Last month, I unveiled my top 50 prospects of the 2015 MLB draft class, and those of you who actually read the opening stanza are likely aware that, in my humble estimation, this isn’t a very strong group of prospects.
It’s gotten worse.
Usually as we get closer to draft day, the class gets stronger; we begin to find hidden gems and players who had been considered day two prospects make jumps. That has not been the case this year. It’s still the weakest class that I’ve ever covered in terms of corner-infield and catching prospects, and with the injuries to Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella there are as few impact-pitching prospects as I can ever remember.
The good news is it’s probably the best class of middle-infield prospects of the decade, and while there’s no star it might be a better class (in quantity) of collegiate bats than 2013 and 2014. Even the poor classes have impact players, and 2015 is no exception to that rule.
Here are my top 75 draft prospects for the 2015 MLB Draft.
1. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (Fla.)
Would Rodgers be at the top of any of the draft boards of this decade? No, but as a shortstop who has a chance to hit for average and power while playing competent defense up the middle, he’s the best player in this class—by default or not.
2. Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Tate’s stuff has been electric all spring, touching the high 90s with his heater and showing a slider that will flash plus-plus on a semi-consistent basis. If the change can be even average, he’s a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, though there are those who are concerned that it won't happen; he's also got a fairly high-effort arm action from a less-than-ideal frame.
3. Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
Swanson has been as consistent a performer as any player in the class, showing an above-average hit tool and more than holding his own as a first-year shortstop. He doesn’t have near the upside of the names above him, but he might have the highest floor of any player eligible this year.
4. Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona
Newman’s stock has escalated as much as any player in the class, and there are several front office types I’ve spoken with who believe he’s the best collegiate player in the entire draft class—pitcher or hitter.
At the plate, Newman has excellent feel of a quick stroke; his direct path allows him to shoot line drives to every part of the field on any part of the plate. He’s an assertive hitter whom you can’t sneak strikes by, but he also doesn’t beat himself by swinging at pitches that aren’t in the strike zone and will draw his fair share of walks. He’s a plus runner thanks to his speed and smarts on the bases; 20-steal seasons are within the realm of possibility
Newman’s swing doesn’t contain much loft, and that, along with a wide stance that doesn’t incorporate much of his lower half, makes Newman’s power grade below average at this point. He offers strong wrists and above-average bat speed, however, so if a team can shorten the stance and add some cut to his plane, double-digit homer seasons would not be out of the question.
Defensively, Newman is a solid—if unspectacular—defender at shortstop, as he uses his athleticism to make plays to his left and right, and his above-average arm allows him to turn hits into outs. Scouts also rave about his baseball acumen, as he rarely makes mental mistakes in the field.
The only reason I rank Newman below Swanson is I see more offensive upside in Swanson, but as a potential top-of-the-order hitter who’s a borderline lock to stick at shortstop, it shouldn’t shock anyone if he ends up being the first collegiate bat off the board.
5. Ian Happ, OF, Cincinnati
There are some guys who just “get” hitting, and Happ appears to be of that ilk. He can hit for average from both sides of the plate, and though he won’t put up monster power numbers, 15 to 20 homer seasons aren’t out of the question. Like Swanson, he’s not going to be a star, but he should be an above-average regular at a corner outfield position.
6. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (Penn.)
It’s not a good year for prep pitching, but Nikorak isn’t a consolation prize; he's got a fastball that will touch 97 mph and a curveball with plus spin and depth. The one concern is that the velocity doesn’t always hold, but with some mechanical adjustments he could be a no. 2 starter in time.
7. Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
There are some who believe Buehler is the best pitching prospect in the draft, and there are those who worry so much about his lack of size and his arm action that they don’t believe he belongs in the top 20. I'm closer to the latter than the former, as I see a right-hander with four above-average to plus pitches and solid-average command, though I can’t say the bullpen isn’t a realistic possibility.
8. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
When Funkhouser is at his best, he’ll show two 60+ pitches in his fastball and slider, and the makings of a solid-average change. Unfortunately, we often see a version that is more 60 fastball, 55 slider; and the command still has a long way to go. The upside is as high as any non-injured pitcher in the class, but there’s definite volatility here. More here.
9. Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (Calif.)
The only reason Allard ranks this “low” is that he’s missed the past month with a back injury, and at 5-foot-11, he needs to come back healthy before we put him back in the upper half of the top 10. With three pitches that have flashed plus and quality feel for pitching, he’ll go in the top half of the first round even with the small stature.
10. Alex Bregman, SS, LSU
Bregman has shown improved range and footwork this spring, and I now give him a decent chance to play shortstop as a professional. If he can, there’s a chance he’s an above-average regular with a plus hit tool, but there’s just enough question about whether he’ll end up at short for me to rank him in this range.
11. Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS (Mich.)
Plummer might have the best hit tool of any hitter in the class—prep or college—with a smooth, left-handed stroke that allows him to hit the ball hard to all parts of the field. What Plummer does not have is a chance to play center field, so a team will really have to value the bat in order to take him in the top 15. Even in left field, Plummer’s bat should play just fine.
12. Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing HS (Ga.)
You’ve likely heard of Cameron by now, either because he’s the son of former Mariner All-Star Mike Cameron or because he’s been in seemingly every showcase since 2012. There’s no standout tool here, but there’s also no real weakness, which gives him a chance to be a solid regular—maybe even an All-Star if he shows more power in games.
13. Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke
I struggled with whether to rank Matuella or Aiken with this spot. While he doesn’t have the track record or the upside, I rank Matuella ahead because I’m more confident he'll come back with his 70 fastball, 60 slider and downhill plane. In a weak draft class, it wouldn’t shock me to see Matuella go in the top 10, similar to what Jeff Hoffman did last year.
14. Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS (Fla.)
Tucker is the biggest riser from the previous edition, partially due to strong performances lately and partially due to the names ahead of him who are struggling and/or hurt.
Tucker’s swing reminds some of Darryl Strawberry, a swing with some length but excellent plane. He has some of the quickest hands you’ll see from this year’s class. Even with the length in the swing, he has feel for the barrel and his long limbs and plane gives him the ability to hit the ball hard the opposite way. He’s a smart hitter who works counts, and he’s shown he’s not allergic to bases on balls when he doesn’t get his pitch.
There’s above-average raw power in his left-handed bat—he broke his brother’s (Astros prospect Preston Tucker) record for most homers hit at Plant—and though most of it is to the pull side, he’s shown the ability to put the ball into the left-center gap. As he gets stronger he should be a threat to hit a few bombs that direction as well.
Offensively, Tucker is a top-seven or -eight talent, but he drops to 14 on my list because of his lack of defensive projection. He doesn’t have the speed to play center field, and his arm is only average, which likely means right field is out of the question. That leaves left field, and even there Tucker isn’t likely to be much more than an average glove. The bat can potentially play anywhere, but if he doesn’t max out offensively he might not provide the type of value that justifies a top-12 selection.
15. Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
Even with a toned-down delivery, I still get sympathy pains watching Fulmer deliver the baseball. That being said, he also has arguably the most electric stuff in this class besides Tate, with a fastball that moves like a slider and a curveball that moves like a really, really good curveball. Because of the effort involved in the delivery, many believe his likely landing spot is the bullpen.
16. Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS (Tex.)
I’m not a huge fan of the swing, but he has excellent bat-to-barrel skills and there’s above-average power projection in his left-handed stroke.
17. Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy (Calif.)
If Aiken were healthy, he’d be the top pick in the draft, and I’m still not sure it’d be all that close thanks to three plus pitches, plus command and some projection left in his frame. Even if he’s only 80 percent of the hurler he was before the injury, he might still be a mid-rotation starter. He ranks here because it’s no lock he comes back to even that percentage.
18. Kyler Murray, SS, Allen HS (Tex.)
I’ve received conflicting reports as to whether or not Murray is serious about baseball; some say he’s assuredly headed to Texas A&M and some say it’s a 50/50 proposition. If he is serious about baseball, he’s another intriguing shortstop prospect with plus-plus speed and average raw power. It’s very much a work in progress, but the upside is very intriguing.
19. Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (N.Y.)
Whitley’s best tool is his plus-plus speed, but he’s also advanced offensively, with a chance to possess above-average hit and power tools.
20. Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
Like Martin, Ponce was a standout this summer, showing a plus-plus heater and a slider that was closer to plus-plus than plus for most of the Cape Cod season. He hasn’t shown that same stuff this spring, and he’s missed time this year with shoulder fatigue. Add in the concerns of facing small school competition and Ponce has just as much risk as he does reward.
21. Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
Kirby’s stock has fallen considerably over the past month, with inconsistent results and even more inconsistent command. He’ll still go in the first round because there isn’t much work to be done, but if you’re looking for a high-ceiling southpaw Kirby isn’t your type of guy. More here.
22. Beau Burrows, RHP, Weatherford HS (Tex.)
I’m higher than the industry on Burrows. He’ll touch 97 and sit 92-95, and he throws strikes with two above-average secondary pitches in his curveball and change. What you see is what you’re going to get, but what you see is pretty darned good.
23. Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
Jay doesn’t start for Illinois, but there are those who believe he has the arsenal to do so, with three pitches that flash plus led by a heater that will get up to 96. Unfortunately—and stop me if you’ve heard this one before—Jay is slight of build, and a team might choose to fast-track the arm and have him come out of the pen.
24. Dakota Chalmers, RHP, North Forsyth HS (Ga.)
In terms of just pure stuff, Chalmers might be the best right-hander in the class, with a fastball that has touched 98 and a plus breaking ball that can give left and right-handers fits. Command is a major issue though, as is a delivery that requires a great deal of effort and offers some movement above the neck. There’s loads of upsides here, but there’s as much volatility in his right arm as anyone not named Funkhouser.
25. Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS (Calif.)
Betts is the best catcher in the class—though that isn’t saying much—and has two above-average tools at his disposal in his hit and power. There are those who believe that he’ll have to move to first base as he’s a poor athlete who has loads of work to do to become a competent receiver, but a team will give him every chance to be a backstop.
26. James Kaprelian, RHP, UCLA
27. Jalen Miller, SS, Riverwood HS (Ga.)
28. Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville HS (Tenn.)
29. Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
30. Ke’Bryan Hayes, SS, Concordia Lutheran HS (Tex.)
31. Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada CC
32. Drew Finley, RHP, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.)
33. D.J. Stewart, OF, Florida State
34. Cornelius Randolph, IF, Griffin HS (Ga.)
35. Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS (Calif.)
36. Alonzo Jones, 2B, Columbus HS (Ga.)
37. Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (Ind.)
38. Austin Smith, RHP, Park Vista HS (Fla.)
39. Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU
40. Jacob Nix, RHP, IMG Academy (Fla.)
41. Blake Trahan, SS, Louisiana Lafayette
42. Jake Woodford, RHP, Plant HS (Fla.)
43. Richie Martin, SS, Florida
44. Brady Singer, RHP, Eustis HS (Fla.)
45. Joe McCarthy, OF, Virginia
46. Alex Young, LHP, TCU
47. Kep Brown, OF, Waldo HS (S.C.)
48. Chandler Day, RHP, Watkins HS (Oh.)
49. Chad Smith, OF, South Gwinnett HS (Ga.)
50. Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS (Fla.)
51. Tristan Beck, RHP, Corona HS (Calif.)
52. Mitchell Hanson, OF, Plano HS (Tex.)
53. Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky
54. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Vanderbilt
55. Josh Staumont, RHP, Azusa Pacific
56. Skye Bolt, OF, UNC
57. Mikey White, SS, Alabama
58. Luken Baker, RHP/1B, Oak Ridge HS (Tex.)
59. Demi Orimoloye OF, St. Mathew HS (Canada)
60. Scott Kingery, 2B, Arizona
61. Christin Stewart, OF, Tennessee
62. Kyle Holder, SS, San Diego
63. Peter Lambert, RHP, San Dimas HS (Calif.)
64. Nick Shumpert, SS, Highlands Ranch HS (Colo.)
65. Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston
66. Donnie Dewees, OF, North Florida
67. Tyler Stephenson, C, Kennesaw Mountain HS (Ga.)
68. Kevin Collard, OF, Rancho Buena Vista HS (Calif.)
69. Gray Fenter, RHP, West Memphis HS (Ark.)
70. Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas
71. Bryce Denton, 3B, Ravenwood Academy (Tenn.)
72. Benton Moss, RHP, UNC
73. David Hill, RHP, San Diego
74. Jonah Wyatt, RHP, Quartz HS (Calif.)
75. Cole McKay, RHP, Smithson Valley HS (Tex.)
This article has been amended to correct formatting errors and to reflect updated injury information for Kep Brown.
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