My favorite day of the year has arrived. The 2015 MLB draft starts with the first two rounds today, rounds three through 10 tomorrow and rounds 11-40 on Wednesday. I have been covering the draft for years now, and this one has been the strangest for a lot of reasons. It’s a down year overall as far as talent goes, and there just aren’t many interesting storylines, except for the injuries to all the arms, that is.
In 2013, we had the Clint Frazier vs. Austin Meadows show in Georgia. We also had Kris Bryant out-homering nearly every college team. Last year we had Tyler Kolek and his 102 mph fastball, Brady Aiken being compared to Clayton Kershaw and a ridiculous wealth of prep arms. We also had Carlos Rodon and his 80-grade slider, as well as Alex Jackson and his enormous power potential.
This year, we don’t have as much excitement. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of talent, there just seems to be more question marks than anything. And again, the injuries. This could, however, end up being one of the more interesting drafts in a long time because of all of those reasons. We could see a lot of strategy involved as teams try to make under-slot deals and save money for the later rounds. We could see three shortstops go in the first three picks or we could see three college arms go in the first three picks. No one seems to know anything right now and that is a big part of the beauty of the MLB draft. And speaking of not knowing anything, here is my final mock MLB draft — enjoy:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks — Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
No one in the industry seems to know which way the D-backs are leaning, but I am sticking with Swanson. He is a legit shortstop with plus speed and an advanced approach, and he has shown increased power this spring. He’s an exciting player who makes some dazzling plays in the field and has hit .348/.441/.648 through 64 games with 14 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
2. Houston Astros* — Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (FL)
Many feel Rodgers is the best player in this draft, and the Astros should jump all over him if he doesn’t go first overall. The 6’-1” right-hander is also a legit shortstop with a very strong arm and instincts. He has excellent bat speed and a mature approach, and you don’t find many shortstops with 30 home run potential. Committed to Florida State.
3. Colorado Rockies — Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
Jay has some of the best starter stuff in this draft, even though he is the closer for the Illini. The 6’-1” southpaw can touch 97 mph with his fastball, and he adds a plus curveball and change-up that flashes plus. He also has excellent command of all three. He has started one game and worked six innings of relief in a recent game, allowing one run over 11 innings during those two outings with 13 strikeouts to one walk. Most believe he can be a starter and his stuff from the left side is ridiculous. He has a silly 70 K/7 BB over 60.1 innings, allowing just 30 hits.
4. Texas Rangers — Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
My favorite player in the draft, Bregman is an outstanding hitter with good speed, great instincts and a lot of pop for his size. Most believe he will end up at second base, but he’ll be given every opportunity to remain at shortstop. Through 62 games, the 5’9” right-hander is hitting .313/.408/.539 with 22 doubles, nine home runs, 36 stolen bases and 36 walks to just 21 strikeouts. A leader with great character.
5. Houston Astros — Kyle Tucker, OF/1B, Plant HS (FL)
If it goes down like this, the Astros would land the top two prep bats in the 2015 MLB draft, by most scouts’ opinions. Tucker makes sense here for a lot of reasons. First, he is a hell of a player with some of the best power in the draft. Second, his brother is Preston Tucker, a top prospect in their system who made his MLB debut this season. That could factor into negotiations and the Astros might be able to save a little bit of money. Aside from his tremendous power potential from the left side, Kyle also has a great approach at the plate and rarely misses a pitch. Over his last two seasons, he has 17 home runs and 43 walks to just 11 strikeouts over 52 games. Even if he ends up at first base, the bat is really special. Committed to Florida.
6. Minnesota Twins — Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
The track record may not be there, but the stuff is. Tate can touch 97 mph and adds a plus slider with deception to his delivery. At 6’-2” and 200 pounds, there isn’t any size concerns, and he has averaged 7.4 innings-per-start this spring. He has very good command of his stuff and has 111 K/28 BB over 103.1 innings, allowing just 66 hits. He also keeps the ball down, having given up just three home runs all spring.
7. Boston Red Sox — Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing HS (GA)
Many are quick to point out that he doesn’t have a standout tool, but, across the board, he is a special player with a great overall game. He was a beast for U18 Team USA, hitting .405/.519/.667 over 12 games with three home runs, 19 RBI, seven stolen bases and 10 walks to six strikeouts. Defensively, he is a stud and will remain in center field with his strong arm, 6.61/60 speed and instincts. Offensively, he has an advanced approach and can stroke it to all fields. The power is there and he started to really show it this spring, hitting .510/.652/1.020 over his last 16 games with eight doubles, five home runs, 15 stolen bases and 18 walks to just five strikeouts. Committed to Florida State.
8. Chicago White Sox — Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
No one has been more consistent and dominant this spring than Fulmer, and many believe he is the best arm in this draft despite being just south of six feet tall. His arm is electric and his heater touches 98 mph with some silly arm-side run. He adds a plus slider and a change-up that could turn into another above-average pitch. He is also one of the fiercest competitors you will ever see and, at worst, he is a lights-out closer. Through 17 starts, he is 13-2 with a 1.82 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 152 K/46 BB over 114 innings, holding opponents to a .186 BAA.
9. Chicago Cubs — Andrew Benintendi, OF, Arkansas
With the success of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, I say the Cubs would be all over Benintendi if he was available here. His track record may not be as great as those guys, but he has shown all five tools this spring, along with the ability to remain in center field. Through 62 games, the 6’-1” left-hander is hitting .385/.493/.725 with 19 home runs, 23 stolen bases and 46 walks to 31 strikeouts.
10. Philadelphia Phillies — Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (NY)
Whitley has some of the best tools among the prep bats, and he is a terrific athlete with a lot of upside. At 6’-2” and 200 pounds, the right-hander has raw power to all fields, as well as an advanced approach at the plate. His speed grades out as plus and his arm is strong enough to hold down any outfield spot. He was a beast on the summer circuit and continued to impress this spring. Committed to Wake Forest.
11. Cincinnati Reds — Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (CA)
The 5′-11” southpaw has some of the best stuff in his class, headlined by a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball. He has an easy delivery and commands his stuff well. His change-up is solid and you don’t see many prep southpaws with his present stuff. He sat out most of the spring due to a back injury but it shouldn’t affect his draft stock all that much. Committed to UCLA.
12. Miami Marlins — Trent Clark, OF, Richland HS (TX)
Clark is a high-character kid with great instincts on the field. He also has quite the set of tools and showed them off as a member of U18 Team USA last summer, hitting .538/.655/.923 with four doubles, three home runs, 24 RBI and a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen bases. He played stellar defense in center field and drew 13 walks to just three strikeouts, showing an advanced feel for the strike zone and a patient approach. The 6’-0”, 200 pound left-hander has plus speed, a strong arm and great instincts in the field, and he should remain in center. At the plate, he uses a short, compact swing to drive the ball to all fields and showed improved power this spring. Committed to Texas Tech.
13. Tampa Bay Rays — Tyler Stephenson, C, Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA)
Stephenson has been soaring of late, and there is mild talk about him going first-overall, although that would be more strategy than anything. That said, he has all kinds of potential, especially from the power department. Even though he is 6’-4” and 210 pounds, many believe he can remain behind the plate. He has a plus, accurate arm and is a good athlete. Committed to Georgia Tech.
14. Atlanta Braves — Cornelius Randolph, 3B, Griffin HS (GA)
Randolph has all kinds of potential as a middle-of-the-lineup power bat and a chance to stick at the hot corner. The 6’-2”, 200 pound left-handed hitter is a good athlete with a strong arm (92 mph across the infield) and decent speed (6.9/60). He abused the baseball this spring, hitting .615/.718/1.000 over his last 17 games, with six doubles, four home runs, 19 stolen bases and 17 walks to just six strikeouts. Very good bat speed and a whole lot of power for the Clemson commit.
15. Milwaukee Brewers — Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
Buehler has a live arm and can touch 96 mph with his fastball while sitting 92-94. He adds a plus, 11-5 curve that sits 78-81 and his change-up is an above-average offering. At 6’-1” and 170 pounds, the right-hander will draw concerns about his size but has shown every ability to remain a frontline starter at the next level. His delivery is smooth and he has great mound presence to go along with great command of his stuff. Through 14 starts, he has a 2.97 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 81 K/25 BB over 78.2 innings.
16. New York Yankees — Ian Happ, OF/2B, Cincinnati
The Yankees can take a kid who most believe is the best pure hitter in the 2015 MLB draft. Happ is a switch-hitter who can rake from both sides, shows a mature approach and has been showing more power this spring. Through 56 games, he hit .369/.493/.672 with 18 doubles, 14 home runs and drew 49 walks to 49 strikeouts. He has a great track record of hitting and, while he has been playing right field this spring, most believe second base is his future.
17. Cleveland Indians — Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
A big, durable right-hander (6’-3”, 225) who can touch 97 mph late in games, Funkhouser has improved his command this season but it is still a bit of a knock on him. He does keep the ball down, however, and has yet to give up a home run, so the walks haven’t hurt him yet. He adds a power slider that is one of the best in this draft and a developing change-up. Through 17 starts, he has a 3.20 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 104 K/45 BB over 112.1 innings.
18. San Francisco Giants — Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
Harris got rocked by Arkansas in his last outing, and that could have dropped him a few slots. The 6’-3” right-hander has the ideal size you want in a frontline starter, and he also has the stuff. He features a four-pitch mix headlined by a change-up that flashes plus and a 90-94 mph fastball with good command. Both his slider and curveball are solid offerings, and he keeps the ball down, having allowed just two home runs this spring. He now has a 2.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 116 K/36 BB over 103 innings.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates — Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (PA)
I have had a draft crush on Nikorak since I saw him at the Under Armour All-American game at Wrigley last summer. The 6’-5” right-hander showed off some serious stuff, headlined by a mid-90s fastball and plus curveball. His change-up is already a solid pitch and he has smooth mechanics. He is a great athlete who played quarterback and was clocked at 6.8 in the 60. He has some of the best upside in the 2015 MLB draft. Committed to Alabama.
20. Oakland Athletics — Donnie Dewees, OF, North Florida
You can argue that Dewees isn’t facing top pitching, but his numbers are so silly it doesn’t even matter. Through his first 10 games, he was hitting .238/.289/.405 with one home run and one stolen base. Since then, he has hit .482/.542/.852 over his last 45 games with 12 doubles, five triples, 16 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 25 walks to just 13 strikeouts. His combination of power, speed and mature approach from the left side makes him the perfect candidate for what the A’s look for, and going this high isn’t a stretch.
21. Kansas City Royals — James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
The 6’-4” right-hander has shown increased velocity of late, sitting 92-95 mph with his heater. That is what scouts have been wanting to see, and he couldn’t have picked a better time to show it. He already is a polished pitcher with great mound presence and good command of his stuff. Aside from the fastball, he features a plus curveball and solid change-up. Through 16 starts, he has a 2.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 114 K/35 BB over 106.2 innings. Great track record here and outstanding character.
22. Detroit Tigers — Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada CC
Bickford tested positive for marijuana yesterday but it shouldn’t effect his draft stock all that much. If anything, the concern would probably be with his decision-making this close to the draft rather than the fact he smoked some pot. Scouts have been all over the place with him this year, but his size and stuff are still first round material. The 6’-4”, 200 pound right-hander can hit the upper 90s and he adds a slider that flashes plus. His change-up, however, needs work according to many, which is the key to him remaining a frontline starter or finding himself in the pen. He embarrassed opposing hitters in the JUCO ranks this season, posting a 1.46 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and 166 K/21 BB over 86.2 innings. There is so much to like about Bickford, and he could be one of the steals of this draft years from now but there is some work to be done.
23. St. Louis Cardinals — Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (IN)
The Cardinals could get a steal here as the 6’-4” right-hander can touch 97 mph with some silly arm side arm, and he adds a slider that shows plus. His change-up is still developing, but you don’t need one in high school when you can just blow away hitters with gasoline. Committed to Texas A&M.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers — Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
Kirby was considered a likely top-five pick heading into the spring, but an inconsistent season, along with command issues and a lat injury leave his draft status up in the air. He could go a lot higher than this as he shows three plus pitches when on, including a 90-94 mph fastball and one of the best change-ups in his class. The 6’-3” southpaw does have a very good track record and his last name is flawless.
25. Baltimore Orioles — D. J. Stewart, OF, Florida State
A ton of power. A ton of patience. Through 177 career games, the 6’-0”, 235 pound left-hander is hitting .344/.486/.570 with 54 doubles, 27 home runs and a whopping 147 walks, including 69 this season. He is a good athlete and should be able to hold down a corner outfield spot at the next level. Not many have the kind of track record he does, and he has a terrific approach at the plate.
26. Los Angeles Angels — Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona
Some say Newman is the best college bat in the 2015 MLB draft, and his ability to stick at shortstop, along with his above-average speed, could see him go a lot higher than here. He may not hit for a lot of power at the next level but he should be a top-of-the-order hitter who gets on a base, rarely strikes out and can steal 20-30 bases a year with good defense at a premium position. Those guys aren’t easy to find. Through 51 games, the right-hander is hitting .352/.410/.462 with 18 doubles, a home run, 19 stolen bases and 19 walks to just 13 strikeouts.
27. Colorado Rockies — Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS (CA)
The slimmed down Betts has a plus arm, and scouts believe he has a great shot to stick behind the plate. I got to see the easy power from the left side at Wrigley, and the kid was hitting them out of the park with ease. He lined a laser to center field during the game and showed off his excellent bat speed. Over 25 games, he hit .475/.640/.898 with six home runs and has drawn 25 walks to just six strikeouts. Even if he moves to a corner outfield spot, the arm and bat would play well. Committed to Tennessee.
28. Atlanta Braves — Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke
If Matuella is still on the board here, I could see the Braves jumping on him. A 6’-6”, 230 pound right-hander who was sitting 93-97 mph with a curveball and slider that both flashed plus at times prior to his injury; he had Tommy John surgery this year and was also bothered by back pain but neither seem to be a huge red flag. He doesn’t really have a track record, however, as he has never topped 60 innings in a season. High risk, high reward.
29. Toronto Blue Jays — Eric Jenkins, OF, West Columbus HS (NC)
A 6’-2” left-handed hitter with plus/plus speed, Jenkins is an exciting player with upside. He’s not going to hit for much power but he profiled to a leadoff-type hitter with good bat speed and a short stroke. He should stick in center field even though his arm is just average. Jenkins was 57-for-58 in stolen base attempts over 76 career games. Committed to UNC Wilmington.
30. New York Yankees — Richie Martin, SS, Florida
The 6’-0”, 180 pound right-hander is a true shortstop with all the tools to stick and, although he may not hit for much power at the next level, he is a top of the order type hitter who makes contact and can steal bases. He has a mature approach at the plate and is hitting .292/.404/.424 through 65 games with five home runs, 20 stolen bases and 33 walks to 34 strikeouts.
31. San Francisco Giants — Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
Ponce, a 6’-6”, 240 pound right-hander, wowed scouts at the Cape Cod League by sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball while showing off three other promising offerings. Lately, he has been sitting 92-94 mph with the heater and has been flashing a plus curveball and cutter. His change-up is still developing and he has shown excellent command this season. Through 13 starts, he had a 1.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 67 K/14 BB over 62.1 innings and didn‘t allow a home run all spring. The knocks on him are his stamina and his shoulder issues. Still, with his size and stuff, his upside is high.
32. Pittsburgh Pirates — Juan Hillman, RHP, Olympia HS (FL)
Hillman is a 6’-2”, 190 pound southpaw with plus command and a fastball that can touch 92 mph with more in the tank due to his athleticism and quick arm. He adds a potential plus 1-7 curveball with great depth and his change-up is already a solid offering. He has great mound presence and attacks hitters on both sides of the plate. He finished with 156 K/21 BB over 116 innings for his prep career. Committed to UCF.
33. Kansas City Royals — Blake Trahan, SS, Louisiana Lafayette
Yet another talented shortstop in a class deep on them, Trahan is a slick-fielding defender who seems to slow the game down. He has all the tools to stick there and he also has a great track record of hitting. He hit .355/.455/.465 as a sophomore and hit .332/.448/.438 this spring. He has an advanced approach at the plate and has good speed but isn’t a great base stealer, having gone 30-for-50 the last two seasons.
34. Detroit Tigers — Jalen Miller, SS, Riverwood HS (GA)
Miller has a legit shot to remain at shortstop due to his range, soft hands and arm. Offensively, the 6’-1” right-hander has an advanced approach and can drive the ball to the gaps, and he could develop more power as he matures. He only struck out four times this season and hit .464 over 20 games. Committed to Clemson.
35. Los Angeles Dodgers — Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academies
Alright, so the Dodgers have four picks in the top 75 and this seems like a good fit for the California native who has drawn comps to Clayton Kershaw. There are a lot of rumors about Aiken’s long-term health, but if all works out, he has the best stuff in this draft — most drafts, actually. Prior to his injury, he showed a plus fastball that touched 96 mph, as well as two plus secondary offerings. He has pinpoint command of his stuff and pitches like a savvy veteran. The Dodgers could strike gold here.
36. Baltimore Orioles — Peter Lambert, RHP, San Dimas HS (CA)
Lambert comes equipped with two potential plus offerings in a 90-93 mph fastball and 12-6 curveball with tight spin. His change-up is already a solid offering. His quick arm and size (6’-3”, 200) suggests there is room for more and he command his stuff well. He finished with 102 K/14 BB over 69 innings, allowing just 39 hits. Lots of upside with good present stuff already. Committed to UCLA.
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