The first round of the 2017 MLB Draft is in the books, which means that we have draft grades for all 30 of the first-round picks. How did your team do? How did your divisional rivals do?
We have answers.
1. Minnesota Twins
Here we go, with the Twins doing roughly what we thought they would do. This is an interesting pick for the upside, though it’s not without its risks. The last time the Twins had the first-overall pick, there was extraordinary pressure to take Mark Prior, the unbeatable mega-ace from Alpha Centauri. They went with the hometown catcher, a high school kid at that. Do you know the failure rate for high school catchers?
Joe Mauer might not make the Hall of Fame, but he came closer than 99 percent of the players to put on a baseball uniform.
This pick didn’t come with the same clear dilemma, but the Twins did have a choice to make. It just might pan out.
2. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds’ rebuilding plan has been kicked in the tail a little bit, what with the surprising success of some of the Grade-C prospects they’ve accumulated over the last couple years (Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez).
This helps the Reds’ forward momentum, even if they have to be a little disappointed that the Twins got to their Plan A first. Considering the available talent, from both the high school and college ranks, it’s hard to argue with this pick.
3. San Diego Padres
The last time the Padres had the third-overall pick, they drafted Donovan Tate, so you would understand if they were skeptical of another high school player. On the other hand, Mike Trout went 22 picks after Tate, so who knows anything? This was the pick of a franchise that’s unshackled from what they’ve done in the past.
This won’t end the high school/college debate, but it will be ammunition for years. What the Padres got, though, was exactly what they needed: upside. The minor-league system is already rolling, and they got another top prospect to throw onto the pile.
4. Tampa Bay Rays
In previous iterations of the draft, this might be a spot where a small-market team like the Rays would have worked out a pre-draft deal to save money. While the primary goal of the bonus pools was to shift money from young players to owners, it’s at least a side benefit that the Rays generally get to pick the top player on their board now.
Was this the best player available, though? Depends on which scout you talk to. There are some who question if the tools will ever turn into wins, with others thinking this is as safe of a bet as you can find in the draft. Injuries are always a risk, too, but the potential ceiling is spectacular.
5. Atlanta Braves
As if the Braves needed more talent in their farm system, they got their man at No. 5, and they’ll throw him on top of their vaunted and intimidating pile of prospects. The Braves didn’t necessarily need a fast riser, considering how loaded they are at almost every position throughout the organization, but this is a pick that could bear fruit sooner than expected.
If not, if the development path is more typical, the Braves should still be thrilled. The tools alone justify the top-five pick.
6. Oakland Athletics
We’ve come a long way from Moneyball, when Michael Lewis spent more time explaining what was wrong with Prince Fielder than what was right. The stigma of drafting high schoolers is dead. Nobody misses it.
So none of that ancient history has anything to do with what the A’s did here, which is get the best player available, give or take. You know there were internal debates about whether they should go with a pitcher or a hitter here, but it’s obvious which faction won, and we’ll know in a couple of years if they chose wisely. Unless we get a fun performance in the NY-Penn League to whet our appetites before then, which is certainly possible.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks
It used to be that teams that picked high in the first round while they were enjoying a surprising contending season at the major league level would consider college relievers with their first-rounders, with the hopes that they would get some immediate help to the big-league roster.
That was a weird trend, and it’s gone for a reason. The Diamondbacks didn’t do anything unusual here, instead opting for a consensus high pick, who was regularly projected to go around here in several mock drafts. The talent is undeniable, and the Diamondbacks will hope they can mold it into an All-Star.
8. Philadelphia Phillies
Remember when the Phillies were stacked with young pitching, and all they needed was a lineup around them? It takes a couple months for any team to realize that there’s no such thing as too much pitching depth.
Like most teams, though, this pick didn’t have much to do with what was happening in the upper levels of the minors or with the major league club. This was all about the talent and projectability, and that’s what the Phillies got here. Every team can use this kind of talent infusion, but the Phillies, with their small payroll, large market, and serious expectations, needed it just a little more than most.
9. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers turned what was a miserable system around with high picks and crafty trades, and they’re contending much sooner than expected this season. This pick will help them replenish some of the organizational depth that’s been diminished because of promotions — always the best reason — and they’ll bank on the high ceiling.
I was going to write something about a high floor, but every player has a low floor. Every single one. They don’t have to make the majors at all, so maybe the idea of a “high floor” is a myth. Either way, it’s indisputable that the Brewers got a talented player here.
10. Los Angeles Angels
Will this pick help the Angels contend with the best player in baseball? Or is this a building block that will be around for the unthinkable post-Trout era? The Angels can’t think of that now. They have to be satisfied with the talent on hand, and they got a fine prospect here.
The Angels are responsible for the greatest draft steal in the last 25 years, if not draft history, so it’s hard to get too giddy about what they’ve done at 10, but this was the player they wanted the whole time, and they have to be thrilled to have him.
11. Chicago White Sox
As the Luis Robert signing showed, the White Sox are committed to building a major league roster with homegrown players, even if they have to pay a premium for them. It’s worth wondering what this pick would have looked like without bonus pools and slot suggestions.
This is a pick that can live up to the hype, though, and the White Sox bought in. The strategy is simple: Get the best possible player first, worry exactly where he’s going to fit second. It’s a fine tradition in the draft, and there’s no reason for the White Sox to veer away from it.
12. Pittsburgh Pirates
If you’re the Pirates, and you’re reasonably confident with your pitching development system, how do you approach the draft? Do you focus on hitters at the top and figure that you can polish pitchers selected later, or do you hope that you can turn good prospects into great ones and pick them early?
It’s a fascinating conundrum, and we know what the Pirates are trying to do. They’ve had a rough year on a couple fronts, including with injuries and developmental stalls. This pick doesn’t make up for it, but it’ll help them feel a little better, at least.
13. Miami Marlins
The Marlins had baseball’s worst farm system before the season started, according to Baseball America, and it’s going to take more than one draft pick to get them out of the cellar.
That written, it’s hard not to be impressed with the raw physical ability they just added to the organization, and if everything goes right, this could pay off for the better part of a decade. They just have to figure out what’s happened with the system over the years, other than dubious trades.
14. Kansas City Royals
The Royals’ system has been thinned out over the last few years, both because of win-now trades and sketchy drafting, and this is the highest they’ve picked since taking Hunter Dozier in 2013. They really can’t screw this one up, which is a tough thing to write about the 14th pick, considering there are more likely to be misses than hits in the middle of the draft.
The talent is there, but all of the other expected concerns are there, too. If the Royals can smooth out some of the rough edges, and if they can eliminate the larger questions about durability, this pick has a definite chance to work out.
15. Houston Astros
The Astros are currently in first place by a million games, but this is also a fine chance to add to a young, stacked organization and, oh, man, I can’t do this anymore.
16. New York Yankees
Look, I’m on vacation, okay?
17. Seattle Mariners
We go every year for our anniversary. Can’t do August because that’s when her work starts up with a vengeance. Can’t go in July because of the All-Star Game and trade deadline for me. So we go in June. This year would be a couple weeks earlier than normal, but why would that make a difference?
18. Detroit Tigers
Because of the draft, you idiot. There’s a baseball draft. The internet wants instant draft grades for some reason, even though they’re completely pointless, and I’m paid to write the baseball things that the internet wants. That’s my one-sentence job description, and by leaving before the draft, I’m screwing it all up.
19. San Francisco Giants
“So, what are you going to do?” my editor asked.
“Man, I don’t know, I’ll think of something.”
And here we are.
I think they were supposed to publish this tomorrow morning, though. Let me check my notes.
20. New York Mets
Three years ago, I gave every pick an F, and I still get emails from people who want to yell at me. Two years ago, I gave every pick an A, and people still wanted to yell at me. Last year, I tried to make a simple point that every draft pick is an enigmatic mystery with an uncertain, possibly exciting future, and people hated that, too!
So excuse me for thinking that I could get away with some pre-written draft grades filled with mealy mouthed scout-isms. Because they’re no less valid than the actual draft grades you’ll find around the internet.
21. Baltimore Orioles
All of these players have talent.
All of these players have potential for great things.
All of these players have the potential to wash out.
Most of these players will never make an All-Star team.
At least one of these players will make an All-Star team.
It would be unlikely for anyone drafted on Monday to receive even a single Hall of Fame vote.
That is the only correct draft review. Every year.
If I were smarter and had access to the vast scouting armies of all 30 major league organizations, then spent 16 hours a day combing through information and listening to different opinions, I could do a draft-grades post that I would be proud of.
As is, I don’t have the resources or the time to become an expert. That means I can either fake it, or beg for your mercy.
22. Toronto Blue Jays
Take Josh Donaldson, for example. He was drafted in the supplemental first round back in 2007 by the Cubs. He spent six years as a catcher, occasionally trying other positions, and he was traded to the A’s in the interim. Everything that led to him getting drafted 48th overall in the draft was still there. Good bat speed. Athleticism. Max effort playing style.
Then he reinvented himself and became one of the best hitters in the galaxy.
The other 29 teams didn’t know he was going to do that. So is that how teams should evaluate these high schoolers and college kids? By guessing how they might respond to a revolution in how the game is played?
23. Los Angeles Dodgers
Not sure exactly what they were going for here. The Dodgers have a fine farm system, but they can’t just waste their first-round picks like this.
24. Boston Red Sox
Or what about Yonder Alonso or Justin Smoak? Both of them were picked in the top half of the first round in 2008. Both of them were disappointments relative to expectations. For years, they seemed like busts. And now ... they’re All-Stars?
Does that mean the Reds and Rangers, respectively, were right to draft them after all?
Does it mean those teams were right to trade them before their value plummeted?
Does it mean that it really didn’t matter where they were drafted because they were going to wait nine years to reach their potential?
25. Washington Nationals
No, teams can’t guess at how the immensely talented young players in the 2017 Draft might respond to a decade of disappointment or a sea change in how the sport is played. They can only evaluate what’s in front of them. Bat speed. Velocity. Projectability. Durability.
These teams are so much better at evaluating amateur players than you are, and they’re still wrong all the time. If Donovan Tate wasn’t drafted third overall, there wasn’t a team that was going to let him slip by. The Angels would have dropped everything and drafted Tate if he fell that far, possibly pairing him with their other first-round outfielder, Randal Grichuk.
So if the best people in the world at evaluating baseball players can’t figure this stuff out, I can’t understand why you would punch “2017 MLB Draft Grades” into Google and expect something that would be worth your time.
26. Texas Rangers
On the other hand, I understand how it’s seductive to see a shiny “A+” next to your team’s name after the draft. You don’t know what’s going on, so you want an expert opinion. If that expert’s opinion is that your team had a stellar draft, you will feel eminently better about the selection.
It’s only natural.
27. Chicago Cubs
But abandon hope all ye who enter a post of draft grades. There are gremlins in the elbow of this pitcher. There are holes in the swing of that hitter that will never be filled. There are problems that will not be fixed. For 700 picks, there will be problems that will not be fixed.
And then there will be All-Stars mixed in.
28. Toronto Blue Jays
Even if we hope that all of these players thrive, that there isn’t a single miss anywhere in the first round, that just means the level of competition will have risen, and the failure will trickle down to the players who would have otherwise been successful.
This sport really isn’t fair.
29. Texas Rangers
It’s this unfairness, this uncertainty that’s going to make sure that the MLB Draft will never, ever, ever enjoy a fraction of the popularity of the NFL or NBA Drafts. There’s too much time between the dream and the realization of those dreams. There are too many lions and tigers and bears between them and the realization of those dreams.
When I see NFL analysts complaining that immediate post-draft grades are useless, I want to shake them. Buddy, you have no idea.
30. Chicago Cubs
So let’s stop searching for immediate draft reactions and remember what’s important:
I’m probably so drunk right now.