Early birds: 10 top Draft picks off to fast starts

Moniak, Rutherford and Dunn among first-year pros impressing early

August 11th, 2016

It's a pretty simple system, really. Players were drafted over the course of 40 rounds from June 9-11. Then all 30 teams had until July 15 to sign those drafted players. Many signed well in advance of that date, and even those who waited until the last minute have been able to get nearly a month of professional experience under their belts.
Generally speaking, teams don't worry about results from draftees in their first summer of pro ball. It's more about allowing players to get a taste of what pro ball is all about and organizations getting a first sense of what a player looks like on that stage, and perhaps what they might need to work on.
Getting out and playing that first summer after being drafted is far from unimportant, however. , the 2015 No. 2 overall pick, signed quickly enough with the Astros to rack up 272 at-bats a summer ago. Andrew Benintendi, taken No. 7 by the Red Sox, picked up 198 ABs during his pro debut. Both are currently in the big leagues, and there's no question the foundation of the summer helped give them a boost to a fast track.
Getting off to a good start is never a bad thing, of course, giving a new pro confidence heading into his first offseason. Many of this year's Draft class hit the ground running, both at the plate and on the mound. Knowing it's still a small sample size, here's a look at five hitters and five pitchers from the early rounds who have made strong transitions to Minor League Baseball, with their Draft position in parentheses.
Mickey Moniak, OF, Phillies (No. 1)
No. 30 on Top 100; No. 2 on Phillies' Top 30
The top pick in the Draft has done in the Gulf Coast League what he did pretty consistently all spring and dating back to last year's summer showcase circuit: hit. A recent 0-for-10 stretch has Moniak down to .299, but he's been over .300 most of his debut, firmly among GCL leaders. He does have five doubles, three triples, a home run and seven steals to date.

Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds (No. 2)
No. 52 on Top 100; No. 1 on Reds' Top 30
Senzel's overall line of .277/.389/.478 is solid enough, but it really starts to look more impressive when looking at what he's done since he was moved up to full-season ball. The Tennessee standout has hit .310/.414/.556 with six homers, 22 RBIs and even 12 steals in 36 Midwest League games. The top college bat in the class sure seems like he's starting to follow a Bregman-Benintendi kind of path.

MILB Video - Title: Senzel slams a homer in Dayton's 5-1 win at West Michigan - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1017022983

Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins (No. 15)
No. 6 on Twins' Top 30
The Pittsburgh high school standout skipped over the GCL and went straight to the Rookie-level Appalachian League without missing a beat. Kirilloff's .361 average led the league entering Thursday, and he's sixth in both slugging (.516) and OPS (.894) while hitting five homers and driving in 23 over his first 37 pro games.

Matt Thaiss, 1B, Angels (No. 16)
No. 1 on Angels' Top 30
The Angels decided to go for an advanced college hitter with their first pick and, so far, it's looking like a good decision. Moved out from behind the plate where he starred at Virginia, Thaiss has played first base as a pro, and he's hit like one. Like Senzel, he's advanced to the Midwest League and has continued to rake there, with a combined .324/.389/.527 line, to go along with five homers and 31 RBIs in 44 games between Burlington and Orem in the Pioneer League. Three of those five home runs have come in Thaiss' past four games.

MILB Video - Title: Thaiss hits third homer in four games - Url: http://www.milb.com/r/video?content_id=1032403283

Blake Rutherford, OF, Yankees (No. 18)
No. 59 on Top 100; No. 6 on Yankees' Top 30
Moniak may have passed Rutherford on Draft boards in June, but it doesn't seem to have bothered Rutherford. Like Kirilloff, Rutherford is in the Appy League (after starting in the GCL). In 21 games since moving up, all he's done is hit .408/.459/.645 with 12 extra-base hits in his first 76 at-bats.

Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves (No. 3)
No. 89 on Top 100; No. 5 on Braves' Top 30
Perhaps Anderson's selection at No. 3 overall surprised some, and there's no question the Braves used money saved to be aggressive later in the Draft. But he belonged near the top of the first round, and he's certainly pitching like he's out to prove it. Anderson didn't allow an earned run (yielding two of the unearned variety) in 18 innings of work in the GCL, allowing just 14 hits and four walks while striking out a batter per frame, before being promoted to Danville, where he gave up one earned run on two hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings in his first start.

Justin Dunn, RHP, Mets (No. 19)
No. 4 on Mets' Top 30
College pitchers typically don't throw a ton in their first summer because of the workload they carried during the collegiate season. That's especially true of Dunn, who was Boston College's closer at first, then moved into the rotation. Still, he's been impressive in 15 New York-Penn League innings, allowing just one earned run (five total runs) on 13 hits and five walks while striking out 13.

Eric Lauer, LHP, Padres (No. 25)
No. 9 on Padres' Top 30
The Kent State lefty has tossed just a combined total of 13 innings, but he's struck out 17 and walked just three. Since move up to the Class A Short-Season Northwest League, Lauer has tossed nine scoreless frames while allowing just five hits (.161 batting average against).

Alec Hansen, RHP, White Sox (No. 49 -- 2nd round)
No. 8 on White Sox's Top 30
Once thought to be a potential top pick, an inability to throw strikes hurt Hansen's Draft stock. That hasn't been an issue during his debut. While it's been in lower-level Rookie leagues, Hansen has still struck out 53 in 32 2/3 combined innings. He's allowed just 12 hits (.113 batting average). And perhaps most important, Hansen has only issued 10 walks, with one or none in six of his eight starts.

A.J. Puckett, RHP, Royals (No. 67 -- 2nd round)
No. 17 on Royals' Top 30
Two things that stand out for the Pepperdine product are his innings -- 41 and counting -- and the fact that he's reached full-season ball already. Along the way, Puckett has posted a 2.85 combined ERA, walked just two per nine innings and held hitters to a .233 batting average against. It might not take him long to make his way to Kansas City.