MLB 2015 Mock Draft 2.0: Swanson remains No. 1 in shortstop-heavy field
The MLB draft, which starts tonight at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on MLB Network, still does not have an obvious choice for the No. 1 pick. However, just as with our first Mock Draft on May 27, the player most expect to go 1/1 to the Diamondbacks is Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, but he may not even wind up being the first player drafted at his position.
There will be 36 picks in the first round, nine of which are compensation picks for teams that lost free agents last offseason (there are then six competitive balance picks, which are not reflected here. For more on that, see here). In the final days before the draft, expectations as to who a team will take can become very fluid, as clubs start bearing down more on signability numbers and the advisor/front office games begin in earnest. There will always be a surprise player who sneaks into the first round, like Hunter Dozier (Royals, 2013) or Cole Tucker (Pirates, '14), just as there is sure to be a player who will fall out of the first round completely due to worries about whether he can be signed and, if so, how much it will cost.
• POWER RANKINGS: Cardinals in first, Yankees soar, Angels fall
This Mock Draft represents the combination of industry sources, team tendencies, almost three decades of watching how drafts evolve—plus plenty of guess work.
NOTE: This mock draft covers the first round through the compensation picks. David Rawnsley is the former Assistant Scouting Director for the Houston Astros and national writer for Baseball America. For the past 13 years, he has been the National Scouting Director and is the current Vice-President, Player Personnel for Perfect Game.
No one in the industry seems to be wavering from the idea of Swanson going No. 1 overall, and his strong performance in the NCAA tournament certainly hasn't hurt. There will be significant money dances here as the Diamondbacks try to max out what they can save on this $8.6 million bonus slot for use in later rounds. Arizona will doubtlessly be talking to other players in this scenario.
There has been more and more speculation that the analytics-based Astros are going to use their first two picks on position prospects. While Brendan Rodgers and a number of high-school outfielders such as Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker are in play, Bregman is as close to a sure thing as there is in this draft class. But because he may still be on the board at No. 5, Houston could choose to save a significant portion of its $17 million-plus bonus pool and go after a potentially less expensive option here.
The Rockies have picked a college pitcher in the first round three of the last four years and would love to do so again this year, but that just doesn't seem to be likely this year. The team is known to be very high on the slugging Rodgers, as is most of the industry.
Scouts seem to be shying away from Tate due to his raw stuff dropping off late in the season, but that was perfectly understandable given that he was supposed to be UCSB's closer and instead threw 106 innings in his first spring as a starter. The Rangers like high-ceiling talent, and Tate's best stuff is as good as it gets in this draft.
It's believed that Cameron and his advisors are circulating a big signing number that is creating some anxiety, but the Astros will have lots of flexibility, and this slot is worth nearly $4.2 million regardless. But there could be plenty of names in play here, as Houston has been creative in this type of situation in the past.
Jay violates a couple of common sense rules for this area of the draft—he has a slender build and a lack of proven ability to be a starter. There have been plenty of similar athletes who've gotten into the every-fifth-day grind of being a professional starting pitcher and not been strong enough to maintain their stuff. But Jay's stuff and his command are so good and his performance so sterling that some team in the top 10 will select him.
The White Sox are almost assuredly going to draft a college pitcher here, and Harris, Carson Fulmer and the fast rising James Kaprielian are all prime candidates. Harris is bit of a sleeper this high, but his string of very consistent and strong performances, along with superior mechanics, give him an edge.
As proof of the adage that you don't draft for need in baseball, the Cubs are widely thought to be looking hard at position players here, and players like Kyle Tucker, Benintendi (if available) and Cincinnati's Ian Happ could well be in play. But the hard-throwing Fulmer might prove too tempting for Chicago, despite mechanics that many feel will eventually land him in the bullpen.
The Phillies have to be thrilled with their choice to select Aaron Nola with their first-round pick last year, and it would smart for them to do the same thing this year and pick a polished and proven winner in Kaprielian. Rebuilding a system takes time, but making smart and sound decisions in your first steps makes the process easier.
The Reds have been hoping the lefthanded-hitting Tucker falls to them for some time, and it's still a 50/50 shot at best. Georgia catcher Tyler Stephenson and Happ could be the backup plan here.
Allard would not have dropped this far if he hadn't hurt his back in March, and any team picking him will have thoroughly vetted his medicals. But the Marlins haven't historically followed a script, as Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich were anything but obvious picks and perceived as risks in many ways, yet they now form the foundation of Miami's roster.
Clark has a huge upside as a potential centerfielder with plus hitting to go along with plus speed and lots of power potential. He's also a highly disciplined hitter who will walk a lot and is also already an accomplished bunter.
Roy Clark, Brian Bridges and the old Braves scouting philosophy are back in Atlanta, and that means they'll be expected to take high ceiling and toolsy high school players. It's just a coincidence that Stephenson happens to live only a couple of miles from where the Braves' new stadium is being built, as he warrants this high a slot even for a high school catcher based on his very impressive power bat and strong overall defensive tools.
Like the Phillies, the Brewers need an injection of just about anything into their system right now, and getting each pick right takes on greater importance. Happ is a proven performer with strong tools across the board and has intriguing defensive flexibility. His overall package and background is very similar to Indians star second baseman Jason Kipnis, a long-term result that Milwaukee would surely celebrate.
The Yankees scout harder during the summers than most organizations, which is an important consideration in picking someone like Funkhouser, who shined last summer with top-five talent but has struggled with consistency and command this spring. He could be on the same cycle as Michael Wacha, though, who experienced similar issues during his draft spring.
Buehler has the stuff to go significantly higher than this, but scouts' long-standing concerns about his slender build and durability have risen again as Buehler's velocity has dropped to barely average over the last month. This could be a huge value for the 17th overall pick, but also somewhat of a risk.
The Giants have a magic wand in developing pitchers, and this is the point where the deep but somewhat muddled group of high-school righthanders should start to come off the board. Russell has an outstanding fastball/slider combination and a fairly advanced ability to pitch for his age.
Randolph has a chance to be an impact lefthanded bat with his combination of hitting ability and bat-speed-driven power potential. He's a better athlete than sometimes given credit for and could very well end up at second base, giving his offensive potential even more value.
Whitley will be in play for plenty of teams up higher, but there seem to be more proven options than the highly athletic New York outfielder for teams that would favor a high-school position prospect. The A's have had tremendous success in drafting young athletes the past few years but have traded most of them away in big league deals. Whitley could have the same high-end potential in the outfield as Addison Russell—their first-round pick three years ago whom they have since traded to the Cubs—in the infield.
The Royals will definitely be in best-prospect-available mode. Nikorak has all the ingredients of a top-end starter, including the build, a potential plus fastball/curveball combination and a fresh arm that hasn't been taxed much from growing up in the Northeast, where players can't play as often, from which to build.
The Tigers are almost always associated with high octane arms, and Bickford's mid to upper 90s fastball is one the most dominating pitches in this draft. The former 10th overall pick (Blue Jays, 2013) still has some refining to do with his secondary offerings or he would go higher.
The Cardinals are adept at taking power arms and teaching them the finer points of pitching. There are few better power arms in this draft than Everett, who has touched 98–99 mph this spring and already throws his fastball for consistent strikes.
The luxury of the Dodgers' situation—lots of talent on the big league roster and lots of money—is that they can take big swings and risk the miss. Matuella has a seriously short resume for a college junior and underwent Tommy Johy surgery this spring in addition to his previous back woes. But Matuella was in the discussion for the No. 1 pick three months ago, so the potential reward here is huge.
Betts is hard to treat as a high school catcher—usually a demographic that causes teams to shy away in the first round—simply because he's been playing at a high level for so long and is a physically mature player. He should be solid on both sides of the ball with his strong lefthanded bat in addition to his defensive tools.
There will be a huge run on college middle infielders starting about this place in the draft, with Mike Kingery, Richie Martin, Blake Trahan and Mikey White all grouped in here together. Newman has the most polished bat of the group and is a solid defender at shortstop.
Nevin only appears this high on a couple of teams' boards, but the Rockies are one of them and have scouted him hard this spring. Just like with Colorado's third overall pick, there just doesn't seem to be the right college pitcher available for the team to take in this slot.
Smith's combination of stuff, proven performance levels and overall athleticism make him a lower risk selection than most high school pitchers—not that the Braves will be risk averse in this draft.
Burrows has two pitches that are frequently plus right now in a 93–95 mph fastball and a big 12-to-6 downer curveball. He has also really improved in his ability to throw strikes and sequence his pitches.
Aiken, the No. 1 pick last year who failed to sign with Houston and underwent Tommy John surgery this spring, is, of course, the biggest wild card in the draft. The reality is that he doesn't have many options, as he won't be able to pitch at full strength before late next spring at the earliest. Any solid opportunity he gets to sign now and get on a team's rehab program would benefit him in the long run. With this being an extra pick for the Yankees, who got it for losing closer David Robertson to the White Sox, their risk is slightly mitigated.
Hayes, the son of longtime MLB third baseman Charlie Hayes, has been talked about all over the first round and has been active in pre-draft workouts across the country. He's a polished and highly intelligent player who would fit in very well with the Giants' overall culture and seems a perfect fit for them if he lasts this long.
Plummer is generally grouped with fellow high school outfielders Cameron, Tucker, Clark and Whitley, but he is the most likely of the five to slide a bit due to his short resume and difficulties in scouting him this spring. If the Pirates were to pick Plummer in addition to Randolph at No. 19, that would represent a huge influx of athletic lefthanded hitting into the organization.
Ponce is a bit of a mystery pick due to his Division II background and his occasional lack of dominance at that level, but he has an ideal pitcher's build and tremendous mechanics to go along with a mid-90s fastball and a hard breaking ball.
This is the only "Pick for Need" selection in this Mock Draft, and it is justifiable. The Tigers are in win-now mode, and their biggest big league weakness is in the bullpen. Just as Brandon Finnegan was a valuable performer with the Royals last October, Ferrell could fill that same role from the right side for the Tigers by the end of the season.
The thought behind this pick is exactly the same as with the Dodgers selecting Matuella with their earlier pick. Kirby was a potential top-10 selection prior to the spring but has been hounded by injuries that impacted his command and stuff before he was shut down after 10 starts.
Kingery played second base with double play partner Kevin Newman at Arizona and actually outperformed him this year. He's a high-energy, quick-twitch athlete who scouts believe has the tools to move over to shortstop as a professional.