clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

MLB Draft 2015: Which of the AL East teams had the best draft?

New, 5 comments

The Orioles didn't pick until #25 in the draft, but they still had plenty of chances to add top 100 talent early on. How does their draft stack up against those of their division rivals?

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The draft is an opportunity for each team to improve each year when it rolls around. Every time, thirty scouting directors will go in front of thirty sets of reporters and talk about how they really like the guys they got and how they really think they drafted to the strength of the talent this year. Some of them end up being right. Others, not so much.

The Orioles are excited for the players they drafted this year. It would be news if they weren't. Maybe they'll be right in their analysis. They don't think that first round pick DJ Stewart will need to make any big changes to his swing to play at the next level. They think that their high-school heavy draft was playing to the strength of this draft. They grabbed seven high school players in the first ten rounds.

The hope is that they'll be able to coax some big leaguers out of power threats like fifth rounder Jason Heinrich or eighth rounder Seamus Curran, and turn high school pitchers like second rounder Jonathan Hughes and seventh rounder Gray Fenter into big league pitchers. Maybe the Orioles will be right in thinking those things. It'll be good for the franchise if they are.

While the Orioles were out there trying to get better, so was every other team in the division. The O's rivals mostly took a different tack compared to what was done in the Baltimore draft room. It'll be years before we know who "won" the draft, and it's not impossible that they could all be successful. Probably not, though.

Whose draft looks the best right now? Below is a survey of the teams in the division. Who was their top pick? How many intriguing prospects did they manage to draft in the first ten rounds? For the sake of simplicity, this assumes teams will sign all of their first ten rounds' worth of picks since those are the ones who must sign or they lose bonus pool money.

Boston Red Sox

Total Bonus Pool: $6,223,800
Top pick: 1st round, 7th overall - Andrew Benintendi - OF - University of Arkansas (#9 on Baseball America 500)
Top 200 BA draft prospects in first 10 rounds: Benintendi, Austin Rei (#68), Tate Matheny (#107), Logan Allen (#128)
Awesome names: Jagger Rusconi, Tucker Tubbs
Possible late-round sleeper: Marcus Brakeman, 16th round

The Red Sox had the advantage over the rest of the division in the draft by virtue of their being the worst team in the division last year. That let them pick at 7th overall, when a number of interesting names from the draft were still on top of the board. That pick was protected from loss, but the Sox gave up their next two picks in signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. That left them with fewer chances to take a stab at the draft's top talent.

When you're bad enough to pick in the top 10, you better nail the pick. Here's what the MLB.com scouting capsule on Benintendi, a draft-eligible sophomore, says:

The outfielder has a smooth swing from the left side of the plate, showing the ability to consistently barrel up balls and make consistently hard contact. Not known for his power previously, the Cincinnati native has added some strength and was among the nation's leaders in home runs this season. Benintendi has plus speed, which should allow him to be a basestealing threat and stick in center field.

Boston drafted college players with their first three picks. Only two of their nine picks in the top ten were high schoolers. Three of the nine were college senior signs. They didn't draft a pitcher until the sixth round. Allen, the eighth round pick, was the only pitcher they grabbed in the top 10 rounds who rated in the top 200 prospects according to Baseball America.

Their late-round sleeper possibility is Brakeman, a 6'1" righty from Stanford whose health is questionable but has gotten results when healthy. Brakeman was rated as the #141 prospect by BA.

New York Yankees

Total Bonus Pool: $7,885,500
Top pick: 1st round, 16th overall - James Kaprielian - RHP - UCLA (#19 on BA 500)
Top 200 BA prospects in first 10 rounds: Kaprielian, Kyle Holder (#38), Jeff Degano (#83), Drew Finley (#60), Jeff Hendrix (#156)
Awesome names: Icezack Flemming, Hobie Harris
Potential late-round sleeper: Kolton Mahoney, 16th round

The Yankees, thanks to a middling 84-78 record in 2014 and one David Robertson departure in free agency, not only had a middle of the round pick each time around but they also nabbed the #30 pick as compensation. They actually had the highest bonus pool of any of the AL East teams. They did not sign any of the qualifying offer free agents, so they didn't lose any picks.

From the MLB.com scouting capsule on the top pick, Kaprielian:

He works with an 89-92 mph fastball as a starter, and he's effective at that velocity because he can locate it. Kaprielian's best pitch is his changeup, and he also has a solid slider and a curveball to give batters a different look. With his command and strong frame, he's built to be a starter.

They also note he is the safest bet to become a mid-rotation big league starter. That's not a glamorous future, but if you hit on someone for that role at #16 overall, you've done well. The Yankees hit four prospects in the top 100 by BA in their first four picks (spanning 16th to 92nd overall). Going chalk isn't getting very creative. That doesn't mean it's bad. No one is likely to look back on this draft and think, "What the hell were the Yankees trying to do here?"

They drafted college players with their first three picks. Only two of their 11 picks in the first 10 rounds came from the high school ranks. Three are senior signs. Degano, a fourth senior, missed the 2014 season due to Tommy John surgery but is still regarded as a prospect, so he's probably still getting a decent bonus. Five were pitchers and six were position players.

Mahoney, the possible sleeper, is a 6'1" right-handed pitcher from BYU who fell to the 16th round despite being the #173 prospect by BA. He had an impressive season last summer in the Cape Cod League.

Tampa Bay Rays

Total Bonus Pool: $6,591,300
Top pick: 1st round, 13th overall - Garrett Whitley - OF - Niskayuna HS (NY) (#7 on BA 500)

Top 200 BA prospects in first 10 rounds: Whitley, Chris Betts (#28), Brandon Lowe (#98), Brandon Koch (#94), Joe McCarthy (#46), Jacob Cronenworth (#194)
Awesome names: Reign Letkeman, Kahiau Winchester
Potential late-round sleeper: Joey Bart (27th round) sounds interesting but isn't expected to sign

Here is another draft where they make it look easy. When your turn comes up, you pick from the list of the best players. You don't have to do anything more than that. The Rays managed to get five players rated as top 100 draft prospect talent in their first five picks. That's impressive considering the last of those picks was 148th overall. None of these guys are guaranteed to be stars or big leaguers at all just because they were generally considered among the best draft prospects, but more people than just the Rays like their chances.

MLB.com writes this of Whitley:

Whitley has an advanced approach at the plate for a high schooler from a cold-weather state, and his strength and bat speed could produce above-average right-handed power. His pure speed is his best tool, grading as a legitimate plus. Whitley's wheels also give him plenty of range in center field, and he has a better arm than most players at that position.

Shoot, the Orioles could use a guy like that. But, since they won the division last year, they weren't bad enough to get to take a player like that. I can live with that. Between Whitley and Betts, a catcher, the Rays went into the high school ranks for their first two picks. They went college with the rest of their top ten. They have a solid track record of developing players. I won't be surprised if those names are giving us headaches 4-5 years from now and beyond.

Lowe, the third round pick, was the University of Maryland's second baseman.

The Rays did not pick a pitcher until the fourth round and that pick, Koch, was the only pitcher they took who rated as much of a draft prospect. All of the pitchers they drafted were right-handed. They also picked two catchers and two second basemen.

Toronto Blue Jays

Total Bonus Pool: $5,411,000
Top pick: 1st round (compensation), 29th overall - Jon Harris - RHP - Missouri State (#25 on BA 500)
Top 200 BA prospects in first 10 rounds: Harris, Brady Singer (#54), Justin Maese (#134)
Awesome names: Earl Burl III, Andrew Guillotte
Potential late-round sleeper: Chandler Eden, 17th round

The Blue Jays punted on a first round pick when they signed Russell Martin, which, given how he's performing this year, is working out OK so far. They got one back in the compensation round when Melky Cabrera signed with the White Sox. Given how Cabrera is performing this year, that's also working out for Toronto.

The Jays have the smallest pool to work with out of any of the teams in the division. Perhaps that's also why they landed the fewest top 200 talents from the BA list.

About the top pick Harris, MLB.com's scouting capsule says:

He works comfortably at 92-94 mph with his fastball, and it plays up because it has run and sink and he uses his height to deliver it on a nice downhill plane. He has added some strength and his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame still has room for more, so he could pick up more velocity. His curveball, slider and changeup are all plus pitches at times. Harris has power and depth on his breaking balls, and he has made huge strides with his changeup and trusts it more than before. He also has improved his command and is doing a better job of pitching inside with his fastball.

Harris was on the board when the Orioles made their first pick. I liked what I read about him, including that tidbit. That's the draft for you, though. There are all of these names flying around and one of the other 29 teams will probably pick any given one of them.

Toronto's first three picks were: a 6'4" RHP, a 6'5" RHP, and a 6'3" RHP. I think they might have come into this draft looking for something. Singer and Maese were picked out of high school, as was fifth rounder Jose Espada, another righty. The Jays also drafted lefty pitchers in the seventh and eighth rounds. Six of their top ten round picks were pitchers. Seven came from college, and only one of the college picks is a senior sign.

Eden, the 17th round pick, is another tall-ish (6'2") righty. He was at a junior college and will have to choose between whatever the Jays offer him and a scholarship offer with Texas Tech. Eden wasn't in the top 200 on the BA list but he came close enough at #213.

Baltimore Orioles

Total Bonus Pool: $6,850,400
Top pick: 1st round, 25th overall - DJ Stewart - OF - Florida State (#30 on BA 500)
Top 200 BA prospects in first 10 rounds: Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle (#122), Garrett Cleavinger (#185), Ryan McKenna (#161), Jason Heinrich (#188), Gray Fenter (#135)
Awesome names: Kirvin Moesquit, Christian Turnipseed
Potential late-round sleeper: Seamus Curran, 8th round

The Orioles picked four times in the first 102 spots in the draft and only came away with one top 100 talent on the BA list, so on the surface that is kind of a disappointing outcome. However, it does seem like there's a good chance that going under slot to get Mountcastle and second round pick Hughes is what let them continue to pick intriguing high school prospects like McKenna, Heinrich, and Fenter.

Six out of the top 200 equals the Rays, though the Rays got five of the top 100. Was this a good strategy for the Orioles? I don't know. If Cleavinger turns into the reliever on the fast track to the big leagues like the Orioles think he might be, that will make this draft look good. Same if one of these high school projects turns out. It's not like they ended up picking a bunch of nobodies that no one had ever heard of. They picked players on draft prospect radars. They just valued a number of these guys higher than a lot of other teams seemed to.

About the top O's pick, Stewart, MLB.com writes this:

Stewart has a quick left-handed stroke, strength and patience. He has plus raw power but he doesn't fully tap into it because he bats from an extreme crouch and has a flat swing. He might hit 20 homers per season if he stands more upright and adds some loft. Though he's listed at 6 feet and 230 pounds, he's a better athlete than his build might indicate. ... Stewart has close to average speed. He has good instincts as a runner and defender, though a below-average arm limits him to left field.

It seems like no one can talk about Stewart without mentioning the batting stance. The Orioles seem content to let him ride the way that he is. A big part of whether this draft succeeds or not will hinge on whether they made the right choice there.

Curran counts as something of a sleeper because he is a big lefty, 6'6" 240 lbs., who can hit baseballs really hard. He was the #302 BA prospect, so he was there on the radar somewhere. He lost a lot of time in his junior year with a bout of mono and, as a high school player from Massachusetts, just didn't have that many chances to be seen. The Orioles liked what they saw.

Seven of the Orioles' top 11 picks were high school players. That is a big difference compared to what their divisional rivals were pursuing. Two of the four college players were senior signs. They grabbed three righty pitchers and two lefties. Four of the six position players are outfielders of some kind, and one of the infielders might end up in the outfield.

**

So who won the draft out of the AL East teams? Well, both the Rays and Red Sox walked away with top ten talent, which is one good way to win. The Rays and Yankees win for getting as many top 100 talents as they did.

The Orioles, with so much high school talent and a good number of top 200 talents, could look like winners in the long run. For now, though, the top of their draft, particularly the selection of Mountcastle with the compensation pick and Hughes in the second round, looks a little weird. There were a lot of top 100 talents still hanging around on the board that they could have taken with those picks.

Then again, what does Baseball America know? More than me, surely, but though I've used them throughout here for the sake of simplicity, they are hardly the only or even the best authority on who is or isn't a prospect. What difference is there really between Mountcastle and the 87th prospect, or between Fenter and the 99th?

Orioles scouts saw things they liked more than others. If they end up being right about that, the O's franchise will be the better for not just rigidly following the industry consensus draft board. Step one is to get them all signed, which the Orioles are confident of doing, and then we'll start to see what they have got.