I will be breaking down my favorite, and least favorite, picks for every team. This is a six article series, going East to West for the AL and NL. I will break down four picks for each team with those being:
Best Pick: Likely a Monday selection that I love as a fit and/or upside for the organization.
Reach: A selection I just don’t like, or at least as early as the player was selected.
Sleeper: Likely a Tuesday selection that the team got lower than I would have selected them, providing good value.
Deep Sleeper: This will be a pick often after the 10th round that will likely be signed and provide value in the system and potentially become a future big league player. Some will be inside the top 10 rounds depending on how the draft unfolded for that given team.
To see the other lists, use the links below (to be added as the articles post):
Best Pick: Alek Thomas, OF, Mt. Carmel HS (IL) – Round 2, Pick 63 – A three sport star in high school and son of the Chicago White Sox Director of Strength and Conditioning, stating Thomas is athletic is a bit of an understatement. He has plus speed to go with plus instincts in the outfield that could make him an elite defensive center fielder. At the plate, he has a quick bat that gets to the ball well and makes hard contact often. The power is average at best and there isn’t s whole lot of projectability given he is 5’11” and was raised by a strength and conditioning coach, but his profile doesn’t need much power. His upside is a solid leadoff hitter who plays a Gold Glove center field and getting that at pick 63 is an absolute bargain.
Reach: Matt McLain, MIF, Beckman HS (CA) – Round 1, Pick 25 – I don’t dislike McLain, I just don’t like him as high as the Diamondbacks selected him. He has very good actions at short and should stick there, but he has the athleticism to move to any position on the infield. At the plate his feet are inconsistent which may prove to create a struggle against elite pitching. He uses far too much of his upper body in his swing, which takes away from his average upside power. Unlike most high school selections, McLain does not possess much in terms of projectability as he is already very well built and stands just 5’10”. In the end I see the upside of a league average starter, which is a fine pick at 25 but I see a likely upside of a utility infielder.
Sleeper: Matt Mercer, RHP, Oregon – Round 5, Pick 159 – Mercer’s delivery screams reliever despite being a weekend starter for the Ducks the past couple years. He has good mechanics up until his lower half fires and then he has parts going everywhere. The lack of repeatability has led to command struggles, but it has allowed him to show the ability to touch the upper-90s with a fastball that has a strong downhill plane. His secondary offerings are both below average at the current time, but his breaking ball has shown two different versions in his time at Oregon. The more recent curveball rolls through the break and doesn’t have much potential, but he has shown a late cutting slider that could be an above average pitch. He has the potential to be a shut down reliever, although the Diamondbacks will probably allow him to start his pro career as a starter until he proves he doesn’t have the command to stick there.
Deep Sleeper: Levi Kelly, RHP & Blaze Alexander, SS, IMG Academy (FL) – Round 8, Pick 249 & Round 11, Pick 339 – The Diamondbacks selected a duo of players from the IMG Academy and it appears both will be signing. Kelly has a delivery that is not unlike Mercer and will likely see a future in the bullpen, but Kelly has more projection and the youth that could allow him to be a starter. He sits 91-93 but has been up to 96 this spring with his fastball, although it can be pretty flat at times. His slider is really intriguing as it runs and has good depth to it which I could see turning into his best pitch. I have heard he has a change that is a work in progress but has potential, but I have not had the opportunity to see it myself. Kelly’s IMG teammate, Blaze Alexander, might have the strongest arm of any prep player this year, position player or pitcher. His cannon of an arm has been clocked at 99 MPH throwing it across the diamond. He has the athleticism and glove to play any position on the infield and could probably play any of the outfield positions if he needed to. He is long and lean, allowing for even more strength to be added to the frame, but that could come at the expense of his athleticism. Either way, for Alexander to become an everyday player at the highest level, he needs to improve the bat. He has busy hands and a long swing that will prove to be troublesome against pitchers at the next level, although there is a good plane to his swing that could develop into average to better power as he fills out. If I am in the Diamondbacks player development department, I focus on adding strength to Alexander and turning him into a powerful third baseman, where I see his upside as an above average regular.
Best Pick: Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss – Round 1, Pick 22 – As a whole I really like Rolison, I just don’t like the fit with the Rockies. That said, I battled between he and Mitchell Kilkenny as my best pick, and I am not going to let the altitude of Coors Field prevent me from praising Rolison here. He has a plus-plus curve along with a solid slider, good change, and a fastball that can get into the mid-90s. His delivery is easy and repeatable to go along with an innings eater body, I could see Rolison being a third starter in a rotation with the ability to go deep into games.
Reach: Grant Lavigne, 1B, Bedford HS (NH) – Competitive Balance A, Pick 42 – Lavigne is a big high school first baseman at 6’5” and 230 lbs., but he has already had to slim down as he was bigger at one point. High schoolers who have had weight concerns is always a red flag for me, although he did a very good job as he is mostly muscle now. His swing is compact allowing him to tap into his plus raw power, but he didn’t see much in terms of quality pitching in New Hampshire and, despite some reports of a future in left field, I see him purely as a first baseman. For me, if you are going to take a pure first baseman this early in the draft (see Tristan Casas) I need to see projectability and a track record against elite competition, boxes Lavigne does not check for me.
Sleeper: Andrew Quezada, RHP, Cal State Fullerton – Round 7, Pick 216 – Quezada is hurt by the Fullerton history of pitchers possessing pinpoint control. That said, he struck out more than three times the batters he walked and only walked two per nine this year. He has a lower 3/4 delivery which allows some good run in his fastball, although it does flatten out at times causing him to run into some trouble. He typically sits 90-93 but was up around 95-96 in short outing out of the pen on the Cape last summer. He has a slider that can be an above average pitch along with a change he can spot. There is some movement to his delivery but he gets good leg drive that should allow him to be a 4 or 5 starter in a big league rotation.
Deep Sleeper: Kyle Datres, 3B, North Carolina – Round 12, Pick 366 – I fully anticipating hearing Datres’ name called early on day two of the draft, but we didn’t hear his name until day three. He possesses good bat speed that allows him to handle any pitch and improved his patience at the plate this year. He has raw power that he has yet to tap into, but I could see him being an average to better bat with fringe average to average power. In the field, he has all the tools needed to stick at third, although he possesses enough athleticism that may see the Rockies give him some time at second as well. If he doesn’t tap into the power potential, he will be a utility infielder, but if the power comes he can be a starting caliber player.
Best Pick: Braydon Fisher, RHP, Clear Falls HS (TX) – Round 4, Pick 134 – Most would put J.T. Ginn here, but I am not the biggest fan of his. Fisher is a polarizing prospect with a wide range of opinions, but I like him here for the Dodgers. Fisher oozes upside with a fastball that has touched 96 with arm side run and depth. He has a slider that has flashed plus along with a solid change. He has a 3/4 slot arm angle that he pulls through well creating a good downhill plane and has displayed solid athleticism that allows him to repeat his delivery. He has every bit the upside of Ginn for me at a much lower cost.
Reach: Michael Grove, RHP, West Virginia – Round 2, Pick 68 – A healthy and productive Grove was in line to be a potential second round pick, but he was neither over the past year and a half recovering from Tommy John. His stuff can be dominant at times, sitting as high as 96 with a slider that runs, but the delivery has effort to it. I understand the narrative that he could be a mid-rotation starter, but I see him more as a late inning reliever. I don’t dislike the pitcher, but I don’t like drafting him at full health value when he hasn’t been able to throw in a game since early 2017.
Sleeper: Devin Mann, 2B, Louisville & Deacon Liput, 2B, Florida – Round 5, Pick 164 & Round 10, Pick 314 – Both Mann and Liput are productive collegiate players at elite programs. Mann has the potential to be an above average hitter in pro ball, although his defense and lack of athleticism leads to real questions about where he will play. Liput is a very good defensive second baseman that can really run but the bat has some questions in it. If the Dodgers could find a way to combine these two players into one they would have a first round talent, but until science allows for that I see them both having the upside of valuable bench options, although sticking Mann in left to allow the bat to carry him may be an option.
Deep Sleeper: Trey Dillard, RHP, San Jacinto College North (TX) – Round 16, Pick 494 – Dillard has a power fastball up to 98 and a curve that has flashed plus. He is a pure reliever with just those two pitches showing any real upside and not much in terms of control of either. If he can learn to command both pitches he has the potential of becoming a solid 7th inning type reliever. He is a JC pick with a commitment to Missouri but the Dodgers have a good shot to sign him.
Best Pick: Ryan Weathers, LHP, Loretto HS (TN) – Round 1, Pick 7 – Weathers does not have a true power pitch, but he is a polished high school lefty. There is mild effort at the end of his delivery, but some adjustments that allow him to use his lower half in his delivery and more give to his front leg could help this. Currently he fights against himself with his landing leg which nearly had me putting Weathers as a reach, but his pitch mix and command landed him as the best pick. He has a fastball that can get to the mid-90s with run and sink out of a 3/4 arm slot. He has a sharp curve and an advanced change to go with the rare ability to command all three pitches. I don’t see the huge upside often attached to the number seven pick, but he has as high a floor of any high schooler not named Matthew Liberatore for me.
Reach: Grant Little, OF, Texas Tech – Competitive Balance B, Pick 74 – It is tough to get a good read on Little’s future as he has the athleticism to play up the middle, but was a left fielder for Texas Tech. Some feel he can play center, while there is also some belief he can move to the infield where he has seen time in the offseason to show off his versatility. He had a breakout year in the power department this season, going from two to 12 home runs, walking more than he struck out, and improving his average by 45 points. His swing is more of an inside out swing and his stance can get wide, but supporters of Little will point to his recent numbers as a sign he has broken out, while his detractors will question whether or not his power will play at the next level and a big question on his position. There are just too many questions on Little to be taken this early in the draft.
Sleeper: Jawuan Harris, OF, Rutgers – Round 7, Pick 201 – The big question with Harris is will he hit? He possesses plus-plus speed with a solid arm and solid reads in center. He will play as a defense first outfielder and can provide a spark off the bench with his speed. The swing is long and he strikes out far too often, but he is quite projectable for a collegiate hitter as he is a safety on the Rutgers football team, meaning he did not get the Summer or Fall work most college hitters can take advantage of. There is some uppercut to his swing and good strength in his body that suggests he may develop some power, but his role will ultimately be determined by how much hard contact he can make at the next level.
Deep Sleeper: Sean Guilbe, 2B, Muhlenberg HS (PA) – Round 12, Pick 351 – It appears Guilbe will in fact sign despite his Tennessee commitment, meaning Tennessee is losing two impact infielders from this year’s recruiting class, the other being Jonathan Ornelas to the Rangers. He has the arm to stick at third, although his below average athleticism limits him to a corner infield spot and his glove will never be more than average. The hit tool is a real concern as the bat is long and the swing is stiff, but he has legit power. When he clears his hips in sync with his hands he can hit the ball a mile, which could make him a plus power hitter, but that will be the tool that carries him. Ultimately, I am not high on the chances Guilbe carves out a big league career for himself, but the 30+ home run upside is too good not to be worth the shot in round 12.
Best Pick: Joey Bart, C, Georgia Tech – Round 1, Pick 2 – Being considered as possibly the best catcher in program history is impressive, when it is a program that produced Jason Varitek and Matt Wieters it is simply incredible. Bart had the bat to be a high pick coming out of high school if he wasn’t adamant he would be attending Georgia Tech, and it has paid off as he went from a question behind the plate to a sure thing. He has good feet and hands to go with a plus arm that allows him to control the running game. At the plate he has improved his pitch selection and approach, taking what is given to him but punishing a mistake. He has potential plus power while putting up a solid average at one of the elite defensive positions on the diamond. Overall, a great player for the Giants.
Reach: Keaton Winn, RHP, Iowa Western CC – Round 5, Pick 136 – Winn is a tall righty that sits under 90 MPH with limited run on most days. He has a high arm slot who short arms the ball too much to really project as a long-term starter. He has a slider and change, neither are all that impressive but his best pitch is the slider as it shows late break. The Giants did not have a typical draft in terms of value signs, so this may be a case of a rare JuCo value deal.
Sleeper: Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky – Round 2, Pick 45 – It is tough to call a second round pick a sleeper, but I love Hjelle here. He is 6’11” tall and would become tied as the tallest player in MLB history when he makes it there, but he has surprising body control for a pitcher of his size. His fastball has touched 96, but given he is only 215 lbs. at that height, there is plenty of projectability to potentially sit 96 in the future. It goes without saying that there is massive downhill plane on the fastball that is above average with plus potential. His curve is his best pitch, already plus, can be an out pitch in the big leagues today. He has shown feel for a solid change has a slider that really runs with command of all four pitches. He takes away some of his height by dropping his arm to a 3/4 to low-3/4 slot but gets huge extension that makes it seem like he is almost handing the ball to the catcher. Most see him as a mid-rotation starter, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a solid number two starter by the Bay.
Deep Sleeper: Bryce Tucker, LHP, Central Florida – Round 14, Pick 406 – The Giants did not select a college senior until the 27th round, so there will be a lot of interest in how many juniors and high schoolers they manage to sign this year. Of those selected soon after the 10th round, Tucker is the most intriguing for me. While his hunched over 3/4 slot delivery leads to control troubles, he can be truly dominant at times at the back of a bullpen. His fastball sits up to 92, but he hides the ball well behind his head and it backs up some giving it the look of a rising fastball. Also has a slurvy breaking ball that is sharp on some nights but sharp and dart at other times. He does not have closing potential at the next level, but the cross body look to his fastball and solid breaking ball means he is not limited to lefty-only duty either. He could be a solid seventh or eight inning guy who can make a real impact in today’s reliever heavy baseball landscape.