Leading up to when the first pick by the Minnesota Twins is announced by Commissioner Rob Manfred shortly after 7 p.m. ET tonight, Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo will be working the phones, texting and emailing decision-makers in the scouting industry, as they try to line up their final mock Drafts. Along the way, they hear a lot of rumors, buzz, talk of guys with helium and guys sliding. They will bring that information to everyone here in MLBPipeline.com's Draft Buzz.
Lewis in mix with McKay for No. 1
It may be this afternoon before we know for sure whom the Twins are going to take with the No. 1 overall pick.
While Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay is the presumptive favorite, California high school shortstop/outfielder Royce Lewis is also in the mix. McKay is the second-best two-way prospect in Draft history behind only Dave Winfield, while Lewis combines hittability and athleticism like no other player in this Draft.
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But more than talent will be a factor in the decision. At $14,156,800, the Twins have the largest bonus pool for the first 10 rounds of any club, including $7,770,700 for the top choice. Saving money there would allow them to spend more on talented players who drop to their supplemental first-round pick at No. 35, their second-rounder at No. 37 or to later rounds.
If Lewis would give Minnesota a significant discount compared to McKay, that could swing the decision in his favor. The Reds are locked in on California prep right-hander Hunter Greene at No. 2 and the Padres may prefer North Carolina high school lefty MacKenzie Gore at No. 3, so either McKay or Lewis could drop to the Rays at No. 4 or the Braves at No. 5 if Minnesota passes on them.
-- Jim Callis
Deals in top five?
The night before the Draft is a time when rumors of deals can run rampant. This year appears no different, with the Rays at 4 and the Braves at 5 the teams subject to the most speculation right now. In both cases, the deal would include signing a player for well below pick value in order to use the savings to aggressively go after talent with later picks.
Tampa is being mentioned with just one name: Bubba Thompson. Thompson, a two-sport star from the Alabama high school ranks, is No. 26 on our Top 200 Draft prospects list and will be in attendance at MLB Network on Monday night. The Rays have the third-highest Draft bonus pool at just over $12.5 million. They have a Competitive Balance Round A pick at No. 31, then their second-round selection at No. 40. There is still a very good chance they'll take the best player available, someone like Royce Lewis, but they do like Thompson's tools, and the money saved could come in handy with those next two picks.
Atlanta appears to have many balls in the air currently. If Lewis or Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright gets to the Braves at five (something that could happen at this point), they could go that route. But they could also decide to cut a deal, something they did at No. 3 last year with Ian Anderson, allowing them to get high school arms like Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller for above pick value. If they wanted to go the high school arm route again, Shane Baz is the name that comes up often. But there are lot of bats in play as potential money-savers. On the high school side, there's Nick Pratto, the SoCal first baseman, as well as Texas outfielder Tristen Lutz. And if a college hitter is what they're in the market for, Virginia's Adam Haseley has long been associated with this pick and the Braves have talked to Keston Hiura as well. Pratto, Lutz and Hiura all came in for workouts in Atlanta.
-- Jonathan Mayo
Don't sleep on these potential first-round picks
Jonathan Mayo and I will have a new dual first-round projection for Monday morning, and we'll keep seeking intel and put out a names-only version late Monday afternoon. To tide you over until then, here's a squad of players ranked outside first-round territory (Nos. 1-30) on MLBPipeline.com's Top 200 Prospects who could go in the first round:
Luis Campusano, C, Cross Creek High, Augusta, Ga. (No. 64)
Campusano and Wisconsin-Milwaukee's Daulton Varsho (No. 110) could benefit from the low supply and high demand for catchers.
Brent Rooker, 1B, Mississippi State (No. 50)
Rooker looks like he'll become the Southeastern Conference's second-ever triple crown winner in history, following Rafael Palmeiro.
Kevin Merrell, 2B, South Florida (No. 51)
I'm cheating here with a current shortstop whose arm fits much better at second base; speed makes him attractive.
Mark Vientos, 3B, American Heritage HS (No. 67)
Vientos is generating a little more buzz than Stillwater (Okla.) High's Ryan Vilade (No. 43), who also could sneak into the top 30 picks.
Jeter Downs, SS, Monsignor Pace HS, Miami Gardens, Fla. (No. 37)
Named after you-know-who, Downs shows promise both offensively and defensively at one of the thinnest positions in this Draft.
Heliot Ramos, OF, Leadership Christian Academy, Guaynabo, P.R. (No. 40)
With one of the best power/speed combinations in the high school crop, Ramos could fit in the middle of the first round.
Tristen Lutz, OF, Martin HS, Arlington, Texas (No. 34)
Lutz's huge right-handed power endears him to clubs, and he has the hitting ability to make the most of it.
Drew Waters, OF, Etowah HS, Woodstock, Ga. (No. 42)
Waters is a switch-hitter with feel to hit, plus speed and the tools to play anywhere in the outfield.
Brendon Little, LHP, State JC of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (No. 36)
While Little's control can get erratic, few southpaws can throw in the mid-90s and buckle knees with a curveball.
Nate Pearson, RHP, JC of Central Florida (No. 35)
The hardest-throwing college pitcher available, Pearson reached 102 mph in a bullpen workout last week.
-- Jim Callis
McKay looks like No. 1, Ramos climbing
My latest first-round projection is barely 12 hours old, yet I'd already like to take a mulligan on the No. 1 pick for the Twins.
Though the teams selecting behind the Twins think they're leaning toward Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright, I started hearing whispers Thursday night that Minnesota prefers Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay. That noise is getting louder Friday, and I now believe the Twins will take McKay No. 1, as a left-handed pitcher rather than a first baseman, unless California high school righty Hunter Greene overwhelms them in his visit to Target Field on Friday afternoon.
The Reds are locked in on Greene at No. 2. If Minnesota switches to Greene, Cincinnati would pop McKay as a pitcher.
Another bit of feedback I've gotten since we unveiled the mock draft is that Puerto Rican high school outfielder Heliot Ramos has a good chance to go somewhere in the middle of the first round, with potential candidates including the Astros (No. 15), Giants (No. 19) and Orioles (No. 21). Part of a deep class of prep outfielders, he combines impressive right-handed power potential with solid speed.
-- Jim Callis
Canning medical causing concern
With the Draft rapidly approaching, teams are in their Draft rooms, going over details like medical reports. Top pitching prospects submit to things like MRIs. And sometimes, those tests turn up things that get flagged by medical staffs.
That is what appears to have happened with UCLA right-hander Griffin Canning. Ranked No. 17 on our Draft Top 200 list, Canning is a highly regarded college arm who was looking like a middle of the first round talent because of his extremely consistent season. But word was spreading as the final weekend before the Draft approached that there were some issues with his medical report that were causing teams to pause at the very least.
According to sources from multiple teams, Canning's MRI returned some potential issues. Such reports are not uncommon and it will be up to each team's medical staff to interpret the results, but as of Friday night, some teams had already decided to pass on Canning, while others are waiting to hear back from their doctors on how to proceed.
-- Jonathan Mayo
Beck impressing in workouts
We've written about private workouts in the past and how much they impact a prospect's Draft stock. Much was made of how Carlos Correa may have put himself over the top as the No. 1 pick with the Astros in 2012 with his visit to Houston.
Teams vary in terms of how many players they will bring in to their home ballpark for that last look-see and face-to-face time with executives. But Austin Beck, the toolsy high school outfielder who rushed up Draft boards with a strong spring after missing last summer's showcase circuit because of a torn ACL, has made a couple of stops ahead of Monday's Draft.
Ranked No. 9 on our Top 200 list, Beck visited with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland A's in recent days. Not surprisingly, he made strong impressions, showing off all of his tools on the field.
Beck's name has been all over the first-round map in the last week or so, with the Braves at No. 5 his first potential landing spot. The A's have also been linked to Beck, as have several teams behind those two, though there was some buzz that he might be sliding a bit. After his workouts, however, teams picking behind Atlanta and Oakland don't expect the outfielder to get past one of those two clubs.
-- Jonathan Mayo
Heimlich's stock plummets after report
Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich has come under intense scrutiny after a Thursday report by The Oregonian revealed that he is a registered sex offender.
The report stated Heimlich pled guilty in 2012 to molesting a 6-year-old female family member when he was 15 years old. While the crime occurred in Heimlich's hometown of Puyallup, Wash., it was discovered by local authorities in Corvallis, Ore., when a local sheriff was doing an investigation into sex offenders who had let their registrations lapse and found that Heimlich had missed an annual update in April.
University president Ed Ray issued a written statement Thursday, but he didn't address when the school learned of it.
"I find this account disturbing and want to let you know that OSU does not condone the conduct as reported," said the statement. "But we also understand that this case involves a criminal matter that was previously addressed by the judicial system in the state of Washington.
"We take this issue very seriously, and I want to be clear that each day the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff is Oregon State University's number one priority. Our policies and procedures seek to provide a safe learning environment for our entire community and to ensure that all prospective and current students are treated fairly and equitably."
The full text of the statement can be found here. Neither Heimlich nor the coaching staff has commented publicly or indicated when or if he'll pitch this weekend in a Super Regional series against Vanderbilt, but it was reported Friday afternoon that he would not start Friday night's opener, as would typically be expected.
Ranked No. 108 on MLBPipeline's Top 200 Draft Prospects before news of his crime surfaced, Heimlich projected as a likely second- or third-round pick. The left-hander is leading NCAA Division I with a 0.76 ERA for a 52-4 Beavers team ranked No. 1 in all of the major polls and seeded No. 1 in the NCAA playoffs.
In the wake of these revelations, several teams have told MLBPipeline.com that they have removed Heimlich from their boards and don't believe any club will select him in the 40-round Draft, which begins Monday.
"You absolutely can't draft him," a senior scouting official with a National League club said. "You can't draft him."
-- Jim Callis
Greene paying Twins a visit
For those certain the Minnesota Twins have crossed Hunter Greene off of their potential No. 1 pick list, think again.
Greene, No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 200 Draft prospects list, will be in Minnesota on Friday to meet with and work out for the team. That's not exactly the kind of thing a team does so close to the Draft for a player they're not considering.
Greene, of course, is a talented two-way player who would be a first-round pick as an infielder, but he really separated himself as a pitcher by hitting triple digits this spring. He hasn't thrown a competitive pitch since mid-April, but he has been throwing bullpen sessions for teams. Green will likely be doing the same for the Twins at Target Field on Friday.
Most feel the Twins are leaning toward taking a college player, with Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright's name being mentioned most frequently, followed by Louisville two-way star Brendan McKay. But while a high school right-hander has never been taken No. 1 overall in the history of the Draft, it's clear that, at least as of now, the Twins are still considering making history.
-- Jonathan Mayo
McKay a pitcher or hitter?
After Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, Brendan McKay is the second-best two-way prospect in Draft history. The Louisville first baseman/left-hander would be a top-five pick at either of his positions -- and there's still no consensus among clubs as to where he has the brighter future.
The Twins have the No. 1 overall pick and are believed to be leaning toward making McKay a pitcher if they select him. The Reds (No. 2) would send him to the mound, and the Padres (No. 3) likely would as well. He's unlikely to get past the Rays (No. 4), who would make him a full-time hitter, and the Braves (No. 5) figure to do the same if he gets to them.
Winner of the John Olerud Award as college baseball's best two-way player as both a freshman and a sophomore, McKay should win it again in 2017 and also could sweep all the major Player of the Year honors. As Louisville prepares to begin NCAA super-regional play Friday against Kentucky, he's batting .356/.476/.683 with 17 homers, 56 RBIs and more walks (45) than strikeouts (35). On the mound, McKay is 9-3 with a 2.31 ERA and 131 strikeouts in 97 1/3 innings.
Teams that prefer McKay as a pitcher envision him as a potential No. 2 starter. Clubs that like him more as a position player believe that he could be the best all-around hitter available, capable of batting .300 with 20 homers per year.
It's possible that McKay could play both ways in his pro debut. He figures to end Louisville's season with around 110 innings, so even a team that wanted him to pitch would limit him to short stints and 15 or so innings in the Minors this summer. There's no reason not to let McKay play some first base and DH on the days he doesn't take the mound, giving his pro team more information to help decide his future.
-- Jim Callis
Perez needs elbow surgery
Joe Perez, the No. 92 prospect on MLB Pipeline's Draft Top 200 Prospects list, will have Tommy John surgery. As first reported by Baseball America, Perez will have the surgery on June 13, Day 2 of the Draft, and it will be performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida.
The Archbishop McCarthy High School product had one of the best fastballs in the Draft, which clocked up into the upper 90s. He had been shut down earlier in the spring with a tired arm and some soreness, but returned to show the same explosive stuff, including his slider, which flashes plus at times.
Perez pulled double duty in high school, also playing third base, and the overuse of his arm did concern some scouts. So did his profile, with his inconsistent delivery and effort leading some to see a future reliever in him.
How this impacts his Draft stock remains to be seen. Teams have not been afraid to take pitchers who have had, or need to have, Tommy John surgery, in the Draft. But Perez has a commitment to the University of Miami and some worried he wanted to head there so he could continue to hit (he might be a sixth- or seventh-rounder as an infielder). He could do that as a freshman as he rehabs his elbow post-surgery, though there could still be teams willing to draft him and try to convince him to rehab with professional medical and training staff.
- Jonathan Mayo
Impact of Bukauskas' tough finale
Heading into the NCAA regional playoffs, North Carolina right-hander J.B. Bukauskas had firmly established himself as the third-best college pitcher available in the 2017 Draft. Ranked behind only Vanderbilt righty Kyle Wright and Louisville lefty Brendan McKay (who might get picked as a first baseman), Bukauskas looked like a safe bet to go No. 6 overall to the A's or No. 7 to the D-backs.
His first-round game against Davidson on Friday looked like a mismatch. The Tar Heels were the No. 2 national seed, while the Wildcats never had won an NCAA tournament game. Yet Davidson shelled Bukauskas for six runs on six hits and four walks in just 3 2/3 innings, cruising to an 8-4 victory that was its first of three straight as it advanced to a super-regional date with Texas A&M this weekend.
It was Bukauskas' worst start of the season, and also his last. How might it affect his Draft status?
From a pure stuff standpoint, Bukauskas showed the same mid-90s fastball and mid-80s slider that he rode to a 9-1 record with a 2.53 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings as junior. But his command was off, and Davidson did an excellent job of laying off the Draft's best slider when it rode out of the zone and pounding it when it stayed over the plate. They also squared up more of Bukauskas' fastballs than his opponents usually do.
Teams that like Bukauskas believe he could possibly contribute in a big league bullpen this summer before transitioning to the front half of a rotation. Others wonder about his lack of size (6 feet), the effort in his delivery and his so-so control and command, and they think he'll be a reliever in the long term.
A bad start after a dominant college career shouldn't turn off Bukauskas' proponents too much. He still figures to be the second or third college pitcher drafted, depending on what happens with McKay, and it's hard to imagine him getting past the Angels at No. 10.
-- Jim Callis
Chipola chock full o' Draft talent
Chipola Junior College (Marianna, Fla.) has long had a well-earned reputation of having a strong baseball program. The alumni list has many big leaguers on it, led by Russell Martin and Jose Bautista. But as good as it's been over the years, there have never been more than two players taken from Chipola in the first 10 rounds of the June Draft.
That should change this year with a top-ranked team that just won the Junior College World Series. The Indians have as many as five players who could hear their name called before the end of Day 2 of the Draft. Three -- third baseman Andrew Bechtold, first baseman Reynaldo Rivera and left-hander Evan Steele -- are on MLBPipeline.com's Top 200 Draft prospects list. Right-hander Bowden Francis and second baseman Jose Caballero also have the chance to do well in the Draft.
All but Francis likely boosted their stock during Chipola's run in Grand Junction, Colo., during the JUCO World Series. Francis gave up 11 runs on 13 hits over nine innings in his two starts, but he was the Panhandle Conference Pitcher of the Year, so he has track record (and the D-backs selected him in the 18th round of the Draft a year ago). Both Rivera and Caballero hit five homers in seven games, and Bechtold hit .407 after hitting over .400 all year. Steele was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Pitcher after winning two games and striking out 17 in 14 innings.
But it wasn't necessarily all positive. Steele, who missed a month of the season with thrombosis, threw 143 pitches in the start that catapulted Chipola into a decisive game against San Jacinto, which it won to take home the title. It seems to be a regular occurrence in Grand Junction, with eventual Phillies fourth-round pick JoJo Romero throwing 132 pitches in a 15-strikeout masterpiece to help Yavapai win it all a year ago.
"It's not going to move him up or down necessarily," one national crosschecker said about Steele's pitch count. "But it makes you pause. It did create discussion in our Draft room."
The scout did say that Chipola was a "good team from top to bottom" and that Bechtold, who transferred from Maryland to Chipola when told he wouldn't be a full-time player for the Terps, has shown this year that he could "be the No. 3 hitter on any team in the country."
-- Jonathan Mayo
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.