Major League Baseball's draft is unique in comparison to other popular sports like football and basketball. The ultimate goal of finding new stars is the same, but the process is different.
When the 2016 MLB draft begins Thursday, fans will get to see scouts earn their money. Anyone can recognize a player's talent at the top level. It doesn't take a genius to see why Mike Trout, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are superstars.
Scouting is all about seeing tools in a player typically between the ages of 18-21 that might lead him to become the next Trout or Clayton Kershaw. Not every draft class boasts athletes with that kind of talent, but there's always the dream something will click into place and raising their ceiling.
|2016 MLB Draft Names to Know|
|Jason Groome, LHP||Barnegat High School (New Jersey)|
|Corey Ray, OF||Louisville|
|Riley Pint, RHP||St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Kansas)|
|A.J. Puk, LHP||Florida|
|Mickey Moniak, OF||La Costa Canyon High School (California)|
|Kyle Lewis, OF||Mercer|
|Delvin Perez, SS||International Baseball Academy (Puerto Rico)|
|Nick Senzel, 3B||Tennessee|
|Blake Rutherford, OF||Chaminade College Prep (California)|
|Joey Wentz, LHP||Shawnee Mission East High School (Kansas)|
|Dakota Hudson, RHP||Mississippi State|
|Ian Anderson, RHP||Shenendehowa High School (New York)|
|Braxton Garrett, LHP||Florence High School (Alabama)|
|Buddy Reed, OF||Florida|
|Josh Lowe, 3B||Pope High School (Georgia)|
|Forrest Whitley, RHP||Alamo Heights High School (Texas)|
|Connor Jones, RHP||Virginia|
|Zack Collins, C||Miami|
|Jordan Sheffield, RHP||Vanderbilt|
|Alex Kirilloff, OF||Plum High School (Pennsylvania)|
|Jared Horn, RHP||Vintage High School (California)|
|Cal Quantrill, RHP||Stanford|
|Bryan Reynolds, OF||Vanderbilt|
|Nolan Jones, 3B||Holy Ghost Prep (Pennsylvania)|
|Adam Wells' List of MLB Draft Prospects|
Best Player: Jason Groome, LHP
Jason Groome was mired in some controversy earlier this year when the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association briefly suspended him for a violation of transfer rules.
That minor infraction had no impact on Groome's draft status, as the left-hander is expected to be one of the first players selected Thursday. He has everything a team could look for in a potential top-of-the-rotation star at 6'6", 220 pounds and with nasty stuff.
Groome was the star of last year's summer circuit, and FanGraphs' Jesse Burkhart ranked him No. 1 after the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars:
Groome firmly established himself as an early 1-1 candidate at TOS, working 94-96 mph with a feel for pitching that goes well beyond his 16 years of age. At 6-foot-6, the ball comes out effortlessly from a clean arm action and mid-3/4 release with good downhill angle. He paired the heater with a 75-78 mph curveball that spun tightly in its 1-to-7 orbit with two-plane depth, mixing in a promising changeup with good arm speed.
Fast-forward 11 months, and nothing has changed in Groome's scouting report. He's still showing a plus fastball that he delivers with ease and a knee-buckling curve. His changeup still needs work but continues to show progress.
People inside baseball are throwing around some unfair comparisons for Groome, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman:
Groome may look like Kershaw did when he came out of high school in 2006, but there's a massive ocean plus a wide gulf between what Kershaw was as a prep player and the three-time Cy Young winner he is today.
Still, when a young player shows enough stuff to elicit Kershaw's name among people in the know, it says a lot about the kind of talent Groome is and where he could end up going.
Best Hitter: Mickey Moniak, OF
This is not a great hitting class, so teams may be more inclined to overvalue a bat early because there will be plenty of arms available after the first round.
California high school star Mickey Moniak is one of the few standout hitters with the tools that will translate into professional baseball. He's not a physically imposing player at 6'2" and 190 pounds, which limits his power projection.
In the video below from the Prospect Pipeline, it's easy to see why Moniak earns rave reviews for his hit tool:
Moniak's swing is low-effort, with minimal load and a short path through the zone that allows him to put the ball wherever he wants.
Per MLB.com's scouting report, there is some thought that he could add some bulk to his frame without hurting his speed and ability to play center field. Adding power to his hit tool would make him the premier offensive player in the 2016 class.
Best Power: Kyle Lewis, OF
Kyle Lewis looks the part of a power hitter coming into professional baseball. He has a great all-around set of tools and is listed at 6'4", 195 pounds.
In an era when every college baseball team tries to play small ball because power numbers are down, Lewis stands out with so much pop. The Mercer star hit 20 home runs and slugged a robust .731 in 2016.
However, he comes with some risk since Mercer is a small school that doesn't play the best competition.
J.J. Cooper of Baseball America addressed the topic of Lewis' competition and what it could mean:
There’s no doubt that scouts will have a tougher time getting a read on Lewis (ranked eighth on our latest Top 100 Draft prospects list) hitting against Southern Conference pitchers than they will scouting Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel batting against the rest of the Southeastern Conference. But it’s not the same as scouting a high school hitter.
Cooper also noted that Evan Longoria (Long Beach State) and A.J. Pollock (Notre Dame) are recent examples of players who came from schools that didn't play in dominant baseball conferences and went on to succeed in MLB.
Lewis also had the advantage of playing in the Cape Cod League, which uses wood bats, last year. He finished fourth in the league with seven homers and had a slash line of .300/.344/.500 in 39 games, per PointStreak.com.
There's a lot of movement in Lewis' swing that will require adjustments. He has a long hand load and a big leg kick with above-average bat speed to generate his power.
Good fastballs from professional pitchers are going to give Lewis problems because of all the noise in his swing. He will also have to tone things down to square up quality breaking balls, but when he connects, the ball is going to travel a long way.
Best Fastball: Riley Pint, RHP
Riley Pint is going to be a fascinating test case for the MLB draft. He's a hard-throwing right-hander, similar to Tyler Kolek, who the Miami Marlins took second overall in 2014.
Kolek was regarded as more of a thrower than pitcher at the time he was drafted. He battled control problems in his first two professional seasons, walking 74 hitters with 99 strikeouts in 130.2 innings, but he had to undergo Tommy John surgery in April and won't return until 2017.
Pint is not as big as Kolek—Pint is 210 pounds, while Kolek is 260 pounds—but his arm strength is similar.
ESPN's Keith Law noted after seeing Pint in an April start that the young right-hander was sitting 96-100 mph with his fastball with a "good" changeup, though Law added there was no usable breaking ball in his arsenal and "poor command and control."
Pint doesn't take full advantage of his height, using a short stride that cuts off his path to the plate and leads to erratic control. However, there's nothing wrong with his arm in the delivery, as it's fast and clean with no extraneous movement needed to generate big velocity.
The best thing Pint has going for him, even more than the big fastball, is his age. He's just 18 years old, and his birthday isn't until November, so he can get a full month in professional baseball this season before turning 19.
The raw pieces are in place for a team to believe Pint can become a top-of-the-rotation star in the next five or six years. His development will take time because of his lack of command and need to refine his off-speed stuff.
It won't be a long wait for Pint to hear his name called on draft night, but he and his future team's development staff have work to do to hone his craft.