The baseball world is rich with pitching. It seems to be a common trend for a position to dominate the draft board early on. In 2014, there was a trio of arms in Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon with the first three picks. Last year was a frenzy for shortstops with Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman and Brendan Rodgers going first, second and third, respectively. It’s 2016 and once again pitchers are at the top of the chain for the MLB First Year Player Draft.
Analyzing the 2016 MLB Draft Class Pitchers
It begs the question of high school or college? The truth is that some arms who were drafted out of high school like Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner have done exceptionally well. Then again, there’s also pitchers who did not sign and opted to play college ball instead. It has benefited the likes of David Price, Matt Harvey and Gerrit Cole. This year’s draft class boasts a quartet of fine arms. Fittingly, two are right handed and two are left handed. Also, two are prep hurlers, the other are from the NCAA and all could go within the top five. So there’s hardly a pitching shortage for those who have a top pick.
Southpaw Jason Groome (Barnegat High School, New Jersey) seems to be the consensus for the first pick by the Phillies in June’s draft. This Vanderbilt commit has a fastball which peaked a 97 MPH, according to a Feb. 16 article from USA Today High School Sports. His junior season was something to marvel at with a 5-0 record, 1.22 ERA and in 43 innings, he racked up 81 strikeouts against just nine walks. His name will be called very early as numbers suggest excellent control. Groome is on the radar for the Golden Spikes Award for the best amateur baseball player in the country. While a high school player is eligible for the award, the honor has always gone to a college player since the award’s inception in 1978.
There’s a ton of upside to Riley Pint (St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Kansas). The question surrounding him isn’t his talent or when he’ll be taken, but if he’ll sign. This youngster is currently a commit to pitch at LSU, one of the most prestigious baseball schools in the country. As of this post, Pint has not made the decision if he’ll be pitching in Baton Rouge or in the minors. Pint could make history, as no high school right handed pitcher has ever been taken No. 1 overall, though there have been righties like Kolek to go second. He was the Kansas Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year as a junior, when he went 5-2 with a 2.20 ERA with 47 strikeouts over 35 innings. Like Groome, Pint is seen as a candidate for the Golden Spikes Award.
Yet even with fantastic pitching talent at the high school level, don’t count lefty A.J. Puk (Florida). Baseball America says this Gators starter is the best college prospect in America. Puk, 20, made his season debut Feb. 20 against Florida Gulf Coast. A CSN Philly article from that date said more than 70 MLB scouts, including from the Phillies, were on hand to watch the 6’7” southpaw. While his team won 8-4, he had some trouble in the fourth inning. Puk gave up four runs, all unearned, was charged with a throwing error and threw 32 pitches. He departed the game with a one-run deficit. Highlights included striking out the first batter he faced with a 96 MPH heater and he also has a slider and changeup in his repertoire.
Also with a start Feb. 20 was right handed pitcher Alec Hansen (Oklahoma). The Sooner was a 25th round selection in 2013, though obviously, he’ll be one of the first names called come June. His appearance against Northeastern was inauspicious. In just an inning pitched, he allowed three runs, all earned, three walks, had a wild pitch, drilled a batter and notched just one strikeout on 36 pitches. Baseball America’s Jim Shoner wrote Feb. 21 that Hansen’s velocity was in the 95-98 MPH range. He also possesses a curveball and slider in his arsenal.
Given that the draft is still three months away, it is obvious that stocks can rise and fall until then. For right now, though, it’s pitchers which rule the day. However, even with the pitching talent, there are still bats to be had. Look out for UCLA commit Blake Rutherford (Chaminade College Prep, California) and Clemson commit Seth Beer (Lambert High School, Georgia). College bats to keep an eye on are Buddy Reed (Florida) and Corey Ray (Louisville). Throw them into the mix of the top pitchers, and this could wind up to be a very exciting draft.