The Arizona Diamondbacks opened the 2015 MLB draft with a smart and safe selection. In a draft lauded for its shortstops, Arizona tabbed Vanderbilt Commodores superstar Dansby Swanson with the No. 1 overall selection.
Swanson has the look of a future leader in the Diamondbacks' dugout. He's capable of being a voice in a clubhouse and a guy who leads by example on the field.
The Commodores are busy trying to battle their way through the College World Series, but news about Swanson's selection caused a team celebration. Check out the video in the tweet from Vandy Baseball:
Vanderbilt Baseball @VandyBaseball
Dansby reacts to being drafted No. 1 by @Dbacks !!! http://t.co/6AALJHWEZo2015-6-8 23:15:46
No matter whom you ask, the word on Swanson is a good one. Jeff Ellis of Scout.com said this of the 21-year-old: "The most common word used to describe Swanson is smart. He makes the right reads at short. He has a good eye and is able to work a count and get on-base. This year he is walking more than he strikes out. He just seems to do everything right on the baseball field."
Oh yeah, and he can really hit.
Through three seasons with the Commodores, Swanson hit .336 with 17 home runs and 96 RBI in 147 games. Obviously, the Diamondbacks hope Swanson comes somewhere close to that type of production once he's called up.
Arizona doesn't have a shortstop in the organization who should block Swanson's path to the majors. Current major leaguer Nick Ahmed looks more like a utility infielder because of his suspect bat.
Swanson just might be the Diamondbacks' next star by 2017. With this selection and finding more value in the second round, Arizona gets an A for the first day of the draft.
On the flip side, you have to wonder what the Miami Marlins were thinking taking Josh Naylor at No. 12.
I'm not down on Naylor as a prospect overall. He's a strong kid who looks like a massive power prospect from the left side of the plate, but he can't run and doesn't have a definite defensive position. It seems like he could have been grabbed later if the Marlins really wanted him.
This was the first significant reach of the draft, and it's the main reason the Marlins got only a C- in the ratings table below.
Here's a look at all of the grades in the table; just below there's a breakdown of two more good and bad picks.
|2015 MLB Draft Grades for Day 1|
|Boston Red Sox||B|
|Chicago White Sox||A-|
|Tampa Bay Rays||A|
|New York Yankees||A-|
|San Francisco Giants||C+|
|Kansas City Royals||A|
|St. Louis Cardinals||B+|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||A-|
|Los Angeles Angels||D|
|San Diego Padres||B+|
|New York Mets||C-|
|Toronto Blue Jays||A|
|Picks per Mazique|
Ian Happ, INF-OF, Chicago Cubs
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are committed to two things: taking the best player available and using high draft picks on stud hitters while adding arms through free agency and trades. It certainly worked for the duo while with the Boston Red Sox, so Chicago Cubs fans should trust the plan in the Windy City.
Taking Ian Happ out of the University of Cincinnati fits the strategy. Happ might be the best pure hitter in the draft. In three seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats, Happ hit .338 with 25 home runs and 117 RBI in 163 games.
Perhaps the biggest upside on Happ is his versatility. Check out the tweet from the Cubs' official Twitter account:
Chicago Cubs @Cubs
Happ has played in RF, CF, as well as 2B, 3B and SS. He’s listed as one of the top 3 pure college hitters in the draft by Baseball America.2015-6-9 00:03:28
Per Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cubs might be interested in manager Joe Maddon's former Swiss army knife from his Tampa Bay Rays days, Ben Zobrist. It sounds as if Happ might have the ability to turn into a similar type of player.
Mike Nikorak, P, Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies had the best first day of the draft. In addition to high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies also bolstered their pitching future with Mike Nikorak from Stroudsburg High School in Pennsylvania.
The 18-year-old has front-line starter potential, and that's something the Rockies always seem to need. MLB.com said this about Nikorak:
Nikorak came out this spring sporting the same 94-97 mph fastball he showed early last summer, with a free and easy delivery. Even though he lost a tick or two and struggled a bit with command as the spring wore on, the heater is still effective because it features plenty of run and sink. He shows the makings of a plus curveball at times and also flashes at least a solid changeup.
To get a prospect of Nikorak's caliber at No. 22 was one of the steals of the first round.
Taylor Ward, C, Los Angeles Angels
To put it plainly, there were better catcher prospects on the board when the Angels took Taylor Ward No. 26. MLB.com has Ward ranked No. 99 overall. There were a total of three catchers ranked ahead of him: Chris Betts, Austin Rei and Lucas Herbert.
Everything is relative when it comes to scouting, but it's hard to imagine Ward will be better than Betts, Rei and Herbert.
Ward is known as a defensive catcher, but the 21-year-old from the Fresno State program hasn't established himself as much of a hitter. He only hit .288 in three seasons with the Bulldogs. This wasn't a big value pick.
Antonio Santillan, P, Cincinnati Reds
There's no questioning Santillan's arm. He can run the ball up to the plate in a hurry, but his lack of control and command might suggest he could have been grabbed in the third or fourth round.
The 6'3" 204-pound prep prospect from Seguin High School in Texas received a 45 rating for his control. There's a ton of development that'll need to take place with Santillan before he can even be a closer in the majors.
Stats per The Baseball Cube unless otherwise noted.