Sunday, December 11, 2016

Reviewing the 2016 Draft

The 2016 Draft Class was a test of the system. The Braves entered the draft with the third overall selection and six-of-the-first-109 picks, which gave them a considerable sum in bonus money to divvy out. Atlanta took a maximizing approach where they wouldn't break the bank on their first overall pick so that they could increase the quality of subsequent selections. It worked nearly like a charm until they had to forgo signing 16th round pick Josh Anthony because of financial limitations. Still, Anthony was the only player of their first 32 selections that Atlanta didn't sign, so that's a pretty significant collection of talent that was added to the system.

Today, in the first in a series of posts checking on the last few drafts, let's take a look at where the Braves are after half-season with these players.

1.3: Ian Anderson, RHP, Shenendehowa HS, Ballston Lake, NY

Say what you will about Anderson compared to Jason Groome, Riley Pint, and A.J. Puk (along with hitters like Kyle Lewis and Corey Ray), but Anderson was no slouch entering the draft. He was a Top 10 talent in a draft where there wasn't a clear elite club. After signing soon after the draft, Anderson made ten starts split between both Rookie League stops. Overall, he displayed tremendous control and struck out nearly a batter an inning. The Braves could be cautious with him entering 2017, but it would not be surprising for him to follow Mike Soroka's path and begin the year in Rome.

1.40: Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission East HS, Prairie Village, KS

Similarly to Anderson, Wentz outclassed the Gulf Coast League before a promotion to Danville. It was there that he ran into a few control bugaboos, but rallied to strike out 16 over his final three starts (14.2 ING) with three earned runs allowed and nine walks. He has the early feel of a high strikeout/high flyball rate guy. It's important to remember that Wentz could have been drafted in the 10-15 round range had scouts not been skittish about the lefty suffering from dead arm in high school (along with wanting to see what Wentz could do against better competition). He could join Anderson in Rome to open 2017, but I could see the Braves being slightly more conservative in his time table.

2.44: Kyle Muller, LHP, Dallas Jesuit College Prep, Dallas, TX

Unlike the first two picks, Muller stayed in the Gulf Coast League and the entire GCL screamed, "WHY?" Over 27.2 innings, Muller K'd 38 while allowing one extra base hit (a double). Similar to Wentz, Muller had a Top 15 pedigree had he gone to Texas and succeeded, but the Braves gave him enough moolah to convince him that the best education he could receive right now came with the Braves' pitching instructors. Muller could also be on a trajectory that takes him to Rome to open 2017, but the fact that he stayed in the GCL all year makes me believe the Braves will hold his season debut off until June.

2.76: Brett Cumberland, C, UC-Berkeley

Atlanta's first college and positional player was a catcher with big raw power in Cumberland. While questions exist about Cumberland's defense with some believing before the draft that he was destined for a move to 1B or LF, the upside to such a projection is that those "experts" believed his bat warranted such a move to traditionally high-offense positions. A switch-hitter with discipline at the plate, Cumberland struggled with Appalachian League pitching following his signing. He appeared to wear down, which could be a product of a long season that began in college ball. The Braves could wait on him and hold him off until Danville's season begins, but with Jonathan Morales and Lucas Herbert moving up to Florida, I imagine Cumberland will get a Rome assignment.

3.80: Drew Harrington, LHP, Louisville

The most shocking thing about Harrington was that he didn't make his full season debut in 2016 and stayed at Danville. His numbers didn't pop, but he did strikeout 15 in 14.2 innings. He'll join Rome to open 2017 with a chance to earn a quick moving pathway if he succeeds. The Braves have shown a willingness to push relievers they draft out of college and with a lively fastball and good slider, Harrington has two pitches that could get him to the majors.

4.109: Bryse Wilson, RHP, Orange HS, Hillsborough, NC

First challenge complete for one of the last picks the Braves made that was heavy in projection. Wilson needs to refine his secondary pitches to stay as a starter, but he dominated the Gulf Coast League over 26.2 ING (29 K, 8 BB, 2 ER) so the Braves will gladly wait. Right-handed hitters were especially clueless (.379 OPS over 63 PA). Wilson is likely Danville-bound.

5.139: Jeremy Walker, RHP, Gardner-Webb

Considering a bit of a reach (Baseball America had him ranked in the mid-300s), Walker spent two months as a fixture for Danville. He showed outstanding control (37 K, 8 BB) and looks like a groundball pitcher so far. He opened the year as a piggy-back reliever before moving to starter by August. We'll know more about where Walker next year, but it's worth remembering that the righty signed underslot which helped the Braves ink higher value targets.

6.169: Matt Gonzalez, 2B, Georgia Tech

A breakout campaign as a senior helped Gonzalez move into the Top 200, but questions remained about his bat. After a 51-game campaign with Danville, those questions haven't been answered, but eased to an extent. He did hit .302, but without much pop or walks. He also swiped seven bases while playing mostly second with a little time at third and in left field. Seems primed to hit second in the minors and similar to the thinking with college-age second-sackers like Philip Gosselin and Levi Hyams, the Braves will hope that Gonzalez exceeds expectations.

7.199: J.B. Moss, LF, Texas A&M

The highest pick to make his full season debut was Moss, who played the final month and change with Carolina. Already 23 when he began his career in Danville, Moss quickly used his age advantage to slash .333/.380/.441 over 24 games. He looked notably worse upon joining the Mudcats. Moss had a decent career with the Aggies before being selected and is capable enough to cameo in center field, but is probably better suited for LF. I imagine he could stay at Advanced-A to open 2017, but with Ronald Acuna, Ray-Patrick Didder, and a possible return of Braxton Davidson at Florida when the season gets under way, I wouldn't be shocked to see Moss demoted to begin the spring in Rome.

8.229: Taylor Hyssong, LHP, North Carolina-Wilmington

I didn't have a lot of info on Hyssong before he was drafted. Now, I have only eleven games at Danville and still not a lot else. Hyssong looked decent, but didn't stand out in the Appalachain League while mostly being used a reliever. He did strike out 14 in 17.1 innings, but also walked seven. He'll be one of the many names to watch in 2017 with Rome.

9.259: Tyler Neslony, RF, Texas Tech

Once he finally signed, Neslony headed to Danville for five games in which he reached base in 12-of-21 PA with three doubles and a homer. The Braves quickly promoted the corner outfielder to Rome to finish the year and he held his own at .257/.311/.331. He did show a platoon preference by having a difference of almost 150 points in OPS when he faced righties versus lefties - not common for a left-hand hitter. Like Moss, Neslony was a late bloomer who put a bow on an otherwise underwhelming college career with a big senior season. And like Moss, I expect the logjam of outfielders at Florida will keep Neslong in Rome to begin 2017.

10.289: Marcus Mooney, SS, South Carolina

A heady player with pretty good defense all over the infield, Mooney played in all but five of Danville's regular season games in 2016. He hit just .264, but walked 14 times and was hit by a pitch TWENTY-ONE times. That pushed his OBP into the .356 range. He doesn't have much pop, but seems like a good bet to keep doing enough to progress up the ladder. I would be shocked to see Mooney play in the majors, but he'll make his minor league squads better.

Other picks: Righty Matt Rowland, taken in the 11th round, did not pitch in 2016 due to injury, but his mid-90's velocity could help him open some eyes in 2017....12th and 13th rounders Brandon White and Brandon White (respectably) were not on the same team in 2016, which was sad. The first White dominated at Danville and will likely be the one to watch in 2017...1B Ramon Osuna, picked in the 14th round, showed some power with Danville with four moonshots...Right-hander and 17th round pick Devan Watts looked impressive at Rome (0.92 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 3.8 K/BB)...27th round selection Corbin Clouse, a southpaw, spent the last two months of the season striking out 14 batters per nine innings with Rome. If you are trying to predict the first 2016 selection to reach the majors, Clouse is worth your consideration...Though he struggled in the Gulf Coast League, 28th round pick Nicholas Shumpert was a 7th round pick in 2015 and has some intriguing athleticism...Selected in the 34th round out of Cal Tech, OF Jared James played a month with Rome and hit .302 with 3 HR and 5 steals. Could be a sneaky good pick...Sadly, 33rd round pick, Handsome Monica, did not sign.

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