Even long time baseball fans may not have realized that June is the annual MLB amateur draft. It does not get the fanfare that the NFL or NBA gets. But that does not mean it is not just as critical to an organization’s future.
Why does it not get the attention that the others do?
- Unlike the NBA, the international amateurs are not in this draft. It is only North American High School and College players.
- Draft picks don’t immediately start out on the parent MLB team like they do in the NFL and NBA and many take four to five years before they sniff the Majors.
- College baseball is not promoted and celebrated by the major media outlets like the NCAA basketball tournament and football bowl games.
Despite all these reasons, the baseball enthusiast and hardcore fantasy baseball addict may be searching for draft analysis and the dynasty owner looking for the next Bryce Harper or Noah Syndergaard. Well this is where it begins. For the next three weeks, we will be breaking down the MLB draft. I will be focusing on one division in the American League each week and my colleague, Kyle Amore, will be handling the National League.
We start on the Left Coast…
American League West
Highest Upside Pick
#11 Kyle Lewis OF, SEA
Height – 6’4”
Weight – 195 lbs
School – Mercer University, GA
Signing Status — Signed $3,286,700 bonus (at slot value)
This draft was wide-open at the top as there were rumored to be nearly a dozen players considered by scouts to be a possibility for the #1 overall pick. There were many skeptics on Lewis as they didn’t believe his small school competition would translate to pro ball. However, after his breakout sophomore season, he took his talents to the Cape Cod league in the Summer of ‘15 and continued to produce against quality competition with wood bats. He finished with an encore during his phenomenal Junior Season. He was the Southern Conference Player of the Year and challenged for the Division 1 hitting title. MLB.com had him ranked as their #3 overall prospect. Bleacher Report didn’t buy-in to the hype and thought he was a reach at #11 where Fantasy Pros and Sports Illustrated thought he was a steal here.
I am a little surprised he was not a top ten pick, but the Mariners are thrilled to get him there. They already got him to sign at slot value and he could prove to be the highest ceiling hitter in the draft.
Scouting Report: Despite not attending a major college program, Lewis was able to break on the scene with a rare blend of raw power and an excellent approach at the plate. He was shown a plus hit tool, but I think it is as developed as its going to be. His power potential is still raw and will certainly develop with professional hitting instructors at the minor league levels. He could develop plus-plus power by the time he reaches the Majors. This is due to his excellent bat speed and the ability to hit with power to all fields. Although not plus tools, his speed, arm and glove at least average if not above-average. He currently plays centerfield, but as he begins to play with more talented players, we should see him slide over to a corner outfield position where best profiles. He is not going to steal many bases, but he does have an understanding what he is doing on the bases. He has a patient approach at the plate and will draw walks. This is excellent as he will see less and less quality pitches the higher he advances. He is prone to swing and miss But, there is no reason to think this cannot be managed as he is developed by professional hitting instructors. He may be the closest to a five-tool player in this draft.
#37 Daulton Jefferies RHP, OAK
Height – 6’0”
Weight – 180 lbs
School – University of California
Signing Status — Signed for $1,745,700 bonus ($147K below slot value)
Injuries can be a tricky thing. Draft stock is often determined by healthy and sign-ability. Jefferies was drafted out of high school by the Marlins back in 2013, but he was always considered a lock to honor his college commitment. He established himself in the rotation as a Freshman and his stock was rising through the beginning of this Junior season. Then he hit the shelf with the dreaded “shoulder strain.” This is enough to remove him from many draft boards. But after sitting and resting the injury for about six weeks, Jefferies made an appearance at the end of the season with eight scoreless innings over two games to give MLB teams a reason to take a second look.
MLB.com has him listed as their #57 ranked prospect. This would indicate that they might consider him a reach in the compensation round. My view is that a polished LHP that proved he was healthy could pay dividends very quickly to a team desperate to inject immediate pitching help into their system. Prior to his injury, Jefferies was likely a first round pick and very well could have been a top 10 pick. This represents great value at #37 especially since they already locked him up saving nearly $150k in bonus money.
Scouting Report: Jefferies may not be a huge specimen, but he dominated the Pac-12 during his career with a plus fastball and command. He could hit the mid-90s, but he was able to vary speeds throughout the lower 90s that made the pitch play up to hitters. He does have a curve with potential and throws a occasional sinking change-up. These pitches are average and used simply to keep hitters from sitting on the fastball and are more effective against lefties. Despite the injury, he could be on a quick path to the Majors if he remains healthy and projects as a solid middle of the rotation starter. Not necessarily a future star like Lewis, but someone to keep on your radar in deeper leagues as he could debut as soon as 2017.
#30 Cole Ragans LHP, TEX
Height – 6’4”
Weight – 190 lbs
School – North Florida Christian High School, Tallahassee FL
Signing Status — Signed for $2,003,400 bonus (at slot value)
When you are picking at #30, it might be a stretch to call this a reach, but typically you select prep arms on the first day with high ceiling. Ragans, however, is more of a “high floor” arm which is more common of polished college pitchers. MLB.com ranking of #49 indicates that he is a mid-2nd Round grade and I would agree with this. The Rangers likely reached to ensure they could sign him away from a commitment at Florida State. They succeeded as he signed at slot value.
Scouting Report: Ragans does have a nice 3 pitch arsenal that should all be Major League average or slightly better, but there might not be much room for development. His best offering is a change-up and he has decent command for a prep arm. There is some concern his mechanics are inconsistent and it could get him in trouble against better competition in pro ball. He may profile to be a similar mid-rotation pitcher like Jefferies. But, concerns about consistency and experience make Jefferies a great value in this stage of the draft whereas Ragans is a reach.
Texas wanted to infuse their system with young pitching. They accomplished this with four new arms with their first six picks. I personally liked their pick of Kyle Cody at #189 better than this one as we could see him reach the Ranger’s bullpen this year.
Quickest Path to the Majors
#16 Matt Thaiss C, LAA
Height – 6’0”
Weight – 190 lbs
School – University of Virginia
Signing Status — Signed for $2,660,800 bonus ($510k below slot value)
I could see Thaiss following a “Kyle Schwarber” type development path. I thought be might have been a slight reach at #16. But the Angels were desperate for a solid bat and they may have picked up the most polished and MLB-ready one in the draft. He likely won’t stay at catcher and has already spent some time at 1B. Arguably, he has the highest hit tool in the college draft class and the Angels are looking for a quick-riser to help their beleaguered line-up. I was worried by his poor showing in last summer’s Cape Cod League performance. But he rebounded nicely this Spring. Other than the Cape Cod bleep on the radar, he is an extremely patient hitter with an advanced approach at the plate evidenced by walking more than striking out in both his Sophomore and Junior season. In fact his BB:K ratio was 32:8 this Spring and scouts now seem to be giving him a pass last Summer.
Scouting Report: As mentioned above, his greatest tool is his approach and as a result, his hit tool is not far behind. His draft slot would certainly be warranted if he could remain at catcher, but I don’t see the Angels spending time developing that. I expect him to get a lot of minor league reps at 1B and DH to get him plate appearances to ensure he is ready for the Major Leagues. He has definite extra-base hit power with potential Home Run power. We might see him by the end of the year, but he will definitely debut in 2017 at the latest.
Best AL West TEAM Draft
#6 AJ Puk LHP
#37 Daulton Jefferies RHP
#47 Logan Shore RHP
#83 Sean Murphy C
#112 Sklar Szynski RHP
I already discussed that Daulton Jefferies was a great value. But getting AJ Puk at #6 could also be considered a steal. Puk was considered a strong candidate to be the #1 overall pick. In fact, I read a mock draft as late as May that had him pegged for Philly with the first pick. The only thing that could explain his drop is a lack of consistency in his command. He is not as polished as you would like, but a 6’7″ lefty with a plus fastball (mid-high 90s) with a sweeping slider (think Andrew Miller) has the A’s drooling over his top of the rotation stuff. He also pitched against top notch competition in the SEC so there is no concern of his tools translating.
Logan Shore was a very nice pickup at #47 and the college teammate of Puk. He is extremely polished with impeccable command. He won’t blow you away with his stuff, but he will throw strikes. He had a perfect 11-0 season this year and was actually the #1 starter in the Gators rotation ahead of Puk. Don’t expect these numbers in pro ball, but his polished command and pro-ready change up could have him in the A’s rotation by 2017. The combo of Puk, Jefferies and Shore could all be in the A’s rotation in the next 2-3 seasons and prove to be the top draft class this year.
Sean Murphy is a nice pickup in Day Two as he should be a Major League caliber defensive Catcher. Scouts are split on his bat as the hit tool is not evident, but he did show some power potential. His plus-plus arm will no doubt give him every chance to be a regular catcher and he could advance quickly through the Minor Leagues if they don’t feel they need to develop his bat.
Finally, with all the college picks, they could afford to grab a high-caliber prep arm in the 4th round and sign him to a bonus way over slot to keep him from his commitment to Indiana University. The Indiana native is fairly polished for a cold-weather pitcher, but there is always some question to whether the lack of reps will cause him with affect him in long term. He has potential for two plus pitches that could give him #2-#3 starter ceiling. Overall projected quality of Oakland’s draft class edges out Seattle for the top in the AL West.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday June 23rd, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #19 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will be the first of 2 episodes covering the MLB Draft. This week we will cover the American League side of the draft.
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Major League Fantasy Football Weekly: Join Lou Landers, Zak Sauer, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday June 25th, 2016 from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #24 of Major League Fantasy Football Weekly. We will run our show on Saturday until August 27th, and then move back to Tuesday nights from 8-10pm EST on September 13th. This is a live broadcast and we do take callers at 323-870-4395. We will discuss the AFC West from a NFL and fantasy football perspective.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”