We left off in our last installment by identifying 14 targets to consider for selection with our first pick (seventh overall) in our shadow draft:

  1. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford University
  2. Trey Ball, LHP/OF, New Castle HS (New Castle, IN)
  3. Ryan Boldt, OF, Red Wing HS (Red Wing, MN)
  4. Kris Bryant, OF/3B, University of San Diego
  5. JP Crawford, SS, Lakewood HS (Lakewood, CA)
  6. Jon Denney, C, Yukon HS (Yukon, OK)
  7. Clint Frazier, OF, Loganville HS (Loganville, GA)
  8. Jonathan Gray, RHP, Oklahoma University
  9. Sean Manaea, LHP, Indiana St. University
  10. Reese McGuire, C, Kentwood HS (Covington, WA)
  11. Braden Shipley, RHP, University of Nevada
  12. Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, Serra HS (Los Angeles, CA)
  13. Ryne Stanek, RHP, University of Arkansas
  14. Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X (Houston, TX)

We also set the framework for decision making at the top of the draft by noting these 14 targets fall into one of three categories: 1) an above-average value for the slot, or talent beyond that which I’d typically expect to be available at this slot; 2) solid value for the slot, or talent I’d typically expect to be available at this slot, and 3) fallback talent, or talent roughly on par with those in category 2, but better suited to fit (as part of my desired draft class on the whole) with talent I expect to grab in the next few rounds.

The goal of this installment is to break each of those 14 picks down into one of the above three categories. This is the starting point for the decision-making process. Moving forward, we will take a close look at each player, rank our options in each category (as well as across categories), and ultimately wind up with a decision-making tree that will serve as a general guide for our selections on draft day, with the effects of our first pick rippling down to later picks based upon our determined strategy.

Sound complicated? In a way, it is—but that’s what makes it fun. We are going to use this series to explore the basics of this process, and in particular the issues and related theories we will be using to assist us along the way. These theories are meant to be challenged, discussed, and, hopefully, tweaked as a result of our dialogue in the comments section, so let’s all roll up our sleeves and have some fun with this.

Tier 1: Must Haves

Essentially, this is a list of players we look at on draft day and say, “If one of these guys happens to be available, we need to do what we can to make sure we get them.” Naturally, the closer you are to the top of the draft, the more likely you are to be able to land one of these top-tier talents. Here are the players I’ve tabbed for consideration in this tier (alphabetically):

  1. Mark Appel
  2. Clint Frazier (scouting report)
  3. Jonathan Gray

With a selection of seventh overall, we are right on the border in a typical draft as far as whether or not we might reasonably expect to get one of our “must haves” to fall to us. This year, the top tier is a little thinner than in a typical class, which makes it less likely we get the opportunity to land one of our top targets.

As an aside, and as a point of clarification as to how tiering works draft-wide, our placement in the back half of the top 10 means our Tier 1 talents are really the cream of the draft class crop. Were we drafting 22nd overall, Tier 1 may be 10 or 15 deep depending on the composition of the class – remember the Tier 1 designation is simply talent that is better than we’d expect to see at our slot, rather than the absolute top collection of players in a given draft class.

It’s important to keep in mind that each organization’s view of the top of the draft board is going to vary, regardless of the overall composition of a particular draft class. Outside of those rare drafts with a no-doubt top talent (e.g. Stephen Strasburg; Bryce Harper), the nature of the evaluative process is going to lead teams to different player valuations, based on such teams’ preferences, tendencies, and needs.

We will explore this first tier, as well as the issues inherent in making a draft-day selection from this grouping, in our next Dissecting the Draft piece. By that time, full scouting reports will be up at BP Unfiltered (Clint Frazier’s report posted yesterday and is linked above), giving us a chance to come up with our initial ranking, or “pref list,” for this tier. While it’s generally possible for players to move up from a “strong consider” to a “must have” designation, there aren’t any other players in our collection of 14 targets that are particularly close to this tier as of today. So we should be fairly confident that this list of three is going to be the same list we are working with come June.

Tier 2: Our Most Likely Candidates

This is the category of players made up by talents we’d generally expect to be available in this range in a typical draft. Naturally, some organizations will have some of these players rated more highly, and our hope is that the orgs drafting ahead of us rank some players in this group ahead of some players in our top tier (increasing the likelihood that one of our Tier 1 talents falls to us). Here is the list for Tier 2 (again alphabetically):

  1. Trey Ball
  2. Kris Bryant
  3. JP Crawford
  4. Jon Denney
  5. Sean Manaea
  6. Reese McGuire
  7. Braden Shipley
  8. Dominic Smith
  9. Ryne Stanek
  10. Kohl Stewart

This is obviously the largest category of players, and that would generally be the case the further down the draft board you find yourself. While this may initially seem unwieldy, we will be sorting through these names methodically and, as we approach draft day, some of these will likely be downgraded to Tier 3. The rest will be sorted out, as was the case in Tier 1, by preference upon a closer look at each individual.

The breakdown for the list is as follows: (1) two high-school pitchers (Ball; Stewart), (2) three college pitchers (Manaea; Shipley; Stanek), (3) four high-school position players (Crawford; Denney; McGuire; Smith), and (4) one college position player (Bryant). Harking back to the last installment of this series, our general goal is to take a portfolio approach to draft class building, spreading risk, upside, and player type across our selections. Keeping that in mind, our task is sort this grouping first by talent, and then to view that pref list through the prism of the constitution of the rest of the draft class.

In other words, if the class is particularly shy on college bats, and looking at the board it’s unlikely we are going to see value in that category drop very far on draft day, we may put a premium on college bats available for our first pick. Conversely, if the draft is flooded with another position (say hig- school catchers), the odds of one of them slipping some in the draft increases. That might mean we roll the dice that a late-first- or supplemental-first-round caliber high-school catcher will drop to us in the early-second round, and opt to address another investment type with our first pick (say, the college bat).

Of course, all of this centers on the desire to get talent, so I should reiterate here that these considerations are only relevant when you are making decisions between talents you deem to be generally comparable. That’s the purpose of our tiering at the outset—creating pools of players we view in a similar light so as to allow us to manipulate and sift through large swaths of potential draft picks in manageable manner. The alternative is picking from a single list ordered by talent, which simply doesn’t lend itself well to the complexities of formulating a more nuanced draft approach.

Tier 3: Let’s Get Creative

The final group is our Plan B. Tier 1 consists of guys we most likely are not going to see at our slot. Tier 2 consists of guys we’d consider good value and, so long as some of those guys are available to us it would seem to make sense that we are going to select one of them. This Tier 3 grouping is here to deal with the unforeseen arising. It currently consists of just one player, Ryan Boldt, but is likely to grow over the coming weeks as we pare down Tier 2 some, any injuries arise, and as we start to get more information as to signing bonus demands.

Tier 3 generally comes into play if options from Tier 1 and Tier 2 are exhausted, or if ripples from our initial pick are potentially significant. The former is self explanatory, but what do we mean by “potentially significant ripples”. By way of example, last year the top two players on my board were Kevin Gausman (RHP, LSU) and Albert Almora (OF, Mater Academy (FL)), in that order. At draft time, Gausman was generally assumed to be higher on most teams’ draft boards, with a handful of teams kicking the tires on Almora early, but not much buzz surrounding him as a top overall pick.

Our shadow draft slot last year was first overall, so there was a large allotment for the first selection ($7 million and change), affording a huge strategic advantage when considering how to acquire as much talent as possible (and more talent than the other drafting organizations). Additionally, there appeared to be two talents that I rated as first-rounders that were fair bets to drop to the supplemental-first round due to signability (Lance McCullers) and injury (Matt Smoral).

Looking at the other talents that would be available in the supplemental-first round compared to Smoral and McCullers, and keeping in mind that the number-two talent on my board may not otherwise go in the top five picks, I was able to make the decision to draft Almora (with the thought being he would sign for less than the full allotment, but still more than he was likely to otherwise get if I did not draft him) and thus free up enough money to throw above-allotment amounts at one of McCullers or Smoral in the supplemental-first. Fortunately, the gamble paid off, I grabbed Smoral in the supplemental-first, and both signed for amounts within my budget. Had Gausman or another more highly leveraged player (based on the interest level of teams drafting in the top few picks) been the selection, it’s possible we would not have been able to free up enough money to land Smoral or McCullers. That is an example of a potentially impactful ripple.

Flipping back to this season, the seventh-overall selection is allotted just over $3 million, so there is less incentive to try and produce excess cash with this first pick. We have Boldt in this tier due to a knee injury that is likely to keep him out of action for at least a good chunk of May, which drops his draft stock (particularly since his Minnesota high school season just started and we haven’t been able to yet evaluate him closely this spring). We’ll be discuss the pros and cons of utilizing a Tier 3 approach a couple pieces from now, but generally it is unlikely, given the particular circumstances surrounding our slot and the talents likely to be available, that we will need to dip outside of Tier 1 or Tier 2 for our first selection.

Looking Ahead

Our next entry in this series will examine Tier 1 selections. We’ll slot them in order and consider the likelihood of one of them falling to our slot at seventh overall. Further, we’ll examine the considerations we’ll need to keep in mind if one of them does fall to us – namely, is our slot allotment likely to be enough to sign them? If not, how much will we have to alter the remainder of our draft strategy in order to free up enough cash to ink our 1st rounder.

Thanks for checking in on this project; looking forward to discussing the Tier 1 talents with you all next week.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Curious why Austin Meadows isn't in any tier?
Just didn't happen to make the cut for Tier 2. There's enough heat on him that he doesn't really qualify for Tier 3, so he ends up on the outside looking in. I'll make sure there's plenty of info on him for the Center Field portion of the Scouting the Draft series, w/vid, tool grades and more details on profile.

He'd be on my list in the 11-15 range as a Tier 2.
Any others who are left out due to Meadows' type reasons?
As far as others I'd likely consider as Tier 2 targets if drafting in the 11-15 range, I guess that would primarily include a few more college bats (DJ Peterson (New Mexico), Colin Moran (UNC), Hunter Renfroe (MissSt) and perhaps Austin Wilson (Stanford). I think I'd stay put on college arms, with the remainder, to me, a fair step down from the crop currently targeted. I'd probably keep Boldt as a Tier 2, rather than dropping to Tier 3 with the knee injury last week. Quick and dirty, that's how I'd see it shaking out five to seven spots lower.