All good things must come to an end, and in this case, it’s speculation on who will be taken where in the 2016 MLB draft. It’s been a wild year, both for college and prep baseball, and with the draft landscape really starting to take shape, i.e. teams are starting to be more clear about whom they are taking, if not player-wise, then position or level-wise. Anyway, this mock will cover the entire first round, with explanations for picks, then the compensatory picks, with shorter explanations, then the competitive balance round, with maybe a blurb. All in all, it’s been a fun, speculative ride, and I thank you all for reading the mocks.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
Every year, it’s the same narrative: In the MLB draft, you take the best player available. No player is a sure shot to be a star, let alone make it, and anything can happen. It’s that exact reason why not many people do MLB mocks because there isn’t any instant gratification of seeing players play in the majors immediately. That being said, this year’s class has been hard to measure. On the one hand, some impressive college players have made compelling cases, on the other, prep products have really opened eyes, and not just in hotbed states like California and Florida.
Diatribe aside, Philly can’t go wrong with this pick. They have a strong system that can only get better with whomever they take. Rumor has it that they are planning on going after an outfielder, and if this is so, Kyle Lewis may be their guy. Despite having one of the weakest schedules of any collegiate prospect, Lewis has more than compensated by completely obliterating his competition, and has cemented his place as one of the NCAA’s best hitters by virtue of being in the top ten in batting average, home runs, and RBI among NCAA baseball players. Lewis’ bat would translate well to the hitters haven that is Citizens Bank Park, although his defense would likely limit him to a corner spot. If he can adjust to the competition spike, he has the potential to be a vital cog in the Phillies’ lineup, giving the team a power hitter they haven’t had since Ryan Howard’s prime.
2. Cincinnati Reds
I look at the Cincinnati Reds as a team that, should everything break right, and their prospects all develop, they can get back to competing with the Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates in a few years. While their pitching staff definitely has the potential to wow, especially considering how much they got for selling off Johnny Cueto, their lineup does remain a question mark, especially since Jay Bruce and Joey Votto will be gone.
One of the better athletes of any class is in this draft, Louisville outfielder Corey Ray. Ray can fit anywhere near the top of the lineup, he has the speed to be a leadoff hitter, and the power to hit in the 3 hole. Ray’s one knock is where he will play defensively, while he can cover a lot of ground, his arm is considered his weakest tool. In a small ballpark like GABP, Ray could thrive as a run producer. Additionally, his arm strength issues could be ignored if he can contribute in the lineup.
3. Atlanta Braves
At the beginning of the year, the biggest debate among draft nuts was who was the better prep pitcher, Jason Groome, or Riley Pint? As the season wore on, more and more debates came up, who’s the best college hitter? Are the Phillies planning on taking Groome? etc. etc.
However, the most unrecognized debate had to go to who the best prep outfielder is in this draft, and it was between Blake Rutherford, an established candidate and Mickey Moniak, someone who had been considered a potential first rounder, and who has since risen to the point where he could even be the first overall pick. Moniak may not have the power that Rutherford does, but he’s been regarded as a solid contact hitter with the ability to play a professional centerfield.
Although the Braves have all but said they’re taking a college hitter with this pick, considering how weak the college hitting class is, it’s possible they could gamble a bit and grab a higher ceiling player, and should they acquire another competitive balance pick, they could add more money to their bonus pool.
In 2013, the Colorado Rockies selected what many believed was the top pitching prospect in the draft with the third overall pick. In 2015, they drafted the best overall prospect in the draft. Now, they stand in a great position, with either one of the top players likely to fall into their lap.
While the no-brainer pick would be to go for the consensus top prospect, it’s likely if this scenario plays out, they go a safer pick. Having failed to develop a solid starter from the prep ranks, it’s possible that should AJ Puk be available, he’s their pick. Put may not have put together the strongest season, but he’s been regarded as one of the more consistent picks available, never really falling out of the top 5, despite questions regarding his durability. Puk and 2014 first rounder Kyle Freeland. who has really resurrected his top prospect status in Hartford, could make for a nice future southpaw 1-2 punch to go alongside Jon Gray and future rotation piece Jeff Hoffman.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
The Milwaukee Brewers are in rebuilding mode, there’s no sugarcoating that, and it’s clear that in addition to selling off their top players for prospects, the scouting department will have carte blanche to pick the best player available at the 5th spot. The past two drafts have seen Milwaukee select high ceiling prep talent like Kodi Medeiros, Jake Gatewood, Monte Harrison, Trent Clark, and Demi Orimoloye, is it possible this continues?
If the draft plays out this way, the Brewers might actually have a shot at what many consider to be the top talent in the draft, Jason Groome. Groome’s senior season at Barnegat has taken its fair share of twists and turns, he was exceptionally dominant early on, even throwing a no-hitter, the first in school history, before being ruled ineligible, then later suspended for two weeks for violating the NJSIAA transfer rules. Since then, he’s been up and down. Milwaukee isn’t risk-averse, they took Harrison despite a strong commitment to Nebraska, so it’s possible they might make a hard push to get Groome, who is committed to pitching for Vanderbilt, should he land here.
6. Oakland A’s
The 2016 MLB Draft will be the first in 20 years that Billy Beane will not oversee as GM of the Oakland A’s, having been succeeded by David Forst. Though Beane does not sit in the GM chair, it’s likely his influence will still be there as he currently is the executive VP of baseball operations, and Forst is a Beane protege. The question is, how will Forst handle his first draft?
If the Moneyball draft philosophy still stands, it’s likely that Forst will avoid prep pitchers at all costs, but could still make a run at a college pitcher, and no better option is available than Dakota Hudson. Hudson really raised his stock from a potential late first rounder to a top 10, maybe top 5 pick. Hudson has the body of a pitcher, and his pitches range from above average to plus. He would make an excellent frontline starter and eventual successor to Sonny Gray.
7. Miami Marlins
How does a team that has four picks in the top 15 in the past four years end up with one of the worst farm systems in baseball? Part of it may have to do with trading away two of those picks, and the stalled development of one, while it’s two early to tell on the fourth one. Let’s put it this way, Miami desperately needs a talent infusion in that system. At the seventh spot, there isn’t a lot of tier 1 talent left, but what is available could fit well into Miami’s future plans.
I put Nick Senzel here a while back, and soon afterwards, he made a convincing case to stay there with an excellent season, to the point where Baseball America had him as their second ranked player available earlier in the year. The main selling point on Senzel is his ability to hit and hit, to the point where it trumps his positional uncertainty. With Senzel succeeding as a third baseman during his junior season, it’s all but certain that’s where he will be playing professionally, and considering Miami’s options at third, if he is available here, he would make the most sense.
8. San Diego Padres
Three first round picks in the top 25 is going to give you a lot of room to work with, and it’s clear the Padres want to hit a home run with this draft after last year’s disastrous all-in splurge. I wouldn’t be surprised if AJ Preller decides to take some risks here, maybe a high ceiling player with an injury, or a player that may be a tougher sign.
While we may be robbed of the debate over who would be the #1 pick between this year’s best prep arms, Jason Groome and Riley Pint, it still will be fun to see how each adjusts to pro ball. Pint especially, considering his 102 mph fastball is something to behold. His character is also a plus, and will get him far in the minors. Pint’s ability should give the Padres something to cheer about, considering how long it’s been since they’ve drafted, and kept, a star player.
9. Detroit Tigers
I’ve made it abundantly clear in the past that I have a soft spot for NECBL alums, having interned for a team back in 2014. And to be honest, there have been some very good players that have come out of the league. Joe Nathan, Stephen Strasburg, and AJ Pollock all come to mind immediately.
This year’s batch of NECBL alums is highlighted by Laconia/Winnipesaukee alum Jordan Sheffield. Sheffield comes from Pitcher U, Vanderbilt, and since taking over as Vandy’s ace, has shown that he has an arm. Considering the Tigers like fireballers that come from the SEC, Sheffield seems like the perfect fit, and can further justify this pick by performing well in both the SEC and NCAA tournaments. Concerns about his control aside, Sheffield could end up being yet another example of how height shouldn’t be an indicator of potential success as a pitcher. Interestingly enough, Jordan’s uncle Gary Sheffield was also a member of the Tigers from 2007-2008.
10. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have come a long way since having one of the worst farm systems in baseball in 2014. With Carlos Rodon running through the system quickly, and with Tim Anderson and Carson Fulmer waiting in the wings, maybe the White Sox can use this draft to improve the system even more by drafting some high ceiling prep talent.
While we already touched on the subject, there’s no denying that Blake Rutherford has to be one of the better prep bats in the country, in fact, he’s so good that he was included on the Golden Spikes Award semifinalist list earlier this year, the only high schooler to be included. Despite concerns that he would suffer from prospect fatigue like Daz Cameron last year, it’s clear that he’s still one of the top talents, and the only thing that could possibly drop him is a strong commitment to UCLA, which is highly unlikely. Rutherford may be old for a high school player, he’s actually older than some of the high schoolers from last year’s draft. but if the adage that advanced age = advanced bat is true, Rutherford could actually make the big leagues faster than your average prep bat. Overall, Rutherford’s tools are about on par with that of some college players and it would be hard for a team like Chicago to overlook him.
11. Seattle Mariners
Some teams are good at developing talent, while others are better at procuring talent. Seattle falls in the latter category, as while they have had two of their first round picks in the last five years make the major leagues, most of their success has come from outside help, like Nelson Cruz or Robinson Cano, or Dae-Ho Lee. While the Mariners have had other successes that came from their system in years past, see Ken Griffey and Felix Hernandez, any Mariners fan will tell you that their team is just awful at player development.
In order to remedy the situation, I feel the Mariners should go for one of the safest picks you can possibly make, Zack Collins. Not only can Collins hit, he comes from one of the best programs in the country for developing talent, Miami. Collins’ only question mark is where he will play in the future, some say he’ll stay behind the plate, others think that he’ll move to first, and others consider him to be a Billy Butler-type DH. Collins also has had time at third base. Regardless of his future position, Collins’s power almost certainly qualifies him for a cleanup role in any lineup. even one so power dependent as Seattle’s.
12. Boston Red Sox
When you think of Upstate New York, one thing you will probably never associate with the region is baseball. Sure, there are some minor league teams, but the combination of weather and lack of exposure really makes it seem like any baseball that isn’t minor league is more of a recreational activity. However, last year, that changed when Garrett Whitley became the first Niskayuna High School draft pick ever.
Whitley’s selection must have had a ripple effect, as a player he faced his senior year, Ian Anderson, has really gotten attention and has the potential to be a top pick himself. Anderson may be skinnier than your average hurler, but he has a solid fastball that allows him to make up for that. Anderson does come with an injury concern, having strained his oblique early in the year, and his commitment to Vanderbilt will almost certainly cost Boston or whomever draft him. Still, Anderson has the makings of a future rotation piece, and his ability to play in cold weather is a plus. Anderson might be motivated to sign with Boston as well, since the Red Sox are his favorite team.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
I’m fairly certain the Tampa Bay Rays would love to have a do-over of the 2008 MLB Draft. With players like Buster Posey and Pedro Alvarez available, they ended up taking Tim Beckham out of Griffin High School in Georgia. Now all due respect to Beckham, who has since become serviceable, but in all honesty, there’s no denying that Posey and Alvarez would have been much better picks.
At the 13th position, the Rays may not have the ability to get as good talent, but should someone like Delvin Perez slip to them, you can bet they’ll pounce. Perez may be a throwback to the shortstops of yore that could field better than hit, but in this day and age, a great fielding shortstop is an asset, just ask Atlanta, who ended up scoring two top pitching prospects as compensation for trading Andrelton Simmons. Perez has the glove and the arm, and although his bat may be developmental, there definitely is potential for growth. At worst, Perez hits toward the bottom of the lineup, but at best, he evolves into a solid leadoff hitter. Additional plusses are his youth, he is the second youngest player in the draft, behind Ron Washington, and his lack of a college commitment, meaning whomever takes him will find him easy to sign.
14. Cleveland Indians
The Indians’ minor league system is one of the better, if more under appreciated systems in baseball. Over the past five years, the team has opted to take plenty of high ceiling offensive talent, like Francisco Lindor, Clint Frazier, and Bradley Zimmer, to go along with solid pitching talent like Justus Sheffield and Brady Aiken, as well as Rob Kaminsky, who was acquired from St. Louis. It’s clear that the Indians will have a wealth of talent in the coming years.
While the Indians aren’t likely to get a Tier-1 player at the 14th spot, they could still net a solid player like Josh Lowe. Initially split between third base and pitching, he has since gravitated more towards third base, adding value to a very solid offensive prep class. Lowe stands to stay at third defensively because of his arm strength and his contact and power can only improve. He and Francisco Lindor would make up a very solid left side of the infield for the Indians.
15. Minnesota Twins
What happened to the Twins? A year ago, they were competitive up to the final week of the season, now, they look like an early favorite for the Tanner Houck sweepstakes. Considering the young talent that makes up the nucleus of this team,, and the fact that they’ve gotten almost a full year under their belts together, it makes no sense that they should be this bad right now.
While the pickings aren’t as plentiful for the Twins at the 15th spot, they stand to benefit from a connection to one of their recent draft picks. Although Nick Burdi’s flame throwing younger brother is available, I can see the Twins grabbing Tyler Jay’s college teammate Cody Sedlock here. Like Jay, Sedlock is a converted starter, though Sedlock was actually converted in his junior season. The reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Year has a variable arsenal of pitches: a solid fastball and sinker, an above-average slider, and developmental curve and changeup. He has the body type that many associate with a starter, and at the very least, will induce many groundball outs. Having Jay and Sedlock in the same rotation should give the Twins an added chemistry boost, and could add more promise to what can be seen as an interesting future rotation.
16. Los Angeles Angels
It’s clear that the Angels aren’t risk-averse when it comes to taking certain players in the draft. Mike Trout, Sean Newcomb, and Taylor Ward are all examples of this. But given the system that the Angels have, it may be time to dial back the risks a bit and go for something a little safer. Much like the White Sox and Carlos Rodon back in 2014, I can see the Angels grabbing a player here that could run through the system quickly and contribute in the near future.
In my opinion, Zack Burdi is by far the safest pick you can possibly make in the draft. Burdi has his brother’s pedigree, but because his fastballs are slightly slower and he has more control, there is definite starter potential. Burdi is also built like a starter as well. Considering the amount of bad contracts on the team, the Angels should really consider using this draft as the starting point for a total rebuild.
17. Houston Astros
For as much as we praise the Astros for building their team from the ground up, it’s clear that there’s still plenty of work to do. The farm system in particular could use a solid pitching boost. Considering how much the Astros gave up for Ken Giles, even if Mark Appel has yet to justify being the number 1 pick, it’s clear the Astros should spend this draft stockpiling future staff pieces.
One of the more intriguing prospects in the draft this year has been Eric Lauer. Lauer has been absolutely impressive this year, leading the nation in ERA and in the top 5 in strikeouts. Lauer may not pump premium gas, but he does make batters miss, and his pitch array gives him plenty of options. His performance in the MAC tournament could further improve his draft position as well.
18. New York Yankees
It must be frustrating to be a Yankees fan, especially considering how much the team has struggled as of late. Since the Yankees are likely waiting until the 2018-19 offseason to make big moves, the front office should really look to the draft to keep the fanbase at least somewhat excited. This year especially would be a good start, mainly due to the impressive, if unpredictable number of first round high school pitchers.
At first, the idea of the Yankees taking a prep pitcher from Alabama seems out of the ordinary, but Braxton Garrett is far from ordinary. A Vanderbilt recruit, Garrett took Alabama by storm and raised his stock to at one point where he was speculated to be a top 10 pick. Garrett’s one of the few pitchers on this year’s list whose secondary offerings are better than his fastball, though it’s possible he could build it up with time in the minors. Although the Vanderbilt commitment is an obstacle, Garrett’s potential seems like the perfect opportunity for the Yankees to take a risk.
19. New York Mets
The common theme of the Mets’ drafts of the past few years has been getting one of the top hitters, either in the prep level (Dominic Smith) or in the college level (Michael Conforto, David Thompson). With Conforto’s success so far in the Mets’ lineup, and with David Wright edging closer and closer to the end of his career, it would make sense for the Mets to develop the next generation of hitters.
Probably one of the worst kept secrets in the draft has been the Mets’ infatuation with Will Craig. Craig, last year’s ACC player of the year, followed up on an impressive sophomore season with an even better junior season, and likely would have repeated as player of the year, had Seth Beer stayed in high school. Craig is a big bodied masher, although defensively, there are questions as to whether he’s a third or first baseman. If Craig’s offensive game can translate to the next level, it’s possible he can be the next Lucas Duda, only less streaky.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers
Andrew Friedman would be regarded as a conservative drafter, if it weren’t for his risk-filled 2015 first round class. With Walker Buehler on the shelf due to Tommy John and Kyle Funkhouser coming back to school, the early returns of the Dodgers’ 2015 draft class are not promising.
Regardless, every GM has a drafting philosophy, and if that’s the case, then we can expect Friedman to play the safe card again. Bryan Reynolds makes a lot of sense as a safe pick because while he doesn’t excel at anything in particular, he is still consistent enough, and has plenty of potential for growth to be a first round pick. Reynolds has been an important cog in the Vanderbilt lineup, and he would stand to be a solid 5-6 hitter in the Dodger lineup in the future.
21. Toronto Blue Jays
Sometimes, certain areas turn out to have good years when it comes to th MLB draft. Take Connecticut in 2011, when George Springer and Matt Barnes both were taken in the first round, and Nick Ahmed was taken a round later. How about Puerto Rico in 2012, who had three picks in the first round? Or how about 2015, when Indiana had two picks, and Canada had three? Call it luck of the draw. This year, it’s Pennsylvania and Kansas that will get the draft spotlight.
Toronto’s first foray into the Northeastern prep scene since 2011 gives them one of the better prep infielders in the draft, Nolan Jones. Perhaps one of the more intriguing prospects, Jones is a great hitter, and a solid defender. He could develop into a middle of the order bat, based on the potential for growth. The one question mark is where he will play professionally, as conflicting reports indicate he could be a pro third baseman, second baseman, or even outfielder. Jones’ development would coincide with Troy Tulowitzki’s contract expiring, so on the off chance he does stay at shortstop, he could take over if the development is there.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates stand at an interesting spot here, given the fact that they could conceivably walk away with a home state player. Drafting from home has worked for them in the past, Neil Walker was one of the more beloved Pirates players in team history. If a home state, or hometown player lands here, do they take him?
While a pitcher would be nice, I could see the Pirates going after the more interesting prospect, Alex Kirilloff. A home-schooled kid who plays at Plum HS just outside of Pittsburgh, Kirilloff is a consistent contact hitter who, with proper development can tap into power. He also has a strong arm, one that will serve him well in an outfield corner. Kirilloff’s college commitment to Liberty shouldn’t be much of an issue, so the Pirates should have an easy time getting him to sign. If Kirilloff does make it this far, the Pirates should waste no time drafting him.
23. St. Louis Cardinals
I said earlier this year that this could be one of the better catching classes in draft history, on par with 2012, and lo and behold, we could potentially be looking at three, maybe four catchers going in the first round, including the competitive balance picks. While it’s obvious that Zack Collins is the consensus number 1 catcher, the debate stands as to who’s the second best, and who could the Cardinals pick at the 23rd spot?
It’s a battle between ACC catchers, but Chris Okey in my opinion stands as the better one. Though Okey was supposed to be the star of the Clemson team, Seth Beer’s arrival allowed him to move into a more comfortable supporting role, and in doing so, he had his best season yet. Okey is no stranger to playing with high profile talent, having caught for Team USA in 2014 and 2015, and as I have mentioned before, his almost veteran presence is certain to command respect from his pitchers. The opportunity to learn from Yadier Molina, one of the best in the game, should do a mountain of good for Okey as well.
COMPETITIVE BALANCE PICKS
24. San Diego Padres
Anthony Kay was a key part of helping UConn win their first American championship, and their first conference championship since 2011. The lefty may be a bit undersized, and his fastball may be more of a low 90’s offering but should be able to compensate with a solid pitch array.
25. San Diego Padres
Despite missing a solid chunk of the season due to injury, TJ Zeuch managed to rebound with an impressive junior year, and stands to be a first round pick. His height is ideal for a starter, although he might want to bulk up. Zeuch has four pitches that are greatly enhanced by the downward motion of his delivery. Zeuch also has the added benefit of playing in the ACC, meaning his competition level should help his stock even more.
26. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were considering Team USA players, and getting someone like Matt Thaiss would provide the team with a nice future backstop. Thaiss had an impressive senior season, and having caught the UVA pitching staff for the past three years, has experience with lively arms, something he should look forward to in Chicago.
27. Baltimore Orioles
We could see an impressive prep market for shortstops, and Gavin Lux, nephew of Golden Spikes winner Augie Schmidt, could find himself making a case to go in the late first round. His time around his uncle has really developed his game, and should make him an interesting prospect to develop.
28. Washington Nationals
If the Astros can do it, why can’t the Nationals? Carter Kieboom is the bother of Nats minor league catcher Spencer Kieboom. Carter is a great hitter, and could make a nice third baseman in the future.
29. Washington Nationals
While UVA hurlers haven’t had the best professional track record, Connor Jones could break the streak, thanks in part to a solid junior season. He’d make a nice back end starter.
30. Texas Rangers
Justin Dunn has surfaced lately as a starter with a lot of helium. I’m not quite ready to put him in the first round, but if he does well enough in the regional, I’m willing to eat my words. Still, he and Dillon Tate would make an excellent starting duo for the Rangers.
31. New York Mets
Riley Pint isn’t the only Kansas product who’s got a spotlight on him. Joey Wentz (no relation to Carson) had an impressive run of starts a month ago, and there was consideration he’d jump into the top 15, maybe top ten. That talk has died down a bit, but I could see Sandy Alderson making a possible run at the Virginia commit and making him an offer he can’t refuse.
32. Los Angeles Dodgers
Though Alec Hansen had possibly one of the worst junior seasons imaginable, he did manage to slightly correct his trajectory when he was moved to the bullpen. Hansen’s problems can be fixed, and there would be no better team to fix them than the Dodgers.
33. St. Louis Cardinals
Anfernee Grier really saw his stock rise to the point where he should be in consideration for a first round pick. He can hit and defend, and for a team like the Cardinals, who would love to find Matt Holliday’s replacement, he makes the most sense.
34. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals could use the money they might save from taking college players to grab a prep pitcher with signability issues. I feel certain that Forrest Whitley could be a candidate to drop.
CB LOTTERY PICKS
35. Cincinnati Reds
If a prep pitcher like Matt Manning falls into Cincy’s lap, and they haven’t drafted a pitcher second overall, I’m guessing this would be the spot to grab one.
36. Los Angeles Dodgers
The potential for Lucas Erceg to be a Chase Utley-type contributor for the Dodgers should outweigh the fact that he transferred from California to an NAIA school Menlo College due to academic issues.
37. Oakland A’s
If Nick Senzel isn’t available or if the A’s end up grabbing a college pitcher at the 6th spot, they should grab 3rd baseman Drew Mendoza for his defense and doubles ability.
38. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies could grab David Dahl’s friend and high school teammate, Heath Quinn right here. He has shown he can handle the transition to the pro game easily.
39. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks could certainly use a toolsy outfielder like they used to have in Justin Upton, Will Benson just might fall here.
40. Atlanta Braves
The Braves have a lot of young pitching, but almost nobody to catch them. Sean Murphy may not be the best hitter, but he can call a game, and has a real cannon for an arm.
41. Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s not often you gamble on project players, but Kyle Muller has the size and the potential to be a mid-rotation starter, plus, he comes from the same high school as Pirates prospect Josh Bell.
And with that, the mock drafts for 2016 are over. Stay tuned for the Winners and Losers of the draft, as well as a sneak peak into the 2017 draft. Thank you all for being a part of a fun year.