Before the prospect-happy call-up barrage that is September 1st, this week we update the progress of some key members of the 2015 Amateur Draft class.
The first overall pick, Dansby Swanson, has seen some action in the Northwest League (short season ball). While he has not dominated the level (a trifling 41 at-bats mind you), Swanson has shown a disciplined approach and power, slugging over .500. It would not be surprising to see his name on an AFL roster when those rosters are announced, likely later this week or next, followed by a promotion to A+ ball to begin 2016.
The Astros, meanwhile, have been more aggressive with second overall pick Alex Bregman. The shortstop started at full-season A-ball and was quickly promoted thereafter to A+, making a start at Double-A in 2016 a real possibility and a major league promotion a possibility too, though he’s blocked defensively at his natural position. So far, the righty has been a disciplined, contact-oriented line drive hitter with modest power and above average speed (13 stolen bases in less than 250 plate appearances). He projects as a solid regular, not necessarily a star.
Dillon Tate, the top college pitcher in the draft, has pitched sparingly (5 innings over four games) albeit at least at two different minor league levels. The 21-year-old has battled some dead arm issues and may simply need time off after heavy usage during his final college season. When healthy, the Ranger can touch the upper nineties, works regularly in the mid-nineties and has a deep repertoire that gives him upper end of the rotation potential.
Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay was pushed directly to A+ by the Twins, entirely in relief. The 21-year-old has excelled, posting an 11.3 K/9. A college closer, Jay has multiple plus pitches and has MLB closer potential, but it’s also possible the Twins may try to extend him next year to have him work on his repertoire and see if he can indeed build up the stamina to be a starter. If he remains in relief, he could easily be the first player from this draft class to reach the Majors.
Andrew Benintendi is probably my favorite hitter in the draft and so far my enthusiasm is still rather high. The Red Sox have played him at two levels and thus far he’s shown plenty of power (nine home runs in 178 plate appearances, stolen eight bases and made contact over 90% of the time at each level of play while walking quite a bit more frequently (16% walk rate in A- ball). At just 5’10”, it will be interesting to see just how much of that power translates to the upper levels long-term. For now, he is on track to being a potential centerfielder and a 20-20 candidate who could possibly also be a .300 hitter if he maintains his approach and can handle upper level pitching. Expect him to move up to A+ ball next year.
Like most college first round picks, Carson Fulmer is on the fast track and is already in full-season A-ball where he has struck out over a batter per inning pitched. Like Tyler Jay, Fulmer has worked as both a reliever and as a starter in college. The Vanderbilt grad so far has been used exclusively as a starter by the White Sox. Fulmer does more than just throw hard. He has a good curve and change speeds with some success too. All that said, given the White Sox history of breaking in starters as relievers in the Majors, it might make sense in the case of Fulmer given his history and his power fastball/curve, which could make him a dominant reliever as well as a starter.
The Cubs selected outfielder Ian Happ 9th overall. He signed quickly and has received over 100 plate appearances at two different levels of play, giving us a good idea of his game. Happ is a patient switch-hitter with mid-teens or better home run power (eight home runs) and above average speed (ten stolen bases). There was some talk of using Happ at second base, but the Cubs have used him in the outfield for now. It remains to be seen whether or not Happ will be able to hit for average as he has struck out over 20% of the time and nearly 25% of the time with his promotion to A-ball. But the overall combo of skills and tools do make him a rather attractive target for fantasy purposes.
Cornelius Randolph is awesome not just because his name is. The 10th overall pick out of a Georgia high school by the Phillies, Randolph’s pro career is off to a good start. So far, he has slashed .297/.422/.439 and has been showing an excellent feel for the strike zone, making contact 84% of the time while walking 15% of the time. While his long term position is unsettled, he projects to add a good deal of power to his frame. Randolph should advance to full season A-ball in 2016 and could be a .290+ 20 HR threat down the road.
Giants first baseman Chris Shaw showed he could hit with a wood bat in the Cape Cod League and has continued to rip the ball since being drafted 31st overall. The Boston College alum is at least a 70 on the raw power scale and has seven home runs in rookie ball. Thus far, he’s been adept at being patient and making contact, slashing .291/.381/.500. Shaw is definitely in need of a greater challenge and it's surprising that the Giants haven’t promoted him to full-season ball to get a better test. That test will come though as a jump to A+ ball would seem logical for 2016.