2016 MLB Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions for Most Coveted Baseball Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2016

Florida starting pitcher A.J. Puk delivers against Virginia during the first inning of an NCAA College World Series baseball game in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted Kirk)
Ted Kirk/Associated Press

In terms of instant gratification, the MLB draft is guaranteed to be a disappointment. However, there's no question a handful of future stars are sitting in the 2016 class.

Even the most promising prospects need at least a year of seasoning before they are full-time major leaguers. The Washington Nationals selected Bryce Harper first overall in 2010 but didn't call him up to the bigs until 2012, and Harper is the exception rather than the rule.

For this year's incoming crop of prospects, the majors won't come until 2018 at the earliest, if they even come at all.

Here's a mock for the first round of the 2016 draft on Thursday night—including compensation picks—followed by analysis for four of the best players available. None of the quartet is likely to make an immediate impact on his major league team, but the four prospects should grow into everyday MLB regulars in a few seasons.

MLB Mock Draft

2016 MLB Mock Draft—First Round
PickTeamPlayerSchool
1Philadelphia PhilliesA.J. Puk, LHPFlorida
2Cincinnati RedsKyle Lewis, OFMercer
3Atlanta BravesNick Senzel, 3BTennessee
4Colorado RockiesJason Groome, LHPBarnegat (N.J.) High School
5Milwaukee BrewersDelvin Perez, SSInternational Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico)
6Oakland AthleticsRiley Pint, RHPSt. Thomas Aquinas High (Kan.)
7Miami MarlinsBraxton Garrett, LHPFlorence (Ala.) High School
8San Diego PadresMickey Moniak, OFLa Costa Canyon High School (Calif.)
9Detroit TigersDakota Hudson, RHPMississippi State
10Chicago White SoxBlake Rutherford, OFChaminade College Prep (Calif.)
11Seattle MarinersCorey Ray, OFLouisville
12Boston Red SoxZack Collins, CMiami
13Tampa Bay RaysJustin Dunn, RHPBoston College
14Cleveland IndiansJosh Lowe, 3BPope (Ga.) High School
15Minnesota TwinsCody Sedlock, RHPIllinois
16Los Angeles AngelsBuddy Reed, OFFlorida
17Houston AstrosEric Lauer, LHPKent State
18New York YankeesMatt Manning, RHPSheldon High School (Calif.)
19New York MetsWill Craig, 3BWake Forest
20Los Angeles DodgersJoey Wentz, LHPShawnee Mission East High School (Kan.)
21Toronto Blue JaysAlex Kirilloff, OFPlum High School (Pa.)
22Pittsburgh PiratesJordan Sheffield, RHPVanderbilt
23St. Louis CardinalsIan Anderson, RHPShenendehowa High School (N.Y.)
24San Diego Padres (compensation for Justin Upton)Cal Quantrill, RHPStanford
25San Diego Padres (compensation for Ian Kennedy)Zack Burdi, RHPLouisville
26Chicago White Sox (compensation for Jeff Samardzija)Nolan Jones, 3BHoly Ghost Prep (Pa.)
27Baltimore Orioles (compensation for Wei-Yin Chen)Anthony Kay, LHPConnecticut
28Washington Nationals (compensation for Jordan Zimmermann)Forrest Whitley, RHPAlamo Heights High School (Texas)
29Washington Nationals (compensation for Ian Desmond)Alec Hansen, RHPOklahoma
30Texas Rangers (compensation for Yovani Gallardo)Jared Horn, RHPVintage High School (Calif.)
31New York Mets (compensation for Daniel Murphy)Chris Okey, CClemson
32Los Angeles Dodgers (compensation for Zack Greinke)Kevin Gowdy, RHPSanta Barbara (Calif.) High School
33St. Louis Cardinals (compensation for John Lackey)Logan Shore, RHPFlorida
34St. Louis Cardinals (compensation for Jason Heyward)Will Benson, OFThe Westminster Schools (Ga.)
Draft order via MLB.com

Top Prospects Available

Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat (N.J.) High School

Drafting a prep pitcher is always a gamble. For every Clayton Kershaw, there are many more Jarrod Parkers. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted Parker ninth overall in 2007, and he was solid for the Oakland Athletics before multiple Tommy John surgeries halted his MLB career.

Jason Groome is the best high school arm available in 2016. He missed a chunk of his senior season after the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association ruled him ineligible following his transfer from IMG Academy.

His stats remain impressive, though, per Matt Manley of Shore Sports Network:

Groome boasts a strong fastball, but his curveball might grow to be his most devastating pitch. Even as a junior, his curve had impressive movement, which FanGraphs captured in the video below:

Groome won't help an MLB team for at least a few years, so he'd be a nice fit for any one of the Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies, all of whom are in long-term rebuilds.

According to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, though, Groome's projection may not be so cut and dry. Mayo reported Groome is considering rescinding his commitment to Vanderbilt in order to enroll at Chipola College. By doing so, the 17-year-old could potentially enter the 2017 draft.

Knowing that contract negotiations are likely to be difficult and may not have a positive resolution, teams may decide drafting Groome won't be worth the headache.

A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida

A.J. Puk may only sport a 2-3 record on the mound, but he has been very good for the Florida Gators in 2016. In 70 innings, the left-hander struck out 95 batters while allowing 31 walks and a .195 batting average against.

Puk is armed with an overpowering fastball—in the 96-99 mph range, per MLB.com—and a slider that will keep opposing hitters on their toes. If he can improve his control, he'll be a productive MLB starter for a long time.

'"Growing up everyone wants to be first pick," Puk said, per the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson. "It's always been a dream to be the first pick. You're considered the best at what you do. That would be exciting."

This year's draft doesn't have that one pitcher who is universally regarded as a future ace, nor is there a five-tool position player who's a surefire All-Star. Drafting Puk would strengthen the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation for the long term and give them a potential No. 2 starter.

In this year's draft class, that's not a bad haul with the No. 1 pick.

Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee

Not only is Nick Senzel leading Tennessee with a .352 batting average, but he's also tied for first in home runs (eight) and stands all alone in RBI (59) and slugging percentage (.595). Baseball America's John Manuel discussed how Senzel possesses a high floor for an incoming prospect, per the Knoxville News Sentinel's Dustin Dopirak:

If he's not the best pure hitter in the draft, he's in the top three. I think he's perceived as one of the safest picks in the draft. ... There's really high confidence in the scouting community that he will be at least an average big league hitter if not an above average big league hitter, and there are not too many guys who inspire that kind of confidence.

Barring an unforeseen power surge, Senzel is unlikely to be a 30-40 homer hitter in MLB. But if he can slug around 15-20 home runs while batting .280 or above, he'll be a solid producer at the plate.

The Volunteers star can defend the hot corner as well, and he has the arm to make almost any throw across to first.

Selecting Senzel isn't the sexiest pick, but there's a lot of value to picking a player who should at the least be a reliable MLB infielder, especially when general managers are evaluated in part on their records in the first round of the draft.

Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer

Until he is tested regularly against pitching higher up in the minor league pyramid, some will always question whether Kyle Lewis is more of a flat-track bully who excels when facing lesser competition.

The athletic outfielder batted .395 with 20 home runs and 72 RBI for the Mercer Bears in 2016. Lewis looked good in the Cape Cod League last year, finishing with a .300 batting average and a .200 isolated power, per Pointstreak.com.

Mercer head coach Craig Gibson doesn't have any doubts about Lewis' abilities at the plate.

"When you look at him, the bat speed is phenomenal," Gibson said, per Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "You could put him in any organization, and that bat speed plays immediately. It's just different."

Baseball Prospectus, Christopher Crawford, however, argued Lewis could run into trouble once he faces professional pitching:

At the plate, Lewis shows huge bat speed, and that, along with the leverage he generates, gives him easy plus power to all parts of the field. If there's a concern here, it's that his swing has considerable length, and because his hands load late, that could give him significant contact issues as he faces harder throwers and better secondary stuff. He also has a pretty substantial leg kick, and it wouldn't shock me if the team that drafts him asks Lewis to kick that to the curb. His walk totals are a bit misleading because no one in the Sun Belt wants to throw him a strike, but it does show that he's willing to work counts into his favor, and that’s never a bad thing.

Gambling on Lewis early in the first round is well worth the potential rewards. He's a good enough defender so as not to be a liability in the outfield, and he has some of the best raw power in the draft.

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