As 2017 MLB draft fever begins to pick up, let’s take a look back at how the 2016 MLB draft is looking roughly a year in the rearview mirror
Our MLB coverage at Call to the Pen is fairly well-balanced, but in an effort to give you better breadth and depth of coverage of minor league baseball, we will begin a number of weekly posts.
The first will examine the big news items along with the top performers in the minor leagues each Monday. Tuesday will bring a review of the weekend highlight series. Wednesday will bring draft news and college baseball news until that is complete. Thursday will preview the weekend series of note in minor league baseball to watch. Friday will feature a new series, “The Video Room”, where CTTP contributor Benjamin Chase will examine one game from the week from a scouting perspective and break down the game.
Scouting reports will be scattered throughout the week and weekends as well, so keep on the lookout for those as well. As always, if there is anything you would like to see covered more thoroughly here at CTTP, let us know in the comments section below!
Today, we will look at draft coverage by looking back at last season’s draft. While the new MLB collective bargaining agreement has changed some of how the money is distributed, so the finances don’t work the same, it is interesting to look back in order to get an idea of how we look at this season’s crop of players.
We’ll take a look at guys who were selected in the first three rounds and then those selected after that, where teams found bargains, and who has shown to be a value versus who has shown to be a possible bust already.
The draft rankings coming into the 2016 MLB draft were very heavy on Jason Groome and Riley Pint, but with worry on Pint’s mechanics and fastball velocity as a high school arm and some off-field concerns with Groome, they were not going to be the #1 selection (they ended up 12th and fourth, respectively).
The Philadelphia Phillies ended up selecting California prep outfielder Mickey Moniak, and he’s shown ever since that he was a very worthy #1 selection. Cincinnati followed with Tennessee infielder Nick Senzel, widely considered the most advanced college bat.
The first surprise of the MLB draft really came at #3 when the Atlanta Braves selected New York high school righty Ian Anderson, a guy who many had as a late first round pick. Anderson did not get a lot of scouting due to cold weather and early season injury, but as late reports came out, it became clear perhaps that the industry should not have been as surprised about Anderson’s placement at #3 overall.
The top 10 went pretty much chalk, with the biggest surprise guys to fall out of the top 10 going immediately after, with Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis going to the Seattle Mariners and Groome going to the Red Sox at 12.
From that point, the combat was the depth of the college class versus the high quality of the high school class, with very good depth in the college class being selected in the second and third round with guys who were viable consideration for the first round as high school picks being still picked in the third round.
Early lists on the 2016 MLB draft had A.J. Puk and Alec Hansen as 1-2 in the draft class on the college side. In spite of a ho-hum season for Florida, Puk still went top 10 to the Oakland Athletics, but Hansen completely lost his command early in the year for Oklahoma, and though he had recovered by the end of the year, he fell to the eighth selection of the second round to the Chicago White Sox.
It is early to tell for sure, but it is notable already the value that the Giants got without a first round pick by getting college outfielder Bryan Reynolds from Vanderbilt and Heath Quinn from Samford in the second and third round.
From my perspective, the team that achieved the best early value with less than a year removed from the picks is the New York Yankees, who were able to get California high school righty Nolan Martinez in the third round and nabbing California high school outfielder Blake Rutherford, a preseason top-five pick, with the 18th pick of the first round.
While there’s still work to do, the team picking after the 20th selection in the first round that did very well was the St. Louis Cardinals, who had three first round selections and five in the first three rounds, getting three very solid college pitchers in Dakota Hudson, Connor Jones, and Zac Gallen on top of one of the best raw talents in the draft in Delvin Perez, who fell to the Cardinals after a failed PED test pre-draft, and outfielder Dylan Carlson, a criticized pick but a guy who has shown to be a prototype Cardinals guy, just at the high school level rather than college level.
The team whose early draft is certainly questionable is the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a huge part of that is that they did not sign their #41 overall selection, high school lefty Nick Lodolo. Their other selections have their own questions, but that one issue really set off their draft as he was the biggest upside player picked in their four selections in the first three rounds, and missing on signing him really hurts the overall draft.
Often the guys after the third round are not very well known, and that leads to many people overlooking them, but a large amount of guys have come through just a year later.
One of the headliners of this group was a fourth round selection by the Detroit Tigers, a pitcher from Louisville who was a first-round selection the year previous, Kyle Funkhouser. Funkhouser struggled in his final season in Louisville, but many felt he would be a guy to rebound in the right organization, and he’s already done that with the Tigers.
It’s appeared already that the fourth round produced some other finds, like junior college outfielder DJ Peters, drafted by the Dodgers, who has done nothing but mash since the draft. Bobby Dalbec has been a big-time find for the Red Sox, showing the hitting ability he displayed in the Cape Cod League before his senior year before struggling in his draft year with Arizona, actually looking better off the mound than at the plate that final collegiate season.
After the 10th round, a different financial system is in play, so it does change the success level. One that actually was most intriguing was 13th round selection Anthony Molina, a right-handed high school pitcher from Florida who was the focus of Jeff Passan’s book, The Arm. However, Molina did not sign and chose instead to attend Northwest Florida Junior College and enter the draft again after being a phenom from a young age.
Molina will likely be joined in the 2017 draft by another late pick, 21st round selection Will Crowe, a righty pitcher the Indians selected from South Carolina as he was recovering from injury in 2016. Crowe chose to instead return to school and is now being considered for the top 10 of the 2017 draft, so it looks as if he made a wise choice.
In the 11th round, the Indians and Nationals grabbed two very good prospects in outfielders Andrew Calica, an outfielder from UC-Santa Barbara that the Indians saw reach low-A in his first year in the system, and Armand Upshaw from Pensacola Junior College that the Nationals saw flash big skills.
While there are a number of college relievers that succeeded from the back end of the draft, and perhaps none more than the pair of relievers the Atlanta Braves saw finish in their Rome Braves bullpen, 27th round pick Corbin Clouse and 17th round pick Devan Watts, for me the best late round selection was a high school pitcher.
The Phillies took New York prep lefty Kyle Young in the 22nd round of the draft, and they saw him post an excellent 2.67 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with a 0.67 BB/9 rate for their GCL club. At 6’10” tall and left-handed, an upper-80s to low-90s fastball along with improving breaking stuff gives him a high ceiling. (Ironically, also what the clubhouses in the Phillies system will need to house him as he advances… I’ll see myself out.)
Because each team utilizes the later rounds differently, it’s hard to compare them. It will be fun to look at where guys work their way into the 2017 draft season.
The last player to mention was a personal favorite of mine simply because of the story of how he was found. Undrafted free agent T.J. Friedl, an outfielder from UNLV, ended up signed by the Cincinnati Reds for third round money after it was found that he was eligible but seemingly no team had known this on draft day.
The above is a first look at the 2017 draft. We’ll look next Wednesday at the college draft class, with a look at the high school class the following week. Then we will alternate college baseball news and mock drafts until the MLB draft on June 12. Last season, we at CTTP had a live post on the night of the first round, and we are looking to do the same this season again!