Major League Baseball’s first year player draft began last night with three rounds of picks: the first round, the first compensation round and the Tampa Bay Rays round, or at least it seemed that way with the Rays picking a sixth of the players drafted last night.
As expected, right handed pitcher Gerrit Cole, from UCLA, went first overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates. While he didn’t have the most successful season in college baseball (his UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, selected third overall, put up better numbers), his 100 mph fastball and plus changeup should see him rise quickly through the Pirates system, which doesn’t have an arm of his quality at any level.
After Cole was selected, the Seattle Mariners pulled the biggest surprise of the evening by not taking the highly touted Anthony Rendon, and instead going for Virginia left handed pitcher Danny Hultzen. Rendon then dropped all the way to the number six pick which belonged to the Washington Nationals, who just missed out on their primary target, Bubba Starling who went to the Royals with the fifth pick and was largely thought of as the most athletic of the available players.
For draft guru Keith Law, he was most impressed with the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox, while he questioned the picks made by the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers and the Seattle Mariners. His initial thoughts on the first night of picks and a list of the most talented players still available can be found here.
The Toronto Blue Jays surprised many by not taking a single college player with their five first day picks, instead choosing three pitchers and two outfielders who all have college commitments and may be prove difficult (read: expensive) to sign. I like the strategy, but I’m nervous about it as well.
As I wrote immediately following their first pick, Massachusetts high schooler Tyler Beede, the Blue Jays selections are risky in two senses: 1) The players selected for the most part are going to be a tough sign for Toronto because of their existing commitments to established college programs. 2) High school players are generally more of a risk developmentally because a team hasn’t had the opportunity to see the younger prospects play against a similar level of competition in college, and many of the high school players are still growing.
There’s a lot that could go right, but also a lot that could go wrong.
Despite the inherent risk in selecting a bank of high school prospects, the move shows a signal of intent from the Toronto Blue Jays, who appear unconcerned with cost and focused on adding the best possible talents available to the team, previous commitments be damned. We’ve often heard from Alex Anthopoulos and Paul Beeston that the team’s corporate overlords have deemed them free to spend on talent as they see fit, and I think we’re going to see that in action over the next two months. It’s important to remember that when we hear about the team’s record breaking amount of money being spent on the players selected at this year’s draft, the Detroit Tigers spent $16.5 million for three years of Joaquin Benoit.
Even if half the players that the Jays sign are complete busts, it’s a) unlikely to cost as much as Benoit; and b) will almost assuredly add more value than a middle reliever like Benoit is able to provide.
Here are their picks from last night.
21. Tyler Beede, RHP, 6’4″, 200 lbs
He will sit mostly 88-92 now but can flash a little better, mixing in a two-seamer at the low end of that range as needed. He’s got a solid-average changeup and an improving curveball that he needs to finish more consistently; at 71-73 it’s a bit slow and loopy but at 75 or better it’s a better pitch start to finish. Beede repeats his delivery extremely well, with a strong stride toward the plate, although he doesn’t tilt his shoulders and has a very slight arm wrap right before he turns his pitching hand over.
Coming out high school in Massachusetts, Beede is committed to Vanderbilt, and will ask for a signing bonus that compares to players that were selected in the top half of the draft.
35. Jacob Andersen, OF, 6’4″, 195 lbs
He gets good rotation in his swing while keeping himself mostly upright with good balance throughout; his swing is compact and he turns on the ball middle-in, but low or away he gets very long and tends to try to catch the ball with his bat rather than going the other way. He’s an above-average runner with an above-average to plus arm who played first base all spring in high school but belongs in the outfield, possibly center but most likely right.
Coming out of high school in California, Andersen is committed to Pepperdine, and it will likely take a signing bonus above slot in order to keep him from fulfilling his commitment.
46. Joe Musgrove, RHP, 6’5″, 225 lbs
He comes from a slot just below three-quarters but tends to get on the side of the ball, leaving his curveball without great depth and his slider somewhat flat. For a taller pitcher his arm action is surprisingly short, and he could use his lower half more. Musgrove will sit 90-93 but has run it up as high as 97 and the low-70s curveball has good rotation but just not the break you’d expect. He has present size and velocity and the frame to be a workhorse if he gets into the right player-development system.
Coming out of high school in California, Musgrove is committed to San Diego State, and it will likely take a signing bonus above slot in order to keep him from fulfilling his commitment.
53. Dwight Smith Jr., OF, 5’11″, 195 lbs
Dwight Jr. is a hitting machine with a very advanced ability to square up any type of pitch and drive it hard to all fields. He has exceptional balance in the batter’s box and is one of the few hitters at the high-school level in this draft who can line a breaking ball on the outer half of the plate up the left-center-field gap in one at-bat and then turn on a high-velocity fastball on the inner half in his next at-bat. Part of Smith’s appeal as a hitting prospect is his mature, patient approach, so being pitched around hardly phases him. Overall, Smith’s raw physical tools do not jump out at scouts, although they play up to a higher level because of his outstanding instincts. Smith has fringy-average speed on a straight line, but is an above-average base runner with his first-step quickness, baseball knowledge and overall aggressiveness.
Coming out of high school in Georgia, Smith Jr. is committed to Georgia Tech, and it will likely take a signing bonus above slot in order to keep him from fulfilling his commitment. (Do you see a pattern here?)
57. Kevin Comer, RHP, 6’4″, 200 lbs
Comer gets his athleticism from both sides of his family — his mother played professional basketball in Korean and Japan while his father played college football at Kansas — and pairs it with impressive arm strength.He’ll sit 90-94 with a hard curveball in the upper 70s that runs into a slurvy slider in the 79-83 range, but doesn’t have present command and needs more consistency on one of the breaking balls. His delivery is straightforward, driving to the plate with a moderate stride and some shoulder tilt (more pronounced last summer) but a slight arm wrap in the back. He’s great raw material because he’s athletic and throws hard.
Coming out of high school in New Jersey, Comer, like Beede, is committed to Vanderbilt, and it will likely take a signing bonus above slot in order to keep him from fulfilling that commitment.