With the 15th pick in the first round of this year's Rule IV MLB draft, predictions are all over the board as to who the Dbacks might take this coming Thursday. Mocking the MLB draft is nothing like mocking the NFL or NBA drafts. So many more factors are involved such as signability, managing your pool of allotted draft money, organizational needs, team philosophy, etc.
Some teams may pick a player who is rated lower and sign them for less than the slot bonus, giving them additional money to sign other highly rated players away from college commitments. Some teams believe in drafting college pitchers over high school pitchers. Others prefer to take high floor versus high ceiling players. And to top it off, the science of projecting young players to the major leagues is woefully short of exact.
The New Draft
This year's draft is 40 rounds, and if you can find 1 or 2 starting players from each draft you feel like you're accomplishing something. That's an awful lot of misses. It's remarkable really, that each team has an army of scouts, running around the country watching and meeting hordes of players, with the hope that 2 of the 40 players you select actually make it to the big leagues.
The Diamondbacks have 4 picks inside the Top 90, which is better than most years. They hit on the new competitive balance lottery and were awarded the 36th pick in the draft as a result. This new lottery awards 11 total picks, 6 at the end of the 1st round and 5 more at the end of the 2nd round. The Dbacks' pick was the 3rd best pick available from that lottery.
There aren't nearly the number of compensatory picks as there have been in years past with the new collective bargaining agreement wiping away much of those and installing the new competitive balance lottery based on market size and winning percentage. And in fact, now teams that sign highly-rated free agents actually lose their first round picks. Four 1st round picks were forfeited by teams who signed free agents including Milwaukee (for Kyle Lohse), Atlanta (B.J. Upton), the Angels (Josh Hamilton), and the Nationals (Rafael Soriano). Cleveland surrenders its 2nd round pick for signing Nick Swisher, and its competitive balance round pick for signing Michael Bourn. The teams who lost those free agents receive compensatory picks.
Depth Versus Stars
This year's draft does not have a lot of sure-fire stars available at the top of the draft like 2011 for example. There are a few consensus top picks that include Oklahoma's Johnny Gray, Stanford's Mark Appel, and San Diego's Kris Bryant. But after that, it's anyone's guess who will go where. What the draft lacks in stars is balanced by depth. There are a lot of quality players available through the first several rounds, but they all have something missing or some element of risk involved.
For example, J.P. Crawford is considered the top shortstop in the draft, but his bat is a legitimate question mark. Colin Moran is considered the best college bat, but his depth is sub-par and there are questions if he can stay at third base. There are 50 other players with descriptions just like these. They can hit but maybe can't field. They can field but maybe are too slow. They strike out too much. Their arm is below average. Etc., etc.
There's only a handful of pitchers expected to go ahead of the Dbacks first pick. Gray, Appel, Nevada's Braden Shipley, and high school flame-throwing lefty Trey Ball. If any of those pitchers slid to #15 the Dbacks would almost surely scoop them up. There's a significantly large group of high school position players that will make up a chunk of the first half of the first round. Clint Frazier, Kohl Stewart and Austin Meadows headline this group. It's likely that these three all go before the Dbacks pick at #15.
There's a pile of college pitchers ranked between 20 and 40 that will populate a major portion of the 2nd half of the first round and the compensation and competitive balance picks. There's also several shortstops who will be available in this range, one high schooler (Oscar Mercado), one from junior college (Tim Anderson), and one 4-year college player (Hunter Dozier). Another group of college pitchers will likely make up the number 40-50 picks.
All-in-all, there's plenty of talent available for the Dbacks first 3 selections through #52. College pitching and high school position players make up the bulk of the talent. The college hitting depth this year is especially poor, and there aren't a ton of high upside high school arms that will be selected in the first three rounds either.
[Tomorrow, John will run his eye over some of the possible playes Arizona might select with their first-round pick]