Thursday, September 8, 2016

MLB draft 2017 First Big Board

It is the end of the summer, which means it’s time to start setting up lists and watching video on the players I expect to be near the top of the 2017 MLB draft.

People, by our nature, love lists. I mean buzzfeed has made how much money off of them? So I thought I would start with my top 11 list for next year’s draft, as of now. I go for 11 instead of 10, because I like to be different. I know, I am a real rebel.

Is it incredibly early? Yes, I could argue it’s way too early, as I fully expect half this list to end up not going in the first round. When I made my Way Too Early Mock last October, I managed to have just four players in my top ten who actually ended up in the top ten and eight in the top 20.
When I do these pieces, I am not expecting to get everything right. My main goal is to provide information in an easy to understand way that is also enjoyable. People like mocks and lists, so I do them. I find them fun as well. So for people who want to criticize my choice to write a list or do a mock early, the exit is that little red x at the top right of your computer window.

So here are the top 11 players as I see it now. It will change, and change A LOT.

1.            Alex Faedo RHP Florida
I have been very open in my appreciation of Faedo. While he might not have the pure stuff of AJ Puk, Faedo is a better pitcher. He was the top pitcher for Florida in 2016, from my perspective. He has posted excellent walk numbers in college along with showing the ability to pile on strikeouts. His slider is one of the top pitches in this class and might be the top slider in the class. I see a guy with plus control, a potential plus fastball and a plus plus slider. The fastball isn’t the high 90’s type that we usually see in a top five pick. Yet the overall package should see him go in the top 10 picks. He is the safest player in this class, with a floor of a mid-rotation starter, barring an injury. A fast moving, safe arm with front of the rotation potential from one of the best pitching colleges in the country, there is nothing not to like here.

2.            Jeren Kendall OF Vanderbilt
I have been a fan of Kendall since his freshman year. I thought he was the second best outfielder in the SEC that year, behind Andrew Benintendi. Last year, I thought he was better than Corey Ray. Kendall can do it all. He is a sure centerfielder, with plus speed and above average power potential. He has a ceiling similar to Jackie Bradley Jr. down the road. There are really just two areas of concern for Kendall. The first is that he has some swing and miss to his game. I don’t think this is a big issue, but nitpicking will occur. The other issue is his height, as he is listed at six feet, but I bet if measured he would come out sub six foot. I wonder if he can go 1-1 in a league that is often so obsessed with height.

3.            Hunter Greene RHP/SS Notre Dame HS
I would be fine with a team trying him at shortstop or pitcher. He projects out at either position as a potential star, in part due to his plus plus athleticism. I would not be shocked to see him getting more consideration at shortstop this spring. The reason is that shortstops are harder to find, and there is less risk there. Greene has easy velocity, though, and the ceiling is highest on the mound. He has shown two potential plus pitches and another bonus is that he will still be 17 on draft day.  On upside alone, there is not a better player in this class. The risk is much higher than either of the players I have ahead of him, though, which is why he is third.

4.            Jordon Adell OF Ballard HS
The easiest thing to do with Adell is to say take everything I said about Kendall and add a plus arm, a full grade better power potential, and three inches. He is another player, much like Greene before, where the sky's the limit. He has plus power, speed, arm, and defensive upside. He is like Greene in another way as well, as Adell also excels as a pitcher. The difference is I have seen no debate on where he will end up once drafted. There is more risk on him then all but one other player in this top 11, which is why I have him at four. I will also admit there is superstar potential here.

5.            JB Bukauskas RHP UNC
I had him as a first rounder back when he was coming out of high school. I believe I had him in the top 20 prospects then. Now get ready for what we hear with every arm that is viewed as too small. Some will say Bukauskas is a future reliever. He has pitched well everywhere he has gone, putting up big strikeout numbers. He has two plus pitches, the big one being a fastball which has reportedly hit 100 in high school. He will only be 20 on draft day, making him a college junior who will be a little more than a year older than some high school seniors. If you are reading me, then you know I think the size issue is overblown. Yes, there is more risk with them, but it's still rather common to find smaller starters in the majors. The floor here is an excellent closer, but I have faith in the undersized righty.

6.            Tanner Houck RHP University of Missouri
Houck has been a force at the University of Missouri. He has a chance to be the highest pick out of the University of Missouri, an honor currently held by Aaron Crowe, who went 9th overall in 2008. The last first rounder from Missouri was Kyle Gibson, in 2009. The only other first rounder from Missouri was Max Scherzer, in 2006. I am bringing this all up to show how unlikely it is to have a potential top five pick from Missouri. Houck has shown excellent command in school, posting solid walk rates. He combines this command with three pitches that have plus potential. As a 6’5” pitcher who developed a bit later, there is often seen to be more upside in Houck than the other arms in this class. He needs a little more development than the college arms ahead of him on this list, which is why I have him here. If he takes another step forward this season, it will be easy to see Houck as a 1-1 candidate.

7.            Kyle Wright RHP Vanderbilt
I don’t think you can make a top ten list anymore without having a Vandy pitcher in it. Last year, Vandy had more potential starting pitchers than spots for them. Wright was so good, he forced his way into the rotation after being a pen arm as a freshman. He started over several juniors, and did not disappoint. He posted strong strikeout totals, with an acceptable walk rate. Wright is the only college player on this list who was not previously drafted. This says a lot about how far he has come when you consider two players on this list told teams not to bother drafting them. Wright has four pitches. His fastball is his best and a future plus pitch. His cutter and curve, at points, have flashed plus, and he has a workable change. He is another player who I think has 1-1 potential, because of his size and potential pitch mix. If he can show more consistency with his off speed stuff, then I expect Wright to move right up this board, pun intended.

8.            Tristan Beck RHP Stanford
Tristan Beck had a chance to be a first rounder out of high school, but let it be known that he would not sign if drafted. He really had his heart set on attending Stanford. Now, he could decide to stay another year at Stanford rather than leaving as a draft eligible sophomore, but I think this is unlikely. Mark Marquess, the coach at Stanford since 1977, is retiring after this season, which is another reason for Beck to go pro, along with a few million other reasons. Beck had a very strong freshman year, posting low walk totals and a solid strikeout rate. He is a big pitcher, with a good head on his shoulders. As a true sophomore, there is a lot of room for Beck to move on the board. If he takes a step forward as a sophomore, I could see him going as high as one. If he struggles, the price tag and where he plays could push him out of a signable spot and make him a name to watch for next year.

9.              DL Hall LHP Houston County
I have to put a prep lefty somewhere in my top ten. I think it’s in a contract somewhere. Hall is a polished pitcher with advanced feel for his secondary pitches. His fastball, which has hit 96, is his best pitch. He should move quickly for a prep player and is exactly the type of player who should be aggressively pushed. He is the safest prep player on this list. I think he has front of the rotation upside, with a good chance for three average or better pitches. His fastball and curve both look like potential plus showings. Hall is safer than the prep arms and, arguably, one of the college arms ahead of him. Hall doesn’t have the ceiling, which is why I have him a little further down the list. If I had to compare him to a pitcher from the 2016 class, I would put him in the Braxton Garrett class.

10. Brady McConnell SS Merritt Island
There has been a lot of positive talk on Brady McConnell, and he should enjoy that now, because things will turn on him. I am not psychic, but will explain why I expect this in a bit. First, let me explain why I have McConnell right here. He is a very good athlete who runs well and has shown good bat speed, with the ability to stick at shortstop. I will repeat that again, a shortstop who can run and has above average power potential. There are about 25 teams looking for that player right now. Now, to get back to my first statement, McConnell will turn 19 this May. Now stop and think about what turning 19 in May did to Blake Rutherford and his stock. Sure, McConnell has a positional advantage and his birthday is at the end of the month instead of the beginning. Yet, as age has become more important in the draft process, time and time again it seems to hurt players like McConnell.

11.  Mark Vientos 3B Charles W Flanagan HS

Vientos has seemed to lose a bit of steam over the summer. I can’t drop him any farther than this. Vientos won’t turn 17 for a few more months. McConnell, who I have at ten, is nearly two years his senior, and they are in the same high school class. This makes him not just the youngest player in this class, but young even for the 2018 draft. The youth here is rather unusual and, for a certain subset of teams who seemed to value age and tools over anything else, I could see Vientos going very high. His bat speed and size allows for one to think that there is power potential there for Vientos. His size also means he is likely to move off short to third. His youth and tools still intrigue me, even if his star seems a bit diminished right now. There are questions right now with his approach and position, which have moved him from presumptive favorite to go in the top five to a player who could free fall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Shadow Draft

This article is late. Normally I try to get it out a little before the signing deadline or just after. Instead, life happened and I was unable to get out my yearly shadow draft piece on time. 
I am not taking advantage of the extra time. I didn’t check out how guys did in the minors or save extra funds for TJ Friedl who after going undrafted burst on the scene for Team USA and got a big deal from the Reds.
No, this is based on who I thought the top talents were and who I would have taken. After the year is done I plan to start revisiting this shadow drafts for articles and seeing how I have done, so keep your eyes peeled for those.
Lastly, I need to give Baseball America a big shout out. Their draft database was an invaluable source to look at for figuring out the money for my shadow draft. I went there to look over the costs of players and make sure that my shadow draft was one that made sense monetarily as well.

Round 1, pick 14 overall

So the debate for me with this draft was right at the top with who do I take. Will Benson is a great kid with a high ceiling but I have pretty major concerns about if he will ever be able to hit enough. So he was never going to be my pick here. Yet at the same time my number one player, Blake Rutherford, was on the board. The problem if I take Rutherford here is I need to make up a $782,000 dollar difference in the signing bonus between he and Benson.
This would be a huge sum to make up and would affect several picks. I knew I could cut about $40,000 off the top with money that the Indians had under the spending cap, so it give me a very small head start.
If I did not take him, then I was looking at Delvin Perez here - the talented but troubled shortstop. If he had been a plus character guy he would have been the top pick in the draft, and he signed for $2.2 million dollars which was less than Benson. So while Perez might be a risk he gives me more money to spend.
After much debate, Blake Rutherford was too good for me to turn down. I would trim money from other deals and add the supremely talented hitter. I think his ceiling is very similar to Michael Brantley. He would slot in as the number two prospect in the whole organization to me.
Of course, now I have to shave $742,000 dollars off this draft, which is not an easy task.
Selection: Blake Rutherford, OF - Chaminade HS

Round 2, pick 55

Here is my debate. The clear cut top player on my board is Nolan Jones who the Indians selected. Jones got the second highest bonus in the second round, only behind Kyle Mueller, the left-handed prep pitcher from Texas.
I could cut the deficit entirely here and take players I was known to like. For example JB Woodman, Sheldon Neuse, and Nick Solak all signed for under a million. I could save almost $1.5 million and then have another $750K to upgrade some later picks. It is tempting, but in the end I said no.
Nolan Jones was a top 15 talent in this draft. He is a great player with plus power potential. I loved his athleticism and approach at the plate. He is too good a talent to pass on, even if I could have split the money on others.
Selection: Nolan Jones, SS/3B - Holy Ghost HS

Round 2.5 (Competitive Balance), pick 72

It was right around this pick that the run on catchers began. I liked Logan Ice quite a bit, but he was not the top college catcher on my board. 
So I will still grab a catcher but instead will go with Sean Murphy from Wright State. I saw him in person this year. He was the most impressive player I saw in person in terms of tools. The raw power from the right side is there. He should be an elite defender as well. His arm was one of the best tools in this class. There is a floor of a backup catcher if he doesn’t hit enough which is a pretty good value here.
If not for an injury he would be long gone. The other bonus is that Murphy allows me to save $47,000 dollars which means I now just need to cut another $695,000. There was some temptation to take a senior sign here to save cash. The upside of Murphy at such a need position in the organization was too good to pass on. 
By grabbing Murphy here I have been able to take three of my top 50 players in this class.
Selection: Sean Murphy, C - Wright State

Round 3, pick 92 

I have to change this pick, at this point it is starting to get late in the process and I have to clear a lot of money yet. Aaron Civale is a nice pick, but very similar to a few other pitchers the Indians took.
I scan through the players taken in the third round and there is a player who stands out in terms of stuff and money savings.
Zach Jackson is a player who had been as high as ten on my big board in the summer before the draft. He has two potential plus pitches and a usable third. His curveball is one of the best pitches in this draft.
I also thought he could have started this year, but got mishandled at Arkansas. He got a handful of starts then was thrown back in the pen. His command and control have been issues. I know how much I preach on avoiding these types of arms, yet here is an electric arm who could benefit from a coaching change and a defined role. 
There is an upside of a mid-rotation starter with a good chance at a backend reliever as well. If you trust your staff he is a very interesting arm. On top of that he saves me $350,000 right here which cuts my deficit in half.
Selection: Zach Jackson, RHP - Arkansas

Round 4, pick 122

I looked around the fourth round a bit here to see if I would change the pick from Shane Bieber. Most of the players I had rated higher signed for twice what Bieber got. Josh Palacios from Auburn I really liked, but he signed for a little more. I can’t afford to increase the deficit. 
I talked to a lot of California people. It’s a state in which I have many great connections. They all were fans of Bieber. 
I trust these people and like what I saw from Bieber so I am keeping this pick.
Selection: Shane Bieber, RHP -  UCSB

Round 5, pick 152

Conner Capel was a guy who made my top 100. I thought he was an excellent value here and was one of my favorite picks in the draft. I talked with a scout who was all over him early in the process.
I was shocked to see him not only slide but sign for slot here. I am not changing this one. I like the speed, work ethic, and bloodlines.
Selection: Conner Capel, OF - Seven Lakes HS

Round 6, pick 182

I had to pick one player from the last three picks to change up to save cash. Of the three I have the least faith in Cantu. This is not to say I dislike this pick. I liked it as he has a good bat and some pop. I have to save money though.
I considered two players here. Boomer White was the SEC Player of the Year. He much like Cantu is a great hitter with a limited defensive profile. The other issue with White is that at the time of the draft no one was sure if he would sign. He could technically be a fifth year senior. He was living out a lifelong dream playing for Texas A&M. I could not deal with that uncertainty. I need this money or I am going to lose a first rounder next year.
So instead I look at Duncan Robinson a 6’6” right-handed pitcher from Dartmouth. He doesn’t throw very hard which is an issue, but one has to wonder if there might be a bit more velocity in that arm. He posted very low walk rates in the Ivy League with a high K rate.
I think there is a lot value here in a small school guy with size and a walk rate under one.
We know the Indians used to love to mine the Ivy Leagues, so why not a guy whose name makes him sound like what would happen if one combined the front court of the late 90’s Spurs.
Selection: Duncan Robinson, RHP - Dartmouth

Round 7, pick 212

The Indians need catching depth in the system. It is clearly where they are the weakest. I am fine with taking Michael Tinsley here. He was a highly productive bat in college. I am a big fan of hitters with high BABIP and who walk nearly twice as much as they strikeout.
I was a bit tempted by Jordan Zimmerman from Michigan State, but decided to stick with the Indians pick as it met a bigger system need.
Selection: Michael Tinsley, C - Kansas

Round 8, pick 242

There were some fun picks here in the 8th round to consider. I saw Troy Montgomery a few times with Ohio State. He is a plus defender with average on base skills, but he cost too much for my current situation. Chris DeVito is a big strong red head power hitter, which is a need for the Indians system now. The issue is he has a slow bat and no defined position.
In the end I decided to go off board here a bit in an effort to save a lot of money, and to try and finagle something later. 
Andrew Lantrip was tempting to keep with his plus command, but I am not sure he has so much as an average pitch in his arsenal. After keeping Bieber and Duncan who are similar arms I decided to flip the script here.
Kevin LaChance signed for $2.5K in the 10th round. He is a shortstop whose best skill is his plus speed. His contact numbers in college were good, but I would say he has well below average power. The upside here is purely as a utility guy. Still though, for his price tag, he is a great value because of the skills he has shown in four years of school. More importantly though, with this pick I am under 5% threshold for the pool limit. This means no penalties for me to worry about. I am free and clear for my next two picks.
Selection Kevin LaChance, SS - University of Maryland Baltimore County

Round 9, pick 272

Hosea Nelson is the type of player who often intrigues me. He put up huge numbers at a small school and the question becomes was it the environment or is there more there. The Indians certainly thought there was more there to sign him for the entire pool amount for the pick.   
Right now he looks like a future left fielder who can run and hit. I am going to stick with the pick. Nelson won’t be 20 till November so he is closer in age to a high school player than your typical college player.
Selection: Hosea Nelson, OF - Clarendon College

Round 10, pick 302

This was another pick where I had some debate. I knew I had to get a senior sign with one of the picks in rounds 8-10, so the question was which player I would swap out. It came down to Taylor against Lantrip. 
I chose to keep Taylor because he is an up the middle talent, likely second base. He has plus speed and was really impressive at the Area Code Game a year ago making a name for himself. He is undersized, but the ceiling is just a lot higher here than with Lantrip.
Of course the fun thing would be if they could have convinced either player to slide to the 12th round. I was a big fan of Andrew Calica who they took in the 11th so I would not want to mess around there. As of this point if I was the Indians I could spend $24,979 over slot without losing a first rounder. Lantrip signed for $125K and so did Taylor. 
If one of those players did slide, I could offer them $124,979, just $21 less than they signed for. Heck, I could offer $124,979.99 if that made it better. This would have been very possible with the way teams make deals with players on draft day. So with this approach I take Taylor here and try and work a deal to still get Lantrip later.
Selection: Samad Taylor, 2B/SS - Corona HS
So, in this draft, I land four of my top 100 players. I end up with two of my top 20 and three of my top 50. I use every dime possible to land all but four of the players the Indians originally selected.
Most importantly I add the top player in the draft to the Indians minors, so not a bad day at the office for this fake Director of Scouting.