The 2015 MLB Amateur Draft is now just a week away, and while most of the intrigue centers on the the first night of the draft, the second day is just as important in shaping the depth and vitality of the farm system. Using the Baseball America Mock Draft 4.0 (subscription required) to mimick the first round selections, and the BA 500 to pick players in order of rank for the later rounds, I performed my own mock draft scenario as the Dodgers' War Room, using my top 200 list as my big board. Beyond just picking my best available, I gave myself some stipulations to follow:
The Draft Board has been set using my parameters to tier and rank the players, but now we need to bring the board into focus to best fit the Dodgers' talent demands. We know that management will be willing to exceed the bonus pool, but we will not go beyond the draft pick penalty, so that gives us a little more than an extra $300K to work with on bonuses. With that in mind, the front office is wanting to prioritize impact talent that has the upside to contribute in a big way at the next level, even if the player carries significant risk.
Additionally, the farm system has proven to be a little top heavy, and given some of the troubles some of the young early selections have had climbing the ladder, finding some safe, quick-moving talent to fill in some development gaps would be ideal. So our goal will be a draft class that balances players with significant ceilings and risks against safer players that will move more quickly up the system to provide depth.
The Dodgers don't have any preset needs (no team should draft with that in mind), but we are mindful of what we know is coming down the pipe Internationally. We don't have too many positional workarounds on that front, but we understand the front office feels confident in signing Lucius Fox in the July 2nd window (for this exercise, not using any inside knowledge), and he's ready to play for the Arizona Rookie League affiliate. This means that we won't want to stack the board with high school middle infielders that will each need playing time and reps at the rookie league level.
As we look at how the board sets up and comparing notes from media mocks or other inside scout information, we are hopeful but not optimistic that we can start our first round off with a college player that has a solid ceiling and moderate risk to anchor our class and allow us to gamble on later picks. Namely, we would like Ian Happ (#19) or James Kaprielian (#25) to fall to our first selection so that we have a solid ceiling anchor to our 2015 class.
We aren't ten picks in and Kaprielian comes off the board to the Cubs. While we weren't entirely optimistic he'd slide to pick twenty-four, this is a surprising climb for a pitcher we see as having a number three starter ceiling.
After 20 picks, not only has Happ been selected, as expected, but our favorite "injured with upside" player Kolby Allard is gone, and Walker Buehler, who looked like he may be sliding based on other informed mock drafts. Still, some high ranking players on our board remain (including a 70-tier player) and we are prepared to chance an over-slot on the first pick if need be.
First Round Selection, Pick #24: Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg High School
This was an easy pick to make, as Nikorak was ranked fifth on our board, was in our top tier grade (70), and has as much upside as any player in this draft. Rather than take the risk of drafting a player like Brady Aiken who has injury concerns, Nikorak has a comparable upside and should be ready to start his pro career.
Nikorak features a prototype build (6'4 215-ish) and a broad arsenal for a high schooler. His fastball can reach 97 mph with considerable sink, and his hard 11-5 curve is one of the better breaking balls in this class. Nikorak also has a solid change-up and the athleticism to project at least average command. His ark action is slightly elongated and he can run into timing issues that throw off his release point and hamper both his command and the action on his pitches.
This pick is similar to last year's pick of Grant Holmes, where a top high school right hander has slid to the Dodgers' pick for no great reason talent-wise. Nikorak is a northern arm that has to deal with the typical issues of pitching in a cold weather state, but he's been lights out on the summer circuit and we couldn't be happier to find him at pick twenty-four.
First Round Supplemental
We still have a fair amount of talent in the upper tiers on our board, but with the majority of them being high schoolers with potentially high price tags, and the likely overslot (slightly) deal we may have to give Nikorak, we are likely going to need to lean signability for our next pick.
First Round Supplemental Selection, Pick #35: Kyle Holder, SS, San Diego
We are pretty pleased we were able to take the third best player left on our board here (#20 overall), and still see it as meeting our goal of landing a player that should sign around slot or slightly below. We are buying Holder's glove in a big way, as he might be the best defensive player in this draft, if not the college crop for sure.
Holder has easy 80 grade hands and looks like a natural with his footwork and actions at shortstop. He's hit and hit well this season and he's a terrific athlete that should be capable of making the needed adjustments at the plate to climb the ladder. The comparisons to Brendan Ryan and Zack Cozart don't phase us because that would still make Holder a two win player that plays premium defense at a tough position to fill.
We're going to let the board shake out this round and see what type of upside we can find, no preference for a hitter or pitcher, though at some point, we'd like to add some offensive power upside to our draft class.
Second Round Selection, Pick #67: Tyler Nevin, 3B, Poway High School
The top of our board had some potential tough signs, and we almost bit on Kep Brown, but given his achilles injury, we decided that the money outlay may be greater than the risk compared to simply selecting Nevin here.
Nevin (#46) carries his own injury issues, having missed most of the summer circuit due to Tommy John surgery, but he's since recovered and played well this spring. With Nevin, you're largely buying the bat, where he's shown a high aptitude for contact with the leverage and build for future power. As he fills out, it's possible he may need to move across the diamond to first base, but for now, he will head out as a third baseman.
In a draft filled with athletic players, Nevin took precedent here because the risk is tempered by the hit tool and we're buying into him filling out his 6'3 200-lb frame to produce plus power fitting of a first baseman in his prime if need be.
Competitive Balance Round B Selection, Pick #74: Cole Sands, RHP, North Florida Christian High School
From this pick to the Dodgers' third round pick, the slot bonus drops about $300K, so this was going to likely be the last pick to take one of the high schoolers way up on our board. Kep Brown was again considered here, as was Ryan Mountcastle, who ranks 59th on our big board, but is said to have higher bonus demands.
Mountcastle fits the profile of the impact power potential we are looking for, but part of the risk in taking him would have been the impending log jam at third base. In addition to drafting Nevin a pick earlier, the Dodgers draft Jared Walker last season who is still very much in the plans and will be heading out to short season ball this month. I'd have no problems letting Mountcastle attempt to stay at shortstop, but he's Corey Seager's size already and we're expecting Lucius Fox to be on the same development track. In theory, we can make room for them all and juggle playing time between those positions, DH, and maybe first on occasion, but at the end of our decision, we were still able to grab an arm we ranked a tier higher and don't have to worry about the log jam for now.
Cole Sands is an athletic 6'3 200-lb. arm that has already filled out his frame, but is one of the younger players in this class that should still have projectability left. He has some effort in his delivery and will look like he's redlining it from time to time (like Holmes), but he can reach the mid 90's with a late life fastball, and flash plus with his slider and change-up. He doesn't quite have Holmes ceiling, but is a similar #2/#3 or high end reliever upside pick.
At this point, we've not necessarily made any budget picks, we'll save a little on Holder but likely will be going over on Nikorak, and both Nevin (UCLA) and Sands (Florida State) have college commitments to schools with solid track records of getting recruits on campus. We will almost assuredly have to take a senior or two with $10-50K bonuses in lieu of slot amounts, but we have a few rounds before we have to make that decision and can get creative with a few picks to save money.
Third Round Selection, Pick #101: Ian Kahaloa, RHP, James Campbell HS
We had several college arms ranked ahead of this pick, but both Brett Lilek and Thomas Eschelman have ceilings that make them less likely to be of value to the Dodgers, and while we inevitably will have to take arms like that, it's too early to draft low upside arms.
Kahaloa likely services two purposes. Kahaloa (#116) is an undersized but athletic arm with plenty of arm strength. He was a 40 tier player because he's a little raw and has some work to do on his secondaries, but the arm works extremely well and his velocity looks effortless. He's committed to a junior college and should be a fairly quick sign and possibly some savings on slot bonus-wise. He's going to need time to develop and might eventually find a role in relief, but with the right development, Kahaloa could be a number three starter with the athleticism for solid command and the fastball velocity and life to pitch off of in the rotation.
Our draft has been pretty heaving on ceiling and high school talent thus far, but based on our board, the value of college players in this draft is pretty sparse in the top 100 but we should have several options to chose from that we like in later rounds.
Fourth Round Selection, Pick #132: Kyle Wilcox, RHP, Bryant
At this point, we are bypassing several names still available on our big board due to likely signability issues or a lack of ceiling. Mitchell Traver warranted a look here, but he has additional eligibility years at TCU and we would rather gamble on the live armed Wilcox.
As you can probably tell, I lean toward athleticism in pitching prospects, and Wilcox shows plenty of it on the mound. Wilcox generates a fair amount of sink with his fastball and has some still untapped arm strength that should produce plus velocity once his mechanics are smoothed out a little. He will flash above average with both his breaking ball and change-up, and has a fall back potential as a reliever, where he's reached the upper 90's in the past.
Fifth Round Selection, Pick #162: Jason Heinrich, 1B, River Ridge HS
More or less stuck to the board on this pick and took a high school bat that we believe in in a big way that should be easier to sign than other high school bats rated as high left on the board.
Heinrich (#86) has serious offensive potential thanks to a quick, lofted swing that is short to the ball but packing power with a full extension. He's not particularly big, but he's a decent athlete for a first baseman and could be tried in left field. He carries risk as primarily a bat only player, but like Nevin, he has a solid hit tool and the chance for plus future power.
Sixth Round Selection, Pick #192: Jacob Cronenworth, RHP, Michigan
We were left a little deflated here when our planned pick, Jordan Ramsey of UNC Wilmington, went one pick ahead of us. Ramsey is a senior relief prospect that would have given us considerable savings on slot, and while that brings limited upside, Ramsey's stuff is quite plus for a senior sign, capable of reaching 97 mph with his sinking fastball to go with a solid slider.
Instead, we are going to stay with a relief selection that we feel might give us a little bit of savings on slot in Cronenworth. Cronenworth is a junior and a two-way player at Michigan, so there is a little risk he may elect to return to school for his senior year rather than convert to pitching full time now as a pro.
Cronenworth primarily uses a two-pitch approach to get hitters out. His fastball can reach 94 mph, but there's room for more, we think, when he sheds the position player role to focus primarily on pitching. Cronenworth's best pitch is a split finger fastball that he can both bury or find the zone for strikes. With an infield background, he's (you guessed it) a good athlete and should pitch to average command. We could even flirt with starting him, as he can throw a solid slider for three pitches, but for now, he's ready to head to Great Lakes and look to move quickly as a middle relief option with a solid out pitch.
At this point, we have a handful of names our our board that we feel we are higher than consensus on that we could have taken by now, but we are hoping they slide to our next couple of picks. Again, we haven't made any significant cost effective picks like a senior sign, so we will have to be mindful of signability going forward. We'll look for upside where we can find it, but now it's more about filling out the class with solid, perhaps safer, prospects. Additionally, we are pretty right handed heavy in pitching thus far, so if the right left hander is on the board we may need to jump at the chance to take him.
Seventh Round Selection, Pick #222: Jason Goldstein, C, Illinois
Goldstein was one of a handful of targets we are higher on than consensus and we are able to draft him four rounds lower than we graded him.
Goldstein is one of the better defensive players in this draft. He's led a standout Illinois pitching staff into the Super Regionals and he's provided offensive value in the middle of the order as well. While we don't project Goldstein to be a significant offensive contributor at the next level, we do think he can hold his own while providing above average defense. His overall profile looks like a solid second catcher, but he has the intangibles to play a long time in the league and could work his way into a starting role at some point. While he didn't make the Top 200, we also considered Daniel Salters of Dallas Baptist, but we felt Goldstein was the safer bet going forward.
Eighth Round Selection, Pick #252: Travis Bergen, LHP, Kennesaw State
Another target player, Bergen lacks the upside of other players still on the board, but we're buying an aggressive sinker-slider combo from the left side that has the chance to stick in the rotation as a future back end candidate or could eventually move to relief where his 88-92 mph fastball could play up. Bergen has the command to move quickly through the low minors and the development staff shouldn't have to make any decisions on his ultimate role until at least AA.
Ninth Round Selection, Pick #282: Scott Effross, RHP, Indiana
When we set up our board, we saw the strength of the college pitching class in the middle round. While the players in this range have their warts, their upside isn't much less if any from some of their early round counterparts. Effross was our last primary target and our third player from the resurgent Big Ten Conference.
Effross bounced between starting and relief for the Hoosiers this year, but his solid season was capped off when he held Vanderbilt scoreless for 4.2 innings in relief at the Nashville Regional over the weekend. Like all of our college pitcher selections thus far, Effross is heading out to start but has a fallback of late relief should he falter. He can hold his 91-94 mph velocity in the rotation and gets good life on the pitch. We also like Effross' developing feel for his change-up as a weapon against left-handers. Effross will stab in the back of his delivery and can throw too much across his body, causing his slider to lose bite and take a sweeping shape. We feel the flaws are correctable and Effross has the upside of a solid #4 starter.
We've thus far landed all of our target players and haven't drafted a player higher than #137 on our board. We will let the board shake out for our final day two pick and may end up turning to a player that just missed our Top 200 if we don't like the signability of the players remaining on our board. We could still take a chance on a tougher sign and see what money shakes out from our last few picks, and remember, management is prepared to exceed our bonus pool, but not as far as a draft pick penalty.
At this point, we are also disregarding the top names on our board due to signability. Kyle Molnar (UCLA), Doak Dozier (Virginia), Patrick Sandoval (Vanderbilt), Ryan Johnson (TCU), Julian Infante (Vanderbilt), and Hunter Bowling (Florida) have strong commitments to schools that get their fair share of high end recruits and we aren't yet prepared to make a signing run at them, and instead may prefer to wait until after this round, where bonus numbers don't count against the cap until they exceed six figures. Additionally, Justin Garza (Fullerton), Cole Irvin (Oregon), and Tyler Alexander (TCU), are college pitchers that have additional availability or in Garza's case, a recent arm injury, that makes returning to school more likely. We also may try to make a run at Alexander or Irvin later.
10th Round Selection, Pick #312: Dayton Dugas, RF, Sam Houston High School
One of the last true lottery ticket players on our board that we think we can make a good run at signing, Dugas is a raw athlete with power potential that is committed to Wichita State. Dugas has a big 6'2 220 lbs. frame but shows surprising athleticism for his size. He is a little muscular and his actions can be stiff, but his calling card is big raw power he will flash in batting practice. He hasn't quite shown the same feel for hit that our other high school picks have, but his swing is conducive to average with more experience and development. Dugas will go out to Arizona as a corner outfielder, but if he continues to fill out his frame, he may eventually have to move to first base. However, his athleticism should put off any move for some time if ever.
With the Dugas pick in the books, our work for day two has ended. Our draft class thus far as a quality mix of ceiling and risk, high school (6) and college players (6), position players (5) and pitchers (7). Two selections (Holder, Cronenworth) might be able to start in Great Lakes, and we haven't overcrowded any positions on our two short season teams. Day three will have more emphasis placed on area scouts to fill out our short season teams while still looking out for upside where available. As mentioned, we may also draft a few signability guys to take runs on later in the process when we have a better idea what the budget outlay would look like. All things considered, we are very pleased with the talent we've been able to add to the system and it should supplement the current prospects in the system very nicely. Nikorak, once he signs, would give the Dodgers five blue chips talents still on the farm (Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Grant Holmes, Jose De Leon), and Hooper, Nevin, Sands, and Heinrich should fill in to the talent a tier below. Additionally, we landed some late arms with enough power in their arsenal to be solid prospects in their own right after the development staff has had time to mold them.