Now that the 2016 MLB Draft is behind us and we've had a week to absorb all the new information, it's time to offer some hot takes and immediate reactions. There's no way to know how any of these players will turn out in the pros and it's almost silly to try to predict them, but that doesn't mean we can't grade the picks based on their current merits and drawbacks.
Here are a few different opinions from the various voices of Athletics Nation.
Bill Moriarity, A's Farm
The A's reloaded the system with a number of quality pitching prospects. They ended up with three talented college arms - Puk, Jefferies and Shore - who at one point or another were all considered to be potential first-rounders. And they also ended up with five players who were considered to be top 100 picks - the previous three plus strong-armed catcher Sean Murphy and high school pitcher Skylar Szynski, who threw a perfect game in his sophomore year. That's not a bad haul.
When it comes to looking at pitching prospects I have two hard and fast rules:
1) Throw strikes.
2) Be healthy.
Everything else is negotiable.
Then you factor risk/reward. If we're talking about the 4th piece to round out a trade proposal than I'm much more willing to take a flyer on a Boom or Bust type since I'm already counting on a lot of value from the other players in the deal. If I'm drafting 6th overall? Then the pitching prospect better adhere to Rules 1 & 2.
A.J. Puk fails in this regard. He averaged approximately 4 walks per 9 innings during his college career, showing no improvement in this area while pitching for a pretty well-funded and coached program. His command and control problems made him inefficient with his pitch count, causing him to average less than 5 IP per start during his Junior season. And the cherry on top? He missed time during the year due to back spasms. Puk was not on my Draft Board, as I simply considered the risk too great. Others can sell you on the possible reward ... I think he was a mistake at #6.
Daulton Jefferies: From an interview A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota gave Melissa Lockard of Scout.com:
"We are very confident after some more rehab he will be 100%," Kubota said. "We don't necessarily think that he is right there yet, but we did have our doctors and trainers examine him and we are very comfortable that he will be 100% healthy after a little bit more rehab."
Jefferies has a shoulder injury and isn't able to pitch despite receiving a check for $1.6 million. No way in Hell was he in the conversation for me at #37. The only way this pick made any sense to me was if Oakland could sign him way under-slot, essentially using the savings here to cover 4th round pick Skylar Szynski's over-slot demands. I expected them to save at least $500,000 ... but they saved just over $145 K on a player that's going straight to the trainer's room.
I see Logan Shore as a #4 SP at best and that only happens if he doesn't lose any velocity off his fastball once he starts pitching every 5th day. I thought there was better talent available at #47.
I liked Oakland's Day 2 picks very much; I think Sean Murphy, Szynski, JaVon Shelby and Brandon Bailey offer some nice upside and Dalton Sawyer could end up surprising if he can get his mechanics tweaked to throw more strikes. If Oakland can sign draft-eligible Sophomore Brigham Hill (20th Round) then that would be a much needed bonus. But not enough to make up for wasting three Top 50 draft picks.
Puk: B+ ... Tough choice between him and Kyle Lewis. I kinda like Lewis a little more which is why this pick doesn't quite get an A, but Puk has a very high upside and could be a fast mover through the system. You can fix control, but you can't fix velocity.
Jefferies: C ... Shoulder issues are very concerning. He looks like Sonny Gray and he's small like Sonny Gray, but that's where all comparisons end. He's not a high upside guy, probably a 4th starter upside. If you're going to go with a guy like him, you'd want at least a high floor, which he doesn't have because of his undersized-ness and shoulder issues. There will be doubts about whether he can hold his velocity with a professional work load rather than going once a week.
Shore: B- ... He could be a very quick mover through the system as well. I'd send him to Beloit or, depending on where the Ports are playing, Stockton. If the Ports are playing in the southern division then I wouldn't send him to High-A. If they don't have any more games down there, then I'd give him a shot at the Cal League. Good if unspectacular repetoire. Most importantly, a clean bill of health. Maybe could even get a bit of a discount to give some cap room for Brigham Hill.
Murphy: B+ ... Murphy was thought for a while to be a first rounder. Unfortunately he didn't hit after breaking his hamate bone. Lots of players come back pretty weak but they eventually regain their full strength. Very good defensively, could hit for an ok average and for a good amount of power. The key with him either way is patience, since catchers generally move through the system slowly.
Szynski: B- ... The A's seem to always take at least one high school pitcher in the top 10 rounds. Szynski is their guy this year. Not as projectable as a lot of high school pitchers, but good enough present stuff with a little room to add velocity.
A.J. Puk: B+ ... I think the A's felt they had to jump on the chance to take a talent who has such a high ceiling that he was whispered to be a "first overall pick" candidate, and you cannot blame Oakland for taking, if not the best player available, the player with the most potential to be great. That is, unless you buy the comparisons some have made to Jason Groome and Clayton Kershaw, but every 17 year old has a huge potential to bust.
That being said, there's plenty not to love about Puk, whose control problems were very much on display Monday in Florida and who enters professional baseball without a reliable third pitch.
The odds of Puk flaming out due to control problems, becoming a "5-inning SP," or winding up in the bullpen due to a limited arsenal, are very real. This is no slam dunk, but it's what the A's need: someone whose bust risk might be high but who also has a high ceiling. And at 6'7" Puk needs one!
Daulton Jefferies: B+ ... Jefferies was once projected to be a possible top 20 overall pick until injuries that began in his right leg, but ended up in his right shoulder, dropped his stock. If healthy, the A's have a very good pitching prospect on their hands but if shoulder problems return Jefferies is a strong candidate to fall off the face the baseball earth.
Apparently the A's like Jefferies' chances to stay healthy and to provide them with another starting pitcher whom they could draft lower than his talent suggested he should go. My concern would be that pitchers get injured so often even under the best of circumstances and any significant shoulder injury is often a career ender or derailer. Dallas Braden and Henderson Alvarez offer recent examples in the A's organization.
Logan Shore: A ... Thanks to the lightning in Florida I've never seen Shore pitch, but I have a really, really good gut feeling about him. I think his natural competitiveness and determination, combined with a plus changeup and excellent command, will allow him not only to rise quickly to the big leagues but also to be more successful than projected.
Given his average fastball velocity, a comp that comes to mind is Marco Estrada, who has emerged to be a legitimate #3 SP and that's what I can see Shore developing into for the A's. That's more than scouts predict for him, but where I see Puk and Jeffries potentially falling short of expectations I see Shore exceeding them. He might have the best overall career of the three, and for the A's to land him with their third pick could wind up being a bit of a coup.
Puk was certainly the right pick at the time, but the right pick doesn't always work out: I'm looking at you, Grant Green. Still, the A's did well to get a high upside lefty who had a chance at going 1-1 overall. There's much work to be done with his control and repertoire, and he should give us some insight to an increasingly prevalent question for the organization: are we still among the best at identifying, acquiring, and developing starting pitching?
What's not to love about the A's supplemental round selection, Daulton Jefferies? He's local, he looks like Sonny Gray, and more importantly, he's got a nice blend of upside and floor that you crave in any pick. He should move quickly but unlike Shore, he's got a chance to be more than a backend guy. The injury concerns are a problem, but a guy who could have gone in the top half of the first round is a good get in the supplemental.
I'm less excited about Shore than others. We've seen so often that high floor guys don't always reach that floor. Shore smells of James Simmons, maybe with better stuff. I'm concerned that Shore's command isn't elite while his control is, but that's based on my very small sample take. At any rate, he's not a sure thing and the lack of upside makes his ability to reach his floor even more important.
The A's final pick I'll note is Sean Murphy. It's no secret the A's haven't exactly coveted strong defenders behind the dish, but Murphy is different with his strong defensive skills. The A's probably drafted him because they thought he was the best player available which implies they do indeed value catcher defense highly. There's a dearth of solid two way catchers in baseball as is, and that problem only appears to be getting worse as the minors are barren of top tier catching prospects. Finding a backstop who projects to be a great defender is nice to see, especially from a team that's struggled so mightily with catcher defense for years.
The one thing I wanted most out of this draft was upside. With the highest pick the team had owned since 1998, and three selections in the top 50, I wanted them to gamble on a swing for the fences rather than mess around with too many mediocre fast-track guys. They mostly succeeded in doing that.
The most important part of any team's draft is the top pick. That's always going to be the player with the highest likelihood of panning out, and so any analysis should focus disproportionately on him. And having it be all the way up at No. 6 overall offered the chance to target the kind of upside that a small-budget team like the A's can't easily find anywhere else.
That is why I love the pick of A.J. Puk. There were arguments for and against all of the guys at the top of the first round, but there might not have been a higher ceiling available -- after all, Puk was expected to go first overall by many pundits. He could flame out for a hundred different reasons, but his tools are top-notch and that's what I wanted. I was willing to take a high school pitcher if need be to get the huge potential I was looking for but Oakland found it in a college player instead, which feels like the best of both worlds. I'm still shocked he fell all the way to No. 6.
You could also argue that Daulton Jefferies was an upside pick, or you could say he's an unnecessary risk without enough reward attached. I'm closer to the latter right now. He was projected to go higher in the first round before getting hurt, which means that his stock dropped for a reason other than his talent, but shoulder injuries are serious business. Logan Shore, on the other hand, is a safer pick, which I actually don't mind considering the risk that went into the first two selections. His ceiling isn't high but he's a good bet to make the bigs and to do so quickly.
Catcher Sean Murphy strikes me as another relatively safe pick, but high school pitcher Skylar Szynski is of course another strong upside gamble of the type I was looking for in this class. The next several rounds provided plenty of quality lotto tickets and pitching depth, which is all you can hope for in the crapshoot stage of the proceedings.
Let's add that up. Puk represents exactly what I wanted at No. 6, Szynski is a great example of using a big bonus pool to steal one more top-notch talent in a later round, and Shore makes me feel like the A's will at least get something out of all this even if those risky guys flop. I really like 60% of the top five picks, and Murphy is a fine choice in the third round.
But something about Jefferies doesn't sit right with me. If I'm going to risk the No. 37 overall pick on a guy with an existing shoulder injury then I want a higher ceiling, like when the Royals took an injured Sean Manaea at No. 34 overall. I like things about Jefferies, and I'm a sucker for local players (especially from Cal), but he still drops the grade for me. There were more exciting talents available, even if they were less polished. But that's really my only gripe with the first five picks, or even with the first 10 rounds.
We took a few community polls throughout the first few rounds, and here are the results. For each of the first three picks, we did a simple binary: Do you like this pick?
Puk: 93% approve (1,114 votes)
Jefferies: 79% approve (527 votes)
Shore: 85% approve (531 votes)
Next we asked for a grade for the top three guys as a group. Out of 750 votes, the majority gave a grade of A (61%) and most of the rest said B (33%), and the whole thing averaged out to a 3.5 GPA, which is halfway between a A- and a B+.
Finally, we did the same thing but for Rounds 3-10. Out of 231 votes, there were fewer for A (32%) but plenty for B (53%), for an overall GPA of 3.1 -- that's a solid B.
There's one final vote at the bottom!