The 2015 MLB draft is now just under two months away. This has been an increasingly difficult draft to gauge, especially with the recent injuries to projected top picks Michael Matuella, Brady Aiken and Kolby Allard — all pitchers. With those injuries in mind, here is my latest mock for the first round of the 2015 MLB draft:
1. Arizona Diamondbacks — Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (FL)
While there may not be a “lock” in this draft, I feel pretty confident putting Rodgers first overall. Shortstops with 30 home run potential don’t come around often, and the 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander has that type of potential. He has excellent bat speed and generates a ton of raw power from a short, compact stroke. At the Perfect Game National Showcase, he threw 93 mph across the infield and was clocked at 6.7 in the 60. He may not steal many bases at the next level, but he is a terrific athlete who does everything well on the field. Through 20 games this season, he is hitting .407/.514/.831 with seven doubles, six home runs and has drawn 10 walks to nine strikeouts.
2. Houston Astros* — Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
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Tate continues to be the most consistently dominant arm in this draft class. With a mid-90s fastball and plus slider, the 6’-3” right-hander has the stuff and he has also shown the stamina as he has tossed two straight complete games and is averaging 7.58 innings-per-start. He was hitting 93 mph in the eighth inning, showing the ability to maintain velocity deep into games. Through eight starts, he has a 1.34 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 67 K/16 BB over 60.2 innings, allowing just 33 hits. Tate had leapfrogged the other arms in this draft already so the injuries to the top arms had no affect on him going this high.
3. Colorado Rockies — Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
The 6’-3” southpaw has everything you want in an ace — including the name on the back of the jersey, but I digress. The one knock on him this year has been his command. He does make bats miss, however, and has held opponents to a sub-.200 batting average combined over the last two seasons, so the walks aren’t burning him. He features a 90-93 mph fastball with life and movement, a plus change-up and a slider that has been looking plus. Through seven starts, he has a 1.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 62 K/21 BB over 44.2 innings.
4. Texas Rangers — Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
I love everything about this kid, and he just seems to keep getting better as the season goes on. He has all of the actions to stick at shortstop and has put together quite the highlight reel this year with some dazzling plays. Through 33 games, the 6’-1” right-hander is hitting .372/.488/.620 with 11 doubles, five home runs and has drawn 27 walks to 21 strikeouts. He has gone 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts and is as close to a total package as there is in this draft with few holes in his game. He has plus speed, an advanced approach and can hit the gaps with 20 home run potential. The track record is there, too, as he hit .333/.410/.475 over 72 games as a sophomore with 27 doubles, three home runs, 22 stolen bases and 37 walks to 49 strikeouts.
5. Houston Astros — Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
He may not stick at shortstop at the next level, but I wouldn’t bet against him either. The term “gamer” gets thrown at players who play above their tools, and while Bregman may not have a lot of upside left, he plays the game all out and also happens to have a pretty good tool shed already. A very mature hitter with great plate discipline, he is showing the in-game power scouts wanted to see this season while remaining one of the hardest players to strike out in the country. Through 32 games, he is hitting .333/.408/.629 with 12 doubles, seven home runs and 16 walks to just six strikeouts. He also has stolen 17 bases, and while he might not be the fastest guy around, he has great instincts on the base paths. He also gets high marks for his great make up.
6. Minnesota Twins — 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 five starts, he has a 1.93 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 26 K/6 BB over 23.1 innings.
7. Boston Red Sox — Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy
Aiken underwent successful Tommy John surgery in late March and is on the road to recovery. The first-overall pick last season was considered a lock for the top-five picks this year until the injury, and he is extremely hard to slot when you also add in his contractual issues last year with the Astros. He is still a top-10 talent but isn’t going to get the money his camp wanted last year. When healthy, the 6’-4” southpaw features a plus fastball that can touch the mid-90s and he adds two plus offspeed pitches. He has great command of his stuff and looks like a savvy veteran on the mound. He finished his senior season with 97 K/13 BB over 53.2 innings, allowing just 23 hits.
8. Chicago White Sox — Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing HS (GA)
Daz was slipping down draft boards over the past year, but I feel he will end up in the top-10 when all is said and done. The knock on him is that his upside isn’t as high as it used to be and that he may have leveled off compared to his peers. He did a heck of a job displaying his tools and potential as a member of U18 Team USA, however, 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. He also showed off the power that everyone knows is in there and wanted to see him display. He’s an electric player with all the tools even if he doesn‘t have a stand out one. Over his last seven games, he has gone 14-for-21 (.667) with six doubles, a triple, three home runs, six stolen bases and has drawn nine walks to zero strikeouts. Committed to Florida State.
9. Chicago Cubs — Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (IN)
If the draft somehow went this way, I could see the Cubs going after Ian Happ, Trent Clark or D.J. Stewart as Theo Epstein has selected a bat with his first-round picks in his three years with the Cubs. Having said that, Ashe is pretty special and he has the size and stuff to be an ace. The 6’-4” right-hander has an electric arm and can touch 96 mph with his fastball with all kinds of movement. He adds a plus 80-82 mph slider that he can add and subtract from with ease. He has a solid change-up but doesn’t use it much right now. He is a power arm but can also pitch a game instead of just relying on pure gas. At day one of Area Code Games, he retired all 12 batters he faced, seven via strikeout.
10. Philadelphia Phillies — Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (CA)
Allard is likely done for the season with a back injury but most believe it shouldn‘t hurt his draft stock all that much or his future upside. Prior to the injury, he was one of the fastest rising prep arms in the 2015 MLB draft. Allard is a 6’-1”, 175 pound left-hander who touched 95 mph at the Perfect Game AA Classic and struck out the side on 12 pitches. He was dominant for 18U Team USA, striking out 14 to three walks over eight innings. He has a smooth delivery, features a plus curveball and is one of the youngest players in his class. You don’t see many prep southpaws able to touch the mid-90s and Allard still has a lot of upside. As a junior, he had 98 K/17 BB over 63.2 innings. Committed to UCLA.
11. Cincinnati Reds — Ian Happ, OF/2B, Cincinnati
Happ is regarded by most to be the best college bat in the 2015 MLB draft. I’m not going to argue that since the switch-hitter can rake to all fields from both sides of the plate. He has cooled off a bit after a torrid start but is still hitting .406/.532/.708 through 28 games with eight doubles, seven home runs and 28 walks to 23 strikeouts. He has a good approach at the plate and is showing more power this season. He’s playing right field now but most believe second base is his future. He also has a very good track record of hitting.
12. Miami Marlins — Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS (CA)
Hooper has the type of future stuff scouts can dream on. At 6’-7” and 230 pounds, the southpaw has the frame to be an intimidating force on the bump. He can also touch 96 mph, which is silly from the left side. He doesn’t maintain velocity, however, and his command can get the best of him at times. His secondary offerings are average but show promise, but the upside is there for a team willing to pay a little extra. As a junior, he had 58 K/35 BB over 44.2 innings. This season, he has 16 K/9 BB over 13 innings. Committed to UCLA.
13. Tampa Bay Rays — D.J. Stewart, OF, Florida State
You could argue that Stewart is the best college bat in the 2015 MLB draft and wouldn’t get much push back from me. The 6’-0”, 240 pound left-handed hitter leads the nation in walks and is among the leaders in home runs. Through 34 games, he is hitting .292/.525/.585 with four doubles, nine home runs and a whopping 43 walks to 28 strikeouts. He is a good athlete for his size and should be able to hold down left field at the next level where the bat would play well. He has tremendous power and a very mature approach at the plate. He has a low, almost crouched stance but it works for him as he came into this season with a career .358/.479/.559 slash line over 113 games.
14. Atlanta Braves — Chris Betts, C, Woodrow Wilson HS (CA)
I saw Betts at Wrigley Filed for the Under Armour Game last summer, and the kid has some serious bat speed and power from the left side. He was hitting the ball out of the park with ease in the home run derby and ripped a laser double off the wall to dead center during the game. His arm is plus and even if he doesn’t stick behind the plate, he would do well in a corner outfield spot. Through 14 games this season, he is hitting .378/.549/.891 with four doubles, five home runs and has drawn 13 walks to just four strikeouts. Committed to Tennessee.
15. Milwaukee Brewers — Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
The Funk has a plus fastball, a plus slider and a solid change-up, rounding out a classic three-pitch mix. At 6’-3” and 220 pounds, the right-hander also has the size you want in a durable, frontline starter. The one knock on him has been his command. He has improved his command from last season as he had a 4.9 BB/9 as compared to a 3.9 BB/9 this season. Still, you want that number to be 3 BB/9 or lower if you are looking at a top of the rotation guy. Through eight starts, he has a 2.22 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 54 K/23 BB over 52.2 innings. If he can continue to refine his command, he is going to be a stud.
16. New York Yankees — Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada (JUCO)
Scouts seem to be all over the place on Bickford’s potential. As a senior in high school, he soared up draft boards by touching 98 mph. He also impressed at the Cape Cod League that summer, wowing scouts with his heater. He hasn’t been hitting that kind of velocity since but still can touch the mid-90s although he sits 90-93. The 6’-4”, 210 pound right-hander adds a slider that flashes plus and an average change-up. He has shown very good command of his stuff for the Coyotes and has been dominating his peers, striking out 96 to just 14 walks over 52 innings. There is a lot to like about Bickford, it’s just scouts don’t think there is much upside left.
17. Cleveland Indians — Trent Clark, OF, Richland HS (TX)
One of my favorites from this class, Clark showed off some impressive skills over the summer, especially as a member of U18 Team USA. Over 12 games, he hit .538/.655/.923 with four doubles, three home runs, 24 RBI and was 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, great instincts in the field and should remain in center. At the plate, he uses a short, compact swing to drive the ball to all fields and he seemed to have found his power stroke over the summer. He is a highly intelligent player with all the tools. Committed to Texas Tech.
18. San Francisco Giants — Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
Fulmer has arguable the best fastball in this class. 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 has toned down his delivery since being a max effort guy out of the bullpen but he is always going to raise concerns due to his size. The track record for starters 5’-11” and shorter is not good but Fulmer has shown the stamina thus far. Through eight starts this season, he has a 2.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 67 K/23 BB over 48 innings. His 12.6 K/9 is among the best in the country.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates — Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS (MI)
Possibly the best pure hitter in his class, Plummer is a quick-twitch athlete and the kind of player you pay to see play. He has excellent bat speed, a mature approach and raw power to all fields. At 5’-11” and 200 pounds, most believe the left-hander is maxed out physically, but that’s okay because he is pretty special already. He played great at every summer event/tournament he played in and put his name into first round talks with his play. Committed to Kentucky.
20. Oakland Athletics — Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (PA)
Nikorak placed himself into first-round talks when he hit 97 mph at the Perfect Game National Showcase last year. The 6’-4” right-hander was hitting 95 mph with late life at the Under Armour Game at Wrigley, and he also showed off a 78-80 mph slider that shows plus potential. He adds a solid change-up and curveball and commands his stuff well. He has a loose, easy delivery and could gain even more velocity as he matures. A great athlete, he also played quarterback and has been clocked at 6.83 in the 60. There is some serious upside here. Committed to Alabama.
21. Kansas City Royals — 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 five starts, he has 24 K/4 BB and has allowed just two runs. The knocks on him are his stamina and his shoulder issues. Still, with his size and stuff, his upside is high.
22. Detroit Tigers — Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS (FL)
The younger brother of Astros prospect Preston Tucker, Kyle has huge power potential from the left side and a mature approach at the plate. He rarely misses a pitch and, including this season, he has hit 23 home runs and has struck out just 12 times over 68 games. At 6’-4” and 190 pounds, he should only get stronger as he matures. His bat is his calling card, but he is a good athlete with a strong enough arm to hold down a corner outfield spot. Committed to Florida.
23. St. Louis Cardinals — Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (NY)
You have to be special to get first-round attention playing in the Northeast. Whitley was an absolute stud on the summer circuit, displaying raw power to all fields, excellent bat speed and above-average speed. He also runs great routes and should stick in center field at the next level. At 6’-2” and 200 pounds, the right-hander has a chiseled body and offers some of the best power/speed stuff in this class. He also showed a very high understanding of the game with great instincts in the field. Committed to Wake Forest.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers — Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
Jay made one start and was terrific, striking out six to no walks over five shutout innings on February 15 against Lamar. Besides that, he has been extremely dominant in the closer role. The 6’-1”, 185 pound southpaw has been touching 97 mph with his fastball and sits 93-95. He adds a nasty change-up and plus curveball, giving him an impressive three-pitch mix with command. He has a 0.87 ERA, 0.58 WHIP and 35 K/3 BB over 31 innings. If teams believe he can be a starter his stock could rise higher. Even as a closer, however, he is first-round material.
25. Baltimore Orioles — Chris Shaw, OF/1B, Boston College
Many expected a huge year from Shaw and the 6’-4”, 240 pound left-handed hitter is delivering. During his current 12-game hit streak, he has gone 22-for-45 (.489) with five doubles, seven home runs and 22 RBI. For the season he is now up to .318/.422/.692 with seven doubles, 11 home runs and 17 walks to 22 strikeouts, showing a solid approach at the plate. The bat is his calling card, and while he is playing the outfield now, most believe first base is his future. The bat is pretty impressive though.
26. Los Angeles Angels — Luken Baker, 1B/RHP, Oak Ridge HS (TX)
I saw Baker live at the Under Armour game at Wrigley last summer and the power is effortless and immense. With the premium put on right-handed power, I could see teams wanting to grab him early, even if he does end up at first base. At 6’-3” and 235 pounds, he has a man’s body already, and he also showed off a patient approach, driving balls to the opposite field and taking what he was being given. He also has plenty of upside on the mound as he can touch 95 mph and adds a solid breaking ball with good command. Through 32 innings this season, he has 54 K/8 BB. Committed to TCU.
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