Thoughts From the First Round of the 2017 Draft

Hard to believe that the first round – as well as second and both compensation rounds – have come and gone. So here’s some quick hits on my thoughts about the first 30 picks in the draft. Enjoy!

 

#1. Royce Lewis, SS, Minnesota Twins – It didn’t take long for nearly every mock draft in America to get screwed up thanks to the Twins’ selection of the JSerra Catholic High School shortstop. It’s difficult to not slot the #1 overall pick at the top of any organization’s minor league rankings, but Nick Gordon’s looking like a budding star this season thanks to his developing power. It’ll be interesting to see if Gordon, an above-average defender at shortstop, gets moved to his brother’s position or if Lewis gets moved to center field in the coming years.

#2. Hunter Greene, RHP, Cincinnati Reds – One of the worst kept secrets in all of baseball, the Reds’ front office coveted the triple-digit throwing fire-baller for quite some time now. Again, as was the case with Lewis at #1, it’s difficult to not slot the second overall pick atop the Cincinnati’s farm system. But…Nick Senzel, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, isn’t far away from reaching Class AA. Right now, Senzel still gets the nod as the system’s top prospect due to Greene’s youth and potential for future injury.

#3. MacKenzie Gore, LHP, San Diego Padres – With Anderson Espinoza’s elbow flaring up – he hasn’t thrown a meaningful pitch in the minor leagues this year – the lanky lefty out of Whiteville High School becomes the Padres’ top pick, something that wasn’t as easy as you’d expect with former Stanford righty Cal Quantrill dominating High Class A.

#4. Brendan McKay, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays – A big, big fan of the Louisville star. McKay, a multiple John Olerud Award winner, has been stellar on the mound and at first base in each of his three collegiate seasons. He was announced as “Brendan McKay, Louisville, First Baseman,” so that should settle any debate about the Rays’ intentions. A lot of Tampa Bay’s top prospects have struggled this season – Jose De Leon has thrown just 20 innings; Willy Adames got off to a terrible start but has turned it around the last month or so; and Casey Gillaspie, another former collegiate first baseman, looks atrocious in Class AAA. Adames still gets the nod as the system’s top prospect, though McKay isn’t far behind.

#5. Kyle Wright, RHP, Atlanta Braves – In terms of talent vs. draft slot, I thought the Braves reached a little bit with the selection of Wright as the fifth overall pick. Coming from Pitcher U. – a.k.a. Vanderbilt – certainly helps, but he looks more like a nice safe bet to reach his mid-rotation ceiling rather than stardom. I had a few collegiate players ahead of him on my big board including: Adam Haseley, Jake Burger, and UNC hurler J.B. Bukauskas.

#6. Austin Beck, OF, Oakland A’s – Oakland hasn’t picked this high since 1995 when they took Ariel Prieto. This also marks the first time the club’s taken a prep prospect with their first selection since Billy McKinney in 2013. The North Davidson High School product’s ceiling likely tops that of underrated third baseman Matt Chapman and sparkplug infielder Franklin Barreto.

#7. Pavin Smith, 1b, Arizona Diamondbacks – This one was a shocker to me. Not that Smith isn’t worth of a first round selection, but his lack of above-average power at a run producing position should have been enough to push him out of the Top 10. Hell, maybe even the Top 20. His strong nose for first base will help mitigate some of that loss, but will it be enough?

#8. Adam Haseley, CF, Philadelphia Phillies – Tied with Jake Burger as my top collegiate bat in this year’s draft class. As I noted in his pre-draft evaluation, here’s a list of collegiate hitters to slug at least .380/.470/.650 with a K-rate below 10% and a BB-rate north of 14% (minimum of 200 PA) between 2011 and 2016: no one. Haseley accomplished that feat this year. Stud. Pure…stud.

#9. Keston Hiura, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers – Staring at the TV as the Brewers’ selection began, I just had a gut feeling that Hiura had a pretty good shot to go to the Brew Crew with the ninth overall pick. Should’ve tweeted that out. The UC Irvine slugger is one of the top collegiate hitters available. He’s a polished bat who has a little Rickie Weeks in him – if his wonky elbow allows him to man the keystone. He’s going to hit – no matter where they put him.

#10. Jo Adell, OF, Los Angeles Angels – The organization’s caught in a no man’s land scenario where they have a once-in-a-generation talent in Mike Trout and some solid players to round out the roster. But it’s simply not enough to consistently contend. The pitching staff is a bit thin – as always. So the Angels had one of two choices to make: #1 take the most talented prospect, regardless of risk, on the board or #2 grab a polished collegiate arm that could be rushed through the minors to help reinforce the big league club. They opted for Choice #1. According to reports, there’s some huge potential and huge questions about his bat. Maybe he hits early on and the front office could flip him for some big league help.

#11. Jake Burger, 3B, Chicago White Sox – Love, love, love this pick. Chicago’s front office has been pulling a lot of the right strings over the past couple years and I had the third baseman tied with Virginia outfielder Adam Haseley as the top bats in the collegiate class. Big time power at a premium defensive position? Yes please. He cooled considerably over the past couple weeks, but he has the potential to develop into an All-Star.

#12. Shane Baz, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates – It’s hard to believe that the it’s been seven years already since the Pirates grabbed Jameson Taillon with the second overall pick. But Baz, another Texas-born prep prospect, could follow in his Taillon’s shoes as a hard-throwing right-hander with a big ceiling.

#13. Trevor Rogers, LHP, Miami Marlins – Not surprising to see the Marlins grab a high reward high school prospect with their first overall selection. Rogers, the cousin of former big leaguer Cody Ross, was the second left-hander to go off the board yesterday. He’s big and lanky – he stands 6-foot-6 and 185 pounds – so there’s plenty of projection left to unlock.

#14. Nick Pratto, 1B, Kansas City Royals – Always a risky proposition to take a prep first baseman. But some considered the young first baseman’s bat as the purest among the high school ranks. Kansas City has burned through their once vaunted farm system, so it’s imperative that the Royals hit a homerun with Pratto.

#15. J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, Houston Astros – Talk about value vs. selection. I had the UNC righty as the fourth best collegiate prospect available – ahead of Pavin Smith, Kyle Wright, and Brendan McKay. There will always be concerns about his generously listed 6-foot, 195-pound frame. But you get the sense that there’s alittle Marcus Stroman

#16. Clarke Schmidt, RHP, New York Yankees – Again, another homerun pick by an increasingly savvy front office. Schmidt underwent Tommy John surgery, but I still opined that “it wouldn’t be surprising to see Schmidt go in the Top 20 picks to an aggressive, forward-thinking team [that] could sign him to a below slot-deal.” Schmidt would look awfully good next to James Kaprielian in the middle of the Yankees’ rotation – assuming both can move beyond their respective injury issues.

#17. Evan White, 1B, Seattle Mariners – Mariners GM Jerry DiPoto loves production over projection, so it’s not surprising to see him take Kentucky first baseman Evan White with their first selection. White doesn’t showcase the typical above-average power typically required at the position, but he consistently makes hard contact, shows a little bit of speed, and has the potential to develop into a 15- to 20-homer threat.

#18. Alex Faedo, RHP, Detroit Tigers – Once thought to be a lock for the Top 10, Florida RHP Alex Faedo dropped down to the late teens where the Tigers were happily waiting with arms wide open. He’s a better, more talented version of former Gator/Detroit first rounder Jonathon Crawford. Faedo has the makings of a mid-rotation caliber arm.

#19. Heliot Ramos, OF, San Francisco – It wasn’t too long ago that the Giants’ were being lambasted for reaching in the first round on infielder Christian Arroyo, who would eventually blossom into one of their top prospects. So San Francisco deserves more than the benefit of doubt when it comes to their selection on high risk/high reward Puerto Rican outfielder Heliot Ramos. The organization does a fantastic job developing players, so it wouldn’t be surprising to look back in a few years and call this pick a homerun either.

#20. David Peterson, LHP, New York Mets – Easily my favorite pick of the entire draft. Peterson has been, arguably, the top collegiate pitcher this season. The lanky left-hander out of the University of Oregon piles up strikeouts like very few pitchers in this year’s class. Throw in some impeccable pinpoint control and Peterson has the makings of a quality big league starting pitcher. And one that could potentially move quickly. The Mets’ calling card has been their starting pitching. Peterson is just the latest in what’s becoming an impressively long line.

#21. D.L. Hall, LHP, Baltimore Orioles – The last two times the Orioles nabbed prep pitchers with their first selections in the draft were two kids by the name of Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey in 2011 and 2013, respectively. You would have to go all the way back to 2002 to find the a High School southpaw taken in the first round (Adam Loewen). Here’s hoping that Hall turns into something like Bundy.

#22. Logan Warmoth, SS, Toronto Blue Jays – Death, taxes, and a Mark Shapiro-led organization taking a safe, low ceiling collegiate player with a first round pick. Out of the University of North Carolina, Warmoth has the defensive chops to stick at shortstop and he can swing it a little bit too. Again, safe and sound – like Shapiro always drafts ‘em.

#23. Jeren Kendall, CF, Los Angeles Dodgers – In the conversation for the best athlete in the draft, the Vanderbilt outfielder can do a little bit of everything: hit for power, run well, and chase it down in the outfield. The lone issue: his propensity to swing and miss. He punched out in more than 25% of his plate appearances for the Commodores last season. Ouch.

#24. Tanner Houck, RHP, Boston Red Sox – Mark Shapiro loves safe college guys. Dave Dombrowski loves collegiate power pitchers. I assumed the Sox would be in on a power arm, so it made sense when they grabbed Houck with the 24th overall pick. His career numbers are pretty close to that of Aaron Nola’s college stats. Houck has a chance to develop into a mid-rotation arm. Maybe a little better.

#25. Seth Romero, LHP, Washington Nationals – Never afraid to take risks in the draft, the Nationals grabbed the highly immature, and often times problematic, southpaw out of Houston. He would have been my top pick, but the question will come down to the organization’s ability to control him. Because, clearly, he can’t control himself.

#26. Bubba Thompson, OF, Texas Rangers – The organization doesn’t get enough credit for their ability to develop raw, toolsy players into viable big leaguers. Expect that from Thompson. Speed, speed, speed.

#27. Brendon Little, LHP, Chicago Cubs – For as well as the Cubbies churn out big boppers, the opposite can be said about their ability to develop starting pitching. Power-armed southpaw with a good build? Yeah, that should help improve their odds.

#28. Nate Pearson, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays – This one shocked me because it’s more about projection than production. And we all know that’s not how Mark Shapiro drafts (see above). Pearson’s a late riser, thanks in large part to his ability to hit triple-digits on the radar gun. They’ve been able to harness Aaron Sanchez’s control issues. Let’s see how Pearson turns out.

#29. Christopher Seise, SS, Texas Rangers – Athletic prospect? Check. High school? Check? Texas Rangers? Makes sense. Again. And again. And again.

#30. Alex Lange, RHP, Chicago Cubs – LOVE this pick. Lange has the potential to move quickly. If the control proves to be repeatable he has a chance as a starting pitcher. Tremendous pickup in the last part of the first round.



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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