Grading Every MLB Team’s 2015 Draft Haul 6 Years Later

Bleacher Report

Six years after Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson and LSU shortstop Alex Bregman went No. 1 and No. 2 overall, respectively, in the 2015 MLB draft, the two faced off in the 2021 World Series.

Breakout stars Austin Riley and Kyle Tucker were also part of the 2015 draft class, and they were a big reason their teams were playing in the Fall Classic as well.

In honor of that draft class, we've gone back through the haul of all 30 MLB teams and slapped a letter grade on the talent they acquired.

We went with A, B, C, D or F as the possible grades based on the amount of MLB talent a team's draft class produced, how it did with its first-round pick and how it used prospects to improve the roster in other ways, like trades.

Arizona Diamondbacks

First-Round Picks: SS Dansby Swanson (1-1)

Other MLB Players: LHP Alex Young (2-43), RHP Taylor Clarke (3-76), RHP Ryan Burr (5-136)

The D-backs selected Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson with the No. 1 overall pick after he hit .335/.423/.623 with 24 doubles, 15 home runs and 64 RBI in 71 games during his junior season. With a polished overall game, he was expected to reach the majors in short order.

That was indeed true, as he made his MLB debut Aug. 17, 2016, but he did it in an Atlanta Braves uniform after the Diamondbacks traded him prior to the 2016 season in an ill-fated deal that brought Shelby Miller to Arizona.

Taylor Clarke (43 G, 4.98 ERA) and Alex Young (30 G, 6.26 ERA) were both members of the 2021 bullpen, while Ryan Burr has developed into a useful reliever for the Chicago White Sox after Arizona traded him in 2017 for international bonus pool money.

Grade: B

Atlanta Braves

First-Round Picks: LHP Kolby Allard (1-14), RHP Mike Soroka (1-28), 3B Austin Riley (1-41)

Other MLB Players: LHP A.J. Minter (2-75), RHP Patrick Weigel (7-210), RHP Evan Phillips (17-510)

This group has a strong case for being the best 2015 draft class.

Left-hander Kolby Allard was the first high school pitcher taken in the draft, and he made his MLB debut at age 20. The Braves traded him to the Texas Rangers for reliever Chris Martin at the 2019 deadline, and he still has a chance to be a long-term contributor.

Mike Soroka has missed most of the last two seasons with an Achilles injury, but he was 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 174.2 innings in 2019 when he finished runner-up in National League Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in NL Cy Young balloting.

Third baseman Austin Riley was a breakout star this year with a 132 OPS+, 33 home runs, 107 RBI and 6.1 WAR. Lefty reliever A.J. Minter was a key arm during the team's playoff run with a 3.00 ERA, 18 strikeouts in 12 innings and three holds in eight appearances.

Grade: A

Baltimore Orioles

First-Round Picks: OF DJ Stewart (1-25), SS Ryan Mountcastle (1-36)

Other MLB Players: LHP Garrett Cleavinger (3-102), OF Ryan McKenna (4-133), RHP Jay Flaa (6-193), RHP Ryan Meisinger (11-343), OF Cedric Mullins (13-403)

DJ Stewart batted .318/.500/.593 with 15 home runs and 59 RBI in 64 games during his junior season at Florida State, but he has failed to match that production as a pro. He had 10 doubles, 12 home runs and 33 RBI in a career-high 318 MLB plate appearances in 2021, but he also hit .204 with minus-0.3 WAR in 100 games.

However, the Orioles appear to have found a pair of impact players in slugger Ryan Mountcastle and center fielder Cedric Mullins.

Mountcastle led rookies with 33 home runs in 2021, albeit with limited on-base ability and defensive shortcomings. Mullins became the first 30/30 player in Orioles history, hitting .291/.360/.518 in a 5.7-WAR season.

Grade: A

Boston Red Sox

First-Round Picks: OF Andrew Benintendi (1-7)

Other MLB Players: RHP Travis Lakins (6-171), RHP Ben Taylor (7-201), LHP Logan Allen (8-231), LHP Bobby Poyner (14-411), Trevor Kelley (36-1,071)

Outfielder Andrew Benintendi hit .376/.488/.717 with 20 home runs and 24 steals as a draft-eligible sophomore at the University of Arkansas, winning Golden Spikes honors, before being taken No. 7 overall in the draft.

After 151 games in the minors, he made his MLB debut Aug. 2, 2016, and he took over as Boston's everyday left fielder the following year. He finished as the runner-up in 2017 AL Rookie of the Year voting and then took another step forward in 2018 with a 123 OPS+ and 4.8 WAR in 148 games.

However, his development stalled in 2019 and 2020 with a 94 OPS+ and 1.7 WAR in 152 games, and the Red Sox flipped him to the Kansas City Royals last offseason.

None of the other players in the 2015 draft class have made a significant impact in Boston, but the team used left-hander Logan Allen in the trade package to acquire All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel prior to the 2016 season.

Grade: B

Chicago Cubs

First-Round Picks: OF Ian Happ (1-9)

Other MLB Players: SS Vimael Machin (10-293), 2B P.J. Higgins (12-353), RHP Scott Effross (15-443), C Tyler Payne (30-893)

Ian Happ hit .369/.492/.672 with 18 doubles and 14 home runs in 56 games as a junior at the University of Cincinnati. He fit the mold of a polished college hitter with versatility that Theo Epstein and company targeted early in drafts during their time in the Chicago Cubs front office.

He moved quickly through the minors and made his MLB debut May 13, 2017.

He has a 111 OPS+ with 162-game averages of 27 home runs, 74 RBI and 2.0 WAR in parts of five MLB seasons, but he is still working toward establishing himself as a consistent high-level performer.

Second-round pick Donnie Dewees never reached the majors, but the Cubs used him to acquire Alec Mills from the Kansas City Royals.

Grade: C

Chicago White Sox

First-Round Picks: RHP Carson Fulmer (1-8)

Other MLB Players: C Seby Zavala (12-352), SS Danny Mendick (22-652)

Playing alongside Dansby Swanson and Walker Buehler at Vanderbilt, Carson Fulmer went 14-2 with a 1.83 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 167 strikeouts in 127.2 innings as a junior to emerge as one of the draft's top arms. Despite those impressive numbers, some red flags were present.

"Listed at 6-feet, 195 pounds, he is undersized for a right-hander and has an effortful, high-energy delivery. Those factors lead some to see him as a future reliever," wrote Baseball America in his predraft scouting report.

He struggled to a 6.56 ERA in 44 appearances spanning four seasons with the White Sox before they designated him for assignment in 2020. He has bounced around on the waiver wire since and had a 6.66 ERA in 20 appearances out of the Cincinnati Reds bullpen in 2021.

Seby Zavala and Danny Mendick have developed into useful bench pieces, but that's not nearly enough to save this draft class.

Grade: F

Cincinnati Reds

First-Round Picks: C Tyler Stephenson (1-11)

Other MLB Players: RHP Tony Santillan (2-49), RHP Tanner Rainey (2-71), SS Blake Trahan (3-84), RHP Jimmy Herget (6-175), SS Alejo Lopez (27-805)

With veteran Tucker Barnhart traded to the Detroit Tigers, the catcher position in Cincinnati belongs to Tyler Stephenson, who hit .286/.366/.431 with 21 doubles, 10 home runs and 45 RBI in 402 plate appearances as a rookie in 2021.

First-round high school catchers have a long history of flopping, but he looks poised to buck that trend and develop into an impact player.

Burly right-hander Tony Santillan has been one of Cincinnati's top pitching prospects for several years, and he had a 2.91 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 43.1 innings in his first MLB action in 2021. Tanner Rainey has spent the past three years in the Washington Nationals bullpen after the Reds used him to acquire veteran starter Tanner Roark prior to the 2019 season.

Grade: C

Cleveland Guardians

First-Round Picks: LHP Brady Aiken (1-17), RHP Triston McKenzie (1-42)

Other MLB Players: 2B Mark Mathias (3-93), OF Ka'ai Tom (5-154), RHP Justin Garza (8-244), 2B Sam Haggerty (24-724)

Brady Aiken was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, but he didn't sign with the Houston Astros after concerns over the health of his arm led the team to lower its signing bonus offer. He enrolled at IMG Academy and threw 13 pitches in his first start before exiting with an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery.

Despite all of that, Cleveland scooped him up with the 17th overall pick in the following year's draft.

In three seasons in the Cleveland farm system, he posted a 5.18 ERA with almost as many walks (128) as strikeouts (147) in 179 innings, failing to advance beyond the Single-A level before he was released.

Triston McKenzie has shown flashes of being a solid MLB rotation piece over the last two seasons, posting a 4.95 ERA and 1.18 WHIP with 136 strikeouts in 120 innings in 2021, but he has a ways to go before he can even the scales on the Aiken pick.

Grade: D

Colorado Rockies

First-Round Picks: SS Brendan Rodgers (1-3), RHP Mike Nikorak (1-27), 3B Tyler Nevin (1-38)

Other MLB Players: RHP Peter Lambert (2-44), RHP Justin Lawrence (12-347), OF Sam Hilliard (15-437)

After battling injuries the past few seasons, Brendan Rodgers saw his first extended MLB action in 2021, and he responded by hitting .284/.328/.470 with 21 doubles, 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 415 plate appearances.

With Trevor Story expected to sign elsewhere, he should have a starting job at one of the middle infield positions in 2022.

Outfielder Sam Hilliard has developed into a useful fourth outfielder, and right-handers Peter Lambert and Justin Lawrence are on the 40-man roster and expected to compete for roster spots next spring.

However, Mike Nikorak is out of professional baseball after struggling to a 6.98 ERA with 82 walks in 68.1 innings while dealing with arm issues, and Tyler Nevin is a member of the Baltimore Orioles after being shipped out in the Mychal Givens trade.

Grade: C

#baseball, #professional

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