Vanderbilt second baseman Dansby Swanson fields a ball hit by Louisville's Cole Sturgeon in the first inning of an NCAA baseball College World Series game in Omaha, Neb., Saturday, June 14, 2014. Sturgeon was out at first base on the play. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

Thoughts on the 2015 Draft

The 2015 draft is squarely in the books – and more than a handful of surprises to discuss – let’s take a look at some interesting tidbits for each organization.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks – First year GM Dave Stewart did well grabbing Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson (report here) with the first pick in the draft. Not only is Swanson the best offensive player in the draft, but he should move quickly through the system and allow the team to move Chris Owings into a part time role. And as I mentioned here, second round pick Alex Young looks like a mid- to back-of-the-rotation caliber arm. Fourth rounder Breckin Williams could be a serviceable middle relief arm in a couple years.

Atlanta Braves – GM John Hart, who never found enough pitching during his tenures in Cleveland and Texas, continued to stockpile arms young arms in his first year with Atlanta. The franchise grabbed 11 hurlers out of their first 13 picks including two prep arms – Kolby Allard and Michael Soroka – in the first round.

Baltimore Orioles – Found tremendous value by selecting Florida State outfielder D.J. Stewart (report here) with the 25th overall pick. Stewart is this class’ third best bat behind Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman. Baltimore followed that up with two prepsters – Ryan Mountcastle and Jonathan Hughes – before nabbing Oregon lefty reliever Garrett Cleavinger, who might be a sneaky candidate as a mid- to back-of-the-rotation caliber arm is the organization opts to stretch him out (fingers crossed).

Boston Red Sox – It’s not surprising that one of the more draft savvy teams winds up with one of the better analytically performing hitters, grabbing fast-rising Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi with the seventh overall pick. As I wrote here Benintendi’s history of elite production is rather limited, but he profiles as a nice better-than-average outfielder with 15/15 potential. The club went the collegiate route with their next pick, 81st overall, by selecting Washington Huskies backstop Austin Rei, a career .303/.408/.681 hitter, who was limited to just 91 at bats as he made his way back from a thumb injury. They also grabbed Cardinals manager Mike Matheny’s son, Tate, in the fourth round.

Chicago Cubs – As I’ve mentioned time and time and time again; the front office has been stockpiling offensive prospects in an era of pitching dominance. So it’s no surprise that they went with Cincinnati infielder/outfielder Ian Happ (report here) with the ninth overall selection. And then – shockingly – took another bat with their next pick, grabbing underrated outfielder Donnie Dewees (report here) with the 47th overall pick. Chicago also tabbed my personal favorite prospect, UCLA Dave Berg (analysis here, here, and here) in the sixth round. Don’t be surprised – or shocked – if Berg becomes the first player in the entire draft class to make it to the big leagues. Simply put: one of the best classes in baseball.

Chicago White Sox: GM Rick Hahn continued to work his front office magic by selecting Carson Fulmer (report here), Clemson southpaw Zack Erwin, and sleeper pick from Arm Shredder U. (Rice University) Jordan Stephens (report here), could prove to be one of the better value picks in 2015.

Cincinnati Reds – For the third time in the last nine years the Reds grabbed a backstop in the opening round of the draft, selecting Tyler Stephenson with the 11th overall pick. Stephenson joins Devin Mesoraco and Danny Lamar as the only high school catchers taken in the first round in club history. Third round pick Blake Trahan (report here) has a chance to grind out a couple years as a league average regular, though he’s likely shifting across the keystone.

Cleveland Indians – The Tribe bucked their longstanding mantra of collegiate prospects early in the draft and grabbed three high school arms with their first three picks: the very risky Brady Aiken, right-hander Triston McKenzie, and 6-foot-2 southpaw Juan Hillman. The organization did incredibly well by nabbing collegiate prospects Ka’Ai Tom, a potential fourth/fifth outfielder, and Justin Garza (report here) in the later rounds.

Colorado Rockies – The Rockies’ selection of prep prospect Brendan Rodgers made it three straight shortstops taken to open up the draft. Rodgers would be the first of five straight high schoolers taken by the organization. Former Longhorns right-hander Parker French returned to school after the Tigers plucked him in the 19th round last season; French has a history of low walk and strikeout rates.

Detroit Tigers – No surprise here; the Dave Dombrowski-led once again grabbed a hard-throwing pitcher early in the draft, selecting teenage right-hander Beau Burrows. The franchise grabbed Tennessee outfielder Christin Stewart (report here), who looks like a quality backup outfielder/platoon bat, and another personal favorite of mine, Missouri State southpaw Matt Hall (report here), who paced NCAA D1 in punch outs. Detroit also grabbed the son of former Tigers – and Dodgers – great Kirk Gibson.

Houston Astros – No team has maneuvered through the draft process – let alone had tremendous success – as well as Houston. And once again they come out with another promising, deep draft class. Led by Alex Bregman (report here) and current Astros outfielder Preston Tucker’s younger brother, Kyle, the organization stopped the sliding Daz Cameron, once rumored to be a top 10 pick, and a pair of very promising collegiate arms, Thomas Eshelman (report here) and Riley Ferrell (report here). The rich continue to get richer.

Kansas City Royals – Dayton Moore is no stranger to grabbing high end, high ceiling prep prospects and this class is no different: KC grabbed a pair of power-armed teenagers in Ashe Russell and Nolan Watson. They also pulled the trigger – at the perfect time – on DII flamethrower Josh Staumont. A lot of boom or bust here.

Los Angeles Angels – The Halos grabbed a solid, far from great collegiate backstop in Fresno State’s Taylor Ward. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound catcher shook off a slow start to his career – he batted .196/.308/.339 – before turning it around over his final two seasons (.320/.395/.438 and .304/.413/.486). He looks like a poor man’s version of Aramis Garcia. Very disappointing class.

Los Angeles Dodgers – The club did incredibly well by landing two of the class’ better collegiate arms with the 24th and 35th picks, grabbing Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler (report here) and Kyle Funkhouser (report here). Both hurlers have a high likelihood of pitching at the big league level; Buehler as a back-of-the-rotation arm and Funkhouser as a backend reliever. Virginia Cavalier righty Josh Sborz could be a sleeper as a #4-type arm if he can demonstrate the type of control/command he shows closing out games.

Miami Marlins – The Fish broke the typical rule by selecting a prep – a big prep – first baseman in the opening round: Josh Naylor. They followed that by grabbing enigmatic Arizona State southpaw Brett Lilek, which looks like a reach given his lack of ability to consistently find the plate as well as meh strikeout totals. UCLA pitcher Cody Poteet has consistently tossed between 70- to 80-innings each of his three season; his control took a step backward after a breakout sophomore campaign.

Milwaukee Brewers – Grabbed prep outfielder Trent Clark with the 15th overall pick. The organization followed that up with two collegiate arms: Virginia’s Nathan Kirby (report here) and Cal Poly Pomona’s Cody Ponce (report here), both of whom look like capable #5s or relief arms. Shortstop Jose Cuas offers a lot of power from a middle infield position, though that comes with horrible averages.

Minnesota Twins – This certainly isn’t your father’s Twins. After years and years of hording soft-tossing control artists Minnesota has made the distinct decision to swing to the other side of the spectrum. And that trend continued in the 2015 draft. University of Illinois lefty Tyler Jay (report here), the sixth overall pick, could be a top-of-the-rotation caliber arm and Kentucky righty Kyle Cody (report here) can fling it with the best of ‘em. Cody is likely headed into a late-inning relief role.

New York Mets – For the fifth time in the last seven years the Metropolitans took a high school player with the first pick, grabbing Desmond Lindsay with the 53rd overall selection. Miami third baseman David Thompson (report here) could be the absolute steal of the draft as a power-hitting hot corner.

New York Yankees – After hitting a pair of homeruns with in the first round last season – they grabbed Notre Dame third baseman Eric Jagielo and massive outfielder Aaron Judge – the club once again hit another potential two homeruns by grabbing UCLA Bruins right-hander James Kaprielian (report here) and San Diego shortstop Kyle Holder (report here). Both having big league upside.

Oakland A’s – The organization reached for Florida shortstop Richie Martin (report here), whom I slapped a second/third round grade. Martin never showed a ton of power with an average-ish hit tool. Alabama shortstop Mickey White, their second round pick, could easily outhit Martin in the coming years. Skye Bolt (report here) looks like a backup outfielder.

Philadelphia Phillies – The Phils went after middle infield help with their first three selections, grabbing a pair of prep shortstops – Cornelius Randolph and Lucas Williams – with their first and third round picks and Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery (report here). Kingery has a chance to develop into a league-average regular with a .280/.340/.380 peak. They also did well in grabbing South Carolina slugger Kyle Martin, who batted .350/.455/.635 with 12 doubles, a pair of triples, and 14 homeruns, has a chance to develop into a solid platoon bat.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Grabbed Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman (report here) with the 19th overall pick, a bit of an overreach with a player whose offensive upside is solely tied to his hit tool due to a lack of power. The organization followed that up by selecting Charlie Hayes’ son, Ke’Bryan, a well-built third baseman. Third round pick Kevin Kramer looks like organization fodder.  

San Diego Padres – After losing their first round pick the Padres grabbed 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander Austin Smith and followed that up by tabbing Jacob Nix, another prep right-hander, in the third round. Seventh rounder Trevor Megill cost himself a bunch of money by returning to school after St. Louis grabbed him in the third round last season. Megill, who returned from Tommy John surgery this year, posted a 70-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio and has a chance to work into a relief role.

San Francisco Giants – Another strong draft class for San Francisco; they grabbed high upside right-hander Phil Bickford (report here), BC slugger Chris Shaw (report here), and Miami Hurricane southpaw Andrew Suarez (report here and here). I’m a big, big believer in Bickford as a mid-rotation arm, Shaw has a chance to develop into a regular, and Suarez should move quickly.

Seattle Mariners – Also losing their first round pick during the offseason, Seattle nabbed prep righty Nick Neidert with their first pick in the second round. Oregon State southpaw Andrew Moore continued his string of dominance in 2015, posting a 70-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.40 ERA in 77.0 innings. His lack of size will likely push him into a bullpen spot.

St. Louis Cardinals – Three straight prep players to open their class up, taking outfielder Nick Plummer, righty Jake Woodford, and third baseman Bryce Denton. Fourth round pick Paul DeJong from Illinois State a sneaky power, though his lack of premier competition raises a red flag.

Tampa Bay Rays – Overrated in terms of draft history, the Rays grabbed high school outfielder Garrett Whitley with the 13th overall pick. Teenage backstop Chris Betts was one of the better backstops in the class. Fifth rounder Joe McCarthy (report here) provides tremendous, tremendous value given his knack for finding first base.

Texas Rangers – Another strong class headlined by fourth overall pick – and fast riser – Dillon Tate (report here), who has an equally high ceiling and floor, and Duke right-hander Michael Matuella (report here), who fell from a potential top pick to the third round due to elbow (Tommy John surgery) and back issues.

Toronto Blue Jays – Fantastic, fantastic value by nabbing Missouri State right-hander Jon Harris (report here) near the end of the first round. If Harris can prove that his mediocre work in the Cape last summer was an anomaly, he has a chance to develop into a solid #3-type arm. They followed that up with two prep right-handers: Brady Singer and Justin Maese.

Washington Nationals – Another organization without a first round pick, the Nationals grabbed LSU’s Andrew Stevenson, a speedy outfielder with a solid hit tool and questionable power who profiles as a fringe starter, and high school outfielder Blake Perkins. Third rounder Rhett Wiseman (report here) was nice value pick, as was Mariano Rivera’s son, Mariano.


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About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.


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