With the first round barely fading in the rear view mirror, I want to take a minute to offer some of those oft-criticized knee-jerk reactions. The Major League Baseball draft does not lend to instant reactions, but that won’t stop me from proffering a few thoughts for the masses!
Least Surprising Pick
The Orioles popping Kevin Gausman with the fourth overall pick was far from surprising for me. They’ve been linked to him nearly all spring and even the falling Mark Appel couldn’t change their plans. Gausman offers a potential elite-level starter for the Orioles and he could reach the upper levels quickly on the heels of his raw stuff alone. This was a match made weeks before the draft and it held up through the turmoil of the first round.
Most Surprising Pick
Mark Appel falling not only from the top two spots in the draft, but all the way to the eighth spot with the Pittsburgh Pirates is the most surprising pick of the first day. There were other perceived reaches like Tyler Naquin, Victor Roache and even the falling of Michael Wacha, but Appel’s fall to the back of the top ten was astonishing. He’s still likely to sign with the Pirates but Appel entering a position to even possibly join right-handers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon is tantalizing to say the least. One other player worth noting was the surprise move to snatch right-hander Collin Wiles by the Texas Rangers. Wiles offers plenty of projection and may be a money-saving measure to ensure they can sign Gallo, but that doesn’t change that his selection was a surprise.
It’s way too early for a call like this, but that won’t stop me from trying. Getting Appel at eight, assuming he signs, is an absolutely tremendous get for the Pirates. There is a strong case to be made for right-hander Lucas Giolito going to the Nationals at #16, but his injury uncertainty makes Appel the choice here. Appel should move quickly and could arrive in concert with Cole.
Even more so than the last category, it is really far too early to make a call like this, but I’m not a fan of Andrew Heaney in the top ten. I rated Heaney as the 24th best player in this draft and while a certain level of “over-drafting” is to be expected, pushing a back of the rotation lefty like Heaney into the top ten is a huge stretch for me.
Toughest to Sign
Appel and Giolito have to be in this discussion as well and they are joined by prep left-hander Matt Smoral. It is hard to believe the Pirates would pick Appel that high without believing he would sign. The same can be said for Giolito and the Nationals. Smoral has barely pitched this spring because of a broken bone in his foot and by not truly going in the first round, he could be headed to North Carolina for three years of college ball. All that said, the Blue Jays are one of the draft’s most aggressive teams and it is hard to believe they won’t get that deal done.
Several college players fell further than expected, including right-handers Michael Wacha and Marcus Stroman and power hitting corner infielder Richie Shaffer. I view Stroman as a reliever long term so it is hard for me to consider him a great value in the early-20s. Wacha was a consensus top ten pick and profiles as a mid-rotation workhorse starter which could make him a nice value. Getting a power bat like Shaffer in the late-20s is very surprising and that should prove to be very good value for the small-market Rays.
Best Multi-Player Day
Both the Cardinals and Blue Jays added plenty of talent on the first day of the draft. With toolsy speedster DJ Davis and Stroman popped in the first round, and then supplemented by Smoral, Mitch Nay and Tyler Gonzalez, the Blue Jays added both fast-moving talent (Stroman) and very raw young players that will require some time. On the other hand, the Cardinals added Wacha as he fell through the first round, polished college senior James Ramsey, one of the better college bats in Stephen Piscotty, a potential power third baseman in Patrick Wisdom and strong-armed catcher Steve Bean. Both classes of players are really strong, but given the speed with which much of the Cardinals first five picks could move, I have to give them the nod.