The 2015 Major League Baseball amateur draft is now just over one month away. While this year’s class has been recognized as a weaker crop of prospects in recent years, and lacks an elite talent such as a Bryce Harper, there are several noteworthy players projected to go in the first round.
The Arizona Diamondbacks hold pick No. 1 and it’s unclear as to who they will be selecting. In part because there is no real consensus top pick, but also due to the fact that their strategy and who in fact is making said decision is unclear, reports Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.
There are two names that are frequently spotted atop the draft boards of experts — one, a high school shortstop, and the other, a collegiate right-handed pitcher.
Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary High School (Florida) — Rodgers is a Florida State University commit, but shouldn’t have a problem finding a signing bonus in the $4-to-5 million range as a No. 1 or No. 2 pick overall. In terms of tools, the 18-year old is solid across the board. There’s plus power and plus bat speed that has clearly outgrown his current competition. Rodgers has average speed and is solid on the base paths.
The arm is plus at shortstop though there is some concern about whether or not the glove will be able to last at shortstop long-term given that Rodgers isn’t elite from a purely athletic perspective. PI’s Luke Arkins created an all shortstop squad out of star players who were drafted as shortstops over the previous 25 years, but ended up at a different position in the majors. Players don’t always appear in the majors at the position they were drafted at — see the Seattle Mariners first pick in 2014, Alex Jackson, who is playing the outfield as opposed to catching — and if they can hit, the club will find a position for them.
Rodgers is the best hitter available in the draft with superior hand-eye skills and a very easy swing. He also offers highly sought after right-handed power at a premium defensive position. Rodgers has drawn comparisons to Troy Tulowitzi and Addison Russell, the latter was selected No. 11 overall in 2012.
The last shortstop to go No. 1 overall in the amateur draft was in the same 2012 draft when the Houston Astros selected Carlos Correa from Puerto Rico Baseball Academy.
Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara — A junior in college, Tate saw his stock rise dramatically while pitching for Team USA last summer and then again over the last several months. The right-handed was slated to start the season as UC Santa Barbara’s closer before an injury in the rotation forced the into a starting role where he has thrived. Tate brings heat in the mid-90’s with his fastball and can touch 98 MPH. His slider sits in the 86-to-88 MPH range and is a true plus pitch. The changeup is fringy and runs a few ticks slower than the slider, but he hasn’t had to depend on it that much up to this point.
Tate is able to generate some deception with his delivery, but there is also some effort there. The 21-year old is listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds and is athletic enough that any mechanical concerns could be smoothed out. Some scouts feel that he will be a reliever long-term with only a slight chance of lasting as a starter.
Tate went down recently with a trapezoid strain sustained in the weight room, but threw seven no-hit innings in his return start to all but evaporate any concerns.
With two true plus pitches it’s easy to see why the industry is enamoured with Tate’s stuff. A key to the right-hander having sustained rotation success will likely be the development of his changeup. There’s plenty of potential here and the stuff can be outright dominating.
Both Rodgers and Tate could go No. 1 overall with it being highly unlikely they don’t go within the top three picks overall. The Astros hold the second pick while the Colorado Rockies hold the third selection.