You’ve probably heard by now, from me or from others who cover the draft, that this year’s class is weaker than normal. I still believe this is true, perhaps even more today than I did a month ago, now that I’ve spent more time looking at the talent likely to be available in the second and third rounds (and beyond, for a few names).
The class is just fine at the top, although it lacks a standout, lead prospect like a Bryce Harper or even a Gerrit Cole. Teams drafting 2-5 will probably be perfectly happy with whom they get. But the crop of players for teams’ second and third picks is definitely worse than it was a year ago.
It’s not a huge high school pitching crop, but since there aren’t many up-the-middle prospects in the collegiate or high school ranks, the few good prep arms available should fly off the board before we get far into Round 2. And there just aren’t as many good college starting pitchers, even if we’re generous about whom we call a starter (that is, plenty of these guys look like future relievers), which removes an avenue of safety for a lot of teams who like to default to that group, often as a means of portfolio balancing: "Hey, we took a risky high school kid with our first pick, let’s balance him out with a nice safe college starter."
Sorry, Charlie, but that’s not going to work this year either.
Yet history tells us even "bad" drafts produce plenty of big leaguers; they just might not come from the very top of the draft.
The 2000 draft, maligned at the time and for years after as one of the worst drafts in memory, has produced eight 30-WAR players, including future Hall of Famer Chase Utley (taken 15th overall), fourth-rounders Cliff Lee and Yadier Molina and 20th-rounder Jose Bautista. Ninth-rounder Edwin Encarnacion could join that group. And the first overall selection, criticized at the time as a budget signing by the penurious Marlins, turned out to be the second-best player taken in the entire class: Adrian Gonzalez, who has more than 43 WAR and counting.
Here’s my final “big board,” ranking the top 100 players in this year’s draft class as I see them, based on what I’ve heard from scouts, what I’ve seen of players myself and scouting video I’ve reviewed.
The wunderkind of the draft class, Greene could go pro at either position, but his real upside is on the mound, where he has been up to 100 mph with a lightning-quick arm and tremendous athleticism.
The best college starter in the draft class, Wright is up to 96 mph with a plus slider and good feel for a change. He also showed much-improved command in the second half of his junior year.