Let’s cut through the BS.
The MLB version is the hardest of all first-year player drafts to predict. It probably has something to do with the fact that players are drafted from all over the continent of North America, from multiple levels of play, for 40 rounds, resulting in upwards of 1,200 selections. It also has to do with the fact that less than 10% of players selected end up achieving their lifelong goal of reaching the big-leagues.
It is, essentially, the world’s largest crap-shoot.
It’s strange then, that if you perform an internet search for the phrase “mlb mock draft,” that you get hundreds of thousands of results. Don’t take this to mean that these mock drafts are meaningless (and please don’t stop reading ours). Rather, take everything you read with a grain of salt, for there are hundreds of scouts, front-office “suits”, coaches, managers and even former players who end up having input on each and every selection.
Still, there are some things we know for sure, even less than two weeks away from draft day. For instance…Jameis Winston will not be drafted in the first-round…or likely in any round.
Here are 20 more things we know for sure.
1) Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson WILL be the first shortstop selected.
This might spark some debate, as there are several other elite shortstop prospects, including Florida high-schooler Brendan Rodgers and LSU’s Alex Bregman. At the end of the day, however, Swanson’s experienced bat, and his ability to stick at shortstop long-term will win the day. He might not go first overall, but he’ll definitely be the first middle-infielder off the board.
2) Illinois reliever Tyler Jay will NOT be selected first overall.
Baseball America’s latest mock draft has Jay going to Arizona with the first pick. Let’s clarify something real quick. Jay isn’t just a reliever. He’s a career reliever. Tyler Jay has started one more game in college than Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Rock and Barack Obama put together. Those who believe Jay is worthy of the first pick will point to his sterling three-year stretch at Illinois and the fact that he has three pitches that grade out as above-average. Our counter to that is a challenge. Name us a pitcher that started as few games as Jay has at the collegiate level that went on to find even moderate big-league success as a starter.
3) David Berg will be the first member of the 2015 draft class to reach the Majors.
Berg has been a dominant force during his four years at UCLA. He’s appeared in 71% of the Bruins’ games since 2012. He tied the NCAA-record for appearances in a single-season, and broke the school record by his junior year. He became the first relief-pitcher to win Pac-12 pitcher of the year honors, and he set the NCAA-record for most saves in a season. Clearly it’s time for Berg to move on, but the question remains, what will his role be at the next level? His stuff isn’t good enough to switch to starting, and it probably isn’t good enough to be a top-notch closer. Still, despite all the odds stacked against him, Berg is the most big-league ready player in this draft, and he’ll be in the Majors before anyone else.
4) At least TWO catchers will be selected in the first round
Two months ago, the crop of catchers in this class seemed very weak. Then Georgia high-schooler Tyler Stephenson burst onto the scene, joining California prep backstop Chris Betts and Fresno State’s Taylor Ward as potential first-rounders. Make no mistake, this is still a pretty weak class, but it’s also very top-heavy, meaning the likelihood that Stephenson is joined by either Betts or Ward, or both…is very likely. Other prospects behind the plate that could hear their names called in the first round include high-schoolers Lucas Herbert, from California, and Wyatt Cross, from Colorado.
5) Brady Aiken will NOT last past the 15th pick.
Three years ago, the Washington Nationals took a gamble on the hugely talented Lucas Giolito with the 16th overall pick, who underwent Tommy John surgery less than a month after signing a contract. Giolito has emerged from injury stronger than ever, and is now one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Aiken is a better prospect, and he had his surgery more than a month before the draft, putting him ahead of Giolito’s recovery period, and making him a much more appealing prospect. If he makes it past the Brewers’ pick at #15 it would be a crime against humanity.
6) The Braves will select a high-school player from the state of Georgia.
As documented in our mock draft 4.3, the Braves draft from the high-school ranks a ridiculous 81% of the time in the first round, more than any other team. They also have a known-affinity for drafting from the state of Georgia, and if there was ever a year that the state was ripe to be plucked, it is this year. Chances are incredibly high that they’ll end up with either catcher Tyler Stephenson, infielder Cornelius Randolph, right-hander Dakota Chalmers or outfielder Dazmon Cameron, each of whom is a first-round talent in their own right.
7) Michael Matuella will NOT be selected in the first round.
Several months ago, Matuella seemed like a shoe-in to be selected in the first round. We found this curious, considering his injury history, which included a battle with spinal arthritis. Sure enough, after a handful of productive starts, he went down again, this time with an arm injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a mock draft that has him listed in the first round. While Matuella may go on to have a successful pro career, it won’t come accompanied with a “former first round pick” label.
8) UCLA’s James Kaprielian WILL be a top-ten pick.
On the surface, Kaprielian has it all. Sturdy, big-league body? Check. Mid-to-high 90s fastball? Check. Above-average breaking ball? Check. It’s quite odd, then, that until the past few weeks, the Bruins’ ace hadn’t received much attention as a first-round pick. Taking part in a combined no-hitter certainly helped, but much more important has been Kaprielian’s performance down the stretch. While pitchers like Dillon Tate and Walker Buehler have faded as we enter tournament season, Kaprielian has seemingly gotten stronger. He’s a no-doubt, top-ten pick in our eyes.
9) LSU’s Alex Bregman will NOT be drafted by the Boston Red Sox.
Seemingly every single mock draft that has been released in the past four weeks has linked Bregman to Boston with the seventh-overall pick. You know what that means, right? Bregman has no chance of going to Boston. And why should he? With arguably the top bat in this draft class, and the plate discipline of a big-league veteran, Bregman has the pedigree of a top-three pick. If he were more seasoned at shortstop, and projected to stay there for the duration of his professional career, there’s no doubt Bregman would be in the running for pick number one.
10) The most successful big-league career of any starting pitcher will NOT belong to Carson Fulmer, Kyle Funkhouser or Jon Harris.
That’s right, and it won’t be Walker Buehler, Dillon Tate, James Kaprielian, Brady Aiken or Tyler Jay either. Everyone seems to forget that Phil Bickford was a former top-ten pick. All that he’s done since spurning the Blue Jays’ 2013 offer is dominate at both Cal State Fullerton and Southern Nevada. He still owns a mid-to-high 90s fastball and an above-average slider, and he still throws strikes with incredible consistency. Most mock drafts, however, have Bickford dropping into the 20-30 range. This is ridiculous, and Bickford, wherever he’s drafted will go on to prove doubters wrong by putting together the most successful big-league career.
11) The first outfielder selected will NOT be Kyle Tucker.
The outfield group is one of the strengths of the 2015 draft class, with Tucker, Daz Cameron, Trenton Clark, Garrett Whitley, Ian Happ and D.J. Stewart all projected as potential top-15 picks. While Tucker may have the highest ceiling of the group, he is also the most raw, which means he’ll likely slip outside of the top ten, allowing someone, likely Happ or Clark to jump ahead of him.
12) Ian Happ will be the first position player from the 2015 class to reach the Majors.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, Happ has had one of the most amazing seasons in recent memory. Playing for one of the worst teams in Division I, a squad that went 15-41, Happ posted a .369/.492/.672 line, rapped 32 extra-base hits and drove in 44 runs. He also swiped 12 bases and committed just one error all season. He was also one of just two Bearcats to play in all 56 games. There’s no doubt Happ will be selected somewhere in the first round, and regardless of what team selects him, he’ll be in the big-leagues within two years.
13) Walker Buehler will have a more successful big-league career than teammate Carson Fulmer.
Fulmer has gotten all the love this season, and deservedly so. Buehler, the darling of the 2014 Vanderbilt season, has been largely forgotten as he works his way back from an arm injury that cost him a good chunk of the early season. Both pitchers figure to be selected somewhere in the front-half of the first-round, but critics are split on which will have the better career. While Fulmer has the more explosive fastball, and the better breaking ball, Buehler has better command and a more varied arsenal of pitches, giving him a better chance at avoiding a permanent move to the bullpen. Both might go on to have successful big-league careers, but Buehler will be the only one to attain success as a starter.
14) Virginia outfielder Joe McCarthy will be one of the steals of the draft.
McCarthy finished the 2014 season with a lot of buzz. Unfortunately, he aggravated an old injury that required back surgery, and he missed almost the entire 2015 season. He’s back now, in time for Virginia’s NCAA tournament run, but you can tell he’s still rusty. Both the injury and his production will cost him on draft day, as much as several rounds. Still, based on talent alone, McCarthy ranks up there will Ian Happ as the most complete outfield prospect in this draft class. He might get off to a slow start once he turns pro, but McCarthy will have a very successful career.
15) The number one pick from the 2018 class will be selected this year.
While it’s too soon to be able to tell who the top 2018 high-school draftees will be, we have a very clear picture of which 2015 high-school draftees will likely forgo signing professional contracts, making them eligible for the draft three years from now. Two-way player Luken Baker has made his intentions clear that he’s going to honor his commitment to TCU, and outfielder Ryan Johnson has also asked not to be drafted so he too can join up with the Horned Frogs. Several others, such as Triston McKenzie, Mitchell Hansen and Greg Pickett seem like safe bets to also head to college. McKenzie, especially, is a high-ceiling prospect that could develop into a prospect worthy of the number one pick in 2018.