A reader recently asked for an early take on the 2015 MLB first round draft picks. That seems like a reasonable topic. We wrote up the hitters yesterday. Here's the pitchers, and we will include what we originally wrote about them back in June, in italics.
Grades listed here are a starting point if I write the 2016 book.
4) Texas Rangers: Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara: Junior, 2.26 ERA with 111/28 K/BB in 103 innings, 66 hits. Former closer turned to starting and performed well, upper-90s fastball with hard slider, change-up, stuff down a little towards the end but was still the first pitcher drafted and a logical choice for the Rangers. Rumors that he could slip down the lists proved unfounded. Upside: number two starter or a power closer. RESULTS: Just nine innings of work between Northwest and South Atlantic Leagues, with eight strikeouts, three walks, three hits, and one run. Showed anticipated talent in that brief look. Preliminary rating Grade B+.
6) Minnesota Twins: Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois: Junior, extremely successful three-year reliever (1.48 ERA, 137/30 K/BB in 122 college innings over three years, just 69 hits, 24 saves) but has the size and stuff to start, low/mid-90s heat, quality slider, solid curve and change-up, no issues with command. Most teams see him as a starter now and he had a chance to be the first pitcher drafted overall. Instead he is the second. The Twins don't have an issue converting relievers into starters. RESULTS: 18 innings of relief work in High-A, pitched terribly at first (8.53 ERA in July with bad ratios) but improved massively in August, finished with 3.93 ERA, 22/8 K/BB, 18 hits, and some observers thinking he could have helped the Twins down the stretch out of the pen. Still said to be moving to starting role next spring, which will have an impact on the grade if that remains the word. Probably a B at this point.
8) Chicago White Sox: Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt: Junior, 1.92 ERA with 147/41 K/BB in 108 innings, 71 hits, mid-90s heat with strong breaking stuff, outstanding makeup. High-effort delivery causes some observers to project him in pen, but an increasing number see him as a starter and the White Sox are not afraid of pitchers with unconventional mechanics. RESULTS: Like Tate and Jay, light workload coming off college season, 23 innings between rookie ball and High-A, 1.96 ERA with 26/9 K/BB, 17 hits. Scouting reports still strong, early numbers good, still a matter of perfecting command as he moves up. B+.
14) Atlanta Braves: Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS, California: UCLA commit, candidate to go in top five until a stress reaction injury in his back sidelined him. When healthy, delivers easy 90+ heat with impressive curveball and low-effort delivery. Potentially a huge steal here for the Braves, could be top of rotation guy if it all comes together. RESULTS: Six innings in rookie ball, one hit, zero runs, zero walks, 12 strikeouts. Tiny sample of course but extremely impressive, have to think the Braves did very well with this one. B+?
16) New York Yankees: James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA: Junior, 2.02 ERA with 114/33 K/BB in 106 innings, 86 hits, velocity kicked up well into 90s this spring and he already knew how to pitch with full arsenal, excellent instincts. Won’t need long in the minors, mid-rotation projection, should be a durable strike-throwing workhorse type. Maybe not a sexy pick, but that doesn't mean it is a bad one.RESULTS: Another cautious workload for a college arm but with solid results: 3.97 ERA in 11.1 innings but with 14/4 K/BB and lots of praise for polish, as you'd expect with his background. Minimum Grade B.
17) Cleveland Indians: Brady Aiken, LHP, IMG Academy: Age-equivalent of a college freshman, first round pick first overall last year but deal with Astros fell apart after medical exam revealed elbow issues. Out with Tommy John as you know, rumored to go late in the first round so the slot here with Cleveland is a bit of a surprise, but it is an intriguing gamble. RESULTS: Obviously no data here with the surgery.
18) San Francisco Giants: Phil Bickford, RHP, JC of Southern Nevada: Sophomore, insane stats (1.45 ERA, 166/21 K/BB in 87 innings, 45 hits) on the strength of nasty sinking fastball overmatching wooden bat JC hitters. Slider and change draw mixed reviews, he was projected anywhere from Top Ten to the late 20s so this is a mid-point spot. The Giants seem like a great organization for his skill set, needing to refine the secondaries to go with his present strength and velocity. RESULTS: Cautious workload in rookie ball, made 10 starts but threw just 22 innings, 2.01 ERA with outstanding 32/6 K/BB and just 13 hits. Scouting reports are a bit mixed and depend on who saw him when; he was too good for this level for certain but projections still vary between "future number two starter" and "middle reliever' depending on how the observer in question assesses Bickford's secondary pitches. I go with optimism here. Minimum Grade B.
21) Kansas City Royals: Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS, Indianapolis, Indiana: Texas A&M commit, live body at 6-4, 195, cold-weather background, high upside with mid-90s heat but secondary pitches that need development. Stock has been up and down a little but ultimately this seems like an appropriate spot. Number two starter upside.RESULTS: Pitched 36 innings in Appalachian League with mediocre results, 4.21 ERA with 24/13 K/BB with 32 hits. Reports I have at this time are pretty vague; working on the research here, numbers are neither good nor bad enough to conclude anything. Preliminary high-ceiling B-.
22) Detroit Tigers: Beau Burrows, RHP, Weatherford HS, Texas: Texas A&M commit, would make one hell of a one-two punch with Russell but that's not going to happen now. Stuff is right there with Russell and Donny Everett but he's 6-0, not 6-2, and there was some concern his height might hurt his stock. That didn't happen either; his mid-90s arm strength certainly fits well into the Tigers mold. RESULTS: 28 innings in rookie ball and very good innings at that, 1.61 ERA, 33/11 K/BB, 18 hits. Reports here are positive and fit the numbers; he may actually have been under-rated in high school. Thinking Grade B at this time, more plausible.
24) Los Angeles Dodgers: Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt: Junior, 2.97 ERA with 81/25 K/BB in 79 innings, 78 hits. Some nagging injuries but throws four quality pitches for strikes; like Carson Fulmer and James Kaprielian, he won’t need long in the minors. Mid-rotation projection, with some chance to exceed that, making him a potential bargain in this spot for the Dodgers. RESULTS: Tommy John surgery.