1. 2B Phillip Evans (La Costa Canyon HS, California)
It isn’t easy finding high school middle infielders who project to second baseman in the pros who are also worthy of first round consideration, but this year’s class has a couple players that fit the bill. With three plus future tools (defense, arm, raw power), Phillip Evans is one of those guys. In addition to those three projected plus tools, Evans can also run and hit a bit. His speed is average at best, but great instincts and exceptional first step quickness help him both in the field and on the bases. I love his approach at the plate, especially with two strikes. I also love his ability to hit for power to all fields. If you’re counting at home, that’s now five tools that Evans possesses with the potential to be around average (speed), above-average (bat), and plus (defense, arm, power).
The advantage that Evans holds over Johnny Eierman, a similarly talented prospect in many ways and the prospect ranked just below him on this very list, is in present defensive value. Evans is already an outstanding middle infielder while Eierman merely looks the part. Eierman’s edge over Evans is probably in present power. It is expected that both players should close the respective gaps — i.e. Eierman turning his intriguing defensive tools into more useful skills, and Evans learning to more consistently give his line drive approach loft to generate more in-game power — but I think Evans is the safer play to do so. Eierman may have more long range upside, but Evans has a significantly higher floor.
2. 2B Johnny Eierman (Warsaw HS, Missouri)
Like Phillip Evans, Johnny Eierman’s a future professional second baseman with a chance of going in the first round. Also like Evans, Eierman has plus raw power, a plus arm, and plus defensive tools. His bat speed rivals that of any player in the class, college or pro, and his athleticism makes him an option at almost any position on the field. He’s an undeniably raw prospect with a complicated swing setup in need of some good old fashioned pro coaching, but if it all clicks for him he has easy big league All-Star upside.
3. 2B Trent Gilbert (Torrance HS, California)
Gilbert swings the bat the exact way I would if a magic genie would finally grant my wish to have a picture perfect lefthanded stroke. I’m darn sure the hit tool will play at the next level, but there are some that think too much of his value is tied up in his bat. That makes some sense to me — there is some power here and a pretty strong arm, but his speed is below-average and his defense is a question mark going forward — but, boy, do I like that hit tool. Many of those defensive questions, by the way, may or may not be Gilbert’s fault. He’s currently in the tricky position of almost being too versatile defensively – I’ve heard some teams like him at 2B, some at 3B, and others still prefer him either at C or CF. Of course, I don’t mean to imply he’ll ever be a world beater at any of those spots, but the opportunity to hear a pro coach tell him, “here’s your new defensive home, practice and play here every day” ought to do him some good.
4. 2B Shon Carson (Lake City HS, South Carolina)
Carson is an easy player to write about because his strengths and weaknesses are so clearly delineated at this point. Obvious strengths include his plus-plus speed, absurd athleticism, and football star strong. His biggest weakness is most often cited as his inability to play baseball all that well, also known as a cute way of saying he is a very raw prospect with a long way to go. If those are his easily recognized pros and cons, I’d like to throw in one additional strength to his game that I feel often goes unnoticed: Shon Carson understands what kind of player he is. Sounds almost silly to say that, but Carson plays within himself in a way that is mature beyond his years. He doesn’t try to do too much at the plate, will happily take a walk when the situation calls for it (probably doesn’t hurt to know that a walk is as good as a triple with the way he steals bags), and makes every attempt to utilize his potentially game changing speed.
5. SS Christian Lopes (Edison HS, California)
Lopes is a darn fine ballplayer who has suffered from classic “been on the scouting radar too long” syndrome this season. I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum, as I now prefer Lopes as a prospect much more than I did a year ago at this time. He’ll give you natural middle infielder hands, a strong enough arm, and surprising punch from the right side while also clocking in as an above-average runner. He’s a little less polished than I expected, but the overall tools are exciting and it looks to me that his bat will play.
6. 2B Dante Flores (St. John Bosco HS, California)
On the offensive side of things, evaluators are typically looking for three main things: hit tool/approach, power, and speed. That’s probably a touch simplistic, but there isn’t much more to look for than that, at least from an output perspective. Will he get on base? Will he hit for power? Will he be able to cause a positive impact on the bases? Get a clear yes on one of those three, and we’re cooking. Get two of three, and watch out. When you’re lucky enough to land a hitter who can do all three, hold him close and never let him go. All that is to say that Dante Flores definitely does one of those three things well. Like many on the list ahead of him, his hit tool is far more advanced than your typical high school prospect. Let’s look at that one more time: “Like many ahead of him, he is more advanced than a typical prospect.” If we needed another data point in favor of this being a stronger than usual draft class, there it is. I’d bet three of the top five listed 2B on this list someday start in the big leagues.
Flores can definitely swing the bat, but his power upside is limited and he is an average at best runner. He’s a steady defender at second, capable of making plays on balls hit at or near him but lacking the athleticism and instincts to ever wow you at the spot. Prospects who lack positional safety nets — i.e. a spot on the diamond they can play if they can’t hack it at their original spot — make me really nervous. Flores is probably a second baseman or bust, so there is a lot riding on that hit tool.
7. 2B TJ Costen (First Colonial HS, Virginia)
This list so far has been all about the hit tool, so it is time to change things up. Costen has very good defensive tools, a strong arm, and plus speed. Potential plus defenders who can run have great value, and Costen is no exception, but the development of his bat will determine whether he’ll be viewed as a good prospect (as I view him now) or as a great one down the line.
8. 2B Kevin Kramer (Turlock HS, California)
Strength, both at the plate and jammed into his throwing arm, describes Kramer’s biggest current asset. I also like his bat a lot — feel like I’ve said that about a half dozen players already, but it’s true — and have a strong intuitive feel on him.
9. 2B Vicente Conde (Orangewood Christian Academy, Florida)
Conde’s scouting reports make it sound like he is a power hitting catcher or third baseman (strong arm, physical build, and, yes, big raw power), but here he is on our second baseman list. There is some risk with him eventually outgrowing the position, but the Vanderbilt commit (warning: tough sign!) currently has enough athleticism to play up the middle.
10. 2B Mason Snyder (Marquette HS, Illinois)
Snyder is a potential plus bat who may or may stick up the middle defensively. Recent labrum surgery will probably send him off to Louisville, where he could be the successor to the Cardinals’ slugging 2B Ryan Wright.
11. 2B Ty Washington (Plano East HS, Texas)
Washington is a very signable prospect best known for his excellent defensive tools and good speed. He had a reputation coming into the year as a guy who too often attempted to do too much at the plate, but patience has been a virtue for him so far this season.
12. 2B Connor Castellano (Evangel Christian Academy, Louisiana)
Castellano’s gap power and average speed could be of interest to a team that thinks he can handle 2B as a pro.
13. 2B Erik Forgione (WF West HS, Washington)
One of my favorite sleepers from the Pacific Northwest, Forgione is a plus runner with great range and athleticism.