2018 MLB Draft Preview: American League Central

Few divisions in baseball offered as much intrigue in 2017 as the American League Central, and while that might come as a shock considering the Indians won the division, for the second consecutive season, by a whopping 17 games, it’s true.

At the All-Star break, Cleveland’s division lead was just 2.5 games over the surprising Twins, who won a MLB-worst 59 games the year before, but somehow managed to rack up 45 by the mid-way point of the 2017 campaign. Just half a game behind the Twins were the Royals, who shook of a 7-16 start in April and won 60% of their games during the next three months, including a 17-9 mark during July. That was the closest any team would get to the Indians all season, however, as the team went 55-20 over the second half, including a memorable 22-game winning streak that became the longest in American League history. Minnesota did they best they could to keep pace, winning at a .541 clip that included a 20-10 mark in August, but they couldn’t catch the train that became the 2017 A.L. Central champs. For the Royals, the momentum generated in July was negated by a 10-18 record in August, and they finished 22 games back of the leaders.

For the other two teams in the division, there was never much hope. The White Sox lost 70 of 109 games during the summer months, bottoming out in July, a month that saw them lose nine in a row and 18-of-24, while scoring just 3.5 runs per game. The Sox finished with 95 losses and wrapped up the No. 4 pick with a series loss against Cleveland to end the season. The Tigers actually stayed competitive for the first two months of the season, reaching .500 as late as June 7th before losing 13 of their next 16 games. Heading into September they were 58-74, bad, but not No. 1 overall pick bad. They sewed up the No. 1 pick, however, by winning just six of their final 30 games.

Let’s take a quick look at how the 2018 MLB Draft first round is setting up for each of the five squads in the AL Central.


Draft Team: Ken Williams (Executive VP), Rick Hahn (Senior VP, General Manager), Jeremy Haber (Assistant GM), Nick Hostetler (Director of Amateur Scouting)

First Round Picks (last five years): 3B Jake Burger (2017), C Zack Collins (2016), RHP Zack Burdi (2016), RHP Carson Fulmer (2015), LHP Carlos Rodon (2014), SS Tim Anderson (2013)

2018 First Round Picks: #4 overall

2018 Bonus Pool: $10,589,900 (#4 @ $6,411,400)

First Round Pick Tendencies Under Current GM (2013-present)

  • College vs High School: 100% College
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: Even Split
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (2 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Corner Infield (1 time), Middle Infield (1 time), Catcher (1 time)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 50% @ 3.1 average WAR

First Round Pick Tendencies as Franchise (1965-present)

  • College vs High School: 63% College
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 52% Position Player
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (22 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Outfield (12 times)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 64% @ 8.3 average WAR

2018 Preview

South Alabama’s Travis Swaggerty is one of the more complete players in this draft class, and he should be available when the Sox pick.

The White Sox last enjoyed winning season in 2012. Not coincidentally, the following season was when Rick Hahn took over as GM, launching the franchise into full rebuild mode. As that process enters it’s final stages, Chicago continues to field one of the more inconsistent teams in baseball, a fact that was evident during a 2017 campaign that saw them lose more than 90 games for just the third time in the last 27 years.

Chicago has always preferred college players in the first round, but since the year 2000, the White Sox have made 20 selections in the first round and just four of those picks have come from the high school ranks. Under Hahn, the preference has been even more absolute, with all seven of his first-rounders hailing from college. When picking inside the top-ten, as a franchise, you’d have to go all the way back to 1985 to find the last time they used such a pick on a prep player.

Considering that they’re picking inside the top-ten yet again this year, expect that trend to continue, with the team currently evaluating a group of players that includes pitchers Brady Singer (Florida), Logan Gilbert (Stetson) and Shane McClanahan (South Florida), as well as hitters Alec Bohm (Wichita State), Travis Swaggerty (South Alabama) and Jonathan India (Florida). Nick Madrigal (Oregon State) is on their list also, but he seems likely to hear his name called sometime before the Sox make their pick.

Of that group, Singer and Swaggerty seem the likeliest bets, with the former offering a couple of above-average offerings and the kind of experience that only the best pitcher on the best team in the best conference in the country can, while Swaggerty offers legitimate five-tool ability combined with the the best on-base skills in this year’s class.

 

Likeliest Picks for #4: Brady Singer, Alec Bohm, Travis Swaggerty


Draft Team: Chris Antonetti (President, Baseball Operations), Mike Chernoff (General Manager), Carter Hawkins (Assistant GM), Matt Forman (Assistant GM), John Mirabelli (Senior Director, Scouting Operations), Scott Barnsby (Director, Amateur Scouting)

First Round Picks (last five years): OF Will Benson (2016), LHP Brady Aiken (2015), RHP Triston McKenzie (2015), OF Bradley Zimmer (2014), LHP Justus Sheffield (2014), OF Mike Papi (2014), OF Clint Frazier (2013)

2018 First Round Picks: #29 overall, #35 overall, #41 overall

2018 Bonus Pool: $9,145,200 (#29 @ $2,332,700, #35 @ $2,016,400, #41 @ $1,744,800)

First Round Pick Tendencies Under Current GM (2016-present)

  • College vs High School: 100% High School
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 100% Position Player
  • Most Drafted Position: Outfield (1 time)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Outfield (1 time)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 0% @ 0.0 average WAR

First Round Pick Tendencies as Franchise (1965-present)

  • College vs High School: 56% High School
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 58% Position Player
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (17 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Outfield (14 times)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 56% @ 8.3 average WAR

2018 Preview

The Indians haven’t selected a catcher in the first round since the 1970s. Will Banfield could be just the guy to break that streak.

Despite their disappointing early playoff exit, you’d have to count 2017 as another wildly successful campaign for the Indians, who won at least 100 games for just the third time in franchise history. The offense had an incredibly productive year, scoring the sixth-most runs per game and finishing with the second-highest on-base percentage, but was overshadowed by a pitching staff that was historically good, while utilizing the fewest pitchers in baseball. As a group, the unit allowed the second-fewest runs in franchise history during a 162-game season. They finished with the lowest team ERA in all of baseball, while also leading both leagues in complete-games, combined shutouts, and strikeouts, all while allowing the fewest home runs and issuing the least amount of walks in baseball. The Indians were also one of the best defensive teams in baseball, committing the second-fewest amount of errors and posting the second-highest fielding percentage in team history.

It’s quite a stroke of good luck, then, that the Indians have three first-round selections within a span of 12 picks. Yes, their first pick doesn’t come until No. 29, but they also pick once in the compensation round, thanks to a qualifying offer made to Carlos Santana who later signed with Philadelphia in free-agency, and once again in the competitive balance round. Between the three picks, the team has just over $6 million to spend.

As a franchise, Cleveland has always had a soft spot for high-schoolers, especially when picking later in the first round. As such, expect them take a run at a group of players that should be available when they pick at No. 29 and No. 35 that includes catchers Noah Naylor (HS-Canada) and Will Banfield (HS-GA), as well as outfielders Alek Thomas (HS-IL), Parker Meadows (HS-GA) and Nick Decker (HS-NJ). The one downside to the Indians predicament is bonus recommendations for their three first round picks account for more than two-thirds of their entire bonus pool, so it’s a long shot that all three players will come from the high school ranks. One, or possibly two, collegians will be required to allow the team to spend in the later rounds of the draft.

As such, expect them to take a look at players like Steele Walker (Oklahoma), Nick Dunn (Maryland), Tyler Frank (Florida Atlantic), Cadyn Grenier (Oregon State), Zach Watson (Louisiana State), Tristan Pompey (Kentucky) and Carlos Cortes (South Carolina). Their first pick, No. 29, also seems like the ceiling for injured left-hander Steven Gingery (Texas Tech), who was a sure-fire first-rounder before his Tommy John surgery diagnosis.

Likeliest Picks for #29: Will Banfield, Parker Meadows, Steven Gingery
Likeliest Picks for #35: Alek Thomas, Noah Naylor, Steele Walker
Likeliest Picks for #41: Carlos Cortes, Tristan Pompey, Zach Watson


Draft Team: Al Avila (Executive VP of Baseball Operations, General Manager), David Chadd (Vice President, Assistant GM), Scott Pleis (Director, Amateur Scouting)

First Round Picks (last five years): RHP Alex Faedo (2017), RHP Matt Manning (2016), RHP Beau Burrows (2015), OF Christin Stewart (2015), OF Derek Hill (2014), RHP Jonathan Crawford (2013), RHP Corey Knebel (2013)

2018 First Round Picks: #1 overall

2018 Bonus Pool: $12,414,800 (#1 @ $8,096,300)

First Round Pick Tendencies Under Current GM (2016-present)

  • College vs High School: Even Split
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 100% Pitcher
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (2 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: N/A
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 0% @ 0.0 average WAR

First Round Pick Tendencies as Franchise (1965-present)

  • College vs High School: 62% High School
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 53% Pitcher
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (27 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Outfield (10 times)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 60% @ 7.5 average WAR

2018 Preview

The Tigers should tab Casey Mize, making the Auburn pitcher the second No. 1 overall pick to hail from the SEC in the past four years.

The Tigers have played baseball for 116 seasons, and in that storied history, only six campaigns have seen them rack up more losses than the 2017 squad, which came within two late-season victories, of loss 100 games. The primary culprit for the worst record in baseball last season lays solely on the pitching staff, which finished with the worst team ERA in baseball. Only a handful of teams served up more home runs and struck out fewer batters that the Tigers, whose pitchers finished with the third-lowest WAR in either league.

As a result of their historic dreadfulness, the Tigers have the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Despite their losing history, it marks only the second time that they’ve held the first pick, and no matter who they select, there’s a good chance this player goes on to surpass the career achievements of their last No. 1, Matt Anderson, who never started a game in the Majors and washed out after seven years as an ineffective reliever with a career 5.19 ERA.

Luckily, it seems as though everyone knows who the franchise will select with the first pick, so there’s not much analysis of draft history required on our part. All we can say is that we fully endorse the selection of right-hander Casey Mize (Auburn), who could become the fourth SEC player selected in the first round by Detroit since 2013. Mize has it all. Elite velocity, a plus breaking ball, and uncanny command of his arsenal of offerings. Most impressive, however, is how dominant he’s been pitching against lineups in the best conference in college baseball.

If, for some reason, Mize isn’t their guy, which would probably involve him being abducted by aliens or taking a role in the current presidential administration, the Tigers would look to a group of players that includes Nick Madrigal (Oregon State), Jarred Kelenic (HS-WI) and Alec Bohm (Wichita State).

Likeliest Picks for #1:Casey Mize, Nick Madrigal, Jarred Kelenic


Draft Team: Dayton Moore (Senior VP, General Manager), Daniel Mack (Senior Director, Quantitative Analysis, Amateur Scouting), Lonnie Goldberg (Director, Scouting)

First Round Picks (last five years): 

2018 First Round Picks: #18 overall, #33 overall, #34 overall, #40 overall

2018 Bonus Pool: $12,781,900 (#18 @ $3,349,300, #33 @ $2,118,700, #34 @ $2,066,700, #40 @ $1,786,300)

First Round Pick Tendencies Under Current GM (2007-present)

  • College vs High School: 67% High School
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 53% Pitcher
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (4 times), Left-Handed Pitcher (4 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Shortstop (3 times)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 53% @ 9.1 average WAR

First Round Pick Tendencies as Franchise (-present)

  • College vs High School: 59% High School
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 55% Pitcher
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (21 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Outfield (12 times)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 64% @ 8.9 average WAR

2018 Preview

With the draft’s largest bonus pool, the Royals are well-positioned to take a run at multi-sport star Jordyn Adams.

Two years removed from their second consecutive World Series appearance, the Royals have won just two fewer games than they’ve lost the past two years, and with a losing record through the first month-plus of 2018, they seem likely to continue their slide back towards the bottom of the big-league standings, where they spent the majority of the 1990s and 2000s. They finished just two games under .500 in 2017, but that was enough to ensure they finished 22 games behind the division-winning Indians. At 4.3 runs per game, they featured one of the most anemic offenses in baseball, one that had the fewest amount of walks drawn in baseball and grounded into the most double plays.

Despite not making their first selection until No. 18, it’s Kansas City that has the most lucrative bonus pool of any Major League club, thanks to four first-round picks. This marks the fourth time since 2013 that the franchise has had multiple picks in the first round. After a strong flirtation with college players (5-of-7 from 2010 to 2014), the high school avenue has been the chose route of Dayton Moore of late, with each of the team’s last four picks, and 5-of-7 coming from the prep ranks. Further increasing the odds that they’ll go after a high-schooler is the fact that nearly 75% of the franchises’s picks in the 11-19 range have come from that arena.

Taking that into account, it seems a safe bet that they’ll go HS with pick No. 18, and that should give them solid odds of picking up one of the following: Nander De Sedas (HS-FL), Nolan Gorman (HS-AZ), Joe Gray Jr. (HS-MS), Mike Siani (HS-PA), Cole Winn (HS-CA) or J.T. Ginn (HS-MS). With the deepest pockets, also don’t discount them making a run at two of the priciest high-schoolers, Kumar Rocker (HS-GA) and Mike Vasil (HS-MA), who are committed to Vanderbilt and Virginia, respectively.

Picking 33rd and 34th should also give the Royals a decent look at some high school talent, a belief reinforced by the fact that six of the last seven players selected 33rd overall, which usually falls in the compensation round, hail from the high school ranks. While some of the players included in the group above should still be available, the field of candidates expands to include Parker Meadows (HS-GA), Austin Becker (HS-OH), Grayson Rodriguez (HS-TX) and the late-rising Anthony Seigler (HS-GA). The 34th pick tends to skew the opposite way, with seven of the last 12 coming from college. Figure the team will go with one of each and that allows us them to take a look at a group of collegians that includes Nick Sandlin (Southern Miss), Griffin Conine (Duke) and Nico Hoerner (Stanford). A true dark-horse at either No. 33 or 34 would be outfielder Jordyn Adams (HS-NC), a two-sport star that currently has a football scholarship to UNC. He has tools (speed, speed and more speed) that the Royals covet, and their checkbook could give them the wiggle room they need to sign him.

Expect at least two of the team’s four picks to come from college, so their final selection should give consideration to Kyle Datres (North Carolina), Zack Hess (Louisiana State), Hogan Harris (Louisiana-Lafayette) and Dylan Coleman (Missouri State).

Likeliest Picks for #18: Nander De Sedas, Joe Gray Jr., Mike Siani
Likeliest Picks for #33:
Parker Meadows, Anthony Seigler, Jordyn Adams
Likeliest Picks for #34:
Nick Sandlin, Griffin Conine, Nico Hoerner
Likeliest Picks for #40:
Kyle Datres, Zack Hess, Dylan Coleman


Draft Team: Thad Levine (General Manager), Rob Antony (Assistant GM), Sean Johnson (Director, Scouting), Brittany Minder (Coordinator, Amateur Scouting)

First Round Picks (last five years): SS Royce Lewis (2017), OF Brent Rooker (2017), OF Alex Kirilloff (2016), LHP Tyler Jay (2015), SS Nick Gordon (2014), RHP Kohl Stewart (2013)

2018 First Round Picks: #20 overall

2018 Bonus Pool: $6,745,200 (#20 @ $3,120,000)

First Round Pick Tendencies Under Current GM (2017-present)

  • College vs High School: Even Split
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 100% Position Player
  • Most Drafted Position: Shortstop (1 time), Outfield (1 time)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Shortstop (1 time), Outfield (1 time)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 0% @ 0.0 average WAR

First Round Pick Tendencies as Franchise (1965-present)

  • College vs High School: 53% High School
  • Pitcher vs Position Player: 58% Position Player
  • Most Drafted Position: Right-Handed Pitcher (22 times)
  • Most Drafted Non-Pitching Position: Outfield (15 times)
  • MLB Graduation Rate: 62% @ 8.6 average WAR

2018 Preview

Pennsylvania outfielder Mike Siani has the pedigree and defensive skills that the Twins value in their first round picks.

After a 59-win campaign in 2016 that saw the franchise post the lowest winning percentage in team history, the expectations were modest for 2017. The team surprised many, however, by posting a winning record through June. A slump in July turned them into a seller at the trade deadline, but they still managed to reel off wins at an impressive 60% clip during the final two months of the season, a run that saw them clinch a spot in the A.L. wild card game. The team’s 26-game win increase from the year before was the second-largest in franchise history, after the 1912 Washington Senators squad’s 27-game increase from 1911.

The team’s highest win total since 2010 has them picking 20th, a spot that has recently (9-of-10 since 2008) trended towards the college route. That, however, goes against Minnesota’s drafting tendencies, which favors high schoolers, and more specifically high school hitters. Since 2011, the front office has targeted collegians on just four occasions, while tabbing prep prospects twice as many times. Considering their taste for hitters, they’re likely looking at a pool of players that includes Joe Gray Jr. (HS-MS), Mike Siani (HS-PA) and Triston Casas (HS-FL). Siani could be a perfect fit considering their preference for players with high-level defensive skills, a preference that would likely disqualify the slow-footed Casas.

Worth noting is the fact that the team has only drafted one pitcher in the first round since 2013, so if they do choose that path, expect them to be very picky, and picking where they are could lead them to some interesting names, including Grayson Rodriguez (HS-TX), Mike Vasil (HS-MA) and Cole Wilcox (HS-GA). College arms that they would consider include Tristan Beck (Stanford), Griffin Roberts (Wake Forest) and quite possibly Jackson Kowar (Florida), if he were to fall that far.

Likeliest Picks for #20: Mike Siani, Mike Vasil, Cole Wilcox

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