The Geno Experiment

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

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

So why is the fanbase still grumbling?

The answer is whom is playing quarterback.

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

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

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

Why did Mornhinweg call the timeout?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Were the DeflateGate Sanctions appropriate?

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

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

Wrong.

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

* A fine of $1 Million

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

* A four game suspension for quarterback Tom Brady

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015 MLB Mock Draft: April Edition

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

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

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

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

3. Colorado Rockies: Carson Fulmer, RHP Vanderbilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Boston Red Sox: Alex Bregman, SS LSU

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

8. Chicago White Sox: Tyler Jay, LHP Illinois

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

9. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP Louisville

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

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

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

11. Cincinnati Reds: Nathan Kirby, LHP Virginia

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

12. Miami Marlins: Kevin Newman, SS Arizona

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

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

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

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

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

15. Milwaukee Brewers: Brady Aiken, LHP IMG Academy

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

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

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

17. Cleveland Indians: Michael Matuella, RHP Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25. Baltimore Orioles: Richie Martin, SS Florida

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

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

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

Compensatory Picks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

33. Kansas City Royals: Gio Brusa, OF Pacific

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

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

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

35. Los Angeles Dodgers: James Kaprielian, RHP UCLA

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

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

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

 

The Little Guys: Analyzing the 2014 Rule 5 Class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Requiem for Kris Bryant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Chicago White Sox

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

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

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

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

9. Chicago Cubs

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

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

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

10. Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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

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

11. Cincinnati Reds

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

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

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

12. Miami Marlins

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

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

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

13. Tampa Bay Rays

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

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

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

14. Atlanta Braves

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

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

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

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

2. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

3. Colorado Rockies

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

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

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

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

4. Texas Rangers

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

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

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

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

5. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

6. Minnesota Twins

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

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

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

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

7. Boston Red Sox

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

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

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

 

 

The Draft Gets Another Facelift: Pros and Cons

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The recent announcement that Major League Baseball plans to move the date of the MLB Draft from June to July comes off as a surprise, especially given the amount of tinkering the draft has gone under in the past ten years. The draft has changed a lot since 2004, and it has become more and more obvious that Major League Baseball wants to make it even more interesting so that it can hold up to its other Big Three counterparts. Given the amount of development time players take, not many fans are interested in the future of the team. Whereas a bona fide college basketball or football star has the opportunity to immediately play for the team that drafted them, Major League baseball’s minor league system is a drawn out process, and very few players completely bypass this system. The last one who did was Arizona State pitcher Mike Leake, who immediately pitched for the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 after being selected in the 2009 draft. Carlos Rodon, arguably the best prospect in the 2014 draft, may have a quick trek to the majors that may end in 2015, but he still is going through the system.

The sweeping changes that have constantly reshaped the draft started in 2006, and it seems that every year, something changes because an established precedent is constantly broken, and someone finally decides to examine it.

1. The draft was originally more of a metaphysical event. Done entirely by conference call, with minor awareness by the fans who would watch the picks scroll by on the draft tracker on Major League Baseball’s website, people knew about it, but didn’t have the chance to actually see it. In 2007, the draft was made into an actual televised event, covered on ESPN2. The first televised draft hit the ground running as well, with analysts, invited prospects (Ross Detwiler, Phillippe Aumont and Josh Vitters) and Commissioner Selig announcing the picks. Since then, the draft has moved to MLB Network in Studio 42, and there are many invited guests, mostly high schoolers, although there have been two collegians and one JuCo player in attendance. ESPN even has had some degree of coverage of the draft on Sportscenter the day after.

2. Unsigned first round draft picks used to be a rare occurrence. In the new millennium, prior to 2008, there were three major instances of it happening: John Mayberry in 2002, Wade Townsend in 2004, and Luke Hochevar in 2005. While compensation for lost unsigned first rounders wasn’t an entirely new occurrence, it wasn’t until 2009 when teams were given a first round pick for not signing their pick from the previous season. Since the ruling officially came into effect after the 2007 draft, a grand total of 14 picks, including Brady Aiken, the top pick in the 2014 draft, have elected not to sign.

 

3. Originally, teams were allowed to spend whatever they wanted in order to get their prospects, and rightfully so, given that Scott Boras was the agent for a lot of these players. Signing bonuses went through the roof, in fact, Stephen Strasburg made a lot of money off his original deal. In addition, there were instances of the “Major League” contracts. These deals allowed players to immediately be kept on the 40 man roster, and allowed teams to keep them from being tabbed for the Rule 5 Draft. Since then, Major League Baseball has put the kibosh on free spending, implementing a hard slotting system and eliminating the Major League contracts. Granted, there are teams that still go over slot for picks, but more often than not, they compensate by drafting no-leverage college seniors earlier so that their hotshot prospects can be signed for late first round money. See the Kyler Murray article from earlier this month for reference.

4. What was originally a 50 round draft has since been trimmed to a 40 round draft. Many of these later picks were “favor picks”, picks mainly used to draft marginally talented players who have family ties to the organization, or friends of other players. Mike Piazza was an early example of this, and the same went for Mike Flacco, the brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who was drafted by the Orioles. Of course, there are some heartwarming stories about paralyzed players being drafted so they can live out their dream somewhat. Three notable examples are Cody Hahn of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011 and Johnathan Taylor and Buddy Lamothe of the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros in 2010. Incidentally, Taylor was the college teammate of Texas’ first round pick that year, Zach Cone. Because there’s plenty of room for error, not to mention the extensiveness of the minor league system, it’s absolutely fine that teams do this. Of course, there’s the occasional novelty pick, like Johnny Manziel in 2014. Major League Baseball elected to trim the amount of selections in the hopes of giving more undrafted free agents a shot in the minor leagues. While it hasn’t curtailed the “favor picks”, it certainly has made it less of a chore to watch or listen to the last picks on the draft tracker.

5. Finally, the signing deadline. What was originally a flexible deadline, (College players had until the following draft to sign, while high schoolers who didn’t sign by the end of the summer went to college) eventually became more hardline (All players with the exception of college seniors had to sign by July 31st) to the point of giving players even less time. (Currently, all players have until July 15th to sign). Assuming the new proposal comes into effect for the 2015 draft, players and teams will have a two week period to negotiate, as the draft will be on July 1st, and the deadline will stay at July 15th.

The idea here is that the new draft date, set after the College World Series, will allow players to be ready to hit the negotiating table immediately. Not only that, but it may allow more collegians to attend the draft itself. While the draft does have an admittedly impressive list of attendees, including Mike Trout and Andrew Heaney, the problem is that many of these attendees are high school kids. The only collegians who could attend the draft are those whose teams have either not made the NCAA tournament, or who were bounced early. Fresno State and Oklahoma State, while both impressive schools on the diamond, did not have good years in 2013 and 2012, allowing Heaney and Aaron Judge to attend. This makes it seem like attending the draft is like a consolation prize for a bad year, setting a poor precedent. The idea of moving the draft so that more college players on good teams can make it to Secaucus is smart. It allows these kids to be seen wearing their future team’s jersey. We all enjoy seeing college football stars putting on draft caps, walking on stage, shaking hands with Roger Goodell and holding up the team jersey for the NFL draft, and ever since Trout donned his first Angels jersey in 2009 in Studio 42, it’s been cool for the MLB draft fans to get what NFL draft fans already have. Imagine if Stephen Strasburg had attended the draft in 2009, heard his name called, and walked to the stage with a new Nationals cap and jersey. How about Bryce Harper, Gerrit Cole, Mark Appel and Carlos Rodon?

While the move does seem to have its benefits, especially on the aesthetic side of things, there are, of course, some logistical problems. Mike Axisa points them out in this CBS Sports article. While the draft would be increasingly beneficial for NCAA players and coaches, Major League Baseball, and Minor League Baseball, by extension, would be adversely affected. For one, having to sign 40 players within a two week period is a major crunch of energy in a limited amount of time. Not every late round pick is going to be a low ceiling, low floor candidate. Top high school players selected late will almost certainly bolt for college, and contract framework and negotiation with higher picks will have to be put on an accelerated pace. Considering the agents who work for these players and their bonus demands, it would seem as if there would be plenty of eleventh hour deals or abandonment of contract talks, allowing players to bolt and teams to have extra picks, leading to another cycle of this problem by next July. Another problem pointed out is how the lower level teams will be affected, Short season teams begin their seasons in June, and end in August, with playoffs in September. Having to wait a month, potentially a month and a half, will most likely force these teams to move back their season to July, or extend it, defeating the purpose of short season ball. Even collegiate summer ball teams would be affected, as certain junior or JuCo players who are drafted may abruptly leave in the middle of the season, adversely affecting said team in the long run. Whereas under the current structure, a player can leave as early as the day before the season starts, forcing a manager to recruit a replacement but with more time, under this structure, the options are thinner, a manager has about less than three weeks to get a replacement for said player or just leave the roster spot empty.

The new proposal does have its advantages and disadvantages, but as of right now, nothing is concrete. While the idea in theory is good, it will be much better to see how it goes in execution. At best, it allows for more exposure of the draft and current prospects, while at worst, it’s a logistical nightmare. One hopes that the MLB Draft however continues to build up the exposure that it has so desperately craved from its big four counterparts.

 

Full 2015 MLB Mock Draft results:

To make this easier for the draft databases and readers of this site, MinorLeagueMadhouse will be putting a mini-post together which lists the results of the 2015 mock draft. Here it is.

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

2. Houston Astros: Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia

3. Colorado Rockies: Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy, Georgia

4. Texas Rangers: Brady Aiken, LHP, No School

5. Houston Astros: Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS, California

6. Minnesota Twins: Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke

7. Boston Red Sox, Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt

8. Chicago White Sox: Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt

9. Chicago Cubs: Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS, California

10. Philadelphia Phillies: Alex Bregman, SS, LSU

11. Cincinnati Reds: Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cincinnati

12. Miami Marlins: Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville

13. San Diego Padres: Kyler Murray, SS, Allen HS, Texas

14. Tampa Bay Rays: Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS, Indiana

15. Atlanta Braves: DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State

16. Milwaukee Brewers: Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt

17. New York Yankees: Phil Bickford, RHP, College of Southern Nevada

18. Cleveland Indians: Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona

19. San Francisco Giants: David Thompson, 3B, Miami

20. Pittsburgh Pirates: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS, Michigan

21. Oakland Athletics: Gio Brusa, OF, Pacific

22. Kansas City Royals: Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU

23. Detroit Tigers: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami

24. St. Louis Cardinals: Trent Clark, OF, Richland HS, Texas

25. Los Angeles Dodgers: Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthew’s HS, Ontario, Canada

26. Baltimore Orioles: Richie Martin, SS, Florida

27. Los Angeles Angels: Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS, California

28. Colorado Rockies: Alex Young, LHP, TCU

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

30. Toronto Blue Jays: John Aiello, SS/3B, Germantown Academy, Pennsylvania

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

32. San Francisco Giants: Skye Bolt, OF, North Carolina

33. Pittsburgh Pirates: Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois

34. Kansas City Royals: Kyle Tucker, OF, Gulf Coast HS, Florida

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

36. Los Angeles Dodgers: Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky

37. Baltimore Orioles: Steven Duggar, OF, Clemson

2015 MLB Mock Draft 2.0: BONUS Compensatory Picks

I have decided to add on the last ten picks for the compensatory picks, mainly because I’m on track to break my monthly views record set back in June of 2013. So as a bit of a “thank you” to those of you who have taken the time to read this site, here are the last ten picks of the 2015 mock draft. A side note: Although James Shields has not been signed yet, the mock draft will be done based on the assumption that he will be signed before June.

28. Colorado Rockies

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(First Selection: Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing Christian Academy)

You can’t teach pitching to established major league arms, which presents a problem for the Colorado Rockies. In their atmospheric conditions, humidor or no humidor, the best plan for success is to develop starters and teach them how to pitch in Denver. The Rockies seem to have this figured out as they have a trio of impressive future starters coming through the ranks: Jon Gray, who projects to be an ace, Eddie Butler, a solid second arm, and Kyle Freeland, a pitcher who, as a Colorado native, may already have figured out the nuances of pitching in thin air.

Alex Young of TCU would be an interesting fourth arm. While he doesn’t have teammate Riley Ferrell’s fastball, or Brandon Finnegan’s tools, he does have the feel that allows him to be a more versatile pitcher. Like Ferrell, Young has more experience in the bullpen, but he also has worked in the rotation, and could make a seamless transition during his junior year.

Young’s best asset is his pitch movement, his curve and slider are considered his best weapons, and while he’s reticent to use his changeup, proper development of said pitch, which already has some movement, will allow him to become a four pitch starter.

29. Atlanta Braves

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(First Selection: DJ Stewart, OF, Florida State)

And you thought the Miami Marlins were the king of fire sales.

The Atlanta Braves have all but openly stated that they are building their future after the 2014 fiasco. Having unloaded much of their hitting corps, including their top power source in Evan Gattis, the Braves may want to look at developing another power bat at another position, And while previous selection DJ Stewart looks like a power hitter, he still needs to learn how to be one.

The selection I have in mind for the Braves here is smaller than Gattis, but certainly could match him in terms of power. Chris Shaw an outfielder for Boston College, is likely going to play first base professionally, as that’s his original position.

Much like Florida’s Richie Martin, Shaw needed a year to figure out how to hit collegiately, and when he finally did, he made an impression. After going deep 6 times last season, Shaw feasted on Cape Cod pitching, adding another 9 blasts, good for the league lead. He’s a left handed power hitter, a valuable commodity to have in a major league lineup, and he makes a conscious effort to correct his swing if he gets aggressive.

Shaw’s not a fast runner, and there’s still a question as to why he was in the outfield during his sophomore season, but these concerns can be covered up by his defensive ability as a first baseman. He’d be a solid part of the Braves future lineup, and someone who could help fans forget Gattis in the future.

30. Toronto Blue Jays

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Toronto is often at a disadvantage when it comes to the draft, as their home stadium is less then ideal when it comes to position players. The turf has been known to be a deal breaker for many an athlete, and the Jays have lost many talented players because no one wants to play there. Last season, they lucked out when they nabbed Jeff Hoffman and Max Pentecost, two high level players from college. Hoffman was coming off Tommy John surgery, and Pentecost was coming off an outstanding summer ball and junior season.

The Jays are going to look for a homegrown post-Jose Reyes plan, as two seasons on turf have worn him down, and I estimate he’s good for maybe five more seasons before there are more obvious problems. In this case, the best option is the defensively versatile John Aiello from Germantown Academy.

Aiello is a third baseman primarily, but he’s also capable as a shortstop. His power swing is better utilized when he’s hitting right-handed. Aiello also has the benefit of playing in a northern high school, which allows him to adapt to the cold of Toronto.

If developed as a shortstop properly, Aiello figures to be a 5 hitter in the Jays lineup. Again, the turf issue may cut his career by a couple years, but he may be one of the more underrated prep stars in the draft.

31. New York Yankees

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(First Selection: Phil Bickford, RHP, College of Southern Nevada)

The Yankees need to realize that the perfect balance for a winning team is a mix of developed and bought talent, and while they certainly have the bought part down, they do need to develop another few bats for when their high profile acquisitions do finally wear down. Brett Gardner has been a solid start, but there needs to be more.

Sometimes, when it comes to scouting players, especially for teams like the Yankees, there’s some value in looking in their own backyard. Look at the crosstown rival Mets and their developing prospect Steven Matz, or the Toronto Blue Jays and their prospect Dalton Pompey.

It would be a pretty expansive backyard for the Yankees, as Niskayuna High School outfielder Garrett Whitley is almost 3 hours away from Yankee Stadium, but his talent is undeniable, and with the potential to be the first MLB draft pick in the school’s history, he’s really making a solid case for a first round pick. 

In a way, Whitley is like Gardner, but with more pop. He’s got value in the 9 or 2 spot of a lineup based on his speed, and he has the defensive capability and the arm that allows him to play centerfield for a major league team. The fact that he’s used to playing in the cold weather that comes with the territory of upstate New York makes him even more attractive.

32. San Francisco Giants

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(First Selection: David Thompson, 3B, Miami)

I’d be remiss to not point out the state of the Giants outfield in the future, as both Gregor Blanco and Hunter Pence will be 32 by the end of the 2015 season. While Gary Brown may be part of the future of the Giants outfield, am I supposed to believe that Nori Aoki and Juan Perez will be part of the long term future?

The Giants have many outfield options, both prep and collegiate in the compensatory round, but none offer quite the ceiling like North Carolina’s Skye Bolt. Similar in story to LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, Bolt started his college career quite nicely, showing signs of both power and speed, a rare combination. He slashed ACC pitching, hit 6 home runs, and showed solid patience at the plate.

Bolt regressed slightly this past season, but he still has the potential to be a big time hitter in a major league lineup. The fact that he is a switch hitter will help his value even further. Should he play like he did his freshman year, he could be considered a dark horse top 15 pick.

33. Pittsburgh Pirates

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(First Selection: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School)

Gerrit Cole is certainly going to be a solid right-handed rotation arm for years to come, and while the rest of the Pirates homegrown arms, Glasnow, Taillon, and Kingham will come in due time, they will also all be right-handed, and there’s a certain predictability about that which makes drafting a left-handed pitcher that much more important.

Tyler Jay, the Illinois southpaw, was originally mocked to the Nationals, but it’s become all but official that Max Scherzer will sign with the team, forcing them to lose their first round pick, which puts Jay back in the draft pool. I put him here for the exact same reasons. You can find them, albeit with strikethrough text, in my previous post.

34. Kansas City Royals

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(First Selection: Riley Ferrell, LHP, TCU)

Note: Keep in mind, this pick isn’t official yet, but in all likelihood, will happen. Whether or not the team who signs James Shields is one of the ten worst teams or one of the 19 other teams who stand to lose a draft pick, is yet to be seen.

One of the major proponents of the build, not buy, philosophy, the Royals finally saw their long term plan come to fruition by becoming the 2014 AL champions Thanks to a nucleus of well-developed talent, Kansas City could be a legitimate dark horse threat in the AL for years. And to continue that sustained success, the Royals should look to develop more parts. Losing Nori Aoki and Billy Butler, both a key hitter and a key runner, is going to be difficult, and the Royals would love to have a guy who can at least try to replicate both.

Gulf Coast High School outfielder Kyle Tucker may not be as fast as Aoki, and he may not be as powerful as Butler, but if developed properly, he could be an adequate replacement for both of them in about four or five years. The brother of Preston Tucker, an Astros farmhand, Tucker is one of the more gifted hitters in his class. Although he’s somewhat lanky, he still is an excellent hitter, his swing is one of the best, if more unorthodox, in prep ball. Tucker is defensively capable, but while he is a centerfielder now, expect him to move to right field when he turns pro, as he has an arm more suited for the corner positions.

35. Detroit Tigers

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(First Selection: Andrew Suarez, LHP, Miami)

We all knew that Max Scherzer was never going to stay in Detroit, and in all likelihood, neither will David Price. A contingency plan had been in place with Jonathan Crawford and Kevin Ziomek, but Crawford left by way of the Alfredo Simon trade. I know it sounds like I’m talking about replacing Scherzer and Price immediately, but I could not be any further from that sentiment. Rather. it may be time to develop another set of arms for Detroit for the future.

I still think the Tigers should opt for Andrew Suarez, but maybe I should flip him and their hypothetical second selection, Stroudsburg right-hander Mike Nikorak. A classic case of value in a northern prep arm, Nikorak has excellent tools, including a fastball which ranges from low to high 90’s.  Well built, Nikorak really brought attention to himself during the showcase season, when scouts gushed on his pure stuff.

Nikorak is an athlete, having played quarterback in high school, but his focus is strictly on baseball now. Development of his secondary pitches is key for him to establish a reputation as a solid starter, and given Detroit’s handling of pitching these days, Nikorak wouldn’t have much to worry about.

36. Los Angeles Dodgers

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(First Selection: Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Matthew’s School)

It can’t be expressed how important a bullpen is in Major League baseball. There’s a difference between letting a starter sit because the manager is confident that a reliever can keep the momentum, and forcing said starter to pitch longer because the particular relief corps is weak. And while the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in baseball, not to mention some decent relief pitching from Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen, it wouldn’t hurt to add another solid arm to that mix.

Like AJ Reed (who ended up being drafted as a hitter), Alex Meyer and James Paxton before him, Kentucky pitcher Kyle Cody is considered a high talent. Cody has the ideal pitcher’s body at 6’7″ and 245 pounds, and he uses it as an emphasizer for his mid 90’s fastball. Cody has the potential to work his fastball into the triple digits, should he be used exclusively out of the bullpen, but there will be teams who want to try him in the back end of a major league rotation. Should the Dodgers take him, I see him more of a former than a latter.

37. Baltimore Orioles

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(First Selection: Richie Martin, SS, Florida)

Oriole Park at Camden Yards isn’t exactly the most ideal place for a speedster, but that doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be one in the Orioles future lineup. While it’s ideal to have a fast slugger in a lineup, sometimes a guy whose primary weapons are his legs may be the perfect solution to adding a degree of dimension to a lineup that’s more power oriented.

Clemson speedster Steven Duggar is considered the fastest collegian, perhaps even the fastest first round prospect this year, depending on if you’re in Kyler Murray’s boat. Duggar’s primary weapon may be speed, but he is fleshed out enough that he can be more than a singles hitter, even if he has shown limited potential on the power front.

Duggar is also a decent defensive player. While situated in a corner spot right now, scouts believe he has the potential to play center field. However, in a park like Camden Yards, perhaps the corner would be the best spot for him.

Duggar would be the perfect future complement to Chris Davis and Adam Jones, and his speed will ad another dimension to the Orioles offense and  will allow them to continue their stronghold of the AL East for years .

———-

And that is the final part of the 2015 Mock Draft. Stay tuned, as the next one will likely be released in time for MLB.com’s top 100 prospects and team top 20 prospects lists.

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