We begin our annual series of draft reviews with a look at how National League Western Division clubs approached the 2017 MLB Draft. The standard caveat applies: it takes five or six years before we really know how good a class was or wasn’t, but at least we can get some idea of the strategies employed.
1-7) Pavin Smith, 1B, University of Virginia
2-44) Drew Ellis, 3B, University of Louisville
2B-68) Daulton Varsho, C, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
3-82) Matt Tabor, RHP, Milton, MA
4-112) Harrison Francis, RHP, Tallahassee, FL
5-142) Buddy Kennedy, 3B, Millville, NJ
6-172) Brian Shaffer, RHP, University of Maryland
ANALYSIS: Interesting strategy here: heavy with advanced college bats on top, then a switch to upside prep ranks, then back to college for most of the subsequent choices. Smith, Ellis, and Varsho are three of the most impressive NCAA bats available, while Tabor and Francis were both in play as early as the second round. Shaffer was a dominant college arm and could get to the majors sooner than anyone but Smith. SLEEPERS: Speedy outfielder Tra’Mayne Holmes (11th round, Faulkner); polished right-hander Jeff Bain (16th round, Cal Poly Pomona). OVERALL IMPRESSION: I like it.
2-48) Ryan Vilade, 3B, Stillwater, OK
2B-70) Tommy Doyle, RHP, University of Virginia
3-86) Will Gaddis, RHP, Furman University
4-116) Pearson McMahan, RHP, St. John’s River State JC
5-146) Nick Kennedy, LHP, University of Texas
6-176) Chad Spanberger, 1B, University of Arkansas
7-206) Lucas Gilbreath, LHP, University of Minnesota
ANALYSIS: Lacking a first round pick, the Rockies went with a high-impact high school bat with Ryan Vilade then switched to college talent, primarily pitching. Analytics clearly helped make some of these choices, with the trio of Doyle, Gaddis, and Gilbreath in particular having “pound the strike zone and keep the ball down” approaches that might work in Coors. Spanberger and ninth-rounder Sean Bouchard (UCLA) provide home run power. SLEEPER: Juco arm Shameko Smith (RHP, Polk State, 13th round) has considerable upside. OVERALL IMPRESSION: I like this too.
Los Angeles Dodgers
1-23) Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt University
2-62) Morgan Cooper, RHP, University of Texas
3-100) Connor Wong, C, University of Houston
4-130) James Marinan, RHP, Lake Worth, FL
5-160) Riley Otteson, RHP, University of Utah
6-190) Willis Montgomerie, RHP, University of Connecticut
ANALYSIS: College-oriented obviously, but upside was not neglected. Kendall is rather raw for a college bat but his tools are among the best in the entire class. Cooper is a more finished talent, a four-pitch starter who throws strikes and has a great track record, when healthy. Wong is a solid hitter and unusually athletic for a catcher, while Marinan offers high school upside. Both Ottseson and Montgomerie could move quickly as relievers. SLEEPER: RHP Marshall Kasowski (13th round) led NCAA Division II in strikeouts and can hit 95. IMPRESSION: Heavy on advanced pitching which provides more arm depth to the system even if Kendall doesn’t pan out. If he does, a strong class.
San Diego Padres
1-3) MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville, NC
2-39) Luis Campusano, C, Augusta, GA
2B-69) Blake Hunt, C, Santa Ana, CA
3-78) Mason House, OF, Whitehouse, TX
4-108) Sam Keating, RHP, Fort Myers, FL
5-138) Jonny Homza, 3B, Anchorage, AK
6-168) Aaron Leasher, LHP, Morehead State University
ANALYSIS: A high-risk, high-impact approach that could pay huge dividends or blow up in their face. Gore is a strong pick at third-overall and could be the best high school pitcher in the class. High school catching is the riskiest demographic there is and the Padres doubled-down on that by picking both Campusano and Hunt. Both are strong defenders with bat questions. House has left-handed power but a short track record with no showcase experience for scouts to examine. Keating can hit 94 but his velocity is erratic, while Homza is physically talented but comes with doubts about his hitting. College picks dominated from that point with a focus on smaller schools. SLEEPER: Jake Lyons, RHP out of Weatherford JC in the 22nd round. ANALYSIS: Lots of gambles here, so it depends on your tolerance for risk. The upside is huge but this won’t pay quick dividends.
San Francisco Giants
1-19) Heliot Ramos, OF, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
2-58) Jacob Gonzalez, 3B, Scottsdale, Arizona
3-96) Seth Corry, LHP, Highland, Utah
4-126) Garrett Cave, RHP, University of Tampa
5-156) Jason Bahr, RHP, University of Central Florida
6-186) Bryce Johnson, OF, Sam Houston State
ANALYSIS: All upside with the first three picks then a switch to traditional Giants college draft picks who have a habit of turning out better than people initially expect. Ramos has explosive offensive potential and could be a terrific right fielder but needs to lock down his swing mechanics, while Gonzalez is already a masher but has defensive issues. Corry needs mechanical work but has impressive upside. Both Cave and Bahr could advance quickly as dominant relievers, while Johnson has one carrying tool (speed) and a good college track record. SLEEPERS: Rob Calabrese (C, Illinois-Chicago, 10th round) and Orlando Garcia (SS, Texas Tech, 15th round). ANALYSIS: I think there is a nice balance here between early upside and stabilizing safety in later rounds.