Thursday, June 23, 2016

From CPBL English: Lamigo Monkeys' Wang Po Jung Is on a Path to Stardom

Way back in October of last year during the Taiwan Series, I promised readers that I would write a follow-up piece on CPBL rookie sensation Po-Jung Wang. Unfortunately, I never got around to doing this, but no worries! Below is a piece by Brandon DuBreuil of cpblenglish.com, a site dedicated to the Taiwanese pro league, about Wang's rise to stardom and his chances of playing in the States.
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By Brandon DuBreuil
If you’re a baseball fan outside of Taiwan, chances are you’ve never heard of Wang Po Jung (王柏融). If you have, you probably only know him as the “bat-flipping maniac” as Deadspin recently dubbed him. While he does have one of the finest bat flips in all of baseball, he’s also one of the best young position players that this small island nation has ever produced. He’s a superstar in the making and a name that baseball fans around the world need to know.

Wang plays for the Lamigo Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) in Taiwan, where, as a rookie, he’s doing some pretty amazing things in a talented league made up mostly of veterans and ex-MLBers.

Take this as a starter: At the end of the 2015 season, before even qualifying as a rookie, he hit nine home runs in 111 at-bats. He then proceeded to break a CPBL playoff record with 14 hits in a seven-game series, helping lead the Monkeys to the Taiwan Series and taking home the award for the most outstanding player of the playoffs.

This all happened in his first two months as a professional baseball player.

It’s time for the baseball world to meet Wang Po Jung, and what better way to introduce him than to let the native of Pingtung, Taiwan, tell you who he models his game after.

“Bryce Harper,” he said confidently through a translator before a game in June. “We’re both outfielders and left-handed hitters. Mike Trout, too, though he’s right-handed.”

It might seem outlandish, but to call Wang Po Jung the Bryce Harper of the CPBL wouldn’t be that much of a stretch. Besides the comparisons Wang made, they’re both roughly the same age and both put up ridiculous offensive numbers.

Before we go too far with superlatives and crazy stats, let’s rewind and take a look at how a 22-year-old earned the nickname “King Po Jung” before even playing an entire professional baseball season.
To continue reading this piece as well as other insightful articles on the CPBL, click here.

Bonus video: here is Wang going oppo-taco 13 rows deep (skip to 0:59). Crazy power to all fields

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Diamonds in the Rough: Two Foreign Draftees with Intriguing Backgrounds

During the MLB Draft, those who have played against international competition for Team USA have always been held in high regard. These platers are the ones considered to have great pedigree and a history of success, whether it be for the 18U Team (Mickey Moniak, Blake Rutherford, Forrest Whitley) or the Collegiate National Team (Corey Ray, A.J. Puk). Usually in the draft, the majority of the players hail from the United States, with a few scattered from Puerto Rico and Canada. There have been a few scattered players that were born in other nations as well and moved to the States for high school ball, but rarely, if at all, have they represented their home countries in global competition. In this year's draft, two players were selected with international tournament experience in a different country, Lyle Lin of Taiwan and Stjin van der Meer of the Netherlands.

Lyle Lin (Taiwan), Seattle Mariners
Lin, 2011 with Chinese Taipei/ twbsball.org
Lin, a 6'2'' 200 pound catcher, was selected as a 16th rounder out of Junipero Serra Catholic High School in Southern California. Ranked as one of the top prep catchers in SoCal after moving stateside before his sophomore year, the Arizona State commit is a sold defensive catcher who has great bat speed to boot. A true two way catcher headed to ASU, Lin has drawn comparisons to former big-leaguer Paul Lo Duca. He is not expected to sign with the Mariners this year and will likely re-enter 3 years from now after some development in college, hopefully with a higher draft position. Back in 2011, Lin caught and batted 6th for the Chinese Taipei team that was the runner-up in the Pony World Series to Laredo, Texas. In the championship game, in which Chinese Taipei lost 10-9 despite a rally and runners in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh, Lin went 1-3 with a line drive single to left and reached twice on errors. Below is a video from Prospect Pipeline of his workout for the Area Code showcase.

SS Stijn van der Meer (the Netherlands), Houston Astros
van der Meer on Team Nederland, Honkballsite
Drafted out of Lamar University in the 34th round, van der Meer has the case to be the most interesting prospect in the entire draft class. Not only does he have the best, most exotic, and most consonant-excessive name, he also has the most unique background. Growing up in the Netherlands, which is not the most prospect-rich nation, van der Meer played baseball and was one of the top offensive producers in European tournaments, winning multiple awards along the way. Van der Meer was the MVP of the 2011 European Junior Championship, and the same year rated the #1 youth player in the nation. In 2012, at the age of just 19, he played in Netherlands top league, the Honkbal Hoofdklasse, against players 10-20 years older. (Some players get paid, some don't, which helped him retain NCAA eligibility.) He finished one shy for the league leader in hits, and started the All-Star Game as well. Following that season, he enrolled in college in the U.S, playing community college ball before transferring to Lamar, posting similar numbers as he did back home, usually with a batting average around .350 but with limited power. Every summer following college ball, he would return to his homeland and play Honkbal, and his gaudy stats are here on Baseball Reference. His career BB/K ratio is 38/20, and in college it is 57/28, so expect a patient hitter who will make contact as well. Also, because the Hoofdklasse is recognized as a major baseball organization, it is part of the baseball simulation game, OOTP 17, and with accurate rosters, the lanky shortstop even has his own profile! As seen on the OOTP Elite, Stijn is rated a 40 CON/25 POW, which is apparently good for a Honkbaler but non-prospect status for minor leaguers. But even if his incredible BB/K ratio doesn't hold up in pro ball, he can still strut his 4/1 consonant-to-vowel ratio in his first name, and as a Honkbaler named Stijn who played in a league called Hoofdklasse with his background, pedigree, and overall story, van der Meer should be a fun follow this summer and hopefully for years to come!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Go From Quad-A Hitter to Feared Slugger with One Simple Trick!

WCPO.com
After being a throw-in bench bat in a deal for a half-year rental starter, Adam Duvall has transformed himself from a Quad-A power guy to one of the best power hitters in baseball. Ranking second in the NL in home runs, Duvall has morphed into one of the only threats in a shallow Cincinnati lineup. Coming into this season, he was flailing away to a career .204 batting average despite displaying tremendous offensive prowess in the minor league levels. He always had very good bat speed that produced plus raw power, but he had trouble tapping into at the big-league level due to a whiff-prone approach at the plate and poor plate discipline, as well as some problems in his swing that have been solved. Let's take a look at some of the adjustments he has made to improve.

Adam Duvall's Pitch f/x Plate Discipline (courtesy of FanGraphs)
SeasonTeamO-Swing%Z-Swing%Swing%O-Contact%Z-Contact%Contact%Zone%
2014-2015Giants/Reds38.5 %70.5 %52.4 %52.9 %86.2 %72.4 %43.4 %
2016Reds41.9 %69.3 %54.6 %55.7 %84.2 %72.6 %46.6 %

Duvall has been knocked previously for his over-aggressiveness at the plate and chasing too many pitches out of the zone, so it would seem that his progress stems from being more selective at the plate, but looking at the numbers, this is not the case. Not only has he actually swung at more pitches (54.6% Swing vs. 52.4%), he has actually chased more often as well! The biggest difference is that instead of whiffing at the pitches he is chasing, he has put them in play, with a 55.7% O-Contact%, but even this is negligible because he has a lower Zone-Contact% this year, making his overall Contact% a 72.6%, not far from the 72.4% from before. Looks like improved plate discipline is not the cause of Duvall's breakout.

Adam Duvall's Batted Ball Data (courtesy of FanGraphs)
SeasonTeamSoft%Med%Hard%
2014-15Giants/Reds17.6 %48.4 %34.1 %
2016Reds16.3 %44.2 %39.5 %

Here we can see a marked improvement from previous years. By hitting balls harder than before, Duvall has been able to drive more balls over fences and produce one of the top slugging numbers in baseball. But that part is obvious. Every breakout season revolves around hitting the ball harder and with more authority, as it leads to more hits and homers. The question is, how has he done that?

“A mental adjustment,” Duvall said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “Staying on the ball a little longer, seeing the ball as long as I can, keeping the swing short and tight, focusing on driving the ball through the gaps and trying to be explosive when I make the decision to swing.”

The following gif is of Duvall homering when he was in the minors in the Giants organization. Notice how his hands make lots of noise in his load.

via GIPHY

The next gif is him homering this season against his old club. While it is from a different camera angle, we can notice that his hands in his load are now much simpler, a direct shift back instead of a down-and-up loop. His hips are also much more explosive through the zone, compared to the previous clip, where they rotate but with much less force.

via GIPHY

Simply by making one minor, almost unnoticeable mechanical transition, as well being mentally prepared to be more "explosive", Duvall has gone from a middling bench bat to a premier slugger. While his plate discipline could still use a lot of work (3.2% walk rate), he has already managed to make the necessary transitions to succeed in the majors. This is not to mention his giant leaps defensively, going from a mediocre defensive third baseman into one of the best defensive left fielders in the game right now (4.1 UZR, 10 DRS, 4 assists). Baseball is a game of inches, and sometimes minor adjustments can take you a long way. Give Adam Duvall credit for being able to make the necessary changes to progress his career to an All-Star caliber level.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Scouting Notes: Bakersfield Blaze vs. San Jose Giants 6/7/2016

Last night, thanks to free tickets available at the local Trader Joe's, I was able to catch the Bakersfield Blaze in town to play against the local San Jose Giants, both High-A affiliates in the California League. While I didn't get to the game until the second inning (sigh... Silicon Valley post-workday traffic), I got to see most of the action and make observations on each player who got in the game. The Giants featured several college draft picks from last season, all of whom have performed well and are rising quickly, while the Blaze were relatively prospect-light outside of Mariners #3 prospect (per mlb.com) Drew Jackson, but there were other intriguing talents as well.

Tyler Pike
Starting for the Blaze was Tyler Pike, a lefty who was taken in the 3rd round out of high school in 2012 as a projectable lefty. He mostly sat around 87-89 with the fastball, reaching back to hit 91 several times. Despite the velocity, it seemed to have get good life on that pitch, and was able to hit his spots reasonably well. He mixed in a changeup clocked around 80, but it wasn't anything special. The most impressive pitch, however, was his slow curve, clocked in the high-60's, low 70's that fooled San Jose hitters and had them whiffing. Overall, he pitched well in his four innings of work, striking out 4 and walking none, but he ran his pitch count up to 94 pitches (62 strikes) and had to be pulled despite being in line for the win. His command was not bad in this game, but with a career 5.1 BB/9 he might not make it to the majors as a starter. Pike had a deceptive delivery and good arm speed that consistently fooled lefties, but righties were able to see him well, so his ceiling may be a LOOGY with a nice curveball.

San Jose starter D.J. Snelten has had good results so far in his career, but it isn't hard to see why the big lefty (standing in at 6'7'') is not considered much of a prospect. His mechanics were iffy at best as he struggled to control his large frame, and despite his size only threw 85-88 on the fastball, keeping his pitches low and away in fear of leaving it over the heart. He slowed down his arm significantly every time he threw his offspeed pitches, and Bakersfield hitters were all over him, with 6 runs on 8 hits in 4.1 innings before giving way to the bullpen.

Austin Wilson was one of the hitters who did damage against Snelten, slicing a line-drive into the right field corner for an easy triple and 2 RBIs. Wilson is a physical beast but has struggled to adjust to pro pitching so far, batting .213 on the year, but as he went 3-3 tonight we will see if he has turned a corner. Drew Jackson, the highest-ranked prospect on the field, went 0-5, but with some loud flyouts to the warning track and mostly made hard contact, and while I didn't have a stopwatch on me he seemed pretty fast from home-to-first. He did, however, look great defensively, making a quick relay throw from left field to almost nab a runner at home that seemed like had no chance of being caught. 

Steven Duggar loads to swing.
On the San Jose position player side of things, three players stood out: first baseman Chris Shaw from Boston College, outfielder Steven Duggar from Clemson, and shortstop C.J. Hinojosa out of Texas. Shaw is having himself a great season at the plate, batting .294 and already with 12 dingers, and he went 1-4 last night with a single. He hit the ball hard every time he made contact, and displayed some pretty good plate discipline. Duggar was one of my top outfielders from last year's draft class, but he had some concerning issues in his swing that limited power production for someone who struck out a bit too much. This year, however, he seems to have bulked up quite a bit, hitting his 9th homer of the season to go with a nice 40/44 BB/K. His swing was one of the nicest on display last night, and he covered plenty of ground in center field as well. If his great play keeps up, look for him to shoot through the Giants system. Hinojosa is having a great year at the plate, and last night he looked like an absolute stud defensively, making a diving play in the hole on a hard-hit ball by Jackson, and then alertly throwing to third to nab the runner trying to advance. He had a nice, compact swing as well, and that should play well as he moves up the organizational ladder. On the other hand, he didn't hustle out any his flyouts, and lackadaisically played a high chopper off the bat of Kyle Petty that turned into an infield single. You would expect someone who played three years of college baseball under Augie Garrido at Texas to play with a little more grit. He did however, win a $50 gift card for a fan by breaking the headlights of an old truck as part of a promotion for auto repair, while teammate Jonah Arenado's throw bounced off the bumper and onto the field of play. Gotta love minor league baseball.

Other players to note:
- C Daniel Torres (BAK) called a good game and handled the pitching staff well, but struggled with blocking pitches in the dirt.
- LF Robbie Garvey (SJ) was your typical #9 slap hitter with an awful bat, but he could play some defense and could really run.
- Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell (SJ) DH'd tonight, and he is an absolute beast of an athlete. Baseball skills have yet to develop though.
- Also DHing was Blaze catcher Tyler Marlette (BAK). Former top prospect whose development is stagnating, wasn't very impressive at the plate.
- C Ty Ross (SJ) has an absolute cannon of an arm. Defense looked great, swing not so much.
- 3B Jose Vizcaino Jr. (SJ), drafted out of Santa Clara University, took some giant cuts and could hit the ball hard.
- RHP Jeff Soptic (SJ) threw the hardest pitch of the night, up to 97 on his heater, but has command issues and is now in his fourth year of A-ball.
- 1B Kyle Petty (BAK) went 3-5 to raise his average up to .346. Is already 25 though, and nothing about his game was particularly impressive.
- 2B Gianfranco Wawoe (BAK), pronounced wah-WOO, hit a monster foul bomb on a first pitch fastball before being over eager and whiffing on two straight sliders. Has some physical tools and an 80-grade name, but needs some polish.
- 3B Jonah Arenado (SJ), Nolan's little brother, was a defensive replacement and made some nice plays in the field. Strong arm was a bit out of control and Shaw had to save him twice. Hit a long fly ball to deep left in his one AB, only to be caught at the warning track. Bloodlines, but not much of a prospect.
- Arenado wasn't even the least-appreciated sibling at the game. 1B Justin Seager (BAK) is the unfortunate middle brother between Kyle and Corey, and is batting just .206 on the year. Didn't get in the game though.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Recapping My Picks from MinorLeagueBall's Community Mock Draft

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the Community Mock Draft at minorleagueball.com with accomplished prospect writers Nick Melotte of Today's Knuckleball, Benjamin Chase of Tomahawk Take, and of course the outstanding John Sickels. This was my first time participating in a draft of these sorts, with easily the smartest group of people I could have possibly gone up against. Acting as the Mock GM of the Houston Astros, I held picks #17, 61, 97, and 127 in this four round draft. In this piece below, I will break down and analyze each of my picks. Final results of the entire draft can be found here.

1-17 RHP T.J. Zeuch, University of Pittsburgh
Zeuch was on top of my board as the top college pitcher in the draft. While A.J. Puk deservedly gets more hype with his elite velocity, Zeuch has the most complete package. Standing at 6'7'', he is a big power arm who can throw a hard sinking fastball in the mid-90's that gets both whiffs (9.56 K/9) and grounders (76.4% GB rate). He has two breaking balls, both above average and usable in any count, as well as a promising changeup. Combined with his clean mechanics, arm speed, workhorse frame, and solid command (2.45 BB/9), it's a wonder why he doesn't rank higher on most draft boards and mocks. With my favorite prep target Forrest Whitley off the board, it made my decision to nab Zeuch a no-brainer.

2-61 LHP Ben Bowden, Vanderbilt University
I was really holding out that prep lefty Kyle Muller or Clemson catcher Chris Okey would fall to this pick, but there was no chance of that happening drafting against this group of opponents. All my other second round targets were long shots to fall too (Jeffries, Burnes, Kay, Rizzo, Kieboom) and were off the board. I was left between Reggie Lawson and Logan Ice, as well as third round target Ben Bowden, but as I realized there was no chance Bowden would fall to #97 I picked him up here. The big lefty has been Vanderbilt's closer this season, with great success, but he started 5 pre-conference games as well. Usually relying on his fastball and breaking ball, both potentially plus pitches, he also uses a changeup and cutter when he starts, although both are still developing. He definitely has the ability to start but can be fast-tracked to the bigs as a reliever. Upside is a #3 starter, floor is at least a big league set-up man. May be a reach based on most boards, but I see the big lefty as a value pick at 61.

3-97 RHP Reggie Lawson, Victor Valley HS (California)
After taking two pitchers, a righty and a lefty, I was looking for a bat here, but with my targets Lucas Erceg and Logan Ice both taken,  I ended up going with Lawson, a prep arm with signability concerns and had an injury-riddled spring that caused him to fall down boards. Because both players I took earlier were college arms, I figured that I could save some money to sign Lawson. He has one of the easiest deliveries in the class, mechanics advanced for a prep arm. His curveball and changeup both showed promise before, but backed up due to an oblique injury. When he rebounds from his injury, I believe that his breaking balls will come back to form, and with his command of his 90-94 mph fastball, the Arizona State commit should develop quickly for a high school pitcher.

4-121 SS Colby Woodmansee, Arizona State
Had to draft a hitter after picking three pitchers, and Woodmansee, who was my main fourth round target and highest hitter left on my board just so happened to be available. Middle infielders with power don't grow on trees, and Woodmansee has the pop to hit 10-15 HR's annually in the majors, if not more. After playing for Team USA last summer, he had a subpar spring, batting just .265 in the weak Pac-12, but his pedigree and potential was too much to pass up for me. If he had been taken, I would have gone with other Pac-12 players, USC catcher Jeremy Martinez or Stanford second baseman Tommy Edman.

If the real life Astros ended up actually drafting these four and be able to sign all of them, I would be ecstatic. Some interesting things to note in this community mock draft: personally I am not high on Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss, but John Sickels took him at 1-15 so he must be good. Dakota Mekkes was taken at 2-45, but a convincing argument by commenter ctcyawni convinced me that this was a great value pick. Connor Jones and Bryan Reynolds, both first round talents, fell to the compensation round, guess Minor League Ball isn't the place for boring, safe college guys. Max Guzman, mystery prospect to me, was taken with the last pick. He apparently has 80-grade raw power, so he should be a fun follow. Overall, it was a fun learning experience to pick up opinions and information on draft prospects from various intelligent baseball fans, and I enjoyed the challenge.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Baseball MTJAG's 2016 MLB Mock Draft v2.0

Getty Images
With the upcoming draft looming and more information about the players being analyzed and made public by wonderful publications such as Baseball America, we have had a chance to better grasp the draft stock of many players and update our mock draft. There have been multiple changes made to the original as we develop a better understanding as to which players are rising and falling. We have also added videos to each players bio's, as well as a few more picks to round out the first 34 picks.
Mock draft 1.0 can be found here.


1-1 Philadelphia Phillies: LHP A.J. Puk, Florida (video)
Pros: Much has been made of Puk's troubles this spring, but he has done the exact same as the last couple years. Using his mid 90's fastball that touches 99 and a plus curve, Puk has collected strikeouts at a very high rate this season. Good track record of success in college, international competition, and Cape Cod. Solid mechanics that uses his size effectively with his body parts in sync.
Cons: High walk rate, 3.99 BB/9 this season, command issues have plagued him at every level, but his pure stuff has been able to cover it up so far. Got arrested for climbing a construction crane once, but at least it wasn't for something worse.
Reasoning: Originally had Groome in this spot, but it seems like Klentak and co. will play it safe with a college arm. Gut feeling says they might take Matt Manning, but that is way too far-fetched.
M(i)LB ComparisonSean Newcomb hasn't reached the majors yet, but the former-first round pick has the same traits as Puk: size, stuff, velocity, but control issues as well.
I wrote more about him in a previous piece here.

1-2 Cincinnati Reds: 3B Nick Senzel, Tennessee (video)
Pros: Very sweet swing, clean bat path and plane will generate lots of line drives, has some raw power. Good approach at the plate, solid baserunner despite lack of raw speed. Polished college hitter, should shoot quickly through farm system. 
Cons: Not much loft in his swing, will limit his power production if no change. Stiff actions on defense, but arm strength can compensate.
Reasoning: Cincy is apparently enamored with Senzel and will also go with the safe college bat. Had Rutherford here before, but he is falling due to his age.
MLB Comparison: With a little more loft in his swing, could be a similar ballplayer with a skillset like Todd Frazier.
I wrote more about him in a previous piece here.

1-3 Atlanta Braves: OF Kyle Lewis, Mercer (video)
Pros: One of the top college hitters in the nation, has performed well during the regular season and in the Cape Cod League. Above average power, and overall athleticism, good work ethic. Very impressive stats at Mercer this spring, slashing .395/.535/.731.
Cons: Still a bit raw, aggressive at the plate but has toned it down this season with more walks and less K's. Attends a smaller school in a lesser conference, so he is facing inferior pitching than that of the SEC or ACC.
Reasoning: Braves really need some bats in their system, and he's supposed to be high on their board.
MLB Comparison: Impressive power and can draw walks, but he strikes out quite a bit, offensively similar to Khris Davis.

1-4 Colorado Rockies: LHP Jason Groome, Barnegat HS (New Jersey) (video)
Pros: As polished as high school pitchers get, fastball runs into the mid-90's with a plus curveball and changeup. Has the size, stuff, and command that are head and shoulders above his peers, with great pitchability and clean mechanics. 
Cons: High school pitchers are always a risk to be taken first overall, but Groome's polish should make him a safe bet. Has been throwing year round for many years, so injury concerns and overuse may be an issue later on.
Reasoning: Arguably the most talented pitcher in the draft, and Colorado seems to take arms every year.
MLB Comparison: Fastball/curveball combo with good command and pitchability reminds me of Jon Lester
I wrote more about him in a previous piece here.

1-5 Milwaukee Brewers: RHP Matt Manning, Sheldon HS (California) (video)
Pros: 6'6'' righty who throws in the mid 90's with a power curveball. Throws strikes with a smooth arm action.
Cons: Has a bit of a hitch in his delivery, arm angle sometimes drops to a bit lower than 3/4 and may result in not getting on top of his curve.
Reasoning: New GM David Stearns' first draft, but with his trades he has shown he is not afraid to take risks. Originally had Virginia righty Connor Jones here, but while his ERA is good, the peripherals aren't what scouts are looking for and he has fallen.
MLB Comparison: Big right hander with power stuff, might have a Matt Harvey-like ceiling if everything breaks right.

1-6 Oakland Athletics: OF Blake Rutherford, Chaminade College Prep (California) (video)
Pros: Tall, strong and athletic, Rutherford is a true 5-tool prospect. He can play really run and play defense, but his calling card is his bat. Clean, easy swing with good bat plane and enough loft in his swing to generate power. Has a toe drag with his back foot that is quite common with big league hitters these days.
Cons: Front shoulder flies open early occasionally in games. Toe drag leads to weight being on front foot sometimes, but overall still a polished swing for a high schooler. At 19 years old, quite a bit older than most competition. Is he truly this talented or just beating up on younger pitchers?
Reasoning: Oakland has shown more willingness to take high schoolers in recent years, and while Rutherford is falling, his talent is undeniable and may be too much for the A's to pass up.
MLB Comparison: Clean swing, big toe drag, big power, overall package similar to Carlos Gonzalez

1-7 Miami Marlins: C/1B Zack Collins, Miami (video)
Pros: Good loft in his swing, has plus power that projects 25-30 HR's annually. Strong lower body and incorporates it well in swing, will make consistent hard contact at the next level.
Cons: Strikes out a bit and swing can get long at times. Probably won't be able to stay behind the plate, but he has worked hard to improve his blocking and pop time.
Reasoning: The Marlins need some power in their lineup real soon, and the local kid may have the most pop in this year's class. Will have to clear up the organizational logjam with Naylor and Bour though.
MLB Comparison: Kyle Schwarber was a fast-rising, power-hitting catcher that couldn't catch, similar to Collins.
I wrote more about him in a previous piece here.

1-8 San Diego Padres: OF Mickey Moniak, La Costa Canyon HS (California) 
(video)
Pros: The Perfect Swing, short to the ball and long through the zone with good extension, controls entire body well, great bat head control and two handed follow through. Can hit hard line drives all fields. Runs very well and also plays excellent defense. Exceptional bat speed.
Cons: Lack of present power might concern some, room to grow into some more pop but will take time as he fills into his frame.
Reasoning: The local product is an exciting prospect whom Padres scouts have had the chance to see many times. Oakland might take him first, but he certainly won't fall past San Diego.
MLB ComparisonMichael Brantley was a great contact hitter with plus defense in the minors and when he first broke through but has really tapped into the power in recent years, a career arc that Moniak could follow.

1-9 Detroit Tigers: RHP Riley Pint, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Kansas) (video)
Pros: Live arm that can reach 102 mph, sitting 95-96. Multi-sport athlete, plays basketball in winter, so fresh arm with less innings due to less time on travel circuit. 6'4'' frame with room to fill out and throw even harder, power curve with good bite.
Cons: Raw and relatively inexperienced, curveball and changeup flash serious potential but very inconsistent. Mechanics involve heavy whipping action of the arm, high effort delivery. Needs polish, but has plenty of time to develop.
Reasoning: May have the most raw talent out of any one in 2016, but the mechanics need serious fixing. High schoolers who throw 102 mph should never fall out of the top 10.
MLB Comparison: Size, velocity, and pitch repertoire reminiscent of a prime Justin Verlander, but needs lots of development to get there.
I wrote more about him in a previous piece here.

1-10 Chicago White Sox: OF Corey Ray, Louisville (video)
Pros: Package of tools are solid, with good power and speed to go with the ability to stick in center field. Very fast and smart baserunner, has power to all fields, good usage of entire body in his swing. Good makeup and work ethic.
Cons: Strikes out a bit excessively as swing can get long at times. Crouched stance and small leg kick could result in changes in eye level during swing.
Reasoning: Local, grew up in the South Side. White Sox have a history of taking toolsy, athletic outfielders in the first round, no reason to change this year.
MLB Comparison: Overall tools package with plus-plus speed and power similar to Gregory Polanco

1-11 Seattle Mariners: RHP Ian Anderson, Shenendehowa HS (New York) (video)
Pros: Tall, lanky, projectable frame for higher velocity but already sits comfortably in the low-90's, easy mechanics with good arm speed
Cons: Developing offspeed lacks present feel, from cold-weather state so a little more raw than prep pitchers from California or Florida, but Anderson already has decent command.
Reasoning: Seattle takes chances on high schoolers, and Dipoto is not afraid of doing the same. Stays in the same spot as last time.
MLB ComparisonClay Buchholz has similar size and stuff, development path could be similar to Anderson's.

1-12 Boston Red Sox: RHP Dakota Hudson, Mississippi State (video)
Pros: Mid-90's fastball reaches 97, hard cut-slider may be the nastiest pitch in the class. Curve and change are decent as well, extreme groundballer who can pick up lots of K's with his plus stuff.
Cons: Lack of track record as a starter, lack of polish in first two years of college. Seems to have turned a corner last summer at the Cape, but the inconsistencies still flash.
Reasoning: Probably the most Red Sox-y type player in the draft outside of Senzel, who was originally mocked here before rising up boards.
MLB Comparison: Dirty stuff and ground ball rates, combined with occasional command problems, could be another Tyson Ross.

1-13 Tampa Bay Rays: RHP Forrest Whitley, Alamo Heights HS (Texas) (video)

Pros: Gargantuan 6'7'' 250 lbs prep righty has a mid-to-upper 90's fastball with life. Clean mechanics, decent offspeed offerings.
Cons: Curveball and changeup both have nice break, but needs to work on commanding them. Pro coaching should help a lot.
Reasoning: The Rays like multi-faceted ballplayers, and Whitley is one of the more complete-packaged prep arms in the draft.
MLB Comparison: The name Nate Karns doesn't inspire much confidence, but a hard throwing righty with a good curveball, a mid-3's ERA and 9.0 K/9 is a great #2/3 starter, which Whitley could become.

1-14 Cleveland Indians: RHP Jordan Sheffield, Vanderbilt 
(video)
Pros: With his brother Justus already in the system, the Indians could take the flame-throwing righty this season. Sits 94-96 with his fastball, can hit 98 with a plus slider and a decent changeup.
Cons: Lengthy injury history, high-effort mechanics, short right handed pitcher, many scouts doubt that he can become a starter long-term.
Reasoning: Brother in the system, outstanding stuff should be very attractive to the pitching-minded organization. Was in the same spot before, makes too much sense to change.
MLB Comparison: Potential for three plus pitches and absolutely nasty stuff, his size and stuff is similar to Lance McCullers.

1-15 Minnesota Twins: LHP Braxton Garrett, Florence HS (Alabama) (video)
Pros: High school lefty already in the low-90's with a devastating curveball. Has solid command and pitchability.
Cons: Changeup needs work. Cocks elbow before throwing, combined with a low angle may lead to injury.
Reasoning: High ceiling left hander already with a plus pitch. Could go top-10 and if he is here, Terry Ryan will not hesitate.
MLB Comparison: Delivery, fastball, and curveball all similar to Cole Hamels, but Garrett will need lots of polish to reach his ace-status.

1-16 Los Angeles Angels: SS/3B Nolan Jones, Holy Ghost Prep (Pennsylvania) 
(video)
Pros: Outstanding bat speed with raw power and sweet swing to match, Jones may have the highest hitting ceiling in the draft. Good extension in his swing. Big kid at 6'4'', could have 25 HR power as he fills out.
Cons: Strong arm and good hands, but he may be too big to play short and shift over to third base. Pre-swing load is kind of unorthodox with his elbows together, raw approach at the plate can lead to over-aggressiveness. 
Reasoning: A lot of other mock drafts have Jones being an obvious mock to the Yankees, but with former scouting director Billy Eppler now with the Angels he probably won't fall that far.
MLB ComparisonJake Lamb is still young and hasn't hit his prime yet, but the upside he has is similar to that of Jones.

1-17 Houston Astros: RHP T.J. Zeuch, Pittsburgh (video)
Pros: Tall righty throws in the mid 90's good curve and changeup, clean mechanics, fresh arm and throws strikes. One of the top groundballing righties in the nation.
Cons: Some scouts are worried about his abilities to collect strikeouts in the pros despite a 9.56 K/9 in college.
Reasoning: Houston loves groundball pitchers, especially for Minute Maid Park, and the fact that Zeuch throws in the mid-nineties is a plus considering the Astros soft-tossing ways.
MLB Comparison: Hard-throwing righty Aaron Sanchez has silenced critics this season by putting up a good strikeout rate while getting lots of groundballs in the rotation, and Zeuch will be expected to do the same.

1-18 New York Yankees: 
3B Josh Lowe, Pope HS (Georgia) 
(video)
Pros: Has raw power to go with natural loft in his swing, strong arm at third base as well as plus speed. Loose and athletic, Lowe should become a dual threat on both offense and defense.
Cons: Swing can get long and loopy when he extends his hands, might have extreme flyball tendencies and pop up quite often.
Reasoning: Lowe is considered by scouts to be nearly identical to Jones, and if Jones doesn't fall here Lowe should easily be Plan 1B.
MLB Comparison: Having plus power, strong arm and projectable plus defense, Lowe's ceiling may mirror Kyle Seager.



1-19 New York Mets: OF/1B Alex Kiriloff, Plum HS (Pennsylvania) (video)
Pros: Power/speed combo is intriguing, natural loft in his swing. Polished hit tool as well. Strong throwing arm. Advanced approach at the plate, well beyond his years.
Cons: Swing can get long with average bat speed and very slow hands, which may lead to excessive strikeouts. Despite good speed and arm, not a terrific defensive outfielder and may end up as a plus first baseman instead.
Reasoning: Advanced for a high schooler as he is the son of famed hitting coach Dave Kiriloff, Mets would love to have a prep hitter of his caliber. 
MLB Comparison: Kole Calhoun of the Angels is a good representation of Kiriloff's ceiling, a strong armed outfielder with a good bat.

1-20 Los Angeles Dodgers: RHP Cal Quantrill, Stanford 
(video)
Pros: The son of former Yankee Paul Quantrill, Cal has better stuff than his dad, with a fastball that reaches 95 and solid offspeed offerings like a plus changeup and at least average curve and slider. His mechanics are decent, and has good command and pitchablity.
Cons: Still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but aside from the medical red flags, Quantrill has the complete package on the hill.
Reasoning: With their impressive prospect depth and deep pockets, the Dodgers are one of the teams who can afford to draft a TJ rehabber in the first round.
MLB Comparison: Assuming all the physical issues check out, the performance of Michael Wacha is something that Quantrill could match and achieve if he cracks the majors.

1-21 Toronto Blue Jays: LHP Eric Lauer, Kent State 
(video)
Pros: Four pitch mix with good command of all of them, sits in the low 90's with his fastball and can hit 94. Had the most dominant season in college baseball with a 0.69 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, and a 10.82 K/9. 
Cons: Outstanding numbers came in a small conference, lack of projectability and may have maxed out as a #4/5.
Reasoning: Polished arm complements the Blue Jays abundance of raw pitchers in the system.
MLB Comparison: Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ has been terrific for the last year-and-a-half and may be what Lauer's ceiling is like.

1-22: Pittsburgh Pirates: RHP Justin Dunn, Boston College (video)
Pros: Right-hander put himself on the mpa after a strong showing in the Cape Cod League and following it up with a 1.49 ERA campaign in 2016.
Cons: Short track record of success, has not shown ability to handle a starter's workload. Secondaries need development, but are decent as is.
Reasoning: Pirates have a history of success dealing with fresh arms, and with 4 different pitches the Pittsburgh coaching staff will have plenty of fun developing Dunn into a major league starter.
MLB Comparison: Michael Pineda has been a solid major league starter with above-average stuff despite not being very durable. Dunn could be similar, with a high K-rate.

1-23 St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Joey Wentz, Shawnee Mission East HS (Kansas) (video)
Pros: Low-to-mid 90's fastball, above average curve and some feel for a change. Good mechanics and command
Cons: Struggled with dead arm last season, and is rumored to be looking for a very high bonus.
Reasoning: Wentz is one of the best high school pitchers in the class, but his high bonus demands might cause him to fall. The Cardinals are rumored to be in on him, and they have a big enough bonus pool to draft him. Had Nick Banks in this spot before but a subpar spring has him falling to third-round territory.
MLB Comparison: Similar to Steven Matz as in terms of stuff and pitchability, even though he is much farther developed than Matz when he was in high school.

1-24 San Diego Padres: SS Delvin Perez, Professional Educational HS (Puerto Rico) (video)
Pros: Plus plus defender at short, strong arm, outstanding range, and smooth actions. Lanky with room to fill out, potential with the bat, but unbelievably gifted defensively. Very high energy and high effort ballplayer. 
Cons: Very raw at the plate, lacks plate discipline. Susceptible to offspeed, swing includes an unorthodox weight transfer and lots of excessive noise. Room to grow as a hitter but defense will take him a long way.
Reasoning: Perez is the top prep shortstop, but with issues with his makeup and bat he seems to be falling down boards. With three first round picks the Padres should be able to sign him.
MLB Comparison: It may seem like a lazy comp, but Andrelton Simmons is similar to Perez as a shortstop with amazing defense but a questionable yet projectable bat with the tools ahead of production.

1-25 San Diego Padres: 1B/3B Will Craig, Wake Forest (video)
Pros: Strong and powerful, with good loft in his swing, Craig has the power to mash 25 HRs every year. Solid plate discipline. Cannon of an arm.
Cons: Stiff and awkward defensively. Swing is reliant on upper body and arms, will need to utilize his big lower body to generate more power.
Reasoning: Safe college bat to offset the prep draftees Moniak and Perez, but Craig has good upside as well.
MLB Comparison: Trevor Plouffe isn't a sexy comp, but he has quietly put up power numbers to go with his first-round pedigree.
I wrote more about him in a previous piece here.

1-26 Chicago White Sox: RHP Robert Tyler, Georgia (video)
Pros: Throws hard, sitting 96-98 and touching 100 on the fastball with sink and run, as well as a changeup that it at least average, if not better.
Cons: Poor command of the fastball, breaking ball isn't sharp, could use better extension in his delivery.
Reasoning: After taking a position player, Chicago could look for an arm, and Tyler's velocity is premium.
MLB Comparison: Red Sox right-hander Matt Barnes has great velo on his fastball that plays up in the bullpen, which is where Tyler might end up if his overall package doesn't further develop.

1-27 Baltimore Orioles: C/1B Matt Thaiss, Virginia (video)
Pros: Outstanding plate discipline to go with a clean line drive stroke with power. Should be able to hit for average at the next level.
Cons: Questions about sticking behind the plate with below average arm and framing skills. Wide stance may limit power and swing path suggests ground ball tendencies.
Reasoning: Due to a small bonus pool, Baltimore may be limited to taking the best available college bat, who at this point in the draft would be Thaiss.
MLB Comparison: A catcher/first baseman in the majors who profiles similarly is John Jaso, with the plate discipline and 10-HR power. They have similar batting stances as well.

1-28 Washington Nationals: OF Taylor Trammell, Mt. Para Christian HS (Georgia) (video
Pros: Tools! Plus speed and good raw power and bat speed. Good arm but it takes a violent delivery to use it. Shows some present contact ability, can lay down a bunt.
Cons: Really raw! Downward, choppy swing path limits tapping into power. Might end up striking out too much for his power production. Will take a lot of patience and development, but the end result could be a stud.
Reasoning: With back to back late first round pick, the Nats can take one safe guy and one risky guy. Trammell is very raw, but he has all the tools to succeed.
MLB Comparison: For an example of a guy who took years to figure it out, look at Jackie Bradley Jr. of the Red Sox. Trammell's defense should be good enough to buy him several year's of development for his bat. 

1-29 Washington Nationals: RHP Zack Burdi, Louisville (video)
Pros: Triple digit fastball with a plus slider, and surprisingly good command of both pitches. 14.44 K/9 against a 2.20 BB/9.
Cons: Slings his arm to deliver ball, may cause injury later on. Reliever only, but someone might be tempted to have him try starting.
Reasoning: The safest bet in the class, could pitch out of a major league bullpen right now. Having at least one success can offset the risk of taking Trammell.
MLB Comparison: Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals is the obvious comp, a triple digit fireballer with a good breaking ball too.

1-30 Texas Rangers: OF Buddy Reed, Florida (video)
Pros: Athletic and toolsy, Reed may have the most raw talent out of any college outfielder in the draft. Switch hitter with plus speed and is good at keeping his hands inside the ball, spray line drives. Frame suggests power to come, can lay down a bunt.
Cons: Prone to striking out, raw in terms of approach. Works count well but passive on hittable pitches early. Choppy hand path from the right side, sometimes out on front foot from the left, limits raw power.
Reasoning: Texas loves their toolsy outfielders, and the Reed selection gives them just that. He has fallen from his earlier spot due to a bad season, but the talent is there.
MLB Comparison: Speedy switch hitter with good defense and a bit of raw, undeveloped pop that he might tap into later on, similar to Coco Crisp

1-31 New York Mets: OF Bryan Reynolds, Vanderbilt (video)
Pros: Disciplined approach at the plate, hits line drives to all fields with enough strength to hit balls out. A strong defender, he has good speed and can steal 20+ bags in the majors.
Cons: A switch hitter, Reynolds is prone to becoming too slappy from the left side, out in front on his swing. Happens when he hits righty as well, could sap power production. Average arm may limit him to left field.
Reasoning: A college player to offset the Kiriloff selection, Reynolds is a safe, high-floor player that gives the Mets at least one guarantee from their two first-round picks. Originally mocked to the Angels, Reynolds has fallen not because of his performance but because others have surpassed him in terms of prospect status.

MLB Comparison: Being a switch hitter with speed, some raw pop and decent defense, Angel Pagan is a reasonable comparison for what Reynolds could be.

1-32 Los Angeles Dodgers: OF Will Benson, The Westminster Schools (Georgia) (video)
Pros: Six-foot-six lefty with big time pop, Benson has the most power potential in the draft class. Smooth bat plane through the zone, slight uppercut to hit balls out. Strong and built, he moves well for his size and should be able to hold his own in right field. Young for his draft class
Cons: Lots of twitching pre-swing, occasional changes in eye level during swing. As he gets bigger he might take a step back defensively and slow down on the bases.
Reasoning: After taking Quantrill, the college pitcher, the Dodgers will take a high upside bat to maximize their pool spendings.
MLB ComparisonJay Bruce has gotten a bad rep with poor recent seasons, but before his decline he was one of the top power producers in the National League, and Benson could match that production.

1-33 St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Connor Jones, Virginia (video)
Pros: Low-to-mid 90's fastball, very good cut-slider type pitch that is his go-to out pitch. Gets lots of ground balls with a plus changeup, might be the most polished and safe starting pitcher in this draft class.
Cons: Lack of ace upside, sinkerballer will not pick up very many strikeouts, but his ground-ball based approach should shoot him through the minors and settle in as a solid #3 starter in the majors.
Reasoning: After mocking him at fifth overall to the saber-savvy Brewers, Jones has disappointed with lackluster peripherals. The Cardinals, who hold the last two picks, probably won't pass on him, though, so Jones won't last past the end of the first round.
MLB Comparison: While Jake Odorizzi is more of a flyball pitcher, the overall numbers and pitch arsenal is generally what Jones could produce.

1-34 St. Louis Cardinals: OF/1B/C Jameson Fisher, Southeastern Louisiana (video)
Pros: Smooth left handed swing with a bit of power, Fisher's bat will take him a long way. Great plate discipline as well, put up a video game-like .431/.563/.702, can run the bases.
Cons: Plays in a small conference, positionless on defense. Did not show much power before this season.
Reasoning: With the lack of depth in the college hitting class, the Cards nab Fisher to offset the cost of Wentz, even though he is a second to third round talent. He might not be around when the Cardinals pick next, so it justifies the selection. He also seems like exactly the kind of guy who would succeed with the Cardinals fairy dust hitting magic.
MLB Comparison: Similar to Matt Joyce, Fisher should go on to be a solid contributor at the plate with some pop and patience while not being a complete liability on the field.

Four players from my original mock draft (23 picks) have fallen off the board, right-handers Logan Shore and Kevin Gowdy, catcher Chris Okey, and outfielder Nick Banks. This is partially due to my own misjudgment of their stock in April, although Shore and Okey have both been playing like first-rounders so far. Gowdy has fallen due to his strong commitment to pitching factory UCLA, and while Banks had a subpar season, with his high pedigree he should be a steal later on. The biggest reach on this list is Jameson Fisher, but if any team is willing to nab him this early, it would be the Cardinals. Regardless of their position, however, with the draft coming up on Thursday, they and many other young men will be realizing their dreams come true. Be sure to tune in to MLB Network to watch the draft at 6 PM Eastern/3 PM Pacific on Thursday!

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