2017 MLB Mock Draft 3.0

A flurry of activity as we draw closer and closer to draft day. Here’s a quick rundown.

  • High school phenom RHP Hunter Greene has been shut down for the year, but just on the mound. He’ll still be taking his hacks at the plate and showing his skills at shortstop for Notre Dame High as they chase a state title. The right-hander made just five starts this season, striking out 43 in 28 innings. As Baseball America notes, he hit 102 on the radar gun this season, and the slowest fastball he threw all year clocked in at a paltry 95 mph.
  • After a meteoric rise up draft boards, South Caroline RHP Clarke Schmidt will undergo Tommy John surgery for a torn UCL, suffered during his final start against Florida. Schmidt emerged as a bonafide ace this season and finishes the year 4-2 with a 1.34 ERA. He catapulted himself into top-ten conversation with a strong spring, and despite the setback, he could still be a first-round selection.
  • Less than a month after telling the Houston Chronicle that he wasn’t focused on the MLB Draft, LHP Seth Romero will have little else to do. Romero was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules on April 7, his second such setback in as many years. At the time of the suspension, Romero was leading the nation in strikeouts. Assuming he doesn’t return, he finishes the season 3-3 with a 3.05 ERA and 76 punchouts in 44.1 innings.
  • In case you somehow missed it, LHP/1B Brendan McKay slugged four home runs on Tuesday and drove in a career-high nine runs. The performance came against Eastern Kentucky, who has a team ERA of 7.48 in 41 games and has surrendered ten or more runs in 15 games, so take that into account, but still…impressive nonetheless.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at our most recent projections for the first round.

Minnesota Twins
Hunter Greene, RHP/SS, Notre Dame HS (CA)

Yes, Greene is no longer going to take the mound this year. And yes, he is a sure-fire first-round talent at shortstop. Don’t think for a second though that there’s a chance of a team wanting him to run him out there every day in the pros though. Not without first testing that 102-mph fastball against top-level competition. According to Baseball America, Greene has “developed positive relationships” with the Twins front-office. While there might be some last-minute overtures to Brendan McKay or Royce Lewis, don’t expect the Twins to hop off the Greene-wagon.

Cincinnati Reds
Brendan McKay, LHP, Louisville

There’s a slim chance that McKay goes No. 1 to Minnesota, but the most likely scenario (we’d put it at about 87%) is that Cincinnati pounces on him with the second pick. McKay cruised through his first four starts (4-0, 0.36 ERA, zero XBH allowed), but he’s found the going much tougher during his last five (1-3, 2.91 ERA, 11 XBH allowed). Is the big lefty tiring? Maybe…maybe not. During the first four games, McKay received nearly six runs of support. During his last five, however, he’s gotten less than three, upping the pressure to be perfect.

San Diego Padres
Royce Lewis, SS/OF, JSerra Catholic HS (CA)

The Padres would love to get their hands on either Greene, a local southern Californian, or McKay, who they took a flier on in the 34th round back in 2014. Barring some devastating injury, it isn’t likely to happen. So who’s “plan C”? We like Lewis, a potential five-tool star who is arguably the top position prospect in this draft class. High school prospects come with a lot of questions, but seemingly the only one about Lewis is whether he has the arm strength to stick at shortstop. If he doesn’t he profiles as a near-elite defender in centerfield.

Tampa Bay Rays
Austin Beck, OF, North Davidson HS (NC)

If you’re wondering who this Beck fellow is, you better familiarize yourself. He has arguably as much helium as any draftee in recent memory, and while the Mike Trout comps seem to be a bit much, there’s no doubt he’s likely a top-ten pick come draft day. “Toolsy” is a word that was manufactured for players like Beck, as his arm strength, speed and power all grade out as above-average or better. Coming off ACL surgery last year, he’s peaking at the right time.

Atlanta Braves
Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

The Braves seem to be leaning toward college pitching this year, and picking inside the top-five for the first time since 1991 should allow them their choice of college arms. Speaking of peaking at the right time, Vanderbilt’s Wright has seemingly put all of his early season troubles behind him. Coming off a 3-hit, 13-strikeout shutout of Florida last week, Wright dazzled again, this time tossing seven innings of 1-hit ball while striking out eight. More important, Wright’s stuff has looked great. His fastball hasn’t blown hitters away but he’s been able to pinpoint the pitch, while keeping hitters off-balance with one of the draft’s best sliders.

Oakland Athletics
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina

The comp Bukauskas seems to get the most is Sonny Gray, who was tabbed by the A’s back in 2011. His ceiling might be a bit lower, but in this draft class, the UNC right-hander is still worthy of a top-ten selection. Through ten starts, he’s still yet to lose (7-0) and he’s allowed just 37 hits in 64.2 innings. His fastball has hit 99 mph multiple times this season and if there’s any slider better in this year’s class than Kyle Wright’s, it’s Bukauskas’s.

Arizona Diamondbacks
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC)

Gore is another prospect riding a tidal wave of momentum, one that could carry him all the way to Atlanta at pick No. 3. His fastball, which usually sits 89-92, has jumped to the mid-90s this year, touching 97. His curveball is one of the draft’s best, at least among the high-schoolers, and he’s tinkered with a slider as well. Gore rates favorably when compared to the top high school lefties from previous drafts, including Kolby Allard (2015), Brady Aiken (2015) and Braxton Garrett (2016).

Philadelphia Phillies
Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida

In any other year, Faedo would have a realistic shot at going No. 1 overall, and considering the challenges (offseason surgery on both knees) he’s overcome the Phillies would have to be thrilled to have a potential #2/3 starter drop to them. Faedo has ceded the spotlight to fellow college arms like Wright, McKay and Bukauskas this year, and has almost become the No. 2 on his own team, but he is quietly putting together an outstanding campaign: 6-1, 2.47, .206 b/avg, 77/20 K/BB in 65.2 innings. His stuff has sharpened over the course of the season and he’s in fine form heading into the last month of the season.

Milwaukee Brewers
Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt

The Brewers selected Corey Ray in last year’s draft, and in many ways Kendall is a very similar player. Ray may get better grades at the plate, but there’s no denying Kendall gets the edge in everything else. He’s arguably the fastest runner in this year’s draft class and his defensive ability will be impressive enough to force Ray over to a corner outfield position. The Brewers have struggled evaluating and developing first-round talent since their early-2000s run of Ben Sheets, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun, making the relatively safe Kendall a perfect fit.

Los Angeles Angels
Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia

After drafting eight consecutive high-schoolers in the first round, the Angels have gone back-to-back-to-back with college players, and while they likely won’t end up with a catcher for the third year in a row, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go after an infielder, making Keston Hiura, Logan Warmouth and Pavin Smith all solid options. Smith has shown the most electric bat this season, and his plate discipline is the stuff of legends. With just six strikeouts in 168 at-bats, he’s been the toughest hitter to strike out in college baseball this year. Defensively, he’s not going to win any Gold Gloves, but he’s had a tremendous year (two errors in 301 chances), leading many to acknowledge he could stick long-term at first base.

Chicago White Sox
Jordon Adell, OF, Ballard HS (KY)

Fifteen of the White Sox last 17 first-round selections have come from the college ranks. Those two (Courtney Hawkins and Keon Barnum) have struggled mightily. Still, it’s probably time for the front office to dip their toes back into the water. On the surface, Adell seems to fit the same profile as Hawkins and Barnum coming out of high school: toolsy, athletic and raw. Fortunately, Adell is much more polished, and his raw power is off the charts. If he can make consistent contact, he has the makings of a 30-35 HR slugger who offers above-average speed and defense.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Keston Hiura, 2B/OF, UC-Irvine

The Pirates have four of the first 72 picks, giving them an excellent chance to restock a farm system that has thinned dramatically over the past few years. Expect them to go after a seasoned bat like Hiura with their first pick. Thanks to an elbow issue, Hiura has yet to play the field this season, allowing him to focus all of his attention on hitting. And hit he has. He’s one of just 17 hitters who still have an average above .400 on the year and he’s leading the nation with a .534 on-base percentage. Regardless of where he plays, Hiura should be a .300 hitter at the pro level.

Miami Marlins
Shane Baz, RHP, Concordia Lutheran HS (TX)

Few teams have reaped the benefits of drafting from the high-school ranks as much as the Marlins, and while there seems to be doubts as to whether Tyler Kolek (No. 2 in 2014) will figure things out, that’s no reason not to go back down that route. Baz has a ton of helium as we head into May. Combine that with a mid-90s fastball and the best cutter we’ve seen come out of the high school ranks since Dylan Bundy, and it stands to reason that he’ll end up somewhere inside the top-15 selections.

Kansas City Royals
Nick Pratto, 1B/OF, Huntington Beach HS (CA)

There aren’t many impact bats in this year’s high school class, but the one that stands out belongs to Pratto. His polish at the plate far exceeds any of the other raw hitters like Adell and Garrett Mitchell and Jordan Anderson. It’s rare to see a high school hitter with a floor as low as Pratto’s. In many respects, he reminds us of Dominic Smith (1st round, 2013), who has emerged as one of the top hitting prospects in baseball.

Houston Astros
Seth Romero, LHP, Houston

Romero put a huge dent in his helium with a season-ending suspension. At the time, he was leading the country with 15.4 K/9 and was seemingly in the best shape of his life. He also seemed to have put last year’s suspension behind him. Luckily for Romero, this is 2017, and injuries and suspensions and failed drug tests aren’t what they used to be. Just ask Phil Bickford, who tested positive for marijuana the day before the 2015 draft, and still ended up going 18th overall to the Giants.

New York Yankees
Adam Haseley, OF, Virginia

What could be a more perfect fit that a player that does nothing but win going to a team that, historically, does nothing but win? Haseley has hit the cover off the ball this season, hitting just a hair under .400 and showing excellent power. He has decent wheels (nine steals) and plays good defense, and outside of his teammate Pavin Smith, has arguably the top eye at the plate in college baseball.

Seattle Mariners
Alex Lange, RHP, Louisiana State

The Mariners have struck out on every single pitcher they’ve taken in the first round for the past 20 years, save for one (Taijuan Walker). Unfortunately, he’s now pitching in Arizona. To be fair, they haven’t attempted to remedy the situation, selecting position players with 13 of their last 18 picks. Time to mix things up. Lange has had an up-and-down spring, alternating brilliant outings with duds, thanks to some spotty command. He does possess a mid-90s fastball and one of the draft’s best breaking balls, making him one of the safest and consistent starting pitchers available. If he can reign in his pitches he should be a mid-rotation inning eater for years to come. If not, he’ll make an excellent late-inning reliever.

Detroit Tigers
Jordan Anderson, OF, James Clemens HS (AL)

It seems hard to believe that 12 of the last 16 first round picks the Tigers have had have been spent on pitchers. Of the four that weren’t, two (Nick Castellanos and Cameron Maybin) turned into serviceable big-leaguers and two have pretty high ceilings (Derek Hill and Christin Stewart). Kinda makes one wonder why they don’t go for hitters more often. Taking that into account, we present Anderson, who is one of the speediest players in the draft. In addition to plus speed, he has a cannon arm and profiles as an above-average defender. There are questions about his bat, but he’s shown enough over the past two years to warrant a spot in the first round.

San Francisco Giants
Evan White, 1B/OF, Kentucky

Few teams have done as well evaluating talent in the first round, and no team has had as impressive a success rate with college players. Continuing that trend, the Giants will probably take a long, hard look at White. They already have a first baseman at the big-league level capable of hitting .280 with 18 homers per year, but White offers a totally different package. He’s arguably the best runner we’ve ever seen at first base, and his defensive wizardry is something to behold. If he can continue to show improvement with his bat, he should win Gold Gloves.

New York Mets
Garrett Mitchell, OF, Orange Lutheran HS (CA)

While their ability to trade for and develop starting pitchers has gotten most of the attention, the Mets have quietly done an amazing job of drafting and developing high school hitters. Dominic Smith is one of the top young hitting prospects in the game, Gavin Cecchini has hit his way to Triple-A, and Brandon Nimmo looks like a star-in-the-making. If he’s still available this late in the first round, which he likely won’t be, there’s no way the Mets won’t pounce on Mitchell. A five-tool talent with plus speed, Mitchell could anchor a Mets outfield for the next decade.

Baltimore Orioles
D.L. Hall, LHP, Valdosta HS (GA)

The O’s have seen both the pros and cons of drafting high school arms. While Dylan Bundy has finally overcome multiple arm injuries to take his place atop the big-league rotation, fellow top prospect Hunter Harvey is still working his way back and has pitched in just five games since 2015. They haven’t selected a high school lefty in the first round since 2002, but Hall should allow them to break that streak, provided he’s available. Late last year, he seemed a shoe-in for a top-ten selection, but his stuff has been inconsistent this spring, leading many to drop him out of first-round consideration. When he’s at his best, he throws in the mid-90s and offers an above-average curve.

Toronto Blue Jays
Jake Burger, 3B, Missouri State

The Jays have two first round selections and with just under $5.1 million to allocate between the two, they’ll likely end up taking a safer, more signable prospect with one of their picks. Burger would be perfect. He’s a solid pro prospect, but he doesn’t have the ceiling that makes you think he’d balk at an offer around $2.5 million. He’s been tearing the cover off the ball this season, and has arguably the best raw power of any college hitter available, but he’ll have a decent amount of doubters who question the level of competition he faces on a regular basis.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Hans Crouse, RHP, Dana Hills HS (CA)

The Dodgers aren’t a team afraid of whiffing on a first-round prospect. As such, why not take a flier on Crouse? His delivery is all over the place, but it’s hard to find a pitcher with better velocity than him. If he can harness the power of offerings, a mid-90s fastball and a potential plus breaking ball, and develop a usable changeup, he could stick as a starter, but it’s very easy to see him settling into a relief role.

Boston Red Sox
Griffin Canning, RHP, UCLA

Canning has been rising up draft boards as of late. A lot of that has to do with his performance, including back-to-back gems that included a 12-strikeout, four-hitter against Stanford at Sunken Diamond. Most of it, however, has to do with the four quality offerings he’s shown this year. His fastball won’t blow you away, but his changeup is arguably the best in this draft, and he’s shown flashes of an above-average curve and slider. A strong finish could see Canning end up in the 10-15 range, so the Sox would be lucky to snag him this late.

Washington Nationals
Hagen Danner, RHP/C, Huntington Beach HS (CA)

There’s been at least one catcher selected in the first 26 picks in each of the last ten drafts. Sadly, this draft class doesn’t have any catchers who warrant a first round selection. I guess we’ll have to fudge the rules a bit and slot in a prospect to Washington who moonlights as a catcher. Behind the plate, Danner is a legitimate prospect, but on the mound is where he’ll find his future. He has a smooth delivery and potential for three above-average offerings.

Texas Rangers
Logan Warmoth, SS, North Carolina

The Rangers have two of the last five picks in the first round, setting them up to nab some players that might fall early on day one. Warmouth might end up going inside the top-15 picks, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him fall this far. Such is the fate of unsexy, consistent performers without any one standout tool. Instead, Warmouth does everything “pretty well.” He should be able to stick at shortstop long-term, and his bat has as impressive as ever. He’s got the wheels to steal 15-20 bases a year. He reminds us a lot of fellow Tar Heel Levi Michael, who was also drafted towards the back of the first round.

Chicago Cubs
Greg Deichmann, 1B/OF, Louisiana State

Like the two other teams with multiple first round picks, the Cubs will likely go for a seasoned college vet to offset the costs of a higher-risk player. In Deichmann, they’d get a late-rising player who still has plenty of projection. After missing nearly his entire first season at LSU, the local Louisiana native eased his way back in during an impressive sophomore campaign. This year, however, he’s taken his game to another level, justifying those beliefs that he was one of the top pure bats from the 2014 draft class. His raw power is unreal and it’s having no problem translating to games.

Toronto Blue Jays
Brady McConnell, SS, Merritt Island HS (FL)

Going with Burger with their first pick gives the Jays some flexibility with their second. McConnell is a top-ten talent for us, but he has shown poorly so far this spring. He recouped some momentum at the National High School Invitational, but he has all the signs of a player that will likely slip on draft day. Still, we think he’s a potential All-Star. He’ll likely command a signing bonus somewhere around $3 million, especially if he does slip. Toronto should have enough resources to get a deal done.

Texas Rangers
Blayne Enlow, RHP, St. Amant HS (LA)

Amant’s curveball may be the best secondary offering in this draft class, and certainly from the high school crop. His fastball tops out at 93 mph, but at 6-4/180 he still has a lot of projection left. Saving some money with Warmoth would allow the Rangers to take a sincere shot at talking Enlow out of his commitment to LSU.

Chicago Cubs
Mark Vientos, SS/3B, American Heritage HS (FL)

Vientos had some insane helium coming off of the NHSI in late March/early April, resulting in a top-five mocking, but he’s come down to earth a bit as others have jumped ahead of him. He likely won’t be able to stick at shortstop long-term, but he does have the bat to stick at third. Something tells us he’s going to be difficult to sign away from his commitment to Miami, so the Cubs would do well to save some coin on their first pick, something they could do with a player like Deichmann.