I have resisted writing about the MLB draft for a couple of reasons so far, the first being that I am woefully unqualified to really talk about anything other than pick #10, there are just too many players for me to really track for anything beyond that. The second is that all of the injuries have made this draft very volatile and in constant flux, so I wanted to hold off for as long as possible. The last is that I really have no clue what the Phillies will do. But with all that being said, here are some thoughts.
These Guys Will Be Gone: Brendan Rodgers, Dillon Tate, Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, Kyle Funkhouser
Rodgers and Tate are 1 and 2 for me, but I see no way either makes it past 3. Earlier in draft season I thought one of Swanson or Bregman would be on the board at 10, but the combination of injuries and their success has them likely going very early. Funkhouser is not a consensus Top 10 player in the draft, but he appears to be the #2 college starter to me, and that likely goes to someone in the first 9 picks.
I am Scared of the Vandy Pitchers
I look at Walker Buehler and I see a guy with a tick worse stuff than Aaron Nola a year ago but without the command or the fastball life. He is a tiny guy which scares me some, but I am less worried about little guys breaking than I used to be. Carson Fulmer has the better stuff because the fastball has life and sits a bit higher. I don’t worry about the size, I do worry about the effort in the delivery. Some guys make it work for a bit, but I am not sure I trust there to be a peak and just a flash in the pan.
I Get but Don’t Get Kevin Newman
Newman is probably deserving of being a top 10 pick because playing shortstop and being able to hit are carrying tools. He feels like he should be safe, but I am not sure I buy that. Last year there were 5 MLB shortstops drafted out of college. Three are glove first guys who can’t really hit in Brandon Crawford, Jordy Mercer, and Zach Cozart. Then there is oft-hurt superstar Troy Tulowitzki, and finally Jed Lowrie who has cracked 2 WAR twice in his career and also can’t stay healthy. I am not ready to trust a player with only an above average glove this high in the draft. I just don’t see the profile being that exciting if he has to move elsewhere. I am big proponent of drafting shortstops, but the talent at the spot doesn’t make me comfortable.
I Don’t Like the Other College SPs
Nathan Kirby gives me Jesse Biddle vibes, I don’t want a guy without command who also lacks plus stuff. If the Phillies were picking in the 15-20 range I would be more comfortable with a Jon Harris, Tyler Jay, Phil Bickford, or Cody Ponce, but none of them give me warm fuzzy feelings at 10. I just don’t see the combination of stuff and safety to make any of them worth it.
I Want No Part of the TJ Guys
It was fun for a little bit to dream on Michael Matuella and Brady Aiken, and taking the next Lucas Giolito or Jeff Hoffman. Matuella has the kind of talent to be an ace when he returns, but the arm wasn’t the only thing that was hurt over the years. It feels like the vision of him might be of the idealized version of what he could be and not what he really has been. There is a lot of smoke around Aiken that seem to indicate it wasn’t just the UCL that was the problem with Aiken. I like the talent here and he will be a great risk for some team, but I am not willing to endorse that risk right now with all the question marks.
What is still out there then?
The HS OFers:
Now they won’t all be on the board at 10, but some order of Kyle Tucker, Nick Plummer, Daz Cameron, Trenton Clark, and Garrett Whitley are going to go off the board between 5 and 20. I don’t know enough to differentiate between all of them, but all are fairly hit first which makes me more comfortable. Right now I would be comfortable with any of them, but I am not pumped up enough about any of them to be championing them right now.
The HS Pitchers:
There are two HS pitchers who could be on the board at #10, the first is LHP Kolby Allard who ended his year hurt, but with enough time to heal before the draft. He is fairly small (generously listed at 6’0″) but brings a fastball that can get to 97 with a chance at a plus breaking ball. He is also young for the class (turns 18 in August) and so there may be some more stuff and feel here. Allard was not a prototype HS pitcher of the old regime, but he is built like some of the latin pitchers in the system that have had some success. On the opposite end of the scale is giant 6’5″ RHP Mike Nikorak from Stroudsburg, PA. He has been a bit inconsistent this spring, but he has the ideal frame and can pitch at 93-96 touching 97-98 with a plus curve. He is the prototype guy that scouts love to dream on, and he comes from a northern state with limited use on the arm.
For some reason with all the hitter hugging, one guy seems to keep falling around 10 and that is Cincinnati RFer Ian Happ. I am hoping Happ can move back to second base in pro-ball and I would think a team like the Phillies would at least give it a try. Even if he is in a corner outfield position he is a potential above average hit and power guy from both sides of the plate. That may not be a superstar in RF, but he could probably step into hi-A or AA right now and it is a floor that is quite appealing. If he can handle 2B he is a potential steal and superstar.
Once we get past the first round, the draft should be pretty normal in terms of value, but right now look at #10 is not the prettiest thing ever.