2016 MLB Mock Draft 3.0

As the offseason continues to take shape, so does the 2016 draft order. In the month since I last produced a mock, the Nationals lost their first round pick for signing Daniel Murphy, and the Dodgers gained their pick back after backing out of the Hisashi Iwakuma deal Additionally, the Royals lost their first round pick for Ian Kennedy, and the Detroit Tigers lost yet another draft pick for signing Justin Upton. As of now, if the draft were to start today, there would be 25 first round selections and 9 compensatory selections. Anything can happen, so I will avoid the comp picks for now, and focus on the first round proper, although when the season starts, that will change. Without further delay, here is the third edition of the 2016 mock draft. This mock will simply focus on who goes where, any scouting reports are reserved for new entrants.

Philadelphia Phillies:

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Matt Klentak is a genius.

After taking the position as Philly’s GM, he trades their best asset, closer Ken Giles to Houston in exchange for 2013 first overall pick Mark Appel and starter Tom Eshelman, as well as lefty starter Brett Oberholtzer. For a closer on a bad team, especially one that had only inherited the position after Jon Papelbon was traded, you have to admit that he made out like a bandit.

The Phillies may have added on to their system, but they still could use another dynamic lefty starter, even if Oberholtzer and Matt Harrison are part of the rotation. What may be considered one of the best pitching classes of all time boils down to three lefties and one righty, but in this case, I believe Jason Groome may have already won. The Barnegat HS southpaw has already proven he can step into a big role through pitching at IMG Academy, and although he may be a prep arm, he could be a quick riser through the system.

Previous: Groome

Cincinnati Reds:

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The last time a highly coveted shortstop prospect from Puerto Rico was eligible for the MLB draft, he surprised enough people and rose to the top of the draft board, where he would displace the top consensus draft prospect. Carlos Correa, as I mentioned last time, inspired a generation of young shortstops to make themselves into stars.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about Delvin Perez, the International Baseball Academy shortstop. He may not be as good a hitter as Correa was, but his defense makes him one of those slick fielding assets that are almost impossible to ignore. Additionally, his speed makes him a threat when he gets on the base paths. Perez could grow into the hitter that Billy Hamilton never could be, if developed properly.

The Reds have been known to grow their shortstop prospects, and Perez would be the next in a long line of Gold-Glove-caliber defenders to play in the Queen City.

Previous: Corey Ray, OF, Louisville

Atlanta Braves:

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It’s hard to sell a rebuild to a fanbase, but it gets easier as the future pieces come in through trades of incumbent stars. What was Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller became Sean Newcomb and Dansby Swanson, as well as a few other assets. The Braves are in a good position to sell off more major league talent for prospects, but even if they don’t, they still have the little matter of whom they will select with the third pick.

I find it hard to believe Ender Inciarte will be a career Brave, and to be completely honest, I’m surprised he hasn’t already been shipped off. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Braves go outfield, considering Corey Ray would likely be on the board.

Not since Jason Heyward have the Braves been in such a position to grab a top positional talent, and if they  do get Ray, there’s a solid chance that he becomes Heyward 2.o. Ray is a 5 tool player, and his game changing ability makes him an almost Major-league ready outfielder. It’s entirely possible that Ray could be the fastest 2016 draftee to the big leagues.

Previous: Buddy Reed, OF, Florida

Colorado Rockies:

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One of my biggest biases is small college prospects and their adjustment to the pros, hence why I’ve never been keen on Kyle Freeland. Still, he does deserve a chance to prove that he can make it through the system, and even if he only grades out as a bullpen pitcher, it will still be a success for a Rockies team that has never been known for developing pitchers.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Rockies shouldn’t continue building up a future rotation, and when the consensus top college left-handed pitcher falls into your lap, you take it. AJ Puk is an advanced lefty prospect, and he definitely fits the bill of a tall ace pitcher. Comparisons to Chris Sale have been floated, and his delivery does seem to have a bit of the trademark sidearm action made famous by Sale and Randy Johnson.

Puk, Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray would make a formidable trio in Denver, and it could be possible that the Rockies finally are able to make the leap out of the NL West basement with those three in the rotation.

Previous: Puk

Milwaukee Brewers:

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Whether or not the Brewers are fully committed to a rebuild is entirely up to their new GM, and frankly, considering how the system has been reconstructed after years of lackluster prospects, things could be looking up. The question that remains is who they take with the fifth overall pick.

Considering the consensus top college right-handed pitcher is still available, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brewers decide to go for him instead of the top high school right-handed pitcher. Alec Hansen is a more complete product, is better tested against competition, and is a lot more imposing and menacing than Riley Pint.

The one cause for concern I have has to do with Hansen’s body language when he pitches, as he always looks like he’s screaming or in pain when he winds up and throws.

Having Hansen join Taylor Jungmann in the Brewer rotation would definitely be something worth watching, especially since both are big battling right handers.

Previous: Riley Pint, RHP: St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Kansas

Oakland Athletics:

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The Oakland A’s are a team in transition, Clearly their roster is screaming rebuild, but the problem there is that a lot of their future pieces are older than your typical prospect. Trading Sonny Gray would net them a king’s ransom of players, and Josh Reddick probably would give them at least one more. The question is whether the GM is willing to pull this off.

In the interim, the team has two big organizational deficiencies in the minors: outfield, and right-handed starter. While it’s entirely possible they could go with Riley Pint, I think I’d rather see them grab Chaminade’s Blake Rutherford. Rutherford is an older high school senior, meaning that if he doesn’t sign, he’ll be a draft-eligible sophomore.

His advanced skill set, even for a high schooler could be good for him and could possibly allow him to move at a faster pace in the minor leagues. Give him three years and he could be part of the future youth movement for the A’s.

Previous: Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma

Miami Marlins:

HOOVER, AL - MAY 20, 2014 - Infielder Nick Senzel #13 of the Tennessee Volunteers shows emotion during the postseason SEC Tournament game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Vanderbilt Commodores at Hoover Met Stadium in Hoover, AL. Photo By Donald Page/Tennessee Athletics

Part of me expects the Marlins to make yet another surprising selection after Josh Naylor, the question is how surprising? Considering how rich this year’s class is pitching wise, it almost seems foolish for the Marlins to pass on the opportunity to grab Riley Pint as a complement to Tyler Kolek, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

For me, I feel that the Marlins could revisit third base, especially after dealing away Colin Moran. They could go with Drew Mendoza, the home-state product, but I feel that Nick Senzel would better fit in as a Marlin. While he may be defensively ambiguous, his value as a hitter makes him impossible to ignore, and could prove to be strategic for Don Mattingly.

Senzel’s offensive approach, while not powerful, allows him to make the most of any pitch he gets, and he could really play Marlins Park to his advantage. I could imagine him as a possible table setter in the Miami lineup in about two years.

Previous: Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy, Puerto Rico

San Diego Padres:

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Usually when a team sells the farm for a shot at winning now, the damage to the farm is bad enough that it’s a multi-year rebuild. The Padres, however, were able to kickstart the farm rebuild thanks to the Craig Kimbrel trade, will get a compensatory pick for Ian Kennedy signing with the Royals, and have a good chance at adding more if Justin Upton signs somewhere before June.

Initially, I believed that the Padres lacked offense, but as the offseason has taken shape, I’ve come to realize the Padres need to rebuild what was once a promising future rotation. That starts with grabbing the consensus top right-handed prep pitcher, Riley Pint. Pint’s plus offerings, height, and deceptiveness on the mound make him the ideal future ace the Padres have been looking to grow since the days of Jake Peavy.

Pint’s biggest concern though is his level of competition. He’s a Kansas boy, and Kansas isn’t exactly what you would call a baseball powerhouse. If Pint doesn’t sign and opts to play at LSU, expect him to beef his resume up to being a top pick by 2019. Otherwise, his potential drafting will boost one of baseball’s worst farm systems.

Previous: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Arizona

Detroit Tigers:

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The Tigers had a very frustrating sell-off at last year’s deadline. On the one hand, they were able to beef up their future rotation with the additions of Daniel Norris and Michael Fulmer, but on the other, those were their biggest additions. In the offseason, however, the Tigers went a completely different direction, signing Jordan Zimmermann to boost the rotation. Additionally, they have been mentioned as one of the teams still in on Yoenis Cespedes.

Are they in the middle of a rebuild, or are they planning on starting as a contender again? My guess is that it’s the latter, but that doesn’t mean that they should completely forget about the draft. With pitching set for the foreseeable future, I still believe they could grab the consensus top defensive catcher in the draft: Chris Okey. 

Okey’s been compared to Yadier Molina, and while he isn’t as offensively skilled as Molina, he does seem to look like he’d grow into the type of player the former was, a well-rounded catcher who can be an anchor in any lineup. Okey’s been on the biggest stage before, playing catcher for two Collegiate National Teams. While there is a considerable debate as to how high he could go, it’s possible his stock rises high enough for him to make it into the top ten.

Previous: Okey

Chicago White Sox:

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I remember reading an article on MLBTradeRumors a month ago about the White Sox and their 2016 draft strategy, and one of the things that was mentioned was that the Sox would be looking very closely at members of the 2015 USA Collegiate National Team. At what position, we don’t know, but if it were up to me, I’d assume the Sox would pick an outfielder.

Complementing Courtney Hawkins with the speed of Buddy Reed would definitely give the White Sox a very balanced outfield, but from an athleticism standpoint, we could see one of the better young outfields in the game. Reed’s speed would definitely make him a solid candidate for a leadoff position, but if he does develop his other skills, he could be a dangerous middle-of-the-order hitter.

Previous: Nick Banks, OF, Texas A&M

Seattle Mariners:

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Anybody know what’s happened to Danny Hultzen? The former second overall pick, once considered a future integral part of the Mariners rotation capped off a disappointing minor league season by being outrighted to AAA after being pulled off the 40 man roster. Considering the alternatives that the Mariners could have had, like Anthony Rendon and Trevor Bauer, this has to hurt for them. But we aren’t here to dwell on the past but rather the future. The Mariners rotation at the present may be set for a while, but as they grow older, it may be possible that Seattle looks at the pitching-rich 2016 class to draft a future rotation star. While prep pitching will experience a major drop-off from the first to the second tier of hurlers, the college crop is especially strong this year,

I really like Jordan Sheffield. He has a pedigree, he pitches for one of baseball’s best arms factories, and as I’ve mentioned, he’s one of the few players on this mock draft that I have seen pitch live. Without even looking at the Fueled By Sports scouting report, I can tell that he has the makings to be a Marcus Stroman 2.0 (they think so as well), and considering the recent rise in short pitchers, it’s possible his drafting could validate the short pitcher as a viable starting option.

Previous: Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep, California

Boston Red Sox:

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The NFL, NBA, and NHL all have workout warriors, players that significantly boost their stock en route to being drafted high in the first round. and usually, the aftermath is a mixed bag of success and disappointment. Baseball doesn’t have a combine, but they do have a way for players to gain exposure: summer ball.

It’s been a while since I’ve used this term in my mocks, but it looks like the Cape Cod King will be legitimized. This year’s Cape Cod King is Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, whose summer in Orleans was instrumental in helping raise his draft stock. Lewis profiles as a corner outfielder, another well-built model of athletic outfielder that reminds people of the Heywards and the Uptons of now. Combine Lewis with Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley, and you have perhaps one of the more athletic outfields in baseball.

Previous: Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia

Tampa Bay Rays:

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In high school, it always seems like the big hitters are asked to play one of two positions: first base, or outfield. Some don’t end up doing much defensively and get relocated to a corner outfield spot, others prove that they can be something and move to first base permanently. This year’s draft isn’t particularly overwhelming on prep hitting talent, but it doesn’t mean the talent cupboard is barren.

Yet another Georgia prep star gets taken here, Westminster Schools’ Will Benson. Benson has the look of a power hitter, think Lucas Duda, but actually plays more like an athletic first baseman, like Freddie Freeman. While Benson has the athleticism and speed atypical of a first baseman, what he needs to do is improve his tendencies, because he’s considered to be a pull hitter.

Having Benson play in Tampa will not only allow the Rays to develop one of the more interesting prospects of this year’s draft, and will allow them to transition from one athletic corner infielder to another.

Previous: Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee

Baltimore Orioles:

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When you play in one of the most homer-friendly parks in baseball, it’s both a blessing and a curse. For one, your offense is going to look like world beaters 81 times a year, but on the other side, your pitching has to be top notch in order to make sure that the offense doesn’t need to go long ball crazy. The Orioles have two dynamic young pitching prospects, even if they are coming off of injury, but could they add another to bolster their rotation for the future?

Matt Krook is the only tier 2 collegiate lefty, and although he will be a year removed from Tommy John surgery, chances are he’s ready to live up to the expectations set for him when he came to Oregon. If he can show that he’s got his low to mid 90’s fastball as well as his secondary offerings, he could boost his stock considerably. If Hunter Harvey and Dylan Bundy can recover from their injuries to possibly join Krook, then the Orioles could finally have a decent homegrown rotation.

Previous: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer

Cleveland Indians:

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The Indians’ recent gamble on Brady Aiken is either going to turn out to be a boom or a bust for them, depending on how the young lefty progresses through his rehab. Considering the rate of success the Indians have had in rehabilitating young arms, it’s possible that they could make another gamble on a former high end pitching prospect.

At the beginning of the 2015 college campaign, Cal Quantrill‘s name was up there alongside Puk and Hansen as Tier 1 collegiate pitchers.  Tommy John surgery wiped out his sophomore season and put him on the shelf for the summer collegiate season. This year, he has everything to prove. The son of Blue Jays closer Paul Quantrill, Cal is expected to be a much better pitcher than his dad was, and could conceivably anchor an up-and-coming Indians rotation in the future.

Previous: Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

Minnesota Twins: 

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Let’s be honest, while versatility is always an excellent strategic move in baseball, sometimes there are less than favorable outcomes, case and point, the possibility of Miguel Sano in right field. Sano is definitely a third baseman by trade, and even though he may be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, I highly doubt that converting to the outfield will be a successful endeavor for him.

The Twins would be lucky then to grab Nick Banks, the Collegiate National team’s leader in batting average last summer. Banks fits the profile of a typical Twins outfielder, good speed, at least above average defense, and solid contact. Plus, in regards to his versatility, he could potentially spell Byron Buxton a few games in centerfield. Overall, I feel the Twins are getting massive value here if they make this pick.

Previous: Herbert Iser, C, Osceloa HS, Florida

Los Angeles Angels:

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There are teams that have an embarrassment of riches in the farm system, and then there are teams that have an embarrassing farm system. Ever since Mike Trout graduated and Randal Grichuk was traded to the Cardinals, the Angels have constantly fielded a bottom 5 farm system. Clearly something must be done.

While college prospects provide short term gratification that drastically improves a system, a prep prospect is a long term investment that leads to more long term projects which overall can improve a farm system dramatically in the long run. I like La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak here because he has the potential to be a solid run producer in a non power context. Moniak has the speed to stretch singles into doubles, and his baseball IQ is enviable. Moniak has the outfield defense to play anywhere needed, even center field.

If Moniak does develop at his anticipated rate, he will be an excellent top of the order hitter that could really use Angel Stadium to his advantage offensively.

Previous: Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia

Houston Astros:

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We move from a team with an awful farm system to a team with an amazing farm system. The Astros are an example of a team that has parlayed three embarrassing rebuild years into a wealth of prospect riches that can either be used to improve the team internally or be dealt for external help. It was so good that the Astros felt that they could afford to deal former number 1 pick Mark Appel to Philadelphia for their closer.

Trading Appel and a few other pitching prospects however does have its drawbacks, as the Astros now lack a top 3 pitching prospect. However they need not look far for a dynamic option as former PG Freshman of the Year Logan Shore could fall into their lap. The right-handed punch of the Gators’ power rotation, Shore’s arsenal includes a low to mid 90’s fastball, and a pro-grade changeup that serves as an “out” pitch. His third offering, a slider, will need some professional work, but if he can make it into a pro pitch, it’s possible Shore’s stock as a pitcher could improve greatly. Houston has shown that they can produce pitching prospects at the prep level, now’s the chance to prove it with a college pitcher.

Previous: Matt Krook, LHP, Oregon

New York Yankees:

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The Yankees are like the US Economy, they seem to operate on a 20 year cycle. This year’s cycle seems to place an emphasis on building instead of buying, and justifiably so, considering the potential for many of their big contracts to become albatrosses. With A-Rod limited to DH, Mark Teixeira reaching the point of his contract where he’s more dead weight than anything else, and the rotation starting to age, where do the Yankees go?

I had Zack Collins go to the Yankees last time, and I’m sticking with it unless something happens. Collins by far is the best power hitter in the class, and given Miami’s track record for producing power hitters, it’s not like the Yankees would be going into uncharted territory. Collins can play either catcher or third base, but pro scouts feel that his bat will transition more to a Billy Butler-type DH role. Still, his power can’t be ignored, and I would be hard pressed to see the Yankees not going after him, especially with the influx of youth coming up.

Previous: Collins

Texas Rangers:

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I mentioned before that there was a huge gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 prep pitchers in this draft, and I’m not kidding, as it’s taken 13 picks to get from the second best to the third best, but in the grand scheme of things, it really shouldn’t matter because the draft is a big gamble in the first place. Still, the Rangers could go after a southpaw, and although the best route is to go BPA, it’s possible they could reach for a guy here.

Braxton Garrett was left off my mock last time, so I do believe he deserves a scouting report. Considered one of the more pro-ready prep pitchers, Garrett’s pitches seem to be more in line to develop rather than peak as he goes through the minors. His fastball tops out in the low 90’s, and he has a curveball that, when managed effectively, could make him a threat. If he can use his changeup more, it’s possible he’ll be ahead of the development curve. The one caveat is that he, like Groome, is a Vanderbilt commit, so teams will exercise caution when signing him. Still, having him complement the speed of Dillon Tate and Mike Matuella, and the ability of Luis Ortiz, the Rangers could have a complete rotation in the future.

Previous: Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS, California

New York Mets

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Much like the Yankees, the Mets are in the building phase of a cycle, with the only exception that their cycles last about 5-10 years. The Mets have managed to turn one of their biggest weaknesses in previous years into a strength, and were able to parlay some of their pieces into players that played a key role in the 2015 NL championship team.

The Mets’ most glaring organizational deficiency right now is at third base, and with David Wright having to manage spinal stenosis, I highly doubt he’s going to be able to play past the end of his extension. That being said, there’s really nobody behind him. David Thompson may or may not develop into a major leaguer, and unless Gavin Cecchini can learn how to handle the hot corner, I highly doubt he’s the answer.

Bobby Dalbec may not be the defensive answer for Wright, but offensively, he could be a threat. He’s your classic all-or-nothing power hitter, he can mash, but he also can strike out. While there is definite room for improvement in his game, as-is, he still has value, and could provide future protection for Michael Conforto. Incidentally, Dalbec could take a few pointers from Conforto on improving defense and contact.

Previous: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

Los Angeles Dodgers:

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We all remember when Yasiel Puig took baseball by storm, when the fans and ESPN almost led a successful campaign to get the Cuban star to start in the All-Star game. Oh how those days have gone, and now we have yet another underperforming international import. Additionally, Joc Pederson has shown his flashes, he’s either a power hitting outfielder who inexplicably has low contact, or he’s just looking lost in the batters box. And don’t even get me started on Andre Ethier. The point is, the average shelf life of a Dodgers outfielder these days is about the same as an organic salad at a Los Angeles health food store.

Last year, the Dodgers drafted 2014 College World Series hero Walker Buehler, but this year, they could grab his teammate and possible runner up for College World Series Most Outstanding Player Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds is considered one of the more raw players in this years class as he doesn’t have a particular stand out skill, however he is able to slow down the game to his speed and ability to poke balls into the gaps. Reynolds is not a standout defender either, but he can man left field and not be a liability.

On a personal note, I almost had the chance to see Reynolds play in the NECBL for the Plymouth Pilgrims in 2014, but his performance in the CWS earned him a spot on the collegiate national team that summer.

*Note: At the time of the release of Mock Draft 2.0, the Dodgers had agreed to a contract with Hisashi Iwakuma. As a result, I had not given them a selection. Since Iwakuma did not sign with the Dodgers, they have their first round pick back unless they sign one of the QO free agents. 

Toronto Blue Jays:

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Toronto is definitely one of the more challenging places to play in, especially if you’re an infielder. Consider the fact that you’re on field turf, which is going to do a number on your body as the years go by. Additionally, the culture is different, and travel is most likely a nightmare. However, the Blue Jays have managed to stay competitive by becoming buyers and parlaying that into an appearance in the 2015 ALCS. The question is whether they will be able to retain the same level of performance from the talent they reaped.

Before Delvin Perez came to our collective attention, I was prepared to put the H.A.P.S (Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop, for the unenlightened) label on Drew Mendoza. Mendoza is perhaps one of the more gifted players in terms of his defense, but that mainly has to do with his arm strength. Mendoza also can hit, and while his frame is more suited for hitting doubles, he could bulk up and add some power to his swing in the future.

Mendoza almost certainly will move to the corner at the pro level, and as a result, could easily become the heir apparent to Josh Donaldson when he decides to make the move to DH.

Previous: Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford

Pittsburgh Pirates:

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Much like the Baltimore Orioles, the Pirates have two dynamic pitchers that are considered to be the future of the staff. Righties Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon’s debuts however have been delayed due to injury and development issues. Still, they project to be a major part of the rotation in the future, and when they graduate, the Pirates will probably look to develop their next pitcher.

A peculiar idea came to me long before I decided on Pittsburgh’s draft pick: Can Ray Searage help develop a UVA pitcher? Considering the struggles of the past UVA starters as they acclimated to the pro game, is it possible that Connor Jones, given the right coaching, can break the trend? Jones has ranged in mock drafts from being a top 10 pick to being a low first round draft choice, and part of it has to do with the reputation of those who preceded him. Still, that shouldn’t detract from Jones, who in my opinion, could be the next Aaron Nola, depending on how he develops, especially if he builds on his already advanced, if not outstanding tools.

Previous: Matt Crohan, LHP, Winthrop

St. Louis Cardinals: 

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When it comes to drafting, I’m fairly conservative in terms of rankings, and my reach picks usually are within 10 spots. However, every so often, I’m inclined to make a huge gamble. Last year, for instance I dogged hard for David Thompson as a first round pick, and looked silly as he ended up going in the fourth round. This year, I’m sticking to my guns on a personal favorite prospect.

Herbert Iser is nothing special offensively, in fact, scouts will be the first to tell you he’s going to become an average hitter when he goes pro with some pop in his game. However, defensively, Iser is one of the best. He has an arm that will get runners out, and you be hard pressed to find a better prep defender. If the Cardinals do draft Iser, he could definitely be ready in time to take over the position from Yadier Molina. Overall, I feel that Iser could end up being the next Tyler Stevenson, an overlooked prep prospect that will shoot up the draft boards and make a convincing case to be taken on Day 1.

Previous: Brad Debo, C, Orange HS, North Carolina

And that’s it for Mock Draft 3.0. Stay tuned for Version 4.0, which is likely to be released towards the end of February. Until then, let’s hope this is a short winter.

 

 

 

The Money Is Talking to Kyler Murray, Actually, it’s Screaming at him.

Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs the ball against Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Lloyd Carrington (8) during the first half of a college football game during the Advocare Texas Kickoff game at NRG Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. ( Karen Warren / Houston Chronicle )

When Kyle Allen opted to leave Texas A&M football, there was a belief that it was because freshman quarterback Kyler Murray was ready to take the role of starter, that he was going to bring back the Johnny Manziel-era of exciting football. Additionally, people thought that he would play a vital role in the Aggies baseball team when Nick Banks departed. However, Murray shot that down when he announced that he would transfer out of Texas A&M, While his final destination is still unknown at this time, one of the more popular theories that has been floated around is Murray going to a junior college to play baseball in order to be eligible for the 2016 draft.

Naturally, this has led to plenty of discontent in College Station, both in the football and baseball circles. Murray’s teammates on both teams believe that the former 5-star recruit is yet another example of an entitled student athlete leaving because the pressure, or the money, has gotten to him.

Both Banks, and Aggie lineman German Ifedi have indirectly called out Murray on his so-called entitlement, with Banks even saying that high school athletes have to earn the honor of being a somebody.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Doesn’t matter what you did in HS you’re a nobody when you step on to campus. You prove that YOU ARE somebody. Nothing is given you earn it</p>&mdash; Nick Banks (@Nick_Banks4) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Nick_Banks4/status/677265000969334784″>December 16, 2015</a></blockquote> //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Going past the so-called entitlement theory, is it possible that more and more college baseball players, even high school players, could take this route? Could they commit to a big school, then change their minds before the season starts so that they can get the money they feel they deserve?

We saw this phenomena arise at the end of the 2014 collegiate summer season when highly touted Cal State Fullerton pitcher Phil Bickford left the program to pitch at the College of Southern Nevada. Immediately afterwards, former first overall pick Brady Aiken chose not to attend UCLA and instead, after a long period of deliberation, went to IMG Academy. The same happened with pitchers Mac Marshall and Jacob Nix, who went to Chipola College and the IMG Academy as well. A year later, Bickford was chosen by the San Francisco Giants, and Aiken was chosen by the Cleveland Indians in the first round. Marshall and Nix were top five round picks as well.

While I have no problem with junior college players getting drafted, part of me feels that, from a moral perspective, if a high school baseball player wants to go pro and ends up choosing college, they should at least honor the three year commitment, or in the case of certain players who are draft eligible as sophomores, two years. It doesn’t matter if Kyler Murray was one of the highest rated infield prospects out of high school; he had two choices, go pro out of high school, in which case he likely would have been a high draft pick, or go to college and figure out if he wanted to play baseball or football. The issue with Murray is that he’s a highly touted prospect in both sports, and while it would be difficult to determine if he would have been a first round talent by 2018, he still would have had to have made a choice.

Whatever motivation Murray had to transfer, whether it was football or baseball related, I find his decision lines up perfectly with the baseball offseason and the megacontracts that have already been doled out. Even Jeff Samardzjia, a former college football wide receiver and current second starter, received a 5 year deal worth over $100 million. I don’t believe that Murray thinks he’ll get that type of money out the gate, he’d have to be a very good player with a solid track record to earn that type of contract, but I’m certain that if he is planning on leaving football in order to chase baseball money, he’s thinking of a lucrative signing bonus.

Nobody is telling Murray he can’t leave Texas A&M, but whatever reason he leaves, he’s going to leave a very bitter taste in people’s mouths. If it’s because of the coaching situation at Texas A&M and he wants to play at another school, Murray is going to come off as spoiled and unable to handle pressure. If it’s because he wants to have a quicker path to professional baseball, he’s going to come off as an impatient and entitled, completely focused on the money.

Whatever motivation Murray has, let’s hope that his decision doesn’t influence other kids to do the same thing. If they commit to a major program for college baseball, they should stay there, otherwise, why even commit? Let’s hope that this is just a small phase of young kids that think they are major league ready, the last thing we need is another one-and-done sport.

2016 MLB Mock Draft 2.0

With MLBpipeline.com releasing their top 50 draft prospects on December 2nd, MinorLeagueMadhouse will now be able to do the long-awaited sequel to the 2016 Mock Draft from October. All information is taken from Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis’ scouting reports, although I will be able to offer some personal insight on a couple prospects this year, having seen them pitch while I was interning in summer ball. Same rules apply as last time, the players are picked based on organizational depth, although best player available does consider into the equation. Without further delay, here is the 2016 Mock Draft, version 2.0.

1. Philadelphia Phillies

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Mike Trout has long been regarded as the best prospect to ever come from the state of New Jersey, and for the longest time, that went unquestioned. This year, however, he may have some competition, courtesy of Barnegat High School’s Jason Groome.

Groome was thrust into the national spotlight last season at IMG Academy. When Brady Aiken went under the knife for Tommy John surgery, Groome stepped into his role and took off. After his junior year ended, he went back to Barnegat to pitch his senior year.

He has the look of an ace, standing 6’6″ and weighing 220 pounds. Groome also has solid pitches, a Major League ready low to mid 90’s fastball, a solid curve, and a developmental changeup. Groome’s advanced feel for pitching could mean that he could be fast tracked in the minors, although not at the level that Jose Fernandez was. Expect him to make his major league debut 3 years after being drafted, barring any setbacks. With him, Aaron Nola and Jerad Eichoff, the Phillies could have the makings of a solid top three by 2019.

Groome’s one major drawback is his commitment to Vanderbilt. Because of that, he could potentially command a very large bonus, that if not fulfilled, could see him leave for Nashville.

2. Cincinnati Reds

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The Reds could conceivably go any direction with this pick and still come out looking good. The Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake trades effectively rebuild their rotation for the long run, and with Walt Jocketty saying that anyone is available this offseason, it’s possible the Reds could be primed for long term success.

Considering pitching has already been addressed, I could see the Reds maybe looking at the consensus top hitter in the draft, Louisville’s Corey Ray. Ray, who is part of a banner class of Louisville draft prospects, more on them later, is considered one of the more complete athletes in this class. He has the arm and the speed to play wherever needed in the outfield, and he can hit well enough to be at the top of the order.

Although the Reds did draft Phil Ervin two years ago in the first round, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if they opt to go for Ray, as he seems like a much more complete package than Ervin was when he was drafted. He would definitely slot in well with Jesse Winker and Ervin, and they would definitely form a formidable outfield trio.

3. Atlanta Braves

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Another school that could make up a considerable portion of the top part of the draft is Florida, with four potential selections. Atlanta happens to be lucky enough to be in play for the two top talents.

Much like the Reds, the Braves have been able to build a potential future juggernaut pitching staff through selling off major pieces. Because of that, I feel that the Braves might be interested in upgrading their lineup. Florida’s Buddy Reed may not be as well-rounded as Corey Ray right now, but he does have the potential to build himself up to that level.

Reed’s best asset is his speed, giving him a defensive presence in centerfield. He’s also a switch hitter, although his best work comes from the right side. At best right now, he profiles into two players, from the right, a polished player who has power plashes, from the left, a leadoff hitter. Reed will likely benefit from some mechanical tinkering in the minors, in the hopes that he can improve from the left side, so it’s possible that he could get even better then.

4. Colorado Rockies

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The Rockies have been major beneficiaries of the past three drafts, both on their own and thanks to others. They’ve been able to nab a future ace in Jon Gray, three future rotation stalwarts in Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, and Mike Nikorak, and a top offensive prospect in Brendan Rodgers. Why not continue this run of success with another top of the line starter?

Considered the top college pitcher in the class, Florida’s AJ Puk happens to be the second best lefty, behind Groome. He has a very lively fastball, a slider which is tough on lefties and a changeup. While his arsenal is big league, his control and command do need work in order for him to be a top of the rotation starter.

Puk also has the added appeal of height and can contribute somewhat offensively, as he was a two-way player when he started. Overall, it may come down to him and Groome battling it out for the number 1 spot, and if the Phillies do what Arizona did last season between Rodgers and Dansby Swanson, Colorado may be lucky enough to choose between Puk and Groome.

5. Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers have managed to make some more interesting draft choices in the past two years, nabbing three quality prep players in 2014, then another in 2015, as well as a former consideration for top pick in the draft. Nathan Kirby, when he fell due to injury. Combine that with the late emergence of Taylor Jungmann after four years of toiling in the minors and you may have a resurgence in the Brewers’ prospect department. So where do you go from there in a pitching rich class?

I’ll admit, I did consider the humor angle when it came to St. Thomas Aquinas HS pitcher Riley Pint being drafted by a team that’s associated with beer brewing, heck, if the Brewers had another pick in the first round and Seth Beer had not opted to go to Clemson early, that also would have been considered, but for me, the Pint selection has to due with what he is as a pitcher. Pint has the best fastball among prep pitchers, and his body could potentially bulk out and make it even better. His secondary offerings range from developing (curve) to redundant (changeup).

Much like AJ Puk though, Pint needs to fine tune his mechanics if he wants to succeed at the next level. He’s at best a 5th starter right now, but could move up if everything develops correctly for him.

6. Oakland A’s

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Billy Beane has constantly preached the Moneyball philosophy, and in most cases, it has worked, but in a rebuild, the A’s are going to need to build up their roster in order to succeed again. Whether or not Sonny Gray factors into the future plans of the A’s matters little, but if Beane does decide to move on from his ace, then June would be the ideal time to find his heir.

It’s a three horse race for the top pick between Groome, Puk, and Oklahoma’s Alec Hansen, but Hansen had the early jump after a dominant sophomore season, so much so that he was nearly considered a lock for the number 1 pick. Another 6’7″ pitcher. Hansen has a nearly elite fastball and a pro-ready slider. His curve and change are considered above average offerings.

Hansen’s accuracy is the main issue, but many say it’s because of his delivery, Tweaks could make him a more accurate pitcher. Although he was shut down for fall ball, he should be back and ready for spring, giving him plenty of chances to surpass Groome and Puk.

7. Miami Marlins

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Last year’s selection of Josh Naylor was definitely the puzzler of the 2015 draft, and it raised questions as to whether or not Miami was once again acting cheap after yet another failed offseason spending spree. Assuming Jeffery Loria once again pulls the Fire Sale button, it’s possible that the Marlins could find their replacement for Adeiny Hechavarria here.

Puerto Rico high schooler Delvin Perez is a byproduct of the Carlos Correa-Francisco Lindor phase, a young shortstop who could conceivably outperform expectations. I’ll admit when Correa was taken first overall in 2012, I had my doubts, but he really prove me wrong. While Perez is no Correa, he still can play like some of the best Puerto Rican shortstops. Perez’s main calling card right now is his defense, he is a professional shortstop, what needs to catch up, however is his hitting. As of now, he’d probably slot into the lower part of a batting order, but if he hones his hitting skills in the minors, he could become a middle of the order hitter.

8. San Diego Padres

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The Padres came out with the worst luck in the 2015 season, gambling the future of the organization on what they believed was a playoff run. A year later, they were able to mitigate some of the damage by sending Craig Kimbrel to Boston for prospects, but they do need to add more in order to have a shot at the future.

Dealing Yonder Alonso did deprive them of a power bat, albeit an underperforming one, but the Padres should look for his replacement. Arizona’s Bobby Dalbec may not be a first baseman, but he does have a power bat that the Padres could use to somewhat combat the extreme dimensions of Petco Park.

Dalbec does have the arm to stay at third base as well, but his fielding may be an issue. Additionally, he’s a classic example of a feast or famine power hitter. If Dalbec can learn to hit for contact, he could be the power hitter the Padres have been looking for that Alonso wasn’t.

9. Detroit Tigers 

 

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Every draft has its fair share of risks, and I’d be hard pressed to admit that every once in a while I do take risks. Given the fact that the Tigers recently signed Jordan Zimmermann to a contract, thus forfeiting both a second round pick and a fair amount of their bonus pool, I feel that Al Avila could potentially play the signability card here.

You may recall that in one of my 2013 mocks, I put Chris Okey, then a high school star, in the compensatory first round. At the time, he was considered one of the better prep catchers in a loaded class, but signability issues sent him to Clemson. In his two years at Clemson, he’s shown to be a solid game caller, and has made two appearances on the Collegiate National team.

Okey’s a jack-of-all-trades catcher in the fact he’s a good player, He may not dazzle with his star skills, but he could definitely become a team leader in a few years. When the Tigers do rebuild, I would imagine he would be one of the players left behind to mentor the new team.

10. Chicago White Sox

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Give the White Sox credit for somehow drafting two of the most major-league ready pitchers in the past two drafts. Losing Jeff Samardzjia will definitely hurt less when Carson Fulmer takes his place alongside Carlos Rodon. Now it’s time to start thinking about upgrading the offense.

This one comes down to three college players, Mercer’s Kyle Lewis, Tennessee’s Nick Senzel, and Texas A&M’s Nick Banks. I choose Banks in this spot because he’s the surest bet of the three. Banks can hit, giving him ample chance to be a part of Chicago’s lineup. He’s also a decent fielder.

Banks won’t wow with power, but inconsistency in his speed ratings put him as an ideal table setter in any lineup. I would imagine that he could be a good threat to get on base, allowing Jose Abreu ample opportunity to drive him in.

11. Seattle Mariners

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The last time the Seattle Mariners drafted a player that worked out well for them, it was 2010 and Taijuan Walker was their pick. Before that, it was Alex Rodriguez in 1993. The Mariners are essentially the New York Jets of the MLB draft, in that there have been very few successes among a handful of failures.

Grabbing the top high school bat in the draft may help, and Chaminade Prep’s Blake Rutherford is special enough to warrant major consideration. Although he’s one of the oldest prep prospects this year, this could matter little. Rutherford has an advanced approach at the plate, and his attributes have plenty of opportunity to get better with proper development. He and Alex Jackson could conceivably help reshape Seattle’s outfield in the coming years.

12. Boston Red Sox 

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The Red Sox are an interesting organization. Whereas in the 2000’s they were consistent enough to constantly be mentioned in the championship conversation, the 2010’s Red Sox are a mixed bag of contender vs. overhyped mess. I’ll always consider 2013 to be a big fluke because somehow through some combination of low-key signings, developed talent, and the Boston Strong mentality, they were somehow able to pull off a World Series win. Feeling that they could continue that run of success, they’ve made several questionable roster decisions that have so far backfired and put them in an even worse position.

By some miracle, the Sox haven’t lost a draft pick after signing David Price, so they could possibly use their pick to grab a young, controllable college starter who could come up quickly. Georgia’s Robert Tyler is one of the more underrated top tier pitchers in this draft, and thus warrants some consideration as a top pick. Tyler’s toolbox has some solid offerings, he has a mid to high 90’s fastball that is good in short stints and a curve and changeup that will need some development. Tyler may be built like a starter, but his durability has always been a question, so much so that he’s never completed a full season since his junior year in high school. Tyler may be one of the bigger college projects, but some tinkering will do him good as he prepares to pitch the next level.

13. Tampa Bay Rays

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It will be the five year anniversary of the Rays’ 2011 draft class, a class which produced a major league record 11 first round picks due in part to the decimation of the Rays’ relief pitching corps. The 2011 class has been largely hit or miss. Taylor Guerrieri has yet to reclaim the form that had many scouts considering him a viable arm, while Mikie Mahtook looks ready to be a full-time big league outfielder, and Blake Snell is viewed as the future of the Rays’ rotation.

The Rays are fairly balanced in their system, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another hitter to take a load off the pitching. Tennessee’s Nick Senzel is defensively ambiguous, but he can hit, so much so that he completely demolished the Cape Cod League over the summer. Senzel may not be a power guy, but he can produce.

The one issue of course is where to put him. He’s bounced around the diamond in college, and scouts are agnostic on whether or not he can be an infielder or will have to move to the outfield. At worst he doesn’t have a position and becomes a Major League DH, at best, he figures out where he can play and becomes the heir apparent to that position.

14. Baltimore Orioles

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I’d be lying if I said I’m not keen on small school prospects. This is mainly because I believe that the level of competition is vastly different between a smaller conference and a power conference, and that level of competition artificially inflates the prospect’s profile. Of course, players can prove me wrong by playing well in the Cape League, and this is where our next pick comes in.

I’ve held off long enough on Mercer’s Kyle Lewis because I feel that outside of the 2015 Cape League season, he’s really not proven himself to be a full first round threat quite yet. However, it is possible that he does have the skills necessary to put him in the conversation. He does have a power bat that could, with the right amount of development, easily displace Chris Davis as a home run threat. I do also feel that he has plenty of room for improvement in the outfield, playing in a corner position where he would be able to learn the nuances of being a corner threat. If Lewis can prove that he’s not a byproduct of the SoCon’s competition level, then perhaps he can go higher in the draft than my initial projection.

15. Cleveland Indians

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The Cleveland Indians have somehow emerged into a darkhorse each year, mainly because of their underrated pitching. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer have definitely kept the team competitive and relevant in a division that’s basically been the Tigers, Royals and nobody else for the past two seasons. The question now is how can they possibly continue this wave of pitching success, especially with the increasing likelihood of their star pitchers leaving?

In 2014, the Indians drafted Tullahoma HS pitcher Justus Sheffield with the final pick of the first round, then the following year, added Brady Aiken and Rob Kaminsky via draft and trade. They are three great options, certainly, but the main issue is that none of them are right handed, and as good as left handed pitchers can be, too many can lead to predictability.

I met Vanderbilt righty Jordan Sheffield (Justus’s brother) during the 2014 New England Collegiate Baseball League season when he pitched for the Laconia Muskrats, and he was a very nice guy. I only wish he had not been recovering from Tommy John because the only time I saw him play, the Danbury Westerners had a field day with him. Still, Sheffield has managed to regain his old form since then. He can throw a fastball in the mid 90’s with regularity topping out at 98 MPH, and his slider and changeup have become reliable secondary pitches.

Sheffield comes with pretty much the same concerns that Carson Fulmer came with last year, height, and issues with pitch location, as well as the question of whether or not he’ll be a big league starter. At worst, he becomes a taller and lighter throwing version of Kelvin Herrera, serving as Cleveland’s closer. At best, he’s another member of a potentially vaunted future rotation.

16. Minnesota Twins

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No team has made a better killing in the development ranks than the Twins, who have seen Byron Buxton blossom into a potential Kirby Puckett-like franchise face, and Miguel Sano into another power hitting stud. All that needs to come up now is the young pitching talent that could make the Twins’ rotation a scary one. Tyler Jay, Kohl Stewart, Nick Burdi, basically these are all young guns that could make a major killing in the AL Central. Of course, when they come up, the question will be who will catch them?

This year’s catcher class is stronger than Jim Callis would have you believe, and there is probably no better example of high ceiling catching talent than Miami Killian HS catcher Herbert Iser. Iser has been on the radar since early 2015 when he was considered one of the top juniors to watch.

Iser has a hose for an arm, and he is a steady presence behind home plate. Although his hitting is considered developmental, he has the potential to be a well-balanced hitter once given the proper training. Depending on his development, he could run through the system at a decent pace and still be ready to catch the electric arms of the Twins’ rotation by early 2020.

17. Washington Nationals

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The Jayson Werth era will come to an end in 2017, and when that happens, Nationals fans will probably remember it as both a mixture of expectation and disappointment. While he didn’t exactly become the solid bridge to Bryce Harper that everyone expected, he definitely played a key role on the 2012 and 2014 NL East Championship teams.

The Nationals in turn would be smart to grab a young, moldable college outfielder like Vanderbilt’s Bryan Reynolds. Reynolds first came to national attention when he was the driving force on the 2014 National Championship team, and yet lost out on winning the College World Series Most Outstanding Player to Dansby Swanson. Reynolds is considered a raw talent, but potential wise, he could transition easily into Werth’s vacated role.

Reynolds as of right now would probably be best suited to play either in the lower part of the order, but once he clicks in the minors, could easily move up to as high as the #2 or #5 spot in the lineup. Because Reynolds hasn’t found his niche quite yet, it’s possible he might be tinkered with by whomever drafts him until they find the right spot for him.

18. Los Angeles Angels

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Remember when Sean Newcomb was expected to be the next young star for the Los Angeles Angels? That quickly went out the window when Andrelton Simmons became available. Ever since Mike Trout graduated from the minors, the Angels have had a standout prospect problem. Sure, they’ve made some splashes, like Joe Gatto and Roberto Baldaquin, but nobody has really popped onto the top 100 radar outside of Newcomb and Andrew Heaney.

The Angels’ best approach would be best player available then, and in this case, it would be another left handed pitcher that would take Newcomb’s spot as top prospect, Virginia’s Connor Jones. Like Jordan Sheffield, I did have the opportunity to see Jones play in the NECBL, when he was the ace for the Keene Swamp Bats, but also like Sheffield, he was very hittable that game. Jones is one of the few players on the MLB Draft top 50 who has 4 pitches, and his fastball can range from low to mid 90’s with a lot of weight.

Jones has already proven he can win in big game situations, having served as the Friday Night Starter for the Cavaliers during their 2015 championship season, and he seems like a high floor talent. The one major issue is the fact that Virginia has gained a reputation for producing players that can’t adjust to the next level of competition. He will have every chance to prove that wrong this year.

19. Houston Astros

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Houston’s prize for being a terrible team four years in a row was four straight seasons of high draft picks and an absurdly large bonus pool to sign most of the talent they recouped. Because of this, the Astros have a system that’s considered one of the best, if not the best in baseball. Even after seeing Lance McCullers and Carlos Correa graduate from the minors, the team could still draft whomever they see fit.

In my opinion, the Astros would do fine if they went with another southpaw after whiffing on two big ones in 2014. The best option right now, although he is a big wild card, would be Oregon’s Matt Krook. No stranger to being a high draft pick, he was a CB choice in 2013 by Miami, he went to Oregon where he’s shown both flashes of promise and disappointment due to Tommy John surgery.

Krook recently resurrected his prospect status in Cape Cod, and while statistically, it wasn’t a great summer, he still showed what he has, a pro level fastball and curve, and an average changeup. He has every chance to raise his stock in the spring since he’ll be fully recovered from Tommy John and well rested from not pitching fall ball.

20. New York Yankees

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Power is a crucial tool for draft prospects, but power combined with contact makes for an ideal slugger. For a team like the Yankees, who play in a smaller stadium, a power hitter is definitely an ideal piece to have. With a lot of aging stars like Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez approaching the twilight of their careers, it may be time to go back to the good old days of building talent, especially considering the Yankees’ system is one of the lower tier systems in baseball.

Miami catcher/first baseman/DH Zack Collins may just be the best power hitter in the draft. A well-built slugger, his best asset is his power, and he and former teammate David Thompson completely terrorized ACC pitching last season en route to the College World Series. Collins would instantly be a #4 hitter in any lineup, offering solid protection, and he is an average contact hitter, showing that he won’t be a feast or famine player. His one trick point is his defense, and although he can through, his defense has left a little to be desired. Ideally, Collins could become a DH at the pro level and form a terrific tandem with top prospect Aaron Judge.

21. Texas Rangers

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The Texas Rangers look more like a team that’s been assembled through buying rather than building, with some exceptions, and it has paid off in all but one year since 2010. Of course though, those contracts are going to expire and those players will soon age, so it may be an ideal time to start building young again.

Although Delino DeShields is looking more and more like he may stick in Texas after his Rule 5 season, it wouldn’t hurt to grab the second best prep outfield bat in the draft, La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak. Moniak is a consistent hitter that can find holes in the outfield and exploit them with his pro level speed. He may have an average arm, but his speed also could keep him in center field, almost in a Juan Lagares-type role. Moniak, in my opinion is a much better and more likely to stick DeShields. His baseball IQ will definitely resonate well with his coaches.

22. New York Mets

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When you have a rotation that’s full of ace-level starters, all of whom are under team control, you have a solid advantage over all comers. But when you have a free agent market where two of the best starters received deals with a $30+MM AAV, you can bet you will lose at least one or two arms come free agency. Because pitching in such high supply in the 2016 draft, the Mets could conceivably find two replacements in one draft.

Sandy Alderson loves guys who can pump premium gas, but it wouldn’t hurt to draft a workhorse like Kyle Funkhouser. The highest rated senior in this year’s class, Funkhouser turned down an opportunity to pitch for the Dodgers after they picked him 35th overall. There isn’t much to be said that hasn’t been discussed in my 2015 mocks, but it’s pretty much the same with him, he can throw in the low to mid 90’s, with an effective, if somewhat inconsistent low fastball. His secondary pitches are above average, but mechanical tinkering and a confidence adjustment could make them better. If he can refine his command, he’ll definitely look like a stronger and higher ceiling version of Jon Niese.

 

23. Toronto Blue Jays

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The Blue Jays had a golden opportunity to rally the local fan base by selecting a Canadian prospect in 2015, but missed on Josh Naylor and Mike Soroka, and didn’t go after Jeff Degano or Demi Orimoloye. However, this year, they may be more inclined to take this year’s top Canadian prospect.

Stanford righty Cal Quantrill is the son of former Blue Jays reliever Paul Quantrill (1996-2001) and although he will be a year removed from Tommy John surgery, is still considered one of the most underrated, and possibly one of the higher rising prospects in the 2016 draft. It wouldn’t be just a legacy pick either, as Quantrill has four solid pitches, and an advanced feel for them, allowing him to be a very effective starter.

24. Kansas City Royals 

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When you have a team whose offense was built through the draft and international free agency, with a few trades and signings thrown in, you’re going to have a lot of cost-controlled assets that will tide you over for a while. And since the Royals have had such a stellar track record with developing prospects, it almost makes it impossible to find an organizational weakness. In this case, my version of Dayton Moore will select the best player available.

Continuing the trend of prep stars from Georgia is Westminster Schools outfielder Will Benson. Benson is what you would call a well-rounded player with solid contact, power, and speed as well as defensive skill. He can play either first base or outfield and is more than capable of carrying an offense. Benson has drawn comparisons to Jason Heyward, and could possibly eclipse him as a better player by the time he hits his age 27 season. Although Benson would be going to an organization with solid depth, he could definitely fit in at any spot a few years down the road.

25. Pittsburgh Pirates

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The fact that the Pirates have gone from 20 straight losing seasons to three straight years of qualifying at the very least for the Wild Card shows how much value there is in developing talent. Gerrit Cole has emerged into a legitimate All-Star ace, Andrew McCutchen is one of the most exciting players in the game, and with so much impressive young talent coming up in the next few years, the Pirates could be a solid team in the future.

What the Pirates lack from an organizational perspective is a standout left-handed starter, and while this year’s class is top-heavy, the second tier of southpaws isn’t too bad either. Matt Crohan of Winthrop may come from the same conference as Kyle Lewis, but unlike Lewis, he has actually performed on the biggest collegiate stage, pitching for the National Team and beating Chinese Taipei. Crohan is a well-built lefty with a fastball that can reach the high 90’s but is typically low to mid. He also has a changeup and a developmental slider.

Crohan’s delivery does need some work, and his consistency will determine whether or not he’s in a big league rotation or bullpen. Having already seen him play in person in 2014 when he was in the NECBL, I can assume that he’ll be much better than he was when he pitched in relief for Keene.

26. St. Louis Cardinals

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For the past two years, I have harped on the Cardinals, and their seeming inability to find a contingency plan for when Yadier Molina retires, and I still believe that they can draft his successor in this year’s draft.

In my opinion, Orange HS catcher Brad Debo is the heir apparent to Molina. He is an above average fielder, however this is greatly enhanced by a pro-ready throwing arm. His offense is above average and his contact and power are even. The one thing he lacks is speed, but as far as catchers go, who needs it? Debo may need a little time to develop, but if he makes it through with very few setbacks, he could definitely find his way behind home plate by the time Molina’s ready to hang it up.

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Although there are already compensatory picks on the board, I will be holding off on mocking them until the full draft order is realized. Until then, next mock draft will be coming in January.

 

 

 

2016 MLB Mock Draft: End-of-regular-season Edition

With 162 games in the books, the ever-changing landscape that has been the MLB’s draft order has almost finally settled. The first 30 picks have been determined, and until free-agency begins, this will be the set draft order. So how do we figure out who gets whom?

Because there is no consensus top prospect, there is plenty of room for error right now. There is plenty of top flight talent, however, and it would be criminal not to highlight everyone in the draft. Still, a set system has to be in place. My judgements are based on either organizational need, as in “where in this team’s top 20 prospects is there a positional deficiency?” If there is none, or if there’s no definitive fit, the next best line is to go best player available. So without further delay, let’s dive in. Because there really isn’t enough information from MLBpipeline…yet, I’ll just stick to names and photos.

You’ll also notice a higher ratio of college to high school players. Because college players are easier to track, they tend to show up more on earlier mock drafts. As the season gets further along and more names become available, more prep names are bound to be added to the list.

1. Philadelphia Phillies: AJ Puk, LHP, Florida

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2. Cincinnati Reds: Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep HS, California

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3. Atlanta Braves: Nick Banks, OF, Texas A&M

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4. Colorado Rockies: Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma

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5. Milwaukee Brewers: Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS, Kansas

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6. Oakland A’s: Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia

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7. Miami Marlins: Bobby Dalbec, 3B, Arizona

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8. San Diego Padres: Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS, New Jersey

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9. Detroit Tigers: Chris Okey, C, Clemson

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10. Chicago White Sox: Corey Ray, OF, Louisville

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11. Seattle Mariners: Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia

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12. Boston Red Sox: Austin Bergner, RHP, Windermere Prep HS, Florida

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13. Arizona Diamondbacks: Herbert Iser, C, Miami Killian Senior HS, Florida

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14. Tampa Bay Rays: Matt Krook, LHP, Oregon

Oregon left-handed pitcher Matt Krook (21) pitches the ball during the top of the first inning. The Oregon Ducks host the Ohio State Buckeyes at PK Park on March 8, 2014. (Taylor Wilder/Emerald)

15. Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Boldt, OF, Nebraska

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16. Cleveland Indians: Mike Shawaryn, RHP, Maryland

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17. Minnesota Twins: Braxton Garrett, LHP, Florence HS, Alabama

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18. Washington Nationals: Jeff Belge, LHP, Henninger HS, New York

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19. San Francisco Giants: Matt Crohan, LHP, Winthrop

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20. Los Angeles Angels: Drew Mendoza, SS, Lake Minneola HS, Florida

Lake Minneola's Drew Mendoza (22) throws the ball to first base during Tuesday's class 6A regional semifinal baseball game between Lake Minneola and Leesburg at Lake Minneola High School in Minneola, Fla., on May 6, 2014. (Brett Le Blanc / Daily Commercial)

21. Houston Astros: Zack Collins, C, Miami

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22. New York Yankees: Logan Shore, RHP, Florida

during the Gators' game against the UCF Knights on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. / photo by Tim Casey

23. Texas Rangers: Brad Debo, C, Orange HS, North Carolina

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24. New York Mets: Greg Veliz, SS/P, Key West HS, Florida

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25. Los Angeles Dodgers: Peter Alonso, 1B, Florida

26. Toronto Blue Jays: Willie Abreu, OF, Miami

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27. Kansas City Royals: Anthony Kay, LHP, UConn

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28. Chicago Cubs: Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

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29. Pittsburgh Pirates: Jared Poche, LHP, LSU

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30. St. Louis Cardinals: Tres Barrera, C, Texas

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The Batman Conundrum

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Matt Harvey has made a convincing case that he’s recovered nicely from his Tommy John performance, and while the ride has been admittedly bumpy in some respects, the general consensus is that he is mostly up to speed, and barring a complete resurgence from Jay Bruce and a complete meltdown by Harvey, it seems the NL Comeback Player of the Year award is his to lose.

That being said, as he’s pitched and as the season continues its downward turn, the infamous innings limit is looming.

You know that limit, the one that forced Stephen Strasburg to sit for the rest of the 2012 season and essentially killed any chance the Nationals would advance past the NLDS. The same innings limit that was instituted as a result of Dusty Bakers complete overworking of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood which led to their once meteoric careers taking a big downward trajectory. Yeah, that limit.

That limit is all well and good, and would be okay under normal circumstances,  but these are not normal circumstances, as the Mets find themselves in the hunt for the NL East title for the first time in seven years, and have a very good chance of breaking their 9 year old playoff drought.

Until recently, there was a consensus as to what Harvey’s limit was, and that limit was 180. No going over it, not even for the playoffs, so the Mets would either have to use him to get to the playoffs or, at most two starts in the playoffs, based on his current number, 166.1 innings. This limit was designated by team doctors and Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, both of whom have preached that it is best for him in his future.

However, the Mets have said and insisted, Sandy Alderson in particular, that Harvey is under a soft innings cap, which is 200 innings, with the potential to go over that number based on certain circumstances, like quick innings.

The dispute over 20 additional innings has both Alderson and Boras at odds, with Boras all but accusing the team of potentially damaging their star pitcher’s health and potential future earnings by potentially overextending him, while Alderson is all but accusing Boras and his doctors of overreaching their bounds and being too conservative.

The two aspects left in the middle are the fans, who want to see the team play in October with Harvey throwing for them, and Harvey, who wants to pitch in October, although he hasn’t commented on his innings limit.

The problem here is that Harvey is in between a rock and a hard place. As the Dark Knight of Gotham, he has quickly ascended to being the face of the franchise, and seems very primed to take over that position, barring he doesn’t leave in free agency, which many Mets fans have believed considering his admission to being a Yankees fan. Harvey is running a tightrope. He could choose to listen to his doctors and his agent and not be available for the playoffs, or he could choose to fight through and play for his team, and his fans.

The consequences for each option are as follows: If he chooses to shut himself down for the sake of future seasons and money, he comes off as selfish and the Mets lose a key arm in the playoff race, meaning they would have to rely on someone like Bartolo Colon or Logan Verrett to compensate for Harvey’s loss. The sports pages will have a field day, and the fanbase will never forgive him, and given how badly they have treated him because of his Yankee roots, it would seem all too certain that he would bolt for the greener pastures of New York.

The more likely route, the one where he does end up pitching for the Mets in both the regular season and October, assuming the Mets get that far, leads to him pushing his arm too far and risking reinjuring it. It also means that he gets on both Boras and his doctor’s bad side, unless Boras files a grievance to the MLBPA for the Mets mismanaging Harvey. Still Harvey keeps his reputation of being a guy who wants to win, and the fanbase could give him a break for once, instead of constantly deriding him and telling him to be a Yankee.

Again, this choice belongs to Harvey, and if he’s smart, he will try and figure out the best way to help himself and the team. Even though he doesn’t like it, he will miss a start so the Mets can extend him for the race.

All that leaves is what to do afterwards.

The thing that Harvey needs to know is that Scott Boras works for him, not the other way around. And considering Boras’ history with other Mets players, to be specific, Carlos Beltran, Harvey could talk to Beltran about how Boras in some ways comes off as condescending and abusive to his clients all in the name of getting them lucrative contracts. To say that Harvey doesn’t deserve a megadeal when he finishes his rookie contract would insinuate that he isn’t a dominant pitcher, and honestly, that is a lie. Having seen Harvey pitch twice this season, I’ve come to respect Harvey more as a gamer, a guy who will fight tooth and nail for the win, even if it means that he doesn’t get the win himself. Plus, he is an All-Star already, and is bound to add more hardware to his awards closet.

Boras doesn’t dictate what his clients do, rather he works for them, and that’s the problem with him. The fact that he has forced teams to pay big for his clients, both in the draft and during free agency almost suggests that the players work for him, and not the other way around, which is wrong. Harvey is not beholden to his agent, meaning that he can do as he wishes, so long as it doesn’t go against the wishes of his employer, which as of now is the Mets. Boras has no right to tell the Mets what they should do with Harvey, nor does he have the right to tell any team what to do with their star player. Unless a team deliberately mistreats their player, he has no cause to complain. The Mets are acting both in the best interests of themselves and of Harvey, and it’s not like they are forcing him into a Mark Prior type situation. If Harvey feels that he can’t do it, all he needs to do is tell management. Knowing Harvey will fight hard to pitch in October, you can expect him to show that he wants it more than anything else.

All in all, Harvey knows that it all comes down to what he wants, and if it’s within reason for the Mets. Mets fans should prepare for Harvey to be a key component in the team’s playoff race.

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

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 25:  Pitching Coach Rick Honeycutt #40 of the Los Angeles Dodgers poses for a photo on photo day at Camelback Ranch on February 25, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

 

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

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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?

USP NFL: AFC CHAMPIONSHIP-INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT NE S FBN USA MA

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.

 

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