It often takes years for prospects to make an impact in Major League Baseball, but there is no question that several teams improved their future outlook significantly during Monday's first round of the 2015 MLB draft.
The 2015 class is stacked with intriguing talent at multiple positions, but there are no guarantees. The MLB draft is seemingly more of an inexact science in comparison to the other three major sports, so it isn't uncommon for top picks to never make the big leagues, while extremely late picks can become superstars.
Despite that uncertainty, there is still value in analyzing draft picks since some of them manage to live up to expectations and develop into franchise players. In addition to a full listing of grades for every first-round team, here is a closer look at a few of the best picks that figure to pay dividends down the road.
|2015 MLB Draft First-Round Grades|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Dansby Swanson||SS||Vanderbilt||A-|
|Houston Astros||Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker||SS, OF||LSU, H.B. Plant HS||A|
|Colorado Rockies||Brendan Rodgers, Colby Nikorak||SS, RHP||Lake Mary HS, Stroudsburg HS||A|
|Texas Rangers||Dillon Tate||RHP||University of California - Santa Barbara||A-|
|Minnesota Twins||Tyler Jay||LHP||Illinois||A-|
|Boston Red Sox||Andrew Benintendi||OF||Arkansas||A-|
|Chicago White Sox||Carson Fulmer||RHP||Vanderbilt||A|
|Chicago Cubs||Ian Happ||OF||Cincinnati||B+|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Cornelius Randolph||SS||Griffin HS||B|
|Cincinnati Reds||Tyler Stephenson||C||Kennesaw Mountain HS||B-|
|Miami Marlins||Josh Naylor||1B||St Joan of Arc Catholic SS||D+|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Garrett Whitley||OF||Niskayuna HS||B+|
|Atlanta Braves||Kolby Allard, Michael Soroka||LHP, RHP||San Clemente HS, Bishop Carroll HS||B+|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Trent Clark||OF||Richland HS||A-|
|New York Yankees||James Kaprielian, Kyle Holder||RHP, SS||UCLA, San Diego||B|
|Cleveland Indians||Brady Aiken||LHP||N/A||A|
|San Francisco Giants||Phil Bickford, Chris Shaw||RHP, 1B||Southern Nevada, Boston College||B+|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||Kevin Newman, Ke'Bryan Hayes||SS, 3B||Arizona, Concordia Lutheran HS||B|
|Oakland Athletics||Richie Martin||SS||Florida||C|
|Kansas City Royals||Ashe Russell, Nolan Watson||RHP, RHP||Cathedral HS, Lawrence North HS||B|
|Detroit Tigers||Beau Burrows, Christin Stewart||RHP, OF||Weatherford HS, Tennessee||B+|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Nick Plummer||OF||Brother Rice HS||B+|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Walker Buehler, Kyle Funkhouser||RHP, RHP||Vanderbilt, Louisville||A-|
|Baltimore Orioles||D.J. Stewart, Ryan Mountcastle||OF, SS||Florida State, Hagerty HS||B+|
|Los Angeles Angels||Taylor Ward||C||Fresno State||C-|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Jon Harris||RHP||Missouri State||B-|
Breaking Down Top Selections
While the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros went with better-known commodities at shortstop with the first- and second-overall picks in Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman respectively, the Colorado Rockies may have ended up with the best talent in the draft at No. 3 as they selected shortstop Brendan Rodgers out of Lake Mary High School in Florida.
Swanson and Bregman may be closer to making an impact in the big leagues than Rodgers since they are collegiate prospects, but Rodgers oozes natural talent and has a legitimate opportunity to be an elite middle infielder in due time.
According to Joe Lemire of USA Today, that was on full display when Rodgers worked out for the Rockies prior to the draft:
Rodgers is quite reminiscent of current Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is among the most powerful and best all-around players at his position. While some have already questioned what the selection of Rodgers means for Tulo's future, CBS Sports MLB points out that it won't have an immediate impact:
Perhaps Rodgers will push Tulowitzki to a different position or out of town altogether at some point, but having two great players at a position as crucial as shortstop is a good problem to have.
Rodgers has a long road to the majors as a player coming out of high school, but he certainly has the right people in his ear, per Lemire:
"The player I look up to role model-wise is (New York Yankees legend) Derek Jeter," Rodgers said. "He gave me unreal tips and stuff I'm never going to forget. He told me, 'You never know who's watching. Always play the game hard. Make sure you enjoy and have fun these next few days—it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.'"
If Rodgers heeds Jeter's advice and enjoys even a fraction of success that No. 2 did, then it's safe to say that the Rockies hit their first-round selection out of the park.
Swanson and Bregman have a chance to become excellent players in their own right, but it seems likely that the Diamondbacks and Astros will be kicking themselves for passing on Rodgers down the line.
The top of the draft was stacked with shortstops and position players in general, which caused some talented pitchers to slip. Chief among them was Vanderbilt's Carson Fulmer, who fell to the Chicago White Sox at No. 8.
Fulmer was the third hurler off the board, but it can easily be argued that he is the best arm in the entire class. He has dominated to the tune of a 1.82 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 114 innings for the Commodores this season, which made him a tantalizing option for the Sox.
Perhaps the biggest reason for apprehension regarding Fulmer is the fact that he was previously a reliever, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com:
Although he doesn't have a ton of experience as a starter, his transition has been seamless. Because of that, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman believes Fulmer will have no problem being a starter at the MLB level:
Chicago has enjoyed some recent success with collegiate pitchers, as it selected Carlos Rodon out of NC State just last year. He is already in the majors and has turned in some dominant performances, so it is easy to see why the White Sox were willing to roll the dice on Fulmer.
Essentially every pick in the MLB draft is a gamble, but Fulmer feels like a safer selection than most due to the fact that he has proven he can get the job done against older and more mature hitters than the high schoolers have faced.
Fulmer has to show that he is more than a one-hit wonder as a starting pitcher, and if he is able to do that, then Chicago may have the steal of the draft on its hands.
Pitcher Brady Aiken was the No. 1 overall selection in the 2014 MLB draft by the Astros just one year ago, but after failing to agree to terms on a contract, he was placed back in the draft pool this year. The electric lefty fell all the way to the Cleveland Indians at No. 17 this time around, but he could prove to be the best player in the class.
The primary reason for Aiken falling 16 spots is the fact that he is recovering from Tommy John surgery. That is a scary prospect for a pitcher, especially a young one, but so many aces have managed to return to elite form after undergoing the procedure.
It will certainly put Aiken behind the 8-ball in terms of his development, but he is only 18 years of age, which means time is most definitely on his side.
Based upon who else was available at No. 17, Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com believes the Indians were wise to take a chance on Aiken:
After the Tribe pulled off one of the most shocking and newsworthy moves of the draft, Aiken expressed his excitement to one day be part of the Indians organization:
Since the No. 17 pick isn't likely to make an impact in the majors for quite some time anyway, Cleveland should be applauded for throwing caution to the wind and going for the gusto with the selection of Aiken.
There is undoubtedly a chance that he could fail to regain his form and flame out, but if he is able to rebound from Tommy John surgery and become the type of player everyone initially expected him to be, then the Indians scored a major coup.
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