If there’s one word that best describes this year’s MLB draft class, it would be “frustrating.” On paper, this was one of the best classes we’ve seen in years, often being compared favorably with the 2011 group that has already produced stars like Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor and Astros outfielder George Springer. Unfortunately, this draft class doesn’t look like it will match that sort of stature, as players that looked liked potential top 10 selections have seen their stock slip due to injuries, poor performance or both.
That being said, there’s a reason so many people were so high on these guys coming into the season. There are a plethora of talented prep hurlers this year, and for the first time in many years, one of the strengths of the class is college bats, something that will thrill several teams picking early that need offense in a hurry. Sadly, it’s also one of the worst college pitching classes in years, and it might be the worst “up-the-middle” class we’ve seen in this decade.
We’ll see tonight how things officially play out, when the first two of the draft’s 50 rounds are held in Secaucus, N.J. (and televised on MLB Network starting at 7 p.m. ET). With all that said, here is SI.com’s 2016 MLB Mock Draft.
NOTE: This mock draft covers the first round through the compensation picks. There are 23 first-round picks. Four teams—the Royals, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Giants—forfeited their first-round picks after signing free agents who received qualifying offers from their previous teams. Picks 24–34 are compensation picks for losing a free agent who received a qualifying offer. Teams choose in reverse order of wins from last season.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
This is a draft without a consensus best player, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there isn’t a consensus top selection. Puk boasts a plus-plus fastball and a quality slider, and he seems to be the most likely choice here. That said, college hitters Kyle Lewis, Corey Ray and Nick Senzel and prep outfielder Mickey Moniak are all still legit possibilities.
2. Cincinnati Reds
If the Phillies decide to pass on Puk, it appears the Reds won’t let him slide any further. If he’s off the board, though, the most likely selection for Cincinnati is Lewis, an outfielder with big raw power and a competent glove in centerfield.
3. Atlanta Braves
RECORD: barnegat high (n.j.)
The Braves are going to take the best player available, and in this case, it’d be Groome, the top prep pitching prospect in this class by a large margin. If Groome is gone, all the names listed above are in play.
4. Colorado Rockies
RECORD: st. thomas aquinas high (kans.)
Pitchers are the only players the Rockies appear to be considering, with the notable exception of Moniak. Ultimately, this comes down to Pint or Groome, and if the latter is gone, Colorado will have an easy decision to make.
5. Milwaukee Brewers
Ray is the top hitter on my board, and if he falls this far, Brewers fans should be thrilled. There is a chance Milwaukee will pass on him, however, as the team is a big fan of prep shortstop Delvin Perez. Senzel is also a slim possibility.
6. Oakland Athletics
Senzel looks like one of the draft’s best hitters, and he should be an above-average defender at the hot corner. If he’s off the board, the A’s could go with Perez, Pint or Moniak. This would also be the furthest we could see Puk fall.
7. Miami Marlins
RECORD: alamo high (Texas)
Miami has long shown an affinity toward big, hard-throwing righthanders, and that’s exactly what Whitley is. If the Marlins don’t take him, they could instead go with high school lefthander Braxton Garrett, and if Pint is here, they’ll jump all over him.
8. San Diego Padres
RECORD: la costa canyon high (calif.)
The name I’ve heard most strongly connected to San Diego is California high school pitcher Matt Manning, but as one of the best prep bats—and a local tie—Moniak makes a lot of sense here.
9. Detroit Tigers
RECORD: mississippi state
I’ve only heard pitching attached with this selection, and Hudson is the top righthanded hurler on the collegiate side in 2016 on many boards. If someone like Ray or Senzel slides, it’s not impossible the Tigers would take them, and they’d love Pint to fall here.
10. Chicago White Sox
RECORD: chaminade prep (calif.)
If it were legal for the White Sox to trade up and take Hudson, they probably would. They’re also big fans of Georgia righthander Robert Tyler, but that’s likely something they’ll do with their second selection rather than a top-10 pick. Rutherford is a nice consolation prize as an outfielder who can hit for power and average.
11. Seattle Mariners
Seattle would be jumping up and down if Ray makes it here, but that’s not happening. Boston College righthander Justin Dunn is the other name I hear strongly connected here, but an advanced collegiate bat like Collins who has a chance—albeit slim—to stay behind the plate is the likely choice for the Mariners.
12. Boston Red Sox
RECORD: florence high (ala.)
Very few teams do a better job of going the Best-Player-Available-route than the Red Sox, and they are as open-minded as any club. A southpaw with three quality pitches, Garrett would be that guy in this situation, but if any of those “big” names mentioned earlier are still around, Boston will jump on them, as good organizations are known to do.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
RECORD: international baseball academy (p.R.)
Perez’s stock is the most volatile in the class, especially with the recent news of a failed drug test. He’s also the most talented prep player in the class, and Tampa Bay has shown a willingness to take risks like this in the past.
14. Cleveland Indians
RECORD: boston college
Dunn has as much helium as any pitcher in the class, and after his dominant start against Tulane in the Eagles' NCAA regional last week (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 11 K, 1 BB), he may no longer be on the board by the time the Indians pick. If he’s not, they’ll look at guys like high school lefty Kyle Muller and any of the prep pitchers above that could slide.
15. Minnesota Twins
RECORD: sheldon high (Calif.)
This would be a somewhat risky pick, as Manning is certainly one of the most talented prep pitchers eligible, but there are also rumors that he might be one of the most expensive. If the Twins aren’t comfortable with that, they could go with Muller, fellow high school pitcher Ian Anderson or a prep bat like Nolan Jones or Alex Kiriloff.
16. Los Angeles Angels
RECORD: pope high (Ga.)
The last time the Angels took a Georgia prospect who was highly coveted as both a pitcher and infielder, it was Kaleb Cowart, whom they selected 18th in 2010. That didn’t work out so well: Cowart, a third baseman, has played just 37 games for Los Angeles and hit .173. Lowe’s athleticism and power potential, however, make him one of the most intriguing bats in the class and a good value play for a farm system that needs a lot of help.
17. Houston Astros
The Astros have only been attached to pitchers with this selection, so they’ll probably take an outfielder, because that’s how life works. But if they are serious about getting an arm—a strong possibility—and if Sedlock is off the board (also a strong possibility), they’ll look at guys like Louisville closer Zach Burdi or Pittsburgh righty T.J. Zeuch.
18. New York Yankees
RECORD: Shenendehowa High (N.Y.)
The Yankees are open-minded about position player versus pitcher, but it seems likely they’re going to take a high school player rather than a college one. Anderson is one of the best prep pitchers in the country, and despite the concerns of him facing inferior competition, his combination of projection and advanced stuff make him the likely selection here—if he’s on the board.
19. New York Mets
Assuming there isn’t a massive run on collegiate bats that eliminates most of their top choices, the Mets are going to take one here, and while they’d love to have Collins fall to them, Thaiss is a nice consolation prize. He’s also a catcher and has an above-average hit tool, as well as some pop from the left side.
20. Los Angeles Dodgers
RECORD: shawnee mission high (Kans.)
If Thaiss falls to the Dodgers, I think they’d love him, as he fits their organizational needs perfectly. If he’s gone, they’ll look for some upside, and Wentz offers plenty of it, thanks to a big fastball and two quality offspeed pitchers.
21. Toronto Blue Jays
RECORD: jesuit college prep (texas)
Muller is an intriguing combination of size and stuff, and he could go several picks higher than this. The Blue Jays are basically just waiting to see which piece tumbles to them here.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
Every year, we see a reliever go this high in the hopes that he can be an impact part of a bullpen right away. This year, Burdi is that guy, with the difference being that he is that rare non-starter who shows three quality pitches. If the Pirates decide not to take the reliever route, they could go with one of two college righties, Dane Dunning or Robert Tyler.
23. St. Louis Cardinals
RECORD: mount paran christian high (Ga.)
The name most associated with this pick is Lowe, but we have him going to the Angels at No. 16, which will make it pretty difficult for the Cardinals to get him. With him off the board, an athlete like Trammell makes sense, as he’s one of the fastest prospects in the class and can make the spectacular look routine in centerfield.
24. San Diego Padres
There are rumors that this deal is already done, and that’s the reason why Quantrill—the son of longtime major league reliever Paul Quantrill—hasn’t pitched this season after recovering from Tommy John Surgery. There are also rumors that Manning could be the selection here in a well-above-slot deal.
25. San Diego Padres
If the Padres go with someone less expensive at No. 24, they could do Quantrill and Manning here, which would be a heck of a class. Assuming Manning is gone, a high-floor starter like Dunning is a nice consolation prize.
26. Chicago White Sox
Tyler is one of the hardest throwers in the class, and he’ll show an above-average changeup as well, giving him a chance to be a fast-moving reliever or (maybe) a long-term starter if his breaking ball gets better. Gavin Lux, a lefty-swinging shortstop from Indian Trail Academy in Kenosha, Wis., is another name I’ve heard here.