Mock Draft: Rutschman remains at top
As in my first attempt at projecting the first round two weeks ago, I still foresee six position players going in the first six picks, followed by teams scrambling to snap up the four best college or junior college pitchers. Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman remains the favorite to become the Orioles' No. 1 overall selection, though there's increased chatter about scenarios where that might not happen.
Don't buy into them.
The first line of thinking is that Rutschman has a shoulder injury (that didn't require surgery) in his past, Baltimore has a history of being tough on medical records and new GM Mike Elias already has endured health concerns derailing a No. 1 overall choice (Brady Aiken with the Astros in 2014, though Houston turned the compensation pick into Alex Bregman). Clubs are curious about Rutschman's shoulder, but most think the possibility that it drops him in the Draft is overblown.
"Unless they have to cut off his arm," one scouting director said, "I don't see how he doesn't go 1-1."
The other theory bandied about is that the Orioles might want to take a deep discount at No. 1 and use the savings to spend on other players later in the Draft. This possibility makes the rounds every year, but it never makes sense to pass on the best prospect at the top and does so even less in 2019. The Diamondbacks have $2.3 million more in bonus pool money and four selections between Baltimore's first two choices, so it would be impossible for the Orioles to count on specific targets getting to them at No. 42.
1. Orioles: Adley Rutschman, C, Oregon State
It's still possible that Baltimore could go in a different direction, but other teams don't think it will pass on a switch-hitting catcher who's batting .428/.581/.783, has strong defensive skills and great makeup. California first baseman Andrew Vaughn appears to be Plan B.
2. Royals: Bobby Witt, SS, Colleyville (Texas) Heritage HS
Witt, a potential five-tool shortstop with a big league pedigree, to Kansas City may be the biggest lock in the Draft right now.
3. White Sox: CJ Abrams, SS, Blessed Trinity Catholic HS (Roswell, Ga.)
If Rutschman did slide, he wouldn't get past Chicago. The White Sox are looking for up-the-middle players, which makes Abrams the favorite over college corner bats such as Vaughn.
4. Marlins: JJ Bleday, OF, Vanderbilt
Bleday, Vaughn and Florida high school outfielder Riley Greene could go 4-5-6 in just about any conceivable order. Miami's high-level executives may prefer a premium athlete like Abrams, but he may not get to No. 4. Vaughn is the reigning Golden Spikes Award winner and the best all-around hitter in the Draft, though Bleday and Greene aren't far behind and offer more defensive value.
5. Tigers: Andrew Vaughn, 1B, California
Detroit loves Greene but may find it difficult to pass on Vaughn. Arizona State outfielder Hunter Bishop also is in the mix.
6. Padres: Riley Greene, OF, Hagerty HS (Oviedo, Fla.)
Most of the teams at the top are scouting the same group of position players, and San Diego will take whichever one of the big six remains.
7. Reds: Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian
Cincinnati likely would pounce on any of the six projected picks above if they made it to No. 7. If not, the Reds figure to start a run on college arms with Lodolo, the consensus best available in a lackluster crop.
8. Rangers: Hunter Bishop, OF, Arizona State
It's still early to be cutting discounts to save money for later-round expenditures, but the club rumored to be most likely to cut a deal in the top 10 is Texas. That scenario could lead the Rangers to Texas high school third baseman Brett Baty, San Jacinto (Texas) JC right-hander Jackson Rutledge or Washington prep outfielder Corbin Carroll. Nevertheless, we'll play it straight for now with Bishop, an athletic center fielder challenging for the NCAA Division I home run lead.
9. Braves: Jackson Rutledge, RHP, San Jacinto (Texas) JC
(Compensation for failure to sign 2018 first-rounder Carter Stewart)
Atlanta wouldn't mind a shot at one of the top six hitters or Bishop. If that's not possible, it comes down to a college arm (Rutledge, West Virginia right-hander Alek Manoah) versus Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers. If Rutledge goes here, he matches Kevin Appier (No. 9 to the Royals in 1987) as the highest-drafted junior college pitcher ever.
10. Giants: Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia
San Francisco appears focused on college arms (Rutledge, Manoah, Kentucky left-hander Zack Thompson) and college bats (Langeliers, UNLV shortstop Bryson Stott). This could be the ceiling for the best high school pitcher, Matthew Allan, who won't come cheap.
11. Blue Jays: Bryson Stott, SS, UNLV
Toronto is on the trail of the top college pitchers but also is high on Stott, the best of an unusually deep group of college shortstops.
12. Mets: Zack Thompson, LHP, Kentucky
New York also would like a college arm, and Thompson would fit if he gets cleared medically. He has shoulder issues in high school and missed two months last spring with an elbow injury, though he has been healthy and dominant throughout 2019. If the top tier of college pitchers evaporates before 12, Langeliers would be an alternative.
13. Twins: Shea Langeliers, C, Baylor
Unless one of the first four college pitchers makes it to 13, Minnesota likely would take a college bat (Langeliers, Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung) over another college arm (Elon right-hander George Kirby). The Twins are bullish on California prep shortstop Kyren Paris, one of the youngest players in the Draft, who may belong closer to their supplemental first-rounder at No. 39 -- but probably won't last that long.
14. Phillies: Gunnar Henderson, SS, Morgan Academy (Selma, Ala.)
Like Paris, Henderson is another high school shortstop with serious helium, and Philadelphia repeatedly has sent top-level executives to see him. Jung and Kirby are considerations here and will be for most teams below until they come off the board.
15. Angels: Matthew Allan, RHP, Seminole HS (Sanford, Fla.)
Allan has a reported $4 million price tag, and this slot comes with an assigned value of $3,885,800 for bonus-pool purposes, so teams below here would have to get creative to pay him. If Allan is gone, Los Angeles could turn to Kirby or the second-best prep arm, Quinn Priester.
16. Diamondbacks: George Kirby, RHP, Elon
Outside of Atlanta, which picks at Nos. 8 and 21, the other clubs between Arizona's Nos. 16 and 26 selections can't compete with the Diamondbacks' MLB-high $16,093,700 bonus pool. The best strategy might be to wait on a higher-priced player most teams can't afford and take someone at 16 who won't get to 26. Kirby and Priester are two pitchers who definitely fit that description, as does Baty.
17. Nationals: Josh Jung, 3B, Texas Tech
Washington would prefer one of the five college pitchers projected ahead of them and especially covets Rutledge. The Nationals more likely will wind up with a good value in whichever college bat remains among Jung, Langeliers and Stott.
18. Pirates: Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove HS (Cary, Ill.)
Pairing Pittsburgh with an athletic high school right-hander loaded with starter traits is an obvious match.
19. Cardinals: Corbin Carroll, OF, Lakeside HS (Seattle)
Carroll is one of the more advanced hitters, fastest runners and best up-the-middle defenders among the high schoolers, but he's not physically imposing and may not find a home in the upper half of the first round. This is probably Kirby's floor and the most realistic ceiling for Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner and North Carolina shortstop Will Wilson.
20. Mariners: Brett Baty, 3B, Lake Travis HS (Austin, Texas)
There are teams that love Baty's bat and others that aren't interested at all because he'll be 19 1/2 on Draft Day. Those in the first group think he'll go closer to 10 than 20.
21. Braves: Logan Davidson, SS, Clemson
College position players will comprise most of the selections in the 21-30 range. Davidson could go higher to clubs that focus on his raw power, speed and arm, though his wood-bat history scares some.
22. Rays: Keoni Cavaco, 3B, Eastlake HS (Chula Vista, Calif.)
Cavaco's offensive and defensive potential has him climbing Draft boards. Tampa Bay never has been afraid of high school pitchers and could be tempted by Allan, Priester and fellow right-handers Brennan Malone, Daniel Espino and JJ Goss.
23. Rockies: Kameron Misner, OF, Missouri
Misner has a big league body and the best tools package among college position players, but his .222/.347/.323 performance in Southeastern Conference games has scuttled his chances of going in the top 10. Some clubs still think he could go about 10 picks higher than this. Colorado seems focused on college bats, with other candidates including Wilson and Tulane third baseman Kody Hoese.
24. Indians: Will Wilson, SS, North Carolina State
Cleveland also is a good bet for a college hitter, eyeing the same guys as the Rockies as well as Hoese and Texas A&M shortstop Braden Shewmake.
25. Dodgers: Brennan Malone, RHP, IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)
Los Angeles could jump on the college bat train here, though Malone would be hard to pass up with one of the best fastball/slider combinations in the Draft.
26. Diamondbacks: Maurice Hampton, OF, Memphis (Tenn.) University HS
(Compensation for failure to sign 2018 first-rounder Matt McLain)
A possible 25-25 center fielder, Hampton is one of the best athletes in the Draft and Arizona will have no problem buying him away from a commitment to play baseball and football (cornerback) at Louisiana State. Of the two blue-chip football recruits in this draft, he's more likely to sign than outfielder/running back Jerrion Ealy (Jackson Prep, Flowood, Miss.).
27. Cubs: Michael Busch, 1B/OF, North Carolina
Chicago needs pitching pronto but none of the best college arms figure to get close to No. 27. The Cubs have excelled at targeting college bats in the first round and likely will go with another this June.
28. Brewers: Seth Johnson, RHP, Campbell
A former shortstop who pitched just six innings at Louisburg (N.C.) JC last year, Johnson flashes earlier-first-round stuff but has little track record for teams to bank on. He could go closer to Kirby to a club that wants a college arm and will gamble on upside. Milwaukee has a penchant for high-ceiling first-rounders, so slugging third baseman Rece Hinds (IMG Academy, Bradenton, Fla.) could be in play.
29. Athletics: Greg Jones, SS, UNC Wilmington
Jones isn't a consensus first-rounder but he does have first-round tools with top-of-the-scale speed, bat speed from both sides of the plate and a chance to stick at shortstop. He could fit with multiple selections in the 20s.
30. Yankees: Kody Hoese, 3B, Tulane
New York has scouted Baty heavily and while he won't last until No. 30, a power-hitting third baseman still could be the choice. Hoese is tied with Bleday for the NCAA Division I lead with 23 homers, while prepster Tyler Callihan (Providence HS, Jacksonville, Fla.) has some similarities to Baty.
31. Dodgers: Brooks Lee, SS, San Luis Obispo (Calif.) HS
(Compensation for failure to sign 2018 first-rounder J.T. Ginn)
If Los Angeles takes a high school arm at 25, it may seek some balance with a college bat here. Shewmake is still available in this scenario, but the Dodgers scored with long-bodied, lefty-hitting shortstops in Corey Seager and Gavin Lux in the past and Lee also fits that mold.
32. Astros: Daniel Espino, RHP, Georgia Premier Academy (Statesboro, Ga.)
Espino has the best high school fastball in the Draft, not to mention power breaking stuff. If Houston prefers a college bat here, UCLA first baseman Mike Toglia could be its man.
33. Diamondbacks: JJ Goss, RHP, Cypress (Texas) Ranch HS
(Compensation for loss of free agent Patrick Corbin)
Goss would be the best high school arm left on the board at this point. It's difficult to tell whether Espino, Goss and other prep pitchers such as left-hander Hunter Barco (The Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla.) and right-handers Jack Leiter (Delbarton School, Morristown, N.J.) and Josh Wolf (St. Thomas HS, Houston) will get paid in the first round or command over-slot bonuses later in the Draft.
34. Diamondbacks: Kyren Paris, SS, Freedom HS (Oakley, Calif.)
(Compensation for loss of free agent A.J. Pollock)
Paris also could go before Arizona's first choice at 16 or its second at 26. The Diamondbacks also are associated with other high school shortstops such as Lee, Matthew Lugo (Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, Florida, P.R.) and Nasim Nunez (Collins Hill HS, Suwanee, Ga.).