2017 MLB Mock Draft: Penultimate Edition

Real life has a way of really screwing up a writing schedule. With a new work schedule taking priority over the past two months, my devotion to the MLB draft has taken a backseat. Admittedly it’s frustrating, but let’s be honest, unless you’re Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis, or anyone writing for Baseball America, you’re not making money writing about the MLB draft. Anyway, I apologize that there was no content the past two months, and to make it up to everyone, I promise you that there will be two mocks. This one and the final one, to be launched just before the actual draft. Same rules apply.

Minnesota Twins:

Every draft class has its share of strengths and weaknesses. Last year’s had an outstanding college pitching crop, and 2015 had the great run of shortstops. This year’s class is probably going to be known as the Year of the Two Way Player. The Twins happen to be in prime position to draft either the best prep player or the best college player.

Anybody who said that Brendan McKay was going to have the season he did is either a liar or incredibly clairvoyant. Granted, McKay was expected to be “the guy” for Louisville, but not the way that he has been this season. As one of the team’s best hitters, with the second best batting average and a team leading 14 home runs, and their ace, with the top starter’s ERA and leading the team in wins and strikeouts, McKay is one of those players that you could put in one position and not have any regrets. For a team like the Twins, they could use McKay as either a quick rising mid rotation option, or as Joe Mauer’s eventual heir at first base.

The Twins are a team that either will make a lot of noise or struggle in the AL Central this year. Considering how much young talent there is on the roster that has the potential to take the team to another level, choosing an advanced collegian over a prep player seems like the safe, and smart thing to do.

Previous: Hunter Greene, RHP/SS Notre Dame HS California

Cincinnati Reds:

The first team in the draft may have carte blanche in their choice of talent, but in a class like this, picking second overall isn’t a bad consolation prize. For the Reds, who have finally embraced rebuilding, and yet somehow have made a surprising start, anything goes here.

While the obvious choice would be to go for the top pick, my belief is that said pick’s recent decision to shut himself down likely indicates he has a preferred destination, and it’s not Cincinnati. More on that later. If he’s playing hard to get though, the Reds could still take advantage of a strong prep pitching crop and grab Whiteville High School starter Mackenzie Gore. At my last mock, I had indicated that he was likely the second best lefty prep arm in the draft, but a strong spring has raised his stock to the point where conversation about being a top 5 pick would hold weight. Gore’s improved fastball velocity and durability are encouraging enough for him to have ace potential, and his pitching motion will definitely serve him well professionally.

Even though the Reds have a bigger bonus pool because they have three picks in the top 40, my guess is that they’ll want to acquire as much talent as possible without eating too much into their pool.

Previous: Jeren Kendall, OF Vanderbilt

San Diego Padres:

The Padres are lucky enough to come from an area of the country where there is plenty of local talent. Heck, in three of the past four drafts, the first or second overall pick has come from a San Diego school (Kris Bryant, Brady Aiken, Mickey Moniak). This year, there happens to be a transcendant talent that has received hype comparable to Bryce Harper. You would think that having the third overall pick would definitely hurt the team’s chances at grabbing this generational player. Well, think again.

Hunter Greene may have the talent and the skillset to be a number one pick, but his actions this season have indicated that he’d rather play for his hometown team. Consider the fact that although he has wowed with a triple digit fastball, he shut himself down as a pitcher to focus on playing shortstop. Even if teams are still willing to go after him after his actions scream his desire to be a Padre, you can imagine that his camp will make it incredibly difficult for a team like the Reds or the Twins to make that pick. Still, with the belief that Greene feels that the Padres’ throwing program matches best to what he does, one can imagine that the Padres will hope that the two teams ahead of them will be scared off.

The Padres haven’t had a truly dynamic ace since Jake Peavy, and if Hunter Greene is all but saying he wants to be a Padre, you can imagine that they will be doing as much homework as possible on that player.

Previous: D.L. Hall, LHP Valdosta HS Georgia

Tampa Bay Rays:

One of the biggest banes for the Tampa Bay Rays is the fact that their offense has really yet to get going. Part of that reason has to do with their propensity to strike out. In fact, they currently have the most strikeouts per game at almost ten.

In a class that is weak on position players, perhaps the best bat comes from a place of familiarity. Pavin Smith is the University of Virginia’s latest hitting prospect, and UVA is known for their hitters, see Mark Reynolds, Ryan Zimmerman, and Matt Thaiss for reference. Smith is a great hitter, he rarely strikes out, and despite playing in one of the worst hitters ballparks, has ten home runs this year, second on the team. Smith has played both outfield and first base, though his lack of speed will keep him in the infield. Even though he is limited defensively, the Rays would definitely find a way to incorporate his bat into the lineup one way or another.

The Rays have a solid enough rotation, all they need now is the hitting to back it up. A guy like Pavin Smith would be a solid offensive catalyst.

Previous: Royce Lewis, SS/OF JSerra HS California

Atlanta Braves:

Given the strength of the Braves’ farm system thanks in part to strong drafting and incredibly smart trades, the Braves pick here is, for lack of a better term, almost inconsequential. Don’t get me wrong, they shouldn’t throw away the 5th pick, but they could probably afford to use this pick on a long term project if they so desired.

There has been a lot of discussion on high helium prospect Austin Beck, an outfielder from North Davidson High School. Beck, who saw his stock greatly diminished after a football injury during his junior year has really brought himself back up, to the point where he has been in the top 5 pick conversation. Beck’s greatest assets are his arm and his legs, allowing him to play a solid professional right field. He does need to work on his hitting, as there is concerns that his swing is too busy. Still, he has the potential to be a dangerous contributor, and if his mechanics can be tweaked, he could be a middle of the order producer.

The Braves are a young team, and they’re not afraid to take chances on high helium prepsters. Austin Beck would be an ideal pick for them, and he’d definitely be an interesting player to watch at Suntrust Park.

Previous: J.B. Bukauskas, RHP North Carolina

Oakland Athletics:

The landscape of Oakland pro sports is changing. With the A’s being phased out of revenue sharing and announcing a new ballpark, the Raiders planning on uprooting and moving to Las Vegas, and the Warriors heading back to San Francisco, one can imagine that Oakland sports fans are in for a hard to embrace future. A’s ownership can only hope that they can build a winner under their new financial situation.

Even though the draft isn’t exactly the best way to build goodwill since players don’t contribute immediately, the A’s could take a page out of the Raiders book and grab an in-state product to get the fans excited. There isn’t a lot of solid Norcal prep talent, but there is a lot of California talent, and no player has had better exposure than Nick Pratto. Pratto’s celebrity comes from his contributions in the 2011 Little League World Series, and it’s clear that his talent translated all the way to high school. Pratto has one of the best bats in this high school class, and although he’s also shown value as a starting pitcher, it’s clear that his professional calling will be his bat.

The A’s could use Pratto’s bat, especially as they search for their new identity in this post-Oakland sports world. One would hope that he would be a solid contributor for a team looking to reestablish themselves.

Previous: Brendan McKay, LHP/1B Louisville

Arizona Diamondbacks:

For as much as we ballyhoo the Diamondbacks for trading away Dansby Swanson, it’s clear that the trade didn’t set the team too far back, and was actually just more beneficial for the Braves. Still, with Shelby Miller on the shelf, it’s clear that the dynamic duo of Greinke and Miller that the D-backs would hope would challenge the likes of Kershaw and Bumgarner will never happen. And so, it’s back to the drawing board.

This has to be one of the best pitching classes to come into, and Arizona could find themselves staring in the face of one of the tier-1 arms. In my opinion, they should revisit familiar territory and grab J.B. Bukauskas with their first round pick. Bukauskas was a draft pick of the D-backs out of high school, but he made it clear that he was going to pitch at North Carolina, and spend the next three seasons building himself up. He’s had a fairly consistent college career, having served as the Tar Heels’ ace. The biggest complaint that scouts have made has to do with his delivery, which has a lot of effort in it, as well as his inability to repeat. This brings to mind a Carson Fulmer comparison. If the D-backs can streamline his delivery, there’s a good chance that they can make him into a decent mid-rotation contributor at best, and a decent setup man at worst, a la Andrew Miller.

Arizona’s hot start shouldn’t mask the fact that their farm system needs to be repopulated and their pitching needs help. Hopefully a more advanced college arm will be able to land here.

Previous: Kyle Wright, RHP Vanderbilt

Philadelphia Phillies:

If there has been one team that has had the worst luck developing first round talent, it’s been the Phillies. In the past ten years, the organization has seen only first rounder come up through their organization, that being Aaron Nola. Even the Mariners, who have a penchant for mishandling their talent have a better record of homegrown first round picks.

Hopefully, in a class flush with advanced pitching, the Phillies can grab someone they can be assured will be a success with the organization. I would suggest maybe grabbing someone who comes from a program with a great track record. Kyle Wright may not have had the season that he had envisioned, but there’s no doubt the potential is there, as evidenced by some of his starts, including one against South Carolina. Wright has seen himself grow from a skinny starter with a low 90’s fastball to an average hurler with mid to high 90’s heat. He can still grow into his body more, and one would hope he will. He has the potential to be a second starter at best, and a 1–2 complement of Nola and Wright wouldn’t be a bad pairing.

Matt Klentak surprised everyone when he took Mickey Moniak first overall last year, and one would hope that his reign as GM of the Phillies includes success with their draft picks.

Previous: Alex Faedo, RHP Florida

Milwaukee Brewers

As a New York Jets fan, I have found in two of the past three drafts that sometimes waiting for things to shake out rather than playing an active role can lead to a greater reward. After all, 2015 lead to Leonard Williams, and this past draft yielded Jamal Adams.

Last year, the Brewers watched as Corey Ray, the consensus top bat in the draft fell right into their laps, and this year, they could see that happen again with Royce Lewis. Lewis is regarded as one of the best prep bats in the draft, and he is also falls into the HAPS or Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop designation. Although scouts consider him more of an outfielder, Lewis has shown this spring that he intends to make himself more valuable as a shortstop prospect. His speed makes him an ideal candidate for either position, and he does have the growth potential to be a well-rounded professional

The Brewers may not get Lewis with the 9th pick, but then again, nobody expected Corey Ray to fall to 5th last year. Hopefully the Brewers can come out of this draft with one of the best prep bats in a long time.

Previous: Pavin Smith, 1B Virginia

Los Angeles Angels:

For as much as I rag on the Angels for their minor league system, I believe that a lot of the young talent they drafted in 2016 will help propel the system to, at the very least, a top 20 ranking. I like Jahmai Jones and Matt Thaiss as big league regulars, and there may be places for guys like Brandon Marsh and Nonie Williams. Still, I believe that this team needs to hit a home run in this draft in order to get that system out of its longtime occupancy of the big league basement.

This pick came down to two college arms, one was a local product, the other was a tier 1 arm from Florida. For as much as I wanted to put the local product there as as much as I convinced myself the other pitcher was a bad fit, Alex Faedo won out. You may note that I’ve been particularly hard on him for his mechanics, but he’s managed to shut me up with his results. Even though I still peg him as an injury risk, his 7–1 record and 2.42 ERA have shown that, for now, he’s still a high level prospect. If the Angels can correct his mechanical flaws, they may just have the next Jered Weaver on their hands.

Faedo would hopefully be part of a bigger movement, one that would help redefine the Angels farm system into one that can supply its major league team.

Previous: Alex Lange, RHP LSU

Chicago White Sox:

We jump from one of the worst farm systems in baseball to one of the best. The White Sox stand to make massive gains this season in prospects due to their commitment to a total rebuild, and even though they’re not fully committed to a tank job and a potential future with Seth Beer, they could still grab one of the best outfielders in the draft.

Jeren Kendall may not have capitalized on his otherworldly 2016, but he still has the potential to be a decent first round pick. He has outstanding speed, great defense, and excellent instincts. While he has shown power at Vanderbilt, that may not translate to the next level. Still, in the worst case, Kendall could profile as a better hitting Aaron Hicks, but in the best case, he’ll be Jackie Bradley Jr.

Should the White Sox draft Kendall, they’ll have one of the more well-rounded teams in baseball from a prospect perspective. Kendall gives them the speed they need to compete in the next few years.

Previous: Brady McConnell, SS Merritt Island HS Florida

Pittsburgh Pirates

Starling Marte’s 80 game PED suspension certainly raises questions about his long term future in Pittsburgh, and even if Andrew McCutchen were to get out of his two year schneid, he’s still getting old. Austin Meadows represents the immediate future, but what about after him?

As far as college players with helium go, Adam Haseley has gone from an afterthought to a legitimate first round talent. His season so far has been exceptional, even better than his teammate Pavin Smith’s, with a .399 batting average and 12 home runs. The only reason that he isn’t higher than Smith is the fact that he’s just coming into his own as a position player, and still has a ways to go. Still, scouts seem him as a major league outfielder, and it’s clear that he definitely has the talent to fit there.

While we don’t know what the future holds for the Pirates outfield, in a draft where plenty of college bats are seeing their stock rise, this might be a prime opportunity to get one.

Previous: JJ Schwarz, C Florida

Miami Marlins:

2017 will probably be a big “What if” year for the Marlins. “What if Jose Fernandez didn’t die in a boating accident?” “What if they hadn’t traded Andrew Heaney?” “What if Tyler Kolek wasn’t an injury risk and finally fulfilled the promise that made him the #2 pick?” “What if Jeffery Loria had sold the team earlier to an ownership group that was serious about contending instead of operating in the black?”

All those questions aside, it’s clear that the only thing preventing the Marlins from being an elite team is their starting pitching, and in a class as rich as this one, perhaps the Marlins can finally draft an advanced starter. Griffin Canning has had a strong season at UCLA, and is perhaps the best Tier 2 college pitcher in the draft. He’s got a solid arsenal of pitches, and compensates for his slight build with a level of tenacity that allows him to be imposing. He’s not an overpowering pitcher, but he can get outs. His ceiling is probably a #4 starter, but even a solid 4 starter would be a great help for the Marlins.

The Marlins know that this is their time to compete, and with a new ownership group coming in, now would be a good time to invest in the future so that there is some talent in the stable.

Previous: Tanner Houck, RHP Mizzou

Kansas City Royals:

The 2017 NFL draft will be known as the draft of overvalued quarterbacks, with three teams trading ungodly amounts of draft capital to take unproven youngsters. Whether it was the much ballyhooed Mitch Trubisky trade, the questionable Patrick Mahomes trade, or the surprising DeShaun Watson trade, it was clear that in a year of crappy quarterback talent, teams were willing to gamble.

Granted, the MLB draft and the NFL draft are two completely different animals, but there is a similar idea in the fact that this year’s draft is considered one of the weakest in positional talent. Still teams may be willing to overdraft, and even though Keston Hiura is a limited player due to an injury that may need surgery, his bat is definitely making enough noise to warrant first round consideration. Hiura is batting in the .400s with 8 home runs, and although he is playing exclusively DH this year due to an injury, as a pro, he could play one of second base or outfield, depending on how he progresses.

The Royals stand to lose two key components of their 2015 championship team, and if they are to continue their approach of building from within, Hiura, despite the injury, would be a great building block to work with.

Previous: Brendon Little, LHP SCF Manatee-Sarasota

Houston Astros:

There is an unwritten rule that each draft has to have at least one prep player from the state of Georgia taken in the first round. Last year it was Will Benson and Josh Lowe, taken back to back interestingly. This year, the Georgia crop is a bit thinner, but there’s still talent.

My last mock, I made the bold proclamation that D.L. Hall would be taken third overall by the Padres. It’s safe to say that his season, coupled with Mackenzie Gore’s ascension has essentially scuttled that predicion. Still, in spite of what Hall has done, he does have an intriguing skill set. He can reach the mid 90’s, and he can work into games, but his mechanics are not consistent and need revamping. Still, he has a track record of winning, and his build indicates that he’d be a great back end option for any team down the road.

The Astros are a team that are either going to contend or disappoint majorly, but as long as they are able to keep their farm system well stocked, they should be fine in the long run. This year will be especially kind to them with all the picks they gained from the Cardinals in the hacking scandal.

Previous: Hagen Danner, RHP/C Huntington Beach HS California

New York Yankees:

For those who aren’t familiar with the story of Brendan Finnegan’s incredibly deceptive sophomore season, let’s boil it down to the basics. Due to a combination of bad luck and poor run support, Finnegan finished the year 0–8. He rebounded though, and ended up being the first round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2014.

This year’s Brandon Finnegan is Tanner Houck. Houck, who famously was considered the de facto number one pick in the draft after his freshman season, has fallen back to earth a bit, but this is largely in part to poor run support and bad games. Still, Houck does have value. His fastball has been rated alongside J.B. Bukauskas’s as one of the best in the draft, and is deceptive enough for him to get easy punchouts. While Houck does have to work on his secondary stuff, he can work the strike zone to his advantage. In the best case, his mechanics and secondary pitches can be improved and he’s a good 3 or 4 starter, but in the worst case, he could be an effective pen man.

Either way, the Yankees would find themselves greatly improved with Houck. He’d help solidify a transitional rotation, or he’d step into the back end of the bullpen, should Dellin Betances leave.

Previous: Jake Burger, 3B Missouri State

Seattle Mariners:

It’s hard to believe that Felix Hernandez is only 31 years old, but sooner or later 31 turns to 35, and depending on how well he holds up, the Mariners may want to start rebuilding their rotation, especially when he’s gone and James Paxton hits free agency.

David Peterson made my first mock draft, then fell off the radar when he had a poor start. After bouncing back and pitching a strikeout heavy gem, Peterson seems to have gotten back on track thanks in part due to finally tapping into his stuff. Peterson’s best asset is his fastball which is a low to mid 90’s offering. His slider and curve are range from decent to complementary. Peterson is not a command artist but he can throw strikes at will. He has the ability to be a solid mid rotation starter, and if he continues to develop, could push at least #2 material.

Seattle would greatly benefit from Peterson as they continue to make a push to compete in the AL West. He may be a bit of a project, but given the Mariners’ success with most of their pitching prospects, Peterson seems like an ideal candidate.

Previous: Evan Skoug, C TCU

Detroit Tigers

Let’s be honest, back in 2014, when AJ Reed, Michael Conforto and Aaron Nola were all up for the Golden Spikes Award, most people were probably thinking that Conforto or Nola would have won. While the Golden Spikes award is no indicator of professional success, it’s clear that Conforto and Nola have both been better than Reed.

While Evan White may not be at the same level as Reed was, he’s still got a good chance to go in the first round. Normally, you would think a college first baseman’s best asset would be his power, but oddly enough, White is just an average hitter when it comes to power. He’s contact oriented, has solid speed, and will definitely win a few gold gloves. Even though he’s not a power hitter, he’s still a legit gamechanger on offense, and he does have the ability to hit to the gaps and produce on the basepaths.

Even though White would hypothetically come in right behind Miguel Cabrera, my belief is that should the Tigers want to keep Cabrera for as long as he’s hitting, they’ll move him to DH. White would represent a great defensive upgrade, and he’d make a solid 2 or 5 hitter in the Tiger lineup.

Previous: Jordon Adell, OF Ballard HS, Kentucky

San Francisco Giants

If anyone had told me that the Giants would be in the thick of the Seth Beer Sweepstakes a year after making the playoffs, at the beginning of this year, I would have said they were crazy. And yet here we are. Madison Bumgarner is hurt, the bullpen is still a tire fire, and the team has the worst record in baseball. For shame.

While the Giants have never really come off as a power based team since the long gone days of Bonds, it’s possible they might want to consider returning to those days. And there is perhaps no better hitter to do that than Jake Burger. Burger has the power of Ryan Howard, and yet he plays like Hunter Pence. His scrappy mentality is certainly going to endear him to some organizations. While he could definitely use some refining on his techinique, he strikes me as a player who in the right circumstance would rise through a system quickly.

Even if the Giants days of even year domination are done, they still should plan on rebuilding their team as an offensive powerhouse, especially if their bullpen continues to be terrible.

Previous: Jacob Heatherly, LHP Cullman HS, Alabama

New York Mets

The infield of the future for the Mets does have its fair share of question marks. First and foremost, who takes over for David Wright? Is it TJ Rivera, Wilmer Flores, David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, or perhaps someone who isn’t even here? Then there’s the less glaring question, who plays second base? While Gavin Cecchini would seem like the obvious answer, my belief is that Cecchini has reached his ceiling and is a role player more than anything.

With that being said, I wouldn’t be against the Mets taking Logan Warmoth out of North Carolina. Warmoth, who has benefited from a wakeup junior season in which his bat has taken him among the ACC’s leaders, strikes me as a Daniel Murphy type. He can hit, he can run, and he can field, but the question is obviously on his defense. He plays a collegiate shortstop, but there is a lot of debate over whether he’s better suited for second base. Given the main concern is his arm strength, my belief is that he could make it work at second base. Still, what endears me to Warmoth is that he’s a player who, when he’s firing on all cylinders, could be a dangerous presence as a #2 hitter in the lineup.

The Mets certainly will hope that their new young infield will be able to keep the team going, and hopefully the hypothetical double play combination of Rosario and Warmoth is a possibility.

Previous: Nick Pratto 1B/LHP Huntington Beach HS, California

Baltimore Orioles

One of the worst kept secrets in baseball has to be that Manny Machado will most likely leave Baltimore after the 2018 season ends. It’s almost a guarantee, and considering he is one of the premier players in the game, his departure will certainly hurt the Orioles.

Even though Machado’s impending departure is in two years, this year’s college third base crop experiences a huge drop off after Machado, so it may be a wise idea to have a young prep talent model his game off Machado. Ryan Vilade has the benefit of being a baseball lifer, his dad coaches at Oklahoma State University, and as a result, he has a great opportunity to learn from his peers. Vilade can hit, however, he does seem to be more likely to develop into his power. Vilade does have a cannon for an arm, and will likely stay at third base rather than move to another position.

For Vilade to have the opportunity to learn from Manny Machado, it would defnitely be a positive step for him, and would likely allow him to progress quickly in the minors.

Previous: Seth Romero, LHP Houston

Toronto Blue Jays

The minute the Blue Jays signed Jose Bautista, I knew that this was the year that their window of contention had closed. With the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and the choice of Kendrys Morales as his replacement, the fact that the team has underwhelmed spectacularly, and with the fact that that team is getting real old real quick, it may be time to blow it all up and start over.

If the Blue Jays want to reinvent themselves, they could start by developing a potentially dominating rotation. While Marcus Stroman is a given, Aaron Sanchez is a definite given, and TJ Zeuch could potentially come up sooner than later, the Jays could use a nice young lefty to complement them. Trevor Rogers is not what you would call a typical high schooler. He’s from New Mexico, which isn’t exactly a pitchers haven. Still Rogers has impressed this season thanks in part to a fastball which has plenty of life. He’s a bit on the thin side, but if he can bulk up, there’s a good chance that he’ll be able to reach top velocity on his pitches.

Rogers may be a few years away, but he’s definitely an interesting prospect. Should he develop, he’ll join Alex Bregman and Blake Swihart as the next great New Mexico talent.

Previous: Nick Allen, SS Francis Parker HS, California

Los Angeles Dodgers

11 years ago, the Dodgers laid the framework for a period of dominance without a title with the selection of Clayton Kershaw out of Highland Park High School. This year, they may have the chance to do that again.

People may ask why I’ve had Shane Baz make this far of a fall. He’s a top 15 talent, and yet he’s landed at the end of the first round. First of all, I believe that he could potentially be a first round pick, but he could be a pick that tumbles due to signability. He is a TCU commit, and TCU has had some remarkable retention of high level commits, see Nick Lodolo in 2016 and Luken Baker in 2015. Still, I could see the Dodgers making a hard push to get him. He is one of the more complete high school pitchers in his class, and his arsenal is nothing short of “Wow” inducing. A rare five pitch pitcher, Baz can get outs with his above average to pro-grade offerings. His fastball and cutter are arguably his best weapons though. Baz has the build to be a frontline starter, though five to ten extra pounds may help him a bit with durability.

The Dodgers are a team that are always on the cusp of contending and yet they have yet to reach the pinnacle. Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of their last title. A combination of Baz and Kershaw would be nothing short of fantastic for the Dodgers.

Previous: Mark Vientos, 3B Flanagan HS, Florida

Boston Red Sox

Winning the offseason is meaningless, especially if the pieces that you acquire fail to produce. For the Red Sox, this is a make or break year, as they most likely will not be able to afford Chris Sale should he test the market. If things still aren’t going their way by midseason, it may be best for them to sell off some assets and prep for 2018.

Perhaps one of the biggest question marks is what position Hagen Danner would play professionally. Danner, the latter half of Huntington Beach High School’s dynamic duo, is an accomplished pitcher, but he also is a decent catcher. While he fell off a bit in the early part of the season, a resurgent second half has put him back on the map as a late first round talent. Danner would be a decent back end rotation option, but there’s a belief that he’s a better pro catcher, and given the ambiguity of the Sox’s catcher situation, that being is Sandy Leon legit and can Blake Swihart get himself to the level of play that scouts gushed about in high school, Danner would serve as a message that the Sox want some clarity sooner rather than later.

Danner has become one of my favorite players to mock this year, and it’s clear that he’ll definitely be one of the more discussed players of this year’s draft.

Previous: Keston Hiura, 2B/OF UC Irvine

22 Washington Nationals

When people think of Minnesota, outside of the Twins, one of the last things that you would expect to talk about is high school baseball. Even though Minnesota does sponsor baseball, there isn’t really that much talent in that area, with more people thinking hockey, or even football, or basketball. That probably will change though.

Sam Carlson has seen his stock rise tremendously since taking the mound for Burnsville High School this year. He’s got a fastball that has touched high 90’s level heat, and he can get strikeouts with an above average slider. Carlson also has the build to succeed as a starter, although another 5 pounds wouldn’t be a bad thing for him.

The Nationals are in a situation where they can still afford their pricey talent, but that’s going to change soon, and with that, some tough decisions are going to have to be made. Carlson would be a great option for the rotation should some starters elect to leave.

Previous: Colton Hock, RHP Stanford

Texas Rangers

There’s always one Tier 1 college pitcher that seems to fall in the draft. Last year, it was Alec Hansen. Two years ago, it was Michael Matuella. With the Rangers, it’s likely a tier 1 pitcher could likely end their fall right here.

Alex Lange’s season has been fairly par for the course. He’s been decent but not dominant, and that could factor into where he lands. Still, Lange has the makings to be dominant. He has a nice arsenal of pitches, particularly his fastball/curveball combo. While he has the build to be a starter there are concerns about his mechanics, and whether he can correct them enough to be a professional starter. Still, Lange isn’t too much of a project, and would likely take at most two years to be a major leaguer.

The Rangers can use all the help they can get in the pitching department. A guy like Lange falling to them would be an absolute gift.

Previous: Blayne Enlow, RHP St. Amant HS, Louisiana

Chicago Cubs

I believe that baseball is one of the few sports that demands true accountability. Considering how long the season is, how much of a grueling grind it is on the body, and how much you are relied on in your role, there is zero room for being immature. Matt Harvey learned that the hard way, and here’s hoping that the Cubs’ pick will do the same.

After Seth Romero was kicked off the University of Houston Baseball team for fighting with a teammate, many scouts compared his antics over the season to “throwing millions out the window”. This cannot be understated. While there is a belief that many teams will likely take him off their boards due to his behavioral issues, I could see the Cubs gambling on him. Joe Maddon is a player’s manager, and it’s clear that while he is a fun guy, if Romero was on his team, he would not go easy on him. Moving past the behavioral issues, Romero is a talented starter. His fastball and slider will get him through innings, and his build, while concerning, allows him a degree of stability.

Romero is certainly going to be one of the more talked about prospects in draft history, but the question is if teams are willing to deal with his antics. I can imagine if he doesn’t get picked he’ll probably try and rebuild his stock next season in an independent league, a la Aaron Crow or Luke Hochevar. If the Cubs take him, they probably can offer him a smaller signing bonus to get a high level prep talent.

Previous: Mackenzie Gore, LHP Whiteville HS, North Carolina

Toronto Blue Jays

Marcus Stroman is the poster child for “size doesn’t matter”. Even as one of the shortest starters in the majors, it’s clear that he’s managed to adapt to the game and make it his own. The same goes for Jose Altuve, who’s one of the shortest players in baseball period. Look at him now, he’s one of the best players in the game.

Perhaps the most interesting player in this year’s draft is a 5'8" shorstop out of Francis Parker High School. Nick Allen is not going to win any batting or home run titles, but what he will do is consistently get on base with smooth contact, and take away hits with highlight reel level defense. Allen is scrappy, and a true shortstop, a HAPS if there was any. Even with his lack of size, there’s no questioning that he could make a case to be fast tracked to the majors.

The Blue Jays need a succession plan for their old lineup, and Allen would be an ideal slide in when Troy Tulowitzki leaves or retires. His game is ideal for the Rogers Centre, and he’ll definitely endear himself to the Blue Jay faithful.

Previous: Tristan Beck, RHP Stanford

Texas Rangers

High school catchers have historically been one of the toughest players to evaluate in a draft. At their current value, they look like a good investment, but a multitude of factors lead to those picks being wasted.

Of course. MJ Melendez could be an exception, not the rule. The son of Florida International coach Mervyl Melendez, he’s shown that he can be a top defensive catcher, maybe not on the level of Yadier Molina, but still an impressive defensive specimen. Melendez does need to work on his offense, but there is a belief that his ceiling will be that of a well-rounded catcher. He definitely has the instincts to play the position professionally, and he could take 3–4 years to make the majors.

The Rangers could definitely use a new catcher if Lucroy leaves, and a complete package like Melendez would be a great player to have, even if he takes a few years to develop.

Previous: Michael Gigliotti, OF Lipscomb

27 Chicago Cubs

You can make the argument that the University of Louisville has evolved in the last couple of years from also-ran to talent factory. What started with Kyle Funkhouser in 2015 has evolved into Corey Ray and Zack Burdi in 2016, and now Brendan McKay in 2017. Clearly this is a program that’s getting noticed.

Louisville commit Jordon Adell may consider attending Louisville after a so-so senior year, but it’s clear that he has the potential to be a game changer. He has the power to be a legit middle of the order threat, the legs to change a game on the basepaths and to field his position, and the arm to play a Major League right field. What’s holding him back however is his all or nothing approach. There had been hope that the potential that he had flashed in the summer circuit would translate to a better senior year, but it’s clear that he’s still a work in progress, or, at worst, another Byron Buxton.

The Cubs could certainly use a youth infusion once Ben Zobrist retires, and if Adell can figure out how to hit, he’ll make a dangerous Cubs lineup even more dangerous.

Previous: Clarke Schmidt, RHP South Carolina


31. Tampa Bay Rays

In what can only be described as a solid class for JuCo talent, Brendon Little has shown that he has value. He would make an excellent starter for the Rays, especially if they lose Chris Archer. Little’s command and control are concerning, but his pure stuff is intriguing enough for a team to try him and see if he’d be a good starter or reliever.

Previous: Quentin Holmes, OF Monsignor McClancy HS, New York

32. Cincinnati Reds

I’ve made it clear that I like NECBL alumnae, and Plymouth Pilgrims alum Brent Rooker, in spite of being a senior, has made it clear that he deserves some consideration as a comp pick. Considering the Reds could make a high value high schooler their first pick Rooker as a signability/Joey Votto successor pick wouldn’t be a bad idea. Plus, he has shown that he can handle hitting with wood bats. Incidentally, Rooker is one of the few players from this class that I have seen play in person.

Previous: Ricardo De La Torre, SS Puerto Rico Baseball Academy

33. Oakland Athletics

After spending a pick on Nick Pratto, I could see the A’s going for a high floor collegian in the CB round. Kevin Merrell really saw his stock rise after playing out of his mind this season, and while he isn’t a professional second baseman, a move to center field would make him the perfect successor to Rajai Davis when he’s done. Merrell’s the fastest player in the draft, so he would be a nice leadoff hitter for the A’s.

Previous: Calvin Mitchell, OF Rancho Bernardo HS, California

34. Milwaukee Brewers

Before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, Clarke Schmidt had a decent shot of going in the first round. Even after surgery, I could see a few teams taking a flyer on him, mainly because of his arsenal. The Brewers, who could definitely use a pitcher like him, would be an ideal landing spot.

Previous: Deon Stafford, C St. Joseph’s

35. Minnesota Twins

The Twins could concievably remake their rotation with their first three picks in this draft. Tanner Burns is arguably the most pro-ready high schooler in the draft, and while his size does raise some questions, there’s not doubting that he has the stuff and the competitiveness to be a legit talent.

Previous: Mike Rivera, C Florida

36. Miami Marlins

A year after taking consensus top lefty Braxton Garrett, the Marlins could grab another Alabama prepster in Jacob Heatherly. Heatherly has the talent to be a mid rotation option, and his arsenal and delivery certainly do allow him to have a lot of variety when he pitches.

Previous: Ryan Noda, 1B Cincinnati

And that’s it for this mock. Stay tuned for the final mock, to be released just before the MLB draft in June. Thank you for your patience.