With the year winding to a close, Baseball Prospectus is revisiting some of our favorite articles of the year. This was originally published on June 5, 2015.
There are lots of MLB mock drafts happening right now. Some variations rely on “MLB Insider” information to try and accurately predict which players will end up where. Others take a more educational approach, teaching fans about players they’ll see years down the line in a fun format. A third type is the classic “here’s what I’d do” mock draft, in which experts essentially roll out a ranking. All are entertaining, all are valuable and all generally tell you something about a player you didn’t know beforehand.
This mock draft will not be like those mock drafts. This one stems from an observation Craig Goldstein had a while back: this crop of prospects has some truly great names. We’re not sure the 2015 MLB draft’s getting the attention it deserves for the sterling monikers it’s about to throw our way, and so this mock draft was born.
Below, Craig and I will take turns drafting the players with the best names in this class, per Christopher Crawford’s Top 100 list.. We will then explain why we like each name, what each name could mean for the organization that drafts it and how the name fits into the usual tropes we see explored during any drafting process. Does this make any sense? Not really. Did we feel it was necessary? Absolutely.
To say there’s an element of subjectivity involved in picking these names would be incorrect: picking them is completely subjective. That being said, if you disagree with us, you’re wrong.
It’s not often that the potential first overall pick in a draft also has that draft’s best name (Rick Monday in 1965 may have also been a candidate), but Dansby Swanson’s name is just too good to ignore. He has the rare name that’s both pigeon-holed (clearly elitist), but is also versatile within its own trappings. Dansby Swanson could be a cologne model, or a yacht salesman, or the headmaster of your second-favorite child’s boarding school. Dansby Swanson made the varsity polo team AND had his own Roth IRA before Chasen Shreve scoffed at his first sommelier. The only way this could get any better is if Dansby had gone to Harvard, or, as no one calls it, “the Vanderbilt of the North.” It’s a slam-dunk pick. – BC
Capitalizing on the throwback trend is a strong move here. The long-lost third brother of the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, Randolph knows it’s never too late to turn back the clock. A rare exception to the double-first name rule, Randolph serves as a classic name in a draft that’s heavy on the stylings of millennials who haven’t learned that different isn’t always better. – CG
3. Colorado Rockies: Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Concordia Lutheran HS, TX
For every Ke’Bryan, there are four or five D’Brickashaws (well, probably not) for whom the added punctuation just doesn’t work. But with Ke’Bryan Hayes, it all comes together. “Ke” is a strong choice of prefix, the apostrophe lets you know we’re not quite done with this name yet and Bryan is an edgy, modern take on Brian. Brian wears a tan suit to his mid-level accounting job every day. Bryan is a chill bro who’s fine splitting the tip down the middle even though you got the more expensive DIPA. But Ke’Bryan is a bad, bad man who’s going to flash you an 80-grade smile after he takes you to the second deck. “Hayes” is so-so, but it plays up here. – BC
The alliteration and repetition of the velar /k/ sound makes this a winner of a name. Kolton Kendrick is not only built on a strong foundation, it’s a name that bears repeating. Kolton Kendrick could be the coolest member of a rock group or Kolton Kendrick could be a dominating wrestler. What Kolton Kendrick could not be is an unknown. Sure, it may sound like he was named after an imitation brand firearm, but ‘round these parts that’s a feature and not a bug. You may not laud the upside, but getting a sure-fire big-league name has its benefits. – CG
5. Houston Astros: Skye Bolt, OF, UNC
I’m honestly shocked that Skye Bolt fell here, but I think we can chalk it up to name character concerns. Skye Bolt is a great name for a ballplayer, but what is Mr. Bolt (my god, that’s real) going to do once he hangs up the cleats? Is he going to be a stripper? A weed dealer? A meteorologist? A tertiary George Lucas character? The options are pretty limited, and I think we’ve seen the impact of that reality here. Still, if Bolt puts it together his first name is the limit, and that counts for something. – BC
6. Minnesota Twins: Parker McFadden, LHP, Yelm HS, WA
Sometimes it’s about long-term interests. Sometimes it’s about interest on your money. It’s always about ROI, and Parker McFadden can guarantee you a strong return as he is both selective and aggressive – balancing mutual funds for safety with international futures for the big payoff. The downside here is that his side project of designing purses could affect his on-field focus, but passing on a I-Banker/Fashion House at sixth overall is akin to wearing white after labor day. You might as well draft Faux Pas. – CG
Yes, we still have James Shields, Drew Stubbs, Daniel Fields and a few others, but we’re coming up on a shortage of players whose names are sentences. Beau Burrows is here to change that. A classier, more refined version of Bob Digs or Bud Shovels, Mr. Burrows makes his gender and intent clear as soon as you meet him. You might think he’s blocked by Mookie Betts, but keep in mind that a) you can’t draft for need and b) this is a name you make room for. Pairing Beau Burrows with Trey Ball gives Boston two very strong monikers to build with moving forward. – BC
Navigating the draft is all about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the class. Picking eighth is tough, because you miss out on your Skyes and your Ke’Bryans – singular prospects that you won’t find elsewhere – but it’s not so far into the draft that you can’t get the best of a deep crop. That’s where the White Sox are going with Triston McKenzie, who not only leads a strong class of Yacht Club names, but also ranks atop the Tristo/i/an troika. He’ll look down his nose as he peers in at the matte finished catcher’s gear he’s bought his backstop to prove “he’s just one of the guys.” – CG
9. Chicago Cubs: Tristin English, RHP, Pike County HS, GA
The rich get richer here, as the Cubs land yet another player from this draft who sounds like he shops exclusively at Burberry (and only in England) and owns houses in four time zones. There’s some irony in that English’s first name is misspelled, but at the same time, you can understand why Mr. and Mrs. English decided to give Tristin a name that would stand out in a sea of Maxwells, Prestons and Chaunceys. Cubs fans will probably be upset that Bolt or McFadden didn’t fall to them here, but settling for the draft’s second-best Tristo/i/an is a pretty nice consolation prize. – BC
10. Philadelphia Phillies: Tristan Beck, RHP, Corona HS, CA
It’s never ideal to be at the end of a run on a position, but the reality of the situation is that it’s better to have a Tristo/i/an than not. What Beck lacks in high-end wealth he makes up for in last-name brevity. There have been rumors of makeup issues, as his vocal readings of Kerouac have disturbed more than one clubhouse, and his forced screaming of the lyrics of “Only Time” as he pitches have been deemed “off-putting” by teammates. The mantra is not to draft for organizational need, and this might be reaching for a Tristo/i/an, but the Phillies have never shied away from bucking convention. – CG
Kyle Funkhouser is to names what explosive power/speed players with poor hit tools are to prospects. “Funkhouser” is an 80-grade surname that you can dream on, but its utility is seriously limited by “Kyle,” and that’s likely why the Louisville product fell just out of the top-10. The good news is Kyle’s first name won’t detract from the “Funkhouser” we’ll see on the back of his shirseys. His middle name is James, and if he changes the game up and goes with K.J. Funkhouser at some point the Reds will have themselves quite a steal. It was tempting to go with Joe McCarthy here for obvious reasons. – BC
12. Miami Marlins: Alonzo Jones, 2B, Columbus HS, GA
How many Alonzos do you know? Pair a power first name with a short but fitting last name and ZoJo is a natural fit for most any club. The city of Miami has a history of success with athletes named Alonzo, but if Jones busts, they’re sure to be in mourning. – CG
Sparky, catalytic leadoff hitter? Old-timey 1920’s gangster? C-grade Marvel superhero alias? You don’t meet many men who go by “Donnie” this day and age, especially when it leads to painful alliteration, and I respect Mr. Dewees' moxie. This is not a sexy name, but, like a Selena Gomez song or a glaring plot hole in Game of Thrones (start mining Dragonglass, you idiots), it’s tough to get out of your head once it’s sunk in. – BC
Cody isn’t a special start. We know Cody. Cody is your standard frat-bro with the inability to keep his voice down and a knack for never wearing a shirt. But Ponce? It harkens back to that episode of SNL Celebrity Jeopardy, can be insulting, and is just plain fun to say. Don’t overthink it. – CG
15. Milwaukee Brewers: Dazmon Cameron, OF, Eagles Landing HS, GA
The hope here is that Mike Cameron’s son eventually goes just by “Daz,” like “Enya” or “Maradona” or “Jesus.” This breaks up a long streak of boring names in Milwaukee, which, with apologies to Scooter Gennett, we’ve been routinely subjected to since Prince Fielder left town. Time for the Brew Crew to go back to basics. – BC
There’s nothing quite so high-falutin’ (or southern – we know) as last-naming your child. Tate is an especially egregious version of such an act, and it’s no surprise the big-budget Yankees were willing to spring for this type of talent (and bloodlines) since he fell to them. There’s an off-chance he flames out as a baseball player and re-emerges into the public consciousness as an actor in the reboot of The OC. – CG
17. Cleveland Indians: Jonathan India, 2B, American Heritage HS, FL
His name is really Johnny India. He’s really from American Heritage High School. No further comment. – BC
Strengths: Hat tilt; unexpected name juxtaposition; Clone High references.
Weaknesses: Skinny jeans; bad mustache; frequents Williamsburg. – CG
19. Pittsburgh Pirates: Chandler Day, Watkins HS, OH
*Extremely Cam from Modern Family Voice* Ittttttttt’s Chandler Day! A lot of the names drafted above Chandler are prestigious or elegant or at least cool. Chandler Day is none of these things, but it is fun, and that matters too. – BC
20. Oakland Athletics: Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS, TX
There is one obvious wart here (his first name is a city in New Jersey) but Oakland has never been afraid of a player with warts. To the contrary, they use those flaws to their advantage, and they’ve done so once again here. Clark sounds like a superhero’s alter ego, and while most associations with New Jersey are a negative, the connotation of thunder with his name is more than fitting. – CG
This is an elegant-ass name. I have no idea how to pronounce it, will some day butcher it on TINO and will spell it wrong for all of eternity, but it looks like it rolls off the tongue. This name is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Bud Norris. – BC
Rejected as the replacement for Zayn Malik in One Direction, Allard and Detroit will have to settle for each other at this point. – CG
Don’t you hate when someone gives you a form to fill out and it’s confusing and you’re in a rush and you put your first name where it says “last name” and visa versa? That’s Ashe Russell’s life. His parents did not fill out the form The Right Way and yet, as so often happens with the Cardinals, it just works. – BC
We’re nearing the end of the round, and while it’s premature to say there’s not talent here, it is thinning a bit. Jones gets an alliterative boost and some points for uniqueness, but will have to sidestep the “Jah Rule” if he wants to reach his ceiling. There’s something to work with here, we just might not see the benefits for some time. – CG
It’s been a good run, but the pickins are pretty slim at this point. You’re sacrificing upside for utility with Plummer, but his last name is a baseball pun goldmine. Think of the headlines: Plummer Clogs Bases. Plummer Throws Wrench Into Plans. Plummer? More Like Outhouse. Plummer’s Pipeshot Wins Pennant. This man will keep sportswriters employed for a decade. – BC
When there’s not a premium option available going with one stellar tool isn’t a bad move. Andrew inspires nothing as a first name but the surname, oh the surname. It’s multi-syllabic but not complicated to say, and brings us back to our roots with its similarities to “Nintendo.” More than anything this name is just trying to have some fun out there.The true shame is that the Mariners didn’t get to pick him. – CG