By virtue of finishing with a 63-99 record in 2015, the Philadelphia Phillies have the No. 1 pick in this year's Draft. In a perfect world, there would be a slam-dunk decision in terms of who to take in that top spot.
Not so much.
There is no Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg in the Class of 2016, though there really hasn't been a slam-dunk top pick like that since, well, since Harper and Strasburg. While there might not be a consensus on who the top player in this Draft is or should be, it's not like the Phillies are going to pass or can trade down.
The Phils will still get a very good player at the top of the Draft, though they are extremely unlikely to use all of the $9.015 million signing bonus value allotted to that pick. It's more probable they will look at their first two picks -- the first pick of the second round, No. 42 overall, has a value of just over $1.5 million -- as a combination deal. So they'll be asking the question, "Who are the two best players we can get for $10.5 million?"
The majority of that amount, obviously, will go to whomever is selected 1-1 on June 9. While Philadelphia continues to leave no stone unturned in terms of possibilities, with as many as seven players being discussed in some capacity, there are some candidates more realistic than others. Here's some information on all the names potentially in play, ranked in order of likelihood at this moment:
The college arm: A.J. Puk
As the start of the 2016 Draft season approached, everyone -- including the Phillies -- hoped Puk would separate himself and become the clear-cut choice for No. 1 pick. While there is plenty to like about the big, hard-throwing lefty from the University of Florida, it hasn't exactly worked out that way.
Few question Puk's stuff. No. 5 on the new Draft Top 100, he touches the upper-90s with ease. Puk has the chance to have three plus pitches with his breaking ball and changeup as well. He is capable of being the kind of completely dominant amateur teams want to take with that top pick.
"When you look at the stuff coming from the left side coming from that angle, there's not another one in this Draft like it," one scouting director said. "When he's on, he's as good as anybody. He's been pretty dominant when I've seen him. He does all the things you look for in an amateur. High strikeouts, physicality, left-handedness."
The question marks have come because Puk hasn't always been on. He doesn't dominate, especially given his stuff, as much as people think he should. Puk pitches on Saturdays, so he's not even the No. 1 guy on his own staff (Logan Shore is Florida's Friday starter). A minor back issue forced him out for a short time, and teams often worry about big pitchers and their backs.
That said, Puk struck out 10 and gave up just three hits in his last start against Georgia. If he strings a few of those together, especially through the SEC Tournament, he could become the odds-on favorite everyone thought he'd be.
The college bats: Lewis, Ray, Senzel
A strong case can be made that, historically, hitters taken No. 1 overall have gone on to be more impactful big leaguers than pitchers. The Phils are no doubt aware of this, so they have some advanced ones on their lists. It's not a great year for college bats, but there is a trio at least in the conversation.
The one leading the discussion is Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis. He's performed (.414/.536/.790, 15 HR, 57 RBIs over 42 games) as well as any hitter in the nation and has considerable upside as well. The flip side of that coin is Lewis is doing it at a small school against what some worry isn't top-notch competition, though the No. 3 prospect performed well in the Cape Cod League -- a proving ground for top prospects -- last summer to offset that concern.
"College position-player wise, he has the most tools in the country," a scouting director said. "It's electric, it's wow. The power, the bat speed. As far as dynamic impact type tools, he has as much, if not more than, anybody in the country."
The other two college hitters in contention are longer shots to go 1-1. Louisville's Corey Ray (No. 4) has tools, the chance to stay up the middle, hits from the left side and has an intriguing power-speed combination. Tennessee's Nick Senzel (No. 9) has been mentioned at the top as well. The Cape Cod League MVP has an advanced all-fields approach and has worked hard to become a solid defensive third baseman
High school arms: Groome and Pint
Left-hander Jason Groome stays at No. 1 on the Top 100 list, and for good reason. The prep standout from southern New Jersey, who spent his junior year honing his craft at IMG Academy in Florida before returning home (and landing a 30-day suspension by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association for violating a transfer rule), has a full repertoire, size and pitchability. Groome has also shown his ability to compete against good competition, so any worries about him being a kid from the Northeast have been laid to rest a while ago.
"As far as stuff goes, he's as polished and complete as any high school lefty that's been in the Draft in recent memory," a scouting director said. "It's electric stuff. It's strikes, for the most part. It's competitiveness. It's projection. If you were to mold a perfect high school pitcher, this would be it. He has everything you would look for, and then some, on the field."
While there have been some concerns about makeup off the field, the big risk in taking Groome is the high-risk/high-reward part of taking a high school arm. Only three prep lefties have ever been selected No. 1 overall: Brady Aiken (2014), Brien Taylor (1991) and David Clyde ('73). Aiken turned out to be hurt and didn't sign with the Astros, being redrafted in the first round of the 2015 Draft by the Indians. Taylor never pitched above Double-A ball and Clyde was rushed to the big leagues and never was able to establish himself.
It's the same deal with No. 2 prospect Riley Pint, who many feel might be the best arm in the class. But a high school right-hander has never been taken No. 1 overall, and it doesn't appear that the Phillies are considering making Draft history.
High school bats: Rutherford and Moniak
Neither SoCal outfielder really seems like a No. 1 pick, so consider them the deepest dark horses. Both have tools -- Blake Rutherford has more power potential, while Mickey Moniak has more speed. Heading into the year, Rutherford was the clear-cut top prep position player, but on many boards now, including MLB.com's, Moniak has caught up and perhaps even passed him.