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MLB Draft: A look back at the 2016 MLB Draft

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A year later, an early look at the good and the bad from last year’s draft class.

Baseball: Under Armour All-America Baseball Game
Biggest 2016 draft success Bo Bichette rounds the bases at the Under Armour All America Baseball game in 2015.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

MLB’s 2017 draft commences on June 12, with all 30 teams hoping to make the most of their first round picks and find some diamonds in the rough on Day 2 and Day 3.

It’s been almost a full year since the 2016 draft, meaning the prospects selected then have almost a full year of pro ball behind them. While it’s too early to make full judgments on these guys, here’s an early look at ten successes and ten disappointments to this point:

Biggest Successes:

1. Bo Bichette, SS/2B (2nd Round, 66th overall - TOR)

.393/.452/.646 with 8 HR and 8 SB in 59 games (Rk/A)

Talk about a second-round steal! Bo’s definitely his father—former Rockie Dante Bichette—proud with a Mike Trout-ian performance, spraying the ball all over the field and putting up a solid 47:24 K:BB ratio, one that looks even better when you consider that he’s only 19 years old. The righty swinger is ranked as the 9th-best Blue Jays prospect by MLB.com, and he should continue to climb up that list as he ages, advances levels, and fills out his 6 foot, 200 lb frame.

2. Nick Senzel, 3B (1st Round, 2nd Overall - CIN)

.300/.381/.489 with 10 HR and 24 SB in 114 games (Rk/A/A+)

Senzel’s stats don’t come jumping off the screen at you, but he’s done everything the Reds have wanted him to do since they took him with the second overall pick, one that they could have used on any number of players. The power isn’t quite there for Senzel yet, but his advanced approach has gotten him on base at a great clip, and his gap power could soon pave way for more fence-clearing. He also runs well and has shown good fielding chops—he’s about as polished of a player as you can get. Look for him to be in the majors by the end of 2019.

3. A.J. Puk, SP (1st Round, 6th Overall - OAK)

3.48 ERA, 101 K, 28 BB in 7223 IP (12.6 K/9, 3.5 BB/9), 1 HR allowed (A-/A+)

The ERA is nothing special, but Puk’s ability to absolutely carve through hitters while keeping his walk rate respectable is something to admire for a pitcher whose number one issue has been his tendency to give up free passes. Combine that with his ability to keep the ball down and his quick progression through the A’s system, and you have a lefty who could be starting Opening Day for the A’s as soon as 2020.

4. Kyle Muller, SP (2nd Round, 44th Overall - ATL)

0.65 ERA, 38 K, 12 BB in 2723 IP (12.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9), 0 HR allowed (Rk)

While he obviously didn’t have nearly the same level of hype as Puk, here’s a lefty who’s performing better than him for a system flush with excellent southpaws. Muller would be ranked higher on this list if he had some innings this season, but he’s still stretching out in extended spring training, after which he’s likely to report to Atlanta’s A-ball affiliate in Rome, Georgia.

5. Dane Dunning, SP (1st Round, 29th Overall - WAS)

2.14 ERA, 85 K, 19 BB in 7523 IP (10.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), 3 HR allowed (Rk/A-/A/A+)

After being the least-known of the three players acquired by the White Sox in the Adam Eaton trade this past December, Dunning has carved out a name for himself in the Pale Hose’s minor league system. He’s been especially good over his past four starts, with 33 strikeouts and only two walks in 26 innings pitched, allowing only one earned run. In a few short years he could join a tantalizing White Sox rotation that could also include Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech.

6. Eric Lauer, SP (1st Round, 25th Overall - SD)

2.00 ERA, 92 K, 24 BB in 7623 IP (10.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9), 3 HR allowed (Rk/A-/A/A+)

Our string of pitchers continues with Lauer, who similarly to Dunning came without a ton of pedigree as a low-first-round pick, but has made his organization look wise for taking him with their third selection. Lauer is already at his fourth minor league level, and is currently carving through Hi-A to the tune of a 1.97 ERA this season. Look for him to get a promotion to Double-A soon, and perhaps be a mainstay in the Friars’ rotation by the end of next season.

7. Daulton Jefferies, SP (1st Round, 37th Overall - OAK)

2.45 ERA, 23 K, 3 BB in 1813 IP (11.3 K/9, 1.5 BB/9), 0 HR allowed (Rk/A+)

Looks like the A’s made another good pick, selecting a righty with their second overall pick to complement Puk’s left arm. With just over two games’ worth of innings, it’s a bit too early to truly know if this performance will last. But, the strikeout to walk ratio is incredibly tantalizing, and it’s definitely something to keep an eye on as the 22 year-old progresses through Oakland’s system—at a fast pace if he keeps this up.

8. Zack Burdi, RP (1st Round, 26th Overall - CWS)

2.86 ERA, 80 K, 26 BB in 5623 IP (12.7 K/9, 4.1 BB/9), 3 HR allowed (Rk/A+/AA/AAA)

If the five aforementioned White Sox starting pitching prospects end up as good as advertised, they’re going to need a lockdown closer to finish games off for them, and David Robertson isn’t going to be sticking around. Enter Burdi. Easily the best relief pitching prospect in the 2016 draft, he’s lived up to the hype, and will very likely be the first of all of last year’s draftees to reach the majors.

9. Zack Collins, C (1st Round, 10th Overall - CWS)

.230/.392/.424 with 12 HR and 14 2B in 82 games (Rk/A-/A+)

And here’s the catcher to pair with all of those great White Sox pitching prospects. Collins’s bat hasn’t come around quite yet, but his advanced eye (91:71 K:BB ratio) leaves plenty of room to grow. He’s been working incredibly hard at his craft behind the dish, and he’s been able to throw out 44% of baserunners who’ve dared to test his arm. If the White Sox decide to go a different route, he has the bat and athleticism to play first base or corner outfield.

10. Forrest Whitley, SP (1st Round, 17th Overall - HOU)

4.14 ERA, 61 K, 13 BB in 4113 IP (13.3 K/9, 2.8 BB/9), 2 HR allowed (Rk/A)

No, that’s not a typo; I really put a guy with a 4.14 ERA as the 10th biggest success of last year’s draft. It’s because you should ignore that ERA! Minor league defenses are bad, and oftentimes pitchers aren’t worrying about how many runs they give up; they’re just trying to work on a specific pitch or game-plan. Whitley’s peripherals are tremendous, and as he climbs the Astros system with better and better defenses playing behind him, the 6’7” righty should find his ERA dropping.

Biggest Disappointments:

Disclaimer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. The following ten guys could definitely bounce back! But, thus far, they’ve ranged from below expectations to absolutely terrible, and so they need to be shamed.

1. Ben Rortvedt, C (2nd Round, 56th Overall - MIN)

.181/.254/.216 with 0 HR and 37 H in 64 games (Rk/A)

Let’s review:
This guy was drafted ten spots before Bichette
Many pitchers would be unhappy to have his batting line
His defense is good (.993 fielding percentage and 37% caught stealing) but he could be Buster Posey behind the dish and it wouldn’t make up for that batting line.
AND HE WAS DRAFTED TEN SPOTS BEFORE BICHETTE!!!

Yeah.

2. Chris Okey, C (2nd Round, 43rd Overall - CIN)

.206/.281/.323 with 7 HR and 65 H in 89 games (Rk/A/A+)

Smells like another no-bat catcher drafted before Bichette. Okey’s 101:28 K:BB ratio is atrocious; it appears that only his fielding (just 9 errors in 67013 innings behind the plate) can save him at this juncture.

3. Andy Yerzey, C (2nd Round, 52nd Overall - ARZ)

.216/.240/.265 with 1 HR and 35 H in 45 games (Rk)

Really, another one of these guys?! Like Rortvedt and Okey, his fielding is good, but he’s got no power and has amazingly walked only four times in his professional career to this point. Not great, Bob!

4. Akil Baddoo, OF (2nd Round, 74th Overall - MIN)

.178/.299/.271 with 2 HR and 8 SB in 38 games (Rk)

I love the guy’s name, I really do. And he’s only 17 and currently being held back in extended spring training, so he has plenty of time to turn it around. But, the fact of the matter is that that batting line is atrocious, and there’s been nothing redeeming about his game—he also made two errors in just 42 chances in the outfield. It’s imperative that he gets better so Grant Brisbee can make stupid puns like “Baddoo to the Bone” if he makes it to the majors.

5. Jake Fraley, OF (2nd Round, 77th Overall - TB)

.217/.308/.332 with 2 HR and 34 SB in 79 games (A-/A+)

Well, at least he can run! Fraley just made my cutoff as the last pick of the second round, but he probably wishes he hadn’t. After showing some signs of life with a solid 34:26 K:BB ratio in 2016, that’s plummeted to 24:7 this season. Most concerning is that he just turned 22, only slightly younger than the average Hi-A player, and he has a lot of work to do if he wants to move up.

6. Buddy Reed, OF (2nd Round, 48th Overall - SD)

.247/.321/.317 with 0 HR and 18 SB in 66 games (A-/A)

As with Fraley, there’s clearly a good bit of athleticism on the part of Reed, with good speed and six outfield assists in only 63 games in the field. If he can refine his approach—one that already includes a solid enough 9.3% walk rate—he could find himself off this list as soon as next season.

7. Ronnie Dawson, OF (2nd Round, 61st Overall - HOU)

.218/.325/.360 with 11 HR and 17 SB in 112 games (A-/A)

The tools are definitely there for Dawson, with solid power and speed, and he’s shown a good knack for taking a walk and thus getting on base. He just has to cut down his strikeout rate that’s over 20%, and he could make plenty of strides.

8. Joshua Lowe, 3B (1st Round, 13th Overall - TB)

.230/.331/.369 with 8 HR and 13 2B in 93 games (Rk/A)

If he played for just about any other team, I’d probably overlook Lowe’s performance, chalking it up to a fairly typical slow start and adjustment period. But this is looking like yet another first-pick miss for the Rays. Will the streak of bad picks end this year?
9. Dylan Carlson, OF (1st Round, 33rd Overall - STL)

.233/.324/.369 with 6 HR and 15 2B in 89 games (Rk/A)

The Cardinals made an iffy first round draft pick! Yes, really, they did! Carlson’s stats aren’t terrible, but they sure leave a lot to be desired, especially with his OPS dropping 67 points from 2016 to 2017. Maybe the Cardinals Devil Magic just hasn’t reached him yet.

10. Anthony Kay, SP (1st Round, 31st Overall - NYM)

Has not pitched (injured)

I know just as well as you do how well or badly this will work out for Kay. But, the fact of the matter is that he had Tommy John surgery the November after being drafted, and he won’t throw a professional pitch until sometime during his age-23 season, probably in Low-A, if not lower. He’s definitely got a lot of catching up to do.