Though Jason Groome and Riley Pint headline MLBPipeline.com's new Top 100 Draft Prospects list, the odds that they will actually go first and second in the Draft are as long as the odds of piling up runs vs. Jake Arrieta.Groome, a Barnegat (N.J.) High product, is a 6-foot-6 left-hander who
Though Jason Groome and Riley Pint headline MLBPipeline.com's new Top 100 Draft Prospects list, the odds that they will actually go first and second in the Draft are as long as the odds of piling up runs vs. Jake Arrieta.
Groome, a Barnegat (N.J.) High product, is a 6-foot-6 left-hander who dazzles scouts every time he takes the mound and could have three plus pitches in his 92-96 mph fastball, tight curveball and improving changeup. Pint, a right-hander from St. Thomas Aquinas High (Overland Park, Kan.), has even better stuff, with a heater that has reached 102 mph, a more powerful curve and a more advanced changeup, though his command isn't as consistent.
• MLB Draft, June 9-11: Day 1 on MLB Network/MLB.com; Days 2-3 on MLB.com
However, only three times in the first 51 Drafts did a high school pitcher go No. 1 overall, and none of those three left-handers worked out for the club that selected them. The Rangers rushed David Clyde (1973) to the big leagues as a box-office attraction, the Yankees' Brien Taylor (1991) topped out in Double-A after hurting his left shoulder in an off-field fight and Brady Aiken (2014) didn't sign with the Astros after a physical raised concerns about his left elbow.
Only once did prep arms go first and second in the Draft. After the Astros took Aiken two years ago, the Marlins followed with Tyler Kolek. Aiken had Tommy John surgery last March and Kolek had his right elbow reconstructed earlier this month, further strengthening the industry's belief that high school pitchers are the riskiest demographic in the Draft.
That presents a quandary for the clubs choosing at the top of the 2016 Draft, starting with the Phillies at No. 1, the Reds at No. 2 and the Braves at No. 3.
• 2016 Top 100 Draft Prospects list
"Would you want Pint or Groome in your system? Yes," said a scouting executive from a team with an early choice. "But do you want to take a high school arm in the top three picks? No."
Making the decision process even more difficult for the teams choosing high is a lack of clear-cut candidates. There isn't a worthy college position player who is a lock to stay in the middle of the diamond, and most of best college pitchers coming into the year haven't lived up to expectations. There are some good high school position players available, though none who would factor into the top five picks in a normal year for talent.
• 2016 MLB Draft order
"I think it would [be tough] to be picking 1-2-3 this year," an American League scouting director said. "There's no Kris Bryant, no Bryce Harper, not that type of player. There are no up-the-middle guys, college or high school."
"I think it's the most uncertain top five in recent memory," the other scouting executive said.
Breaking down the demographics
Groome and Pint are far from the only high school pitchers attracting attention in the first round. Righties Ian Anderson (Shenendehowa, N.Y., High) and Forrest Whitley (Alamo Heights High, San Antonio, Texas) and lefties Joey Wentz (Shawnee Mission East High, Prairie Village, Kan.) and Braxton Garrett (Florence, Ala., High) all have pitched themselves into the middle of the first round. Ten of the first 30 players on MLBPipeline's Top 100 are prep arms.
"The strength of this draft is high school pitchers," a National League scouting director said. "There are a whole lot of general managers who don't want to take high school pitchers early, but you have to adjust to the talent that's out there. The guys who are better at the Draft are the guys who know that."
By contrast, the college arms have been somewhat disappointing. Of the 14 whom MLBPipeline projected as first-rounders at the outset of the spring, only Mississippi State right-hander Dakota Hudson has significantly improved his stock. Florida left-hander A.J. Puk may still be first one chosen -- and possibly the No. 1 overall pick -- but he has battled inconsistency and back spasms.
California right-hander Daulton Jefferies has missed a month with a shoulder strain and has no definitive timetable for a return to the mound, while Stanford righty Cal Quantrill has yet to pitch after missing all of 2015 following Tommy John surgery. Oklahoma righty Alec Hansen has fallen from potential No. 1 overall choice to mop-up reliever for the Sooners, while Louisville righty Kyle Funkhouser likely won't go anywhere near as high (35th overall) as he did a year ago.
The outlook is brighter for college position players. Mercer's Kyle Lewis and Louisville's Corey Ray hit for average and power, and they could be the first college outfielders selected in the top five since J.D. Drew went second to the Phillies in 1997, though they generate mixed reviews about their ability to play center field in the big leagues. The other first-round collegians with the best bats (Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel, Miami catcher Zack Collins, Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig) are destined for the corners as well, and Collins and Craig could wind up at first base.
The high school position-player crop offers a pair of enticing up-the-middle options in La Costa Canyon High (Carlsbad, Calif.) outfielder Mickey Moniak, who has the highest floor in the group, and International Baseball Academy (Ceiba, P.R.) shortstop Delvin Perez, who has the highest ceiling. Chaminade College Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.) outfielder Blake Rutherford could join them in the top 10 picks, while Pope High (Marietta, Ga.) third baseman Josh Lowe and Plum High (Pittsburgh) outfielder Alex Kirilloff are likely mid-first-rounders.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.