2015 MLB draft tracker: D-backs take Dansby Swanson first overall
The first round of the 2015 draft has come and gone, with the Diamondbacks making Dansby Swanson the No. 1 overall pick. Check out our draft tracker for full analysis of each and every first-round selection.
NOTES: Teams choose in reverse order of wins from last season. First-round and compensation-round picks can not be traded.
There are 26 first-round picks. Five teams (the Mets, Blue Jays, Padres, Nationals and Mariners) forfeited their first-round selections after signing free agents who received qualifying offers from their previous teams. Another (the Astros) gained an additional first-round pick after failing to sign its first-round choice from last year. Picks 27–36 are compensation picks for losing a free agent who received a qualifying offer. Picks 37–42 are the Competitive Balance A picks awarded to teams that have either one of the 10 smallest markets or 10 smallest revenue pools.
Swanson was a well-regarded but undrafted prospect out of a Georgia high school in 2012, but he has been a starter since his first day at Vanderbilt and significantly expanded his tools and skills. He played second base for his first two years in college before seamlessly making the transition this spring to shortstop, which is his natural position. He's hit .348 with 14 homers, 61 RBIs, 22 doubles, 42 walks and 15 steals this year and has improved his power late in the season. Swanson's predictability at a premium defensive position and his speed and power combination on offense make him an easy No. 1 choice.
Bregman has been the top player in his peer group since he was named the USA Baseball Player of the Year as a 16-year old. He hasn't stopped performing since, dominating the college ranks at Louisiana State and continuing to stand out for national teams. Scouts find it easy to identify physical faults with Bregman, as his tools do not grade out highly and he has no obvious position as a professional, although more and more are convinced he can stay at shortstop. But if you look at what he can do—hitting .318 with nine homers, 47 RBIs and 35 steals for the consensus best team in the country along with being its acknowledged leader—it isn't hard to predict that he will play in the big leagues quickly and for a long time.
The consensus No. 1 high-school prospect in the country for the last year, Rodgers has a large frame for a prototypical shortstop but is highly athletic with graceful agility and a rifle arm. Part of the big attraction in Rodgers is that he has a power bat and could develop into a middle-of-the-order run producer, although there have been some questions about just how the righthander’s hit tool is going to play at the upper levels.
A lightly recruited pitcher out of high school—he was just 165 pounds and throwing in the mid-to-upper 80s—Tate has blossomed into a strong athlete capable of reaching the upper 90s and pitching in the mid-90s for most of a game. He was talked about as a potential No. 1 overall pick much of the spring but faded late—understandably so, as this was his first collegiate season as a starter. Along with his intimidating fastball, Tate has a slider that ranks among the best breaking pitches in the draft and a pretty respectable changeup. He went 8–5 with a 2.26 ERA this spring and allowed only 66 hits in 103 innings, striking out 111.
There is probably more hyperbole thrown in Tucker's direction by scouts than any other player in this draft. His lean, angular build and his powerful lefthanded swing invoke comparisons to legends such as Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey Jr. and even Ted Williams. In addition to his power, Tucker is a polished hitter who hit .407 with eight homers and 21 RBIs this spring with 25 walks and only six strikeouts. His brother Preston, who is a totally different type of athlete, made his big-league debut this spring with the Astros.
Jay has been one of the fastest rising prospects leading up to the draft and had been in discussions for teams all over the top 10. He's been used in a hybrid closer/long relief role for Illinois this year, which has made him difficult to scout and even harder to evaluate as a potential starter. Jay has also been incredibly successful in that role, posting a 5–1 record, 0.60 ERA and 14 saves this year, allowing 30 hits and just seven walks in 60 innings while striking out 70. He pitches in the mid-90s with his fastball, showing a plus slider and potential plus changeup.
Benintendi was undrafted out of high school despite being the state of Ohio's all-time leader in hits and hit just .276 with one homer, 27 RBIs and only 10 extra-base hits in his freshman year at Arkansas. He exploded as a draft-eligible sophomore, however, hitting .390 with 18 homers, 54 RBIs, 22 steals and 33 extra-base hits this season. He also shows plus speed and the ability to stand out in centerfield on defense.
Fulmer is one of the more divisive pitching prospects in the draft. His stuff is absolutely top notch, with a mid-90s fastball, a nasty curveball and a potential plus changeup. Fulmer also has a spotless track record when it comes to performance both as a starter and a reliever and has never been injured. But many scouts believe that his high-effort delivery and arm action won't enable him to be a starter long-term and that he will eventually end up at the back end of a bullpen. Fulmer is 12–2 with a 1.92 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 107 innings this season.
Happ is one of the most polished and talented college hitters in the draft, a commodity that is rare and prized by many teams. He hit .369 with 14 homers, 44 RBIs and 49 walks this spring despite having double hernia surgery just prior to the season, and he has a long track record with his bat. There is some uncertainty about Happ's future position—he played outfield this year but has played second and third base often in the past. Some scouts compare him to Jason Kipnis as someone who can play average defense at second base with a potential impact offensive contribution from that position.
Randolph emerged as one of the top hitters in the 2015 high school class due to his combination of power potential and an accomplished hit tool. He has very strong hands and generally comes at the ball from an inside path from the left side, hitting hard line drives up the middle and to the gaps. However, Randolph also shows the ability to recognize pitches he can turn on and change his swing dynamics to pull the ball hard, a rare trait in a young hitter. Defensively, Randolph has the tools to play third base but has also showed the ability to play second, which would increase his potential offensive value significantly.
Stephenson was a relatively obscure prospect to the national scouting community at the start of the spring, as he didn't participate in much of the increasingly important summer and fall circuit. However, he showed surprisingly agile athleticism for a player his size behind the plate, and he boasts a big power bat that came up huge in front of big scouting crowds this spring. Although he’s a righthanded hitter, the Georgia Tech signee has frequently been compared to switch-hitting Orioles receiver Matt Wieters as an overall prospect.
Naylor has been one of the fastest-rising high school hitters over the last month, as scouts have bought more and more into the huge lefthanded power that he brings to the plate. He's cut down his swing-and-miss tendencies significantly over the past year as he's realized that he can hit the ball out of the yard to any field without sacrificing contact ability. Naylor is a good athlete for his size and has an especially strong throwing arm.
Whitley was a largely unknown and un-scouted player before late last summer, but he wowed scouts with his combination of bat speed, running speed and overall athleticism. He is also a terrific student and impressed scouts with his character and makeup. One drawback to Whitley's background is his lack of in-depth exposure to high-quality pitching, as he rarely traveled outside of his local surroundings for games.
If Brady Aiken and Michael Matuella are the two biggest wildcards in the 2015 class, Allard might be the next. The slender and projectable southpaw was broadly considered this year’s top high school arm but has not pitched in a game since mid-March due to what was diagnosed as a "stress reaction" in his back. When healthy, Allard throws a 92–95-mph fastball to go with a hammer curveball and quality changeup that rank among the best secondary pitches in the class.
Clark is a dynamic athlete who combines both strength and speed and has an advanced feel for the game. He hits lefthanded with a very unusual grip and hand position on the bat, but that didn't keep him from hitting well over .500 both this spring and last summer and fall for the USA National 18U team. Clark has also shown an outstanding understanding of the strike zone and is a polished and skillful bunter, profiling him as a potential high-level leadoff hitter with above-average power for that role in a lineup.
Kaprielian was a high-profile and very good pitcher in high school and has continued that success uninterrupted at UCLA, first as a freshman closer, then as a starter the past two seasons. Unlike many college pitchers during the spring, Kaprielian's stuff has improved as the season has worn on, and he's been at his best even as his inning count has gone over 100 (10–4, 2.03 ERA in 106 innings this season). His fastball, which was a fringy plus pitch previously that played up due to its movement and his ability to spot it, has been a power pitch in the 93–95 mph range over his past few starts.
Aiken's situation is both unfortunate and unique in the history of the draft. He was the first pick of the Astros in 2014 after a stellar high-school career in San Diego, but he became embroiled in a contentious negotiation with Houston after irregularities were found in his pre-signing physical. After not signing and losing his college eligibility for working with an agent, Aiken pitched for IMG Academy in Florida but tore his UCL in the first inning of his first start and underwent Tommy John surgery. He will be a risk on a number of fronts, but he is definitely a high-ceiling risk if he signs and returns to full health.
Bickford has had a tumultuous past two years, but it looks like it worked out alright for him. He was the Blue Jays’ first rounder (10th overall) in 2013 but did not sign. After a year at Cal State–Fullerton, he abruptly transferred to College of Southern Nevada to regain his draft eligibility a year earlier. Bickford has had a dominant spring against junior college hitters, striking out an absurd 166 batters in 86 innings while going 9–1 with a 1.45 ERA. He pitches with a 93–97 mph fastball that has life and deception, but some scouts worry if his secondary pitches are going to be good enough to survive as a starter in the long run.
Newman is a player who has appeared all over draft boards: Some scouts consider him a first-round prospect, but others think that his tools are more worthy of a third-round pick. Two things are clear. First, Newman has outstanding barrel-to-ball skills—he led the Cape Cod League in hitting the past two years and posted a .370 batting average with two homers and 36 RBIs for Arizona this spring. The second is that he is a solid-but-not-spectacular shortstop who should be able to stay at that valued position for a long time. The shortcomings are his well-below-average power (he has hit only two home runs as a collegian) and his average-across-the-board physical tools.
Martin has always been an outstanding athlete and defensive shortstop since his high school days and is considered a lock to play shortstop long into his baseball future. His bat and overall strength have gradually improved in three years at Florida, and he has hit .291 with four homers, 31 RBIs and 20 stolen bases for the Gators this season.
Russell is a long-haired and loose righthander who will likely remind older fans of former Tigers sensation Mark "The Bird" Fidrych on first glance. He generally pitches in the 92–95 mph range but has been up to 98 this spring and can get big running life on his fastball down in the strike zone. Russell's strikeout pitch is a low-80s slider that has big sweeping life from a three-quarters release point, and he has shown the ability to add and subtract from the pitch when he wants to give a hitter a different look.
Burrows was throwing in the mid-90s as a high school sophomore but has made significant improvement since then in his overall pitchability and command. He's proven that he can maintain his plus velocity late into games and developed increasingly good feel for his hard downer curveball and a fading changeup. Burrows’s over-the-top arm action and demeanor on the mound have tempted some scouts to compare him to Mike Mussina.
Plummer has been one of the more difficult high-school talents to evaluate this spring, as he has a short resume on the national scouting scene, plays in a northern tier state and competes in a league that starts every hitter with a 1–1 count, changing the basic nature of every at-bat. What is clear is that the lefthanded hitter grades out as a plus in two key categories—power potential and running speed—and has shown himself to be a strong hitter with a patient approach at the plate. Despite his speed, Plummer most likely profiles as a leftfielder as a professional due to his throwing arm.
Buehler has seen his stock fall with many scouts over the last month, as concerns about his slender frame and durability have been raised. At the top of his game, Buehler has three potential plus pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup and good command of all of them. But his raw stuff has steadily declined as his innings have added up this spring, and he pitched with a 45-grade fastball during Vanderbilit's NCAA Regionals win. He’s gone 4–2 with a 2.97 ERA in 14 starts this season, with 81 strikeouts and 25 walks in 78 innings.
Stewart doesn't always pass the eye test with his thick and strong build, but he's been a consistent performer for three years at Florida State and for the USA National Collegiate team in the summers. He's a better athlete than one would expect, but his game and prospect status is still built around his plus bat speed and power potential. Stewart hit .322 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs this spring and has walked a very nice 69 times to go along with 11 stolen bases.
Ward is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the country and may have the best pure arm strength among college receivers. He hit much better in the Cape Cod League last summer with wood bats than he did this spring with Fresno State, when some scouts questioned his ability to be more than a backup catcher in the big leagues due to his offense. Ward did hit .304 with seven homers and 42 RBIs this spring and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 34/35, virtually duplicating his sophomore season.
Nikorak has the ideal young pitcher's build, with a great combination of present strength and remaining projectability. While he's been a bit uneven in his overall stuff and performance this spring, Nikorak also has a relatively fresh northern tier arm that scouts value. At his best, Nikorak pitches in the 93–95 mph range with his fastball from a high three-quarters arm slot that creates outstanding downhill angle to the plate. That angle and release also help make Nikorak's upper-70s curveball a potential second plus pitch.
This is a strong year for high-level Canadian prospects but Soroka is a rarity in that he isn't from either of the two Canadian baseball hot beds of British Columbia and Ontario. Soroka is a native of Calgary, Alberta who has trained with former big-league righthander Chris Reitsma for most of his development. He threw especially well this spring on Team Canada's March trip to Florida, sitting in the 90–94 mph range with a power curveball and plenty of projection remaining.
Harris was a lightly scouted and recruited pitcher out of high school when he weighed 170 pounds, but he has gradually gotten stronger and seen his raw stuff improve dramatically over that time. He pitches in the 92–95 mph range and draws raves from scouts about his mature use and command of his offspeed pitches, including a slider and changeup. Harris was 8–1 with a 1.85 ERA in 14 starts this year and allowed only 66 hits in 97 innings, striking out 113 hitters.
In a college class loaded to the brim with middle infield prospects, Holder stands out as perhaps the best overall defender in the group. He has outstanding first-step quickness and range and outstanding balance working through balls. There are many more questions about his bat than his glove, though, and some teams were a bit apprehensive about picking him too high for that reason. Holder hit .348 with four homers and 31 RBIs this spring, making just six errors in 55 games.
It's not hard to guess what Shaw's big tool is when you look at his size. The lefthanded hitter led the Cape Cod League in home runs last summer and was leading the NCAA in that category this spring until he broke a hamate bone in early April. He's a pretty good athlete for his size and has played plenty of outfield in college, although he is more likely to stay at first base as a professional.
Few sons of former big leaguers have a tighter connection with their father than Ke’Bryan, who is the son of 14-year MLB veteran Charlie Hayes. Not only is there a strong physical similarity between father and son in their build and overall look, but their baseball tools are also remarkably similar as well. Charlie is active as a youth baseball coach in the Houston area, which has had an effect on his son's game. Hayes is a very disciplined hitter with a high-average–gap-to-gap approach, but most scouts know there is plenty of raw power lurking in his swing when he opens it up in the future.
Watson was considered more of a college-type pitcher coming into the spring but moved up as one of the top prospects in Indiana. Watson's fastball has gone from 88–91 mph to 91–94 and even higher over the past few months, and his smooth mechanics and power curveball have remained consistent.
Stewart is a smaller version of Florida State's D.J. Stewart: a lefty-hitting corner outfielder with lots of power and overall offensive potential. His power really blossomed this spring after a strong summer with the USA National Collegiate team, and he hit .311 with 15 homers and 47 RBIs after hitting only eight home runs his first two seasons. He will most likely play leftfield as a professional.
Originally considered to be a potential top-five pick and perhaps the top collegiate pitching prospect in the country, Funkhouser has struggled with inconsistent command and stuff this spring, posting an 8–5 record with a 3.25 ERA in 105 innings. Scouts haven't been able to point to any single mechanical flaw or reason for those problems, and Funkhouser has gone through starts or stretches of innings with his old dominant stuff, only to lose it. Some scouts have noted Michael Wacha had a similar experience during his junior season while falling to the 19th overall pick and feel someone will be getting a big bargain if Funkhouser experiences a similar drop.
Mountcastle was one of the hitting stars of the summer and fall travel circuit and was named his district's player of the year this spring over No. 3 pick Brendan Rodgers. He has a combination of outstanding raw bat speed and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. Still, many scouts have discounted him a bit due to his lack of a certain defensive position, as Mountcastle plays shortstop now but will likely move to third base or corner outfield at the next level.
Cameron was a well-known quantity to the scouting community as early as eighth grade, not only for being the son of 17-year big leaguer and three-time Gold Glove winner Mike Cameron, but also for his precocious baseball talents. While developing in the middle of the spotlight, Cameron has become one of the most fundamentally sound players in the class in addition to his physical skills. He's a superb defender who gets great jumps on balls and runs precise routes and is the best base runner in the class. Cameron's hitting tools are obvious, although he has frustrated scouts with a passive opposite-field approach at times. At his ceiling, he's an Andrew McCutchen-type talent.
Nevin is the son of the first overall pick in the 1992 draft, Phil Nevin, and shares plenty of the same characteristics at the same age, only with a bigger and more projectable frame. His best tool is his bat: He has a very polished approach and lots of power projection as he continues to mature physically, just like his father. Nevin underwent Tommy John surgery in October 2013 and didn't really emerge onto scouts' radars until late last summer, but he has made quick work of impressing everyone. He has pure tools defensively and should have no problem staying at third base long into the future.
Woodford wasn't the first player selected out of his high school, as Kyle Tucker is his teammate. He came on strong this spring after switching from a mediocre curveball to a power slider and adding a few ticks to a heavy sinking fastball that now touches 95 mph. Woodford has the durable type of body and strike-throwing sinker/slider style that could make him a big innings eater at the professional level.
Kirby got off to a fast start this spring and was a potential top-10 pick until he began experiencing side issues that affected his command and raw stuff and eventually shut him down after 10 starts (5–2, 2.28 ERA, 75 strikeouts in 59 innings). Healthy, Kirby throws in the 91–94 mph range from a deceptive delivery to go with a plus slider and solid changeup. There has been speculation that he is almost ready to pitch as Virginia moves into NCAA Super Regionals, but he did not take part in Regionals play.
Riley has been one of the top two-way talents in high school baseball the past three seasons while playing for national powerhouse DeSoto Central. He's been in the low 90s from the mound with a quality breaking ball, but more and more teams have switched to thinking that his power righthanded bat might be his best tool for the future. Riley is a big-boned and extra-strong athlete who is surprisingly light on his feet on defense and has even played plenty of shortstop during his development.
McKenzie's size is not a misprint: He is a tall and very slender athlete who has started to fill out over the past two years. He is also an extremely polished pitcher with three pitches: a low-90s fastball, a big curveball and a darting changeup that he can throw for strikes and locate at will. McKenzie will be able to compete successfully from the start at the next level with his ability to pitch, and scouts will be betting on continued physical strength and maturity to bring up his raw stuff.