2016 MLB Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions for Where Top Prospects Will Land

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 7, 2016

Florida pitcher A.J. Puk delivers against Arkansas during the third inning of a Southeastern Conference college baseball tournament game against Arkansas, Friday, May 22, 2015, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

There is often a consensus No. 1 overall pick ahead of the MLB draft, but since that isn't the case entering the 2016 edition, teams near the top of the first round will have difficult and potentially franchise-altering decisions to make.

The Philadelphia Phillies own the top selection and have their pick of the litter in a draft class that seemingly boasts solid depth rather than elite talent. Even so, they have a legitimate chance to nab a perennial All-Star if their scouts can do the tough job of differentiating top available prospects.

With the 2016 MLB draft approaching quickly, here is a full, first-round mock draft along with further analysis regarding some of the top players likely to come off the board early.

2016 MLB Mock Draft: 1st Round
1Philadelphia PhilliesA.J. Puk, LHP, Florida
2Cincinnati RedsJason Groome, LHP, Barnegat HS (NJ)
3Atlanta BravesKyle Lewis, OF, Mercer
4Colorado RockiesRiley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas (KS)
5Milwaukee BrewersNick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee
6Oakland AthleticsDelvin Perez, SS, Professional Educational HS (PR)
7Miami MarlinsBlake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep (CA)
8San Diego PadresCorey Ray, OF, Louisville
9Detroit TigersConnor Jones, RHP, Virginia
10Chicago White SoxMickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)
11Seattle MarinersDakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State
12Boston Red SoxIan Anderson, RHP, Shenendohowa HS (NY)
13Tampa Bay RaysForrest Whitley, RHP, Alamo Heights HS (TX)
14Cleveland IndiansBraxton Garrett, LHP, Florence HS (AL)
15Minnesota TwinsBuddy Reed, OF, Florida
16Los Angeles AngelsJosh Lowe, 3B, Pope HS (GA)
17Houston AstrosZack Collins, C, Miami
18New York YankeesMatt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS (CA)
19New York MetsAlex Kirilloff, OF, Plum HS (PA)
20Los Angeles DodgersJordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt
21Toronto Blue JaysCal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford
22Pittsburgh PiratesBryan Reynolds, OF, Vanderbilt
23St. Louis CardinalsCody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois
24San Diego PadresRobert Tyler, RHP, Georgia
25San Diego PadresNolan Jones, 3B, Holy Ghost Prep (PA)
26Chicago White SoxKevin Gowdy, RHP, Santa Barbara HS (CA)
27Baltimore OriolesWill Craig, 3B, Wake Forest
28Washington NationalsDrew Mendoza, 3B, Lake Minneola HS (FL)
29Washington NationalsAlec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma
30Texas RangersJared Horn, RHP, Vintage HS (CA)
31New York MetsKyle Muller, LHP, Dallas Jesuit Prep (TX)
32Los Angeles DodgersTaylor Trammell, OF, Mount Paran Christian School (GA)
33St. Louis CardinalsMatt Thaiss, C, Virginia
34St. Louis CardinalsWill Benson, OF, Westminster Schools (GA)
Mock Draft

A.J. Puk

Teams are constantly searching for aces to top their starting rotations, and Florida Gators lefty A.J. Puk has the tools needed to be precisely that at the MLB level.

Standing nearly 6'7" and weighing 230 pounds to go along with a fastball that approaches 100 mph, Puk is a potential stud provided he gets the right amount of seasoning in the minors.

His numbers don't necessarily leap off the page, as he is just 2-3 with a 2.88 ERA this season for the Gators, but he has struck out 90 batters in 65.2 innings.

In addition to Puk's ceiling being high, ESPN's Keith Law expressed his belief on the Baseball Tonight podcast (h/t Andy Hamilton of the Des Moines Register) that Puk's floor is fairly high as well:

You're never going to get fired for taking the 6'6" college lefty who throws 97. And, really, at worst, what have you got? You've probably a great bullpen arm if everybody absolutely goes wrong. As long as he's healthy, he's going to pitch in the big leagues and probably be OK. That's the consensus right now on who the Phillies would take there.

Along with the low-risk nature selecting Puk, ESPN's Jayson Stark believes he is a safe bet to sign for a reasonable price, per 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia:

975TheFanatic @975TheFanatic

"I'm hearing AJ Puk will sign below slot if he is the number one pick." - @jaysonst

It can be argued that there are high school players with more pure talent than Puk, but they tend to be a crapshoot due to the difficulty of projecting how they'll translate to the next level.

Puk is far from Major League-ready, but he already has big league-caliber stuff, and that should make the bridge to the majors a much shorter one than most of the other prospects in the draft.

Jason Groome

Like Puk, Jason Groome is a big lefty with dynamic stuff, but his status as a high school pitcher creates plenty of uncertainty with regard to how he stacks up to his counterparts.

He blew away the competition at times during his senior season and rang up strikeouts at will, but he wasn't quite as dominant as one might expect a potential No. 1 overall pick to be, as evidenced by these stats courtesy of Shore Sports Network's Matt Manley:

Matt Manley @Matt_Manley

Jason Groome final, official senior season stats: 29.2 IP, 14 H, 13 BB, 61 K, 1.18 ERA, 1-3 record.

Groome could opt to play at Vanderbilt after committing there rather than signing a contract with an MLB team, but since he figures to be a top-10 pick at worst, it is difficult to envision that scenario playing out.

According to Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the New Jersey native is already talking about moving past the collegiate ranks: "I just want to play professional baseball. If I don't go No. 1 or don't go No. 5 or go nine or 10, it really doesn't matter to me. I just want to go somewhere I'm going to feel comfortable and be protected."

Provided Puk is selected first by the Phillies, the Cincinnati Reds figure to take a long look at Groome with the No. 2 overall pick.

Having lost Johnny Cueto in July 2015 and arguably playing with the worst starting rotation in Major League Baseball, the Reds undoubtedly need to add top pitching talent to the organization.

Groome is several years away from making it through the minors, but if his development reaches his talent level, then he could eventually become the No. 1 starter Cincinnati so desperately needs.

Kyle Lewis

While there is a great deal of interest in pitchers in the 2016 draft class, Mercer Bears outfielder Kyle Lewis may very well be the best hitter available.

There is some skepticism regarding the Georgia native due to the fact that he has played at a small school, but his production has been impressive.

Lewis hit .395 with 20 home runs and 72 RBI in 61 games, and he won Southern Conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.

The junior has good size at 6'4" and 210 pounds, and although he is a five-tool performer, his power is what truly stands out, according to David Lee of the Augusta Chronicle:

David Lee @David11Lee

Kyle Lewis' power is so easy too. Ridiculous amount of wrist strength and bat speed. Easy over-the-fence power to all fields.

Lewis can seemingly do it all on the baseball field, and Mercer head coach Craig Gibson believes he was born to play the game, per Matt Gelb of Philly.com: "If God was going to make a baseball player, this is the body and the athleticism."

The Atlanta Braves hold the No. 3 overall selection, and they would benefit greatly from adding high-level hitters to their prospect pool.

Atlanta has picked up a lot of promising pitchers during its rebuilding process, but there is still plenty of work to be done on the front of acquiring position players.

Lewis is somewhat reminiscent of former Braves outfielder Jason Heyward, due to his ability to excel in all areas, and the Braves figure to jump at the chance to take him if he's there.

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