The 2016 Draft may still be six months away, but we're already looking ahead. We've unveiled MLBPipeline.com's initial Top 50 Draft Prospects list, with Barnegat (N.J.) HS left-hander Jason Groome ranked No. 1. In case you're wondering, a team has selected a prep southpaw with the top pick three times in the first 51 Drafts, and none of them worked out well: David Clyde to the Rangers in 1973, Brien Taylor to the Yankees in '91 and Brady Aiken to the Astros in 2014.
Jonathan and I also predict how the top 10 selections could play out. Our crystal balls are still very murky at this point, but I have the Phillies grabbing Groome and Jonathan has them snaring Florida left-hander A.J. Puk with the No. 1 overall choice.
If all that can't satisfy your Draft cravings, let's tackle some Draft questions in the latest edition of the MLBPipeline Inbox.
With no extra picks between No. 1 overall and the top of the second round, are the Phillies in a uniquely bad position to leverage their bonus pool?
-- Brad E., Silver Spring, Md.
With all of the potential free-agent compensation and competitive-balance lottery selections, the Phillies might have to wait as many as 53 picks between the No. 1 overall choice and their second-rounder. Nevertheless, they still should be able to wield their financial advantages in the Draft.
The assigned value for last year's No. 1 pick was $8,616,900, and it could rise to $9 million or more for 2016, because it's tied to MLB's revenue growth. In the first four Drafts with the new rules in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, the top bonus each year has fluctuated from $6 million (Byron Buxton in 2012) to $6,708,400 (Kris Bryant in '13) to $6,582,000 (Carlos Rodon in '14) to $6.5 million (Dansby Swanson in '15). At this point, there's no transcendent talent in the '16 Draft, so it's fair to assume that Philadelphia could take the best player available and still save around $2.5 million versus its pool to spend in later rounds.
If the Phillies added that surplus to their second- and third-round allotments, they could spend mid-first-round money on both of those choices without exceeding their overall pool. Or they could spread it out and give seven-figure bonuses to each of their picks in the second through sixth rounds. In every Draft, there's plenty of talent that drops because of signability, and Philadelphia is in better position than most clubs to scoop some of it up.
Are there any catchers who project as first-round talents? Would it be a reach for the Brewers to take one at No. 5 overall?
-- Derek H., Sheboygan, Wis.
Teams have drafted at least two catchers in the first round of each of the past four Drafts, and at least one in each of the past 13 Drafts. Those streaks could end in 2016, which isn't a strong year for catching talent.
Clemson's Chris Okey is the only catcher on our Top 50 list, and he checks in at No. 42. The top high school backstops are offensive-minded Ben Rortvedt (Verona, Wis., Area HS) and defensive-minded Cooper Johnson (Carmel Catholic HS, Mundelein, Ill.), both of whom project as second-rounders. The scarcity of quality catchers often means they get drafted higher than they're rated, but it's hard to envision one worthy of the No. 5 overall pick.
How many Louisville Cardinals do you see getting drafted in the first round?
-- Glenn M., Edgewood, Ky.
Louisville never had a first-rounder before 2015, when Kyle Funkhouser went No. 35 overall to the Dodgers. The Cardinals should have at least two next year, however, because outfielder Corey Ray is the best position player in the Draft, and Funkhouser has returned for his senior season. Hard-throwing closer Zack Burdi could push his way into the first round, if clubs believe he can start at the pro level, while left-hander Drew Harrington and second baseman Nick Solak also should be early-round selections.
Michigan (1979), Fresno State ('89), Rice (2004), Miami ('08) and Vanderbilt ('15) share the record with three first-rounders in one Draft, and Florida figures to match them in '16 with Puk, outfielder Buddy Reed and right-hander Logan Shore. Righties Dane Dunning and Shaun Anderson, first baseman Pete Alonso and lefty Scott Moss also could crack the first five rounds for the Gators.
Vanderbilt has a pair of likely first-rounders in outfielder Bryan Reynolds and right-hander Jordan Sheffield and a possible third in left-hander Ben Bowden. Third baseman Will Toffey and lefty John Kilichowski also could factor in the top three rounds.
Will Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi crack the Top 50 when MLBPipeline updates the Top 100 Prospects list?
-- Billy T., Lynn, Mass.
Our current Top 100 dates back to July, though we have added prospects at the bottom and shifted others up when players graduated to the big leagues. We'll release an updated Top 100 in January, and it's safe to say that Benintendi, who currently ranks No. 62, will rise into the Top 50.
The consensus 2015 college player of the year, Benintendi led NCAA Division I with 20 homers and hit .376/.488/.717 with 24 steals in 65 games as an Arkansas sophomore. After signing for $3,590,400 as the seventh overall pick, he had the best pro debut of any '15 draftee, batting .313/.416/.556 with 11 homers and 10 steals in 54 games between Class A Short-Season Lowell and low Class A Greenville.
Benintendi could have four plus tools (bat, power, speed, center-field defense) when all is said and done, and in my mind, he's one of the top five outfield prospects in the game. One scout told me recently that he thinks Benintendi could wind up being the best player from the 2015 Draft.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.