Six weeks ago I took an early look at the top of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft. At that point in time the college season had just begun and most high schools around the country were still several weeks, if not a month away from getting started. Since that point in time some things have stayed the same, but some things have really changed. Let’s take a look at how things seem to be shaping up right now.
The High Schoolers
There are three high school players who seem to be in contention for the second overall pick in the draft and it’s the same three who began the season looking at the spot. Left handedr pitcher Jason Groome has now made two starts this spring thanks to the late start that the high schools in New Jersey get. In his first start he allowed a hit, a walk and hit a batter over 4.0 innings with 10 strikeouts. He did so on a cold day where his velocity was down a bit, likely due to the weather. Yesterday he took the mound for his second start and tossed a no-hitter (in 7.0 innings) where he had 19 strikeouts, needing just 78 pitches to complete the game. He reached 97 MPH from the left side at one point, though he sat 90-94 most of the game.
Right handed pitcher Riley Pint has also taken the mound twice this spring. In his first start of the year he pitched at 95-99 MPH before settling in at 93-96. In his most recent start he gave up one hit, a ground-rule double. He also walked one batter and hit another, but otherwise dominated with eight strikeouts in 4.0 innings.
Blake Rutherford, an outfielder from California who turns 19 before the draft gets here has been tearing the cover off of the ball so far this season. While his season starts aren’t available he’s hit several home runs already, just a few weeks into the season and has had strong reports with his bat.
The wild card here could be shortstop Delvin Perez. The Puerto Rican high schooler has all of the tools you want to see, with 20-20 potential. Entering the year there have been some vocal concerns about just how much he can hit though. If he comes out and has a big spring, he’s got the tools and profile to be a top three caliber pick.
The College Players
To say that it’s been a rough season for the top two college arms entering the season would be an understatement. Oklahoma’s Alec Hansen has been so bad that he’s been moved to the bullpen (7.29 ERA in 21.0 innings with 19 walks and 29 strikeouts). Florida’s AJ Puk has been better than that, but he hasn’t exactly dominated. He has a 3.38 ERA this season in 29.1 innings with 12 walks and 36 strikeouts. Where things have gone south is that he has a back issue (back spasms) that led to him lasting just one inning on April 3rd and missing his most recent start. The Gators left hander has flashed big time stuff this spring, but the results have been rather mediocre.
Louisville outfielder Corey Ray started out the season about as hot as any player could have. But he’s really cooled off since then and is now hitting .331/.396/.624 with 16 walks and 17 strikeouts. He had four home runs in his first seven games. Since that point in time he has hit just .276/.342/.467 in 105 at-bats. The bat cooling off and the concerns that some scouts have about his ability to remain in center field as a professional have dropped his stock a little bit, at least from the very top of the draft.
Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel has probably jumped up the draft boards the most since the start of the year. He was the top prospect in the Cape Cod League last summer, so he certainly hasn’t come out of nowhere. There were questions about whether he could remain at third base defensively, and those questions seemed to be answered with a yes. At the plate he’s considered the top hitter in the draft. He’s hitting .365/.486/.600 with 15 doubles and four home runs to go along with 26 walks and 13 strikeouts.
Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis was named as the second best prospect in the Cape Cod League last sumer, right behind Senzel. He’s put up the best numbers of any hitter in the college group this spring. While his competition hasn’t been as strong as some others, Lewis has hit .430/.564/.843 with nine doubles, a triple and 13 home runs for the Bears. Scouts seem to be sold that the bat is for real. What holds him back from possibly being at the top of the draft is his corner outfield profile.