We’re just under two weeks until day one of the draft. The good news is that we haven’t had many more injuries after a ridiculous run to start the spring, but the bad news is that the guys who have stayed healthy still don’t make up a very good draft class. Even in a weak year there are always going to be plenty of potential impact players, though.
Here are the top 100 players eligible for the 2015 MLB Draft.
1. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (Fla.)
Rodgers’ season is over, and though there were moments of inconsistency over the year, he still flashed the plus power and hit tool that he did last summer. The safer player is the one right below him, but as someone who values upside, I still believe Rodgers is the best player available in the 2015 draft.
2. 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 name above him, but he might have the highest floor of any player eligible this year.
3. Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
In a deep draft class, Tate’s inconsistency down the stretch probably pushes him to the back half of the top 10. However, since this is not a deep draft class, it doesn’t really hurt his stock so much. With two pitches that flash 70 and quality athleticism, Tate has the best chance of any hurler in the class of becoming an ace. There’s also a chance he ends up in the bullpen, though.
4. 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 enough question about whether he’ll end up at short for me to rank him below Swanson.
5. Ian Happ, 2B, Cincinnati
Happ was among the best performers in college baseball this season, with a 369/.492/.672 line and 32 extra-base hits, and there’s reason to believe some of it can translate to the professional level. The switch-hitter has feel for hitting from both sides of the plate, with enough loft to project at least average power. He may have to move to a corner outfield spot, but the bat can play there if that’s the case. If he can stay at second base, he could be a future all-star.
6. Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (N.Y.)
Whitley is one of the best athletes in the class, and if he played somewhere other than upstate New York he’d probably be among the most famous players, as well. He’s been on scout’s radars for some time, and after a strong showing at the summer showcases last summer and a solid—if unspectacular—start to his 2015 season, Whitley has established himself as one of the top prep bats in this year’s draft.
At the plate, Whitley has a smooth, line-drive stroke, and his ability to control the barrel from plus bat speed gives him a chance for a plus hit tool, though some scouts I’ve spoken with say that he can get a bit pull-happy, as many prep hitters do. He’s still filling out the frame, but the bat speed, along with some loft and a lower half, make the power tool at least solid-average, and plus isn’t out of the question. He’s a smart hitter who already takes pitches and appears to recognize what’s being thrown well, but he’s assertive enough to drive first-pitch strikes and keep pitchers from getting strike one over.
When Whitley gets in trouble it’s because he goes from assertive to overaggressive, as it affects not only his approach at the plate but the swing itself. He’ll rush through the zone, leaking his hips and hands forward before clearing his hips and getting out in front of the baseball. Even with his strong hand-eye coordination and impressive bat speed, that still creates more weak contact than someone of his talent should produce. When everything is in sync, the swing rivals anyone in the class, but that doesn’t happen as often as one would like to see at this point.
Defensively, Whitley is still a bit of a work in progress, but there’s every reason to believe he’ll be a center fielder at the next level. He’s a plus-plus runner who can make the spectacular look easy, and while his arm strength won’t remind anyone of Yasiel Puig, it won’t remind you of Michael Bourn, either. The only thing he needs to work on now is cleaning up the routes, but again, this is true of many players his age.
The largest concern with Whitley is that he’s faced lackluster competition because of his location, and the results haven’t been overwhelming. Of course, these were the same concerns people had over Byron Buxton, and that seems to have worked out alright. (Note: I’m not comparing Whitley’s talent to Buxton and Mike Trout; it’s just a similar situation). While it’d be ideal to see the outfielder dominating his admittedly inferior league, the tools don’t lie, and what the tools say is that Whitley is a 70 runner with the potential to be above-average with both his hit and power, and he’s as much of a lock to play center field as any player on this list.
While it no longer appears that Whitley will be a candidate to be the first selection of the draft, the Wake Forest commit could still go in the first 15 picks, with teams like Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Milwaukee all making sense as potential landing spots.
7. Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona
I struggled to keep Newman this “low,” as I do think he’s more likely to hit for average than Swanson with just as good a chance to stick at shortstop, and there’s more speed. He drops because of the lack of power, and while some mechanical adjustments can improve that tool, it’s far from a lock.
8. Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (Calif.)
Allard’s season ended prematurely with a lower-back injury, and that, along with a lack of size (listed at 6 feet, but likely closer to 5-foot-11) could lead to his stock dropping a bit. With three pitches that flash plus and above-average command, he’s the best prep pitching prospect in the class.
9. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (Penn.)
Nikorak isn’t far behind Allard, with 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.
10. Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS (Mich.)
There’s four high school outfielders who are grouped together for me, but I go with Plummer at the top because he 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. But even in left field, Plummer’s bat should play just fine.
11. Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS (Fla.)
Tucker is the industry consensus as the best prep outfielder in the class, with a swing that reminds many of Darryl Strawberry and a better defensive profile than Plummer. My concerns are whether he can do it consistently and if he’s going to be a platoon player because of the length in his swing.
12. Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS (Tex.)
I’m not a huge fan of the swing, but Clark has excellent bat-to-barrel skills and there’s above-average power projection in his left-handed stroke. He’s also an above-average runner, and has a strong chance of ending up in center with good instincts in the field.
13. Daz Cameron, OF, Eagles 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.
14. 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.
15. Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
Like Buehler, Harris draws controversy because of his high-effort delivery; further, he plays in a non-major conference. That being said, there are several teams in the top 10 who are intrigued by the right-hander, as he possesses four above-average to plus pitches.
16. Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Big 10 pitcher go in the top 10 (Michigan State’s Mark Mulder went second in 1998) and even longer since there’s been an Illini pitcher taken in the first round (John Eriks, 1988). It’s a forgone conclusion that Jay will break the latter streak, and as the best collegiate left-handed pitcher in the class, he’s got a great chance of ending the former, too.
Despite his somewhat small stature (listed at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds), Jay uses his extremely quick arm and elite arm strength to produce a plus-plus fastball—one that sits 93-95 mph and will touch 97. The lack of size keeps him from throwing downhill, but there’s good movement to the pitch, though that movement can sometimes keep him from getting ahead in the count.
The slider is also a plus offering, showing late bite and some tilt that make an unhittable pitch for most left-handed hitters and a good enough offering to get right-handed hitters to swing and miss as well. He’ll also show an above-average curveball with good shape and spin, and because it’s the pitch that’s more consistently in the strike zone, it’s the pitch that many scouts I’ve spoken with prefer. It doesn’t offer the explosion of the slider, so that’s the pitch I’d rather see Jay throwing when he’s ahead in the count—especially when he’s facing left-handed hitters. He’ll also occasionally throw an average change that doesn’t offer much in terms of movement, but enough arm speed to offer some deception. It’s a legit four-pitch mix, as good as any four-pitch hurler's outside of Harris.
While Jay certainly has the arsenal to start, there are several things that could keep him from becoming a member of a rotation. As mentioned above, there is some effort in the delivery. He repeats it well, but because of his lack of size that effort could add up more quickly than with a typical starter's build. The command is also only average, and while his delivery isn’t overly complex, he’ll occasionally lose his arm slot and finish short in his delivery, making it difficult to hit his spots.
Jay has worked almost exclusively out of the bullpen in 2015—making one start early on—so the team that picks him early will be taking a risk, and he won’t be a fast-track arm as he’ll have to build up the stamina necessary to start. That being said, in a weak class, knowing you can get a high-leverage reliever isn’t such a bad thing, and if Jay can start he’s a potential mid-rotation arm, though there are obvious durability risks.
17. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
When Funkhouser is at his best, he’s as good as any pitcher in the class—including Tate—with a plus-plus fastball and as good a slider as any pitcher eligible this year. When he’s not at his best, those pitches are down a grade and he has no idea where any of it, including his average changeup, is going. There’s been enough flashes of his best to make him a first-round lock, but I’ve seen far too much of the not-his-best for him to belong in the top half.
18. 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. However, because of the effort involved in the delivery, many believe his likely landing spot is the bullpen.
19. Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke
Once again, I struggled with whether to rank Matuella or Aiken with this spot. While he doesn’t have the track record or the upside, I’m going with Matuella ahead of Aiken because I’m more confident he'll come back with stuff intact.
20. James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
Kaprielian was already a pitcher whose stock was on the rise, and that was before he had one of the most impressive outings of the season last week: nine no-hit innings against an Arizona lineup that features two potential first-round picks, striking out 11 in the process.
Kaprielian’s fastball isn’t consistently plus, but it has been 90-92 with the occasional 96. That's good enough to start, but not likely to miss bats at the big-league level. During the no-hitter against Arizona, though, the fastball was 93-96, and it’s not unheard of for pitchers at Kaprielian's stage of development to gain consistent velocity.
While his heater won’t miss a great deal of bats, his secondary offerings can. His best off-speed pitch is a change, a pitch that is consistently plus and flashes 65 thanks to its late movement and his deception from arm speed. The next step will be using the pitch earlier in counts, though his failure to use it early is likely due to typical college coach sequencing—this was an issue with UCLA's Gerrit Cole back in 2011 as well.
Kaprielian offers two different breaking balls, the best of these being a slider that has hard downward tilt and some bite. When he’s at his best, he can throw this pitch for a strike, though the offering is most effective when it’s being buried out of the strike zone and hitters are looking for the change or fastball. He’ll also throw a curveball that can run into the slider, but it will flash average with decent shape and 11-5 break.
At times, Kaprielian can struggle with command—as seen in his 31 walks and nine hit-by-pitches in the 2015 regular season—though he’s generally in the strike zone and usually is within the margin of error with the command. The delivery is compact and doesn’t have many moving parts, though he does have some effort in the back half of his arm path that could be the cause of some command issues, and may also lead to arm issues down the road.
Kaprielian is a lock for the first round as a right-hander who could move quickly through a system thanks to his advanced secondary stuff. And though there are plenty of hurlers in the class with more upside, he may have the highest floor of any pitcher in this year’s draft.
21. 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.
22. Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy (Fla.)
If Aiken were healthy, he’d be the top pick in the draft, with 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.
23. Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
Kirby has missed a large portion of the year with a lat strain, though there’s a chance that he’ll pitch in this weekend’s NCAA regionals. His command and secondary offerings have been woefully inconsistent, but when you see him on a good day you’ll see three above-average pitches from a clean delivery and above-average command. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Kirby on a good day, though.
24. Tyler Stephenson, C, Kennesaw Mountain School (Ga.)
Stephenson will likely be the highest drafted catcher in this year’s draft, and it’s easy to see why, as a right-handed hitter with a chance of plus-plus power and an average hit tool. Because of his size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and lack of mobility, the more likely landing spot is first base. The bat will play there, but a team will give Stephenson every chance to catch to see if they have a potential star behind the plate. Weirder things have happened.
25. 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.
26. Cornelius Randolph, SS, Griffin HS (Ga.)
27. Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
28. Scott Kingery, 2B, Arizona
29. Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville HS (Tenn.)
30. Ke’Bryan Hayes, Concordia Lutheran HS (Tex.)
31. Phil Bickford, RHP, Southern Nevada CC
32. Kep Brown, OF, Wando HS (S.C.)
33. Drew Finley, RHP, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.)
34. Mitchell Hansen, OF, Plano HS (Tex.)
35. Alonzo Jones, 2B, Columbus HS (Ga.)
36. Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral Catholic HS (Ind.)
37. Eric Jenkins, OF, West Columbus HS (N.C.)
38. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Arkansas
39. Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS (Fla.)
40. Joe McCarthy, OF, Virginia
41. Austin Smith, RHP, Park Vista HS (Fla.)
42. Tristan Beck, RHP, Corona HS (Calif.)
43. D.J. Stewart, OF, Florida State
44. Alex Young, LHP, TCU
45. Blake Trahan, SS, Louisiana Lafayette
46. Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS (Calif.)
47. Donnie Dewees, OF, North Florida
48. Peter Lambert, RHP, San Dimas HS
49. Nick Neidert, RHP, Peachtree HS (Ga.)
50. Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College
51. Lucas Herbert, C, San Clemente HS (Calif.)
52. Jacob Nix, RHP, IMG Academy (Fla.)
53. Richie Martin, SS, Florida
54. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Royal Palm Beach HS (Fla.)
55. Mikey White, SS, Alabama
56. Jahmai Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS (Ga.)
57. Jacob Woodford, RHP, Plant HS (Fla.)
58. Kyle Holder, SS, San Diego
59. Luken Baker, RHP/1B, Oak Ridge HS (Tex.)
60. Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky
61. Demi Orimoloye, OF, St. Mathews HS (Canada)
62. Bryce Denton, 3B, Ravenwood Academy (Tenn.)
63. Tyler Nevin, 3B, Poway HS (Calif.)
64. Chandler Day, RHP, Watkins HS (Oh.)
65. Cole McKay, RHP, Spring Ranch HS (Tex.)
66. Kyle Molnar, RHP, Niguel HS (Calif.)
67. Justin Maese, RHP, Ysleta HS (Tex.)
68. Chad Smith, OF, South Gwinnett HS (S.C.)
69. Gio Brusa, OF, Pacific
70. Christin Stewart, OF, Tennessee
71. Nolan Watson, RHP, Lawrence North High School (Ind.)
72. Cole Sands, RHP, North Florida Christian HS (Fla.)
73. Blake Hickman, RHP, Iowa
74. Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston
75. Josh Naylor, 1B, St. Joan Of Arc HS (Canada)
76. Casey Hughston, OF, Alabama
77. Joe DeMers, RHP, College Park HS (Calif.)
78. David Hill, RHP, San Diego
79. Wesley Rodriguez, RHP, George Washington HS (N.Y.)
80. Kolton Kendrick, 1B, Oak Forest HS (La.)
81. Mitchell Traver, RHP, TCU
82. Skye Bolt, OF, UNC
83. Kevin Kramer, SS, UCLA
84. Parker McFadden, LHP, Yelm HS (Wash.)
85. Josh Staumont, RHP, Azusa Pacific
86. Tanner Rainey, RHP, West Alabama
87. Tate Matheny, OF, Missouri State
88. Nick Shumpert, SS, Highlands Ranch HS (Colo.)
89. Nick Sprengel, LHP, El Dorado HS (Calif.)
90. Jonah Wyatt, RHP, Quartz HS (Calif.)
91. Taylor Ward, C, Fresno State
92. Tristin English, RHP, Pike County HS (Ga.)
93. Nick Madrigal, SS, Elk Grove HS (Calif.)
94. Mike Soroka, RHP, Bishop Carroll HS (Canada)
95. Antonio Santillan, RHP, Seguin HS (Tex.)
96. Thomas Szapucki, LHP, Dwyer HS (Fla.)
97. Mac Marshall, LHP, Chipola CC (Fla.)
98. Alex Robinson, LHP, Maryland
99. Jonathan India, 2B, American Heritage HS (Fla.)
100. Anthony Guardado, RHP, Nogales HS (Calif.)
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Where Aiken goes is endlessly intriguing to me. As a Twins fan, I would have no qualms about taking him at #6, because intuitively, the risk of taking a marginal player there like a risky high school bat, outweighs the risk of Aiken never returning to form. I'll take the talent all day.
" Another continued to express concern that Aikenâ€™s congenital factors could make him still a riskier pick than the average pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. "
I guess what I'm curious about is: what is the success rate of a young, highly talented pitcher having TJ returning to form vs the success rate of your typical mid-first-round talent (because, let's be honest, this draft has very little top-tier talent, if any, besides Aiken).
Maybe we don't have enough data, but it's something I'm curious about.