We're just over a month from the draft, so let's take care of some housekeeping before we get to this week's Stock Watch. The order of the first 60 picks, which is the entire first round and the 27 compensation selections that follow, can be found here. Each of these picks will take place on Day 1. There will be five minutes between each first-round pick and one minute between picks thereafter. This doesn't give clubs a lot of time to think about their compensation choices, meaning draft meetings -- which starts with tons of data from all areas and ends with a final draft board -- are among the most critical aspects of an organizations operations between now and June 6.
The biggest question the past two years has been about which player would go No. 2 since the Washington Nationals were widely expected to select Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper with the top overall pick. This time around, there is some question at the top of the first round.
Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon and UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole remain the top two prospects but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll go 1-1 and 1-2.
Other names in the conversation include Virginia southpaw Danny Hultzen, Cole's teammate and fellow right-hander Trevor Bauer, and perhaps Gardner-Edgerton star centerfielder Bubba Starling. But this is a draft class full of potential impact talent, so we won't fixate on the top few picks in this week's look at the stock market.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
Jungmann hasn't done anything differently on the field the past few weeks than he's been doing all season, but a couple of scouts are becoming more and more convinced that the right-hander "is what he is" rather than a good arm with messy mechanics. Part of that confidence comes from the adjustments Jungmann has made in the delivery, starting with much less of a head whip and a more balanced plant leg.
"That front leg is what causes him to throw cross-body like that," said one scout. "But it's better now than it was in his first couple of starts. He's made a real effort to clean things up."
The stuff and performance continue to impress, though his command and consistency might be his two best attributes as he lacks the big-time stuff of Sonny Gray or Gerrit Cole. Jungmann may fit well in the top 10-15 picks, perhaps as high as No. 6 to Washington, No. 7 to Arizona or to the Chicago Cubs at No. 9.
Josh Osich, LHP, Oregon State
As we talked about Monday, Osich was terrific Saturday at UCLA, throwing a no-hitter and walking just one batter to go with 13 punch outs. His stuff has been upgraded since the last time I checked in with an AL scouting director, too. On March 22, the SD said "right now he looks like a good bet to sit in the middle of the rotation. You know, kind of like the way Randy Wolf always has." But Monday night via email, the same SD had this to say: "He's come a long way and now has to be taken seriously as a frontline type. He throws a lot of strikes now, and really believes in the changeup."
Osich still comes with risk, however. He had Tommy John surgery and missed last season and has a very short track record of performance. I mentioned Monday that he's a senior, but that's only partially the case, as he does have a year of athletic eligibility remaining due to the medical redshirt. But there's little chance he doesn't sign if he's selected on Day 1 and offered seven figures, and that's looking more and more likely.
Tommy La Stella, 2B, Coastal Carolina
La Stella, a St. John's transfer and fourth-year junior, is not likely to crack the top 60, and may not have a chance at the top 100, which makes him a third-round pick at best. But he's putting up terrific numbers as a left-handed hitting second sacker and has a polished approach at the plate to back up the statistics.
After another strong weekend, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound La Stella is hitting .399/.487/.687 with 24 extra-base hits, including 10 long balls. He's struck out just 14 times and drawn 25 walks. He's not a burner on the bases but runs well and handles the bat like a player who could handle hitting leadoff or in the No. 2 spot.
Jason Esposito, 3B, Vanderbilt
Simply put, Esposito has performed much better of late, getting his numbers back to respectability -- .357/.436/.548 with 15 doubles. He can play third base and shows athleticism for the position. He went 8-for-15 last weekend and been very good against SEC opponents as a whole.
He may have a tough time breaking through to the first round but a solid finish could keep him among the Day 1 picks. More power and a cleaner swing -- both unlikely at this late stage -- could break down the first-round wall.
Ryan Carpenter, LHP, Gonzaga
Carpenter has toiled two consecutive shutouts, yielding four hits and striking out 20 batters. Granted, these are coming against WCC foes, but the efficiency and domination mean something. Carpenter is still sitting 89-92 mph, however, but with a more consistent breaking ball than in March.
Clubs may see the value in Carpenter's physicality, as the 6-foot-5, 225-pound southpaw offers durability and a sound delivery that could help produce a better fastball. He reminds me a little bit of former Kentucky left-hander James Paxton, whose fastball ticked up into the mid-90s during his junior year, which changed his overall outlook. Carpenter's arm action is even somewhat similar to that of Paxton, which isn't exactly a good thing, but there could be more arm strength there, as there was with Paxton in the spring of 2009.
James McCann, C, Arkansas
McCann made a big leap forward in March but has given back some of that with his struggles at the plate of late. He'll need to show consistency and as much pop as he possibly can to give himself a shot at a first-day selection.
McCann will be aided by the lack of college catchers in the class, but the bat was the main question when the season began and now those concerns are spiking a bit.
Matt Barnes, RHP, Connecticut
Barnes still shows the raw stuff of a top-10 pick, but despite a 1.41 ERA and just 46 hits allowed in 83 frames, the right-hander has not strung together the kind of starts that firm up one's draft stock, especially in a class with so many college starters expected to be taken off the board in the first round.
Keith Law wrote last week in the Future 50 that Barnes' third pitch, a changeup, has not shown well and an area scout opined this week that he "doesn't show confidence in the pitch." Barnes is an easy first-round talent, but he could go anywhere from No. 6 to No. 26, in Matt Harvey-like fashion.
Mikie Mahtook, CF, LSU
Mahtook's home run surge has cooled quite a bit but it seems clubs are convinced he plays center in pro ball, removing some pressure off the power tool. He did homer over the weekend, though, and is still displaying a great understanding of the strike zone.
Mahtook could be the second college bat taken off the board if a team believes he will handle pro pitching well enough to develop quickly and return the club's investment within two years. Arizona at No. 7 is a thought, but I have no word that club is specifically connected to the player in this instance.
Levi Michael, SS, North Carolina
Michael is another possibility for Arizona with that unprotected pick, and their current big-league shortstop is a comparable thrown out there by an area scout, with one caveat. Stephen Drew came out of Florida State with a reputation as a bat that may have to move to second base or center field. Michael draws similar reviews, but "if anything he won't hit for the same kind of power," the scout said. Drew generally lands in the .450 to .500 range in terms of slugging percentage and has averaged 15 long balls over the past four seasons.
But Michael might have a better ability to hit for average and get on base than Drew at the same age, thanks to his ability to make consistent contact while continuing to work the count. Michael's ultimate defensive position is still not settled, but he'll likely start his pro career at shortstop.