MLB Draft Recap: Rounds 1-20

Josh Naylor

Last week at the MLB Draft, the future of baseball got a lot brighter in Miami. Just how much more talent rich will the Marlins be, pending contract signings? Here is a round-by-round look at each Miami draft pick.

1 – #12 – 1B Josh Naylor – St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS (ON)
Grade: A

Since 2012, the Marlins have struggled to find power outside of anyone not named Giancarlo Stanton. Each season, the team has finished in the bottom four in the leauge in power production. Part of the reason for these offensive shortcomings lends itself to the fact that the team opened one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the league. Since Marlins Park’s inaugural year, the Marlins have tried out lefty options such as Logan Morrison, Garrett Jones, etc in hopes that they would be able to find the seats closest to home plate in left field, 335 feet away as well as the triples alley in right center. While those plans have gone awry with all of those the Marlins have attempted it with thus far, they may have found their guy in Naylor. A 6’1″ 225 pound lefty from Canada, Naylor and his gargantuan power have drawn attention from scouts ever since he was 15 years old. That year, Naylor ironically hit a ball 480+ feet out of Marlins Park during a power showcase, one of many such events in which Naylor has drawn ooh’s and ahh’s from onlookers. Looking through reports from scouts, it is more common than not to read that Naylor makes the best contact, has the best exit velo and hits the ball the farthest out of all participants. He does so by making the most of his extra large frame and strength while also maintaining his looseness. At 17, he already has outstanding above average bat speed that should only get better during his journey to the majors. The only knock on his pre-swing approach is that he could use to utilize his back legs more as his current swing is almost all upper body with a very short stride below the waist. He is a pull first hitter but can hit to all fields when he squares up. Naylor will need to improve upon his patience and his ability to fight pitches off as he does swing and miss a lot when he doesn’t make contact but that will undoubtedly come with age and experience. On defense, Naylor is athletic, covering a good amount of ground for a kid his size. His arm is very good but a bit inconsistent as he tends to drop his arm slot and release point, an issue that will also be easily fixed with experience and coaching. There’s plenty of reason to be excited about Naylor who is much bigger and is showing more power than the smaller Giancarlo Stanton did at the same age. Whether or not he reaches the plateau Stanton is currently at is still up in the air but it is a distinct possibility. And that is enough to excite anyone.

 

2 – #50 – LHP Brent Lilek – Arizona State
Grade: A

Lilek is a 6’4″ 190 pound lefty who matured early in high school to become one of the top lefty arms in the 2015 draft. The tall lanky southpaw has a great pitcher’s build and uses his size to his advantage. Remaining loose, he uses a high leg raise delivery and tosses from an extended 3/4 arm slot. Lilek’s utilization of his body doesn’t stop there as he is also a very heady pitcher who makes great pitch and spot selections. His 89-92 MPH fastball is mostly straight but he has the ability to spot it wherever he wants, working both sides of the black consistently. He works eye levels well, usually setting up an elevated fastball with his breaking stuff, 74-76 MPH well shaped curves and fading changeups, which he keeps low in the zone. He is also working on a slurvy slider. As his arsenal develops even more, Lilek has the potential to become ace material. We will be following his progression in earnest.

3 – #85 – OF Isaiah White – Greenfield School (NC)
Grade: A-

White is a 6’0″ 175 pounder with a good athletic structure. At the plate, he hits from a square straight away stance and maintains his relaxation well. With good hands and bat speed, he finds the barrel often and hits all the way through the ball, making good line drive contact on swings straight through the zone. If the ball does find green grass, White and his speed which allowed him to run a 6.46 40 is a threat for extra bases every time. Defensively, White uses the same speed to cover a lot of ground, runs good routes and has a strong along with a quick transition and follow through that make it very projectable. White is a catalyst type hitter with already good but still developing defensive instincts and all the god-given tools to succeed in this league.

4 – #116 – RHP Cody Poteet – UCLA
Grade: B

Poteet is an athletic 6’1″ 190 pounder with an over-the-top release and good downhill action to the plate. Delivery is easily repeated. Has a good fastball which tops out at 92 with good life when he hits his spots but his bread and butter is a nasty well-tilted one that lives in the high 70s. He is also working on a developing changeup that has flashed above average. He limits pitches by living in and around the zone which lead to a 49/16 K/BB last season. He does need to improve the command of his pitches as he tends to find a bit too much of the plate at times but entering just his junior year at 21 years old, there is still room for improvement.

5 – #146 – LHP Justin Jacome – University Of California – Santa Barbara
Grade: A

Jacome is a huge lefty who surprisingly fell to round 5, possibly because he was overshadowed by teammate Dillon Tate. After a fabulous first three years of college at UC Santa Barabra, many scouts had him going off the board in the first three rounds. Jacome’s sparkling college career thus far was capped by a 116.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 96/26 K/BB this year. He did so by utilizing a 4-pitch arsenal and having extreme confidence in each pitch. Working quickly with good command, Jacome possesses a fastball which tops out at 92, a good fading changeup, and a best pitch curveball with good 12-6 bite. Good mechanics and control have lent themselves to a 3.27 career K/BB ratio. Jacome is a guy who already at 21 possesses three plus pitches and is working on a fourth. He already has the success to succeed in the minors and could take the fast track to the majors. The Marlins likely stole one here.

6 – #176 – C Justin Cohen – Riverview High School (FL)
Grade: B+

Cohen is a catcher with the build to prove it. At a stocky 6’0″, 190, he stands tall in the box and has a nice fluid swing. From a straight away open stance, he has a snappy bat with projectable line drive power. Last season in his junior year in high school, he hit .325/.392/.580 with three homers and nine doubles. Cohen excels even more on defense where he really puts his athleticism on display. He has a strong but controlled arm and goes from crouch to pop in the blink of an eye. The biggest and possibly only hole in Cohen’s game lies in his inability to pick the ball up out of the pitcher’s hand. He is fooled often and swings and misses even more. He will likely head to Florida State University to attempt to iron out those issues. If he succeeds, he could become starting catcher material. Even if he doesn’t, Cohen has enough defense skill to make it as a primarily defensive player.

7 – #206 – RHP Travis Neubeck – Indian Hills Community College (IA)
Grade: B

Neubeck is a tall, thin righty from the Air Force Academy. An athletic guy who lettered in both baseball and hockey in high school, Neubeck relies heavily on his wrists that can both crank up a heavy slap shot as well as bury a sharp curveball. Throwing from a 3/4 arm slot and working very quickly with good rhythm, Neubeck is Jamie Moyer light, relying heavily on finesse stuff. Though his fastball barely touches 90 MPH, he has the secondary stuff to make up for it. His best pitch is a low 70s curve that is tough for opposing hitters to pick up out of his hand and sneaks up on them with sharp break and fantastic movement. He has also flashed a low 80s mix in curve that needs work. Though he is virtually a one pitch pitcher at the moment, the curveball is good enough to give him a solid ground floor to work from. If he can gain some velo and movement on his fastball/changeup combo, Neubeck could have success at the major league level.

8 – #236 – RHP Chris Paddack – Cedar Park High School (TX)
Grade: B+

Paddack is a huge 6’4″ 195 pound righty who tosses free and easy from a high 3/4 arm slot. He has an easily repeated delivery with good downhill motion. He can do several things with his low-mid 90s fastball including cut it and sink it, turning his three pitch repertoire into more of a five pitch repertoire. His secondary stuff, a straight high 70s change that he has a good feel for and a slow 71 MPH 10-4 curveball that he will dip his arm slot a bit to throw, is still developing but both pitches show promise. He also shows versatility on his curveball by turning it in to a slurvy slider. Paddack will likely initially head to college at Texas A&M but, with a good foundation and a semi-pro ceiling that doesn’t appear to be far away, shouldn’t take long to reach the minor leagues.

 

9 – #266 – RHP Reilly Hovis – North Carolina
Grade: B

The 6’3″ 195 pound Hovis is another tall lanky righty who pitches from a 3/4 arm slot. He works at a slow but methodical pace and drives hard off his back leg to gain velo on his low 90s heat. In just his junior year of college, Hovis already has well developed secondary stuff including a good fading 88 mile an hour change. His best pitch is his outpitch curve, which sits in the upper 70s has good depth and good downward motion. He will sometimes drop arm slots when he throws the curve, allowing hitters to pick it up and sit on it but with a good knowledge of the zone and the ability to change hitters’ eye levels, it doesn’t hinder him much. Last season, Hovis went 9-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 64 innings and primed himself to be a top three round draft pick. However, in the offseason, Hovis underwent Tommy John surgery and will not pitch again until at least next season. If he can bounce back from the surgery, Hovis is a quality, heady pitcher with a good starter’s mentality. In round nine, Hovis was well worth the gamble.

10 – #296 – RHP Kelvin Rivas – Oklahoma Baptist University
Grade: A

Rivas is a massively framed 6’4″ 245 pound righty power arm. He uses all of his strength and gets out in front well with a downhill delivery that is easily repeatable. He ramps his plus fastball that both runs and sinks up to 95 with the ability to paint both sides of the black. He has a good feel for a simialr changeup which he drops down in to the mid-80s for a nice chance of speeds. His out pitch is a late breaking slider with sharp movement. This year in his junior year of college, Rivas led all of Division I basbeball in strikeouts (144), K/9 (13.64) and wins (12, including 3 CGSOs) while also ranking 29th in IP (95) and ERA (1.80). Rivas also put his control on full display by walking just 36. A quality arm with a good starter’s poise, Rivas could begin contributing at the minor leauge level immediately.

11 – #326 – RHP Ryan McKay – Satellite High School (FL)
Grade: B

Rounding out the string of pitching picks, McKay is a 6’4″ 170 pound north Palm Beach County native who makes the most of his long limbs on the mound. Working at a slow pace, he performs a high leg raise and a complete rotation of his arm before releasing from a high 3/4 arm slot. His arsenal includes a low 90s fastball with some slight cut to it, a mid-70s curveball with hard spin and dropping action which he tips well and a developing mid 80s changeup. He’s also started to work on a slider. McKay does tend to overthrow and is definitely still a work in progress but in just his senior year of high school, improvement will undoubtedly come as his body and mind mature. He will be worth keeping an eye on during his college career at Louisanna State University.

12 – #356 – OF Terry Bennett – Atlantic Coast High School (FL)
Grade: B-

Another in-state product, Bennett is a two sport athlete who has a decision on his hands. Not only was Bennett drafted by the Marlins, he was also signed by Florida International on national signing day to play football. Bennett was a star on the football field in high school but was also good enough in baseball to draw an All-American mention. As you may have guessed, Bennett has plus speed which allows him to cover a lot of ground in the outfield which would be a huge asset to Marlins Park. That same quickness allowed him to steal 11 bags in 22 games in his junior year. Bennett has also flashed extremely good patience at the plate, walking 31 times while striking out just 18 times in his high school career and accumulating a .492 OBP, suggesting he would be a viable option at the top of the order. While we won’t know until the day college classes resume what Bennett’s decision is, it would appear as if he is more interested in football as he did not partipate in baseball this season. However, on the chance that he does decide to pick the bat and glove back up, the infinitely athletic Bennett, though he will need a lot of grooming, could turn some heads.

13 – RHP RJ Peace – Serrano High School (CA)
Grade: B+

Peace is a 6’2″ 175 pound righty with a well groomed arsenal for a kid his age. Throwing from a high 3/4 arm slot, Peace has a slow and easy delivery which is easily repeated. He also has an extremely fluent follow through. His fastball sits in the 89-92 MPH range with good run to both sides of the plate. His best pitch by far though is his out-pitch slurve. Sitting in the 77-79 MPH range and evidencing a great mix of speeds, the slurve has extremely late break. When Peace is on, it is virtually untouchable. He also mixes in a pretty average low 80s slider. While he can get wild at times, Peace has great poise and confidence, allowing him to bounce back quickly. He usually controls his pitches very well and has the ability to paint the entire black. If Peace can clean up his wild antics during his college career, he could become a quality professional arm.

14 – #416 – Jordan Hillyer – Kennesaw State
Grade: A

Hillyer is a second time Marlins draftee out of Kennesaw State in Georgia. Standing at 6’0″, 200, he a lefty offspeed specialist. He possesses an 86-92 MPH fastball, an above average changeup, and a very good plus mid-80s curveball which he spins well. What gives Hillyer’s stuff even more of an edge is his extremely deceptive delivery which is something to behold. Working at a quick pace, Hillyer transitions from glove to hand then drops his arm nearly directly downward and behind his back before driving to the plate and releasing from a side-arm angle. His tricky mechanics along with his outstanding control have allowed him to enjoy a great college career proven by a 3.13 ERA, a 1.35 WHIP, a 194/97 K/BB and the fact that he started the 2014 Cape Cod All Star Game. He projects very well as either a back of the rotation starter or productive bullpen piece who should be able to contribute sooner rather than later.

15 – #446 – OF Kyle Barrett – Kentucky
Grade: B-

Barrett is a 5’11” 185 pound speedster who once ran a 6.77 40. At the plate, he is a slap singles hitter who’s speed allows him to leg them in to XBHs. He also isn’t afraid to drop down a bunt at any given moment. When he squares up, he makes good line drive contact and sees the ball to the barrell. That being said, his approach could use a bit of work, especially in the hands and flying open departments. In the field, Barrett covers as much ground as anyone if not more, takes good routes, and has a plus arm. With a bit of work on his approach at the plate, Barrett could become starter material acting as the sparkplug that helps turn the lineup over. At present, he projects best as a fourth outfielder.

16 – #476 – LHP Justin Langley – University Of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
Grade: C

Langley is a 6’6″ 225 pound lefty who struggled with injury early in his college career, limiting him to just 34 IP over his first two seasons. However, this season in his sophomore year, Langley has come back strong, posting a 3.33 ERA, a 1.32 WHIP and a 2.06 K/BB ratio over 67.2 IP. His repertoire includes 89-92 MPH heat and a developing circle changeup which has flashed plus. While he is a bit of a gamble due to his being limited by health issues, he has started his comeback journey strong. His offspeed arsenal includes a high 80s fastball and two plus secondary pitches — an 83 MPH changeup and a 72 MPH 12-6 curve — both of which have sick movement and both of which he will throw in two strike counts. Langley mixes it up well, making up for his lack of velo with extremely fast firing neurons and the ability to get in opposing hitter’s heads. With continued success and good health, Langley, an avid competitor and great athlete who played two sports in high school, could still find himself in the pros some day soon.

17 – #506 – SS Max Whitt – Lewis-Clark State (ID)
Grade: B-

Whitt is a one time pitcher who has made the transition to the infield. After a good high school career in which he earned first team all conference honors in both his junior and senior year, Whitt has enjoyed continued success early in his college career. Last season, he showed his durability by starting 56 games and the skill he holds in his snappy bat by slashing .296/.405/.586. He also flashed plus power by hitting 17 homers, fifth most in the nation. His patience was also on full display as he walked 29 times to just 24 Ks. In the field, Whitt still possesses the same strong arm that he used to throw 89 MPH fastballs with. If he gets his glove on the ball and makes an on-line throw, even the fastest of runners doesn’t stand a chance. Making the transition to the diamond dirt hasn’t been all sunshine and butterflies for Whitt who made 11 errors last season but with more experience, that should clean itself up. While the book is still out a bit on his defensive capability (especially since he played at 2B and was drafted as a SS), Whitt’s bat makes him an intriguing young prospect with good upside.

18 – #536 – RHP Kyle Keller – Southeastern Louisianna University
Grade: C

Keller is a 6’4″ 200 pound hurler who enjoyed a good college career as a reliever. He went out on a strong note this season by allowing just 11 runs while striking out 40 and walking just 10 in 36 IP. When he is on, he keeps the ball down extremely well and limits damage. In his entire college career spanning 129 innings, he gave up just four long balls. On his good days, his low 90s heat and mid 80s changeup combo are effective and he keeps everything down in the zone. But if he is going to make it in the majors, he is going to have to become a lot more consistent. On any given day, his control can turn to nothing, which was the culprit in getting him removed from a starting role. Though he has great raw talent, Keller is going to need to be groomed well at the minor league level in order to succeed as a professional reliever.

 

19 – #566  RHP Curt Britt – NC State
Grade: B+

Britt is a sizeable 6’2″ 240 pound righty. He uses his strength well behind his heavy mid 90s fastball as well as his good biting curveball which can touch the low 80s. He isn’t afraid to challenge hitters as he pounds the zone before pitching them in on the hands deep in counts. He has a quick arm and a fluid delivery especially for a guy his size. Between two colleges, he enjoyed a spectacular college career, mostly as a reliever, compiling a sub-3 ERA, an 82/35 K/BB and a 1.28 WHIP. With good tools and athleticism, Britt has the stuff to succeed at the professional level as a late inning reliever and was a great find at this point in the draft.

20 – #596 – C Korey Dunbar – North Carolina
Grade: C+

Rounding out the first 20 rounds worth of picks is another North Carolina product, catcher Korey Dunbar. Dunbar is a defense first catcher but his bat has also come around late in his college career. This year for the Heels, Dunbar enjoyed by far and away his best season at the plate, slashing .288/.362/.484 (the BABIP was slightly inflated at .353). He is an extremely picky hitter, especially for a catcher and has flashed plus power potential. If he gets a hold of one, he can hit it a long way. In 2015, 23 of his 56 hits were XBHs, including six homers. Where Dunbar still struggles offensively is finding the barrell or the bat at all. His rate of contact needs a lot of TLC as he enters the next level. Defensively, Dunbar is a beast. His strong arm and quick pop time give him the ability to cut down any runner. In his sophomore year, he threw out 23 guys. This season, he threw out 21. Dunbar also makes all of the plays when he is called upon to do so. Since his sophomore year began, he has only committed three errors. Dunbar does everything right on defense and most things right on offense with a few hitches that will need to be worked on. If he can start making more consistent contact, Dunbar could become starting material. Right now, we would reserve a backup role for him.

Rounds 20-40 coming later this week.

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