I announced yesterday my looming exit from FanGraphs to join the Atlanta Braves later this week. It wouldn’t be me unless I went out with a bang, so we’re rolling out sortable boards for the next three draft classes today, all of them months in the making. Here’s the current draft order, though it will change as free agents move around this offseason.
For the 2016 class, I ranked as far as I felt like there was some separation (63 players), then gave you 101 additional players who project for the top 3-4 rounds. For the 2017 class, I gave you a ranked top 30 then 42 additional players who have already emerged as early round prospects. For the 2018 class (that’s high school sophomores and the incoming college freshman who were high schoolers eligible for the draft last summer) I gave you 30 players and, within that 30, included four high schoolers who already have scouts excited. The additional players in the 2016 and 2017 sortable boards who aren’t ranked are grouped by pitcher/hitter and high school/college and then ranked roughly in order of my preference within those listings.
Based on the opinions of a double-digit number of scouting directors and other top evaluators — along with my own in-person looks over the last year — the 2016 class appears to have a top tier of six players at this point. There isn’t a clear-cut #1 overall prospect or generational talent, but lefties A.J. Puk (Florida) and Jason Groome (high school in New Jersey) have gravitated toward the top of boards, with the righty Alec Hansen (Oklahoma) jumping into that race with strong performances this fall after sitting out the summer.
As a whole, this top group looks a little better than last year’s draft class and this class itself also appears to feature a little more depth, although it’s still too far early to be certain that will hold until next June. Some interesting 2016 draft storylines to monitor include:
- Oregon LHP Matt Krook, South Carolina RHP Wil Crowe and Stanford RHP Cal Quantrill (Canadian and son of former big league RHP Paul Quantrill) are all returning to the mound in their draft year after missing last season with Tommy John surgery. Krook threw his short rehab outings on the Cape and is already working 91-93 with a curveball that flashes plus while Crowe turned down seven figures out of high school and flashed two plus pitches before surgery. Quantrill had a #1 overall pick look to him two summers ago and early last spring before his injury.
- Three hitting prospects with enormous upside and contact questions include Florida CF Buddy Reed, Arizona 3B Bobby Dalbec and Atlanta-area prep RF Will Benson. Reed and Dalbec need to cut down on their strikeouts and have shown glimpses of that ability at times, while Benson has made good contact but has constantly changed his mechanics all summer.
- Three pitching prospects looking for some consistency are Kansas high school righty Riley Pint, Louisville righty Kyle Funkhouser and Georgie RHP Robert Tyler. The 6-foot-5 Pint had an erratic summer but also hit 99 mph in two different events and flashed a plus breaking ball. Funkhouser is looking to recoup some value after fading down the stretch last spring and dropping from a top-10 prospect to a late first rounder of the Dodgers who didn’t sign due to bonus demands. Tyler is also intriguing, as the big righty has hit 100 mph and flashed an above average changeup, but his command and breaking ball have both been below average in recent looks after showing at least average potential in his freshman year.
- The Florida Gators are ridiculously loaded this year, as the banner freshman class of 2014 has reached its potential and now rivals the Gators’ crop from the 2012 draft (Mariners C Mike Zunino, Red Sox LHP Brian Johnson, Astros SS Nolan Fontana, Braves LHP Paco Rodriguez, Red Sox RHP Austin Maddox all went in the top three rounds and Astros LF Preston Tucker in the seventh). The Gators have LHP A.J. Puk and CF Buddy Reed as potential #1 overall picks along with RHP Logan Shore as a likely top-15 pick. Righties Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson, lefty Scott Moss and first baseman Pete Alonso all have varied but real chances to go in the top three rounds, with only one of Dunning, Anderson and Moss getting to start on the weekend behind Puk and Shore.
- There seems to be a blue chip football prospect who has early round baseball potential every year and this year is no different, in the person of Pennsylvania prep CF Brandon McIlwain. He’s also a four star dual-threat quarterback recruit for South Carolina and it looked at one point like he’d early enroll in school and possibly not even be eligible to be drafted, but a strong summer and a possible multi-million dollar payday now have him playing this spring.
- As for 2016 prospects with notable bloodlines, we have Georgia prep 3B Carter Kieboom (younger brother of Nationals minor league C Spencer Kieboom), Stanford RHP Cal Quantrill (son of former big league RHP Paul Quantrill), Louisville RHP Zack Burdi (younger brother of Twins 2nd rounder, minor league RHP Nick Burdi), Florida prep 3B Bo Bichette (son of former big league OF Dante Bichette and younger brother of Yankees first rounder, minor league 3B Dante Bichette Jr.), Vanderbilt RHP Jordan Sheffield (older brother of Indians first rounder, minor league LHP Justus Sheffield), Kentucky prep CF Jaren Shelby (younger brother of Brewers area scout John Shelby Jr. and son of former big league OF and current Brewers bench coach John Shelby Sr.), North Carolina State 1B Preston Palmeiro (son of former Orioles 1B Rafael Palmeiro), Texas junior college SS Nick Shumpert (son of former big league IF Terry Shumpert), Notre Dame 2B Cavan Biggio (son of Hall of Fame Astros 2B Craig Biggio) and Tennessee RHP Kyle Serrano (son of his college head coach, Dave Serrano). LSU RF Jake Fraley and Delaware prep RF Brandon Fraley are brothers who are both draft eligible this year.
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.