With the MLB draft right around the corner it’s time to start looking at the players entering our prospect sphere and what they could bring to the table for our virtual dynasty teams. We’ll start today with the first in a series of posts I’ll be doing on 2016 draft prospects. We’ll start with the 30,000 foot view and dial down the closer we get. So if you’re a MLB draftnik this might be relatively rudimentary, but the vast majority of the fantasy baseball playing world barley knows beyond the top 100 or so prospects. So, in other words, you’re special. You probably also rarely leave your house and are entirely unproductive at work between the months of February and September. Seriously I’m a model employee for 4 months a year, and the rest I do work between baseball stimulation of one kind or another. So today we dive into ten prospects that should have your attention.
Jason Groome, LHP Barnegat (N.J.) – New Jersey is a weird place. Partially dirty, partially beautiful, full of loud Italians and bougie WASPS. It gave us my wife, the world’s best bagels, Smokey, and Grey. It also is home to the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association, an organization so bizarre it decided to scold the top prep player in the state’s history for attending IMG in Florida his junior year to boost his draft stock. I know what you’re asking “How Ralph did the NJIAA scold Jason Groome for spending a year in Florida?” Well Groome decided to return home to Barnegat for his senior season, to obviously take advantage of all the Jersey girls sure to be all over him now that he’s a soon to be millionaire. Now girls aside, Groome pitched the first two weeks of the season for Barnegat culminating in a 19 strikeout no hitter. Following that start the good folks at the NJIAA decided that due to Groome attending IMG he had violated a rule in place to stop players from attending schools outside of the town of their residence. Problem is Groome’s parents never moved, he simply went to out of state to IMG and returned to his former school. Technically this doesn’t violate the rule because he did not attend another school governed by the NJIAA. Doesn’t make sense, but administrators that monitor amateur athletics rarely do. I digress… As for Groome’s actual skill set, makeup, and why you should pay attention to a prep arm for Christ sakes. First he brings a very tasty plus-plus fastball/plus-plus curveball combo, and every so often mixes in a plus change. Second he has clean mechanics, a big frame, and works around the plate. The fastball sits around 94-96, and the curve shows some bite.
Riley Pint, RHP St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) – Yes it’s indicative of just how weak a draft is at the top when the best two prospects (maybe 3) are prep players. It’s even worse when the top two are prep arms. Regardless Pint has earned his spot near the top as he features an intriguing repertoire that features a grade 70 fastball, that can touch 100+, a plus-plus curve, a plus-plus change, and a plus slider. The one issue that drops Pint below Groome in my book is his control, or at times lack thereof. There are also concerns about his mechanics and ability to repeat his delivery constantly. Might have the highest ceiling of any player in the draft.
Kyle Lewis, OF Mercer (NCAA) – What if I told you the best college hitter in the draft was a strongly built outfielder that drew comparisons to Jason Heyward but with more power. Or in other words the player everyone thinks Jason Heyward is or will be between the months of December and March. Would you run to draft that player? Well look no further than Kyle Lewis of Mercer University. Lewis has been a major climber on draft boards the last 18 months with many scouts loving his across the board offensive game that includes 60 grade power, a 55 grade hit tool, and 50 grade speed. Many think he eventually moves to right from center, but has the ability to be a multi-category contributing fantasy star. If first year player drafts took place today, I’d take Lewis first.
A.J. Puk, LHP Florida (NCAA) – Dating back to last year many have viewed Puk as the potential top pick in the draft. Just for the record I don’t. It’s no secret that Puk is the owner of potentially the best stuff of any arm in the draft. It’s also no secret that Puk has struggled with inconsistency throughout his college career. Over the last 12 months Puk has done little to differentiate himself from the other players at the top of draft boards. With a 70 grade fastball that sits 96-99, a plus slider, and above average change, Puk has an intriguing arsenal. I wonder if he projects more as a closer than starter eventually but time will tell. Certainly whoever takes him within the first 5 picks will use him as a starter until he proves he can’t.
Blake Rutherford, OF Chaminade (California) – One of the most well known, and heavily scouted prep players in recent memory, Rutherford is more of a known commodity than most prep hitters. He features a well rounded skill set where he does a little of everything very well but nothing exceptional. Well, nothing except play the actual game of baseball.
Corey Ray, OF Louisville (NCAA) – Coming into the season Ray was considered the top hitter in the 2016 class. His stock hasn’t dropped so much as the aforementioned Lewis has surpassed him. Ray is an advanced hitter with a tasty speed/power profile. A left handed bat, Ray hits to all fields with power and consistently makes good contact. His best asset though is his speed where he shows the ability to terrorize opposing batteries on the basepaths. Ray looks like one who’s ready made for pro ball and could move quickly.
Nick Senzel, 3B Tennessee (NCAA) – Another reminder that I need to get to more Cape Cod League games, Senzel dominated the CCL last summer leading the league in most offensive categories and winning the MVP and best prospect honors. A right-handed batter with patience and power to all fields. Another player vying for top college bat in the draft.
Mickey Moniak, OF La Costa Canyon (California) – Entering the summer showcase circuit of 2015 Moniak was a relatively unheralded prep prospect from So-Cal. I feel hella cool when I use terms like So-Cal and Nor-Cal. Less so when I say hella. Any the who, over the course of the summer Moniak shot up prospect ranks and solidified himself as one of the top prep bats in the class with Rutherford, Josh Lowe, and Alex Kirlloff. His hit tool is potentially the most advanced of any of the prep hitters in the draft, but at this point his power is more of the double variety. His ability to get on base, spray line drives, and use his speed on the basepaths makes him an intriguing long term play in dynasty leagues. Scouts see him as a future gold glove outfielder destined to roam centerfields of major league parks for a long time.
Delvin Perez, SS Puerto Rico – It’s been 4 years since Carlos Correa went first overall, and in that time a Puerto Rican prospect hasn’t sniffed the first round. That will change this year as the talented Perez looks like the first shortstop off the board. At this point Perez is a glove first player with raw offensive tools. He’s destined to be overrated, like most shortstops, in dynasty league first year player drafts. So I’d be cautious about drafting him with a top 20 pick. Let someone else invest in Perez early and keep an eye on his development. If he shows the ability to hit and get on base then consider moving for him. Good real life prospect but extremely risky as a fantasy option.
Dakota Hudson, RHP Mississippi State – Originally drafted as a Tennessee high schooler in the 36th round of the 2013 draft by the Rangers, Hudson is a big righty with a four pitch repertoire. The arsenal includes a top end fastball with run and sink that touches 97, and a vicious slider with cut that clocks in with high 80’s velocity, giving Hudson a good split on his two most dominate pitches. He also throws an above average curve and change that he mixes in with his top two pitches. The total package projects as a top 2 starter with less risk than Puk or the prep arms. I’m very intrigued by the possibility of owning Hudson next year.
On Sunday I’ll be back with the next ten prospects. Until then I bid you adieu…