Picking winners and losers from MLB draft's first round
Day one of the 2016 MLB draft is over, and in my time covering the event, it’s tough to remember one that had this many surprising selections throughout the evening. Much of that is because of the draft rules that were created with the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement—ones that established a bonus pool for the contracts that each team can offer its picks and cost a team money and potentially future draft picks if it spends more than what's available in the pool. If the goal of those rules was to create chaos and a lack of predictability, then mission accomplished.
While it will be years before we figure out who won or lost the draft, we can grade the process of tonight, and there were certainly some teams that started off on the right foot and some that fell down out of the gate. Those that didn’t have great days can, of course, rectify that with solid selections in day two and three—and vice versa—but there’s no question that day one is an important starting block for every club. Well, every club except the Cubs, who were the lone team without a first-round, compensation or competitive balance pick. Here are some of my favorite—and not so favorite—picks from the first day of the draft.
Day One Winners
When you get the best player in the draft, you’re automatically a winner. When you get the best player and pick 12th? You’re a lucky winner, but a winner nonetheless. Jason Groome (LHP, Barnegat High, N.J.) has some makeup concerns, but he also has the best potential stuff of any starter in this class, college or pro. The Red Sox also got C.J. Chatham, a defense-first shortstop from Florida Atlantic who was solid value in the second round, but the Groome pick is the true prize for Boston. The rich get richer.
It wasn’t long ago that Milwaukee had one of the worst systems in baseball. Now it ranks among the best, and this draft adds to it. Louisville outfielder Corey Ray is my top hitting prospect in the class—a guy who can hit for average with some pop from the left side along with the wheels to steal 30-plus bases. Lucas Erceg (3B, Menlo College) is one of the few corner infielders who offered power potential, and while there may be concern that he was doing it at the NAIA level, keep in mind that he was a quality performer for the University of California the year before transferring. The Brewers rounded off their night with Mario Feliciano (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, P.R.), a catcher who doesn’t have a standout tool but has a chance to be a solid all-around player at a premium position.
General manager Jerry Dipoto and company did not inherit a stocked kitchen upon taking over for the deposed Jack Zduriencik, so this was an important draft for restocking the shelves. Based on the first two rounds, Seattle is off to a good start. It was sort of silly to think that Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis was a legit No. 1 candidate, but he’s an absolute steal for Seattle with the 11th pick. There’s big-time raw power from his impressive bat speed, and while there may be some swing-and-miss issues, everything he hits is hard to all parts of the field.
In the second round, the Mariners got another intriguing bat in Joe Rizzo (Oakton High, Va.). He's a player who has some concerns as to where he’ll play at the next level, but if he maximizes his plus hit tool and solid-average power, he'll find somewhere to play. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but to say this was a solid start for the Dipoto regime is an understatement.
Would I have taken Mickey Moniak (OF, La Costa Canyon High, Calif.) with the No. 1 pick? Nope. Does that mean Philadelphia had a bad draft? It does not. Moniak may not have the upside you want from a first selection, but he does have two plus tools in his hit and glove, so he should be a quality centerfielder who can get on base and run at the top of the lineup. The Phillies also procured the services of Kevin Gowdy, a righthander out of Santa Barbara High (Calif.) who is a rare combination of projection and advanced stuff. If the Phillies had taken a player like Groome at the top spot, they wouldn't have gotten Gowdy, so if you prefer your drafts to have quantity and quality, you have to like what Philadelphia did did.
Yankees: Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep (Calif.); Nick Solak, 2B, Louisville
Mets: Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College; Anthony Kay, LHP, UConn; Peter Alonso, 1B, Florida
Indians: Will Benson, OF, The Westminster Schools (Ga.); Nolan Jones, 3B, Holy Ghost Prep (Va.); Logan Ice, C, Oregon State
Athletics: A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida; Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California; Logan Shore, RHP, Florida
Cardinals: Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy (P.R.); Dylan Carlson, OF, Elk Grove High (Calif.); Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State; Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia
White Sox: Zack Collins, C, Miami; Zack Burdi, RHP, Louisville; Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma
Day One Losers
San Diego is a team in transition (which is a kind way to say that the franchise is rebuilding), and as such, this was an important draft for the Padres. Based on what we saw on Thursday, the rebuild might take a little bit longer. Stanford righthander Cal Quantrill flashes top-of-the-draft stuff as a junior, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch for over 15 months, and tabbing him with the eighth pick is extremely risky. Hudson Sanchez (3B, Carroll High, Texas) was one of the biggest reaches of the first round as a third baseman without a plus tool and one who might have to move across the diamond. Kent State lefthander Eric Lauer offers some safety but not a ton of upside, and Florida outfielder Buddy Reed provides defense and speed but might not be able to hit enough to play everyday. With four of the first 50 picks, the Padres should have cleaned up today. I’m not so sure they did.
If you had asked me before the draft to predict five teams to do well in the first round, the Pirates would have come up quickly. Yet here we (and they) are. Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig has been a terrific college performer, but he’s going to have to move across the diamond, and that severely limits his value. Nick Lodolo (LHP, Damien High, Calif.) is more thrower than pitcher at this point, and while he offers a ton of projection, both his secondary pitches only flash as below average at this point. Travis Macgregor (RHP, East Lake High, Fla.) was one of the bigger reaches of day one: a hurler who has no plus pitches and—like Ludolo—is more about projection than being a legitimate pitching option. We could appeal to authority and just say the Pirates know what they’re doing, but on paper, this is one of their weakest classes in a long time.
It’s certainly justifiable for the Orioles to want to reload their pitching rankings, but these are likely not the guys to lead the charge. Illinois righthander Cody Sedlock was fine value with the 27th pick, and he should be given a chance to start at the next level. It’s the players taken after him that make this a questionable draft. Western Michigan lefty Keegan Akin has big-time arm strength and dominated the MAC, but he has less-than-ideal size and doesn’t have a competent breaking ball at this point. Righthander Matthias Dietz out of John Logan Community College in Illinois has only shown upper-echelon stuff in short spurts, so it’s likely that his long-term future is the bullpen. All three guys have a chance of contributing, but only Sedlock looks like a starter. That’s not great value for three picks in the top 70.
Other Questionable Picks
Braves: Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa High (N.Y.); Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission High (Kans.); Kyle Muller, LHP, Jesuit College Prep (Texas)
Diamondbacks: Anfernee Grier, OF, Auburn; Andrew Yerzy, C, York Mills Collegiate Institute
Rangers: Cole Ragans, LHP, North Florida Christian High; Alex Speas, RHP, McEachern High (Ga.)
Best Players on the Board for Day Two
Corbin Burnes, RHP, St. Mary’s
Jared Horn, RHP, Vantage High (Calif.)
Cole Stobbe, SS, Millard West High (Neb.)
Zach Jackson, RHP, Arkansas
Cooper Johnson, C, Carmel Athletic High (Ill.)