One thing that separates the Major League Baseball draft from most other drafts in major sports is the fact that the needs of a team and its system often get pushed to the back burner in favor of the best player available/highest-ceiling talent.
That is often a strategy that drives fans nuts, as they want to see their team building for the big league roster. But if you look at teams that follow the best-player-available strategy, more often than not they are more successful than the ones who go after a system need.
All that said, we want to give you an MLB mock draft conducted as if all 30 teams were drafting to fill a need.
This obviously isn't exactly how the draft will play out, but it's a way to provide a little more insight into the state of each franchise.
If money weren't an issue—and I still have doubts that it will be when the time comes to make the pick—the Astros would take Mark Appel with no questions asked. He is the best player in this class, has the highest ceiling with little risk and can pitch in the big leagues at some point in 2015.
The Astros, even with all the rebuilding and trading they have done in the last 12 months, still need to add all the impact talent they can to at least approach respectability before 2016.
Appel is their best choice.
The Cubs have done a great job of adding impact position-player talent in the last year under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
Between Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora at the top of the system rankings, followed by high-risk, high-upside talents like Christian Villanueva, Dan Vogelbach and Arismendy Alcantara, there is plenty to like about the future of the lineup.
There is a severe lack of pitching talent, especially starting pitching, in the minors right now. Arodys Vizcaino was a pickup I liked when they got him from Atlanta last year, but he is coming back from Tommy John surgery and could easily end up as a reliever. Pierce Johnson is a solid mid-rotation starter.
Gray would give them a legitimate impact starter who can pitch at the front of a rotation and move quickly.
It's no secret the Rockies need pitching. They have been searching for it since the franchise's inception 20 years ago. They tried to throw money—too much of it—at free agents, as well as draft and develop it with middling (at best) results.
Stewart is the kind of pitcher Colorado's system desperately needs. He is a project as a high school right-hander with power stuff that lacks refinement, but his arsenal would cut through the thin air in Coors Field.
The struggles of Tyler Matzek, a highly touted high-school left-hander taken by the Rockies with the 11th pick in the 2009 draft, will undoubtedly scare the front office away from another hard-throwing high schooler, but you have to take risks to hit big in the draft.
Outside of St. Louis, the Twins currently have my favorite farm system in baseball. They boast two top-10 prospects in Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano.
They have loaded up on position players. Aaron Hicks was in the system for a long time before moving to the big leagues this year. Oswaldo Arcia, Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler are on the way.
Pitching has been the Achilles' heel for the Twins even when they were making the postseason, because they went after low-ceiling college arms who projected as mid-rotation starters. The front office did a great job acquiring Alex Meyer—who has the power stuff to be a monster as a starter or a reliever—from Washington in the offseason.
Kyle Gibson will be in the big leagues soon after having Tommy John surgery two years ago. Trevor May's stock has taken a hit the last two years, but there was a time when he was a legit top-100 prospect.
Shipley certainly has the stuff to pitch at the top of a rotation, with a plus fastball-curveball combination. He just has to acclimate himself to pitching after being a shortstop until last year.
The Indians have needs all over the place. Francisco Lindor is the class of the system, with Trevor Bauer and Dorssys Paulino next in line and having their own struggles in Triple-A and Low-A, respectively.
They could go either way and no one would bat an eye. Kris Bryant gets the nod here because he represents one of the few players in this draft with plus-plus power, something this system is severely lacking.
Even with questions about his hit tool, thanks to average bat speed, Bryant has the potential to be a star because he can hit 35-plus home runs.
The Marlins are so unpredictable that even positions that appear to be filled right now could be vacated tomorrow.
Ultimately, with Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Jose Fernandez still in Miami, and Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick and Andrew Heaney on the way, I felt the best option was a corner infielder.
Moran is the best pure hitter in the class, with incredible discipline, a great approach and future power. He might end up moving to first base due to limited range and lateral quickness, but his bat will play anywhere on the field.
The Red Sox have a good assortment of infield prospects, outfielders and pitchers, so they could go in whatever direction they want. Playing for upside, Austin Meadows has the potential to be a five-tool star, though he does come with tremendous risk.
Meadows didn't have the best season in 2013. His tools are still present, though he struggles to put them all together. At just 18 years old, it is not a huge concern right now.
If he hits, he could be a top-20 player in baseball.
Given the trade of Wil Myers in the offseason, not to mention the struggles of Bubba Starling in the minors and the team's insistence on playing Jeff Francoeur, the Royals badly need an impact outfielder to complement the still raw but very talented Jorge Bonifacio.
Frazier has the best bat speed in this class and has caused quite a stir by showing off tremendous power during his high school season.
He is listed at 6'1" but is no taller than 5'11", so he lacks some of the physical projection you want from a teenager, but his explosive hit tool, plus speed and throwing arm could keep him in center field. Worst-case scenario is he has to move to right field, where his bat profiles just fine.
Russell Martin has had a surprisingly strong season for the Pirates, but he is not the long-term solution at catcher. Tony Sanchez had one good season in the minors three years ago, but he no longer looks like an everyday player.
Catcher is always a volatile position in the draft, especially at the high school level, because there is so much that these players still have to learn defensively that it can take a toll on their offense.
McGuire is the best of this year's catching crop with plus arm strength, athleticism and improved receiving skills. He does have offensive upside as well, but there are concerns with his swing due to the fact he takes no stride and gets caught on his front foot a lot. He does have good bat speed and rotates his hips well. He should be able to tap into his plus raw power with some minor tweaks.
While taking Hunter Renfroe would go against the draft philosophy of the Blue Jays, who always go after high-upside athletes in the first round, he does fit some of the things that the franchise wants in an early pick.
Loaded with tools, including plus power, speed, arm strength and defense, Renfroe profiles as a center fielder. He doesn't have the best track record, which could be a red flag or a sign he just found his skills later than a lot of first-round SEC talents.
The Blue Jays are stuck with Colby Rasmus in center field right now. D.J. Davis, the team's first-round pick in 2012, is light years away from anything resembling a legit pro prospect, so they need a solution sooner than later.
The debate over a high-ceiling player like Trey Ball, who could be drafted as a pitcher or outfielder, made this a tough call. Ultimately Wilson gets the nod because of his higher probability, solid athleticism, plus-plus power potential and corner outfield profile.
It is no secret that the Mets desperately need to find players with actual major league upside for the outfield. The names they are running out to left, center and right field this year are embarrassing, though it does beat the alternative of throwing big money at an overrated free agent for a team that wasn't going to win this season.
Considering what has happened with Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Jesus Montero and virtually any hitter the Mariners have tried to develop in the last decade, the front office should just hold up a sign offering open tryouts to anyone with a bat to see what sticks.
Since that won't happen, Seattle's front office has to find bats through the draft.
Dominic Smith is one of the best in this class, with a very smooth, quiet left-handed stroke that should allow him to hit for average and big power. The fact that he is a great athlete and plus defender at first base is an added bonus.
Even though it gets overblown how well the Padres develop pitching, thanks in large part to the park they play in, they do have a good rotation and bullpen. We all know that offense is a premium at Petco Park, so this team needs to find someone whose power can cut through the big outfield.
Aaron Judge stands at 6'7" and has huge power potential thanks to his size, bat speed and a quick path through the zone. He does have some length to his swing, and his height makes him vulnerable to pitches low in the zone, so he won't hit for a high average.
But that kind of power potential, even if it comes with a ton of strikeouts, is key for a team in desperate need of some thump.
This is a bit of a cheat, as Trey Ball represents the best available talent at this spot. But he can also fill a need in the outfield or starting rotation, depending on how the team plans to use him.
Ball should start out on the mound because he has a ton of physical projection left in his 6'6", 180-pound frame. He also has a fastball that is already touching 92-93 mph and an above-average breaking ball.
Even with Gerrit Cole, whose performance still doesn't match the stuff, and Jameson Taillon as the two big pitching prospects in the organization, the Pirates need more high-upside depth behind them to go along with Luis Heredia.
I think that Ryne Stanek is an easy choice for the Diamondbacks for two reasons.
The first is because his stuff and delivery would play well in a relief role, possibly at the end of games to get this team away from the home-run act that is Heath Bell. Stanek could get to the big leagues in less than a year in that role.
The other reason to like him is that while he could start out pitching in relief, Stanek could be groomed for the rotation in 2015-16. He has to get more consistent command and a feel for the slider, but his arsenal, frame and delivery show he has what it takes to handle a starter's workload.
There doesn't appear to be a future starting third baseman in Philadelphia's system right now. Of course, with Michael Young entrenched at the position for the Phillies, there isn't really a starting third baseman in the big leagues either.
Cody Asche is a solid prospect in Triple-A, though he has struggled a bit to start the season. Maikel Franco isn't a great athlete, though he does have a good glove and some raw power that could make him a decent third baseman.
D.J. Peterson lacks the loud tools the Phillies like in the draft, as well as the athleticism and range to project as more than a fringe-average defensive third baseman, but he has a good, short swing with bat speed that could lead to more power than some might think.
Worst-case scenario is Peterson's defensive limitations force him to move to the outfield, though he should at least be given the chance to stay at third base.
The White Sox really have to start evaluating tools and stop playing things so conservatively in the draft. They had a bit of a breakthrough last year by drafting toolsy outfielder Courtney Hawkins.
To get this farm system back to respectability, J.P. Crawford represents a very solid choice. He is a true shortstop with good instincts, range, arm strength and soft hands. His bat is very raw, though he can hit line drives to all fields. He won't have much power, but if he can hit for some average with plus defense at short, he is an above-average regular for a long time.
Looking at the Dodgers' catching situation, both in the big leagues and throughout their system, it is time they try to look for an impact player at the position. That is easier said than done, obviously, as it is the most difficult spot to find an average everyday player.
Jon Denney is an intriguing, albeit risky prospect in this draft class. His glove is going to need a lot of work if he is to stay behind the plate, as his receiving skills and accuracy are below average right now.
At the plate, there is a lot to like. Denney has a great power swing with a little stride toward the plate, plus bat speed, good hip rotation and extension out front. He projects to hit for plus power in time.
If Denney stays behind the plate, he can be a star because of his offensive profile.
The Cardinals are so stacked in the big leagues and in the minors right now that you can honestly say they don't have any pressing need to address without it coming off as hyperbole.
I just say let them take the best player available and be done with it.
Alex Gonzalez is a rising star in this class with a four-pitch mix and a great fastball with natural movement down in the zone to get a lot of ground balls.
Gonzalez strikes me as a slightly better version of Michael Wacha, whom the Cardinals took in the first round last year. He is making his big league debut on Thursday against Kansas City.
The Tigers have a glut of outfielders in the big leagues and have moved Nick Castellanos to right field in the minors—even though he is struggling with the bat right now—so the pick of Billy McKinney might seem a little odd.
However, when you look at where the Tigers are at with their outfielders—Torii Hunter being 37, Avisail Garcia eventually taking over for Hunter, Andy Dirks and Don Kelly being a poor left-field duo—McKinney suddenly looks a lot better, especially since he is limited to left field.
There are some intriguing outfielders currently in the Tigers system, though none would be considered better than average. McKinney has a great swing that allows him to hit for average and project for at least plus power. Even with a limited defensive profile, he is worth a first-round pick.
The Rays have had all sorts of issues trying to find a catcher and are currently relying on Jose Molina as their everyday backstop.
Nick Ciuffo is the best defensive catcher in this class, with great receiving skills, athleticism and blocking ability. He also has above-average arm strength. His swing is unorthodox and leaves some doubts about his ability to hit, as he lowers his back shoulder and can be slow through the zone.
That said, Ciuffo does have some power in his frame and will stay behind the plate. If he can find any kind of swing that gets him to hit for average without sacrificing power, he is an everyday player.
There are pitchers out there with higher ceilings—and higher floors—than Marco Gonzales, but his combination of polish, stuff and probability makes him hard to pass up at this spot.
The Orioles' starting rotation is a complete mess right now. They had to promote Kevin Gausman much sooner than they might have liked, though he is ready to handle the challenge. No one knows what will happen to Dylan Bundy if he starts throwing again in a few weeks. They need bodies badly right now.
None of this is to take away from Gonzales, whom I really like. His fastball is fringe-average, but he has great command and a plus changeup to keep hitters guessing. He won't be more than a No. 4 starter in a solid rotation, but sometimes that is good enough in a volatile draft class.
Knowing their love of high-ceiling high school players, it is hard to break the Rangers' formula at this spot, especially when a player like Devin Williams drops in their lap.
Williams has a ton of projection remaining in his 6'3", 172-pound frame right now. He already shows above-average velocity on his fastball and a better feel for a curveball than the usual 18-year-old.
The Rangers still have a deep farm system with a lot of pitchers who project as solid-average, but they don't have a potential No. 2 starter with the kind of ceiling that Williams has right now.
With some of Oakland's top pitching prospects disappointing—though Sonny Gray appears to have turned a corner—taking a starter who has some projection left and can move relatively quickly through the system makes sense.
At his peak, Chris Anderson will show a plus fastball and slider with an average changeup and good command. He has to maintain his velocity from the beginning of the season to the end, though that could have been affected by overuse by Jacksonville coaches.
Few teams have made better use of their draft picks in recent years than the Giants, who have gotten an MVP (Buster Posey) and made several trades that have led to two championships in the last three years.
That has left their system bereft of impact talent, though I can think of 29 other teams off the top of my head who would trade a great system for two championships in a heartbeat.
Tim Anderson doesn't have elite talent, but in this class he is one of the most intriguing players. He shows pretty good bat speed and a hit-to-all-fields approach that helps his plus speed play. He has to prove his arm will play at shortstop, as well as improve his actions and range.
Since the Yankees have three first-round picks, they can play around with a few things later. Their top pick should be used to address an area of need with a player who has the talent to be taken a bit higher than the No. 26 pick.
Eric Jagielo projects as an average third baseman with a polished hit tool, plus power, a good throwing arm and surprising athleticism in his bulky frame.
Considering the state of third base for the Yankees both in the big leagues and in the minors, Jagielo is almost too perfect a fit.
The Reds have a solid system with a few notable names at the top, but it lacks the depth to be considered among the elite. Robert Stephenson and Jesse Winker have been very pleasant surprises this year, making up for the struggles of Billy Hamilton and Daniel Corcino.
I would like to see the Reds add more high-ceiling arms to go along with Stephenson, because that really has been their Achilles' heel in the postseason. They have a lot of starters who can eat innings, but no one whom you would put in that true No. 1 or 2 profile. Mat Latos is close to a No. 2 but still lacks consistency.
Green brings a ton of projection with him at 6'4", 180 pounds. He will show above-average velocity with the fastball and a good feel for two off-speed pitches. He still shows some signs of being more thrower than pitcher, but that is not unusual for an 18-year-old.
This is a pure gamble pick, as Sean Manaea has battled hip and shoulder injuries that prevented him from pitching in Indiana State's conference tournament game, and his stuff has been down all season after an electrifying appearance in the Cape Cod League last year.
When the season started, Manaea looked like an easy top-five pick in this class. Now there are doubts about him going in the first round. I still think there is a better-than-average chance he goes in the first 33 picks, because he is a lefty who showed two plus pitches and plus command not that long ago.
If any team can afford to take a chance on Manaea, it is the Cardinals.
While the Rays are likely to choose a pitcher with one of their two first-round picks, if we are judging based on team need, Phillip Ervin is a very good choice this late in the round.
There are some questions about how his tools will translate against better competition, since Samford isn't exactly a baseball powerhouse. On skill, however, it is easy to dream of what the 20-year-old can become.
Ervin brings good speed, a solid hit tool and above-average defense in center field to the table. He doesn't project to hit for a lot of power with a swing geared more for contact, but if he can improve his pitch recognition to get on base, he can hit at the top of a lineup.
Again, sticking with their philosophy of drafting ceiling, the Rangers use their second first-round pick to take Cord Sandberg. He is a two-sport star who could be a difficult sign, but he has the physical tools to be a very good baseball player.
Sandberg has a great athletic frame at 6'3", 215 pounds. He has plus arm strength (unsurprising considering he is a quarterback), bat speed and big power potential. It is going to take time before you see the results, but the Rangers can afford to wait on him to develop.
Trying to be fair to the way the Braves draft, as well as following the template laid out in this particular mock draft, Jonathon Crawford seems like the best choice for this franchise with the No. 31 pick.
He wouldn't necessarily be a first-round candidate in my book, but I can see why he would get taken that highly. He has had success at one of the best baseball schools in the country, shows above-average or better stuff and is improving his control.
There is a lot of effort and moving parts in Crawford's delivery that could lead to command problems, forcing him into the bullpen. But the Braves are not afraid to go after unorthodox deliveries if they believe in the stuff (see: last year's second-round pick, left-handed pitcher Alex Wood).
With their second of three picks, the Yankees have the luxury of going after a little ceiling on the pitching side, knowing that they have plenty of money to spend. It is also time that the Pinstripes add more high-upside pitching depth to their system.
Phil Bickford has largely filled out already at 6'4" and 200 pounds, but he can show electric stuff on the right day and should get more consistent with some polish and experience. He has above-average velocity on the fastball, late life on the pitch and a good changeup.
The Yankees have taken huge hits to their pitching staff in recent years, with Michael Pineda yet to pitch in a game, Manny Banuelos undergoing Tommy John surgery late last year and Jose Campos struggling to find himself after an injury-plagued 2012. They need help right away, even if it will take time for Bickford to show what kind of prospect he will be.
Giving the Yankees some security after taking the high-risk Phil Bickford with their previous pick, Ryan Eades does face some concerns about his ability to start after struggling late in the season with LSU.
That said, when he is right, Eades will show a good fastball that looks a lot harder than it is because he hides the ball so well with a big windup and gets good extension out front.
His command is spotty because of the windup, which requires a lot of arm movement in the back, so he will have to clean that up. But with his fastball, curveball and changeup, he shows three above-average pitches already. He is a fairly safe bet at the back of the first round for the Yankees.
For more MLB draft talk, or any other prospect-related questions, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with questions or comments.