The 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft is days away and speculation continues that the Rockies are focusing on yet another collegiate left-hander in the first round.
To take your mind off that possibility for the umpteenth time, I wanted to share an exercise with you that I performed at my now regular post, True Blue LA. This 10-round mock draft for the Rockies was built using the Baseball America 4.0 mock as opponent picks in the first round, and the BA 500 selecting in order for picks after that.
The big board my mock war room is using to make picks is my Top 200 list housed at True Blue LA. I encourage you to read the attached article that comes with my list to understand how I came to the conclusions that I did for my big board, and for how I will make picks in this mock. Don't worry, it's not Dodger-centric, and if you need clarification or have any questions about my rankings or methods, feel free to ask me at @davidchood on twitter, or in the comments here.
Like my Dodger mock linked above, I gave myself some pre-draft parameters centered around the Rockies' organizational philosophy and the situational circumstances Colorado finds itself in (last note, this mock operates in the same parallel universe as my Dodger draft, so there will be no overlapping of picks).
Unlike past years, the war room has been given few mandates from the front office or ownership to lean a particular direction early in the draft. This means we can generally lean best available where we can. That being said, some players that we happen to like as prospects in a vacuum may not be great fits for Coors Field down the road. We probably won't take a player like Drew Finely quite as high as we rank him simply because his best weapon is his power curveball.
Additionally, the organization has struggled of late developing pitching talent that can meet the demands of Coors Field. The war room isn't going to tell the development staff how it should be doing its job, but we are going to try to avoid pitchers we see as projects or may require more fine tuning and will instead focus on athletic pitchers that already show evidence of a fuller arsenal or the athletic ability to develop one naturally.
Looking at the organizational depth chart, the system is fairly deep and has a fine collection of impact potential at the top, but the farm is the lifeblood of this organization and our drafts have to produce big league talent. We are only going to get stars if we develop them, but our picks also have to reach the majors. This creates a fine balance of risk and ceiling in our selections. We can't go too heavy in ceiling and fail to develop the riskier players Similarly, we can't go too safe and develop a slew of fifth starters. It's our goal to create a balanced class in these first 10 rounds.
Lastly, with the third pick this year, we are hoping to save money on slot with our selection to attack tougher signs down the draft board. We will not go budget selection, and no pick this year should command full slot, but we want to take advantage of the size of our bonus pool to get a fair amount of elite talent.
Hot take: Our goal is to not take the top player on our board in round one. Context: We are willing to concede some ceiling for safety and take Dansby Swanson should he be there at pick three. After that, we will go Brendan Rodgers. If both are gone, we will likely go Carson Fulmer because we've completely bought in to his mentality.
First Round Selection, Pick No. 3: Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary High School
We expected Swanson to go early and weren't surprised to see him taken, but we are pleased to take Rodgers, the top prospect on our board. Rodgers will require more time to develop on the farm, enough so that we stress for everyone to avoid calling him a "Tulo replacement," but he has the work ethic and attitude to not succumb to the pressure.
While Rodgers may not have been the top ranked player in a stronger draft, he is absolutely worthy of the third overall pick here, and becomes the top prospect in our system upon signing. He's not an elite athlete, but he has all the physical tools to stay at the position.
What you are buying in Rodgers is the bat, capable of producing both average and power. Rodgers shows plus bat speed in a swing that generates loft and features a full extension at the end. He's been knocked a bit this spring for contact against inferior competition, but he showed extremely well on the summer circuit against competition that gives a better sample of future pro peers.
We really don't want to make a Tulo comparison with Rodgers, because the former is Hall of Fame caliber at his peak. But if everything breaks right, Rodgers' upside is that of an All-Star, middle order hitter who fills a premium position defensively.
Supplemental First Round
While we want to stay close to best player available as much as possible in the first 10 rounds, we are targeting a few specific players with our next pick that should be signable closer to slot and that we really like as a fit for our organization. A couple of players we have ranked highly whom we think might slide to us will require above-slot bonuses that could eat up the entire cushion we hope to get on the Rodgers deal.
As the round starts, our target is still there, but a couple of players we didn't expect to see on the board are still available and may not have significant signability issues. Additionally, Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella are available, but we are going to pass this time. Both will likely command a bonus we can't justify to the risk involved for the organization. I am not opposed to taking injured players, but if Aiken is still available something isn't quite right with the medical. Matuella has a fairly lengthy injury history that we don't think meets up with his likely bonus valuation.
Supplemental First Round Selection, Pick No. 27: Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice High School
This was purely a best player available pick, as Plummer (No. 9) was the highest ranked player still available on our board. A Kentucky recruit, Plummer shouldn't be too difficult to pry away from his commitment at slot or slightly above.
With Plummer we are putting 100 percent of our faith behind the bat, as he's a player that we feel has the best hit tool of all high school prospects with a shot at above-average power down the road. I'd compare his upside to Corey Dickerson, though Plummer has the more natural bat and better bat speed.
Plummer comes from Michigan and has suffered a similar fate to northern high school prospects who slid down the board from a lack of exposure and quality competition, but like Rodgers, Plummer showed up in a big way on the summer circuit. While he may start his career in center, he has little shot of sticking there at Coors and will likely be a left fielder long term. Still, Plummer is an upper-tier hitting prospect who shouldn't be available this late, a la Forrest Wall last season.
Competitive Balance Round A Selection, Pick No. 38: Jacob Woodford, RHP, Plant High School
After sweating out a few picks, we land our guy. Woodford has a solid commitment to Florida, so we couldn't wait to take him him much longer if we wanted to keep the bonus closer to the slot value. He's likely slightly above slot, but not outrageous for this spot.
Woodford checks off all the boxes we look for in a pitcher, even if he may lack the upside of the names above him. He has a broad, athletic build and an easily repeatable delivery. He has plus arm strength and a fastball that should sit plus with plus sink. Woodford also has a change-up that could flash plus in the future and a workable slider.
His build is pretty filled out and doesn't have much projection left, but we are buying in to the total package and athleticism with a plus arm is projectable in its own right. Woodford's upside might be that of an upper-tier number three, and he is relatively "safe" for a high school pitcher given his clean delivery and feel for throwing strikes.
Looking at our selections thus far, I'm not overly concerned with being high school heavy over the first three selections because one was the top player on our board, and the arm is pretty advanced for his age. That said, we are targeting another fit player with our next selection if he makes it to us ...
Second Round Selection, Pick No. 44: David Hill, RHP, San Diego
... and he does. Hill was a targeted selection, but his ranking (No. 42) is in line with the pick and he was still the seventh-best player available in a closely graded group.
Hill is one of the more electric arms in this college class. While the velocity tops out around 94 mph, he has hard sink of the fastball and can get almost curveball action on his slider when he stays on top of it. He has the makings of an average change-up, but I didn't see it enough on film. Hill's delivery is a little mechanical and his release point can be inconsistent, but few pitchers in this class pitch with better stuff when he's on.
He actually looked more loose in his junior college film and the stuff looked firmer, albeit with less command then as well. It will be the development staff's job to continue to fine tune the delivery to the point that it works more natural for him, but he has the necessary tools to pitch at the next level. Hill's upside, like Woodward, is that of a solid number three, but he also has the fall back of upper level reliever with the life on his stuff and the possibility of it playing up a tick more in short outings. The expectation, though, is that we're drafting a starting pitcher here.
After a flurry of picks, we're now ready to play the board a little bit and are open to several options. We should have the room to draft the right signability guy if we like one at the next pick.
Third Round Selection, Pick No. 77: Mac Marshall, LHP, Chipola Junior College
We very much played the board with this pick, even though Marshall was the third best player remaining (No. 44). The top player, Chandler Day, is probably not signable at this point in the draft, and we aren't willing to risk the amount of development time he'll need given the price tag. We gave strong thought to Kep Brown, but having suffered an achilles injury, we are a little hesitant with when and how much of his athleticism returns, and signability is now a concern in buying him out of a Miami commitment.
Marshall is still a best player available-type pick. His profile isn't sexy, I'd call it Marco Gonzales Lite, but there's enough projection left to see a number three ceiling. Marshall pitches off an average fastball that he controls well to set up two breaking balls and a change-up that will flash 70 potential. It's a real carry pitch in our opinion, and one that should help him keep right handed power at bay at the next level.
He's just a first year junior college player and should move quickly through the low minors at a young age. If he can hold his velocity at his peak range (93-94 mph) more consistently, he can become a real sleeper prospect.
Anticipating Marshall being roughly a slot signee, there's still room in the budget to splurge, but some of the prospects left on the board have tough commitment schools, namely Vanderbilt, UCLA, and Florida. After three straight safe-ish picks, though there are a few names we could pursue that don't necessarily stay true to best player available, but bring the potential for a high ceiling if developed properly.
Fourth Round Selection, Pick No. 107: Garret Zech, CF, Naples High School
While he's not the top player left on our board, Zech is no reach either with a No. 101 ranking. If this feels like a throwback pick to you, it's because Zech was a prominent high school quarterback, but he's focused on baseball for the last year and his tools standout on the diamond.
We passed up on other higher ranked players on our board because we really like the fit between player and future home park. Zech's a plus to plus plus runner and gets outstanding jumps in centerfield. His arm is fringe average now but his body offers room for development.
For a guy with Zech's speed, he impresses by not being a slap hitter, and instead employs a line drive oriented stroke. He has gap power now and may grow into fringe average power in the future, but power is likely the one tool he may not reach an average grade on. He's shown a feel for hit and has the speed to put pressure on a defense. We envision Zech as a table setter in the batting order while providing elite range in Coors' spacious center field.
In taking Zech, we passed on Mountcastle, who is much higher on our board but plays at a relative strength for the organization at the low levels. That being said, we were planning on nabbing him here if he was left and go over-slot on the pick. Instead, we'll consider other over-slot targets based on the board.
One name ranked highly still on our board we are likely to pass on is Thomas Eschelman. While he graded out highly as a prospect, he have to knock back his grade relative to Colorado, where his fringy stuff is a poor fit for Coors Field.
Fifth Round Selection, No. 137: Greg Pickett, RF, Legend High School
The Colorado prep crop is deep this year and we would be remiss to pass on attempting to use local ties to secure the signing of a talented player. My best guess is that Pickett at this slot would come above the recommended bonus to be bought out of his Mississippi State commitment.
Pickett has some of the best raw power in this class, and he knows how to tap into his massive 6'4, 222 pound frame to show it off in batting practice. He's still raw offensively and will need more game reps against better competition before he can tap into it in games. Defensively, we are going to announce Pickett as an outfielder, but there's a chance he may have to kick down to first base. Pickett is a good athlete for his size and will flash an above average arm.
Pickett reminds us of Brad Hawpe as a player, and he actually has even more raw power than Hawpe did, he just has a little ways to go developmentally before he can realize his potential.
Sixth Round Selection, No. 167: Jordan Ramsey, RHP, UNC Wilmington
We only have one senior on our board and we've elected to take him early here. We've selected quite a few high school talents and while I've given my best guesses on signability, drafting a senior now will give us considerable savings on slot, as seniors often sign between ten and fifty thousand dollars.
Ramsey is a good senior target as a reliever that can get fast tracked through the system. He's built long and lean and throws from a low slot that shapes his sinker-slider movement. He can run the fastball into the mid 90s and is around the plate with the pitch. He doesn't quite have closer upside, but should find a role in middle relief and is ready to start out in full season ball. He's athletic enough that you could try to start him, but his value is centered around his price tag and his relative expediency to the big leagues.
Seventh Round Selection, Pick No. 197: Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston
Lemoine is the second best player on our board, practically first when you consider that the top left, Doak Dozier, might be unsignable away from his Virginia commitment. There was a time that Lemoine was considered a possible first rounder, but even as a healthy player we saw him more as a third round talent.
Lemoine is now suffering from a shoulder impingement and will possibly require a great deal of scrutiny or be taken off a team's board completely. He's not needed surgery to this point, and the Rockies can afford to let him rest if need be for the remainder of the summer if they can have him healthy to start the next season.
Lemoine has the repertoire to survive Coors Field with a sinker slider mix and velocity that has reached the upper 90s. His delivery is efforted and he might fit best in the bullpen in time. He's been a highly productive starter at Houston leading up to this season, and there's a chance he might tempt returning to school for his senior year to rebuild his stock. His health, however, could make that a risky gamble as well.
While Lemoine has his share of warts, his selection highlights one of the major issues with this draft, the college talent pool. College bats have flewn off the board at picks much higher than the grade we've placed on them due to scarcity, and the college pitching crap is littered with fringy back-end types or middle rotation arms lacking the athleticism this war room prioritize in pitchers. As we start to reach the picks that match up with the end of our big board's grades, most of the college talent has largely been picked over and we might entertain selecting a player that just missed our board if we don't like the fits/signability of the remaining players.
Eighth Round Selection, Pick No. 227: Alexis Omar Diaz, RHP, Escuela Bonifacio Sanchez (Puerto Rico)
The definition of lottery ticket, Diaz comes from Puerto Rico with plenty of potential and no college commitment, but an extremely raw profile that might require an additional year at the short season level. Diaz's slender 6'3 frame has plenty of projection left and his arm action is loose and easy. He has solid arm strength given his present surprise and he could project to average or better down the road.
While we wanted to stray from projects, Diaz is good value at this point in the draft, and one of the better ceilings left on the board, even if the risk is equally high.
Ninth Round Selection, Pick No. 257: Travis Maezes, 3B, Michigan
Maezes offers a unique skillset at this stage of the draft. He has a track record of hitting despite a poor junior season playing through an injury. He has plus arm strength and above average defensive tools for the hot corner, but what intrigues us is the possibility he might be able to catch.
Maezes would be sent out at third for short season, but our recommendation to the development staff would be to bring him to instructs to work on catching. His athleticism is above average for the position, and he has the necessary arm strength. Should he stay at third base, his value will be tied to batting average and defense, as he's largely shown gap power to this point and he lacks projection in his build.
Tenth Round Selection, Pick No. 287: Wyatt Cross, C, Legacy High School
We considered a number of directions with this pick. On one hand, this would have been a good place to take a senior arm like Parker French of Texas or Jacob Evans of Oklahoma who could have moved quickly as bullpen arms and saved pool money to chase a few $100,000-plus signees on the third day. There are also a few juniors that aren't on our Top 200 we considered, like Daniel Salters, a catcher from Dallas Baptist.
Lastly, there are some tough sign juniors and draft eligible sophomores still on our Top 200 that might head back to school to improve their stock and may not warrant above slot because of their back end rotation upside, players like Tyler alexander of TCU, Cole Irvin of Oregon, and Justin Garza (injured) of Cal State Fullerton.
Instead, we went local again, and hope the local ties can convince Cross to start his pro career and pass on attending North Carolina State in the fall. Cross has pro ready size and the reputation as one of the better defensive catcher prospects in this draft. Unfortunately, Cross has had an injury that has prevented him from showing off these skills this spring.
Cross has some offensive upside as a sturdy framed high school prospect. He should be able to create enough leverage for average to fringe average power, but his bat speed isn't special and his overall hit tool isn't on par with other standouts from last year's summer circuit. He'll need to continue to add strength and develop his offensive tools and could be a slow mover through the system, however, the tools are here to develop a solid starter with plus defensive value.
Cross wraps up the second day of the draft, and a class that winds up fairly heavy on high school talent than the typical Rockies draft class. The board played out in a manner that the college talent went early due to scarcity, but we were able to capitalize on a number of high ceiling talents we wouldn't have otherwise expected to be available. We balanced pitchers (six) and hitters (six) in our 12 selections, though not necessarily by design.
In an organization in constant need of arms, we would have gone heavier if the player available warranted selection. Instead, we targeted the best fits early and let the board shake out late, and I believe we've raised the level of talent on the farm succinctly with these selections. Depending on bonus numbers for Cross, Lemoine, and Pickett, we should have some money left over to pursue a few area scout darlings that might be tempted with a $200,000 bonus on day three, but primarily the day will be spent drafting collegiate bats and arms to fill out the short season rosters.