This year’s Major League Baseball draft doesn’t feature a generational talent at the top, nor does it have the depth of a class like 2011, but that does add to the drama, because anything can happen starting with the first pick. 

Arizona owns the No. 1 overall pick for the first time since 2005. That year produced Justin Upton, who turned out to be a very good big leaguer in his time with the Diamondbacks, before being traded to Atlanta and subsequently San Diego. 

This is also an unusual draft because injuries have changed the first-round landscape. Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella, two of the top arms coming into 2015, both underwent Tommy John surgery earlier in the year, leaving them with an uncertain status as teams begin to seek out their medical information. 

As the calendar inches toward the start of the draft on June 8, the picture will hopefully come into focus for teams. Here’s a projection of how things look for the first round with less than one week to go. 


Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt (Projected No. 1 to Arizona)

Playing at Vanderbilt is a great way to gain national attention, as the Commodores are always one of the best teams in the country. Dansby Swanson would have been on the radar wherever he played because of his ability to handle shortstop and hit for average with developing power. 

The power display from Swanson during the SEC tournament, which Baseball America‘s JJ Cooper pointed out, could not have come at a better time:

All eyes are on the SEC during tournament play, so Swanson certainly had to captivate scouts and team executives with his power display. He’s not going to have a lot of power at the MLB level with a skinny, 190-pound frame, but there’s enough in his hit tool to project a lot of doubles with 10-12 homers. 

For the Diamondbacks, who are enduring a rough transition period with a new front office in place, they need to add a player with this top pick who has a good ceiling with a high rate of probability. 

David Rawnsley of Sports Illustrated had Swanson going No. 1 overall in his mock draft, noting the Vanderbilt star’s “combination of middle infield defensive tools, strong offensive skills (.350/.438/.654 this season) and overall polish make him a strong possibility to be first off the board.”

Swanson doesn’t have the highest ceiling of any player in the 2015 draft, but if a team is in need of a middle infielder who can do a little bit of everything and move quickly through the minors, he’s the safest bet in this class.


Brendan Rodgers, SS, Lake Mary HS (Projected No. 5 to Houston)

In a year without a sure-fire top pick, Brendan Rodgers is generating the most buzz as the best pure talent in 2015. He’s not without flaws, yet it’s hard to find a true shortstop in high school who projects to hit for average and power. has Rodgers ranked No. 1 on its list of top 100 draft prospects, noting he has one similar trait with 2012’s top pick Carlos Correa:

Rodgers is bidding to become the first high school shortstop to go No. 1 overall in the Draft since the Astros selected Carlos Correa in 2012. That’s fitting, because he drives the ball with more consistency than any prep shortstop since Correa.

A Florida State recruit, Rodgers has gotten considerably stronger in the last year and he generates power with an easy, compact stroke. He doesn’t have to muscle up to hit home runs, and his bat speed and all-fields approach bode well for his ability to hit for average as a pro.

It should be stated that didn’t say Rodgers is the pure hitter that Correa was coming out of high school; otherwise he would be regarded as the sure-fire top pick in this draft. He’s got good hand-eye coordination and a solid approach to become a strong hitter. 

One knock against Rodgers is he’s older than a typical high school senior, turning 19 in August. For comparison, other top high school prospects like Daz Cameron and Kyle Tucker won’t turn 19 until January.

The five-month age difference is not a detriment to Rodgers’ overall value, because shortstops are always in demand, though it does put him slightly behind the development curve compared to those other players likely to be taken high in the first round. 


Mike Matuella, RHP, Duke (Projected No. 24 to Los Angeles)

As you can see in the mock draft, Aiken isn’t in the first round and Matuella slides in to the Los Angeles Dodgers at No. 24. Both pitchers would have been top-10 picks if not for their season-ending elbow injuries. 

Pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery isn’t a new trend in the draft. Last year, Jeff Hoffman (No. 9 to Toronto) and Erick Fedde (No. 18 to Washington) were recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery, yet they still went in the first round. 

Matuella should be able to join that list, as ESPN’s Keith Law reported on April 15 that the big right-hander had his surgery and was still in the top-15 mix:

Teddy Cahill of noted that Matuella has also dealt with back issues in his college career that limited the number of innings he threw before being shut down with elbow problems:

Though Matuella‘s stuff, size and makeup had excited scouts, he struggled with injuries throughout his college career. He suffered from lat discomfort last year and was then diagnosed with spondylolysis, a manageable defect of the vertebra in the lower back. As a result, Matuella has thrown just 141 innings during his college career.

All of these issues should make Matuella a huge red flag, yet Law noted that after the Tommy John surgery he was still being considered in the top 15. That’s what happens with a 6’7″ starter who has a mid-90s fastball and a knockout curveball. 

It just becomes a matter of finding the right fit for Matuella. The top half of the first round is likely out, since teams are spending a lot of money and need some semblance of a sure thing in their investment. A team with a big budget that isn’t afraid to take a chance and likes drafting pitchers makes the most sense. 

The Dodgers immediately jump out because few teams love to draft pitchers early as much as they do. They’ve gone with an arm in the first round 11 times since 2000 (via ESPN). This team has the deep pockets to go all in on a high-upside arm if it wants to. 

If Matuella makes a full recovery, he could be the biggest bargain in this year’s draft based on where he will go and what he can turn into. 

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