The amateur draft officially begins tonight at 7:00. I’ve been running a series of scouting reports on players I think the Mets could end up choosing, but unfortunately I can’t guarantee that they’ll pick one of the half-dozen or so guys I’ve already covered. So, instead of just leaving it at that or trying to write full profiles on all 12 guys with a remote chance of having his name called, I’ll briefly mention them. But before we move on, here are the players we’ve already profiled:
I’m fairly confident that Sandy Alderson and company’s pick will be one of those six guys—Jungmann and Guerrieri right now are most commonly associated with the Mets, with Mahtook, Gray, and Michael close behind. But there are a few names that could also be called, especially if some of those names are off the board.
But first, who will be off the board when the Mets pick? Who will they not have a chance to pick up? The first six players to find homes will almost certainly be UCLA starters Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, prep products Dylan Bundy and Bubba Starling, and Virginia lefty Danny Hultzen. I’m not sure what order they will go, but even if they don’t go 1 through 6, someone else will grab them before the Mets pick. They’re very much the class of this draft, and they won’t fall far. And while I don’t think there’s the same certainty with him as there is with the other six, prep shortstop Francisco Lindor should not be around, either. As a signable shortstop with elite athleticism and a high likelihood of reaching the majors, I can’t see him lasting long.
Furthermore, there are few people the Mets won’t take if they are there. These are people with huge bonus demands, and while Alderson has said he plans to spend overslot money more often than his predecessor did, I don’t think it extends to the first pick, where the stakes are much higher. When you can grab a player just as good for little more than slot, it doesn’t make sense to spend $5 million on a draftee. The pricey players are all high schoolers, namely pitcher Archie Bradley, outfielder Josh Bell, pitcher Daniel Norris, and outfielder Brandon Nimmo.
So who are we left with? Let’s take a look:
Matt Barnes, RHP, UConn: George Springer’s teammate is an outstanding prospect in his own right, with a large frame (6-4, 203 lbs.) that produces premium velocity (mid-90s) that he maintains deep into games. The velocity is easy with little effort in his arm. The big questions, however, pertain to his secondary offerings and mechanics. He has an above-average curve that could be plus with better command and consistency, and an average change. But he also spends too much time throwing a cutter and a slider, both of which are flat pitches better hitters will destroy. At some point pitchers have to realize there isn’t any point to having a wide arsenal when most of those tools just aren’t useful.
The mechanical issues mostly pertain to repeatability. He has difficulty landing in quite the same place, due to both a tendency to open himself up too early and trouble regulating his stride length. His arm action is also variable, sometimes including late elbow pronation, which puts stress on the shoulder. I’m expecting Barnes to be off the board by the time the Mets pick, but even if he’s there, I have Sonny Gray and Taylor Jungmann both higher on my board.
Javier Baez, SS, Arlington Country Day School (Jacksonville): If Lindor is off the board, Baez becomes the top prep infielder, and he’s about as different from Lindor as it gets despite both hailing from Puerto Rico. Lindor has a lanky, almost slight build, whereas Baez has a mature body that probably won’t last at shortstop in the long run, though he has the skillset right now for the position. And while Lindor has a more line-drive oriented approach, Baez fits the mold of an all-or-nothing slugger, having a big swing marked by tremendous batspeed. When he connects, he can hit for big power, and if a team thinks it can teach him to occasionally shorten up and hit for contact, he’s absolutely worth a selection in the middle of the first round. As it is now, the swing is just too long and the approach too simple for Baez to hit for much in the way of contact.
Questions about Baez’s makeup also abound, as scouts say he is prone to emotional outbursts on the field and an alienating demeanor off it. Still, he’s a power bat with a chance to stick at short, and that’s a rare thing.
Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech: Bradley’s the class of this draft when it comes to left-handed arm strength. While Virginia’s Hultzen combines good velocity with polish, Bradley’s skills are more unrefined. The fastball promises upside, and he has hit 97 with the pitch. Unfortunately, he’s had trouble maintaining that velocity and will often sit 88-90 with his two-seamer and 91-93 with the four. He also has a good changeup with good armspeed, but the slider is what can draw criticism. Some reports say it’s a plus pitch, while others have said it’s below average, showing poor rotation. The ones I’ve seen have been in the latter category. The high-three-quarters armslot Bradley uses might be more conducive to a curveball, and if that fails he can always try a cutter. The mechanics are very clean, and I’m not very worried about injury risks or a loss of command.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky: Meyer’s stuff is as good as anyone’s in this draft, perhaps including Gerrit Cole’s. He has a fastball he can ratchet up to 99 and possibly the best slider in the draft class, a hard pitch with plenty of bite that will get swing-and-misses. He’s also improved his changeup enough to the point where’s it’s more or less average. His college performance had been incredibly disappointing until this season, when he suddenly turned things on, but the command and control are still sub-optimal, to put it lightly. When I saw him pitch a few weeks ago, I was very impressed by the slider but also noted he didn’t really throw strikes with it, and that may get him into trouble later on. He has some mechanical difficulties which are impacting his control, and I’m not crazy about his arm action, which is longer than I’d prefer. I’d be very surprised if scouting director Chad MacDonald makes him a target, given his spotty performance record.
Daniel Norris, RHP, Science Hill H. S. (TN): I said I didn’t expect the Mets to sign a guy with a high price tag, but just in case they do, Norris is probably their guy. He touches 96 with his heater but usually falls in around 89-92 and shows a very good changeup. Unfortunately, the breaking stuff is lagging behind right now, and he’s developed some mechanical inconsistencies. He will tend to land stiffly and slightly open with his striding foot, and his command can suffer as a result. I’d like him better if he’d been more consistent this spring.
That should do it. There are a couple of others that probably have a chance but it would be a jaw-dropping moment if they were picked at 13. A few other notes:
- This is easily the most prepared I’ve ever been for a draft, and I have notes on well over 400 players at the moment. What’s amazing is how deep this draft is: there are guys expected to go in round five who would fit in round two during other years.
- There are a staggering number of players named Tyler or Taylor. I am not going to count them.
- The Mets, obviously will make two picks tonight, at 13 and 44 (thanks, Pedro!). I’m not going to preview the 44th pick, but know that I’ll have a profile up shortly after the pick is made, and I will make continue to make my shadow draft selections this year.
- Much has been made over the Rays’ having one-sixth of the day’s picks. I’ll find it very interesting to see what they do, because they have none before 24, and the typical thought when you have that many is to go safe and cheap. If it were me, I’d shoot for the moon once or twice if somebody falls, and if you can’t sign the guy, no big deal.
Finally, my Top 21:
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS
2. Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
4. Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
5. Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner Edgerton HS
6. Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
7. Archie Bradley, RHP, Broken Arrow HS
8. Josh Bell, OF Dallas Jesuit HS
9. Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
10. Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Spring Valley HS
11. Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
12. Mikie Mahtook, OF, LSU
13. Francisco Lindor, SS, Monteverde Academy
14. Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
15. Matt Barnes, RHP, UConn
16. George Springer, OF, UConn
17. Javier Baez, SS, Arlington Country Day School
18. Dillon Howard, RHP, Searcy HS
19. Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS
20. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Alonso HS
21. CJ Crohn, 1B, Utah
I wound up swapping Mahtook and Springer in my final rankings. I’m probably a little lower on Trevor Bauer than many—it’s not that I don’t love the stuff, it’s just that I’d rather pay a premium and play it safe—but he’s not far off where others have him. Howard’s probably the biggest surprise, but I have a good feeling about him, something that’s on some level just intuitive.
Draft is tonight at 7:00. I’ll have an open thread up and will be around, live-blogging the event.