The 2016 MLB Draft is here! And the throne game begins at 4pm. Are you ready to rule?
What follows are two groups of names I could happily get behind should the Angels select one of them in the top two rounds. No more, no less – just some talent, with a reasonable likelihood of availability given the Angels draft position, that might make some impact on the Angels' desiccated farm system. YMMV, and that's what the comment section is for!
First off, this initial board assumes that Zack Collins and Blake Rutherford are top-twelve talents who are unavailable at this point, and I think that's a fairly safe bet.
A less safe assumption, also made here, is that Mississippi State ace Dakota Hudson is also off the board, though some mocks this week have him falling into the mid-teens.
We'll see. If such an eventuality happens, it will be virtually a repeat of 2014, when Newcomb slid to the Angels at #15, and the Angels felt it necessary to seize the opportunity. While I think there's some fair debate to be had as to whether Hudson presents a better talent than some of the names near the top of the following list, his availability might prove difficult to pass up should he still be on the board when the Angels are summoned to the podium.
|Bryan Reynolds||College OF, Switch, Vanderbilt|
|Nolan Jones||HS 3B, Lefty, Holy Ghost Prep (Pennsylvania)|
|Alex Kirilloff||HS OF, Lefty, Plum HS (Pennsylvania)|
|Josh Lowe||HS 3B, Lefty, Pope HS (Georgia)|
|Will Craig||College 3B/1B, Righty, Wake Forest|
|T.J. Zeuch||College RHP, Pittsburgh|
|Justin Dunn||College RHP, Boston College|
|Anfernee Grier||College OF, Righty, Auburn|
|Cody Sedlock||College RHP, Illinois|
|Eric Lauer||College LHP, Kent State|
The first four names on this board really could be in almost any order, and I've slotted them differently several times at this point. They constitute the three best remaining high schoolers in terms of athleticism, polish and power ceiling, along with the best college outfielder in terms of a balanced package of tools (speed, power, patience, glove) – a guy who will move quickly through the org, and is likely to be able to remain up the middle long-term. As I'm a fan in addition to being a farm enthusiast, I place Reynolds first, as I think he's nearest the show, and could contribute in a couple seasons if things so well.
Beyond that quartet, it's more high floor than ceiling, but there are some interesting profiles to consider. Will Craig is a name that has not been associated with the Angels at all that I've seen (the Mets are said to be rather focused on him at pick #19), but he's second only to Collins in providing a compelling power/patience profile in this draft. Yes, he's essentially all bat. He walks more than he strikes out, and he doesn't strike out that much for a big righty with 37 HRs in 550 ABs. The knock on him is that he's big-bodied, and while a third-baseman now, may turn into more of a Billy Butler type down the line. But try to imagine the Angels in three or four years, with Pujols and Cron manning 1B/DH, and ask yourself what they could do with 4-5 years of a Billy Butler in his prime? If that's the downside, and the upside is a guy who can stick at 3B for awhile and still clobber the ball, then this is a name we should be giving more consideration to in round one.
Four of the five names that follow after Craig are essentially the safest college arms on the board – pitchers who have performed very well this year, and who possess multiple offerings that can play in a MLB rotation. Lauer has been the least heralded of these, but he's also seen the most success of the four this season, maintaining a video-game-silly ERA of 0.69 across 15 starts this season at Kent State, and is one of the most secure plays in the draft – likely to become a mid-rotation workhorse as early as 2019. If he's the last name on my board, the Angels have a lot to choose from.
The one guy that may seem a tad peculiar among the ten above also may be my favorite. Anfernee Grier is a name that most forecasters think will go in the 30s and 40s (and thus will not be available when the Angels select in the second round), but I think he deserves higher consideration. Names like Taylor Trammell and Will Benson – representing toolsy speed/power plays in the prep class – are rumored to go in the top 30, but to my mind, Grier represents almost a best case scenario of where one would hope Trammell or Benson would be in 2-3 years after drafting. The Georgian from Auburn won't be 21 until the off-season, and he led the competitive SEC division in many categories in his junior year, and received both All-SEC and All-American honors as a dynamic centerfielder, flashing both power and speed this year. Like Trammell and Benson, the worry is that the plate discipline against advanced pitching needs cultivating. On the other hand, the Angels really have no one nearly as athletic and exciting as Anfernee Grier in their system right now. Why commit to 5-6 years of development for a lad like Benson, on the small promise of more power upside, when a guy like Grier may hit the MLB in three years flat, if the tools play at higher levels?
Projecting who will be available in round two, roughly between picks 51 and 77, is necessarily a bit more speculative. I suspect half of the names on this list will be gone by the time the Angels select at #60.
The quantity of solid (if not elite) players in this draft class really makes me pine for an additional pick between round one and two. There are a number of names that fall into the territory of the first compensation rounds and the early second round who would have provided for a nice, balanced trio of selections, had the Angels, say, traded for Arizona's lottery selection at #39 (or the like). I'm thinking toolsy players like (yes) Anfernee Grier or Buddy Reed, or fairly polished college arms like Logan Shore, Anthony Kay, and the first guy (added perhaps too optimistically) on our second board.
|Dane Dunning||College RHP, Florida|
|Heath Quinn||College OF, Righty, Samford|
|Akil Baddoo||HS OF, Lefty, Salem HS (Georgia)|
|Ronnie Dawson||College OF, Lefty, Ohio State|
|Zac Gallen||College RHP, North Carolina|
|Hunter Bishop||HS OF, Lefty, Serra HS (California)|
|Kyle Funkhouser||College RHP, Louisville|
|Jake Fraley||College OF, Lefty, Louisiana State|
|Hudson Sanchez||HS SS, Righty, Carroll Senior HS (Texas)|
|Sheldon Neuse||College SS/3B, Righty, Oklahoma|
Dunning would be a terrific value at #60, but he's probably gone well before this. Nonetheless, I'm putting Florida's #3 starter, with the mid-90s FB and plus change, at the top of the board.
Following him are three guys I'd be more than happy to get here. Two college mashers in Quinn and Dawson who can really punish the ball, but who have some contact questions that lower their stock somewhat. Quinn has some of the biggest power in the draft, with 44 HRs over his first 700 college ABs, but that comes with 161 Ks to boot. Here's a nice profile on Dawson, who has been one of the under-the-radar bats in the draft, but who has an intriguing power/speed profile and a lot of tools. Meanwhile, Baddoo is a toolsy left-handed prep OF who's not far off from a guy like Taylor Trammell, rumored to go much higher. He has an excellent speed/power ceiling, and could be a nice pickup like Jahmai Jones was last year, though the development cycle could be longish, like that of Jones.
Zac Gallen is a steady three-pitch starter who misses bats and has improved year over year against competitive teams. He's a safe second-round pick if the Angels go for bats with the other top three selections. Funkhouser is a little riskier, given his irregular command issues, but he has the greater upside, though with Scott Boras as his agent, the Angels may take a pass. That said, Funkhouser, as a college senior, has very little leverage, and might slip into the third round when all is said and done.
Bishop and Sanchez are athletic prepsters that need more refinement, but have reasonable upside for patient clubs. Of the two, I may prefer Sanchez for his positional flexibility and power potential, but he may also be available when the Angels select at #96.
Fraley, while having little power, is a true top-of-the-order threat who is a real burner on the basebaths (59 bags in his first 600 college ABs), and rarely strikes out, with both excellent contact and on-base ability. He'll stick in centerfield, but will need to prove his hit tool can sustain at higher levels if he's going to be a leadoff guy on an MLB club.
Sheldon Neuse has a many average or better tools, led by a cannon of an arm, and the defensive flexibility to play at a number of positions. He's intriguing enough to just squeeze onto the board at this state.
An Optimal Result?
I'm looking for a good mix of complementary players. A nice result might pair one of the 3B prep bats (Lowe/Jones) with one of the college OF power guys (Quinn ideally, perhaps Dawson), if one is available at #60. Alternatively, the Angels could go with a solid quick-to-the-show college bat like Reynolds in the first round, and pair him with one of the athletic high schoolers like Baddoo or Bishop (if signable) in round two. I like the principle of generally mixing the college and prep talent in the early going. In my fantasy, Eppler had traded for sandwich pick #39, one of the college guys falls there, and the Angels get Jones, Reynolds/Grier and Quinn by end of round two – athleticism, power, short and long bets in a trio of bats. A man can dream.
This year is very much unlike last year, though, in that there is no consensus on who the Angels will pick, outside of some agreement that they like Kirilloff, who probably only has a 50/50 shot at being available when the club selects in the mid-teens. It's just as likely that the team, largely devoid of MLB-caliber pitching on the farm now, could go all-arm on the first day, leading with a Hudson or Zeuch at #16, and following up with the best available starter in round two. Prepare for surprises.
Given the Taylor Ward pick of last season, one really can't say that there's no way to go wrong this year, but we can at least agree that there are many more ways to go right. Let's hope the new regime shows today that they are wiser than the last.