2016 Mock MLB Draft: A.J. Puk the favorite to go first overall

Thursday night, the 2016 First Year Player Draft will begin with the annual MLB Network broadcast in Secaucus, New Jersey. The draft runs three days and covers 40 rounds. The draft used to be 100 rounds, you know. Like the baseball season, the baseball draft is a marathon, not a sprint.

Due to free agent compensation, there are only 23 picks in the first round this season. Seven teams forfeited their first-round selection to sign a qualified free agent this past offseason. Here's the list:

  • Diamondbacks: Forfeited 13th overall pick to sign Zack Greinke.
  • Orioles: Forfeited 14th overall pick to sign Yovani Gallardo.
  • Nationals: Forfeited 17th overall pick to sign Daniel Murphy.
  • Giants: Forfeited 18th overall pick to sign Jeff Samardzija.
  • Rangers: Forfeited 19th overall pick to sign Ian Desmond.
  • Royals: Forfeited 24th overall pick to sign Ian Kennedy.
  • Cubs: Forfeited 27th overall pick to sign John Lackey.

Below is the official CBSSports.com 2016 Mock MLB Draft. We're covering the first round only. Keep in mind that the deeper you go, the more guesswork that is involved. Teams are still finalizing their draft boards even at this point, so consider this informed speculation more than anything.

1. Phillies: LHP A.J. Puk, Florida

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Will A.J. Puk be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft? USATSI

There is no slam dunk No. 1 draft prospect this year, a la Stephen Strasburg in 2009 and Bryce Harper in 2010. That doesn't mean this is a bad draft class. It just means no one has separated themselves from the pack and the first-overall pick is still a big a mystery. Hey, surprises are fun!

Right now Puk appears to be the pick for the Phillies, but that is not 100 percent set in stone. They're in on all top prospects and even some who are projected to go a little later in the first round. The team's interest in those second-tier prospect could be part of a draft bonus pool saving maneuver, meaning the Phillies would draft a non-elite prospect, sign him cheap, and redirect the pool savings to other prospects. It's the "several very good prospects over one great prospect" approach.

I'll go with Puk over the rest of the field at this point because 6-foot-7 lefties who have thrown in the high-90s and have a bat-missing slider sure are hard to pass up. Puk has a 3.21 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Gators this spring. He missed some time with back spasms.

2. Reds: 3B Nick Senzel, Tennessee

The Reds are said to be in on Senzel big time, and I think the only way they don't take him at No. 2 is if Puk is still available. Senzel is solid in all phases of the game and he's one of the best pure hitters in the nation. This spring he's put up a .352/.456/.595 batting line with eight home runs, 40 walks, and 21 strikeouts in 57 games.

3. Braves: LHP Jason Groome, Barnegat HS (NJ)

This makes too much sense. The Braves have understandably cast a wide net for this pick, but they're in heavy on this rebuild, so much so that they're willing to take on other team's bad contracts to acquire extra draft picks. (They ate the $3 million or so left on Brian Matusz's contract to get the 76th pick from the Orioles a few weeks ago.) Groome is widely considered the best prospect in the draft class thanks to a big fastball and a nasty breaking ball. He's too good for the Braves to pass up.

4. Rockies: OF Mickey Moniak, La Costa Canyon HS (CA)

Moniak has upped his draft stock big time since the start of the spring and is now at least in the conversation for the top pick. The Rockies have had quite a bit of success developing position players -- it's not all Coors Field, folks -- over the years and they love not only loud tools, but baseball smarts. Moniak can hit, run, and defend, and he's a very instinctual player as well.

5. Brewers: OF Corey Ray, Louisville

Based on how I have the top four picks shaking out, the Brewers would have their pick of the top two college bats in the class in Ray and Kyle Lewis. They've been more heavily connected to Ray, the draft's top power-speed threat. He's hit .319/.396/.562 with 15 homers and 44 steals in 62 games this season.

6. Athletics: OF Kyle Lewis, Mercer

Thanks to Moneyball, the A's are seen as a team that prefers college players to high schoolers. That hasn't always been the case though. They did take Addison Russell and Billy McKinney out of high school with their first-round picks in 2012 and 2013, respectively. That said, Lewis is the best player still on the board and arguably the best hitter in the draft class, so he's the guy. Lewis hit .395/.535/.731 with 20 homers, 66 strikeouts, and 48 walks in 61 games this season.

7. Marlins: RHP Matt Manning, Sheldon HS (CA)

The Marlins know a thing or two about developing pitching, and Manning is exactly their kind of prospect. He's a outstanding athlete with mid-90s gas and a hard curveball that already looks like a big-league out pitch on its best days. They'll be in on all the top arms with this pick, and Manning is the best still on the board.

8. Padres: RHP Cal Quantrill, Stanford

San Diego is in a very unique and enviable position this draft. In addition to the eighth-overall pick, they also own the 24th- and 25th-overall picks. They picked up those supplemental first-rounders as compensation for losing Kennedy and Justin Upton to free agency. Those three picks give the Padres an opportunity to make a huge splash.

Quantrill, the son of former big-leaguer Paul Quantrill, was the very early favorite to go first overall in this draft, but that all changed when he blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery last spring. Quantrill has opted not to pitch for Stanford this spring, which was a curious move for a player in his draft year, leading to speculation he already has a pre-draft deal in place with some team. (Those technically aren't allowed, but they happen all the time.)

The Padres make the most sense for Quantrill if he has in fact cut a pre-draft deal. The Padres could sign him below the $3.63 million slot value, then redirect the draft pool savings to those 24th and 25th overall picks, netting them three top prospects. Tommy John surgery is definitely a risk, but Quantrill has been throwing for teams on the side, so it's not like no one has seem him on a mound since last spring.

9. Tigers: RHP Riley Pint, St. Thomas Aquinas HS (KS)

Dream scenario for the Tigers, who love their hard throwers. Pint is the hardest throwing starter in the draft class, with a fastball that routinely sits mid-90s and has topped 101 mph multiple times this spring. He's not a one-trick pony though. Pint also has a nasty breaking ball and a promising change. He is right up Detroit's alley.

10. White Sox: RHP Dakota Hudson, Mississippi State

The White Sox would love Ray, who grew up in Chicago, to fall into their laps with this pick, but I don't see that happening. Hudson would follow in the team's long line of quick moving college arms (Chris Sale and Carlos Rodon, most notably) as a four-pitch righty with good control. He had a 2.62 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 106 2/3 innings for Mississippi State this spring.

11. Mariners: RHP Justin Dunn, Boston College

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Justin Dunn has risen quickly in the predraft rankings. Getty Images

New GM Jerry Dipoto emphasized college players during his time with the Angels, and it stands to reason he will do so again in Seattle. Dunn is something of a "pop-up guy," meaning he's improved his stock in recent weeks and has jumped into the first-round picture. He's been a reliever for most of his college career, but he did get a chance to start this spring, at which point he took off. Dunn has a big fastball and a wide array of secondary pitches. He had a 1.49 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings this year.

12. Red Sox: LHP Braxton Garrett, Florence HS (AL)

The BoSox have undergone a front-office facelift over the last few months and they have a new scouting director, Mike Rikard. He's been in the department for a few years, so he's not an outside hire, but it's still impossible to know his preferences without seeing one of his drafts. Garrett has one of the best curveballs in the draft and is the best player on the board at the moment, and the Red Sox don't mess around. They usually take the best available talent.

13. Rays: SS Delvin Perez, International Baseball Academy (PR)

Perez is one of the most tooled-up players in the draft class and a no-doubt long-term shortstop. He's a long-term project because he's raw and needs work with his approach at the plate. Tampa has shown they are a patient team when it comes to player development -- they're perfectly fine with letting a player spend 4-5 years in the minors, if necessary -- making Perez a good fit for the Rays, and the Rays a good fit for Perez.

14. Indians: OF Blake Rutherford, Chaminade College Prep (CA)

The Indians have been one of the best drafting teams in baseball the last few years. They're smart with their pool money, willing to take risks -- they drafted Brady Aiken in the first round last year even though he had Tommy John surgery a few weeks prior -- and seemingly always able to balance college with high school, and high ceiling with high probability. Rutherford has big power and potential five-tool ability. He's the best player on the board at this point.

15. Twins: C Zack Collins, Miami

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Catcher Zack Collins may end up at another position in the majors. Getty Images

For the first time since 2011, the Twins are not pitching in the top 10. Bats are at a premium in this draft and Collins is the best one left on the board. He's one of the best all-around hitters in the country -- Collins hit .358/.534/.631 with 13 homers, 69 walks, and 48 strikeouts in 57 games this spring -- so while he might not catch long-term, Minnesota will worry about his long-term position later. They're buying the bat.

16. Angels: OF Alex Kirilloff, Plum HS (PA)

Whomever the Angels take with this pick will instantly become their top prospect. Their farm system is by far the worst in baseball. It would be easy to assume they will opt for a quick-moving college player because their system is so thin, but I don't think that's the case. I think new GM Billy Eppler will push for the best talent possible. Kirilloff has big upside thanks to his huge raw power, and he's the best bat on the board at this point.

17. Astros: RHP Forrest Whitley, Alamo Heights HS (TX)

We have yet to see how the Jeff Luhnow regime will draft without a high pick. This is the first time they're picking outside the top two since Luhnow took over as GM four-and-a-half years ago. Whitley is a somewhat local kid from San Antonio, but, more importantly, he's the top player still available. The Astros have spent the last few years cutting deals early and spreading the bonus pool savings around late. That's not really an option with the 17th pick.

18. Yankees: RHP Kevin Gowdy, Santa Barbara HS (CA)

Damon Oppenheimer is one of the longest-tenured scouting directors in baseball and he has a known affinity for Southern California players, as evidenced by his first first-round pick with the Yankees (USC's Ian Kennedy) and most recent first-round pick (UCLA's James Kaprielian). Matching players with teams is very tough at this point of the draft, so when in doubt, give the Yankees the best SoCal kid on the board. That's Gowdy, a polished prep arm with three pitches.

19. Mets: 3B Will Craig, Wake Forest

New York's interest in Craig is one of the worst-kept secrets this draft season. They're going college bat here unless all hell breaks lose in the first 18 picks. Craig is not the next quick riser like Michael Conforto, but he is the best college hitter on the board at this point. He hit .392/.537/.766 with 16 homers, 47 walks, and 33 steals this spring.

20. Dodgers: RHP Jordan Sheffield, Vanderbilt

The first draft of the Andrew Friedman regime did not go well last year. Their first pick (Walker Buehler) needed Tommy John surgery immediately and their second pick (Kyle Funkhouser) opted to return to school for his senior season. That's not going to deter them from picking another college starter though. Sheffield has some of the nastiest stuff in the draft class, and if not for the historic bias against short-ish righties, he might go in the top 10. (Sheffield is listed at 6-foot.) Gary's nephew has a 3.01 ERA with 113 strikeouts in 101 2/3 inning for Vandy this spring.

21. Blue Jays: RHP Ian Anderson, Shenendehowa HS (NY)

The Blue Jays are another team with a new front office, so it's tough to gauge their draft preferences. When in doubt, go with the best player on the board, and that's Anderson. He was a potential top-10 pick before missing a few weeks with an oblique injury this spring. Scouts simply didn't get many looks at him between the injury and the short Northeast season. Anderson sits in the low-90s with his heater and has both a curveball and a changeup.

22. Pirates: RHP T.J. Zeuch, Pittsburgh

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At 6-foot-7, T.J. Zeuch has a dominating presence. Getty Images

There's much more to this than the local connection (Zeuch is from the Cincinnati suburbs anyway). Zeuch is a monster on the mound at 6-foot-7 and his mechanics are surprisingly smooth for a player that size. He's got mid-90s gas, two breaking balls, and a work-in-progress changeup. Simply put, Zeuch offers the most upside of all the college starters still on the board. He has a 3.10 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings this spring.

23. Cardinals: RHP Cody Sedlock, Illinois

The Cardinals are another team with extra picks after losing Lackey and Jason Heyward to free agency, holding the 23rd, 33rd, and 34th picks. Sedlock is the perfect St. Louis pick: He's polished, he has a deep arsenal, he's been healthy, and he figures to climb the minor-league ladder quickly. Sedlock had a 2.49 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 101 1/3 innings this season.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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