In part 1 of what will end up being a 4 part series of Q+A’s on the MLB Draft, and more specifically how it pertains to the Mets. I touch on both the draft outside of the Mets because I really want readers to have an idea about the draft as a whole, not just people the Mets could consider when they pick #13 this year. For part 1 I got the opportunity to talk with ESPN and Prospect Insider‘s Jason Churchill. Jason does a fantastic job covering the draft for ESPN and PI. The content him and Keith Law put up at ESPN are well worth the ESPN Insider fee. Below is the transcript of my Q+A with Jason.
PSL2F: Who do you like at #1 Gerrit Cole or Anthony Rendon and why?
Jason Churchill: Cole. Rendon has not shown the kind of power this spring that warrants such a pick. There are concerns about his shoulder (I have it on good authority that it’s a fairly serious injury, not just soreness) but am unable to report what I have heard.
PSL2F: Personal favorite of mine is Trevor Bauer from UCLA. What is your take on him, and where in the draft do you think he goes?
Jason Churchill: I like Bauer, but even if we ignore the unorthodox delivery and training regimen, his stuff doesn’t warrant a top 5 pick for me. No. 2 starter ceiling, though, and it is difficult to see him lasting past 10.
PSL2F: Who do you think is the biggest sleeper that will go much higher than people think?
Jason Churchill: Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy. All the mocks and draft boards have Lindor between No. 9 and No. 18 but teams seem to like him enough for him to be gone between 4 and 7. Another one is Henry Owens, the lefty out of Hunting Beach, California. Very projectable, has a four pitch mix and I know of one club in the top 20 that really, really likes him and will consider him with that pick. UCLA commit Austin Hedges is another. Catchers don’t grow on trees.
PSL2F: On the other side of the scale who do you think is losing the most stock and will go much later than people think?
Jason Churchill: I think it’s Rendon, to be honest. He could change that with a strong final few weeks, however. Sonny Gray is losing some steam as well, as I wrote Wednesday.
PSL2F: What are the strengths and weaknesses of this draft class?
Jason Churchill: Pitching is far and away the strength, both college and prep. The weaknesses are power bats and quality talent at premium positions such as catcher and shortstop, but that is pretty typical. There could be 20 pitchers taken in the first round.
PSL2F: The Mets have been near the basement as far as draft spending goes over the last few years. Do you believe that will change under the new regime as they claim? Or do you think it’s a smokescreen and we will be reading excuses come August 15th?
Jason Churchill: I do not think they will break the bank, but I also don’t believe for one second that they will go “cheap” per se. I could see them taking the offensive equivalent of Matt Harvey. Maybe someone like George Springer, Mikie Mahtook or a prep bat with upside. Blake Swihart makes a lot of sense. Money isn’t going to be a huge problem, at least not in round 1.
PSL2F: How big do you think this draft is for the Mets? They right now have a roughly middle of the pack farm system, and with the possibility that they trade Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez among others is there a legit chance this team has a top 10 farm in baseball come August 15?
Jason Churchill: I think every draft is enormously important for clubs with money problems and in need of young talent. The draft is the best — and cheapest — way to acquire young talent. Clubs that miss on their high picks end up spending on unnecessary free agents, rushing their other prospects or losing 90-100 games per season. Take Seattle, for example. They chose No. 3, No. 5, and No. 11 in three successive seasons in 2005-2007. They selected Jeff Clement, Brandon Morrow and Phillippe Aumont with those picks. Clement didn’t pan out, Morrow was traded before he gave value and Aumont was traded for Cliff Lee. So now, the M’s are without any potential production any of those three drafts and it makes them a rebuilding upstart type at best rather than a potential contender. Are the M’s contenders in 2011 if they had taken Ryan Braun, Ryan Zimmerman or Troy Tulowitzki in ’05? Or had they kept Morrow or taken Lincecum instead in ’06? Or taken Jason Heyward in ’07?
What if they did two of the above three? The answer is probably YES. So, absolutely, I think it’s imperative that the Mets start hitting and hitting big in the draft, and the overall greatness of this class makes it that much more important that they get two or three big leaguers out of it, and at least one impact player.
PSL2F: If you ran the Mets who are three players that you would be targeting that could realistically be there at #13?
Jason Churchill: I like Swihart there, one of the college arms; Gray, Matt Barnes, Jed Bradley, and one of the prep arms; Dylan Bundy will be gone, but Taylor Guerrieri or Archie Bradley could be there. If George Springer is there, I would strongly consider him, too. If Lindor slips, though, he’s probably my pick.
PSL2F: Lastly, who are your three favorite draft prospects not named Cole or Rendon and why?
Jason Churchill: I like Oregon State’s Josh Osich, who I will see this coming Saturday, his battery mate Andrew Susac who just returned from a broken hamate bone and and Georgia Tech’s Jed Bradley. Bradley’s breaking ball is lacking right now but he carries more upside than Danny Hultzen and throws more strikes than Gray. But he’s also big and strong, unlike Bauer. More upside. Osich is a fighter and has come a long way after having Tommy John surgery. His stuff is ticking upward, though he’s not likely a first-round pick. Some team in the sandwich round or very early in round 2 may get a steal in the kid whose 90-93 mph fastball could continue to gain velocity. Susac is a leader with tools and performance to back it up. That tells me he’s Jason Varitek, Brian McCann and Brad Ausmus wrapped into one, if all works out in his favor. I know you asked for three, but it’s awfully tough not to love Lindor. Switch hitting shortstop with plus speed, plus arm, more than gap power from both sides of the plate and he’s just 17. Ridiculous.
I’d like to thank Jason for answering the questions for the site. You can again check out his work at ESPN and Prospect Insider. You can follow Jason on Twitter by clicking HERE. Part 2 of my Q+A’s should be up sometime next week.