Anyone who has followed the run-up to the 2016 Draft has no doubt read about the uncertainty at the very top. There has been a lack of separation by this year's class and, as a result, the owners of the No. 1 pick -- the Philadelphia Phillies -- are still mulling over multiple possibilities.
Jim Callis and I will continue to work the phones, text and email to bring you the most accurate projection of the first round possible late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. Obviously, that starts with getting the first pick right. While it appears the Phillies have as many as six players on their board, there has been enough chatter out there to handicap the candidates based on the likelihood each will end up being the first player to come off the board.
As of Tuesday evening, most of the buzz was that the Phillies were leaning toward a hitter over a pitcher with the top selection. All along, it's been clear that the organization is trying to find the right balance between talent and value (re: bonus), with the Phils potentially looking for considerable savings at 1-1 (Pick value is just over $9 million) in order to spend more aggressively later on, particularly at No. 42 in the second round.
It should be noted that the top two players on MLBPipeline.com's Top 200 Draft Prospects list, Jason Groome and Riley Pint, are not mentioned below. Pint has never really been in the Phillies' mix (a high school right-hander has never been taken No. 1 overall) and while many thought it would be a great story to take Groome, the local kid from South Jersey, the combination of risk involving high school pitching in general and some concerns about Groome's makeup have likely made the Phils remove him from their list.
The favorites (Ranking on Draft Top 200 list in parentheses)
Mickey Moniak, OF, La Costa Canyon (Calif.) High School (5)
Few players had more helium as the spring went on than Moniak. A sure-fire first-rounder after a very strong summer, his name started surfacing in Top-10 talk. A plus runner and outstanding defender in center field, when Moniak started flashing more power to go along with his advanced feel to hit, he became more of a top-pick contender. The savings+talent formula might really work in his favor as well.
Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer (3)
Lewis has largely answered the questions that come with playing at a smaller school in a smaller conference, flashing outstanding tools across the board. If the Phillies think he can play center, as many do, then he could be a great fit. Even if Lewis slides to a corner, his power potential should profile well in right.
A.J. Puk, LHP, Florida (4)
Puk has been the choice in several mock drafts in a row, including Jim Callis' most recent one, and he's the only arm left among the half-dozen candidates. Puk's stuff is undeniable, but the results have been head-scratchingly inconsistent. Case in point: The big left-hander followed up a stellar outing in the SEC Tournament with a bit of a clunker in Regional play.
Corey Ray, OF, Louisville (6)
There's a little less power, but a little more speed, than Lewis, but Ray has tools aplenty. He could be a slash-and-burn type leadoff hitter, but he has the bat speed and strength to have power as well. Ray's name isn't mentioned as much at 1-1, but the Phillies are considering him.
The dark horses
Nick Senzel, 3B, Tennessee (7)
Considered by many to be the best pure hitter in the class, Senzel has shown an advanced approach at the plate, combined with strength and bat speed, attributes that should add up to high averages and at least average Major League power. His name has not come up all that often in discussions about the No. 1 pick, in part perhaps because his advisor Scott Boras is unlikely to cut a deal that would be to the Phillies' liking.
Blake Rutherford, OF, Chaminade College Prep (Canoga Park, Calif.) (8)
Rutherford started the spring ahead of his SoCal counterpart Moniak as the top high school bat in the country, and he is now a few spots behind him. Most think he'll move to a corner outfield spot, but his power potential should profile there. Rutherford is also a year older than Moniak, which has impacted evaluations of him. Like Senzel, his name is not brought up frequently, but he hasn't been ruled out, either.