2016 MLB Draft Results: Biggest Winners and Losers of the Entire Draft
Exactly 1,216 picks later, the 2016 Major League Baseball draft is over. We'll know how everyone made out in, oh, five years or so.
But while we could wait patiently until then, here's a better idea: Let's rush to judgment!
With choices ranging from pro and college teams to individual players to an entire league, we're going to look at the five biggest winners and losers from this year's draft. The analysis within is mostly tied to what went down on Day 1 of the draft Thursday, as those are the picks that matter most. It also pulls from expert opinions, scouting reports and farm-system rankings.
We're basically here to say either "Great job, man!" or "Gee, I don't know, man."
Read on when ready.
Winner: Boston Red Sox
With the amount of young impact talent they already have, the Boston Red Sox didn't need to land the biggest steal of the 2016 draft. But they did anyway.
Prep left-hander Jason Groome fell into the Red Sox's lap when they made their first pick at No. 12 Thursday. In him, they selected a guy MLB.com and ESPN.com's Keith Law rank as the draft's best pitcher.
Groome looks like a keeper, all right. The 17-year-old's fastball climbs as high as 96 miles per hour, and there's room for more velocity in his 6'6", 220-pound frame. He also has a plus-plus curveball.
The knock on Groome has to do with his makeup. As Jason Mastrodonato wrote at the Boston Herald: "He's reputed in the industry as someone who likes to have fun, perhaps too much fun at times." If he can leave that part of himself behind, however, he could develop into a true No. 1 starter.
Of course, he's going to cost the Red Sox. They have slightly less than $7 million in their bonus pool, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports "Groome wants top-five money." But the Red Sox seemed to plan accordingly, reaching for players they can sign to under-slot deals with subsequent selections.
When the deal is done, a Red Sox farm system that already boasts Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers and Anderson Espinoza will have yet another shiny new toy.
Loser: Los Angeles Angels
It was a consensus opinion that the Los Angeles Angels entered 2016 with baseball's worst farm system, but the Baseball Prospectus staff put it best.
"It was a dry system before [general manager] Billy Eppler up and shipped the organization's top two prospects east for Andrelton Simmons," they wrote, "and now the dusty, parched remains don't really even stick to your boot when you walk across it."
That's what the Angels were dealing with at the outset of the draft, and they didn't make the most of their limited chances. They reached for Virginia catcher Matt Thaiss, Baseball America's No. 28 prospect, at No. 16. In prep outfielder Brandon Marsh, they only got BA's No. 59 prospect at No. 60.
Thaiss is a puzzling pick. He can hit, but he's not going to stick at catcher and has iffy tools elsewhere across the board. That makes him a first base/DH type. In Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron, the Angels already have two of those on their major league roster.
It would have been more satisfying to see the Angels roll the dice on a high-ceiling talent like a Blake Rutherford or a Delvin Perez. As they continued to reach for talent (excepting BYU outfielder Brennon Lund at No. 336) on Days 2 and 3, it only became harder to give them the benefit of the doubt.
It never was going to be easy for the Angels to do well in this draft. Even still, their failure to turn up pleasant surprises is disappointing.
Winner: Cincinnati Reds
Almost a year after they dove headlong into their rebuild, things are looking up for the Cincinnati Reds.
They went into the draft with a $13.9 million bonus pool that was the largest of any team, as well as a golden chance to make the most of it. Starting with the No. 2 pick, three of the top 43 picks on Day 1 belonged to the Reds. Lo and behold, they did well with all three.
The Reds nabbed Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel, arguably the best college hitter in the draft, with the No. 2 pick. They then landed prep outfielder Taylor Trammell, Baseball America's No. 13 prospect, at No. 35. At No. 43, they drafted Clemson catcher Chris Okey. He's only BA's No. 52 prospect, but he's the relatively rare catcher draftee with a chance to stick behind the plate.
With that, the Reds added three quality bats to a farm system that needed them. Outside of sweet-swinging outfielder Jesse Winker, Cincinnati's minor league crop was mostly loaded with arms.
The Reds then evened things out with a run on pitchers on Days 2 and 3, including college arms Scott Moss (Florida) and Ryan Hendrix (Texas A&M) at Nos. 108 and 138, respectively.
"You try to rebalance a little bit," Chris Buckley, senior director of amateur scouting, told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. "You can't take 10 position players. You can't take 10 pitchers. It's the way it fell [Day 1]. We knew we needed to slant it the other way a little bit."
With their bonus pool, the Reds shouldn't have a problem locking up their top picks. Once they do, their rebuild will take a big step forward.
Loser: Pittsburgh Pirates
As the Reds cleaned up in the draft, one of their NL Central rivals left many scratching their heads.
Led by crafty general manager Neal Huntington, the Pittsburgh Pirates are normally good at the whole drafting thing. But it was hard to see what they were seeing on Day 1, when each of their three picks were reaches.
Sticking with Baseball America's rankings as a general guideline, here's how it went:
- Wake Forest 3B Will Craig: No. 45 talent at No. 22
- HS LHP Nick Lodolo: No. 78 talent at No. 41
- HS RHP Travis MacGregor: No. 186 talent at No. 68
ESPN's Keith Law called the MacGregor pick "probably the biggest reach of Day 1." And at Sports Illustrated, Christopher Crawford struggled to comprehend what the Pirates were doing with any of the three picks.
"We could appeal to authority and just say the Pirates know what they're doing," he wrote, "but on paper, this is one of their weakest classes in a long time.
The pattern continued into Days 2 and 3, where Pittsburgh's only real value pick was prep left-hander Braeden Ogle at No. 135. Getting prep right-hander Max Kranick, the draft's No. 84 prospect for Baseball America, at No. 345 could also be seen as a value pick, but his commitment to Virginia should nix that.
Between that and Pittsburgh's puzzling Day 1 haul, the Pirates have seemingly failed to turn what's already a good farm system into a great farm system.
Winner: Oakland A's
Some of the ideas laid out in Moneyball back in 2003 are a bit dated by now. It would seem, however, that the Oakland A's still have a soft spot for talented college pitchers.
That's the direction the A's went with each of their first three picks on Day 1, beginning with Florida left-hander A.J. Puk at No. 6. When they got him, they got a hard-throwing southpaw whom Baseball America had ranked as the draft's best player.
"I probably did a little jig, to be honest," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said, via Jane Lee of MLB.com.
After Puk, the A's took Cal right-hander Daulton Jefferies at No. 37 and right-hander Logan Shore, another Gator, at No. 47. Shore checked in at No. 34 on Baseball America's list. If not for his recent shoulder problems, Jefferies probably would have ranked much higher than No. 61.
With those three pitchers alone, Teddy Cahill of Baseball America tweeted the A's had secured his "favorite draft of the year." The A's then got a couple of value picks on Day 2, namely Wright State catcher Sean Murphy at No. 83 and prep right-hander Skylar Szynski at No. 112.
All this should be music to A's fans' ears. The club's farm system looked mediocre a couple of days ago, and it was notably light on talented arms. Now it has several pitchers who could either join Sonny Gray in Oakland's rotation one day or fill his vacant shoes after he gets too expensive.
Loser: San Diego Padres
Things are bleak "miserable" in San Diego, according to Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler, speaking during an interview with Mighty 1090 AM (via Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal), but the Padres had an opportunity to shine a light on the first day of the draft.
Instead, they just confused everyone.
The Padres held three of the top 25 picks and spent them on Stanford right-hander Cal Quantrill (No. 8), prep shortstop Hudson Sanchez (No. 24) and Kent State left-hander Eric Lauer (No. 25). None of the three was a good value pick. At No. 38 and No. 108 on Baseball America's rankings, respectively, Quantrill and Sanchez look like big-time reaches.
Granted, Quantrill could change that outlook. Had he not undergone Tommy John surgery in 2015, he might have emerged as the No. 1 talent in this year's draft. And according to AJ Cassavell of MLB.com, Quantrill says he's "100 percent ready to go."
Even still, Quantrill is more of a gamble than the average top-10 pick. Going for him might have made sense if the Padres had gone for over-slot players with subsequent picks, but they didn't do that. Florida outfielder Buddy Reed at No. 48 and prep right-hander Reggie Lawson at No. 71 were good picks, but they weren't great picks.
Thanks to guys like center fielder Manuel Margot and shortstop Javier Guerra, the Padres' farm system isn't as lost as the Angels' system. But they're in a position where they need to rebuild from the ground up as quickly as they can, and they didn't move the effort forward all that much.
Winner: St. Louis Cardinals
The foundation for the St. Louis Cardinals' success this century has been their ability to maintain a strong pipeline from the minors to the majors. After this year's draft, it figures to hold strong.
St. Louis' first move Thursday was to land Puerto Rican shortstop Delvin Perez at No. 23. The fact he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug just a day before makes for bad optics—more on that in a moment—but he still qualifies as a steal. Baseball America and MLB.com rank him as a top-10 draft prospect despite his failed test.
Besides which, the Cardinals aren't wrong to draw optimism from the 17-year-old's youth.
"We understand that he realizes that this cost him a lot. But he also realizes that at 17, his future is still ahead of him," said St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, via Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. "What we tried to decide basically is, 'Are we willing to forgive?'"
The Cardinals got two more value picks on Day 1, landing Mississippi State right-hander Dakota Hudson at No. 34 and Virginia right-hander Connor Jones at No. 70. That cemented what JJ Cooper of Baseball America called a "very, very good" first day. The Cardinals then found more value on Day 2 in North Carolina right-hander Zac Gallen at No. 106 and prep outfielder Walker Robbins at No. 166.
All told, it was a nice haul for the Cardinals' farm system. Said system entered the year in the middle of Baseball America's ranks at No. 14, but it now arguably sits among baseball's best.
Loser: MLB's War on PEDs
This hasn't been a good year for Major League Baseball's ongoing war against PEDs. The 2016 season isn't even half over, and MLB has already punished a young superstar (Dee Gordon), a star prospect (Raul A. Mondesi) and a couple of veterans (Marlon Byrd and Chris Colabello).
And now the league has the Perez controversy on its hands.
The Cardinals can't be blamed for wanting Perez at No. 23 even after his failed PED test. It's also hard to be mad at Perez himself, as Langosch's report mentions his PED use only began this spring. If so, he didn't become a top prospect entirely through cheating.
Still, MLB Network's Harold Reynolds wasn't wrong when he ranted in the video above about how a team drafting Perez so high despite his PED baggage sends a "terrible" message. The message that the rewards of using PEDs outweigh the risks is one baseball is struggling to suppress at the sport's highest level. Once Perez gets what's sure to be a hefty signing bonus, the same message will be sent to the lowest levels of the minors.
The league can always keep escalating the penalties for juicing at the major league level, but there's no easy fix for amateurs who are caught juicing. Do you take away their draft eligibility? Do you institute a rule that says they can only go X high in the draft? Do you punish the team that drafts and signs a PED user with a fine and/or lost picks?
These are questions MLB doesn't want to ask. But in the wake of the Perez situation, it doesn't have much choice.
Winner: Florida Gators Baseball
Hey, professional clubs aren't the only teams that stand to gain something from the MLB draft. College programs do, too.
Exhibit A: the Florida Gators.
Kevin O'Sullivan's program has had a hell of a season, putting up a 50-13 record that could lead to a trip to the College World Series. And over the last few days, quite a few of the players who have made this possible were drafted into the pros.
This year's list of Gators draftees includes: left-handers A.J. Puk (No. 6) and Scott Moss (No. 108), right-handers Dane Dunning (No. 29), Logan Shore (No. 47) and Shaun Anderson (No. 88), outfielder Buddy Reed (No. 48), and first baseman Pete Alonso (No. 64). Five of them went on Day 1, and all seven went within the top 108 picks.
This is patently absurd. Not even Vanderbilt, known around these parts as the Alabama of college baseball, produced that many high draft picks in last year's wildly successful draft. The Gators have one-upped a seemingly un-one-uppable program.
If nothing else, that means bragging rights for the Florida program. But more importantly, these bragging rights should help future recruiting efforts. In the ultra-competitive SEC, that counts for something.
Loser: Kyle Funkhouser
One of the tricky parts of the MLB draft is teams aren't automatically entitled to the players they draft. They also have to sign them, and that's where the draftees might have better options.
But as the saga of Kyle Funkhouser proves, sometimes they only think they do.
The Louisville right-hander was a draft-eligible junior last year, and well regarded enough that the Los Angeles Dodgers seemed to have landed a steal when they got him at No. 35. But when they went to sign him, a problem emerged.
"When it came time to negotiating, they felt like he was a top-10 pick," Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi told Mark Saxon of ESPN.com, "and our position was, if he's a top-10 pick, he would have been picked there."
Funkhouser ended up being the highest-drafted player who didn't sign last year, choosing instead to go back to Louisville for his senior season. He doesn't regret it, telling Jason Beck of MLB.com: "Coming back here, I had a great experience, a great time, got my degree."
However, Funkhouser's decision to go back also resulted in a disappointing senior season, less buzz for the 2016 draft and a tumble from No. 35 in 2015 all the way to the Detroit Tigers at No. 115 in 2016. As Baseball America's JJ Cooper observed, this means Funkhouser is due for "significantly less" money than he could have gotten last year.
Funkhouser took a chance on himself. He may not regret it, but it's a gamble he lost.