I was lucky to be able to ask a few questions about the draft and strategies the Yankees might be able to use. Here’s some info about Nick.
Nick J. Faleris has covered the draft since 2007, including as an associate scout for a national league organization and, most recently, as lead draft analysts for Baseball Prospectus in 2013 and 2014, and as contributing draft analyst for Perfect Game USA in 2015. He is a practicing attorney and member of the sports industry team at Foley & Lardner LLP.
This draft has been called poor or subpar compared to recent draft classes where do you stand on the draft class as a whole?
I don’t think the class itself is sub-par. Injuries have thinned out the top some, and there are fewer easy choices for teams picking in the top ten, but there is a lot of depth and I think a class composition like we have in 2015 is going to work out really well for most clubs. It’s a very challenging class to “rank”, and because the second/third tier of talent is close, and also plateaus much longer than we’ve seen in recent years, there is much less incentive for teams to share strong feelings about the players they like as supp round/2nd/3rd/4th rounders. So, I think writers
have been led by the nose some in calling this a dramatically down year. I don’t personally believe that to be the case, and think within the four walls of a draft room you’d hear a different tune from many of the decision-makers in the various scouting departments.
It’s an ideal class for someone like the Braves, who could find seven legitimate seven-figure players through their 4th round pick at 120 overall.
There seems to be more high draft prospects injured guys than normal this year with Matuella, Aiken and Allard all being top guys in the class but
got hurt. Where do you think each of them falls?
And that’s not even mentioning Nathan Kirby, Kep Brown, Chris Betts, etc.! My valuation for those players isn’t quite final, but i am getting close.
Matuella I currently have fluctuating between $1MM and $1.25MM, which on the low end is in line with my valuation on Michael Cederoth (San Diego State starter/closer selected by Minnesota in 2014) and on the high end is a little below my valuation for Erick Fedde (the UNLV righty who was also a TJ surgery recipient and was selected by Washington in 2014). That would put Matuella as a early- to mid-second rounder, which I think fits given his very limited track record and other injury issues prior to 2015. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came off the board earlier, but not before theback of the 1st round.
Allard is a little trickier since backs, when they go wrong, can derail a career quickly. He was one of my favorite arms from the summer and a truly elite talent, however, and we do have a good feel for what healthy Allard looks like and what he will look like as he continues to develop. I currently have him at a $2.2MM to 2.75MM valuation, which is Michael Kopech/Sean Reid-Foley using 2014 valuation comps. I could see a team grabbing him in the top 10, but think he fits a little better in the middle-third of the first round. I will say that there are enough starter/reliever questions about the higher-upside college arms that I might overpay the $2.75MM valuation on Allard given the strong likelihood a healthy Allard is an impact starter.
Aiken is the wildcard. If a team is comfortable with the medicals he’s Jeff Hoffman — easy $3.5MM valuation. If teams shy away from the medicals I think the floor for me is a $1.75MM valuation (which is what I hung on Kodi Medeiros last year), and if I’m a team like Arizona or Colorado with a big chunk of change to spend after my first pick, I would overpay that $1.75 a little. Best guess is Aiken gets $2.5MM+ in the first 40 picks.
Chris Crawford at where you write had a post that he thought the Yankees should go after pitching as their farm system is lacking in that area. What players would you think they could target with the 16th and 30th picks?
I disagree with using either of the first picks as need-fillers, simply because (as mentioned above) there is enough depth for you to turn to systemic need in the second, third, and even fourth rounds. I can’t tell you specific players because the talent cluster is thick and deep, but here are general thoughts.
If Happ is still on the board that’s the college bat I’d go after at 16. One of the potential impact HS outfielders (Clark/Tucker/Whitley/Cameron) could/should be available, and I’d be comfortable popping any of them at 16, with asking price considerations included. I don’t know that I’d commit myself to a bat at 16, since there will likely be a LOT of good college options available at pick 30 — some combination of Newman/Kingery/Martin/Dewees/Shaw/Trahan/White/Stewart/etc., and I like Bickford/Harris/Ponce/Funkhouser/Kirby as really interesting options that I most likely won’t get a shot at by the end of the 1st. There are a lot of HS arms that could be available and worth considering, including but not limited to Russell/Nikorak/Chalmers/Everett/Hooper/Finley/Hillman/etc.
I think Happ is gone, in which case I say at 16 you grab one of the college arms I mentioned (or if Allard slips, jump on him) and at 30 you either make a run at Aiken or grab a college bat. Teams like the Yankees should be looking to lock in college kids with less leverage and then get aggressive with the HS kids that are inevitably going to drop because of the depth and the money available to teams.
What strengths do you think this class has?
I already touched on it, but depth is the standout characteristic. I see the strengths being righty college/HS arms, college/HS up-the-middle talent, and current/future college relief arms. Biggest weakness is college/HS catching, corner power, and lefty college/HS arms.
Where do you stand on a medical combine for the top 200 picks in the draft class?
I think it’s a good idea, but you could probably solve the issue without getting that complicated. Just set up (or utilize the current) exchange/database where teams could post what they want to see and players could, if they so choose, upload. If players want to withhold medicals until after the draft allow them to continue to do so, but full well knowing that other players being considered could be more forthcoming, and therefor more likely to come off the board first.
There’s an argument that this is just giving teams more ammo to bring down prices, but it isn’t like kids aren’t having medicals checked out before they sign already. It just comes AFTER teams have already spent a pick on a player. I think most will decide it’s in everyone’s best interest that surprises don’t pop up while you are trying to sign a deal.
Do you see teams with higher bonuses leveraging their money this year more than ever with a draft class like this?
I posted on twitter a week or two ago that the big “leverage point” forthis class is the ability of HOU/ARI/COL to offer a truly elite talent $4MM+ later on. If a player were to play hardball similar to what Bregman did in 2012 (but stating they are not signing unless picked in the top 5, rather than first round), and teams believe the player, HOU/ARI/COL could all be in a position to grab a top ten talent in the late-first to second round. For Houston, they could end-up with three of the top ten talents in the draft class, though they obviously are not in play for Aiken.
I can’t speak as to what specific organizations plan to do, but based on the structure of the class I would think we see a lot of overslot HS signings across all the organizations, and teams over-drafting some of the college talent in the early rounds 1) for more cost certainty and 2) because there is almost certainly going to be HS talent worth spending that savings on in the 2nd-5th rounds.
Thanks again for Nick taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview. You can check out Nick’s work at www.baseballprospectus.com and follow him for draft content with his twitter handle of @nickjfaleris .