This is the latest I’ve ever put out any type of rankings for a draft class, and it’s for two viable reasons.
1. I worked really hard on the Draft Guide, which we’ll talk about at the end of this
2. This class is an absolute mess.
Number two may seem like an excuse, but it really is the weirdest, craziest, most vexing draft class I’ve covered. The amount of injuries and stock fluctuation we’ve seen this year is unheard of, and this is coming off a 2015 Draft that was pretty darn full of it. It’s not a terrible group of players—far from it—but if I was running some club’s draft, I’d be better at this, but I’d also be terribly flummoxed as to who goes where.
And so, I’ve decided to do my first ever tiered ranking. You still get the rankings you normally get, but you also get an idea of just how volatile everything is, and how many guys could end up going in different spots. These are the 31 prospects I’d feel comfortable taking in the first-round, and hopefully, that number will just keep going up as we get closer to the day. Keep in mind that this is NOT a mock (we’ll do one of those later, I promise), and I’m not projecting anyone to go anywhere, yet.
Lets get to it.
1. Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS (NJ)
There aren’t too many people who are good enough to have a tier of their own. Maybe Clayton Kershaw with pitching. Or Dane Cook with comedy.
But Groome deserves it. He’s shown a 70-70-55 arsenal at times (fastball, curve, and change, respectively), and he does it while throwing strikes and missing a ton of at bats. As for that whole suspension stuff, scouts didn’t worry about it, and you shouldn’t either. In fact, some believe the short break will help Groome, as it’s fewer bullets gone from the chamber. He may not be the first pick—and at this point I’d bet against it—but he’s pretty clearly the number one player in this draft.
It was obvious that there were two players who belonged in the next tier, and it was obvious which two players belonged in that tier. The order, however, is still up for debate and I’m still uncertain. Ultimately I go with Ray because there’s a boatload more safety. He can do everything, and while there are serious questions about whether or not he can play center field, the bat is going to play in right (or left) field just fine.
Perez is the most talented hitter in the class, and really, he gives Groome a pretty good run for his money for most talented player overall. There’s just a ton of questions about his maturity, and while I usually ignore these kinds of things and say talent wins, when they’re coming from every possible source outside of Delvin himself? You just can’t ignore it. Someone’s going to take a chance on him, as he’s a double-plus runner with a chance to hit for power and average while playing a decent enough shortstop, assuming he doesn’t get too big for the position—literally and figuratively.
4. Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep HS (CA)
5. Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS)
Again, another easy tier. Again, terribly hard to pick the order. Rutherford is the best hitter in the class; his swing is gorgeous and I have very little doubt he’s going to hit for average or power—think Austin Meadows with less speed. What could cause him to drop is his age, as teams often show a weariness for drafting prep players who turn 19 before the draft, and he’ll turn that age in a couple of weeks. I think that’s nitpicking, however, and I’d be stunned to see him still on the board after the first 10 selections.
Riley Pint throws really, really hard. A hundred miles an hour hard. Routinely. He also throws a pretty good breaking-ball, and a passable change here and there. The command has a ways to go and prep right-handers are forbidden from going too early (still have never had one picked first-overall), but in a weak draft class, I’d have no problem taking him in the top five.
6. Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
7. Braxton Garrett, LHP, Florence HS (AL)
8. Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
9. A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
That sound you hear is not a bowling ball dropping onto cement, it is the sound of the drop of quality after that top five. Lewis is going to be able to stay in center and has more power than Ray, but he also has a ton of swing-and-miss and the length of the swing says that’s not going away. Garrett is one of the draft’s few risers as a left-hander who has three above-average pitches and can throw them for strikes.
There are some who view Senzel as the best player in the class. While I might disagree, he’s got a great approach that combined with a line-drive swing gives him the best chance of any player in this draft of having a plus-plus hit tool. Puk was a potential 1-1 to start the season, but inconsistent results and now concerns about his back have pushed his stock down considerably.
10. Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS (NY)
11. Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)
12. Nolan Jones, IF, Holy Ghost Prep (PA)
13. Forrest Whitley, RHP, Alamo Heights HS (TX)
14. Josh Lowe, 3B/RHP, Pope HS (GA)
15. Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS (CA)
We’ll call this tier the “prep” tier. Why you ask? Because all of the players are preps. What a stupid question.
Anderson is going to be a very expensive buyout from his Vanderbilt commit (so is Garrett, for the record), but he’s worth it. He’s up to 96 mph and he locates his above-average secondary pitches as well as you can expect from a teenager. The same can be said for Manning minus the velocity, but he does have a projectable frame and tons of athleticism.
Lowe is a legit two-way prospect, and scouts are pretty split as to whether he ends up on the mound or in the field. On one hand, he’s shown above-average power, feel for hitting, and plays a quality third base, and that’s good. On the other hand, he’s up to 95 mph and has a 55 breaking-ball, and that’s good, too! Ultimately, I think he ends up at the hot corner, with the mound a nice fall back just in case he can’t hit.
16. Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
17. Will Benson, OF, The Westminster Schools (GA)
18. Bryan Reynolds OF, Vanderbilt
19. Kevin Gowdy, RHP, Santa Barbara HS (CA)
20. Alex Kirilloff, OF, Plum HS (PA)
21. Robert Tyler, RHP, Georgia
22. Reggie Lawson, RHP, Victor Valley HS (CA)
We won’t name this tier. Just tier six. Hudson has been outstanding in 2016, and he should be a groundball machine with his ability to sink his fastball. Benson is a two-sport star who is probably more athlete than baseball player right now, but the upside—particularly the power—is substantial.
All Tyler is missing is a competent curveball to become a frontline starter, but he doesn’t have that, so there are serious doubts if he can even start. Lawson also gives scouts concerns, but it’s mechanical, not in stuff. If someone feels like they can fix the delivery, they’ll be getting a hurler as talented as any prep in the class.
23. Connor Jones, RHP, Virginia
24. Joe Rizzo, 3B, Oakton HS (VA)
25. Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee HS (KS)
26. Bryson Brigman, SS, San Diego
27. Daulton Jefferies, RHP, California
28. Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
29. Anfernee Grier, OF, Auburn
30. Will Craig, 1B, Wake Forest
31. Corbin Burnes, RHP, St. Marys
Jones will have his school held against him, but someone is going to take him in round one—he throws strikes with three pitches and pounds the bottom of the strike zone. His fellow statesmen Rizzo is the next best prep bat behind Rutherford, but he’s probably going to have to move to a non-premium position because of his lack of athleticism, and that will play a big factor on his stock.
If someone believes that Brigman can stay at shortstop, he’ll go in the first 15 picks; the approach at the plate is that good. No one I’ve spoken with believes he’ll end up there (and I’d agree based on my looks), so like Rizzo, his value drops.
Grier is the most improved player in the class, as a guy who was barely in discussions when I began formulating opinions on the draft class to a guy that one scout said reminded him of early B.J. Upton. Yep. That’s a big difference. I’m a little more skeptical on players who have this much improvement in stock, but I said the same thing about Andrew Benintendi, and I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about.
And speaking of knowing what I’m talking about, if you’d like detailed scouting reports on these players and more, please check out my 2016 MLB Draft Guide, on sale now for $4.99 on iTunes.
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