The MLB First Year Player Draft starts tomorrow at 6pm CT on MLB Network (and continues until Wednesday with streaming coverage on MLB.com). Yesterday, I discussed who may not actually be coming to campus. Today is the part I like better.
Though the Commodores' 2017 season ended in the Super Regionals, many of our players will be hearing their names called this week, summoning them to a future riding busses to such glamorous locales as Lakewood, New Jersey, Toledo, Ohio, and Missoula, Montana.
Here's my best guess at whose names will be called, and in which rounds. With each player, I will include their 2017 statistics, Baseball America’s most recent mock draft projection, Baseball America Top 500 prospects ranking, and my personal draft projection.
The First Rounders
RHP Kyle “The Movement” Wright
2017 Stats: 5-6, 3.40 ERA
Kyle Wright, though he will be chosen highly tonight, had his worst season as a Commodore this year. Most of that was pre-SEC play, as when games actually mattered, he returned to form. Regardless, Vanderbilt will miss him greatly.
Wright spent his first year as the closer on a team that came one game from winning back to back titles. Even on that loaded staff, he flashed. In year two, he was a co-ace with Jordan Sheffield. This year, he was moved to Saturday starter after a poor beginning to the season, but was clearly the most talented player on the team.
Wright combines a mid-90s fastball with four other pitches he can throw for strikes. When he’s on, the ball moves like a whiffle ball. When his slider is on, he’s unhittable. The major league team that drafts him is likely getting a #2 starter who will spend less than a year in the minors. He’s in play to go 1-1, but will likely fall no further than the Braves at #5.
BA's Latest Mock Draft: #5 to the Atlanta Braves (where he can be hotel room roomies with Dansby Swanson).
BA Top 500: #2
Projection: Top 5 in the first round.
MLB Comp: The love child of Kris Benson and Andy Ashby.
Jeren “The Wisconsin Kid” Kendall
2017 Stats: .307/.372/.556 10 2B 5 3B 15 HR 53 RBI 20-24 SB
Kendall is the prototypical 5 tool prospect. He can hit, hit for power, run, catch, and throw. However, I can’t shake the feeling that he underperformed this year—particularly down the stretch. Had he surged at the end of the season like Will Toffey did, his name would still be bandied about in conversation for 1-1. Simply put, his end of season performance cost him millions.
Primarily, scouts became concerned with his pitch recognition, and accordingly downgraded his hit tool. I can’t disagree with this. Having watched every plate appearance over the last month, Kendall was not the same player who began the year like a house on fire. Against Oregon State, specifically, he looked nervous, doubted himself, and damn near looked scared. Against Fehmel, he continually guessed wrong w/r/t fastball v. change-up, and if not for his quick hands, would have struck out every AB.
But there’s the rub. Kendall is so preternaturally talented that even when slumping, he can do things that make scouts drool. He has a rare speed/power combination, and MLB teams have to wonder what he can do if he puts it all together. Kendall, hence, is the rare college player with high school player raw upside. It would not shock me if he is a better pro than a college player. In fact, I’d much rather the Phillies take a shot on him at #8 than on UVA turds Adam Hasely or Pavin Smith. Of course, I fully expect to be disappointed on that front in a few hours. I may puke.
BA's Latest Mock Draft: #23 to the Dodgers (where he can be bus ride and hotel room roomies with Walker Buehler).
BA Top 500: #18
Projection: Bottom half of the first round. However, the White Sox or Pirates could nab him at 11 and 12 respectively.
MLB Comp: Nick Williams
3B Will “Youth Hockey” Toffey
2017 Stats: .354/.475/.602 13 2B 1 3B 12 HR 64 RBI 5-9 SB
Listen, if I was the GM of a team drafting in the bottom half of the first round, I’d take Toffey. If I was debating between Kendall and Toffey, I’d take Toffey. He’s just that good, and he literally figured it all out in the last month of the season—sacrificing some of his absurd plate discipline for aggressiveness... and it paid off. Bigly.
I get it. Toffey doesn’t have tools that jump off the screen and slap you in the face. Doesn’t matter. He’s a ballplayer. He’s not Scott Rolen on defense, but he’s at least David Bell. He’s not a burner on the base paths, but he’s not going to hurt you. He’s got a more potent bat than Pavin Smith, and positional versatility (he could play 3B, corner OF, 2nd, or 1st at the big league level, whereas the lead-footed Smith is limited to 1st). If he had been postseason Toffey for the entire season, he’d go 1-1. I believe he’s closer to postseason Toffey than 2016 prolonged slump Toffey, but I get it—scouts lose jobs if they’re wrong, and his track record does not match up with his ability.
Simply put, whomever takes Will Toffey is getting a steal.
BA Top 500: #162
Projection: 2nd-5th round. I think he’ll go in the 2nd, though.
MLB Comp: Somewhere between Evan Longoria and David Bell.
C Jason “The Rain” Delay
2017 Stats: .309/.381/.444 18 2B 2 3B 2 HR 41 RBI 1-3 SB
Delay turned down a low six figure bonus from the San Fransisco Gigantes last year to be the every day catcher for the Commodores. His 2017 season was, by far, his best yet.
Delay is a superb pitch-framer, has a solid MLB arm for a catcher, and has steadily improved at the plate over his 4 year career at Vandy. Coming into the year, I said if he hits .275, he will vastly improve his draft stock. Simply put, he lapped that projection.
I firmly believe Jason Delay can be a backup catcher in the bigs for a decade. Whomever takes him (the Giants) will have made a wise choice.
BA Top 500: #256
Projection: 5th-10th round, but definitely to the Giants. Whenever the Giants decide to pop him, he’ll be picked. As he’s likely to sign for $100-150K, it would not shock me if the Giants took him in the 3rd-5th round in order to use the remaining slot money on a riskier sign later in the draft.
MLB Comp: Every back-up catcher ever. Let’s go with James McCann, as the Giants are definitely drafting Delay again.
The Right Handed Relief Pitchers Who May be Drafted/May Come Back for their Senior Year
RHP Reed Hayes
2017 Stats: 0-2, 5.75 ERA
BA Top 500: #200
Projection: 5th-25th round. Hayes’ BA ranking does not reflect how he pitched down the stretch. As such, I have no freaking clue where he’ll be drafted, or whether a team will offer him enough money to sign him.
MLB Comp: I don’t know. A middle reliever who may or may not make the show? Pat Combs?
RHP Matthew Ruppenthal (And his Magic Curvenball)
2017 Stats: 3-3, 3.17 ERA
BA Top 500: #444
Projection: 11th-50th round. Based on his performance last year, he’d be drafted in the top 10 rounds and sign. Based on his performance this year, he’s coming back for his senior year. I’ll bet he gets drafted, but not offered enough to sign.
MLB Comp: Turk Wendell.
RHP Collin “Twisted Wrister” Snider
2017 Stats: 3-2, 5.40 ERA
BA Top 500: N/A
Projection: 20th-50th round. He’s an arm who can throw in the low 90s. That’s a commodity that will get you signed. However, he, like Ruppenthal, did not have his best year this season. Have to believe he’s coming back. I’ll bet he gets drafted, but not offered enough to sign.
MLB Comp: Matt Buschmann.