Just three days until Opening Day! With that in mind, I'll get my 2016 predictions on the record:AL East: Red Sox, Blue Jays (Wild Card), Yankees, Rays, OriolesAL Central: Indians, Royals (Wild Card), Tigers, White Sox, TwinsAL West: Rangers, Astros, Mariners, Angels, AthleticsNL East: Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, BravesNL Central:
Just three days until Opening Day! With that in mind, I'll get my 2016 predictions on the record:
AL East: Red Sox, Blue Jays (Wild Card), Yankees, Rays, Orioles
AL Central: Indians, Royals (Wild Card), Tigers, White Sox, Twins
AL West: Rangers, Astros, Mariners, Angels, Athletics
NL East: Nationals, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Braves
NL Central: Cubs, Pirates (Wild Card), Cardinals, Reds, Brewers
NL West: Giants, Dodgers (Wild Card), Diamondbacks, Rockies, Padres
World Series: Cubs over Rangers
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White can't match Reed's Draft or Top 100 Prospect pedigree, but he has gone from the 977th player selected in the 2013 Draft to the Astros' likely Opening Day starter at first base. Though Reed still figures to be Houston's long-term first baseman after leading the Minors in homers (34) and a slew of other categories in his first full pro season, White's bat could make him a regular at DH if he continues to hit like he has everywhere since signing for $1,000.
White has batted .311/.422/.489 in three pro seasons, including a .362/.467/.559 line in Triple-A during the second half of 2015, and he topped the Dominican League in on-base percentage (.421) and slugging percentage (.494) while winning MVP honors this winter. All of his value comes from his bat, but there's a lot of potential there because he barrels balls and controls the strike zone so well. White could post high batting averages and OBPs while producing 15 homers per season.
Ray entered 2016 as MLBPipeline.com's top-rated college position prospect, but if the Draft were today, Senzel likely would be the first one picked. The college position crop has been a bit disappointing this spring, with no up-the-middle players wowing scouts with their performance and no one to match the quality of the first college hitter selected in each of the past three Drafts: Kris Bryant (2013), Kyle Schwarber ('14) and Dansby Swanson ('15).
The Cape Cod League's MVP and Top Prospect Award winner last summer, Senzel has hit .360/.500/.605 with four homers and more than twice as many walks (24) as strikeouts (11) in 25 games at Tennessee this spring. His patience and willingness to use the entire field should allow him to hit for average, and he has promising raw power he has yet to fully tap into. Senzel has helped his cause by moving to third base and showing that he can handle the position.
Ray has one of the best power/speed combinations in the college class, and he is batting .336/.395/.636 with seven homers and an NCAA Division I-best 25 steals in 25 games for Louisville. A team that believes in him as a center fielder could select him ahead of Senzel, though he has played mostly on the corners for the Cardinals.
I'd say it's a near certainty that Josh and I will discuss this and other draft issues further on one of his South Side Sox podcasts in the near future.
Who's the more likely long-term shortstop for the Braves, Swanson or Ozzie Albies?
-- Rich G., Seattle
Even after trading Andrelton Simmons to the Angels, the Braves have a wealth of shortstop talent, starting with two of the best prospects in baseball in Swanson (No. 8 on the MLBPipeline Top 100) and Albies (No. 29). The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft by the Diamondbacks before coming to Atlanta in the Shelby Miller trade, Swanson should get to the big leagues first, but he will likely move to second base when he and Albies are teammates on the Braves.
That's not a knock on Swanson, who's solid at shortstop. Albies is quicker and has a slightly stronger arm, making him a little bit better defender at the position.
Any thoughts as to where Brandon McIlwain would have slotted into this year's Draft? His ceiling seems somewhat rare for this year's crop.
-- Scott S., Grand Rapids, Mich.
McIlwain graduated early from Council Rock North High (Newtown, Pa.) and bypassed the Draft to enroll at South Carolina, where he's competing for the quarterback job and serving as a backup outfielder this spring. If he had stayed at Council Rock North, his upside could have made him a first-round pick in June.
McIlwain is loaded with tools: plus speed, plus power potential to all fields, the chance to become a plus center fielder, solid arm strength and a promising feel for hitting considering that his attention has been divided between two sports. Few players in the 2016 Draft can match his ceiling. If McIlwain winds up starting at quarterback for the Gamecocks, he'll likely lose at-bats during the spring, summer and fall because of his football commitments.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.