Written with Kevin Gallo
This has been a strange year for the draft. Injuries to Mike Matuella and Brady Aiken have shaken up the top of the draft while Dillon Tate has made a Jonathan Gray-like ascent up the boards.
I speak with contributor Kevin Gallo frequently on this draft and the biggest thing we agree on so far is that nobody really knows that is going to happen. One thing seems fairly certain -- the top 3 of Tate and shortstops Brendan Rogers and Dansby Swanson are the head of the class and very likely the top 3 picks in some order, though Tate may slip because of personal team preferences. If Tate doesn't go in the top two, then he will likely slip past the Rockies because his style of working up in the zone doesn't fit with their ballpark. But this shouldn't be mistaken for the top of the 2011 draft or the Mark Appel, Gray, and Kris Bryant trio of a couple of years ago.
The following draft is a consensus between the two of us on how it will shake out...
To me, the best player in the draft is Brendan Rogers However, we're hearing that the Diamondbacks are leaning toward taking a college player. That means RHP Dillon Tate or SS Dansby Swanson. Tate has some serious helium and is the highest ceiling pitcher in the draft. He is, however, a bit raw when it comes to his command and feel for pitching. He will take some time but the D'Backs had some success developing another overpowering pitcher who had trouble harnessing his stuff in Archie Bradley. We think they'll go Dillon Tate on the basis of upside over Swanson.
Brendan Rogers has the higher ceiling of the two shortstops and is polished for a high school player. He has the tools to stick at SS and has well above average raw power for the position. In fact, he has the bat to slide to another IF position in the unlikely event he cannot stick at SS. Yes, they have Carlos Correa but we're talking about the BPA here and best combo of floor/ceiling. The Astros can emulate the Cubs and accumulate talent and figure out how to sort it out later.
The Rockies have an easy pick here, in our opinion. With the team possibly heading toward a rebuild and perhaps looking to deal Tulo, a polished SS with high probability in Dansby Swanson makes a lot of sense. Nobody ever doubted Swanson's glove but the bat has really come around and he projects as a line-drive hitter with average power, perhaps more in Colorado.
The Rangers are likely prepared that the top 3 are gone so they become the pivotal point in this draft. We're thinking high school OF Kyle Tucker, a Texas native, makes way too much sense. The sweet-swinging, athletic lefty is one of the fastest risers in the draft. He certainly had the best swing at the UA game as far as I am concerned. Tucker has the arm to play RF, which adds to his value.
The Astros get their man at #2 in Rodgers so this pick is gravy. We think they will contrast this pick by not just going to a college player but to a pitcher as well. The Astros indicated that they could compensate for the loss of Aiken by drafting a college arm that could move more quickly. Kyle Funkhouser is the perhaps the second best pitcher in this draft and fits the power arm mold that the Astros prefer.
This is another wildcard pick for us as the Twins are hard to gauge. They have leaned toward high school players recently and high upside athletic players historically. The player that fits that bill is Daz Cameron, who has drawn mixed reviews since many thought he was a top candidate to go #1 overall at the conclusion of his junior season.
7. Red Sox
This pick required the shortest discussion between Kevin and me. We both blurted out SS-2B Alex Bregman at just about the same time. Kevin believes he can stick at SS, at least temporarily, as more of a grinder type than your usual fluid athlete there, but I am not as sure. I see him as a perfect long term replacement for Dustin Pedroia at 2B.
8. White Sox
The Sox like polished players who can move quickly and nobody fits that bill better than switch-hitter Ian Happ. Happ has been playing corner OF for the University of Cincinnati but there are many scouts who feel he can make the switch to 2B or 3B. The southsiders have been looking for a long term 3B for years without much success. They could give Happ a shot knowing that his bat gives him a high floor as he can carry a corner OF spot if needed. He has an above average bat in terms of both his hit tool and his power tool.
This is going to be a fun draft for Cubs fans to follow if you are the type that likes to look deep into the amateur ranks. There are plenty of options here, though we don't like any of the bats this high unless Happ falls to them. This is the year we believe the Cubs will finally take an arm. There are two Vanderbilt pitchers available in this scenario, something that may appeal to the Cubs with Derrick Johnson able to give insight. Carson Fullmer is one option. Fullmer has a mid 90s fastball that reaches 97, a potential plus curve, and an advanced change which could give him 3 above average pitches. The problem is he is undersized and throws with some effort, so some see him as purely a bullpen guy. Another option is Walker Buehler who looked liked he was a top 5 candidate until some struggles this year. While 3-1 with a 2.66 ERA is anything but a disastrous season, he has been hit a little bit more than you would expect from someone with his stuff (mid 90s FB, plus curve, and potential for an above average change-up). He is similar to Fullmer in some ways in terms of stuff and questions about his build (Buehler has a skinny frame). There is rather long arm action as well, something that I personally am not a fan of because it makes it easier for a hitter to track the path of the ball. That, in turn, may explain why he has been hit more than he should. Local product Tyler Jay (University of Illinois) is yet another good arm with size/durability concerns though Kevin believes he sticks as a starter. He could go in the top 10. Other options include Brady Aiken, Kolby Allard, Nate Kirby and Mike Matuella all of whom once projected as potential top 5 picks but have been bitten by the injury bug. My favorite, however, is high school arm Mike Nikorak, who has a much more durable starters build than the Vanderbilt arms to go with a fastball that has reached 98 but has enough movement that I saw him miss plenty of bats at a few ticks lower than that. He also flashed an an excellent curve that I think will be a second swing and miss pitch when he learns to command it and be consistent with it. Other than Underwood, the Cubs lack high upside arms in their system and Nikorak has a better chance to be that then the college arms, in my opinion. He has low miles on his arm coming from a cold weather state and there is still plenty of projection left. He is raw and we'll need to be patient, but if the Cubs hit here then I think it could pay off big time.
I think it boils down to Buehler and Nikorak and my pick, if you haven't figured it out already, is Mike Nikorak, Kevin feels the same way but thinks there is a good chance they take the more polished Buehler in the scenario we laid out here.
Here is what I wrote about him after the Under Armour game earlier this year, when he was projected more as a low 1st round pick.
The RHP shows all kinds of projectability from an athletic 6'5", 205 lbs frame, quick arm but easy delivery that to me was more fluid than either Russell's or Hooper's. Flashed a couple of good curves. This kid looks like he is just scratching the surface. Definitely someone I'm going to watch.
Read more detailed info from Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America at this link. Video included in that link in which you can see that fluid delivery to go with the great arm speed on the fastball, but you can also see why he is still raw. Sometimes doesn't get on top of that curve and you can see a change in arm speed with the breaking stuff. But the raw tools are what make him potentially available for the Cubs. If he were more polished, there would be no chance he dropped to the Cubs.
We believe the Cubs will go with a bat here and we liked Skye Bolt to start the year but he has continued to struggle with the bat and doubts have crept in that he won't be anything more than an a 4th or 5th OFer.
One thing I remember the front office, specifically Jason McCloud on unsigned OF'er Isaiah Gilliam, talking about is that the Cubs will sometimes pick players knowing they can't sign them, but instead select them with the intention of getting to know them on a more personal level and building a relationship. So when they become eligible again, the Cubs already have a head start as far as signing them. Gilliam will be available again for this draft and he is certainly a possibility, as is 2012 late round flyer OF Rhett Wiseman, who is having a solid year with the approach they like at Vanderbilt, I don't think Mike Moody's favorite, DJ Stewart, will slip this far.
If the Cubs go with another pitcher, there are plenty to choose from, but we are going pitcher and then hitter this time around.
What say you?
Filed under: 2015 MLB Draft