The 2017 MLB Draft begins on June 12, meaning every team is narrowing down its top choices and taking a close look at what areas of their farm systems need help. Here’s a look at what each American League team’s system needs as the draft approaches:
The Orioles have needs in the middle infield, starting pitching and relief pitching, but they may focus on getting a future star in the middle infield with the 21st pick. Among their top 30 prospects according to MLBPipeline.com, only two of them play the middle infield, as Ryan Mountcastle (No. 4 overall) and Irving Ortega (No. 22) both play shortstop. The Orioles may look to shortstops Logan Warmoth of North Carolina or Nick Allen of Francis Parker School in San Diego to be that guy down the road, which they may need sooner rather than later if All-Star third baseman Manny Machado leaves the club as a free agent in 2019.
After landing a potential ace in Jason Groome in last year’s draft, the Red Sox may look to fill a spot at either second base or in the outfield with the No. 24 pick. After all, MLBPipeline.com says they have no second baseman and only one outfielder in their top-30 list of prospects after they brought up their 2015 first-round pick Andrew Benintendi this season. The Sox may be able to fill either hole by selecting second baseman/left fielder Keston Hiura of the University of California-Irvine.
Drafting at No. 11 overall, the White Sox have a big need at first base. Yes, they still have a cornerstone first baseman for their franchise in Jose Abreu, but they do not have a current minor leaguer on their top-30 prospect list to back him up or take his place if he leaves for free agency in 2020. Along with first, the Sox will probably need a pitcher who they can develop into a closer since they may not have David Robertson for much longer.
The Indians do not have a first-round pick this year and will not be picking until No. 64 overall after forfeiting their top selection to the Blue Jays as compensation for signing designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion for this season. For a team that already has a lot of talent in the big leagues and two top-100 prospects in catcher Francisco Mejia and starter Triston McKenzie, Cleveland may try to add more starting pitching to their farm system or add some middle infielders for the future if they do not retain one of the game’s best shortstops in Francisco Lindor, second baseman Jason Kipnis and infielder Jose Ramirez when they become free agents in the next 4-5 seasons.
Over the last five seasons, the Tigers have either chosen a pitcher or an outfielder with the first pick of the draft. The Tigers, who have the 18th pick, need a second baseman and a catcher for the future. They have no second baseman ranked among their top-30 list of prospects, which could be a problem because Ian Kinsler is 34 years old and Andrew Romine is 31, and they have two catchers ranked in Arvicent Perez (No. 16) and Grayson Greiner (No. 27), but their ceilings are not incredibly high.
Since 1998, the Astros have taken either a pitcher, outfielder, catcher or shortstop with there first-round selection. This year, they have a need at first base — a position they have not taken with their first pick since 1997 when they selected Lance Berkman, who went on to play 11 seasons and was a five-time All-Star. The Astros also could use a catcher since they having an aging one in Brian McCann and only have one backstop prospect listed in their top 30.
The Royals have a bunch of needs, with starting pitching, third base and first base being major concerns for them. The Royals, who have the 14th pick, chose two starters with their last two first-round picks in 2015 in Nolan Watson and Ashe Russell, but they have struggled so far in their short time in the minors. The last time the Royals hit big on a starter was in 2002 when they chose Zach Greinke at sixth overall. And the last time they got a big-time third baseman and first baseman were Mike Moustakas (2007) and Eric Hosmer (2008), who are free agents after this season.
The Angels not only need starting pitching, but they need to find a sure-bet starter that they can build their rotation around. They have the 10th pick in the draft and may be able to land a possible top-five pitcher among the draft prospects. The last time the Angels chose a pitcher in the top 10 was Joe Torres with the 10th pick in 2000, but Torres never reached the majors. And with Garrett Richards being injury-prone the last couple of seasons, the need for a top-flight starter increases even more.
The Twins are one of the youngest teams in the league and are having great success now with all their young talent. However, they may need to look into finding a possible successor for former No. 1 overall pick and franchise player Joe Mauer at first base. Luckily for them, they have the No. 1 pick this season and can go with a two-way player in pitcher/first baseman in Brendan McKay of Louisville or the best high school player in the country in pitcher/shortstop Hunter Greene of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California.
The Yankees are playing at a high level during their current youth movement, but they ultimately need young, talented starting pitching. The Yankees, who hold the 16th pick, may be able to get a top-10 pitcher from this year’s draft prospects. The last time they had one of their first-round starting pitcher draft picks pitch for them was Ian Kennedy back in 2008. The Yankees may need a future third baseman as well.
The Athletics have a lot of needs, but they mainly need to grab either a first baseman or an outfielder. They have no first baseman among their top-30 prospects and they have only three outfielders, one of which is in the top 10 in Lazaro Armenteros (No. 8 overall). The A’s have not chosen a first baseman in the first round since 2002 when they picked Nick Swisher and they have chosen only three outfielders since 1995.
The Mariners, who have the 17th pick, need starting pitching in the worst way. Outside of ace Felix Hernandez and a resurgent James Paxton, the M’s have no depth in their rotation, as evident of pitching four new starters this season after all the injuries that have happened to Hernandez, Paxton, Drew Smyly and Hisashi Iwakuma. They also can look into first base and outfield.
Since the Rays became a franchise in 1998, they have had 10 top-10 first-round picks. Out of these 10, nine have gone on to play for them. This year, they have the fourth pick in the draft, giving them a shot to fill their need of starting pitching since Alex Cobb has been rumored to be in trade talks and a free agent after this season. They also may need to find a future catcher.
The Rangers hold the 26th and 29th picks, with the 29th selection being a compensation pick they received from the Rockies after Colorado signed Ian Desmond this season. The Rangers have a couple of needs, but they have to land a starting pitcher who could make an impact down the line since ace Yu Darvish is a free agent after this season and Cole Hamels is a free agent in 2019. They may also look for a catcher down the road since Jonathan Lucroy is a free agent after this year as well or a first baseman since Mike Napoli is 35 years old.
The Blue Jays get to pick twice in the first round, as they hold the No. 22 and No. 28 picks. The second pick is a compensation pick they received for the Indians signing designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. After choosing pitchers in each of the last three years in the first round, the Blue Jays need an outfielder or a first baseman who could give them a big bat in the future since Jose Bautista is 36 years old and is a free agent after this year.