Since taking the reigns at Vanderbilt in 2003, Tim Corbin has had 16 former players chosen in the first round on the MLB Draft. That average of one per year will be maintained tonight, and we likely won’t have to wait too long for JJ Bleday’s name to be called.
For those who need a primer on the nuts and bolts of the MLB draft as a whole, click this excellent CBS piece. In short, there are 40 rounds (there used to be even more!), the draft is three days long, it’s mostly done via teleconference, only US, Canadian, and Puerto Rican players are eligible, and tonight, there will be 78 players chosen (first two rounds plus supplemental/compensation rounds). It starts tonight at 6pm CT on MLB Network (or streaming from MLB.com).
For a primer on the overall bonus pools and slot values of these picks, click here.
So Which Current and Committed Players Could Hear Their Names Called in Tonight’s First 78 Picks?
The Current Players
Jr. OF JJ “Bledinger” Bleday
The All-American, Golden Spikes Finalist, SEC Player of the Year has had a monster 2019 campaign, following a dominant summer on The Cape (in which he was named Top MLB Propsect in the Cape Cod League). The only thing keeping the Bledinger from going #1 overall is the position he plays (as Rutschman and Witt play the much more difficult to play positions of catcher and shortstop, respectively).
If, like me, you’ve watched every at bat of Bleday’s career, you have seen a kid with other-worldly talent develop into a baseball destroying monster with a quiet swing, great plate discipline, and the ability to hit it to all parts of the park. Simply put, he’s special, and should be in a MLB starting lineup by 2020 (2021 if they slow play him in the minors for contractual reasons).
Beyond that, he rose to the occasion in his draft year, and dominated. He slashed .353./467/.739 with 26 (!!!) HR, 13 2B, 1 3B, 52 BB, and 51 Ks. He’s the rare player that both Earl Weaver traditionalists and Billy Beane moneyballers would be all over. Don’t overthink it. Take him.
Range: Top 10.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #5.
Prediction: #4 to the Miami Marlins.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%. Only chance he returns is if the team who picks him finds something odd on his medicals, decides to low ball him, and pisses him off. Via con dios, El Bledinger.
Phil “The Hitman” Clarke
Range: Rounds 4-10; 11+ if his signing bonus number is viewed as too high.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #139.
Prediction: This is tough, as because he is a draft eligible sophomore, he has as much leverage as a high schooler. I predict he throws out a number north of $1 million, and is much more likely to bet on himself, and re-enter the draft in 2020 than accept anything lower than that number. As such, I see him picked in rounds 11+.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 5%.
Drake “Safari Planet” Fellows
Range: Rounds 4-10.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #152.
Prediction: Fellows lacks the leverage of Clarke, so he’s going to sign with the team who drafts him, barring something odd happening.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 99.99%.
RHP Jack Leiter
Leiter is the Kumar Rocker in this year’s class. No, he isn’t a size/arm freak, but he is a legitimate first round talent on the mound who may have told MLB teams to call him in three years. He throws in the low 90s, but has impeccable control, and a really good curve. If he makes it through the draft and suits up in Hawkins Field, he will be the odds on favorite to be the Sunday Starter next year (following Rocker and Hickman).
Range: Anywhere from the bottom 3rd of the 1st round to rounds 20+.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #33.
Prediction: Not chosen tonight, but chosen in the later rounds (say 30) by a team who can back up the Brinks Truck. If he goes in the 1st round, or in the first few rounds to The Arizona Diamondbacks (see above link regarding draft picks and slot levels), it’s time to get worried. They have four picks in this year’s first round, so they are more likely to take signability risks than pretty much every other team this year. If Leiter gets past the first round and is chosen by pretty much anyone other than the Dbacks in the later rounds, exhale.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 33%. Leiter is a strong verbal commit to the Diamond Dores, and though his talent would likely warrant being selected towards the bottom of the first round, he reportedly set his number north of $4 million.
RHP Kendall Williams
Williams is yet another big, strong, hard-throwing RHP. We tend to get a lot of them in the Vanderbilt pipeline.
Range: Anywhere from round 2 to rounds 20+.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #55
Prediction: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Honestly, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not hearing he has any signability concerns (like Leiter and Volpe), so I have no idea how strong his commitment is to the Diamond Dores. I also have no idea what number his team gave MLB front offices. If it’s around $1.5 mil, I bet there are teams who will bite. If it’s north of that, he’ll be a Dore.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 50%. This prediction is a true shot in the dark, as I haven’t been able to find the signing bonus number he gave to MLB teams.
SS Anthony “Tony the Fox” Volpe
Tony the Fox is a teammate of Jack Leiter’s, and as such, both are commonly viewed as a package deal. Beyond that, I’m hearing Volpe has not only thrown out a high signing bonus number, but has told teams he would only sign with Northeastern clubs like the Yankees and Mets. If these rumors are true, Volpe will be in the mix to replace Ethan “Chili P” Paul as Vanderbilt’s starting shortstop next year.
Range: Anywhere from the bottom 3rd of the 1st round to rounds 20+.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #63.
Prediction: Similar to Leiter, I don’t expect Volpe to be chosen tonight, but instead chosen in the later rounds by a Northeastern team taking a flier.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 25%. I’d have this much lower if I was 100% confident Leiter had told all MLB teams “Thanks, but no thanks,” like Kumar Rocker did last year. If that is the case, both Delbarton, NJ kids will come to Hawkins field.
LHP Spencer Jones
Why am I including the 6’7” LHP/1B in this article when I predict him not to be drafted until day three? Well, he was trending towards being selected in the top half of the first round until he fractured his throwing elbow. If I’m correct, and he makes it to campus, it will be interesting to see if he’s on the Shohei Otani plan—takes over for Julian “Chinfante” Infante at first base while he rehabs his throwing arm for the year. He has the talent to actually be a two way player for our team. That is a rarity.
Range: Rounds 20+.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #71.
Prediction: Not chosen tonight, but likely chosen in the later rounds as a team taking a flier on a top tier talent they have little chance of signing.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 5%. Had Jones not blown his arm out early this year, I would have had him as a near lock to go in the first 2 rounds and sign the contract. Like Jordan Sheffield before him, he will likely come to Vanderbilt, redshirt his freshman year, and be taken as a draft eligible redshirt sophomore after 2 years on the mound. Of course, his talent is not in doubt, and an MLB front office might look out at the sea of meh that is the latter half of this year’s first round and decide, “Screw it, I’m rolling the dice.” Hence the 5% prediction.
OF Trejyn Fletcher
Might Fletcher see JJ Bleday’s career path and see visions of a similar future for himself? You have to know Corbin, Brownie, and Astronaut Mike Baxter have been hitting that sales pitch as hard as Bleday Bledonks Bledingers.
Range: Rounds 3-20+.
MLB.com Top 200Ranking: #87.
Prediction: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Just like with Williams, I am not hearing any rumors about this kid. No clue what his number is, nor how strong his commit to Vandy is. If he wants to sign, he’ll be gone in rounds 3-10. If they perceive him as a difficult sign, he’ll be taken in rounds 20+.
Chance He Signs With The Team Who Drafts Him: 50%. Again, just like Williams, this is a complete shot in the dark.
So that’s my two cents. See you tonight, as the comments will serve as a live blog of the draft. How glad are you that we don’t have to play tonight or the next two days, so none of this draft anxiety will affect our players?