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The not-quite mock draftees

There’s something about publishing that first full mock of the first round that makes you realize we’re in crunch time. It’s true — the Draft is less than a month away now and we are focusing most of our efforts on Draft coverage these days. Having my first first-round projection go up yesterday was just visible confirmation of what we already knew internally. So buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to be a fun, and very bumpy, ride!

Invariably, there are guys listed on a mock draft who won’t go in the first round. Conversely, several guys are left off who will go inmastermind the top 26 picks on June 8 (Preview show starts at 6 p.m., live Draft on MLB Network and MLB.com at 7 p.m. ET!). That’s especially true in the early iterations of the mocks. In our most recent Pipeline Podcast, I likened the process to the game of Mastermind — in the early going, I try really hard to get the colors right. As we get closer, the hope is I nail down the order of the pegs better.

So who were the top names left out of that first mock that I could see potentially going in the first round? While fully knowing there could be some wild cards yet to be uncovered, here’s a list of players you are likely to see on future mock drafts, both on MLB.com and elsewhere:

Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke — If it were Tommy John surgery alone, he might be easier to place. But there were questions about his back and a general lack of a track record before the elbow.

Nate Kirby, LHP, Virginia — Kirby’s season-ending injury is a lat strain, so it’s not an arm problem. But teams will want to make sure of the medical and Kirby’s stock was slipping a tiny bit because his stuff backed up a bit this year. That said, there’s a ton of track record on him and he seemed like a safe college lefty at the very least before the injury.

Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS (Ind.) — High school arms tend to slide down when Draft day arrives, though Russell’s fastball-slider combination and his size still will have him in many conversations.

Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville HS (Tenn.) — Same kind of deal with him as with Russell. He’s big and strong and has plenty of arm strength. Could see a team in the back end of the first round being interested.

There are some college bats who could rise up and sneak in, like D.J. Stewart or Richie Martin as well.

Kris Bryant says “Happy Blogaversary”

The Cubs wouldn’t confirm it, but it appears that in honor of the 10th anniversary of MLBlogs, they decided to call up super-prospect Kris Bryant.

Want to know what to expect from Bryant? I talked to pro scouting directors and executives to get a sense of what the industry thought he’d do upon his arrival.

More on Bryant in a second. Just wanted to say happy birthday to MLBlogs – hard to believe it’s been 10 years. Turns out i was the second person to record a blog back on Day One. My debut post was less than earth shattering, a simple welcome to my blog message.

Here we are a decade later and I’m hopeful this anniversary, coupled with us ramping up Draft coverage (stay tuned for a new Draft Top 100 in a couple of weeks), will get me on here more.

So, back to Bryant. Jim Callis and I joke that we’ve written hundreds of stories about the No. 2 prospect in baseball. I won’t link to ALL of our Bryant coverage (Jim, maybe we should start KrisBryant.mlblogs.com?), but here’s a smattering:

It goes on and on. Now he’s here. And he’s coming to Pittsburgh early next week, when I’ll get my first look at him on a big league field (outside of the Futures Game, of course).

Here’s to another 10 years of MLBlogs and coverage of players like Bryant, from the Draft all the way up to a 25-man roster. That is, after all, what MLBPipeline.com is all about.

Golden Spikes Watch List in action

A couple of things have happened this week to make me realize that another Draft season is really upon us. First was the announcement of USA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award Watch List. I’m fortunate enough to be a part of the committee for that process and I’m excited to see how the top amateur players on the list go out and perform.

Speaking of which, the college players will be in action starting today. Teddy Cahill does a terrific job of previewing the opening weekend action. There are lots of places you can go to check in on scores and such, but I’ve always liked the one-stop shopping of D1Baseball..com’s scoreboard.

So I thought I’d do a quick cross-referencing here to bring stuff together, combining the Golden Spikes list with our early Top 50 Draft prospects list for a “who to watch” this weekend uber-list:

Top 50 AND GSA Watch list (18 players total, 1 junior college):

Top 50         Name, Pos                                          School                   Weekend series

2                    Michael Matuella, RHP                  Duke                     @Cal

4                    Walker Buehler, RHP                      Vandy                   vs. Santa Clara

5                    Nathan Kirby, LHP                           Virginia                 @ E. Carolina

6                    Kyle Funkhouser, RHP                   Louisville              vs. Alabama St.

9                    Dansby Swanson, SS                       Vandy                   vs. Santa Clara

12                  Carson Fulmer, RHP                        Vandy                   vs. Santa Clara

13                  Alex Bregman, SS                             LSU                        vs. Kansas

16                  Ian Happ, OF                                      Cincinnati            @ Mississippi St.

17                  Phil Bickford, RHP                            CSN                       Coyote Slugout

21                  Riley Ferrell, RHP                             TCU                        vs. S. Illinois

23                  James Kaprielian, RHP                    UCLA                     vs. Hofstra

24                  Jake Lemoine, RHP                          Houston               vs. Minnesota

26                  Richie Martin, SS                              Florida                  vs. Rhode Island

28                  DJ Stewart, OF                                  Florida State       vs. Oakland

39                  Chris Shaw, OF                                  Boston Coll.        Spartanburg Classic

44                  Tyler Jay, LHP                                     Illinois                   Cardinal Classic

45                  Steven Duggar, OF                          Clemson              vs. W. Virginia

47                  Kevin Newman, SS                          Arizona                 vs. E. Michigan

 

Beyond the Top 10 by position lists

The Top 100 is coming out Friday night (In case you haven’t seen all the plugs, here’s one more — 9 p.m. ET, MLB.com and MLB Network). For the past week and change we’ve been building the excitement by revealing our Top 10 by Position lists.

With all of those lists, there are, of course, more than 10 guys who interest us or who have bright futures. Some lists are deeper than others, but even on the weakest (1b?), there are guys worth talking about who will undoubtedly be on our organizational Top 30 lists (That’s right, we’re expanding those from 20 to 30).  So I thought it’d be fun to add on a few extra names to consider for each of our positional lists.

This isn’t necessarily the prospect who is No. 11, so don’t draw any conclusions like that. This is more like a look at a guy at each position that I like and want to keep a close eye on in 2015.

RHP: The deepest list, by far. I really can’t go wrong. I’m going to go with Aaron Blair of the D-backs. The guy finished tied for second in the Minors in strikeouts in 2014. How many of you knew that? He doesn’t have the tremendous ceiling some electric arms have, but his stuff is plenty good enough and he’s a VERY good bet to be a durable starter in the near future.

LHP: Not as deep as RHP, but a lot of good names. Many of you saw Marco Gonzales pitch out of the pen for the Cardinals in the postseason. Not bad for a 2013 draftee, right? But he’s even better as a starter, and you should see him back in that role full-time from now on.

C: A lot of people like Andrew Susac of the Giants, and for good reason. His power at the plate and power arm behind it are attractive tools for a backstop, and he’s gotten better as an all-around receiver. The only small thing in his way is that Buster Posey fellow.

1B: Gotta dig a little deeper for this one. I’ll stick with the guy I wrote about in the “Next Up” section of the Top 10 first basemen story. That’s Rangel Ravelo, now of the A’s, who came to Oakland in the Jeff Samardzija trade. The guy has always hit — a .301 average speaks to that — and the power is starting to come.

2B: Another not as deep position, but I’ve always liked Cory Spangenberg of the Padres. He’s handled some adversity well in terms of kind of stalling briefly in the Minors, dealing with some injuries, and not producing as some had expected, especially after a huge summer debut after going No. 10 overall in the 2011 Draft. Yet he had a strong 2014 in Double-A and made his big league debut. Could be a super-utility type.

SS: So many good ones, but I’m going to give my hometown a shout out. Maybe Alen Hanson isn’t a shortstop for much longer (he started playing some second base late last year). But the guy can hit, with some extra-base pop. And he can run. And he’ll be just 22 for all of the 2015 season, while ready for Triple-A.

3B: In his story about the Top 10 3B, Jim Callis put the Rockies’ Ryan McMahon in the “Next Up” section. I’ve liked that guy since I saw him in the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball complex back in 2012. He can hit, has run-producing ability, and is a slick fielder at third.

OF: Another very deep list. I kind of want to see what the Yankees’ Aaron Judge does in 2015. After injuries kept him from making his pro debut in the summer of 2013, he played at both levels of A ball in 2014 and hit over .300 with some pop. There’s a lot more power in his 6-7 frame, too, though I like how he focused on just hitting. The power’s going to come and he fits the RF profile perfectly.

 

Some extra AFL prospects

Jim Callis and I collaborated on the AFL Top 25 prospects that went up on the site today. And other than quietly seething that a technical glitch only allows for one of our mugs to go on the top (I joke because I love), I’m pretty happy with how the list came out. Feel free to give your thoughts, either in comments on the story or right here on B3.

Of course, there are always other prospects worth talking about. One of the things Jim and I agreed on is that this was a deep league. That’s why we went up to 25. There are other intriguing prospects who didn’t make the top 25, so I figured I’d throw out some bonus names here.  Not ranked in any way, other than alphabetically, here are five more prospects to ponder:

Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, Marlins (Salt River): We talked about him a bit for the back end of the Top 25, but in the end, he narrowly missed. He threw very well in the Fall League and deserves credit for that, especially in a hitting-friendly environment. He doesn’t have plus stuff — his individual pitches don’t wow, but the guy really knows how to pitch. If you told me he’d have a long career as a No. 4 starter, beginning in 2015, I’d believe you.

Francellis Montas, RHP, White Sox (Glendale): It’s hard not to like the arm, right? The guy can get it up into triple digits and gets an 80 on the scouting scale for his fastball. He throws a good slider along with it and he can maintain his velocity deep into outings, which is why the White Sox haven’t given up on him as a starter. The command and changeup might mean he’s better in the bullpen, but this guy could be an intimidating closer in the future.

Steven Moya, OF, Tigers (Glendale): There still isn’t anyone I’d rather watch take BP more than this guy. His power is as legit as it comes. And anything you’ve read about his tendency to swing and miss? Also true. He knows he needs to improve his approach, and he’s always going to strike out a lot. But he can hit the ball a country mile.

Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets (Scottsdale): His numbers weren’t great at the end, but I saw him early on in the AFL, when he started with a five-game hitting streak and everything he hit was hard. He has good on-base skills. Lets see how the power comes. I keep hearing how some feel he’s a tweener — not quite speedy/rangy enough for center, not quite the offensive profile for a corner. But he’s ahead of where I thought he’d be developmentally at this point.

Peter O’Brien, C, D-backs (Salt River): He came close to making our 25. Like Moya, the power is impressive. And he drew a ton of walks. And struck out a lot. Is he a three true outcomes kind of guy? Maybe. The real question is where will he play defensively? Arizona is committed to continuing to work with him behind the plate and Salt river manager Andy Haines thought he could stay there.

 

Was the Cuddyer signing worth it? Twitter speaks

Ask a question on Twitter and you never know what kind of response you’re going to get. On Monday, after it was announced that the Mets had signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year deal, thus forfeiting their first-round pick (No. 15 overall — story on new Draft order is here), I posed a simple question as an informal survey:

 

Simple enough, right? I wasn’t sure how many, if any, of you would answer. Well, more than 70 of you did. Which is great, because I hadn’t blogged in a while and this gave me something cool to write about.

A majority — 52.8 percent, to be exact — answered in the negative, that the Mets either shouldn’t have signed Cuddyer, shouldn’t have given up the 15th overall pick for him, or both. Many were simple “No” or “No way” answers. Some were more along the lines of this one, which kind of says — maybe for some teams, but not the Mets:

A quarter of people who responded (25% on the nose) thought it was a worthwhile move.  Again, some gave a simple Twitter version of a nod of assent. Some people elaborated. There were those who thought Cuddyer was the right man for the job:

Some felt the Mets had to do SOMETHING to show they’re trying to contend:

Some felt giving up the No. 15 pick wasn’t something to worry about, like this response to someone who had voted “No.” (More on this in a bit):

The remaining people (22.2%) gave some variation of “It depends.” It depends on what Cuddyer does. It depends on if you think the Mets are close to contending. Mostly, it was a lot of, “It depends if the Mets are done.” If this is just the first salvo in an offseason flurry of moves, then it’s worth it. The point has been made that if the Mets go after another free agent with a qualifying offer — Troy Tulowitzki, for the sake of this discussion — then they’d be getting that higher-profile free agent for just a second-round pick, thus making the Cuddyer signing make more sense.

I must admit, I tend to be a bit Draft-skewed, based on what I do. So my initial reaction was that giving up a top 15 pick for Cuddyer didn’t make a whole lot of sense, especially for an organization that had been re-committing itself to re-building a once-moribund farm system. They’ve come a long way and another first rounder certainly wouldn’t hurt. I’m willing to wait and see what else the Mets do before passing judgment, and I understand the pull in New York to compete. But I would be remiss if I didn’t respond to those out there in the Twitterverse who echoed the “who cares about the No. 15 pick” sentiment above.

First, a list of other former No. 15 picks:

Devin Mesoraco
Stephen Drew
Scott Kazmir
Chase Utley
Chris Carpenter

That’s just a sampling, but four of the five have been All-Stars. Countless others have been productive big leaguers. And I’m not even going to get into players after No. 15 (I mentioned the obvious choice in Mike Trout in response on Twitter), not to mention players taken past the top five or six, the threshold thrown out there in the tweet above.

I’m curious to see how this all plays out: How much Cuddyer can help the Mets, how his signing fits into a larger plan for the team and, of course, who the Braves take at No. 15 next June. That is, of course, unless they sign their own qualifying free agent.

We knew him when: Kolten Wong

With the amount of contributions from rookies the Cardinals are getting, I suppose we could stay with them throughout the rest of their run. Given Kolten Wong’s ninth-inning heroics in Game 2, and the fact that we’ve spoken with the rookie second baseman a TON since his draft year in 2011, he was the obvious choice. Let’s take a look:

  • It started with a pre-Draft story on Wong, who was coming out of the University of Hawaii and ready to show that his size really didn’t matter.
  • He had a huge junior season with the bat and we ranked him No. 25 on the Draft Top 50 in 2011.
  • Wong really wanted to attend the Draft in 2011, but a family illness kept him from making the long trip to MLB Network. Instead, he joined the broadcast via phone:
  • He had a huge first full season in the Minors, going straight to Double-A and spending the whole season there. He was selected to play in the All-Star Futures Game. We spoke to him when he first arrived:
  • And he was mic’ed up during the Futures Game itself:
  • At the end of that first full season, Wong was ranked No. 49 on our Top 100 went to the Arizona Fall League. He was the focus of our AFL Team Report for the Cardinals:
  • He performed well in the AFL, not surprisingly, and I named him the No. 9 prospect in the Fall League that season.
  • In January before the 2013 season, Wong attended the Rookie Career Development Program:
  • I got to write about the second baseman one last time recently, as he was my pick in a Pipeline Perspectives that debated the question: Which prospect/rookie will have the largest impact in September and October? I went with Wong, while Jim went with Yordano Ventura. Guess we were both right:

When we knew them: Marco Gonzales

I didn’t want anyone to think that was a one-and-done series. I was just waiting for a good opportunity, and one that was non-Royals after the Mike Moustakas retrospective. Don’t worry, KC fans, I’ll have no problem opening the vault in the ALCS and beyond.

Marco Gonzales hasn’t been a professional pitcher for long enough for us to have the same kind of library as we did with Moose.

The first time I had the chance to talk with the lefty was at FanFest at the 2013 All-Star Game in New York. Gonzales was on hand to accept the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award for his work on the mound and in the batter’s box during his junior year at Gonzaga.

 

Of course, we had written about Gonzales plenty during his time as an amateur:

  • Back in the summer of 2012, he was part of USA Baseball’s College National Team participating in the Prospect Classic, with the college players and high school players from the 18 and Under trials roster mixing together. First, he tossed four scoreless innings in Game 1 (Broadcast by myself and Pete McCarthy):
  • In this broadcast of the second game, Gonzales went 3-for-3 at the plate.
  • He outpitched Scott Frazier in an early Friday night matchup during his Draft year (2013) and broke it down in Draft Watch.
  • He was ranked No. 14 overall on our Draft Top 100 found on our 2013 Prospect Watch.
  • He went No. 19 overall in that June’s Draft:


I got to catch up with Gonzales in Palm Beach, Florida, during his first Spring Training (and first big league camp). He was the subject of our “Three Questions With…” part of our Spring Training Reports. He’s ranked No. 3 on our Cardinals’ Top 20 and No. 99 on our overall Top 100.

I knew he’d be a quick to the big leagues type, but I can’t say I knew for certain it would be in his first full professional season. Seeing him not only make the postseason roster, but pitch three shutout relief innings and pick up two wins in the NLDS as a result, has been impressive, to say the least.

 

We knew them when: Mike Moustakas

One of the best things about covering the Minor Leagues and prospects is that you get to know players before most do and then when you see them accomplish things on the big league stage, it’s a whole lot of fun. Sure, not every prospect we cover makes it, but when they do, there’s a sense of pride, in a way. Over the course of the postseason, I will try to post these little trips down prospect memory lane, starting with the hero of Game 1 of the ALDS for the Kansas City Royals.

Mike Moustakas has certainly had his share of ups and downs in his professional career and he’s coming off a regular season that saw him hit .212/.271/.361. Will his postseason make him forget all that? That remains to be seen, but there’s no question his 11th-inning home run last night to give the Royals a Game 1 victory over the Angels was a big step in that direction, especially given that it was in his own backyard (A Chatsworth High School product).

 

I’ve crossed paths with Moustakas, the Royals’ first-round pick (No. 2 overall) in the 2007 Draft, on numerous occasions. Here’s a timeline, of sorts, of Moustakas coverage:

  • It started with a 2007 Draft Report on Moustakas, who played on the left side of the Chatsworth infield with Astros 3B Matt Dominguez.
  • Moustakas was ranked N0. 22 on our Top 50 prospects list in 2008, heading into his first full season.
  • He was No. 11 on our Top 50 prospects list before the 2009 season.
  • He came in at No. 29 on the update done at the 2009 Trade Deadline.
  • There was Futures Game coverage galore on Moustakas, who got to come home to play in the 2010 event in the same park he homered in last night. We brought him in early and had some fun with him at Disneyland:
  •  He came to FanFest and joined us at the MLB.com set (We’ve upgraded a bit since 2010):
  •  At the Winter Meetings after that outstanding 2010 season, we caught up with Moustakas as the Winter Meetings in Orlando. He was the Joe Bauman Award Winner for leading the Minors in home runs (He actually was tied with Mark Trumbo, but won the award thanks to the RBI tiebreaker).
  • Finally, we caught up with Moose early in 2011, at the Rookie Career Development Program, the January before what would be his rookie season in Kansas City.

A preseason AFL Prospects to Watch Team

Up on MLBPipeline.com now are Jiim Callis’ and my take on which player and pitcher we’re most excited to see perform in the Arizona Fall League this year. I chose Tim Anderson and C.J. Edwards. Jim went with Byron Buxton and Francellis Montas.

Obviously, we both are eager to see more than just those two selections we each made. Jim had the idea to post a team worth of “Prospects to Watch.” You can read his squad on Callis’ Corner.  My choices (and I’m purposefully not taking the guys that I picked in the above story):

 

C: Peter O’Brien, D-backs— Honestly, I don’t want to watch O’Brien catch, though I’m curious if he can play there. He only got four games in with the D-backs after the trade with the Yankees (Martin Prado), and he did catch three of them, so clearly Arizona wants to see if he can stick there. But his real tool is his power, with 34 homers in total in 2014. His approach at the plate needs work, but the power in the hitting-friendly AFL should be fun.

1B: Josh Bell, Pirates — Until now, Bell has been a switch-hitting outfielder, but he started taking grounders at first when he got promoted to Double-A this year. The outfield is crowded in Pittsburgh, obviously, so a move to first might make sense. He hit .325 in 2014 and the power is just starting to come.

2B: L.J. Mazzilli, Mets — OK, some of this is because he’s Lee’s kid, but the UConn standout had a heckuva first full season,k hitting .301 with double-digits in homers and steals. He’s already 24, so he needs to get going, but a strong AFL could continue to show the Mets they have more on their hands than many anticipated.

3B: Hunter Dozier, Royals — No joke here, I promise (You can read the history on this blog post). Dozier performed well in the Carolina Leauge, struggled after his promotion to Double-A. I want to see how he adjusts in the AFL. Aside from spreading money around in the Draft, they really liked Dozier’s bat. D.J. Peterson, Patrick Kivlehan were other possibilities.

SS: Francisco Lindor, Indians — I just don’t get tired of watching him play, especially in the field. I just like the way he carries himself and I’m looking forward to seeing him beyond the Futures Game appearances he’s made. Many good choices here, including Corey Seager and Trea Turner, to name just a few.

OF: Byron Buxton, Twins — As much as I chided Jim about him being an obvious choice, I am eager to see the No. 1 prospect healthy and playing well in the AFL. He was in Arizona last year, but was a bit out of gas.

OF: Dalton Pompey, Blue Jays — He started the year in the Florida State League and ended it in the big leagues. Quite a ride. I love watching guys with speed, and Pompey stole 43 bases in the Minors this past year.

OF: Jesse Winker, Reds — The guy can just hit. As much fun as it was to watch the big power guys in the Futures Game, Winker’s BP was as impressive. He could be a how-to video for young hitters. Oh, and there’s plenty of power there.

RHP: Tyler Glasnow, Pirates — Honestly, I almost made him my choice in the Perspectives piece. We’ve all seen the video game numbers. Now it’s time to see how his electric stuff plays against more advanced hitters.

LHP: Felipe Rivero, Nationals — The Nats got him from the Rays in the Nate Karns deal and then he spent three months on the DL. The former Futures Gamer has teased with his abilities, but hasn’t put it together. This could be a good springboard for him.

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