“That’s Amore!” Building for the Future: NL East Draft Breakdown 2016
We’ve now covered the NL West and NL Central drafts. This article we will break down the NL East. Three of the first 10 draft picks went to NL East teams. There’s no question NL East teams are not as dominant as they once were. However, the New York Mets developed fine, young arms that carried them all the way to the 2015 World Series. While they came up short, there’s no question they outplayed every team in the National League. Now, I give you the last article on the 2016 MLB draft; Building for the Future: NL East Draft Breakdown 2016.
It’s been a rough go for the Phillies. Their key players from the 2008 World Series winning team have since aged, and all that remains is a Ryan Howard that is only a mirage of what he once was. If it were not for his no-trade clause, he would’ve been long gone by now. Fast-forward to 2016 and the Phillies entered the draft with the first overall pick. There’s no questioning the talent the Phillies have in their minor league system. Cole Hamels brought a great return from Texas, and Vincent Velasquez was acquired for Ken Giles. That trade still puzzles me.
With the first pick, the Phillies selected high school outfielder Mickey Moniak. Arguably the best high school outfielder available, he established himself as the number one prospect by having a spectacular spring leading his team with a .478 average, 47 RBI, 40 runs, 12 triples, and seven home runs. Last season, he was part of the gold medal-winning WBSC U-18 team. Reports suggest he makes hard contact against advanced pitching competition, can stay his entire career in centerfield, and has above-average speed. At 6’2″ 185lbs, he has room to add weight and strength. The UCLA commit needs to be on every dynasty roster. I questioned using a first round pick on a prep athlete, but it’s hard to argue against drafting Moniak. Four or five seasons from now, he could be the everyday starting centerfielder for the Philadelphia Phillies.
After adding another outfielder to go along with minor league prospects Nick Williams, Cornelius Randolph (10th overall in 2015), and Roman Quinn, the Phillies selected high school right-handed pitcher Kevin Gowdy with the 42nd overall pick. Another UCLA commit, Gowdy is a tall, lanky (6’4″ 170lbs) arm that has the chance to develop into a solid starter. He absolutely needs to add weight to his light frame, and this will only help add velocity to his fastball that currently sits in the low-90s. Many scouting reports suggest his changeup is far superior to that of many other prep pitchers. It’ll be a while before we see Gowdy in Philly, but when we do it should be towards the top of their rotation. The Phillies are at least four years from competing to win their division, but when they do both top picks should be on the Opening Day roster.
Once the darling of the NL East, the Atlanta Braves are in rebuilding mode. It looked as if Chipper Jones would play forever, but he has since retired and the organization has turned to General Manager John Coppolella and President of Baseball Operations John Hart. These two already acquired the 2016 number one overall pick, Dansby Swanson, during the offseason.
With the third overall pick, the Braves selected right-handed prep pitcher Ian Anderson. Playing for the U-18 team, Anderson made a name for himself dominating on the mound. Carrying size, at 6’3″, the righty should be able to add weight to his 170lb frame. There’s no questioning the liveliness of his fastball that currently sits in the mid-90s. His breaking ball is above-average, and with work it should become one of his go-to pitches for strikeouts. The Vanderbilt commit signed with the Braves last Saturday, and is a solid pick for thm. The organization knows they are still 5+ years away from competing and are in no rush to develop players. Anderson gives them one of the top arms in the game, and one with the highest upside of any high school arms. If the Braves weren’t as far back as they are in terms of rebuilding I could have easily seen them drafting a college arm this high in the draft. However, they will be in no rush with Anderson and they’re hoping he turns into a front-line starter.
With their Lottery A pick, the Braves selected left-handed high school pitcher Joey Wentz (40th overall). Due to dead arm, Wentz played last summer as a first baseman. That being said, Wentz went on a tear and opened the possibility of being able to play the outfield or pitch. At 6’5″ 209lbs there’s no questioning he has the frame to hold up as a starting pitcher. His fastball will reach 95 MPH and he accompanies that with an average curveball and changeup. He’ll have a lot of time to develop his secondary pitches while in the minor leagues. I’m a big fan of this Braves pick. You can’t teach athleticism and Wentz gives them tremendous amounts. Just like Anderson, Wentz will not be rushed through the minor leagues. As he develops, and adds weight, he could be in line to be one dominant starter from the left-hand side.
There’s no questioning the Marlins lack quality arms. After Jose Fernandez, there’s isn’t great quality on their Major League roster. They have some talent in their minor league system, but the 2014 number two pick, Tyler Kolek, is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and two of their other top arms are already in their early 20s. This allowed the Marlins to draft left-handed high school pitcher Braxton Garrett with the number seven pick. Another U-18 Team USA player, Garrett also committed to Vanderbilt. He possesses the best curveball of any prep pitcher, and his fastball can reach the low-to-mid 90s. At 6’3″ 190lbs, he’s another pitcher that should be able to shoulder a starter’s work load. Again, he’ll need to add some size, but the potential is there to become a dynamite arm for the Marlins. I can see Garrett becoming the number two starter behind Fernandez in the coming years.
After losing their second-round pick after signing Wei-Yin Chen, the Marlins reached for high school outfielder Thomas Jones (84th). Let me add, the Chen signing hasn’t worked out well through the first half of the season. I question why they didn’t go after another arm in the third round. This draft was full of arms and they could’ve grabbed a great one in the third. Regardless, they selected Jones and the Vanderbilt commit has yet to sign with the organization. The speedy outfielder will be a work in progress, but there’s no questioning his athleticism. He has mass amounts of speed, and shows potential in the power department. He can cover a lot of ground and has the ability to play anywhere in the outfielder. I see Jones choosing Vanderbilt over the Marlins, and if this is the case, it will only help justify my questioning of Jones in the third round rather than going after another pitcher to develop.
New York Mets
I wanted to end with the New York Mets and Washington Nationals. Both teams had two first-round picks. There’s no questioning what the Mets have done in terms of developing pitching. We’ve seen Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Noah Syndergaard. It’s hard to argue that any organization has four young arms that can compete with the aforementioned. Regardless, the Mets continued with their pitching infatuation and drafted two in the first round.
With the 19th pick, the Mets selected right-hander Justin Dunn out of Boston College. Starting out as a reliever, Dunn moved into the starting rotation and was lights out. His four-pitch artillery includes a fastball that can reach 99 MPH. His curve and slider need to be perfected, but can give him different looks to hitters. At 6’2″ 170lbs, he’s not the biggest guy, but we’ve seen many pitchers this size with dynamic stuff. If he can become more fluid with this curve and slider, and develop his changeup, he could be the next best pitcher for the New York Mets. At the best I see him as a number two starter. At the worst, a dynamite back-end starter. Either way, Dunn brings a lot of intrigue to the Mets.
31st overall, the Mets selected Connecticut lefty Anthony Kay. He sits at a respectable 5’11” 186lbs, and can pound away at the strike zone with a low-90s fastball and plus changeup. He already has the ability to change velocity and arm slots which gives him an advantage over hitters. While it’s hard projecting Kay as a top-end starter he could easily solidify the back end of any rotation. If the Mets were interested in another big-time arm with massive size, I really think they should’ve gone after Mississippi State’s Dakota Hudson at 31. It’s no knock on Kay, but I think Hudson will be more durable as a Major Leaguer. After grabbing two arms, the Mets made it clear they would go after hitting taking four straight batters before hopping back on the pitching. Overall, I like what the Mets did. I can’t argue grabbing arms, but I question whether they could’ve gotten Kay in the second or third round.
The Nationals entered the 2016 draft with back-to-back first-round draft picks (28 & 29). With arguably the league’s best player in Bryce Harper, a solid rotation, and top prospects in Lucas Giolito and Trea Turner the Nationals had a lot of breathing room for draft options. After much thought, Washington drafted high school shortstop Carter Kieboom and University of Florida’s pitcher Dane Dunning.
One of the best high school hitters, Kieboom possess great hands and bat speed that allows him to square up any pitcher. Gap-hitting will be the name of Kieboom’s game. That’s not saying the power won’t come, but I don’t expect 15+ home runs a season. His defensive ability has been given great praise, and he projects to play either second or third base. With Trea Turner looking like the Nationals shortstop of the future, these are the more likely landing spots. Again, he’s only 18 years old and will have more than enough time to develop in the minor leagues. I like what the Nationals get in Kieboom as he was arguably the best infield high school prospect.
Coming from a university that holds many dynamite arms, Dane Dunning saw his most value as a reliever. His fastball can reach 95 MPH, and the tail on his fastball has been noted by every scouting report I’ve read. His curve ball needs work, but he’s been able to develop a solid changeup early on in his pitching career. While Dunning saw a majority of college innings as a reliever, there’s no questioning his ability to start in the Big Leagues. He’s shown the ability early on and could get the call within a season or two. He has yet to sign with the Nationals, but if he does I can see him being an arm that gets a call at the end of September and possibly be an extra bullpen arm come playoffs. Again, the Nationals have talent around their organization. Drafting in terms of ability, rather than need, they picked up many solid players going after nearly every position across the diamond.
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