One of the better developments in baseball nerdery over the last year is that Chris Crawford is now leading the prospect coverage at Baseball Prospectus. He's prospect-smart, funny, and made one of the more self-aware mock drafts I've ever read. He graciously agreed to answer some questions (from Roger, of course) about the upcoming 2015 draft for us.
McCovey Chronicles: One of the strengths of this draft looks to be HS OF, but I've heard that some teams are leery of that profile at the top of the draft. What is it about HS OF that is off putting for some teams? And is this group one that will cut through those biases (like say the great 2005 group of HS OF) or is it just the best of a weak draft class?
Chris Crawford: I think it's more just the risk of a high school bat period, and then with this year there's the added risk that some of these guys aren't going to be playing centerfield -- so it puts extra pressure on the bat.
As for whether or not this is a great high school outfield class, I don't think so. I think this is just a bad draft class, and if teams want to go high upside, that's what's out there. It's unfortunate, but what are you gonna do?
McC: Speaking of HS OF, this a profile that the Giants have almost entirely stayed away from in the 20+ years that Brian Sabean has been overseeing the org. Do you think avoiding HS hitters is more or less an organizational philosophy with the Giants, or just more or less the way things work out? Other than just personnel, is there a reason why an organization develops certain development strengths and weakness, or absences, over time?
Crawford: It's probably a little bit of both, but I think you have to lean towards the former when you consider just how much the Giants have ignored prep outfielders early and often. It makes some sense because it's such a volatile position, though I do think ignoring a certain group of players is a bit foolish. It's not unheard of though, there are teams that won't touch prep pitchers early, teams that lean extremely pitcher-heavy, etc, etc. I think it's just a case of what a team is comfortable doing, and clearly the Giants aren't comfortable taking prep bats -- particularly outfielders -- in the early rounds.
McC: It would figure that the Giants would be looking to add to their SP depth. What strong-armed HS guys should we keep an eye out for that the Giants might be on (1st round or later)? How would you compare/separate the group of Nikorak, Everett, Russell, and Allard?
Crawford: The best of these arms is Allard, a left-hander who has height issues and also missed a large portion of the year with a back injury, but has also shown three plus pitches with above-average command. if he's still there, the Giants should be thrilled. Nikorak isn't far behind with a fastball that will touch 97 with a plus curve and an above-average change, though consistency has not been the right-hander's friend.
Russell and Everett would both be reaches for me; Russell has two plus plus pitches and throws strikes, but his delivery screams reliever to me, and despite having a plus-plus fastball Everett doesn't have the secondary stuff I'd be looking for in a first-round pick.
McC: It seems like Justin Hooper has done a free fall down boards this spring, but he's still a giant lefty throwing super hard. Does he represent one of the bigger risk/rewards of guys who fall past the 1st round?
Crawford: I'd say that's accurate, and I'd say the reward doesn't outweigh the risk -- at least in the first round. He gets downhill plane with a fastball that sits in the low 90s but has touched 96, and there's projection left, and both his curve and change are average offerings, with the curve flashing above-that. Like Russell, I'm not a fan of the delivery though, and command is a big issue with the left-hander. He's also put out a pretty big number, so you're going to have to go well overslot. I wouldn't do it, but that's just me.
McC: If the Giants draft Brady Aiken should we be celebrating?
Crawford: Yes. But no. But yes. There's a ton of risk with Aiken -- for reasons that have been documented to death -- but he's also the most talented player in the class; a left-hander with three plus pitches and his feel for pitching is at the top of the charts. You'll have to do your (obvious) due diligence with the medicals, but getting a guy who if healthy would be a lock for the top three at 18 would be a major coup.
McC: Two guys who I'm finding myself oddly attracted to are Demi Orimoloye and Antonio Santillan. What are your impressions of these two and where do you see them going off the board?
Crawford: Orimoloye is one of the more talented prep outfielders in the class, a right-handed hitter who flashes three plus tools in his power, speed, and arm. He also is extremely raw, and there are always concerns about guys who come from Canada -- particularly those who have as little baseball experience as he does. Ultimately though, someone will fall in love with the tools and take him before the end of the second round.
Santillan was a late riser this year; and while I certainly understand the appeal, I think there's an awful lot of work to be done if he's going to be a big league pitcher. The fastball is plus-plus (though there's no projection left) and the curveball is another out pitch, but the delivery is unrepeatable, and there's no third pitch. Again, someone will see the fastball and curve and snap him up early, but if it's before the third round I think it's a mistake.
McC: And speaking of the Cape, Ian Happ and Blake Trahan's CCL success makes both seem like pretty logical picks for the Giants in this draft. Do you think Happ's available at 18 and Trahan potentially in the 3rd round?
Crawford: Happ SHOULDN'T be available at 18, but it's looking like there's a non-zero chance he makes it there. He has the best hit tool in the class to me, and there's at least solid-average power potential there, too. The question is where he plays defensively, but even if he does end up in left field, the bat should play.
Trahan won't make it to the third round, there are rumors that the Giants like him with their compensation pick at 31 actually, and it makes some sense, though I do think it'd be a slight reach. He's a plus-plus runner who should be a quality defender at short, and there's a chance the hit tool gets to average.
Thanks to Chris for answering these questions. Now go subscribe to Baseball Prospectus, dummy.