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  • Vanderbilt pitcher Kyle Wright, high school shortstop/pitcher Hunter Greene and Louisville first baseman/pitcher Brendan McKay are among the leading candidates for the No. 1 pick by Minnesota.
By Jay Jaffe
June 09, 2017

Tonight at 7 p.m. EST, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred will step to the microphone and announce whom the Twins, the owners of the number one pick of this year's amateur draft, will take. But with just hours to go, there's still suspense throughout the industry regarding the identity of that selection, with draft experts generally pointing either to Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright, a righthanded pitcher, or Louisville's Brendan McKay, a two-way player whose future path—whether as a lefty starter or first baseman—remains up in the air. Nonetheless, since publishing my first mock draft on May 16, the industry consensus regarding 1/1 has shifted from McKay to Wright, and so with that in mind, he leads off Mock 2.0.

By industry consensus, I refer to the smart, hard-working folks at Baseball America, ESPN, FanGraphs, Hero Sports, MLB Pipeline and Perfect Game, all of whom have released mock drafts that reflect years of knowledge in the field and myriad discussions with scouts and front office executives about the talent at hand as well as organizational philosophies. Those drafts are educated stabs at an inexact science. This mock draft is merely an attempt to summarize the consensus from those sources while fitting the pieces together, hopefully without making a mockery of the process.

NOTE: Three teams—the Blue Jays, Rangers and Cubs—have two picks in the first round because they lost premium free agents in Edwin Encarnacion, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler to the Indians, Rockies and Cardinals, respectively. Those latter three clubs have therefore forfeited their first-round selections.

VERDUCCI: Velocity at top of draft is dangerous—and hard to resist

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Hours after both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline published their latest mock drafts (linked above), MLB’s Jim Callis wrote that he heard enough noise to believe the Twins had come back to McKay for the first pick. Even so, the consensus still tilts towards Wright.

The uncertainty regarding McKay's path makes him a higher risk than Wright, who to use the words of Baseball America's John Manuel offers "the best combination of upside and modest risk." The 6'4", 220-pound righty has come on strong lately and is considered to have the best arm action and physical projection of this year's crop of college pitchers. He offers a 91-94 mph fastball that can touch 97, throws both curve and slider, with scouts tending to prefer the former, and is also developing a changeup.

John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated

"I feel more confident predicting the @Reds take Greene at 2 than I do predicting any other pick in @MLBDraft 1st [round]," wrote MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis who's been covering drafts since 1988, 11 years before Greene, a recent SI cover subject, was born. Though he doubles as a shortstop with power potential, the 17-year-old, 6'4" 210 lb prep star's future is more likely on the mound than in the infield. Greene reached 102 with his fastball and generally works in the 95-98 range with an easy, loose-armed delivery that shows" little evidence of physical exertion," as ESPN's Keith Law wrote. His slider that projects to be at least above average; he can throw all four of his pitches, which also include a curve and two variants of a changeup—"one of which you'd like to bottle and stick in the 3-D printer to copy a whole bunch to use in the future," wrote Law—for strikes. 

The Padres covet Greene, who would prefer to play close to home but will likely be off the board by this point, so their choice will likely come down to shorstop/outfielder Royce Lewis, another California product, or Gore, a North Carolina prep lefty whom San Diego's decision-makers have seen at his best this spring. An athletic 6'2", 180-pound lefty, Gore’s stock has been on the rise thanks to new-found velocity that's pushed him into the low-to-mid 90s. Even before the velo gain, he impressed scouts thanks to his combination of stuff, projection and polish. He backs his fastball with a curve, slider and changeup that are all at least above-average, with the curve a true plus. 

Karl B DeBlaker/AP

McKay, who on Thursday was named Baseball America's College Player of the Year, has been in play for the overall top pick thanks to his two-way skills, which have earned him first-team All-America honors for three straight year—a trio of seasons that BA ranked among the top 10 by two-way players since 1999. For what it's worth, five of the six players from that list to reach the majors did so as pitchers, with Jason Jennnings winning NL Rookie of the Year honors as a starting pitcher and Sean Doolittle making an AL All-Star team as a reliever; the lone hitter, A.J. Reed, struggled in a 45-game stint with the Astros last year and is now back in Triple A.

As for McKay, some scouts consider the 6'2", 214 lb lefty swinger the best pure hitter in the draft class thanks to his smooth swing and all-fields approach. Others like his 89–93 mph fastball, plus curveball and average changeup and see someone with a quick pathway to being a number three starter, particularly given the expectation that he'll gain velocity once he focuses on pitching full time. He's upped his game on both sides of the ball this year, tapping into his raw power (he clubbed 17 homers after hitting 10 in his first two seasons) and adding another weapon to his arsenal, a cutter. With Louisville reaching the College World Series, McKay's pitching workload could lead to a post-draft shutdown, but that doesn't mean that route will be closed off come instructional league or 2018. 

Some teams believe Atlanta will go for a player to whom it can pay an under-slot bonus (as it did last year with righty Ian Anderson) and use the savings to pay a bigger bonus to a lower pick who might be more difficult to sign. But if the Braves don’t do that, the belief is that they’ll turn to Lewis and make him a centerfielder given the presence of Dansby Swanson. Despite an inconsistent senior season at the plate, his plus-plus speed, athleticism and ability to play an up-the-middle position make for a tantalizing combination. There's a lack of consensus about about his power potential, but evaluators agree that he has a good feel for hitting and a consistent ability to barrel the ball up. And as noted, the presence of Swanson moots concerns that Lewis’s arm isn’t strong enough for shortstop.

They’ve been linked to University of North Carolina righty J.B. Bukauskas, but his stock is falling. Meanwhile, there’s a wide variance in the assumptions of where Beck could go; the aforementioned mockers have placed him as high as fifth and as low as 26th. The athletic, 5'11", 175-pounder has one of the best collections of tools in this draft, headlined by his arm and speed rather than his bat. A torn ACL and meniscus, which prevented him from playing the showcase circuit last summer, gives him a shorter history of success with wooden bats, particularly relative to the crowd of prep outfielders in this class.

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Arizona's evaluation team had a heavy presence at the ACC tournament, where they scouted Bukauskas, Haseley and his Virginia teammate Pavin Smith (see below). Another two-way player, Haseley is certain to follow the position path, but there’s a wide variance of viewpoints among experts. Some see significant upside for the this 6'1", 185-pound lefty once he plays every day thanks to his advanced, whole-field approach. Others are more skeptical of his power and his ability to stay in centerfield, though his arm is strong enough for rightfield.

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After early rumors that they were focused on high school arms, the Phillies are said to have been concentrating more on college talent. Smith, a 6'2" 210 lb lefty, is among the most polished college hitters available. He makes hard contact, has at least above-average power and an advanced feel for hitting and is one of the toughest hitters in the collegiate ranks to strike out, with fewer whiffs (12) than homers (13) in 228 at-bats.

 

Adell's collection of tools might be the best of the entire draft class, drawing comparisons to Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton, the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, among others). The centerfielder's speed and power have drawn notice, as has his arm; he's been clocked at 97 mph from the outfield and is also considered a pitching prospect with a 92-94 mph fastball and 12-to-6 curve. His game skills are raw, generating concerns about his instincts in the outfield as well as his penchant for expanding the zone, but he gets high marks for makeup.

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Off-season surgery on both knees took a bite out of the velocity of this 6'5, 220-pound righty, who pitched ahead of A.J. Puk—the No. 6 pick in last year's draft by the A's—in Florida's rotation last year. Faedo was once a candidate to be the top pick this year, in part because of a slider that is considered one of the best in the draft, a fastball that is back to sitting 93 and touching 96 and a changeup that has been graded by scouts as average or better. There are, however, concerns about Faedo's command, which point to the possibility that he could wind up in the bullpen. 

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Kendall has been linked to the White Sox in the most recent iterations in all but one mock draft linked above. A compact 5'10" 180-pounder, he's said to have the best collection of tools of any 2017 draft-eligible collegiate player, headlined by plus-plus speed and the ability and instincts to play centerfield. Contact woes borne of pitch recognition shortcomings have caused his stock to drop, so this can be seen as a higher risk pick or a bet on upside. 

Texas high school righty Shane Baz and several position players have been linked here as well, but if Bukauskas slips outside the top 10, the Bucs could stop his fall. Though he's only 6', 195 pounds, he’s viewed as having the best pure stuff among college pitchers, with a 94-97 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider that both grade out as plus or plus-plus, depending upon whom you ask; Callis called his slider "the most unhittable pitch in the draft." There's concern about the lack of plane on his fastball, as well as a high-effort delivery that doesn't make use of his lower body, so there's a chance he becomes a late-inning reliever.

The 6'3", 190-pound Baz has been considered this draft class's second-best prep righty after Hunter Greene, and it's been suggested in multiple mocks that he could be picked as high as No. 5 (Atlanta). He's considered to have the deepest arsenal among this year's crop of high school pitching prospects, starting with a 92-96 mph fastball that can touch 98, and accompanied by a cutter that's considered a plus pitch, as well as a pair of above-average breaking pitches and an average changeup. He's also a third base prospect, and scouts love his makeup. 

The 6'6" Rogers, who's already 19 years old, has been getting comparisons to Andrew Miller. That's partly due to his long, loose arm and low three-quarters arm slot, and it doesn't hurt that he can pump his fastball into the mid-90s (though it typically sits 89-92). His secondary stuff isn't as impressive yet, but his slider has swing-and-miss potential, and his changeup should develop into an average pitch. 

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While multiple mocks have linked the Astros to Oregon lefty David Peterson (see below), they’ve had a slew of bats, both high school and college, in play as well. In earlier mock, BA’s John Manuel wrote that “Houston will pounce” if UC-Irvine’s Keston Hiura is still on the board, but given that he may need Tommy John surgery, and that the Astros scuttled a deal with 2014's 1/1 pick, Brady Aiken, over his torn UCL, it makes sense to assume Houston will go in a different direction.  

Burger rates among the top college hitters. With 20 or more homers in each of the past two seasons, the bad-bodied righty-swinger (listed at 6’2”, 220 lbs) has above-average power and bat speed, as well as good control of the strike zone, though the arm bar in his swing does generate some concerns among talent evaluators. He's not the most athletic looking player but has average speed, and his above-average arm and good footwork give him a chance to stick at third base.

The Yankees haven't had much luck with starting pitchers in the draft, especially with lefthanders, but Hall, Rogers and Oregon’s David Peterson (see below) all fit the bill. Though he's listed at at just 6-foot or 6'1" and 180 to 190 pounds (depending upon the source), Hall is considered to have one of the highest ceilings among the 2017 draft crop of pitchers. His 92-95 mph fastball and curve are both plus pitches, with some scouts grading the latter as a future plus-plus pitch, and he's got an above-average changeup as well. His command comes and goes because he has a cross-body delivery and doesn't always maintain his arm slot. 

Though he's from the same UCLA program that produced Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, Canning’s ceiling is mid-rotation, rather than ace. Though somewhat undersized at 6'2", 180 pounds, this righty is second among all Division I pitchers in strikeouts thanks to a four-pitch repertoire for which each offering has drawn plus grades at one time or another. His four-seamer sits at 90-94 mph and can touch 95, with his changeup his best secondary offering; scouts are split on whether his curve or his slider is the better breaking ball.