The MLB amateur draft is set to begin tomorrow, meaning that all the guesswork and speculation will soon be over … until the players selected officially join the big league prospect ranks, at least. If you are interested in learning how teams get to where they are at this point, making final determinations on their draft board, be sure to check out this article via Tony Blengino of Fangraphs. And if you’re wondering how your team has fared in recent years, be sure to check out this piece from Ben Lindbergh on FOX Sports.
Here’s the latest on the draft …
- High school lefty Brady Aiken lands atop both the final mock and overall draft prospect ranking of ESPN.com’s Keith Law (Insider links). Law says that Aiken is not only the best talent available, but also has a “clean record of light usage.” It is interesting to note the similarities to this point in their careers between Aiken and current Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, as the Baseball Draft Report has observed. Back in 2006, Baseball America said that the tall, athletic Kershaw had increased his stock to near the top of the draft by moving his fastball up into the low-to-mid 90s and improving his curve ball and overall command. BA said much the same of Aiken this year, citing his own athleticism, frame, recent velocity increase, power curve, and outstanding command.
- Among the big movers in Law’s rankings include high school righty Luis Ortiz, who moves to the tenth slot after returning strong from an early-season forearm strain, and prep lefty Justus Sheffield, who moved from 34 up to 21. Headed in the other direction is collegiate outfielder Bradley Zimmer, who Law drops from fifth overall to the twelfth slot.
- While the bonus slot system has changed the draft dynamic, pre-draft chatter with player advisers remains a key aspect of the process. Twins assistant GM Rob Antony gave an interesting perspective on those negotiations in an interview with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. This year, Antony says, Minnesota is focused primarily on determining signability not to to get a bargain, but to ensure it can sign the best player left on the board with the fifth overall pick. He explained: “We don’t say, ‘We’ll give you this, will you take it?’ We just say, ‘What are you looking for? We’re picking at five. You know what our slot number is. Is he signable?'”
- This is a key draft for the Diamondbacks , who hold five of the first 89 choices and are in need of replenishing a system that has sent out some talent in recent years, writes Zach Buchanan of AZCentral.com. Then, there is the fact that the big league club has struggled and is still in the early stages of a front office shake-up. New chief baseball officer Tony LaRussa says he is mostly observing, learning, and submitting his observations to the team’s “experts.” In terms of the substance of the draft, GM Kevin Towers indicated that he thinks the team can add arms later in a draft that is said to be full of them. “I’ve always felt in all drafts … that your good hitters are going to go off the board rather quickly, whether it be high school or college,” he said. “If you’re looking for that outfield bat or that premier-type catcher, you’re going to have to take them early.”
- There are three key debates entering the draft, writes ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden (Insider piece). According to Bowden, the top position player comes down to high schoolers Alex Jackson and Nick Gordon; the third-best pitcher is arguably not Tyler Kolek, but Touki Toussaint (though he prefers the former); and the best corner outfield bat could be either Kyle Schwarber or Michael Conforto.