In most years, the team with the number one pick has a good idea of who they’ll select, and as a result, the team’s picking after them have a good idea of which player will be off the board. That is not the case this year. The Diamondbacks attempted to simplify things recently, stating their fondness for three players, but there’s really no way to tell, in a class this weak, which direction they’ll take.
Here’s out best guess at how things would shake out if the draft were held today.
Alex Bregman, SS/2B, Louisiana State University
The Diamondbacks have been hemming and hawing over this pick for more than seven months now, and in recent weeks they’ve been driving draft experts (if there is such a thing) crazy with comments disparaging this year’s draft class, while at the same time scouting almost every player on our top 100 board. Dillon Tate, Carson Fulmer, Tyler Jay, Dansby Swanson, Brendan Rodgers and Kyle Tucker are all realistic options, but the one that makes the most sense is Bregman. He’s the most complete offensive player in this class, and he impressed enough at the shortstop position this season to warrant a spot on the SEC All-Defensive team.
Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt University
Yes, the Astros just used the number one overall pick on a shortstop three years ago, but Swanson offers incredible versatility. He’s played numerous infield and outfield positions over the years, and there’s no doubt he’s athletic enough to be an above-average defender at all of them. Like Bregman, he’s a high-level performer at the plate, offering the chance to hit for a high average and slightly-above-average power, with above-average plate discipline.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (FL)
With the Rockies off to another terrible start, and with all the talk about dealing franchise shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, now is the perfect time to find the heir apparent to the Tulo. Rodgers is the top prospect in this draft class, and Colorado could find themselves in quite a favorable spot if he falls to them with the third pick. Rodgers is a very similar player to Swanson, offering impressive upside at the plate, but his defensive potential is what makes him our number one prospect. He’ll be a fixture in the infield for at least a decade for whichever team drafts him.
Dillon Tate, RHP, University of California, Santa Barbara
Tate has taken a lot of heat for fading down the stretch this year, but that’s not entirely fair. During his freshman year he threw just three innings, and last year he served as the Gauchos’ closer. What he’s been able to accomplish in 14 starts this season is really impressive, and that’s what we should all be focusing on. He may have the best stuff of any pitcher in this class, including a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a power slider that has looked devastating at times this season. Tate would be a perfect fit for a pitching starved franchise in Texas, which we all know loves the fireballers.
Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville HS (TN)
While there isn’t much consensus on which players the Astros are targeting with either of their top five selections, it seems likely that they’ll select a pitcher and a hitter. With Swanson in the fold, Everett would be a wise selection. He had a sensational season, and was clocked in the high-90s on numerous occasions, resulting in a meteoric rise up draft boards. Snagging the top-ranked high school pitcher and the top-ranked college hitter in this draft class would be a major coup for Houston.
Tyler Jay, LHP, University of Illinois
Don’t let all the recent talk convince you that Jay is in the running for the number one overall pick. Despite his obvious talent, and the relative weakness of this draft class, it would be a shock to see a career reliever taken first. And while Jay has the stuff to start, the conversion would be a lengthy process, making him a more suitable target for teams picking fifth-through-tenth. Minnesota has a proven affinity for college pitchers, and if they have any hope to become a consistent contender in the American League Central, they’re going to need more starting pitching.
Boston Red Sox
Ian Happ, OF, University of Cincinnati
It seems to be public knowledge that the Red Sox are all in on Alex Bregman. Still, we expect most teams to come to the realization that he’s one of the top five players in this class, meaning he’ll be gone by the time Boston picks at seven. Happ is a solid consolation prize. Like Bregman, he shouldn’t require much time in the minor leagues, and is the closest thing to a big-league ready hitter as there is in this draft. He offers the ability to hit for average, to hit for power, and to steal a few bases, and he has great versatility, spending time in both the infield and outfield at UC.
Chicago White Sox
Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State University
Drafting college pitchers in the first round has worked very well for the White Sox in recent years, so why quit now? The Sox have even had good luck with pitchers (Chris Sale) from small-conference schools (Florida Gulf Coast), making the Missouri State ace seem like a perfect fit. Harris has great size, great stuff and a bulldog mentality on the mound that would fit in Chicago quite well.
Kyle Tucker, OF, Plant HS (FL)
Chicago’s system is flush with position player talent, which makes pitching seem like a likely target with their first pick, but with someone of Tucker’s caliber still on the board, the Cubs would be crazy not to pounce. A big, strong kid, Tucker has plenty of room to grow physically, and he has all the makings of a heavy-hitting corner-outfielder. He’s a much better value here at number nine than any of the remaining arms left on the board.
Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS (TX)
The Philadelphia front-office has been adamant that they’re in the midst of a rebuilding process that won’t produce wins at the big-league level for at least a few more years. Like Chicago, they’ll be tempted to go after a pitcher that can help the big-league club soon, but it would be wise for them to take Clark, if he’s still available. He’s a five-tool talent with plus speed and a chance to hit for average and power.
Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt University
Fulmer exploded onto the scene this year, and at several points has seemed a legitimate candidate for the number one overall selection. With questions about his ability to start at the next level, Fulmer should probably be selected somewhere in the 20-30 range, but some team will see his mid-90s fastball and his devastating breaking ball and pounce early. Cincinnati could be that team.
Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt University
Fulmer’s mate in the rotation, Buehler seems a much better bet to stick in the rotation. He came into the season with top-ten pick potential, but some elbow soreness in his pitching arm limited him to 73.2 innings, and allowed him to be surpassed by Fulmer. Buehler’s stuff might not be as good as his teammate’s, but he has a more varied repertoire, offering both a slider and curveball, while his changeup is head-and-shoulders above Fulmer’s.
Tampa Bay Rays
Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (CA)
A back injury cost Allard nearly all of his senior season, dimming his prospects somewhat, but not enough that he’ll fall out of the top 20 picks. Before his injury, Allard was being compared to last year’s lefty sensation, Brady Aiken. Allard’s ceiling isn’t as high, but he has his fair share of supporters. Like Aiken, he throws in the low-to-mid-90s and offers a breaking ball that flashes plus at times. The Rays have lucked out in recent, getting top-ten talents who fell due to concerns about health or maturity, and Allard could be the best of the bunch.
Tyler Stephenson, C/OF, Kennesaw Mountain HS (GA)
The Braves and Stephenson seem destined to end up together, despite rumblings that the Diamondbacks have him and two others in consideration for the top overall pick. It seems likely that if he isn’t selected first overall, he’ll likely fall to the 10-15 range, giving Atlanta a realistic shot at him. He’s a Georgia product, which we all know the Braves covet, and he’s also a high-schooler, something they covet even more.
James Kaprielian, RHP, University of California, Los Angeles
Fresh off a combined no-hitter that he contributed nine-innings to, Kaprielian is riding high, and that momentum might carry him into the top ten picks. Realistically, he’ll slot in behind the grouping of Tate, Harris, Fulmer and Buehler. Depending on quickly they all come off the board, Kaprielian could go even higher than 15 to the Brewers, who need an infusion of pitching talent, and who could go hard after college pitching with all of their early picks.
New York Yankees
Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, University of Louisville
Even with Funkhouser throwing some duds late this season, Louisville keeps on winning, giving the right-hander more chances to prove his late-season funk is just that, and not signs of bigger troubles. On the surface, he has everything teams look for in a first-round pitcher: great size, great velocity and an above-average breaking ball. His command has been hit-or-miss this season, but when he’s hitting his spots, he’s been as good as any pitcher in this class.
Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg HS (PA)
Nikorak has been a very divisive prospect this spring. He’s bounced around all over in recent mock drafts from Baseball America, MLB.com and other draft site, going as high as seventh or eighth in some and as low as the late 20s in others. Cleveland would be a nice landing spot for him, and would give the Indians the best pitching prospect they’ve had in at least five years.
San Francisco Giants
Phil Bickford, RHP, Community College of Southern Nevada
The Giants have proved time and time again that they’re experts at finding value in the draft, despite picking most frequently towards the back end of the first round. Bickford is a top-five prospect in our eyes, offering all of the same skills he did two years ago when he was a top-ten pick, plus some. His command has sharpened, and he has two years worth of experience, dominating college hitters at two different levels. If he slips out of the top-ten this year, whichever team selects him will be getting the steal of the draft.
Cornelius Randolph, 3B, Griffin HS (GA)
Griffin has received very little attention from the national media, but it seems as though the Pirates are very interested in him. Interested enough to use a top-ten pick on him, if they had one. He’s the top infield prospect in this class that doesn’t play shortstop, and he projects as an above-average defender who offers above-average power. He should be available when they pick at 19.
D.J. Stewart, OF, Florida State University
The A’s are reportedly interested in…well, all of the players you’d think they’d be interested in. Donnie Dewees, Andrew Benintendi and Stewart have all had sensational seasons, with the latter two still in play for a berth in the College World Series. Of the three, Stewart’s bat appears to be the most impressive. Not only his bat, but his plate discipline. He led the nation in walks this season, just as much a testament to his reputation as dangerous hitter as to his batting eye. How could the A’s turn down the chance to draft a guy like that?
Kansas City Royals
Dazmon Cameron, OF, Eagle’s Landing HS (GA)
Cameron was a top-five pick in most of our early mock drafts, and he’s starting to work his way into the top-five in some others as well. He could be a victim of a shifting focus on college position players though, and if he makes it out of the top-ten, he could be in for quite a fall. The Royals might be the perfect fit for Cameron, a toolsy prospect, who should be an elite defender in centerfield. He appears to be a more polished version of another toolsy outfielder the Royals drafted a few years ago, Bubba Starling.
Nathan Kirby, LHP, University of Virginia
The Tigers had one of the most feared rotations in baseball history last season, at least by reputation. They lost Max Scherzer to free-agency, and it appears David Price could be on his way out as well, leaving another huge hole in Detroit’s starting five. Kirby, despite missing the last few months of the season with a back injury, should be able to make the transition to pro ball very quickly, putting him in line for a big-league job within two years, making him a perfect fit for Detroit.
St. Louis Cardinals
Chris Betts, C, Woodrow Wilson HS (CA)
We’ve had the Cardinals and Betts linked for quite some time, which means the baseball gods probably won’t allow such a pairing. Still, the selection makes sense. The Cards don’t have a prospect in their system that offers the all-around talent that Betts possesses, and Yadier Molina isn’t getting any younger.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy
Maybe it’s just the perception of the Dodgers as a team that’s willing to throw money at all of their problems, but any way you look at it, a pairing between L.A. and California native Aiken seems perfect. Arguably the prospect with the highest ceiling in this draft class, the Dodgers won’t be swayed by things like Tommy John surgery, or the fact that Aiken hasn’t really thrown more than an inning here or there competitively in almost two years.
Kevin Newman, SS, University of Arizona
Late last season, the Orioles gave J.J. Hardy a three-year extension that keeps him in a Baltimore uniform until at least 2017. The plan was originally for Manny Machado to slide over from third when Hardy departs, but he’s starting to look so comfortable at third base that maybe it’s time to start looking for the team’s next shortstop. Newman scuffled a bit towards the end of the season, but his bat is for real. He doesn’t offer much power and his defense isn’t on par with Hardy’s, but playing next to Machado will make him look much better.
Los Angeles Angels
Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna HS (NY)
Whitley was also in the running for the number one selection just a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, fortunes can change that fast heading into the final stretch of draft season. He’s probably not a first-round talent, but the Angels will no doubt be intrigued by his talent, and some light comparisons to another Northeasterner, Mike Trout.