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2016 MLB Draft in Review: The jury’s still out

They’ve yet to prove themselves at the big league level, but this draft has already produced some top-tier prospect talent.

New York Mets v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

The inherent flaw in judging a draft just two years after it happens is that it is too early to come to definitive conclusions about most of the players. In other sports, two years is enough time to get a strong idea of who a player is or what he will be, but the development cycle in Major League Baseball is so much longer than other sports, that what these players from the 2016 class are now is not necessarily who they will become in the future. So while few of the proceeding futures are certain, we are far enough removed to be able to see how some careers are trending.

I’m going to begin by showing you the top 20 picks, and where they were ranked on both the FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus top 100 (and 101 in BP’s case) prospect lists this past offseason. There are hardly any players from this class who have already graduated to the majors, so this is a decent way to quickly evaluate how the top picks have fared in their first taste of professional ball.

2016 MLB Draft Prospects: The Top 20

Pick Player Team Position FG Rank BP Rank
Pick Player Team Position FG Rank BP Rank
1 Mickey Moniak Philadelphia Phillies OF n/a n/a
2 Nick Senzel Cincinnati Reds 3B 7th 7th
3 Ian Anderson Atlanta Braves RHP 45th 66th
4 Riley Pint Colorado Rockies RHP 75th 77th
5 Corey Ray Milwaukee Brewers OF n/a n/a
6 A. J. Puk Oakland Athletics LHP 30th 30th
7 Braxton Garrett Miami Marlins LHP 94th n/a
8 Cal Quantrill San Diego Padres RHP n/a 48th
9 Matt Manning Detroit Tigers RHP n/a n/a
10 Zack Collins Chicago White Sox C 91st n/a
11 Kyle Lewis Seattle Mariners OF n/a n/a
12 Jason Groome Boston Red Sox LHP 98th 78th
13 Josh Lowe Tampa Bay Rays 3B n/a n/a
14 Will Benson Cleveland Indians OF n/a n/a
15 Alex Kirilloff Minnesota Twins OF 99th n/a
16 Matt Thaiss Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim C n/a n/a
17 Forrest Whitley Houston Astros RHP 8th 10th
18 Blake Rutherford New York Yankees OF n/a 90th
19 Justin Dunn New York Mets RHP n/a n/a
20 Gavin Lux Los Angeles Dodgers SS n/a n/a

Four names stick out, and they just so happen to be the most interesting players of the 2016 draft class. So let’s take a closer look.

Mickey Moniak

The top overall pick in 2016 due to a plus hit tool and above-average to plus speed, Moniak has failed to impress as a professional. In his first full campaign last season in Low-A, Moniak posted a paltry .236/.284/.341 slash line with just five home runs and 11 stolen bases in 509 plate appearances. He posted unimpressive walk and strikeout rates, 5.5 and 21.4 percent respectively, leaving little hope that his base offensive skill may meteorically evolve.

Through 154 plate appearances in High-A this season, Moniak has been similarly disappointing. He’s striking out even more and walking even less, has yet to leave the yard even once, as has a 41 wRC+. Again, it’s still early in Moniak’s career, but the number one overall pick from 2016 has done nothing to instill hope amongst Phillies fans hoping he’d be an important part of their rebuild.

Corey Ray

Similar to Moniak, Corey Ray’s 2017 in High-A was tremendously disappointing. The 2016 fifth overall pick slashed .238/.311/.367 with seven home runs, a 9.5 percent walk rate, and a 31 percent strikeout rate. While Ray’s plus speed showed up in the form of 24 stolen bases, his plus raw power did not.

In the comments section of the Baseball Prospectus Top 101, Jeffrey Paternostro answered a question about Ray’s standing heading into this season:


How far off the list did Corey Ray drop?


I think the initial list of players for consideration was a little under 200. I don’t believe Ray made it, or if he did, he was an early cut.”


Here’s the good news; unlike Mickey Moniak, Ray’s numbers have taken great strides in his 202 plate appearances in Double-A this season. He’s already matched last season’s home run total and has cut his strikeout rate by nearly 10 percentage points en route to a 133 wRC+. While Moniak has done nothing to disprove doubts about his game, Ray appears to have bounced back. A full season of this type of production will surely get him back on some of the prestigious prospect lists next year.

Nick Senzel

The number two overall pick has performed exactly as you’d hope an advanced college bat would during his time in the minor leagues. With a plus/potentially plus-plus hit tool, here’s what Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel had to say about Senzel on the FanGraphs Top 100 list this year:

“One of the toughest outs in the minors, Senzel combines a patient, discerning offensive approach with a simple swing, superlative hand-eye coordination, and bat control.”

That glowing praise shows up in the numbers as — except for a ten game stint in Rookie ball — Senzel has never posted a wRC+ below 131, his current mark in Triple-A. How much power will develop remains to be seen, but Senzel’s bat will play, and he’ll almost certainly reach the majors this year.

Forrest Whitley

As if the Astros needed another elite starting pitcher. FanGraphs gave Whitley an “ace ceiling” while BP put his future at more of a number two or three starter, but either way, the 17th overall pick has huge potential. So far in the minors, Whitley’s strikeout rates have been absurdly dominant while his walk rates have been more than tolerable. A top pitching prospect with electric stuff and without huge command and control question marks feels more bankable than most, and having already reached Double-A, Whitley should be ready to help sooner rather than later.

Moniak, Ray, Senzel, and Whitley are the prominent names that stick out from the Top 20 picks in 2016, but as with every year, there are some later picks who have made a name for themselves since being drafted. If the 2016 draft were redone today, Senzel and Whitely would definitely be two of the top selections, but they’d get some competition from Blue Jays infielder Bo Bichette for the first overall pick.

Bichette was taken 66th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays and has hit like mad in the minors. Much like his father Dante, Bo has tremendous power, and while that power is definitely his carrying tool, his other skills grade out to be at least average according to most publications. Put it all together and you have Blue Jays fans have more to be excited about than just Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

While most of the 2016 draftees are still developing in the minors, Padres left-hander and 114th overall pick Joey Lucchesi has already made the bigs and is holding his own. Lucchesi doesn’t excite the radar gun with his 90 mph fastball, but his changeup is a plus pitch, and his ability to limit walks in the minors has translated to his time in the majors. With nine starts under his belt this season, Lucchesi has a 3.23 ERA, a 4.23 FIP, and a 3.60 DRA. It seems the Padres got a fourth round steal in 2016 to go along with their already loaded farm system.

There will be more success stories and their will be more disappointments, but it’s too early to know about most of them. Still, while their’s not an overwhelming, can’t miss superstar amongst the group, Senzel, Whitley, and Bichette look to be the top-tier talents from the 2016 draft who should make an impact sooner rather than later.

Chris Anders is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @MrChrisAnders.