The Oakland A's selected A.J. Puk with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. The 21-year-old is a left-handed pitcher from the University of Florida.
For the second year in a row, the A's used their first-round pick on a Gator -- last June they picked shortstop Richie Martin No. 20 overall. Puk was one of the draft's best-known commodities; a candidate for the No. 1 overall slot since the beginning of the college season.
This spring, the 6'7 lefty has pitched to a 3.21 ERA (in 15 starts), striking out 95 and walking 31 in 70 innings. Despite a less-than-dominant junior season, some continued to tout Puk as the draft's best prospect, including Baseball America.
Here's their scouting report:
Puk throws his fastball in the mid to upper 90s and thanks to the downhill angle and the excellent extension his 6-foot-7 frame enables him to get, the pitch plays up even further. Puk's slider and changeup both could use further refinement, but both have a chance to develop into average offerings. His slider sits in the mid-80s with horizontal sweeping action, though it can sometimes back up. Puk repeats his arm slot well and gets his torso over his front side consistently. When he stays balanced and online, he is very difficult for hitters to square up, even if they make contact. He throws a lot of strikes, particularly for someone of his size, and can locate his fastball to both sides of the plate. Puk's overall skill set and body of work have positioned him to be the first college pitcher drafted, and he has the potential to become Florida's first ever No. 1 overall pick.
Evaluators seem to agree that Puk some of the best all-around stuff of any pitcher in the draft. The questions surrounding Puk involve his command, and whether or not he’ll be able to locate his pitches in the zone enough to realize his top-of-the-rotation potential. He also dealt with back spasms this spring, though he only missed one start.
Puk features a long three-quarters delivery. His slider and changeup have above-average potential, but it’s the heater that evokes involuntary neighs from the mouths of men:
I saw A.J. Puk up to 99 mph at South Carolina: https://t.co/Q4oWewDzyB— Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) June 9, 2016
In High School, Puk was ranked by Perfect Game as the best prospect in Iowa -- he's from Cedar Rapids. In the 2013 draft, despite universal acclaim as an early-round talent, Puk dropped to the 35th round (Tigers) because of his strong commitment to the University of Florida.