Baseball's 2017 First-Year Player Draft, in which some of the best college and high school talents around will be selected by major-league organizations, is scheduled for June 12-14. To set the scene for all of that, CBS Sports recently chatted with draft expert Chris Crawford.
Needless to say, this time of year is an ideal one to give Crawford a follow on Twitter (@Crawford_MILB) or check out his contributions to HeroSports.com. Now let's check out what he has to say about the draft:
CBSSports: So how's the overall strength of this draft class?
Christopher Crawford: This is a weird class. And by weird, I probably mean not great. I'd say the overall strength is the prep pitching: there's some very good arms at the top and the quantity isn't terrible. There's also some fine college bats, but it doesn't quite match up with the high school arms.
CBS: On that front, do you agree with the general consensus that prep arms are the riskiest draft "demographic?"
C.C.: Without question. There's so much that can go wrong, and only so much that can go right. Now, when you hit on these selections it's obviously fantastic, but there's something about missing on a prep arm that really hurts.
CBS: So if you're the Twins, whom are you taking with the No. 1 overall pick?
C.C.: I'm taking Hunter Greene [RHP/SS Notre Dame HS, California]. He's the best player in the class, and I really don't think it's all that close. He can touch triple digits, his breaking ball is plus and I've seen changes that have made hitters look stupid. No prep right-hander has ever been taken first. This could -- and should -- be the year.
CBS: Speaking of Greene, I've seen some say he'd be a top-10 pick as a shortstop. True or a little exaggeration there?
C.C.: Really hard to say, but it's possible. He's a strong defender and he has above-average raw power. Some questions about the hit tool, but power-hitting shortstops don't stick around too long.
CBS: Do you think the Twins go Greene or look elsewhere, as recently rumored?
C.C.: I think it's entirely possible. But I think ultimately they take one of two college arms: Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright or Louisville's Brendan McKay.
CBS: In your mind, why would they pass on the consensus best talent available?
C.C.: Because history. The risk of taking a prep talent is tough, when it's a pitcher that will need several years of development? That's a tough sell for ownership and the front office.
CBS: So when in the first round do you see the first significant talent drop-off in terms of your board?
C.C.: Immediately after [Round] 1 is a big, big drop. There's another large drop after Wright and McKay. From there things get pretty even for 10-12 selections, which I suppose is positive and negative.
CBS: So Greene is first on your board. Who goes two through five if you're at the wheel?
C.C.: If I'm the Reds, I'm taking Wright. He's had consistency issues, but he'll show three strong pitches and pretty good command. At three I'm taking Mackenzie Gore [Whiteville HS, North Carolina], a prep southpaw with projection and quality stuff. Next up is McKay, and while he has a high floor as a pitcher, I'm letting him hit. I'd round things out with Jeren Kendall [Vanderbilt], an outfielder who strikes out too much, but makes hard contact, steals bases and can go get it in center.
CBS: Got a sleeper for me? As in, a guy who doesn't figure to go in the first round but whom you like to exceed expectations?
C.C.: He might go in the back of the first, but I still think Brendon Little [State College of Florida] is very underrated. He will show a double-plus fastball, and a plus curve. That and being left-handed gives him a great chance to succeed.
CBS: Is there a particular team/scouting department that you're interested to see how they approach the draft this year?
C.C.: I'd say San Diego, but only if Greene is off the board. If he is, I'm very curious what direction they'll go in, if only because they're so very far away from competing. It may not make sense to go high floor if that's the case, but that's the most logical players if Greene is gone. Could be interesting.
CBS: OK, lightning round ... likely first-round guy who you think is a bit overrated?
C.C.: Alex Lange [RHP, LSU]. Two plus pitches, but struggles to repeat the delivery and looks like a long-term reliever to me.
CBS: If you had to assign a letter grade this year's draft class, it would be ...
C.C.: C. It passes, but not really.
CBS: Swing back to 2016. A year out and knowing what we know now, do the Phillies still take Mickey Moniak No. 1 overall?
C.C.: It's a great question. I thought it was a poor pick at the time, with respect to Moniak. I'd say probably not, but the Phillies do really like his skill set.
CBS: Now jumping ahead to 2018. How is that class looking a year out?
C.C.: On paper, it's better. A lot of times on paper it's better because we haven't gone as in-depth with each player, but in this case, I think it's better because there's better college pitching and a little more offensive firepower. Don't be surprised when we do this next year and I'm saying the same thing I did about 2017.
CBS: Is there a particular scouting department this year who really has something to prove in your mind?
C.C.: I would say the Angels. This is the highest pick they've had in a while, and there's really no excuse to not get an impact player in the system now. Much of the poor drafts were under Jerry Dipoto and Bill Stoneman, but last year's class didn't exactly inspire. This is a pretty important class for them.
CBS: The Cardinals, of course, aren't picking until No. 94 because of those picks forfeited as a result of the Astros hacking scandal. Who's an interesting name or two that might be around when St. Louis is finally on the clock?
C.C.: The issue for the Cardinals is that they not only don't pick until 94, they have only $2.176 million to spend on their selections in the first 10 rounds. They probably look college arm or bat, like Old Dominion's Zach Rutherford or Utah's Riley Otteson.
CBS: Last question. Say you're granted plenary powers over the draft for 15 minutes or so. What two changes do you implement?
C.C.: Let's assume I can't get rid of the draft. I make picks tradable, because there's zero reason to not, and I get rid of the compensation system, because it's silly to punish teams for trying to get better.
Our thanks to Chris Crawford for taking time to answer our questions. Remember to give him a follow on Twitter.