The 2015 draft class is about average, certainly not among the better classes, but weak only in specific areas such as college position players and catchers at any level. It's deep in college starters, solid in prep bats and middle-of-the-road for high school arms, although it could end up better than that due to some very projectable guys under the top tier of hard throwers.
It's very early for this sort of exercise, but Christopher Crawford and I have put together a ranking of the top 30 prospects in the 2015 class. It's not a projection of where they'll be picked, mind you, but an attempt to put some of the names in a logical order based on present talent and long-term outlook.
1. Brady Aiken, LHP, undecided/no school
We're all waiting to hear what's going to happen with Aiken, who is expected to head to junior college and re-enter the draft for 2015. There's a grievance pending for Jacob Nix, who was collateral damage when the Astros backed out of an agreement with Aiken over something in his physical -- although multiple sources have told me Aiken's left UCL is fine -- but Aiken's status is less clear. Either way, he seems very likely to get the $6.5 million he was supposed to get in June, as he's so talented and polished that he's the best prospect in the 2015 class as well.
2. Michael Matuella, RHP, Duke
Matuella has size and power, touching the upper 90s with his fastball and possessing a plus slider, but concerns about spondylolysis (a stress fracture in a vertebra of the lower back, often caused by hyperextension of the spine) and his limited track record push him behind Aiken for now.
3. Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary (Fla.) HS
The 2015 draft's best position-player prospect is very likely to stay at shortstop despite below-average speed because his hands and instincts are excellent, and he has an excellent feel for hitting, albeit with a bit of a pull-centric approach. He's an older senior, though, and will turn 19 shortly after the draft.
4. Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia
Scouts rave about Kirby's feel for pitching, and with a low-90s fastball, a plus changeup and above-average breaking ball, along with solid command, the markings are there for him to become a fast-track arm.
5. Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
The 6-foot Allard was by far the best prep pitcher on the showcase circuit over the summer, showing easy 92-95 mph velocity with a plus curveball, along with an athletic body and some room to fill out.
6. Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
Some are concerned about Buehler's size -- he's listed at 6-1 and 160 pounds -- but with three above-average to plus secondary pitches and a fastball that will touch 96 mph, the presumed Commodores ace has as high of ceiling as any college arm in this class besides Matuella and Aiken.
7. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville
Funkhouser's stuff is legit; he has one of the best sliders in the class and a fastball that sits in the 92-95 range. But there are still concerns about his consistency and command.
8. Nick Plummer, OF, Brother Rice HS (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
Plummer is an advanced left-handed hitter with a great combination of bat speed and hand-eye coordination, showing above-average power and speed over the summer. But he faces some questions as a sub-6-foot hitter who might end up in an outfield corner.
9. Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
Swanson will get to play shortstop full time this spring, and if he proves he can handle the position, he may jump up into top-five territory. He has the foot speed and hands, but needs to show his arm can handle the left side of the infield, especially since his bat will play anywhere and would make him a potential All-Star at short.
10. Alonzo Jones, OF, Columbus (Ga.) HS
Jones is one of the highest-ceiling prep players in the draft, with tremendous bat and foot speed and the kind of quick-twitch movements scouts love to see in young position players.
11. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
Nikorak tired a bit over the course of the long summer -- as much as I like getting more looks at prospects, they don't need to do every event -- but he was outstanding at the Perfect Game showcase in June and was still 91-94 in August with a good changeup and a very promising 6-5, 205-pound frame.
12. Daz Cameron, OF, Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (McDonough, Ga.)
The son of former All-Star center fielder Mike Cameron (yes, you are that old), Cameron has been a well-known name in scouting circles, as he has appeared in seemingly every summer event the past few years. While he's no longer a presumed candidate for the first selection in the draft, he's still a very intriguing prospect as an outfielder with pop from the right side and a chance to be a solid center fielder, like his father.
13. Richie Martin, SS, Florida
One of the draft's few true shortstops, Martin answered some questions about his bat with a tremendous season in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, showing patience and a high contact rate, along with a .364 batting average, a new club record for the Bourne franchise. He's a plus runner without power, but as long as he stays at short, his bat will play.
14. Kyle Cody, RHP, Kentucky
Cody is yet another giant Wildcats starter, not quite Alex Meyer size (6-9), but close at 6-7, with a starter's fastball but questions about his secondary stuff. After working primarily in relief in 2014 (six starts in 18 appearances), he'll move into Kentucky's rotation in '15.
15. Cody Ponce, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona
A relative unknown coming into the summer, Ponce has seen his stock soar after hitting 97 mph in the Cape Cod All-Star game and showing a slider that flashes plus-plus from a clean delivery and a strong 6-5, 235-pound build.
16. Chris Betts, C, Wilson HS (Long Beach, Calif.)
Betts can hit, and he has the size and strength to hit for power if he can get more rotational, so the main question is really whether he can stay behind the plate in pro ball. He has the arm and body for it, so if it works, he could become a top-10 pick.
17. Alex Bregman, SS/2B, LSU
It wasn't a great sophomore campaign for Bregman, but he still showed an above-average hit tool from the right side and solid average power as well. He'll play short for the Tigers this spring, but he's a lock to move to second base in pro ball because of below-average speed and an average arm.
18. Ian Happ, IF, Cincinnati
Happ is one of the best pure hitters for average and contact in the college crop, but he needs to find a permanent position, playing mostly second but some first base and outfield over the past two springs and summers. He has the arm for third base, and his bat would certainly profile there.
19. Trenton Clark, OF, Richland HS (Fort Worth, Texas)
Clark impressed scouts over the summer and early fall with his approach at the plate and consistent performance, marking himself as one of the best high school bats in the class. The Texas Tech commit isn't a plus runner, but he was by far the best performer with the USA 18-and-under team, proving difficult to strike out and showing some pop from his 6-foot, 205-pound frame, along with a 10-for-10 performance on the bases.
20. Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt
Fulmer has one of, if not the, quickest arms in the 2015 draft, which allows him to hit the high 90s on radar guns, and he'll show an above-average breaking ball as well. He could be destined for the bullpen, however, as his size and delivery are far from ideal.
21. Garrett Whitley, OF, Niskayuna (N.Y.) HS
Whitley, like Plummer, will be a tough guy to scout in the spring thanks to cold weather and weak northern competition, so he'll be evaluated more off a strong summer performance at the Area Code Games and the Metropolitan Classic, as well as off his overall athleticism and speed when he resumes playing in April.
22. Joe McCarthy, OF, Virginia
Another "pure hitter" type like Happ, McCarthy doesn't have any plus tools except perhaps his bat, but he makes a lot of contact and has a track record of performance against excellent competition. He'll also benefit from scouts pouring into Charlottesville to watch starters Kirby, Brandon Waddell and Josh Sborz, as the Cavaliers are once again among the best teams in the country.
23. Jake Lemoine, RHP, Houston
Lemoine has battled consistency issues in his time at Houston, but when he's at his best, he'll show two plus pitches in his fastball and slider, along with an above-average changeup with deception from arm speed.
24. Gio Brusa, OF, Pacific
Considered a potential top-two-round selection coming out of high school, Brusa improved his stock with a big summer on the Cape, showing an above-average hit tool with plus power, though he leaves much to be desired as a defender/runner.
25. Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Tate has two borderline plus-plus pitches in a fastball that has touched 99 mph and a slider with outstanding late tilt, but the lack of a consistent third pitch and high-effort delivery have some believing he's a high-leverage reliever as a professional.
26. Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS (Concord, Calif.)
Hooper is a mountain of a young man (6-7, 230 pounds) with a fastball that can get up to 97, and he'll show a breaking ball that flashes plus. The UCLA commit also shows below-average command and a delivery that defines "max effort," making him one of the more volatile prospects to start the season.
27. Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College
The luster of college first basemen has worn off after some high-profile misses in the mid-2000s, but Shaw's power has held, even with wood bats, as he led the Cape in homers this summer after a solid spring playing for the worst team in the ACC. He'll get plenty of chances to impress scouts facing quality pitching in the ACC, but as a first base-only prospect, he'll have to hit, get on base and show power to be a first-rounder.
28. Luken Baker, RHP/OF, Oak Ridge HS (Spring, Texas)
Baker is one of the draft's few two-way prospects, as the massive right-hander can touch 95 with his fastball and also show plus-plus power from the right side, with the latter in particularly short supply in pro ball at the moment.
29. James Kaprielian, RHP, UCLA
Kaprielian has shown plus velocity in relief roles in the past, but his stuff was closer to average in a strong performance this summer starting for Team USA. He's a back-of-the-round type now as a strong-bodied, mid-rotation type, but could jump into the top 10 if his fastball plays up in the spring.
30. Skye Bolt, OF, North Carolina
If Bolt shows the same skill set he did during his freshman season, he has a chance to go early as an outfielder with above-average tools across the board. We didn't see that player much as a sophomore, however, so his status as a first-round target is very much in question.
Honorable mentions (listed alphabetically)
Beau Burrows, Weatherford (Texas) HS
Riley Ferrell, RHP, TCU
Jon Harris, RHP, Missouri State
Juan Hillman, LHP, Olympia HS (Winter Garden, Fla.)
Tyler Jay, LHP, Illinois
Tate Matheny, CF, Missouri State
Ryan McKay, RHP, Smithson Valley HS (Spring Branch, Texas)
Kyler Murray, OF (and football QB), Allen (Texas) HS
Kevin Newman, SS/2B, Arizona
DJ Stewart, 1B, Florida State.