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.