With the MLB draft comes a flurry of rumors, murmurs, and speculations. Scouts chip in their two cents here and there, experts release their guesses at how the event will pan out, and amateurs take a stab at the prediction game. The actual selection of players arrives in a matter of days, so prospect writers from five different SB Nation communities made an attempt at cobbling together a draft of our own.
Picking first was Ethan Novak, a writer from Lookout Landing. Outofleftfield was selecting second, representing Over the Monster. Yours truly, Jay Markle, ended up with the third slot. Twinkie Town’s Kyle Edlebrock took his selections fourth. Bringing up the rear was Atlanta Braves writer Eric Cole, hailing from Talking Chop.
1-1 (EN): Hunter Greene, RHP - Notre Dame (CA) HS
My heart (and several reports) says the Twins go with McKay, but Greene’s potential may be too much to pass on here. He has effortless velocity on the mound, routinely running his fastball up into the high-90s with a plethora of triple-digit readings, to boot. The rest of his pitches are a work in progress, with his low-80s slider typically considered to be his best secondary offering, followed by his hard changeup. Command isn’t exactly a plus for Greene, but he does a fine job of limiting free passes and forcing opponents to swing the bat.
And while Greene is very far from being a finished product, he comes with the added bonus of being a stud position player, as well, possessing first-round talent as a shortstop. If he doesn’t work out on the mound, the fallback option is there. Between the existing arsenal, the young age, and the elite athleticism, Greene possesses the type of potential teams dream about. Be it as a front of the rotation ace or a power-hitting, athletic shortstop, there are a lot of different scenarios out there that involve Greene being an impact talent for a MLB club in the future.
1-2 (outofleftfield): Brendan McKay, LHP/1B - Louisville
I think it should be noted, that while Hunter Greene is seen to be the best talent in the draft by many, McKay would possibly represent a “safer” pick for the Twins. Should McKay be available, I believe the Reds will pounce on him. Being a stellar bat and arm, McKay’s game translates best to the National League, so it would be a happy coincidence to get McKay to the majors with the Reds. Being 21, there’s a decent chance he even moves relatively quickly through the organization, to do just that. I would say odds are good that upon being drafted, he’ll move to pitching full-time, and improve his current velocity (fastball is currently a relatively modest 94 or so MPH). I’m also a sucker for good curveballs, and think most MLB teams are. McKay has a good curveball. Like with Greene, being a two-way player, he has a solid bat to fall back upon if things don’t work out as a pitcher. And I like his hit tool slightly more than I like Greene’s, which factors into the argument of safety.
1-3 (JM): MacKenzie Gore, LHP - Whiteville (N.C.) HS
Kyle Wright is tempting in this third spot, but I ended up going with Gore due to his tremendous ceiling. While Wright has a far higher floor and will likely get to the majors faster, it would be no stretch of imagination to see Gore as a future ace. All four of his pitches are plus at times, and not one of them projects to be less than above average. Not only that, he seems to have enough rein on them to limit walks long term. His best pitch is a fastball that can be double-plus as he has outstanding velocity and extraordinary movement. He may be a riskier proposition than some others in this class. If a team is able to harness whatever it is that Gore has been showing this spring, they’ve got a front-line starter on their hands.
1-4 (KE): Royce Lewis, SS/OF - J Serra Catholic (California) HS
The Rays love to draft high upside prep players, and Lewis fits that description perfectly. Scouts question whether or not he will be able to stay on the dirt as a pro but he will have every chance to show he can play shortstop while in the lower minors. His speed and average arm make him a lock in center field, which is not a bad fallback option. He has a quick bat and should be able to hit, even though he has had an inconsistent spring. If he adds some game power he may be the second coming of Melvin Upton Jr. for the Rays. Austin Beck is another name to look for with this spot as a toolsy position player. With the 31st overall pick thanks to the competitive balance round, the Rays also have some flexibility to draft someone like Texas high school Pitcher Shane Baz in order to save money for that 31st pick as well.
1-5 (EC): Austin Beck, OF - North Davidson High School (NC)
This is a tough pick because 1) The Braves have a well-documented pitching and the three guys they may like the most are gone (in particular Gore) and 2) There is a lot unsettled after you get past the Hunter Greene/Brendan McKay tier of draft prospects at the top. For me, the pick comes down to Kyle Wright and Austin Beck with JB Bukauskas, Pavin Smith, and Adam Haseley being potential options if I was feeling particularly frisky with bonus pool shenanigans. After a slow start to the college season, Wright is peaking now which certainly helps his draft stock and the fact he has a real track record and could move quickly is appealing. That said, the Braves love prep players and need big upside on the position player side so I am going to go with Austin Beck here. The Braves have been connected with him and have likely gotten as many looks as anyone given his proximity. Plus, he has made a lot of loud contact this season and is likely the biggest riser on draft boards since the start of 2017. There is a lot of raw power and speed that does come with some risk (busy swing, lack of track record, and previous knee injury), but the Braves are not afraid to roll the dice a bit in order to go after upside and Beck has that in spades.
1-6 (EN): Kyle Wright, RHP - Vanderbilt
If Kyle Wright is still here when the Athletics pick, the entire front office may faint. The Vanderbilt righty has an impressive toolbox full of pitches, with a fastball that will sneak up into the high-90s and a slider and cutter that he employs strategically and effectively. In addition to his three primary pitches, he also has a lesser, but developing changeup in his back pocket. The important thing about Wright is that even though he’s already so impressive on the mound, his 6’4”, 220lb frame and occasional bouts of rawness suggest he’s nowhere close to being a finished product. If he becomes more consistent with his location, the ceiling is high. I think there’s an argument out there that Wright should go first overall, so grabbing him here at No. 6 would be a dream come true for the Athletics.
1-7 (outofleftfield): Jeren Kendall, OF - Vanderbilt
Right after his buddy Kyle Wright is taken, I think Kendall goes to the Diamondbacks. While the improbable fall of Kyle Wright probably never had a chance of getting to this point, Arizona is still ending up with a great talent here. The term “five-tool” is tossed out a lot, when talking about prospects, to the point where it’s become a bit over-saturated among fans of the game. But “five-tool” isn’t just a term when talking about Jeren Kendall. Over his 173 game college career (as of this writing), he has a .306/.387/.549 triple slash, with 30 home runs, and 65 stolen bases. His skill set is one that has proven to work in the major leagues, and he could be a player who makes it quickly based on his ability to run and play decent defense. His biggest weakness at this stage may be his propensity to strike out. His swing speed isn’t in question, and neither is his ability to make contact. The only reason I can come up with is poor off-speed recognition, which is something that either comes with time, or doesn’t. Now excuse me while I remember that the Red Sox drafted him in the 30th round in 2014 and never had a chance of signing him, and he’s now a pretty likely top 10 pick.
1-8 (JM): Shane Baz, RHP - Concordia Lutheran (TX) HS
Baz is a pitcher that I have loved from the moment I learned of him, and he has done nothing but rocket up draft boards this spring. His fastball can be a weapon in all of its forms. He dials it back to the 90-93 mph range, but is able to crank it up to 98. It showcases good life all through the whole velocity range, with gorgeous movement in both horizontal and vertical directions. While sliders and cutters are similar offerings, Baz has one of each. When he takes some velocity off the cutter, he is able to shape it into a truer slider that sits in the low-to-mid-80s. The cutter is the better of the two, but both are legitimate weapons and induce whiffs. He will also show hitters a curve that rests in the 70s, and while it is not as impressive as his other breaking pitches it is still above average. His changeup is no plus and lags the farthest behind, but shows good fade and has a chance to become average. Baz’s command can be shaky at times, but if he can work that out, he has the upside of a #2 starter who strikes out a ton of guys and can put on a real show but get blown out every so often when his command gets particularly shaky. If he can’t put the pieces together to start, he could easily slot into the bullpen, where his nasty fastball/cutter combo could play up and easily allow him to be a very good closer. I considered going with Pavin Smith here, but I just couldn’t pass up this prep righty.
1-9 (KE): J.B. Bukauskas, RHP - North Carolina
I’m not particularly knowledgeable of the Brewer’s draft theory but it makes a whole lot of sense to take the best player available when Bukauskas is still on the board with the ninth pick. Bringing a big time fastball and nasty slider, Bukauskas is having one of the best seasons of any college hurler, even better than McKay and Wright. There are some scouts who dislike his size and the effort in his delivery but the Brewers already have some undersized pitchers in their system (Marcos Diplan and Josh Pennington) and have been known to take some risks like they did in 2015 with Nathan Kirby. While it is early, if the Brewers were able to stay in contention this year there are scouts who believe Bukauskas’ two pitch mix could work in a major league bullpen right now, like Brandon Finnegan did for the Royals in 2014. He either develops into a useful starter with a decent ceiling or becomes a fixture at the back of a big league bullpen, not a bad find.
1-10 (EC): D.L. Hall, LHP - Valdosta (Ga) HS
This is a tough pick to peg as there are rumors that the Angels prefer college players to get help soon, in particular college arms so it wouldn’t be super surprising if they took a guy like Alex Faedo here, despite the concerns with his velocity from the spring plus procedures on his knees in the past. Pipeline seems to think that they are keen on Jordan Adell as well, but there is a lot of risk there along with significant upside as well. That said, the Angels system’ needs an injection of talent in a big way and did pillage the Georgia high school ranks last year when they drafted Brandon Marsh in the second round. Most of the guys they would prefer (Wright, Bukauskas, etc.) are gone already and Adell could be a high-risk play. As a result, I’m going with lefty D.L. Hall here as he features a low-to-mid-90’s fastball that he commands well and he can really spin a curveball while being among the better lefty options in the draft. This could be a slight reach and there are guys like Adam Haseley that could be safer picks here, but the Angels need pitching talent in their system and Hall could be a good one.
1-11 (EN): Pavin Smith, 1B - Virginia
This pick, for me, really comes down to Smith or prep bat Nick Pratto. Both are excellent first baseman who provide an advanced approach at the plate and stellar defense, but Smith’s general polish and performance against significantly better competition gives him the edge. The White Sox system is loaded with pitchers, outfielders, and catcher Zack Collins, and adding a potentially quick-moving first baseman to the mix makes it all the more impressively well-rounded. Smith has made significant strides this year as a contact hitter, striking out just eight times over 241 plate appearances as of May 19th, and the thump in his bat has never been doubted. One could argue that Smith is the best hitter in this class, and Chicago would likely be more than happy to pick him up with the 11th pick.
1-12 (outofleftfield): Jake Burger, 3B - Missouri St.
Burger may seem like a strange pick. He is perceived to be a good all-around baseball player, without any major flaw to speak of. Yet, we find ourselves here, at #12, and he’s still on the board. While those really great players with less obviously notable flaws can go outside the top 10, usually these are players with signability issues, or hard to break college commitments. Burger doesn’t appear, on the surface to have either of these. To me, the reason he isn’t seen as a top 10 draft prospect is his physique and relative lack of speed. But I truly believe that of the players left, he may have one of the biggest bats you are going to find. While a third baseman by trade, he could just as easily move across the diamond to first base, if needed, to provide a more than solid bat. At the very least, he seems to be a player with a high floor, who could move very quickly through the minor leagues, carried by said big bat.
1-13 (JM): Nick Pratto, 1B- Huntington Beach (Calif.) HS
Dang it! Burger was my pick here. Pratto will have to do, though, and I don’t mind making him the 13th pick. This is a *bit* of a slide - in my opinion, he’s a top 10 talent - and he will provide good value to the team that drafts him in multiple ways. Pratto is a stellar batsman for a prep player, showing plus contact ability and average power. He backs that up with plus defense at first base and a well above average arm for the position as well, having been regarded as a legitimate pitching prospect earlier this spring. He has a high floor for a high schooler, and will move faster than your average 18-year-old, but there are a few worries about him. First, taking a player who is already a first baseman from high school is a bit risky. It’s conceivable that a team move the young player to an outfield corner if need be, but he’s a below average runner and learning an entirely new position would slow his development time considerably. The bat is real, though, and it’s tempting. There really isn’t a much better option here, so I’m going Pratto.
1-14 (KE) Alex Faedo, RHP - Florida
Before this college season started, Alex Faedo was considered a potential pick at 1-1. But after minor surgeries on both knees in the offseason, he started the year with lower velocity than he showed last spring and summer. He has rebounded he velocity a bit and has had a pretty good year for the Gators with a 2.89 ERA and 109-30 K-BB walk rate in 90 and ⅓ innings as of May 22nd. He throws a plus heater and a plus slider along with an average changeup that still might have some projection. He has okay command and a great frame at 6’5”, 225lbs. I can see Faedo as a number two or number three starter if everything works out and is a pretty solid pickup for any team in the mid-teens if he falls this far. If he dominates in the playoffs for Florida I would not be surprised to see him gone before this.
1-15 (EC) Sam Carlson, RHP - Burnsville HS (MN)
The Astros are in the unique position of having a ton of really good position talent on their roster with Altuve, Correa, Bregman, and Springer in addition to pitchers like Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers who have helped the Astros to the best start in the majors in 2017. The Astros have taken both position players and pitchers early in drafts and given the depth of their roster and their minor league system, taking the best player available seems to be the logical choice. I’m going with Carlson here as he is one of the bigger risers going into the draft with his now mid-90’s fastball with good sink, above average slider, and a changeup that he is already throwing a bunch with confidence is always a good sign for a prep pitcher. It is entirely possible that Carlson is gone before #15, but the Astros would be thrilled to find this level of talent here. Don’t sleep on the Astros giving Seth Romero a long look as he played in the Houston area and was pretty much a lock to go in the top half of the first round before he got kicked off the team at the University of Houston. Whoever takes Romero is REALLY going to have to do their homework on the off the field stuff and with Carlson here there isn’t a strong reason to take a big risk on him.
1-16 (EN): Adam Haseley, OF - Virginia
There aren’t many players in this draft who’ve boosted their stock the way Haseley has. He did a lot of proving in the power department this season, knocking 14 home runs and posting an ISO north of .250. Any concerns about whether he’d hit enough to stick as a corner outfielder moving forward have been quieted, and I don’t expect him to last long in this draft. Haseley’s combination of athleticism and strength will be enough to convince some team to grab him early, perhaps even in the top ten.
1-17 (outofleftfield): Alex Lange, RHP - Louisiana St.
I was considering a number of players here, but what ultimately puts Lange at the top is his ability to put batters away, and his power curveball that gives me the impression that he already has two strong, plus-pitches. If he can continue to develop his changeup, there’s a case for him becoming the best pitcher in this draft class. The main weakness in his game is his mechanics. His delivery is just not efficient, and puts a ton of torque on his body, which has some wondering if his body will be able to hold up for 180+ innings per season. If this is the case, he would still make for a potentially dominant reliever (see: Craig Kimbrel). With mechanical adjustments, and the continued development of his changeup, Lange might be one of the most interesting of the mid-first round selections, which sounds like a very new-Mariners type of player.
1-18 (JM): Griffin Canning, RHP - UCLA
The ace from UCLA is my pick here, if for no other reason than no one else really jumped out at me that I couldn’t wait on. Canning doesn’t have a striking profile, but has been consistently successful, and has a very high floor. A starter out of college has a leg up in terms of development when compared to others in his draft class, and Canning has a reputation as a polished one. He features four pitches, none below average. Armed with an unusually good changeup, he uses his ability maintain arm speed and slot to entice hitters, only to play his cruel trick on them, leaving the pitch nowhere to be found. His fastball is also above average, reaching 95 mph. His command of all his pitches is above average, helping to play up his ordinary curveball and slider. I like cloak-and-dagger style pitchers, and he is a good one, with the ceiling of a third or fourth starter and a floor that isn’t much lower.
1-19 (KE): Tanner Houck, RHP - Missouri
Houck is a big college right hander standing at 6’5”, 215lbs who has a lively fastball that he can throw strikes much better than the average college flamethrower. His fastball sits 92-96 and can reach 98 when he reaches back for it. He has a slider and a changeup that scout out as average now but with the right tutelage he may be able to improve them as he moves up the ladder. Some don’t like his arm angle or his delivery but with some tinkering his frame should give him some durability. If his motion keeps him from starting he will only need to work on one pitch to help him become a legitimate reliever thanks to that big fastball. Not a bad pickup at 19 for the Giants.
1-20 (EC): Keston Hiura, 2B/OF - UC-Irvine
The Mets are in an interesting spot in that they have a lot of young talent that is either in the big leagues or close to it (looking at you, Amed Rosario), but have underachieved a bit due largely to injuries and some of that talent not playing to expectations. It may seem a little weird then to have the Mets pick a position player who could already be destined for Tommy John surgery before he even takes the field, but Hiura’s bat is elite and it is a bit surprising he has fallen this far despite the concerns with his health. He could be a strong offensive presence at either second base or in a corner outfield spot who hits for power and average. Even if he needs surgery (which does not sound like a given), he could return and move through the system quickly upon his return and allow the Mets to take advantage of the competitive window that their rotation gives them and give them a strong offensive presence even if Yoenis Cespedes doesn’t stay with the team long term.
1-21 (EN): David Peterson, LHP - Oregon
Peterson has blossomed in his first year working with new pitching coach Jason Dietrich, posting a 12.56 K/9 and 1.35 BB/9 to go along with his shiny 2.51 ERA. The big lefty (6’6”, 215 lbs) works with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a stellar changeup and will mix in a decent curveball. The Orioles have a chance here to grab one of the best college arms in this draft for their rotation, and I doubt they pass it up.
1-22 (outofleftfield): Trevor Rogers, LHP - Carlsbad HS (NM)
Rogers would be a fine pick for the Blue Jays. Now, you always go with talent above positional need, but Rogers would fulfill both I believe, at this juncture. He’s a 6’6” lefty with a mid-90’s fastball that could gain even more heat as he matures. His secondary stuff is interesting, but not in the same category as the fastball yet (which is why he’s not a top 10 pick). I’ve seen his best secondary offering described as a curveball and as a slider, and some believe that it may be two separate pitches thrown inconsistently. If that’s the case, then he has potentially four pitches projected to be average or better, which is a great place to start. The main weakness with drafting him, is you just aren’t sure what you are getting, high school pitchers and all. He also could be a signability issue, as he’s committed to Texas Tech. But as the Jays have shown in the past, they are willing to take the leap on a high level talent with a commitment (see: Phil Bickford). He’s a project, but make no mistake, the talent is there.
1-23 (JM): Wil Crowe, RHP - South Carolina
Crowe is the best of both worlds will be an attractive option for any team picking at the bottom of the first round. Based on tools alone, he should long, long gone by the time the 23rd pick rolls around. He features a full arsenal of four fine pitches, none projecting to be any less than average. His fastball is nearly double-plus and is a fantastic pitch based on both velocity and movement. Despite having gotten his elbow reconstructed in 2015, he has gotten his heater back up to 97 mph. It also receives high marks for its movement as well, with good sink to go along with the high velocity. He also has a pair of breaking pitches, a curve and a slider, that have good depth and are well-separated, giving him a few options for punchouts. He finishes off his bevy of weapons with a changeup. The pitch is often elusive for many pitchers, and Crowe doesn’t have a very polished one, but it figures to be an average offering with practice and consistency. His command shouldn’t hold him back, but it doesn't particularly work for his advantage. A RS Junior, Crowe will be available this far into the draft due to his age (he’ll be 23 shortly after the draft) and because of his medical history raising some red flags. He’ll be a steal for whichever late-drafting team takes a chance on him.
1-24 (KE): Logan Warmoth, SS - North Carolina
The Red Sox pick at 24 and they have a pretty good history taking college bats. If Logan Warmoth falls to them at 24 I think the Red Sox front office would throw a dance party. Warmoth is a good hitter with solid bat speed and enough pop to be a good major league hitter. He also has solid speed that he uses well both on the basepaths and on the field. He will be given a chance to stick at short in the pros but may slide over to second base. Warmoth’s overall talent is greater than his individual tools and he has the ability to be a good hitting shortstop or a great-hitting second baseman along the lines of Dustin Pedroia, whom the Red Sox happened to take with the 24th pick in the second round way back in 2004.
1-25 (EC): Seth Romero, LHP - Houston
The Nationals are sitting here near the bottom of the first round and if Romero falls into their laps, I don’t see a situation where they don’t take him. Romero did the damage to his own reputation with suspensions and being dismissed from his squad at the University of Houston so there is absolutely risk in taking him, but there is also very real upside if they can get a handle on him as he was a probably a top-15 selection or better before he got kicked off the team. He has a mid-90’s fastball that can touch a tick higher, a slider that is at least plus, and a changeup that has gotten better and better during his college career. He could move quickly through the Nationals system or flame out almost immediately. There is a lot of ceiling and floor here.
1-26 (EN): Nick Allen, SS - Parker School (SD)
What the 5’8”, 158lb shortstop lacks in size, he makes up for with, well, pretty much everything else. He’s a phenomenal shortstop, possessing the range and arm strength necessary to stick at the position long term. His feel for the position is light years ahead of most his age, and I expect his glove will be good enough to carry him to the majors all on its own, assuming the bat doesn’t completely fall apart.
He’s decent at the plate, lacking power, but maintaining a good approach and contact skills. He’ll get as much value as possible out of his plus-speed, as well. With a stellar defensive profile and high ceiling, I think the Rangers will find it hard to pass on Allen here.
1-27 (outofleftfield): Bubba Thompson, OF - McGill-Toolen HS (AL)
The Cubs don’t really need to get a great talent at the end of the first round, in their first draft after winning the World Series. Theirs is a team that is set up to win now and a few years down the road. But Thompson would be a best of both worlds situation for the Cubs. A two-sport high school athlete, accomplished as both a quarterback in football and a center fielder in baseball, he has committed to Alabama on a baseball scholarship. The big thing with Thompson, is despite the fact he’s 19, he’s not as raw as many would think. He’s basically a lock to play center field once he gets playing professionally, as he more than has the speed for the position. What excites me most is his lack of any real flaws as a player. There’s nothing obviously wrong about his game, and could be a steal late in the first round. His stock has had some helium of late, so it wouldn’t be terribly shocking to see him go closer to the 15-20th picks.
1-28 (JM): Evan White, 1B - Kentucky
I’ve liked Evan White since the moment I learned about him, and I’m elated to see him here with the 28th pick. There’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got plus wheels and a near-elite glove. He’s got above-average contact ability and an above-average arm to match. His power is his weakest asset, but it still projects to be average in due time. He’s extraordinarily athletic for a first baseman, and there are some scouts who would like to see him play in center field, but he could be a Gold Glove winner at first base. He has a fairly high floor because of his polish and plate discipline and should reach the majors quickly if left at first. He may be an highly unusual player, but he will be a very useful one, and a steal with the 28th selection.
1-29 (KE): Jo Adell, OF - Ballard HS (KY)
Whoever drafts Adell will draft him believing they can fix his bat so that he can be at least an average contact hitter. If he can get himself to that level, he will be a legitimate five-tool prospect, with great speed, raw power, and fielding ability. A propensity to swing and miss is his biggest flaw at this point, but if that stems from a fixable mechanical issue I could easily see Adell being picked in the top 15 selections. He does have a commitment to play at Louisville, but I don’t think that will be a problem unless he falls this far.
1-30 (EC): Heliot Ramos - Martinez HS (PR)
The Cubs have been connected to some other players towards the bottom of the first round, but Ramos is right up their alley. He has an athletic build with some tantalizing raw power potential. There is a lot of risk with him, however, as there real concerns about his bat speed and feel for hitting that could make him more of a project than one would want from a first round pick. That said, the Cubs are loaded with no real immediate “need” to try to fill from the college ranks this far down and if Heliot can prove he can make contact with and turn on premium velocity, he could be a stud. Nate Pearson is an interesting option here as well, but the Cubs have loved drafting position players with big upside and Ramos definitely has it.