We are making history today. For what I believe to be the first time in site history, Bleacher Nation is hosting a mock draft. Or at least part of one.
All four Bleacher Nation writers have delivered their projections for the first ten picks of the draft, and they are faithfully reproduced below. All commentary on those picks is my own.
Why did we stop at ten picks? Because the Cubs pick ninth tonight, and quite frankly I don’t think any of us have really studied the draft past that point. As you will soon see, there is not all that much agreement even among those top ten picks. The lack of any elite talent tier makes this an especially murky draft and one is liable to see a large number of surprise picks as teams near the top look for under slot signs that can increase their available money to spend further down the draft board. Those deals tend to be kept very quiet until the last possible minute; often until just before the pick is made.
In other words, we are all very likely to be completely and utterly wrong. And if you choose to play along in the comments, you will probably be wrong too. Don’t let that stop you, though. If you manage to nail all nine picks you’ll have some pretty impressive bragging rights.
And with that, the first ever Bleacher Nation Mock Draft is underway. First, up is…
1. Arizona Diamondbacks.
Brett: Dansby Swanson. SS, Vanderbilt University.
Luke: Dansby Swanson. SS, Vanderbilt University.
Luis: Dansby Swanson. SS, Vanderbilt University.
Michael: Brendan Rodgers. SS, Lake Mary High School (Florida).
Swanson is the closest thing this draft has to a consensus best player, so if Arizona does the smart thing and takes the best player in the draft they will be taking Swanson. Baseball America’s Mock Draft 5.0 drops Tyler Stephenson on an under slot deal here, but switching from Swanson to the top high school bat in Rogers could yield a lesser, but still useful, under slot arrangement.
Interestingly, despite Arizona being linked to college starters for ages, none of us projected that they would actually take one.
2. Houston Astros.
Brett: Brendan Rodgers. SS, Lake Mary High School (Florida).
Luke: Daz Cameron. OF, Eagle’s Landing Christian School (Georga).
Luis: Brendan Rodgers. SS, Lake Mary High School (Florida).
Michael: Dansby Swanson. SS, Vanderbilt University.
Rodgers is the top high school hitter, so if Houston wants to (a) play it safe by avoiding a pitcher here and (b) take the best bat on the board, Rodgers is almost certainly the way to go. Michael, correctly I think, has Houston pouncing on Swanson if Arizona lets him slide.
Personally, I think Houston is going to attempt to swing a steep under slot deal here and use the savings to load up on players in the middle rounds. They have been linked to Cameron, a good defensive outfielder with some potential bat questions, off and on this year, and if he does not go here he may fall for a long time. That opens the door to a deal.
3. Colorado Rockies.
Brett: Tyler Jay. LHP, University of Illinois.
Luke: Tyler Jay. LHP, University of Illinois.
Luis: Alex Bregman. SS, Louisiana State University.
Michael: Alex Bregman. SS, Louisiana State University.
Now things get interesting. The old geezers at Bleacher Nation expect Colorado to take one of the best pitchers in the draft, a guy they have been linked to quite often this spring, while the young whippersnappers look for the Rockies to draft a shortstop.
Bregman is likely the second best college hitter in this draft, and if he does not go here he may not last a whole lot longer. Jay may or may not be a starter when he begins his professional career, but as the drafts’ best left handed pitcher and a guy who could move up the system quickly, he will be hard to pass up.
I don’t expect Colorado to reach for an under slot. This may be the first pick where a team actually takes the best player on their board.
4. Texas Rangers.
Brett: Alex Bregman. SS, Louisiana State University.
Luke: Brendan Rodgers. SS, Lake Mary High School (Florida).
Luis: Daz Cameron. OF, Eagle’s Landing Christian School (Georga).
Michael: Dillon Tate. RHP, UC Santa Barbara.
Once again, Brett and I are thinking alike. We both have the Rangers taking the best bat on the board; we just differ on who that will be. If either Bregman or Rodgers get this far, that player will almost certainly be a Ranger. I have the Rangers taking Rodgers over Bregman simply because I have Rodgers ranked higher on my board. In either of these scenarios, Texas will be very happy.
Cameron is an interesting choice here, and one that would make sense if Texas were looking to do a little under slot finagling of their own. At this point, though, the savings probably would not be substantial. Dillon Tate going this high with Carson Fulmer still on the board would be a bit of a surprise. He is one of the three best pitchers in the draft, but he does seem to be generally considered the third of the three.
5. Houston Astros.
Brett: Dillon Tate. RHP, UC Santa Barbara.
Luke: Alex Bregman. SS, Louisiana State University.
Luis: Kyle Tucker. OF, Plant High School (Florida).
Michael: Carson Fulmer. RHP, Vanderbilt University.
And now Brett joins the ‘Tate over Fulmer’ club. Maybe Fulmer is not as clearly the better of those two as I thought.
Michael’s choice of Fulmer grants Houston two Vanderbilt stars, and that will have the Astros’ front office partying for a long time. Fulmer is arguably the best the pitcher in the draft, and if it were not for the fact that some feel his size and delivery will force him to the bullpen there would probably be no argument. He has been as dominant as anyone in college baseball this year, and should Houston keep him in relief for now I would not be shocked to see him in the majors this season.
Kyle Tucker is part of a strong crop of high school outfielders near the top of the draft. In many ways he reminds me of Billy McKinney; Houston would love to get a future McKinney here.
I have Houston taking the best player on the board after reaching for a signability guy earlier. If the Astros were able to save a bundle with their second pick and still walk away with one of the three top shortstops, they would (justifiably) feel like the smartest front office in the game. At least for one night.
6. Minnesota Twins.
Brett: Kyle Tucker. OF, Plant High School (Florida).
Luke: Kyle Tucker. OF, Plant High School (Florida).
Luis: Dillon Tate. RHP, UC Santa Barbara.
Michael: Kyle Tucker. OF, Plant High School (Florida).
The Twins have been linked to high school outfielders all year long, so them taking anyone but a high school outfielder here would be a bit of a surprise. I think they would prefer Cameron to Tucker, but on my draft board Cameron is already gone. Brett and Michael both have the Twins taking Tucker over Cameron, and I can’t really argue with that either.
Luis’s board sets up so that both Cameron and Tucker are gone. The next high school outfielder in line would be Trenton Clark, but he may be a bit of a reach here. In that scenario, the Twins shifting to the best player on the board just makes sense. And yes, I did notice that everyone but me has Tate being drafted ahead of Fulmer. Thanks for asking.
7. Boston Red Sox.
Brett: Andrew Benintendi. OF, University of Arkansas.
Luke: Carson Fulmer. RHP, Vanderbilt University.
Luis: Ian Happ. 2B, University of Cincinnati.
Michael: Kolby Allard. LHP, San Clemente High School (California).
If Bregman falls to seven, I think he will be the pick. If not, look for the Red Sox to take that guy you are hoping falls to the Cubs.
If both Fulmer and Bregman are gone here, I think Benintendi is the guy. He does not have a long college history of success, but his bat has looked legitimate this year and his numbers (in the SEC no less) are excellent. He would be a bit of a controversial pick, but the controversy may be short lived if he continues to hit as a professional.
Kolby Allard is a poorly timed sore back away from being five or six spots higher on this list. He has some of the best raw stuff in the draft, is only 17, and pitches left handed. All three of those factors would have had him in contention for the top two or three spots had he been able to pitch most of the year. Allard at seven could turn out to be a very smart pick by the Red Sox.
Ian Happ had been frequently listed in the top ten earlier in the spring, and he was also one of the first position players I began calling out as a likely Cubs target, but I have not seen him ranked this high in some time. He is a switch hitter who looks very good from the left side and in his career has played a little second and a little outfield. Long term he is probably a left fielder, but his bat should ensure that position does not matter. This may be a bit of a reach, but if so it is a smart reach.
8. Chicago White Sox.
Brett: Carson Fulmer. RHP, Vanderbilt University.
Luke: Dillon Tate. RHP, UC Santa Barbara.
Luis: Tyler Jay. LHP, University of Illinois.
Michael: Daz Cameron. OF, Eagle’s Landing Christian School (Georga).
All signs point to the White Sox taking a pitcher, and three of us have steered them to the best pitcher left on our respective boards. I think they are really hoping Tyler Jay falls this far, and if not their favorite consolation prize would be Fulmer. Tate is the clear next best choice, at least of the healthy arms.
What I do not see happening is the fourth scenario here in which the White Sox pass on Jay to take a high school bat. It certainly is not impossible, particularly if they are convinced that Jay will be unable to start long term, but the White Sox – Jay connection has been as strong as any in this draft all spring. That said, Cameron does strike me as a White Sox kind of player.
9. Chicago Cubs.
Brett: Daz Cameron. OF, Eagle’s Landing Christian School (Georga).
Luke: Mike Nikorak. RHP, Stroudsburg High School (Pennsylvania).
Luis: Brady Aiken. LHP, IMG Academy, Post-graduate (Florida).
Michael: Andrew Benintendi. OF, University of Arkansas.
Luis is the only one of us with the guts to pull Aiken here, and while I cringe at the risk I also applaud the upside. Aiken, if healthy, is the undisputed best player in the draft. If he recovers anywhere near full strength and can stay healthy hereafter he is the steal of the draft and potentially the future ace of the Cubs. However, he is said to be looking for a fairly steep signing bonus, and that could cause teams (like the Cubs) with more limited draft budgets to shy away. Atlanta and Los Angeles a little later in the draft do have the budgets, and I doubt he slides past both.
The Cubs have tended to be risk adverse with their early picks under this front office, so Cameron and Benintendi are both very solid candidates. We know the Cubs like Cameron-type players because they have drafted a couple of them (including Almora), and Benintendi has some of the best power among the college hitters as well as (apparently) a good hit tool. I prefer Benintendi to Cameron, but either could make sense here. I’d throw Trenton Clark into the ring as well.
I pondered for a long time between Benintendi and Allard myself, but ultimately I opted to go a little off the board and take Nikorak. Nikorak comes from the North Eastern part of the country, and as we’ve discussed before players from that part of the world are sometimes undervalued in the draft simply because the weather has them a few weeks behind their Southern and Western cohorts. This famously came into play when Mike Trout tumbled way down the board to the Angels, and it sets up a scenario in which the Cubs could be stealing a guy who should not be this unknown.
Nikorak is 6’5″, but at 205 lbs he probably has a little room to add some additional muscle. He’s athletic enough play quarterback at a high level in a good football state, but has apparently already decided to stick to the diamond. His fastball hangs out in the mid-90s and features enough movement to earn a quality grade of 65 from MLB Pipeline, and he pairs that with a 60 curve and 55s across the rest. He is still very much a project and not someone we will see in the majors soon, but the Cubs happen to have one of the greatest living pitching coaches on their payroll running their minor league pitching operations. Drafting Nikorak could provide the Cubs’ coaches with the raw material they need to turn out something special… especially if he is actually better than we think he may be due to the North East factor.
10. Philadelphia Phillies.
Brett: Tyler Stephenson. C, Kennesaw Mountain High School (Georgia).
Luke: Andrew Benintendi. OF, University of Arkansas.
Luis: Tyler Stephenson. C, Kennesaw Mountain High School (Georgia).
Michael: Ian Happ. 2B, University of Cincinnati.
The Phillies appear to be eyeing college bats, so both Michael and I gave them the best college bat left on our respective boards. Brett and Luis, on the other hand, decided to throw some fuel on the old Atlanta – Philly rivalry by having the Phillies take a top Georgia high school catcher right out of Atlanta’s back yard. Unless they opt for Aiken, should Stephenson be there when the Braves pick I think he will be their guy. This choice would make for a lot of sad faces in Georgia.
It might also lead to a changing of the guard in Philadelphia. If that front office is on the ropes, Stephenson is not the sort of quick-help draft pick that could help them keep their jobs. For the long term health of the franchise, though, it would make a lot of sense.
First of all, this was a lot of fun. Thanks to Brett, Michael, and Luis for agreeing to do this.
Looking over our drafts, I like everything about Brett’s except his pick for the Cubs. I am just not that high on Cameron personally; if he is the choice I’ll be a little bit less excited about this draft than I would be in some other scenarios.
Michael’s draft stands out due to Tyler Jay falling clear out of the Top 10. That would be a very unexpected development that would be welcomed with open arms by someone a little later in the first round.
The headlines in Luis’ draft would be made by the Cubs for taking Aiken. I would welcome that move with open arms and with stark terror simultaneously, particularly if he required all or more of their first round slot to sign, but the pay off could be franchise changing. The risk, though, is something that no one can measure unless they have seen the actually medical reports (and not just the internet rumors of what are in the medical reports).
My draft features reaches at number two, for sign-ability reasons, and at nine due to me overthinking this in an effort to get inside the Cubs’ heads. Other than that, there aren’t really any surprises. Except, apparently, that I rank Fulmer squarely over Tate. That is one thing I did not expect to be controversial.
Now it is your turn. Jump into the comments and make your own selections for the first ten picks of the draft. If enough of us take a crack at it, maybe one of us will get them all right. Maybe.