Since 2003, I've conducted annual 10-round hypothetical drafts, assigning myself a random spot in the order and adhering to appropriate budget constraints. I always enjoy the exercise, because it reminds me of how difficult it is to find talent via the Draft.
My first 12 drafts have yielded a total of 36 big leaguers so far, and my fictitious farm system includes prospects such as Carson Kelly, Kyle Lewis and Sean Reid-Foley. I wrote a story about my 2016 effort, which also included a link to my past picks.
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For 2017, I wound up with the No. 17 slot, so I shadowed the Mariners. I used my first two selections on the players who were the best values in each of the first two rounds of the real Draft, landed a pair of talented and surprisingly signable guys with my next two choices and used my last three picks on college seniors so I wouldn't exceed my $6,737,300 bonus pool by more than 5 percent:
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
2017 Hypothetical Draft (Mariners picks)
Round: Player, Pos, School (Real Life)
1st (No. 17): Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt (LAD, 1st)
2nd: Sam Carlson, RHP, HS/Minnesota (Sea, 2nd)
3rd: Alex Scherff, RHP, HS/Texas (Bos, 5th)
4th: Evan Skoug, C, Texas Christian (CWS, 7th)
5th: Zach Rutherford, SS, Old Dominion (TB, 6th)
6th: Kyle Johnston, RHP, Texas (Was, 6th)
7th: Zach Pop, RHP, Kentucky (LAD, 7th)
8th: T.J. Nichting, OF, UNC Charlotte (Bal, 9th)
9th: Connor Strain, RHP, Evansville (LAD, 9th)
10th: Charlie Madden, C, Mercer (Bos, 24th)
Sticking with the Draft theme, let's get to your questions...
Which of this year's Draft crop automatically become their team's new No. 1 prospect once they sign?
-- J.P. S., Springfield, Ill.
J.P. has asked me this question for several years, back to the days when I wrote the Ask BA column at Baseball America. We'll find out the answer for sure when we update the MLBPipeline Top 100 Prospects list and our team Top 30 lists, between the July 7 deadline for Draft signings and the July 31 deadline for big league trades without waivers.
There are five 2017 draftees who look like slam-dunk No. 1 prospects for their organizations once they join the fold, starting with the top overall pick. Twins shortstop Nick Gordon is a solid hitter and defender who's performing well, but shortstop/outfielder Royce Lewis has a much higher ceiling. Padres left-hander MacKenzie Gore (No. 3 overall), D-backs first baseman Pavin Smith (No. 7), Marlins lefty Trevor Rogers (No. 13) and Royals first baseman Nick Pratto (No. 14) are easier decisions.
I'd also give the nod to Reds right-hander/shortstop Hunter Greene (No. 2), Rays first baseman/left-hander Brendan McKay (No. 4) and Angels outfielder Jo Adell (No. 10), though those choices are much more debatable. Cincinnati third baseman Nick Senzel is one of the best pure hitters in the Minors, Tampa Bay's Willy Adames is one of the better shortstop prospects around and Los Angeles outfielder Jahmai Jones has more hittability but less loud tools than Adell.
Arguments also could be made for Braves right-hander Kyle Wright (No. 5), Tigers righty Alex Faedo (No. 18) and Orioles left-hander D.L. Hall (No. 21), though I suspect they won't rank as the top prospects in their organizations. Atlanta's system is loaded, and righty Matt Manning (Detroit) and catcher Chance Sisco (Baltimore) likely will retain their No. 1 status when we update.
Here's a fun challenge. If you created an all-star team of Draft prospects, one player per position and a five-man rotation using no more than one player who attended school in any given state, what would it look like?
-- Jesse L., Pittsburgh
Challenge accepted! It was more difficult than I envisioned, because some of the position-player spots were hard to fill and necessitated excluding quality arms such as Hunter Greene (California) and D.L. Hall (Georgia). Here's my squad:
Luis Campusano-Bracero, C, Cross Creek HS, Augusta, Ga. (Giants, 2nd round)
Brendan McKay, 1B/LHP, Louisville (Rays, 1st round, No. 4 overall)
J.J. Matijevic, 2B, Arizona (Astros, supplemental 2nd round)
Jake Burger, 3B, Missouri State (White Sox, 1st round, No. 11)
Jeter Downs, SS, Monsignor Pace HS, Miami Gardens, Fla. (Reds, supplemental 1st round)
Royce Lewis, OF, JSerra Catholic HS, San Juan Capistrano, Calif. (Twins, 1st round, No. 1)
Adam Haseley, OF, Virginia (Phillies, 1st round, No. 8)
Bubba Thompson, OF, McGill-Toolen Catholic HS, Mobile, Ala. (Rangers, 1st round, No. 26)
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville (N.C.) HS (Padres, 1st round, No. 3)
Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt (Braves, 1st round, No. 5)
Shane Baz, RHP, Concordia Lutheran HS, Tomball, Texas (Pirates, 1st round, No. 12)
Sam Carlson, RHP, Burnsville (Minn.) HS (Mariners, 2nd round)
David Peterson, LHP, Oregon (Mets, 1st round, No. 20)
No 2017 draftee is better equipped to help in the big leagues this season than Bukauskas, who went 15th overall in the first round. When he's at his best, the North Carolina right-hander has a pair of plus-plus pitches in a mid-90s fastball with sink and a mid-80s slider with tilt. Earlier this spring, one scouting director likened Bukauskas' stuff to that of Craig Kimbrel.
Video: Which 2017 Draft pick will make the Majors first?
It's unclear what the Astros' short-term and long-term plans are for Bukauskas, who has yet to sign. Some clubs envisioned him as more of a reliever, because he's a 6-foot right-hander with effort in his delivery and inconsistent control. He didn't pitch well in his final college start in a NCAA regional playoff loss to Davidson, which caused him to slip out of the top 10 picks, but he has the pure stuff to help Houston in a bullpen role this summer if given the opportunity.
Though he was a first-round talent who dropped to the third round, Allen almost certainly will sign with the Athletics. Teams spend a lot of time working on signability, and I'm sure Oakland knew exactly what it would cost to land Allen when it took him. Last year, only two of the 316 selections in the first 10 rounds failed to turn pro.
Video: Draft Report: Nick Allen, High School shortstop
Allen could be a steal for the A's. He's the best defensive player in the Draft, and he hits with more authority than would be expected from a 5-foot-8, 158-pounder.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.