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June 09, 2016

2016 MLB Draft: A dozen names to know as the Phillies prep for top pick

Phillies MLB Draft
050916.Phils.Puk Ted Kirk/AP

Florida left-hander A.J. Puk, a candidate to go to the Phillies with the No.1 overall pick in tonight's MLB draft, has struggled with consistency this season. The Phils could opt to take a high school position player instead.

The Major League Baseball Draft wants to be a made-for-TV event, but the reality is that’s never going to happen, because unlike it’s cousins in the NFL and NBA, there isn’t a nation of television watchers glued to their respective TVs, seeing these potential pro prospects play for multiple years in the collegiate ranks. (Yes, there is more college baseball on than ever in the expansive world of internet-meets-TV, but, still, it’s nowhere near the same level of visibility).

You often here the word “crapshoot” associated with the MLB Draft, too. Add that to the fact that there isn’t a consensus top prospect in this year’s draft (the next Bryce Harper is not walking through that door) and holding the first-overall pick as the Phillies are tonight (7 p.m., MLB Network) might not seem to be as exciting as you might think at first blush.

To the credit of Phillies second-year amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz, he doesn’t necessarily think the lack of a true, can’t-miss guy at 1-1 complicates things.

“If you look back to 2005 and look at the first-overall pick and the performers in their class, a lot of the No. 1 picks are 8, 9, 10 as far as performance is based,” Almaraz said. “A lot of guys that were taken between the fifth and 20th pick have outperformed the 1-1, so it really doesn’t bother me at all. There’s no pressure. We’re doing our job to take the best player with the best ability. But knowing that it’s helped me widen the range or prospects as far as we’re concerned at 1-1.”

Last night, we provided you with a more expansive look at what tonight’s first round (and beyond) means for the Phillies.

Today, we present you with a dozen interesting names to keep tabs on tonight (the draft’s first two rounds) and in the next two days, too. The following 12 players are presented in no particular order:

Mickey Moniak OF,  La Costa Canyon High (Calif.)

The name that’s building up so much steam in the final week leading up to the draft that I just had to hover over it and ask my word processor to “learn” it rather than have the squiggly red line below it. He's currently the favorite to go 1-1, with both of's draft gurus predicting him to go to the Phillies tonight. There’s an awful lot to like about the Southern California high school kid beyond the name (The Mick or Money Moniak?), especially a hit tool that’s considered the best among prep bats. If that sounds familiar, it’s what some were saying of Cornelius Randolph, Phillies first round pick (10th overall), after he was drafted a year ago. In recent years, the Phils M.O. has shifted some, shying away from the toolsy high school talents with upside they had previously been enamored with and instead zoning in on players who can flat out hit. If there’s any downside to Moniak, it’s that he has a smaller frame (6-2, 190) that doesn’t portend power. But the Phillies once drafted a similar-sized Southern California native with a plus hit tool, and we’ll say Chase Utley turned out to have enough power to play in the big leagues.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 8th, Baseball America; 5th, ESPN; 5th,

A.J. Puk,  LHP,  University of Florida

Maybe the biggest wild card of the uncertain top of the 2016 draft, since he has the body type (a bulky 6-7 frame) and plus fastball that should make front offices jumping at the chance to draft him, but he’s also been unable to translate that talent regularly into games at the University of Florida this spring, due to inconsistency and nagging injuries, which might make those same front offices squirm a bit, too. If he click’s Puk has the sheer talent that would make him a top of the rotation starter. If he doesn’t, many believe his floor could still be an Andrew Miller-type reliever. That’s pretty good. Worthy of 1-1, though?

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 1st, Baseball America; 4th, ESPN; 4th,

Kyle Lewis,  OF,  Mercer University

College bats have been popular among teams with top 10 picks in recent years because they are often the easiest to project and less risky than high schoolers or pitchers, both of the college and prep variety. But Lewis is a little bit of an exception here since he played at Mercer University, a smaller school in the Southern Conference, and not, say, a school in the SEC, ACC, or PAC-12. Almaraz, who got to watch Lewis in a private workout at Citizens Bank Park earlier this week, was asked whether the strength of a college conference mattered.  “There’s a comfort zone for some of our scouts when evaluating players from the SEC and the PAC 12,” he said. “A lot of those players are playing against the best competition in the country and their performance is usually a good indicator on how they will do in professional baseball. On the flip side, you have a Jordan Zimmermann who came out of a small D-3 school and who is one of the best pitchers in baseball. We make sure we are scouring every school and every player to make an objective decision about their ability.”

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 4th, Baseball America; 8th, ESPN; 3rd,

Blake Rutherford,  OF,  Chaminade College Prep (Calif.)

Like Moniak, another name that has picked up momentum as the draft nears. But you have to keep in mind that there could be motives at play from teams and player representatives, floating names to the media to serve their own purposes. What we know about Rutherford: a Southern Californian with a plus-hit tool, like Moniak. But unlike Moniak, he has less chance of sticking in centerfield but a better chance to hit for power. Signability is another factor, as Rutherford has a commitment to UCLA. As we referenced yesterday, Baseball America presented the idea that the Phillies could try to strike a deal to draft Rutherford with their second pick tonight (42nd overall) by promising him top-10 money, something they should be able to do if they can get their No.1 overall pick to sign below the $9 million slot (which shouldn’t be difficult since there isn’t a consensus 1-1 pick this year).

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 10th, Baseball America; 7th, ESPN; 8th,

Corey Ray,  OF,  Louisville University

Maybe the dark horse for the Phillies at 1-1, only because you don’t hear his name as often as Puk, Lewis, and Moniak. There’s certainly a lot to like. As a college player who turns 22 in September, Ray is easier to project than Moniak and Rutherford. Playing in a competitive conference, Ray had a .396 OBP, 15 home runs, and went 44-for-52 in stolen base attempts in 62 games with Louisville this season; he was tied for the ACC lead with 146 total bases. If his athleticism translates to begin able to play center field as a pro (he played mostly in right field in college) it’d be difficult to find something bad to say about Ray’s current game. Something good: his Twitter handle is @FutureIs_Bright.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 6th, Baseball America; 1st, ESPN; 6th,

Nick Senzel,  3B,  University of Tennessee

Ah, my pesky word processor is at again with the red squiggly line, and, I kid you not, it’s suggesting “Denzel,” “Sensual,” and “Menzel.” Beats “Manziel,” I guess. But back to the baseball. Much that was said about Ray can be repeated here: college bat, big conference, a lot of success with both. Senzel led the SEC with 25 doubles in 57 games, with a .456 OBP, 25 stolen bases in 29 attempts, and he walked almost twice as often as he struck out (40 BB, 21 K). Although the raw power would appear to be there, it probably hasn’t shown up enough in games (eight home runs this season) for the Phillies to feel confident taking him at 1-1.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 5th, Baseball America; 10th, ESPN; 7th,

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

If back in March, before the MLB season started, you asked a group of people in baseball who they thought stood the best chance to go 1-1, Groome would have been the most popular pick. His was the name atop nearly every draft prospect list at the time. So what exactly has happened since to the stock of the 6-6 South Jersey left-hander? “He’s a very good pitcher,” Almaraz said. “We’ve seen him multiple times. A few (of our) people have seen him twice or three times. He’s a very talented individual.” Groome is still likely to go in the Top 10 picks. But there’s a reason only three high school pitchers have even gone 1-1 in 50 years of the MLB Draft, and the reason is both high schooler and pitchers are risky, combine the two and you double the risk. You can read more about Groome, here.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 3rd, Baseball America; 2nd, ESPN; 1st,

Nolan Jones,  SS,  Holy Ghost Prep (Pa.)

The Phillies will not be selecting Jones with their 1-1 pick. But he could be one of two local products (with Groome) that are selected in the first dozen picks of the draft (one recent mock draft had him going 12th overall to the Red Sox). I’m not going to waste any more of your time on Jones, though, not because I don’t think he’s deserving of the time but because colleague Matt Mullin wrote a great feature on him just yesterday. Enjoy.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 17th, Baseball America; 11th, ESPN; 20th,

Tyler Mondile, RHP,   Gloucester Catholic High (N.J.)

Yet another local product. Not a first-round candidate, but definitely a talent that could realize a boyhood dream by getting selected early on Friday (rounds 3-through-10 take place tomorrow). Mondile squared off against Groome in a sold-out game at Campbell’s Field last month and held his own (with both Almaraz and special assistant to the GM Charley Kerfeld among those in attendance). Some believe he projects better as a reliever, including FanGraphs lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen, who also wrote this of Mondile: “Mondile has been up to 95 mph this spring because of his cartoonish, high-effort arm acceleration but sits mostly in the low 90s throughout his starts. His delivery is rough, with considerable head violence, as well as a very inconsistent line to the plate. Mondile still manages to throw a fair amount of strikes, but it's hard to anticipate him commanding his pitches in the parts of the zone they'll work best.” Two more local kids who could be drafted Friday: Haddon Heights (N.J.) LHP Adam Laskey and University of North Carolina and Bishop Eustace Prep (N.J.) product Zac Gallen.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 127th, Baseball America; 97th, ESPN; 128th,

Joey Wentz,  LHP,  Shawnee Mission East (Kansas)

Another of the long list of talented high school pitchers in this year’s draft class with a size not dissimilar to Puk and Groome (6-5, 210) and a fastball that can reach the mid-90s complemented with an effective curveball. We’re listing Wentz (no relation to Carson Wentz, we believe) because he’s generally considered to be one of the most difficult players to sign among first-round talent, which means he could possibly tumble down into the second round where the Phillies, armed with the second largest draft pool, could pay him like a Top-10 first-rounder if they’re able to work a team-friendly deal with their 1-1 pick (highly possible).

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 26th, Baseball America; 22nd, ESPN; 16th,

Jared Horn,  RHP, Vintage High School (Calif.)

The Phillies will look to strike a balance in their draft (getting a mix of high school and college-aged players, pitchers and position players) so perhaps if they draft a high school hitter at 1-1 they might shy away from a high ceiling high school pitcher like Horn in Round 2. Like Wentz, he certainly has the stuff that should play in the pros: Horn’s fastball sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. Like Wentz, it’s going to take some serious negotiating to buy him out of a commitment to Cal-Berkeley. But, again, the Phillies (and the Reds and Braves, who also have a considerable draft pool and flexibility) can make that happen. Add another California prep pitcher, Matt Manning, to the list of players who fit a similar profile as Horn and Wentz: players with signability concerns that could certainly interest the Phils, Reds, and Braves.

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 32nd, Baseball America; 54th, ESPN; 34th,

Drew Mendoza,  SS/3B,  Lake Minneola High School (Fla.)

Yes, another player high on talent and unlikely to be selected in the first 20 or so picks of the draft because of signability issues. As we mentioned in our story on potential second round picks for the Phillies last month, referred to Mendoza as “the most unsignable first-round talent.” He’s committed to play at Florida State and he’s represented by Scott Boras. The latter has more than a couple of mock drafts pegged for him to go to the Washington Nationals (they have back-to-back picks at 28-29) because of the productive relationship between the two parties (Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, and Anthony Rendon are among the current Boras-represented Nationals players).

Pre-draft prospect rankings: 43rd, Baseball America; 90th, ESPN; 36th,

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