The Draft is just six weeks away and we're kicking up MLBPipeline.com's coverage a few notches today by updating and expanding our Top Prospects list to 100. I also wrote an overview of the top talent available, and Jonathan Mayo will break down options for the Phillies with the No.
The Draft is just six weeks away and we're kicking up MLBPipeline.com's coverage a few notches today by updating and expanding our Top Prospects list to 100. I also wrote an overview of the top talent available, and Jonathan Mayo will break down options for the Phillies with the No. 1 overall pick Friday. On Monday, we'll both speculate as to how the first 10 choices could unfold. Then on Tuesday, I'll detail the prospects whose stock has risen and fallen the most since the start of the year.
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Lewis is the highest-ranked position player on the MLBPipeline Top 100 at No. 3, and I don't see any way he'll get past the first five selections. The Phillies don't seem inclined to take a high school pitcher with the first choice, which could make Lewis their best option, especially if Florida left-hander A.J. Puk remains inconsistent down the stretch.
Though Lewis plays at Mercer (which has never had a first-round pick) and in the Southern Conference (which has had just three in 51 Drafts: Atlee Hammaker in 1979, Victor Roache in 2012, Phil Ervin in 2013), he has enough track record to give teams confidence he'll produce at the big league level. He almost won the Southern Conference Triple Crown as a sophomore (.367-17-56), ranked third in slugging (.500) and fourth in homers (seven) with wood bats against top competition in the Cape Cod League last summer, and is challenging for the NCAA Division I lead in batting (.414) and homers (15) while controlling the strike zone better than ever this spring. Lewis' bat speed, strength and leverage make him the best power hitter in the 2016 Draft, and he's also a good athlete who might be able to stay in center field and definitely profiles in right.
Second baseman Yoan Moncada (No. 5 on MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects list), third baseman Rafael Devers (No. 14) and Benintendi (No. 22) are three of the best prospects in baseball. It's a treat for Salem fans to get to watch those guys in action every night, though two of them may not stay in high Class A much longer.
The Red Sox have tried to ease the pressure on Moncada since they paid him a $31.5 million bonus and MLB a matching amount as a penalty for exceeding their international bonus pool last March, but it's going to be hard to hold him back. He began last year in extended spring camp and started slowly at low Class A Greenville before batting .310/.415/.500 with 45 steals in 56 games during the second half. Moncada is currently hitting .324/.447/.441 with 13 steals in 18 games, and I could see him making the jump to Double-A shortly after he turns 21 in late May.
Benintendi may not even last that long at Salem. The No. 7 overall choice in the 2015 Draft had a fabulous pro debut and is continuing to rake this spring, ranking among the Carolina League leaders in several offensive categories while batting .338/.395/.636 with 15 extra-base hits and nearly as many steals (four) as strikeouts (five) in 19 games. Benintendi and Moncada are two of the toolsiest players in the Minors, and while Boston doesn't want to rush them, they also need to be challenged.
The youngest of the trio and the third-youngest regular in the CL at 19, Devers could spend the entire season at Salem. He's struggling at .149/.269/.299 with 14 strikeouts in 18 games, and scuffled at the end of 2015 as well, so he needs time to make adjustments. Devers will still be way ahead of most players his age if he's in high Class A at the end of the year.
Joey's motivation for asking this question is that he's a fan of the Braves, who have a supplemental first-round choice at No. 40 and an early second-rounder at No. 44. (I know this because he sent me another tweet wondering if Atlanta might be able to get Miami catcher Zack Collins and Samford outfielder Heath Quinn with those selections.)
We discussed Lewis above, and I believe he's firmly in the Braves' mix at No. 3, but may not get there. Collins likely will go in the back half of the first round, so he won't be available at No. 40. The best-case possible power-hitter scenarios at Nos. 40 and 44 would be third basemen Will Craig (Wake Forest) and Drew Mendoza (Lake Minneolla High, Minneolla, Fla.), though they're probably going in the first round too. At that point, the best power picks for Atlanta would be Quinn, Menlo (Calif.) third baseman Lucas Erceg and Florida first baseman Peter Alonso, though they fit more in the latter half of the second round.
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino looked like a failed top-five pick. Now he's at Triple-A Tacoma and absolutely scorching the ball. Your thoughts? Is he likely to be the player we all expected him to be?
-- Michael G., Raleigh, N.C.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 Draft behind Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, Zunino got rushed to Seattle 11 months after he signed. He stayed with the Mariners for most of the next 2 1/2 seasons even though his numbers got progressively worse. This made for a prime illustration of how to try to ruin a prospect, and Zunino finished last year with career .193/.252/.353 numbers in 295 big league games.
Sent to Triple-A to regroup this year, Zunino currently leads the Pacific Coast League in all three Triple Crown categories (.413-7-22) as well as slugging percentage (.825). It's a small sample size, sure, but now that he's getting time to catch his breath, he's not chasing pitches out of the strike zone and looks more like the potential .260 hitter with 20-homer power the Mariners thought they were drafting. Couple that with his solid defense and Zunino still could develop into an All-Star.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.