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: Carter Stewart, RHP, Eau Gallie HS (FL) – Round 1, Pick 8 – I nearly picked second round pick Greyson Jenista here as I think he was a great grab in the second round, but Steward just has too much upside not to make him the top pick. He possesses a fastball that can touch 98 and has a ton of run to it. His curve may be the best in the class that is sharp and absolutely falls of the table. He has flashed the ability to get a change over that could develop into at least an average pitch. The arm action is long but his hips fire with the arm well limiting some of the concern in his delivery. With two pitches that have true plus to plus plus potential, Stewart has the upside of a front of the rotation arm, which is exactly what you want when you are picking in the top 10.
Reach: Ryan Shetter, RHP, Texas Tech – Round 9, Pick 262 – It is hard to call a ninth round pick a reach, but it is also a round generally reserved for senior signs. In the Braves defense they did draft a senior in round seven which can help free up some money for the juniors in rounds eight and nine. I have tried to get some velocity readings and a pitch mix on him, but he wasn’t really considered much of a prospect from scouts I have talked to, so the may be a rare discounted junior signing. He has a strong lower half but a whippy arm action. The hand positioning is easy to read when he throws his breaking ball which is a slow, looping curve. Overall, if they sign him for a discount, the draft position is fine, but it is a real risk to take a college junior without much upside inside the top ten rounds.
Sleeper: Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford – Round 4, Pick 112 – Few would have batted an eye had Beck gone in the Competitive Balance A or Compensation Round 1 in the draft, but instead he slipped to the fourth round. The big concern for Beck is his health as he missed nearly two years on the mound due to stress fractures in his back. He started the season strong with his fastball in the lower mid-90s with run, but his velocity dropped some as the season went along. He has a cutting slider that has late run that makes it an above average offering and a power curve that falls off the table. The change is his lowest graded pitch but can still flash as a potential above average pitch at times. If Beck stays healthy, he has the chance to command four above average pitches, which could make him a very good mid-rotation starter.
Deep Sleeper: Nolan Kingham, RHP, Texas – Round 12, Pick 352 – It will be really interesting to see if Kingham signs, as he had a dominant year as a sophomore, but struggled at times this season. He has a fastball that can get up to 97 with a good downhill plane, but he can also give it a two-seam grip and throw it more in the range of 93 but with good run. He has a solid curve and a change that could be an average pitch. He has a strong body that can handle a starter’s workload to go with raw stuff of a mid-rotation guy. If he goes back for a senior season he loses all leverage, but he also doesn’t have much being drafted in the 12th round, so his contract negotiations are definitely worth keeping a close eye on.
Best Pick: Will Banfield, C, Brookwood HS (GA) – Competitive Balance B, Pick 69 – Connor Scott is a solid pick in the first round, but he lacks the difference making bat I like to see when picking in the top half of the first round. Banfield is a player that can be a real difference maker with the glove and add some pop at the plate. He is arguably the best defensive catcher in the draft with quick feet and a plus arm that regularly sees pop times in the 1.80-1.85 range. As is the case with so many young hitters with leg kicks, is weight shifts out to his front leg far too much, causing him to lose some bat control and take away some of his power. On the rare occasions I was able to see swings with good balance, the bat plane gets much better and has some natural power in it. With some adjustments he could become a .275 hitter with 15-20 home run potential to go along with being a plus defensive catcher, which I admit I am a sucker for.
Reach: Osiris Johnson, SS, Encinal (CA) – Round 2, Pick 53 – It wasn’t long ago Johnson seemed destined for the outfield where his elite athleticism and above average arm would allow him to shine, but he wanted to be a shortstop and has put in the work and improved enough that he just may stick. He is still a bit stiff and the outfield may still be his ultimate destination. The bat is rough, with his front foot landing just a split second before his hips fire causing his bat to take a while to get through the zone and taking away from his potential power. Overall, he was simply drafted a couple rounds too early for me as I think his upside would have made for a worthy flying around the fourth round.
Sleeper: Tristan Pompey, OF, Kentucky – Round 3, Pick 89 – Pompey is not the burner or defender his older brother Dalton is, but he has a better bat. Tristan’s eye at the plate is a well above average but he can get long in his swing when he tries to punish a ball he likes. There is the potential for plus power in his bat and he could become an above average hitter as a whole despite his rough summer in the Cape last year. He won’t be able to man center like his brother and his arm definitely isn’t one for right field, so he is going to have to hit as his lone position will be left, luckily he has the bat to do it.
Deep Sleeper: Zach Leban, RHP, Kansas – Round 12, Pick 357 – The Jayhawks closer has reached 97 on the gun and sits in the mid-90s. He does short arm the ball in his 3/4 slot and his slurvy breaking ball is only an average offering. Overall, he probably has the ceiling of a low leverage reliever, but he does have that real upside of being a big league reliever which is worth a shot in the 12th round.
Best Pick: Jerred Kelenic, OF, Waukesha West HS (WI) – Round 1, Pick 6 – The two big questions on Kelenic are whether or not he sticks in center and how much power can he tap into. Should he move off center, he has a plus arm that will play very well in right and if he does move to right it will be because he has slowed due to adding strength which will almost certainly result in power thanks to his solid swing. His bat is quick to the zone and has a good bat plane where he is able to keep his hands above the ball and clear his hands well without getting jammed inside. Even if he does slow down from his above average present speed, his instincts in the outfield could allow him to stick in center or become a well above average fielder in right. He is the highest drafted player out of the state of Wisconsin and, while he has a lot of work to do to match the career of Hall of Famer Al Simmons, he could have one of the better careers of anyone from the state too.
Reach: Carlos Cortes, OF, South Carolina – Round 3, Pick 83 – Cortes is an odd profile, standing just 5’8” with the ability to have a good compact swing, but too often lengthening it out to add power but significantly increasing his swing and miss exposure. He does not have a position that he fits perfectly, playing the outfield for the most part at South Carolina but he doesn’t have the defensive chops to be a regular center fielder, nor does he have the arm strength in his left arm to fit well in right. I point out the left arm because he is the almost unheard-of position player who is ambidextrous and switches throwing arms so he can play the infield. The upside for Cortes is as a super utilityman but that will all be determined on the bat which I am still not sold on.
Sleeper: Bryce Montes De Oca, RHP, Missouri – Round 9, Pick 260 – One of the more fascinating players in the draft, he is listed as a senior on the MLB draft tracker but did Redshirt a year so he has another year of eligibility after already turning down opportunities to turn pro after being selected in the 14th and 15th rounds out of high school and again last year. He is why 6’7” and has good extension on a fastball that can touch 100 with run and drop to it. His slider is a power pitch that dives late giving him two potential plus pitches. He has a lengthy injury history which may lead the Mets to move him to the bullpen. If he remains a starter he does have a change but it needs a lot of work as does his command. The bullpen is the most likely location for him long term where he could become an elite closer in the next few years.
Deep Sleeper: Christian Tripp, RHP, New Mexico – Round 13, Pick 380 – A high effort delivery and cross body action against a front leg that lands early is concerning, but he has been a dominant closer for New Mexico and won’t ever get a start, so the mechanics are a little less of an issue. He is 6’7” with that typically tops out around 94, but the low 3/4 arm slot and long extension allows it to get on hitters quickly along with some good movement to it. He has a slider that dives at left handers feet giving him two average to better pitches that could work in a mid-relief role in time.
Best Pick: Colton Eastman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton – Round 4, Pick 107 – The Phillies second and third round picks were sent to the Indians and Cubs in the compensatory rounds thanks to the signing of Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta, so they had to get creative with their draft. They were fortunate when Eastman slid to them in the fourth as he has real potential to be a mainstay in their rotation for years. He has an average fastball that sits up to 92 with very good command. He has an above average curve and a true plus change, both pitches he is not afraid to throw in any count. His delivery is repeatable and he uses his legs well. He isn’t flashy nor will he ever be a star, but he has the highest floor of any player selected by the Phillies.
Reach: Alec Bohm, 1B/3B, Wichita State – Round 1, Pick 3 – I will probably receive a lot of flak for this one, but I am not the biggest fan of Bohm. He does not have the quickness or glove to stick at third, so first base is his lone future position leaving his bat to carry him. That said, he has the bat to carry him with a very good approach for a true power hitter, his bat can be a difference maker at the pro level. That said, I just don’t like him at three. I would not be shocked if his college teammate Greyson Jenista goes on to have a better career and I could make a case for 10+ players I would select ahead of Bohm in a vacuum. Bohm has true home run power to hit 25-30 a year but won’t be putting up the majestic bombs. Again, I like the player and think he will have a fine career, he just wouldn’t be a top 10 pick for me, much less top 5.
Sleeper: Dominic Pipkin, RHP, Pinole Valley HS – Round 9, Pick 257 – Chances are the Phillies get Bohm to sign below slot and much of the money saved will likely be spent on ninth round pick Pipkin. He is incredibly lean at 6’4” and just 170 lbs., he drips with upside. The delivery is slow, deliberate, and well balanced with some leg drive and a smooth 3/4 arm slot. His fastball played up to 96 in showcases but was more typically at 93 during the high school season. He has a curve that spins and hangs too often, but at its best has flashed above average and has an inconsistent change that has shown a lot of drop and run. Given he has so much potential along with a smooth delivery for a long righty, the chances of him becoming a mid-rotation starter is real and could prove to be an absolute steal in the ninth round.
Deep Sleeper: Jesse Wilkening, C, Nebraska – Round 14, Pick 407 – One of the best college catchers on paper in this year’s class, Wilkening has the body of a catcher at 5’11” and 200lbs. with most of the weight in the lower half. He is solid as a receiver behind the plate and has an above average arm meaning he will be a catcher at the next level. At the plate, he has a deep crouch stance and shows some pop but the bat can be a tick slow at times. His upside is that of a backup catcher that can provide a solid bat while handling a pitching staff well a couple times a week.
Best Pick: Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut – Round 2, Pick 65 – Arguably the best left handed curve in this year’s class, Cate is anything but traditional. In an organization that loves power arms, Cate is a generous 6’ lefty with a fastball that typically sits 88-92. He has an infrequently used change that has flashed average to better and has command of all three of his pitches. The curveball is easily his best pitch, a plus to better offering that will carry him whether as a starter or in the bullpen. I believe he can stick as a starter as the fastball does have some life on it that will allow it to play well and, with a developed change, he can be a mid-rotation starter. The curve will be the star for him though, as he can start it at a hitter’s eye level and it falls off the table and into the zone, or he can start it above the belt and have it bounce on the plate while getting a swing-and-miss.
Reach: Reid Schaller, RHP, Vanderbilt – Round 3, Pick 101 – The insanely rare draft eligible redshirt freshman, Schaller simply doesn’t have the track record to be a third round pick. He has thrown under 27 innings after battling injuries his senior year of high school and missing his entire first season at Vandy with Tommy John surgery. He has a big fastball that reached 98 this season with an average slider and a change that needs work. He throws with a real short arm that screams reliever, but he doesn’t have a wipeout secondary offering to be a late inning guy. To me has a ceiling of middle relief, and it is just too early in the draft to go for somebody with such a limited ceiling that also has a low floor.
Sleeper: Gage Canning, OF, Arizona State – Round 5, Pick 161 – Having improved in almost every offensive category all three years as a Sun Devil, Canning is one of the more productive day two selections this year. Canning has a good swing from the left side with a quick bat although he does strike out a bit more than you want from a guy who won’t provide much in terms of home run power. He does drive the ball into the gaps well and can stretch it for an extra base with his above average speed. He can play all three outfield positions with a solid arm and very good reads in center. His tools say he should be a very good fourth outfielder but he has the intangibles and grittiness that it wouldn’t be a surprise if he turns into a solid every day player in a big league lineup.
Deep Sleeper: Carson Shaddy, 2B, Arkansas – Round 10, Pick 311 – Speaking of productive college performers, see Carson Shaddy. He is a fifth-year senior that has been a mainstay in the Razorback lineup the past three years. His ceiling is as a utility infielder, but his best position is second base. His bat is relatively quick through the zone and he creates enough lift to knock some balls out. Given the fact he is a fifth year senior, he should be a cheap signing and a player who will move through the low minors very quickly.