Best Value Picks By Round

Coming into the 2015 draft, outfielder Dazmon Cameron was widely regarded as one of the ten best players in this class. His combination of power and speed reminded many of his father, who enjoyed a 17-year career that included 278 home runs and 297 stolen bases. Many had Cameron going in the top five picks, and most had him ticketed to Houston, which has the highest bonus pool and would therefore be able to afford him.

The first five picks came and went, and no Cameron. The next five came and went. Still no Cameron. In all, it took 37 picks before Houston, using one of their competitive balance round selections pulled the trigger on Cameron, proving the point that the baseball draft isn’t always about the talent.

In fact, most of the time, it’s about value.

Here are our favorite “value” picks in each round.

1st Round: Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy (Cleveland Indians)

Last year, Aiken was drafted first overall and had things gone according to plan with his medical exam, he would have been offered a contract in the $7-8 million range. As well all know, things didn’t go according to plan, and the Astros pulled their offer to the left-hander and Aiken headed off to pitch at IMG Academy, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring. After much speculation about where he’d go, the Indians worked up the courage to select him with the 17th pick of the first round, and they’ll likely be able to ink him for a bonus in the $2-3 million range. For our money, there’s no better “value” in this draft class than Aiken.

2nd Round: Chris Betts, C, Woodrow Wilson HS, California (Tampa Bay Rays)

We had Betts as our top rated prospect at the catcher position, ahead of the more highly-regarded Tyler Stephenson, who went 11th overall to Cincinnati. The Rays were able to get Betts 41 picks later, and will likely save more than a million dollars, and they’re still getting an elite prospect that has the chance to be an above-average hitter and defender. Betts’ bat is for real, as is his plus raw power. With the proper development, he should also be able to hit for a high average. Many scouts have comped him to Brian McCann, although Betts has already proven to be a much better athlete, leading to the assumption that he’ll be a better defender.

3rd Round: Blake Trahan, SS, University of Louisiana at Lafayette (Cincinnati Reds)

Trahan started moving up draft boards in the final two weeks of the season, thanks to some impressive performances in NCAA regional play, and also due to some promising reports from his coaches and scouts about his ability at the plate. Leading into draft day, there were many that though he would find a home somewhere in the first round. His batting average never dropped below .300 during three years at ULL, but still there were some questions about the legitimacy of his ability. Trahan has always had a great batting eye, as evidenced by his 112-to-95 career BB-to-K ratio. Trahan has also shown good speed, stealing an average of 15 bases per season. There is very little doubt about Trahan being able to handle the shortstop position as well, as he features above-average arm strength, soft hands and quick feet.

4th Round: Jake Lemoine, RHP, University of Houston (Texas Rangers)

Lemoine had first-round helium entering the 2015 season. He had all the tools, including a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a devastating slider, not to mention great size, but an injury limited him to just five starts. A former draft pick of the Rangers back in 2012, Lemoine should return to the mound next season, and assuming his shoulder impingement isn’t too serious, he’ll be slotted into a rotation somewhere in the lower levels of the minors. He could move incredibly fast, but it also wouldn’t be a shock to see the Rangers move him to the bullpen, as they’ve done with so many highly-touted prospects, including Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers.

5th Round: Thomas Szapucki, LHP, Dwyer HS, Florida (New York Mets)

Szapicki is a shoe-in based on the fact that he’s already stated that he intends to sign with the Mets, spurning a scholarship to the University of Florida, where he was expected to be a part of one of the top recruiting classes in the country. He isn’t the biggest pitcher, but Szapucki has great velocity for a lefty, and the prospect of more was enticing to the Mets. His slider should be at least an average pitch at the next level and if he can show good aptitude for a changeup, he should be given every chance to start.

6th Round: David Berg, RHP, University of California, Los Angeles (Chicago Cubs)

Mark our words, Berg will be the first member of the 2015 draft class to ascend to the Major League level. If he somehow isn’t, it’s only because of the heavy work-load he received during his four-year career at UCLA. Berg’s accomplishments are well-documented. He’s the only relief pitcher to be honored as the conference pitcher of the year in the Pac-12, and he holds the NCAA record for most saves in a season. He probably doesn’t have the stuff to succeed long-term as a closer at the pro level, but he’ll make one hell of a set-up man.

7th Round: Blake Hickman, RHP, University of Iowa (Chicago White Sox)

Hickman is relatively new to pitching, having been a position player as a freshman, before doing a little bit of both as a sophomore. He was strictly a pitcher in 2015, and there’s a whole lot to like from him on the mound. For starters, he can crank his fastball up to the 96-97 mph range. He lost some zip off the pitch towards the end of the year, but that can be forgiven considering he tossed 84.1 innings, more than double the number from the year before. He threw a slider, but the pitch has morphed into more of a slurvy offering. It needs improvement, but should be at least an average pitch. He performed incredibly well for a relative newbie to the rotation, going 9-2 with a 2.99 ERA in 2015.

8th Round: Seth McGarry, RHP, Florida Atlantic University (Pittsburgh Pirates)

McGarry opened up plenty of eyes during his stint in the Cape Cod League last summer. He carried over the performance into the 2015 season, and emerged as the top reliever in a strong FAU bullpen. He posted a 2.25 ERA and finished with a 35-to-14 K-to-BB ratio in 40 innings, spanning 21 appearances. McGarry can hit 97-mph on the radar gun, although he sits more comfortably in the 92-95 range. His breaking ball doesn’t show much bite and his changeup is nothing to write home about, leading to speculation that McGarry will head straight to a minor league bullpen. He should be a quick mover though, and could be one of the quickest to the big-leagues of any player drafted in 2015.

9th Round: Andrew Broadbeck, 2B, Flagler College (St. Louis Cardinals)

As the top-ten rounds drew to a close, most teams began looking for cheap small-school players and college seniors. Broadbeck, a senior, hails from Division II Flagler College in the ancient city of St. Augustine, and he was an integral part of the Saints terrific season that included wins over several national ranked D-II powers. He led the squad with a .384 average, 65 runs and 23 stolen bases, earning a spot on the Peach Belt Conference first-team. Broadbeck is a complete player, showing good pitch recognition, the ability to hit for power, steal some bases and play above-average defense.

10th Round: Josh Tobias, 3B, University of Florida (Philadelphia Phillies)

Tobias came to UF as a touted recruit, but he didn’t start to make good on that moniker until his junior year. He did show gradual improvement each season, but as a senior he blossomed, leading the Gators with a .374 average. He was an extra-base hit machine, rapping 14 doubles, five triples and five home runs. Tobias has good speed for a guy of his size, and defensively he possesses all the tools to be an average third baseman. He might not be an everyday player on a championship team, but he has the talent to lock down a job on a second-division squad, something the Phillies will be for the next 3-5 years.

11th Round: C.J. Hinojosa, SS, University of Texas (San Francisco Giants)

In Hinojosa, the Giants have found a Brandon Crawford clone. Hinojosa’s calling card is his defense, and by all accounts he’s one of the top five defensive shortstop prospects in this draft class. He scuffled at the plate during his time at Texas, despite coming to Austin as a top recruit. He improved dramatically over the second half of the season, and by the end of the year he found his power stroke, slugging four home runs in three games in the middle of May.

12th Round: Logan Taylor, 3B, Texas A&M University (Seattle Mariners)

In the year of the shortstop, several valuable prospects were still available, and the Mariners scooped one up in the 12th round in Taylor. He played all over the infield during his time at College Station, but he’ll likely be forced over to a corner spot at the next level. Taylor had never hit for much power, but exploded for 10 during his junior year, to go with 52 RBI. He had never hit for average, either, and he did that too (.336), so it’s hard to tell what kind of pro player he’ll be, but regardless, he has the arm strength and the footwork to handle third base, making him a solid pick.

13th Round: Kyle Twomey, LHP, University of Southern California (Chicago Cubs)

At the very least, Twomey should be an electric arm out of the bullpen. He has good velocity (88-94 mph) and a very good changeup. The Cubs, however, are likely to give him a chance to start right off the bat. His breaking ball isn’t anything special, but if he can develop the offering, he should be good to go and has a future as back-of-the-rotation starter. What’s more likely is that the Cubs speed his ascent to the big-leagues by moving him to the pen. Twomey had a strong junior campaign, with an 8-2 record, a 2.88 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 93.2 innings.

14th Round: Carson Cross, RHP, University of Connecticut (St. Louis Cardinals)

Somehow Cross, the 2015 AAC pitcher of the year, was still around when the Cardinals came-a-picking in the 14th round. The move could turn out to be a great one. As a fifth-year senior, Cross has no leverage, so he’ll likely sign for a pretty low number, and the Cards will get a pitcher that went 10-2 with a 2.29 ERA and struck out 108 in 106 innings. During his career at UConn, Cross went a combined 22-7 with a 2.20 ERA and a 222-to-55 K-to-BB ratio. He missed the entire 2014 season due to a freak injury that required rotator cuff surgery. Cross has reached 95-96 mph in the past, but now sits more comfortably in the 89-93 range. He pairs his fastball with a solid breaking ball. If any team can get the best out of him, it will be St. Louis.

15th Round: Kevin Mooney, RHP, University of Maryland (Washington Nationals)

The Nats stayed close to home with their 15th-round pick, selecting closer Kevin Mooney from the University of Maryland. While at College Park, Mooney set the school-record for career saves and tied the mark for saves in a single-season. He did it with less than elite stuff, although his 87-90 mph fastball plays up thanks to the movement on the pitch. He also throws a curveball, which has the makings of a decent second offering. Mooney slid into the closing duties as a freshman, a testament to the faith the team and coaching staff had in him.

16th Round: Marc Brakeman, RHP, Stanford University (Boston Red Sox)

Brakeman entered the season as a potential first-round pick, but an arm injury kept him sidelined for a huge chunk of the season. When he returned, it took him some time to get back the feel for his pitches. Once he did, he took off, pitching through the sixth-inning in four consecutive starts and tossing the first complete game of his college career. He made nine starts in all, finishing with a 2.91 ERA and a 35-to-11 K-BB ratio in 52.2 innings. Brakeman garners attention for his low-to-mid-90s fastball and a changeup that flashes plus. Even if he doesn’t hack it as a starter, he’ll make an elite reliever. If the Sox can manage to find the money to sign him.

17th Round: Chris Chinea, C/1B, Louisiana State University (St. Louis Cardinals)

For a while there, it looked as if every single member of LSU’s 2015 squad would be drafted. Luckily, there are rules for the baseball draft, and as such, Chinea was the last of eight Tigers selected. After coming to LSU as a catcher, Chinea moved out from behind the plate full-time in 2015, and over to first base, where he blossomed. He finished second with a .355 average, on a team that included Alex Bregman, Andrew Stevenson and Kade Scivicque, and he also slugged 11 home runs, a team high. The Cardinals drafted Chinea as a catcher, so there might be a plan to increase his value by sticking back behind the plate, but as long as he continues to hit like he did in 2015, they’ll find room for him somewhere.

18th Round: Nick Vespi, LHP, Palm Beach Community College (Baltimore Orioles)

When you look at the scouting report on Vespi, you wonder why he ended up at Palm Beach CC: a fastball that touches 91-mph, an above-average slider, a developing curveball/changeup combo. Then you take a look at the video, and you see a pitcher whose delivery and mechanics are out of whack, and preventing him from being as good as he can be. The Orioles think they can figure that out, and if things work out, the 6-3, 205 pound lefty could be one of the steals of the draft.

19th Round: Kyle Wilson, RHP, Raymore Peculiar HS, Missouri (Minnesota Twins)

Negotiations with Wilson should be tricky, but in the end, we expect the right-hander to sign with the Twins, spurning his commitment to Crowder Junior College. Minnesota, it seems, has gotten a late-round gem. Widely regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in the Midwest, Wilson stands out for his curveball, which flashes above-average when he’s commanding it. His fastball sits 88-93 mph and his delivery is smooth enough that Twins fans can expect him to add a few ticks to his heater as he gains more experience and strength.

20th Round: Isiah Gilliam, 1B, Chipola College (New York Yankees)

Assuming the Yankees can get Gilliam to sign they have gotten an incredible prospect that has top-three-round talent. Signing, however, will be tricky. As a rising-sophomore at Chipola, we’d put the difficultly level as not as hard as a high-schooler, but not as easy as a draft-eligible sophomore. Gilliam can return to Chipola, but you can’t deny that New York is a pretty good landing spot for him. He has a plus arm, but he’s not as graceful in the field, hence the drafting of him as a first baseman. His bat has the potential to be real special, and will be the tool that carries him. He hit .362 with five homers and 53 RBI for the Indians.

21st Round: Landon Lassiter, OF, University of North Carolina (Chicago White Sox)

He might not be the best hitter, or have the most power, or run the bases faster than anyone, but there’s no denying Lassiter gets on base. The junior that hails from High Point, NC got on base at a .446 clip during his three-year career, including a .491 mark during a freshman season in which he hit .358 and drew 53 walks, earning a spot on multiple freshman all-american teams. His bat regressed during his sophomore and junior campaigns, but he still managed to draw a fair amount of free-passes. He’s also a versatile player, who saw time at third base and in the outfield, where he was drafted, and will likely call home as a pro.

22nd Round: Domenic Mazza, LHP, University of California, Santa Barbara (San Francisco Giants)

Mazza is one of the strangest cases you’ll ever see. A rare two-sport star whose other sport was golf, Mazza placed second in the 2011 World Long Drive Championships and had to turn down a $70k prize in order to maintain his amateur status. He turned down multiple golf scholarships to attend UC-Santa Barbara where he took up a glove and ball and took a shot at his other love. He bounced around from the bullpen to the rotation, before settling into the starting four this year. Together with Dillon Tate, Justin Jacome and Shane Bieber, Mazza helped form arguably the most impressive rotation in college baseball. Mazza’s performance was by far the “worst,” but included a 6-1 record, a 2.69 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 77 innings.

23rd Round: Kyri Washington, OF, Longwood University (Boston Red Sox)

Washington is the epitome of a all-or-nothing hitter. He’s very similar to Baltimore’s Chris Davis, in that he can get on a roll and crush five homers in a three-game series, but the majority of the time he’s putting up 1-for-5s with three strikeouts. He launched 15 bombs for Longwood this past season, driving in 52 runs, but he also struck out a ridiculous 67 times in just 208 at-bats. Washington did see tremendous improvement in the second half of the season though. His average had dropped to a number below .200, and his HR total was low as well. Then he went on a Davis-esque tear that saw him finish the season with a .279/.357/.548 line.

24th Round: Sutton Whiting, SS, University of Louisville (Chicago Cubs)

The first thing that stands out about Whiting is his speed. He finished among the nation’s top five with 37 steals as a junior, a year after stealing 24, so it came as somewhat of a disappointment that he only managed to 15 this past season. Granted, all eyes were on him as he continued his climb towards the top of the Cardinals’ career stolen bases chart. Speed isn’t Whiting’s only tool, however, as he shows a good batting eye that produces a lot of walks. Fielding is the one area of the game where Whiting doesn’t quite measure up. He was drafted as a shortstop, and played the position in college, but he’s better suited for second base at the next level.

25th Round: Connor Marabell, OF, Jacksonville University (Cleveland Indians)

A Jacksonville native, Marabell became the fourth member of the Marabell clan when he transferred to JU from Seminole State College, and the third to participate in the Dolphin baseball program. He raked in 2015, hitting .326 with six homers, 54 RBI, and a team-best 21 doubles. More impressively, he showed great patience at the plate. He split time between the outfield and first base in college, but his defensive skills seem better suited to a corner infield spot at the pro level.

26th Round: Drasen Johnson, RHP, University of Illinois (Colorado Rockies)

Johnson was a beneficiary of playing for the best squad in Illinois’ history, and the momentum generated by their run to the super-regionals rubbed off on him, carrying him to a career-best performance. Over 16 starts, Johnson racked up ten wins and posted a 2.01 ERA and a 77-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He was also a workhorse, pitching past the seventh-inning six times, culminating in a team-best three complete games. He held batters to a .238 average, a near-identical number to fellow pitcher Kevin Duchene, despite facing 50 more batters on the year. Johnson slipped all the way to the 26th round, however, because of limited velocity. It’s rare that he gets the fastball above 87-mph, although he does feature a solid-average breaking ball.

27th Round: Colton Howell, RHP, University of Nebraska (San Diego Padres)

The Padres picked up one of the top set-up men in college baseball in Colton Howell. He put together an impressive season, setting the stage for Josh Roeder, who finished among the nation’s leaders with 15 saves. For his part, Howell made 25 appearances and struck out 31 batters in 30.1 innings, holding down a team-best 2.08 ERA. Howell features a low-90s fastball and a slurvy breaking ball that shows good potential. He didn’t need it much in college, but he’s also flashed a solid changeup, leading many to think he might get a chance to start.

28th Round: Corey Hale, LHP, University of Mobile (San Diego Padres)

The University of Mobile had two players drafted off of their squad, including their ace, Corey Hale, who became the first Ram drafted from UM since 2011. Hale transferred from Enterprise State CC, and had an absolutely dominant junior campaign, going 14-1 with a 1.27 ERA in 15 starts. He struck out 124 batters in 92.1 innings and allowed just one home run all season, en route to being named the Southern States Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and earning a spot on the NAIA All-American team. He tossed three shutouts, allowed two runs or less in 13 of his starts, and tied the school-record with a 15-strikeout performance in mid-March. Hale checks in at an intimidating 6-7 and 255 pounds, and aside from his obvious durability, he has a decent fastball (85-90 mph) and a solid breaking ball.

29th Round: Collin Yelich, C, Sam Houston State University (Atlanta Braves)

You probably recognize the last name, and that’s because Collin is the younger brother (by less than two years) of big-leaguer Christian Yelich. The younger Yelich doesn’t have as high a ceiling, but his numbers at both UNLV and Sam Houston State don’t do his talent justice. Yelich has all the tools to be an above-average defender behind the plate, including a strong arm and a quick release. At the plate he can do some things, but his calling card is his defense.

30th Round: Jack Charleston, RHP, Faulkner University (Chicago White Sox)

Charleston has played just about everywhere, making pit stops at Bethune-Cookman,  Flagler College, Santa Fe College and finally Faulker. The 6-5, 170 pound right-hander had a tremendous junior campaign, going 10-1 with four saves and a 1.70 ERA. And as he has done since graduating from Buchholz HS in Gainesville, Florida, he continued to show decent velocity (85-90 mph) and a solid breaking ball.

31st Round: John Gorman, RHP, Boston College (Oakland Athletics)

A former Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year, Gorman made contributions all four years at BC. He pitched out of the bullpen for two years, before moving into the rotation as a junior. He emerged as the staff ace in 2015 and pitched pretty well, going 5-4 with 77 strikeouts in 77 innings. At 6-1 and 232 pounds, Gorman is plenty durable, and should be a pretty valuable starting pitcher in the minor leagues, although he likely won’t find his way to the Majors.

32nd Round: Cole Irvin, LHP, University of Oregon (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Irvin couldn’t have found a much better home than Pittsburgh. The player development team there has shown great ability to get the most out of their pitchers in the past few years, and if they can do the same with the Oregon left-hander they could have a real interesting prospect on their hands. Irvin’s profile was much higher a few years ago, when he was Toronto’s 29th-round pick, but he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2014 season. He returned to the mound in 2015, but with a strict innings limit that was raised as the season progressed. His velocity started to return towards the end of the year, his breaking ball and changeup looked sharp, and he showed impressive command considering he’d been off the mound for so long.

33rd Round: Adam Bray, RHP, South Dakota State University (Los Angeles Dodgers)

Bray is one of the most decorated players in the history of SDSU. He earned first-team all-conference honors as a junior and senior, and second-team honors as a sophomore. Along the way, he set school-records for games started, innings pitched and strikeouts. His dominance extended into summer ball, where he looked brilliant pitching in the Pacific West League in 2012, eventually winning the pitching equivalent of the triples crown (wins, ERA and strikeouts). He doesn’t have elite fastball velocity, but his breaking ball and command are above-average.

34th Round: Nick Flair, 3B, University of Tampa (Los Angeles Angels)

It’s not often you see players who hit .571 as freshman transferring away from a SEC power, but that’s exactly what Flair did when he departed Mississippi State in 2013. He ended up at Division II powerhouse Tampa, after a pit-stop at Gulf Coast State College. Wherever Flair has been, he’s hit, for both average and power. He wrapped up his time with the Spartans hitting .333 with nine homers and 59 RBI. A shortstop in high school, Flair slid over to third base. He has the arm, but accuracy isn’t something he’s particularly blessed with.

35th Round: Quinnton Mack, OF, New Mexico State University (Arizona Diamondbacks)

Normally players with Mack’s combination of power and speed aren’t around come the 35th round. He started at the College of Southern Nevada, and showed incredible potential, slugging nine home runs while stealing 29 bases, before transferring to New Mexico State. His first year with the Aggies was definitely an adjustment, and his average slipped to .264, although he still showed good pop and great speed. After missing a year due to injury, he returned in 2015 and had a career year, posting a .353/.466/.535 line, walking just as many times (30) as he struck out. He’s going to be a project, and he likely won’t hit much for average at the next level, but he’s definitely a player to watch.

36th Round: Trevor Kelley, RHP, University of North Carolina (Boston Red Sox)

Kelley is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow side-armed pitchers Pat Neshek, Javier Lopez and Vinnie Pestano, who went from mid-to-late round picks to finding success in the big-leagues. He had an incredibly productive career at UNC, appearing in 108 games while holding down a sub-3.50 ERA. He’s coming off of his best campaign, which saw him set numerous career-highs including appearances (41), ERA (2.55), innings (77.2) and strikeouts (71). Kelley has done all of this despite not having elite velocity. He sits 84-88 with his fastball, but complements the pitch with a good slider.

37th Round: Kewby Meyer, OF, University of Nevada (Tampa Bay Rays)

Meyer is arguably the most productive hitter to ever come out of the Nevada baseball program. He ranks among the school’s top-five all-time in several offensive categories and only two players have ever played in more games for the Wolfpack. Switching back and forth from the infield to the outfield, Meyer hit above .300 in each of his four seasons, including a career-best .342 this year. He doesn’t have much power, but he’s a great gap hitter that racked up 22 doubles this season and 27 the year before. He also has great plate discipline, as evidenced by his 63-to-66 career walk-to-strikeout ratio. He should be a productive minor leaguer for the Rays, if nothing else.

38th Round: Conor Costello, RHP, Oklahoma State University (Pittsburgh Pirates)

Costello began his journey at Arkansas, after turning down an 11th-round offer from the Reds out of high school, but after a year before he decided to move back to his home state and enroll at Oklahoma State. Despite being a pitcher by trade, he did a little bit of everything for the Cowboys, showing good power at the plate and impressive wheels on the basepaths. Eventually, the coaching staff let him return to the mound. He made two starts late in the 2014 season, and another six more in 2015, showing enough fastball velocity and the makings of a good breaking ball. The Pirates were intrigued and pulled the trigger in the 38th round.

39th Round: Jake Jeffries, 2B, Cal State-Fullerton (Washington Nationals)

The Nationals drafted Jeffries, the son of former big-leaguer Gregg Jeffries, for the second time in three years, and it seems as though this time he’ll turn pro. His numbers at Fullerton weren’t particularly impressive, but he’s plenty versatile. He’s played some second and third base, and could probably handle the outfield. At the plate he shows a pretty patient approach and while he doesn’t offer much power, he also doesn’t strike out too much.

40th Round: Steve Naemark, LHP, Angelo State University (Houston Astros)

Naemark has a great track record of success. Prior to pitching at Angelo State, he helped lead Cochise College to the Junior College World Series, earning Most Outstanding Player honors his freshman season. He continued to amaze in 2015, stepping seamlessly into the rotation and going 11-1 with a team-best 1.37 ERA. He struck out 138 batters in 125 innings and also saved two games. Not bad for a guy who had his scholarship pulled after a coaching change at Central Arizona, and who had to quit school to get a job working the drive-thru at a local fast-food joint in order to help his family pay bills.

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