2016 MLB Mock Draft: Bleacher Report's Final Round 1 Picks

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2016

2016 MLB Mock Draft: Bleacher Report's Final Round 1 Picks

0 of 34

    How high will flame-throwing Riley Pint go?
    How high will flame-throwing Riley Pint go?David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Mock drafts are tricky business regardless of the sport, but that's especially true when it comes to the MLB draft.

    A staggering 1,216 total players will be taken over the course of the three-day event that begins Thursday, June 9.

    When you couple that vast pool of amateur talent with the fact that teams have bonus-pool restrictions to take into account, it's fair to assume all 30 teams have varying strategies and draft boards.

    With that warning of impending inaccuracy out of the way, what follows is our best attempt at mocking the first round of the 2016 MLB draft.

    Florida left-hander A.J. Puk, Tennessee infielder Nick Senzel, Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis and Louisville outfielder Corey Ray headline this year's college crop.

    Meanwhile, New Jersey left-hander Jason Groome, Kansas right-hander Riley Pint and California outfielders Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford highlight the high school ranks.

    There is no shortage of potential star-level talent behind those marquee guys, though, and every team will be hoping they hit on the next big thing.

    Here's a look at Bleacher Report's final Round 1 MLB mock draft.

1. Philadelphia Phillies: A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida

1 of 34

    Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    With no clear-cut No. 1 player in this year's class, the Philadelphia Phillies have done their due diligence on each possible top pick. But the best option remains Florida left-hander A.J. Puk.

    Puk has been in the conversation to go 1-1 since the start of the spring, and while his junior season in Gainesville was up-and-down, he finished strong.

    The 6'7" southpaw went 2-3 with a 3.21 ERA, 1.157 WHIP and 95 strikeouts in 70 innings, and while his 12.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate was impressive, his 4.0 walks-per-nine-innings mark remains concerning.

    Puk works in the mid-90s with a plus slider and a changeup that should develop into a viable third offering, and if he can improve his command, all the pieces are there for him to emerge as a front-line starter.

2. Cincinnati Reds: Corey Ray, OF, Louisville

2 of 34

    Credit: University of Louisville Sports Information

    The Cincinnati Reds have done a nice job building up their farm system in recent years, especially on the pitching side, so expect them to go with a position player.

    Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel, La Costa Canyon HS outfielder Mickey Moniak and Puerto Rico shortstop Delvin Perez are all options, but we'll go with Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, who is putting together a brilliant junior season in 2016.

    After leading the U.S. collegiate national team in OPS (.971), extra-base hits (nine) and steals (11) last summer, he earned second-team All-American honors this spring.

    He's hitting .319/.396/.562 with 16 doubles, 15 home runs, 60 RBI and 55 runs scored while going 44 of 52 on stolen-base attempts.

    Ray should move quickly through the minors, and the best-case scenario is he develops into a .300 hitter and perennial 20-20 threat.

3. Atlanta Braves: Jason Groome, LHP, Barnegat High School (NJ)

3 of 34

    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Taking a high school pitcher always comes with risk, but the rebuilding Atlanta Braves will scoop up left-hander Jason Groome, who has arguably the highest ceiling of any arm in this year's class.

    Eligibility issues put a damper on his senior season as he attempted to transfer back to Barnegat High School in New Jersey following a junior season at IMG Academy in Florida, but he continued to impress scouts when he took the mound.

    Along with a fastball in the mid-90s, Groome features one of the best curveballs in the draft, an average changeup and plus command from a solidly built 6'6" frame.

    One general manager went so far as to tell Jon Heyman of MLB Network that Groome "might be the best high school pitching prospect since Clayton Kershaw."

    That's high praise, and it speaks to the type of upside the Braves could be getting with the No. 3 pick.

4. Colorado Rockies: Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon HS (Calif.)

4 of 34

    Tom Mills/LLC Foundation

    The Colorado Rockies still need impact pitching if they are ever going to be relevant in the NL West, but they can't pass on Mickey Moniak at No. 4.

    Moniak might be the most well-rounded position player in the draft, and if he improves his power stroke, he could possess five plus-or-better tools.

    He's more of a doubles hitter at this point, but his hit tool is one of the best in recent memory from a high school bat. He should be a perennial .300 hitter in the majors.

    There's also little question as to whether he'll stick in center field, where his plus speed and good instincts should make him an above-average defender at the least.

    It's tough to call any high school prospect a "safe" pick, but Moniak is as close as you're going to get—and there's still a ton of upside as well.

5. Milwaukee Brewers: Riley Pint, RHP, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Kan.)

5 of 34

    Credit: Michele Gress

    No high school right-hander has ever gone No. 1 overall, and that trend will likely continue.

    However, Riley Pint has the electric stuff teams look for in a top-of-the-draft prep pitcher.

    His fastball was clocked as high as 102 mph this spring and consistently sat in the 95-97 range after he added 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason.

    It's his complete arsenal of pitches that makes him such an attractive prospect, though.

    His changeup is one of the best in the draft, and he throws a curveball and slider that both have a chance to develop into solid offerings at the MLB level.

    "In a best-case scenario, he becomes a Justin Verlander-esque front-line ace," Baseball America wrote. "Like Pint, Verlander had problems with a stiff front side and control issues as an amateur, but the Tigers were able to clean it up."

    If he can iron out those mechanical issues, he has No. 1-starter potential.

6. Oakland Athletics: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer

6 of 34

    Credit: Mercer Athletics

    Tennessee infielder Nick Senzel is an option, but the Oakland Athletics will jump at the opportunity to grab slugging outfielder Kyle Lewis after he slips out of the top five.

    Lewis has done nothing but hit since going undrafted out of high school and heading to Mercer University, but the level of competition he was facing in the Southern Conference made his performance tough to evaluate.

    Those concerns were put to rest last summer when he shined in the Cape Cod Baseball League, hitting .300/.344/.500 with seven doubles, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 150 at-bats against the best college baseball has to offer.

    That elevated Lewis to first-round status heading into his junior season, and his stock has only continued to climb thanks to a monster .395/.535/.731 line that included 11 doubles, 20 home runs and 72 RBI.

    That earned him Southern Conference Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors, and he'd immediately become one of the top prospects in the Oakland system.

7. Miami Marlins: Braxton Garrett, LHP, Florence HS (Ala.)

7 of 34

    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Braxton Garrett does not have the same ceiling as Jason Groome and a few other prep arms like Matt Manning and Ian Anderson. However, he's the most polished high school pitcher on the board and has as high a floor as any prep arm in recent years.

    His fastball sits in the 88-94 mph range, and that should improve as he continues to fill out his 6'3", 190-pound frame.

    He backs his heater with a curveball that is already a plus pitch—and arguably the best in this year's class—and he has a good feel for his changeup.

    Garrett throws all three of his pitches for strikes, and his advanced pitchability should allow him to move quicker than most pitchers his age.

    The pick here was originally Puerto Rico shortstop Delvin Perez, but after reports surfaced Tuesday that he had failed a drug test, it now appears he'll slide out of the top 10 at the least.

    Jon Heyman, writing for Today's Knuckleball and citing sources, was the first to report the failed test.

8. San Diego Padres: Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee

8 of 34

    Hayley Pennesi/Tennessee Athletics

    A certain level of hype comes with winning Cape Cod MVP honors, and Nick Senzel has lived up to the expectations by cementing himself as one of the best college bats in this year's class.

    After earning second-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore, he catapulted himself into the discussion to be a top-10 pick with a .364/.418/.558 line that included 16 doubles, four home runs and 33 RBI while playing for the Brewster Whitecaps last summer.

    A .352/.456/.595 line with 25 doubles, eight home runs and 59 RBI this spring has done nothing to hurt his stock, and the San Diego Padres will snatch up the third-team All-American at No. 8 overall.

    Senzel profiles as an Anthony Rendon type at the next level, and he should move quickly through the minors as one of the most polished bats available. There are some who feel he could get a shot at playing shortstop, but third base seems to be his most likely destination defensively.

9. Detroit Tigers: Dakota Hudson, RHP, Mississippi State

9 of 34

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Over the past 20 years, the Detroit Tigers have made a total of 25 first-round selections. Seventeen of those have been used on right-handed pitchers.

    In some cases it's worked out well, with Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello representing the best of the best.

    Other times it's been a disaster, most notably with Matt Anderson at No. 1 overall in 1997.

    Now, the Tigers appear to be prime candidates to once again target an arm with the No. 9 overall pick. With all of the college pitchers still on the board outside of A.J. Puk, they'll go with right-hander Dakota Hudson out of Mississippi State.

    Used exclusively as a reliever his sophomore season when he posted a 4.32 ERA in 17 appearances, Hudson was yet another player who turned heads over the summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League with a 1.69 ERA and a 41-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 42.2 innings, which included five starts.

    He's carried that performance into a breakout junior season, going 9-4 with a 2.62 ERA, 1.247 WHIP and 109-34 K-BB in 106.2 innings.

    Command was an issue for Hudson in his first two seasons as he walked hitters at a 5.0 BB/9 rate, but he's poured in strikes this season.

    With a durable 6'5", 205-pound frame and a solid three-pitch repertoire that includes a plus slider with a chance to be plus-plus, Hudson looks the part of a future front-line starter.

10. Chicago White Sox: Zack Collins, C, Miami

10 of 34

    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Regardless of whether he sticks as a catcher, Zack Collins has a chance to be a star offensively, and he is one of the top bats available in this year's draft.

    Collins has done nothing but hit since stepping on campus at the University of Miami, starting as a true freshman and slugging 37 doubles and 39 home runs in his three seasons with the Hurricanes.

    As good as he was as a freshman and sophomore, he been even better this season with a .358/.534/.631 line that includes nine doubles, 13 home runs and 53 RBI.

    More impressive than his counting numbers from a developmental perspective has been his improved approach at the plate.

    He's lowered his strikeout rate (20.6 to 19.1 percent) while significantly improving what was already a solid walk rate (18.4 to 27.5 percent).

    The White Sox would give him every chance to catch, but one way or another, his bat will carry him to the majors.

11. Seattle Mariners: Justin Dunn, RHP, Boston College

11 of 34

    John Quackenbos/BC Athletics

    No college pitcher has more helium heading into the draft than Boston College right-hander Justin Dunn.

    In his latest mock draft, MLB.com's Jim Callis wrote: "The hottest draft rumor right now is that Seattle is going to take Dunn, and we'll play along."

    So will we.

    The Eagles closer to start the season, Dunn saw his draft stock take off after moving to the rotation in April, where his four-pitch repertoire played as well as scouts—many of whom had always pegged him as a future starterhad envisioned.

    All told, Dunn has gone 4-1 with two saves and a 1.49 ERA, 1.028 WHIP and 66-16 K-BB ratio in 60.1 innings

    He has a chance to be the first college right-hander taken, with the pecking order for those arms still somewhat up in the air. We have him going after Dakota Hudson, but don't be surprised if he sneaks into the top 10.

    If that winds up happening, the Mariners could target a handful of other collegiate arms or prep outfielder Blake Rutherford with this pick.

12. Boston Red Sox: Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade Prep (Calif.)

12 of 34

    Credit: Eric M. Dearborn Photography

    Viewed by many as the top prep hitter in the country at the start of the spring, Blake Rutherford has seen his stock drop a bit, and there's now a good chance he winds up going outside of the top 10.

    Baseball America explained his vast potential and the concerns that have caused him to slip in its predraft scouting report:

    Rutherford has size, strength, athleticism and power potential for scouts to dream on, and would likely be the consensus top prep bat in the class if he had a more consistent spring or if he were a year younger. Rutherford turned 19 as the calendar turned to May, offering less projection than other prep outfielders, with a physically mature 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame.

    Scouts have to project on Rutherford's home run power; he's produced this spring after being the biggest bat last summer for USA Baseball's 18U team. However, he hasn't taken the next step with his power, at times trying too hard to pull and yank balls for power.

    When he stays with his approach, he's as impressive as any prep hitter in the class, with power to all fields, a line-drive swing path that covers the plate and the athleticism for center field.

    There are question marks, but Rutherford has as high a ceiling as any player in the draft. For a Boston Red Sox team that already possesses a stacked farm system, he's worth rolling the dice on with the No. 12 pick.

13. Tampa Bay Rays: Josh Lowe, 3B, Pope HS (Ga.)

13 of 34

    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    The top two-way player in the 2016 draft, Josh Lowe would still likely be a Day 1 pick if he were strictly a pitching prospect, as he sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and has clean mechanics—all from a projectable 6'4" frame.

    However, it's his bat at third base that will make him a first-round selection.

    Despite his tall frame, Lowe has quick hands and a smooth swing from the left side of the plate, and he should develop plus power as he continues to add muscle.

    He's also an above-average runner who could move to center field if a team prefers that over slotting him at third base, but wherever he plays, his athleticism alone should make him a capable defender.

    The Rays would likely prefer Blake Rutherford if he slips this far, but if not, Lowe is a fine consolation prize as a high-ceiling prep bat in his own right.

14. Cleveland Indians: Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS (N.Y.)

14 of 34

    Credit: Allan Barger

    Count the Cleveland Indians among the teams in this range that hope Braxton Garrett slips to them. However, he's off the board in this scenario, so they'll go with one of the more intriguing prep arms in the class in Ian Anderson.

    Anderson pitches for a New York high school and has dealt with both an oblique injury and pneumonia, so scouts haven't seen a ton of him this spring.

    He's also committed to Vanderbilt, whose prospects are notoriously tough to sign away from their college commitments.

    All of that said, there might not be a more projectable arm in the draft.

    Anderson can already touch 95 with his fastball, and his skinny 6'3", 170-pound frame gives scouts reason to believe there could be significantly more in the tank as he fills out.

    He pairs his fastball with a quality slider and a changeup, and he's shown smooth mechanics and good command of all three pitches.

15. Minnesota Twins: Delvin Perez, SS, International Baseball Academy (PR)

15 of 34

    This year's draft is historically thin on middle infield talent.

    Delvin Perez was the only lock to go in the first round among players who are expected to stick at the shortstop position. From there, Wisconsin high schooler Gavin Lux and Florida Atlantic standout CJ Chatham appear to be the only other threats to go inside the first 50 picks.

    However, that all changed when a report surfaced Tuesday, per John Manuel and J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, that Perez had tested positive for "an undisclosed performance enhancer" in his predraft drug test.

    So just how far will he slide after previously being viewed as a consensus top-10 pick?

    "Conversations with multiple decision-makers found a majority expecting to see Perez still drafted in the first round, as many believed that at some point later in the first round, Perez's talent will entice a team to try to nab him as a bargain," Manuel and Cooper wrote.

    For a Minnesota Twins team that went the safe route in selecting Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay in the first round last year, a riskier upside play like Perez could be too intriguing to pass up.

    Perez is still a work in progress at the plate, but all signs point to his developing into a Gold Glove-caliber defender, as MLB.com explained:

    Perez has everything needed to stay at shortstop long-term. He has good speed and instincts, allowing him to have outstanding range. Perez's plus arm works very well from everywhere, and his hands work extremely well. Able to make the flashy play, perhaps his only flaw defensively is that he can try to do too much on occasion.

    There are a lot of similarities between where Perez is right now and where Cleveland Indians star Francisco Lindor was at the same age when he was taken No. 8 overall in the 2011 draft. In today's game, you can never have too much quality middle infield talent.

16. Los Angeles Angels: Nolan Jones, 3B, Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.)

16 of 34

    Teri Seibert/HGP

    With the worst farm system in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels can't afford to miss on their first-round selection this year—or any year in the foreseeable future.

    That could be reason enough for them to go the safe route with a college arm like Zack Burdi (Louisville), T.J. Zeuch (Pitt), Jordan Sheffield (Vanderbilt) or a handful of others.

    However, the upside of Holy Ghost Prep infielder Nolan Jones could be too good to pass up.

    According to Baseball America, Jones had not stepped foot in a weight room until last summer, and he put on roughly 30 pounds of muscle leading up to his senior season.

    That leaves him with a sturdy 6'3", 195-pound frame, and while he won't stick at shortstop as a pro, he has all the tools to profile as a middle-of-the-order bat and quality defender at the hot corner.

    With a quick swing from the left side of the plate and plus bat speed, he has some of the best raw power among this year's high school ranks and could eventually be the answer to what has been a hole at third base for the Angels since the days of Troy Glaus.

    He's also gotten some looks as a pitching prospect with a fastball in the low 90s, but his future is at the plate. The No. 16 spot should be high enough to lure him away from his commitment to the University of Virginia.

17. Houston Astros: Zack Burdi, RHP, Louisville

17 of 34

    Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

    Anyone drafting Zack Burdi in the first round believes he has a chance to be a starting pitcher, but his dominance in the closer's role also gives him one of the highest floors of any college arm.

    At the very least, you're getting a pitcher who can help out a big league bullpen in the near future.

    The younger brother of Minnesota Twins prospect and 2014 second-round pick Nick Burdi, Zack followed in his brother's footsteps by attending Louisville. Like his brother, he routinely touches triple digits with his fastball.

    Armed with that elite velocity, the younger Burdi saved 11 games this season with a 2.20 ERA, 0.767 WHIP and 46 strikeouts in 28.2 innings.

    However, it's the presence of a slider and changeup that have both flashed as plus offerings that lead scouts to believe Burdi has a chance to make it as a starter.

    On top of his velocity, Burdi hides the ball well with a funky setup from the stretch, as Baseball America described: "Burdi pitches from an extremely closed setup. Working exclusively from the stretch he sets up on the far right-hand side of the rubber with his front foot pointed back towards shortstop as he begins his delivery. Using a very modest leg lift, Burdi generates exceptional velocity because of a very fast arm."

    The Houston Astros could groom him as a starter or as the long-term answer at closer. Regardless, he's a good value at No. 17 overall.

18. New York Yankees: Forrest Whitley, RHP, Alamo Heights HS (Texas)

18 of 34

    The New York Yankees have been connected to a number of prep pitchers and college bats with the No. 18 overall pick.

    Will Craig (Wake Forest), Matt Thaiss (Virginia) and Bryan Reynolds (Vanderbilt) are all options here among the collegiate hitters, but with Forrest Whitley still on the board, they'll go with an arm.

    Riley Pint is the clear top option among prep righties, but behind him it's between Matt Manning, Ian Anderson and Whitley, depending on who you ask.

    In this scenario Anderson is already off the board, and the Yankees may not want to deal with the signability issues expected to come with drafting Manning, so that makes Whitley a relatively easy choice.

    The 6'7", 225-pound Whitley drew rave reviews across the board in his scouting report from MLB.com:

    Whitley has a complete three-pitch arsenal, starting with a 92-97 mph fastball with some cutting action at the lower end of that range and some running life at the upper end. His power curveball tops out in the low 80s with tight spin and good depth, and he'll sometimes turn it into a harder slider. He has upgraded his changeup and used it more this spring, and it drops at the plate and shows flashes of becoming a third plus offering.

    Scouts also have liked how Whitley has firmed up his large frame, which looked soft at times in 2015. He has good body control for a big kid and does a nice job of repeating a delivery that doesn't feature much effort.

    Given his combination of size, strength and pitchability, there's not as much projection with Whitley as with most high school pitchers. Even if he is essentially a finished project, his future looks bright.

19. New York Mets: Will Craig, 3B, Wake Forest

19 of 34

    Janelle Thomas/Wake Forest Athletics

    The worst-kept secret in this year's draft has been the New York Mets' interest in Wake Forest third baseman Will Craig, and if he's still on the board when they pick at No. 19, it looks like a layup at this point.

    One of the best college bats in the nation, Craig earned first-team All-American honors with a huge season at the plate for the Demon Deacons.

    He wrapped up his junior season with a .392/.537/.766 line that included 16 doubles, 16 home runs and 65 RBI. In his three years on campus, he put up a 1.097 OPS with 42 doubles and 37 home runs.

    The 6'3", 235-pound slugger also served as the team's closer this year, saving eight games with a 2.42 ERA and 8.0 K/9, and that arm strength plays well at the hot corner.

    A perceived lack of athleticism is the only thing keeping Craig from being a top-10 pick, and the Mets will happily grab him here as the long-term replacement for David Wright at third base.

20. Los Angeles Dodgers: Jordan Sheffield, RHP, Vanderbilt

20 of 34

    Vanderbilt Athletics

    Jordan Sheffield is the latest in a long line of first-round pitching prospects to come out of Vanderbilt, and he'll look to follow in the footsteps of guys like David Price and Sonny Gray by tapping into his vast potential.

    Sheffield likely would have been a first-round pick out of high school had he not undergone Tommy John surgery during his senior season, and he wound up heading to college as a result.

    After redshirting as a freshman, he bounced between starting and relieving last spring before turning heads with the "best pure stuff in the Cape Cod League" over the summer, according to MLB.com.

    His stuff is indeed impressive, as he can touch 98 with his fastball and is able to maintain his velocity into the late innings. He also features a plus slider-changeup combination, but he can struggle with his command at times.

    Sheffield had 113 strikeouts this season in 101.2 innings of work, going 8-6 with a 3.01 ERA and 1.200 WHIP while also walking 40 batters. He was dominant at times, but not quite to the extent some expected.

    An undersized 6'0" frame and his past medicals raise some red flags, but there's enough upside for the Los Angeles Dodgers to take a chance on potentially adding another jewel to their already loaded farm system.

21. Toronto Blue Jays: T.J. Zeuch, RHP, Pittsburgh

21 of 34

    Pete Madia/Pitt Athletics

    After taking over as the ace of the staff last season, T.J. Zeuch was slowed by a groin injury this spring. However, he was impressive once he finally took the mound in going 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA, 1.148 WHIP and 74 strikeouts in 69.2 innings.

    Zeuch throws four pitches on a good downward plane from his big 6'7" frame, the best of which is a fastball that touches 97. His slider and curveball also profile as usable pitches, while his changeup is still a work in progress and not something he uses in games.

    His stock has been on the rise this spring as he's impressed during ACC action, and picking him would give the Toronto Blue Jays a good piece to add to a farm system that has been tapped dry by trades in recent years.

22. Pittsburgh Pirates: Alex Kirilloff, OF, Plum HS (Pa.)

22 of 34

    The opportunity to add a local kid could be too good for the Pittsburgh Pirates to pass up with Alex Kirilloff still on the board.

    Kirilloff attends Plum High School, about 18 miles northeast of PNC Park in Pittsburgh, but this is more than just a local-product pick. He's a consensus first-round talent and the best prep bat on the board in this scenario.

    He won the Perfect Game All-American Classic Home Run Derby last summer, and possesses plus raw power and an ability to consistently barrel up the ball, which should give him a quality hit tool as well.

    With a low-90s fastball on the mound, he also has one of the better throwing arms among any of this year's outfield prospects, and if his power continues to develop, he could wind up being the prototypical right fielder.

    Some may question why the Pirates would take an outfielder when that's already a crowded position in the majors and minors, but they're generally an organization that takes the best player available, and at this point, that may be Kirilloff on their board.

23. St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Manning, RHP, Sheldon HS (Calif.)

23 of 34

    Matt Manning is a legitimate top-10 talent and arguably the third-best prep arm in the class behind Riley Pint and Jason Groome, but his expected price tag could cause him to slip down draft boards.

    According to Jim Callis of MLB.com, Manning is looking for a $5 million bonus or he'll consider honoring his commitment to Loyola Marymount.

    That's top-five pick money, based on this year's slot values, so it will take a team with a big bonus pool to make a run at signing him.

    That team could be the St. Louis Cardinals, who have the tenth-highest bonus pool this season $9,143,300, according to MLB.com.

    Manning would give them another elite-level pitching prospect as Alex Reyes pushes closer to the big leagues, and they could then get creative with the No. 33 and 34 picks by grabbing college players willing to sign below slot.

    He's as projectable as any pitcher in the class with a 6'6", 185-pound frame, a mid-90s fastball and a curveball-changeup combination that should give him every opportunity to make it as a starter.

    It's just a matter of whether or not a team is willing to pony up the money.

24. San Diego Padres: Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford

24 of 34

    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    The San Diego Padres got one of the safest picks in this year's class in Nick Senzel at No. 8 overall, so they flip the script here and go with perhaps the riskiest Day 1 pitcher in Cal Quantrill.

    The son of 14-year MLB veteran Paul Quantrillwho appeared in 841 games for seven different teamshas yet to return from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent over a year ago on March 20, 2015.

    However, he showed enough pre-injury that someone will likely be willing to take a chance on him in the first round, and the Padres make sense as they look to rebuild their decimated farm system.

    Quantrill made an immediate impact at Stanford, becoming the first true freshman since Mike Mussina to start on Opening Night. He went 7-5 with a 2.68 ERA, 1.120 WHIP and 98 strikeouts in 110.2 innings on the year.

    He was then dominant in three starts to begin his sophomore campaign, but hasn't pitched since. That hurts his stock, but it's not a deal-breaker.

    The recent selections of guys like Erick Fedde, Lucas Giolito and Jeff Hoffman,—who all went in the first round despite arm injuries sidelining them ahead of the draft—can attest to that.

25. San Diego Padres: Kyle Muller, LHP, Jesuit College Prep (Texas)

25 of 34

    After choosing college players with their first two picks in this scenario, the San Diego Padres could turn their attention to the prep ranks.

    Signing someone who has slipped to an above-slot deal could be an option here, and the Padres will be in a good position to do that with the third-highest bonus pool at $12,869,200.

    Kyle Muller is the top high school arm still on the board, and he's an intriguing one with top-10 upside who could be worth spending a little extra on.

    The Gatorade National Player of the Year, Muller put up huge numbers this spring as a two-way star at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas, Texas.

    On the mound, he was 8-0 with a 0.46 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 76 innings, allowing just 26 hits and 15 walks on the year.

    At the plate, he batted .396 with 15 home runs and 52 RBI in 44 games, even flashing some wheels with 20 steals in 21 attempts.

    His future is on the mound, though, where his strong 6'6", 240-pound frame gives him the look of a workhorse starter capable of pitching at the top of an MLB rotation.

    His stuff is still raw and he needs to smooth out his mechanics, which can become robotic at times, but this looks like a great upside play for the Padres.

26. Chicago White Sox: Eric Lauer, LHP, Kent State

26 of 34

    Credit: David Dermer

    After grabbing Miami catcher Zack Collins with the No. 10 pick, the Chicago White Sox go the college route once again with Kent State left-hander Eric Lauer at No. 26 overall.

    The Louisville Slugger National Player of the Year winner was nearly unhittable this season, steamrolling his way through Mid-American Conference competition.

    He went 10-2 with a 0.69 ERA, striking out 125 hitters and allowing just 49 hits and 28 walks in 104.0 innings for a 0.740 WHIP.

    His 0.69 ERA was the lowest by a Division I starting pitcher since Chris Rich posted a 0.62 ERA over 57.2 innings back for St. John's in 1979, according to CBS Sports' Mike Axisa.

    Lauer isn't the most exciting pro prospect, but he's perhaps the safest pick of any college starter, as MLB.com explained:

    Lauer has four effective pitches and mixes them well. His best offerings are a low-90s fastball that reaches 94 mph and features some cutting action and nice downhill plane, and a solid 78-83 mph slider. Lauer also possesses a mid-70s curveball and a changeup with some sink and fade

    Lauer's athletic, effortless delivery allows him to repeat his mechanics and throw quality strikes. While he doesn't have a true out pitch or a lofty ceiling, he may have a higher floor than any left-hander in the 2016 Draft. Lauer projects as a mid-rotation starter.

    He'd be able to help on the South Side quicker than perhaps any other arm still on the board at this point, so this is a good move for the White Sox.

27. Baltimore Orioles: Will Benson, OF, the Westminster Schools (Ga.)

27 of 34

    Credit: Clyde Click

    An imposing physical specimen at 6'6" and 220 pounds, Will Benson has as much raw power as you would expect from someone his size.

    There's considerable swing-and-miss to his game, though, which is why you find him here toward the back of the first round as opposed to pushing his way into the top 10.

    Baseball America laid out the positives and negatives of his offensive game, ranking him as their No. 30 overall prospect:

    Benson has arguably the best bat speed in the class, prep or high school. He's a left-handed hitter with a deep load and a barred lead arm in his swing. Benson showed plus-plus raw power throughout the summer, though his ability to get to his power is still a question due to concerns that some scouts have about his hitting ability.

    Benson does not consistently use his lower half, forcing him to commit to swinging at pitches early. His bat path can be a bit steep, leading to a tendency to roll over pitches and hit them on the ground with topspin.

    With a strong throwing arm, he's headed for right field, and if he can tap into his power potential, he'll be a middle-of-the-order threat for years to come.

28. Washington Nationals: Drew Mendoza, 3B, Lake Minneola HS (Fla.)

28 of 34

    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    The Washington Nationals have shown a willingness to take chances with their first-round selections in recent years, including selecting Erick Fedde shortly after he underwent Tommy John surgery and Lucas Giolito shortly before he too had the procedure.

    The risk here isn't injury related, but instead tied to the signability of infielder Drew Mendoza.

    Part of the second tier of prep bats that also includes Nolan Jones, Alex Kirilloff and Josh Lowe, who are all already off the board at this point, Mendoza has the offensive profile to be worth going above-slot here to secure.

    One of the best pure hitters among the prep ranks, Mendoza is more of a doubles hitter at this point, but there is plenty of room to add strength to his 6'4", 200-pound frame.

    He has a plus throwing arm and should develop into an above-average defensive third baseman, where his left-handed bat could fit in the middle of the Nationals lineup if his power develops.

    The biggest issue will be signing him away from a strong commitment to Florida State, but it's worth a try here with the Nationals holding back-to-back selections.

29. Washington Nationals: Alec Hansen, RHP, Oklahoma

29 of 34

    OU Athletics

    In the conversation to go No. 1 overall at the start of the spring, Alex Hansen has seen his stock fall as much as any player in the country over the past few months.

    He struck out 11 in a brilliant early start against UCLA and struck out nine in six scoreless innings against Kansas State in early May, but in between he struggled mightily with his command and was ineffective to the point of being relegated to the bullpen.

    His ceiling is right up there with this year's elite prospects, but there's an awful lot of real estate between that and his floor. Baseball America laid out the pros and cons of the Oklahoma right-hander:

    Other than Riley Pint and arguably Louisville reliever Zack Burdi, Hansen has the best pure stuff in this year's draft class. Hansen can sit in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball, and on his best nights he'll flash a plus curveball, slider and changeup.

    But those moments have been few and far between. Hansen's medical history could also give teams' pause. He had an elbow injury in high school, did not pitch on the summer circuit last year and was shut down during fall ball with elbow soreness.

    The Washington Nationals have a good track record of developing pitching and never shy away from taking a high-risk, high-reward chance on draft day, so Hansen could be a target.

30. Texas Rangers: Taylor Trammell, OF, Mount Paran Christian HS (Ga.)

30 of 34

    Credit: TCPICS

    If there's one thing the Texas Rangers have proved they love over the years in both their draft and international targets, it's toolsy, athletic outfielders.

    Taylor Trammell certainly fits the bill, as he may be the draft's best all-around athlete.

    A standout running back for the Mount Paran Christian football team, Trammell rushed for 2,479 yards and 36 touchdowns as a senior to win Georgia Class 3A Offensive Player of the Year honors, and could have played college football if he wished, per MLB.com.

    Instead, he's committed to Georgia Tech strictly as a baseball player, but chances are he'll be starting his pro career before he ever steps foot on campus.

    Trammell is the classic upside pick as an athlete who had split his focus between two sports and could take off once he turns his full attention to the baseball diamond.

    Speed is his best tool at this point and should help him turn into a plus defender in center field. His offensive game is still raw, but he has a good feel for hitting and some intriguing power potential in his 6'2", 195-pound frame.

    With Nomar Mazara already in the majors and Lewis Brinson on the cusp, Trammell gives the Rangers a chance to reload with their favorite type of prospect.

31. New York Mets: Cody Sedlock, RHP, Illinois

31 of 34

    University of Illinois Athletics

    Will Craig was the New York Mets' first pick at No. 19 overall, and there's a good chance they go the college route again here and take their pick from whatever arms are still on the board.

    In this scenario, that would include the likes of Connor Jones (Virginia), Robert Tyler (Georgia), Anthony Kay (UConn) and Corbin Burnes (St. Mary's), but we'll go with Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Cody Sedlock.

    Sedlock took a back seat to eventual draft picks Tyler Jay and Kevin Duchene as a sophomore, but assumed the role of Friday starter this spring and shined.

    He finished the season 5-3 with a 2.49 ERA, 1.100 WHIP and a school-record 116 strikeouts in 101.1 innings of work.

    That included a 10.2-inning, 14-strikeout, 132-pitch effort against Ohio State that made more than a few scouts cringe, but he proved to be a workhorse all season with five starts in which he topped 110 pitches, per Baseball America.

    Sedlock may not have the upside of a future ace, but with a polished four-pitch repertoire and workhorse mentality, his floor is high.

32. Los Angeles Dodgers: Carter Kieboom, 3B, Walton HS (Ga.)

32 of 34

    After grabbing a college arm in Jordan Sheffield with the No. 20 pick, the Los Angeles Dodgers could look to take an upside player here to use some of their $9,336,500 bonus money which ranks as the ninth-largest pool.

    Making a play for Kansas high school left-hander Joey Wentz could be an option here, but if they're not sold on him being worth the high price tag, Georgia infielder Carter Kieboom could be the pick.

    Kieboom's brothers Spencer (Nationals prospect) and Trevor (University of Georgia third baseman) have already made names for themselves, but Carter looks like the best of the bunch.

    He's one of the top pure hitters in the draft, prep or otherwise, and he's shined against high-level competition on the showcase circuit.

    A shortstop in high school, he has the glove to at least get a crack at staying there, but as his 6'2", 185-pound frame continues to fill out, a move to third base seems likely.

    He may not have the same ceiling as guys like Mickey Moniak, Blake Rutherford and Josh Lowe, but Kieboom can flat-out hit and should be able to develop into an MLB regular.

33. St. Louis Cardinals: Will Smith, C, Louisville

33 of 34

    This mock draft has the St. Louis Cardinals making a push to sign Matt Manning to a well-above-slot deal at No. 23 overall, and in order to do that, they will likely need to target college players willing to sign below slot with their consecutive picks at No. 33 and 34.

    With no clear successor to Yadier Molina in the organization, many assume they'll grab a catcher with one of those picks, and late-riser Will Smith could be exactly the type of player they're looking for in this spot.

    After playing sparingly as a freshman, Smith took over as the starting catcher at Louisville last season and hit an uninspired .242/.333/.331 with two home runs and 15 RBI in 206 plate appearances.

    He looked like a viable late-round draft prospect at the start of the spring on the strength of his plus receiving skills and strong arm, but an offensive breakout has given him perhaps the most helium of any player in the draft.

    He's hitting .380/.476/.573 with eight doubles, seven home runs and 43 RBI, and catching for Zack Burdi hasn't hurt his exposure any.

    Matt Thaiss (Virginia) and Brett Cumberland (California) are still on the board as college catchers who most outlets have ranked higher than Smith, but this could be a money-saving move that winds up paying huge dividends if Smith's emergence continues.

34. St. Louis Cardinals: Anthony Kay, LHP, UConn

34 of 34

    UConn Athletics

    The St. Louis Cardinals selected Marco Gonzales with the No. 19 pick in the 2013 draft as a polished college left-hander with middle-of-the-rotation upside who was expected to move quickly through the minor league ranks.

    Connecticut lefty Anthony Kay provides a similar profile, and he fits the mold of someone who might be willing to sign below slot to help the Cardinals make a play for Matt Manning.

    Kay finished the season 9-2 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.143 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 119.0 innings, earning American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and second-team All-American honors.

    He works in the low 90s with a plus changeup and average breaking ball, but it's his overall pitchability and plus command that make him a viable option here at the end of the first round.

    A haul of Matt Manning, Will Smith and Anthony Kay would make for a terrific first round for the Cardinals, and it's one that could fit within their bonus pool.

    All college stats courtesy of Baseball Cube, unless otherwise noted, and accurate through Tuesday, June 7.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.