While it’s basically impossible to accurately assess these draft classes until years later, it’s still possible to look at who came away with the most talent at the best value. Here are the five teams I think did the most with their 2019 draft classes:
When you have the largest bonus pool in draft history, it’s a little difficult to have a draft class that the pundits wouldn’t approve of. The Diamondbacks had seven of the first 75 picks, eight inside the top one hundred picks, and fifteen picks overall on days one and two of the draft. In simpler terms: they got a lot of good players. As many expected, the D-Backs loaded up on prep players, doing so with their first three picks. If they all sign, first rounders Corbin Carroll, Blake Walston, and Brennan Malone will give Arizona a trio of high upside players to develop, in what is an already improving farm system from years’ past. They also grabbed college starters Drey Jameson (1st) and Tommy Henry (2nd), who should move quickly. Jameson has an electric arm, and was one of my favorite college pitchers in the draft. They also took a couple of unproven college arms in Ryne Nelson (2nd) and Conor Grammes (5th), both of whom are converted position players who can already nearly reach to triple digits. They’re more of developmental projects than usual college pitchers, but the rewards could be high. Tristin English (3rd), Spencer Brickhouse (7th), and Dominic Canzone (8th) don’t offer premium value defensively but can hit, and Dominic Fletcher might end up being the best position player from this class. There’s also Glenallen Hill Jr, their toolsy fourth rounder who gives them another prep prospect to develop. I liked their pick of Nick Snyder to open up day three, and they’ll add another talented prep guy if they can get 12th rounder Avery Short signed. The same applies to 24th rounder Dylan Eskew and 31st rounder Jerrion Ealy, but those two are far more likely to end up at school.
With this many picks, the D-Backs needed to do a couple things. Firstly, they needed to take some shots on the upside talent that their financial advantages enabled them to do, and that other teams could not. Secondly, and most importantly, they needed to get guys who will be impact players from this draft. Many have drawn parallels between Arizona’s line of picks and Tampa Bay’s class from 2011, when the Rays had eleven of the first 89 picks. Only four of those players have reached the big leagues, and the only one who has provided the Rays with any real value is Blake Snell. While finding and developing a future Cy Young Award winner with the 52nd overall pick is an impressive feat, it doesn’t entirely make up for the other misses in that draft. The Diamondbacks will likely never have an opportunity like this one again, and we probably won’t see another MLB team with a similar set up for a few years, at least. Arizona not only had to keep their own first and second rounders, which sat at 16th in each round, but also not sign their first rounder in 2018, offer two of their free agents qualifying offers and then watch them sign with other teams, receive a competitive balance selection, and then promptly trade for another one. Having that many picks doesn’t come easy, and it would be difficult to do so even by design (and besides, many teams who expect to lose their qualifying free agents and aren’t contending would rather trade them for prospects than collect a draft pick).
The Diamondbacks had many early picks and drafted many talented players. Time will tell if they used their historic advantages wisely.
The Rays did not have Arizona’s degree of advantage, but they did have three picks in the top 40 selections, which was more than anyone else besides the Diamondbacks. They started off by grabbing speedster Greg Jones, a draft eligible sophomore. While Jones may play shortstop now, it’s easy to see the Rays making use of his positional versatility and trying him at second base or center field. He’s got Billy Hamilton-esque game changing speed, but he unlike Hamilton, he provides legit value at the plate as well. I really liked their next two picks as well, prep righty JJ Goss and Campbell righty Seth Johnson. Goss was apart of a fantastic group of Texas prep pitchers, and he pitched his way up into first round consideration this spring with his strong performance. Campbell is a converted position player who hasn’t pitched much, so he’s really raw, but the projectability is there, and the early returns have been good, and I’m really excited to see how the Rays develop him. John Doxakis (2nd) is an extremely Rays pick, as a lefty with fringy velocity but excellent deception and pitchability. Graeme Stinson (4th) is makes for a good reclamation project, and fellow lefty Ben Brecht (5th) uses his 6’7” frame to make his average velocity play up consistently. I also liked their 21st rounder Andrew Peters, a JuCo RHP committed to South Carolina, and 32nd rounder Kody Huff, a shortstop committed to Stanford. I imagine both would be tough signs, but they would add more talent to an already talent-filled draft class.
The Reds sought after upside in this draft, and they got what they sought. After taking arguably the top pitcher in the class in Nick Lodolo with the seventh overall pick, the Reds took prep hitters Rece Hinds (3nd) and Tyler Callihan (3rd) with their next two picks, and then followed that with JuCo middle infielder Ivan Johnson with the next. Lodolo might not be anointed with the future ace label that many top-of-the-class pitchers are, but he’s extremely projectable and has a long track record, as the Pirates took him 41st overall in 2016. He’s got the potential for three plus pitches and the frame to hold up as a starter. Hinds and Callihan both bring some of the biggest power among prep hitters, and both were announced as shortstops though have little chance to remain there as they climb the minor league ladder. Getting Johnson in the fourth round was good value, and I like his potential as an offensively minded middle infielder, even if he’s a second baseman. I also like their selection of RHP Graham Ashcraft in the 6th, and can say the same about catcher Eric Yang in the 7th. Ashcraft has dealt with injury problems over the years but has fantastic stuff, and Yang got rave reviews for his makeup as a catcher. Twelfth rounder Yan Contreras offers them another projectable prep bat if they can get him signed.
The Royals did have the advantage of picking second in each round, significantly higher than all the other teams on this list, but they put it to good use. Nabbing Bobby Witt Jr. with the second overall pick seemed like an obvious choice, but he adds a potential five tool shortstop and immediate top one hundred prospect to their system. I liked their selections of college middle infielders Brady McConnell (2nd) and Michael Massey (4th) as well, both of whom offer a high floor as well as a little upside; more so for McConnell, who had a stellar season this year at Florida, and may finally be growing into his power. Competitive Balance pick Alec Marsh and third rounder Grant Gambrell add two more steady college arms to the staple they took last year on days one and two, and suddenly, Kansas City has the makings of a potentially promising future rotation. The toolsy John Rave (5th) and the gigantic Noah Murdock (7th) were two of my favorite mid-day-two selections. Murdock gets incredible downhill plane from his 6’8” frame and there’s even a chance his stuff ticks back up a bit as he moves further away from his Tommy John surgery. On day three, I most liked their selection of junior college outfielder Burle Dixon (18th), who is very raw but is a physical marvel, and will be a nice development project if they get him signed.
Alas, as many will cry homerism in response to my placement of the Dodgers on this list, but they did in fact have a very solid draft class, despite not picking until pick 25. Grabbing Kody Hoese and Michael Busch with their two picks at the end of the first round gave them two of the best college hitters in the class, and both at a solid value. The Dodgers have done a solid job developing hitters in the past few years, and Hoese and Busch are arguably the most advanced amateur hitters to enter the organization in the last five years. Jimmy Lewis was also a solid value at pick 78, and if they can get him signed, which they should, he’ll add another high ceiling prep arm to their system. Lewis had some serious helium this year, and he fits right in with what the Dodgers do developmentally. Ryan Pepiot has one of the best changeups in the class, and the Dodgers did well nabbing him at the end of the third round. Fourth rounder Brandon Lewis, not dissimilar to Hoese, jumped onto the radar this year with some major power, and is one of the more intriguing stories in the draft. He was nearly 300 pounds after high school, but is now down all the way to 215, and has also worked with Doug Latta, the famous “Swing Whisperer” who’s worked with Justin Turner, Mookie Betts, and others, and is one of the figures behind the fly ball revolution. Jack Little (5th) and Aaron Ochsenbein (6th) give them two accomplished college relievers who should move quickly, provided they stay in the bullpen. Eleventh rounder Logan Boyer could be a steal if he stays healthy, and the Dodgers might even have some money to sign prep hitters Trey LaFleur (21st) or Brennan Milone (28th), both of whom were taken on day three, though it shouldn’t be expected.