doesn’t seem to offer much concern as to whether or not he will stay, or be returned to Tampa Bay. Gerald Laird may have experience, but a 36 year old catcher isn’t exactly reassuring for long term security, and Blake Lalli is a more expensive Hernandez. Expect the Diamondbacks to make a decision on him soon.

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Mark Canha represents a departure of the fundamental aspect of Moneyball, getting-on-base, however, in terms of cheap talent, he fits the bill. A power hitting first baseman with a frustrating propensity to strike out (Think of a younger and cheaper Mark Reynolds), he has been viewed as a platoon player with former Mets slugger Ike Davis. Canha had a solid spring, leading the team in home runs, and his power has been seen as crucial in coping with the loss of Josh Donaldson. He will be used primarily against left-handed pitchers, but his splits in the minors allow him to be the first man off the bench when facing right handed pitching. Given the faith the A’s have placed in their youth, it’s highly unlikely that Canha returns to Miami, from where he was plucked by Colorado,

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While first round picks and top prospects are often given higher visibility than other minor leaguers, it doesn’t always mean that they’re immune to being expendable, and no better example comes to mind than Delino DeShields. The former Astros first round pick took an exceptionally long time to adjust to the minor leagues after being drafted, and jumped on and off of the Top 100 Prospect list. Just when it seemed like he had finally come into his own, however, the Astros had strengthened their system and he found himself expendable. With the Rangers, DeShields has the opportunity to be a fourth outfielder and a late inning speed boost. Given the Rangers’ constant problems with injuries, it wouldn’t be a surprise if DeShields does find some regular playing time during the season.

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If you’re a Rule 5 Pick, and you somehow make it on the Orioles roster, chances are you will likely stick. Given the team’s recent success with Darren O’Day and TJ McFarland, Jason Garcia is likely breathing a sigh of relief, and thanking his lucky stars that he was kept while Logan Verrett was claimed. He’s the typical Rule 5 guy, a pitcher who may present some value in the bullpen. If he can make himself noticed, he may not have to worry about being returned to Boston.

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J.R. Graham is a former top prospect trying to reinvent himself after dealing with an injury that nearly ended his career. The former top 100 prospect is considered to still have some degree of value as a reliever, and is expected to enter high pressure situations to prove his worth. Graham was one of the few Rule 5 picks to gain exposure from the national media during camp, as his stirrups led to a fascinating human interest story from Fox Sports. Given the Twins’ lack of a viable live arm in the bullpen, odds are Graham will not have to come back to Atlanta.

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Taylor Featherston is probably the most underrated pick in this year’s class. A guy who didn’t make much buzz during the spring, he still somehow impressed the Angels brass enough to make the team as a backup infielder. Given the importance of backup shortstops, Featherston is likely going to serve primarily as a defensive sub off the bench. While the Angels have a glut of middle infield depth in Johnny Giavotella, Grant Green and Josh Rutledge, Featherston’s positional versatility should give the Angels more incentive to keep him rather than return him to the Rockies.

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Teams that are in rebuild mode often use their Rule 5 pick on positional players. The Marlins successfully gambled their 2005 pick and turned it into Dan Uggla, while the White Sox got value in catcher Adrian Nieto last year. This year, the Phillies are giving Odubel Herrera the opportunity to play the outfield while they play the rebuild game. Herrera has speed and a lively bat, and his glove makes him a valuable centerfielder. In fact, his play in centerfield effectively moved Ben Revere to left field. Herrera’s spring, not to mention his ability has led one sports page to dub him the next Shane Victorino, who was, incidentally, a Rule 5 pick of the Phillies in 2005. Because of the value that Herrera offers, he could conceivably stay in Philadelphia, rather than go back to the clog that is the Rangers’ middle infield depth.

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Although not as visible as Verrett, Andrew McKirahan is filling a similar role to his fellow Rule 5er. Bullpen inconsistency and injuries essentially forced the Braves to claim the former Cubs prospect on waivers and use him. This isn’t to make McKirahan’s addition sound like a bad move, rather, it’s good for him, as he has a guaranteed spot, at least until Josh Outman returns from the disabled list. McKirahan has value as a lefthandedhanded long reliever, and his spring has been decent; in fact he threw a perfect inning in his Braves debut. He and Luis Avilan will make up the left-handed portion of the Braves bullpen, which is a good idea to give him some experience as the Braves rebuild.

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Sean Gilmartin follows a similar narrative to Josh Fields: a former first round pick ends up being traded to another team, and then toils in the minors there, only to be picked by another team in the Rule 5 draft. Once a consensus All-American, he found himself thrust into one of the oddest bullpen competitions in spring. Gilmartin was considered the “best man” in a competition where the best ERA was below 6, and though he settled down and lowered his ERA, the Mets went out and acquired two left-handed relievers, likely to put less pressure on him. With the Mets opting to go with an unconventional, and somewhat confusing 8 man bullpen, Gilmartin has the chance to prove that he’s not just a warm body. As a former starter, his value will be in long relief. Even if Alex Torres has some consistency issues, Gilmartin is still on a shorter leash, and he will need to replicate his latter half of spring if he wants to avoid returning to Minnesota.

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Daniel Winkler may be one of the biggest enigmas of this year’s class. A right-hander with plenty of talent, he was struck by the Tommy John bug last year, and is expected to miss time while he recovers. Injuries are usually the big complicator for Rule 5 picks, so the amount of days that Winkler gets with the Braves will likely not be enough to exhaust his rule 5 status until 2016. Don’t be surprised if he possibly gets returned to Colorado.

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David Rollins is the biggest wild card of the group. While he does have value as a left-handed reliever, he unfortunately shot himself in the foot by testing positive for PEDs, leading to an 80 game suspension, the first time this has happened. The Mariners have not said whether they will return him to the Astros, but don’t hold out hope that he will stay.

We’ve already covered Logan Verrett, so no need to go back there.

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The only Rule 5 pick who has prior major league experience, Andy Oliver had an advantage over some of his contemporaries, and as the injuries hit, his chances seemed better and better. However, it seems as if Oliver may not have a spot on the team, despite making Bleacher Report’s All Spring Training Team. Oliver was placed on waivers, and even if he clears, the Phillies would have to offer Oliver back to the Pittsburgh Pirates or make a deal involving him, before they could option him to the minors.

Of course, making the roster and surviving the season are two completely different things, so those who have made the the cut still have the challenge of staying on the major league roster.  So long as a player stays on the active roster for 90 days, he will lost his Rule 5 status, and a team can proceed however they wish with their player.

Will we be seeing another Uggla, Victorino, or Johan Santana from this group? Time will tell.

Requiem for Kris Bryant

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To say that Chicago Cubs super prospect Kris Bryant’s spring was impressive is perhaps the understatement of the year. A prospect who batted well above .400 and led all of Major League Baseball in home runs is, in most cases, justification for a spot on the Major League roster.

Note, however, that I said, in most cases, as despite his almost video game like spring, Bryant will be spending the beginning of the season “seasoning” in Iowa. Cubs president Theo Epstein had all but publicly said that Bryant would start the season in the minors. Of course, the reaction to this move is less than satisfactory. Cubs fans are understandably upset, Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras is very angry, and the Major League Baseball Players’ Association has issued a statement on Bryant’s demotion, calling it a “bad day for baseball”. Even I am upset that Kris Bryant will have to waste two weeks in AAA instead of being an immediate contributor.

Having already discussed the reason why top prospects often spend extra time in the minors, it’s clear why Bryant is going down instead of staying up. For those who still need help connecting the dots, it’s more feasible for the Cubs to have a full six years of Kris Bryant production on the cheap, rather than five years for the sake of an early promotion. And that’s understandable. The Cubs are going to be stacked with cheap high ceiling talent until the early 2020s. It’s clear that should all their young bats pan out, they will have to either dole out big contracts early in these players’ careers, pay them in free agency, or risk losing them to big spending franchises like the Yankees and Dodgers.

However, the problem for fans isn’t just delaying Bryant’s debut, it’s also the way they explained why they were going to do it.

Throughout Spring Training, Theo Epstein never admitted why Bryant was going to stay down. Sure, he offered the same excuse, that Bryant “needed more seasoning”, and offered up Dustin Pedroia and his Rookie of the Year 2007 season as a reason for why Bryant deserved to stay down, but these excuses had no foundation to them.

Trying to justify demoting a prospect like Bryant is hard to do, especially for a fanbase that has had very little to cheer about lately, but I believe that Epstein had the opportunity to diffuse some anger by explaining his true motivations.

Had he just said “I am demoting Bryant because it makes sense to keep him an extra year when he will be in his prime rather than lose that year for two weeks of production”, I’m certain that fans would have understood. Would they have accepted the justification? In all likelihood, they wouldn’t take it well, but they would still take it. Honesty, while painful, is a better policy than presenting the same excuse and expecting the fans to take it, no questions asked.

Sure, Scott Boras and the MLBPA would have had justification to file a grievance against Epstein and the Cubs, but it would have allowed for the elephant in the room to be addressed. It’s no secret that the arbitration clock is considered a nuisance, a hinderance which prevents top prospects who are major league ready from contributing when they are ready, but rules are meant to be broken. Had Curt Flood not opted to report to the Phillies after he had been traded from the Cardinals, Major League Baseball likely would still be operating under the reserve clause. Had Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Josh Bell not received a $5 Million signing bonus to keep him from committing to the University of Texas, then the draft slotting system would not have been implemented. Had the Rangers not paid an obscenely expensive posting fee to pry Yu Darvish away from Japan, then the slotting system wouldn’t have been revised.

We could spend the remainder of this post playing the “what if” game, but it’s clear, Kris Bryant is going to spend an extra two weeks in Iowa, and when the Cubs promote him, his clock will tick. He’ll be a free agent by 2021, barring him signing a contract extension. In the meantime, I wouldn’t be surprised if the MLBPA and Major League Baseball decide to discuss ways to eliminate the arbitration clock, with an idea in place by next offseason.

Until then, patience, Cubs fans. Two weeks doesn’t determine a whole season, and when Bryant comes, you’ll probably never have to see him go to the minors again.

2015 MLB Mock Draft: Pitchers and Catchers Edition, Part 2.

Here is part 2 of the 2015 Pitchers and Catchers MLB Mock Draft.

*Note: Apologies for mixing up the draft order, you can find Boston’s selection in the previous article.

8. Chicago White Sox

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We’ve all seen it happen, a promising young player is beset by injuries and falls in the draft. It’s a common story when it comes to baseball, in fact, some of these injured prospects fall out of the top ten rounds entirely, like Jordan Sheffield. Now, granted, Sheffield was a prep arm, but in college, falling out of the first round due to injury, especially if you’re a pitcher indicates either a lack of confidence that a player will recover.

Of course, if you’re Duke pitcher Michael Matuella, that may not be an issue at all. Matuella, who has been dealing with back problems since entering college, showed in his season debut that he has the potential to be a high pick, still. Tossing six innings of shutout ball, with eight strikeouts and four hits allowed, he is making a solid case to go higher, if only he was in a weaker college pitching class.

Matuella’s height, fastball (arguably the best of his class) and secondary pitches make him an imposing force in the ACC, and his overpowering delivery only solidifies how much pro potential he has.

Chicago has become an example of pitching gone right, having made Chris Sale into an ace and bringing Carlos Rodon into their immediate plans. Adding a right-hander like Matuella will make this rotation even scarier.

9. Chicago Cubs

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It seems as if the Chicago Cubs are ready to end 100+ years of suffering this season and make the World Series for the first time since World War II ended. They have enough young and controllable hitting that can last them until the beginning of the 2020s, and their rotation is anchored by a proven winner in Jon Lester. But, in order to sustain this hypothetical success, the Cubs may need to build up their future rotation, and there may be no better way than to pick up a proven winner.

It’s an arms race between Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler and Carson Fulmer, but Buehler, despite not having the desirable build, compensates by being a more complete hurler. With a four pitch arsenal, solid command, and, the ability to stay a starter, not to mention the strong collegiate pitching class, Buehler could theoretically fall into Chicago’s lap.

Even though the last first round pitcher the Cubs drafted failed to gain any traction in the system, the fact that there is so much potential in this class, coupled by an impressive amount of depth in the positional prospects practically ensures that the Cubs try again, hopefully with different results.

10. Philadelphia Phillies

Vanderbilt vs Central Arkansas. Photos by Joe Howell

Philadelphia’s reputation as a wasteland for prospects is largely due to the dark period between 2004 and 2012, when the Phillies drafted prep players that amounted to little to no success. Of course, lately, that reputation, while still present, is starting to show some cracks, as players like Jesse Biddle, JP Crawford, and Aaron Nola are making major cases to be successful additions. to a future Phillies team. However, in the case of Philadelphia’s latest rebuild, more must be done in order to ensure future success, and that rebuild starts in the middle of the infield.

I had previously mocked LSU’s Alex Bregman here because of the Nola factor, but the emergence of Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson as a viable future second baseman, coupled with the hypothetical chance that he would be available here has me feeling that the Phillies would definitely consider taking him over Bregman.

Unlike Bregman, Swanson was a second baseman entering college, and has only become a shortstop because of necessity, and granted, while he’s done an adequate job filling the position, in all likelihood, when he does go pro, he’ll have better prospects as a second baseman.

The idea of having Swanson and JP Crawford forming the future of the Phillies’ middle infield is a very appealing one. Swanson, on the offensive side of the ball, would take Rollins’ role, a viable leadoff hitter with some pop, the ability to hit to the gaps, and the speed to stretch singles into doubles.

11. Cincinnati Reds

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Brandon Phillips is a mercurial asset for the Reds. For the past nine seasons, he’s gone from being one of the best at his position to being both an injury risk and a major headache. However long he has left, the Reds at least should do themselves the favor of starting to look towards his future replacement. While I would love to see them go local and grab Ian Happ, the idea is that Happ will likely pull a Craig Biggio and become an outfielder in the future.

In this case, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman may be the best fit. While he plays a passable shortstop in college, his intangibles will almost assure him a spot at second in pro ball. Bregman, like Phillips, is a solid offensive producer, capable of filling at least the 5 hole, and the 3 hole at best.

Bregman is characterized as a hard worker, and while he did have a down sophomore year that many collegians would strive for, expect him to work harder this year and make a case for a top five pick. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays his junior season, as he could potentially raise his stock to pre 2014 levels, when he was considered a near lock for the number 1 pick.

12. Miami Marlins

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Although the Marlins have a good pitching staff now, it’s entirely possible that they’ll want one at the level of their NL East bretheren, and whether it’s best asset is bought (Nationals) or developed (Mets), the best time to get that missing piece would probably be right now. Imagine a staff led by Jose Fernandez, with two big flamethrowers offering protection behind him.

Following their selection of Tyler Kolek who possessed the best prep fastball in the 2014 draft, the Marlins would have a world of opportunity here to grab what is likely the fastest pitcher in this year’s draft: De La Salle’s Justin Hooper. Like Kolek, Hooper is a tall pitcher, but unlike him, he’s not fully developed, as scouts feel that he could bulk up and add more speed to a high 90’s fastball that’s considered one of the best in his class.

Hooper is incredibly raw, however, as his curveball, changeup, and control all need retooling, and as of now, he figures to be a professional bullpen arm. However, his current attributes and the potential for development as he fills out could help him become a solid middle of the rotation pitcher.

13. Tampa Bay Rays

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When it comes to the draft, the Rays are one of the best teams. Having turned Evan Longoria into a franchise face, David Price into arguably the best pitcher in team history, and being able to somehow resurrect the careers of Tim Beckham and Justin O’Connor, the Rays deserve some credit for what they have done. Of course, changeover is inevitable, and with Price and Hellickson gone, it’s likely the Rays will want to develop another staff ace.

Though small for a pitcher, Carson Fulmer of Vanderbilt is not to be taken lightly. Blessed with a very lively arm, Fulmer is able to throw mid 90’s fastballs and breaking balls that keep hitters off balance. While his control is in need of tuning, his mound presence is definitely intimidating.

A winner at the college level, both for Vanderbilt and Team USA, Fulmer would fit right in with the Rays pitching staff, though the question is, where? The height stigma that still exists in scouting suggests that he’ll be an adequate bullpen arm, although history has shown as of late that height doesn’t matter, given Marcus Stroman’s successful first season as a Jays pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see what course Fulmer takes once drafted.

14. Atlanta Braves

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Every team is due for a rebuild, and the Braves are no exception. Swapping out established stars like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis is every indication that the Braves know that it’s time to cash in and restart the process. Now granted, they did receive a solid haul for their trouble, but none of those pieces included a bona fide outfield prospect, a position that likely will give the Braves trouble in the future.

Understandably, this is one of the weaker classes for positional talent, but the players there do have unique potential. Cincinnati’s Ian Happ is one of these products, an AAC star who has flashed that potential in two tours of summer ball. Happ has positional versatility, while he is likely going to play outfield professionally, he has a history of playing second base as well.

Happ may not be your typical power hitter, but he does have the ability to hit for power, albeit not in a full time capacity. His speed also allows him to be a contributor in the top of the order as well, and he provides value as a switch hitter.

 

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft: Pitchers and Catchers Edition, Part 1

The 2015 MLB Draft Order has officially been set, thanks to the San Diego Padres electing to sign James Shields. With their forfeiture of the 13th overall pick, the start of the college baseball season, and of course, pitchers and catchers reporting for Major League Baseball’s Spring Training, it seems appropriate to do yet another mock draft.

You all know how this works by now, the selections are done based on organizational (as in top 20 prospects) need, the draft will be split up so as to not have this take all day, after the draft is complete, I’ll release the full results, etc. etc. etc.

So without further delay, here are the first seven picks for the 2014 MLB Mock Draft

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

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Like the center in basketball, the quarterback in football, and the goalie in hockey, shortstop is often considered one of the most important positions. While one is mainly valued for his defensive abilities, a shortstop that can hit is considered a major boon, and for the Diamondbacks, who have the likes of Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings piloting the position now, it couldn’t be a better time for them to have the number one pick.

Brendan Rodgers of Lake Mary High School is arguably the best prep player in the country. I’ve used the term HAPS, or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop to describe players like him, prep shortstops with advanced tools and the ability to go through a minor league system quickly. His bat alone could have him in the majors in three years, and his defense while currently decent enough to allow him to stay at his current position, will only improve with time in the minors.

Rodgers would be the perfect complement to Paul Goldschmidt and Yasmany Tomas, who would be 31 and 27, respectively. Having three potent bats with power potential would certainly allow Arizona to complement what is likely going to be a solid up-and-coming rotation, allowing them to compete in the NL West.

2. Houston Astros

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The Astros have managed to build a system that many teams would kill to have, especially with the high floor college talent they’ve acquired in the past draft. While they have a solid foundation of righthanded pitching, thanks in part to Mark Appel and Lance McCullers, their lack of a future impact left-handed pitcher is what holds the team from having a solid system.

Virginia’s Nathan Kirby may not have the upside that 2014 draft pick Brady Aiken had, but he also doesn’t have the history that Aiken has with the Astros. This isn’t to say that Kirby is your prototypical safe pick, rather, he has the potential to be a staff anchor. In his opening start, Kirby only allowed three hits in seven innings of work against East Carolina, which is one of the American Athletic Conference’s toughest teams.

Kirby has a solid three pitch mix, a fastball, slider, and changeup which will only get better due to his commitment to filling out his frame during the summer. He has solid command, and will play the zone in order

The Astros would also benefit from drafting Kirby, as his old college teammate, Derek Fisher, is already in their system, and building upon that preexisting chemistry will do them a world of good in developing confidence in their starter.

3. Colorado Rockies

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I mentioned it in my last mock, but I think it bears repeating: By developing their own starters instead of buying them, the Colorado Rockies will have an advantage that no NL club has: pitchers who are used to throwing in the thin air of Denver. And it doesn’t matter if the pitcher is left or right-handed, the idea is that in developing their own arms, they form a pitching staff that allows them to compete in the NL West. Having Jon Gray, Eddie Butler and Kyle Freeland starting the staff is good, but what they need is another bona fide arm.

The past five years have been kind to teams who have had the number three pick in the draft, and 2015 will be no exception. Brady Aiken’s decision to forgo his UCLA commitment has catapulted him to the top of what is already a vaunted arms class, and significantly improves the talent level of a limited left-handed class.

Whether or not he does have an issue with his throwing arm will be negligible, given his upside as a pitcher. His fastball-curveball-changeup combination are incredibly advanced for his age, and his build is similar to that of top right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Funkhouser.

Aiken will complement fellow southpaw Kyle Freeland quite well, and will allow the Rockies to develop variety in their rotation with Gray and Butler as righthanded starters.

4. Texas Rangers

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You can make as many jokes as you like about the state of the Rangers rotation, because currently, aside from Yu Darvish, there is little upside. Sure, getting Anthony Ranaudo from Boston may offer some hope, and Chi Chi Gonzalez could turn out to be a better draft choice then I thought, but truth be told, even if the Rangers had a lineup of players that possessed Joey Gallo’s attributes, it still wouldn’t make up for the fact that the rotation will need to be fixed in the future.

Sometimes the stars align, however, and an advanced college arm will fall into your lap. Louisville ace Kyle Funkhouser is that arm. While I had a feeling that he could be one of the best arms in the draft, but was wary of whether or not his ability and potential demand for a big contract could drop him a few picks, his 12 strikeout performance against Alabama State is pretty much him saying to me, “Give me some credit and put me in the top 5 already!”

Funkhouser certainly deserves credit where it’s due, as he was Team USA’s top prospect last summer, but what really makes him attractive to teams is his pitch arsenal, which currently would grade as league average, but has the potential to improve to ace levels.

While Alabama State isn’t exactly a baseball powerhouse, should Funkhouser continue pitching the way he does even if he drops his strikeout totals, there’s no doubt he could be in conversation to be the top pick.

5. Houston Astros

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Legacy prospects are as much of a gamble as any other prospects. Some turn out to be as good, if not better than their fathers, while others fail in that regard. There’s no doubt that Delino Deshields could have been a solid prospect, but the Astros organization was running out of patience and understandably, with plenty of talent and few 40 man roster spots open, left him unprotected for the Texas Rangers to take. Of course, Deshields was known mainly for his speed; Houston’s hypothetical pick here has more dimension to his game.

Daz Cameron, of Eagles Landing Christian Academy, is the son of Mike Cameron, who was probably one of the most underrated players of his generation. Cameron the younger, at one point was viewed as a top pick, but a drop off in his junior year has him somewhere between top ten and top fifteen. However, Cameron’s current ability affords him the opportunity of improving his draft stock.

A solid contact hitter now, he has the potential to add power to his swing, and while he has average speed for the basepaths, he does have the ability to cover his position well enough to compensate defensively.

Cameron is a prodigy, however, as he is part of the very exclusive club of players who have played in the All-American Game twice His talent will be hard to ignore, and it wouldn’t surprise me if, should he improve, the Astros end up taking him second overall.

6. Minnesota Twins

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Minnesota’s future will be bright for as long as Byron Buxton continues to prove he is a top prospect, and the Twins will have a solid staff to look forward to with the impending arrivals of Alex Meyer, Kohl Stewart and Nick Burdi. However, how do you repopulate the system? Who becomes the next top pitching prospect?

Kolby Allard of San Clemente High School has taken a meteoric rise from where I originally slotted him, 16th, to where he stands now, as a top ten prospect with the potential to be top five. He has similar attributes to Brady Aiken, but the stigma of his height drops his value.

What he lacks in height, Allard compensates for in the ability to pitch in big games; he made it out of the summer as USA Baseball’s top prep pitcher.

Pairing him up with Kohl Stewart will do nothing but good, as two young and lively arms anchoring the Twins rotation will give them a solid future hold in the AL Central.

7. Boston Red Sox

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Rarely does a team have a plethora of Major League ready left-handed pitching like the Boston Red Sox. Guys like Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, Edwin Escobar and Brian Johnson make up 2/5 of their top ten prospects. However, the point here is that these pitchers are practically Major League ready, and when they graduate, Boston’s system will need to adjust. Given the amount of prep options, it’s entirely possible that the Red Sox opt to go for a long term project in the hopes of replenishing their pitching stores.

Cathedral High School righty Ashe Russell has seen his draft position rise, mainly because he has that much growth potential. Even though Indiana is starting to develop a reputation as a northern prospect pipeline, it’s still in its developing stages, and as a result, Russell has plenty of potential to grow. A two pitch man now with a solid fastball and up-and-coming slider, Russell does have a changeup, but it probably will suit him better once the talent level adjusts.

Russell does have the build to be a pitcher, but he’s still raw, and should he be taken by Boston, he probably will start out as a reliever and be developed into a spot starter or closer. Still, his potential is too great to pass on, and Boston has developed some solid pitchers as of late.

 

 

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